1. Romancing the Crime
“Compares favorably to Harlan Coben.” Amazon Reviewer
“A fast-paced book that kept me wound up tighter than a drum all the way through.” Amazon Reviewer
Sgt. Cory Marin, head of homicide, has her hands full. Not everyone on her squad is happy she’s in charge, she’s still dealing with the break up of her marriage, and wealthy residents are up in arms over the murder of a young professor in broad daylight in Ravine Creek, a proposed city park where she jogs every day. Cory is convinced that what appears to be a random robbery gone wrong is premeditated murder. Her job is complicated by the appearance of Fletcher Manning, a bestselling novelist who shadows her as research for a female detective novel he is writing. She has her guard up, but as she gets to know him, she softens and begins to fall for him.
“Marshland is fantastic sequel to Romancing the Crime. Cory Marin returns as the strong female lead detective whose instinct and tenacity make the novel a page-turner. The novel contains all new mysteries, twists and turns but with the same likable cast of characters and dialogue. This is shaping up to be a great female detective series.” Amazon Reviewer
“Great character development that makes you feel like you know each of them. Intrigue and suspense abound and twists and turns keep you turning the pages. Wonderful book- fun read!! Love it!!” Amazon Reviewer
Sergeant Cory Marin and Detective Washington investigate the overdose death of a college student and find that everyone involved is lying or has something to hide. The more questions they ask, the more they suspect something very bad has happened. When the corpse of a young man is found in a swamp, their suspicions are confirmed. Their investigation leads them to the creeks and marshes of the Gulf coast, a land of small towns, fishermen, and smugglers, and they discover a subculture of drug importers, dealers, and users, a world dominated by greed.
As Cory struggles to untangle a story of innocence gone awry, she wades through an emotional marshland of her own as she adjusts to the idea that she will be a mother herself. How can she protect her child from the dangers he or she will face?
With so much in flux in her life, her partnership with Washington provides a stabilizing influence, but as their friendship deepens, her feelings for him threaten to upset the fragile stability of her world.
3. Second Self
“I have read all three books in this series and this is my favorite. I could not put it down. Great summer reading!” Amazon Reviewer
“Once again JW Robitaille has written a fast-paced, can’t put it down police procedural featuring Cory Marin, her tough Latina detective, who is holding her own in a southern police department in a university town. There is nothing more fun than a new Cory Marin novel. Highly recommended!” Amazon Reviewer
When Sergeant Cory Marin and Marty Washington begin to investigate the ritualistic murder of an international student, the leads and suspects keep multiplying. Is the killing tied to a similar one twenty years ago? Is the girlfriend’s possessive ex-boyfriend responsible? Do the victim’s fraternity brothers have a reason to want him dead? Or are the victim’s girlfriend or best friend involved?
When they discover a tie-in with the virtual world, Second Life, events take a bizarre twist. As her avatar tracks down leads in Second Life, Cory is faced with a new threat from Fletcher Manning. Luckily, she has Marty Washington, and her father, Jack Riley, in her corner, but can they protect her from Fletcher?
Targeted Age Group:: 25-65
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I was inspired to write the novels in this box set, Romancing the Crime, Marshland, and Second Self, by a desire to show a strong female detective committed to protecting the weak who must grapple with the complexities of modern society. All three are fast-paced police procedurals featuring Sgt. Cory Marin, a strong woman with a complicated love life and a diverse group of friends. Cory battles self-doubt but holds her own in a male profession.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I wanted my heroine, Cory Marin, to be emotionally complex, and I wanted her to be an outsider. She was born in New York to a Puerto Rican mother and an unknown father, so she is mixed race and must grapple with issues of identity, trust, and acceptance in a male profession. Her friends are a mixture of races, ethnicities, and sexual identities (gay and straight) because I wanted to represent multi-faceted perspectives on modern life.
Sergeant Cory Marin stirred creamer into her coffee and gazed through the glass that separated her office from the pit, the gray partitions of the detectives' cubicles not nearly high enough to keep anyone from overhearing conversations. It was almost five, and she was ready for a run.
Tommy, the oldest member of Major Case Squad A, rose and turned toward her office, his face down, absorbed in the figures on his yellow legal pad. Oh shit, she thought, what now? He raised his knuckles to knock on her open door, but she waved him in. His hair was down to his collar, his tie stained from the meatball sub he’d eaten at his desk to make up for being thirty minutes late, but she knew the last thing he needed was for her to say anything about either one.
When she was first promoted into Squad A, Tommy was the one who’d extended a hand in friendship. He’d invited her over for Sunday barbecue, which was sweet, but she’d hated every minute of it. Maybe it was because the promotion coincided with her split with Mike, but being around so much family—the picnic table on the screen porch, the dog underfoot, and Norma and two teenage girls chatting away—reminded her of all the possibilities she’d given up. Maybe it was because Norma treated Tommy like he was an overgrown six year-old, but Cory had begged off after the second Sunday.
Tommy touched his tie, glancing down at the white shirt that bulged over his belly, a tick that let her know how uncomfortable he was in his body.
She motioned him in, noticing the belly wasn’t as full as it had been a month ago.
She raised her coffee toward him. “You look like you lost some weight.”
He grinned and glanced down. “Started working out again.”
“Oh-oh,” she smiled. “Who is she?” She’d meant it as a joke, but his look was pure ‘how did you know?’ “Seriously?” She put her cup down. “You met someone?”
He nodded. “Yeah.”
“That’s great.” Maybe he could stop being so hangdog sorry for himself and get back to doing his job.
Tommy had been scaring the hell out of her since Norma kicked him out, eating too much, drinking too much. Married, he was the nicest guy in the world. The only thing she could fault him for was being too nice to Norma. But alone, he was a different animal, untethered, unpredictable, maybe even a little dangerous to himself if not to others. Tommy was like a big kid bouncing off the walls in a small room. You never knew what he might do, beat his head against the wall or crumple in the corner and refuse to get back up. Tommy was no good on his own. He needed a woman to be able to live with himself.
“What’s up?” she said, hoping that whatever it was wouldn’t take long.
He dropped a notepad with columns of numbers on her desk and gestured at the pad with thick fingers. “This shit’s killing me.”
She glanced at her watch. It was quarter to five, and she imagined herself stretching her quads, her heel pulled into her buttocks. “What?”
“It was hard enough paying one set of bills, but two’s nuts.” He shook his head.
“This is about Norma?” That was Tommy’s problem. He couldn’t stay focused on the job.
“I need to get a second job or I need OT or I’m going under.”
“When do you have time for another job?”
“Nights, weekends. I got no life. I might as well work.”
“And not sleep? What good you going to be with no sleep?” She stopped short of saying, ‘You’d be useless.’ “Jesus, Tommy, the last thing you need is a second job.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“Tell Norma to get a job.”
“She wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to go about it.”
“How hard is it to fill out an application at Walmart?”
“Walmart? You’re kidding? You know better than that.”
Cory for damn sure did. Nothing but the best would do for Norma. She was pretty, and her hair was always frosted and styled professionally, her nails painted, but no matter how perfect she looked, Norma never looked anything but perfectly unhappy.
“Why don’t you sell the house? There’s no reason for Norma to have it now the kids are gone.”
“In this market? I don’t know if I’d get anything out of it.”
“I thought you paid the house off years ago.”
He shrugged. “Had to take a second.”
Cory groaned. “Jesus, you still paying for her boob job?”
Norma had chased the illusion of perfection from one cosmetic surgery to the next. What Norma wanted, Norma got, and through it all Tommy was Mr. Supportive. “If this is what it takes to make her feel better about herself, I’m happy she’s doing it.” Tommy was like someone who got taken hostage and ended up seeing the world through his captor’s eyes. It drove Cory nuts because how could she fault him for being a nice guy, for loving his wife?
Tommy shrugged. “That and the kids’ braces.”
“Jesus. It’s not fair, Buddy. Let what’s his name take care of her.” The guy Norma had waiting in the wings when she told Tommy goodbye the weekend after they dropped the youngest girl off at college was the kids’ orthodontist, a widower in his mid-fifties. What Norma saw in a man who spent his life with his hands in other people’s mouths was anybody’s guess. Cory suspected it had more to do with his wallet than his charm.
Tommy snorted. “It may not be fair, but it’s the law. I have to pay the bills till we’re divorced. And then, it looks like I’m going to have the pleasure of paying her bills for another five years. Unless she remarries.”
“Which she’s smart enough not to do.”
“You never liked Norma, did you?” He made it sound like Cory was betraying him by not liking Norma.
“I didn’t like the way she treated you.”
When he glanced away, she felt bad, like she’d shamed him.
“Spilt milk,” he said, looking out the window into rustling palm fronds. “Nothing I can do about it now. Except work. I got to pay these bills one way or another.” He looked at her like a man calling in markers. “I need any extra shifts you can give me or I gotta get another job.”
“I’ll do what I can, but short of inviting a couple serial killers to town, I can’t make work. There’s plenty of OT in football games.”
“Next home game’s not for two weeks. I checked.”
“There’s gotta be other options. Give up Vegas for one.”
He shook his head stubbornly. “I’d rather work more hours. Really. It’s the one thing I’ve done for myself in this whole mess.”
No wonder he couldn’t make ends meet.
At first she’d been glad when he told her he was going out to Vegas for the weekend. She was tired of picturing him in his brown recliner, his face reflecting the blue glare of the TV, the ancient family dog at his feet. The mutt was short and squat and gray in the muzzle, a resemblance that couldn’t have been lost on Tommy, who was not so far gone he couldn’t recognize himself in the dog, those soulful brown eyes that just wanted to be loved but ended up stepped over or stepped on instead. She pictured Tommy walking the dog at night, silhouetted beneath a streetlight wearing a trench coat and a Dick Tracy fedora, cursing as he stooped to pick up a mound of warm shit in a plastic bag. She could imagine Tommy saying to the dog, “After twenty-three years, this is what I get? Unbelievable. Un-fucking-believable.”
So she’d been glad he’d done something for himself, and she didn’t really care what it was, whether it was a hooker in Vegas or the roulette wheel. Something needed to get his blood pumping again.
“How the hell can you afford Vegas?” She had asked after the second trip.
“It just about pays for itself. You wouldn’t believe the deals they got—flight and hotel for two-fifty— and there’s free food in the casinos. Hell, Caesars’ has a twenty-four hour buffet. You pay ten bucks and you eat all day.”
Not that Tommy needed to be sidling up to any twenty-four hour buffet.
When the trips turned into a regular thing, she had worried about Tommy and the tables. He had a thing about putting odds on everything from football games to how long it would take to get across town. “Five dollars says,” was his favorite expression, so she had asked him straight out if he was gambling.
“Not to worry,” he said. “I never go over my limit.”
Not that he’d said what his limit was.
Suddenly she put two and two together. “Is this girl you’re seeing in Vegas?”
He looked surprised again, but nodded. “She’s not a girl. She’s not that much younger than me. And it’s not what you think.”
When she said nothing, he shook his head. “She’s from around here. Her folks run a restaurant in Cedar Key. That’s what got us talking to start with. She said she moved away because she didn’t want to be a waitress all her life, but she ended up being a waitress anyway. We laughed about that,” Tommy said fondly. Then seeing Cory’s expression, he said, “She’s a small town girl.”
Cory rolled her eyes.
“She’s the nicest person I’ve ever met.” He looked at Cory like she wouldn’t believe him no matter what he said. “You know what? Forget it. You wouldn’t understand.”
“Maybe I’m no expert on love, but I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“What makes you so sure no one could love me?”
That shut her up. She felt like shit. “I’m sorry, Tommy. It’s just Vegas, I expect the worst.”
She was relived when there was a knock on the door, and Janelle poked her head in.
“Got a minute?” Janelle’s wild shoulder length hair was barely held in check by an orange headband.
Cory motioned her in. “Yeah. Tommy was on his way out.” She hoped it didn’t sound like she meant permanently. “Call a realtor. See what you can get out of the house.”
He nodded and heaved himself out of the chair.
Janelle made the orange polo with the GPD insignia look like something in a J Crew ad. She had the high cheekbones and brow of an African princess, and her clear mahogany skin glowed as if lit from within. Her wild corkscrew curls shot out in every direction, advance warning that she was a live wire. She was about as exotic a bird as could be contained in the Criminal Investigation Division, outside of the undercover. She specialized in computer sex crimes, but she was the go to person to unlock any computer file. Cory had worked with her on Squad B for six months before admitting she couldn’t take the emotional devastation of sex crimes.
“Take a look at this.” Janelle came around the desk, her cell phone in her hand, tapping the screen. She perched on the edge of the desk, as restless as a hyperactive kid, every movement translating itself into her spring-loaded curls so that even when she was still, she seemed to pulse like a hummingbird. She turned the phone toward Cory.
A photo of Alex, the newest and youngest member of Cory’s squad, filled the screen. His expression was serious, his nose and brows finely chiseled, his eyes dark, his hair a crown of dark curls. Cory thought of Alex as the rookie, but this picture made him look like a damn good-looking man.
“Match.com,” Janelle said as if making a point. Ever since Janelle had become an Internet dating convert, she had been trying to convince Cory to try one dating scheme after another. First, it was speed dating, then Match.com, but Cory wasn’t biting.
“Five eight, one eighty, body like a Greek god,” Janelle giggled, her eyes twinkling. “Likes cooking, romantic dinners, long walks, bike rides, bouldering. Seeks friendship and romance with fun loving female twenty to twenty-five.” She rolled her eyes and lowered her phone in mock despair. “Shit, that cuts me out.”
“That’s exactly why I wouldn’t be on there. I’d die if anyone from the office saw me on one of those sites.”
“Why? Does it make you think less of him?”
“No.” Strangely, knowing that Alex was on Match.com gave him a new dimension, even if his profile was a little over the top. It made her see him as a man, made her think of him more seriously. She doubted anyone would take her more seriously if they saw her profile online. “It’s different for a woman.”
“Why the hell do you think that?” Janelle was indignant.
Cory shook her head, not wanting to take Janelle on.
“You think anyone thinks less of me because they see me on here?”
Cory smiled. “No one would dare think less of you.”
“Damn straight,” Janelle said. “What they think is Oh, my God, this person has a life.”
“Maybe. But I’m still not interested.”
“Be that way. You got plans tonight?”
Cory smiled. “Yeah, La Contessa is cooking supper and Pretty Boy and me are going to drink beer and watch Law and Order.”
Janelle shook her head. “You need to get a life.”
“Romance and life are not synonymous.”
“Spoken by someone who doesn’t go out and eats too much chocolate. You remind me of me six months ago. I was depressed as shit.” She tapped her phone. “This is better.”
There was no arguing with that. Janelle depressed was a crime against nature. Janelle dating was like the return of spring.
Janelle nudged Cory’s chair with her toe and inclined her head toward the window into the pit. Washington was shrugging on his jacket. He was the one member of the department who towered over his cubicle. He’d played basketball for Tulane, and his physicality was undeniable. He still moved like an athlete, powerful and graceful.
Janelle winked. “What would you do if you saw Sir Galahad’s profile online?”
Cory shook her head. “I don’t think he has any trouble finding ladies.”
Janelle raised an eyebrow in question.
Cory shrugged. “He always seems to have a different pretty face on his phone.”
“So you noticed?” Janelle smiled slyly.
Cory wrinkled her nose. There had been sparks when Washington was first promoted into her squad, but she had warned herself off. “He goes for glamor girls from what I can tell.” The one time she had seen him out on a date, he had been with a woman who looked like she could be a Victoria Secrets model. The short black dress curved in all the right places. The woman swung her long straight hair behind her shoulder and smiled as if she were looking at herself in the mirror. Cory shook her head. “Besides, I don’t believe in fishing off the company pier.”
Janelle rolled her eyes. “Then you need a bigger pond.”
Cory held up her hands. “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Washington crossed in front of her office, glancing in at the two of them and shaking his head as if he knew they were up to no good. He wore a coat and tie even though most of the younger members of the department favored the more casual collared polos. He had close cropped hair and pale gray eyes that suggested a white man somewhere in his Bajan family tree.
“Have it your way.” Janelle slid off the desk. “Maybe we’ll hit the Palomino later.”
“Maybe,” Cory said vaguely.
Janelle shook her head like Cory was a hopeless case and headed out the door, moving to music only she could hear.
Cory filled her travel mug with the last of the coffee and stood at the window watching as Washington crossed Sixth Street to the parking lot. She liked watching him move. Washington was a hell of a good-looking guy, no doubt about that. But she had let that moment pass and she was glad of it. She didn’t need that kind of complication in her life.
Washington had moved up in the department almost as fast as she had, from patrol, to CID property, then to Major Case Squad A. He took a page from her book in applying to every training academy he could. His rise was only held in check by her being in the position that would be his next logical move. If she moved up, he would slide into her spot. Washington was the future. Tommy, Sandy, and Casey, the older white males on her squad, were the past, plain and simple.
She turned to her office and took a sip of coffee, but it was bitter from having warmed all day.
She could just hear what her ex-husband, Mike, would say, “Just like you, babe, bitter from being on the warmer too long.”
She could see him standing in the middle of their living room, tall and muscular as Atlas, looking dumbfounded that she would leave him over something as stupid as a dispatch operator.
“What’re you gone do without me, babe?” His eyes pleaded with her to be reasonable. Like it was all her fault. “Why you wanna be alone?”
She didn’t want to be alone, wouldn’t be alone now if he hadn’t made it impossible for her to do anything else. It shimmered before her for a moment, what her life would have been like if she hadn’t walked, Mike padding around in his little boy Euro briefs bulging in all the right places. God, but he was gorgeous to look at.
She could hear his voice in her ear, “That thing’s gonna waste away without me.”
The son of a bitch had been right of course. There’d been no one else. She wasn’t the type to go out looking, and that didn’t leave much in the way of options.
She slipped her purse over her shoulder and paused at the mirror behind her office door, wondering if she was destined to become one of those women who buried herself in her work. No one was going to kick her out of bed for eating crackers, Mike used to say. Her skin was pale coffee, like Jennifer Lopez, who like herself was born in the Bronx to a Puerto Rican mother. Cory had her mother’s hair, full and brown and wavy, but at work she wore it pulled back severely. The green eyes must have come from her father, who was a mystery. The color changed in different lights, sometimes hazel, sometimes deeper green. Golden brown seeped outward from the pupils like melted caramel, and a deep charcoal bordered the green irises, like someone had taken eyeliner to outline them. Her eyes made her look exotic, Mike used to say, like a cat. She had trouble looking at herself without seeing herself as Mike did.
She shook he head. He was out of her life. Now she needed to keep him out of her head.
When she stepped out of headquarters, the air was warm and humid, too warm for October, too warm for a run. She could feel moisture pop on her forehead as she crossed Sixth Street, where traffic obediently stopped at the crosswalk. Crosswalk compliance hovered around sixty percent citywide, but compliance was one hundred percent where the pedestrians were officers with guns on their hips.
She had to click her key fob to find her car since most of the cars in the lot were silver city issues. The Taurus wouldn’t have been her first choice, but it was a hell of a lot better than the Chargers and Impala most of the department drove. An Accord would have suited her better, but the department had bowed to mileage concerns only recently, and Washington was the first to be assigned one.
When she turned the key, Mary Gautier’s plaintive voice wailed about not being able to trust her eyes anymore, and Cory sang along for the umpteenth time because nothing came closer to summing up her and Mike. She hadn’t been able to see what was in front of her because desire blinded her.
Her friend, Brandy, had pushed the CD across the table of the Palomino after one of his trips to New Orleans, The Big Easy, he called it, saying it like the first word referred to organ size and the second to difficulty level.
“You’ll love her,” he said. “It’s like she’s channeling Steve Earl.”
Brandy taught in Cultural Studies, a department where no one was over forty, and everyone dressed like he was a subject of one of his own lectures. Brandy looked like he belonged on an album cover rather than in the classroom. His jagged blond hair stuck out in carefully arranged mayhem; his usual outfit was a pale linen jacket over a T-shirt, skinny jeans, and crazy tennis shoes. Cory had no idea tennis shoes came in so many colors and varieties—lime green, coral, checkerboard. He was a man after her own heart when it came to shoes. You could never have too many.
At the light, she hesitated a fraction of a second before turning right. It was too hot to run, which meant she had time for a quick duck-in at the Goodwill. She parked in the shade of a plane tree, the pavement hot and littered with huge dry leaves curled up like human hands.
The AC inside the store was a relief. She cruised by the crystal and china without breaking stride. She didn’t need anything anymore. It wasn’t about need. It never was. She had boxes of Limoges china and embroidered tablecloths. Never mind that she didn’t have a dining room table because the idea of sitting down to dinner alone depressed her beyond reason. She had a closet full of party dresses that fit like a glove, never mind that she had no place to wear them and no one to go out with, but for five dollars, who could say no?
She recognized that her stops at Goodwill bordered on compulsion, that she was trying to make up for everything she hadn’t had as a kid, when if she had cash for school lunches or clothes or bus fare, it was only because she stole it from her mother’s purse. She had told herself her mother would have given her the money if she had been able to notice that Cory needed anything, but noticing Cory and taking care of her were more than her mother could manage. She had more pressing concerns with making sure she had enough cigarettes and booze and drugs to get through the night.
Luckily, Goodwill could make up for all that.
She was headed for the dress racks when she was drawn like a bee to honey by a rack of Halloween costumes. There were tulle princess dresses and mesh angel wings bordered with glitter. She fingered the blue satin skirt of a Belle dress, a hole suddenly opening inside her. Her hands longed to dress a little girl for Halloween, to nestle a tiara in her curls. The chasm yawned before her, and she turned and hurried out of the store before her entire life was sucked into that black hole.
It was for the best, she told herself. But the question persisted: What would her life be like if she had gotten pregnant with Mike? She had wanted a baby badly enough to consider going off the pill even though Mike’s attitude was always, “Not ready. Not yet. No way.”
It was for the best, she repeated as she unlocked the car. She couldn’t see sharing custody with him now, having to drop a child off at his house and negotiate with whoever the current live-in girlfriend happened to be. Besides, she couldn’t be relied on to pick a kid up from school or be home for dinner by six, let alone show up to soccer games and school plays. The girls she tutored at the center were about as much commitment as she could manage. If she didn’t show up, no one suffered too badly.
When she buckled her seatbelt and turned the key in the ignition, she heard the dispatcher call for the closest unit to respond to a shooting in Ravine Creek, the Twenty-third Street entrance near the Elk’s Lodge. Shit, that was where she ran. How could a shooting happen in broad daylight in Ravine Creek? If she hadn’t stopped at Goodwill, she might have been on the trail now. She might have witnessed the crime. Hell, she might have been the victim.
She radioed dispatch that she was responding, buckled her seat belt, and headed for the scene.
JW Robitaille received degrees in English from Emory University, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and the University of Florida. She lives in Gainesville, Florida, the setting of all her fiction. In addition to being the proud mother of two grown boys, she is an avid walker, painter, gardener, traveler, and house restorer. She is the author of a Gainesville detective series, literary fiction, short stories, screenplays, and is getting ready to launch a Young Adult dystopia series (think hopeful, think Parkland kids taking action).
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