In the Shadow of Lies: An Oliver Wright Mystery Novel

In the Shadow of Lies: An Oliver Wright Mystery Novel

by M.A. Adler


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Richmond, California. World War II. A cross burning takes innocent lives and unsettles the town. After Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, American Italians start to disappear, a rapist promises to revisit his victims, and someone viciously beats shipyard workers – to death. His failure to solve these seemingly unrelated events haunts homicide detective Oliver Wright, even after he reenlists in the Marines and finds himself fighting in the Pacific.

Oliver returns to Richmond near the end of the war, injured and afraid his career is over. But when an Italian Prisoner of War is murdered the night the Port Chicago Mutiny verdicts are announced, and black soldiers are suspected of the crime, the Army asks Oliver to find out the truth. He joins forces with an Italian POW captain and with a black MP embittered by a segregated military. During their investigation, these unlikely allies expose layers of deceit and violence that stretch back to World War I, and uncover a common thread that connects the earlier crimes.

In the Shadow of Lies reveals the darkness and turmoil of the Bay Area during World War II, while celebrating the spirit of the everyday people who made up the home front. Its intriguing characters will resonate with the reader long after its deftly intertwined mysteries are solved.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781938314827
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication date: 06/10/2014
Pages: 280
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 5.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

M. A. Adler lived in Point Richmond as a child and later moved to Ohio, where she became an attorney and a dean at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She studied fine art photography at the Cleveland Institute of Art and was invited to show her photographs in the Kent State University exhibit “Northern Ohio Women in Photography.” Her work was featured in New Art Examiner , and her images and writing have appeared in Northern Ohio Live magazine .
            From time to time, Adler visited the Bay Area to refresh her spirit and research Richmond’s history during World War II. In the late ’90s, she returned to Northern California full-time to write, enjoy her family, and do canine scent work with her dogs. In the Shadow of Lies is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 13
Valentine’s Day had come and gone, and Michael Fiori still wasn’t home. The Army had shipped him to Montana by way of Texas and Tennessee. It shuttled the Italian American detainees all over the blasted country as if it had nothing better to do. Oliver’s niece had asked him what was taking so long. Oliver leaned back in his desk chair and wondered that himself. Harry had complained that every time he finally found out where Michael was, Michael had just left. Oliver was glad he wasn’t the one trying to work through that red tape.
            He watched the men leave the station house. Tonight he had volunteered to cover while the others went to a retirement party for a beat cop who had spent the last thirty years on the pavement. Oliver had thought he would spend his thirty years in Seattle at his first precinct, a job he missed more and more each day. He closed his eyes, then opened them and shook his head, as if that would dislodge the memory that still tortured him after eight months of sleepless nights.
            He and his longtime partner had been working a crime scene Oliver was not even supposed to be at. He had cleared his cases so he could spend some time with his family at Lake Washington, and then the captain had called. They had what appeared to be a homicide, a rare opportunity to show the Seattle homicide department the improved methods for processing a scene that Oliver had recently learned. He would be done by the afternoon and could join his family later at the lake.
            They worked in their shirtsleeves, ties loosened, talking over the drone of a fan that just moved the dust around. A middle-aged woman in a stained housecoat lay on the floor, part of her face stuck to a whiskey bottle that left raspberry smudges on the slanted linoleum. The husband sniveled in the kitchen, crying over the spilled Four Roses, over killing his wife, getting caught, who knew why? Maybe he loved her and was sorry. Maybe he was just a maudlin drunk.
            Someone cleared his throat. The precinct captain stood in the doorway, holding his cap. He looked at Oliver, who’d delivered bad news often enough himself to see what was coming. Coming toward him. His partner shut up the drunk with a look.
            “What is it?” Oliver took a step toward the door. Stopped.
            “Charley’s been hurt. Let me drive you to the hospital.”
            “How bad is it? What happened? Where’s Elizabeth?”
            The captain shook his head. “I’m sorry.”
            The words knocked the breath out of Oliver. Everything, everyone in the room disappeared. Except the man in front of him.
            “They were canoeing in the lake. A powerboat lost control and hit them, didn’t stop. Elizabeth went under. Charley kept diving, looking for her. When the harbor patrol got there, Charley was exhausted, but he dove again. By the time a diver got him out, he was unconscious.”
           “He would never leave his mother.” Oliver felt pain swelling in his chest, filling it, threatening to break him open. Oliver should have been with them. He didn’t have to ask the next question.
            “They’re still searching for her.”
            They searched while Oliver sat beside his son’s bed, willed him to wake up. He told Elizabeth he would never forgive himself for not being there and asked her to send Charley back if that’s where he was, still not able to leave her.
            The phone rang, pulling Oliver back to the present, to Pt. Richmond. He looked around at the empty desks. Looked like this call was his.
Night after night, Vincent Marino sat at his kitchen table with a cup of black coffee and watched the trains snake in and out of the Santa Fe railroad yard. Sometimes he fell asleep in the chair, lulled by the movement of the brakemen who uncoupled the cars, or the switchmen who leaned on the tall rods that moved the track junctions. He knew the language of the signals that commanded the locomotives to speed up or slow down. He watched the red arc and splash of sparks when a watchman threw down a cigarette as a train rolled into the yard. Marino knew where the trains had been and where they were going. Which settled on sidings and which slid through the lines of engineless boxcars straight out to Ferry Point.
            Sometimes the phone rang, calling him out to unlock a house for a customer who had lost his keys, or to fit a new lock on a burgled store. When he returned home, he would walk down the hall to his kitchen, put the dollar bills in the tobacco can he kept in the icebox, and light the flame under the metal percolator to reheat the coffee.
            Tonight he stood in the shadow of a water tower and looked at his watch. Almost midnight, February 17, 1942. The deadline. He wished Alfeo had done what he had asked. He supposed he couldn’t blame him. He wondered if he would have done it for Alfeo. It didn’t matter now.
            The rain drenched his black suit and the white shirt that chafed at his neck. He ran a finger inside the collar, then touched the breast pocket that sheltered the photo of his mother. He heard the chuffing when the train entered the yard, then the whup-whup-whup as it passed the line of still boxcars that hid the approaching engine from his view. He stepped out from behind the water tower, ignored the shouts of a switchman crossing the yard, and lifted his polished shoe over the glistening steel track, careful not to stumble on the uneven rail bed. His right hand had just touched his right shoulder, on the word Ghost, when he lifted his head and stared into the window of the cab, into the stricken face of the engineer.
The rain fell, invisible in the darkness until it splattered on the windshield, reminding Oliver of nights in Seattle when he and his partner had ridden together, drinking coffee and talking about nothing much. Maybe if he and Charley hadn’t decided to bring Elizabeth home to the family plot, he would still be in Seattle. Only good thing about being in Pt. Richmond was that he was closer to Charley, who went to Stanford, as planned, while Oliver marked time, stuck trying to solve a crime that maybe hadn’t happened.
           The tires hissed along the wet street, and the hooded beams glowed on the pavement in front of him, leaving alleys and doorways draped in darkness. He cranked down his window, hoping the chill fog would keep him awake while he drove to what sounded like his second suicide of the night.
            He was still trying to recover from what he had just left at the other end of Richmond. A man had jumped, fallen, or been pushed from the roof of an apartment building. It looked like a suicide, but he wouldn’t be certain until they had translated the note he had found in the poor guy’s pocket. Looked like Italian, that old-fashioned script.
            In some ways, he envied the jumper the peace he had found. The ending of pain. For Oliver, the time without pain was in the past, on the other side of an abyss that grew wider each day. His whole working life had been defined by death, but Elizabeth’s was the only one to bleach the color from the sky, mute the song of the birds.
            Now two people were dead. Both suicides? Did they give any thought to the people left behind, the ones who would have to move through days of grief with no choice but to go on? What the hell was happening?
            A gust of wind sent sparks flying from his cigarette. When he looked down to slap the embers out before they ruined another pair of trousers, the car jumped the curb and almost clipped a phone booth. A head appeared in the rearview mirror. Reproachful.
            “Sorry. Next time you drive and I’ll curl up in back.”
            Harley yawned and stuck his nose out Oliver’s window. Oliver felt the breeze from the dog’s tail and leaned his head against the shepherd’s neck. He was bone tired, but people wouldn’t stop dying tonight.
            The car bounced over the steel lines that crossed and recrossed the asphalt and stopped outside a small building where a rectangle of light promised warmth and shelter. Harley jumped over the seat and followed Oliver into the rain, threw that black nose into the air, and began casting for something.
            A man squatted by a bundle along the railroad tracks. From the back, he looked like a frog about to leap into the pool of the night. He rose and turned toward Oliver. Doc Pritchard. Not long out of training, and not really a coroner, just the poor guy on call. He wiped his round face with delicate fingers.
            “Detective Wright. Not a fit night for man nor beast, but your dog doesn’t seem to mind.”
            Oliver glanced behind him to see Harley nosing around a water tower.
            “What do we have?”
            “You sound pretty sure.”
            “A switchman saw him walk onto the tracks right in front of the train. Called out to him, but he didn’t stop.”
            “Any chance of an ID?”
            “The train threw him off to the side, only ran over his legs.”
            Oliver lifted his eyebrows at the only.
            “Yes. Well.” Pritchard shook his head. “The impact killed him. His face is bruised but recognizable. The switchman said he thought the poor soul lived in the house next to the yard. He and the engineer are in the office.”
            “Maybe later. I’ll talk to them, see if we can get into the house. Wonder if anyone else lives there, knows why he did it.”
            “Oh, I found this in his shirt pocket.”
            Oliver looked at a creased photo of a small woman standing in front of a church, holding a baby in her arms. She looked foreign. Maybe Italian.

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In the Shadow of Lies: An Oliver Wright Mystery Novel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
D.L. Finn More than 1 year ago
“In the Shadow of Lies” is an historical fiction set in the 1940s during World War ll. I loved all the carefully explored details that were weaved into the story--and it being set where I grew up was a bonus. I knew some of the information, but I learned a lot, too. Ms. Adler’s well-crafted writing easily got across the beliefs of those times. I was sad and disgusted how humans treated each other and unfortunately, some of those issues still linger. The characters were well-written and believable, and there were many storylines going on, which was a bit confusing to keep track of--but not impossible. I normally would take a star off for any confusion, but the research, intriguing storyline, and thought-provoking emotions, brought it back up to a five star for me. I look forward to more from this author!
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite In the Shadow of Lies: An Oliver Wright Mystery Novel is a historical mystery written by M.A. Adler. It's set in the Bay Area of California during the 1940s. Oliver Wright is a homicide detective based in Seattle, but his family roots are in Richmond Point. When a young girl and her baby brother perish in a fire that authorities believe was set by the Klan, Oliver's father, Judge Wright, asks him to stay and try to find a leak in the Point Richmond police force. The judge's primary concern is for the safety of his other son, Peter, a prosecutor who had spoken with a witness to the burning of a cross that started the blaze, but had since disappeared. Oliver agrees to stay and investigate the matter for several months until the end of December, 1941. M.A. Adler's historical mystery, In the Shadow of Lies: An Oliver Wright Mystery Novel, is an epic novel based on the lives of California's residents during the 1940s, in general, and, in particular, during the Second World War. Adler touches on the treatment of Italians during the conflict: some were arrested and relocated in the dead of night; Monterey fishermen's boats were confiscated and never returned; speaking in Italian (the only language the older immigrants knew) was forbidden. Oliver sees these neighbors and residents as strangers when he first interacts with them at a wake, but soon he's drawn into their lives. The Klan and the stranglehold it had in the Bay Area is also a strong theme running throughout this book, as is the separate and not at all equal treatment of African-American soldiers during WWII.  Adler's In the Shadow of Lies is beautifully written, with vivid descriptions of the golden hillsides, Italian coffee shops, foggy mornings and the coast that had me remembering fondly my years spent in the Bay Area. This book is a marvelous mix of history and police procedural, with characters who are well-defined and vibrant, and an original and suspenseful story-line that does not disappoint. In the Shadow of Lies is a remarkable work and is most highly recommended.