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Blood Ties

Blood Ties

3.6 810
by Lori Armstrong

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Given the trainwreck my life has become, I’ve earned my cynical attitude. I’m trapped in a dead-end job at the Bear Butte County Sheriff’s Office—a position I took out of desperation after the brutal murder of my Lakota half-brother. Three years have passed, his case is cold, and my coping mechanisms—tequila, cigarettes and dubious men


Given the trainwreck my life has become, I’ve earned my cynical attitude. I’m trapped in a dead-end job at the Bear Butte County Sheriff’s Office—a position I took out of desperation after the brutal murder of my Lakota half-brother. Three years have passed, his case is cold, and my coping mechanisms—tequila, cigarettes and dubious men—no longer serve as excuses for my grief; they define who I am.

Welcome to my world—Julie Collins, harbinger of doom and a sucker for lost causes.

So when the body of a sixteen-year-old white girl surfaces and the death details are alarmingly similar to my brother’s murder, Kevin Wells—my best pal and local PI—admits he’d been hired to find the missing kid before she turned up dead.

I’m roped into helping Kevin tie up loose ends regarding the girl’s disappearance…and that’s when things begin to unravel. Lies are revealed. Bullets start flying. Yet nothing—not even death threats—will stop me from digging for the truth and finding the justice for this girl that my brother was denied.

But the killer is willing to kill again to make sure these secrets stay buried. And this time, I’m in the crosshairs.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Stephanie Kane

"Hard as nails, a barroom brawler - and a chick! Lori Armstrong's creation is born of the Black Hills. Tough, sensitive and smart, Julie Collins is a welcome addition to the private eye genre. In BLOOD TIES she breaks all the rules." -- Stephanie Kane, Author of SEEDS OF DOUBT

Clive Cussler

". . . a fascinating tale of intrigue that will sweep you into a world of horror and suspense."

-- Clive Cussler, NY Times Bestselling author

C Cody

"Lori Armstrong writes a compelling story that will hold your interest from the first page. I was glued to my chair from the prologue and couldn't stop reading until I finished it. BLOOD TIES is a roller coaster ride of danger and excitement that will have your heart pumping and your emotions twisting like a wet dish rag. I loved this book, and if you like kick-butt heroines and a fast paced mystery, you will too." -- C.Cody, www.romancejunkies.com

Stephanie Kane
Tough, sensitive and smart Julie Collins is a welcome addition to the private eye genre. In Blood Ties she breaks all the rules. (Stephanie Kane, author, Seeds of Doubt)\
A roller coaster ride of danger and excitement that will have your heart pumping and your emotions twisting like a wet dishrag.\
In The Library Reviews
Your subconscious urge[s] you to read just one more page, get one more piece of the puzzle.\
Romantic Times BOOKclub Magazine
4 1/2 stars! With its razor-sharp characterization and well-defined sense of place, [this book]delivers from beginning to end.\
The Romance Studio
Medallion Press has been cemented as a quality publisher, and Ms. Armstrong is an author I'll be looking for in the future.\
Romantic Times Book Reviews
This engrossing tale of murder and deceit-with it's razor-sharp characterization and well-defined sense of place-delivers from beginning to end.\

Product Details

Publication date:
Julie Collins Mystery , #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.51(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.59(d)

Read an Excerpt

Blood Ties

By Lori Armstrong Medallion Press, Inc.
Copyright © 2005
Lori Armstrong
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-932815-32-0

Chapter One "Almost, just a little lower. Right there. Oh, God, yes, that's it."

I'd shamelessly splayed myself over the filing cabinet, but the warm masculine hands caressing my vertebrae froze.

"Knock it off, Julie. Sheriff hears you moaning like that, he'll think we're doing it on your desk."

"Al." I sighed lazily. "If I thought you could find my G-spot as quickly as you zeroed in on that knotted muscle, we would be doing it on my desk."

"Smart ass. Don't know why we put up with you."

I twisted, heard the satisfying crack and pop of my spinal column realigning itself. No more sex on the kitchen table for me.

"You put up with me because I file, but I'm not dedicated enough to devise my own system."

My blond, waist-length hair curtained my face as I slipped my heels back on.

"Besides my pseudo-efficiency, I look a damn sight better manning the phones than Deputy John. Admit it, tiger," I added with a snapping, sexy growl.

Al colored a mottled burgundy, a peculiar habit for a forty-five-year-old deputy. He adjusted his gun in a self-conscious gesture, which made me wonder if he'd finger his manhood in front of me as easily. In law enforcement the size of your gun was closely related to the size of, well, your gun. Hmm. Was Al's private stock an Uzi? Or a peashooter?

"Regardless," he continued, unaware of my questioning gaze on his crotch. "If my wife heard me trash-talking with you I'd be sleeping in the den for a month."

I set my hands on his face and slapped his reddened cheeks while I maneuvered around him.

"I've seen your den. And your wife ... Wouldn't be much of a hardship."

Light spilled across the mud-crusted carpet when the steel front door blew open. All five-foot-one inch of Missy Brewster, my 4:00 relief, sauntered in.

My tolerance level for Missy was lower than a stock dam during a drought. She embodied the skate-by-with-a-minimum-amount-of-effort civil servant attitude, versus the work ethic my father had literally pounded into me and which I couldn't escape, no matter how menial the job. Lazy, whiny, and petty were Missy's least annoying characteristics.

I guessed she'd compiled her own list of my irritating quirks: punctuality, humanity, a stubbornness born of desperation.

Her crocheted handbag thumped on the filing cabinet. She peeled off her NASCAR jacket, and slung the silver satin over the chair with a loving touch before adjusting her cleavage with a slow overhead stretch. A haughty look followed.

"Hey, Julie. Stud boy is waiting. Said something about you getting your ass out there pronto."

I watched Al's gaze linger on Missy's mammoth breasts, crammed tightly into a pink t-shirt. My eyes followed his, but I refused to glance down at my own 36C chest in comparison; there was none.

"Stud boy? You call him that and flash those boobs in his face?"

Her lips, the color and consistency of candied apples, turned mulish.

"I didn't flash him."

"But I'll bet he looked."

"Honey, they all look." With a fake sigh of resignation, she squeezed her big butt in my chair and swiveled toward the computer to clock in.

She reached for a pencil, deigning to answer the phone on the fifth ring.

"Bear Butte County Sheriff's office." Her tone oozed sweetness. "Hey, Gene."

Yuck. I added disinfecting the receiver with Windex to my list of duties for tomorrow.

"Yeah, I just came on."

Missy flicked an irritated glance my direction.

"No, she's still here." Pause. "He's probably messing with his computer. Want me to ring him?" A minute of silence followed; her false eyelashes batted with apparent panic.

Al, sensing Missy's damsel-in-distress signal, stepped forward.

I stayed put.

"Well, glad it didn't happen here." She muttered a bunch of "uh-huhs" before adding, "No problem. I'll tell him straight away. Bye, now."

"What's up?" This from Al, the brave, blushing warrior.

Missy's shifty gaze wavered between Al and me. "Nothing in our neck of the woods."

Skirting the desk, she hustled down the hallway, Al hot on her Ferragamo heels as she rapped daintily on the sheriff's door.

I got the distinct impression Missy wanted me to leave. So, naturally, I followed the merry little band into the inner sanctum of Sheriff Tom Richards' office.

He didn't respond immediately to our interruption. His back, roughly the size of a Cadillac hood, greeted us, a constant click clack click clack echoed from the keyboard. The plastic slide-out tray bounced, and although I didn't see his hands, I knew they fairly danced over the keys. My typing skills are half-assed on a good day. It amazed me thick fingers could be so nimble when it came to office drudgery.


His acknowledgement was a harsh grunt.

"Gene Black called."

"Yeah? What did he want?" Tap, tap, tap.

"They found a floater."

His movement stopped; his spine snapped straight as an axel rod. He turned. "When?"

"This morning. Some fly-fishermen hooked it in Rapid Creek."

He scowled at the clock. "He's just calling me now?"

Missy's fleshy shoulder lifted; the gesture a nervous twitch, not a casual shrug. "Wanted to give you a heads up before the media did."

"Whereabouts was this?"

She plucked a loose paperclip teetering on the desk edge. "Up in the Hills, off Rimrock." Her pudgy fingers twisted the metal into a caricature of modern art.

"Pennington County claimed jurisdiction, but Rapid City PD was on scene as a courtesy. Then a whole mess of people showed up."

The sheriff chugged his coffee, gorilla hands dwarfing the cup.

Being around him every day makes me forget how immense, how out of proportion he is with the rest of the world. At six-foot nine, he has the distinction of being the biggest sheriff in the state. His arms, legs, and torso are perfectly balanced, but his huge head isn't: It resembles an overgrown honeydew melon with ears.

His button nose is centered in a grayish face; his coffee-colored eyes withhold any trace of softness. Spikes of black hair protrude from his head and chin, reinforcing the ogre-like image from a fairy tale. The knife scar connecting the right side of his mouth to his jaw line creates a constant scowl and discourages most comments, either about the state of the weather up high, or whether or not he plays basketball.

"Gene said they weren't allowed to move the body right away," Missy continued. "They called in the DCI from Pierre. Which also caught the interest of the Feds."

"The Feds and DCI? Why not the NPS, too? Who the hell did they find up there?"

Don't go there, my brain warned, but my mouth ignored the plea. "With that much manpower?" I said. "I'll guarantee it wasn't another Indian."

Ugly silence followed, thick as buffalo stew.

In the past two years, five transient Lakota males - varying in age from thirty to seventy - had become life-sized bobbers in Rapid Creek, which twists from Pactola Lake and zigzags through Rapid City before dumping into the Cheyenne River. Despite the toxicology reports of the drowning victims, which revealed blood alcohol levels approaching blood poisoning range, cries of outrage among the Sioux Nation and resident supporters fell on deaf ears.

It seemed neither local law enforcement nor federal agencies were spurred into action, especially the FBI, still smarting from Yellow Thunder Camp in the 1980's and the controversy surrounding the 1972 siege at Wounded Knee. Not even the appearance of Native American activist/Hollywood actress Renee Brings Plenty, who'd lodged a protest march down Main Street to the Pennington County Courthouse, had changed the status quo.

The "so-what" local attitude remained: Another dead, drunken, dirty Indian out of the gutter and off the welfare rolls.

Who cared?

I did.

Three years had crawled past since the discovery of my brother Ben's body in Bear Butte Creek. Unlike the other Native Americans, Ben hadn't drowned, no alcohol or drugs showed up in his tox reports. With his throat slashed, his body discarded like garbage, he'd washed to the bottom of Bear Butte Creek, an area the Lakota consider sacred.

And like my mother's death, I hadn't gotten over it, I hadn't moved on. In fact, I'd moved back to South Dakota from Minneapolis for one specific purpose: to find out who had killed my brother and why.

Probably masochistic to abandon a promising career in the restaurant industry to apply for a secretarial job in the miniscule county where Ben had been murdered.

In my pie-eyed state following his funeral, it'd made sense. With unfettered access to legal documents, I suspected I'd uncover a secret file on Ben - like on those TV detective programs - detailing why, how, and whodunit, and I could get on with my life.

There wasn't any such file. So, here I am, years later, stuck in a rut that's developed into a black hole: a dead-end job, sexual flings that masquerade as relationships, and the tendency to avoid my father and his new family like Mad Cow disease.

No one understands my anger, frustration, and the sadness wrapped around me like a hair shirt. Some days, I didn't understand it. Time hadn't healed the wound of grief; rather it remained an ugly sore, open for everyone to gawk at and for me to pick at.

In the immediate silence, Missy's globes of cleavage turned into blushing grapefruits. She avoided my eyes, but her clipped tone was the voice of authority. "They prefer to be called 'Native Americans'."

I snagged the mangled paperclip and pointed it at her, hating the saccharine tone she bleated in the presence of testosterone. "No, they don't. Most of them prefer their tribal affiliation. Native American is a politically correct term."

"Whatever," Missy said with a drollness she'd yet to master.

"So, fill us in," I said. "What color was the body they found?"

Al shifted toward the fax machine, away from me.

Missy furnished me with a view of the bra straps crisscrossing the folds of her back. "White. Young, female, about sixteen, fully clothed. The body wasn't decomposed, according to Gene."

"Suicide?" Tom asked.

"Didn't say. They're keeping the details quiet."

A disgruntled sound cleared my throat before I stopped it.

Missy whirled back to me, coquettish manner forgotten. "Don't start. This doesn't have a thing to do with your brother's case." She whined directly to Al. "See?"

Hands shoved in my blazer pockets, my fingers curled longingly around the pack of cigarettes stashed there. Damn those crusading non-smokers.

The sheriff shot me a withering look, but asked Missy: "She been identified yet?"

"They notified next of kin."

"What else did Gene tell you?" His gaze swept the bulletin board overwhelmed with official notices and the never-ending explosion of papers on the desk. "I don't remember seeing any reports of a missing local girl."

In a community our size, a missing dog is big news. A missing child is tantamount to calling out the National Guard.

"That's why they're keeping it low key. The girl was a minor living in Rapid City, but for some reason her parents didn't report her missing."

Again, my mouth engaged before brain. "Well, lucky thing we've got local law enforcement, the Feds, DCI and everybody and their fucking dog concerned about this one dead white girl."

The sheriff gaped, hooking his thumbs in his gun belt loop. His sigh was a sound of utter exasperation. Touchy, feely crap was not his forte' but I didn't give a damn. Let him flounder. God knows I'd done more than my fair share.

"Aren't you off shift now? Go home. Forget you heard any of this."

"I think that's why Gene waited to call," Missy offered slyly. "He knew she'd react this way."

Again, my reputation for resentment had eclipsed the real issue.

"This case doesn't affect us," Sheriff Richards said. "Ben's death is irrelevant."

"Irrelevant to whom? Not to me." My thumb ran along the grooves of my lighter. In my mind I heard the click, watched the orange flame fire the tip of my cigarette. Mentally I inhaled.

"Surface similarities, but we don't know the details. Besides, your brother's case is cold, so I'm missing the connection."

"Come on," I intoned, rookie teaching a veteran a lesson. "A death in any local creek is a connection. Maybe now that one with the right skin color has surfaced, Ben's case will get the full investigation it deserved."

The ogre in him bellowed, "Julie, will you stop? Jesus! We did a full investigation. Everybody and their fucking dog - as you so eloquently put it - busted ass on his case."

Paws slapped his desk, sending a family picture snapped at an old time photo studio in Keystone crashing to the carpet.

"You know the BIA and AIM still sniff around, so don't give me that 'we don't care because they were Indian' line of bullshit."

So much for the short-lived touchy, feely crap. I struggled not to flinch under the discord distorting the airless room.

He sighed again. "Take the weekend to clear your head; get drunk, get laid, whatever it takes to get you out of here until Monday."

His finger shook in the same manner as my father's. I braced myself for the slap that wouldn't land, waited for the invariable but.

"But I hear one word you were up there playing PI at the crime scene, or asking questions of any agency involved and I'll suspend you without hesitation and without pay, got it?"

In my mind's eye, I zoomed inside the safety of my TV screen, a cool cat like Starsky, blasé about getting my ass chewed. There, in the perfect fictional world, the stages of grief were wrapped up within the allotted hour. I wished it were simple. I wished I didn't live every damn day with sorrow circling my throat, choking the life out until my insides felt raw, and hollow, and left me bitter.

So, for a change, I didn't argue with him, press my viewpoint or try to change his; it was useless. Recently, even I'd grown weary of my combative stance and reputation. Unfortunately, my uncharacteristic silence didn't help the sheriff's disposition. He'd brought meth-crazed bikers to tears with his practiced glower, which quite frankly, right now aimed at me, tied my guts into knots that would make a sailor proud.

"Get some help," he said. "Grief counseling, anger management, whatever. Deal with your loss and stop making it some goddamn," he gestured vaguely, plucking the appropriate word from mid-air, "soapbox for racial injustice."

Neither Al nor Missy spared me a glance. Wasn't the first time he'd broached the subject, nor would it be the last. At this point it wasn't worth my crappy job. Playing PI indeed. I was a PI - albeit part-time. Although Sheriff Richards disapproved, legally, he couldn't do a damn thing about it.

I smiled pure plastic. "Fine. I'll drop it. As far as grief therapy? I'll be doing mine at home, in my own way, but gee, once again, thanks for your overwhelming concern."

Self-indulgence aside, the door made a satisfying crack as I slammed it on my way out.


Excerpted from Blood Ties by Lori Armstrong Copyright © 2005 by Lori Armstrong. 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.

Meet the Author

Lori Armstrong is the two-time Shamus Award winning author of Snow Blind, in the Julie Collins mystery series, and No Mercy, in the Mercy Gunderson series, Blood Ties and Hallowed Ground were also Shamus Award nominees. She has won the WILLA Cather Literary Award for Hallowed Ground and was a finalist for the books Shallow Grave, No Mercy and Merciless. Shallow Grave was nominated for a High Plains Book Award. Lori is also the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romances written under the pen name Lorelei James. She lives in western South Dakota.

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Blood Ties 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 810 reviews.
The_Writer_025 More than 1 year ago
I eagerly dove into this book because I love stories of the West and anything to do with the Lakota Indians. Within the first few pages I was sorely disappointed but I stayed with it hoping that as the story continued it would improve. I am sad to say that it did not. While others may find this fiction work wonderfully written I found the main character to be most annoying. The story gives the impression that it will deal with the Lakota much more than it does when in fact they are nothing more than mere mentions throughout the story. The main character comes off acting much too tough (in my opinion) and is extremely insecure throughout the whole story. She is belligerent where and when she doesn't need to be and most times I found myself not even caring about any of her predicaments. When you finish a story you should be happy for the main character and also not want it to end. With BLOOD TIES I did not feel for the main character and I was glad it finally did end. For me I cannot recommend this story to anyone. I am terribly disappointed in it. I did not find the plot to be exceptional nor was the drama captivating. In a word this story is annoying at best and boring at worst. The second series deals with the same characters and did not improve any better than the first book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Armstrong is off to a brilliant start with her foul-mouthed, hot-headed, trouble seeking Julie Collins as a protagonist. This character is as real as the tequila swillin' broad at the end of the bar and her wit coupled with her troubled soul is endearing without being sappy and predictable. Bring us more!
K.Alex Sawyer More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to like this book but couldn't. I didn't get the protagonist at all; it didn't seem like the writer ever quite decided who Julie should be. A good idea but poorly written. There was lots of extraneous material that just clogged the book.
blueyedirishgrl More than 1 year ago
I've read this book, and the other 3 in the series, twice. This is BY FAR, my favorite series ever! Exceptionally well written, Julie is a protagonist that takes you along for her ride and you feel every emotion she does. The mystery keeps you on the edge of your seat & the relationships in this book grip you and don't let go. I can't get enough of this series. I have no doubts that I will be reading this series over & over again!!
harstan More than 1 year ago
Julie Collins left her well paying job in Minneapolis to take a position in the Bear Butte County Sheriff¿s Office in the hopes of finding the person who killed her half-brother Ben Stalking Elk. Over the last five years five Native Americans like Ben have been murdered, but his is different as he was the only one whose throat was slashed to death; the others were drowned though his corpse was also found like the other victims in Bear Butte Creek. --- The body of a sixteen years old girl with her throat slashed is found in Rapid Creek. Julie¿s friend private detective Kevin Wells was hired to find out where Samantha went after her father kicked her out of their home following her mother confiding to both that she was sired by a rapist. A few days later, Samantha¿s mother is found dead in her car, supposedly a suicide. Kevin and Julie investigate together believing that the killer is one of the men who raped her mother, but he intends to keep that secret concealed and he will do whatever it takes to make sure it stays buried. --- BLOOD TIES is a fantastic small town thriller with a protagonist who acts tough because she feels she must do so to solve her quest and has no one to call a friend except Kevin. Her need almost obsessive to bring justice to Samantha and her mother serves as a temporary replacement and solace for failing to do so for Ben. Lori G. Armstrong provides a fabulous mystery starring an intriguing protagonist with a climax that will stun the audience. --- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like this genre of books (female PI, small town in the Southwest, Native American undertones, murder mystery), this is an interesting story with reasonable characters, if you can get past the bad language. It's nothing earth-shattering, and it didn't increase my vocabulary at all, but it's good for a lazy afternoon read.
ereader-junky More than 1 year ago
This book was a fast read. It kept you guessing and when you thought you had who done it, a twist happened. Worth reading.
kamas716 More than 1 year ago
On a positive note, she made me feel something about the main character. Unfortunately, it was often annoyance. There were also a fair number of typos in the eBook edition. The most glaring one was someone carrying a "40mm" handgun. I don't know if it was supposed to be a 10mm or .40 cal, as that particular gun comes chambered in both. I'm not sure why she set her novel in Rapid City, unless it was just someplace familiar to her. With such a rich natural landscape to tap into, she did nothing with it. Other than two scenes set in some anonymous forest, she didn't even really mention the area. So much potential in the great Black Hills locales gone to waste. The character development was lacking. Other than being annoyed with the actions of Julie Collins, I didn't feel anything for any of the characters. It didn't really need all the references to sex either, as it didn't move the story forward at all (with the notable exception of the one character's rape-which isn't really about sex but assault). The responsible "bad guy" was also quite predictable. It seamed fairly obvious who it was right after the character was "introduced". I was pretty surprised at how the "bad guy" was wrapped up in the end though. As a Free Friday selection, it was worth it. To pay money for it, not really. Unless the others in the series end up free, I won't be continuing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a debut novel! Lori Armstrong¿s prickly heroine, Julie, ain¿t easy to love. But definitely worth the trouble. She¿s as tenacious as a pit bull and twice as ornery. She loves (or at least wants) the wrong men for all the right reasons, and knows it. She doesn¿t pretend to be anything she isn¿t, including sympathetic. This is the kind of woman I would like to have a drink with--probably a shot of Don Julio tequila and a cold beer. But maybe not at Fat Bob¿s, at least until the bar fight starts. In which case I¿m calling her first to be on my team. I was really happy when I got to the end of the book and saw the door had been left open for future adventures. Hurry up--I can¿t wait to see what kind of trouble Julie gets herself into next.
KayTeeL More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book and bought the rest in the series as well as other books by the author. Waiting for her to write more!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing.....couldnt put it down!!!!! Cant wait to read the others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was one i just couldn't put down, from start to finish! Great characters a must read for myster readers who just love a little lust in their reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Recommended as a good read, l agree. Finished in 2 nights.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good mystery novel. The cast of characters was great. I hope there is a part two to this so I can find out who killed Julie's brother and whether she finally gets together with Kevin.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Action packed, good characters with a well thought out plot. A very good read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved Julie's character - sharp, witty, sarcastic seemed to fit each situation. Will look for others by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my first mystery and I really enjoyed it. I will continue on with the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not boring at all. A grity gal with problems plays at being a P.I. loved it. I want to read more abot Jules now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this so much I bought the rest of series.
MissMary1 More than 1 year ago
Can't wait for the next in the series.
PSM More than 1 year ago
Once I started I couldn't put it down, and the ending was a definite surprise.
bfamilar More than 1 year ago
If you're looking for a fast and entertaining read, this is a GREAT choice!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a Great book. I definitely plan on buying more books by this author
avidTXnookreader More than 1 year ago
A little heavy-handed in the self-deprecating manner with which the first-person narrative describes herself and her lifestyle. I wouldn't recommend the book to any young readers, eager to find their own way in life. In fact, had I been the sheriff in this story, I would have fired her a long time before this one did! I didn't find it intriguing enough to look up any others in the "Julie Collins" series; good thing it was one of the free-friday books!