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  • Writer's pictureChristinaSinisi-Author

Guest Blog: Sarah Hamaker and Justice Delayed Free E-copy of Book to Random Commenter!

Dear Readers, Sarah Hamaker is one of the organizers for a Christmas in July book extravaganza that I'm going to be part of--can't wait to share that with you! Plus, I'm

excited to have her as a guest. :)

Introduce yourself—name, where you’re from, and something people notice when they meet you.


Hello! I’m Sarah Hamaker, a born-and-bred Virginian who has lived in the commonwealth most of my life (except for my college years). I now reside in Northern Virginia with my husband of 24 years, two college daughters and two high school sons. I have two obsessions—tea (especially love Harney & Sons brand) and British cop and crime shows, which I watch on BritBox or Acorn TV.


Tell us about your book—title and back cover blurb?


Justice Delayed is book one in my new Seeking Justice series.

After serving her time, a convicted murderer tries to clear her name with the help of a washed-up investigative reporter.

Journalist Brogan Gilmore had been a rising star when an unethical shortcut on a story leads to his fall from grace. A chance encounter with convicted murderer Melender Harman a few months after her release from prison provides Brogan with a chance for career redemption—if he can land an interview with her.

After serving her 17-year sentence, Melender has one objective: To uncover the truth about what happened to her cousin the night the toddler disappeared. When Brogan pursues her for an exclusive story, she reluctantly agrees if he’ll help her reexamine the original investigation into Jesse’s presumed kidnapping and murder.

While re-investigating the case, Brogan struggles to keep his objectivity as he begins to believe Melender is innocent of the crime—and starts to envision a possible future together. Then a shocking discovery throws their relationship—and investigation—into turmoil.

As Brogan and Melender come closer to solving what happened to Jesse, will their budding relationship survive the truth?


Share an excerpt?

This is chapter 1 but feel free to cut it off at the scene break if it’s too long😊.

(I left the whole thing--the more the merrier, right, readers?)


“What time did the alleged robber come into your store, Mr. Patel?” Northern Virginia Herald reporter Brogan Gilmore asked. Mid-August in the metropolitan Washington, DC, area meant slow news due to the congressional recess, thus an attempted robbery at a local convenience store took top priority.

“Excuse me.” Vihaan Patel, owner of the Kwikie Mart at the corner of Main Street and Chain Bridge Road in Fairfax, Virginia, rang up a customer purchasing a pack of cigarettes and beef jerky, then waited until the customer left before answering. “It was one-thirty in the morning. Very late.”

Standing on the other side of the counter, Brogan jotted down the details in his notebook. “And you had two other robberies within the last two weeks?”

“That’s right.” Mr. Patel clenched his fists. “Those badamaash young men—”

“Badamaash?” Brogan interjected.

“Hooligans.” Mr. Patel’s lip curled, leaving Brogan no doubt that hooligans was probably a more civilized translation. “They come in thinking they can just take my hard-earned money. Last Monday and Friday, different men, come in late at night and take what isn’t theirs.”

“How much was taken in the two previous robberies?”

“Three hundred on Monday, fifteen hundred on Friday. Friday was very busy night. Special lottery promotion brought in lots of people, who thought they would be lucky. Big jackpot.” A shadow crossed the lines of his expressive face. “Both times, robbers came when I opened safe to remove cash for bank deposit. Usually, no one here to open safe.”

A familiar gut feeling coursed through Brogan’s body. Maybe these robberies weren’t so random after all. This was looking more like an inside job. “Do you open the safe to ready the deposit at the same time each night?”

Mr. Patel shook his head. “That would be foolish. I vary times each day. Sometimes right before bank opens. Sometimes mid-afternoon. Sometimes during the evening. When bank not open, I take deposit bag home with me. The Monday robbery was at ten in morning. The Friday one at nine in evening.”

Brogan tapped his pen against the notebook. “Who worked on Monday?”

The door’s bell announced more customers. A group of teenagers poured in, their raucous laughter filling the small store.

Mr. Patel craned his neck to keep an eye on the teens. “My son, Veer, working both times. He filling in for worker who called in sick.”

The tingle increased. “Is that spelled V-E-E-R?”

“Yes.” Mr. Patel greeted one of the teens, who set down a large slushy and a giant candy bar.

Brogan waited while the owner rang up the group’s remaining purchases. It could be a coincidence that Mr. Patel’s son had been working during the two robberies. Still, at the risk of offending the man, Brogan had to follow up. “Was Veer working last night?”

“He was. He usually works overnight shifts on weekend to let me spend time at home with my wife.”

Definitely something there, but Brogan let the subject of Veer Patel drop for now. “But you were here last night. Why was that?”

Mr. Patel shrugged. “I was waiting until jackpot numbers were called at midnight. People buy lottery tickets in cash.”

“Did you see the robber?”

“Yes, but he wore werewolf mask.”

“Like a Halloween mask?”

“Exactly. Other two robbers had similar masks. The werewolf robber much shorter with lighter skin on his arms. His hand holding gun shook.”

Brogan, writing furiously, gestured for him to continue.

“Then she threw soda bottle. Knocked him in head.” Mr. Patel’s grin stretched wider.

Rather than interrupt with questions as to who “she” was, Brogan let Mr. Patel finish his story.

“Miss Mel’s such a little thing. I forgot she was here. She grab soda bottle and, wham! Clipped masked man in side of head.”

Brogan finished jotting down Mr. Patel’s quote, then looked up. “Who is Miss Mel? Did she knock the alleged robber out?”

“No, but Miss Mel scared him. Robber ran out without money.” Mr. Patel rang up another customer. “I want to give her bonus for quick thinking.”

“Do you mean a reward?” Maybe this story wouldn’t turn out so bad after all. A regular customer thwarting a robbery in such an unusual manner would play well. He’d also do some digging into Veer Patel before he questioned the son. Something about Veer working during all three incidents was one coincidence too many in Brogan’s book.

“Reward?” Mr. Patel laughed. “Yes, I will give her reward even though she’s like an employee.”

“Employee?” Brogan frowned. “I thought she was a customer.”

“No. She cleans. Every Friday overnight.”

“She works for you one night a week?”

“Didn’t I just say?” Mr. Patel called out a hello as a burly man walked in and headed straight for the fountain drinks. “I hired company, Squeaky Clean, and they send her. First time she cleaned, I call manager and tell him to only send her. So she cleans my store once a week for six months. Very good worker. My store sparkles. Good for customer service.”

As Mr. Patel chatted with the burly man and rang up the customer’s purchases, Brogan took the opportunity to check his phone for messages. Nothing. He wasn’t expecting anything big to break, not with much of the greater Washington, DC, area on vacation. But all he needed was that one story to catapult him back into the big leagues.

Mr. Patel waved goodbye to the customer. “Any other questions?”

“Just one.” Brogan poised his pen over the notebook. “What’s her name?”

“Mel Harman.” Mr. Patel gestured toward the door. “You can meet her. She just pulled into parking lot.”

# # #

Melender Harman put her Honda Accord into park outside the Kwikie Mart and checked the

dashboard clock. Four-thirty. Good, she’d have enough time after her visit with Mr. Patel to stop by the grocery store down the street before starting her overnight shift. She enjoyed the solitary nature of her job, cleaning stores and offices while most of the world slept. Tonight, she had a new client on her list, which meant Squeaky Clean’s owner, Janice Butram, would be sending along another cleaner to keep them on schedule.

Melender, who had shortened her unusual first name to Mel at her job to avoid questions about its origin and to camouflage her background, stepped into the convenience store, the overhead bell announcing her entrance. Behind the counter, Mr. Patel chatted with a tall, handsome blond man wearing jeans and an old leather bomber jacket. The man held a small notebook and fastened his gaze in her direction when she entered.

“Miss Mel.” Mr. Patel slipped around the end of the counter and approached, a broad smile on his lined face.

Melender lifted her own lips into an answering grin. The joy on the older man’s face made it impossible not to return his greeting in kind. “Mr. Patel, Janice said you wanted to see me. Is everything okay?”

Mr. Patel grabbed her hand and pumped it up and down. “Everything fine, thanks to you.” Not letting go of her hand, he turned to the man at the counter. “I was telling Mr. Gilmore about what you did last night in—what was word you said?”

Mr. Gilmore smiled. “Foil.”

Mr. Patel nodded. “Yes, foil robbery attempt.”

Melender gently freed her hand from Mr. Patel’s grip and looked from one man to another. “It was nothing.”

“It was not nothing!” Mr. Patel slapped his hand on the counter.

Melender automatically stepped back as her heart rate skyrocketed. There’s no danger. You’re not inside anymore. Nothing to fear here. But no matter what she told herself, the scent of danger hovered in the air. If she sniffed, she would smell its familiar tang, a mixture of sweat, fear, and power.

“Mr. Gilmore is writing about your story for Northern Virginia Herald.”

No, no, no! “I didn’t do anything special. And I’d rather not have my name mentioned.”

“It is okay,” Mr. Patel nodded. “I spoke with Ms. Butram. She said it would be okay to have company name and your name in article.”

Melender didn’t alter her expression. Of course the owner of Squeaky Clean wouldn’t mind free publicity, never mind that Melender wanted to fly under the radar. An article, even in a regional paper like the Northern Virginia Herald, could shift the spotlight back on her.

“Mr. Patel told me what you did, chucking a two-liter bottle of soda at the would-be robber.”

The reporter studied her with knowing blue eyes that weren’t buying her false humility act for one second. The scent the reporter smelled wasn’t danger but a scoop. She’d seen that lean, hungry look in the courtroom too often to mistake it now.

The name Brogan Gilmore had a familiar ring to it. She rarely read the news these days, so she hadn’t recognized his name from seeing it online on the Herald site.

“What kind of soda was it?”

“I’m sorry, what?” She’d lost track of the conversation. Not a smart move, given the very real danger the man posed.

“The two-liter. What brand was it?”

“I don’t know.” She shrugged. Although the brand of soda wasn’t important, if giving him that tidbit of information would satisfy his curiosity, then she would happily oblige. She had been wiping down the cooler doors and had made it to the one on the far end, which was why the would-be robber hadn’t seen her when he’d come in with his mask and gun. A free-standing display of two-liters had been near the endcap of the salty snack aisle right beside her. Picturing the display, she snapped open her eyes. “Dr Pepper.”

“Good.” The reporter scribbled it down. “Can you describe the robber?”

Sure, she’d give him the exact description she gave the police. “About five feet, eight- or nine-inches. He wore a black T-shirt with a grinning skull on the front and a pair of baggy jean shorts. He had on a werewolf mask.”

Gilmore asked her a few follow-up questions about the incident, but Melender kept her replies short nearly to the point of rudeness. Gilmore raised his eyebrows at her clipped answers but didn’t say anything. Finally, he snapped his notebook closed.

Melender snuck a quick look at the wall clock above the door. 4:45. If she hurried, she could make it to the store and home again before reporting for work at seven o’clock. “I need to go. Mr. Patel, I’ll see you Friday night.”

“No, wait, wait, Miss Mel.” Mr. Patel waved at her as he hurried to his office. “I have something for you.”

Melender shifted her feet, wanting nothing more than to flee the store and the reporter’s scrutiny.

“Have somewhere to go, Ms. Harman?”

Melender whipped around to lock eyes with the reporter studying her. “Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.”

He edged closer to her, dropping his voice to nearly a whisper. “Don’t you think it’s strange that Mr. Patel’s son was here during all three robberies?”

Melender frowned. She never liked Mr. Patel’s son, who generally worked overnight on Fridays when she cleaned. While Veer had never bothered her, she steered clear of the younger man for reasons she couldn’t articulate. “Veer was working the other two times?”

“Yes.” Gilmore started to say something else, but Mr. Patel’s return interrupted him.

“Miss Mel, here you go.” He thrust an envelope into her hand.

Melender opened the unsealed flap and gaped at the bills stuffed inside. “I don’t understand.”

She looked at the money, then into Mr. Patel’s beaming face.

“It’s ten percent of what robber didn’t get. One hundred and seventy dollars.” Mr. Patel tucked his hands into his pockets. “You did tremendous good deed. You take, keep, give away—it yours.”

Blinking back tears, Melender put the envelope into her purse. “Thank you, Mr. Patel.”

The reporter jotted down the exchange in his notebook. “That will make a nice ending to this piece. Thanks again.” With another look at Melender, he headed toward the door.

Thanking Mr. Patel again, Melender hurried after Gilmore to plead that her name be kept out of the article before he drove away. But all she saw was the taillights of the reporter’s SUV as he drove out of the parking lot, taking with him her quiet life.


Ask the blog reader a quirky question or two?

Melender grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, one of my favorite places to go on vacation. Where do you like to vacation?



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Debra Pruss
Debra Pruss
May 19

Hi Sarah. The Blue Ridge Mountains are beautiful. I have been to Virgina numerous times. My Mom was born and raised in an area close to Blackwater Falls-Thomas, Davis, Canaan Valley, West Virginia. I love the beauty of the mountains. The quiet and serene areas where there is little traffic. You can be so close to God and nature. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.

May 22
Replying to

Sorry I didn't get to reply earlier in the week--traveling home from visiting my mother. I actually grew up in Virginia--on a family farm outside Roanoke, Virginia. We were told that the taxes were higher because of the beautiful view. :)


May 19

HI Sarah. I spent a great deal of time as a child in the Adirondack North Country of New York. My sister and brother-in-law still live there, so I try to get back there for vacation once a year. The area not only holds fond memories of my childhood, but offers wonderful vacation activities in any season, and the scenery is always breathtaking. Sarah, your book sounds most intriguing. Christina, thank you for hosting Sarah. Blessings to both of you!

May 22
Replying to

Patti, thanks for commenting and reading! I do love the mountains!


May 19

Welcome Sarah, I just love books like this and look forward to reading your books. If the book is as good as what the excerpt is as well as the cover then I really can't wait.

May 22
Replying to

Crystal, thank you so much for reading and commenting. I do love the excerpt, too. Blessings, Christina

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