Adventure and murder in New Mexico in ‘Dead Upon Arrival’

Jan Jones

Some time ago I read book one in Kat Bellemore’s Maddie Swallows series. It was a quick read with a plausible plot. So, when I found “Dead Upon Arrival,” I decided to give it a try.

Maddie Swallows left for college and never looked back. Along the way she became a psychologist, married, had two children, and is now divorced. At this point she has returned to Amor, New Mexico, and opened a clinic with her best friend, Trish. Like any single mom, she must try to balance her career with the needs of her children and her own mother.

In this book, Maddie receives a call from an old friend begging for help. When Ruby’s husband died in a plane crash, Ruby reacted by withdrawing from life. After coaxing, she attended one counseling session with Maddie, but has put off returning for more help.

Amazingly, Ruby has followed Maddie’s suggestion and “done something different” by accepting an invitation to attend the annual balloon festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Now she insists that Maddie join her for the weekend. After a bit of schedule juggling, she looks forward to some fun family time with Lilly and Flash. She isn’t happy that her mother managed to muscle her way into joining them, but manages to pretend that it is OK.

Maddie didn’t realize what a big deal the festival had become so she hadn’t made motel reservations. They ended up getting one room in a rundown motel with an empty pool. They quickly head for the evening “balloon glow” event at the festival. The sight is beautiful with all the balloons inflated but tethered close to the ground.

While the kids explore and grandma makes a new friend, Maddie joins childhood friend Benji in a mock flight. While hovering above the grounds, they witness a second balloon rise untethered and a man tumble over the side of the basket.

Maddie is surprised to find Amor Sheriff Potts at the scene. She is there earning extra cash working security, but now she’s tasked with investigating this death.

To her horror, Flash and Lilly are snooping in the area and taking pictures. Flash then announces that this was a murder. A year ago, the kids had been instrumental in catching a killer, so they’re thrilled to have another case to solve even if Maddie doesn’t want them involved.

The dead man is Charles Reed. He grew up in the area but managed to get cozy with balloon owners and somehow got rich. Now he travels to all the shows using a hired crew to do all the work.

The list of people who hate the man is long. Apparently, he has seduced several balloon owner’s wives, broke up marriages then dumped the women without a second glance.

The local police soon arrest Andy Kern. He had been the pilot when Charles Reed died, so they believe that Andy boosted him over the side of the basket. Maddie agrees to do what she can to help, but no one is cooperating with the amateur sleuths.

Sheriff Potts reveals that Reed died from cyanide poisoning and asks Maddie to help because the local police are stonewalling her. Long story short, Maddie uses her training, Flash does some computer hacking and Lilly’s many photos help narrow the suspect list to someone whose marriage had been destroyed by Charles Reed.

When the paperwork is cleared, Maddie has learned a lot about Sheriff Potts, the power of relationships and her own needs. Since this is a series, I know new adventures are just waiting for me to read.

Adventures don’t have to take us far from home.


Book: Dead Upon Arrival (Maddie Swallows Mysteries, Book 2)

Author: Kat Bellemore

Publisher: KB Press

Year published: 2012

Number of pages: 222