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One the Home Page: I’m highlighting my current fiction writing obsession and focus. The Spy Shop Mysteries are fun adventures featuring spy shop owner and private investigator Xena Cali and her team, Sparky and Dora. Satire, humor, and natural history elements fuel each book’s swift pace. These capers are a tad more edgy than cozy. With spy gadgets – often oddball ones – that sometimes save the day!

Scroll down to see available books, learn about the setting I’ve chosen for the series, get to know Xena, and more. If you like reading novels by Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry, Elmore Leonard, John Burdett or Tim Dorsey, I think you’ll enjoy this series.


Ghost Rat

A Spy Shop Mystery Novella

Series Prequel Once a successful HR executive who plummeted off the corporate ladder, Xena Cali relocates to Galveston Island, Texas, and opens the Paradise Lost Spy Shop and a private investigation practice in the gritty Strand Historical District. Xena uncovers and must overcome several challenges related the store’s former “residents.” At the same time, business owners are on edge about of a string of recent burglaries. A rag-tag crime watch group makes solving the case harder and weirder.

Download Free E-book Here or buy the print copy at Amazon here or at Bookshop.org here.

Toxic Octopus

A Spy Shop Mystery

Series Book #1 Xena’s latest case has her headed to the Biological and Aquatic Research Labs (BARL) where a popular marine biologist was found dead in a large tank with an octopus named Fred wrapped around her body. The police think Fred did it, but the victim’s manager knows he’s innocent and has hired Xena to find the killer before Fred is euthanized in two weeks.

Buy now from Amazon or your preferred e-book seller here or at Bookshop.org here.

Dead Pelican

A Spy Shop Mystery

Series book #2 Honeymooners hoping to find a quiet spot for a romantic picnic instead discover the dead body of a bird-watching guide. The murder rattles the local birding association as they prepare for the yearly influx of Sandhill Cranes and wanna-be ornithologists who flock to the island to watch them. With The Pelican Man as their sidekick, Xena and team explore the dark side of birding and the tenuous relationship between commerce and nature to solve the case.

Buy now from Amazon or your preferred e-book seller here or at Bookshop.org here.

Stiff Lizard

A Spy Shop Mystery

Series book #3 Rodent Roger, a popular Galveston Island exterminator, goes missing the day after he tells Xena about a concerning uptick in green iguana sightings on the island. They’re crapping in people’s boats and falling from trees. Are the lizards swimming over from Florida to escape the pythons, or is something more nefarious afoot? This is a murder mystery so… yes. Xena and her team will have to jump on cruise ships and negotiate with a romance writer to solve this convoluted case.

Buy now from Amazon or at Bookshop.org or at your favorite print or ebook retailer.


Xena Cali is a crime fighter with lots of flair and flaws. She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and then earned a degree in employment law from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Xena passed the Bar Exam and interned in a couple of law firms but decided to instead work inside large organizations as a human resources (HR) profession. Because that’s where the action is!

Xena enjoyed career success and was frequently promoted to recruited to take bigger jobs. By the time she landed the top HR investigations job – Senior Vice President – at Granny’s Home, Inc. in Houston, Texas, she’d earned a reputation for getting results, albeit sometimes using unconventional, though always legal, approaches.

She left human resources after a successful but career-ending sting operation she called the glorious incident that changed everything. With a sizable severance and a good mentor, Xena opened a spy shop and private investigations firm on Galveston Island (passed the Qualified Manager Exam, of course). Xena LOVES poetic justice and will do nearly anything to get it. Like interrogating an octopus or wearing a bear suit to a cocktail party/sting operation.

Got a weird case? Give Xena a call or stop by the Paradise Lost Spy Shop. Here are a few fascinating facts about Xena Cali:

  • Was a star gymnast, like her mother, but then fell in love with Parkour, the art of efficient movement.
  • Drinks double cortados in the morning and scotch in the evening.
  • Her rates: $350 per hour ($200 per hour for team members). 25% discount for nonprofits.
  • Never married, but was engaged to a Houston-based artist. She called it off.
  • Tattoos: Black mamba, Chinese dragon, Henry V quote, Celtic spiral, octopus, and green rabbit.


The Spy Shop Mystery series is set around Galveston Island, Texas. Have you been? If not, plan a visit. I love the island, not in spite of, but because of its quirks and imperfections and I think you will, too.

“I like its contradictions and quirks. Mansions, cottages, and roach motels that rent by the hour. Haunted shacks, pirate myths, and technology breakthroughs. RICH med school students, beach loving CON artists and cruise ship tourists from bread basket towns. ALLIGATORS on one side, SHARKS on the other and DRUNKS WITH GUNS in the middle.” (Said by Xena in Toxic Octopus)

Today’s Galveston is influenced by its pirate roots – a pirate first discovered Galveston and built a huge pirate city called Campeche. And its mob roots – the mob helped build Galveston into a go-to destination for those looking for a place where rules were malleable. And its immigration roots – the port of Galveston was known as the Ellis Island of the South. And now it is being influenced by artists and cruise ships and high-end chefs who have flocked to the island. Speaking of flocks, the birding community is strong because Galveston is a great place for bird watching (on the migration path).

Galveston is a beach town on its fourth iteration after devastating hurricanes wiped out all or part of it. And although the city has come back stronger each time, the population, and therefore tax base, has yet to rebound from the last major storm (Hurricane Ike, 2008). These struggles can be seen in the patchwork of lovely next to blighted homes. Haunted hotels, powers in graveyards, the Seewall, I could go on and on. You’ll just have to read my books! 🙂 

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