Elle Wren Burke
Josie Wixx, pet-boutique owner and disabled vampire, just wants to enjoy the best vampire music festival of the year, Stakestock, which is held in her gorgeous town, Arteria Falls, Colorado—a snug little community pressed against the Rocky Mountains. But before she can even dip her fangs into the music, she stumbles across one of her favorite front men dead on the ground.
With the whole festival at stake, Josie is asked to resurrect the investigative skills she acquired while assisting her grandfather, the town’s old private investigator. With the help of a borrowed neon-orange mobility scooter, Josie zips around the festival to look for answers, using the scooter’s horn on anyone who gets in her way. But the more she digs, the more Josie realizes the killer might be closer than anyone could have guessed.
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One of the first things I loved about this series introduction is the different take on Vampires. Born not made and are just as susceptible to some things as the rest of us. Case in point our heroine Josie has a congential genetic connective tissue condition that requires her to use a forearm crutch to help alleviate her pain. They also get a kick out of our assumptions about them.
A major event for small town Arteria Falls is the Stakestock 2022 music festival. Josie is looking forward to it and she also has a contract for her store Matilda’s VamPets to carry the official pet gear. She’s also looking forward to seeing her favorite band Casket. Her friend and roommate Lynnae shows up with a neon orange mobility scooter, borrowed from her grandmother for this occasion. Josie is still waiting for her custom pink wheelchair to be finished and delivered.
They meet up with their friend Disha a new human recruit and veterinarian before heading in to find the festival director, Sydney. What they don’t expect is to find Torian James, the lead guitarist and vocalist of Casket dead backstage.
This is a favorite scene.
“Josie? What on earth is going on?” Sydney asked.
“Umm, nothing to worry about.” I said, trying to sound calm. “Something happened inside and we had to call the police. It’s probably better if we all wait for them outside.”
“What happened?” Torian’s brother asked, his words tense.
No way was I telling Julian anything, so I said, “I think it’s better if the police explain.”
Sydney gave me a stern look. “Can we speak in private, Josie?”
“Sure. Disha, hold down the fort.” As we both stepped outside the room, my friend pulled the curtain shut. The intense look on her face told me she wasn’t letting anyone past her. She knew we needed to keep Julian from seeing his brother.
Sydney led me away from the group, her red bob bouncing but somehow every hair falling back into place despite the heat that was causing my own hair to frizz. With arms crossed over her festival t-shirt, she gave me a serious look. “Josie, tell me what’s going on right now.”
“I was looking for you earlier and checked inside the…err, canvas waiting room.”
“Talent lounge,” Sydney cut in.
“Okay, talent lounge. Unfortunately, we came across a deceased person.”
Most people would probably gasp upon hearing that, but Sydney just raised an eyebrow, as if waiting for me to keep talking.
“It was Torian James.”
“What? Fangs! Are you sure?”
I tilted my head. “I’ve been following Casket for years. I’m very sure it’s Torian.”
Her shoulders slumped. “This is going to ruin the whole festival. I’ve worked so hard! I’ll have to move the next band up.”
“Sydney! The situation is a bit more complicated than that. Torian’s death did not look natural.”
“Are you serious?” she asked. I nodded. “Fangs! Fangs, fangs, fangs. This is bad. Stakestock will never live this down. I can’t believe someone had the gall to commit murder in my talent lounge.”
I scoffed. “Is that really the most important thing right now? I get that you’ll need to figure out what to do…and fast, but Torian’s murder is more important. I mean, his brother is standing right there for fang’s sake”
With a slight nod, she said, “You’re right. I know you are. Torian was nice. I met him earlier today. I just have so much responsibility on my shoulders this weekend, so my mind went there first.” She threw her shoulders back. “You said the police are coming?”
I adjusted my stance, trying to put more weight on the cane. “Yep. I imagine they’re having a tough time getting through the crowd. I took a brief look around but didn’t see any obvious indications as to who did this.”
“You sound like you’ve done this before.” A glint had entered Sydney’s eyes. A glint I did not like.
“Yes,” I said hesitantly. “I have a private investigator license. Before it closed, I worked for my grandfather’s P.I. business. I was just poking around, though.”
She looked into my eyes, assessing me. After way too much eye contact, she said, “Well, that’s decided then. You’ll figure out who did this.”
“What? No. The police will handle it.”
“The police are already stretched thin with crowd control. They might miss something important. Or they’ll take forever to solve it.”
Ugh. She was right. The logistics of solving a murder when the town was packed with people would overwhelm the police. And if I was being honest, I wanted to know who killed my favorite singer.
As Sydney said, Torian James was nice. He was known for being warm and friendly with fans and friends alike. He was philanthropic to boot. The image of his body flashed through my mind. The marks on his neck. The blood under his fingernails. It was starting to set in that he was really dead.
I took a deep breath. “Okay, Sydney, but you have to officially hire me. Send me an email stating that you’re hiring me to investigate the death of Torian James.” Remembering why I’d gone backstage in the first place, I added, “And make sure my store gets more of the pet merchandise. It’s selling like crazy.”
As efficient as ever, Sydney had her phone out and the email typed before I could blink while also promising to get my store stocked ASAP.
I felt my phone vibrate when the email came through and I turned back to the talent lounge. “I need to get my scooter. My legs are killing me. Let’s go back to the—”
Before I could get the words out, shouts rang through the area.
Elle Wren Burke. Almost Fangmous (Kindle Locations 165-205). anonymous. Kindle Edition.
The pressure is on to solve this murder quickly as the festival goes on around them. As Josie and her friends investigate there are plenty of twists and we meet the medical examiner Calder. I’m pretty sure we’ll see more of him in this series.
I love the way this plays out keep the suspense high and the suspect list interesting.
I look forward to reading the first full book of this new series.
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Elle Wren Burke is a paranormal cozy mystery author who writes witty, fun books with strong females as protagonists.
Elle has Master’s degrees in Geography and Business. She lives in Arizona with her husband and fur baby. She enjoys puzzles, baking, and bubble baths.