Fresh off solving a murder that hit too close to home, Mack’s trust is shattered. But when Milwaukee police detective Duncan Albright asks for her help with a shooting, she can’t resist using her extra-perceptive senses to benefit others. It turns out the victim was the ruthless businessman their friend Mal was investigating undercover. And now Mal is missing—and his fingerprints are on the gun. Was his cover blown, forcing him into hiding? Or could he be a straight-up killer on the run? Mack doesn’t know what to believe anymore—except her own gut, which leads her to secret rooms, shocking revelations . . . and the fear that this could be her final round.
“The first book in the Mack’s Bar Mystery series is a hit!”
—RT Book Reviews on Murder on the Rocks
“Murder with a Twist has a lot of sleuthing pleasure packed into its pages.”
About the Author
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It is the beginning of a new year and, for many, it feels like a fresh start, an artificial marker that gives the day some imagined significance over its predecessor. For some, it signifies hope for the future; for others, it may mean establishing new motivations for personal growth. Sometimes it simply offers a fresh outlook on life.
For me, it means better-than-average business, and in the case of this particular coming year, a fresh — or at least different — outlook on death.
My name is Mackenzie Dalton, though everyone calls me Mack, and I own a bar located in downtown Milwaukee. The post-holiday season is a busy one for the bar. Some people come in hoping to extend their holiday spirit by lifting a few holiday spirits with their friends, family, or coworkers. Others come in to celebrate the end of the hectic, mad rush that always seems to be a hallmark of the holiday season. Still others come in simply because it's part of their regular routine to visit the neighborhood bar, exercise their elbows, and share their holiday tales with other regulars they see throughout the year. And more than a few come in simply to escape the bone-chilling cold that is part and parcel of a Milwaukee winter. Cozying up to a drink with some friends is a great way to warm both the body and the soul.
My bar has a lot of regulars, the most notable of whom is an assemblage of barstool detectives who call themselves the Capone Club. This group is an eclectic collection of folks from many walks of life who share a common interest in crime solving. The Club got its start through some tragic events that happened over the past year, not the least of which was the murder of my father, Mack, exactly a year ago today. My father opened Mack's Bar thirty-five years ago, naming it after himself and then giving me a name that would allow me to eponymously inherit. It was a huge assumption on his part that I would want to do that, but he guessed right. For me, the decision was a no-brainer. My mother died shortly after giving birth to me, so it was always just me and Dad, running the bar day in and day out. We lived in a three-bedroom apartment above it, and that made for a strange and memorable childhood. I knew how to mix a host of cocktails before I knew my ABCs, my extended family consisted of some of the bar's regular customers, and I was the envy of many of my high school friends who coveted my constant exposure to free alcohol. Despite my unusual childhood, I'd have to say it was a happy and simple one. My life up until a year ago was uncomplicated and enjoyable for the most part.
Of course, there were a few rough spots. One in particular that marked me as different from the other kids and nearly got me declared insane is a neurological disorder I have called synesthesia. It's an odd cross-wiring of the senses that results in its victims experiencing the world around them in ways others don't. According to the doctors who evaluated me over the years, my synesthesia is a particularly severe case. The most commonly ascribed-to theory about how I acquired this disorder is that it resulted from the unusual circumstances surrounding my birth. My mother ended up in a coma due to injuries from a car accident that happened while she was pregnant with me. She sustained severe brain damage that left her essentially dead, but her heart — and mine — kept going. So she was hooked up to machines and her body was kept alive until it was safe for me to be born. Then the machines were removed, and she was allowed to die. Whenever I asked about my mother's death, my father always told me it was peaceful — he believed my mother's soul had slipped away the night of the accident — but there was a haunted look in his eyes whenever he spoke of it that let me know he had his doubts.
The doctors speculated that the conditions surrounding my gestation and birth contributed to an abnormal development of my neurological system. The result was that I experience each of my senses — sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch — in at least two ways. For instance, I taste certain sounds; this typically is the case with men's voices. Other sounds, such as music, are accompanied by visual manifestations, like floating geometric shapes or colorful designs. Most of my tastes are accompanied by sounds. For instance, the taste of champagne makes me hear violin music, whereas beer makes me hear the deep bass notes of a cello. But there are some tastes that trigger a physical or emotional sensation instead. For instance, I confess to being something of a coffee snob, and when I drink coffee that's brewed just right, it makes me feel happy inside, almost giddy. Bad coffee makes me feel irritable and angry. I'm a coffee addict, and going without it for a length of time makes me feel almost homicidal, though I suspect that is more of a caffeine addiction issue as opposed to a manifestation of my synesthesia.
In addition to the five basic senses, I also have synesthetic reactions to my emotions, either a visual manifestation or a physical sensation. My emotions were put through the wringer at times when I was growing up. I would say things like, "This song is too red and wavy," or, "This sandwich tastes like a tuba." It didn't help me fit in with the other kids, and my teachers grew concerned when they realized I was seeing things that weren't there ... or at least things that weren't there for most people. The visual manifestations I had were very real to me, and they still are. But the lack of understanding regarding my condition left many people fearful and confused. I quickly learned to keep most of my experiences to myself rather than share them. After spending time observing other people's reactions to things, and hearing their comments and descriptions regarding their own sensual experiences, I gradually learned which of my responses were considered "normal" and which were my own peculiarity.
When the hormonal surge of adolescence hit me, my synesthesia became even more pronounced. Had it not been for one particularly patient and insightful doctor, I would've ended up committed to a psychiatric institution. Instead, my father and I learned how to control my disorder and hide it from the outside world. However, in private, he and I played with my abilities from time to time. My synesthesia is not only more severe than most, my senses are greatly heightened. I can smell, see, and feel things that others can't. I can often tell when something has been recently moved because I can feel changes in the air pressure, or see a difference in the air surrounding the spot where the item used to be.
The aspect of my synesthesia that has turned out to be the most significant of late is that I'm something of a human lie detector. In the vast majority of people, the voice changes ever so slightly when they're lying — a subconscious thing. This results in a variation in whatever manifestation I experience when listening to their voice. Once I've learned what someone's voice normally tastes or looks like, I can tell when they're lying because that taste or visual manifestation will suddenly change.
Because of my experiences as a child, I spent most of my life trying to hide my synesthesia from the world. It was an embarrassment to me, a handicap, a disability, something to be scorned and laughed at, something that made me stand out from the rest of the world ... and not in a good way. That all changed this past year, however. It began with the murder of my father in the alley behind our bar, though I had no way of knowing at the time how that one event would drastically alter the route my life was taking. Eight months later, Ginny Rifkin, the woman who was my father's girlfriend when he died, was also murdered, her body left in the same alley. Her death led to Duncan Albright entering my life, and my life becoming focused on death.
Duncan was a relatively new detective with the police force in our district, and he was the detective in charge of investigating Ginny's murder. When he determined that the culprit was likely someone near and dear to me, he decided to do some undercover work at my bar, pretending he was a new hire so he could gain the confidence of my staff and customers, and dig for information and clues. In the process, he discovered how my synesthesia helped when it came to interpreting crime scenes, analyzing clues, or talking to witnesses and suspects. With the help of some of my customers, who formed the basis for what would become the Capone Club, we solved the murders of both Ginny and my father.
Intrigued by my ability, Duncan invited me along to some other crime scenes, where I was able to pick up on subtle clues that led to solving the cases. Duncan started calling me his secret weapon, and I relished the fact that my synesthesia was finally making itself useful. Instead of feeling like it was a shameful secret I needed to hide, I began to think of it as my superpower. We made a great team. I enjoyed helping Duncan, and he reaped the benefits of my abilities. Unfortunately, not everyone saw it the way we did, and things got messy fast.
The press caught on to me, and sensationalistic news stories started cropping up about the police using magic, witchcraft, and voodoo to solve their crimes. Then I got a little careless on one case and ended up nearly getting shot. Endangering a layperson in this manner didn't sit well with Duncan's bosses, and, as a result, he was suspended for a few weeks and ordered not to associate with me.
This might not have been a huge issue but for two things. One, I had invited Duncan into my bed as well as into my life by then, and we were in the process of exploring the potential behind our relationship. Letting go of that wasn't easy. And two, I'd discovered I liked this crime-solving stuff, and putting my synesthesia to good use. The intrinsic high it gave me was strangely intoxicating and I didn't want to let it go. My synesthesia had been an albatross around my neck most of my life; almost literally so because whenever I grew nervous about exposing it, or revealing it to someone for the first time, it triggered an uncomfortable strangling sensation around my throat.
As if Duncan's suspension and the edict to avoid me weren't big enough nails in the coffin of our relationship, things got even more complicated when I attracted the attention of a deadly stalker, someone who wrote letters that demanded I solve a series of complicated puzzles by a prescribed deadline, and do so using only my "special talent" without the assistance of Duncan or the police. The consequence of failing to do so was the death of someone close to me. The letter writer proved this wasn't an idle threat by killing one of my customers — someone who was also part of the Capone Club — and using the first letter I received to tell me where the body was. Then, a week or so later, my bouncer, Gary Gunderson, was murdered in cold blood when I failed to correctly interpret clues in one of the letters by the set deadline.
After several harrowing and frightening weeks of skulking around so I could still see Duncan with no one being the wiser, the stalker was finally exposed and caught. Sadly, it turned out my stalker wasn't a lone wolf. One of the trusted members of the Capone Club was working with the culprit, and the whole thing left everyone involved reeling and feeling unsettled. We were all struggling at that point to regain some semblance of normalcy.
For me, the definition of normalcy remained unclear. In our hunt for the stalker, I was approached at one point by Mark Holland, the chief of police, and Tony Dixon, the current DA, both of whom had decided that a philosophy of if you can't beat them, join them was their best recourse. In a period of a few days, I went from being persona non grata with the police department to being invited to work with them on a consulting basis. While I suspect the motives of the chief and the DA were primarily political in nature, given an upcoming election, their offer benefited me in enough ways that I decided to accept their invitation. It not only allowed me to use my synesthesia in a way that was intrinsically rewarding, it provided me with a new stream of income, and freed me to openly pursue my relationship with Duncan.
So, after a year of incredible loss, emotional pain, tumult, and confusion, I found myself starting the new year with a renewed sense of hope for the future. Ironically, it resulted in me standing in a home and staring at a dead man on the anniversary of my father's murder. I couldn't decide if this was a good omen or not.CHAPTER 2
I'd been brought to the murder scene by Duncan, who was with me in my apartment when he got the call. Knowing it was the anniversary of my father's death, he had made it a point to be with me. And because of the day it was, he had offered me an out when he got the call, even though my presence in my new role as a consultant had been requested. It took me less than ten seconds to decide what I wanted to do. I welcomed the distraction.
We drove to the site together in Duncan's car. I was encumbered by a cast on my left leg, the result of a car accident that had delayed me from making it to one of my stalker's locations. It was a delay that Gary Gunderson had paid for with his life. The cast was a nuisance in many ways. Not only did it make negotiating the icy winter streets a dicey prospect, my leg itched like mad underneath it, an annoying sensation that left me with a near-constant taste in my mouth of what I can only describe as salty dirt. It also smelled odd, which triggered a crunching sound that provided background noise all day to everything else. Fortunately, I was hoping to get the thing off soon. It had been just over five weeks with it so far, and I had an appointment with the doctor in the morning to see how well the bones had healed. For now, I was stuck with the thing and the crutches that went with it.
The home Duncan drove us to was in an upper-middleclass neighborhood that consisted of houses built during the first half of the twentieth century that had belonged to well-to-do German American families in their heyday. During the 1980s, the neighborhood had become a hotbed of crime, and many of the homes fell into disrepair. At the turn of this century, much of the crime was pushed out, the streets were cleaned up, and many of the homes were bought by people who intended to fix them up and restore them to their original glory. Now, fully gentrified, the neighborhood had become a popular one for young families, and it served as home to a mix of ethnic and economic groups.
The particular house Duncan steered me toward was a midcentury ranch-style built of brick. A large picture window in the front had blinds drawn across it, and the front door was a solid slab of wood. Though it was bitterly cold outside, the sun was shining, and when Duncan opened the door and steered me inside, I was temporarily blinded. It was dark, with only a lamp on in the living room and an overhead light in the dining area off to the right. As my eyes adjusted to the darker interior, I realized we were standing in a large, open great room: a combined living, dining, and kitchen area separated by a pony wall and counter between the living room and kitchen. The furnishings were Danish modern style, and the color scheme was blandly neutral in varying shades of beige.
While the visual impact of entering the house was a mild one, I was immediately assaulted by the sound of shrill, high-pitched notes that sounded like they came from a trumpet. I recognized the sound right away as my synesthetic reaction to the smell of blood, and I knew then that the crime scene would be a messy one.
There was a bag by the door that contained paper booties and two boxes of gloves, one large and one medium. Duncan helped me put a bootie on my casted foot — which only had a heavy sock covering it because I didn't have a shoe that would fit over it — as well as my other foot, and then he handed me a pair of latex gloves.
"Do I have to bootie my crutches?" I asked him. I was making a joke, but Duncan seemed to consider the question seriously.
After a moment, he shook his head. "I think it will be fine," he said.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Last Call"
Copyright © 2018 Beth Amos.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
A Tale Well Told and Worth the Wait. This is the sixth book in the series and I think it is my favorite. Why? I am not sure, but the emphasis on solving two crimes and a sidebar with less violence than in previous books had my attention for two days. because I read every chance I got. Miss Abbott weaves a bevy of characters into her books who are colorful and believable. The insertion of the O'Reilly family was delightful. I just hope it isn't a long spell before the next Mac Dalton adventure hits the shelves.
I really enjoy this series and it was a good story with a child that had my heart from day one and a great ending! She does go into way too much detail about Mack's condition. You don't forget something that that. I do like some recap of the last book but that's only because it has been so long in between stories. The characters are great ppl & it was good to be back with them. A few I love are Mack herself and Duncan, Mal, Cora & the lovable twins! If there's a next one and I hope there is; it will be sooner rather than later. Rhop18
One of the reasons that I am rating this 5 stars is that another character has synesthesia, the unique trait that Mack has, and her story is woven into one of the mysteries needing to be solved very well. As usual, Mack has her great support group working with her as well as Mal and Duncan. Clever plotting!
Last Call by Allyson K. Abbott is the sixth A Mack’s Bar Mystery. Mackenzie “Mack” Dalton has been asked to be a consultant for the Milwaukee Police Department. Her synesthia has helped solve several recent cases and Duncan Albright calls her his secret weapon. Duncan is called out to a murder scene and Mack joins him for her first consulting gig. They find Sheldon Janssen dead from a gunshot wound and his little girl hidden in a secret room. Mack is surprised to discover that the little girl, Felicity has undiagnosed synesthia. Mal O’Reilly’s blood and fingerprints are found at the scene, but no one can find him. It turns out that Mal was working undercover at Wade Klein’s construction company and Janssen was Klein’s right-hand man. They do not know if Mal has been badly injured or if his cover has been blown? Sonja, a Capone Club member, brings the group a case to solve. Caroline Knutson has been griping about her husband for quite some time, and suddenly Oliver turns up dead. Instead of grieving, the widow is updating her look at the salon with a pleased countenance. Mack and Duncan team up with the lead detective, Roberta Dillon to make sure Oliver did not have help getting to the great beyond. As if Mack does not have enough to keep her occupied, the O’Reilly clan is working on the bar’s elevator and, to keep them safe, they have moved into her apartment. Come along to Mack’s Bar, pull up a stool, grab a bite to eat along with a refreshing beverage and help the group solve the two crimes in Last Call. Last Call may be the sixth novel in A Mack’s Bar Mystery series, but it can be read alone. The author summarizes the first five books in the series (the cases in each one). We learn about Mack’s synesthesia, how she inherited the bar, the Capone Club, updates she has made to the bar, and her relationship with Duncan. If you have not read the other books, it will spoil it them you. However, it is has been a while since you read a book in A Mack’s Bar Mystery, you might find it helpful. I thought the story was nicely written with steady pacing throughout (for the most part). I did feel that the frequent explanations of Mack’s synesthesia interrupt the flow of the story. It is obvious that the author did her research on synesthesia from the way she presents the information and the amount of detail included. The two crimes were interesting, but they were not complex. The way one of the murders was executed was unique and clever. There are good clues to aid readers in solving the cases before the solution is revealed. The members of the Capone Club are mentioned in the book, but we spend little time with them. It can be difficult to keep all the characters straight (there are so many with the bar employees, Capone Club, O’Reilly family, police officers). I thought the ending was sweet and romantic. A majority of Last Call felt like filler. I would have preferred the author focus on one murder mystery. The way Last Call ended makes it seem as if it is the last book in A Mack’s Bar Mystery series.
Had a real problem with the details of Oliver's sleep apnea. I've had three CPAP machines and not one used an oxygen tank or had shut off valves on the mask. The machine is small and depending on the doctor prescription can contain water. I did love Felicity and the ending.
Last Call is the sixth book in Allyson K. Abbott’s Mack’s Bar Mysteries series and the first book I had read in the series. While it can stand on its own, it does provide spoilers of the previous books. The author does a stellar job at creating suspense. I love the concept of The Capone Club, a group of amateur sleuths and a couple of real detectives that meet to discuss crimes. They meet at Mack’s Bar, a bar she inherited from her dad. When her dad was murdered, Mack began helping the police with the gifts of her synesthesia condition. It is now the one-year anniversary of her dad’s death and Mack is helping to investigate a murder involving a suspect whom Mack knows well. I have to admit that I had a difficult time getting into this book. The details of Mack’s synesthesia simply interrupted the flow of this book too much for me personally. However, the author spins a terrific story.