Flipping Out (Lomax and Biggs Series #3)by Marshall Karp
A cop's wife has been murdered. As LAPD detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs investigate, a second cop's wife is killed. Both women were part of an ingenious real estate scheme run by bestselling murder mystery author Nora Bannister: she buys a house in L.A. dirt cheap, and while her partners turn it into a showplace, Nora murders someone therein her… See more details below
A cop's wife has been murdered. As LAPD detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs investigate, a second cop's wife is killed. Both women were part of an ingenious real estate scheme run by bestselling murder mystery author Nora Bannister: she buys a house in L.A. dirt cheap, and while her partners turn it into a showplace, Nora murders someone therein her next book. When the house goes on the market, there's a bidding frenzy. It seems a lot of people want to live in a house where a fictional character has died a violent death.
Is someone stalking the house flippers, or is the murderer after cops' wives? Either way, Lomax and Biggs have to track down the killer before he (or she) murders the next logical targetMarilyn Biggs, Terry's wife.
LAPD homicide detectives Michael Lomax and Terry Biggs take on a killer targeting a group of police officers' wives in Karp's irreverent third mystery (after 2007's Bloodthirsty). When spouses of some of Lomax and Biggs's closest co-workers are found murdered, they begin their investigation by questioning the surviving members of the LA Flippers, the partnership of cop wives who, along with popular mystery writer Nora Bannister, have found a lucrative way to flip houses in the highly competitive Southern California real estate market. With the body count rising and pressure from Lomax and Biggs's superiors to close the case fast, the wisecracking duo must somehow track down a cunning psychopath before Biggs's wife becomes the killer's next target. Blending the gritty realism of a Joseph Wambaugh police procedural with the sardonic humor of Janet Evanovich, Karp delivers a treat that's not only laugh-out-loud funny but also remarkably suspenseful. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Los Angeles dectectives Lomax and Biggs (The Rabbit Factory) look into the murders of several real estate agents who also happened to have been married to cops. Karp's humor and convoluted plot make this mystery a pleasure to read, à la Janet Evanovich and Lisa Scottoline, but he includes just enough pointed barbs about contemporary culture to keep the story in perspective.
Jo Ann Vicarel
Read an Excerpt
A Lomax & Biggs Mystery
By Marshall Karp
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 Mesa Films, Inc.
All rights reserved.
There were five detectives at our Sunday debriefing.
That's what we call them—debriefings, because no cop is dumb enough to tell his wife or girlfriend that he'd rather spend his day off hanging out with his buddies than taking her to the mall to pick out curtain fabric.
We were on Reggie Drabyak's fishing boat, so technically this was an LAPD naval debriefing.
It started at dawn when Reggie, who works vice, and Charlie Knoll from burglary set sail to spend the day in the hot sun trying to catch the same stuff I'd rather pick up at an air-conditioned supermarket for eight bucks a pound.
They docked in the Marina at beer-thirty, and my partner, Terry Biggs and I joined them. An hour later, Tony Dominguez, who works gangs, showed up with a five-foot hero from Santoro's.
He unwrapped it, and I took in the intoxicating aroma of soppresatta, Genoa salami, provolone, and a half dozen other processed animal products that make men's hearts beat faster, burn through the night, and occasionally seize up.
Tony cut the hoagie into five pieces. "Here Biggs, you get a foot," he said, handing the first one to Terry. "Enjoy it, because when the cards are dealt, you sure as hell won't be getting a hand."
Ultimately that's what these debriefings are all about—the poker.
Terry played recklessly, raising when more cautious players would call, and calling when saner players would fold. By the end of the night he was ahead, but Tony still had a shot at a comeback. The stakes were doubled for the last deal, and no matter how much Terry raised, Tony stayed with him.
On the final raise, it was just the two of them, and Tony peeled back his hole card and took another look.
Terry picked up an empty beer bottle, held it close to his face, and talked into it, using the soft, mellow whisper of a professional golf announcer. "We're on the eighteenth green here at Augusta. Dominguez, who hasn't played well all day, is taking one more desperate look at his down card. This is the biggest pot of the night, folks—over fifty bucks—and from where I'm sitting, this one belongs to Terry Biggs."
"You're bluffing," Tony said.
"Dominguez looks rattled," Terry said into the Heineken microphone. "This game of high-low takes balls of steel, and Biggs has two that we know of. Maybe more. With an ace, three, four, five showing, he could have declared low and easily gone home with half the pot. But he went for the high and the low, the whole enchilada. Sadly, for Dominguez, the only enchilada he'll be getting tonight is the cold one left in the fridge by his lovely wife, Marisol."
"You know even less about women than you do about poker," Tony said. "Marisol hasn't cooked in ten years, and about the only cold thing she's got waiting for me tonight is her shoulder."
"Oooh," Terry groaned. "A big sigh of disappointment from the crowd here at Augusta, as they find out that their Latin hero is as unlucky at love as he is at cards."
"Come on, Tony, make up your mind," Charlie Knoll said. "I've got burglars to catch."
"And Lomax and I have homicides to solve," Terry said. "And Drabyak has prostitutes to frisk and pimps to shake down. If you fold, you can still go home with your last few bucks and what's left of your dignity."
Dominguez had two pair showing. Jacks and deuces. The third deuce had already popped up and was in Reggie Drabyak's discarded hand. There was only one card in the deck that would win the game for my trash-talking partner, and Tony Dominguez shoved his last remaining chips into the pot to see if Terry actually had it.
Terry put his thumb under his hole card. "And the green jacket at this year's thrilling Masters tournament here in Augusta, Georgia, goes to ..." He flipped over the deuce of spades. "Detective Terry Biggs, LAPD Homicide. The crowd goes wild, and his caddy, Detective Mike Lomax, is the first to run out onto the green and congratulate him."
"Your caddy?" Tony said, shoving his losing hand to the middle of the table. "Is that what you call him now that the two of you are shacking up together?"
"Let me apologize to the audience for that display of poor sportsmanship," Terry said, still broadcasting into his beer bottle. "That remark was highly inappropriate and totally inaccurate. Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs are not caddy shacking. Mike and the future Mrs. Lomax are waiting for their new house to be renovated. They're living with Terry and Marilyn Biggs on a temporary basis."
"First of all," I said, "Diana is not the future Mrs. anything. She's Miz Trantanella, and this little experiment of buying a house and cosigning a mortgage is the first of many steps we are taking before we even talk about getting married. Second of all, from what Marilyn tells me, she's also living with you on a temporary basis."
Terry shoveled the pile of chips toward him. "And when I return from the poker wars with this handsome haul, she'll stick around yet another night."
"Reg, you need help battening down the hatches?" Charlie said.
"No, I'm gonna sleep on the boat," Drabyak said. "Jo is working a wedding tonight, so she won't be home till late. She took my truck, so I'll go home in the morning and switch vehicles."
Tony and I helped clean up while Charlie counted the chips. "And the big wiener of the evening is Biggs," he said. "Sixty-two bucks."
"So then the big whiner of the night must be Touchdown," Terry said. "Nice game, T. D. Better luck next time."
Dominguez gave him a one-finger salute.
"I sense anger issues," Terry said. "You really need to see that expensive shrink of yours more often."
Tony Dominguez had grown up poor and fatherless on the predominantly Mexican streets of East LA. His mother, Luz, spent her whole life cleaning other people's houses. When Tony was ten, she started working for Ford Jameson, psychiatrist to the rich and famous. Jameson took to Tony from the get-go, and provided the positive male role model that had long been missing. The good doctor had been generous, buying Tony a used car when he needed wheels, helping him through college, and always available for therapy sessions at a hundred percent off his outrageous hourly rate.
"Hey, baby," Tony said, "if anyone needs his head examined, it's you."
"I've only got sixty-two dollars," Terry said, waving his winnings at Tony. "I don't think I could afford your guy."
"Do any of you fellas want to spend the night on the boat with me?" Reggie said. "Biggs has Lomax, and I'm feeling kind of jealous."
"If I can't have Mike, I don't want any of you," Charlie said.
"Why don't you stay here by yourself, Reg?" Terry said. "Your luck is bound to change, and you just may get the first good hand you've had all night."
That got a big laugh. We helped Reggie clean up, and by ten fifteen, Charlie, Tony, Terry, and I were on the dock, heading for our cars.
Five cops. Drinking beer, playing cards, busting balls. I'll never forget that Sunday night. It was the happiest time the five of us would ever spend together again.CHAPTER 2
I read Dante's Inferno when I was in college. From what I can remember, there are nine circles of hell. The first one is for the un-baptized, who weren't really sinners but wound up in limbo because they didn't accept Jesus. From a cop perspective, I think of it as the misdemeanor circle.
As you move your way along the ladder of sin, you go deeper and deeper into hell. The eighth circle is for those who knowingly commit evil deeds. That includes panderers, false prophets, sowers of discord, and the way I see it, building contractors who take your money, don't do the work, and never return your phone calls.
So there's a spot reserved in the eighth circle of hell for Hal Hooper.
He's the reason Diana and I are currently homeless. We'd been living together for over a year. Sometimes her place, sometimes mine. A few months ago we bought a house together. A fixer-upper. We hired Hooper to fix it up.
We were supposed to move in by the end of August, but by September first, the house was still missing half a roof, a working bathroom, and several other amenities. Hooper gave us a bunch of lame excuses and swore it would be livable in another month. He didn't say finished. Just livable.
We had each given up our rentals, our furniture was in storage, and we couldn't afford thirty nights in a hotel. In desperation, we moved in with Big Jim. I told Diana it would be a big mistake to try to live with my father, but she's a glass-half-full person. "It's only a month," she said. "How bad could it be?"
It didn't take long to find out.
I had braced Diana for the meddling. I warned her that he would pry into every corner of our personal lives and drop less-than-subtle hints about the joys of getting married and bearing children. But I never mentioned the peeing.
The first night, Diana and I went upstairs to our bedroom and Jim took the dogs out for one last pee. They stood in the yard, he yelled, "Business," and the four of them relieved themselves under our window. Three dogs and Jim.
When I called him on it the next morning, he said, "So I took a piss. For God's sake, Mike, it's dark out."
But darkness does not cover up industrial-strength farting or Big Jim's orgasmic groans of relief. You want to take the romance out of your evening? Get a three-hundred-pound teamster to empty his bladder under your bedroom window every night.
Even Jim's wife, Angel, who is usually pretty successful at reining him in, couldn't stop him from putting his nose in our business or his foot in his mouth. After five days and a variety of personal-boundary violations, the topper came when Jim, ever helpful, took our laundry from the dryer, folded it, and left it in our room. That Friday night at dinner, he suggested that Angel buy "one of those sexy black thongs like Diana wears."
Angel smacked the back of his fat head, Diana covered her eyes, and I grabbed the phone. By Saturday morning Diana and I were packed and headed to Sherman Oaks to move in with Terry, Marilyn, and the girls.
It was my first day commuting to work from the Valley, and we were creeping along the 101 at twenty miles an hour.
The ribbon of taillights in front of us went bright red, and Terry rolled the car to a stop. "So far, so good," he said.
"We're going to be late for Kilcullen's Monday morning briefing, so you can't be talking about the traffic. You must be bragging about the fact that we've managed to live under the same roof for forty-eight hours without any bloodshed."
"Hey, I know it's only been one weekend, but you've got to admit that bunking with us is more fun than living with Big Jim."
I nodded. "Bunking with the Taliban would be more fun than living with Big Jim."
We were fifteen minutes late getting to the station, but as it turned out, Kilcullen's meeting was canceled. Just as we pulled into the parking lot, about twenty cops, some in plainclothes, some in uniform, came pouring out of the station and began jumping into their cars.
We saw Wendy Burns, and Terry honked at her.
Wendy is our direct supervisor, the Detective III who assigns cases to the homicide teams. She's a total pro, smart, reasonable, and a great buffer to have between us and our less-than-reasonable boss, Lieutenant Brendan Kilcullen.
"You guys just caught a big one," she said as Terry and I got out of the car. "Follow me."
"What's going on?" I said.
"Reggie Drabyak's wife was shot."
"Jesus, is she okay?"
"She's dead."CHAPTER 3
Reggie Drabyak is not the most dynamic cop on the force. Average height, slightly more than average weight, slightly less than average personality. In two years, when he retires and hangs a "gone fishing" sign on his door, that's exactly what he'll be doing. Fishing. For him, police work is just a way to pay for his boat and his bait.
Jo Drabyak, on the other hand, was chatty, funny, and bubbly—a total charmer. Five years ago, after a series of colorful but unsuccessful career choices, she became an event planner. Weddings, bar mitzvahs, and because it's LA, parties of every imaginable stripe for the Weird and Famous.
Jo grew up in Summit, New Jersey, and dropped out of high school to become a modern dancer. She had the desire and the drive, but not the knees. She moved to Los Angeles to conquer Hollywood and wound up as a production assistant on The Price Is Right. That's where she met Petty Officer First Class Reggie Drabyak. Reggie was in the audience with a bunch of other sailors. He got the call to come on down and won himself a washer-dryer.
Jo's job was to ship the prizes to the winners. Reggie didn't have much use for major appliances on an aircraft carrier, so he said, "Have dinner with me, and you can ship my Maytag to your house."
A year later, Reggie quit the navy, joined LAPD, and offered Jo the chance to spend the rest of her life washing and drying his laundry with hers. From what I could tell, it was a damn good life. Until today.
"I guess you knew Jo Drabyak a lot better than I did," Terry said as we followed the caravan of cop cars west on Sunset.
"I like Reggie," I said, "but I was never a big fan of sitting in the hot sun all day hoping to catch my dinner. So, when I first met him, I didn't hang out with him much. Then my wife met his wife at a cop picnic, and they really hit it off. Joanie and Jo went to yoga classes together, they'd have lunch, go shopping—they really got close. Eventually, we wound up doing a lot of couples stuff together. When Joanie was dying, people would call or send cards, but only two cop wives were there in the flesh. Your wife was one of them. The other was Jo."
The Drabyaks lived on Alta Vista in a mission-style white stucco house with a red tiled roof. It would probably go for a million plus, which is modest by LA standards, but completely out of range for the average cop and his wife. Luckily, they bought it fifteen years ago when a two-income couple could still afford a down payment and a mortgage.
Terry pulled in behind Wendy's car. She had a street map in one hand and was already delegating detectives to spread out and canvass a six-block radius. "The lieutenant's waiting for you in the garage," she said.
Jo was lying on the floor a few feet from Reggie's pickup. Her legs were at a right angle to her torso. One arm was extended to the left, the other was pinned beneath her. Her left cheek was resting on the oil-stained concrete. Reggie had said she was working a wedding last night, and her clothes seemed to bear him out. She had on a flowery summer dress and sensible tan shoes with low heels. Her honey-blond hair fanned out across her back and shoulders, but one of the fan blades was missing.
I knelt down beside her. "I'm not sure, but it looks like a hunk of her hair has been chopped off. Can't really tell because of the blood."
"Bullet to the back of the head," Terry said. "Looks more like an execution than a random homicide."
"Don't jump to conclusions," Kilcullen said.
"I always jump to conclusions," Terry said. "It's just that you're not usually on the scene to watch me do my job wrong."
"I'm here for the same reason my boss is here. And his boss. A cop's wife was murdered in cold blood in her own home. Whatever else you're doing, shelve it. This case goes to the top of the pile."
"We both knew the victim," I said. "Is there any conflict with us handling this?"
"We all knew the victim," Kilcullen said, his voice kicking up a notch. "She's one of our own. She was killed in our jurisdiction. It's ours to solve, and you two are going to solve it."
"Right," Terry said. "And if you yell louder, maybe we'll solve it faster."
"Sorry," Kilcullen said, more to Jo than to Terry. He bent down and took a closer look. "They cut her hair. It's like a violation on top of a violation." He smacked his fist into the palm of his hand and stood up. "CSU should be here any minute. I've got half the station combing the neighborhood. You guys get the fun job. Interview Reggie."
"Rule number one," I said. "The husband is always the primary. ..."
"I know," Kilcullen said. "But I know Reggie, and he didn't kill her. Let's just hope he's got a solid alibi."
"He's going to want in on the investigation," Terry said.
"Well, you know the answer to that one. No fucking way. You need manpower, you let me know. Anyone but Reggie." He took one more look at the dead woman at our feet. "I don't get it," he said. "A nice girl like Jo. I can't imagine she had any enemies."
Terry shrugged. "She must've had one."CHAPTER 4
Reggie was sitting on the sofa in the living room. He was dressed for work—tan pants, pale yellow short-sleeve shirt, green tie with thin blue stripes. He had showered and shaved since I saw him last night, and his face, forever tan from a life on the water, was probably a melanoma waiting to happen. But for the moment, it gave off a healthy glow. Only his eyes were a window to the shock and the grief.
He stood up when Terry and I walked in. "Oh man, am I glad to see you guys. I'm crawling the walls here. What's going on? What do you know?"
Excerpted from Flipping Out by Marshall Karp. Copyright © 2009 Mesa Films, Inc.. 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.
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I am a huge fan of The Rabbit Factory and Blood Thirsty and could not wait to get my hands on Flipping Out. Sadly, for me, Flipping Out was a disappointment. A disappointment because I read it too quickly and wanted MORE! Seriously, though, while I was a little let down at the length of the book compared to Mr. Karp's fist two, the story did not let me down at all. Still the same great cast of characters, moments that had me laughing out loud, and a nicely written mystery. Now I'm disappointed again, because I have to wait until the next Lomax and Biggs book comes out! To anyone who enjoys mystery and humor and "real" characters who hasn't read these books - what the heck are you waiting for?? You will love them!
How is it that after three stellar books, Marshall Karp is still unknown to the mainstream public? Flipping Out is yet another thiller that is both riveting and hilarious. If you are new to the series and are looking to enjoy the summer, buy all three and read them in order. If you are hopping on a plane, grab any one you can and settle in. Heck, the airlines may no longer give you peanuts, but Karp doesn't skimp on the characters, dialogue or plot. I also recommend going to his website -- he is a wonderfully funny blogger.
Flipping Out by Marshall Karp I have to say that this book just flat out really did it for me. I have found a new obsession in Mr. Karps writing! I love mysteries, and this is a police procedural too.then to add the cherry onto the cake it is also laugh out loud funny. Mr. Karp better be sitting in front of his word processor right this minute cranking out the next book in this series that's all I have to say. I read this the third in the series first and as soon as I was done, I immediately went back and ordered the first two on this series - The Rabbit Factory and Bloodthirsty. There really is no need to read the first books in order since each can stand on it's own quite nicely, but it may help clarify some minor points and "in" jokes.. Okay now down to the nitty gritty - this series stars two of LAPD's finest Detectives Mike Lomax, Terry Biggs (an aspiring stand up comic) and a whole slew of other equally hilarious secondary characters, including Mike's teamster father who loves to be a butinski, Mikes lady friend Diana and Terry's wife Marilyn. The first murder that happens, just happens to be another detective's wife and then there is a second murder of a cop's wife and then. well you get the idea! What do these murders have in common besides they are all cops wives? Well this group of women just all happen to belong to a club that flips houses for profit and this group includes Terry's wife Marilyn. This club is headed by famed mystery writer Nora Bannister who is writing a series of mystery books called The House to Die For Series. Each house in her series is an actual house newly renovated by the partners and as soon as the newest house in the series is ready to go on the market the wives start dying. If you think you will be able to figure out who-dun-it quickly and neatly you have a big surprise coming to you. I thought I had it all wrapped up neatly too, but Mr. Karp manages to throw in one heck of a curve ball at the end. Add to this some additional mayhem of Mike and Diana buying and renovating an older home and the humor never stops. PS: I just finished the The Rabbit Factory and Bloodthirsty and highly recommend them also
Flipping Out is the third book in a wonderful series by Marshall Karp featuring LAPD Homicide Detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs. If you haven't read the first two yet, never fear. Karp's style of writing is such that you can jump right in and hit the ground running... then go back and order books one and two, The Rabbit Factory and Bloodthirsty. :-) The premise of Flipping Out revolves around a group of women who form a business to renovate and "flip" houses for profit. Lomax & Biggs become "involved" with the project when a member of the house flipping group, who was also the wife of one of their fellow detectives, is murdered at the location of the group's most recent house flipping project. Before Lomax & Biggs can figure out whether the victim was targeted because she was a police officer's wife or because she was a member of the house flipping team a second murder occurs, also of a woman who was a member of the house flipping team and a police officer's wife. Clearly, Lomax & Biggs have their hands full with a serial killer, and from there the pursuit is on in a race against the clock to catch the killer before he/she can work their way through the entire house flipping team. It's not easy to write a book that is both edge of your seat mystery as well as laugh-out-loud funny, but Karp pulls it off effortlessly. The black humor banter between Lomax & Biggs is razor sharp, and the one-liners fly fast and furious. But beneath the surface jocularity there is real depth to the characters in Karp's novels. Even the most bit player comes across as three-dimensional, and Lomax & Biggs are fully realized characters, wonderfully painted in a million shades of grey... there is nothing "stock" about these Hollywood Detectives. Far from putting it into cruise control for his third book, Karp just keeps getting better. This is easily the most complex mystery of his three offerings to date. The "who" of the "who dunnit?" is never obvious, and even when you think you've got it figured out Karp manages to serve up a wicked curveball of an ending. If you like mysteries, police procedurals, characters with depth, and laugh-out-loud writing then look no further... Flipping Out has it all, and then some!
If you liked his previous books, you will flip out over this one. It has all the humor and heart of Rabbit Factory and Blood Thirsty, but it has a killer plot that zips along so seamlessly that you'll discover it's 2AM and you can't stop reading. I loved this book. More, please!
Some suthours write a good first novel and then slack off-not Karp, he delivers. His characters (Lomax & Biggs) are so real you can reach out and touch them. The Rabbit Factory, Blood Thirsty, and Flipping Out are "must reads". If you like Demille's style you'll love Marshall Karp. Murder, mystery, mayhem, and monkeyshines between the covers of his books.
Marshall Karp's latest, the third in the series, has his dynamic detective team, Lomax and Biggs, up to their eyeballs in a clever and surprisingly apt murder mystery. A bunch of women partner up with a famous lady mystery writer whose hook is to write about houses where murders are committed and then rehab and sell the houses. "Houses to Die For," she calls it. Brilliant, I calls it, and timely. Everything is going well and then the partners start getting killed. For Lomax and Biggs the stakes get significantly higher, the women are all cops' wives, and Biggs's wife is one of the partners. This is a smart, funny procedural, with plenty of twists and surprises and smooth dialogue to keep you interested and turning the pages. It's also a great way to escape the current mess for a while. Sometimes you just have to stop and smell the victims.
Flipping Out is a fast paced murder mystery. The cops are well-written, likeable characters who are quicker with their wits than with their guns. The plot twists and turns, leading in several unpredictable directions, finally culminating in a terrific surprising conclusion. I highly recommend this book to any mystery or humor fans. Very funny and thrilling.
This third installment in the Lomax & Biggs series does not disappoint. The wonderfully written characters are so quirky and flawed they'll feel like members of your own family. The plot twists will keep you guessing until the end, but not without a lot of laughs along the way. Not only a definite read for fans of the detective duo, but a must for anyone looking for a quick, witty read topped with an air of mystery.
This is a great book. I read it in 2 days. I couldn't put it down.
This mystery comedy had my eyes bulging. During the coarse of the story, I was worry about everyone involved. Great story telling
Southern California residents are stunned and frightened when several spouses of cops are murdered by a serial killer with an apparent grudge. LAPD assigns homicide detectives Michael Lomax and Terry Biggs to lead the investigation. The common threat besides the jobs of their husbands is all the victims belong to the LA Flippers; a group making money even with the housing bubble bursting by flipping out houses for sale.
Lomax and Biggs interview the surviving members including the only no cop wife popular mystery writer Nora Bannister, but nothing makes sense as all the ladies do together is flip houses. More murders follow as several suspects surface. However, Terry is especially concerned as his wife is one of the surviving flippers.
In their latest Southern California police procedural (see THE RABBIT FACTORY and BLOODTHIRSTY), LAPD Detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs feel incredible pressure beyond the usual brass, media and political harangue as this case is personal. It is so much so it even intrudes on their poker game. Although the plot is thin, fans who enjoy a facetious funny yet suspenseful investigative thriller will want to read flippant FLIPPING OUT.