Murder Passes the Buck

Murder Passes the Buck

4.2 183
by Deb Baker

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Murder Passes the Buck (book 1 in the Gertie Johnson mystery series) is approximately 60,000 words.

When her neighbor is shot and killed in his hunting blind, sixty-six-year-old widow Gertie Johnson seizes the opportunity to move on with her life by investigating his death. Gertie is abetted (and hindered) by her grandson Little Donny, man-hungry best friend


Murder Passes the Buck (book 1 in the Gertie Johnson mystery series) is approximately 60,000 words.

When her neighbor is shot and killed in his hunting blind, sixty-six-year-old widow Gertie Johnson seizes the opportunity to move on with her life by investigating his death. Gertie is abetted (and hindered) by her grandson Little Donny, man-hungry best friend Cora Mae, and word-of-the-day challenger, Kitty. It doesn’t help that Chester’s death has been ruled an accident by the sheriff of this backwoods community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Or that Sheriff Blaze Johnson happens to be Gertie’s son.

Whether it’s interrogating neighbors, spying, or impersonating the FBI—not to mention staying one step ahead of Blaze—Gertie will do whatever it takes to solve the case, even when the killer takes aim at her.

Praise for the series:
“Laugh-out-loud funny” Crimespree Magazine

“Fans of Janet Evanovich, imagine Grandma Mazur with a shotgun.” Green Bay Press Gazette

“One of the most memorable heroines in recent crime fiction.” Lansing State Journal

Product Details

Deb Baker
Publication date:
Gertie Johnson Murder Mysteries , #1
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File size:
241 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Word for the Day

INCHOATE (in KOH it) adj.

Not yet clearly or completely formed;
in the early stages.

If my grandson, Little Donny, hadn't taken so long getting out
of bed this morning, I would have been at Chester's hunting blind
in time to see them haul Chester out. I've never seen a bullet hole
smack in the middle of someone's head before.
Instead, I sat in the passenger seat of Barney's white Ford pickup
truck with my twelve-gauge shotgun at my feet and a box of buckshot
in my lap. I laid on the horn until all two hundred and fifty
pounds of six-foot-four Little Donny shuffled out and stuffed himself
into the driver's seat. He was clutching a chicken salad sandwich
in one hand and tucking his shirt in with the other.

It's times like these I wish I'd learned to drive. Up until Barney
passed on, I didn't need to. He took me wherever I wanted to go.
Now I'm at the mercy of slugs, and I don't mean the bullet kind.
Little Donny is nineteen years old, and he really appreciates the
backwoods. He came to the Michigan Upper Peninsula, the U.P.,
as we call it, from his home in Milwaukee the day before yesterday
for the opening of deer-hunting season, which is today, November
fifteenth. At the first gray streak of daylight you could hear rifles
going off all over the woods, and that's when Chester got it right
between the eyes.

"I suppose I missed the whole thing," I called out the window
when we pulled up outside of Chester's blind.

My son, Blaze, leaned against his rust-bucket yellow pickup
with SHERIFF printed on the side, filling out paperwork. No one
else wasaround. Either we'd beat the ambulance or it had already
transported its patient.

"Just finishing up," he muttered, still writing in his notebook,
not noticing my disappointment. "Chester's body is at the morgue
in Escabana by now. How did you find out about it?"

"Heard it on the scanner."

Last year when Barney died, I cold-packed my dreams in a canning
jar and placed them high on a dusty shelf in my pantry. A
week after I buried him I turned sixty-six and Cora Mae bought
me a police scanner for my birthday. It sat in my closet until three
days ago when I mentioned to someone that I'm a recent widow
and Cora Mae let me have it. "Gertie Johnson, I know you loved
Barney, but it's time to start living again. Let's go over to your
house and listen to that scanner I gave you. Maybe something will
pop up." 

Something had popped up, and that something had popped

I jumped down from the cab and the box of buckshot fell to
the ground.

"That thing better not be loaded," Blaze said, after heaving
himself off the truck and glancing at the shotgun on the floor.

"You know it's against the law to transport a loaded weapon in a
vehicle. We've been through this before."

"Of course it's not loaded," I lied, picking up the box of buckshot
and stuffing it under the seat.

Little Donny crawled out of the driver's seat, and I couldn't
help noticing a glob of mustard stuck on his chin. And I couldn't
help noticing that Blaze couldn't button the bottom of his sheriff 's
uniform shirt anymore.

I sighed, thinking of Chester's family and how they'd feel when
they heard the bad news, and for a few minutes Little Donny's
sloppiness and Blaze's escalating weight gain didn't seem important
at all.

"What happened here?" I asked.

"Nothing much to it," Blaze said, shaking his head. "Stray bullet
whomped into the blind and caught poor unlucky Chester right
between the eyes. We have at least one shooting accident every
hunting season."

The air was clean and crisp, and Blaze's breath steamed around
his head while he talked. I could smell cheap cologne hanging in
the air. Blaze always wore too much.

"Remember last year," he continued, "that guy in Trenary was
shot in the stomach sleeping in bed. Remember that, Little Donny?" 

"Yeah, I remember."

"So you're writing this off as an accident?" I stammered, in

Blaze looked surprised that I would even suggest anything else.
"It was an accident and don't go saying anything different."

Ever since Blaze turned forty-four all he thinks about is retirement,
even though he still has a few years left if he wants a full
pension. He's already retired in his mind and that's the scary thing.
He doesn't care anymore and is just putting in his time. Maybe he
needs me to watch out for him, make him walk the straight and
narrow. Maybe I have to be tough with him.

"What if someone murdered Chester and you're letting a killer
get away with it?" I pulled off my Blue Blocker sunglasses so he
could see my glare. "I bet that's what happened, and you're too lazy
to follow through with a proper investigation."

"Ma, quit. I really hate to disappoint you, but nobody ever gets
murdered in Stonely. You've been watching too many soap operas

"I've never watched a soap opera in my life. But I have...(Continues)

Meet the Author

Deb Baker was born in the Michigan Upper Peninsula (yes, she is a Yooper!), which is the setting for her humorous award-winning Gertie Johnson mystery series. She also is the author of the Dolls to Die for series. Deb writes the Queen Bee mystery series under her pen name, Hannah Reed. (Buzz Off, Mind Your Own Beeswax,Plan Bee). For more information about Deb and her books, visit

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Murder Passes the Buck 4.2 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 183 reviews.
SibelHodge More than 1 year ago
As a big Evanovich fan, I was really looking forward to reading this based on the reviews. It didn't disappoint. Laugh-out-loud humour, a great story, and a really fun read. I'll definately be reading more from Gertie!
shhh75 More than 1 year ago
Move over Stephanie Plum. I absolutely love this series of books, the charachters are hilarious, with enough real problems to keep the story believable, but not making it a drama. It's also nice to read a lighthearted mystery that is a little closer to real life, for example, no one wakes up first thing in the morning french-kissing a hottie! (I mean, who does that?) The heroine is entirely likable and I found myself rushing through the day to read these books. I recommend this for anyone who likes mysteries. I can't wait for more books to be added to this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and thought it came closest to the Evanovich trademark hilarity of old. It is as if Grandma Mazur became a detective. Light-hearted, easy to read, fun.
Meggz75 More than 1 year ago
I love this book! If you are in need of a good laugh, this is for you.
LauraHinds More than 1 year ago
Deb Baker has long been a favorite author of mine. It was an absolute delight for me to revisit this fun, witty, well written book. I had first read this book a few years ago, and am so pleased to see it for sale with a snazzy new cover. Main character Gertie Johnson is one sharp Grandma with a keen sense of right and wrong and a nose for finding the truth. When her neighbor, Chester Lampi, is shot on the opening day of deer hunting season his death is packed into the "tragic accident, stray bullet" box on the police report before Chester himself is ready for his own pine box. I really enjoyed the whole book- each character is unique, quirky and comes to life in the reader's minds eye. The book is a fast read, chiefly because it practically dares you to put it down without finishing as each chapter further weaves the mystery with interlocking clues and cues laced with more than a dash of humor! I couldn't put it down until I was finished;it was just as fun for me to read the second time around as it was the first. I very highly recommend this book for mystery lovers of all ages- Gertie may be part of the over 65 set, but she's got more spunk than a lot of people half her age! Buy this book, enjoy it, and give it pride of place on your bookshelves!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just wanted to thank dollycas for her plot spoiler. Now i dont have to read the book!!!! Learn to write a review, not a blog, book report or dissertation. Stop dissecting every sentence.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one entertaining murder mystery! The characters are all so unique and yet so real. The main character, Gertie, is quite an endearing older woman who lives by her own set of rules and tells her story laced with her own entertaining observations about her family and friends, which are not always flattering, but had me chuckling out loud! Memorable and colorful characters, suspense, and the humorous descriptions are a perfect mix for a mystery that I didn't want to end! I discovered this book by reading the author's doll mystery series. I am sure glad I took a chance on it, and I highly recommend it!
Karen_McQ More than 1 year ago
A cozy mystery long on laughs and full of twists and turns. The main character, Gertie Johnson, has a very distinctive voice and an inquisitive nature that gets her into deep trouble. I wanted to strangle her at times, because this is one lady who doesn't listen to reason. But of course, her poking her nose into other people's business was half the fun. Having visited the backwoods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, I can tell you that the setting and good-hearted people are accurately depicted. Murder Passes the Buck is an enjoyable, easy read. Although it's the first in a series, it's a complete story in and of itself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The charecters are funny, engaging and enjoyable! A great and fun read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book from the first to last sentence. I thought I knew who the murderer was and was pleasantly surprised. It's funny, to the point and a quick read.
nannaof2007 More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm used to reading Agatha Christie mysteries, so having somebody who's basically the opposite of Miss Marple took some getting used to. It was a fun read. It had me giggling at some parts, which is always nice no matter what you're reading. Even though my first instinct on who "dunnit" was correct, it still had some fun twists that the characters go through that had me guessing how they were going to get out of this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a fun read with interesting characters, definately recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a good story, with great characters. Sometimes laugh out loud funny with escapeds of the three women.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story, an enjoyable read.
SamyRose More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable book. Very well written and well-edited and proofed. Gertie's writer sure knows Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Furthermore, just talking about pasties makes my mouth water. The U.P. grows strong women, whether a transplant by marriage or native-born. And Gertie is a good example. The women are used to their men going off to hunting blinds or hunting camps. So they are accustomed to making their own lives. The ties between women are probably tighter here than in the land of the Trolls (those who live "under the bridge" - south of the Mackinaw Bridge between the two peninsulas. Gertie is an outspoken diamond in the rough. With her husband dead 18 months, she needs a reason to get up. Or as she says,"Cora Mae, I’m doing it because I have to have a reason to get up every day. I’m doing it because I’m living alone for the first time in forty-some years and I can’t wake up in the morning and get excited about playing cards with the seniors or going to bingo.” This murder investigation pits Gertie against her son, Blaze, the local sheriff, who is positive there is no murder and that his mother is incompetent to manage her affairs. So as she and her friends "investigate" and bumble about, she still must face a court date wherein Blaze seeks to become her guardian. I look forward to reading other books by Deb Baker.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have lived in Michigan and was thrilled to read a story based there .... The characters were delightful and Gert did remind me of someone I know as most people must have one like her in there life
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! What fun to experience the life of the 'UP' through a quirky character named Gertie. She represents a wonderful example of a very determined woman who wants to prove that she can solve a murder that her son, the sheriff doesn't think even took place. Through her escapades we meet her friends and family who are quirky and funny as well. Great twist in the ending and I look forward to reading the rest of the upcoming books in the series!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Imagine Stephanie Plum thirty-odd years from now and you¿ll have Gertie Johnson, a sixty-something widow at loose ends after the death of her husband. The perfect solution for her is to monitor her police scanner, which has her butting heads with her donut-friendly son Blaze ¿call-me¿Brian- Johnson, the Michigan Upper Peninsula sheriff. When the two meet over the body of Chester Lampi in a deer blind her son is all too eager to write it off as an accident while Gertie knows that it¿s something more. With the aid of her slacker and not always willing grandson Little Donny, her Wonderbra-clad best friend Cora Mae, and a woman-of-size senior citizen bodyguard, Gertie manages to break as many laws as possible in order to solve the murder and prove her son wrong. That Blaze is attempting to have her declared incompetent is just an added incentive, as if she can prove she¿s right she can also prove that she¿s not crazy. Full of sass and humor without being cutesy, Murder Passes the Buck is a charming and hilarious mystery that avoids the clichés of mysteries featuring senior citizens. Never predictable but always entertaining, Gertie is stubborn and determined with a vulnerability that stems from the loss of her husband and the attack by her son. Scenes featuring Little Donny and his proclivity for being attacked by deer and Gertie¿s stun gun will have the reader laughing out loud. Be prepared to read this mystery in one sitting and be left anxiously awaiting the next Youper Mystery featuring the delightful Gertie Johnson.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. The humor is precious. And the mystery keeps you guessing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Since this is not really my kind of book, it was hard to rate. Kind of off the wall to me, but it made me laugh.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
410 pgs. I love Grandma Mazur in the Stephanie Plum series, and Gertie comes close. A fun read and a good mystery too.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a fun read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best series I've ever read! I've recommended these books to all of my friends and family, as well as the local library. My hope is that there will be more to come. Very witty and comical, but the crimes that Gertie and her friends investigate are serious.