Death in the 12th House: Where Neptune Rules

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Someone is bumping off rock's wrinkled royalty. After the death of the third aging rock star, lead singer Freddie Finger, astrologer-detective David Lowell takes on the case, scrutinizing suspects' charts for any clues in the stars that could point to a killer.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A killer is targeting aging rock stars in Lewis’s diverting second mystery featuring David Lowell, New York City astrologer and proprietor of the Starlight Detective Agency (after 2011’s Murder in the 11th House). When 63-year-old Freddie Finger, the lead singer for the band Rocket Fire, is found hanging from a heat pipe with three bullets in his body in a Manhattan building undergoing renovation, he is the third vintage rocker to recently meet an untimely end in New York. Freddie’s movie actress daughter, Vivian Younger, is quick to insist that the NYPD bring in Lowell. That the thrice-married Freddie treated women and bandmates poorly ensures a large suspect pool. Lowell, who flexes his astrological muscles in his investigative work, shows he can also rely on his fists. Astrologically inclined cozy fans will find a lot to like. (Nov.)
Library Journal
When three dead rock 'n' rollers indicate a disturbing trend, the NYPD enlists assistance from their most atypical consultant, astrologist David Lowell. The cops aren't always thrilled by Lowell's techniques, but a victim's daughter, a famous actress herself, makes a compelling case for giving him free rein. Lowell brings in his charts, battles with Mercury in retrograde, and generally outwits the greedy individuals behind the murders. VERDICT Lewis's clever astrologic detective angle has all the markings of a winning series; this is number two (after Murder in the 11th House). Readers will appreciate the rock 'n' roll references and the detective's unusual methodology. The author misses the mark with the klutzy small-time hoods, but overall he has assembled a good ensemble cast and maintains a chatty and leisurely pace in this almost-cozy procedural. [See Prepub Alert, 7/2/12.]
Kirkus Reviews
Old rock stars never die. Oh, wait, maybe they do. Freddie Finger, lead singer of legendary '70s band Rocket Fire, stumbles drunkenly out of Cantaloupe's Restaurant in Manhattan and into the path of an unnamed acquaintance, who puts him into the back of a car for one last ride. Freddie's is the third rock 'n' roll killing in recent memory, and the NYPD's Lt. Roland takes the unusual step of putting the latest victim's daughter, Vivian Younger, in touch with his friend, private detective and famed astrologer David Lowell (Murder in the 11th House, 2011). Aided by Sarah, a brisk girl Friday, Lowell proceeds methodically, first interviewing Freddie's former band mates and then his multiple ex-wives before comparing notes with Roland. It's clear that Freddie had no dearth of enemies, a list made even longer by his decades of substance abuse. Interestingly, Freddie's unexpected death is likely to boost sales of an upcoming album. Lowell also checks in regularly with Vivian, and there's definite chemistry between client and sleuth. The reader also gets a glimpse into Lowell's knowledge of astrology, which informs his insights on the case. One afternoon, when Sarah's out of the office, Lowell receives an anonymous tip with a request for a rendezvous in SoHo. Could this be the piece of evidence that breaks the case, or is it an ambush? Lowell's second case lays out a traditional whodunit in a direct and well-balanced manner. But Lewis' prose needs a little less starch and a little more style.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781464200601
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
  • Publication date: 11/6/2012
  • Series: Starlight Detective Agency Series
  • Pages: 250
  • Sales rank: 646,429
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Mitchell Scott Lewis is the author of Murder in the 11th House published in 2011 by Poisoned Pen Press. Murder in the 12th House is the second in this ongoing series. Mr. Lewis has been a New York based professional astrologer for more than 20 years with an impressive client list. He has predicted a number of financial events, including the unprecedented rise of oil prices, the collapse of the housing market and sub-prime implosion, the stock crash of ’08, and the current recession, all long in advance.

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Read an Excerpt

Death in the 12th House

Where Neptune Rules
By Mitchell Scott Lewis

Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 2012 Mitchell Scott Lewis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-46420-058-8

Chapter One

David Lowell was walking down Second Avenue when the rain began. It was a little before six in the morning and promised to be a hot July day. Dressed in his usual garb of loafers, blue jeans pressed to a firm crease, and light-weight cotton turtleneck, he was strolling from his townhouse on East 93rd Street to his office on 24th as was his custom, no matter what the weather. The rain was warm. He opened his umbrella and continued to amble through the mostly empty streets.

This was the only part of the day he could call his own. No phone calls or obligations, no hysterical clients or problems to be solved. They could all wait a few hours. This was his time.

Second Avenue wasn't the same boulevard he had grown to know over the decades. Construction for the ill-conceived new subway line had destroyed much life along this once thriving thoroughfare, forcing dozens of small businesses to close. Deep underground, the tunneling was creating a disaster for the Upper Eastside here on the surface. As he walked past a dogwood tree planted in one of the few tiny square spaces allotted for nature on this urban island, he saw a rat the size of a small dog scurry into a hole next to the tree. He shook his head at what this previously pristine district had become.

He passed Tony's DeNapoli, a neighborhood fixture for decades, closed now, another victim of the subway and the expansionist philosophy that was pervasive throughout New York City. One empty storefront followed another, some with for-rent signs, others not even bothering until construction was completed. And all for a thirty block rail running under the affluent east side. The rich man's subway, he'd heard it called a number of times. Or Bloomberg's Trolley. It was the landlord's delight. Soon they'd be able to advertise apartments along the river as "two blocks from the subway," and charge twice the rent.

He liked the rain, even on a warm July morning. It gave him an atmosphere conducive to deep thought. His daughter would say it was depression. And he liked walking the Manhattan streets, especially when they were relatively vacant. He had begun taking these long morning walks when he'd first opened his detective business seven years ago and found that they cleared his mind and prepared him for the day's tasks better than anything.

He turned down 24th Street just as the rain let up, stopped into a deli for coffee and a muffin, and went into his office building. He took the elevator to the sixth floor and entered the suite of offices. It was empty. And quiet. He turned on the lamp in the reception area, then opened the door to his inner office and went in.

The leather couch was a pull-out with a king size, orthopedic mattress. The detective's private bathroom contained a full-sized tub and shower and a completely modern kitchen hid behind one of the doors. Lowell would often spend several days and nights in the room when working on a case.

He switched on the ceiling fan and stood gazing out the window in admiration at his unobstructed view of the Empire State Building. A big glass tank stood next to the window, containing water, rocks, and two rather large turtles.

"Hello, Buster." He lightly touched one of the turtles on the head. The other slowly walked the two steps to where his finger was moving and pushed its head up. Lowell obliged with a gentle scratch. "Hello, Keaton." He sprinkled some food into the tank and watched them eat breakfast. Satisfied, the two turtles moved laboriously toward the water in the middle of the tank and tucked their heads into their shells. Lowell often envied that ability.

* * *

A little before nine Sarah came to the front door of the Starlight Detective Agency office, one hand laden with packages, a large cup of deli coffee in the other. An umbrella hung on her wrist dripping a small puddle at her feet. She struggled to remove her keys from her purse without setting down all of her belongings. After almost spilling the coffee several times, she gave up and put her things on the ground, took out her key and opened the door. She pushed her bright red hair back behind her ears, picked everything up, and entered.

Sarah set the coffee down on her desk, hung up her hat and umbrella, and sat down, immediately checking the answering machine. She scribbled down all the relevant information, drank about half of her coffee, and settled in for another day as astrologer-detective David Lowell's assistant. When she saw the lamp on her desk had been turned on she knew Lowell was in his office. She hit the intercom and buzzed twice, their code to let him know she had arrived. Ten minutes later the intercom buzzed back.

"Yes, boss?"

"Any important messages?"

"Just the usual. A few clients, two reporters seeking interviews. Melinda called."

"Okay, get her on the phone. The rest can wait."

A few moments later his phone rang.

"Hi, dad."

"You called?"

"Just wanted you to know I'm going to Dallas on a case for a few days."

"Anything exciting?"

"Not really, just a malpractice suit."

"That law firm is running you ragged."

"That's what you get when you're the junior associate. I'll be fine, really."

"Well, be careful and keep in touch."

"I'll text you every day."

He snorted. "Text. Why can't you call me?'

"Okay, dad, I'll call. But you know ..."

"If you tell me one more time that the world has changed and I have to keep up with it, I'll throttle myself. Besides, I now use an iPad, so you can't say I'm not changing. I'd just rather hear your voice than read six words in a text."

She laughed. "Okay, I'll call you, I promise."

* * *

About eleven Lowell's intercom buzzed.

"Lieutenant Roland is here. He'd like to see you." She whispered, "He doesn't look happy."

"Send him in."

The door opened and one of NYPD's finest entered.

"Hey, Lieutenant, what brings you around?" Lowell unconsciously pulled the band off his ponytail, straightened the long, graying hair, and retied it.

The policeman sat in a leather chair.

"Well, I'm getting serious pressure to bring you in on a case."

Lowell leaned back in his plain meshed-back chair. He had tried every fancy ergonomic chair, figuring if he was going to spend a third of his life in it, it should be the best. None felt right, until he found that the simplest model on sale at Staples suited him just fine. "That's rather unusual. I didn't think the police department liked to hire outside detectives."

"Well, this is an unusual case. And we wouldn't be hiring you directly."

"Tell me about it?"

"There's been another." Roland's raised eyebrows said it all. Lowell rested his chin on his fingertips. "You mean another rock 'n roll killing?"

"Yep. This is the third. First Gene Hallow, then Wally Fischer. Two is a coincidence. Three is a trend."

"Who is the most recent victim?"

"You know Freddie Finger?"

"From Rocket Fire? Hell, I saw them once." Lowell went quiet, thinking back to all the concerts he and his ex-wife had gone to.


"Sorry, I'm back. How did it happen?"

"The body was found in a building undergoing renovation on 80th between First and Second. A five-floor townhouse in the last stages of work, recently put on the market. Some workmen came in this morning to clean up and found him on the second floor hanging from a heat pipe. The ME says he was killed last night, probably around midnight. He was shot three times first, and then strung up. The shooting went down somewhere else. No blood at the apartment."


They were both silent for a moment.

Roland looked at his notes. "A pack of matches was found in his pocket from a neighborhood restaurant called Cantaloupe's. The bartender remembers him being there and leaving alone. She also remembers an odd man with a heavy accent, she thought maybe German, leaving shortly after."

"So who's pressuring you to bring me in?"

"It's his daughter. She lives in LA, but is here visiting and called me as soon as she heard. She asked if I would make the introductions and get you on board. Apparently your Winston case got a lot of publicity on the West Coast too, and she pretty much demanded that I include you in the investigation."

"There's no reason I have to be actively involved. Why don't you just consult me and I can do my work from here."

"I can think of two reasons right off the bat. First of all, she's a very influential person, and if she finds out you aren't actively working on this case she can make my life miserable ..."

"... and the second reason is that every minute she's annoying me is one less she's on your back."

"Absolutely." Roland smiled.

Lowell held up his hand. "Who is this celebrated client we are about to share?"

"Vivian Younger." The Lieutenant said it with a touch of drama.

"Vivian Younger, the actress?"

"Actress, model, singer ... you name it, she's into it. Didn't you know she was Freddie's daughter? Now do you see the spot I'm in?"

Lowell sat back in his chair and tugged on his ponytail, his thoughtful tic. "Hmm, yes I see your difficulty. I assume this will hit the papers today."

"No way to keep it out. The guy was an icon, for god's sake. I'm getting pressure from everybody, Freddie's record company, his manager, promoters. And now I'm getting even more from Vivian Younger's press secretary, her attorney, even the mayor's office." "They all must have been about sixty, wouldn't you say?

The murder of three aging rockers." Lowell leaned back in the chair with his hands clasped behind his head. "All right then, I'll take the case."

"Good. I'll introduce you to her later today." The Lieutenant extended his hand. "Thank you, Lowell, I appreciate it. And one more thing."

"I know, don't talk to the press."

"Actually, in this case you won't have a choice. As if Freddie weren't enough, Vivian Younger is such hot news that you can't avoid them."

Lowell groaned audibly.

"Just be careful what you say."

"In case you've forgotten, I don't care too much for the press, or the public."

"There's a patrol car waiting downstairs to take you to the murder scene when you're ready."

"That's okay. I'll use my car and driver."

"Fine." Roland handed Lowell a manila folder. "Here is the address of the townhouse and the birth information of the three victims. I'll meet you there in an hour."

Before the lieutenant was out of his chair, Lowell had swiveled to his computer and started typing. He punched in the three victims' information and printed out the charts. Then he grabbed his iPad, had Sarah call his driver, Andy, and headed out the door.

Chapter Two

The townhouse had been gutted and its contents piled in an ugly trash container on the street that took up two precious parking spots. New windows and a door had already been installed and it appeared that only cosmetic improvements remained to be done. Outside several policemen kept the public at bay behind the crime scene tape. The story had headlined the morning news shows and several had mentioned the address where Freddie was found. As Lowell got out of his car, heads turned to see who it was. The crime-scene gawkers were clad in all manner of clothing, from ties to overalls, baseball caps to a guy wearing a hooded sweatshirt, even on such a warm day. Lowell heard the click of a few cellphone cameras.

The rain stopped. He walked into the townhouse and was met by another officer who recognized the astrologer.

"Hey, professor. Am I glad I ran into you. You remember the last time I saw you, you were kind enough to take a look at my wife's chart?"

"Of course. Officer ..." Lowell looked at the cop's shirt. "... Browning, how nice to see you again. How is she doing?"

"She's just fine, thanks to you. You were absolutely right about the medicine affecting her liver. The doctors said if she'd been kept on it even another month it might have been fatal. Thank God you said something."

"I merely noticed a Jupiter-Neptune affliction in the natal chart being transited by Pluto that set off a warning bell and I thought you should address it. I'm happy it turned out okay."

"Yes sir, if there's anything you need just ask me. You here officially, or what?"

Lowell laughed. "Yes, officer, this time everything's on the up and up."

"Well, you have any problems, you let me know. And it's Billy, by the way."

"All right, Billy, thank you. Where was the body found?"

"The room right at the top of the stairs, you can't miss it. Hey, Franks," he called up the stairs, "he's all right to come up."

Lowell climbed the winding staircase. He entered the unfurnished room, now brightly lit from three windows with a southeastern view. Most New Yorkers thought Manhattan ran perfectly north-south, like a compass, but in fact, it was askew, as this view proved.

The body had been removed earlier, but the rope was still hanging from the heat pipe in the ceiling. Lowell walked around the room taking in as much as he could. The officer stood by the front door.

"What do you think this place goes for?"

The officer scratched his head and looked around. "More than I got."

"Five floors, a view like this and, if I'm not mistaken, an enclosed backyard. In this market – Christ, must be about ten million. So how come he chose to bring Freddie here? I don't think that was accidental, nor a matter of convenience."

Lowell and the officer turned toward the hallway at the sound of footfalls on the uncarpeted steps.

Roland entered. "Ah, glad you're here, Lowell. This is Vivian Younger, Freddie's daughter."

That she was a Gemini was apparent at first glance to the astrologer's trained eye: tall, slim, a long thin neck and broad shoulders, pale hair, a high forehead, piercing eyes and sharp features. She had that Gemini ability to appear different from each angle. On first view she seemed young, almost waiflike, and painfully fragile, her face, like a china cup, too delicate to handle. Yet if she turned a bit to the left or the right, the light reflected an entirely different persona: bold and strong, a bit arrogant and incredibly womanly. She wasn't beautiful in the traditional sense of the word, but her face was so animated it was impossible not to stare at her.

"David Lowell." He extended his hand.

Hers was warm and soft, but the shake was firm and directed. A tear trickled down her left cheek. She managed a smile, wiping away the droplet with a finger. "Thank you for being here, Mr. Lowell."

"David, please."

"Ms. Younger insisted on seeing the, uh, place where, uh that is ..." fumbled the lieutenant.

"I understand," said Lowell. "Sometimes we must have closure at any cost."

"What do you make of this location?" asked the lieutenant. "Ms. Younger, do you mind if I speak bluntly? I don't mean to be insensitive."

"No, please. I want to hear what you think."

"Well, I'm sure your father's was not a random killing. There was much forethought put into the planning of this crime. By the way, I believe he was killed a bit after midnight, probably about 12:15 or so, after the Moon entered Virgo. Before that time the moon was Void of Course and there were probably several mistakes made that could have delayed or ruined the murderer's plans. However, like I said this was a well planned attack. Transiting Mercury opposed your father's natal Pluto, indicating a potentially underhanded or hidden agenda being acted out. Mars, the god of war, and ruler of the ego, was conjunct his natal Neptune, ruler of drugs. You will probably find traces of a knockout drug in his system. What about alcohol?"

"No, my father had been sober for years. You won't find any alcohol in his system unless it was forced upon him."

"You don't believe he could have fallen off the wagon?"

She shook her head. "If you knew what he went through to get sober you'd never ask that question. My father loved music more than anything in the world. Drinking almost cost him his career. He wasn't going to risk losing it again."

"I've seen what I need to here, Ms. Younger. Why don't we get some tea?"

"Call me Vivian, and yes, tea would be nice."

"Lieutenant, I'll call you later at the precinct."

The crowd had thinned out by now. Among the few left was the guy in the hooded sweatshirt, who looked down as if to hide his face, Lowell noticed, the second Lowell passed with Vivian.

They made it to the corner, crossed the avenue, and as they walked in silence down the street, Lowell and Vivian approached a man maybe fifty, dressed in jeans and an NYU sweatshirt, ostensibly vacuuming the sidewalk with a Hoover upright, although there was no electric chord visible, and it made no sound. The man had put together a make-shift room, complete with a black leather chair, torn across the seat, next to a table holding a lamp, which was also unplugged. There was even a magazine rack on the ground next to the chair with several old issues of Time in evidence. Apparently someone had emptied out an apartment, and this gentleman had commandeered a tiny piece of the city as his own.


Excerpted from Death in the 12th House by Mitchell Scott Lewis Copyright © 2012 by Mitchell Scott Lewis. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press. 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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Shows promise

    Brought to you by OBS reviewer Verushka

    Beware of spoilers!

    I want to preface this review by saying I haven’t yet read the first book in this series, so forgive me if I miss something that has been mentioned in that one.

    David Lowell is a wealthy astrologer, who just happens to run his own detective agency, the very lyrically named: Starlight Detective Agency. What intrigued me about this book was that David uses astrology to solve his cases. Having had my own chart done recently and understanding nothing of that reading, I was looking forward to reading something from an accomplished astrologer like Lewis, and I wasn’t disappointed. In that respect, the book is engaging, and for a layperson, easy to understand in terms of the astrology aspects.

    In this title, David is called in to investigate the death of Freddie Finger, an aging rocker – I kept thinking of Keith Richards when I was reading about Freddie. His is the third murder of an aging rock star and his daughter, Vivian, a famous actress, hires David to look into his murder. As a result, David spends his time looking into Freddie’s wives, band-mates and manager to try and find out what happened to him. It is very much a ripped from the headlines story and the resolution was unexpected to say the least. All in all, the mystery/case aspect of this title was well done.

    Another powerful aspect of this book is Lewis’ love for NYC, which is apparent in his vivid descriptions of the city David lives and works in. Having read and seen a lot of photos of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy, the vivid descriptions of the city are a joy to read.

    But back to David. Lewis’ style of writing is very laid back, and for certain aspects of the book, it works very well, but, as the book progresses, the tone never shifts. That becomes a weak part of what is a mystery series – the bulk of David’s investigative technique involves interviewing people, asking them (or finding out through research) their birth details in order to create their charts, which help him direct his investigation. It’s interesting, but for a detective novel, it is devoid of tension, of a sense of David’s urgency to find Freddie’s killer. Instead, he walks the neighborhood, or takes a drive to think.

    David is also a character who doesn’t struggle against anything (though I stand to be corrected considering the implications of the end – it reads like a reference to something that causes him angst from the first book) – he is wealthy, he travels in a limo, the cops trust him and his methods and he is renowned and successful. Granted, not every PI has to be poor, down on his luck and struggling for something in his life, but coupled with the laid back nature of the writing it contributed to the one-tone of the book.

    There is an attempt at a romance, but it reads as a perfunctory part of the book, and is woefully under-developed. There are no stand outs in the secondary cast of characters either. I think this is a premise with such potential for more exciting stories, something I hope to see in future titles.

    This review and more at openbooksociety dot com

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  • Posted November 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    You don't have to be into Astrology to enjoy this one

    I remember fondly this author’s first book featuring David Lowell, Astrologer/Detective, who solves crimes using astrological charts and just plain good sense. After having read the first book Murder in the 11th House, I couldn’t wait to start on this one and was not disappointed. The whole idea of this new book, Death in the 12th House: Where Neptune Rules, is the murder of a Rock Star who was very popular in Rock’s golden years and at the time of his murder, was on the comeback trail. During the investigation, The Starlight Detective Agency comes up with numerous suspects including Freddie’s two ex-wives, who detest each other; band members, his manager and also a musician whose career Freddie destroyed by blackballing him with other bands. The Agency gets busy studying all the astrological charts on these various people. As the plot thickens, the suspects' various foibles are developed and brought into the plotlines in a way that the reader, even if they are not into astrology, can understand. Readers who are into astrology will read and understand more of the charts but anyone else (including me) can still understand and keep up with the story, which is really fascinating. Quill says: I highly recommend this book to all mystery readers who enjoy a good read whether or not they fully understand the world of Astrology.

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