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She was sitting at her kitchen table, idly flipping through her calendar. It used to be full of notations, but except for a dentist appointment in three weeks and a hair salon appointment to touch up her roots, the pages were nearly blank.
As Jane was pondering this wistfully, her next-door neighbor and best friend, Shelley Nowack, turned into her own driveway, which adjoined Jane's. Not quite fast enough to touch the pavement on only two wheels, but giving that impression. The tires of her minivan squealed as she slammed on the brakes. This was her normal mode of driving.
Shelley tapped on the kitchen door just as Jane was opening it. "You look glum," Shelley said. "I have something to cheer you up. Remember that old Victorian house that turned into such a blight when some fool divided it into crummy apartments and the druggies took it over?"
"Who wouldn't? It was one of our larger civic battles, getting the lowdown on the zoning. Someone was supposed to tear it down, I thought. Why's it still standing?"
"Because Bitsy bought it to restore."
"You don't remember Bitsy?" Shelley asked.
"I do remember her, if you mean Bitsy Burnside. The all-time Queen of Room Mothers. I never knew a woman who could turn something like that into a full-time job."
"Bitsy's past that stage," Shelley said, airily waving this recollection aside. "Her kids are grown. She divorced that overbearing stockbroker husband and must have taken him to the cleaners. And there's gossip that she also got a huge inheritance from a childless oil baron great-uncle."
"Wow. No wonder Bitsy's moving into real estate. Why don't things like that happen to us?"
"Luck of the draw, I suppose," Shelley said.
"But even if she has wads of money, what the devil does she know about renovating a wreck of a house?"
Shelley shrugged. "I suppose with enough cash, you can buy very good advice." "I guess I wish her well."
"Perk up, Jane. She wants to talk to us over lunch tomorrow."
"Why? She's a dangerous person to talk to. Every time I let her bend my ear, I ended up making two hundred strings of paper garlands or baking fifty-five highly decorated cupcakes."
"Because she wants to hire us."
"To make garlands?"
"Jane, get a grip and forget about garlands. And quit lolling about with your elbows on the table and make us a big pot of coffee. Use the good kind. Bitsy wants us to be her decorators. A paying job that requires a lot of shopping." Jane's eyes lit up for a moment. "Paid to go shopping? Who would have thought life had such a thing in store for us, so to speak? But what do we know about decorating that everyone else doesn't know more about?"
"I guess she thinks we have good taste," Shelley said.
"She thinks we're patsies," Jane said, turning the tables on Shelley, who was usually the more cynical one. "I tell you, Shelley, this is going to involve some thing we really don't want to do. She'd be doing it herself if it were a desirable thing for her to spend time on."
"You really are grouchy today, aren't you?"
"I'm bored," Jane admitted. "I'm so seldom bored that it makes me cranky." Widowed when her husband died in a car accident years earlier, Jane thought she'd done a pretty good job raising her children. Mike and Todd were normal boys, interested in girls and cars, but not doing anything remarkably stupid about either.
That she knew of.
Katie was a normal teenage girl, which is to say a bundle of conflicting personalities, and extremely high maintenance. Katie, who had recently decided she wanted to be called Katherine, sometimes regarded her mother as her archenemy, always as the source of food, money, and housing, and more and more frequently, as a semi-friend.
But who am I? Jane had been wondering lately. Her role as daily cook, car pool driver, arbitrator of sibling rivalry outbreaks, and soother of hurt feelings was nearly over.
"Then this is the perfect time to turn your time and attention to something new and different," Shelley said with remarkably good cheer. "Make us that coffee before I need intravenous caffeine."
Jane got up and filled the coffeemaker, saying as she did so, "I see your point. Really I do. Our attempts to be wedding planners went up in flames. But we both need something to do now that we're free of little children. The only thing we're really good at is shopping. But I don't think this is it."
What Jane really meant was that Shelley loved shopping for anything. Jane wasn't half as enthusiastic, but had recently sprung for a few luxuries and enjoyed spending a little money on herself for a change.
"It won't hurt to let Bitsy pay for a very nice lunch before we decide that," Shelley said, drumming a perfectly manicured nail impatiently on the kitchen table.
"I guess not," Jane said. "Decorators? Hmm."
"... and this lunch is at Michelle's Bistro."
"Did I forget to tell you about it?" Shelley asked. "A cousin of mine hosted a family party there a month ago, with all our aunts and the other woman cousins, and it's divine. Tall food."
"Tall food?" Jane said, watching for the instant the ...
Excerpted from The House of Seven Mabels by Jill Churchill
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.
Posted November 2, 2003
As a fan who eagerly awaits the next entry in the Jane Jeffy series, I was very disappointed with this book. The humor and sparkle of earlier books in the series just wasn't there this time. While plausibility has never been a requirement of this series (and the implausibility has been part of the fun of the series) 'Seven Mabels' goes too far in search of a setting for a mystery. Jill Churchill might benefit from rereading some of the earlier entries and reacquainting herself with what sold the readers on Jane, Shelly and Mel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 16, 2002
Jill Churchill still delivers a good cozy mystery in this installment of the Jane Jeffries series. The situation was quite different from the other books in the series. My only complaint is that there wasn't enough of Jane's family and Mel, which I have always found to provide some of the best humor in these books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 19, 2002
I was very disappointed in this latest entry in the Jane Jeffry series. It seemed as if the author was reaching for ways to get Jane and her best friend Shelly involved in a new mystery. They have been asked to decorate a house that is being renovated and they spend the entire book waffling over whether they should or not. It seems to me that they spend far too much time working on a job they are not sure they will take in the end. Also, a message is left by Jane's sister and the author spends too much time on a plot point that never pans out. Why is she even mentioned if we never find out why she called? Finally, Jane spends most of her time working on a program that inspires her to get to work on her novel. Is it important that we know exactly how her protaginist's house will be set up? The ending has little suspense and almost no lead up to the who is in 'who-dun-it'. (I also found a couple of glaring errors in sentence structure/grammar in the book that shouldn't have made it past editors.) In all, I hope to be able to get my money back and I will think twice before buying the next Jane Jeffry non-mystery!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 9, 2002
This was a wonderful book! I have all of the Jane Jeffrey mysteries and love each one. I was so excited when I saw this hardback in the store. I shared this series with a friend and she read all of the books in about 2 1/2 weeks - she loved them too! Jane and Shelley are great friends and I enjoy spending time with them.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 12, 2002
If you enjoy cozy mysteries, they don't get any better than this one. It was a totally enjoyable, fun book with enough of suspense to keep my interest. I promise you'll like it a lot.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
After her husband died, Jane Jeffrey was left to bring up their three children alone. Now her eldest son is in his second year of college while her only daughter is a senior in high school and the youngest child is in ninth grade. She along with her neighbor and best friend Shelley suffer from a form of empty nest syndrome and want to do something interesting with their free time. <P>When Bitsy Burnside contacts them to decorate a dilapidated old Victorian house, Shelly is intrigued and Jane sees the possibilities. However from the first day they enter the house things go wrong. When the contractor is found dead at the bottom of the basement stairs, Jane knows that somebody killed her. However, whom is nearly impossible as the victim was such an obnoxious individual, there is a plenty of suspects. Soon a series of malicious pranks occur and nobody knows who is behind them or if it was the same person who killed the contractor. <P>Anyone who likes a cerebral amateur sleuth novel with little violence will want to read THE HOUSE OF SEVEN MABELS. This is a lighthearted cozy, the perfect book for beach reading. The friends of Jane and Shelly come across as real and believable while the story line is filled with enough unexpected twists and turns to keep readers turning the pages. Jill Churchill imbues her plot with enough humor to have her audience chuckling out loud. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.