Deadly Spirits, by E. Michael Helms: A “Ghost” with a Bone to Pick

deadly_spiritsDeadly Spirits ($15.95, 266 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-349-5) is the fourth book in a mystery/thriller series by E. Michael Helms featuring private eye Mac McClellan. After Mac joins a paranormal society whose members are falling victim to a deadly run of bad luck, he begins his search for a flesh-and-blood villain.

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Coming soon: Book 5, Deadly Verse.

Deadly Spirits is a fine mystery where readers will have to reach the end before finding the answers to all the murderous questions afoot. And readers will be extra happy when they get to that final page and realize that their guesses were completely wrong. Prepare yourself for a whole lot of action and a big revelation during a storm, as a killer is delivered that you will never forget.”

—Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion for Suspense Magazine

5 Stars: “I really like Mac. I admire his discipline and bravery. Adore his affection for his dog [….] And he’s quite the ladies man. Though he’s not fooled by a pretty cover. He’s just as likely to open a ladies door as to grill her when he suspects something fishy. And he doesn’t stray from his lady love. Mac knows a good thing when he’s got it. The author gives you a wide variety of suspects and more than one mystery to solve. He puts you in the setting, feeling the humidity of the southern air, smelling the fishy scent of the ocean, and hearing the calls of the soaring gulls. [….] If you’re looking for a fun detective series with a great storyline, look no further.”  Read more….

—FU Only Knew Blog

5 Stars: “I loved everything about Deadly Spirits by E Michael Helms. He has included a lot of extras besides the mystery… a critter to fall in love with, a dash of the psychotic and a pinch of the paranormal…a recipe for success. I love Mac and this is my favorite adventure … so far. Michael has brought him a long way, making him more complex in his simplicity. I can hardly wait for more!”  Read more….

—Fundimental Blog

5 Stars: “This is a great mystery, I didn’t know the who or why of the murderer until the end. I did have a couple guesses that were completely wrong. And then there was lots of action and of course a big reveal during a hurricane. Talk about delivering the killer with a bang. I love Mr. Helm’s mysteries. The Mac McClellan mysteries are wonderful, easy to get into, and filled with lots to keep you on the edge of your seat. Make sure to check them out.”  Read more….

—J. Bronder Books

Deadly Spirits is a haunting mystery with an ingenious plot, vivid setting and memorable characters, chief among them the incomparable Mac McClellan, who is easily one of my favorite PIs out there. This latest installment will satisfy fans of the series while sending newcomers scrambling to catch up. If you like Robert Crais and Harlan Coben, you’ll surely dig Deadly Spirits. I know I did. Highly recommended.”

—Max Everhart, author of the Eli Sharpe Mystery series; SHAMUS Award finalist, Split to Splinters

“Fasten your seat belt! Deadly Spirits is a roller coaster ride of murder, blackmail and kidnapping, with some evil and not so evil spirits in the mix. Mac McClellan finds his own life at risk in this deftly-plotted thriller when he decides to investigate a puzzling death, a death that ultimately leads him into the past to seek the solution to a long unsolved cold case. You’ll be burning the midnight oil with Mac’s latest adventure!”

—Connie di Marco, author of the Zodiac Mysteries, and as Connie Archer, author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries

“Helms scores again! Deadly Spirits seamlessly pulls PI Mac McClellan, and the reader, between the physical and the supernatural planes. The tough, retired Marine must overcome his skepticism to solve two present-day murders, and bring closure to a third from the past. This is a softer, more human, Mac than we’ve met before. One more willing to suspend his beliefs for sacrifices only the heart can make. You won’t put this book down until the last page.”

—Kait Carson, author of the Hayden Kent Mysteries and the Catherine Swope Mysteries

Deadly Spirits can be read as a standalone, but fans of the Mac McClellan series will recognize many familiar faces from previous books, including Mac’s sassy girlfriend Kate, smart-mouthed Deputy Dakota Owens, as well as Mac’s trusty Doberman Henry. A fast and thrilling read for mystery lovers, with plenty of twists to keep you guessing! Highly recommended.”  Read more….

—Epic Book Quest

5 Stars: “Hardboiled and flip on the outside, softhearted and a good ol’ boy on the inside, Mac McClellan is to private investigators what grit is to sandpaper: tough and abrasive, able to grind away the lies and deceit to uncover the truth.”  Read more….

—Dianne Bylo, Tome Tender Reviews

“Persistent and endearing, PI Mac McClellan is hot on the trail of another crime; but is the murderer flesh and blood, or from the other side? I can’t get enough of this guy!”

—A.K. Klemm, author of The Bookshop Hotel and Lilly Hollow

When PI Mac McClellan’s girlfriend convinces him to join the Palmetto Paranormal Society, he becomes embroiled in a case of whooodunnit. The society president, while investigating an old hotel, is found dead at the foot of the stairwell, his neck broken. The man’s secretary and current squeeze stands horrified beside his body. Authorities rule the death an accident. Mac has doubts—no one heard the man tumbling down the stairs. Then the secretary dies in an apparent suicide. Two deaths in two paranormal investigations, and not a peep out of either victim. Mac suspects there’s more going on than a vengeful spirit.

Says Helms, “In 1897 a Greenbrier, West Virginia, man was convicted of murdering his wife on the testimony the victim’s mother received from her deceased daughter’s ghost. True story. The famous ‘Greenbrier Ghost’ case planted the ‘what if’ seed in my head. What if a decades-old homicide was directly tied to a modern case of blackmail, deceit, and murder, and the evidence came from beyond the grave? Thus Deadly Spirits was born.”

Michael Helms grew up in Panama City, Florida. His memoir about serving in the Marines as a rifleman during some of the heaviest fighting of the Vietnam War, The Proud Bastards, remains in print after twenty-five years, and he recently published a fictional sequel, The Private War of Corporal Henson. A longtime Civil War buff, Helms is also the author of the historical saga, Of Blood and Brothers. Helms lives in South Carolina with his wife Karen. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

I pulled my digital recorder out of another pocket and pressed the “on” button. Remembering Kate’s lesson that it’s better to place the recorder on something stable rather than hold it, I set it on an upended wooden crate a few feet away.

“You in here, Captain?”


“Are you the one who was smoking a pipe around here?”

Still no response.

“I’ve got some fine Scotch with me. You can have a snort if you give me a sign.”

Silence again.

“It’s real good stuff. The Dalmore, twelve-year-old Highland single malt.”

Evidently whoever was haunting the storage building wasn’t a Scotch connoisseur.

“If there’s anybody in here, make yourself known. Give me a sign … light your pipe. Knock on the wall, or—”

Something slid and thumped along the back wall. Chills raced down my spine as I hopped up, switched on the flashlight, and shined it toward the sound. An old shovel that had been standing on its blade balanced against the wall now lay at an angle against a barrel missing several staves. I caught my breath and waited for the adrenaline rush to subside, relieved that nobody was with me to witness my reaction to the noise. “You chickenshit,” I muttered.

I sat back down and took a few deep breaths. After a couple of minutes I heard more rustling coming from the same general area. This time I grabbed my phone and snapped several blind pictures, hoping to capture something I couldn’t see in the darkness. I checked the photos and felt the hair rise on my arms as a couple of blood-red eyes stared back at me. Okay, enough of this ghost crap, I thought, after calling myself a few more choice names. It was time for the assault.

With the flashlight in one hand and my phone in the other, I stood up for a showdown. “Come out, come out, wherever you are, spook,” I said as I worked my way between obstacles, keeping a wary eye out for rattlers. “Let’s me and you have a little talk about—”

A big raccoon bolted out of nowhere, almost running headlong into me as he brushed my leg and shot out the door. I stumbled backward into some shelving that gave way. Rusty cans and dusty boxes tumbled onto my head, shoulders, and chest, landing on the worn plank floor. I’d barely caught my breath when one of the objects moved, changed shape, and started buzzing. Christ on a crutch—rattlesnake!

I don’t believe in levitation, but I have no recollection of running out of the shed. One minute I was inside with a coiled, pissed-off diamondback at my feet, and the next thing I knew I was outside, bent over, and gasping for breath.

And that’s when I heard the scream.

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