BY: MARK S. BACON
A Deadly Vegas Pursuit—with a Twist…
On an empty desert road, stressed-out ex-cop Lyle Deming finds a bullet-riddled body next to a vintage mint-condition 1970s Pontiac Firebird. When he returns to the scene with sheriff’s deputies: no car, no body. Does the answer lie in Nostalgia City, the retro theme park where Lyle works?
Nostalgia City VP Kate Sorensen, a former college basketball star, is in Reno, Nevada, on park business when she gets mixed up with a sleazy Las Vegas auto dealer who puts hidden “kill switches” and GPS trackers into the cars he sells to low-income buyers. Miss a payment—sometimes by as little as a few days—and your car is dead. Maybe you are, too.
When Kate’s accused of murder in Reno, Lyle rushes to help his blonde not-quite-girlfriend. Kate and Lyle plow through a deadly tangle of suspects and motives, hitting one dead end after another, as they struggle to exonerate Kate, catch a blackmailer, save a witness’s life, and find the missing car and corpse.
Desert Kill Switch is the second novel in this mystery series set in Nostalgia City, an Arizona theme park that re-creates—in every detail—a small town as it would have appeared in the mid-1970s.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Desert Kill Switch by Mark S. Bacon, Lyle Deming and Kate Sorensen are involved in another murder investigation. First Lyle finds a bullet-riddled body in the desert near Nostalgia City, the amusement park in Arizona where Lyle and Kate work that is set up like a small town in the 1970s. But by the time he gets back with the sheriff, the body and the blue Firebird it was next to are gone. Then while Kate is at a retro car show in Reno, Nevada, another murder is committed, and Kate becomes the prime suspect since she not only found the body, she also had a fight with the victim. Lyle rushes to Reno to help Kate clear her name, and things just go downhill from there.
Like the first book in the series, this one has a strong, solid plot, a number of unexpected surprises, and lots of fast-paced action. If you liked the first book, you’re really going to enjoy this one as Bacon seems to come into his own, improving his already great writing.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Desert Kill Switch by Mark S. Bacon is the second book in Bacon’s Nostalgia City Mystery series. In case you didn’t get a chance to read the first book, Nostalgia City is a retro theme park, built to look like a 1970s small American town, down to every last detail, including classic muscle cars and eight-track tapes players. Lyle, an ex-cop turned cab driver/security investigator for the park, is driving in the desert with his daughter and finds a body in the dirt beside a vintage Firebird. He rushes to get the sheriff, but by the time they get back to the scene of the crime, both the body and the car have been removed, but by whom? Is someone trying to make Lyle look like he’s crazy? But the trouble has only started. Kate Sorensen, a VP at the park, goes to Reno for a Nostalgia City booth at a retro car show and promptly gets accused of murder after having a very public fight with the victim.
I enjoyed being reunited with the characters from the first book and watching them grow and change. With a solid plot, plenty of twists and turns, and lots of fast-paced action, Desert Kill Switch is a worthy addition to this intriguing series.
Lyle Deming braked his Mustang hard and aimed for the sandy shoulder of the desert road. Luckily, his daughter Sam had been looking down and didn’t see the body.
He passed a thicket of creosote and manzanita and pulled onto the dirt as soon as he could.
“Stay in the car,” he told Sam in a tone that precluded discussion.
He trotted 200 feet back on the road, around the brush, to reach the parked vehicle–and the unmoving, bullet-riddled body he’d seen next to it. The young man, clearly dead, was probably in his late twenties or early thirties. Still-damp blood surrounded the bullet hole in his head and speckled his white shirt where other bullets had slammed into him. Instinctively, Lyle scanned the entire scene. Several sets of footprints in the dust circled the vintage Pontiac. Brass shell casings lay in the dirt. With the car’s door wide open, Lyle saw no one inside.
He turned and looked from the ground to the rocky bluffs on the other side of the road. A familiar, anxious feeling started to overtake him, but he shrugged it off and stepped back to the pavement so he wouldn’t disturb the footprints.
No use checking for vitals–that was obvious. He wanted to search the man’s pockets to find an ID but knew he should preserve the scene.
Startled by a sharp noise, Lyle spun around. The cactus wren’s rapid chirping stopped then started again. Aside from the birds, and the wind stirring mesquite trees, nothing moved. Lyle’s senses told him to get out of there–get Sam out of there.
Jogging back to his Mustang, he hopped in, slammed the door, and started the engine in one continuous motion.
“What’s going on?” Sam said. She twisted around to look out the rear window.
Lyle crushed the accelerator and the car kicked up dust as it jumped from the shoulder to the pavement. “Something I’m glad you didn’t see,” he said.
Steering down the road, Lyle glanced in his mirror. The road rose and fell as it wound through rolling desert hills punctuated with prickly pear and red-orange cliffs. The sun rode high in the sky.
Sam put a hand on his arm. “What was it? Tell me.” Her voice trembled as she looked up into his dark brown eyes.
The road curved in and out, then hit a straightaway. Lyle headed for a nearby intersection he remembered. He handed Sam his cell phone, then put both hands back on the wheel, giving the mirror another look. “See if you can get any bars on that thing, will you?”
“What was it back there?” she said. “It looked like an old car.” She activated the phone. “We don’t have a signal here.”
“Keep trying,” Lyle said.
He and Sam had been off on an afternoon of exploring northern Arizona back roads and taking pictures for her university summer class. A cab driver in Nostalgia City, the world’s most elaborate theme park and resort, Lyle worked a rotating schedule with varied days off, so he was happy when he could spend one of them with Sam. But he relished his job driving tourists around the park in his 1973 Dodge taxi. He felt at home in the new retro theme park, a meticulous re-creation of a small town from the mid-1970s. He could forget his former ill-fated career that he dumped as it dumped him.
“No signal, still,” Sam said in a wavering voice. “What’s going on?”
“It was a murder. Someone shot, next to that car. A young guy. Not pretty. We need to get through to the sheriff.”
“I dunno. The sheriff’ll have to find out.” He glanced over at Sam.
Actually, Samantha was Lyle’s stepdaughter, but he loved her with an intensity that almost scared him. He’d known her since she was five, before Lyle and her mother got married, and he soon became attached to Sam, supplanting her biological father who rarely saw her. When Sam’s mother divorced Lyle, he remained Sam’s backstop, emotionally and financially, as she worked her way through Arizona State.
Just before they reached the intersection Lyle was looking for, another car passed them going the other way. Lyle wondered if the driver would continue straight ahead, see the body, and call it in. Lyle turned left. “Got a signal yet?”
“This is a bad area. I’ve been here before. Past that hill up ahead, maybe.”
In a few minutes, Sam looked at the phone. “We got a signal. Do I call nine-one-one?”
“No, call the San Navarro County Sheriff. It’s in my contacts.”
When the phone started ringing, Sam handed it to Lyle.
“Let me speak to Rey Martinez. This is an emergency.” Lyle steered with one hand while he talked. He’d only seen the one car since they left the murder scene, not unusual for this open, scrub land.
“Rey, it’s Lyle Deming.”
“Lyle, I know. How many people you figure I know named Lyle?”
“Okay, Rey. I got it. Look, there’s been a murder out on Wagon Trail Road. About two miles east of Broken Bend. Near the top of a hill.”
“A shooting. Looks like an execution. Semi-auto. Shell casings around.”
“Okay, Lyle, who was killed? You got bodies?”
“Just one. Young guy, twenties or thirties. Dark hair, light complexion. Shot in the head and chest. Looks recent. Blood was fresh.”
“Is he alone?”
“Yeah, he’s alone. I didn’t see anyone else. And there’s a car, an old one. Nostalgia City vintage. A 1974 or ’75 Pontiac Firebird. Dark blue. Great condition. Looks new. Sorry, I missed the license.”
“Are you there now?”
“No. Heading back to my condo. I got a funny feeling. Like there was someone around. You know I don’t carry a weapon, and I have my daughter Sam with me. I wanted to get her the hell out of there.”
“I’ll dispatch a car right away, and I’ll head over. It’ll take me twenty, twenty-five minutes to reach the spot. You going to be there?”
© 2017 by Mark S. Bacon
“In Desert Kill Switch Mark Bacon weaves a fascinating mystery around murder, a missing body, and a beautiful woman racing against time to clear her name of a crime she did not commit. Antique cars, fast cars, and the threat of death in the desert between Las Vegas and Reno combine to give readers a thrilling ride.” ~ Bourne Morris, author of The Red Queen Rules and the Red Solaris mystery series
“I love this. It’s the kind of book where you keep saying ‘just one more chapter.’” ~ Anne Saller, owner, Book Carnival mystery bookstore, Orange, Calif.
“In Desert Kill Switch, Lyle Deming, an ex-cop who drives a cab in a retro theme park, and co-worker Kate Sorensen, are unexpectedly thrown together again when Kate becomes a murder suspect. If you like fast-paced mysteries, nasty characters, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing to the end, this is a must read!” ~ Linda Townsdin, author of Blow Up on Murder and the Spirit Lake Mystery Series
Carrie c. Woflgang:
“Mark. S. Bacon serves us a compelling second helping of mystery and mayhem in and around the fictional 1970s theme park, Nostalgia City. Readers will find themselves smiling and nodding in appreciation as twists and turns are revealed in the multi-layered mystery that protagonists Lyle and Kate find themselves racing to solve. The fast-paced plot-line is both creative and timely, a nod to Mr. Bacon’s critical eye gained from his experience in journalism. I am looking forward to reading the next installment in this series!” ~ Carrie C. Wolfgang, owner, Novel Destination ~ Used Book Emporium, Jamestown, New York