Thursday, 17 November 2016

In The Snows of Haz by Maxine Janerka

Title: In The Snows of Haz
Author: Maxine Janerka
Genre: Fantasy/Mystery

When a wealthy stranger from the capital is murdered in the isolated, snowbound town of Haz Gate, suspicion falls on a local boy. When she jumps to his rescue, schoolteacher Linna Nyx has to dig through deceptions thicker than the snow in midwinter to piece together the truth, and comes face to face with a killer who would destroy not only her own peaceful existence, but the very order of the Empire itself.

Excerpt #1:

      The dead man lay in a pool of blood. His throat had been slit from one ear to the other, and his face was frozen in an expression of horror and surprise. The corpse was covered with a thin layer of morning frost, indicating that it had lain there a while. A number of Peacekeepers were keeping the horrified and curious crowds away. Linna, Esmine, and their escort walked right by them, though. The head Peacekeeper looked up, and his Hazi lilac eyes widened when he recognized Linna.
      “Professor Nyx! What a surprise. I could not imagine what would bring you to a crime scene as gruesome as this one.” He spoke Imperial with a distinct Hazi accent. Linna smiled grimly.
      “Peacekeeper Lem. I have heard that one of my students is being accused of this crime; why wouldn't I personally come to make sure he is cleared?” Esmine helpfully chose that moment to materialize from behind her and wander over to the corpse, again. Peacekeeper Lem winced.
      “Well, you do know how gossip spreads in a town, and we had not had the chance to examine the body properly at that point...”
      “He was assaulted from the front with a sharp knife. His attacker cut his throat like so, with his right hand– you can see where the cut is deeper on the right side...” Esmine explained miming cutting the corpse again. Lem looked bothered, but nodded.
      “That is in agreement with our analysis. This man was surprised and overpowered by his attacker–”
      “A person he knew,” cut in Esmine decisively. The Peacekeeper shot him a nervous look. Linna gestured at the boy to shut up, not that he ever listened.
      “R-regardless, he was overpowered and murdered, and the attacker took advantage of the road to escape without leaving much of a trail. We are still looking for the murder weap–”
      “It's a thin knife and you'll probably find it buried in the direction of the town square.”
      “Esmine, that's enough!” Esmine glanced up at her blankly.
      “But I'm helping him, Professor.”
      “I– well– thank you, anyway. We are still looking for the murder weapon, and quite honestly, we are doing all we can. It would help if we could identify this man, but he looks to be from out of town, so the chances are slim that many people will know him.” The Peacekeeper sighed in exasperation. “A Southerner dressed like that, up here in Haz Gate?”
      “Maybe he was visiting someone,” Linna offered uncertainly. “His clothes look expensive, so perhaps Fenin manor?”
      “We thought so as well. There are two Peacekeepers up the road as we speak gathering the household. If we are lucky, one of them will be able to identify him.” The Peacekeeper glanced over his shoulder. “You can rest assured, Professor Nyx, that this investigation is in good hands.”
      “Thank you, Peacekeeper.” She smiled. “Please, keep me informed.”
      “I shall.”
      She had to double back to get Esmine, who had gotten distracted by the corpse's hands. That boy would, if one pardoned the morbid expression, be the death of her someday.

Maxine Janerka is a writer and a freelance journalist currently based in Penobscot, Maine, though she has lived in New York, New Jersey, and Oklahoma. She is the author of In the Snows of Haz and Academy of Disaster, and has three more manuscripts that are currently being torn to shreds by her editors. A lifelong lover of mystery who graduated from the University of Oklahoma with degrees in political science and international studies, she always aims to include both mystery and political schemes in her work.

Excerpt #2:

      The inn was usually empty, as far as Linna knew. No one came to Haz Gate for tourism, after all, and it was generally easy to find a more permanent place to live. When she and Lem walked in, however, they were faced with more than a dozen assorted strangers. Elias Tenri was draped across a shabby bench, long limbs stretched out and his feet resting on an end table. He looked up as they entered.
      “My, my. What brings the glorious representatives of Imperial Law and Education to our humble hideaway?” His words elicited a few chuckles from the other men present. Linna frowned. Lem folded his arms and got straight to the point.
      “Enrique Fenin was murdered last night.” His pronouncement was greeted with uneasy silence. Tenri swung himself into a more upright position, his brown eyes bright and interested.
      “Is that so? How terribly curious...”
      “Good riddance, anyway,” growled a Southerner who was standing in the corner of the room, wrapped in a rough-sewn coat.
      “Now, why would you say that?” asked Lem, rounding on the man with a sudden, almost violent movement. The Southerner smirked viciously and glanced over at his companions. There were a few of them all dressed in the same rough, dark fabrics and heavy, tall boots, and Lem cut an odd figure against them, shorter, stocky, and pale like the snow, wearing his gray and white Peacekeeper's coat and cap.
      “The explanation is simple enough, dear sir Peacekeeper,” declared Tenri from his couch, a similar smirk twisting his lips.
      “Quite, Peacekeeper,” agreed one of the other Southerners, “Fenin was trash, pure and simple. He and that backstabbing snake that died on his doorstep were two of a kind.”
      “What do you mean?” Linna asked, her hands balled into fists in her pockets. Speaking had attracted a number of surprised glances, and she tried her best to look professional and respectable, which she hoped wasn't a lost cause for a young Hazi woman surrounded by men she didn't know.
      “My, my. Haz does keep its secrets well, does it not?” murmured Tenri, fixing his strange eyes on her. “What is meant is that that family has more than its share of skeletons in the closet, and all of them are there due to the... complicated politics of Pansey.”
      “Dimali was a Councilman, but I was not aware that Fenin was a politician as well.” Linna glanced over at Lem, who shook his head. He hadn't known either, evidently. Tenri steepled his fingers.
      “One need not be a part of the Council to be entangled in the web of intrigue that is the Imperial Court, dear lady Professor. I do not doubt that even the boy–”
      “Fenin's brat, whatever he's calling him now, is as much a part of this as the dead men,” announced one of the other Southerners, evidently growing tired of Tenri's speech patterns. “They belong to the Tyrant, blood and soul!” There was a roar of agreement in response to this, and Linna couldn't help but withdraw a step. Lem's hand flew to his saber hilt.
      “What about you two fools? Do the snows of Haz blind you to the Tyrant's evil?” Lem's lilac eyes flashed dangerously.
      “You speak like traitors! It is well within my purview to arrest you all!”
      “However, you shall not, dear sir Peacekeeper,” replied Tenri, unexpectedly calm amidst the chaos in the room. He had gotten up and now laid a long-fingered hand on Lem's arm. “You shall leave this place and conduct your investigation elsewhere. Rest assured, even were you to fail, no great crime has been committed.”
      Linna had to to practically drag him out of the inn while Tenri tried to pacify his fellows over shouts of tyranny and death. This had not gone as planned. It had not gone even close to as planned. Lem straightened his cap angrily.
      “Treasonous scum, the lot of them. We will bring them down, mark my words!” Linna hoped he was right. In the past few days, everything she had known to be true about Haz Gate had been shattered. She just hoped she could have faith in the Peacekeepers now.

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