Murder Passes the Buck: A Yooper Mystery

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Overview

Gertie Johnson may be outspoken, distrustful of banks, and a quick draw with the pepper spray, but she hasn't lost her marbles. Her son Blaze, the sheriff in a backwoods community of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, is petitioning to become her legal guardian, but Gertie, a sassy sixty-six-year-old widow with a taste for detective work, has got bigger fish to fry: solving the murder of Chester Lampi who was shot dead in his deer blind. Blaze--who's more interested in retiring than investigating--rules Chester's death ...
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Murder Passes the Buck

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Overview

Gertie Johnson may be outspoken, distrustful of banks, and a quick draw with the pepper spray, but she hasn't lost her marbles. Her son Blaze, the sheriff in a backwoods community of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, is petitioning to become her legal guardian, but Gertie, a sassy sixty-six-year-old widow with a taste for detective work, has got bigger fish to fry: solving the murder of Chester Lampi who was shot dead in his deer blind. Blaze--who's more interested in retiring than investigating--rules Chester's death as a hunting accident. So, Gertie takes on the case with help from her friends, man-hungry Cora Mae and pin-curled Kitty. Interrogating neighbors, spying, impersonating the FBI...the stubborn, spunky grandmother won't give up the chase even when the killer takes aim at her.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597223881
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 12/13/2006
  • Series: Wheeler Cozy Mystery Ser.
  • Edition description: Large Print Edition
  • Pages: 315
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Deb Baker (Wisconsin) grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. She is a member of Sisters In Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the International Sled Dog Association, where she actively races sled dogs. Her short stories have appeared in many literary journals, including Passages North and Room of One's Own. Her debut novel, Murder Passes the Buck, won Best of Show in the Authorlink 2003 New Author Awards Competition.
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Read an Excerpt

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 was around. 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 Chester.

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 disbelief.

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 again."

"I've never watched a soap opera in my life. But I have some inchoate ideas about this."

"Inchoate ideas?"

"It's my word for the day."

Last week I decided it was time for some self-improvement. I'm expanding my vocabulary by learning one new word every day and I have to use it in normal conversation so it sticks with me. I've found it's best to try out my new word first thing in the morning or else I forget to use it.

"Who found Chester?" I wanted to know.

"Floy . . ." Blaze hesitated and shook his head. "Oh, no. I'm not telling you right now. You'll just go over and bother the poor man. He's upset enough as it is."

"Well, stop by on your way home later and let me know what's happening."

Blaze lives in a mobile home on the east forty. Barney and I– well, just me now–own three forties, meaning I own one hundred and twenty acres. The properties in Tamarack Township are sectioned in blocks of forty acres so when someone asks how much land you own, you say two forties, or five forties, or whatever.

The terrain in the Upper Peninsula is as rugged and as difficult to categorize as the people who settled here–miles and miles of swampy lowlands, then miles of even country with every type of pine tree you can imagine, and when you think you have it all figured out, the elevation soars and you find yourself high on a wind-blown ridge overlooking one of the Great Lakes, watching waves slam against enormous rocks.

Most of us own a lot of land and we're proud of it, even though it comes cheap. It's all we have.

Blaze lives on the east forty with his wife, Mary. His two girls are off at college. My youngest daughter, Star, lives in a log cabin on the west forty. Her kids are grown and gone and her no-good husband left her for a blonde bimbo, so she's there alone. But her kids visit often.

Heather is Little Donny's mother. She, her husband, Big Donny, and Little Donny, my favorite grandson and current chauffeur, live in Milwaukee.

I like the fact that two of my kids stayed in Stonely and decided to live on the family property. I like the fact that they have to drive right past my house coming and going. Sometimes it's stressful having family right on top of me, but in the final analysis, it's worth it.

"Let's go hunting later, Blaze," Little Donny said.

"Stop calling me Blaze," Blaze said, glaring at me while prying open the door of his rust-bucket truck. "I legally changed my name to Brian. I keep telling everyone in town over and over, and no one can seem to get it straight."

"Brian?" Little Donny was confused, which isn't anything new for him.

"You weren't born a Brian and you don't look like a Brian," I huffed. "Who's going to call you that? It's not your real name."

"Your Granny, here," Blaze said to Little Donny, ignoring me except for an accusing finger pointed in my direction, "named me after a horse."

Which was true.

I wanted to look around the crime scene, but Blaze wouldn't let me. He waited in his dump truck–as in what-a-dump truck– until we pulled out ahead of him. At my direction, Little Donny turned right on Highway M35. I knew Blaze would turn left and head toward town, and I didn't want him following us all the way back.

He had a family to inform of their loss. I had a crime scene to investigate.

"Nice and slow," I cautioned Little Donny. I wore a blaze orange hunting jacket, since those crazy hunters will shoot at anything moving. I had my hair pulled up under an orange hunting cap with the earflaps folded up. Two trucks passed us going the opposite way, the drivers also wearing hunter's orange. I waved and they waved back.

As soon as Blaze turned left, I slapped Little Donny's knee. "Turn around and head back to Chester's."

"Blaze is going to be hot, and anyway, I want to go hunting," Little Donny crabbed.

I gave him a stern look, and he swung around at the first crossroad.

Chester's hunting blind stood on the edge of a small clearing, butting up against a grove of tamarack trees. It wasn't wrapped in yellow tape to mark it as a crime scene, confirming my suspicions that Blaze wouldn't even do a cursory investigation.

I carefully opened the blind door with the sleeve of my jacket so I wouldn't leave prints, in spite of my belief that this was one case where it wouldn't matter. I suspected there weren't any prints to find. This was a long-distance murder.

Granted, I had no evidence that Chester's death actually was a murder, but every time a stray bullet from a high-powered rifle took a life, I thought about whether it was an accident or not. In the Michigan U.P., it would be the perfect crime.

Opening the door, I wondered who or what Chester might have seen before he died.

The shack was built on a movable platform so it could be towed around on the back of a tractor. We all did that. One reason is that it's nice and easy to move next season if we find a better hunting spot, and another reason is so the federal government can't slap a tax on us for building a permanent structure. They try to get you coming and going.

Inside, I could feel the leftover warmth of the propane heater as I looked around.

Chester's blind was pretty ordinary, built for comfort, warmth, and an unobstructed shot when Big Buck strolled out into the clearing. It had an insulated wood frame and windows on each side, the same as a house. Metal fasteners on the sides of the windows could be turned, and the window would silently swing out. The floor was covered with worn brown shag carpet. A can of WD40 was in the corner along with a cooler full of beer, a can of peanuts, and a pair of binoculars.

Even though I considered Chester a neighbor, I didn't know him real well. He kept to himself out on Parker Road, nodding his head when we met, then moving on. Not a chit-chatter. His wife died a few years back, before Barney died. Everyone thought she went plumb loco until the doctors discovered the brain tumor. Then it was too late.

When I left his blind, I knew a little more about him. I knew he drank the cheapest beer he could buy, and that he drank it early in the day. He must have slammed down a few cans before he was slammed down himself by a deadly bullet. I saw several empty cans tossed in a pile on the floor. An open can on a small table had spilled and beer had run in a stream with the blood from his head.

I also learned that a hole in the head makes quite a bloody mess, and that Chester liked smut magazines. Since I never saw one before, I paged through the stack by the window.

"Granny, this isn't a good idea. Come out of there or I'm telling Blaze."

Little Donny's large bulk blocked out the light though the door. I wanted to search for clues between the shack and the creek running through Chester's property, but I'd have to get rid of Whiney first.

"Okay, let's hit it," I said, climbing into the cab.

Floyd Tatrow was hard of hearing, so when I stuck my head in his kitchen door, I called out nice and loud. He didn't answer. The kitchen smelled like freshly fried bacon, and the sink was full of dirty dishes soaking in sudsy water–the water was still warm to my touch.

"Floyd," I hollered. "It's Gertie Johnson. Where are you?"

I checked every room and found them all empty. Floyd kept the place spic-and-span clean even though his wife, Eva, had a stroke a year ago and was in a private nursing home in Escanaba. He still had hopes that she would come home some day, but the rest of us knew she was there for life.

Eva was a little too church-like for my taste. Her favorite phrase was "The Lord will provide." I always thought you had to provide for yourself. No one else is going to do it for you, not even the Lord, but you couldn't reason with Eva.

Years ago when Floyd lost everything but the shirt on his back at the Indian casino, I cooked up a large roast with carrots and onions, mashed ten pounds of homegrown potatoes, and dropped the meal off at their home.

"I told you the Lord would provide," Eva said to Floyd, putting the pans down on the countertop.

"That wasn't the Lord providing," I said, tapping my thumb on my chest. "That was me."

The Tatrow house was decorated in frilly yellow curtains and embroidered religious pictures. Crocheted blankets covered the upholstery and lace doilies were draped on the tables. Eva liked her arts and crafts, before the Lord provided her with a stroke that paralyzed her entire right side.

That private nursing home must be costing Floyd a pretty penny, I thought, eyeing a television set as big as my entire dining room wall. He better learn to cut back on his spending.

I let myself out and stood on the porch, scanning the property. I avoided looking at the truck where Little Donny sat fuming. Big cities squeeze the ability to be patient right out of people. Life becomes too frantic and rushed. It's a sad thing. He needed to spend more time in the woods with me, learning the art of slow and simple.

I strolled over to the sauna and yanked the door open.

There sat Floyd, naked as a blue jay and not half as pretty. He had the largest head I ever saw on a man, and was wearing a Ford baseball cap that was three sizes too small. Men around these parts don't take off their hats unless they absolutely have to.

"Gertie Johnson," Floyd exclaimed. "What are you doing?"

The difference between men and women is this–if you catch a woman butt-naked, she tries to cover the private parts with her hands. A man will sit there just like you found him even if he doesn't have much to be proud of.

Floyd sat like that, not moving.

"Put your drawers on," I said, looking away too late. "I'll wait outside."

Floyd took his sweet time coming out. I sat in the truck with Grumpy until Floyd opened the sauna door and walked toward the truck.

The Finns like their saunas. They usually build them around the back of the house for privacy because they roll in the snow when they're done sweating it out. Afternoon is their favorite time. It takes all morning to fire the sauna up and get it steaming hot. Sometimes a Finn will invite his friends over for a sauna, and if it's mixed company, the men go together then the women go together, and everyone tries to peek when the snow rolling begins. Especially if the moonshine has been going around.

Floyd has six or seven old geezers who share the sauna with him, and I was grateful that they weren't over today. One naked old guy is enough for any woman. I shook my head to clear the image and rolled down the truck window.

"You found Chester this morning," I said. When Blaze let it slip that Floyd found Chester, I was pretty certain he meant Floyd Tatrow. There weren't any other Floyds around Stonely.

"What?"

I remembered that Floyd couldn't hear well and repeated the question, loudly.

"It was an awful shock," he said.

"What happened?" I shouted.

"What's that?"

I looked over at Little Donny wedged into the driver's seat and our eyes met. Little Donny, who can't stay mad long, grinned at me.

"Is that thing turned on?" I leaned out the window and pointed at Floyd's hearing aid.

Floyd dug the hearing aid out of his ear and made an adjustment. "Sorry," he said, screwing it back in. "Blasted thing was turned off."

"What happened to Chester?"

"Shot in the head's what happened to Chester. I walked up to the blind, calling out so he wouldn't accidentally shoot me. I was going to tell him to stop over for a sauna, you see. I could tell he was past saving, but I ran back to his house and called for an ambulance anyway. Then I called the sheriff."

"What do you think happened?" I said. "In your own opinion."

Floyd leaned against the truck. "I already told you. Chester was shot in the head. That's what happened to him." He said it loud and clear like he thought I was the deaf one.

"No, I mean, do you think he was murdered?"

"Murdered! Lord, no! This is a Christian, law-abiding community, and if Chester's dead it's because God called him. When Eva could still talk she used to say ?The Lord will provide' and that's it in a nutshell, you see. God's bullet took Chester and He must have had a good reason."

Okay.

Cora Mae, my all-time best friend, was waiting for us at my house with a fresh pot of coffee and a plate of sweet rolls. In all the excitement, I forgot she was giving me a hair rinse today.

Cora Mae has been my friend since I moved to Stonely. I remember Barney calling Stonely "God's Country" and I'd thought he meant a paradise, like the Garden of Eden. Then we arrived and I found out it was God's Country because nobody else wanted it. No jobs worth mentioning, cracker-box houses clumped together in towns so small you missed them even though you knew you hadn't blinked, and bugs the size of pumpkins.

Cora Mae saved me. She's three years younger, making her sixty-three, and she's buried three husbands. Cora Mae never could stay away from men; they're in her blood–she's always on the lookout in spite of her bad luck in the past.

"Onni Maki's hot with the widows around here. I hear he's taking Viagra to keep up, or rather to keep it up," Cora Mae said, pouring two cups of coffee. "Sure would like to give him a whirl."

"You'll have to take a number and stand in line," I said, pulling out a kitchen chair and sitting down to tug off my hunting boots. I used to be able to take my boots off leaning against the wall, but it's been a few years now. I can do it only if I absolutely have to, using all my concentration.

I hung my hunting jacket on a peg by the door and pulled off the hunting cap, running my fingers through my short, coarse gray hair.

Little Donny took his rifle down from the gun rack, shoved a box of ammo into his jacket, and headed for the door. "Onni Maki is the only available male within fifty miles, especially since Ches-ter's dead," he said to Cora Mae.

"What about George?" I reminded him. "George is available." I chewed my lip after realizing my mistake. Cora Mae stalks any single man who breathes air and I don't want her rushing off after George, who is a good friend and doesn't deserve to be worked over by Cora Mae.

Glancing sideways, I saw her reading the directions on the hair product box, paying no attention to me.

"Well, good luck," Little Donny said to Cora Mae.

She peered over the top of the box and fluffed her hair with one hand. "I don't need luck, honey. I got sex appeal."

Cora Mae did look good for her age. She was wearing black stretch pants, a black long-sleeved tee, and pointy boots with two-inch heels. Her man-hunting outfit, she calls it. Last year Cora Mae discovered Wonderbras and now her boobs are always in the lead. They're the first things you notice about Cora Mae.

I must look pretty drab and nondescript next to her. Cora Mae has style. Here I am–barely five feet tall, a hundred and twenty pounds, with old-lady gray hair and a winter roll of fat around my middle that seems to increase in size every year.

I saw Little Donny heading for the door. "Where you going with my car keys?"

"Hunting with Carl. Remember? I already asked you if I could take the truck."

"Oh. Ah . . . I remember now," I said, not remembering at all.

"See you later." Little Donny slammed the door shut behind him.

"He'll be back in a minute or two," I said, chuckling. "He forgot something important."

Thirty seconds later, Donny stomped through the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and grabbed a pile of sandwiches I'd made earlier. He had to use both pockets to stuff them all in.

"Let's get started," I said to Cora Mae after Little Donny was loaded up and gone. I clipped a towel around my neck.

Normally, I have a rinse to take the yellow out of my gray hair. Gray hair doesn't scare me. Neither do flabby muscles, or liver spots, or strange little wart-like bumps. All of which are cropping up here and there on my body like clumps of weeds. I'm slowly losing my hearing, my eyesight, and yesterday I noticed I'm losing my eyelashes. I've stopped being afraid of age since it doesn't do any good anyway. You can't stop the march of time and the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can focus on the important things in life.

Cora Mae likes to play the role of hairdresser, and although I know how to take care of my own hair, I humor her. She waved the box containing my rinse in front of my face. "You're full of surprises, Gertie."

I looked at the box and screeched. "Strawberry blonde? Oh, no. I must have picked up the wrong box."

"I think it's time for a new look," Cora Mae of the black-as-tar hair said when I attempted to grab it away. After a brief struggle, she won.

I filled her in while she worked. She knew about Chester's death because I'd called her earlier while I was waiting for Little Donny. Now I went through the graphic details.

Two hours later I stared into the mirror in disbelief and horror. My head was covered in a brassy orange mess. I grabbed the box and read the directions.

"Cora Mae, I told you it was on my head too long. It says fifteen minutes, not fifty. Now what am I going to do?"

"The clown show's coming to Escanaba. Maybe you can apply for a job." Cora Mae was holding her left side from laughing so hard, while tears streaked with mascara slid down her face. "I never saw hair take color like that before."

"Well, at least I won't need to wear my orange hunting cap." I checked my watch. "I wanted to search Chester's property but it's starting to get dark. It'll have to wait until morning."

Cora Mae had that look in her eye. The here-she-goes-again look, and I knew I was going to hear it whether I wanted to or not.

"Gertie, every time someone dies doesn't mean it's murder. Remember when Martha fell in the tub, hit her head, and drowned. You said that was murder."

"Might have been. It was poorly investigated."

"And when Ted Hakanen drove his car into the tree on the side of Peter Road, dead drunk. You said that his car had been tampered with."

"Probably was."

"Blaze sent that old Buick to Escanaba, mechanics went over it, and the only thing they found was an empty bottle of Jim Beam."

"That's what a killer would want you to believe. Maybe Martha and Ted died in accidents, but it's a numbers game, Cora Mae. One of these days it really will be murder."

We cleaned up the kitchen and polished off the bag of sweet rolls. Since I'd missed lunch, I shared a liver sausage sandwich with Cora Mae.

The thought of investigating Chester's death appealed to me. The more time I spent listening to my police scanner, the more I thought I'd make a pretty good investigator. After all, I had three kids to practice on while they were growing up. If nothing came of my efforts and it was a stray bullet that killed Chester like Blaze and Cora Mae thought, I'd chalk it up to on-the-job training.

At the moment, I knew three things. One: based on television shows I've watched, the person who finds the body sometimes turns out to be the killer. He should be the first name on a suspect list. Two: a detective has to move fast. As the murder ages, it gets harder and harder to solve. Three: Floyd Tatrow's phone number was in the telephone book.

"This is the sheriff's office calling," I said into the phone, holding my nose lightly with my fingers. "You need to take a lie detector test."

"Why would I have to do that?" Floyd wanted to know.

"It's standard procedure. You found the body, didn't you?"

"Yes, but. . . ."

"It's perfectly voluntary, of course, but you'll clear yourself right away if you agree to it."

"Clear myself of what?"

"I can't answer that. It's confidential police business. Can you be there in twenty minutes? Sheriff Johnson has the equipment at his mobile home."

"I suppose. All right, but I never heard of anything like this before."

"You never found a dead body before."

Cora Mae giggled.

"And don't eat or drink anything before the test," I finished.

"What is going through your mind?" Cora Mae asked when I hung up.

She's a perfect example of the difference between an investigative mind and a regular mind, if you can call Cora Mae's mind regular. Regular minds rarely have brainstorm ideas that catch killers.

I flipped on the spotlight next to the drive leading past my house to Blaze's mobile home and started gathering the supplies to make popcorn.

"If Floyd shows up, he probably didn't murder Chester," I reasoned. "The killer isn't going to willingly walk into the town sher-iff's house to be hooked up to a lie detector."

I finished making the popcorn, turned off the inside lights, and waited in the dark by the window, eating popcorn. Cora Mae held the bowl. "The beauty of the whole plan," I bragged, "is that Blaze and Mary aren't home. I saw Mary drive out half an hour ago and Blaze is still working. If Floyd shows up, he'll find an empty house, take off his little cap, scratch his big head, and go on home. Blaze will never know what happened. But I'll know Floyd didn't kill Chester."

I was tossing kernels of popcorn in the air and trying to catch them in my mouth when Blaze's sheriff's truck turned onto our road and passed my house. "Oh, no," I muttered. Pretty soon Floyd's blue truck went by. When he passed under the spotlight, I could see his large, pale head peering over the dashboard.

"How are you going to explain to Blaze?" Cora Mae asked, crunching popcorn.

"I'll deny involvement," I said, disappointed that Floyd showed up. "What makes you think he'll suspect me anyway?"

Cora Mae raised one eyebrow, which isn't an easy thing to do.

A few minutes later, Floyd drove out and Cora Mae flipped the house lights on. I crossed Floyd's name off my list of suspects and stared at a blank page.

"When is Little Donny going back to Milwaukee?" Cora Mae asked.

"I don't know. He's not in any big rush, since he's between jobs."

Between jobs is what Donny calls it. I call it canned, fired, let go, but I'm not saying anything. Little Donny's had more jobs than a rabbit has bunnies.

Cora Mae picked up her purse.

"Little Donny should be back any minute," I said. "It's too dark to hunt. He must have stopped for a beer. If you wait a bit, he can drive you home."

Neither one of us drives a car, which some people from other parts of the country might consider strange, but it's not so unusual in the U.P. Things are spread out here, but we don't go out that much and when we do there's always someone willing to drive us. Once a week Blaze or his wife, Mary, drives me to the grocery store and, along with my own groceries, I buy a few things for Cora Mae from a list she gives me.

I'm now starting to see the complications of finding chauffeurs to drive me around to investigate crimes.

"Nah, it's only down the road." Cora Mae swung her purse and eyed my expanding midriff. "Exercise is good for you."

I found a flashlight in the closet, handed it to her, and watched her walk down the side of the road. Then I plunked down in front of the television to wait for Little Donny.

two

Word for the Day

SIMPATICO (sim PAHT i koh) adj.

Gets along well with or goes well

with another; compatible.

"Where were you last night?" I asked Little Donny the next morning when he staggered to the table.

I finished writing my new word on a scrap of paper and included the pronunciation since it wasn't an easy one to say–it sounded Italian.

Little Donny looked like he'd partied too hard and smelled like stale beer and probably would have stayed in bed if I hadn't rolled him out.

"Herb's Bar." Little Donny rubbed his red-rimmed eyes and squinted at me through narrow slits. "What time is it?"

"Way past time for you to drive me over to Chester's house. I have some investigating to do."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 180 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(88)

4 Star

(56)

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(22)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(11)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 180 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 21, 2010

    Like Evanovich? Love Deb Baker

    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!

    18 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2012

    Boo

    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.

    9 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    Murder Passes the Buck

    This book was rather a disappointment for an avid reader of women's mystery writers. The writer borrows far too heavily from the likes of Goldy Schultz, the caterer turned detective, if somewhat reluctantly but with the help of a wealthy friend and a deputy husband who also cooks and helps her out of harms way. This heroine has a son, Blaze (named for a horse and still worked into a lather over it instead of just jumping into the saddle and being the stallion he could be), also a sheriff who spends so much of his time with his mousy almost-not-there as a character wife, Mary, who lives in a doublewide on Mom's property trying to get his hands on her money that he tries to have her declared incompetent by the court. It was filled with typos, misspellings, and awkward places made by a novice, not a novelist. I was very disappointing that this is compared to Janet Evonovich who really IS funny and sticks to the dialect of Trenton, NJ. There doesn't seem to BE a dialect of the Upper Penninsula, MI. I won't be wasting my money on another series by Deb Baker. I'm amazed she got published at all.

    9 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2012

    Like Grandma Mazur Got Her Own Series

    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.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 19, 2011

    My new favorite series!

    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.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Bang For Your Buck!

    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!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2011

    Gertie is a riot!

    I love this book! If you are in need of a good laugh, this is for you.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 15, 2010

    Entertaining Mystery!

    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.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2008

    A Murder Mystery That is Just So Much Fun to Read!

    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!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2006

    A Most Pleasurable Read

    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!!!!

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2006

    A Hiliarious New Mystery

    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.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2012

    Outrageously funny Outrageously funny

    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

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2012

    Funny and creative

    The charecters are funny, engaging and enjoyable! A great and fun read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2013

    Was a Pleasure to Read

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2013

    THIS IS A WELL WRITTEN STORY. YOU WOULD LIKE THIS BOOK. I WOULD

    THIS IS A WELL WRITTEN STORY. YOU WOULD LIKE THIS BOOK. I WOULD READ MORE FROM THIS AUTHOR. KEEP THE GOOD WORK UP

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2013

    Different Kind of Mystery

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2013

    good choice

    This book was a fun read with interesting characters, definately recommend!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2013

    Would have given this a 2, but

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2013

    Aninymous

    This was a good story, with great characters. Sometimes laugh out loud funny with escapeds of the three women.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2013

    A happy ending for a Sparks book

    Good story, an enjoyable read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 180 Customer Reviews

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