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For Nikki Harper, realtor to the stars and daughter of 1950s screen goddess Victoria Bordeaux, Hollywood is home--an albeit dysfunctional home populated by a cast of crazies. While Nikki's no ...
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For Nikki Harper, realtor to the stars and daughter of 1950s screen goddess Victoria Bordeaux, Hollywood is home--an albeit dysfunctional home populated by a cast of crazies. While Nikki's no stranger to scandal, she's shocked to receive a hysterical phone call from her business partner, Jessica Martin, saying that seventies sitcom star Rex March has been found dead in Jessica's bed. More shocking is the fact that, as far as anyone knew, Rex was already dead. . .
Six months ago, Rex was supposedly killed when his plane crashed in the Mojave Desert. Nikki and Jessica recently sold his mansion on behalf of his widow, Edith. Obviously, Jessica is being framed, but by whom? And why? And how can Rex be dead again?
"Cheryl Crane has written a superb mystery: rich in milieu, deep in plot twists, constant in the exercise of suspense and surprise. This book is a veritable primer on why people read and love crime fiction."--James Ellroy
"There's a good plot with a twist and some very clever Hollywood insider bits." --The Globe and Mail
"Plot twists keep the pages turning." --Booklist
This party, like most she attended in Hollywood, was business, not pleasure. She came to these events because she had to, not because they were supposed to be fun.
According to the superior Swiss timing on her wrist, if she included the time it took in line for the valet parking, she'd been here forty-seven minutes. Surely another thirteen minutes and she could bid her hostess good night and be on her way. If she was lucky, she might even be able to escape before the grand entrance of Victoria Bordeaux, the honored guest of the evening, who was already almost an hour late. The fifties screen goddess would have it no other way.
"Are you staying?" Nikki glanced at her companion. A gaudy crystal chandelier overhead caught her attention, and she wondered how she had managed to sell this white elephant of a mansion in Outpost Estates in Hollywood for the ridiculous asking price. There were five additional, identical crystal monstrosities here in the salon where cocktails were being served.
Golden-haired Jessica Martin, as beautiful as any old-Hollywood screen goddess, regarded Nikki with arched eyebrows. She was wearing a red silk sheath dress that had no doubt been purchased on Rodeo Drive that morning. She completed the ensemble with incredibly tanned, muscular bare legs and her favorite four-inch spike-heeled red Jimmy Choos.
Nikki glanced down at her own attire, suddenly feeling self-conscious. She hoped she didn't look frumpy in her vintage sleeveless sweater dress and sensible pumps.
At five-foot-ten, she rarely wore high heels; they always made her feel too conspicuous, like she was towering over others. And no matter what she wore, she would never be as curvy as Jessica. She was willowy, according to her mother. Translation: skinny and shapeless. The one physical characteristic she had always liked about herself, though, was her red hair—her father's red hair. Strawberry blond, she wore it just below her shoulders. And her eyes. She'd had a love-hate relationship with the blue eyes for years.
"I doubt I'm staying. No one's here." Jessica wrinkled her pretty nose.
"Are you kidding? Everyone is here. Mother's colorist says Angelina's looking for a new place. Heard she's adopting more children. You should go talk to her." Nikki lifted her chin in the direction of the brunette movie icon surrounded by her entourage at the far side of the room.
Jessica sighed. "I'm not up for schmoozing. I think I'm going to go, if you don't mind."
She pressed her fingertips to her board-flat abs, reminding Nikki of the avant-garde restaurant on the Sunset Strip where sushi was served on the naked bellies of well-toned waitresses. Jessica could definitely get a job there.
"I'm starving," Jessica declared.
"Starving? Here?" Nikki eyed a tray of mushroom and lobster thingies going by, just out of reach. "You could feed a small African nation with the amount of food Edith is serving here tonight."
Edith March was Nikki and Jessica's client and their hostess for the evening. Actually, technically, her husband Rex had been their client. He'd approached the realty company Nikki and Jessica worked for, eight months ago, about putting his tacky Old Spanish-style nine-bedroom home up for sale. The sixty-two-year-old actor had died tragically in a plane crash two months later, before the house had been sold.
His body was never recovered from the single-engine plane he'd been flying solo when he crashed in the California desert. It was a tragedy, of course. Any death in a fiery plane crash was. What was even more tragic, though, was that Rex didn't seem to be missed all that much. Edith, Rex's widow, had begun dating only weeks after the memorial service.
The tabloids had struggled to find anything nice to say about the man and his work, and the initial excitement over his untimely death had faded as fast as the luscious taste of lox on Nikki's tongue. She scanned the room for the nearest red-vested server.
Although Rex had played the occasional small role in films over the years, his one true claim to fame had been the lead in an early seventies family comedy set on a desert island; it wasn't a great hit at the time, but it had become a residual blockbuster.
Nikki hadn't personally cared for Rex. He'd been a typical soggy Hollywood has-been who'd never had any talent to begin with nor enough sense to know it. He'd had entirely too large an ego and hands like an octopus.
Edith March, on the other hand, Nikki genuinely adored. Edith was a classy lady who had remained loyal to her philandering husband to his death, and now she was making lemonade out of lemons. With the mansion sold, there was talk of buying a condo in Belize and a penthouse in New York City with her new, young boyfriend.
And Edith knew how to throw a party. Everyone was here: the film actors and actresses of the old Hollywood days as well as current box office draws. She was even kind enough to invite a few TV stars. Edith was saying good-bye to the mansion she had never liked, good-bye to her previous life, and maybe a final good-bye to Rex, whose larger-than-life-size portrait was painted as a mural on the wall of the salon.
"I can't eat here." Jessica looked at Nikki as if she'd just grown a horn in the middle of her head. Or maybe worn Manolo Blahniks to the gym. "Not in this dress. I haven't eaten for two days and I still had to lie down on the bed to get it zipped up." She drew her hand over the red silk and her amazingly fit torso. "Besides. You know me. I don't eat raw fish eggs. Give me a well-done burger with special sauce any day."
Nikki chuckled. She and Jessica didn't see eye to eye on fashion any better than Nikki and her mother did. Nikki was into comfort, old styles, and recycling perfectly good garments from her favorite vintage used clothing stores on Santa Monica in Beverly Hills. Jessica liked her designers big and her heels high. But Jessica was what she was, and Nikki liked her because of it. Sometimes in spite of it. One of Jessica's most endearing qualities was that she wasn't any more impressed by celebrities than Nikki was. Their only difference was that Nikki had grown up with them and Jessica slept with them. The combination of their personalities made them a great team at work.
Take this sale, for instance. Jessica had brought the client in; she had catered to him, cooed and batted her lashes at him. Nikki had hit the pavement in search of prospective buyers. In the end, they had both wound up with phat commissions.
"Hey, check that out. Ten o'clock." Jessica eyed the host of a new late-night talk show. She liked her men mature. Preferably rich and mature. Sadly, also married. "Know him?"
"Met him." Nikki glanced at the bar. She wanted a glass of champagne before she was on her way, but there was a casting executive there whom she wanted to avoid.
"Mother's?" Jessica questioned dryly.
"Nikki! Darling! How good of you to come." Their hostess squeezed through her crowd of guests and enveloped Nikki in plump arms and yards of buttercup yellow chiffon. Hugging the breath out of her, Edith March still managed to keep the champagne glass in her hand from tipping and spilling its contents on the floor, or worse, on Jessica's red silk number. "Really, you should be the guest of honor. None of this would have been possible without you."
Nikki air-kissed Edith's cheek and extracted herself from the sea of nose-tickling fabric. "That's kind of you, but we were just doing our jobs, Edith. You remember my partner, Jessica Martin," she said, knowing full well that Edith remembered her.
There had been some unexplained friction between the two women from day one; during the process of selling the estate, Nikki had kept them apart as much as possible. Nikki knew from experience that that happened with Jessica sometimes with their older female clients; just part of the territory when working with a drop-dead gorgeous partner.
Nikki smiled at Edith. "We're just pleased we were able to work out a deal that was acceptable to both you and the buyers."
"Acceptable? It was more than acceptable. Wasn't it, dear?" Sipping from the glass, Edith opened and closed long red talons, beckoning to a good-looking thirty-something model/actor in a white dinner jacket.
Nikki had heard that Thompson Christopher was in the running for a role in a new romantic comedy. Word was, the part could make him a household name if Kate Hudson signed on.
"Thompson, tell Nikki how thrilled we are with the deal," Edith insisted, finishing off her champagne.
Thompson slipped his arm around Edith's thick waist. "I'm pleased if Edie's pleased." His smile seemed genuine, something Nikki didn't see all that often in these circles.
"Jessica and I are just happy we were able to make this process as painless as possible." Nikki glanced at Jessica, who had resumed eyeing the late-night TV guy, and gave her a little nudge. "Aren't we, Jess?"
"Absolutely," Jessica gushed, offering a good half of her attention.
"And I know you said you're not ready to buy yet, Edith," Nikki continued, "but—"
"Should we decide to buy in L.A., you'll be the first person I talk to." Edith handed Thompson her glass and took both of Nikki's hands in hers. "I wouldn't have it any other way. You were such a blessing when Rex passed. God rest his soul." She glanced in the direction of her husband's slightly creepy grinning face looming over the room from the far wall.
"God rest his soul," Thompson echoed good-naturedly.
Nikki couldn't help but look at Rex's portrait, wondering how he felt, gazing down from wherever he was, watching his wife play house with a man young enough to be his son. A man who didn't seem to understand the difference between a first name and a last.
"If I'd left the sale to that damned lawyer of Rex's, I'd be packing my bags for a homeless shelter."
"Edie," Thompson admonished gently.
"A wolf in Armani wool." She drew her finger beneath her beau's chin. "You haven't been in Hollywood long enough to recognize them yet, but you will. There are packs of them. He was supposed to be here, you know." She scanned the sea of celebrity cocktail dresses and suits with a trained eye. "What makes me think he'll be a no-show? It's just like Alex to insult me like this."
"Well." Nikki clasped her hands, ready to make her escape. She'd eaten her weight in seafood and spoken to her hostess. If she hurried, she could be home in her PJs with her TiVo in an hour. "Just let me know if there's anything else we can do to make the transition easier."
"You've already done so much, dear." Someone caught Edith's eye. "Oh, heavens, is that Portia Raleigh? I thought she'd gone to Palm Springs to recover from another facelift. I do hope she was more cautious this time about her choice of plastic surgeons. I must say hello." She fluttered off, leaving Thompson holding her empty champagne flute.
He watched her go and then returned his attention to Nikki. "I really do appreciate what you've done for Edie," he said. "You've been helpful and you've been kind. And having Victoria Bordeaux here tonight as Edie's guest"—he opened his arms—"I know that was you, too. It's such an honor and a dream come true for Edie."
Nikki hesitated; comments like that always made her uncomfortable. Thankfully, Jessica always knew when to throw her a lifeline.
Jessica moved gracefully to the forefront, pumping Thompson's hand. "We're just pleased that Rex March's widow is pleased, Mr. Christopher."
"Well, thank you again. Now, if you'll excuse me, ladies." He bowed slightly, which made him appear very old Hollywood, especially in his classic white dinner jacket and black trousers. Nikki liked him better by the second. "I'd better get Edie some more champagne and rescue Ms. Raleigh." He flashed a handsome grin and pushed through the crowd.
Nikki waited until Thompson was out of earshot before she touched Jessica's arm. "What's with the cold shoulder to Edith? She was nice enough to you."
"No cold shoulder." Jessica shrugged her golden sculpted shoulders. No matter how hard Nikki worked out at the gym, she'd never have those fabulous shoulders.
"But did you see her nails?" Jessica murmured, leaning closer, cupping her hand to her mouth with her own manicured fingers.
"I know." Nikki eyed another tray of hors d'oeuvres. Was that beluga caviar? "A little long for a woman her age not working as a cashier in the dollar store."
"It's not the length I'm talking about," Jessica whispered. "Chipped."
"Chipped?" It wasn't likely Edith was serving chipped beef. Nikki was still hung up on the hors d'oeuvres.
"Her nail polish. It was chipped. Unacceptable. She needs to fire her manicurist. Well, I'm off." Jessica kissed the air beside Nikki's cheek. "What are you doing tomorrow?"
"Biking in Malibu Canyon. Wanna come?"
"Who're you going with?"
"Marshall and Rob."
Jessica frowned. "Taken."
Nikki chuckled. "So, see you Monday?"
"Tuesday. Monday I've got a seminar downtown. Downy wanted office representation and he's footing the bill. But I swear, if it's Zig Ziglar again, I'll commit hari-kari right in the conference hall." She gave a wave. "See you."
Nikki stood in the sea of beautiful people, watching Jessica make her way to the front foyer. She debated whether or not to track down the beluga, but decided against it, and headed in the same general direction as Jessica. The door. If she was lucky, she'd be out of here before—
Nikki had barely reached the foyer when she heard the familiar whirr and snap of dozens of cameras as the double front doors were thrown open. In this age of digital cameras, the paparazzi no longer flashed and popped. Instead, they sounded like a swarm of clicking insects.
Holy crapoli, she thought. She would never grow used to it, not as long as she lived. She glanced over her shoulder; there was no way to escape gracefully. The spaces behind her were quickly filling. Even celebrities liked to get a look at a goddess.
A smile immediately lit Nikki's face. It was the smile her mother had pressed upon her since birth, very possibly in utero. It was a well-practiced smile, intended to conceal any emotion the bearer might be experiencing. In Hollywood, feelings were better suited to psychiatrists' couches and intimate dinner conversation. One never shared with the public.
Through the crowd, she spotted a familiar face. The driver, dressed immaculately in a black suit and old-school chauffeur's cap, threw open the rear door of the white Bentley and offered his hand. Slender, gloved fingers slid into his and suddenly the dark night lit up with the sheer effervescence of the incomparable Victoria Bordeaux.
For a moment, Nikki felt trapped. Like a tiny mouse trying to escape a horde of hungry cats. Maybe not a tiny rodent, more like a tall, lanky one. But the crowd moved back, leaving her alone at the door.
Dressed in a gorgeous gold cocktail dress, matching kitten heels and an amazing faux-ermine shrug, Victoria Bordeaux alighted from the Bentley and strode toward her. The screen star may have been in the twilight of her life, but thanks to good genes and sturdy undergarments, she was as beautiful as she had been in her early twenties. Petite and a natural blond, she still had that sweater-girl curvaceous figure that had shot her from a soda fountain stool to stardom all those years ago.
And, still, after all this time, Victoria's beauty, her poise, took Nikki's breath away.
The star offered her gloved hand and Nikki took it, leaning down to kiss her very close to her cheek, but not so close as to muss her face powder.
"Really, Nicolette," Victoria admonished under her breath. "A sweater dress to a cocktail party?"
Excerpted from The Bad Always Die Twice by CHERYL CRANE Copyright © 2011 by Cheryl Crane. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted July 26, 2013
Posted August 20, 2012
I loved this book. I thought the characters were as much fun as the
plot. I loved Nikki and her mother Victoria and the relationship they
had. They obviously loved each other, but like most mothers and
daughters, the relationship was complicated. The way Ms. Crane set the
murder mystery in the Hollywood settings made for a great read. I have
to admit, I enjoyed seeing what designer clothes different characters
were wearing. I'm pre-ordering the next book in this series!
Posted February 14, 2012
I loved The Bad Always Die Twice by Cheryl Crane. It isn't what I usually read but a friend told me to buy it and it was top notch. I was fascinated by the time period and the characters Ms Crane created. I would purchase another book by this author. This is suitable for all audiences, and is great entertainment. Don't miss it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 23, 2011
Nikki Harper wears many hats; Beloved Daughter of Screen Star, Victoria Bordeaux, Real Estate Broker and Partner of promiscuous Jessica Martin, and Girlfriend of widower, Jeremy. After the sale of wealthy Edith March's Outpost Estates Mansion, due to the death two months earlier of Edith's philandering Husband and former TV Star, Rex March in a plane crash, Edith threw a lavish Farewell Party to bid goodbye to her old life, mansion and .Rex. Nikki ,Jessica and Victoria all attended the celebrity-studded affair. It was later that evening, while at her Mother's home, that Nikki received a hysterical phone call from Jessica, saying Rex March's dead body was not missing in the desert, but was in her bed!! And the police have her pegged as a prime suspect!! Nikki responds to Jessica's distress call and "dons" another cap-that of amateur P.I. and digs for clues to prove Jessica's innocence and to discover who did murder the now-truly-deceased Rex March and why. Nikki leaves no stone unturned as she investigates many mysterious, dark avenues concerning Rex and his acquaintances. She wanted to make sure the police didn't miss a clue like they had in her late Father's murder. But who wanted Rex dead? Who would benefit the most? Who would want to frame Jessica? Edith March? The woman scorned more times than you have fingers, as well as being the widow trying to start a new life with a "New Love"?? Edith's "Boy-Toy", Thompson Christopher, who everyone wondered about his ulterior motives where Edith is concerned? Tiffany Matthews; the Southern Belle/Waitress who had received promises of love and tropical island life from Rex?? Rex's unscrupulous lawyer and agent, Alex Ramirez, who only had his own interests at heart, instead of his clients'? Ms. Crane has woven a tale of intrigue with a generous sprinkling of the elegant "Golden Age of the Silver Screen", that will keep you guessing right up to the last chapter. I'm truly looking forward to the next Nikki Harper adventure. Nancy NarmaWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 7, 2011
The Bad Always Die Twice By Cheryl Crane Copyright August 2011 Publisher Kensington For Nikki Harper, realtor to the stars and daughter of 1950s screen goddess Victoria Bordeaux, Hollywood is home. A completely dysfunctional home populated by a cast of crazies, true, but home nonetheless. While Nikki's no stranger to scandal, she's shocked to receive a hysterical phone call from her business partner, Jessica Martin, saying that TV has-been Rex March has been found dead in Jessica's bed. More shocking than Rex's death is the fact that, as far as anyone knew, Rex was already dead. Six months ago, the star of the seventies sitcom Shipwrecked Vacation was supposedly killed when his plane crashed in the Mojave Desert. Nikki and Jessica recently sold his mansion on behalf of his widow, Edith. It's obvious to Nikki that Jessica is being framed, but by whom? And why? And how on earth can Rex be dead a second time? In search of answers, Nikki turns to the one person she can always count on. From her pink boudoir in her Beverly Hills mansion, the ever-glamorous Victoria suggests Nikki focus her sleuthing on Rex's not-so-grieving widow. And there's a veritable casting couch full of other candidates, including Edith's boy-toy lover, Rex's scheming lawyer (like there's any other kind), and the diner waitress with whom Rex was having one of his numerous affairs. But with the killer readying for a repeat performance, Nikki will have to act fast-before her own screen fades to black. . . Nicolette Harper was raised in the middle of the Hollywood hype, her mother a world famous movie star. Now, Nikki Harper, all grown up, and not needing to work for a living, spends her time selling high end homes in the Hollywood and Beverly Hills Real Estate business. She partners with her best friend Jessica Martin and between them they enjoy their work and the people they meet. Nikki and Jessica are at a party hosted by Edith March, the widow of TV has - been Rex March, whose house they had sold for her. Nikki is not a party person and as soon as she's talked to her hostess, and seen her mother make her famous entrance she's off and heading home to take care of her two dogs. Little knowing that she is going to be drawn into a murder that will dredge up her feelings about her own father's murder years ago and her distrust of the police in finding the killer. The biggest question of course is Rex died in a plane crash, how can his newly dead body turn up on Jessica's bed. This is the first book in Cheryl Crane's new real estate murder mysteries. I wouldn't quite call them cozies. I would call them well written, reader involved, and a book you won't want to put down till you finish it. FTC Full Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher with their hope that I would read it and write a review.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 27, 2011
I'm giving "The Bad Always Die Twice" 3.5 stars. Mystery is normally not my normal read, but I thought I would dip my toes into the water anyways. I was very pleasantly surprised! While mystery will not likely be my favorite genre, I did enjoy "The Bad Always Die Twice". With every page I had a new suspect in my head and Ms. Crane kept me guessing all the way up to the end. Not too many people missed Rex March when he died the first time around and even less the second time. He was a philanderer and the world basically said good riddance. He was a one hit wonder who was living off an old 1970's family comedy. Ego is the only thing Rex had and he had that in abundance. His first death was ruled as a freak accident, but his second was murder. It's up to Nikki Harper to figure out who did it, because she knows her friend Jessica sure didn't do it. Nikki is the daughter of the fifties screen goddess, actress Victoria Bordeaux. Always in her mother shadow, Nikki is just fine with that and enjoys her life as a real estate agent to the stars. Being the daughter of the actress does have its perks though and sales are one of them. Jessica Martin is a known man eater. She is a love them and use them type, not a murderer. So when Jessica comes home after a daylong real estate seminar and finds Rex, dead in her bed, she calls her best friend Nikki for support and help. Suspects are endless; Edith March - the wife, Thompson Christopher - the wife's new boy toy, Alex Ramirez - the slimy lawyer, Tiffany Mathews - the young jilted lover and countless others. Nikki has her hands full discovering the truth. "The Bad Always Die Twice" is a well written mystery. Ms. Crane will keep you guessing and I enjoyed how she intertwined current events and celebrities into her story. I'm not sure if it was Ms. Crane's intention, but the constant noting of product name dropping, stood out to me. It said to me that L.A. was extremely materialistic and in the end almost was a subplot all its own. I really enjoyed the interaction between Nikki and her mother, Victoria. She made Victoria a real person to me. While Victoria was all glimmer and glamour, I relished in her human side. I had several laugh out loud moments with her antics. I can see myself continuing to read about Nikki's adventures just to see what her mother is up to. "The Bad Always Die Twice" is a decadent decent into the underbelly of glamorous Hollywood. Gossip is never ending and secrets never stay hidden for long. So grab a drink and put on your Jimmy Choos, because you want to be styling when you step into Ms. Crane's world.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 28, 2011
1950s TV star Rex March is found dead in the bed of realtor Jessica Martin. Known for her sexual proclivity with living hunks, Jessica is stunned to have a corpse of her former lover in her bed. Rex was reported dead six months ago. The police name her the prime suspect.
Jessica's partner Nikki Harper, daughter of movie legend Victoria Bordeaux, investigates the case as she knows her friend would not kill anyone. Nikki is extremely nice to those she interviews as she drops her mom the siren's name on start struck Hollywood and charms information out of those she feels might have a motive to see Rex dead twice in under a year.
This is a fun entertaining amateur sleuth as Nikki tosses her DNA as the opener to meet suspects and then deploys her considerable charm (more DNA) to obtain info. The mother-daughter relationship brings jocularity and warmth to the well written story line. However, this is Nikki' tale as she makes the murder mystery fun to read with her gutsy ballsy feminist inquiries.
Posted July 6, 2011
Despite her privileged childhood as the pampered daughter of a movie star siren, Nikki Harper refuses to let her wealth and upbringing stop her from leading a normal life. She prefers vintage clothes to designer apparel, works as a real estate agent, and spends her free time at home with her two beloved dogs. When her friend and business partner Jessica finds one of their former clients-an aging, philandering, has-been celebrity named Rex March--dead on her bed, Nikki shoulders the task of clearing her friend's name. Jessica was sleeping with him, after all. The only problem is that Rex supposedly died in a fiery plane crash six months earlier, so who killed him the second time? His long-suffering widow? Her new boy toy? Or maybe one of his former lovers whom he abandoned when he supposedly died? Nikki uses her brains, her charm, and her social connections to try and clear her friend's name in an interesting romp around Hollywood. Some of Nikki's suspects were stereotypical (i.e. the loyal black servant, the ditsy southern blonde), and the lack of development or emotional connection between Nikki and her boyfriend was frustrating. The relationship between Nikki and her famous mother, however, was humorous and endearing, and the mystery of who committed the crime will leave readers guessing until the very satisfying conclusion.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 6, 2011
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Posted June 11, 2012
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