The two dogs ripped open the bull shark’s stomach and out spewed chunks of human flesh. Samantha “Sam” Volare stared down at the Cabo, Mexico boat ramp at the remains of her prize-winning fish and pointed. “That’s a man’s tennis shoe with a foot still inside.” Upon closer inspection, she observed one of the pieces of skin had a discoloration—a duck birthmark. None of the shark fishing contestants wanted her to dig deeper into the identity. Back home in Sandpoint, Idaho, she couldn’t let it go. She needed to find out who her shark ate.

Would the bizarre happenings and two other deaths discourage her? Would the person responsible kill her before she discovered who the birthmark belonged to? Could one of Sam’s friends or any of the men who were the other contestants have something to do with the pieces of human flesh found inside her fish?


Sam Volaire stared as the long, thin-bladed knife ripped the soft white underbelly open. Entrails spewed onto the Cabo San Lucas boat ramp from the cavity of the 496-pound female bull shark she had caught earlier. She gasped from the burst of putrid stench. At 10:15 A.M., just ten minutes ago, Sam had smiled as Captain Enrique snapped pictures of her standing next to the eleven-foot-long shark. She wanted to do a “happy dance,” she felt so elated. The possibility of her winning the $50,000.00 dawned closer. But she remained calm, not wanting to blow it in front of the others. Only one boat left out fishing. If they didn’t bring any shark in bigger than her bull, she’d receive the pot and then she could let loose, maybe.


J.A. Winrich has a unique talent of revealing an intricate plot by using a variety of perspectives, all of which are cleverly designed to keep the reader guessing. In the new book, Birthmark Killer, this talent is showcased once again. After the well-drawn and sympathetic Sam Volarie, the only female competitor in a major fishing competition, unexpectedly wins, she discovers that her prize-winning shark holds a frightening secret. As the fish is being gutted, partial human remains tumble from its stomach, including one portion with a well-defined birthmark. This sets Sam off on a mission to uncover the identity of the owner of the birthmark. What begins as a seemingly harmless inquiry turns into a complex and dangerous endeavor for Sam. With engaging characters, a well-crafted plot, and a unique, widely-varied setting, Winrich leads the readers through a maze of page-turning intrigue to one of the author’s patented surprise endings.

– Duke Southard, award-winning author of The Final Tipping Point and the Detective Parker Havenot series.

Review in local paper on Sept., 2019

“Birthmark Killer”
By J.A. Winrich
Writer Jaw Books
255 pages

Though one boat had yet to report in, Samantha was fairly certain she’d won the Cabo fishing contest with her catch of an 11-foot, 496-pound female bull shark. With weighing and photographing complete, the boat captain and his mate, to whom she had given the fish, opened up the underbelly and proceeded to pull out and toss aside the heart and guts.

As Sam watched in surprise, two flea-bitten, feral dogs raced down the ramp incline, ripped open the stomach and laid bare its horrifying contents. There before her was a tennis shoe with a foot still wedged inside. Among the other pieces of human flesh was one significant chunk with a duck-shaped birthmark.

Immediately, Sam’s thoughts went from appreciating how much the prize money would help her present financial conundrum to questioning who had been the shark’s last meal. Was someone at one of the Cabo San Lucas hotels missing a loved one? With her own adoption and abandonment issues at the forefront, Samantha felt driven to resolve the enigma and bring closure to the family. As she set about gathering the puzzle pieces, however, it became clear there were those who did not want the mystery solved.

With red-herring clues pointing this way and that throughout, the author succeeds at keeping the reader perched on the edge of their seat. You’ll be flipping the pages until the satisfying surprise ending.

Bonnie Papenfuss