Missing MomAccording to the people who know her best (her reviewers), Estela Nogales is a spunky amateur sleuth with a wry and sardonic sense of humor, keen powers of observation, and an irreverent approach to life. Left to her own devices, she would prefer peaceful days spent with her sidekicks, two sheep-herding border collies. Alas, the aptly named village of Arroyo Loco rarely produces the desired quiet. Some fresh disaster seems to await every dawn.

For a sparsely populated settlement, Arroyo Loco has a surprisingly eclectic and quirky collection of residents, including representatives from most major ethnic groups, ages, and a selection of “lifestyles.” It is these differences that bring richness and depth to a community that frequently seems to teeter on the verge of dysfunction, or worse. Whether it is a neighbor’s house exploding in flames, a missing friend, or the minutia of everyday life, the folks in Arroyo Loco must learn to tolerate one another and cooperate constructively to puzzle out the mysteries that confront them.

These challenges frequently require attendance at contentious homeowners’ meetings. Estela is inclined to avoid such gatherings, as are a number of the other neighbors. The community leadership has thus learned that a quorum is more likely if a meeting is paired with a pot-luck meal. Estela, in particular, can be lured into a meeting she would otherwise have the good sense not to attend if food is being offered. She’s also a sucker for those pink bakery boxes.

Days in the life of Estela begin and usually end in quality time with her beloved collies. Wandering the canyon road through the neighborhood of Arroyo Loco, the dogs make no end of interesting discoveries, some of which they even share with Estela. But the dogs do not talk or do anything else that your average dog wouldn’t do. To Estela’s way of thinking, there is already too much talking going on without dogs and cats chipping in their two cents.

After a long walk, Estela drives the winding coastal road to the university counseling center where she is employed as a psychotherapist. Here she spends her days comforting everyone from failing freshmen to seniors still searching for direction. Estela is not by nature a nurturing person, so her advice in therapy typically runs along the lines of ‘buck up, kid’, a not altogether ineffective approach.

No day in Estela’s life would be complete without an encounter with her friend and investigative companion, sheriff’s deputy Antonio Muñoz. Be forewarned, however, that if you are expecting the usual cozy mystery with hints (or more) of romance, you will not find it here. As one surprised reviewer said, “This didn’t turn out the way I thought it would.”

Estela tries to be brave person, and she will rise to the challenge and confront wrong-doers if no one else can be persuaded to do so. In the end, Estela’s life is all about appreciating the power of friendship, the strength of shared community, and a spirit of caring among all living things.

Missing Mom is the third book in the Estela Nogales mystery series, published by Cherie O’Boyle, January 2016.

The village of Arroyo Loco is rocked again, this time by the disappearance of Nina, a favorite neighbor. Nobody wants to be snoopy, and at the same time Estela and the others want to know what happened to their friend. Detective Muñoz wishes he could help, but it turns out that simply going missing is not a crime. The mystery deepens when Estela discovers the empty slot in Nina’s knife block, and the disastrous dynamics of Nina’s family derail the collection of more clues. As if that isn’t enough, the investigation is stymied by the remnants of a rare Pacific hurricane threatening to wipe out Arroyo Loco.

Iced Tee: Arroyo Loco’s old homes and friendly porches are threatened with demolition in favor of gated and red-tile-roofed McMansions. A peaceful spring morning is thrown into turmoil by a gruesome discovery. Frozen in rigor, ‘Poor Tee’ bursts from her icy crypt when the community freezer is opened. Clues are few until psychologist Estela Nogales and her eclectic neighbors snap into action to explore the motives buried deep in the history of their village. Once again, Estela’s exuberant border collies contribute their unique investigatory skills, the officious homeowners’ association interferes at every turn, and Arroyo Loco’s incompatible personalities pull together to unravel the secrets behind the murder. Iced Tee is the winner of the 2015 Mystery & Mayhem ‘Small Town Cozy’ award from Chanticleer Book Reviews.

Fire at Will’s: The house next door explodes in a gasoline-fueled blaze, sending psychologist Estela Nogales and an eclectic collection of neighbors racing to fight the flames. Once the fire is quelled, residents of the village of Arroyo Loco must conduct their own investigation to find the arsonist living among them. What begins as speculation over coffee becomes a more urgent and dangerous search when a body is discovered, another neighbor turns up missing, and a shocking secret is revealed. Too often joined by Estela’s irrepressible border collies, residents must negotiate the rules of a dysfunctional homeowners’ association (aren’t they all?) as they try to solve the mysteries before anyone else falls victim.

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Meet the author
Cherie O’Boyle is the award-winning author of the Estela Nogales Mystery series and Professor Emeritus of Psychology at California State University, San Marcos. She now lives in Northern California. When not writing, she is playing with her border collies and taking them to exotic locations in California such as Gridley for flyball tournaments, Galt for sheepherding trials, and Lake Tahoe for dog summer camp. Cherie is currently hard at work on the fourth in the Estela Nogales mystery series and also a so-far stand-alone more serious mystery featuring a team of search and rescue canines. The next book in the Estela Nogales series is expected to make its debut early in 2017. Connect with Cherie at www.cherieoboyle.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a signed copy of Missing Mom. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end September 23, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!

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