Causa Mortis FREE through Oct. 17th, 2015

Annie Avants' Causa Mortis in Portuguese

CAUSA MORTIS, the Portuguese version of the first book in the Det. Annie Avants series, Cause of Death, is now available FREE through October 17th, 2015.

Here are the links where you can find the eBook at Amazon outlets:

USA Amazon

UK Amazon

Germany Amazon

France Amazon

Spain Amazon

Italy Amazon

Netherlands Amazon

Brazil Amazon

Canada Amazon

Mexico Amazon

Australia Amazon


Apple iBooks


Read the first Annie Avants story in Portuguese

Annie Avants first story, CAUSE OF DEATH, is now available in Portuguese!

I’m happy to announce that the translation of Cause of Death into Portuguese – CAUSA MORTIS – is now available from several vendors. The vendors available at the moment are Apple (iBooks), Barnes & Noble (Nook), KOBO, and Scribd.

Many other vendors will be added as the book is published on their sites.

Here are links to the pages where you can buy Annie Avants’ CAUSA MORTIS now:


Apple iBooks



As CAUSA MORTIS becomes available on other sites, I will update this list and send out tweets.

Here is the description of CAUSA MORTIS in Portuguese:

Annie Avants virou as costas para suas raízes no interior e tornou-se uma detetive de homicídios no Condado de Kern, Califórnia, depois de trabalhar por muitos anos em Mena, Arkansas, sua cidade natal.

Seus pais não gostaram dos caminhos que seguiu. Eles sempre sonharam em vê-la sossegada em Mena, casada com um bom marido e criando vários filhos. Isso não era nada do que Annie queria na vida. Ela está mais feliz agora, enquanto desvenda as mentes criminosas de assassinos em série e monta engenhosos quebra-cabeças com evidências, solucionando os misteriosos casos que a confrontam e protegendo as vítimas dos crimes.

Seu parceiro, Tom Weston, sofre com seu próprio drama pessoal depois de ter presenciado sua esposa sendo assassinada ao vivo, diante das câmeras de TV, durante um assalto a banco com reféns que terminou mal.

O promotor público Jesse Greyeyes quer ser um bom procurador e quer Annie ao seu lado. Mas suas origens fazem com que ele seja um tanto quanto arrogante e inseguro de si. E Annie tem medo de se envolver em um relacionamento, medo de ser controlada.

Laine DelMonte, investigadora chefe da Polícia Científica é muito competente em seu trabalho e tem um papel fundamental ao lado de Annie e Tom, investigando e solucionando casos. Mas essa atraente e bem-sucedida profissional tem um segredo e está sempre tentando encobrir seus rastros.

Nesta quente e empoeirada cidade, alguém está sequestrando e matando jovens latinas. A arma do crime – aranhas viúvas-negras.

O serial killer não deixa pistas e quase nenhuma evidência. Annie, Tom e seus colegas de trabalho estão completamente perdidos, enquanto o pânico toma conta da comunidade e uma terceira garota é sequestrada.

O que virá a seguir?

Causa Mortis é um suspense arrepiante que vai te fazer imaginar e querer adivinhar – e também te fazer pensar sobre quem realmente são as pessoas “normais” em SEU dia-a-dia.

Annie Avants' Causa Mortis in Portuguese

FREE Det. Annie Avants book when you preorder Agent Down: 999 (book 5)

Would you like a FREE copy of one of the 1st four Det. Annie Avants books?

Cause of Death
Damage Control
Southern Secrets
Green Witch, Dead Witch

If so, here’s what to do to get your free eBook:

1.  Pre-order book #5, Agent Down:999, for the pre-order price of just $1.99;
2.  Send a copy of your pre-order receipt to me at  Put – Free Ebook for Preorder – in the subject line;
3.  Tell me which book you’d like to receive free!

It’s that simple. I’ll send you the link and a unique coupon code so you can download your free eBook right now.

If you click on the tab above that says “Det. Annie Avants Books” you will get a description of each of the books.

Agent Down:999 can be pre-ordered at one of the following links:

Barnes & Noble

Also, I would love to have you subscribe to my blog while you’re here.  Don’t miss out on any news about Annie and Tom or other surprises I’m planning for you!

agent down

Agent Down: 999 available for pre-order

agent downFLASH! You can now pre-order AGENT DOWN: 999 (Det. Annie Avants 5) at these links:

Barnes & Noble


Drug trafficking in Kern County has increased drastically due to Interstate I5, which runs adjacent to Bakersfield, and goes from the Mexican border to Canada. Kern County’s many law enforcement agencies work in their own jurisdictions to solve the problem. Sometimes they work together, but most of the time they do not.

The Kern County Narcotics Division (Part of the Gang Suppression Unit) had been investigating a house in the Lamont area for several months. The eight residents of the home were alleged members of a Mexican Cartel that delivered their wares up and down the I5 corridor. This house was just one of many links on I5.

At 3:00 a.m. on April 13, 2014, Detectives Annie Avants and Tom Weston, of the Kern County Robbery/Homicide Unit, were called to the scene of a combined Narcotics Division/SWAT Team raid gone bad at the house outside of Lamont.

When the teams stormed the house, they found it empty. But a surprise package had been left for them. The body of a middle-aged Mexican male, executed “gang” style, was left at the scene.

When Tom and Annie talked to the Narcotics Division leader later that morning, he informed them that the man had been covertly working with them to close this house and get more information on the connections to the Cartel.

The conclusion: someone snitched and tipped off the residents so they could leave, and told them the name of the man who was working with the Narcotics Division.

Later, during their investigation, as Tom reviewed some of the videos made by the Narcotics Division, a figure caught his eye. He asked the video people to enhance the image and, when he was sure what he was seeing, he was shocked.

It appeared that one of the remaining men who lived at the house was a life-long friend of Tom’s whom he thought worked for the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

Don’t miss out! Pre-order your copy now for the pre-order price of just $1.99. Upon publication, the price will increase to $3.99.

COYOTE’S SONG available for Pre-Order

coyotes song

A mysterious 30-year old Miwok Indian woman has visions about the victim in Det. Annie Avants case, Green Witch, Dead Witch. Who is this woman, and what is her connection with Kern County? She lives in the mountains of Calaveras County, near West Point, on indian land.
Evangeline Mason has a mystery of her own. Is she the fulfillment of an old Miwok Legend:

There was a legend among the Sierra Band of Miwok Indians. It said that a female would someday become the Shaman of the band and she would reunite the Miwok Indians and make them strong again. Many people believed in the legend at first but, throughout the years, less and less Miwoks even remembered the legend and it didn’t get passed down to the newer generations. At least, not to all of them.
There were a few who still remembered, and waited. The old Shaman was one of the believers, but one day he walked into the mountains and was never seen again. Everyone thought he had gone away to die.
The band dwindled after that. They had a chief who was strong, but the young people left, especially those who lived in the isolated mountain town of West Point, California. There was nothing there for them.
Then, one day in 1989, a little Miwok girl disappeared from her front yard on the reservation.

This book tells the story of Evangeline Mason and  begins on August 6, 1989, the day she disappeared from the front yard of her home on indian land just outside of West Point, California.  Where did she go?  What happened to her?  How did she get involved with Detective Annie Avants?

Coyote’s Song will “go live” on April 23, 2015. You can Pre-order it now at the following Amazon outlets:

Amazon USA
Amazon UK
Amazon Germany
Amazon France
Amazon India
Amazon Spain
Amazon Japan
Amazon The Netherlands
Amazon Italy
Amazon Brazil
Amazon Canada
Amazon Mexico
Amazon Australia

Great Review for “DAMAGE CONTROL”

Damage Control by Renee Benzaim

Review by Devi Nair

March 4, 2015

damage control
Annie Avants is slowly becoming my favorite now. I started with her 4th book, then I went back and started with #1. Damage control is the #3 in the series of Det. Annie Avants mysteries. Every book sees her getting evolved from a new Detective, slowly gaining experience and developing character. The supporting characters in the series like her boyfriend, Jesse, her partner, Tom, and other people in her team.

Damage Control is about a missing and presumed dead attorney, and murders that follow. The thing with this book is that the clues are always right in front. Throughout the book, you could always feel “Maybe this character is the killer. But maybe, this is too easy and someone else just might be the killer” and it turns out you are right. That gives an amazing feeling because after so many years of reading murder mysteries, you have finally come and realized for a change, who the murderer is. Or maybe Renee is just letting you go easy on this one and will give a killer on the next one…

I thoroughly enjoyed the journey with Annie Avants yet again. It is always fun going on an adventure with her. She feels like the next Nancy Drew going on. I am going on to the next book pretty soon

Check out the book at:

Amazon UK
Amazon USA
Amazon India
Barnes & Noble

Have You Talked to a Green Witch Today?

Have you talked to a Green Witch Today?

In the introduction to my latest Det. Annie Avants crime fiction novel, GREEN WITCH, DEAD WITCH, I said this:

green witch“Yes, there really are green witches.  But they aren’t made of chocolate and won’t melt when you throw water on them.  In fact, there are many green witches around the world . . . and white witches, gray witches, good witches, evil witches, garden witches, kitchen witches, cottage witches, and many more.  Each person who makes the decision to follow the path of witch, creates his or her own journey.

A green witch is a nature-based witch.  Green witches believe that all things are connected and have their own energy.  When they perform magic, they use the gifts of nature – herbs, crystals, rocks, plants, flowers, etc.  They respect and follow the phases of the moon.  They respect the four elements – air, water, fire, and earth.  Some add a fifth element – spirit – the universal life spirit that lives in all things.

They have a code – “An Ye Harm None – Do What Ye Will.”  What does this mean?  Some translate it to mean:  “if it is not going to hurt anyone, it’s okay to do.”.

The witches in this story are green witches.  I haven’t made up a “witch persona” and I’m not making up a mythical world that my witches inhabit.  They live in Kern County just like anyone else.  They live among us.  They are our friends and neighbors.”

When I first thought about writing Green Witch, Dead Witch, I was making the attributes of my witches as I went along.  (In fact, Lily Rose was NOT a witch, she was a fairy named Fiona who could unpack her wings and levitate on the spot).    Then, for over a year, I researched green witches.  Along the way, I decided to keep Clem Moonstone realistic and change Fiona into a witch just starting her first year of training.  Like a real witch would do.

I learned a lot during my research.  For instance, if you are familiar with the Law of Attraction, casting a spell is basically the same as invoking the Law of Attraction to bring something into your life.  Many real witches know this.  In fact, an excellent book on the subject is “Magick and the Law of Attraction: A User’s Guide” by Maggie Shayne.  It can be found at Amazon along with other books on the same subject.

Why am I explaining all of this?  One of my beloved beta readers was concerned that I was drifting off into the genre of “fantasy.”  Here’s what she said:

I think about your target audience being those that liked the first three books or at least they read likely one of them. The books, being a police mystery type book. So that being said, I am concerned that the ending is almost purely fantasy. What I mean is that since I was reading a true to life type mystery I expected to find a realistic type ending. (Cops save the day example) So even though it was great to understand what and how green witches live and learn etc. I thought that the ending of the book would be based in more realism instead of fantasy so that kind of seemed un-natural. I could, kind of, relate if the girl that was kidnapped thought that was true but…. All the cops believing the fantasy was real??  If your target audience were fantasy readers then they would love the ending you have.

The key word in her comment was “fantasy.”  I tried my darndest not to include any “fantasy” in my book.  I based it on real witches and experiences they had.  When I explained this to her, she understood what I was trying to accomplish.

I guess my point is that there are people who follow the path of witch and they are real, everyday people.  Whether you believe or not, they exist and they’re really caring women.  One of my reviews, which is in another blog post I wrote, said “This story is entirely about Magick – Green magick. The concept is put across very strong that witches do exist among us today and most of them are good witches. The idea is put across very subtly and nicely. In fact it makes you want to meet a green witch.”  (Review by Devi Nair).

So, there you have it.  If you read Green Witch, Dead Witch, I hope you enjoyed it.  If not, and I’ve piqued your curiosity, you can find it here:

Amazon UK
Amazon USA
Barnes and Noble

Happy reading!

Great Review for Green Witch, Dead Witch

Green Witch, Dead Witch by Renee Benzaim

Review by Devi Nair 

January 9, 2015

JPG Cover NEW 270 X 400 24 Dec 2014

This story is entirely about Magick – Green magick. The concept is put across very strong that witches do exist among us today and most of them are good witches. The idea is put across very subtly and nicely. In fact it makes you want to meet a green witch.

Witches are being killed and it all appears to be accidents. Only someone is suspicious that they are not accidents and witches are in fact being murdered. Detective Annie Avants is dealing with a personal crisis of her own. This case gives her a break from her crisis and she dives nose down into it. However, the murderer appears to be someone of Magick background. Will Annie be able to catch hold of the murderer? Or her lack of magick lead to the murderer going scott free?

Annie is not someone you instantly tend to like. She has all the features of a detective – fierce, independent, brave and at the same time, a bit too careful. Her thinking process is relatable, but there are times through the book when you feel like telling her it is OK to let go and live life spontaneously. And that makes Annie a human. Renee has done a good job creating a detective who is as much human as anyone of us. She is afraid of making mistake, just like any one us.

The book is really nice. I am looking forward to understanding the characters more by reading the previous parts of the series.

Available here:

Amazon UK
Amazon USA
Barnes and Noble

Crime Fiction and the Chain of Custody

crime writing

Photo Credit: Julie Elliott-Abshire


When writing crime fiction, it’s important to make sure your characters don’t do anything that would compromise the evidence and cause it to be inadmissible in court.
One way this can happen is if the chain of custody is broken.

What is Chain of Custody?

Chain of custody, according to FindLaw, is defined as “. . . the documentation and proper care of evidence, from its seizure by police to its presentation at trial. If the chain of custody is broken, the evidence may lack credibility and could be deemed inadmissible.”

Why is this Important?

Every case that goes to trial is controlled by the evidence that is introduced. This is the only criteria that a judge in a bench trial or a jury in a jury trial are to use to determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant. They are not allowed, by law, to use any other means to come to a conclusion.

The evidence your characters collect and handle throughout your novel have a large bearing on the outcome of your book, especially if there will be a trial.

You also want to think about the credibility of yourself as a writer and your novel. Readers are more sophisticated these days with criminal investigation and will call you out on it.

How is Chain of Custody Established?

The chain of custody starts with the officer that finds it. Here is a list of a personnel that could be part of the chain of custody:

  •  The officer / investigator who recovers the evidence. This could be a uniformed officer, Deputy/Coroner, Medical Examiner, Crime Scene Investigators, Detective in charge of the scene, or someone else;
  •  The person who takes charge of the evidence at the scene. Again, it could be someone listed in Number 1, or an evidence technician designated to take charge of the evidence at the scene
  •  The person who transports the evidence to the Laboratory. Ideally, it should be someone from Number 1 or 2 above;
  •  The person who receives the evidence at the Laboratory. In my story, it went to the Laboratory Director;
  •  The Laboratory scientist who will examine the evidence;
  •  Whomever retrieves the evidence from the Laboratory after it has been processed.

Chain of Custody Form

Chain of custody labels are good for the permanent marking of evidence. They are printed on tamperproof stock and stick to almost anything. They can be used for marking individual articles, packages and containers.

This form must be attached to each evidence container. It is the job of your characters to properly document who found the evidence, who has it and where it is. If this isn’t done properly, your evidence may not be admitted at trial.

Since any person who handles the evidence has to be able to show an unbroken chain of custody, it’s a good rule of thumb to minimize the number of people who come into contact with the evidence. The shorter the chain the better.

Who is Responsible for the Chain of Custody of Evidence?

The Prosecution must account for the evidence from the discovery, collection, analysis, storage, and transfer to the courtroom. Throughout the entire process, including court proceedings and appeals, the prosecutor is responsible for securing the evidence.

If the defense cannot get the evidence excluded pretrial, they will look to discredit how it was handled during the investigation.

Example from my book, Cause of Death

In my book, Cause of Death, I had a sub-plot that involved a piece of evidence. It was a knife with the fingerprints of the defendant who was on trial for a robbery. It was the only piece of physical evidence the prosecution had. Unfortunately, when it was time to introduce the knife into evidence, it couldn’t be located. Even though it was eventually found, the fact that it was missing even for a short time caused the chain of custody to be broken. The evidence wasn’t admissible and the defendant walked adding to the plot.


Ensuring that your characters don’t accidentally cause a break in the chain of custody of evidence will protect them from charges of tampering, planting, theft, substitution of evidence, and contamination of evidence.

Any time you have a character who has anything to do with evidence at a crime scene, or after, make sure they take the necessary precautions to honor the chain of custody.

(I originally wrote this blog as a guest post on, the blog of Joe Giacalone in July 2013.)