SHOWCASE: Caught Dead by Andrew Lahn


Posted by Ryder Islington, Author of Ultimate Justice, a Trey Fontaine Mystery, and comming this spring, Ultimate Game, a Trey Fontaine Msytery

Caught Dead

by Andrew Lahn

on Tour February 1-28, 2015

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery Published by: Poisoned Pen Press Publication Date: November 11, 2014 Number of Pages: 283 ISBN: 9781464203305 Series: A Rick Van Lam Mystery, 1 Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

One of the beautiful Le sisters is dead. Hartford, Connecticut’s small Vietnamese community is stunned. Mary Le Vu, wife of a poor grocery-store owner, is gunned down in a drive-by. Her twin sister insists dutiful Mary “wouldn’t be caught dead” in that drug-infested zone. The police rule it an unlucky accident. Skeptics hire private eye Rick Van Lam to get to the truth. Amerasian Rick –his father an unknown US soldier –is one of the Boi Doi, children of the dust, so often rejected by Vietnamese culture. But his young sidekick, Hank Nguyen, a pureblood Vietnamese, can help Rick navigate the closed world of Little Saigon. Surrounded by close friends –a former-Rockette landlady, his crusty mentor, and his ex-wife Liz –Rick immerses himself in a world that rejects him, but now needs his help. Especially when a second murder strikes in Little Saigon. Rick and Hank delve into the families of the Le sisters, one poor, one very rich, and uncover a world of explosive ethnic tension and sinister criminal activity ranging from Hartford’s exclusive white suburbs to the impoverished inner city. To solve the murders –and bring closure to Mary’s grieving circle –Rick looks to long-buried memories of his Buddhist childhood for the wisdom that will lead him to a murderer. Caught Dead starts a smart, unusual series.

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Everyone had heard of the Le sisters. Even outside the closed Vietnamese community in Hartford, “the beautiful Le sisters,” as they were called, were talked of. They’d been stunners in their twenties, but even now, well into their forties, they caught your eye. So when Hank phoned me one night, waking me from an early sleep, all I heard him mumble was “the Le sisters,” and I supplied the obligatory adjective: beautiful. “Rick, wake up,” Hank yelled. “Mary Le is dead.” I wasn’t fully awake. “What?” I could hear annoyance in his voice. “Mary Le Vu. You know, one of the beautiful Le sisters.” One of the beautiful Le sisters. Twin sisters. I scratched my earlobe, sat up on the sofa where’d I’d drifted off to sleep around nine. “What?” I yawned. “You listening to me?” Hank yelled again into the phone. I tried to picture the sisters. I’d met them a few times, usually at some Vietnamese New Year’s wingding, some Tet over-the-top frenzy, once at a wedding where all the men got drunk, another time at a Buddhist funeral. “I’m sleeping,” I explained. “It’s not late.” “I had a long day.” I’d gotten up to jog at six, avoiding the hot, relentless August sun of a heat wave that was in its third day. “She’s dead,” he blurted out. “She’s been murdered.” He waited. “Did you hear me?” I was awake now. “Xin lỗi,” I mumbled. I’m sorry. I knew the sisters were distant cousins of Hank’s mother, a vague connection that reminded me that many of the Vietnamese in metropolitan Hartford were somehow biologically (or emotionally) connected—intricate family bloodlines or spirit-lines that somehow radiated back to the dusty alleys of Saigon and forward to the sagging, fragmented diaspora of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Sometimes, it seemed, everyone was an uncle or aunt to everyone else. “Which one was she?” I stammered. He didn’t answer. “Can you come to my house?” he asked. “It’s important.” “What happened?” Again he didn’t answer. “Can you meet me here?” “Now?” “Yes.” * * * After throwing on shorts and a T-shirt, retrieving my wallet and keys, I drove from my Farmington apartment to the poor East Hartford neighborhood off Burnside where Hank lived with his family in a small Cape Cod in the shadow of Pratt-Whitney Aircraft. I knew better than to refuse Hank’s request. Not only the insistence—and mild panic—of his voice, but the unsaid message that told me that Hank, the dutiful son, was doing this for his mother. In his early twenties, spending the summer off from the Connecticut State Police Academy where he was training to become a State Trooper, Hank was a former student of mine in Criminal Justice at Farmington College. He’d become my good buddy. He opened the door before I knocked, shook my hand as if we’d just met last week, and nodded me in. A lanky, skinny young man with narrow dark brown eyes and prominent cheekbones, he was dressed in sagging khakis shorts and a T-shirt. It was a sticky August night, even though the sun had long gone down, and he was sweating. His mother, Tran Thi Suong, embraced me, and then burst into tears. “Rick Van Lam.” She bowed. “Thank you.” Cảm ơn. Hank looked uncomfortable. His grandmother, quiet as a shadow, drifted in, nodded at me, and then disappeared. She was wearing her bedclothes, a small embroidered white cap on her white curls. As she left the room, she touched her daughter on the shoulder, and whispered, “Y trời.” God’s will. His mother said something in garbled, swallowed Vietnamese, burst into tears again, and turned away. Hank, almost bowing to her, motioned for me to follow him out of the house. In the old-fashioned kitchen with the peeling wallpaper, I took in the narrow makeshift shrine high on the wall by the door with the plaster-of-Paris Virgin Mary next to a tubby Buddha, both surrounded by brilliant but artificial tropical flowers, a couple of half-melted candles, a few joss incense sticks, and some shrill blood-orange tangerines. Scotch-taped to the wall nearby was a glossy print of Jesus on the cross. Outside, sitting in my car, Hank apologized. “I’m sorry, man,” he breathed in. “Let’s drive. I didn’t realize my mother would, well, shatter like that when you walked in.” I was rattled now. “Hank, what the hell is going on?” He drew in his breath. “I told you. Of the two beautiful Le sisters—murdered.” I winced at that. “Mary was my mother’s favorite, someone she was close to as a small girl in old Saigon, someone she would meet on Sunday morning for mi gá and French coffee.” Chicken soup for the Asian soul. “And?” He sighed. “Mary was murdered earlier tonight at Goodwin Square in Hartford, you know, that drug-and-gang neighborhood. It seems she got caught in some gunfire, some drive-by shooting with local drug dealers who…” “Wait!” I held up my hand. “I’m not following this.” He looked exasperated. “Mary, who never left her home in East Hartford or her husband’s grocery in Little Saigon, for some reason wandered into that godforsaken square and somehow got herself shot.” “In her car?” “I don’t know.” “Why was she there?” I knew the notorious Hartford square: shoot ‘em up alley. “Hey, that’s the million dollar question, Rick. She knew better. Everyone in Hartford, especially the Vietnamese, knows better than to go there. That’s no-man’s land. You know that. It’s not even near Little Saigon.” We hadn’t left the driveway, the two of us sitting there, now and then staring back at the house. His mother’s shadow slowly moved across the living room. A woman who couldn’t sit down. “Where are we going?” I turned on the ignition. “To the scene of the shooting.” “Why?” “Well,” he dragged out the word, “when the news came tonight, an hour or so ago, Uncle Benny called and then it was on the news. Grandma held her hands to her face and said, ‘No!’” “No?’ “She was quiet a long time and then she said ‘No!’ again. When I asked her what she meant, she told me, ‘This is not easy as it seems. If this seems to make no sense, then there is nothing but sense involved.’ I said, ‘Grandma, I don’t get you.’” I smiled at Grandma’s words. In my head I could hear her soft, melodious rendering of ancient wisdom. Hank was raised a Catholic by his father, but his mother’s mother held to the tenets of Buddhism, the two religions co-existing in the often volatile household, with Hank caught in the middle. The Virgin and the Buddha. So now I said to him, “Well, Hank, she’s telling you she thinks something else is going on here.” “I don’t see it.” “What I don’t see, Hank, is why I’m here.” He smiled, a little sheepishly. “Your name came up.” “Why?” “Grandma always thinks of you. You know, you and her, the two Buddhists in the house. In fact, she said something about a hole in the universe that only you can fill.” I groaned. “Wait, Hank, she expects me to find the drug-dealer with a semi-automatic and a posse behind him? In Hartford? Where the local economy is sustained by drug trafficking and life insurance?” “You are an investigator.” “I do insurance fraud.” “But you know Grandma. She thinks you can see through plywood.” “And she asked that I get involved?” He smiled again. “As I say, your name came up.” * * * At Goodwin Square, off Buckingham and Locust, the late-night drug dealers always on duty had decided to go for coffee or to oil their revolvers in the privacy of their own cribs. A beat cop stood by his lonesome on the southwest corner of the square, outside the obligatory yellow tape. A crew of evidence technicians, scurrying back and forth to a van, were still working the scene, photographing, charting, measuring. But the body had been removed, I noticed. There was some slow-moving, rubber-necking traffic, a few local idlers huddled nearby, but the square was eerily quiet. Storefronts looked beat up and tired. Just a narrow block of broken sidewalks, flickering streetlights, hazy neon signs with burned-out letters, and two stripped, abandoned cars by an alley. And some fresh blood stains. Satan’s little acre, the locals called it. Hank glanced at the old-model Toyota, all doors opened. Mary’s car, I figured. “Just talk to the detective,” H stepped closer to the yellow tape. “All I see is a cop.” I pointed. “And he’s looking at us like we’re the Yellow Peril.” I approached him, leaning in to catch his name: Lopez. An unfriendly look. “Help you?” I told him that the murdered woman was a relative of Hank, and I was a private investigator from Farmington. “From Farmington?” he asked in a clipped voice, saying the name of the moneyed suburban town with a hint of contempt. “What do you investigate there? Lost stock portfolios?” He looked pleased with himself. “Who’s the detective on this case?” He pointed over his shoulder, past the yellow tape, past the busy evidence team, through the plate-glass window of a storefront that announced: “Cell Phones! Phone Cards to South America!” I saw a short, wiry man, late fifties, mostly bald with a fringe of hair over his collar. He reminded me of an aging fighter, a tough bantam rooster. He looked bored. He scratched his belly absently, and then, for some reason, licked his index finger. When he walked out, the cop called him over and nodded toward us. “Family,” the cop said, “and a country-club P.I.” The detective didn’t look happy to see us. “Yeah?” He stepped around the yellow tape, yelled something to one of the members of the evidence crew, and then purposely stood ten feet from us, watching us. “My name is Rick Van Lam.” I was bothered by the space between us. “And this is Hank Nguyen, a relative of Mary Vu’s. I’m a P.I. with Gaddy Associates, and the family asked…” “It’s a drive-by.” He cut me off. “Some loser drug dealer speeds by, maybe sees competition strolling on his turf, opens fire, bang bang, and the innocent lady who just got out of her car and didn’t seem to know where the fuck she was—well, she gets it in the head. The lowlife scum drives off to annoy another one of my days.” He reached for a cigarette from a crumpled pack, lit it, and exhaled smoke. His face relaxed for a second. “Satisfied?” He turned away. “How do you know all that?” I spoke to his back. He looked back. “Witness.” “In this neighborhood?” He grinned. “I’m very charming. People tell me their life stories.” He nodded at Hank. “Sorry for your loss, son.” But he looked away as he spoke, glancing over Hank’s shoulder, eyes hooded, checking out the street, scanning the walkers and loiterers, a couple teenaged hip-hop kids in baggy jeans sagging around their ankles. Eyes vacant, they looked straight ahead. I followed the detective’s eyes. This was an old pro, I realized, someone who grasped a message in the flick of an eyelid, the sly twisting of a mouth corner, the turning of a lip. “I’m Detective Tony Ardolino.” He walked closer. We shook hands. He agreed to talk—”for a minute”—in a bodega/café across the street. “Could use a cup of coffee. Christ.” He strode across the street with the cockiness of someone who knew no car would dare smash into him. Hank and I followed. Inside the small café, a place with three lopsided tables for coffee drinkers and a light fixture that hummed loudly, we sat by the front window. “The fact of the matter,” he summed up, sipping ice coffee and twitching for a cigarette he couldn’t have, “Mrs. Vu was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He wiped his sweaty brow. “Fucking heat.” He looked up at an air conditioner that seemed to be dying. “But why was she there?” I wondered. “We guess—that is, I guess—she was headed for Little Saigon where her husband got this grocery, and got confused—got lost or something.” Hank protested. “But she’s done it many times before.” I added, “And Little Saigon is in the West End, not near here.” He shrugged. “What can I say? People get lost.” “But,” I explained, “she would have had to make a couple of wrong turns.” “It happens.” “It doesn’t make sense to me,” Hank said. “Hey, she just got lost. As I say, it happens. The wrong neighborhood. You know, they’ve closed off some streets near the highway—detours. Construction. Maybe she couldn’t read English.” Hank got angry. “She reads English just fine.” Ardolino narrowed his eyes. “Hey, I’m just talking. It’s getting a little dark. Like eight o’clock. It’s goddamned boiling. She’s low on gas. She gets lost. We’ve had four drive-by murders here in the last year. Four—count ‘em. All drug-related shit. One just a month or so ago. Remember the little girl that got shot?” It came back to me: the horrific drive-by in Goodwin Square that got national attention. A father pulls up before a bodega around midnight, his wife running in for milk, his three-year-old daughter crawls into his lap, half asleep. A gang car passes, the driver thinks he spots an enemy, opens fire, and the girl is shot in the head. Big news on CNN and FOX. Welcome to Hartford. “You ever get the killer?” “What do you think?” “And Mary Vu’s the fifth?” I asked. “A real sad case, this one.” He sighed. “For me, at least.” “Why?” “Hey, she was a simple woman, caught in the crossfire among assholes. The punk kids selling drugs go their merry way.” “So the odds of catching her killer are what—minimal?” “At best.” He grinned. “Surprised?” “So where’s this going?” Hank asked. “Well, we’ll do the routine. Round up the usual suspects, but don’t hold your breath.” “So that’s the conclusion you’re making?” I asked. “And the matter is dead?” Detective Ardolino locked eyes with me. “What are you saying, P. I. Lam? Like she was murdered on purpose?” I shook my head. “Yeah, that does seem farfetched.” He chuckled. “Like from out of space.” “Are you gonna talk to the Vietnamese community of Hartford?” I asked. “Sure. I talk to everyone. My job. I am curious how she ended up here, but we may never get an answer to that.” “They can be a little nervous around cops,” Hank said. “Some don’t speak English well.” “We’ll see.” Ardolino was getting ready to leave. I slipped the detective my card. “If you need me to be, well, a liaison, I’ll be glad to help.” The cop slid the card back to me. “I don’t share my work with amateurs.” I started to mention that I was once a New York cop, now a licensed P.I. in Connecticut, but I stopped. The look on Detective Ardolino’s face was telling: closed in, tight, the eyes cloudy. He looked at his watch. Hank started to say something, but I touched his wrist. I stood up and Hank, clearly angry, did too. I pushed the card back across the table. “Don’t close off all your options, Detective.” Hank and I left. “Asshole,” Hank said, once outside. “We’ll see.” * * * It was almost midnight when I dropped Hank off at his home, and he rushed out of the car, already late for his job. He was spending the summer vacation doing kitchen prep overnight and some early evenings at a Chinese take-out in Glastonbury, a job his dad secured for him in repayment of some cloudy family obligation. Hank hated it—he had wanted to be an intern with a local police force. Or, in fact, to do nothing but tag along after me as I did routine insurance fraud investigations that were the bulk of my daily workload. But his severe father was adamant. Hank worked for meager wages paid under the table and put up with the mercurial spurts of anger and irrational demands of the entire Fugian family that ran the restaurant. “They claim chopping bok choi is an art form,” he complained to me. Mornings, he told me, he went swimming or played tennis. “There has to be some summer for me.” So now he waved goodbye to me, yelling back that he’d call in the morning to check in. “Check in about what?” I yelled back. “What you’ve learned.” “I’m not on this case, you know.” “Oh, but you will be. You love Grandma.” “So?’

Giveaway:

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Author Bio:

Ed Ifkovic writing as Andrew Lanh: Ed Ifkovic taught literature and creative writing at a community college in Connecticut for over three decades, and now devotes himself to writing fiction. A longtime devotee of mystery novels, he fondly recalls his boyhood discovery of Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason series in a family bookcase, and his immediate obsession with the whodunit world. CAUGHT DEAD is his first novel under the name Andrew Lanh. Previous books are all Edna Ferber Mysteries: LONE STAR (2009). ESCAPE ARTIST (2011), MAKE BELIEVE (2012), DOWNTOWN STRUT (2013), and FINAL CURTAIN (2014)

Tour Participants:

2/02 – Showcase @ Mommabears Book Blog 2/03 – Review @ 3 Partners in Shopping 2/05 – Review @ Kritters Ramblings 2/10 – Interview @ Writers and Authors 2/11 – Review @ Deal Sharing Aunt 2/12 – Showcase @ Maries Cozy Corner 2/16 – Review @ Vics Media Room 2/16 – Showcase @ The Book Divas Reads 2/21 – Interview @ Hott Books

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BOOK REVIEW: Murder at the Driskill by Kathleen Kaska


Posted by Ryder Islington, author of Ultimate Justice, a Trey Fontaine Mystery, and coming this spring, Ultimate Game, a Trey Fontaine Mystery.   What a fun read! Kathleen Kaska’s Murder at the Driskill is a mystery set in 1953 Austin, Texas. The city and the era in combination, are a character, and that character is charming. Then there is Sydney Lockhart. Sydney is da’bomb! She’s a newspaper reporter and also a P.I. who works with her man, Ralph Dixon, a former police detective. Their partner, Billy, reminds me of Superman’s sidekick, Jimmy. And there’s one more character you have to meet: Sydney’s cousin, Ruth. This woman is a gem. There are several other characters. Victims, suspects, and friends and relatives of both. When a potential client invites Dixon to an event at the Driskill Hotel, Dixon brings Sydney and Billy. But before they’re actually hired, a murder occurs and voila, the mystery is born. Kathleen Kaska has a way of bringing her characters to life, giving them likes and dislikes, interesting opinions, and quirks that made me smile, and sometimes frown. One thing I’m sure of, I’ll be visiting these old friends over and over. Below you’ll find more details about Kathleen Kaska and Murder at the Driskill.

Murder at the driskill

Murder at the Driskill by Kathleen Kaska It is 1953 in Austin where Sydney and her detective boyfriend Ralph Dixon have just opened their own private investigation agency. They quickly land a high profile case to investigate one Leland Tatum, a businessman about to launch a campaign for Texas governor. The focus of the case changes drastically when Tatum is shot to death in his room at the Driskill Hotel where he was about to announce his campaign. The Texas gumshoes suddenly find themselves in the middle of the murder investigation along with an unwanted amateur sleuth, the daughter of one of the suspects who is out to clear her father’s name.     2DSC_0050 copy

Biography

Kathleen Kaska, writer of fiction, nonfiction, travel articles, and stage plays, has just completed her most challenging endeavor. The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane:The Robert Porter Allen Story, a true story set in the 1940s and 50s, is about Audubon ornithologist Robert Porter Allen whose mission was to journey into the Canadian wilderness to save the last flock of whooping cranes before encroaching development wiped out their nesting site, sending them into extinction. Published by University Press of Florida, the book is scheduled for release in 2012. Kathleen also writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. Her first mystery, Murder at the Arlington, won the 2008 Salvo Press Manuscript Contest. This book, along with her second mystery, Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Before bringing Sydney into the world of murder and mayhem, Kaska published three mystery-trivia books, (The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book, The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book. All three books were reissued in May 2012 by LL Publications.
You can find more info about Kathleen Kaska and her books at KathleenKaska.com

SHOWCASE: What The Fly Saw by Frankie Bailey


Posted by Ryder Islington, Author of Ultimate Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery, and coming this spring, Ultimate Game, A Trey Fontaine Mystery Ms. Bailey has an eye for detail. I’ve read some of her previous work and was quite impressed. This has to go on my TBR list. Check out Frankie Bailey’s latest novel:

What the Fly Saw

by Frankie Bailey

on Tour Feb 1 – March 28, 2015

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery (near-future police procedural) Published by: Minotaur Books Publication Date: March 3, 2015 Number of Pages: 336 ISBN: 10:1250048303 | 13:978-1250048301 Series: Detective Hannah McCabe #2 Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

Albany, New York, January 2020 (parallel universe) A blizzard sweeps up the coast and shuts down the city. When it is over, funeral director Kevin Novak is found dead in the basement of his funeral home. The arrow sticking out of his chest came from his own hunting bow. A loving husband and father and an active member of a local megachurch, Novak had no known enemies. His family and friends say he had been depressed because his best friend died suddenly of a heart attack and Novak blamed himself. But what does his guilt have to do with his death? Maybe nothing, maybe a lot. Three people — the minister of the megachurch, the psychiatrist who provides counseling to church members, and a medium visiting from the South – say they reached out to Kevin Novak. One of them might know why Novak was murdered. But Detective Hannah McCabe and her partner, Mike Baxter, must sort through lies and evasions as they try to find the killer. The relationship between the partners is threatened as McCabe deals with a political controversy involving her family, unanswered questions about their last high-profile case, and her own guilt because a young woman died after McCabe failed to act.

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Saturday, January 18, 2020 5:47 AM After the storm had passed, in the chilly hour before dawn, the last of the “space zombies” found their way back to their nest in the derelict house. From his command post, the squad leader gave the signal. “Go!” A black van pulled up in front of the house. Albany PD vice cops wearing protective gear jumped out and stormed up the walk. They used a battering ram to smash open the wooden door. “Police! Albany PD!” “Police!” Their high-powered torches illuminated the grotesque horror movie creatures in the 3-D posters on the walls. One of the cops ripped down a dangling black plastic replica of the 2012 UFO. He tossed the boomerang-shaped object to the floor. Hippiefreaks, he thought. Ought to make them all go live out in the Mojave Desert and wait for the mother ship to arrive. He kicked at the nearest mattress on the floor. “Police!” he shouted down at the long-haired occupant. “On your feet!” Blank eyes in an eerie white-painted face stared up at him. “Hands up! Hands up!” the cop yelled as the kid stumbled to his feet. He shoved him against the wall and patted him down. Upstairs, in a bathroom, another cop had found a girl sprawled out, unconscious, on the dirty tile floor beside the toilet. She had vomited in the toilet bowl. Her jeans were stained with urine and feces. Reaching down, he shook her, and then rolled her onto her side to see her face beneath the mop of dark hair. A nasty bruise on her cheekbone stood out against the streaked white paint. He moved her red scarf aside to feel for a pulse in her throat. The scarf was damp, like her tee shirt and soiled blue jeans. “Whaddya have?” another cop asked from the doorway. “Looks like an OD,” the cop inside the bathroom said. “Still breathing, but the wagon had better get here fast.” “Got it,” the other cop said, touching thecomm button on his helmet. The cop in the bathroom spotted a smear of blood on the corner of the sink. That explained the bruise. She’d banged her face on the sink when she passed out. Downstairs in the kitchen, cops surveyed the debris of dirty dishes and rotting garbage – and an impressive array of drugs and paraphernalia. One of them lowered her weapon and observed, “With a stash like this, they could have stayed zonked out until the next UFO came to visit.”

Chapter 2

Saturday afternoon 3:17 PM Funeral director Kevin Novak stared at the Cupid and Psyche bronze clock on his host, Olive Cooper’s mantel. He had allowed himself to become marooned on a conversational island with Paige, Olive’s great niece. As Paige complained about the conversation and laughter filling the long room — the “rabble babble,” as sheput it — Kevin found a name for what he had been feeling for the past forty-eight plus hours. Grief. He was experiencing first-hand what he had often observed when relatives came into the funeral home after the unexpected death of a loved one. That first stage of grieving the experts described as denial, but he often thought of as amazement and disbelief. The stage of bereavement when family members spoke of their dead loved one in the present tense because they couldn’t yet believe their lives had been ripped apart. It seemed in this state of mind, one went through the usual motions, saying what was expected. But the shell was thin. His was developing cracks. He could tell because he felt no inclination at all to warn Paige Cooper that he had glanced over her shoulder and seen her Great Aunt Olive headed their way and Paige had better shut up. So he must be moving into the next stage: anger. “Where in the galaxy did Aunt Olive find these people?” Paige said. “Look at them.” “Some of them are from the church’s community outreach,” Kevin said. True, Olive’s guest list for this celebration of her life reflected her eccentricities. An odd assortment of guests: old friends, relatives, church members and business associates, and other people who tickled Olive’s fancy or touched her big heart. But they had all cleaned up and put on their best in Olive’s honor. “It’s freezing in here,” Paige said. She pulled the belt of her hand-knit cardigan tighter and held her hands out toward the fireplace. “Feels fine to me,” Kevin said. “It really is annoying we have to come out for this farce when there’s a blizzard on the way. The least Aunt Olive could do is heat this mausoleum. Everyone here except her will come down with pneumonia, and we’ll still have to do this all over again when she finally does kick off.” “When I finally do ‘kick off’, Paige,” her great aunt said, right behind her. “You may feel free not to attend my funeral. In fact, if you die first – maybe of the pneumonia you expect to catch – you’ll spare us both that annoyance. And for your information, it was your father who insisted on including you in this shindig.” Paige flushed an unbecoming shade of scarlet. “Aunt Olive, I didn’t mean –” “I know what you meant. Get yourself a glass of champagne, now you’re actually old enough to drink, and make the best of the situation.” Olive’s sharp gaze fastened on Kevin. “And since you already know you’re going to get to bury me when I’m dead, you can relax and enjoy the party.” “I always enjoy your parties, Olive,” Kevin said. “Come with me,” she said. “There’s someone I want you to meet.” Aware of Paige’s suspicious glare, Kevin smiled in her direction. That would teach the little brat to say funeral directors reminded her of vultures without first checking for one of the species within hearing distance. Vultures sometimes exacted their petty revenge. “At your service, Olive,” he said, offering his arm to the woman, who was eighty-five years old and counting and might well live to be a hundred. “How have you been?” she asked him. “Fine,” Kevin said. “Never better.” “Don’t give me that. Anyone who knows you can tell you’re still taking Bob’s death hard.” “Having your best friend collapse with a heart attack while you’re beating him at tennis and then die on the operating table can have that effect.” “It’s been over four months since it happened. You should be coping with it by now.” “I am coping with it.” “You’re still off-kilter. Not your usual self. That’s why I want you to meet Luanne Woodward.” “Luanne? That medium or spiritualist or whatever she calls herself that you found somewhere?” “I didn’t find her ‘somewhere’. She was the featured lecturer at a fundraiser.” “Lecturer? Don’t you mean ‘performer’?” “She talked about being a medium and answered questions. She’s an interesting woman. I think you could benefit from talking to her.” “I don’t believe in that hocus-pocus, Olive.” “I don’t believe in most of it, either. I’m almost ancient enough to remember the Fox Sisters and their flimflam. But, as I said, Luanne’s interesting. I invited her today so you could meet her.” Kevin noticed one of Olive’s guests filling his plate high with the urgency of a man who expected the bounty in front of him to disappear. “And do what?” he said in belated response to Olive. “Sign up for her next séance?” “That might not be a bad idea. Spiritual therapy, so to speak.” “I get my spiritual therapy at church on Sunday from our minister. You might consider doing the same.” “At my age, I take what I need from wherever I happen to find it. And the fact you’re going all righteous on me instead of laughing about my eccentricities, as you like to call them, proves you’re off-kilter. We need to get you putto right.” “Olive, I don’t think a medium and a séance will do the trick.” “You need an opportunity to confront your feelings.” “I have confronted my feelings. I confronted them after Bob died. I sought counseling from both Reverend Wyatt and Jonathan Burdett.” Olive stopped walking and glared at him. “Now, if you want to talk about hocus-pocus, psychiatrists are right up there. You lie on their couch spilling your guts. And they mumble an occasional Freudian pearl of wisdom while they’re thinking about how they intend to spend what they’re charging you.” “Burdett offers the option of sitting in a comfortable armchair, and, as you well know, his services are free to church members.” “The church pays his salary, so he’s not free. He’s full of his diplomas and his jargon, that’s what he is.” “And what about your medium? Is she one-hundred percent jargon free?” “Not a chance. They all have their language intended to impress, but she’s a hell of a lot more fun then Burdett. So come along and meet her.” “I suppose it would be a waste of time to say no?” “Yes, it would. You said you were at my service.” “Yes, I did say that.” Not much sleep last night or the night before. His moment of irritation with Paige had given way to weariness. No doubt he would feel the anger later. No chance he’d be able to skip over that stage. Not with the piper to pay. “Luanne,” Olive said to the plump, blonde woman sipping from a champagne glass as she observed the people around her. “I’d like you to meet Kevin Novak, the friend of mine I was telling you about.” “I’m so happy to meet you, Mr. Novak,” she said in a Southern drawl that suited her pleasant, round face. Her blue gaze met and held his. If he believed in such things, Kevin would have sworn she’d looked past his tailored suit and crisp white shirt, straight into his tarnished soul. He took a step back, and reached out to steady Olive, whose hand rested on his arm. “Sorry,Olive” he said. “I just remembered something I need to do.” Luanne Woodward said, “It’s all right, Kevin, honey. You don’t have to run away from me.” But he did, Kevin thought. He had to run as fast as he could.

Author Bio:

Frankie Y. Bailey is a mystery writer and a professor in the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SUNY). Her academic research focuses on crime history, popular culture/mass media, and material culture. She has done research and writtenabout topics ranging from local history and women who kill to African American characters in crime and detective fiction. She is currently at work on a book about dress, appearance, and criminal justice. She is the author of two mystery series, featuring crime historian Lizzie Stuart, and Albany police detective Hannah McCabe. Frankie is a past executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime. A dog lover, she now shares her home with a Maine Coon cat/mix named Harry.

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Tour Participants:

1. 02/02/15 Showcase @ The Book Divas Reads 2. 02/05/15 Guest Post @ Writers and Authors 3. 02/08/15 Radio Interview @ Suspense Magazine 4. 02/08/15 Review @ Literary R&R 5. 02/09/15 Review @ Rhodes Review 6. 02/16/15 Review @ A Dream Within A Dream 7. 02/17/15 Guest Post @ Babs Book Bistro 8. 02/18/15 Guest Post @ Mythical Books 9. 02/19/15 Review @ Vics Media Room 10. 02/20/15 Review @ Real Army of Moms 11. 02/23/15 Review @ GoodReads 12. 02/24/15 Review @ Bless Their Hearts Mom 13. 03/02/15 Review @ Booksie’s Blog 14. 03/03/15 Review @ The Top Shelf 15. 03/04/15 Review @ Booked on a Feeling 16. 03/10/15 Showcase @ The Pen & Muse 17. 03/16/15 Review @ Bunnys Review 18. 03/20/15 Review @ FictionZeal

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