Dirty Little Secrets

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J.J. Graves Mysteries Book 1


J.J. Graves has seen a lot of dead bodies in her line of work…

She’s not only in the mortuary business, but she’s also the coroner for King George County, Virginia. When a grisly murder is discovered in the small town of Bloody Mary, it’s up to J.J. and her best friend, Detective Jack Lawson, to bring the victim justice.

The murders are piling up…

The residents of Blood Mary are dropping like flies, and when a popular mystery writer shows up on J.J.’s doorstep with plans of writing his new book about the Bloody Mary Serial Killer, J.J. has to decide if he might be going above and beyond the call of duty to create the spine tinglers he’s so well known for. It only clouds the issue and puts her reputation on the line when the attraction between them spirals out of control.

And passions are rising…

J.J and Jack are in a race against time. They discover each victim had a shocking secret, and the very foundation of J.J.’s life is in danger of crumbling when it turns out she’s harboring secrets of her own—secrets that make her the perfect victim in a deadly game.


… I simply couldn’t stop reading this novel. While chortling through some of the dialogue I ended reading some of it out loud to my hubby who laughed right along with me. I have already put it on my favorites list and plan to go back and re-read it in the near future. Yet there is also a sense that J. J. and Jack’s story isn’t really finished and I can’t wait until the next part of that story becomes available. I think readers will love the open and upfront heroine, even though it turns out that she has a secret or two, just like everyone else in Bloody Mary, Virginia. I give this novel a 4.5 rating out of 5
Judith ~ The Book Binge

Look out Janet Evanovich, here comes Liliana Hart! …
Bona Dominguez ~ Goodreads Review


Chapter One

Fourth generation mortician. That’s a lot of dead bodies.

I thought I’d be proud to carry on the family legacy, but that was before I knew the job would be hell on my social life. I mean, who wanted to date a woman who drained blood on a regular basis and whose scent of choice was embalming fluid?

Sure, I got a little lonely sometimes. It mostly happened when I was preparing a body in the middle of the night instead of snuggled up next to someone warm with a pulse. But dead bodies were my business. And I hated every fucking minute of it. I never wanted to take over the family funeral parlor. I wanted to be a doctor. Well, technically, I was a doctor, but I preferred to be one for the living.

My parents died early last year, and the gossip and scandal involved would have broken someone with a lesser constitution, but I’d managed to hold my head up. Mostly. It was because of my parents that I’d had an impromptu career change. The only thing I had left of them was the crumbling old Victorian I grew up in and Graves Funeral Home—believe me, it was a hell of a legacy.

I had little choice but to resign my job at the hospital, pack my bags and move back to Bloody Mary, Virginia—population 2,902. The good thing about owning a funeral home in Bloody Mary was that hardly anyone ever died, despite the rather macabre name. The bad thing about it was I had a shitload of student loans to pay back and not a lot of income.

Did I mention the budget cuts?

Ahh, my life was simple before the budget cuts. The mayor’s decision to be more fiscally conservative left King George County without a coroner. So, I, J.J. Graves, in a moment of temporary insanity, volunteered for the job. In all actuality, I was strong-armed into taking the position out of a sense of duty to the community and the guilt of tarnishing my family’s good name. Well, tarnishing it any more than it already was.

Which brought me here. Alone in my bed in the middle of the night. My bedroom so cold white puffs of breath clouded above my face every time I exhaled because I couldn’t afford to crank the heater above 65 degrees. My toes wiggled and fought for release beneath the nubby covers I’d tucked under the mattress too tightly, and goosebumps spread across the top of my skull and tightened the skin so much that it felt as if the follicles might snap off.

I’d been wide awake for more than an hour, thinking of my family, what was left of my legacy, and how much my life in general sucked. Not for the first time, the thought entered my mind that it wouldn’t be so terrible if I just packed a bag and left everything behind me without a word to anyone. I didn’t have any family to worry over my disappearance. No children to leave belongings to. Sure my friends would miss me for awhile. But eventually the people who’d watched me grow up would only have passing thoughts about that Grave’s girl whose parents killed themselves. All the while I would be starting a new life. Hopefully someplace warm.

But like I always did, I immediately dismissed the thought. It took more courage than I had to start over and leave everything familiar behind. I needed something in my life besides a half-assed career and a mountain of debt. A man would be nice. A man who’d be willing to have sex would be even better. But chances of that happening were somewhere between negative four and zero. Not because Bloody Mary didn’t have its fair share of men, but because I was just picky. Bloody Mary wasn’t exactly teeming with single males under the age of forty who had health insurance and all their own teeth.

I huffed out another white puff of breath and rolled over, punching my pillow and clearing my mind of all thoughts that didn’t involve counting sheep. I’d had trouble sleeping since I’d moved home. Maybe it was because the house was empty and made weird noises and my imagination assumed the cold blasts of air and the rattling pipes were the haints of all my ancestors shaking their heads in pity. Or maybe it was because the mattress was old and lumpy. Who the hell knew? But I’d learned to function on just a few hours of sleep when I was in medical school, so I was used to having bags under my eyes and skin that looked like it never saw the light of day.

The silence of the house smothered me—a heap of decaying wood and rotting shingles that crushed me with the weight of neglect and responsibility—so I burrowed under the covers, searching for peace of mind and the comfortable spot on the mattress that always seemed to elude me. I’d almost talked myself into getting up and starting a pot of coffee when the phone warbled on the bedside table.

I cursed out a mumbled, “shit” in surprise and flailed under the covers so my sheets resembled something along the lines of a straight jacket. My pulse jumped and throbbed in the side of my neck, and each pounding beat marched through the synapses of my brain until I became lightheaded with something I recognized as fear. I closed my eyes and let out a slow breath.

The only time I got calls in the middle of the night was when someone died. I hated death. I hated that my parents had left such a massive responsibility on my shoulders. And most of all I hated that I was the only one the dead could turn to. I missed the living. The dead made me think of too many things I wasn’t quite ready to face.

Against my better judgment, I answered the phone.

“Who died?”

“Very professional, Doctor Graves,” said Sheriff Jack Lawson. “You always assume the worst. What if I was calling to invite you to poker tonight at my place?”

“At five o’clock in the morning? Who died?” I asked again. Jack had been my best friend since we’d been in diapers, and I knew without a doubt he’d be the one person who’d search for me if I just disappeared one day. I squeezed the phone in a white knuckled grasp as silence reigned on the other end of the line. I prepared myself for the worst.

“It’s Fiona Murphy,” he finally said.

“Oh, damn,” I whispered, untangling the covers and sitting up on the side of the bed. The wood floor felt like a sheet of ice under my feet, and I drew them up quickly so they were back under the covers.

“To say the least.” Sirens and muted voices came across the line, and I knew Jack must be at the crime scene.

My teeth chattered—I couldn’t tell if it was from the news or the cold—and I gritted them in determination so my words came out clearly. “Where’s George?” I asked.

George was Fiona’s husband. He was the meanest son of a bitch I’d ever met, and Fiona had a new bruise every time I saw her. George was a gifted mechanic and owned the only garage in town, so despite people disapproving of the way he treated his wife, he had a hell of a customer base and enough money to build a house that was one of the nicest in the county. He also had big hands and a wicked temper, and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind he was the reason Fiona was dead at age thirty.

“George has already been picked up and booked on a first degree murder charge. We need you down at the site. The crime scene guys are almost finished. I’m warning you, Jaye, she doesn’t look good. Johnny Duggan found her in the ditch just off Canterbury Street on his way to work.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat and prayed to a God I’d stopped believing in for strength. “I can handle it, Jack. I’m all she’s got.” It was the least I could do for a dead friend.

Bloody Mary—Population 2,901.