The Gideon Marshall Mystery Series

What happens when a small college geology prof gets caught up in a mess involving a Texas oil billionaire and his grandiose dreams of power?

All copyrighted by John Janovy, Jr.


BE CAREFUL, DR. RENNER, is the first installment of the Gideon Marshall Mystery Series, a five-book exploration of scientific illiteracy in high places, arrogance derived from extreme wealth and power, and the potential lethality of some obscure scientist's theoretical research. Oh, and there is also revenge (a perfect murder!) by a couple of bullied staff members at a small Iowa college. An excerpt:

I smiled a funeral home director’s smile. At the time I thought: we are not going to hear from any of Clyde’s surviving relatives. He was not exactly the kind of man you’d envision having relatives, or caring about them if he did. The mementos were mainly igneous rocks, meteorite fragments, shards of obsidian, graphic granite, and award plaques, all souvenirs from Clyde’s numerous travels around the world, and all displayed in a way that reminded you of his importance, manifested in his invitations to speak at various conferences. At the time of Branch’s visit, it never occurred to me to ask him how many times before some representative from Campus Security had actually visited departmental offices after a faculty member died. I suspect that number is zero. Geology was very likely the first, and only, such visit, and Renner was obviously the reason.

Why is an apparent heart attack, alone at night after walking home from school, such a mystery? Again, if you’ve watched much TV, you know the answer: because there was a palpable sigh of relief when we got the announcement. If we had been in a faculty meeting when the news broke, there could easily have been applause. Thus we have the wondrous transformation of campus policeman Leonard Branch into sleuth, also known as pain in the ass to those of us now on his persons of interest list. Nothing in my education, no experiences in my background, prepared me for a place of honor on such a list.

BE CAREFUL, DR. RENNER s available as an e-book from Smashwords or paperback from Amazon.


THE STITCHER FILE, is the second book of the Gideon Marshall Mystery Series, a five-book exploration of scientific illiteracy in high places, arrogance derived from extreme wealth and power, and the potential lethality of some obscure scientist's theoretical research. The obscure scientist is Dr. Rebecca Stitcher, a reclusive genius, murder victim, and [former!] faculty member at Cavanaugh College, an off-the-scale wealthy and exclusive college in southern Iowa. A couple of excerpts:

First excerpt:

Dr. Chatterjee looks out her office window at the sleet and snow moving sideways, blanking out the familiar scene that tells her she’s at work: industrial buildings, a warehouse, and run-down frame houses. She needs to go home before she’s locked in by the blizzard. She looks at her watch; 10:23 AM. She will never forget the time when her smart phone played its familiar tune, or the number that now displayed on the small screen in her hand.

Second excerpt:

It’s not difficult to picture the scene: Elizabeth Bennett gives her husband Joe a peck, walks out the back door of their farmstead, warms up her car while scraping the wind-shield, drives out the long gravel tracks between leafless apple trees, and turns out onto Route 3. A mile down the road, where Union Pacific tracks cross, she sees something in the middle of the road, something that looks like a deer that’s been hit by a vehicle, one of the nearly fifteen thousand whitetails killed on Iowa’s roads every year. She puts her car into park, gets out, leaving the door open, and bending her head against the wind and sleet, stomps up to the animal. A few feet away she figures out that this is no deer carcass. She takes a closer look; it’s a small female body; her heart rate soars; she looks to the face, wondering who it might be.

“What about her face, Elizabeth?”

“It’s gone, Dr. Marshall! Her head is half gone!”

THE STITCHER FILE is available as an e-book from Smashwords or Amazon.


THE EARTHQUAKE LADY is the third installment of the Gideon Marshall Mystery Series. Here are two excerpts:

First excerpt:

“There were other empty prescription bottles in her house,” says Chatterjee; “as well as in her office. Not only was she taking Ambien that she got from someone, she was taking Inderal for high blood pressure. She had a script for the Inderal.” The medical examiner looks at a page and shakes her head. “Cafergot; a combination of caffeine and an ergotamine. Dr. Stitcher also had migraines, and she was also taking a slew of over-the-counters.”

“A ‘slew’?”

“Well, not an unusually large number, compared to some of the cases we get, but enough: low-dose aspirin, regular aspirin, Tylenol, Aleve, psyllium husks, stool softener, a bunch of vitamins, most of them at way over recommended daily doses, naproxen, iron supplements.” Her fingers trace down the list that starts on page thirty and ex-tends for another page. “A lot of it came by mail order. Here’s an interesting one, given the others on the list: No Doz Max.” She shakes her head. “Can’t sleep, gets somebody to give her Ambien, then can’t wake up, so loads up on caffeine.”

“This woman was psychotic,” says Burkholder. Chatterjee flashes him one of her very rare irritated looks.

“So far,” I respond; “you’ve told me more about Rebecca Stitcher in the past fifteen minutes than anyone in our department has learned in the last fifteen years."

Second excerpt:

“We have a very large file on everyone associated with the victim in any way,” Burkholder answers; “including you and all the members of this department. You testified in a murder trial in Oklahoma.” He pauses. “I’m sure you remember the soil samples?”

Of course I remember those samples, my days at the microscope, and my conclusions about the origins of dirt in the victim’s clothing.

“So that makes me an expert witness in the Stitcher case?”

“We have some plastic bags that we’re going to leave with you, Dr. Marshall.” Aparajita Chatterjee is once again totally professional—no smiles, no warm hand, no silver bracelets sliding down her arm, and no sparkle from those darkest of eyes, only the look of a tired pathologist ready to be home. “But first we need to finish with the report, so you’ll understand why we’re here.”

And with that declaration, she reaches across my desk and flips the pages of my autopsy report copy over to the opening photographs. Once again, I’m looking at the shattered bones, what’s left of her mouth, her bare teeth, and the skin torn away from her cheek and lower jaw. From the other side of the picture her remaining eye, strained open, glares at me, that familiar look from Dr. Rebecca Stitcher, even in death. She’s sleeping, forever, and this time without the help of a date rape drug supplied by an unknown person, under unknown circumstances, in a community that seems to know everything about everyone.

THE EARTHQUAKE LADY Is available as an e-book from Smashwords or either paperback or e-book from Amazon.


THE WEATHERFORD TRIAL is the fourth installment of the Gideon Marshall Mystery Series. Dr. Charles Weatherford, an important character in the first three Gideon Marshall Mysteries, has been arrested for the murder of his departmental colleague, Dr. Rebecca Stitcher. Here are two excerpts:

First excerpt:

Outside the rain patters on her window. The face on her ceiling light is now that man from the college, that geologist. She aims for his eye and pulls the trigger again. Next, the face is that of his wife, that woman with a pistol who slammed into her house last week, barging through the screen door as Naomi answered the bell and put her on the floor, aiming that handgun at her forehead before Naomi could get her own weapon then asking those questions to which she had to answer “no”—Is it loaded? Have you ever fired a gun? The rain comes down a little bit harder. The faces on her ceiling light go away then return, over and over again, always in the same order. Naomi drops the pistol onto her bed covers and cries herself to sleep.

An hour later she sits up in bed, swings her feet over the edge, and looks at her image in the dresser mirror. She stands up, pulls a robe off the end of her bed, slips it on, and walks barefoot into the kitchen. There’s a box of dry cereal on the kitchen table, just where she left it the day before. She reaches into the cupboard, gets a bowl, pours cereal, sits down, picks up the spoon she used yesterday and left on the table, and starts to eat. Thirty minutes later she walks back into her bedroom, finds the black sweats where she’d dropped them on the floor by her closet, dresses, and retrieves her shoes from under the bed. She picks up her pistol. Her long coat is hanging on a hook behind the front door. It’s still raining, but not quite as hard as earlier. She walks out the front door without locking it, walks up her driveway and turns left. An hour later, she’s at Highlands Cemetery.

Second excerpt:

“Good morning, Dr. Marshall,” she says; “I’m Officer Reid. You may remember that I delivered some material to you a few days ago?”
“I remember.”
“This is Krystal Krueger, your new staff member.”
“We don’t have a new staff member.”
“You do now.”
Krystal Krueger extends her hand. Her grip is firm, reminding him of Broderick Burkholder’s, the Bruce Willis clone from Department of Criminal Investigation who’d arrived, with Aparajita Chatterjee, the Polk County medical examiner, on that Friday before spring break to deliver the plastic bags and the autopsy report on Rebecca Stitcher.
“Nice to meet you, Dr. Marshall,” she says.
“We’ll be bringing in an additional desk and chair sometime later today,” says Officer Reid. “There’ll probably be some paperwork and family pics to go on the desk, make it look used. The men will help you rearrange the furniture.”
“Rearrange the furniture? Krystal will have a new desk?”
“It will probably be one from your campus inventory,” answers Reid; “make it look like she’s been here a while.”
“Everyone on campus knows we only have one desk in this office.” Marshall plays along, not wanting to believe what he’s beginning to suspect, a suspicion confirmed by Krystal Krueger herself.
“It’s reasonably important to us that we keep track of potential witnesses,” she says.
“You’re protection for Marshall?” Branch asks. Marshall forcibly suppresses a smile at Branch’s tone of voice. “Marshall needs protection?” He looks her up and down. “And you’re gonna protect Marshall?”
“No problem. And you are?”
“I’m Leonard Branch,” he answers; “senior detective from campus security.”
“Nice to meet you, detective Branch,” says Krystal; “I believe we’ll be just fine.” She’s struggling to keep a completely neutral expression. Marshall can tell that the name “Columbo” is racing through her mind.
“Okay,” admits Marshall; “what do I call you? Ms. Krueger? Or Krystal?”
“Address me the same as you would the rest of your staff.”
“Would you like some real duties?”
“Anything else I need to worry about?”
“No,” replies Krystal Krueger; “although we do need to talk in private, so if we could excuse detective Branch, that would be appropriate.”
“You armed?” asks Branch.
“Yes,” answers Krueger.
“We’re a weapons free campus,” says Branch.
“Not anymore.” She nods to Officer Reid, who takes Branch by the arm, gently and leads him out, closing the door behind him.
“So tell me, Krystal,” says Marshall; “do we really need an armed guard?”
“You’re an expert witness,” she answers; “we intend for you to show up.”

THE WEATHERFORD TRIAL Is available as an e-book from Smashwords or either paperback or e-book from Amazon.


DELMAR'S OIL is the fifth installment of the Gideon Marshall Mystery Series. Delmar Stevens, psychotic, multi-billionaire, oil magnate with dreams of owning a machine for making earthquakes and volcanoes happen on purpose at selected locations, puts his plans to a test. Here are two excerpts:

First excerpt (Library director Madeleine Boecker and Gideon Marshall start down into the archives):

Madeleine Boecker gets up and greets him with a handshake.

“No thanks; I’m okay.”
“Ready for a walk downstairs?”
“Down in the darkness, wherein lies all the lies, disappointments, forgotten and rejected manuscripts, bad ideas, great ideas now lost, or hiding in an unlabeled file, embarrassing poems, nasty letters, and above all, boxes and boxes of pure crap generated by the intellectual elite.”
“That’s one way to put it,” she says; “but eventually someone will want to uncover what happened when, where, and why, and who was involved.”
“Playing detective.”
“That’s exactly what we’re doing, Dr. Marshall,” says Madeleine Boecker; “playing detective.”
“On a cold case, in which the prime suspect has just been acquitted.”

Second excerpt (Geologist Jed Knapp finishes his review of Hansmeyer #1 with Delmar Stevens):

Sixteen minutes after being handed the electric log, Jed Knapp is ushered out the side door, which closes behind him. Standing for a moment in the semi-darkness, he hears a dead bolt. In what seems like a spatial eternity, there in the distance is the exit door, toward which he starts walking. The scrubber hallway walls are covered with art—enormous framed photographs of Stevens Oil offshore platforms, dramatic action of crew members on a rig floor, magnificent sunsets with a massive derrick in the left foreground, hydraulic fracturing machinery with angles and shadows composed almost as if they were of some female nude, and greasy but smiling, multi-ethnic, roughnecks sitting around a table. He walks slowly through the scrubber, studying each piece of art, trying to memorize it, trying to erase the previous twenty minutes of his professional life. He pushes on the door at the end. It opens then snaps locked behind him. He’s in full fluorescent light. He finds the first men’s room. The movement sensor light comes on. He’s alone. Jed Knapp opens a stall door, drops to his knees, wraps his arms around the cold porcelain, and vomits up every meal he can remember eating in his lifetime.

DELMAR’S OIL Is available as an e-book on Kindle or paperback from Amazon.

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