Dolled Up for Murder (Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery Series #7)by Jane K. Cleland
Crime-solving antiques dealer Josie Prescott is back--tracking down a doll collection to die for.
On a sparkling spring day in the cozy coastal town of Rocky Point, New Hampshire, with the lilacs in full bloom and the wisteria hanging low, antiques dealer Josie Prescott is showing a stellar doll collection she's just acquired to Alice Michaels, the queen of/p>
Crime-solving antiques dealer Josie Prescott is back--tracking down a doll collection to die for.
On a sparkling spring day in the cozy coastal town of Rocky Point, New Hampshire, with the lilacs in full bloom and the wisteria hanging low, antiques dealer Josie Prescott is showing a stellar doll collection she's just acquired to Alice Michaels, the queen of the local investment community. Moments later, Josie watches in horror as Alice is shot and killed. Within hours, one of Josie's employees, Eric, is kidnapped. The kidnapper's ransom demand is simple--he wants the doll collection. Working against the clock with the local police chief, Josie discovers that the dolls hold secrets that will save Eric and uncover the truth behind Alice's murder.
With Dolled Up for Murder, Jane K. Cleland's Josie Prescott Anitques Mystery Series "continues to offer clever mysteries studded with enough information on antiques to keep collectors coming back for more." --Publishers Weekly
Read an Excerpt
Dolled Up for Murder
By Jane K. Cleland
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Jane K. Cleland
All rights reserved.
Gretchen, administrative manager of PRESCOTT'S ANTIQUES & AUCTIONS, spread the photographs over her desk. "I can't decide," she said. She looked up and smiled at us, her expressive green eyes reflecting her pleasure. "What do you think? Should I go with the blue hydrangeas and paperwhites? Or the veronicas and baby's breath?" She angled the two photos so we could see them.
"I love hydrangeas!" Cara, our receptionist, said. Cara was grandmotherly in appearance, with curly white hair and a round pink face that grew pinker when she felt pleasure, embarrassment, or sadness.
"Me, too," I said, leaning over to see the images. "Especially the blue ones — and the paperwhites in this bouquet are beautiful." I looked at the other photo Gretchen was holding and laughed. "You're going to hate me because I'm not going to be of any help at all. I love these veronicas, too!"
"They're so delicate," Cara agreed. "Really lovely."
"I don't know," Gretchen said. She gathered up the photographs and jiggled them together. "Luckily I have a week before I have to decide."
The wind chimes Gretchen had hung on the back of the front door years earlier jingled. Lenny Einsohn stepped inside.
"Josie," he said. He nodded at Gretchen and Cara, then looked back at me. "Do you have a minute?"
Lenny looked awful, pasty white and too thin. I wasn't surprised. Wes Smith, the incredibly plugged-in local reporter, had just broken the story that Alice D. Michaels, the founder and CEO of ADM Financial Advisers Inc., was being investigated for running a mega-Ponzi scheme, with or without her associates' knowledge. The associate most often mentioned as the brains behind the scheme was Lenny. Alice had fired him three months earlier, at the first hint of trouble.
I knew Lenny because his oldest son, now away at college, had caught the stamp collecting bug in junior high school, and after witnessing his elation at several tag sale finds, his parents had joined in the fun. Lenny started collecting Civil War maps and ephemera and his wife, Iris, fell in love with Clarice Cliff jugs.
"Sure. Let's go up to my office."
I pushed open the heavy door, stepped into the warehouse, and led the way to the spiral staircase that led to my private office on the mezzanine, our footsteps echoing in the cavernous space. I considered directing Lenny to the yellow upholstered love seat and Queen Anne wing chairs but didn't. A little voice in my head warned me I should keep our interaction all business.
"Have a seat," I said, sitting behind my desk as I pointed to a guest chair. "What can I do for you?"
Lenny looked as if he'd rather be at the dentist getting a root canal without anesthetic than talking to me.
"I was going through my Civil War documents the other day. I've acquired some nice things over the last few years. Some original maps showing forts and so on. I have two letters signed by Lincoln, too. I paid thirty-five thousand for one of them — a thank-you to Ulysses Doubleday for information about Fort Sumter." He crossed his legs, then uncrossed them. "I'd like to sell the entire collection."
I didn't want any part of it. If Lenny was charged with larceny or fraud or anything related to financial improprieties at ADM Financial, the courts would freeze his assets until the case was settled one way or the other. In situations like this, the authorities often went back ninety days or even longer, trying to recoup monies for victims.
My window was open, and a stack of papers fluttered in the soft, warm breeze. I moved a paperweight — a water-smoothed gray rock my boyfriend and I had picked up from a purling brook during a hike in the White Mountains last summer — onto the top of the pile. Lenny kept his eyes on me, waiting for me to speak.
"Do you want me to appraise the collection for you?" I asked.
"No. I'm hoping you'll buy it."
If I purchased his collection and he was subsequently convicted, the courts might decide that the proceeds of the sale should have benefited his victims, not him. Thinking through the worst-case scenario, the powers that be might even confiscate the collection on the theory that it had been originally purchased with stolen money. I'd be out the cash I'd paid him, and the public might think I'd conspired with Lenny to snooker them. That scenario had ugly written all over it. I tried to think how I could extricate myself without offending him but couldn't. There was no easy way out.
"Sorry, Lenny. I have to pass."
He bit his lip and tapped the chair arm. "I'll give you a good deal."
I shook my head. "Sorry." I stood up. "Let me walk you out."
* * *
Back upstairs in my office, I picked up my accountant Pete's good-news quarterly report, then put it down, my interest in revenue streams and profit margins waning as the breeze wafted through my window. I put the report aside and started reading my antiques appraiser Fred's draft of catalogue copy for an auction we were planning for next fall on witchcraft memorabilia, thinking it would be more engaging than financial data, but within minutes, I found myself staring at the baby blue sky. I was suffering from a serious case of spring fever.
"Come on, Josie," I told myself. "Concentrate."
I reached for a media release we planned to send to doll magazines, blogs, and book reviewers announcing the purchase of Selma Farmington's doll collection.
Selma Farmington had died just a week earlier in a horrific car accident, and now her daughters, up from Texas, were facing the daunting task of clearing out the sprawling home that had been in their family for generations. When they'd called me in to buy some of the antiques, they'd been frank about feeling shell-shocked and overwhelmed. I'd encouraged them to let me take the time to appraise the doll collection so they could sell the dolls individually at full retail, the best way to command top dollar, but they weren't interested. They hadn't even wanted to consign the dolls. When I explained that in order to buy the collection outright, I had to offer them a wholesale price, they'd understood. After a brief discussion, they'd asked me to raise my offer from one-third of their mom's carefully recorded expenditures to half, and I'd agreed. The $23,000 sales price was fair. Once the dolls were properly appraised, cleaned, and repaired, I'd be certain to make a good profit, and they had one less collection to worry about. While Selma's doll collection wasn't of earth-shattering quality, I thought it was varied enough to be of interest to collectors and dealers. My fingers were crossed that we'd get good media coverage. I finished reading the release, e-mailed Gretchen that it was good to go, then considered what to do next.
Nothing appealed to me. I was about to struggle through another few pages of Fred's catalogue when Gretchen IM'd me. Alice Michaels had called for an appointment, and she'd scheduled her at three. First Lenny, now Alice, I thought. I glanced at the time display on my computer monitor. It was three minutes after two. I gave up trying to work, pushed the papers aside, and headed downstairs. I decided to walk to the church about a quarter mile down the road to the east, in the hopes that indulging my need to be outside for a little while would enable me to buckle down when I returned. Cara was on the phone giving someone directions to Saturday's tag sale. I told Gretchen I'd be back in half an hour or so.
I stood for a moment in my parking lot enjoying feeling the sun on my face and listening to the birds chat to one another, then started down the packed dirt path that wound through the woods, a shortcut from my property to the Congregational Church of Rocky Point. Everything was blooming or in bud, filled with the promise of renewal, of hope.
May was my favorite time of year in New Hampshire. The wisteria and lilacs were in full bloom, the wisteria hanging low over lush green grass and the lilacs scenting the roads and fields. Violets and lilies of the valley dotted the forest floor. Queen Anne's lace and heather grew in wild abandon near the sandy shore. May was idyllic. So was June when the dahlias and peonies were in bloom. September was dazzling, too, with its fiery colors and crisp evenings. As was October, with pumpkins as big as wheelbarrows proudly placed on porches and golden and cordovan colored Indian corn hung on doors. The fresh-fallen snow in January created a winter wonderland that to my eye rivaled the postcard-perfect Alpine slopes. I smiled, realizing how much I loved New Hampshire in all seasons, how fully my adopted state had become my home. I paused to admire a clutch of Boston fern, their new fronds just unfurling.
As soon as I stepped onto the church grounds, I spotted Ted Bauer, the pastor, standing by the side garden. I walked to join him.
"Hey, Ted," I said as I approached.
He looked over his shoulder and smiled. Ted was of medium height and stout. His blond hair was graying, and he'd gained some weight over the last year or so. He looked his age, which I guessed was close to fifty.
"Hi, Josie. You caught me playing hooky. I have an acute case of spring fever."
"Me, too. I don't want to do anything but wander around outside admiring plants and flowers and birds."
"I understand completely. I've been standing here looking at the impatiens for way too long. I should be inside preparing next Sunday's sermon."
"It's only Monday. You have time. I should be reviewing catalogue copy Fred wrote. He can't continue his work until he hears from me."
"I wish I had plenty of time, but the truth is that it takes me all week to write a sermon. When's the auction?"
"September. Which, despite being months away, will be here before we know it. We have to start promoting it soon."
"We share a good work ethic, Josie."
"That's true," I acknowledged.
"But you know what?" he asked, his smile lighting up his eyes. "It's all right to take a little time now and again to appreciate things like flowers and birds."
"I know you're right, but I still feel guilty."
"Me, too. How's this? I won't tell on you if you don't tell on me."
"Deal," I said, grinning.
I circled the church and waved good-bye to Ted as I entered the pathway for my return journey. I stepped onto the asphalt outside Prescott's in time to see Alice Michaels pull into a parking spot near the front door. I walked to join her. I felt the muscles in my upper back and neck tense as I braced for another difficult conversation.CHAPTER 2
"I don't know what it is, Josie," Alice Michaels said, gently stroking the antique doll's feather-soft auburn hair, "but just touching this little beauty takes my mind off my troubles."
The Bébé Bru Jne doll from Selma's collection was a beauty, marred by a poorly repaired ragged crack on the back of her head. I tried to think how to respond to Alice's comment. Her troubles were no longer private, that was for sure, not after Wes published all the gory details, yet I was surprised she was talking about her situation so openly. She sat across from me at the guest table in the front office where everyone could listen in. From Gretchen's expression, I could tell that she was all ears. She loved being in the know. Maybe, I thought, Alice didn't care what anyone thought. Or maybe she felt that she was among friends, that at Prescott's, she'd be safe from criticism. Regardless, she looked fine, the same as always. Her dyed blond chin-length hair was newly coiffed. Her makeup was subtle and flawless. Her navy blue gabardine suit and white silk blouse fit her like a dream.
"Have you heard anything more?" I asked, hoping my tone conveyed my genuine concern, not just my curiosity.
She looked up from the doll and met my eyes. "No, but they always say the victim is the last to know, right?"
She thinks of herself as a victim, I noted, wondering if it was true. Was she being set up as a scapegoat? Was Lenny? In his article, Wes had quoted an unnamed senior official in the district attorney's office as saying the two of them, and maybe additional employees and vendors as well, were going to be indicted within days, maybe within hours. Grim. Alice was watching me, gauging my reaction to her words. I tried to think of something kind or supportive to say.
"It's no fun waiting for someone else to make a decision about your future."
"Especially for a control freak like me," she said, trying to smile. "Whatever. Instead of spinning my wheels, I'll admire this young lady's complexion — classic peaches and cream. What talent the makers had! Tell me about her."
"With pleasure. How about a cup of tea? Would you like one?"
Her nose wrinkled. "Tea — awful stuff. Maudles your insides. I never go near it. I'll take a coffee, though, if any is available."
"Absolutely," Gretchen said. "I'll bring some gingersnaps, too."
"Thanks, Gretchen." I turned my attention back to the doll. "This doll, which is one of twenty-three that make up the Farmington collection, is a Bébé Bru Jne." I pronounced the tongue-tangling word as a cross between June and gin. "Her coloration is typical for the style, and as I'm sure you know, nineteenth-century dolls in unused condition are as rare as all get-out. Her head is made of bisque, pink tinted and unglazed, a proprietary formula. Her wig is made of human hair, probably original to the doll. Ditto her clothes — the white underdress appears to be fine cotton. The blue overdress is probably made of silk. Once we complete the appraisal, we'll know for certain what the materials are and whether they're original. Both dresses are hand-stitched. Unfortunately, at some point her head got cracked and someone repaired it, not well. They didn't use archival-quality products, and significant yellowing has occurred. The only good news is that the crack is hidden by her wig."
"A cracked head! The poor girl. Still, I think she's spectacular, cracked head and all. I look forward to holding her very frequently." Alice paused and sighed. "My mother never let me play with her doll collection, did I ever tell you that? They were to be admired from afar, but never touched." She snorted, a humorless sound. "Now here I am doing the same darn thing, building a collection to give to my granddaughter, knowing that her mother, Ms. Attila the Hun, won't let her play with them." She shook her head. "Funny how what goes around comes around, isn't it?" She waved it away. "Old news is boring news — throw it out with the trash. All I can do is hope that Brooke loves the collection as much as I do — even if she won't be allowed to play with it."
"I bet she has other dolls, not collectibles, that she can use," I said, hoping it was true.
"Dozens," Alice acknowledged. She looked at me as an impish smile transformed her countenance from polished adult to mischievous child. "When I was about seven, I sewed myself a sock doll. I used cotton scraps from my mother's quilting basket for the stuffing and for her dress. I named her Hilda, after my favorite teacher, Miss Horne. I painted Miss Horne's face on her, too — big blue eyes and a bright red heart-shaped mouth. I even stitched brown yarn on her head for hair. I loved that doll. I loved that teacher." She smiled wider. "When my sister saw it, she wanted one, too." Her eyes twinkled. "I charged her a dollar." She chuckled. "I left a little opening in one of Hilda's seams, a hidey-hole under her dress for my diary key. My sister searched and searched for that key and never found it. Ha!" She shook her head, a rueful expression on her face. "Jeesh! That's more than fifty years ago, Josie, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Fifty years ago. Life was simpler then, that's for sure. All I had to worry about back then was hiding my diary from my sister."
"Hilda wasn't included in the collection we appraised, was she? Do you still have her?"
"You betcha! And she's still my favorite. I didn't include her because I know she has no value — she's just a handmade kid's toy." Alice handed over the Bébé Bru Jne with a sigh. "I know you can't say what you'll charge for Selma's dolls until you've finished the appraisal, but are you confident it's a good investment?"
"Absolutely. While there's no guarantee, prices on dolls have been going up steadily for years, and I have no reason to think that will change anytime soon." I smiled at her. "I know you're impatient, but these things take time. We'll know more soon."
Gretchen set a tray on the guest table. As I thanked her, Alice reached for her coffee.
"Do you think my granddaughter will like them?" she asked.
"Of course!" I said, surprised at the question. "What little girl wouldn't?"
"I suppose." She sounded unconvinced. "Can you guess which doll is most valuable?"
"Until the appraisal is complete, I really can't. That said, Selma kept meticulous records, so I know how much she paid for each doll and where she purchased them. It appears that none is unique, and most of them have flaws, like that Bébé Bru Jne's poorly repaired head. Of course, you know what a lack of scarcity and poor condition do to value."
Excerpted from Dolled Up for Murder by Jane K. Cleland. Copyright © 2012 Jane K. Cleland. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's 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.
Meet the Author
JANE K. CLELAND once owned a New Hampshire-based antiques and rare books business and now lives in New York City. An Anthony Award and two-time Agatha Award finalist, she is a board member of the New York chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and chair of the Wolfe Pack's literary awards.
JANE K. CLELAND once owned a New Hampshire-based antiques and rare books business, and she now lives in New York City with her husband. Her first novel, Consigned to Death, was an Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller and was nominated for the Macavity, Agatha, and David book awards. Her second, Deadly Appraisal, and her sixth, Deadly Threads, both won the David Award for Best Novel. Her third, Antiques to Die For, her fifth, Silent Auction, and her seventh, Lethal Treasure, were all nominated for the David Award. She is the past president of the New York chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and chair of the Wolfe Pack's literary awards. Jane also hosts The Writers Room, a series of television interviews airing on local cable and online.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Good mystery, cute cats, interesting antiques, and the dolls are wonderful!
The author doesn't sound sure of herself when writing about the antiques business .... she really needs help on this. Also get rid of Wes... you need a better character in this role.
Antique Dolls, Money, and Murder A Mint Quality Mystery! Jane Cleland's novel is a page-turner! In this book, Josie Prescott has one of her customers shot dead in her parking lot while Josie was chatting with her, just after the victim, Alice Michaels, had put a deposit on a group of antique dolls. While Josie is still reeling from the murder , her assistant Eric is kidnapped, and she and her Police Chief friend, Ellis Hunter, are determined to rescue Eric and discover the identity of the kidnapper before it is too late.There are all kinds of suspects, though, as Alice was about to be indicted for running for running a Ponzi scheme, and many investors were bilked of their savings One investor in particular, Ian, in particular has been aggressively vocal about the money he lost, and in accusing Alice's assistant and son of conspiracy. But is he the murderer? There are plenty of suspects for Josie to consider. Also, at first it's not at all clear that the murder of Alice and the kidnapping of Eric are related events, but when Josie discovers a cache of Civil War-era currency hidden in one of the antique dolls, she's convinced the murder and kidnapping are very much related, and this is verified when the kidnapper's demands include instructions on bringing the rest of the doll collection as ransom. The book builds in suspense, and as I got towards the final chapters of the book, I found myself unable to put it down. Readers need not have read previous books in the Josie Prescott series to enjoy it although having done so will make this book more fun to read, as characters from previous books return in this one. For those who enjoy descriptions of nature, Cleland's details about the New Hampshire climate will be one more element to enjoy. Cat lovers will find Hank, the Maine Coon Cat who lives in Josie's store, to be an engaging addition to the storyline, while antique collectors will appreciate the amount of detail covered on the dolls in the story. Mystery aficiandos will enjoy the book for its fast pace and interesting characters. In short, this is a great book to give as a gift for relatives or friends who reside in New Hampshire, are cat lovers, antique collectors, or just plain old mystery buffs. Better get one for yourself, too! Highly recommended.