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Dusted to Death [NOOK Book]

Overview

As the owner of Maid for a Day, Charlotte LaRue has learned that behind closed doors, everyone's dirty laundry holds a few dark secrets—and in the end, they all come out in the wash. . .

The city of New Orleans has long been a favorite backdrop for movie producers, and now one of Charlotte's best clients, Bitsy Duhe, is getting in on the action. A big Hollywood studio wants to use Bitsy's gorgeous Victorian house for a movie shoot and they are willing to pay her handsomely for ...

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Dusted to Death

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Overview

As the owner of Maid for a Day, Charlotte LaRue has learned that behind closed doors, everyone's dirty laundry holds a few dark secrets—and in the end, they all come out in the wash. . .

The city of New Orleans has long been a favorite backdrop for movie producers, and now one of Charlotte's best clients, Bitsy Duhe, is getting in on the action. A big Hollywood studio wants to use Bitsy's gorgeous Victorian house for a movie shoot and they are willing to pay her handsomely for the honor. Bitsy consents, but only after Charlotte agrees to take care of her beloved home during the shoot and keep the place spotless as only Charlotte can.

For Charlotte, the assignment is an exciting change of pace. On the first day, she meets the whole cast and crew, including one of Hollywood's hottest ingénues, Angel Martinique. But Charlotte quickly discovers that Angel's G-rated reputation is nothing like her off-camera, diva-like behavior. Angel, it turns out, is no angel at all. . .

Once the shoot begins, Charlotte has a front row seat to all the back stage drama: the director who wants to control his favorite starlet's every move. . . the make-up artist whose talents with cosmetics can't hide the mysterious bruises on her face. . . the bodyguard who is clashing with everyone on the set. . .and Angel's seemingly mild-mannered friend, Nick, whose shy demeanor hides a far more menacing side. . .

Despite all the tension, the movie seems to be going well—until Nick is found dead in Angel's dressing room, a bloody letter opener lying just a few feet away. To Charlotte, it seems there is no shortage of suspects. But when the police investigation quickly zeros in onAngel, Charlotte senses there's much more to her story than meets the eye. As Charlotte does a little digging into Angel's past, she comes up with a bit more dirt than she bargained for—enough to put her in the crosshairs of danger if she doesn't watch her step. . .

Barbara Colley is an award-winning author whose books have been published in sixteen foreign languages. A native of Louisiana, she lives with her family in a suburb of New Orleans. Besides writing and sharing her stories, she loves strolling through the historic New Orleans French Quarter and Garden District, which inspired the setting for her Charlotte LaRue mystery series.

Sparkling Reviews And Shining Praise For Barbara Colley And Her Charlotte Larue Mysteries!

Scrub-A-Dub-Dead

"Colley has not lost her flair for throwing Charlotte into dangerous situations." —Library Journal

Married To The Mop "This series is light, well-written, and a lot of fun." —The Kingston Observer

"Interesting and fast moving is this newest mystery from Colley. —St. Charles Herald-Guide

"Charlotte is a formidable and extremely likeable character. There are enough turns and twists in the mystery to keep you guessing and glued to the book." —Reviewing the Evidence.com

Wiped Out

"One to add to any mystery lover's must-read list. . .a well-written, skillfully crafted story." —L'Observateur Newspaper

Polished Off

"If you like Southern mysteries, warm and charming sleuths, or simply reading about New Orleans, you will enjoy Polished Off." —Cozies, Capers, and Crimes

Death Tidies Up"Charlotte is a keeper...an entertaining way to put off sorting that closet or scrubbing down the tiles." --New Orleans Times-Picayune

Maid For Murder

"Provides a maids' eye view of New Orleans' rich and famous, and proves that murder can't be swept under the rug." —Joanne Fluke, author of Carrot Cake Murder

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Colley's featherweight eighth mystery to feature New Orleans maid Charlotte LaRue (after 2008's Wash and Die), Charlotte must keep tidy a Garden District mansion being used as a set for a movie starring legendary actor Hunter Lansky and hot rising actress Angel Martinique. Filming's barely underway when Charlotte discovers Angel's two-timing boyfriend stabbed to death with a letter opener, which turns out to be covered with Angel's fingerprints. Angel's chauffeur asks Charlotte to investigate, and the two head to Oakdale, Miss., to learn what they can about Angel's early life. Charlotte's PI boyfriend, Louis Thibodeaux, can't help because he's out of town, but Charlotte, a housecleaner's answer to Jessica Fletcher, has learned that cheese graters, bleach and buckets can come in handy in her sleuthing work. Charlotte is a sweetie, but this conventional cozy series could use some extra-strength twists to give it more heft. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Charlotte, who runs a maid service, is hired to protect a customer's belongings while a Hollywood movie is filmed in the customer's New Orleans home. But she is shocked by the actors' antics and the ugly side of a Hollywood production. VERDICT This cozy series (Wash and Die; Scrub-a-Dub Dead) gets better with each book. Colley allows Charlotte to grow as a character while still telling the delightful mysteries that will appeal to Diane Mott Davidson fans.\
Kirkus Reviews
Housekeeper almost gets her clock cleaned when a movie company shoots in her client's Greek Revival home. As owner of Maid-for-a-Day, Charlotte LaRue (Wash and Die, 2008, etc.) normally has her pick of which jobs to take herself and which to hand over to her employees. But it's hard to say no to Bitsy Duhe, widow of New Orleans' former mayor and one of Charlotte's oldest customers. Besides, watching over a movie shoot in Bitsy's mansion sounds like a piece of cake-and with her handsome neighbor Louis Thibodeaux acting kind of weird, Charlotte won't at all mind getting a peek at leading man Hunter Lansky. Leading lady Angel Martinique is another story-flighty, fussy and peremptory. Her tantrums mess up the shooting schedule, her long list of dos and don'ts drive makeup artist Heather Cortez crazy, and her fights with boyfriend Nick Franklin keep bodyguard Toby Russell busy full time. So soon after Nick is stabbed to death, the NOPD's Gavin Brown has Angel in cuffs. But her driver Benny Jackson, a childhood friend of Charlotte's son Hank, thinks she's been set up and begs the cleaner to investigate. Together they drive down to Angel's hometown, Oakdale, Miss., where they learn enough to cast serious doubt on the star's guilt and to put Charlotte in serious danger. An eighth straightforward puzzle in which likable amateur sleuth Charlotte does her level best to straighten up someone else's mess.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780758261786
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 12/1/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 561,816
  • File size: 3 MB

First Chapter

DUSTED TO DEATH

Charlotte LaRue Mystery
By Barbara Colley

KENSINGTON BOOKS

Copyright © 2010 Barbara Colley
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-2254-1


Chapter One

"Maid-for-a-Day, Charlotte LaRue speaking."

"Hey, Charlotte, I've got some good news and some bad news. Then, I've got some more good news."

Charlotte bit back a groan of impatience. Bitsy Duhè, an elderly lady, was a longtime client. Her phone call had come smack in the middle of Charlotte's search for an article that she'd cut out of the newspaper. The article in the Times-Picayune listed the upcoming Fourth of July celebrations going on in the Greater New Orleans area, and Charlotte wanted to check out the different locations again before she settled on the one she had in mind.

"Bitsy, can I call you back in a few minutes?" Charlotte tucked the telephone receiver between her chin and shoulder to free her hands so that she could continue sorting through the stack of papers on her desk.

"This won't take long," Bitsy responded sharply, her tone petulant. "Besides, I don't have all day to sit around and wait for you to call me back."

And I do? Charlotte closed her eyes and counted to ten before speaking again. Truth be known, other than staying on the phone gossiping, watching her soap operas, and going to her many doctors' appointments, sitting around all day was exactly all that Bitsy had to do. Knowing how Bitsy could pout, though, she figured that she might as well let Bitsy have her say or Charlotte would never hear the end of it. "So what's the good news?" Charlotte asked.

"Oh, Charlotte, you'll never guess."

No, and I don't want to. Charlotte bit her tongue to keep from saying the words out loud, and guilt for being so impatient with the old lady reared its ugly head.

"They want to use my house."

Charlotte's brow furrowed. "They?"

"Mega Films-you know-the production company that's shooting that movie here in the Garden District, the one starring Hunter Lansky and Angel Martinique."

Hunter Lansky! Charlotte's mouth gaped open. Hunter Lansky was one of her all-time favorite actors. Why, even the mention of his name immediately conjured up his handsome image in her mind.

"Two days ago," Bitsy continued, "a man knocked on my door and said he was Mega Films' location manager and that he wanted to use my house for a movie. Then, yesterday, he came back with three other men, including the producer and the director. Can't remember what the fourth man's title was. Anyway, they're willing to pay me a boatload of money and said they'd put me up in the hotel of my choice while they shoot the scenes they need. I'm thinking that maybe I'd like to stay at the Monteleone. I've always thought it might be fun to live in the French Quarter-temporarily, of course."

"Why, Bitsy, that's terrific."

Louisiana, and the Greater New Orleans area in particular, was quickly becoming known as Hollywood South. Though the movie industry was good for the economy since they used locals, Charlotte had mixed feelings about the so-called Hollywood invasion. Still, it was exciting. Why, just earlier she'd read an article that mentioned that in addition to the movie starring Hunter Lansky, several more movies were scheduled for production over the next few months. She'd even had to take a different route to work the day before since part of St. Charles Avenue had been blocked off for filming. Could that be the one Bitsy was talking about?

"Yeah, I was all excited at first," Bitsy continued, "but here's the bad news. I could hardly sleep last night for thinking about it, and now I'm not so sure. I can always use a bit of extra money, but just the thought of all those strangers traipsing in and out of my house makes me nervous. Why, no telling what they'll do to my stuff."

And what on earth does this have to do with me? Charlotte thought impatiently.

Still searching through the stack of articles, Charlotte sighed. "Granted, I don't know a lot about this type of thing, Bitsy, but I would think that they would be extra careful when they use someone's home." She suddenly spied the Fourth of July article and set it aside. She should have known that it would be near the bottom of the stack.

"You're probably right," Bitsy went on, oblivious of anything but her own agenda. "But just to make sure, I called them bright and early this morning and told them that I want you to be there."

"You did what?"

"Well, I would have asked that young man, Dale, who you've got working for me, but since he's decided to get his master's degree, I knew he wouldn't have time."

And I do? Bitsy's audacity never ceased to amaze Charlotte.

"There would be some cleaning involved," Bitsy continued. "But between you and me, your job would mostly be to watch over my stuff. So-and this is the other good news-I insisted that they hire you to keep the house clean and organized during the shooting, and they've agreed. And guess how much they're willing to pay you for the two weeks that they'll be shooting?"

Without waiting for a response, Bitsy blurted out, "Five-thousand dollars. And believe me, I had to negotiate with them to get that much. Pretty nice, huh?"

For several moments Charlotte was speechless. No wonder making movies cost so much money. Once she finally found her voice, she said, "Ah, Bitsy, I-I appreciate the offer-I really do-and the money is unbelievable, but I do have other clients, you know. I can't just take off for that long without prior notice."

"That's what this is!" Bitsy exclaimed. "I'm giving you prior notice. And before you say no, don't forget who's starring in the movie."

Hunter Lansky and Angel Martinique. How could she forget? In spite of herself, Charlotte felt a tingle of anticipation at the chance to actually meet Hunter Lansky. Just say no ... just say no. Ignoring her inner voice of reason, Charlotte hesitated. The money would be really nice and certainly more than her maid service would bring in for the two weeks. It would also be more than enough to finally have the twins' portrait done. Now that her little grandbabies were finally crawling and sitting up by themselves, they were the perfect age for a portrait.

Besides, the publicity for Maid-for-a-Day would be great, and this might be the only opportunity you'll ever get to meet Hunter Lansky.

Charlotte felt her face grow warm. Hunter Lansky had been the first movie star that she'd ever had a crush on. By now he had to be at least sixty-eight, five years older than Charlotte. She knew that because, ever since she'd been a lovesick teenager, she'd followed his career through the years. He'd been twenty when his career had taken off, and she'd collected all of the tabloid articles and pictures printed about him, not to mention seeing all of his films at least twice.

Knowing she would probably regret asking, she said, "How much prior notice are you giving me?"

"Then you'll do it?"

"Bitsy, how much prior notice?" she repeated.

"They start shooting two days after the Fourth-that's this Monday-and should be finished within two weeks."

Charlotte winced. The Fourth was on Saturday, two days away. Four days' total notice-not a lot of notice, but adequate ... decisions, decisions. "Tell you what, let me check my schedule and see what I can do. Then I'll get back to you."

"And how long will that take?"

Lord, give me patience. At times it was all she could do to keep a civil tongue in her head when dealing with Bitsy. Finally, taking a deep breath, she said, "It shouldn't take too long. I'll give you a call just as soon as I can. More than likely, by later this afternoon I'll know something, one way or another."

"Oh, good. And, Charlotte?"

"Yes."

"Please try to work it out."

Charlotte frowned as she hung up the receiver. Something about the way Bitsy had said "Please try to work it out" gave her pause. After a moment, she shrugged and reached for her schedule.

Her regular days to work were Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Since Dale worked at Bitsy's on Tuesdays and wouldn't be needed while the movie was being shot, maybe he would switch to one of her days instead.

She glanced farther down the schedule. Her part-time employee, Janet Davis, only worked once a week, on Thursdays. If she could persuade Janet to take up the slack on the other two days, then ...

Charlotte drummed her fingers on the desktop. Janet had been an employee longer than Dale, and she really should give Janet first choice of the days to work. Even so, because of Dale's class schedule, she would have to give him first choice instead.

Charlotte glanced at the cuckoo clock on the wall behind the sofa. It was still pretty early. Had Dale left for classes yet or not? Since she couldn't remember his schedule, she reached for the telephone receiver and tried his home phone number. While the phone rang, she flipped through her Rolodex in search of his cell number, just in case he wasn't at home.

On the fourth ring he answered, and Charlotte winced when she heard his groggy voice. "Hey, Dale, this is Charlotte. Did I wake you up?"

"Yeah, but that's okay. I should have been up an hour ago."

"Are you ill?"

Dale chuckled. "No, Mom, I'm fine. I just stayed up too late last night working on a paper."

Charlotte grinned. "Humph, if I were your mother, I'd tell you to have a little more respect for your elders."

Dale laughed. "Okay, okay, sorry. So, what's up?"

Once Charlotte explained the situation, Dale readily agreed to work for her on Monday. "On Mondays my only class isn't until five. I could also work on Friday, if you need me to. The extra money would come in handy right about now."

"Great!" Charlotte grinned.

After giving Dale the addresses for her Monday and Friday clients, she quickly filled him in on their particular peculiarities. "Just so you know, my Monday client, Sally Lawson, likes all of the sheets changed. Never mind that none except hers have been slept on. Also, she has this stainless steel garbage can in the kitchen. Make sure you Windex it."

"What about the Friday client?" he asked.

"My Friday client is Joy Meadows. Joy has a couple of cats that she allows to roam everywhere, including the kitchen countertops. Make sure you wipe down those counters and get rid of all that cat hair. I swear, one of these days, Joy is going to cough up a hair ball."

"Gross, Charlotte. Really gross."

"Sorry," she apologized.

"Anything else?"

"No, I think that's about it."

After ending her conversation with Dale, she dialed Janet's number.

A few minutes later, she sighed with relief as she again hung up the receiver. Janet had also agreed to the extra day for the next two weeks, so now all she had to do was call Bitsy back and give her the news.

"No time like the present," she whispered as she dialed Bitsy's number. The phone barely rang before Bitsy answered. Charlotte figured that the old lady must have been sitting next to it, waiting. "It's all set up," Charlotte told her. "I was able to clear my schedule."

"Thanks, Charlotte. I really do appreciate this."

"So, who do I contact now?"

Bitsy cleared her throat. "Ah-well-nobody."

"What do you mean 'nobody'?"

"Now, don't get mad, but I already told them you'd do it. All you have to do is fill out the paperwork when you show up."

The heat of sudden anger burned Charlotte's cheeks. No wonder Bitsy had been so eager for her to work it out. As far as Charlotte was concerned, Bitsy had crossed the line. No one, but no one, made these kinds of decisions for her. Barely able to contain the anger boiling inside, she said, "You shouldn't have done that, Bitsy."

"Probably not, but I figured you'd take the job. You always come through for me."

Charlotte chose her words very carefully. "That might be true, but please don't ever do something like that again. I'm hanging up the phone now, and I'll talk to you later." Charlotte immediately dropped the receiver onto the cradle.

For several moments she glared at the phone and fumed. It was true that she always tried to help out her clients when they needed her. In fact, most times she bent over backward to be accommodating, but she truly resented anyone outright assuming that she would do something without asking her first.

"Bitsy, Bitsy, Bitsy," she murmured. "What am I going to do about you?" With a shake of her head, she sighed. There was nothing she could do about the old lady but put up with her, and what was done was done. Feeling somewhat calmer and in hopes of distracting herself, she turned her attention to the newspaper article she'd found.

After considering each location, she finally made up her mind and set the article aside. She figured that instead of fighting the crowd in Jackson Square, they could see just as well from the levee across the river at Algiers Point. Meantime, she needed to make a grocery list ... and a hair appointment.

Where did that come from? Until she'd talked to Bitsy, she hadn't even considered getting a trim.

But you might actually get to meet Hunter Lansky.

Charlotte felt her face grow warm. Big deal. He met thousands of women all the time, so what were the chances that a big-time movie star like him would even notice someone like her? She automatically reached up and finger-combed her hair. Still, it didn't hurt to always try to look your best.

Making a mental note to call Valerie, her hairdresser, she grabbed a pen and paper and jotted down several items she needed for the backyard barbecue that she and Louis were hosting before the Fourth of July display.

A tiny smile pulled at her lips. The whole get-together had been Louis's idea. He'd pointed out that since they lived next door to each other, why not join forces?

Charlotte got up and walked over to the birdcage by the front window. Outside was sunny, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. According to the weather forecast, record high temperatures would be set today. Already, her air conditioner sounded as if it was having labor pains.

"I just hope it makes it through this summer," she told Sweety Boy, her little parakeet. But the heat and her aging air conditioner weren't the only things on her mind of late.

Inside the birdcage, Sweety Boy sidled over near the door, and Charlotte reached in between the wires with her forefinger and gently rubbed the back of his head. "What am I going to do about Louis, Sweety?"

She stared back out of the window. Louis Thibodeaux, her tenant and sometimes friend, sometimes nemesis, was an enigma, a Dr.-Jekyll-and-Mr.-Hyde. A retired New Orleans police detective, he now worked for Lagniappe Security, a private security firm, and just when she thought she had him figured out, he'd do something totally unexpected ... like planning this backyard barbecue that included all of his and Charlotte's family members.

"Ever since Joyce died, I'm not quite sure what to think," she muttered. At times Louis seemed to be really sad about his ex-wife's murder. Other times, it was as if Joyce had never existed. She knew that people went through stages of grief, but she was fairly certain pretending the deceased had never existed wasn't one of those stages.

"I wouldn't think that would be one of the stages of grief," she told Sweety Boy. Suddenly, from the corner of her eye she detected movement in front of the window-Louis-followed by a sharp rap on the door.

Charlotte grinned as she reached for the doorknob. "Speak of the devil," she whispered to Sweety Boy. "Good thing I decided to get dressed early." Sometimes on her days off she didn't bother getting dressed until midmorning, but today-thank goodness-she had dressed early because of several errands she needed to get done. Of course there had been times that Louis had seen her in just her housecoat. He'd even bought her a housecoat as a gift once. Even so, for some strange reason, being properly dressed made her feel more comfortable around him.

Charlotte opened the door and smiled. "Good morning."

Louis was a stocky man with a receding hairline of steel-gray hair. He kept himself fit, and from the first time she'd met him several years earlier, she had thought that he was an attractive man for his age. Too bad he could be such a pain in the butt at times, especially when he was in one of his male chauvinistic moods.

"Good morning to you too," he said with a curt nod of his head.

Charlotte's smile faded when she noticed the small suitcase sitting on the porch beside him. "You going somewhere?" She motioned toward the suitcase.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from DUSTED TO DEATH by Barbara Colley Copyright © 2010 by Barbara Colley. Excerpted by permission.
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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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Who Did It...Review by Sisterhood Book Club

    There's a film studio in New Orleans that finds Bitsy house fabulous to want to pay her to use her house for a movie. The film studio has to hire Bitsy housekeeper to seal the deal and her name is Charlotte. Charlotte is use to the hustle and bustle so she goes in to the job done but one thing wasn't disclosed to Charlotte and that she has to deal with an actress name Angel and her drama with her man. She quickly falls into the responsibilities she is told to do although she has to bit her tongue to get the job done.

    As the days goes on and she finds herself meeting up with people of all kinds including her son BF, turns out to be Angel limousine driver. After all the years that pass was really a shocking sight for Charlotte because the life style he lived didn't look to glorifying for him to turn out to be an outstanding person.

    After some days of hard work and continue reporting day after day she comes in and there wasn't too much terrific going on yet. She goes up stairs to check it out and comes across a dead body and it was the men of the actress and he was stabbed with a letter opener. Charlotte screams for help and call 911 to become the main suspect at the moment until the limousine driver request extra help to clear Angel name because she was arrested moments later for the death of her man.

    They find themselves going deep into Angel background in this little town to come up empty handed but with Charlotte experience of this not being her first murder case. She explores more and get deeper to find out that someone had it out for both Angel and her man.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Enjoyable

    Offbear,but fun reading.

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  • Posted November 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    his amateur sleuth is terrific

    In New Orleans at sixty-three years of age, Charlotte LaRue still has the energy to perform the work of her business Maid for a Day as she cleans for selected clients who prefer her only. Bitsy Dhue asks Charlotte to watch her Victorian house as well as keeping it clean because a movie company is going to film there. It is a two week gig and she will receive $5000 for this pristine assignment.

    One of the movie stars is Angel Martinique who has the reputation of her first name, but as Charlotte quickly learns G-string is apropos rather than the G rating reputation of this Hollywood heater, who away from the lights is a spoiled virago. Charlotte enters a room to find the body of Angel's boyfriend Nick Franklin. She also notices next to the corpse, the letter opener used in a recent Angel scene and later confirmed by the cops as the murder weapon. Angel is arrested but her chauffeur Benny who loves her persuades Charlotte, whom he has heard solved homicides, to help him prove her innocence by finding the real culprit.

    This amateur sleuth is terrific due to the Hollywood invasion that leads to an intricately created mystery. The heroine has strong instincts and her work enables her to notice clues in what seems like spotless segues. Fans will enjoy Charlotte cleaning up the crime scene not aware the killer is watching her .

    Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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