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J. F. Constantine
Author photo by Wesley Campbell

“He knows death to the bone –
Man has created death.”
W. B. Yeats
“Death”, 1929


Melina Nikolaides puts faces back on the dead.

Melina is a renowned forensic reconstructive sculptor living in Austin, who also teaches art history at the University of Texas. When two of her students find a sack of bones in a dumpster downtown, the students call Melina to see if the bones are human. Now, the Travis County Medical Examiner needs Melina’s help to identify this long-dead victim in order to catch the killer. In spite of Melina’s efforts, no ID is forthcoming.

What is forthcoming is a nightmare Melina is having about an old ghost story that used to scare her as a child. Melina can “feel” certain things about each victim whose face she rebuilds, but what she feels about the dumpster victim, and the troubling details of her nightmares aren’t making any sense this time. As the victim remains anonymous and the case unsolved, the nightmares soon stop.

Three years later, Melina is standing on the muddy banks of Shoal Creek looking at the dangling arm of a skeleton unearthed by torrential rains. The Travis County Medical Examiner is going to need Melina’s help again because this victim has been dead for more than two years. Melina reconstructs the victim’s face, but as the police begin to investigate, Melina’s old nightmare from three years ago inexplicably returns.

Then, a good friend of Melina’s is murdered, a series of arsons begin in Austin, and Melina herself is threatened and in danger unless she can unravel these seemingly disparate crimes, and find the meaning behind her nightmares. She delves into the history of an old Austin family who seem to be targeted by one of the arsons. Melina even investigates the family’s old abandoned (and some say “haunted”) historic home place, which is the subject of her recurring dark dreams. That’s when the clues begin to pop up furiously - along with a Molotov cocktail through Melina’s patio window and a few flying bullets in heavy traffic. Only Melina’s perseverance will reveal the secrets behind a 45-year-old murder that became the trigger to a domino series of current day crimes.

See J.F. Constantine's blog here:

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Coming soon - a new website with more about the author and this new mystery/crime series at

Writing, Fiction writing
Retort - 1 to answer back, usually sharply; 2 a vessel in which substances are distilled or decomposed by heat; a furnace; the inside of a crematorium.

“Hell is empty,
All the devils are here."
William Shakespeare
The Tempest, Act I, Scene II


Renowned forensic reconstructive sculptor, Dr. Melina Nikolaides is back, delving into the tragic past of a great 19th Century Austin sculptor, Isabel Aguilera, and trying to piece together crimes in the current day that seem to have a relationship to Isabel's disturbing death.

In the present day a pattern is developing. The curator of the Isabel Aguilera Museum is found with her throat slashed - murdered in the same way as Isabel was herself 100 years ago. A young socialite in Dallas with a connection to descendents of Isabel Aguilera is found in her father's front yard with her throat slashed. Two young women are found dead on the old Aguilera land at the Devil's Cove on Lake Travis with their throats slashed.

Melina swears she has twice seen and heard a figure out in the mist on the lake at Devil's Cove. Is it the curse the locals talk about?

Only Melina Nikolaides will sort the past from the present, the fable from fact, the spirit from the flesh. It is said that the Devil's Cove does not give up its dead. When the dead are found on its shores, will it give up their secrets?

J. F. Constantine is a classically trained artist whose forte is portraiture. J. F. first began receiving art instruction from her maternal grandfather who was also a portrait artist, and whose father was a portrait artist, and so on up the family line.

J. F.'s father was a mechanic with whom she frequently worked in the garage. He restored Classic Mustangs, raced cars and educated J. F. on the finer points of auto mechanics, welding and driving. Consequently, J.F. has a love of IndyCar racing, fast street cars with a manual gearbox, and a definite Need for Speed.

By day, J. F. Constantine works in the Legal Department of a Fortune 50 company.