Tuesday, February 15, 2022




Parker City, 1984 . . .

Three years after the Spring Strangler case rocked the historic Western Maryland city nestled at the foot of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, life has returned to normal for Detective Ben Winters and his partner, Tommy Mason. With a new chief now leading the department and the city slowly crawling out of its economic distress, everything seems to be moving in the right direction. Until one sweltering summer day, a killer begins targeting police officers. Ben and Tommy find themselves once again leading an investigation the likes of which Parker City has never seen. The detectives quickly come to realize that until the shooter is found, everyone wearing a badge is in danger.

To complicate matters even further, when a recently unearthed skeleton mysteriously connects to the string of police homicides, Ben and Tommy begin to think their current case may be tied to events twenty years earlier. But how could a skeleton buried two decades ago hold the key to solving their current case?

    Book Details:

Title: Vice & Virtue

Author: Justin M. Kiska

Genre: traditional mystery/police procedural

Series: Parker City Mysteries
, book 2
Publisher: Level Best Books (February 15, 2022)

Print length: 288 pages


Things you need in order to write: a nice hot cappuccino, quiet, and time.
Things that hamper your writing: BritBox! There are just too many great shows to get sucked into!

Things you love about writing: I’m a bit of a control-freak, so I love to have complete control of everything that happens in the story.
Things you hate about writing: making sure that the things I want to happen in the story make sense. One of the things I say to my wife all the time comes from my favorite television show: “Don’t ruin my story with your logic.”

Easiest thing about being a writer: for me, coming up with the stories and the mysteries that go along with them. But sometimes I have too many ideas, so it’s also hard paring it down and picking one good mystery to write. 

Hardest thing about being a writer: finding the time and discipline to actually sit down, focus, and write.

Favorite foods: I could probably eat pizza every day if my wife and doctor would let me. Same with Krispy Kreme Donuts!
Things that make you want to throw up: peppers! I don’t care what color they are or where they come from, they are all evil!  

Favorite music: as a theatre producer, I listen to showtunes all the time. Thankfully, I like showtunes. I always have. I’m also a fan of oldies. Golden oldies from the ‘50s and ‘60s, to be precise. I realize the definition of “oldies” is changing.
Music that make your ears bleed: I wish I could say I was one of those people who like all music, but I’m not. Heavy metal . . . not my thing.

Favorite beverage: caramel iced coffee.  I’m addicted. 

Something that gives you a pickle face: I know it isn’t a drink, but celery. I just don’t see the point.

Something you’re really good at: sarcasm. I have an advanced degree.

Something you’re really bad at: making pancakes. I always burn them. Always.

Things you always put in your books: since my background is actually as a theatre producer, I always like to have a line or two from a play or musical in my books as a little Easter egg to theatre-lovers or performers who’ve been in a show I’ve directed or produced. 

Things you never put in your books: over-the-top, gratuitous violence. I’ve never been a fan of slasher/horror films or unnecessary blood and guts.

Things to say to an author: “I really enjoyed your book. You had me guessing who the killer was up until the very end.”

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “What you should have done is . . .”

Favorite places you’ve been: New Orleans. I loved the city, the food, the atmosphere.

Places you never want to go to again: New Orleans. No city should be that hot and humid!

Favorite genre: good old-fashioned mysteries.

Books you would ban: young adult fantasy fiction . . . don’t get me started.

Favorite things to do: first and foremost, travel. I would live on a cruise ship if I could. But if we’re talking about favorite things to do on a daily basis . . . at the end of the day I love to relax by reading a good book. 

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel.

Best thing you’ve ever done: married my wife.

Biggest mistake: married my wife before I found out how much she loved Christmas movies on Hallmark.


Tall and athletic, Tommy Mason always reminded Ben of Tom Selleck’s Magnum P.I. character from television. Tommy always had that whole ruggedly handsome thing going for him. Mixed with a little bit of a “bad boy” vibe and he drove the women wild.

Next to Ben’s clean-cut, buttoned-down appearance, their pairing caused many to do a doubletake. At first glance, they appeared to be complete opposites. But as one got to know them, they were very much alike. Each brought out the best in the other and at the end of the day, it was all about getting the job done. Sure, each had his own style, but that’s what made them such a formidable team.

Tommy’s apparent willingness to skirt the rules was always offset by Ben’s ability to find ways to use the rules to their benefit. Just as Ben’s refusal to play the internal politics game allowed Tommy to use his charm to keep too many feathers from getting ruffled amongst the powers-that-be. They each knew the other’s strengths and weaknesses and how to adapt them to their own, which is why they’d been so impressive in getting the PCPD’s Detective Squad off the ground.

“What are you doing here?” Ben asked, more than a little surprised to see his partner.

“Shirley from Dispatch called me. She thought I’d be interested,” Tommy explained. “And before you say anything about what I’m wearing, I just want to remind you, it is our day off, so I didn’t think I needed to get dressed up to come to a potential crime scene. Especially when we don’t actually know this is a crime scene yet.”

He was referring to the fact he had on a T-shirt and comfortable pair of jeans, as opposed to the full suit and tie Ben was wearing.

“Besides, now you don’t have to worry about getting your fancy suit muddy. I have no problems getting down there in the dirt,” Tommy smiled, pointing at the fresh mud stains on his knees. With that, he knelt back down to take another look at the exposed skeletal remains under the floorboards.

“So, tell me. What do we have?” Ben asked, crouching next to Tommy so he could get a better look.

“You can see there’s a pretty big cavity here under this part of the floor,” Tommy pointed out. “It’s got to be a good ten by ten area where the ground has been eaten away, even though it’s not too deep, less than a foot in some places. It’s definitely because of water…there’s a lot of mud down there. As the earth under the floor eroded, it uncovered the skeleton. Partway, at least. Of course, no one could see what was happening under here until our friend Mr. Haggarty had the unfortunate experience of stepping on a board that was rotted through and it snapped, sending him falling through the floor. You can see where he landed in the mud.

“And right there,” Tommy pointed, “you see the skull and top portion of the skeleton sticking out of the ground.”

“You came face-to-face with that thing, man?” Tommy looked over at the construction worker who was leaning against the wall. “Not a good way to start the day.”

“Yeah. You’re telling me,” Haggarty answered.

Turning back to the skeleton, Tommy said, “I’m no expert, but that hole in the skull right there…see it, it looks like it could be a GSW from a pretty heavy caliber gun.”

Leaning down and twisting his head so he could try and get a better look at the skull, Ben saw the hole and wondered if his partner was right. Finding a skeleton buried under the floor was one thing. Finding a skeleton buried under the floor with a bullet hole in its skull was something else. It took everything to a different level.

Standing and stretching their legs, Tommy said, “When Shirley first called me, I thought this was going to have been some kind of prank. Some kids snuck into the site on a dare and left a skeleton for the crew to find.”

“You thought kids somehow buried a skeleton under this building in the hopes someone would fall through the floor and find it?” Ben asked, raising an eyebrow. “Not to mention having to figure out how to bury the thing under the floor?”

“In my defense,” Tommy started, raising a finger and shaking it at his partner, “I didn’t know the skeleton was buried under the warehouse. I just knew they’d found a skeleton at the warehouse.”

The first thing that needed to happen was to get the skeleton out of the ground. That would be up to the crime scene techs. Even though he could easily reach in and pull the skull out to get a better look, Ben didn’t want to disturb anything more than it already had been when Lance Haggarty crashed through the floor. Thankfully, he hadn’t actually landed on the skull itself.

“So much for our day off,” Ben said, looking at his watch, wondering where the crime scene guys were.


Excerpt from Vice & Virtue by Justin M. Kiska.  Copyright 2022 by Justin M. Kiska. Reproduced with permission from Justin M. Kiska. All rights reserved.



When not sitting in his library devising new and clever ways to kill people (for his mysteries), Justin can usually be found at The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre, outside of Washington, DC, where he is one of the owners and producers. In addition to writing the Parker City Mysteries Series, he is also the mastermind behind Marquee Mysteries, a series of interactive mystery events he has been writing and producing for over fifteen years. Justin and his wife, Jessica, live along Lake Linganore outside of Frederick, Maryland.

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