Not so long ago, I was an NYPD detective on a case, undercover, in Chicago. The plan was, I’d show up, gather the evidence, and go home.

But then I saw her. Had to meet her. Made sure I did.

Everything changed.

She seemed solid. Fun. Easy going. Sweet but not too sweet. Beautiful, but not like a too-thin Vogue model. Her face shimmered with light and anticipation, like something wonderful was always about to happen. Her eyes glittered, like they were emitting invisible sparks. Her long legs carried her with the grace of a goddess. But her demeanor was down to earth.

She liked me, too. I could tell.

Especially since she agreed to go to Las Vegas with me on a whim.

That’s when I discovered she was much more than any of the above. Her heart is big enough to hold the world. She’s headstrong and impulsive, but resourceful. She doesn’t back down from a fight. But when she has to run, she’s fast.

She is Annabelle Starkey, and I’m in love with her, even though trouble seems to follow her everywhere. We’ve been up against it in Las Vegas, San Francisco, Portland, and New York. And I’ll be honest, I don’t always think she makes good decisions. But we complement each other. When she’s rash, I’m cautious. When I’m stuck, she’s full steam ahead.

Our most recent predicament had us investigating a disjointed family of stepsiblings, ex-spouses, and hangers-on. Our client, a wealthy, upper-crusty, none-too-pleasant woman, was convinced her ex was out to get her. Then she ended up dead.

So Annabelle and I, along with our other partner at Asta Investigations, Luis Maldonado, got tangled up in this woman’s life, past and present, and had more suspects than would field a basketball team, as Annabelle correctly noted (she usually mangles her sports metaphors, so this one came as a surprise). Once we made progress with one lead, a new one would pop up.

Oh, and a dog adopted us. Plus, we were getting married, so her family was in town, along with my grandmother, Grams. It swiftly became a three-ring circus—but I’m not complaining. I’ve got no family other than Grams, and Annabelle’s parents, well, they welcomed me from day one. He’s a bit like Gregory Peck’s characters—calm, thoughtful, smart, and kind—while she’s feisty, fun, brilliant, and doesn’t mince words. Maybe a Kate Hepburn with a little bit of Melissa McCarthy thrown in.

Did we catch the bad guy? Did we tie the knot?

I hate to give away an ending.

But I can tell you this: I, Mickey Paxton, usually calm, together, and in charge, have been undone by my fast-talking, conclusion-leaping, heart-stealing wife.

Okay, so I gave that one away.

She once said that I am her rock, and she’s my roll.

All I know is this: without her, I can’t feel the beat.


You can read more about Mickey in For Beretta or Worse, the third book in the “Annabelle Starkey” mystery series.

Annabelle Starkey is at it again. This time the funny, movie-crazed sleuth has finally got P.I. cred as a full-edged partner in Asta Investigations. She’s teamed up with her stalwart fiancé, Mickey Paxton, and their dauntless friend, Luis Maldonado, in New York City.

When she urges her partners to accept a case from the wholly unlikeable, self-absorbed, mega-rich Beverly Musgrave, they agree, only if Annabelle takes the lead. Musgrave is convinced her ex-husband is tormenting her by stealing her jewelry and battering her car, but as the investigation proceeds, the detectives find no evidence to support her claims—until she ends up dead.

A bevy of suspects emerges beyond the obvious ex. First an estranged son, who insists his mother loved him even though she cut him off, followed by a stepson, a seemingly cultured upper-crusty sort who is the apple of his father’s eye. A jilted lover and his daughter add to the confounding list, and developing clues seem only to send Annabelle and her partners down another rabbit hole with no exit.

As if this case weren’t chaotic enough, Annabelle’s beloved parents arrive to help plan their daughter’s wedding, an abandoned dog adopts the family, and a violent intruder blows in, looking to square some baffling dispute with partner Luis.

Coming into her own as a P.I., Annabelle learns that her quick wit, high energy, and indefatigable spirit go a long way in finding the answers—from exposing murderers to organizing a wedding—and that a Beretta can sometimes help . . . or not.

Click here for a free PDF download of For Beretta or Worse

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About the author
Zoe Burke is the author of the Annabelle Starkey mysteries, Jump the Gun, No Gun Intended (Poisoned Pen Press, 2013, 2016) and For Beretta or Worse. She has also penned several children’s books including the Charley Harper Nature Discovery Series (Pomegranate, 2013, 2014, 2017) and several board books for little hands

In her day job, Zoe Katherine Burke (also known as Katie) is the vice president and publisher of Pomegranate Communications, an art book publishing company. She enjoyed a brief singer/songwriter career in the 1990s. She grew up on the East Coast, lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for some thirty-five years, and currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

All comments are welcomed.

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