One element of the Frank Nagler Mysteries is the strong women. Lauren Fox, Nagler’s companion in THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY, A GAME CALLED DEAD, and THE WEIGHT OF LIVING; Lt. Maria Ramirez, the do-it-all-cop in A GAME CALLED DEAD and THE WEIGHT OF LIVING; and the mysterious Sister Katherine in THE WEIGHT OF LIVING and THE RED HAND.
Before them, all was Martha Nagler, his red-headed wife, whose story is hinted at in the three other books, but who comes to life in THE RED HAND.
She is the woman who defines his life. She is playful, sexy, smart, intuitive and brave.
Her introduction: “I know,” she said as she guided his hand under her shirt and placed it on her left breast and then reached up to kiss him.
“Oh, Frank.” A comic, swooning voice.
Then they laughed.
“You can stop now,” she said, smiling.
“Playing with my tit.” She pulled his hand out from under her shirt and turned toward the window. “There was a commotion across the street earlier tonight. Trash cans, banging, I don’t know. Seemed like it was coming from that empty lot, the one with the junk that we complain about all the time.” She playfully punched him in the ribs. “Who could I call about that? Hmmm. Maybe a cop I know?”
Reaching out: Martha’s worried face hovered as he had lain on the bed; her soft hand brushed his brow and cheek. “So much to worry about,” she had said. “Give that worry to me.” No, he had thought. Can’t give it to you. And then she had kissed him, warm lips lingering, and in that instant, took it.
Life and death: “Does it not blush, as do I, at the mention of your name, at the touch of your hand?” She brushed the flower across his cheek and he smiled deeply at her performance. “Does it not pulse with life when brushed with pollen, drink in the dew?” She pulled off a petal. “And is it not so frail?” She pulled off another petal and let it drop gently from her fingers to Nagler’s chest. Her voice softened and trembled. “Its time is so brief, its beauty so rare.” She jerked off the remaining petals, leaving a bald stalk. Her voice harsh and firm. “It is time that I want, time with you, sweet rose, before the petals fade; time I do not have. Time no one can give me.”
“I would have been a better Juliet in college, you know, in case you were wondering,” Martha said to the sky after she had rolled onto her back. “By then it was more than words. I knew about the loss, the pain, facing death and had already experienced the great love” —she touched his face— “and felt the poetry flow through me, the words of a soul’s awakening coursing in my blood, bursting through the brain’s barrier, throwing open the world.” A soft, teasing laugh.
She rolled to her side and faced Nagler, gently touching his face with a single finger and kissing his eyes, cheeks, and mouth.
“That’s what that…that damned disease nearly took from me, Frank,” her voice now hard. “That chance. You were my Romeo, dear Frank. And for a moment I thought I would lose you.”
Teenage fights: “And then the teenager stuff stopped. We grew up right then,” she said. “You were across the street on a night like this, hot, miserably sticky, and I walked over, and we just fell back into each other’s arms. That was the sweetest kiss, like the first one ever. None of the others, and nothing else mattered. It wasn’t lust although I was aching for you. It was just you and me, bodies pressed together, lips soft and lightly brushing each other’s mouth. A little peck, then a long, electric kiss I didn’t want to end.”
He touched her face. “I was trying to figure out how much you had been hurt, so much that you wouldn’t even talk to me.” He kissed her forehead. “Trying to figure out what I’d done, because I’d had to have done something.”
She kissed his palm, and then licked it, smiling.
“Sometime distance is just distance, nothing really, a gap, that makes a wall.” She looked up and smiled softly. “We had to push through it.”
Finding Frank: “Why would I tell you?” Martha asked. “You would have run away.” She reached her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. “I needed to be sneakier than that. I saw his boy with the dirty pants and the blue sweater, and he was smarter and more gentle than anyone. But I knew that he was ashamed of where he had come from,” she deepened her voice in an exaggerated growl, “the poor side of town, the wrong side of the tracks.” She smiled and stared into the darkness. “But for me there was no wrong side of the tracks, there was just you.”
His hands were shaking, and tears filled his eyes. “I would have been there still if not for you.”
She smiled and ran a hand through his hair. “What else was I supposed to do there, Romeo? I saw you and nothing else mattered.” He held her face and kissed her deeply. “That’s okay,” she said, winking. “I know you felt the same way. You could say it, but you’re the strong, silent type. The words are in there somewhere. They’ll come out.”
The end: “Hush, my love. I want to remember how it feels to be with you, how alive. The salty taste of you on my fingers, on my lips, the things we laughed about, the tears of stupid teenage fights.”
She rolled over to him again and pressed her forehead to his mouth.
“To remember this, just this, you and me and that great big world out there and how we ran into it yelling, telling it to catch up, thinking it never would.” She closed her eyes tightly leaking tears. “I want to hear the morning lark, the robin sing, and sparrows twitter in the bushes. I want to see the sun and you squinting hopelessly toward the horizon. But that night is coming and the only bird I will hear will be the nightingale, announcing darkness. Not yet, but it will come, one last darkness.” A dark growl in her voice. “We’re in the last act. But I don’t want to be Juliet lying cold and dead in that crypt. I don’t want to end at all. I want to be her on the day before, laughing. I want a new ending. Hey, Shakespeare. A rewrite, now.”
He wiped her face with the cloth again and she turned her head to him. “Don’t be scared. Look at me. Let me see your eyes. That’s my strength, Frank. Your eyes. Always.” Silence. Then a whisper. “Romeo’s a-traveling to Mantua. Fetch him.”
Oh, and two new 5-star reviews of THE RED HAND.
Stephen R, 5 stars Goodreads:
The Red Hand by Michael Daigle is an investigative mystery and drama-filled story. The main character, Detective Frank Nagler is a young rookie detective. He is assigned a case involving a mysterious series of murders all in a few months. Is there a serial killer in town?
Nagler rises above the gritty town to face gruesome crimes. He is very devoted to his duty and wife. You will sympathize with him as he deals with challenges at work and at home. The investigation takes place in a city marred with corruption. While there is an aura of despair, there is the hope of a better tomorrow.
Michael Daigle does not disappoint in this stand-alone prequel. A brilliant storyline and excellent and believable characterization make it well-worth reading. The conversations keep the story flowing at a fast pace. If you enjoy tales of a detective who wins against corrupt politicians, terrorists, and criminals, you will love The Red Hand.
A reader called “My Nightstand”: I am a huge fan of crime-mystery genre and Michael Daigle’s The Red Hand was a natural choice for me. I zip through crime stories in the summer time, during my holiday or lazy evenings after long hours at work. The Red Hand is a story of detective Frank Nagler in New Jersey. At first I thought the story seemed quite simple, but there is a lot more depth to it than I had first anticipated. Even though this is part of a series I didn’t feel I missed out from not having read the earlier books, but I’m sure I will go back and read the earlier installments after enjoying this so much.
A fine detective novel, quick read and very enjoyable.
Find THE RED HAND here:
Also here’s a link to the trailer created by Anita Dugan-Moore of Cyber-Bytz.com for my publisher: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJ_SROHO88c