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.”
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?”
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.
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.