Julie Hall’s job is to find bodies. For the sake of her sanity, she’s taking a much-needed break—but the dead don’t wait. With bodies piling up alongside her guilt, she knows she has to dive back in, despite pushback from her FBI boyfriend, Garrett Pierce. But Garrett is working a troubling case of his own and no longer seems like the man she fell in love with.
Despite his warnings—or maybe because of them—when Garrett goes missing, Julie has no choice but to use her skills to find where the cartel buries their victims…before he becomes part of the body count.
Don’t miss books one and two in the Bodies of Evidence series by Wendy Roberts. A Grave Calling and A Grave Search are available now from Carina Press!
About the Author
WENDY ROBERTS is the author of the Bodies of Evidence mysteries, the Ghost Dusters series, Dating Can Be Deadly, and Grounds to Kill. She is an armchair sleuth and a fan of the mysterious. Wendy lives in Vancouver where she happily writes about murder. You can visit her online at www.wendyroberts.com on Twitter @authorwendy, on Facebook at Facebook.com/WendyRobertsAuthor and at Instagram at wendyroberts_author.
Read an Excerpt
Every time I find a body I hope it will bring closure to those left behind. That's a lot to ask of a corpse. The dead usually bring more questions than answers. Although I've taken a hiatus from using dowsing rods to find the dead, that hasn't stopped the stiffs from piling up or the living from wanting to bring them home. Sometimes late at night I can almost hear the dead calling.
As I stared into my laptop screen and scanned my email inbox, I drummed my fingers on the table and tried to decide if this was the week I'd go back to work. It's been months. Both my FBI boyfriend and my psychiatrist agreed I should take my time. They thought the dead could wait and my sanity was more important. I understood their reasoning, but Garrett and Dr. Chen were not the ones fielding my overflowing inbox of requests from loved ones desperate to find and bury their dead.
My dog, Wookie, came over and nudged my knee with his head. A cue that I'd been staring at my laptop on the kitchen table for too long and, meanwhile, his food bowl was still empty. An angry meow from the kitchen counter meant Fluffy felt the same.
As I fed the animals and shooed Fluffy off the counter, I looked longingly at my laptop screen from across the kitchen.
Maybe just a little case. A simple recovery that would ease me back into my Divine Reunions business of finding the departed. I had a restless feeling in my gut that had only grown stronger every day over the past few weeks. There was that one request a few months ago ...
I grabbed some coffee and sat back down at the kitchen table, then scrolled back through my emails until I found it. A mother looking for her son; a missing hiker. Searches for his body had been called off until the spring thaw. I glanced out my window at the blooming cherry tree in the center of the front yard and checked the weather forecast on my phone. It had been an exceptionally warm April. I sipped from my mug then read over the message details. Before I could change my mind, I sent off a quick request to the hiker's mother for more information and attached one of my service contracts to the message.
I closed my eyes, breathed in and said a silent prayer that it wasn't too soon to return to work.
"I'm ready." I hoped the self-confidence in the words would fill the rest of my body.
My cell phone chimed, and I let it ring a few times before I picked it up. It would be nine o'clock on the dot.
"For a moment there I thought you were going to be a second late," I chided as I leaned back in my chair.
"And for a second I thought you were going to let it go to voicemail just to tick me off," Garrett replied. His voice sounded strained and tired. "How are you, baby?"
"I'm good except you've been gone almost a week and the dog and cat are starting to fight for your space in our bed."
"Do not let the animals in our bed!" Garrett exclaimed, but his voice held no enthusiasm for our usual playful argument.
"Too late. I need someone to keep my feet warm at night."
Fluffy was once again on the kitchen counter. Wookie, the Rottweiler, noticed the infraction at the exact same time and barked sharply at the cat and then looked to me for approval.
"Nobody likes a tattletale," I told the dog.
"Fluffy on the counter again?" Garrett asked.
"Maybe I should just start to ignore it. I think he actually enjoys the spray bottle. I'm thinking I should just stop rewarding his bad behavior with attention."
"You'll make a great mom," Garrett said and then I could almost visualize him cringe. "Sorry, that just slipped out."
Still, the comment lay between us and created a sense of panic in my chest. I cleared my throat and changed the subject away from that more tender one. "When are you coming home?"
"Soon as in tomorrow? Or soon as in before my hair turns gray?" "This case is just ..." He exhaled loudly. "Hard. It's damn hard."
"It would make me feel better if I at least knew where you were."
He didn't reply. Having an FBI agent as a boyfriend meant a lot of unanswered questions.
"Well, I've decided to take on a case," I told him. "A simple one. Missing hiker that —"
"I'm glad you feel ready. Could you wait until I get home?"
Even though his tone was gentle, it still rankled. I hadn't taken a dowsing job for months. Sure, I had my own doubts about going back to work, but I didn't want to wait for his permission.
"I've been waiting." My back was up now. "I'm doing it. It's time."
Someone was trying to talk to him in the background and he told them to wait a second.
"Could you take someone with you?" he suggested. "Maybe call Tracey?"
Tracey was particularly useless on a hike and he knew that but if I ended up taking the lost hiker case, the drive was going to be a particularly long one. It might be nice to have someone along for the ride. "I'll ask her."
"Good." He sighed with relief. "When I get home —" he began, but then I could hear muffled voices in the background and he abruptly told me he had to go.
"Okay, I love —" But the line was already dead.
I frowned at the phone briefly, then decided to get in the shower. Later, when I was drying off, I caught my reflection in the steamy bathroom mirror and startled as if seeing a stranger. In a joint hair-dying evening, Tracey had insisted I needed to lighten things up. Quite literally. And now I was a bleached blonde.
While I dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, my phone chimed notification that I had a reply to my email. The mother of the missing hiker was thrilled I would help find her boy. She'd answered all my remaining questions, signed my service contract and thanked me profusely. Only a minute later my phone pinged again, stating she'd already paid my deposit. It was a go. I felt simultaneously exhilarated and sickened.
I wanted to go back to work and I was proud of my Divine Reunions website. I'd designed the site to help give loved ones a way to contact me about using my dowsing rods to find the bodies of their lost loved ones. I'd never expected to be so overwhelmed by requests from all over the world so, when things went to hell several months ago, I'd stopped answering inquiries. It was too hard to deal with death and dying. I was struggling just to live. My mind had been too fragile then. Was I strong enough now?
I sat on the edge of the bed and tried to do one of the many quick meditations I'd learned from my psychiatrist. When I tried to clear my thoughts, immediately one unwelcome idea popped into my head.
Wine would be oh so lovely right now. A massive glass of ice cold pinot grigio. Remember what it's like to take that first swallow? The feel of that sweet tang hitting the back of the throat?
The words flew into my head before I could stop them. The urge to drink happened more often than I liked. I'd been sober for many months now but I still craved alcohol like a lover's touch. I pushed boozy ideas away and did one of the mindfulness exercises to help calm my pinging nerves and, when I was done, I stretched and headed to the kitchen.
"He-e-ey, Mom." As I walked by, I tenderly touched the jar containing my mother's ashes that rested in a corner of the counter.
I made myself some toast and refereed another battle between Wookie and Fluffy while I ate. Then, true to my word, I called up my friend Tracey and asked if she felt like tagging along for a ride to Hog Lake.
"Are you looking for a dead person? Oh my God, you are, aren't you? Of course, I want to come! Will I be home in time for my shift at six o'clock?"
"Hog Lake is near Spokane," I told her. "We're talking ten or eleven hours round trip driving and however long it takes me to do the hike. You'll be lucky to make it home by midnight."
"Don't worry about it. You can come along another time." I felt a wave a disappointment and realized I'd actually been counting on the company.
"But this is your first time since ... you know."
Of course I knew, and I didn't want to talk about it. "I might not even find the body my first time out. There might still be too much snow on the trail to even give it a good look."
"Let me just see if I can switch my shift. I'll call you back."
She ended the call and I went to the spare bedroom and opened the closet. My hands shook a little as I reached far into the back, behind some unpacked boxes, for my backpack. I began to pack it with everything I needed to find the dead. Granola bars, a baseball cap, sunglasses, a scarf, and water bottles. My dowsing rods lay where I last placed them, at the bottom of the pack.
"Hello there." I took out the copper rods and stroked the length of them. A small sigh escaped my lips. "I know it's been a while."
The rods felt warm and responsive to the touch. As if they were welcoming me. I gingerly tucked them back into my pack and let Wookie out for a pee while I went in search of my hiking boots. As I walked through the kitchen, my toe caught on a tear in the linoleum that had lifted and curled. I cursed and stomped on the offending old flooring to punish it for hurting my foot. It must've been the hundredth time I'd tripped on the exact same location.
Even though we'd lived in this house a few months already, the three-bedroom fixer-upper ranch still didn't quite feel like home. When Garrett and I decided to move in together, we looked at dozens of houses before deciding to buy this one. It was in an area of Washington not too far from the city of Everett. Close enough for Garrett to commute into Seattle, and far enough from the city that I didn't have to walk Wookie through streets lined with concrete towers. The to-do list on this house seemed overwhelming and the other houses too close. But Garrett had insisted that having neighbors was safer and that the work needed in the house was all cosmetic. He'd said we could take our time to make the place ours. At the time, I'd been weary and just hanging on to myself by a thread. When Garrett had continued to extol the virtues of a house needing work, my final answer had been a shrug of agreement. I just wanted a place that felt safe.
The biggest drawback for me wasn't the endless amount of work the house needed; it was the proximity of neighbors. Every time I let Wookie outside and whenever I walked out the door to my car it seemed that either Hairy Neighbor on one side, or Bald Neighbor on the other, were out to greet me and wanting to make small talk. They liked to hang around Bald Neighbor's fancy Alfa Romeo Spider and stare lovingly at its shiny red paint.
Garrett felt having people close by was a form of protection. He had far more faith in people than I did. When I let Wookie back inside the house, Bald Neighbor was out watering his flowers in the backyard and he stopped to give me an enthusiastic wave. Although I returned the wave, I hastily closed the patio doors and then the drapes covering them.
I found my hiking boots tucked far under our bed. They'd seen a lot of wear before we moved, and they hugged my feet nicely as I slipped them on.
"Behave, you two," I told the cat and dog as I slipped the backpack onto my back.
Fluffy was engaged in an elaborate bathing ritual and didn't even glance over. Wookie offered me a sulky look because he wanted to come along.
I walked out to my Jeep and felt the cool, misty spring air that would burn off as the April sun rose in the sky. Just as I backed my Jeep out of the driveway, Tracey called. She'd traded shifts with someone and was free for our adventure.
"This is going to be awesome!" She sounded entirely too enthusiastic about a field trip to find a dead person. Then again, Tracey wouldn't be hiking. She was more likely to be taking advantage of my heated seats and scrolling through social media on her phone.
When Garrett and I moved in together, Tracey had found a new place to rent and a new job only a few miles away. She claimed she could work at a grocery store anywhere and liked having a friend nearby. She'd packed up and moved just for me. It was the type of commitment to friendship I'd never experienced before.
When I pulled up to Tracey's apartment building a few minutes later, she struck a seductive pose, her pale pink hair draped over one eye as she thrust out her thumb as if hitching a ride. I smiled despite myself. Tracey and I were the same age, but we were darkness and light. She wore her late twenties like a glittery fairy full of the spark of life while the same years were heavy on me like a weighted blanket of trauma and drink.
"I'm so excited!" Tracey gushed as she flung open the passenger door and carefully climbed inside. A knee brace made it more difficult.
"I'm impressed you're dressed for hiking." I eyed the brand-new hiking boots on her feet, lightweight jacket over her arm, and a small pack she put on the floor at her feet.
"I know you like to hike so I bought some gear months ago when there was a sale." She slid me a sidelong sheepish look. "I may be only visually hiking because of my damn body but I want to at least look the part."
Tracey had a connective tissue disorder that made her joints unstable. She had braces that switched onto various joints depending on the day.
"What happened to your hair?" she asked.
"I had a trim." I touched my hand to my head.
"But you cut off all the pink." There was a slight hurt in her voice. When Tracey dyed her entire head pink and mine blonde she'd convinced me to pinken the tips of my hair. At the time it had felt childlike, lighthearted and fun. The very next day I'd taken scissors and cut those pink ends off.
"It's great on you." I offered her an apologetic flicker of a smile as I steered out of her parking lot. "But I don't think it's my style." A Grave Peril 16
When she opened her mouth to protest, I shut her down by giving her something to do.
"Take my phone from the console and look up the notes I made about today's search, okay?"
She dug out my phone, opened the emails and read out loud.
"Douglas Prost, age thirty-one, told people he was going to hike Hog Lake in October of last year. When he didn't return home that day, his mother reported him missing. Local rescue crews went out the next day, but they stopped looking when a blizzard made the search too dangerous. His mother tried to hire some private search crews but they all turned her down because of the heavy snows this winter. Because of our extra warm spring, some crews have already ventured out, but they have yet to locate the body." Tracey turned to me. "You made a note here that says 'easy 5.'"
"It's an easy five-mile hike," I explained. "I looked it up."
While I took the exit onto I-90, Tracey fiddled with the radio until she found a station playing angsty rap songs where she knew all the words. I usually preferred to listen to audio self-help books on my drives, or guided meditations. The music grated on my nerves all the way through Snoqualmie Pass and well past the town of Ellensburg. When Tracey slumped in her seat and nodded off I shut down the radio and she promptly woke.
"Just need a while to think," I explained.
"Could we make a stop?" Tracey asked. "Need a coffee and to pee and not necessarily in that order."
We made a stop at a gas station in the next town. I decided to use the washroom too and when I came out Tracey was paying for a pile of candy bars and telling the woman at the counter all about our plans to find Douglas Prost.
"I heard about you finding dead people," the woman said, nodding sagely. "I used to live up in Blaine many years ago. I knew your grandparents back in the day too and —"
"I'll see you in the car," I told Tracey.
She returned carrying two coffees and a sack of candy all balanced precariously in one hand while she opened the door and climbed inside.
"This one's for you," she said, handing me one of the coffees.
"Thanks." I put the coffee into the cupholder, then turned to her. "Don't do that."
"What? Buy you coffee?" She blinked innocently.
"You know what I mean," I grumped. "Don't tell people where we're going and what we're doing. It's nobody's business."
"Oka-a-ay." She buckled up her seatbelt. "For the record, I never knew the woman would know about your shit family or anything. Guess Washington State is a lot smaller than you'd think."
Not when you were trying to find a lost hiker. Then it could be pretty big.
Tracey scrolled through her phone and we sat in silence for the remaining hour of our drive. We pulled into the parking lot at Hog Lake and I put the Jeep into park.
"Do you think you'll find this Douglas Prost guy?" Tracey asked through a yawn. "Five miles is a lot of area to search."
"I don't know," I admitted. "Obviously he's not on the main trail or someone would've found him by now."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Grave Peril"
Copyright © 2019 Wendy Roberts.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Almost didn't finish, boring plot. I did like the growing friendship between Julie and Tracey.
In this third outing in the series Julie Hall is adjusting to being in a full time relationship, maintaining a friendship and getting back to accepting jobs to help locate deceased missing persons with her dowsing rods. For a normal person those seem like simple everyday things. But for a woman with Julie's abusive childhood and her daily struggle to stay sober they are stress inducing. That stress is added to when her FBI live in boyfriend Garrett Pierce starts acting out of the normal and is being very secretive about his current case and is gone more than he is around. Because of his love for Julie he is trying to keep her as far away from the case he is working on not realizing that this sets of her insecurities and makes her want to dig in and find out what he is hiding. And when he goes missing Julie wont back down on finding her man. Julie is on her own most of the book and even though the thought of having a drink comes up every time she get stressed she resists and is growing in her recovery both mentally and in her sobriety. There are plenty of humorous moments through out along the suspense that ramps up to edge of your seat peril. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and hope there are many more to come.
We are on the third book in this series, and I think this is the best one so far. Normally, I read just mystery or fantasy books with a paranormal element in them. I started this series because of the way the protagonist finds dead people by dowsing. However, with this third book, the paranormal element has taken a backseat to the rest of the story. And, that’s just great, because I couldn’t put this book down. Julie is still in a very dark place, and when Garrett disappears, she must find him while keeping her demons (metaphoric, not literal as it’s not that kind of paranormal book) at bay. Julie is really coming out of her shell, and I’m glad to see her letting people in her life. Maybe very reluctantly, but she’s dealing with everything slowly but surely. I do admit to being a little upset with how Garrett treats her at the end, but I think he has issues he hasn’t dealt with either. I loved this book, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Julie, Garrett, Tracey, et. al. As an aside, I love Tracey; she’s helping Julie come out and enjoy life and maybe start leaving the pain behind. I highly recommend this book! I was provided the e-book which I voluntarily reviewed.
Julie Hall finds lost people ... if they are dead. She and her dowsing rods are well known for her ability to locate bodies even if they have been dead for many years. Her last job took her back to her hometown and she's been recovering since them. She feels the time is right to jump back in and go to work. Her boyfriend, FBI Agent Garrett Pierce, doesn't agree ... but he's got his own problems with a case. Garrett has been acting really strange .. at least for him. He doesn't stay in touch with Julie the way he always has ... doesn't return her calls or texts ... and when he's home, he's secretive and a little bit snarly. When he disappears for days on end, she really gets worried. Julie feels she has no option available except to try to find him. What she ultimately discovers is far worse than she imagined and now there are several lives on the line ...including hers. Although this is third in a series, A GRAVE PERIL reads well as a stand alone as it focuses more on the relationship between Julie and Garrett and not her body-finding abilities. There are just a few small references touching on her personal background and why she is the way she is. However, the reader can still enjoy the first two books. This is well -written with credible characters. Her best friend, Tracy, is like Peter Pan .. she's a little ditzy, but she will do anything she can for Julie. Julie has a dog that Tracy is deathly afraid of and a cat named Fluffy that was Julie's mom's cat ... and Fluffy does not like Julie at all. It's all these little details that make this such an interesting read. Many thanks to the author / Carina Press / Netgalley for the advanced digital copy of this paranormal mystery. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.
A Grave Peril by Wendy Roberts Bodies of Evidence #3 Julie Hall and Garrett Pierce have moved in together by book three and though it seems Garrett may be interested in tying “the knot” Julie is not so sure she ever wants to marry or have a family. They have been a couple for awhile and seem to have a good relationship but as Garrett’s job with the FBI heats up, he is put on leave and then disappears one night...well...Julie is not sure what is going on. She begins to question the relationship and just where her partner may be. Then, she begins to worry. Wanting to get her “toes wet” and try her hand at dowsing for the dead again after a longish cut she heads out with a friend and has success. She does a bit more looking for a few other bodies in this book but she also worries about Garrett and eventually starts looking for him following what she believes are clues to his whereabouts. With her friend Tracey along to help at times, a crazy cat and Wookie her rottweiler she deals with one problem after another as she tries to find out whether or not Garrett is alright. This is book deals more with Julie’s search for Garrett and his FBI work than it does with finding the dead...although there is a bit of that, too. It will be interesting to see where the author goes with this series next...and I am eager to read book four when it is ready. Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin-Carina Press for the ARC – This is my honest review. 4-5 Stars