Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

And then it was Day II - riddles, secrets, and an historic set of rosary beads... Scattered Legacy (Annalissa #3) by Marlene M Bell

""Marlene M. Bell delivers Scattered Legacy beautifully with a slow-burning plot and clever, dialogue-driven exposition that never spoon-feeds the reader or spoils the experience for them." Goodreads


Published: October 6th, 2021

To outsiders, the relationship between Manhattan antiquities assessor Annalisse Drury and sports car magnate Alec Zavos must look carefree and glamorous. In reality, it’s a love affair regularly punctuated by treasure hunting, action-packed adventure, and the occasional dead body.

When Alec schedules an overseas trip to show Annalisse his mother's birthplace in Bari, Italy, he squeezes in the high-stakes business of divesting his family’s international corporation. But things go terribly wrong as murder makes its familiar reappearance in their lives – and this time it’s Alec’s disgraced former CFO who’s the main suspect.

Accompanied by friend and detective Bill Drake, Annalisse and Alec find themselves embroiled in a behind-closed-doors conspiracy that threatens the reputation and legacy of Alec’s late father – linking him to embezzlement, extortion, and the dirty business of the Sicilian Mafia. The search for the truth sends the trio straight into riddles, secrets, and an historic set of rosary beads. Annalisse leads Alec toward a discovery that is unthinkable, and events that will change their futures forever.


The reception area is completely empty, and there’s a smell like metal in damp dirt circulating overhead. Farther in, the ceiling fan is hovering on high speed, and the windows are open.

A dead body inside a warm office leaves an unmistakable odor behind, as did the body Ethan found inside the stall at Walker Farm. Decomp is one smell that sticks with you forever. Adding to the office creepiness, who chose the interior’s decor? We’re surrounded by limestone walls painted an ugly shade of ochre, slightly more yellow and definitely more unappealing than the building’s exterior. The rooms will need another coat of fresh paint to cover a harsh stench known to stick to the walls like cigarette tar does.

No one is nearby, not even the receptionist.

The office cubicles are silent but for a few flapping papers. Not a single desk phone is ringing. It’s like the office decided to have a fire drill midday, and the employees left their computers on and didn’t bother to close folders—open to anyone passing by. Frames holding pictures of sweethearts and children stand by as guardians for the people who are absent from their high-back swivel chairs.

Officer Raffa returns and mutters in heavy Italian brogue, “Il signore is waiting for his… avvocato difensore.” He points to the room with a closed door. “Come, Mr. Zavos. Your friends stay here.”

“Josh is in there waiting for his defense attorney. Back soon.” Alec touches my arm and looks at Bill, sending him a private message.

Alec’s led to a side office, and the solid door closes behind them.

“Is Alec signing autographs, or should I even worry about what’s going on in that room? Has Josh been here the entire time messing with evidence?” I ask Bill.

“Alec’s prepared for all contingencies. I’m surprised they haven’t taken Jennings down to the station by now.”

A few minutes later, Alec emerges by himself. “They weren’t going to allow us to talk to Josh, but I persuaded him. It shouldn’t be much longer.”

For what feels like an eternity, we sit in ladderback pine chairs with brown cushions while Alec keeps adjusting his watch. I don’t know what Alec had to promise the officer. Autographs are fine with me, but if he had to pay him off, I’d rather not know.

“I hope Brad is parked in the shade somewhere.” Alec looks at his watch for the eighth time in twenty minutes and turns to me. “Now that we’re here, they seem to be in no hurry to get rid of us. I’m sorry, Anna. Hold on a little longer.” His smile is an honest one full of regret.

I’ve heard the sentiment from him so often it doesn’t even register with my brain anymore. We both have a lot of work to do in the I-promise-to-do-better department.

The closed door at the back wall opens, and a guy pokes his head out, surveying the room. He’s fiftyish and, with his reading glasses, reminds me of Gen’s studious accountant.

Alec pivots, and his earlier smile vanishes.

“That’s Jennings,” Bill says quietly.

“Yes.” Alec waves to draw the man’s attention.

A confused Josh looks at us and then the floor as if he’s embarrassed. Eventually he settles his eyes on Alec. “I wasn’t sure you’d come. My attorney should be here soon. Come back to the conference room.”

Bill asks Alec, “Is it okay to go on ahead?”

Alec must have compensated the officer well to allow us entry this close to the crime scene.

“Let’s get this over with.” Alec seems queasy.

The three of us move through the aisle between desks and toward the room with a door left open for us. Josh has already gone inside. For someone who wants Alec’s help, he sure doesn’t appear happy or grateful for his effort. A huge effort. This had better not be Josh’s way of buying himself out of the woman’s death. The disgrace of being fired from Signorile after Pearce’s tragedy has to hurt his pride.

There’s news of a deadly virus moving through Europe, and the typical handshake is no longer being used between business execs.

Bill lifts his arm and catches himself. “Mr. Jennings? My name is Bill Drake, an associate of Mr. Zavos. You’ve asked to see him, and we also have some questions for you on another matter.”

“Wonderful.” The man in a sweaty, slept-in polo isn’t thrilled with us staring him down. There’s frost in the room as testosterone flies between glances. No one wants to be the first to break the sheet of ice forming around the presumed blue-eyed killer. Alec hasn’t made any assumptions yet until we talk to him, but Josh’s cool facade feels calculated to me. A superior to Alec, or something like that. For an innocent, I don’t like his peculiar behavior in the presence of a man who’s here to keep his neck from a noose.

“I asked to see Alec. Who are the rest of you?”

He’s behind a chair, using it as a shield to save himself from a CEO who wants to take his livelihood from him again. Or is it because he’s guilty of ending a woman’s life?

Alec pulls out the chair for me, and we all sit at the long conference table with a fancy letter F embellished in the center.

Josh’s temples bead with sweat, and he’s wringing his hands next to a wool felt fedora hat with a band. They seem to be popular in Italy. The guy’s bloodshot eyes and dark circles are sure signs of insomnia and stressing to the max. Wet ovals hang beneath the armpits of his beige shirt.

Alec’s unshakable gaze lands on Jennings, who abruptly turns away.

This meeting isn’t opening well.

Bill addresses Josh. “We don’t have a lot of time. Authorities aren’t thrilled with us questioning you, but they were… let’s say, swayed. Tell us what happened here?”

“She was tied and tortured in my office after I left night before last. I opened the building in the morning at seven and found her lying on her side, strapped to a chair and wrapped in wire near my desk. Lots of blood.” Josh holds a paper towel over his mouth, then uses it to wipe away perspiration. “When I left the building, she was in the conference room. I have no idea how she ended up in the office. Maybe the cat went in there.” He slides the fedora into his lap.

“Who is she?” Alec asks.

“Benita Alvarez.” 

Excerpted from Scattered Legacy by Marlene M Bell, Copyright © 2022 by Marlene M Bell. Published by Ewephoric Publishing.

Interview with author Marlene M Bell

For those interested in exploring the subject or theme of your book, where should they start?
The best place to start is at the beginning with book one, Stolen Obsession. Annalisse’s love interest is a Greek/Italian-American. With his ancestry, this gave me plenty of places to take my main characters. Book one- Greece and Turkey. Book two- upstate New York and Massachusetts. And book three- Italy. Alec comes from a wealthy background and the main character, Annalisse is more upper middle-class. This makes for an interesting comparison brewing in their relationship.

How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
I am of Italian ancestry, and thought characters of a similar background would be fun to research. In early drafts of the first book, Alec was not a good guy. The book was set up more like women’s fiction. By draft four, my editor recommended it would be easier to write this male character if he were a good guy instead of evil in his deeds. We altered the character, changed Stefan’s name, and I softened up the characterization.

What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
By book three, the main characters are showing their personalities and all the flaws clearly. Book one, Stolen Obsession was supposed to be a standalone book, not a series. Because there were so many sub-plots, it was decided that those plots would be additional books. It was the best thing that happened to my character, Annalisse. This also gives me time to simmer on each installment and move the couple around the globe.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The book takes place in Bari, Italy, my maternal grandfather’s home town. The research took me to his childhood home until he left there at the age of 16 for his trip to America. Grandpa was born in 1893 and came over by ship, entering through Ellis Island. The research gave me an opportunity to see firsthand what his life was like as a child.

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Scattered Legacy?
Annalisse Drury is an antiquities valuator from the Manhattan area. She is partners with her love interest’s mother, Generosa Zavos. Alec Zavos is a wealthy tycoon taking over the family sportscar business following his father’s death. (book one) His notoriety and reputation is a stumbling block for Annalisse throughout the series. Generosa Zavos is of Italian background and she is a colorful, mothering individual trying her darndest to get Alec and Annalisse married off so that she can have grandchildren. Anna isn’t sure she wants kids of her own. There is a detective friend, Bill Drake, who accompanies them on hunts for clues in various murder situations. (Books two and three.) Bradley is Alec’s chauffer and personal body guard. He is from London with a Britty quirkiness to him. Bradley goes with Anna and Alec to Italy in Scattered Legacy, as does Bill Drake. There are a few more characters that will make another resurgence in book four.

If you could spend the day with one of the characters from Scattered Legacy, who would it be? Please tell us why you chose this particular character, where you would go and what you would do
I would have to choose Bill Drake, their detective friend from Florida. He’s an unassuming person with a past that hasn’t totally been revealed yet. More on that in book four. Bill is single, thoughtful, professional and will become a good friend to Annalisse in the next book. I would like to go to his home away from home, the Florida Keys to understand how he went from being a fireman to a detective working for his friend, Alec Zavos. There’s a history and friendship with him and Alec that needs to be explored further. If I were to get Bill alone, I could quiz the heck out of him!

Can you tell us a little bit about your next books or what you have planned for the future?
Book four will land Annalisse into another country, leaving Alec behind, The ending of Scattered Legacy will explain their situation in the next book. Anna will meet up with some old characters from a previous book when her trip takes her to the South Island of New Zealand. There, she will be introduced to raising sheep at a New Zealand sheep station…and she’ll get into more trouble, of course!

How long have you been writing?
I started writing later in life. My first book was published in 2009, based on our experience with sheep.

Anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
If you’ve read the Annalisse series to date, you know that I like to color outside the lines. My mysteries are complicated and filled with other genre material like romance, adventure and thriller/suspense. If you’re someone who likes to be taken on a thrill ride you’ll want to stick with the series until the end. I don’t know where the end is yet, so hang on to that thought. My writing is based upon my background in raising sheep and living in a ranch environment. Alec studies to become a veterinarian, and Annalisse is brought up to appreciate livestock and ranch living, also. To those who’ve read my books, thank you for reading the series and your thoughtful reviews. I also write children’s books. If you’d like to venture into my picture book, check out: Mia and Nattie: One Great Team!

About the author:
Marlene M. Bell is an award-winning writer and acclaimed artist as well as a photographer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of livestock magazines such as, The Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living, and Sheep Industry News. She has a mystery series available as well as a children's book featuring their bottle lamb, Natalie. Marlene and her husband, Gregg, reside in beautiful East Texas on a wooded ranch with their horned Dorset sheep, a large Maremma guard dog named Tia, along with Hollywood, Leo, and Squeaks, the cats that believe they rule the household—and do.

1 comment:

lildevilgirl22 said...

I would love to own a antique teddy bear or kimono