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Faceless, September 2021
Pike, Wisconsin #2
by Alexandra Ivy

Featuring: Wynter Moore; Noah Hunter
352 pages
ISBN: 1420151444
EAN: 9781420151442
Kindle: B08P7Y3WQY
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
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"A twenty-five year mystery brings danger and love."

Fresh Fiction Review

Alexandra Ivy

Reviewed by Annetta Sweetko
Posted August 21, 2021

Suspense | Romance Suspense

Twenty-five years ago Wynter Moore's mother was killed in what the police called a mugging gone bad. Every year the intrepid restaurateur (owner of Wynter's Garden in Iowa) travels to visit her gravesite in Pike, Wisconsin. This year strange things lead Wynter to wonder what exactly happened on that night - when she was sleeping in the backseat of the car when her mother was shot. Up until now, the killer was FACELESS but it seems it wasn't an accidental death - she believes her mother was murdered and she wants the truth.

Noah Heller is a game warden and friend who wants to be more but has kept the friend zone going because after both were in grief counseling together he didn't want to chance to lose the one friend who understood him. But now Wynter has something strange that has her asking questions. She was given a photo taken by the cop who had investigated the shooting, and written on the back the simple question of why? The shooter had her purse so why kill her. With that and her determination to find out the truth - all bets are off because as Wynter raises questions danger follows and Noah isn't going to let her face any of it alone.

FACELESS is an excellent mystery - the kind that you follow along, know the answer, and find out you are so wrong. I really felt bad for Wynter finding out the truth about her mother the way she did - especially after 25 years of believing it was a robbery gone bad. The woman she knew - as a four-year-old and continued to believe her to be as an adult - was far from the truth, but she did love her daughter as the drawings she finds bear that truth. Noah is the perfect match for Wynter, he is kind and loving and almost too patient but it all works out as he finally gets the love of his life in his arms - to stay if they survive the growing threat.

Author Alexandra Ivy offers her readers a fascinating mystery, a couple (that only one of them knows they are a couple), danger, intrigue, crazy people, lovely people, and a read that will take readers away from their world and throw them into a world they won't want to leave. FACELESS is the perfect escape read!

Learn more about Faceless


A masked robber, a gunshot, an endless nightmare left in its wake. Wynter Moore was just four years-old when she witnessed the murder of her mother. For twenty-five years she's tried to blunt the trauma with ambition. Yet each year, she shuts down her popular Iowa restaurant to return to her small hometown of Pike, Wisconsin, to grieve. Only this time, her visit will be marked by new danger and shocking discoveries about the past--and about her mother.

Why kill her? That's what scrawled on the picture Pike's recently deceased sheriff left behind for Wynter. Pulled from surveillance tape, it shows the fatal hold-up--and raises unnerving questions. Soon, Wynter is opening a Pandora's box of dark revelations and suspects. When frightening incidents and threats start coming, it's clear that Wynter is a target herself. Enemies seem to abound--except for one man...

Game warden Noah Hunter has tried to convince himself that Wynter is just a friend ever since they met in grief counseling as teenagers. But now that she's in danger, that denial is over. Traveling to her side, he helps Wynter retrace the treacherous steps of her complex mother's life--before she loses her own. Because someone wants--needs--Wynter gone, forever.


Chapter 1

The second week of April was a happy time for most citizens of Larkin, Iowa. The worst of the harsh winter weather had hopefully passed and the air would soon be scented with the promise of spring.

But for Wynter Moore, the date was a painful reminder of her mother’s brutal murder.

Leaving her small apartment, Wynter walked down the narrow flight of stairs that led to the recently remodeled kitchen of her farm-to-table restaurant, Wynter Garden.

Usually the scent of warm bread and fresh herbs greeted her. This morning, however, the long room with the sleek stainless-steel appliances and green and white mosaic tiled floor was dark with a distinct chill in the air.

Wynter ignored the tiny shiver that raced through her. Next week the kitchen would be humming with activity. There would be two chefs and four waiters buzzing around, moving in a synchronized dance to produce the gourmet breakfast and lunch dishes that had made the restaurant a success in the past seven years.

For now, the windows and doors would stay shuttered. A silent tribute to her mother’s death. And the knowledge without the trust fund the older woman had left behind, the restaurant would have remained an impossible dream.

Using the side exit, Wynter stepped out of the three-story brick building that had once been the local mercantile store for the small farm community. It’d been abandoned decades ago, and it had taken Wynter several months and a shocking amount of money to transform it into a restaurant and a comfortable apartment for herself.

In the end, however, it had been worth every headache, and every penny.

Wynter shivered as a sharp breeze hit her with unexpected force, lifting her silvery blond hair to whip and dance until he covered her slender face. She clicked her tongue, impatiently grasping the long strands and tucking them beneath the collar of her puffy parka.

When she was working she kept her hair pulled into a ponytail. Today she wanted to make an effort with her appearance, not only leaving her hair down, but adding a layer of mascara to the long lashes that framed her hazel eyes and exchanging her faded jeans and casual smock top for wool slacks and yellow sweater.

Unfortunately, the promise of spring was more of a wish and a prayer than a reality today. The temperature hovered around freezing despite the morning sunlight, and the wind was cold enough to cut through her like a knife.

Hunching her shoulders, Wynter scurried across empty lot next to her building. Long ago it had been a bakery, but after a fire three years ago, the owners had walked away. Wynter had purchased the land and turned it into a parking lot. Eventually she planned to use a portion of the space to create an outdoor eating area surrounded by a garden. For now, however, she was happy to have plenty of space for parking.

There was no better place to have a business in Larkin than on the town square, but the place had been built when people’s transportation consisted of horses and buggies. During her Sunday morning brunches, her customers had been forced to park blocks away.

She was scurrying along the edge of her building in the futile hope it might block the wind when a van with a familiar logo painted on the side parked next to her battered black pickup.

Wynter watched in surprise as the woman jumped out of the vehicle and headed toward the back of the van. Tonya Knox was the owner of the gift shop that was on the other side of the parking lot and one of Wynter’s best friend despite the fact she was fifteen years her senior.

It’d been Tonya who’d walked her through the nightmare of business licenses, taxes and local zoning. She’d also had a shoulder for Wynter to cry on when the water line froze and busted, forcing her to close down the restaurant for over a week. And when a rival restaurant owner in town paid his staff to leave nasty online reviews.

Wynter halted to watch as Tonya pulled open the back of her van. The woman was several inches taller than Wynter and double her weight. Tonya wasn’t fat, just solid with the muscles she acquired in the pottery studio she’d built at the back of the gift shop. She could lift and carry the heavy blocks of clay without breaking a sweat. In contrast, Wynter was reed slender. Her grandfather told her that a strong puff of wind would blow her away.

On cue, a gusty breeze tugged at Wynter’s hair, urging her to head to her truck and get the engine revving. It was not only too cold to be standing outside, but time was ticking. She wanted to get on the road.

“Hey, Tonya. What are you doing up at this hour?” she called out. “I thought you said that you needed your beauty sleep?”

Wynter Garden opened at six in the morning and served until two in the afternoon. That meant that Wynter was up by four to start prepping for the day. In contrast, Tonya slept until midmorning and opened her gift shop at noon. Of course, she also gave pottery lessons in the evening so it was often midnight before she was locking up.

It made them perfect neighbors.

Tonya turned, revealing the numerous piercing that studded her nose, her lip, and her ears. She had short black hair and pale eyes that she framed with black liner. Beneath her leather coat her body was covered in a tats that represented her love for art.

She didn’t try to look Goth. She just was Goth.

Until her father had passed when she was twenty-one she’d intended to become a famous artist in Paris. Instead, she’d come home from art school to take over the gift shop and care for her mother.

“I’ve decided beauty is highly overrated,” Tonya told her. “At my age I’m lucky to remember to put my pants on before I leave the house.”

“That has nothing to do with age. I forgot my bra yesterday.” Wynter shoved her hands in the pockets of her parka. “Are you working in your studio this morning?”

“Nope. I wanted to catch you before you take off for Pike.”

“Me? Do you need something?”

“Here.” Tonya reached into the back of her delivery van and pulled out a small urn with flowers and tiny berries etched into the clay and a shimmering ivory glaze.

“It’s lovely.” Wynter sent her friend a puzzled gaze. “Is it a new piece for your shop?”

“No. I made the urn for you mother’s grave.”

Gratitude raced through Wynter, warming her chilled blood. Living in a small town meant she was constantly surrounded by family and friends, but she was also alone. Her mother had been violently killed in a senseless crime. That made her different from her neighbors. Tonya was one of the few people who understood how hard this day was for Wynter. “You didn’t have to do this. You already made an urn.”

Tonya shrugged. “It’s been a few years. I thought you might want a change.”

“That’s—” The words caught in Wynter’s throat.

Her friend shifted in obvious discomfort. Tonya might create amazing art, but she kept her emotions hidden beneath her brash personality.

“Yeah, yeah.”

“I mean it, Tonya,” Wynter insisted. “Not only the urn, which is gorgeous, but for remembering. That means a lot to me.”

Tonya waved her hand in an impatient motion. “Get going. It’s too cold to stand out here yapping.”

“I’ll come by the shop tomorrow and we can chat without threat of frostbite,” Wynter murmured.

Cradling the urn carefully in her arms, she headed to her truck and started the engine. Her heart felt lighter than usual as she began her yearly pilgrimage.

Precisely three hours later she reached Pike and pulled through the line of cedar trees that marked the edge of the cemetery. She parked the truck and walked to her mother’s grave that was in a section reserved for the Hurst family.

Once they’d been a prominent family in town that had earned them impressive marble mausoleum and large trees throwing shade over the entire area. Wynter wasn’t sure when the Hursts had lost their fortune, but you the downward spiral was visible in the size and elegance of the various tombs scattered around the lot.

Over the years she determined that it had been her great grandparents that had drained the last of the wealth. Their graves were marked with large marble angels that had been hand-carved, but there was no standing vault and no wrought-iron fence to protect it from vandals. Just two graves in the ground. Her grandparents’ graves were lacking even the angels. Just plain marble headstones, and her mother’s even more plain. If it wasn’t the lovely urn she carefully placed on the white slab and filled with fresh flowers, the grave would appear barren. As if the person beneath the ground wasn’t worth the time or expense of remembering.

When she was young, she’d asked her father why he’d chosen to bury her mother in Pike instead of Larkin where she could easily visit. He’d told her that her grandmother had insisted Laurel be placed with her family, but his words had that tight edge that revealed he wasn’t telling her the truth. At least not the full truth.


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