Last Scene Alive (Aurora Teagarden Series #7)

( 143 )

Overview

"In the first installment of the Aurora Teagarden series, Real Murders, the small town of Lawrenceton, Georgia, was beset by a series of horrific murders. Librarian Aurora "Roe" Teagarden teamed up with true-crime writer Robin Crusoe to catch the killer, and the results of their investigation have gone down in Lawrenceton history." "Now Robin is back in town, set to begin filming the movie version of the terrible events of so many years ago. Of course he's not alone - he brings with him a cast and crew the size of which nearly overwhelms the ...
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Last Scene Alive (Aurora Teagarden Series #7)

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Overview

"In the first installment of the Aurora Teagarden series, Real Murders, the small town of Lawrenceton, Georgia, was beset by a series of horrific murders. Librarian Aurora "Roe" Teagarden teamed up with true-crime writer Robin Crusoe to catch the killer, and the results of their investigation have gone down in Lawrenceton history." "Now Robin is back in town, set to begin filming the movie version of the terrible events of so many years ago. Of course he's not alone - he brings with him a cast and crew the size of which nearly overwhelms the tiny, excitement-starved town. Roe is disturbed to discover that the film's crew includes her stepson, who despises her, as well as an actress set to play her in the film. Everyone in Lawrenceton suddenly goes movie crazy, mentally composing awards-acceptance speeches while prancing around the fringes of the set awaiting discovery." Roe's not so crazy about the whole thing...and neither is a secret, vicious murderer. When bodies start dropping, it's up to Roe to reprise her role as an amateur sleuth and stop the carnage before it gets out of hand.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her seventh cozy outing, librarian Aurora "Roe" Teagarden is back to form after the downbeat A Fool and His Honey (1999). Roe and her once-significant other, true-crime writer Robin Crusoe, team up to untangle the results of their first foray into detection, Real Murders (1990), in which they caught the killer who'd been terrorizing the sleepy town of Lawrenceton, Ga. Now Robin has capitalized on the experience to write a bestselling novel, which is being made into a TV movie. Of course, it will be shot in Lawrenceton, and the whole town is delighted and eager to be involved, except for Roe. Oh, she's glad to see Robin again after his years in Hollywood, but she's not pleased that the star of the film is Emmy winner Celia Shaw, her successor in Robin's affection, now also cast off. When Roe's unfriendly stepson, Barrett, turns up with a part in the film, she hardens her heart until the second morning of the shoot, when Barrett knocks on Celia's trailer door (after having spent the night there) to find Celia dead, her bloody Emmy beside her. Now Roe feels sorry for Barrett. The first investigator on the scene is another old flame, Detective Arthur Smith. Then Roe herself is threatened first by a venomous letter, later by a Robin Crusoe fan who tries to kill her. Harris's style is well suited to the material, frothy and fast-paced with a wealth of witty descriptions: "Her voice was as crisp as if it'd been in the vegetable drawer overnight." Take a well-earned rest, Roe, don't lose Robin and return soon. (Aug. 12) FYI: Harris is also the author of Shakespeare's Counselor (Forecasts, Sept. 10, 2001) and other titles in her Lily Bard mystery series. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
"Roe" Teagarden relives past history when a movie crew settles in town to make a film based on her first sleuthing adventure (Real Murders). The crew includes both Robin Crusoe, her former co-sleuth and a true-crime writer, and her hate-filled stepson. Before long, murder strikes again. A delightful series. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Harris's style is well suited to the material, frothy and fast-paced with a wealth of witty descriptions.... Take a well-earned rest, Roe ... and return soon."

Publishers Weekly

 

"An enjoyable read ... Ms. Harris skillfully captures small-town life, giving the story added realism."

RT Book Reviews

 

"A delightful series."

Library Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425228142
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/5/2009
  • Series: Aurora Teagarden Series , #7
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 208,969
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Charlaine Harris is also the author of the acclaimed Lily Bard mysteries, most recently Shakespeare's Counselor, and the award-nominated Southern vampire series, most recently, Living Dead in Dallas. Born in Mississippi, she now lives in Magnolia, Arkansas.

Biography

A native of the Mississippi Delta, Charlaine Harris grew up in a family of avid readers (her father was a teacher; her mother a librarian). She attended Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, graduating in 1973 with a degree in English and Communication Arts. Although she penned poetry and plays in school, her first serious foray into fiction was with two standalone novels, Sweet and Deadly and A Secret Rage, published (effortlessly!) in the early 1980s.

After her early success, Harris released the first installment in a series of lighthearted mysteries starring spunky, small-town Georgia librarian, true crime enthusiast, and amateur sleuth Aurora Teagarden. When Aurora debuted in Real Murders (1990), Publishers Weekly welcomed "a heroine as capable and potentially complex as P. D. James's Cordelia Gray." The book went on to receive an Agatha Award nomination.

Anxious for another challenge, Harris began a second series in 1996. Darker and edgier than the Teagarden novels, these mysteries featured taciturn, 30-something housecleaner Lily Bard, a woman with a complicated past who has moved to the small town of Shakespeare, Arkansas, to find peace and solitude. The first novel, Shakespeare's Landlord, was well-received. BookList raved: "Harris has created an intriguing new character in this solidly plotted story." [Much to the disappointment of her fans, Harris concluded the Lilly Bard sequence in 2001 with Shakespeare's Counselor.]

Although Harris achieved moderate success with these two series (which she laughingly describes as "cozies with teeth"), she would hit the jackpot in 2001 with Dead Until Dark, a sly, spoofy paranormal mystery starring a telepathic Louisiana cocktail waitress named Sookie Stackhouse, who falls in love with a vampire named Bill. The novel, a delightful hybrid of mystery, science fiction, and romance, was an instant hit with critics. ("Harris' Sookie has the potential to attract more readers than Hamilton's Anita Blake," raved the dark fantasy magazine Cemetery Dance.) Readers, too, adored the Southern Vampire Series and have rewarded the author with bestseller after bestseller. (In 2008, the Sookie saga came to HBO in a top-rated television adaptation, True Blood, starring Anna Paquin.)

With 2006's Grave Sight, Harris added yet another fascinating character to her stable -- a young woman named Harper Connelly whose youthful encounter with a lightning bolt has left her with the ability to find corpses and determine how they died. In addition to juggling characters and plots for her popular series, Harris has also contributed short stories and novellas to several anthologies of paranormal fantasy fiction.

Good To Know

In our interview, Harris confesses:

"I'm really a boring person. My family (my husband and three children) is the most important thing in my life. I go to bed early, I get up early. I love to go to the movies with my husband. My favorite things about finally making some money as a writer are (a) I can buy as many books as I want, and (b) I can hire a maid. The first job I had was working in an offset darkroom at a very small newspaper. I stood on a concrete floor all day and made minimum wage -- which then was $1.60 an hour. I hated it, and I learned a lot, though not necessarily about working in a darkroom. So being a writer is much better."

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    1. Hometown:
      Southern Arkansas
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 25, 1951
    2. Place of Birth:
      Tunica, Mississippi
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English and Communication Arts, Rhodes, 1973
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

When I stopped at the end of the driveway to extract my letters and magazines from the mailbox, I never imagined that in five minutes I’d be sitting at my kitchen table reading an article about myself. But my entertainment magazine had had a fascinating teaser on the cover: "Crusoe’s Book Comes to the Screen (Finally)—WHIMSICAL MURDERS Goes On Location." It had taken me only seconds to flip pages to the article, which was faced by a full-page picture of my former friend Robin Crusoe, his long frame folded into a chair behind a desk piled high with books. Then, with a much deeper sensation of shock, I realized that, in a green-shaded sidebar, the small woman walking to her car, head down, was me. Not surprisingly, I decided to read the sidebar first.

"It was a strangely jolting experience to see Aurora Tea-garden in the flesh," began the writer, one Marjory Bolton.

Strangely jolting, my tushy.

"The diminutive librarian, whose courage and perspicuity led to the discovery of the serial killers terrorizing Lawrenceton, Georgia, is no recluse."

Why would I be?

"Though only in her thirties, she’s experienced more excitement than most women have in their lifetimes," I read, "and though she became a widow last November, Aurora Teagarden could pass for someone ten years her junior." Well, I kind of liked that. I could see the end of my thirties if I looked real hard. I wasn’t looking.

"She comes to work at the Lawrenceton Library every day, driving her new Chevy." Would I drive someone else’s? "Modest in dress and demeanor, Teagarden hardly appears to be the independently wealthy woman she is." Why would I wear designer originals (an inexplicable waste of money anyway) to my job at the library? This was absurdity.

I skimmed the remaining paragraphs, hoping to see something that made sense. Actually, I wouldn’t have minded another reference to my youthful appearance. But no. "Though Teagarden refused to let the filmmakers use her name, the main female character in the script is widely held to be based on her persona. Teagarden’s mother, Aida Queensland, a multimillion-dollar real estate salesperson, attributes her daughter’s distancing herself from the project to Teagarden’s aversion to the memories the incidents left and to Teagarden’s deeply religious heritage."

I brought the cordless phone into the kitchen and hit an auto-dial number. "Mother, did you tell this Marjory Bolton that I came from a ‘deeply religious heritage’?" We hadn’t even settled on the Episcopal Church until Mother had married John Queensland.

My mother had the grace to sound a little embarrassed as she said, "Good evening, Aurora. She asked me if we went to church, and I said yes."

I read through the paragraph again. "And you told her you were a multimillion-dollar real estate broker?"

"Well, I am. And I thought I might as well get in a plug for the business."

"Like you needed it!"

"Business could always be better. Besides, I’m trying to get into the best position for selling the firm. One of these days I’m going to retire."

It wasn’t the first time in the past couple of months Mother had said something about selling Select Realty. Since John had had a heart attack, my mother had cut back on her work hours. Apparently, she’d also begun to think about how much longer she wanted to work.

Two years ago, I’d have sworn she’d die while she was showing a house, but now I knew better. She’d gotten a wake-up call.

"Listen to this," I said. " ‘Ms. Teagarden, close friend of rising power-that-be Cartland Sewell, may have political plans. Some insiders regard her as a power behind the scenes in area politics.’ Who on earth could’ve told them that? What a bunch of . . ."

"Aurora!" Mother warned.

"Codswallop," I finished. It was a word I’d never had occasion to say out loud before.

"I’m sure it was Bubba himself," Mother said. She was more politically astute without trying than I would be if I had a fully briefed advisor.

"Really?" Even I could hear the wonderment in my voice.

She sighed. "I hope you never remotely consider running for office or backing any candidate you really want to win," she advised me. "And I’ve got to try to remember to call him Cartland. After calling him Bubba for forty years, Cartland is a mouthful. He seems to think he has a better chance of getting elected if he goes by his christened name."

Well, I might not be politically astute like Bubba Sewell—excuse me, Cartland Sewell—but I could see that even my own mother had had a self-serving reason for contributing a quote to a completely unwanted, unnecessary magazine article about me.

"Have you finished the whole article?" Mother asked, and her voice had taken on some anxiety.

"No." That sounded ominous. I skipped over the last part of the sidebar, the part where my friend Angel Young-blood had shoved the photographer, and returned to the main body of the article, the reason for the revival of interest in yours truly.

"After a long and frustrating wait, the grisly tale of the murders upon which Robin Crusoe’s book WHIMSICAL DEATH was based is coming to the small screen as a two-part miniseries. Filmmakers hope for a more successful pairing of true-crime book and movie than Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Crusoe’s sojourn in Hollywood has made him skeptical of the result. ‘I don’t know how the natives of Lawrenceton will feel about the job we’re doing,’ Crusoe admitted. ‘I plan to be there for the location shoot.’ Crusoe has another reason to be on the scene; he’s the constant companion of actress Celia Shaw, who will play the Teagarden character."

I flipped the page, just hoping. Yep, there it was—a small shot of Robin and Celia Shaw at some movie premiere party. Celia had done an Emmy-winning guest stint on ER as a sexually addicted med student, and in this picture she and Robin were whooping it up with three of the cast members. My mouth dropped open. It was one thing to have known for the past several years that Robin was in Hollywood, writing his mystery novels from there while he touted the screenplay of his book, but it was another thing entirely to see him being Hollywood.

I examined Celia Shaw’s face, the size of a fingernail, with a fascination I found hard to explain to myself. Of course, she really didn’t look much like me, even like the Aurora of a few years ago. She was short, and she had notable cleavage, and her eyes were brown; those were the only points of similarity. Her face was narrower, her lips were plumper, and she had more of a nose. (I could hardly be said to have a nose at all.) And, of course, she wasn’t wearing glasses. She was wearing a dress I wouldn’t even have given a second glance to as I flicked through a rack. It was deep emerald green, had a sequined top, and plunged low.

I glanced down at my own cleavage, modestly covered by the tobacco brown twin set I’d worn to work over khakis. I’d look good in that dress (I told myself loyally), but I’d be uncomfortable the entire time.

Not that I could imagine going to any occasion where that dress would be appropriate. A few Lawrencetonians mixed in Atlanta society, as our small town came closer and closer to being absorbed in the urban sprawl of the South’s great city, but I was not one of them; nor had I ever wanted to be.

I’d never really enjoyed the social functions I had to attend or arrange as Martin’s wife, and they’d been relatively modest. As the head of the large Pan-Am Agra plant, Martin had had many obligations, only some of them related to actually running the plant.

When I looked back on the two years we’d been married, the evenings seemed a blur of entertaining higher-ups from out of town, potential customers, and representatives from the bigger accounts. We’d been invited to every charity event in Lawrenceton, and not a few in Atlanta. I’d bought the appropriate clothes, worn them, and smiled through it all, but those social evenings hadn’t been much fun. Coming home with Martin had been the good part.

Coming home with Martin had been worth every minute of that social tedium.

And with that memory, the heaviness I carried inside me every moment of every day came crashing back down. I actually felt the misery descend.

Until I’d thought about the article, been distracted for a few minutes, I hadn’t realized how grievous a burden I was carrying: it was the weight of my widowhood.

As abruptly as it had engaged my interest, the magazine article repelled me. There would be strangers swarming around my hometown, strangers who were interested in me without caring about me. All the horror of those old deaths would be raked up. At least a few townspeople would be made miserable, as the deaths of their loved ones were reenacted for the titillation of whomever had a television set. There was no way to stop this from happening, apparently—no way to keep the curtain of privacy drawn around me. Already, in a national magazine, I was being depicted as mysterious, odd, and somewhat boring.

I didn’t want this movie to be made, and I didn’t want those people here.

As I’d thought, there were a few people in Lawrenceton who were as glum as I was over the prospect of entertaining a film company. One of them was the aforementioned Bubba—excuse me, Cartland—Sewell’s wife, my friend Lizanne. Her parents were among the victims of the pair of serial killers who had caused us all tremendous grief. Lizanne, too, had read the magazine article, I discovered later that evening.

Lizanne said, "Roe, I imagine Bubba’s boosterism got in the way of his common sense." Beautiful Lizanne has always been a tranquil woman, resolutely uninvolved in any town intrigues, and for the past two years her attention had been narrowly focused on her children, two boys she’d named Brandon and Davis. Brandon was eighteen months old, and Davis had just turned three months, so Lizanne had her hands full. In the course of our choppy telephone conversation, we were constantly interrupted. Bubba, Lizanne told me, was at a bar association meeting. I fumed at not being able to speak my mind to Bubba, but I would have settled for a nice chat with Lizanne. But in five minutes, Brandon’s shrieking and the wails of the baby reached such a peak that Lizanne excused herself.

While I washed my few dishes that cool October evening, I found myself wondering which of the unfamiliar faces in the library in recent weeks had belonged to the magazine writer. You’d think a writer for an L.A.-based entertainment weekly would have stood out like a sore thumb in our library. But the dress of our culture has become so universal, it isn’t as easy to spot outsiders as it used to be.

It struck me as particularly nasty that this woman had been able to come and stare at me and dissect me, while I’d been totally unaware. She’d said I’d turned down a request for an interview. That was so automatic that I actually might not have remembered it. But how could I have been oblivious to the fact that I was under observation? I must have been even more preoccupied than I’d thought.

Being a widow was a full-time occupation, at least emotionally.

Everyone (that is, my mother and her husband John, and most of my friends) had expected me to move back into town after my husband’s death. Our house, a gift to me from Martin when we’d married, was a little isolated, and too large for one person. But from my point of view, I’d loved the man and I loved my home. I couldn’t lose both at once.

So I stayed in the house that had been known for years as the Julius house. When Martin had given it to me, I’d renovated it from the bottom up, and I kept it up well, though now I had to have more help in that keeping. Shelby Youngblood, Angel’s husband and a close friend of my husband’s, had offered to come out and do the mowing, but I’d turned him down gently. I knew Shelby, with his own yard and house and baby, had plenty to do when he had a couple of days off work. I’d hired a yard service to do most of the heavier work, but every now and then I got out and put in bedding plants, or trimmed the roses.

With less justification than the yard service, I’d also hired a maid. Martin had always wanted me to have help in the house, but I’d felt perfectly capable of taking care of the house and cooking, though I was working at least part-time most of our marriage. Now, oddly, I was seized with the determination that the house should always look immaculate. It was as if I was going to show it to a prospective buyer any moment. I had even cleaned out all the closets. Where my new passion for absolute order and cleanliness had come from, why it possessed me, I could not tell you. The maid (whose identity kept changing—at the moment it was a heavy older woman named Catherine Quick) came in once a week and did all the heavy clean-ing—the bathrooms, the kitchen, the dusting, and the vac-uuming—while I did everything else. I didn’t suffer a smudge on the kitchen floor or an unwashed sock. Even though only one upstairs bedroom, the downstairs study, one bathroom, and the kitchen were in any kind of regular use, I kept this regimen up month after month.

I guess I was a little crazy: or, since I could afford a slightly kinder word, eccentric.

As I trudged up the stairs to go to bed that night, I wondered, for the first time, if keeping the house hadn’t been a mistake.

Opening the bedroom door still gave me a little shock. One thing I had changed, a couple of months after Martin died, was our bedroom. Once fairly masculine and centered around the king-sized bed, now the big room was peach and ivory and fawn, the bed was a queen, and the furniture was more ornate. Atop the chest of drawers, there was a picture of Martin and me at our wedding. That picture was all that was bearable.

I looked at it for a long moment as I pulled off my rings and put them in a pile in front of the frame. I added my watch to the little heap before I climbed into the high bed and switched on the lamp, stretching a little further to reach the switch to flick off the overhead light. I picked up the book I was reading (though for months I hadn’t remembered a word of any book I read) and had completed just a page when the telephone rang. I glanced at the clock and frowned.

"Yes?" I said curtly into the receiver.

"Roe?" The voice was familiar, tentative and masculine.

"Who is this?" I asked.

"Ahhhh . . . it’s Robin?"

"Oh, great. Just the guy I wanted to talk to," I said, my voice saturated with sarcasm. But way down deep, I found I was really glad to hear his voice.

"You’ve seen the article. Listen, I didn’t write that article, and I didn’t know it was going to be in the magazine, and I had nothing to do with it."

"Right."

Excerpted from Last Scene Alive by Charlaine Harris.

Copyright 2002 by Charlaine Harris.

Published in August 2002 by St. Martin s Press.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 143 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 143 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    On par with the rest of the series.

    As with the other books in this series, this one is entertaining enough, but I definitely won't be inclined to read it again in the future.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2012

    A bit of mystery fluff

    An easy read and a good mystery. Her tendency to go into great detail on clothes, hair bows and makeup, seems often inappropriate. It makes it read more like a Barbara Cartland moment or an effort to fill pages. It is frequent and does nothing to enrich the storyline. Overlooking that, I enjoyed the story. The main characters are likeable and it is a lovely whodunnit.

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  • Posted January 2, 2010

    Fun read!

    I enjoyed the Aurora Teagarden series as much as the Sookie Stackhouse series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A Good Read But....

    I loved these books, but before you get attached to the characters,please note that this is the last book in the series. The author has
    suddenly decided to stop writing the Aurora Teagarden series. A very disapointing decision.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 12, 2009

    it was a catchy headline

    I loved reading this book of course it was continue series had to buy. i love mysteries trying to figure out who do it. i read in one hour. thats i read if i love a book need to get it read in one day. unless i'm working. i thing people will enjoy reading this book

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  • Posted July 4, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Fun Read...

    I thought the book started off kind of slow, but there was a need to reset the scene since Roe's husband had died and the rest of the characters had moved forward. Once there was a death, the book cruised along like the other "Teagarden Series". I love Charlaine Harris's humor and ability to keep a story moving.

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  • Posted June 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Charlaine Harris Does It Again & Again

    My stepdaughter & I are hooked for life. Charlaine Harris is one of the best writers in the world. I hope she will continue her work for many years to come.

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  • Posted June 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Read!

    Have read all the books in this series. They are great! Gave the set as a gift after I finished with them. My friend loved them. Easy to read, hard to walk away from.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fast-paced, well plotted, and exciting

    It has been over a year since Aurora ¿Roe¿ Teagarden¿s husband has been murdered but the Lawrenceton, Georgia librarian is still in deep mourning. She is not at all happy that a Hollywood crew is coming to town to shoot the scenes from ¿Whimsical Death¿ based on the first homicide Roe ever solved. Also coming to town is Robin Crusoe, Roe¿s ex-boyfriend, and the person who helped her solve the case but subsequently went on to write the book on their investigation that has led to the movie. <P>Roe is also unhappy that her stepson Barrett is starring in the movie because they despise each other. When Robin hits town, old sparks ignite and Roe begins to realize that the movie filming might be a blessing in disguise. What Roe doesn¿t know is that there is a murderer amongst the Hollywood set. This person plans to kill the movie¿s star and target Roe as his next victim. <P>Fans of the Aurora Teagarden series will like the way the heroine displays her grief while moving on with her life. Readers will delight with the appearance of a new man in Roe¿s life, one that is different than her deceased husband. It is very easy to see why Robin and Roe click. The story line is fast-paced, well plotted, and exciting with enough twists and turns to keep readers on full alert. <P>Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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