Book Reviews – The Target Practice Mysteries by Nikki Haverstock

Books: Death at the Summit

Death at the Trade Show

Death Indoors

Death in the Casino

Death from Abroad

Author: Nikki Haverstock

Genre: Mystery

Series: Target Practice Mysteries

So I enjoyed Death on the Range so much, I pretty much burned through the rest of the Target Practice Mysteries in like two days…ok maybe one. Just like Death on the Range, these books are all pretty easy reads. Nothing took more than a few hours to get through, so it is great for traveling or a lazy afternoon.

Di is back at it as murders continue to follow her at a wet notable event that she goes to. And just what is a woman to do when that happens? Why grab her best friend Mary and her Great Dane Moo and find the killer of course.

Each of these books focus on a single murder at some large event. I’m not going to lie, it did start to seem a little incredible after book 3. All six books take place within a year of each other. Six books and six murders, four of which happen in the middle of nowhere Wyoming within a year. Thankfully, the author, Nikki Haverstock, is self aware as well as her characters. They do know that life is not supposed to work like this.

The murder investigations were still fun as Di, Mary, and Moo look for the killers. The first few books are hard to call a mystery. Perhaps I read them too fast, but there were not many clues to help solve the case, and the killer just kind of outs themselves in the last chapter due to a misunderstanding. By Death Indoors, Nikki definitely hit her writing stride, though. Clues were planted, motivations were there, and killers were caught instead of blurting out they did it.

Honestly, I don’t know of the first three books were written that way by design or not. Di stumbles through the first few investigations as someone with no experience would. The more she learns, the better her investigations get. This lets me give the author the benefit of the doubt.

Ultimately, though, these books should be read for the characters. They are fun and entertaining, and they carry the stories. Fair warning, the romances are the weakest character moments as one feels rushed, out of nowhere, and full of convienance. Minor spoiler but not really: Of course Di, the main character, would fall for the son of the CEO.

That may play into one of the major casting choices for this series, however. All of the main characters, except for love interests, are women. The bosses are all women. Women run this story. So is it possible that Di’s love for the CEO’s son is a reflection of the male fantasy of falling for the king’s daughter? Maybe, maybe not. I kind of doubt that much thought went into the decision, but if you choose to read it that way, great.

All in all, this series is great. The characters are entertaining, the stories are fun, and the pages just keep turning. As before, if you have Kindle Unlimited, you have no excuse not to read these books. I give the series as a whole the rating of Iron Stash (4/5).

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Book Reviews – Death on the Range by Nikki Haverstock

Book: Death on the Range

Part of a series: Yes, book 1

Genre: Mystery

Amazon Author’s Page

I just finished up Death on the Range by Nikki Haverstock today. Ladies and gents, that is a fun book.

The story follows Di, a 30 something woman who moves from her tech job in Cali to help at an archery training facility in Wyoming. The center is getting ready to open to the public and are hosting a coaches training class when the unthinkable happens. One of the class members is killed. Now Di and her roommate have to figure out who did the deed with the help of their giant mutt Moo.

Like I said, this is a fun little story. It is not a complicated read, the mystery is confined to a single location, and there are few characters. The characters feel pretty real though. The simplicity of the story doesn’t take away from the humor and a few surprising moments of real emotionality.

Fair warning, the ending is slightly disappointing and there were one or two moments that needed a little reworking. Don’t let that stop you though. Everything else is good.

If you are looking for a light, fun read, check this book out. I finished it in a few hours, so it is a good travel book or whenever you want to spend a lazy afternoon with fun women. I give it an iron stash rating (4/5) and look forward to reading more of her works.

Flash Fiction Friday 017 – Let There Be Light

Tom was huddled in his office. On every free surface, candles burned brightly. Their flickering lights danced over his face, giving him a manic appearance that matched his mood

Outside, night hung over the city. Gas lamps burned dimly; winds fluttered across the moon. Hooves clattered on cobblestone; the womp of beaten air grew steadily louder. Shutters and windows closed for the night; screams erupted from the streets.

It was the same every night. The mouth people came with the fading light and took their sacrifices. They didn’t care who the people were as long as they were alive.

The only thing these moth people feared was the light. Candles were barely bright enough to be of any good, and fires required constant attention. That was why Tom kept himself locked in his office under the mad gleam of desperation.

The door to his office burst open, amid he spun towards it in terror and shock. “Damn it, Edison. How much longer?” Tom breathed a sigh of relief as the mayor’s aide walked in. “You’ve tried nearly a thousand different things by now.”

Edison nodded, a sense of calm coming over him like it always did when he was explaining something. “Yes, and I have found a thousand ways it wouldn’t work. Tell the mayor I’m close. We’ll soon be safe.”

A shot rang out from behind Tom’s door. It was followed by a scream that quickly died away in a wet gurgle. The aide paled and backed further into Edison’s office. “T…tomorrow morning will be fine.” With a bracing breath, he rounded on Tom. “But this light bulb thing had better be what you promise.”

Edison smiled to himself as he turned back to his work. “Trust me Steve. It’ll change the world.”

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. If you want, make sure you sign up for our newsletter and as a special thanks, you’ll receive a short story for free. And as always, I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.

Flash Fiction Friday 016 – The Burbonville Sermon

The entire town of Burbonville, Kentucky had come out for the announcement. The United States had entered the Great War. There was a mixture of tears and crying from the members of the small village. As for Tim…well he wasn’t quite sure what to think.

Gerry kept attacking US ships. At least that’s what the papers had said, and Pa always maintained that if someone punches you in the face…Well sometimes you just have to punch them back. The Army also sounded like a good idea to Tim. Couldn’t be any worse than sharecropping.

On the other hand, he didn’t really want to go half way ‘cross the world. He and his girl were getting on well. If he left, there was no telling when he would see her again…or if. That was a very chilling thought. Tim had never really had a reason to question his mortality before, and yet here he was, standing alone in a crowd of people as he wondered if he would make it back.

He was pulled from his thoughts by a sudden hush in the crowd. Some old drifter had wandered into the middle of the townsfolk and started talking. Tim had missed the first part of what the drifter was saying, but it soon became clear that this man was some form of preacher. The little bit Tim could hear from the back included a lot of “sinners” and “hellfire” and “damnation.”

Curious, Tim pushed closer to the front. The preacher man was getting right firey with his words, lifting his bible high above his head before swopping his arm down to shake it at the ground. As the man spoke, clouds began to gather overhead. The sudden appearance of dark clouds was quite odd for what had been a mild spring day.

“And the Lord speaks to us! Calling out to us! Urging us to do our sacred duty before darkness over takes us.” Shadows fell on the ground at the preachers words.

“The Kaiser and his minions. They serve the old ways. They have no interest in the new covenants as they blow away their friends and enemies.” A cold wind swept across the crowd, cutting through the sundresses and light shirts.

“It is an old enemy that rises up, rearing his horned head once again! He seeks the blood and destruction of all peoples and systems and he uses the Kaiser to do it! And what will you do?” The preacher jabbed a finger at the crowd. “Will you sit here and do nothing? Content in your false peace? Lord as my witness, the true believer must fight!”

Thunder crashed with his final word and lightning lit the sky. The preacher stood there a moment, panting, before making a final prayer and walking off. As he left, the storm quickly dissipated and the town was left in sunlight once again.

There were murmurs from the townsfolk at the strange preacher, but he was soon forgotten. The one person who didn’t forget was Tim. The crash of thunder shook his soul while the word “GO” echoed in his mind. He knew what the message was and he knew what he had to do. He couldn’t stay in Burbonville. It was time for him to go over there.

This week’s story was a rashomon. Be sure to check out D.L. Spartan or #flashomon on Twitter to find more points of view from the Burbonville Sermon.

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. If you want, make sure you sign up for our newsletter and as a special thanks, you’ll receive a short story for free. And as always, I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.

Friday Flash Fiction 015 – Judged

I knelt in the open plains, my head bowed against the sun despite the large shadow cast by my umbrella. My trinkets glimmered and jingled in the breeze. I did not feel the wind, though, as my mask covered my face and beak.

West winds bring plagues they said. My feathers were already beginning to molt from the sun’s kiss. I could not afford a plague on top of it.

How will you get the plague in that mask?

My fingers curled around the amulet that hung from my neck. “It’s the very best. Kings wish for masks like this.” I coughed, despite my words, and retreated further into the shade of my umbrella.

Fatigue, weakness, headache, light headedness. I listed the symptoms of heat exhaustion first, mentally checking off how many I had. Nausea, fever, tender skin, boils. Next was the plague. No boils…yet.

You do not have plague. I have already told you I would never allow it.

Ignoring the voice, I distracted myself from my ailments by looking at the trinkets that hung from my umbrella. I counted and sorted each one of the eleven trinkets. “Gotta collect all twelve.”

I felt my the back of my neck tighten uncomfortably at the thought of the set being incomplete. My fingers twitched towards my belt where my purse hung. Almost enough for the last piece.

The feathers on the back of my neck rose, and I cocked my head to the side. Something was coming. The stench of wrong doing.

I rose and gathered my belongings. It was easy to pack, and I was quickly on my way. I followed the stench easily enough. There was little out here to block my senses.

As I drew closer, my amulet pulsed. I felt every pump in my soul as I felt the pump of my heart. Sure. Confident. True. Trust your heart, and you will be okay is what they say. It led me straight to the man dragging a chest towards small out cropping of trees.

“Halt!” I cried out as I approached.

“What the?!” The man spun about, hand going towards his waist until he saw me. “Get out of here kenku. This doesn’t concern you.”

My head cocked to the side as I looked at the man. “That’s not yours.”

“I told you to git.” The man waved his hand at me and turned.

My fingers curled around my amulet as I looked at the man. “By the gods of Astor, I beseech thee, bind this man so that he may be judged.”

As I finished the prayer, fiery tendrils emanated from the amulet and towards the man. He screamed, trying to run, but my heavenly restraints were faster. Soon, he was bound by wrist and ankle, kneeling before me on the plains.

“You are charged with violating the laws of this land. How do you plead?”

“N..not guilty.” His eyes were slightly wide as he looked up at me.

I leaned forward ever so slightly. “I knew you’d say that.” Leaning back, I began to pray again. “Lords of Astor, reveal his crimes.”

Above my head, a blazing eye appeared and turned down onto the man. I saw how he had snuck up on the carriage in the early morning and taken the chest while everyone still slept. When the vision diminished, he was weeping silently from the effects of my patron’ s ways.

“You have committed theft and have been shown to be…”

“Wait! Please!” The man was crying openly now. “My village is starving. This would keep us fed til winter. I didn’t hurt no body. This was for the greater good.”

I could feel the flaming eye descend over my face as red-orange wings erupted behind me. “The law is greater than good.” My voice echoed the booming mental command of my patron.

“You have been accused and judged before the gods. In their names, I declare you guilty.” My feathery arms rose towards the heavens. “Great lords of Astor, carry out the sentence.”

The man cried out as one of the fiery tendrils about his wrist heated and tightened. In a blink, his hand was severed from his arm; the wound was sealed shut by the gods’ fire and power. The remaining tendrils disappeared, as did the images of flaming eyes and wings surrounding me.

With the sentence carried out, I turned to leave. The man still held his wrist and wept behind me. I stepped off to the north. There was a village near by with a good collection of items I wanted to buy.

What about the chest?

“The law does not care about property after trial.” I shrugged at the thought and scratched my arm. “My skin itches. Did they look rashy? I feel a rash.”

Today’s image is from wanderinginpixels on deviantart. Go check them out. Also, don’t forget to check out D. L. Spartan and her post from the same challenge. Tell her #teamstash sent you.

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. If you want, make sure you sign up for our newsletter and as a special thanks, you’ll receive a short story for free. And as always, I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.

Flash Fiction Friday 014 – Retribution

The sun set slowly over the city, staining the western sky with reds and oranges. L.A. sprawled out in a haze under the failing light. The harsh yellow of street lamps replaced the softer hues of the sun. Despite the transition between natural and artificial, traffic continued to buzz.

If there was one constant about life in a big city, it was that traffic did not care about sunsets or storms or natural disasters. People had places to be in L.A. and they would be damned if anything was going to stop them. It always made Azazial laugh.

Life in L.A. was like watching an ant hill. Everything crawled. Everything moved. Millions of tiny creatures hustled and bustled on pre-constructed routes.

But nothing fascinated Azazial more than watching them at sunset. Watching as they raged against the coming night. It was beautiful. Even Lucifer did not challenge God’s order the way that these people did every day.

He floated down from his heavenly hover, landing lightly on the streets below. The leather soles of his shoes whisked gently on the concrete as he moved. His deep, brown eyes scanned the shadows, searching.

After several moments, he found what he was looking for. Some tatted up man in a shirt two sizes too large was prowling the edges of the yellow light. These so called predators were always the most fun. They always had such a strong sense of entitlement.

Azazial moved to cross paths with the thug, barely giving him a glance as he moved towards the mouth of an alley. Like he expected, the thug couldn’t pass up the chance of attacking one dressed as finely as Azazial. Azazial didn’t even struggle as the thug grabbed him by the shoulder and forced him into the alley.

With his back pushed against the alley wall, Azazial watched calmly as a gun was leveled at his face. “Your money or your life!” The thug’s voice echoed off the nearby buildings.

Azazial laughed softly at the threat. “And just how are you going to kill me? With that Hi-Point? You’d be better off with a hammer.”

“Shut up and give me your wallet.” The thug placed his thumb on the gun’s hammer, cocking it back, but it started to shake lightly at the confrontation.

“Very well.” Azazial shrugged. He pulled his wallet from his pocket and held it out in front of him. The mugger grabbed it and ran off towards the far end of the alley, leaving Azazial standing in the shadows.

* * *

Mad Max ran for several streets before he finally slowed to a walk. Lighting a joint, he inhaled deeply before making his way back towards his crappy little apartment.

He kept an eye out for any cop cars as he moved. Sure he had quickly moved a few blocks away, but pigs always liked to try and mess with him. Self righteous bastards always thought they were better than the people down here.

Mad Max was pulled from his thoughts by the sounds of footsteps behind him. He ignored them at first. After all, it was a light sound, not the heavy thud of boots or Doc Martins. Two turns into his trip home, however, and the sound was still behind him.
He spun around quickly, hand going to his waist. “What do you want f..” Mad Max’s words trailed off when he saw no one behind him. “Cheap ass weed for me hearing things.”

He came to the run down building his apartment was in a few minutes later. As he was about to put his keys in the door, he saw something rushing towards him from the corner of his eye. Mad Max speed his keys and he turned, but there was nothing but shadows lining the walls of the building.

With shaky hands, he picked up his keys and stepped inside the bare apartment. He needed a drink to calm himself. Opening the fridge, Mad Max screamed as a thousand black bugs exploded from the inside the appliance.

He scrambled back away from the encroaching horde, hitting his head on the coffee table. The insects crawled up his legs and over his chest. They reached his neck… and disappeared.

“Christ!” Max was panting on the floor. “I’m never buying weed from Crazy Lou again.”

“It’s not the weed you need to worry about,” a voice laughed softly from the corner of the apartment.

Max jumped up and pulled out his gun. “Yo, you’re that joker I robbed earlier. How did you get in here?”

The man stood in the shadows of the room refusing to move or speak. Max nodded to himself as he tried to keep his hams from shaking. “Fine. I got something for you anyway.” He pulled the trigger several times but heard nothing but the click of a misfire.

The man laughed again as he glided towards Max. “I told you that you skills be better off with a hammer.” The ham paused a moment as he pulled something from his coat and raised it above his head. Max blinked as he saw the hammer hover above the horns on the man’s head. “Here. Let me show you.”

Thwack! Thwack! Thwamph!

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. If you want, make sure you sign up for our newsletter and as a special thanks, you’ll receive a short story for free. And as always, I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.

Friday Flash Fiction 013 – Raise the Black Flag

The trail of greenish light cut through the night sky. It was always the same when they came. The light was the messenger of their arrival. Before long, their ships would land, their troops would depart, and Miriam’s people would be forced to empty the warehouses that they had so diligently stocked up.

Miriam swung down from the treetop perch and landed on the forest floor. Leaves crunched under bare feet as she ran towards her village. She paused at the tree line just before the clearing. Beyond stood her village, a small collection of huts clustered around a bend in the river. The dock was nestled in the bend, though it was only used for the Romanus.

The other villagers had seen the green lights in the sky and had gathered outside, staring up towards the heavens. Miriam followed their gaze and watched as the wooden Romanus ship descended from the stars. It landed gently in the waters of the river as several men from the village ran to extend the walkway from the dock to the deck.

Once the ship was tied off, a Romanus official stepped forth, flanked on either side by a Praetor Guard. Their bronze breastplates shone in the moonlight while their capes fluttered in the gentle summer breeze, the red of the official contrasting with the purple of his guard. Miriam was too far away to hear the proclamation that the official was making, but she assumed that it was the standard address.

Every month since anyone could remember, the Romanus descended among them demanding tribute in the form of ore and precious gems. Something was off about this month’s visit, however. The villagers seemed tense as they listened to the official. Miriam also realized that the Romanus only brought one ship as opposed to the several they normally used to carry off her people’s hard earned goods.

The official had finished speaking and stared down the walkway at the surrounding villagers. There were shouts of confusion and anger from the small crowd. He listened with a look of mild disinterest before turning and stepping back onto his ship. As soon as he cleared the walkway, soldiers moved down the wooden path from the ship to the village. Cries of panic erupted as the soldiers began entering houses and villagers ran off in any direction they could.

Miriam watched in silent horror as fires lit the summer night. Screams of pain filled the air only to be cut off suddenly. Forcing herself to back away further into the tree line, she turned and ran. She did not stop running for seemed an eternity. The screams had faded away, but the glow of her village burning still glowed in the night.

* * *

Dawn was less than an hour away. Miriam had finally forced herself to calm down and turned back towards what was left of her village. Smoke still drifted lazily from the charred remains of huts. In the center of the village, several tents had been erected. The soldiers seemed to have made camp in the middle of their carnage.

Miriam felt her blood boil at the sight. How could they be so callous?

She was pulled from her thoughts by the sounds of people nearby. Silently, she crept towards the sound and discovered a few survivors from the village.

“Liam? What happened? Is there anyone else?”

A tall lad, barely younger than Miriam but still not old enough to hunt alone, sighed heavily. “They said that the empire no longer needed us. Our land is to be given to a new Proconsul who would settle it with citizens. We were the only ones who made it out.”

Miriam was shocked at the news. With a simple declaration, her people were killed in order to make way for a new settlement. All that was left of her village was a small group of barely more than children.

“Very well. If they think that we can be gotten rid of so easily, I guess that we will have to show them their mistake.” She nodded to herself as much as the band of survivors. “Listen up. You all can stay here and try to hide from the Romanus or you can come with me and fight back.”

“But how?” The question came from a smaller lad in the back. “There are thirty soldiers out there and only eight of us.”

“It’ll be ok, Sean.” Miriam smiled at the boy. “We only need to get to their ship. With that, we can get others, like us, and strike back at them at our own choosing and when they are weak. The soldiers are all asleep, so we can easily board the ship and take care of whoever is left on board.”

There was a murmur of agreement from the group before Miriam turned and led them back to the village.

She was surprised how easy it was to move past the sleeping soldiers. By the looks of the empty wineskins lying about, they had celebrated their “victory” over her people. Miriam silently pointed at Liam and then at the weapons left near the tent’s entrance. Nodding, Liam took Sean to gather the gladii and spears before joining the others on the dock.

Boarding the ship, they found only a handful of sailors. They were all asleep on the deck and were easily taken care of by the newly armed group. There was a little fumbling as Miriam’s new crew tried to make ready to sail. Their boats only traveled the waters, not the stars. Fortunately, the process of raising the ship into the air was intuitive enough and done without raising an alarm from the soldiers on land.

As they sailed into the morning sun, Miriam turned towards the cabin. Surely the official who brought the news was in there. She approached the door, gladius in hand. Little did the Romanus official know that he was not to survive the maiden voyage of The Galiani Revenge.

Miriam opened the door to the cabin and found the official still asleep in her new bed. She walked slowly towards him, a moment of doubt crossing her mind. Looking over her shoulder at the shrinking image of her village, Miriam tightened her resolve. Sometimes, one just needs to raise the black flag.

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. If you want, make sure you sign up for our newsletter and as a special thanks, you’ll receive a short story for free. And as always, I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.