Grave Concerns

Grave Concerns

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by Gwen Hunter

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Life in a small town can take some interesting twists--especially for ER physician Dr. Rhea Lynch. When the chief coroner is shot in a hail of gunfire that leaves a man dead and a teenaged boy searching for clues to his missing sister, Rhea is deputized as an assistant coroner. Then a mass grave is discovered--along with a killer's baffling clue.

Although she is a

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Life in a small town can take some interesting twists--especially for ER physician Dr. Rhea Lynch. When the chief coroner is shot in a hail of gunfire that leaves a man dead and a teenaged boy searching for clues to his missing sister, Rhea is deputized as an assistant coroner. Then a mass grave is discovered--along with a killer's baffling clue.

Although she is a doctor dedicated to saving the living, Rhea is suddenly forced to find answers from the dead. Soon her skill and courage put her back on the front lines of the battle she fights best: a race between life and death.

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Bella Rosa Books
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5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.65(d)

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Grave Concerns

By Gwen Hunter

Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.

Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7783-2006-5

Chapter One

As an E.R. doctor I've seen a lot of patients die - pass on, as we say in the South - but some deaths are worse than others. Much worse. Some stay with you, tainting dreams and nightmares for years afterward. Dreams that start with a bang and drag you into them feetfirst and screaming, like a roller-coaster ride in a fun house on Halloween. Or dreams that start slow and build slower, and then suddenly you're buried deep and unable to breathe. The dreams that were left after Deacon blew into Dawkins County were like the second, slow and miserable, gathering into fierce and biting terror, roaring over me in a dark wave.

Change comes to all of us - change of jobs, addresses, lovers, friends, thought processes, beliefs and hopes. A strong person deals with the changes, rocks with the waves, bends with the winds, all that pseudo-psychobabble garbage. Dr. Phil and Dear Abby stuff. Me? I guess I'm getting pretty good at change. In some ways, I'm even starting to expect it, like it, roll with the punches. But the change that some people experience can be more transformation than the average person can withstand and survive. Maybe.

* * *

I shifted on the hard front window ledge of my little bungalow-style house. The wood cut into my thigh muscle and ground against bones higher up. It was uncomfortable, but not enough to make me move away from the ice-cold window glass. In the background, the CD player flipped to a new disc, a remix of oldies.

"Oh, Girl," came through the speakers over my head. Motown. Soft and rich and so full of broken soul it made me want to cry. Motown. The music my mother had listened to when she was on the downside of a manic-depressive swing, halfway through a bottle of Jack Daniels Black Label, one new man or another kicked out of the house and her party friends sent home. Motown. I should change the music. Put on a little seventies rock or pop. Maybe a little Carly Simon or Doobie Brothers.

But I didn't. I wasn't going to let my mother's response to music color my appreciation. Motown was my mother's crutch, not mine. I liked Motown. Always had. The window was frigid against my arm and the ledge had pressed a wedge of numbness into my flank. I should do something. Be industrious. Clean house, maybe.

Several boxes of clothes waited behind me to be sorted and put away. I was in desperate need of undies; the elastic on several pairs had come totally off. For only the second time in my life I had tossed a handful of them into the trash. My stock was so low I might be driven to hand-wash some or buy more. There were underclothes in one of the boxes, I was almost sure. And I would rather dig those out than go shopping. I had lived in this house for nearly two years, and I still hadn't unpacked completely. The only things I had unearthed from the boxes behind me were several sweaters, some T-shirts, boots and a burgundy down-filled coat that was too warm for Southern winters. The coat was left over from my three-year residency stint in Chicago, a place where winter comes early and stays late.

The song changed to "BetchaByGollyWow" by the Stylistics. Okay, maybe there was a strain of self-pity in my thoughts to match the music, but then I was PMSing, so I had an excuse. I could indulge for a moment. It was my house, I could whine if I wanted to. I grinned at the thought. The only thing that would have completed my totally female mood would have been a pound of dark chocolate and a half gallon of Bryers Fudge Ripple ice cream drenched with Kahlua.

At the thought of real chocolate, I think I actually sighed, but the sound was covered by the music. All I'd had in the house was no-brand hot cocoa, the kind with hard little marshmallows floating in it. It wasn't exactly Godiva. I sipped at my cooling mug, unsatisfied.

I wasn't a particularly introspective person. I didn't spend hours rehashing conversations that had gone wrong, or the fact that I got into the slowest line at the checkout and then got a surly employee instead of a smiling one, or that I had a flat tire while driving in a gale at rush hour. I didn't even agonize over personal decisions that had turned out bad.

Medical failures, of course, were a different matter. I spent untold hours and days trying to figure out why I had lost a patient or why a particular medical procedure had not been successful. I was a contract doctor in a small rural emergency room and failure on the job was not acceptable to me. But worry over personal stuff? No way.

Looking down the road, I spotted Miss Essie trotting along, until now the one constant in my life. She was part of the changes I was facing. Miss Essie had helped raise me, but suddenly she'd left behind her slippers and her kitchen, had practically stopped baking, and had taken up with the Internet and emailing herb-loving friends. She had bought expensive walking shoes, power walking five miles a day. Moving like the Energizer bunny dyed purple, she vanished through the bare bones of the leafless trees. It had been over a week since my last loaf of fresh baked bread.

Yeah, I was whining. Dang.

In the distance, just visible through the December-dead tree branches, a county cop car pulled into a neighbor's drive. Soon after, another joined it. The CD changed to the Chairman of the Board, a soft pain of lost love. I rocked myself on the window ledge and watched the activity up the street, feeling intrigued in spite of myself. I put the cold cocoa mug on the window ledge and leaned closer to the glass, my breath making two little spots of condensation. Stoney, the cat who had adopted me, jumped to the window ledge beside me and sniffed at the mug. Unimpressed, he walked up my leg and settled, curling tight against my waist.

Five minutes later, the county coroner pulled in behind the cops and someone started rolling out crime scene tape. Crime scene tape wasn't used for natural deaths.

Maybe I had just found another reason to avoid unpacking or shopping. It looked as if a neighbor had been killed. Straining like any rubbernecker at a roadside accident, I gawked up the street. And tightened all over.

I heard the strange pop-crack just under the beat of the bass from the speakers. Though I hadn't heard the sound in ages, I recognized it instantly. The sight of cops at a dead run from the house, sliding under the crime scene tape and behind their squad cars, was the clincher. Gunshots. I shoved the cat from my lap, jumped from the window ledge and ran for the kitchen. Grabbing my medical bag off the counter, I locked the doggie door at the rear of the house to keep the dogs inside, and ran back to the front.

I was just in time to hear someone bang on my door, five pounding hits, followed by the sound of multiple sirens approaching. Cops and ambulances, two of each, raced past my front windows and pulled across the street into the neighbor's yard. My dogs were barking wildly, racing from front entrance to back in alarm. More sirens in the distance. More gunshots. Five more thumps on the door.

I wrenched open the front door to see Miss Essie in her purple jogging suit, dark skin ashen with alarm, an arm raised to pound again. "Somebody hurt. You get yourself over to help, Missy Docta Rhea." Cops shouted in the near distance, and fainter, the sound of screams, I recognized the sound of pain. "But you take care," she said, shaking my arm, her eyes wide. "You hear me? You don't get yourself shot!"


Excerpted from Grave Concerns by Gwen Hunter Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Grave Concerns 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This fast-moving and graphic story is exciting on its own, but if you read the previous three books in the series, the cast of characters becomes more meaningful. Dr. Rhea is a very complex and enjoyable heroine, although the sheer quantity of adversity that she faces does strain believability. I really like the way that Dr. Rhea and Mark's romance develops slowly and seriously.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was so great! This is the first time I'd read this author, and now I'm going to buy every other book I can find by her. She's very easy to read; I couldn't put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dr. Rhea Lynch was an E.R. physician in a small South Carolina town. When gun shots erupted down the street from her home, Rhea grabbed her medical bag and sprinted to help. The chief coroner was shot during the episode and Rhea found herself, unwillingly, deputized as an assistant coroner. Just another item to pay back Mark Stafford, local law enforcer, for. And pay him back she would. In spades! It was not long before a mass grave was uncovered. All were young girls, all high school ages, some black and some white, and all posed in the grave to make a message. It seemed the area had a serial killer on the loose and he had been killing for quite awhile. ***** Hmmm, seems Dr. Rhea-Rhea and Mark are going through a severe rough patch in romance. (This was a loose end from the last book.) Enter dangerous and sexy man Eli Cordell. This ex-military commando-man will give Mark a serious run for Rhea's affection. This novel has more action, adventure, and romance than the predecessors. So hold onto your seat. There are a couple of sub-plots around the young girls and Marisa that I do not mention for fear of spoiling something. All-in-all, this medical/police thriller is well worth the price. Readers, be sure to email or write the author telling her that you want Eli to get his own story told! *****
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Dawkins County, South Carolina, Dr. Rhea Lynch hears the volley of bullets and goes out to see if she can help. Though she almost ended up being hurt in a crossfire that is not what made her reconsider her Good Samaritan efforts. The county coroner Dr. Anita Yarborough was badly hurt in the fray and Rhea has been drafted to temporarily serve as a deputy completing the medical examination of the murder of John Pendergrass by his foster son Wayne Geter, who claims sexual abuse and that his sister was sold to someone who will abuse her abuse.

Rhea works alongside police captain Mark Stafford, a person she is in love with, but who abruptly ended their relationship when he allegedly impregnated someone else. As Rhea learns more about the case, she finds out that other girls are missing, leading the FBI into the investigation. Soon Rhea will risk her life trying to bring down a sexual predator using, abusing, and killing young females.

In her latest appearance (see DEADLY REMEDY), Rhea remains a delightful protagonist; whose refreshed with her new more bureaucratic role. That assignment also forces Rhea to deal with Mark. The story line is loaded with action as Rhea slowly becomes involved with stopping a sexual predator. Fans of the series will take pleasure in Rhea¿s latest medical romantic thriller.

Harriet Klausner