QSFer Jamie Sands has a new queer urban fantasy/mystery (lesbian/non-binary) out: “The Other Side of the Mirror.”
The case: a grandmother who vanished from a locked room.
The best lead: a psychic who’s as mysterious as she is cute.
Detective Jack Duarte is the one called upon when weird cases hit Auckland. A fierce loner with a reputation for solving the unsolvable, she is the perfect choice for the latest odd mystery: the locked-room disappearance of a beloved grandmother, who has vanished without trace and, seemingly, without suspects or a motive.
This time around, though, Jack has also been assigned a partner. The fresh young detective Piper, who has transferred in with a difficult history, is determined to prove themself. Smart, perky, and inexperienced. They are exactly the kind of partner Jack manages to scare away.
As they dig deeper into the mystery, though, Jack has to put her own reluctance in the back seat and help Piper navigate a whole different world — because the beloved grandmother has her own mysterious past, one that has already cost lives… and souls.
With the help of the enigmatic and beautiful psychic Emmaline, Jack and Piper must confront the strange world on the other side of the mirror. Some mysteries can only be solved with magic!
Daniel took the path from the road to his grandmother’s house. His eyes were on his phone, he knew this route so well he didn’t need to pay much attention to his feet. He rang the doorbell and flicked off another message to his boyfriend, Joe.
Bae, miss you so much <3
He waited a few minutes. The door didn’t open so he sent a couple of emojis and saw the three dots bouncing as Joe typed his response.
Miss you too! xoxo
He smiled, took a selfie of the smile, and sent it back. Daniel loved posting selfies but they were curated to make him look a bit tougher, a bit edgier. Joe got the smiles. Only Joe, and under threat of severe pain if he ever shared them with anyone.
Daniel pocketed his phone and knocked on the door. Had the doorbell actually sounded? It could be broken. He couldn’t remember hearing the chime, but maybe he’d ignored it.
He peered in the window beside the door. No sign of her approaching.
He sighed, he’d have to let himself in. Gran would tease him about being young and impatient or something like that. He cupped his hands to peer through the window again, some‐ thing was wrong. He couldn’t see anything, only the empty living room. A cup sat by her usual chair.
The newspaper was folded up to show the crossword. Her pen sat on top of the paper, like she’d been sitting there and had meant to come back.
Maybe she’d gone out? But she’d known he was coming over and she always made sure to be home. She’d even texted a couple of hours ago. She’d sent it while he’d been in his last lecture for the day.
He reached for the key she kept hidden on top of the window frame next to the door. He had to go up on the tiptoes of his battered black Chuck Taylors and stretch, but he found it. Damn tall grandmother.
He stuck the key into the lock and opened the door.
“Gran? It’s Daniel.” He moved into the house. He glanced at the row of hooks on the left, the plaque on top read ‘Happy Home’, and he recognised her keys by the best grandma keyring he’d given her when he was ten. She hadn’t gone out. “Are you in the bathroom?” The house was silent. But there was a smell. Something burning.
He went into the kitchen. “Gran? Gran, are you okay?”
The kitchen was empty. He switched the oven off, opened the door, and inside was a batch of… somethings. Once cookies, but they’d gone a bit black around the edges. His stomach dropped away unpleasantly. No way would Gran walk out on cookies baking. She prided herself on having fresh baking when company came around. Ever since she’d retired, she’d been passionate about baking. He pulled out his phone and turned around, looking closer at the kitchen. Yep, definitely empty. The baking dishes were half done in the sink, the water murky. He stuck a finger into the dishwater. The water wasn’t entirely cold. His stomach knotted itself.
The fuck had happened? The kitchen was pristine usually, care‐ fully organised with everything in its place. If there were unfinished dishes, then she’d been interrupted.
“Gran? Gran!” His throat was tight, and it made his voice sound strained. He checked the rest of the house. She wasn’t in the bath‐ room. Not in the bedroom. Not in the tidy, well-organised garage. Not in her little energy-efficient car. Not in the laundry room. Not in the guest bedroom. “Gran!”
He opened the back door and checked the yard. The beds of vegetables and carefully tended roses were the same as he’d seen them last. The bench he’d been meaning to paint sat under the apple tree, empty.
His phone buzzed in his hand. He looked at it, but it was another message from Joe. No time for that. He dialled the emergency number and slammed the phone to his ear, going back inside to do another patrol, checking inside cupboards and closets, just in case.
“Hello? I need the police. My gran’s missing.”
“Certainly, what’s your name?”
“Daniel Armstrong. The address is 895 Moana Ave, One Tree Hill. Please, I don’t know where she is.” He poked his head into the bedroom again and frowned. There was something there he hadn’t noticed before, or that hadn’t been there before.
“I understand, we’ll help you. Please stay on the line and let us know when you last saw her.”
He moved into the bedroom and looked at the bed. There was an indentation on the perfectly made covers, like someone had recently been having a lie-down. In the middle of the indentation was a yellowed piece of paper, there was something written on it. The hairs on the back of his neck rose, but he couldn’t resist the urge to know what the paper said.
“What?” He breathed, not even thinking about the voice on the other end of the phone.
“What did you say? Daniel? Please, can you tell me when you last saw your grandmother, and what her name is?”
He let his hand fall to his side, his phone held loosely. The paper read: A debt is paid.
Jamie Sands grew up in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. As a child they were a library devotee and were always reading something (even if it was just Roald Dahl’s The Witches over and over and over.) This translated quickly into a love of story telling and creative writing. Always fascinated with monsters, magic and weirdness, these things often bled through into their stories.
As an adult, their fiction ranges over many genre, including horror, young adult, romantic comedy and urban fantasy. They have self published roleplaying games as well as queer romance under a pen name (Jaxon Knight).
Jamie moved to Auckland at the very end of 2014 and has lived there since with their wife and a round cat named Mochi. This strange city of oceans and volcanoes has become their home although Wellington will always have a place in their heart.
Jamie studied English literature at Victoria University of Wellington, including a Summer course on poetry taught by Gregory O’Brien. Their young adult novel the Suburban Book of the Dead was nominated for a Sir Julius Vogel award in 2019. Their queer romance has been reviewed on the Big Gay Fiction Podcast.
As part of the Rainbow Romance Writers of New Zealand group, Jamie champions inclusion and diversity in fiction. The group is comprised of writers from all over the country who write romance in which queer characters find their happy ever after.
The Detective Duarte series is their first foray into women who love women novels.