Footprints in the Fern – Lovely Lethal Gardens Book 6 by Dale Mayer

Footprints in the Ferns
Lovely Lethal Gardens Book 6
USA Today Bestselling Author
Dale Mayer


One night 10 years ago,
8-year-old Crystal, vanished from her bed
in her parents’ house, the only clue
a footprint in the flowerbed
below the girl’s window.

Now that footprint’s reappeared, this time at the scene of another crime, and Doreen is under strict orders not to stick her nose into Corporal Mack Moreau’s new investigation.

But while Mack is busy with the new case, Doreen figures it can’t hurt if she just takes a quick look at the old one. Her house is empty, her antiques removed, and she has time on her hands. She’s finished working on Penny’s garden and needs a new project to keep her busy – and allow her to avoid the heavy work waiting in her own garden. And with the help of her assistants, Thaddeus the parrot, Goliath the Maine Coon, and Mugs the Basset, soon Doreen is busy navigating the world of pawn shops and blackmail as she looks for clues as to what happened to the girl stolen from her bedroom so many years ago.

Surely, it’s not her fault when her case butts up against the new one – is it?

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I’m not sure what I am enjoying more, the antiques Doreen is discovering, the mysteries that have Mack and her sparring, the interactions with her grandmother, Nan, or the antics of her pets.

In each book the pets have been instrumental in solving the cold case and they are also very protective of Doreen. Mugs the Basset, Goliath the Maine Coon cat, and Thaddeus the parrot have become her family.

Now Doreen is still recovering from the hit on the head she took from the guilty party in the last book, but as in real life things don’t stop for her. The house still needs to be emptied of the antiques and Scott is coming to evaluate more of the pieces to see what he can take to auction.

Then there’s the new case with a possible link to the disappearance of a child 10 years ago. Mack can’t share much but Doreen is looking into the older case, the animals don’t particularly like the child’s mother, but the investigation continues.

This is a favorite scene with the animals and part of a conversation with Mack.

Instead of getting anything accomplished like she was supposed to, including making a trip to the bank to get that cash deposited or making a trip to see Mack for his enactment, she’d spent all day going over the house. She’d taken photos and written down notes, and paperwork had exchanged hands.

She closed the front door, walked into the kitchen, and made herself that ever-lovely cup of comfort-tea.

She walked out to her back garden, where she collapsed onto the grass. Lying prone, stretched out to her full length, in the late afternoon sun, the animals wandered all over her— Mugs looking for attention, Goliath refusing to take no for an answer and lying from her belly to her chest, and Thaddeus, who appeared to think her head should be a perch. Finally he gave up and walked up and down her arm.

She groaned. “Today was … nuts. Good thing I had a good night’s sleep because I’m feeling more than a little bit exhausted.”

The trouble was the money. Like, big, big money. She knew that if she could make it to the point when all of this was sold, if any of their promises turned out to be reality, she should be fine, meaning, financially secure. With a certain amount invested, she could continue to live without having to worry about getting a full-time job. She would still need to do small gardening jobs, and she was fine with that. It wouldn’t be the lifestyle she had been accustomed to, but then she no longer wanted that sterile perfection that was just an illusion.

She much preferred the reality of her current life. Right now, she lay full-length on the grass, and that was something she’d never have been allowed to do with her husband. There would have to be lawn chairs taken out onto a little patio and blocks laid out for her to walk on so as not to walk on the grass— oh, the outrage if she had walked across the grass itself.

There were a lot of similarities between her ex and the gardener at Rosemoor, for that matter. She lay here, rubbing her tired eyes, and yet, she was still so wired from everything she and the experts had discussed today, from books to furniture to paintings. Agatha was thrilled now that she’d found several of the paintings that she wanted to take back with her. There had been one in the spare room upstairs. The painting had some faint, weirdly lit picture of a little rowboat and a stream with a dock and various trees. It was kind of pretty, but it wasn’t anything special— except Agatha had almost moaned in joy over it. Obviously that one was going. Two in her bedroom were going too. She didn’t know if there were more downstairs in the basement. She hadn’t even had a chance to look. The garage was mostly cleaned out. Some of the furniture had been brought up from the basement and into the living room.

And then there had been Clara’s visit …

“I’m also seriously tired,” she said, yawning. Her phone rang. She groaned, picked it up, looked at it, and sighed. “Hi, Mack,” she said, putting it on Speakerphone and laying it on the grass beside her. “I hope you don’t have anything too difficult to ask. I’m laying down outside, absolutely done.”

“Are they finished?”

“I don’t think so,” she said, rubbing her eyes again. “I am though.” Just then Goliath shifted on her belly. “Ump.” He rolled over, stretched out a paw, and gently patted her lip with his claws. “We’re all done. I’m lying on the grass. Goliath is on my chest. Mugs is lying on my shoulder, and it seems like Thaddeus is still getting comfortable. But, as far as Scott and Agatha, they’re coming back tomorrow.”

“Who’s Agatha?” Mack asked. “Another specialist,” she said, “and John was supposed to come, but he couldn’t get the red-eye he wanted apparently. So he’ll be here tomorrow too.” She groaned. “I can’t believe how much having all those people in my space has just finished me.”

“But did they take anything?” he asked in surprise. “I didn’t think it would take that long.”

“It was a slow process. I think they have most of it packed up, so they shouldn’t be here all day tomorrow. But I do feel bad because Clara showed up at my door today, and she’s really putting way too much stock in me,” Doreen said, her earlier worries reappearing. “I hate that. She’s hoping I can pull off a miracle, and I can’t.”

“Take it easy,” he said. “Nobody is expecting you to pull off a miracle, but you’ve had such great beginner’s luck that, of course, people will hope you can get lucky again.”

“Yes, but this is a child, and it’s more recent than the other cases,” she said.

“We also don’t have any reason to suspect she’s dead yet,” he said. “I know that’s the popular opinion after such a long time, but we’re also seeing a ton of reports where other kidnapped kids have been kept captive or integrated into a family. Then, when they turn eighteen, they finally can either escape or are released in some way.”

“In this case, Crystal would be eighteen now,” Doreen said, rolling her neck and stretching out more. Goliath dumped his paw into her soft, tender lip again. She lifted his paw and put it on her neck, and immediately he stretched it back up and batted her nose. “I just don’t have a clue where to even start looking.”

“There’s a reason why the police haven’t solved the case yet,” he said humorously. “I know you’re making us look like absolute idiots here recently, but we do work hard at this. We have protocols we follow and trails we check right to the end. We haven’t given up on this case.”

“Nan will check at the retirement home too,” she said.
“Why?” he asked, his voice sharp. “Does she know anybody who knows something?”

“I hope so,” Doreen said, “because I doubt the creek or the lake has anything to offer this time.”

At that, he laughed. “Have the animals met Clara?”

“Yes,” she said, “they have. Clara suggested it was Mary, the husband’s new wife, but then that’s almost a standard accusation.”

“Speaking from true life again?”

“I try to forget that aspect of my life. Yet I was thinking about your brother not too long ago. Has he said anything to you about my case against my lawyer? I hate to bug him as it’s really not been all that long since he said he’d look into it.”

“I know,” Mack said. “I did talk to him the other day, and he said he’s still working on it. He sounded much more positive about it but didn’t want me to give you false hopes until he had proof.”

“Anything positive would help right now,” she said, yawning again.

“Are you sure you slept last night?”

“I thought so,” she said, “but my research has been weird. Maybe my mind was working on all that when I should have been sleeping. Lots of little girls going missing. It makes no sense that the second case with that similar footprint would have just taken the child’s toys.”

“Unless …” Mack’s voice trailed off.

“I know, unless they intended to take the child at the same time and were interrupted or were planning to abduct the child at a later date.”

“We did toss around the idea that maybe they were just after the toys, that maybe they had another child who needed toys, and that somehow somebody had seen these and thought they would be ideal. It would be an easy job, so why not?”

“Nah,” she said, “that’s too obvious.
Dale Mayer. Footprints in the Ferns (Kindle Locations 1482-1487). Valley Publishing.

Plenty of fun and visits with Nan. The suspense of the cases both old and new. Some laughter at Doreen’s naiveté with regards to banking and checks. The amazing finds and new experts coming to evaluate makes for such an enjoyable read.

I really loved the lead in to the next book as well. I can’t wait to read it.

5 Contented Purrs for Dale!

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Coming Soon!

Dale Mayer

Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series).

She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres!

To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format.

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