A Discovery of Murder

Strong Suspicions

Amy Renshaw

A notorious woman is murdered, and reporter Sophie Strong stumbles onto the story. Does she have what it takes to find the killer before it’s too late?

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, May 1912: As the only female reporter at the Milwaukee Herald, twenty-two-year-old Sophie Strong is thrilled when she’s invited to cover the party of the season. Soon she’s swept into the opulent world of the city’s wealthy brewing families. But before she can even get to her typewriter, she discovers a murder victim. The intriguing Detective Jacob Zimmer warns her to leave sleuthing to the police, while Sophie’s editor insists she focus on tea parties and fashion shows. But when her friend Clara Elliot comes under suspicion, Sophie is determined to uncover the truth—even if she risks her own life along the way.

Book Excerpt

She led young Sam to the door at the end of the hall and opened it. The bathroom was a bit old-fashioned, the water tank for the toilet mounted high on the wall, the flush chain hanging down from it. She saw Sam’s eyes widen as he took in the deep bathtub, clean white hand towels arranged neatly on a rack, and the rag rug in warm autumn tones resting on the tile floor, inviting the step of bare feet.
“Would you like to take a bath?”
Sam looked at her uncertainly. Sophie took that for a yes. She grasped the handle of the hot water tap and gave it a firm twist, since it tended to stick. Water flowed into the tub.
When it ran hot, she stuffed the rubber plug into the drain and turned on the cold tap, holding her hand under the stream until the temperature felt right.
“I’ll get you a towel,” she said. She went to the hall closet, then returned with a towel and facecloth.
For the first time, she peered critically at the clothing Sam wore beneath the hard-won jacket. The thin shirt of tan cotton was torn at the bottom and had been haphazardly mended in a few other spots. The brown pants were in a similar state, held in place by a fraying belt that looked like it could fall apart at any moment.
“I’ll find something clean for you to wear when you’re done,” she offered.
Sam frowned at her. “I’m not wearing girls’ clothes.”
“Don’t worry, they’re not girls’ clothes,” she said with a grin. She turned and left, pulling the door softly shut.
Sophie tiptoed into the bedroom where Harry slept. Aunt Lucy had nodded off in the chair next to him, one hand resting protectively on the bed. She eased open the bottom drawer of the bureau and rummaged around the pile of old shirtwaists and petticoats. Underneath them, she found what she was looking for: a blue shirt similar to Sam’s, but in much better shape, despite its age. She pulled it out, along with a pair of gray pants, and ducked back into the hallway.
Sophie shook out the garments and inspected them. They brought back memories of summer days she’d spent with Aunt Lucy, exploring the woods after a picnic. This was one of her freedom outfits, as they’d called them—a costume she wore for outings in the countryside when she relished the sweet release of wearing pants. She remembered her heart soaring as she scrambled up a tree or ran along the lakeshore without a skirt twisting between her knees. Sophie could almost smell the rich aroma of pine needles and that earthy scent of a wooded path, strewn with fallen leaves, tree roots reaching up through the ground to form ancient ledges.
In a daze of nostalgia, she wandered to the bathroom door and knocked twice, then pushed it open just wide enough to insert the clothes and rest them on the side of the sink.
“Sam, I’ll just—”
“Don’t come in!” Sam’s voice was high-pitched with panic. “Ooof!”
Sophie heard the squeak of a slipping foot, then the sick-ening thud of flesh and bone hitting porcelain.
“Owww!”
Without thinking, she turned to look at him. “Are you all ri—” Her eyes skidded over Sam’s skinny frame, and Sophie let out a gasp. She locked eyes with Sam for an instant, then squeezed her eyes shut. “I’m sorry, I—”
“Get out!” Sam’s frantic shout cut her off.
Sophie pulled the door shut and stood stock still. Had she seen what she thought she had? She heard a stifled sob from the other side of the door.
“I’m really sorry, Sam,” she called. “I only meant to put the clothes on the sink. I hope you’re okay.”
After a long moment of silence, he said gruffly, “Just give a guy some privacy.”
Sophie walked slowly back to the kitchen, thinking over their past encounters and considering young Sam in a whole new light.

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Hi, I’m Amy. I fell in love with mysteries and books in general when I discovered Nancy Drew books in my grandmother’s attic in first grade. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to write the Sophie Strong historical mystery series. When I’m not obsessing about books, I’m hiking in the woods, doing jigsaw puzzles, or devouring chocolate. (Actually, I’m probably obsessing about books while I’m doing those things.) I love to hear from other book lovers. Drop me a line at amy@amyrenshawauthor.com or find me on Facebook.

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