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Jared McKean is a private investigator with a past. He falls for women in distress and in Racing the Devil, Terrell’s first in the PI series, he finds himself in bed with a black-and-blue bruised woman in a halter top in less than 15 pages. The sex is “all animal ferocity and passion, sweat and thrust and howl and moan.” Ten pages later, he’s wanted for murder and you are not going to put this book down.

It’s a beginning that startled me, having met the author Beth Terrell (pen name Jaden Terrell) six months earlier.  Beth is soft-spoken, maybe a bit on the shy side, and nearing middle-age, not at all the in your face, no holds barred writer of a private “dick” novel — that’s what the soon-to-be dead woman called Jared.

Beth confessed she took the pen name Jaden thinking the name had more of an edge and element of mystery to it than her given name. She also uses a “headshot” on her social media that begs you to want to know more and is light years away from what she Beth says is her cherub-faced school -teacher appearance.  She’s probably right, but after reading Racing the Devil, Beth’s writing stands on its own, her real name and real face are irrelevant.

Beth knew she wanted to be a writer from the time she was eight years old. And, when stories about hard-boiled private investigators called, she schooled herself in the genre by reading everything she could find. She also attended the local Citizens Police Academy, the FBI Citizens Academy, the Tennessee Bureau’s Citizens Academy and Lee Lofland’s Writers’ Police Academy–one experience not being enough to satisfy Beth’s curiosity and thirst for knowledge.  Then, too, she’s a member of nearly every crime writer’s organization I know, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Private Eye Writers of America. For many years, Beth served as the Special Programs Director of Killer Nashville, the mystery/thriller writers’ annual conference in Nashville.

Oh, and did I forget to mention Beth holds a Red Belt in Tae Kwan Do?

The softer side does come through, both when she exposes the kinder side of Jared McKean and when Beth explores the tortured relationship McKean has with his ex-wife, a woman he can’t forget—at least as far as I have read.  That side of Beth comes from a career in special education, a passion for ballroom dancing, and a certification in Equine Massage Therapy, the latter explaining why horses make frequent appearances in her novels.

You don’t have to take my word for how well written her PI series is or how devoted she is to her craft.  Beth is a Shamus Award nominee, and winner of the Magnolia Award for service to her local chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

A Taste of Blood and Ashes is the fourth installment in Beth Terrell’s series.  It is available on line and in bookstores everywhere as are the other installments, if like me, you are starting with the first.


I want to be Beth Terrell when I grow up, but for now, I’ll just count myself as one of her many friends on facebook and in real life. She has come to my rescue at a book signing in Nashville—a city where I barely knew more than a handful of people—shouting out my event across her network. I couldn’t ask for more.

Read more about Beth Terrell on her website.