Beyond Suspicion: A Whispering Springs Mystery

Beyond Suspicion: A Whispering Springs Mystery

by Catherine Winn


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781929345106
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication date: 05/05/2015
Series: Whispering Springs Mysteries Series , #1
Pages: 230
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Catherine A. Winn, a former art and elementary school teacher, lives and writes in Texas. An avid reader of all types of mysteries from cozies to thrillers, she’s found writing them to be equally thrilling. She is currently working on her next Whispering Springs mystery.

Read an Excerpt

Beyond Suspicion

By Catherine A. Winn

Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 2015 Catherine A. Winn
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-929345-10-6


Mr. Gardiner jotted notes on the white board to emphasize his lecture on civil rights—or something. Shelby had no idea, because her attention had strayed to what Jace Conroy, the super-cute-walking-electric shock, who sat four seats back and two rows over, was doing that very minute.

The bell rang. Mr. Gardiner shouted over slamming books and loud voices. "That's all for today. Pop test the day you get back."

It was like someone hit the mute button. A stunned hush filled the room as all eyes shot toward the teacher.

Mr. Gardiner's double chins jiggled as he chuckled and dismissed them with a wave of his hand. "Hashtag sophomores are so gullible. Get out of here."

Groans and a couple of good-natured, offensive oaths were flung at him as they hurried from the room. Shelby slung her purse over her shoulder, waited for a couple of students to pass, then slid out of her seat.

"Hey, Palmer!" Randy Dawson, freckled, redheaded school genius and all-around good guy, waited at the end of her aisle with ... Jace?

Shelby gulped down the excited knot in her throat and went to stand by Randy. They were both about the same height—five foot seven. Jace, at least a head taller, with shiny brown hair interspersed with sun streaks, gave her a quick nod. His hero-handsome features and deep brown eyes sent the pace of her heart into overdrive.

"Hi, guys," she said, keeping it cool.

"Are you going to Valerie's Sweet Sixteen party?" Randy asked, using the two words Valerie Cosgrove did not want her party called because it was "soooo last century and beyond lame." Valerie, one of Shelby's two best friends, was throwing her first boy-girl party, a "sophisticated and socially cool," barbecue to celebrate her sixteenth birthday and her brand new driver's license.

"You like to live dangerously, don't you?" Shelby joked.

Jace's instant laugh made Shelby feel witty and clever. She glanced at him, then quickly looked at Randy's face. "Yes, I'll be there. Are you guys going?" Say yes. Say yes. Say yes. It wasn't every day she got to go to a party, and Jace being there would make it perfect.

"Sure," Randy said as Jace nodded. "We just need to know what time to show up."

Yes! Shelby's mouth stretched in an ecstatic smile. "It starts at eight." An eternal nano-second passed. They seemed to be waiting for her to say something else. Like what? She was so clueless! "Okay, then. I guess I'll see you there."

Shelby turned and smacked into a desk, falling forward, clutching her books. The desk skidded out from under her and she was going down when two strong hands grasped her waist.

"Nice move, Grace," Randy laughed.

"You hurt?" Jace asked, his breath caressing her cheek.

OMG! OMG! A burning sensation crept up her neck to her face. He was so close she smelled the fresh soap scent from his after-gym shower. "Yes. No. I mean ... I'm fine. Thanks."

"Good." Jace released her gently and straightened the desk.

Shelby pushed her glasses up from the tip of her nose. She could see the cute little mole right below the corner of his left eyebrow. "Um ... thanks, J-Jace." Oh, crap, why did I have to stammer?

"You're welcome." He gave her a wink, stepped aside, and motioned with his extended hand for her to go ahead of them.

Shelby fled to the safety of the hallway. Were they right behind her laughing about it? No. Better not look back. If they were right behind her she should keep walking like nothing had happened.

Rachel Rodriguez, Shelby's other best friend, compact and curvy (she hadn't needed a padded bra since seventh grade), dodged around students at breakneck speed. Her black curls, held back with a mini-braided hairband, bounced around her shoulders and her dark eyes sparkled with excitement.

"Guess what?" She flipped around to walk beside Shelby. "I've just been accepted as a student volunteer at the Whispering Springs Animal Shelter! Can you believe it? This is gonna look so good on my college apps and—get this—it's a no-kill shelter. I'm so excited!" Rachel wanted to be a veterinarian and was determined to do whatever she could to land some scholarships and get accepted by a top college—even though that was two years away.

"That's awesome!" Shelby flashed a forced congratulatory, smile but she couldn't stop thinking about being such a klutz in front of Jace. If only she could have a do-over.

Rachel's brows drew together in concern. "Why is your face so red?"

Shelby bugged her eyes out at her. "Shhhh! Just keep walking."

When they reached her locker, Shelby leaned against it for support. "Do you see Jace Conroy behind us?"

Rachel scanned the throng of faces scurrying back and forth. "Nope, he must have gone the other way."

Shelby stole a look. Jace was nowhere in sight. She inhaled deeply and let out a long sigh. "I. Am. Dying! I did a most-embarrassing-moment thing." She told Rachel everything while she opened her locker and tossed her books inside. "And that stupid Randy Dawson called me Grace and laughed!"

"Why you por thang!" Rachel clucked in sympathy.

Shelby blinked. "Por thang?"

Rachel waved at someone passing by. "I'm trying out the Texas twang for English class. Mrs. Waldrup's making us do one-act plays using regional accents to study voice and diction. Since we live in Texas, I figured it would be easy. How'd I do?"

"It sounded okay but people from Whispering Springs don't have Texas accents unless they're old-timers and then it's only a drawl not a twang."

Located in south-central Texas about twenty miles from the northern edge of San Antonio, the small town of Whispering Springs lies nestled in the rolling hills of the Texas Hill Country. Pioneers were drawn to this area for the mountain cedar, live oaks, a variety of wildlife, and an abundant supply of water from the natural springs that bubbled up from the Edwards Aquifer. Shelby smiled, remembering how much fun it was to swim in the blue water of the limestone pools etched in the rock by the steady flow of spring water.

In the last few years San Antonio had exploded in growth, stretching its boundaries in all directions thanks to the influx of new residents from every state and several countries, with many military personnel. Young families who wanted to escape the big city chose to move to Whispering Springs for the small-town atmosphere while still being able to commute to work. As word spread, so many people had come that the city fathers now talked about the need for another high school and several new elementary and middle schools.

"Some parts of Texas, like along the Red River, it's very heavy. That's the one I'm trying to copy." Rachel poked her. "Back to Jace. What happened isn't the end of the world, you know."

Shelby closed her locker, fastened the combination lock and spun the dial. "So do you think Jace is completely turned off by Klutz Palmer?"

"Jace actually had his big manly hands around your tiny little waist!"

Shelby smiled dreamily. "Did he ever."

By the time they reached Valerie, who waited for them at the door of the cafeteria with arms folded and the toe of her sandal tapping, Rachel had convinced Shelby to let it go, to stop replaying it over and over in her mind. She'd make things right at the party. She'd even laugh at herself if Jace or Randy brought it up.

Valerie's light blond fishtail braid hung over her shoulder and her small pink-butterfly earrings set off her topaz-blue eyes, now squinting. "What took you two bitches so long?" She practically shoved them into the lunch line then stepped in front of them. "Don't forget to be at my house at seven so you can help with last minute things."

"We won't," Shelby said, taking a tray.

"And don't forget your pajamas for the sleepover after the boys go home."

"We won't," Rachel said, giving Shelby a hooded eye roll.

"And don't forget to bring your curling irons and straighteners— just in case."

"We won't!" Shelby and Rachel said in annoyed unison.

Valerie tapped the glass in front of the gelatin salads and pointed. The lunch lady handed a salad to her. "Can I help it if I want everything to be perfect?" Her tone sounded hurt and a little huffy as she banged the bowl onto her tray.

"Come on, Val," Shelby said soothingly. "You know us bitches won't let our alpha bitch down."

The corners of Valerie's lips curved.

"That's right," Rachel agreed. "So did you call and ask if you could go home early?"

Valerie harrumphed. "I did and Dad reverted from retired to active Col. Cosgrove. He and mother are "the officers in charge of our private little military complex," his words. And they intend to surprise me. Yuck! I've been ordered not to call again or the party will be cancelled."

Shelby held back a chuckle. Col. Cosgrove just couldn't seem to leave military life behind, but he was a nice man who always made Shelby feel welcome. Valerie's mom, also nice, though a little distant, liked being a big fish in a small pond. She had used her twenty years of officer's-wife training to join every citizen committee or volunteer group in town, always rising quickly to a leadership position. Her picture was in the paper practically every month. Shelby's mom predicted that Valerie, the perfectly raised army brat, would someday be her clone.

They filled their trays and hurried to their regular table. When they were seated Shelby hung her purse on the back of her chair as Valerie drummed her French-manicured nails on the table. "If it's all sweet and frilly like the birthday cake, I'll puke."

"Why that'd be jist awful, hon."

Valerie's nails halted. Her thin nose scrunched. "What did you say?"

"She's practicing Texas Twang for English class," Shelby explained as her knife and fork wrestled with the chicken-fried mystery meat.

"Oh, got it. Mine is New Jersey." Valerie delicately spooned her gelatin fruit salad.

"I'm glad I've got Mrs. Rowell." Shelby took the paper off her straw. "Straight through the book and no surprises."

"Okay, enough about that," Valerie said. "Here's how we're going to get the boys to pay attention to us and only us."

"Just a sec," Rachel said, lowering her voice. "Taylor told me a couple of the guys have managed to score some vodka and bourbon."

Valerie smiled. "Good. If we're careful Dad won't have a clue."

"Knowing your dad," Shelby said. "All who enter will be frisked. Especially the boys."

Valerie's spoon bounced off the table and onto the floor.

After they finished eating, Valerie texted Taylor with a booze-at-your-own-risk warning. But just in case, they decided to stash the booze in a car and slip out to get it after the party got started. Then the three of them chatted about who would do what at the party. Shelby, acutely aware of her own inexperience, mostly listened.

Her art class was in the far wing so she dumped her tray and left first. Mrs. Winstead had already passed out their portfolios with their copper tooling plates. Shelby took out a pair of latex gloves she brought from home. Normally she didn't care what happened in art class, but she was not about to ruin her manicure just hours before the party.

During the previous class, each student had taken a simple pencil drawing and taped it over a copper plate. Then they'd used a pointed wooden stylus to trace the image into the copper. After the paper was removed, they went outdoors and brushed liver of sulfur mixture over the copper to turn it black. Shelby shuddered. Talk about a rotten egg smell; that smell was absolutely the worst. Next time she'd use Vicks in her nostrils. But that didn't matter anymore; today was the exciting part. They would polish the copper with fine steel wool and the raised places would be bright and shiny and the recessed places would be dark, giving it an antique finish.

Shelby slipped on her gloves, picked up the steel wool, and began polishing. Sounds of rubbing and whispers of awe snaked through the room.

Thirty-five minutes later Shelby couldn't believe the finished piece in her hands. Her drawing of a deer in the woods was so much more amazing like this than on paper. "Excellent job, Shelby," Mrs. Winstead said, pausing behind her. "And it will look even better when framed. I wanted to tell you that your watercolor painting of Mission San Jose has been selected for display in the Administration Building's student art show in June. If that's okay with you?" Mrs. Winstead's eyes twinkled.

Shelby beamed up at her and vigorously nodded. Only two students from each class were chosen to display their work in the art show. Shelby had gone to the mission, sketched on the grounds, then come home and worked hard on the painting. When she brought it to class Mrs. Winstead snatched it up to submit to the show, but it had been weeks and she thought it had been rejected.

The rest of the day dragged by, without even a glance of Jace to give Shelby a taste of what the coming party had to offer. They had no more classes together on Friday, but she kept hoping she'd see him in the hall. And if their eyes met, well—romantic-filled daydreams in the science lab depended on those moments.

On the bus ride home she imagined how good she would look and couldn't wait until after dinner so she could start getting ready. When the bus came to her stop, Shelby hopped off, wrapped her fingers around the straps of her backpack and sprinted toward home. Excited didn't even begin to describe how she was feeling. The best part about it was, after the party all the boys would be sent home and the girls were having a sleepover. That meant freedom and a whole night away from home. Too bad it wasn't the whole weekend. She had loved Josh from the minute he was born last August, but she was so tired of hearing her mother say, "Shelby, the baby needs changing." or "Shelby, the baby needs a bottle." And dealing with Roger, the man her mother had been stupid enough to marry, was maddening. This party was definitely what she needed.

As she rounded the corner to her street, she spotted the white van. Crap. It seemed like every couple of days these two creeps came by to check out the empty house for sale. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched the woman's head turn. What a freak. A baseball cap covered her long, platinum-blond hair and hid her forehead. Large dark sunglasses covered half her face. It made Shelby's skin crawl the way the two of them ogled her, especially the man behind the wheel. She didn't want to do it but she took a quick glance at him. Sure enough, he was hunched over the wheel, peering around the woman, staring at her. His dark hair slicked back from his sunken cheeks. It would be awful if those two bought the house and moved into the neighborhood.

Enough of them. Tonight was too important to let a couple of weird house-hunters spoil her day. Shelby shoved her eyeglasses back into place with one finger. That was another thing she was tired of doing. Her eyesight was too poor to go without glasses, but her mother didn't believe in contact lenses. With perfect vision her whole life, Mom just didn't understand. "I don't want you hurting your cornea or getting a disease from not cleaning them correctly," her mother had said. "I just don't know ... let me think about it before we make an appointment to see the doctor." Shelby knew better than to push the subject, because money had been tight ever since Josh was born.

Shelby shoved all that out of her mind. This was the night she had daydreamed about for a month. Mom had taken her shopping and the emerald green dress they chose looked amazing on her, especially with the new push-up bra that gave her boobs. She had practiced makeup that would help the dress enhance the green flecks in her brown eyes and had perfected an upswept casual style for her light brown hair.

Her mom's hair was a deep chestnut that she used to dream of having—until her mom told her she wished she had Shelby's shade. "The sun does such wonderful things to your hair." After that, Shelby appreciated the soft brown color, with its subtle highlights, fullness, and how easy it was to arrange. With a precision cut last week from her mom's hair stylist, she was so ready. If everything went the way it was supposed to, she might end up with her first boyfriend. Valerie had Andrew, Rachel crushed on Brandon, and it would be so awesome if she and Jace could get together.


Excerpted from Beyond Suspicion by Catherine A. Winn. Copyright © 2015 Catherine A. Winn. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press.
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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Beyond Suspicion: A Whispering Springs Mystery 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
BuriedUnderBooks More than 1 year ago
3.5 stars In the opening pages of Beyond Suspicion, we learn that Shelby is a typical high school girl, one you could find just about anywhere. She's 15 and everything is ultra-important, especially the crush she has on Jace, a boy at school, and her very first boy-girl party, happening that night at Valerie's house. Unfortunately, her mother and stepfather have other plans for Shelby's evening, demanding that she stay home and look after her baby brother, Josh, while they go out. Before the night is over, Josh will vanish and Shelby will be accused of doing something terrible to get back at Roger and her mom; she'll have to do whatever she can to get Josh back even if it means putting her own life in jeopardy. I liked Shelby a lot and sympathized with her disenchantment with both Roger and her mom, particularly her mom who is so focused on Roger and Josh that she has pretty much pushed Shelby aside. She and Roger make it very clear that Shelby's feelings matter little to them and it's no wonder she can't stand Roger considering his attitude towards her. Any teenager would have trouble coping and it's harder for Shelby because her father, whom she was so close to, abandoned them to pursue his own interests. I did find the actual plot to be something of a stretch of credulity. I don't question the police initially believing that Shelby must be guilty and the media is unsurprising in its relentless hounding but she has the worst best friends ever. Her actions to get Josh back really aren't all that realistic, though, nor is the reason behind the kidnapping. Still, this was a pleasant way to spend a few hours and Ms. Winn is an author I'd like to try again.
Feathered_Quill1 More than 1 year ago
Catherine A. Winn treats her young adult audience to an engaging work of suspense in her debut novel, Beyond Suspicion. It's hard enough trying to fit into middle school, but it's especially hard for Shelby. She is the statistic when it comes to her home life. Her parents are divorced and her mom has remarried. Not only does she have a new dad, but a new baby brother as well. Often, it feels like she is the odd man out and the built-in babysitter for her new brother, Josh. Why did her mom and dad split anyway? And why did her mom have to go and have a kid with her stepfather? Whatever. Tonight was her night. Her parents were letting her go to her first boy-girl party and Lord knows Shelby had spent weeks preparing for this monumental event. However, when Shelby gets home from school that afternoon, she wasn't prepared for the re-shuffle of her cards. Roger (stepdad) has changed his mind and informs Shelby she will be babysitting Josh...again! Furious and disgusted, Shelby needs to cool off. She figures if she takes Josh for a stroll to the park, by the time she gets home, maybe her parents will change their mind and hire a babysitter so she can still make the party later that evening. On her way, she passes that white van again. Who is that bleached blonde wearing the baseball cap and that sketchy guy? No matter, next stop, the park. The park is a busy place today-soccer game, lots of runners and noise. Shelby manages a quiet bench off the beaten path to be sure baby brother Josh doesn't wake from his nap. Everything is going fine until a series of loud pops disturbs her thoughts. Reactively, Shelby follows the other on-lookers toward the source of the commotion. It turns out it was nothing more than a bunch of yahoos setting off firecrackers. When she returns to check on her sleeping brother, panic sets in. Shelby is horrified when she peeks into the stroller and finds he is no longer there. She immediately launches into a frenzied search for her missing brother only to come up empty-handed. Her stomach does a flip when she thinks about going home and she has to explain to her mom and stepfather why it is only her and she has no idea what has happened to baby Josh. Catherine A. Winn launches mystery and intrigue early on in Beyond Suspicion. The essence of a winning mystery is to deliver the body and do so within the first handful of pages. Character baby Josh is the 'body' in this case and Winn confidently establishes his departure. The dialogue and hormonal roller coaster emotions assigned to main teen character Shelby are signature. She owns her acting out as teens are oh-so capable of doing. There is a nuance that threads throughout this read related to turn-on-the-dime snubbing adolescents are naturally capable of demonstrating as well. The dynamics are further solidified with the premise of one day, Shelby has a BFF and in the click of moments, she is the posterchild of the kid no parent wants his or her kid associated with. This is a great read for young adults looking for something quick and relatable. It has all the credible elements of 'tween-aged' adolescence and presents many opportunities for its audience to apply a theory of 'what would I do if faced with a similar situation?' Ms. Winn has done a great job in delivering her debut novel, Beyond Suspicion. In my opinion, it would bode well on school library bookshelves. Quill says: Beyond Suspicion is a terrific 'food for thought' mystery for young adults.
VicG More than 1 year ago
Catherine A. Winn in her new book, “Beyond Suspicion” published by Poisoned Pencil introduces us to Shelby. From the back cover: Her mom’s remarriage has been hard on fifteen year old Shelby. Roger is strict and treats her like a child. At least they’re letting her go to her first boy-girl party. That is until she gets home from school and finds that Roger has changed his mind—he wants Shelby to babysit her year-old brother Josh. It’s so unfair! Fuming, Shelby takes Josh in his stroller to the park. After all, it’s not his fault. Someone sets off fireworks, distracting Shelby. When she turns around—Josh is gone. Shelby tells the police she’s seen a white van cruising the neighborhood lately, and she thinks she saw it at the park as well. But to her horror, the police are not interested: Pointing to angry texts to her girlfriends about getting back at Roger, they accuse her of causing Josh’s disappearance! The police focus on the woods around the park, driving Shelby wild with fear and anger that the kidnappers will get away. With TV reporters all over the front yard, Shelby sneaks out the back to find her brother, any way she can. So begins Shelby’s race against time—and against a world that has turned on her. And yet she finds help along the way. There’s mysterious Matt, who says he wants to help, but doesn’t seem to want anyone to know it. And there’s Jess, who watches out for Shelby as, against the odds, she tracks down the kidnappers down just as they are leaving town. If the great director Alfred Hitchcock was still alive he would be interested in this story to direct. This is his kind of movie. First Shelby was going to the party then Shelby is not going to the party because she has to babysit. To calm down she puts him in his stroller and heads out to the park. That is where everything goes wrong. While a fireworks display distracts her someone abducts her brother. The problem is no one believes her. Everyone believes she did something. Now, not only does she have to prove them wrong, but she has to do it in a hurry before they do something to her brother. “Beyond Suspicion” is going to keep you on your toes as you race along trying to keep up with all that is going on. Let me assure you that once you get started with “Beyond Suspicion” you are not going to want to stop until you finish so I recommend you start early. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Partners In Crime. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”