The Peacekeeper’s Photograph

Share

A Memorial Day teaser

By M.L. Doyle

As we near Memorial Day, escape into the three-book Master Sergeant Harper military mystery series beginning with The Peacekeeper’s Photograph.

“Everyone seems to think highly of you,” he said, a smile playing on his lips. “Very professional, they say. A great leader. Good soldier. Articulate. I haven’t been able to find anyone to say anything negative so far.”

 Articulate. In my experience, people only applied that word like a compliment when used to describe African-Americans. We were to feel ultimately complimented because we could speak coherently. It felt more like an insult than anything he’d said so far. I felt my anger flare. I managed to check the angry words, but refused to keep quiet about it.

“Articulate? I wouldn’t be much of an Army spokesperson if I couldn’t talk, Chief.”

Ramsey colored slightly, pressing his lips together. He glanced at Santos then forged on.

“Unfortunately, people didn’t seem to have the same opinion of your soldier, Specialist Delray,” he said.

Since he wasn’t asking a question, I kept my mouth shut.

“What did you think of her, Harper?”

Now that was a question. Problem was, I didn’t want to answer it. I sat up straighter, blew out a breath.

“Come on, Sergeant,” Ramsey said. “She was your soldier. What kind of person was she?”

“To be honest, Chief, I feel as if I failed her.”

His eyebrows went up. “Go on.”

I fidgeted. It was hard for me to admit it. She was undisciplined. She’d been working for me for months and she still couldn’t write a decent feature story or take a publishable picture. I’d worked with her, tried to edit her stories and give her tips and tricks. None of it sunk in. After a while, it became too time consuming to give her the training she needed. She exhausted me. I’d avoided giving her assignments that were important, knowing they were beyond her capacity.  

“She was young, sir. She needed … constant leadership. I’m afraid I wasn’t able to give her the attention she deserved.”

“Constant leadership.”

“Yes, sir.”

He started pacing again, but let the silence stretch uncomfortably. The plastic tent flooring muffled his steps. A slow stab of guilt cut through my gut, the longer the silence stretched. Specialist Virginia Delray had gotten on my last nerve, but her lack of skill as a journalist was my fault. I’d given up on her.

I curled my hands into fists on my knees and squeezed. Ramsey saw my tension. He settled himself on the chair across from me, leaning his elbows on his knees. He invaded my space. I knew his blue-eyed gaze could see my guilt. Instinctively, I wanted to move my chair back. His close proximity was obviously meant to make me feel uncomfortable. It worked.

 “Constant leadership, and you didn’t give that to her?” He practically whispered my words back at me, the low voice meant to calm. I felt myself deflate, and slumped back into my chair.

“No, sir,” I said, and found myself whispering back. “I didn’t give that to her.”

“So you failed her, you say?”

“Yes, sir.”

He smelled like manly scented soap. His gaze wandered over my face as he sat only inches away. Clicks from Santos’s keyboard were the only sounds in the room, the whole table vibrating each time he slammed his thumb down on the space bar.

“You feel guilty about that,” he said. He put a comforting hand over my clenched fist, speaking in that quiet, intimate voice.

His frosty gaze could see everything, I thought, as if I’d scrawled my feelings across my forehead. His thoughts glared back at me just as clearly. Sympathy and accusation. His belief that I murdered Delray appeared there in the line of his eyebrows and the way he touched me. His manipulative sympathy disgusted me and pissed me off. I moved my hand away from his and sat up straighter.

“For not training her, Mr. Ramsey,” I said, no longer whispering. “For losing patience with her. For not making her a better soldier. That’s what I feel guilty about.”

He stared at me for a long moment, that icy glare back again. He pressed his lips together and breathed heavily through his nose, then stood up and walked toward the desk. He kept his back to me for several seconds, his hands on his hips. Finally, he turned around.

“Okay, let’s see what you know,” he said, and launched into an endless stream of questions. 

The Peacekeeper’s Photograph

“… A great voice can be found in The Peacekeeper’s Photograph.” Writer’s Digest

“I love a good mystery/suspense/thriller, and this book had all three elements. I read it from cover to cover within a matter of hours! At 306 pages long, I struggled to put this book down!” Lynn Worton

“By the time I finished the book I had formed a bond with Harper and Fogg, and Doyle had provide enough details of Army life to make me feel like an invisible character in the story.” Amazon Customer

Master Sergeant Lauren Harper, an African-American career soldier, always has her eye on the mission, especially when on a deployment to a war-torn country like Bosnia. While Harper is dedicated to her mission, she’s not a super combat operative trained to kill people with her bare hands. She is a smart, but human military professional caught in an impossible situation.

When Specialist Virginia Delray, a soldier under Harper’s authority, is murdered, military investigators need a speedy resolution. Delray is Harper’s roommate and the young southern girl’s incompetence had sparked Harper’s temper more than once for everyone to witness. For the investigators, the shortest route to closing the case could lead directly to Harper.

When investigators find evidence of an attraction between Harper and her commanding officer, Colonel Neil McCallen—an attraction the married man returns but has never acted on—covering up an illicit affair becomes the motive the investigators searched for.

Harper’s freedom hinges on the answer to one question: If she didn’t kill Delray, who did?

With help from British Special Operations soldier, Sergeant Major Harry Fogg, Harper learns Delray’s murder is only one piece in a much larger conspiracy. The details come into focus, first on life at a remote NATO base, then on misery in the aftermath of war, and finally on the brutal truth.

The Peacekeeper’s Photograph is the winner of the Lyra Award for Best Mystery (2013), The Rebecca Reads Choice Awards for best ebook (2013), and recognized in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) for 2014.

Learn more about the Master Sergeant Harper mystery series on Amazon.

M.L. Doyle

calls on her years of serving as an Army Reservist to write about women in combat boots. She co-authored the memoirs of two brave soldiers to ensure their stories keep their proper place in history. Her work with Spec. (Ret) Shoshana Johnson, an African-American POW of the Iraq War, was finalist in the NAACP Image Award. She also co-authored with Brig. Gen (Ret.) Julia Cleckley the story of her rise through Army ranks from humble beginnings and despite great personal tragedy.

Mary has written the three-book Master Sergeant Harper mystery series, and Limited Partnerships, a four-novella erotic romance series. Her latest release, The Bonding Blade, is the second book in her Desert Goddess urban fantasy series.

Mary’s essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The War Horse, The Wrath-Bearing Tree, The Goodman project and O-Dark Thirty.

Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.com.

Share

Missing belt: The Peacekeeper’s Photograph

Share

Thursday teaser from the military mystery

By M.L. Doyle

“Can you take a look in here and see if there’s anything missing? Anything that might be wrong with the room?”

My breath caught in my throat. I did not want to go in there to see her and those hot pink toenails. I did not want to smell that smell again.

Ramsey, standing in the door of the trailer, saw my hesitation.

“We need your help, Sergeant Harper. Just a quick look.”

He held his hand out, like he wanted to help me up the stairs. I took the steps slowly, ignoring his hand, and stepped into the trailer. With Ramsey, Santos, Jenkins and the photographer in there, the crowded trailer could barely accommodate me. I stood in the doorway and looked around them.

“Everything looks the same as when I left this morning,” I said.

“What time was that?” Ramsey asked.

The foul odor reeked stronger now. My shallow breaths weren’t helping. I covered my mouth and nose with my hand and swayed, feeling dizzy. Santos steadied me, then handed me a small jar of mentholated rub.

“Under your nostrils,” he said.

My hands shook as I took the jar. The pungent ointment made my nostrils burn but presented enough of an olfactory distraction to cover up the odor partially. I wondered if I’d ever be able to eat again. They all watched me, sympathetic looks in their eyes, except for Ramsey. His blue eyes were icicle cool. I shivered.

“I left around zero six hundred to take a shower. When I came back from the shower, Delray wasn’t here. I’d assumed she went to shower herself,” I said. “I dressed, grabbed my gear and went to meet the EOD team. Everything seems the same as I left it. Even my towel there,” I added weakly.

The dry towel, draped over a hanger, hung from a nail next to my cot. Right next to that nail, sat another nail where my reflector belt should have been. My reflector belt wasn’t there. I clenched my fists, trying to stop the sudden trembling. I switched my gaze to the other side of the trailer, to the nail near Delray’s cot, where she hung her reflector belt to keep it handy for early morning PT. Her belt hung there, light glinting off the reflective material.

The door of the trailer gaped open. The air conditioner cycled full blast, but the frigid air wasn’t what had me feeling wobbly. My reflector belt wasn’t where it should be, but I knew exactly where to find it. Around Delray’s neck.

“Oh God,” I mumbled.

“Are you all right?” Ramsey asked, those frosty blue eyes not missing a thing.

“I, my, ah, reflector belt,” I said, hating how frightened I sounded. “It’s gone.”

Ramsey took a step toward my cot, pushing himself past the photographer.

“Where do you keep it?”

“On that nail there,” I said, pointing. I dropped my arm quickly to cover my shaking, then wrapped my arms around my chest. I wanted to tell someone to turn the air conditioner off, but couldn’t force the words out between my clenched jaw.

Ramsey looked at the empty nail, then over at Delray’s reflector strap. He motioned for the photographer to take pictures. The click and whir of the flash unit sounded loud in the trailer. 

“Okay,” Ramsey said. “Anything else?”

The Peacekeeper’s Photograph

A Master Sergeant Lauren Harper Mystery

The NATO mission in Bosnia is to broker peace between warring factions and help restore a devastated county. It’s a mission the world is watching.

But when Master Sergeant Lauren Harper makes a gruesome discovery, she has a new mission. Saving herself.

Harper, a career soldier, is innocent of the crime she is accused of, but she’s guilty of a lot of other things, like inappropriate feelings for her commanding officer, Colonel Neil McCallen and failing to lead a soldier who needed her help.

To get out of the mess she’s in, Harper must employ all of her wits and the help of an unexpected friend from across the pond, Sergeant Major Harry Fogg.

Her mistakes land Harper in the worst trouble she’s ever faced. She is forced to choose. Save herself and risk the lives of others, or stay, and face a life of degradation and slavery.

Get it from:

M.L. Doyle

M.L. Doyle, military mystery, erotica and urban fantasy

aimed to prove her brother wrong when she joined the Army on his dare. Almost two decades later, she not only confirmed that she could, contrary to his warning, make it through basic training, her combat boots took her to the butt-end of nowhere and back countless times and she lived to tell about it … or write about it as it turned out.

A native Minnesotan, Mary lives in Baltimore where her evil cats force her to feed and care for them including cleaning up their poo. To escape from her torture, Mary loves to hear from readers. Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.com.

Share

Hit the Road, write a book

Share

Travel and writing series

Traveling puts you face to face with people and lifestyles you otherwise would never see or experience.

By M.L. Doyle

In 1996, I’d been in the Army Reserve about fifteen years when my unit was deployed to Bosnia Herzegovina for the United Nation’s peacekeeping mission. We were a small unit of public affairs journalists, broadcasters and media relations specialists and we had zero idea of what we’d be facing. It was both exciting and frightening.

Roll calls, early wake ups, long bus rides, briefings and more briefings. It was a very long road to get us from Minnesota to Bosnia, and the minute I stepped out of the Humvee at McGovern Base, a forward camp located just outside the city of Brcko, I knew I’d have to write about it all someday. More than ten years later, I finally sat down to use Bosnia as the backdrop for my first Master Sergeant Harper mystery, The Peacekeeper’s Photograph.

My time in uniform and working for the Army as a civilian means I’ve traveled a lot, providing plenty of fodder for fiction.

Once I started writing, it was easy to remember the people, the sounds and smells, the living conditions, the food, the controversies and rumors. There was plenty of fodder for a good military themed mystery in that war-torn place, and I used as much of it as I could.

Prior to deploying to Bosnia, my reserve unit had traveled to a lot of far-flung places. We’d gone to Thailand, where I met a team of Special Forces soldiers. A crew chief harnessed me to a spot right next to the rear door of the C130 we piled into. At fifteen thousand feet, the rear of the plane opened and I moved out to the farthest point the harness would allow so I could take pictures as the SF team rushed out the opening in a free fall HALO (High-Altitude, Low-Opening) jump.

On that same trip, I’d gone to a tiny little village where an army vet told me the story of how he’d been walking from village to village in 90 degree heat, vaccinating oxen and goats. With a smile on his face, he told me he’d had to stick his plastic-encased arm up to his shoulder into the ass of an elephant to investigate some digestive issue. “You don’t get to do that every day,” he’d said.

My work as an Army Broadcaster and my deployment to Bosnia were the backdrops for my mystery series, beginning with The Peacekeeper’s Photograph.

On December 20, 1989, the U.S. invaded Panama. My reserve unit had been scheduled to go to Panama for training in February, 1990, so when we arrived, there were still bullet-pockmarked buildings and burned out cars scattered along the roads. I’ll never forget the scorch marks and signs of utter carnage. That trip was the first time I’d seen the aftermath of war. It wouldn’t be the last.

On another trip, I went to Guatemala’s Soto Cano Airbase and from there, traveled around doing stories about what soldiers were doing in the Central American country. I decided to tell the soldier’s stories by at least trying to do what they were doing, to get my hands dirty a bit. So, I ran a rock crusher, picked up and emptied a bulldozer bucket of rocks. I lay cement blocks for the foundation of a school, dosed a few cows and horses with de-worming medication and gave vaccinations to a couple of kids. One of the military dentists asked me if I wanted to pull a tooth. I said no thanks to that.

During our trip to Honduras the troops did much of the same kinds of missions, but the mountain villages were much harder to reach and the small villages felt isolated and cut off from the world. That trip was the basis of the second book in my mystery series, The Sapper’s Plot.

As a civilian working for the Army, I spent week after week in Hohenfels, Germany, a massive training area in Bavaria. The mock towns, miles and miles of dirt roads and live fire ranges were the basis of my third book, The General’s Ambition.

The Ziggurat behind me was the inspiration for the Desert Goddess series and the books The Bonding Spell and The Bonding Blade.

Shortly after the start of the Iraq War, I was assigned a mission to go to Baghdad from Germany on the occasion of the change of command from one general officer to another. I decided to take advantage of the assignment by flying into Kuwait and convoying from there to Baghdad as a chance to shoot video and capture stories along the way. It took two days to get from Kuwait to Baghdad. Along the way, we stopped at an ancient Mesopotamian town called Ur. The Ziggurat in Ur and the streets of Baghdad were the basis of my urban fantasy series, beginning with The Bonding Spell.

Additionally, the trip between Kuwait and Baghdad helped me greatly when I co-authored Shoshana Johnson’s memoir. The stories she told me of the ambush her unit encountered, and the days she was held as a POW, were so vivid and easy for me to describe because I had been there, walked the sand, driven the roads, spoken to the people and knew at least the basics of what she saw. Her book, I’m Still Standing: From Captured Soldier to Free Citizen, My Journey Home, benefited from our shared experiences both from having been in those places and from being black women who had served in Army uniforms.

I haven’t written a book about my time in Thailand, but I’ve used bits and pieces of that trip to color other stories. And so far, I haven’t based a story in Guatemala or Panama, but I’ve taken some of what I saw in those places and woven them into other narratives. There are plenty of other countries, military bases and experiences that could be imagination-fueling fodder for a good story. I’ve barely tapped into the places I’ve visited on vacation or any of the stateside duty locations I’ve spent time in.

Without doubt, location plays a big role in how and what I write. I’ve always enjoyed learning about new places, interesting careers and unusual spots in the books I read. Where the story takes place is the backbone which leads to how the story will unfold.

For example, the third book in my Desert Goddess series will have some bits that take place in modern-day Iraq, something I’ve not done with any of the other books. The next Master Sergeant Harper mystery is probably going to take place at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. I haven’t figured out the plot yet, but I know where the mystery will take place because of the different missions that take place on that installation. And a new novella series I’m working on may very well take place in the DMV – the D.C., Maryland and Virginia corridor where so many military bases and federal agencies are located. Yes, I know it’s a common place for a thriller style story, but it’s also the seat of the nation’s power and the Pentagon. Plus, I know the area and for this particular new series, it’s a perfect setting, at least for a start.

For me, location, location, location is more than just a mantra for buying property. It’s also an important character in my storytelling.

M.L. Doyle, military mystery, erotica and urban fantasy

M.L. Doyle

aimed to prove her brother wrong when she joined the Army on his dare. Almost two decades later, she not only confirmed that she could, contrary to his warning, make it through basic training, her combat boots took her to the butt-end of nowhere and back countless times and she lived to tell about it … or write about it as it turned out.

Unafraid of genre jumping, Mary has co-authored two memoirs, a three-book mystery series, a four-novella erotic romance series, and has just published the first book in a planned urban fantasy series.

A native Minnesotan, Mary lives in Baltimore where her evil cats force her to feed and care for them including cleaning up their poo. To escape from her torture, Mary loves to hear from readers. Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.com.

Share