Hill Country Siren: A Joe Robbins Financial Thriller (BOOK 3) Episode 10

The final episode: Joe scales the stonewall outside Sophie’s estate and creeps toward the house. He finds the side door open. Forced. Johnson has a new crowbar.

Once inside, Joe discovers he can still save Sophie. Joe fights Johnson to a climactic finish upstairs.

Back in Austin, a shattered Joe has an eventful meeting with his ex-wife, Rose. In the last scene Joe takes Chandler and Callie to Krause Springs.

Read episode 10 (the final episode.)

Sanjay tries the rope swing at Krause Springs.

Sanjay tries the rope swing at Krause Springs.

Excerpt from the final episode of Hill Country Siren.

The wall stood eight feet high. I jumped to grab the top, hoisted my legs up and over, and dropped lightly amid the junipers. A high wind rustled fronds in the fan palms. As I walked toward the house a thrashing noise came from the ferns beside me.

I turned that way, my nerves on edge.

It was only a small animal. I took slow, measured breaths to steady my heart rate.

At the edge of the patio I crouched behind a flower bed to survey the backyard. The outdoor spots lit the pool and deck area. Bright lights shone in every room in the house, but I detected no movement.

Rico’s words rang in my ears.

But Sagebrush is a serial killer.

I ignored the words and flexed my shoulders to stretch the muscles in my back.

I crept from chair to chair on the patio, pausing often to watch the windows. The bamboo wind chimes rang on the back porch. The palm trees swayed. I looked behind me, and all around the yard. I made it to the back right corner of the house and tiptoed up four stairs to the side door.

It stood open. Forced. Johnson had a new crowbar.

He might have watched my every move from the security room inside. Had Rico reached the local police? I pulled out my cell and dialed 911. When they came on the line I whispered, “I’m outside Sophie Tyler’s residence at 1102 Benedict Canyon Drive in Beverly Hills. A serial killer is inside the house. Tell the police to be careful. He could have hostages.”

“What is your name, sir?”

“Joe Robbins. I’m a friend of Sophie Tyler’s.”

“Please stay on the line while I contact the police.”

Seconds could mean everything.

I hung up and rose to look through the door window. The mudroom on the other side was empty. I had to be silent now. Luckily, the door opened without squeaking. I stepped inside and searched the room for a weapon. I found an umbrella, not much use against Johnson’s crowbar.

I opened the door to the kitchen, every nerve alive, the umbrella held at the ready. The overhead lights shone brightly. I heard faint human voices. It sounded like an argument, but I couldn’t discern the speakers. My chest tightened.

A broken plate lay wedged in the corner at the far edge of the floor. In search of a better weapon I quietly opened a drawer on the left and saw odds and ends: spatulas, mixer attachments, can openers. I took another step into the kitchen.

A pool of blood seeped from the edge of the butcher block.

Read all of the final episode.

Check out the photo gallery for Hill Country Siren.


Joe finds Hector Romero at the lobby bar of Los Cabos Royale resort

Joe finds Hector Romero at the lobby bar of Los Cabos Royale resort

Joe travels to Cabos san Lucas, Mexico, in search of Hector Romero, a former lover of Sophie’s. He tracks Hector down at the lobby bar of Los Cabos Royale resort, where they have a heated conversation. Afterward Joe scales the dunes to Sophie’s former beach house in search of an alias for Johnson Sagebrush.

Read episode 9.

Excerpt from Episode 9

The house stood on the side of a hill that rose up from the dunes. Similar high-end homes occupied the surrounding hills. Sophie’s old house had two floors, a tile roof, and floor-to-ceiling windows across the back. A pool deck area overlooked the ocean.

I had half expected the home to be dark; many around it were, but bright lights shone in Sophie’s place, and on the ground floor a person walked from room to room behind plate glass windows.

Sanjay had learned that the shell company that bought Sophie’s house had flipped it two years later to a Graham Whitaker. The house was part of a gated community with an unlisted phone number. I had guessed that my best chance to meet Whitaker face-to-face was with an old-fashioned knock on the door.

As I climbed the dunes to get closer the going got tougher. Fine grains of sand, whipped by the wind, stung my face. I grabbed at sea grasses that clung to the dunes. The terrain changed from dune to hillside, and I ran into rocks, cactus, and native shrubs. At the top a six-foot concrete wall formed the back edge of the pool deck. I reached for the upper edge of the wall and heaved myself high enough to grab the lower railing of the patio barrier.

Sophie once owned a Cabo Dream house like one of these

Sophie once owned a Cabo Dream house like one of these

Large potted plants and four palm trees framed the deck area. The wind rustled the leaves and made ripples on the water in the pool. Behind me the waves crashed and rolled up the beach. I clambered over the rail, crept halfway to the house, and crouched behind an outdoor bar.

The ground floor was one great room, with the kitchen and dining area on the left and a living space to the right. A woman stood in the kitchen leaning against a counter, talking on a cell phone. She wore slacks, a sweater, and had short gray hair. A man sat reading a book in a big chair in the living space, his legs resting on an ottoman. He wore a sweatshirt, running shoes, and had reading glasses. They had left the sliding doors open, and the soft sounds of a Steely Dan song carried out to the patio.

The woman continued to talk on the phone as she watched a coffeemaker on the counter. She closed the flip phone and put it down; then she poured coffee into two mugs and walked into the living space. She handed a mug to the man, leaned to kiss him, and sat in a nearby chair.

Lurking outside the windows, watching the older couple, I felt like a peeping Tom. Climbing the dunes had been harder than I expected, but I had made it that far, and they seemed harmless enough, so I pressed forward.

I stayed in the shadows and walked to the side of the house. A narrow strip of smooth gravel stones separated it from native foliage. I walked along the strip of gravel, past two central-air units, and came out to the front yard. From there I crossed the small lawn, climbed two steps, and looked at the front door—no doorbell. I knocked twice.

After twenty seconds of no response I knocked again. A shadow moved behind the glass at the side of the door.

“Who is it?” said the man.

“Joe Robbins. I’m a neighbor.”

I waited in silence. The lie was an attempt to induce him to open the door.

“Just a minute. Be right there.”

Footsteps walked away. After a short interval they returned. A dead bolt clicked and the door opened. The man stood about six feet. He had removed his reading glasses and wore a windbreaker with his hand in the right pocket.

He hadn’t worn the windbreaker in the back room, and his hand looked funny in the pocket, as if he held something.

“Sorry to disturb you,” I said.

“We’ve been coming here for years, and no one’s ever knocked on the door at night.”

Whitaker spoke in a flat tone and eyed me with a steely gaze. My blood pressure jumped ten points.Hill Country Siren - Ch 31 Joe grills Hector in the open courtyard

“Let’s take it easy,” I said. “I’m going to raise my hands.” I lifted my arms until my hands were face-level, palms forward.


“Sorry I lied. I’m not a neighbor.”

“You have dirt on your hands and a lump on your forehead. I figured you weren’t here to borrow sugar.”

Whitaker seemed calm, which gave me comfort; he wouldn’t casually shoot me or accidentally pull the trigger.

“As I said, my name is Joe Robbins . . . and you’re Graham Whitaker.”

“How did you know my name?”

“The Internet.” It felt like I was standing in front of a rattlesnake trying to avoid making a stupid move. “You want to take the gun out? It will shoot straighter that way.”

“Why not?”

Graham pulled the gun from his pocket and pointed it at me. It looked every bit a serious pistol, large-caliber.

Read all of episode 9.


The final episode of Hill Country Siren will be published here on June 2.


Read episode 6.

After the ACL concert, a bandaged Joe arrives at Sophie’s suite at the Four Seasons for the after party, but instead of a party there is only Sophie, and she’s half naked.

The next day, over breakfast, they discuss future plans, and Joe becomes interested in the money Sophie lost in a high-tech investment three years earlier. When he returns to his condo Joe receives a call from Johnson Sagebrush and learns that he is still following Joe. Later in the day Joe meets with Rose, who guesses that he’s now romantically involved with Sophie.

Joe arrives at the Four Seasons for Sophie Tyler's after party.

Joe arrives at the Four Seasons for Sophie Tyler’s after party.

Excerpt from episode 6.

My cell phone rang, an unrecognized 512 number, just like the first time Johnson called. I hoped Rico’s guys were paying attention.


“How’s your forehead?” said Johnson.

My hand clenched the phone.

“I have a lump the size of half a lime . . . thanks to you.”

“I was afraid of that, but my guy had to smack you a good one to make you go down.”

“Making excuses won’t absolve you.”

“No excuses. Only logic. As a finance type you understand logic. You wanted to catch him, and he didn’t wish to be caught, therefore . . .”

My mind raced ahead. How could I best keep him talking? I took a deep breath and tried sitting down.

“Perfectly reasonable,” I said. “Under the circumstances I might have done the same thing.”

“You would have done exactly the same thing. But what is not reasonable is Sophie seducing you afterward.”

I stood up again. How did he know I had been with Sophie? Had someone told him? Keri? Halet? Maybe he watched the Four Seasons.

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

Johnson laughed a hearty laugh.

I looked at my hand as it closed in a fist. I pulled the fist toward my shoulder to flex my bicep.

“Let’s not joke around,” he said. “I lived with the woman for ten years. I know how she operates. You showed up bandaged and bruised, but instead of an after party there’s only Sophie, and she’s half-naked. Am I close?”

“Not at all,” I said.

How did he guess this stuff? It felt like he’d been in the suite with us. Had he bugged the room?

“That’s what I thought,” he said. “She’s good. She’s really good. I have to hand it to her: No one is more aggressive at getting what she wants than Sophie Tyler.”

“What about you?” I asked. “What do you want?”

“Not that it affects me directly, but I want her to leave you alone. She is going to drag you down until you think of nothing else, not even your kids.”

I couldn’t get a handle on him. He bounced from topic to topic: Sophie, my family. My stomach tightened. I hated his talk about family.

“Why do you care about that?” I said.

“It bothers me. I told you about my dad. He was honest—I’ll grant you that. He explained exactly how the world works, but it wasn’t enough to save him in the end.”

Something tickled the top of my foot. A huge centipede crawled toward my big toe. I swatted and missed. My second swipe brushed the bug to the concrete floor; it bounced and flew over the edge. I shook off the jitters.

Read the rest of episode 6.


Episode 7 will be released on May 12, 2016.

Hill Country Siren: A Joe Robbins Financial Thriller (Book 3) Episode 2

Two blocks away the ocean pounded the sand

Two blocks away the ocean pounded the sand

Read Hill Country Siren Episode 2

In Episode 2 Joe first meets with an old friend, Gwen Raleigh, a woman he knew rather intimately in Hill Country Greed. Gwen now lives in L.A. and knows Sophie Tyler’s talent agent, Halet Blevins. Joe lets it slip to Gwen that he’s working for Sophie Tyler, a mistake that will plague him later in the story.

Joe investigates the potential fraud. He gets data from Sophie’s laptop (unbeknownst to her manager); he meets with her accountant; he tracks down a coproducer of the independent film; he talks to the director in Germany; he corners her ex-boyfriend to ask him guarded questions. He solves the fraud.

At least he thinks he does.  Episode 3 will appear on Thursday, April 14.


Excerpt from Episode 2 (Sophie’s personal assistant shows Joe the laptop where her data is stored)

Keri said, “You asked about my role. Sophie has a gift to share. Her music brings civilization to an otherwise savage world. My true purpose, and Johnson’s as well, is to ensure that Sophie can pursue her destiny unhindered by life’s irksome realities.”

It sounded like a well-rehearsed speech, but I detected an undertone of tension. Keri had been serving that purpose for twenty years. Could she do that forever without wanting something of her own?

“Where’s the laptop?”

“It’s in the office to the side,” she said, and pointed.

The office was about twelve feet square and tastefully furnished with a sofa, a few Andrew Wyeth prints, a bookcase filled with movie scripts, and a desk. The laptop sat open on the desk in hibernation mode.

I sat in the swivel office chair.

Keri still held her right arm behind her back.

“Have you brought me flowers or something?” I asked, nodding at her arm.

She gave me a sheepish look and then pulled her arm out to reveal a pistol.


I didn’t blink. My eyes watched her carefully, my adrenaline jump-started. She pointed the gun at the floor. She was only four feet away, a distance from which she could hardly miss. Keri didn’t seem like the violent type, but a nervous finger on a trigger could kill me as easily as an angry one.

“Did you plan on shooting me?”

“Sorry. I get anxious being alone with a strange man in the house. You can never be too careful.”

I looked closely at the weapon, a small-caliber semiautomatic. “Is that a twenty-two?”


“Do you know how to use it?”

“I took the safety course.”

“Please put it down. I’ll concentrate better if it’s pointed away from me.”

Keri shrugged, sat on the sofa, and placed the gun at her side.

Read the rest of episode 2.

Read episode 1.

The next episode will appear on Thursday, April 14.

See the Hill Country Siren photo gallery here.

HCS ebook cover 2.4M













Select a new cover for Hill Country Greed

A marketing consultant recommended I redesign the covers for my first two novels before publishing the third in the series. Let me know which of these you prefer. 1) Falling Coins  2) Bridge in Center

Bridge in Middle

Bridge in Center

Falling Coins

Falling Coins


Westlake Picayune – Local Author Responds to Personal Profile Questions

I had the opportunity to pitch Hill Country Greed: An Austin, Texas Mystery in the Westlake Picayune today.

Here is the full text of the profile.

Name: Patrick KellyPatrickKellyHeadshot1 Mar2014

Age and place of birth: 56. Yorktown, Va.

Family: My wife, Susie, is a trustee at The Girls’ School of Austin and provides public relations support for the school, EMPACT Africa and Alpha Phi Sorority. My daughter, Alex, will graduate in May from the University of Texas with a degree in fashion design, and my daughter, Megan, is a sophomore in the theatre program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Education: Bachelor of science degree at University of Virginia; MBA at Carnegie-Mellon University.

Occupation: I’ve been the chief financial officer for five different companies. Now I’m trying my hand at writing mystery novels.

What’s your career ambition? To write a successful mystery series set in Austin.

What is the latest project in which you are involved? Marketing my debut novel, “Hill Country Greed, An Austin, Texas Mystery.” There are quite a few good scenes that take place in the Westbank suburbs.

What is your favorite business in the Westbank? Texas Honey Ham.

What qualities in people draw you to be their friend? Sincerity, humility, passion and a sense of adventure.

I have a knack for: Befriending people. Everyone loves the Irish – except the English.

The one thing I’d like to change about the Westbank is: Bring back Barnes and Noble.

Most significant or interesting job: After30years with corporate America I turned in my badge to become a writer and indie publisher. The hours are long and the pay is lousy, but I love it.

Which of your civic-oriented accomplishments make you the proudest? Serving on the board of the Eanes Education Foundation.

What is one interesting fact about you that people probably don’t know? I met my wife, Susie, when we worked at American Airlines’ headquarters. I cruised by her office six times a day until she finally noticed me.

What is your fondest childhood memory? Family beach vacations in Brigantine, N.J.

A bad habit I have is: Too much Netflix – I’m just getting into Breaking Bad; maybe I’ll give it up next month.

If the world were silent for 30 seconds and all ears were turned to you, what would you say? Why can’t we all just get along?

My most humorous moment was: On an Indian Guides campout with my daughters, I left the cooler out and a raccoon ate every morsel. I had to beg the rest of the tribe for food.

Most exciting or dangerous thing I’ve ever done: My friend, John, and I rode Greyhound buses across the U.S. when we were 18.

Life’s most challenging endeavor is: Remaining humble in the midst of success and hopeful in the midst of failure.

If you were stranded on an uninhabited island, with no means of communication or escape, what is one item that you would you like to have? A great book, the Bible or Shakespeare’s Folio would do nicely.

Is there anything that you passed up on doing that you now regret? I once had the opportunity to interview for the CFO position at Google. It might have been a mistake to pass on that one.

How would you like to be remembered? As a kind, generous, and wise great-grandfather.

Patrick Kelly delivers thrill ride with HILL COUNTRY GREED: AN AUSTIN, TEXAS MYSTERY

My debut novel, Hill Country Greed: An Austin, Texas Mystery, was recently published and is available on Amazon and other online retailers.  Woo Hoo!!   Hill Country Greed ebook-final-1536x2048

Click to read the first five chapters free.

Click for the Amazon listing.

Here are a few of the Amazon reviews the novel has received.

I need a second helping of Hill Country hijinks now! – Larry Sykes

Honestly, I found it hard to believe this was Mr. Kelly’s first effort. The story sucked me in quickly and never bogged down. The mystery kept me guessing until the very last, when everything came together in a most satisfying manner. Hill Country Greed is chock full of sexy, sleazy, smarmy, and smart characters, all well developed and fascinating in and of themselves. Joe Robbins is a complex and flawed hero who’s grab for the golden ring left him bruised and bedded, but not beaten! I don’t know what Mr. Kelly has planned for his second novel, but I’m anxious to find out more about Joe Robbins’ back story and what makes him tick!

In the words of Oliver Twist, “Please, sir. I want some more.”

Hill Country Great! – Karen D. Snyder

Great read! Well constructed. Characters were well developed. Pat Kelly has created the next Stone Barrington with a twist. Looking forward to the sequel.

Great dot-com era thriller – Ryan C.

I worked in the high tech sector in Austin during the dot-com era, which is the backdrop for this book. And I can tell you, this book captures it perfectly. Anyone who was in this business in the ’99-’01 timeframe will recognize the people and the mindset that permeate the software company depicted in the book.

Really captivating story, lots of good plot twists & turns, and very hard to put down. Buy it, read it today, you’ll love it!

Don’t Miss This One! – Bolin Millner

If you like thrillers, and even if you don’t, you’ll love this book. First of all, the protagonist, Joe Robbins is a highly skilled and complex character. He is a family man as his relationship with his young daughters shows. I hesitate to say that this relationship with his girls is “endearing” because I don’t want to give you the wrong impression – he is hard as nails in a lot of ways. He knows his way around the board room and he knows martial arts. (He knows his way around the bedroom too!) This book has an immediacy to it – you feel like you may have heard about the corporations and the personalities involved on the evening news. The reader gets to enter an intriguing world, filled with power players and greed, while at the same time the book is an imaginative and engaging mystery. Personalities and plot make this a great read. Don’t miss it.

Very fast paced and entertaining read – highly recommend it! – Peter Zapple

I received Hill Country Greed on a Friday night and finished reading it by Sunday. I found it to be a fast paced and very engaging read that I found very difficult to put down. The story contains enough twists and turns to keep even the most veteran detective story reader off-balance and wondering what is going to happen next. Patrick Kelly does a great job of bringing the dot com era to life, from both the financial and human perspective. I also enjoyed his descriptions of Austin and Las Vegas and eagerly look forward to his next book!

A great mystery that will have you guessing until the end – Andrew

Hill Country Greed is an exciting mystery that will pull you in and keep you guessing until the very end.

The story is told by the CFO at a fast growing software company in Austin in the late 90s. The company is gearing up for an IPO as the markets crater.

Austin residents will find it particularly as much of the action takes place at well known Austin locations.

Definitely worth reading.

Very entertaining story! – KS

Hill Country Greed is a fantastic debut novel that I found myself unable to put down until it had revealed all of its secrets. Mr. Kelly’s story is full of great characters, scenes and dialogue that truly make you feel as though you were there. I highly recommend this.

Conclusion: If you like financial thrillers or business mysteries or stories about Austin, Texas, you should DEFINITELY read Hill Country Greed. Click to read the first five chapters free. You WILL be entertained.

Thank you for visiting.  P.K.