BY: REBECCA MARKS
Dana Cohen, a forty-three-year-old, hard-drinking NYPD detective, spent twenty-two years on the force before retiring to Long Island. Now Dana’s best friend, Marilyn, is directing a local musical theater production. Dana’s estranged lover, and the father of the child she’s carrying, Alex Frazier, is a dancer in the show, but Dana has no theatrical talent at all. So Marilyn cooks up a way to get the two former lovebirds together, hiring Dana to work security. When Dana discovers a gruesome murder during one of the show’s rehearsals, her “detective gene” overtakes her, and she can’t resist the urge to throw herself into this case. But as she investigates, she uncovers some dark secrets and realizes, too late, how far someone will go to keep them hidden…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Stone Cold Sober by Rebecca Marks, Dana Cohen is pregnant with Alex Frazier’s baby, but he broke up with her because she got him arrested for murder (in the last book) and even though she eventually proved his innocence, he has yet to forgive her. Struggling with the decision of whether or not to keep the baby, while still trying to win Alex back, Dana can’t even indulge in her favorite pastime, drinking. Well, maybe it’s her second favorite because she really misses sex with Alex, too. When her friend Marilyn becomes the director of a local musical, she asks Dana to be head of security. Dana only agrees because Alex is in the play and he won’t be able to avoid her at rehearsals, or so she hopes. But as luck would have it, a double murder takes place during one of the rehearsals and Dana gets pulled into solving the case, against everyone’s better judgment, including her own, putting not only her life on the line, but the baby’s as well. Hey, at least she’s not drinking.
Once again, Marks spins a tale that reaches out and grabs you, pulling you in. Dana is a marvelous character—tough, flawed, stubborn, loyal, and totally endearing. If you liked the first three books, you will love this one. A great read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Stone Cold Sober by Rebecca Marks is the third book in her Dana Cohen Mystery series. This time, the hard-drinking retired NYPD detective is just what the title says: sober. She’s pregnant, and though what she really wants is a stiff drink, she knows it won’t be good for the baby. In addition to morning sickness that doesn’t restrict itself to morning, Dana’s estranged boyfriend and the father of her baby, Alex Frazier, is pissed at her for suspecting him of murder. So when Dana gets the chance to be somewhere Alex can’t avoid her, she takes it, and goes to work as the security for her friend Marilyn’s local play. Alex is in the play, so he has to be at rehearsals, even if Dana is there. And Dana hopes that seeing her several times a week at rehearsals will make him realize he still loves her. What she doesn’t expect is to discover a double homicide in kitchen/lounge/smoking area of the building where they are rehearsing. It looks like a murder/suicide, but Dana doesn’t buy it. And against everyone’s wishes–the cops, Alex, her friend Marilyn, and even the victims’ families—she’s determined to prove it. At least this time, Alex isn’t on her list of suspects.
Stone Cold Sober is clever, fun, and intriguing. She’s created a wonderful character in Dana, someone you can really relate to, and giving her a complex mystery to solve, one that you won’t figure out until the end.
April 1, 8:52 p.m.:
The raucous scream permeates the air like vapor escaping from a steam pipe on a muggy day, curling around, rising, clinging to the walls. And then another scream, louder, more piercing even than the first one. I’m sitting in the back of the auditorium, my knees as far up to my chest as they will go because my feet are sore, although my belly is starting to protrude, and soon I’ll have to wear maternity clothing, or at least pants with elastic waistbands. I am finally feeling a little better, at least physically, not vomiting much, if at all, anymore, having just a little nausea once in a while in the morning, and not dropping off to sleep at any time of the day, even if I was in the middle of doing something important. And my OB is very pleased with my progress.
I’ve been coming to rehearsals as much as I can, not as much because Marilyn appointed me “Security Chief” for the good of the production, dear friend that she is, given that I have no talent whatsoever for acting, singing, dancing–anything performance-related–but because this gave her an excuse to throw me in Alex Frasier’s path on a regular basis. And it worked, or at least something worked. He finally came around, not for want of my kowtowing to him whenever I could, telling him how sexy he looked, picking a piece of lint off his shoulder, rubbing his back the way he likes. He does love me, and he crumbled, bit-by-bit, day-by-day, even though he’s a stubborn bastard and got pleasure from wringing every ounce of submission out of me, raising an eyebrow when he didn’t feel I was being obsequious enough. And I am not a naturally submissive person. Anything but.
“Dana, get me a bottle of water, would you?” he would bark, snapping his fingers, when the water bottle was two feet away from him, and I had to drag my progressively bloated midsection up off a chair and walk to the other side of the room to get it. But I did it. I never shirked my duty, my penance. And he would grin, those little lines at the corners of his eyes nearly exploding, his smile looking like a caricature of the Mona Lisa’s, as if he’d won some kind of life changing battle.
“Anything else while I’m up?” I’d say.
“No, I don’t think so.”
Then I’d squeeze myself back into the seat, and he would remember–suddenly–something that had slipped his mind until I sat down again.
“You’re an asshole,” I’d say out loud to him sometimes when I thought I was just thinking it.
“What was that?” he’d say, raising one eyebrow.
“Nothing, darling. Nothing.”
But if I’m being honest, I was the one who allowed this game playing to continue to assuage the guilt I still felt for implicating him in the murders at Pop’s nursing home, where he’s a nurse, when he had nothing to do with them. At the time, I was already pregnant with his child. I decided to keep the baby, not just for my own sake, but because he genuinely wants this child and will always be a part of her life. When I told him I was considering terminating the pregnancy, he almost cried, and he wouldn’t speak to me for a couple of days. But the longer I’m pregnant, especially since I’m feeling a little better now, the more excited I am about having Alex’s baby and raising her with him. So I am keeping her. For sure.
Anyway, the scream. I can’t tell, at first, whose it is. This show they’re putting on includes a flock of teenage girls and boys, part of the chorus, whom Marilyn cast because they look so good onstage and they have great energy–although most of them are lazy and don’t like the hard work involved in putting up a semi-professional variety show. So I assumed the scream belonged to one of the girls, because it was high and piercing and youthful. But the immediate question is, was she messing around? Was it the result of an April Fool’s prank? I’ve been watching my back all day, after Alex warned me about his dedication to April Fool’s Day. Do I have to drag myself to wherever it came from only to see she’s flirting with one of the boys–and be embarrassed I bothered them–or is it real? Alex is nowhere to be seen–his group isn’t dancing right now–but he could be practicing with them somewhere else or in the men’s room for all I know. I decide the scream was too choked, too strident to be in fun, so I get up as fast as I can, which isn’t very fast these days, and try to follow where I think the noise came from. There’s a group rehearsing onstage, and they all looked up when it happened, but they went back to doing what they were doing, although Marilyn turned around from her director’s position in the front row and raised her eyebrows at me.
“On it.” I mouth the words with a wave of my hand, and she nods and goes back to rehearsing the number.
The synagogue is dark. They’re always trying to save money on the electric bill. But I throw on the light switches as I make my way through the hallway. Everything looks normal, but as I turn a corner toward the kitchen, a young woman is running so fast toward me that if I hadn’t pushed myself up against the wall, she would have mowed me down.
“Whoa, what’s going on?” I reach out and grab her arm at the elbow. At least my reflexes are still good, even if my center of gravity is all screwed up. She looks straight at me, her cheeks tear-stained, her eyes narrowed into slits. Her expression is terrified–there’s no color in her face.
“Oh, my God. Oh, my God.” She doesn’t seem able to say anything else, and she’s breathless, hyperventilating.
“What’s your name? Come, sit down here.” I wish I’d taken the time to get to learn all these kids’ names, but many of them I know only by sight. I pull her toward me and push her gently onto the floor, one hand on each shoulder. She doesn’t resist. I sit down beside her, thinking only a little bit about how hard it’s going to be to get up. “Take some deep breaths, okay? You’re going to pass out. Was it you who screamed?”
She puts both hands over her face and nods.
“What’s your name, honey?” I try to pry her hands away from her face so I can get some eye contact, but she’s got them glued over her eyes. She’s tiny, wearing a pair of tight black jeans and a black cropped tee that says Broadway Bound in shiny silver lettering on the front, stretched across her perky, teenage boobs.
“Jennifer, what happened? What made you yell like that? Will you show me?”
Jennifer shakes her head violently from side to side and points toward the kitchen. “No!”
“Will you be all right if I leave you here? Don’t go anywhere, okay? Where are all the other kids, anyway?”
She shrugs, and now she’s sobbing, with great heaves emanating from her petite body.
I get on my hands and knees and manage to push myself upright, gripping the corner of the wall for support. The baby’s started to kick a little, and she doesn’t seem to like my gyrations. She bangs an arm or a foot into my stomach, which makes me feel bad for her. I wish I could tell her, it’s okay, baby, Mommy will stop jumping around soon. “Did something happen in the kitchen?”
“Don’t move!” I have somehow shifted into cop mode once again, pregnant or not, retired or not. The training is too strong to forget. She sits like a statue, her face buried in her knees. “I’ll get you help. Just stay there until I get back.”
© 2017 by Rebecca Marks