"Narratives alternate in this continually shifting novel, as characters evaluate their relationships with old lovers and are surprised by new ones. The main plot holds all of the stories together though, and it is Allison who drives the mystery with her own compulsions and vulnerability...This is a truly unique and enjoyable series of reinvention and, oddly enough, acceptance." - Kings River Life Magazine
"Tyson paints image consultant Allison Campbell with an intricate brush, telling an emotional, riveting, and gripping story in Dying Brand. I loved it! A must read for mystery fans." - Gretchen Archer, USA Today Bestselling Author of the Davis Way Crime Caper Series
"Engaging, intelligent, and riveting, Dying Brand kept me on the edge of my seat-guessing until the end. Bravo!" -Mollie Cox Bryan, Author of the Agatha Nominated Cumberland Creek Series
"Fans of Wendy Tyson's ingenious mystery series will gobble up this newest addition. Dying Brand delivers a complex puzzle mystery with a colorful cast and plenty of twists. Image consultant Allison Campbell rushes back into action, and readers will find themselves racing with her to the surprising conclusion of this fast-paced whodunit." - Carla Norton, Bestselling Author of The Edge of Normal
When image consultant Allison Campbell attends an award ceremony to honor a designer friend, she's thrust into a murder investigation. Only this time, it's personal.
A former boyfriend is dead, slain on the streets of Philadelphia. His widow claims he was meeting with Allison, yet Allison hadn't spoken to him in years. Nothing about his death-or life-makes sense. When compromising photos from their past arrive at Allison's office, they raise more questions than they answer.
Driven to find justice, Allison deconstructs the image her ex had created for himself, looking for clues about the man he'd become. As her hunt for the truth unveils secrets, Allison's past and present collide-with deadly results.
Related subjects include: cozy mysteries, women sleuths, whodunit mysteries (whodunnit), murder mystery series, amateur sleuth books, mysteries and thrillers, suspense.
Books in the Allison Campbell Mystery Series:
KILLER IMAGE (#1)
DEADLY ASSETS (#2)
DYING BRAND (#3)
Part of the Henery Press Mystery Series Collection, if you like one, you'll probably like them all...
Author Bio: Wendy Tyson's background in law and psychology has provided inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wendy has returned to her roots and lives there again with her husband, three kids and two muses, dogs Molly and Driggs. Wendy's short fiction has appeared in literary journals, including KARAMU, Eclipse, A Literary Journal and Concho River Review.
About the Author
Tanya Eby has been a voice-over artist for over a decade. She is an Audie-nominated and AudioFile Earphones Award-winning narrator. Besides narrating, Tanya spends her time teaching creative writing classes at the collegiate level, blogging, and working on her own novels.
Read an Excerpt
Allison Campbell couldn't think of anywhere else she'd rather be. Sitting in the grand ballroom at the Four Seasons next to her boyfriend, Jason, and her business manager, Vaughn, both of them dressed in evening garb and looking quite dashing, was the last place the image consultant expected to find herself on this early November evening. She'd been scheduled to present at a university ahead of her next book release, but when the invitation to be a guest of honor at Delvar's award ceremony had arrived a month ago, she'd canceled her other plans and accepted without question.
Delvar's was a success story of the very best kind.
Allison watched her mentee with maternal pride and the tiniest bit of professional told-you-so from her perch at the stage-side table. Not only was Delvar a sought after designer, but a role model to others. And that second reason was why they'd all gathered on a Saturday night to celebrate.
The gentleman on Allison's left was engaged in a conversation with Delvar's mother, and on Allison's right, Jason was in the midst of a heated discussion with Vaughn. They were talking football, a topic Allison knew little about. Slightly giddy from Dom Perignon and a night away, Allison took advantage of her boyfriend's distraction to check her email messages. It was then, with her small clutch open and her hand on the mobile device, that her phone rang. Allison answered quickly, without thinking, a move she would later regret.
The woman's voice was one she recognized. The sound of it, rather like shattering glass or a fork scraped against a ceramic plate, made Allison shudder.
Her name was Leah Fairweather, and she was a phantom of Allison's past.
Allison rose from the table with her phone planted against her cheek and left the award ceremony without a word to her companions. The whimsical lights and excited voices of the grand ballroom receded to a dull blur of background noise.
"Are you listening?" Leah asked.
Allison swallowed. She was standing with her back up against the wall of the hotel lobby. She pictured Leah's white-blond hair as it had been not long ago: long, thick and curled on the ends. She saw Leah's hooded gray eyes, that twisted little smile, part vixen, part intellectual snob. Allison knew these memories were colored by feelings of shame and remorse. Her mind had turned Leah Fairweather into a symbol of past regrets, both bigger and uglier than reality. Allison's hand shook.
"I asked if you were listening."
"I'm listening," Allison said.
"Why? Of all the men, why him? You both promised. He said it was over, all of it. For God's sake, why? And now, this —"
And now what? Allison blinked, confusion overriding other emotions. "I don't know what you're talking about, Leah. Slow down."
A baby cried in Leah's background and the sound registered as another accusation. Allison watched as a man in a tuxedo left the ballroom with a fifty-something blond hanging on his arm. They headed toward the doors that led to 18 Street. Allison said, "I'm going to hang up now, Leah. You're upset. Confused. I haven't seen Scott in four years. Except for a brief encounter, but that was just happenstance —"
"I know you've been seeing him."
"That's not true."
Allison closed her eyes, then opened them, fighting for control. From the corner of her eye, she saw Jason push open the ballroom doors. He looked around, searching for her.
"Goodbye, Leah," Allison said.
"I need to go."
Allison grabbed the wall. Her vision constricted, the heady lights becoming starbursts of ivory dancing in front of her face. Scott Fairweather, dead? But she had seen him, what, three weeks ago?
He'd seemed fine. Perfectly fine.
"He's dead, Allison."
"I thought maybe you could tell me. What happened to my husband?"
Jason spotted her. He was walking toward her, looking concerned. Allison wanted to hang up. She also wanted to know — had a sudden, crushing need to know — what had happened to her former paramour.
"How would I know what happened to him?"
"You were supposed to have been together the day he died."
"Together?" The vise on Allison's skull tightened. She felt Jason's touch on her elbow, registered his eyes, full of questions. Allison turned toward the wall. She had to get off the phone. With a steadier voice, she said, "That's not true."
"You're in his appointment book."
"It's not true. I have to go now, but —"
"He was murdered, Allison. And I'm sure you know why."
"Hey, you're shaking." Jason took the phone from Allison and pulled her close. "What happened? One moment you were there and the next you were gone." He smoothed back her hair. "Are you okay?"
Allison clung to him. His strength was a comfort, but even more, she didn't want to meet his eyes. He knew her well. And despite the image consulting, the emphasis on poise and control, when it came to her own life she had no poker face. Jason's arms loosened. He reached for her chin, held her face up toward his.
"Your mom okay?"
Her mom would never be okay, but she didn't say that. Instead, Allison shrugged. "A former client was killed."
"Oh, I'm sorry. Anyone I know?"
Allison shook her head. "Someone from long ago."
"Pretty strong reaction for someone from long ago." His voice was soft, caring. Only that made it worse. "Were you close to this person?"
The sound of applause crashed through their cocoon and Allison took advantage of the break. She forced a smile. "I'm fine, Jason. We should get back in there."
But he held her stare a moment longer, looking unconvinced and so darn handsome in his tuxedo. "There's something you're not telling me."
Allison sighed. She owed him the truth. As much of the truth as she could muster. "An old client. He was murdered. With everything we've been through," she said, referring to two close calls in as many years, "it shook me up."
Jason looked relieved. Allison, still reeling from the call, glanced down at her Jimmy Choo-clad feet. "I love you," she whispered, not knowing what else to say. But she meant it. And a terrible misstep with a client four years ago didn't change everything that came afterwards, including the fact that Jason was with her now. "Delvar will miss us," she said. "I promised him I'd be there when he accepts the award."
Jason nodded. He kissed her gently on the lips and took her hand. She led the way back to the ballroom with Jason's body pressed against her own. They meandered through the standing crowd — two hundred guests straining to see the latest success story — hoping to get a glimpse of the fashions that would be trends soon enough. Allison, on tiptoe, could just see Delvar, with his spiky black hair and his snug leather pants. But the conversation with Leah had stolen the moment. Allison told herself it was all in the past. Scott's death was Leah's problem.
Then why, she wondered, despite the press of their bodies, could she feel the guilt wedging itself between her and Jason now?
Delvar Juan Hernandez accepted his award with characteristic grace. He had been a scrap of a twenty-three-year-old when Allison first met him a number of years ago at an art school charity function. When she'd had the chance to talk to the budding designer later, during cocktails, she'd been intrigued by his story.
Born to a single mom in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Delvar had known that he wanted to design clothes since he was four years old. Family members thought he was odd. His mother saw genius. Delvar worked two jobs during high school to save enough money for art school. Even at that, he had to wait until he was twenty-one to start school, and his education stalled when he ran out of funds. Allison wasn't the only person who saw promise, but in a moment of tender weakness, she was the only person who offered the money needed so he could finish school.
Delvar had since repaid her twice, once with a check covering the entire tuition amount, and again with his friendship and gratitude. But even beyond that, he was determined to give back to the community. And so he had started Designs for the Future, a charity aimed at giving young designers who might not otherwise be able to afford it an education. It was for this new accomplishment that he was winning an award. He wanted Allison to sit beside his mother when he accepted the honor.
It was a tribute that touched her. And now she wished she could shake the icy fingers of dread that trailed down her spine. Leah's voice. Scott's name. Logic told her they had nothing to do with her anymore. She had no idea why her name had been in Scott's appointment book, but whatever the reason, she'd severed contact with Scott almost four years ago and hadn't spoken to him since. Well, almost. But the day three weeks ago didn't count. It had been a chance encounter.
Or had it?
Allison looked over at Vaughn, who was beaming like a proud father even though he barely knew Delvar, and Jason, who was still keeping a worried eye on her. When Delvar stepped off the stage, she cat-called her affection for a man who'd had a vision and pursued it, despite the odds.
Allison tossed her head back and glanced around the ballroom. The crowd loved Delvar. She took a sip of champagne, then another. Delvar was walking back to his table, trying hard to hide the grin blooming on his thin, angular face. Beside Allison, Delvar's mother was weeping. Allison swallowed her anxiety over the Fairweathers. This was Delvar's night. A mistake from the past wasn't going to ruin the celebration.
* * *
Only later that night, sleep eluded her. Allison crawled out of bed, grabbed a robe, and tiptoed out of her bedroom, trying hard not to wake up Jason or her dog, Brutus. Jason slept soundly, his sleep aided by late-night lovemaking and at least three vodka tonics, but Brutus stirred. He eyed her from his spot on the foot of the bed, eyes sleepy, jowly face heavy with slumber. When Allison slipped out the door, she heard him huff and jump off the mattress to follow her.
They padded along the carpeted hallway together and entered Allison's office. She closed the door before turning on the light. While her computer took its time booting up, she sat on her chair and stroked Brutus's head. He stared at her with adoring eyes that made her feel listless. Guilt, she knew, turned everything sour.
Scott Fairweather. Somehow, Scott's presence in her life had evoked many lies, more than she cared to contemplate. But now that he was dead did she owe his wife the truth?
What was the truth?
Allison had an affair with Scott during that relationship limbo between her and Jason known as a trial separation. Or at least that's what Allison told herself. The truth was that she and Jason had just reached an impasse when the affair began. Jason had recently lost his sister. His parents were divorcing, and Allison and Jason's marriage had quickly and devastatingly unraveled. Allison hadn't known how to help her husband. He'd been so distant. Irritable. Unreachable.
Scott had been her client. He'd been easy enough to look at. Dark, wiry curls cropped close to a nicely shaped head. Small glasses that gave him an intellectual air. A warm smile. Long, lean body and broad shoulders that resonated strength. But more than that, he'd been a good listener. During that tumultuous time in their lives, Scott had been everything Jason had not: ambitious, attentive, and, most of all, present. He'd made her feel like the only person who mattered. He'd seemed like such a nice guy.
Silly girl, Allison thought now.
Once her computer was ready, Allison opened a search engine and plugged in Scott's name, not surprised to see that Leah had been telling the truth. She could find few details about Scott's death other than a date, a location, and the suggestion that his murder had been drug-related. He'd died the day before, in the early morning hours. It was still too soon for an obituary, but an article said he was survived by his wife and infant daughter. A brother lived in North Wales.
North Wales. Allison remembered the small Mexican restaurant off the main street where they'd first kissed. A late night of strategic planning for a sales pitch he had coming up, plus not enough food and too many margaritas, and Allison had leaned across the table and touched her lips to his. His eyes had shown surprise at first before becoming heavy with desire. It'd been a ten minute drive to his townhouse. Ten minutes of tortuous silence weighed down by the hand he kept on her thigh. As though he'd been afraid she would flee.
She hadn't. Instead, they'd had sex in his bedroom, his living room, the floor of his kitchen. They were all sweat-covered skin and pent-up aggression. It'd been the hottest sex of her life.
Passion mellowed to something tenderer in the weeks that followed. They'd met at his house, her house, hotel rooms in between. She'd thought she was in love. He'd said the same.
Tormented with guilt — after all, in her mind, she was sleeping with a client and cheating on Jason, even if she and her husband were separated — Allison had resigned as his consultant. Two days after the resignation, Leah showed up at Scott's house during a mid-day tryst. Allison and Scott had been in his dining room, braced against the wall. Leah had worn a gray cashmere sweater that matched the ethereal gray of her eyes. Her hands were clutching the sleeves of her sweater, digging holes the width of her nails. Allison had been too shocked to cover her own nakedness.
Leah had been Scott's fiancé. They were due to marry in three months. Facts Allison hadn't known at the time.
Scott apologized to Leah, not Allison. He promised Leah right then and there he would never see Allison again. He called Allison five days later, begging for a lunch meeting. He wanted to explain, he said. He still loved her, he said.
Allison had hung up on him.
To this day, Jason didn't know.CHAPTER 2
Vaughn was still tired. Normally an early-morning run and an hour or two at the boxing gym left him wide awake, ready for the day. But not today. This Monday, his lower back ached and a vague sense of anxiety plagued him, clouding his mind and causing him to drive right past the entrance to his apartment building. He made an illegal u-turn on Meadow and swung into the gated lot, cursing his lack of focus.
He parked, jammed the BMW's manual transmission into neutral, and sat back against the seat. Problem was, he couldn't say what, exactly, was bothering him. The last months had been good to him and Jamie. He and Mia were still together, if you could call what they had "together." His brother was gainfully employed by the police and he'd recently received his certification as an ethical hacker. Jamie even agreed to leave the apartment on occasion for purely social reasons, not seeming to mind as much the machines and contraptions that had to travel with him in the handicapped-equipped van. Actually, if Vaughn was honest with himself — and since the drug deal gone bad more than a decade ago that left his identical twin paralyzed and both of their lives shattered, Vaughn tried real hard to always be honest — Jamie seemed downright happy.
So then what the hell was eating at him?
Even things at First Impressions had calmed down since the Benini crisis. His boss seemed content for the first time since he'd met her. Although she and Jason weren't officially living together, Jason was there most days — and nights — and Allison was focused on work. Allison's second how-to book, Underneath It All, the sequel to her bestseller, From the Outside In, was due out in a few months. And they had more clients than they could handle at the moment.
All good stuff.
So why the anxiety? Vaughn shook his head, grabbed his gym bag, and pushed open the car door. He'd learned to trust this sense of restlessness, this heightened intuition, since he was a young kid in juvenile detention, but now maybe he'd crossed some line and was making shit up in his head. Hadn't the Vaughn men been known to do such things?
His father sure had.
Inside the apartment building, Vaughn jogged the three flights of stairs to his apartment, unlocked the door and headed down the hall to check on Jamie. It was only seven in the morning, and he didn't want to awaken his brother or Jamie's nurse, Angela. Jamie had two primary caretakers besides him: Mrs. T, a sweet older woman who cooked for them and shared Jamie's love of detective novels, and Angela, a younger nurse with a radiant smile and glossy black hair. They both took good care of Jamie. They both slept over whenever it was their shift.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Dying Brand"
Copyright © 2015 Wendy Tyson.
Excerpted by permission of Henery Press.
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