April Fool Dead (Death on Demand Series #13)by Carolyn G. Hart
Someone is playing a rather nasty April Fool's prank on mystery bookstore owner Annie Darling. A felonious forger on the idyllic -- if rarely tranquil -- South Carolina island of Broward's Rock has made it appear as if Annie is accusing some of her neighbors of murder. In the wink of a bloodshot eye, the Darling name is mud . . . and then the Broward's Rock body
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Someone is playing a rather nasty April Fool's prank on mystery bookstore owner Annie Darling. A felonious forger on the idyllic -- if rarely tranquil -- South Carolina island of Broward's Rock has made it appear as if Annie is accusing some of her neighbors of murder. In the wink of a bloodshot eye, the Darling name is mud . . . and then the Broward's Rock body count starts mysteriously increasing. And now it's up to Annie to follow the well-hidden trail of the vicious trickster -- or a secret slayer's next lethal "joke" may very well be on her!
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April Fool Dead Chapter One
The early-morning sun slanted through the pines, throwing huge shadows across the dusty gray road. Bob Tower's face was flushed, his heartbeat elevated. He was suffused with runner's euphoria, his arms swinging easily, his stride long, his shoes thudding rhythmically on the soft dirt. He smiled, at peace with the world. When his run was over, Jessie waited for him, eager and loving. The kids would be off to school. God, what a wonderful
He was thinking of Jessie, already loving Jessie in his mind, when the Jeep careened around the curve. Suddenly the roar of the motor was upon him, louder and louder and louder, enveloping him. His head jerked. For an instant, he looked into the eyes of the driver. Pain was sudden and absolute, overwhelming, unendurable.
Crumpled in the ditch, too hurt to moan, eyes clouding, throat closing, the last thing Bob heard was the dwindling of sound as the Jeep raced away.
Tulips bloomed in red glory in a circular bed in front of the high school. Teresa Caldwell was chair of the moms' committee that had planted the flowers, kept the weeds pulled. She'd been presented a plaque at the recent Mothers-Daughters Banquet: "To Teresa Caldwell, Who Always Puts Her Family First." Teresa bit her lip. Why had she looked at the damn flowers? She didn't want to think, didn't want...
"Mom! Stop. We're here." Lily's voice sullen.
Teresa was accustomed to Lily's exasperated tone when confronted with what she judged to be yet another example of parental stupidity. Teresa had struggled with irritation at being viewed as only marginally competent. But oh, how she wished Lily would say, "Oh, Mom!" and flip her ponytail in mock disgust. Instead Lily, avoiding her mother's quick glance, yanked open the door of the Range Rover and lurched onto the sidewalk, a slightly built girl with frizzy brown hair and uncertain blue eyes, burdened by a backpack big enough to carry provisions for a jaunt to the Himalayas.
Teresa opened her mouth, closed it. Lily wouldn't listen. She wouldn't listen about the weight of the backpack and Teresa could not bear to ask Lily why she was cold and withdrawn.
Without a word of farewell, Lily moved slowly up the sidewalk, tilting to the left from the burden of the pack. Her head was down, her gait plodding.
Teresa stared after her daughter and then, at the sound of an impatient horn, pulled out from the curb. She drove sedately around the curving drive, her lips stretched into a determined smile, nodding, waving. She knew what other mothers saw: a superbly groomed, Lesley Stahl...pretty suburban mother ina bright blue Range Rover with momscar plates. They couldn't see, would never see, must never know about the fever that raged within, the fever that might yet cost her everything. No one knew, of course. But Lily had looked at her oddly in recent weeks. What if someone had told Lily about the Range Rover parked on that dirt road? What if Lily had overheard one of those late-night calls? Oh, God, would Lily tell anyone? Would Lily tell her father?
Teresa drove automatically, slowing as she reached Sand Dollar Road. All right, she'd turn left. Go home. Clean out the garage. Bake brownies, Ralph's favorite dessert. He was getting in tonight on a flight from New York. He'd had a hard week. When they talked last night, after Lily was in bed, she'd heard the weariness, even a touch of fear, in his voice. The corporate world was always uncertain, and never more so than now. He loved brownies, a nice way to welcome him home. The car eased to a stop. Her hands clenched on the wheel. She heard the rumble of an SUV behind her. She checked the mirror. Cherry Sue Richards. She had to make up her mind. Now. This instant.
If she turned right, if she drove a mile and a half, turned onto a rutted gray road that jolted the car, streaked the gleaming blue paint with so much dust that Ralph kidded her, asked whether she'd been plowing the fields, if she drove as fast as she dared up that narrow road to the cabin nestled among a grove of willows, Paul would be waiting. She knew how he would look'thick, curly black hair, dark eyes, sensuous lips. He'd probably not shaved yet, he'd be bare-chested, his old, paper-thin Levi's hung on slim hips. Paul. Damn him.
As the SUV stopped behind her, Teresa gunned the motor, turned to the right, the fever raging within her.
Frank Saulter moved stiffly in the mornings. He welcomed the late-March sun, a cheerful precursor to spring. Only a few more days and it would be April. In summer the heat from the Low Country sun rolled against his skin hot as oil and just as soothing; yet he loved the crisp sunny days of spring. He smiled. He might be stiff, but arthritis never kept a man from fishing. He had his day planned. The lagoon off Belted Kingfisher Road was full of crappie, bass and bream, and he was just the man to land himself a mess of good eating. He took his time as he walked down the crushed-oyster-shell walk to the mailbox by the side of the road. He didn't expect anything much. Too late in the month for bills. Maybe a note from his daughter, but Sue liked e-mail better than writing letters and every week sent a cheerful message catching him up on the kids: Megan off at school in Australia, if that didn't beat the band; and Tom, who'd decided hanggliding off mountains in Montana had a lot more pizzazz than college. Frank shook his head as he pulled open the mailbox. Kids today... He grabbed...April Fool Dead. Copyright © by Carolyn Hart. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Meet the Author
An accomplished master of mystery, Carolyn Hart is the author of twenty previous Death on Demand novels. Her books have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards. She is also the creator of the Henrie O series, featuring a retired reporter, and the Bailey Ruth series, starring an impetuous, redheaded ghost. One of the founders of Sisters in Crime, Hart lives in Oklahoma City.
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Max and Annie Darling live on the island of Broward¿s Rock off the coast of South Carolina. Annie is a type A personality who believes in the work ethic while Max is a charming and rich individual whose definition of work is golf, tennis and sex. In the case of this husband and wife team opposites attract and work together well especially when they are involved in a homicide investigation as they have been a dozen times in the past. Murder is the furthermost thing from Annie¿s mind as she gets ready for a book-signing event at her store Death on Demand. She is doing a lot of promotion for this occasion, but becomes furious when somebody steals her ideas to stir up gossip about old crimes and scandal by distributing a flyer that looks like it came from her bookstore. When a local resident is murdered and the flyers are found at her home, Anne feels like she has an obligation to find out who the killer is (with a little help from Max of course). April Fool Dead is the quintessential amateur sleuth novel starring two delightful protagonists. Part of their charm resides in the fact that they are happily married and not afraid to show it. The mystery itself is intricate, complex and multi-layered and it¿s only when the audience reaches the end does the reader finally understand how cleverly the sub plots tie back to the main story line. Ms. Hart pens another winner. Harriet Klausner