A Dead Man's Tale (Charlie Moon Series #15)

A Dead Man's Tale (Charlie Moon Series #15)

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by James D. Doss

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At seven feet tall, Colorado rancher and Ute tribal investigator Charlie Moon is a larger-than-life figure—and a force to be reckoned with, on and off the reservation…

Hard times have come to Colorado, and Moon's ranch is feeling the pinch. Not so for Samuel Reed. He seems to have a special intuition when it comes to picking stocks, and claims

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At seven feet tall, Colorado rancher and Ute tribal investigator Charlie Moon is a larger-than-life figure—and a force to be reckoned with, on and off the reservation…

Hard times have come to Colorado, and Moon's ranch is feeling the pinch. Not so for Samuel Reed. He seems to have a special intuition when it comes to picking stocks, and claims to be able to remember the future, which gives him quite a leg up on Wall Street. So Reed is quite confident when he makes a wager with Moon's best friend, Granite Creek Chief of Police Scott Parris, that Parris can't keep him alive.

Even when Reed doesn't offer any details beyond the date and time of his impending demise, Moon has a sixth sense that everything will turn out just fine…until not one, but two men end up left for dead. Now it's up to Moon—along with the help of his Aunt Daisy, an aged Ute shaman who can communicate with the spirit world—to solve the case. Or die trying…

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Charlie Moon and his best friend, Scott Parris, the chief of police of upscale Granite City, Colo., face a doozy of a case even by their standards in Doss's folksy 15th mystery featuring the Ute tribal investigator (after 2009's The Widow's Revenge): solving the murder of megabucks investor Samuel Reed before it occurs. Though the two lawmen initially scoff at the prospective victim's proffered wager that he won't survive his young wife's upcoming birthday, they have second thoughts after Mrs. Reed's 911 report of a phantom break-in as well as more serious concerns once Moon's self-appointed deputies--his reprobate Aunt Daisy, an elderly shaman with supernatural sources, and teenage orphan Sarah Frank--tail the lady in question to a rendezvous with her lover. Even so, ensuing events blindside Moon and Parris, setting in motion a denouement surprising enough to make it worth tolerating the author's myriad digressions and annoying stylistic quirks. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews

A droll fandango between a man who hires an assassin for two bits and a man who predicts his own demise.

Granite Creek, Colo., is humming. The Crowbar Burglar is vandalizing homes. The head of the Oklahoma Chickasaw Blue Lizard Clan is in town to hire an assassin who'll avenge his sister. And Prof. Samuel Reed, a scientist-entrepreneur, is laying bets that Police Chief Scott Parris and Ute rancher Charlie Moon won't be able to keep him alive until his trophy wife Irene's birthday next month. These are all minor complications, of course, compared to the havoc unleashed when Sarah, the teenager who fancies herself in love with Charlie, decides to play detective, and Charlie's Aunt Daisy, who listens to a raven's murmurs and a pitukupf's warning, uses her walking stick as a cudgel and doesn't regret the result. Since beef prices are going south, imperiling Charlie's ranch, he hires on as the Chickasaw's hit man and takes the 10-to-1 odds Reed is laying that he'll be dead within a month. There will be whiffs of infidelity, a mysterious visit to a tattoo parlor, some technical mumbo-jumbo and storytelling that caresses the synapses before all is resolved and the reader has been challenged to review the concepts of time, alternate universes and unrelenting authorial mischief.

Top-flight work from Doss (The Widow's Revenge, 2009, etc.), who can outplot most anybody and give cold-blooded miscreants a case of the giggles. Are you listening, awards committees?

From the Publisher

“Insanely good.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“It's Moon who stands tallest in The Widow's Revenge…a nonstop read [in] this solid series.” —Booklist

“Successfully evokes the mysticism of traditional Native American storytelling.” —Publishers Weekly

“Outstanding… The narrator clearly is having fun as he unveils his tale, liberally laced with Native American lore, character idiosyncrasies, comedic asides, and a plot that weaves and twists like a highway in the Rockies.” —Library Journal (starred review) on SNAKE DREAMS

Snake Dreams is the thirteenth novel in this series, and since it's a very good one--funny, smart, and totally different--it's a great place for readers to discover Moon.” —Toronto Globe and Mail

“One of his best yet!” —Booklist on THREE SISTERS

“Wild, authentic...and highly satisfying.” —Detroit Free Press on THREE SISTERS

“A finely cut gem.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) on THREE SISTERS

“James D. Doss' novels about Charlie Moon…feel as if the author is sitting around a campfire, spinning a tall tale that engulfs a circle of listeners…Doss' tale is evocative of the area and of Indian lore, and his chatty, down-home style shines in Three Sisters.” —Florida Sun-Sentinel

“Doss's trademark humor keeps Charlie and Scott wisecracking as the plot spins smartly along to an unpredictable ending…Moon mysteries still charm us with Western voices and ways.” —Rocky Mountain News on THREE SISTERS

“Style, pathos, enthusiasm, and humor to spare.” —Mystery Scene on STONE BUTTERFLY

“A clever plot…will keep readers turning the pages.” —Publishers Weekly on STONE BUTTERFLY

“The Moon series deftly blends traditional mystery elements with Native American mythology--a surefire read-alike for Hillerman fans.” —Booklist on STONE BUTTERFLY

“Droll, crafty, upper-echelon reading.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review) on STONE BUTTERFLY

“Doss likes to toss a little Native American spiritualism and a lot of local color into his mysteries. Fans of the series will be well pleased.” —Booklist on SHADOW MAN

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Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Charlie Moon Series, #15
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
7.70(w) x 11.80(h) x 1.06(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
10:54 P.M., May 3
Play It Again, Sam

Samuel Reed is every bit as cheerful as he had been (and would be again) on the evening of his untimely demise. As the jolly fellow slips along Shadowlane Avenue in his sleek gray Mercedes, he sings at the top of his fine tenor voice. (“Sweet Adeline.”)

Without missing a beat, our happy crooner turns into a graveled driveway that snakes its way through a small forest of spruce and aspen before looping around his two-story, nine-bedroom, twelve-bath brick residence.

Some Strange Goings-On

Having activated a radio-frequency device on his key chain to open a twenty-foot-wide door, Sam Reed pulled into the spacious garage under his so-called guest house. Because Mr. and Mrs. R. rarely entertained overnight visitors, the upstairs apartment served as the businessman’s at-home office. But even that designation was not entirely accurate; in actual practice, the quarters over the detached garage provided a quiet sanctuary upon those occasions when Irene was in one of her snarling-snapping moods. As it happened (and not by accident), Sam’s spouse did not have a key to the guest house, nor did she have need of one. His better half kept her pink Cadillac in the attached six-car garage, where that symbol of GM’s pre-Chapter 11 days was alone except for the lady’s shiny new ten-speed bicycle.

Sam Reed parked his superb German motorcar beside his buff black Hummer and closed the garage door with his remote. Before getting out of his automobile, he reached across the seat to pick up the—

Pick up the what?

There was nothing on the passenger seat for his gloved fingers to grasp.

The driver blinked at the empty space. Now what did I expect to find there?

This reasonable question triggered the recollection of a chain of seemingly mundane events, which began with Reed’s usual routine after a long, tiring day of turning tidy profits. He remembered locking the door of his downtown office over the Cattleman’s Bank and clearly recollected walking down the stairway to emerge onto the parking lot.

So far, nothing remarkable.

Then…The moment the cold air hit me in the face, I remembered that I had something important to do before driving home. Something to pick up for Irene…but what was it—something from the supermarket? No. I don’t think so. Like a big-mouth bass breaking water to gulp up a plump insect, the memory surfaced abruptly: Oh, of course—I walked a few blocks down to the Copper Street Candy Shop and arrived just minutes before their ten thirty P.M. closing time. Reed could still taste the delicious double espresso he’d tossed back while the proprietor was wrapping a box of gourmet chocolates in shiny silver foil. This latter recollection was particularly significant: the purchase of absurdly expensive sweets for the lady of the house occurred only once each year. And then I walked back to the parking lot, got into my car, and placed the box of chocolates on the passenger seat.

This explained his reaching for a box of chocolates. Sort of. His brow furrowed into a puzzled frown. But the chocolates are not there. And Reed knew why: Because I did not stop at the candy shop this evening. Why? Because Irene’s birthday is a month away. Which raised a relevant question: What the hell is going on? As trained scientists are wont to do at the drop of a beaker, he postulated a plausible theory: I’ve been working too hard; my mind is playing tricks on me. Even when endowed with a superior intellect (he reasoned), a minor malfunction was bound to occur from time to time.

Shrugging it off, Reed emerged from the Mercedes with his ivory-knobbed cane in hand and exited the garage by a side door facing the rear of his residence. He paused for a sweet moment to inhale a breath of the invigorating night air and treat his eyes to the silvery aspect of a half inch of late-spring snowfall. What I need is a glass of wine and a good night’s sleep.

Alas, the prescription for what ailed him was to be found in neither bottle nor bed.

As he trod along, tugging a foreshortened moon shadow toward his home, a chill breeze wafted by to cool his face. Endowed with an exquisitely sensitive imagination that could be triggered into delightfully whimsical visions by the slightest suggestion, the closet romantic was instantly transformed into a lean, hard-eyed mountain man—leaning into a blinding blizzard. To enhance the dandy fantasy, Sam Reed commenced to croon a few lines of “Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie,” adjusting his pace so that the crunch-crunch of his pricey Florsheim Kenmoor shoes in the snow provided a synchronized rhythm to the melancholy old cowboy song. He was just about to bellow out the good part about where coyotes howl and the wind blows free when his shoe crunching was accompanied by a distant downbeat.

From somewhere miles and weeks away, a half-ton bronze bell began to count off the eleventh hour.


No. Not tonight. This was not that dreaded End of the Trail.

But the dreadful tolling (which not another mortal soul could hear!) was suddenly accompanied by an extremely unpleasant phenomenon.

Samuel Reed’s initial sensation was that a white-hot poker had been thrust through his chest. This assault was instantly followed by an agonizing pain behind his forehead. Believing that he was suffering a heart attack or a stroke or both, the stricken man staggered and almost fell. This is it—poor Irene will find my frozen body here in the snow.

Not so.

At the seventh peal of the imaginary bell, his pains began to diminish. At the eleventh and final gong, after a half-dozen rib-thumping heartbeats and half as many gasping breaths, they were gone. Professor Reed was fully recovered. A most welcome development, indeed—and one that should have been entirely gratifying.

But, by some means or other, he had become aware of a stark new reality: Before much time has passed, I am destined to reside among the deceased. And not due to natural causes.

Enough to make a man stop and think. Which he did.

I’m a goner unless I do something about it. Which he would.

In the meantime…I’m glad this creepy experience is over. It was not.

The first indication of more to come was a slight buzzing at the base of his skull. This was followed by a giddy sensation of weightlessness… as if the slightest breeze might blow him away like a dead cottonwood leaf.

What’s this? The expectant fellow cocked his ear as if listening for something. Or perhaps to something.

Then…Oh my goodness!

Samuel Reed was suddenly bedazzled by a stunning jolt of mental clarity that would have felled a lesser man. As he looked up to see the moon’s pockmarked face staring blankly back at him, his mouth curled into a grin that was a notch or two beyond silly. An uncharitable observer might have described the expression as teetering right on the ragged edge of idiotic, and concluded that the unfortunate fellow was suffering from an attack of lunacy.

Sam would have disagreed with that diagnosis, and asserted that he was experiencing a wonderful epiphany. But it is worth noting that the fellow is an authentic specimen of that gender whose members are frequently mistaken—but rarely in doubt.

What is the truth of the matter? We do not know. The jury is still out.

But right or wrong, the man grinning at the earth’s silvery satellite was convinced that he understood precisely what had occurred. He threw back his head and enjoyed a hearty laugh.

This was—in a very real sense—a new beginning.

A DEAD MAN’S TALE Copyright © 2010 by James D. Doss

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Meet the Author

James D. Doss is the author of the Charlie Moon mysteries, including The Widow's Revenge. Two of the Moon books were named one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly. Originally from Kentucky, he divides his time between Los Alamos and Taos, New Mexico.

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A Dead Man's Tale 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
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Love these quick reads! The characters are all a hoot. This book is entertaining and has quirky twists and turns that make me want to read another by this author! I have also read 1 more of Doss' books from the Charlie Moon series and enjoyed it too.
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Absoloutely wonderful! With a name like Doss, it's sure to be excellent!!
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