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Terri Ann Armstrong

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Morning Menace
by Terri Ann Armstrong   

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Publisher:  Suspense Publishing Type: 


Copyright:  Sept. 4, 2008

Take a neurotic woman with an attention to detail and toss her into the middle of a murder investigation on a farm and you'll get more than horse play.


Starleen Maddox has been through a lot and it has made her slightly off-balance. The Grayson family has had numerous thefts around their horse farm and then, things slowly go from bad to worse when their horses start disappearing and then are found dead.

Once a murderer gets a taste of his "craft", the game gets pushed up a notch and everyone involved is in fear. Family honor sometimes is more trouble than it's worth, add to the mix, two feuding brothers and a rich horsebreeder from Texas and nothing is as it seems.

The first in my Menacing Trilogy will keep you guessing and the ending will surprise you. The second book, "Medieval Menace" will be out in February 2011 and it promises to be better than the first. The third and final will be out late in 2011 and it sews up the whole trilogy in a unique way.


Chapter One

Nothing seemed right that morning, from the time she got up—two hours later than normal—to the eerie silence that met her in every corner of the house, something just felt off. Looking for John inside proved futile, so she slipped on her windbreaker and made her way out to the barn.
A beautiful, early October morning met her as she swung open the screen door to meet the day. Even though the air was perfect, the outside felt wrong. Her heart began to pound hard as an overwhelming need to race toward the corral and stalls caught her. Each step brought her closer, yet she seemed further and further away as if she were running backward in slow motion.
Opening the barn door, she called for John, but he didn’t answer. She made her way to the back of the barn, checking each stall and behind every pile of hay bales as she walked by. Then, in the back, inside the last stall she found him, lying on the barn floor with his favorite coffee cup close by. For just a moment, she thought he was dead. He was so still.
Screaming, she ran toward him and fell to her knees at his side, tapping his cheek, trying to roust him. Nothing worked. She quickly rushed to the phone they had put in the barn a couple of years before; with trembling fingers and tears streaming down her face, she dialed for an ambulance. She tried to quickly tell the person on the other end of the line that she found her husband unconscious, but all she could stammer was for them to hurry, her husband wouldn’t wake up; however, she managed to give the address.
They arrived in five minutes with sirens blaring, screeching to a halt in front of the barn. She directed them to where her husband lay. The paramedics saw that he was breathing, but it was labored. After a few, very tense moments, they got him stabilized and loaded him into the ambulance. Rose insisted on riding with her husband. She worried and cried all the way as she sat in the back, holding his hand, begging him to be all right.
Then, after the ride to the hospital—which seemed at the time to take forever—she found herself pacing inside the emergency room lobby waiting to hear how he was. The doctor came out after twenty minutes to talk with her.
“Mrs. Grayson, I’m Doctor Peterson,” he said extending his hand to shake hers. “Your husband has suffered a massive heart attack.”
“No,” she said emphatically, shaking her head, “no, that’s not possible. He’s as healthy as a horse.” Not even realizing the irony of what she said, she continued, “It must be something else. He’s never been sick a day in his life.”
“He’s a very sick man now.”
“Is he going to be okay?”
“I’m not positive at this point, but the paramedics did get him here in time. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the results of the tests I ran on him and he needs to get lots of rest.”
“What can I do?”
“Sit with him, give him support and love. As soon as I know anything, I’ll be in to see you both.”
“Can I take him home after you get the results?”
“I’ll have to see the chart first, but my initial answer to your question is no. At least not today,” he said, in an attempt to ease her obvious anxiety.
“Is he awake?”
“Yes, he’s a bit groggy though, I gave him something to calm him down, he was pretty upset when he came to and realized what happened. Don’t tire him out, he really needs the rest.”
“I won’t. Doctor?”
“I love him, I can’t lose him. We’ve been together for more than thirty-five years.”
“Mrs. Grayson, I’ll do whatever I can, I give you my word, but you have to make sure he rests right now.”
“I will. When will you have the test results?”
“Soon, I asked the lab to put a rush on them because of the severity of his case.”
“I told you, Mrs. Grayson, this is very serious. He’s suffered a massive heart attack.”
“Please, call me Rose.”
“Okay, Rose. He’ll be okay, believe that, hold onto it and tell him that too. If he sees you feeling reassured it will help him a lot.”
“All right, I’ll do whatever you say.”
“Go, be with him now. I’ll be in as soon as I can.”
“Thank you, Doctor Peterson.”
“You’re welcome.”
Rose sat with John for more than an hour. The room was quite plain: hospital gray is what she noticed the walls to be. A dark, blue curtain was drawn straight across the opening of the “slot” they had him in. A silver tray sat on a stand in the far left corner. It held various instruments for examinations and next to it was a metal nightstand of sorts, which held a pitcher of water and several disposable, paper cups. When the doctor came back in, he told them there was no permanent damage to his heart, but he would have to be careful from now on. Having a heart attack like he did, now made him more prone to having another. If he wanted to have any kind of normal life, at least one that didn’t involve having another heart attack or possibly even a stroke, he’d have to give up the physical side of horse farming. He would need to have some help with the manual labor, but he could do other things that were much less stressful.
That was the fateful day when she thought she lost her husband. She remembered how panic-stricken she was. Even though John made a full recovery, recalling that day always made her heart twitch with fear.

After a lot of arm-twisting from Rose and the children, John agreed to do the books and just be there to consult and direct. He knew he had to be careful if he wanted to see his grandchildren grow up and to have more time with his beloved Rose.

Professional Reviews

“Morning Menace” by Terri Ann Armstrong:
Hand’s down the best part of my job is getting the opportunity to read what I consider gems; those books that might otherwise be overlooked at the inception of the authors writing career, whose only desire is to share their hopes, dreams, fears and captivating imagination with the reading world. An avid reader of suspense, I crave the unexpected twists and turns, the climactic shock and plausible connection to the characters.
“Morning Menace”, Armstrong’s first in her Menace Trilogy offers everything fans of mystery crave and more. Straddling the line between romance and thriller, “Morning Menace” is a striking debut for this previous author of romance. Teeming with treacherous twists, the grim—often unsettling—conflict is palpable. The intensity and inclusion of a character tangled in her own neurosis keeps the pages turning and the unexpected ending will surprise even the most adept amateur crime-solvers.
Reviewed by Shannon Raab with Suspense Magazine

“Morning Menace” by Terri Ann Armstrong:
“Excitement and romance elude Starleen Maddox. Books are her escapism. “Morning Menace” is part her story and part the world between the pages. Slaughtered horses, murder, arson, coercion, a broken heart…this novel has it all.
“Morning Menace” is an easy-reading thriller that keeps the reader guessing chapter after chapter. What’s real? What isn’t? Will the culprit or culprits be stopped in time? What will happen with the Grayson family? The author handles the family dynamics particularly well.
This is the first book in the Menace trilogy. I’m intrigued to see where Armstrong takes the story in book two.”
Reviewed by: Vicki Tyler, author of “Sleight Malice” and several number one bestsellers

“Morning Menace” by Terri Ann Armstrong: (Five Stars):
There are few writers that can capture the thrill of reading your first mystery as well as Armstrong can. She has brought back the magic of the intrepid investigator, who never really wanted to solve the mystery before them, but succeeds with breath-taking passion.
“Morning Menace” was an amazing read, filled with plots and turns only found in a hall of mirrors, or a Hitchcock film. Each page will prepare you for the ending—in which you will gasp with surprise! Her characters are both believable and complicated.
Carl Kolchak meets "Murder, She Wrote." Her story only makes you crave the rest of her promising trilogy.
Reviewed by: Donald Allen Kirch, author of “Manchester House” and “The Misadventures of Ka-Ron the Knight” for Suspense Magazine

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