North of Cleverby Suzann Ledbetter
Just another homicide to spice things up
Life is anything but dull for Hannah Garvey, the resident manager for Valhalla Springs, an exclusive retirement community in the Ozarks. She's helped clear Sheriff David Hendrickson of a manslaughter charge, been caught almost in the act with said sheriff by his parents, and been recruited into bridesmaid duty/p>/b>
Just another homicide to spice things up
Life is anything but dull for Hannah Garvey, the resident manager for Valhalla Springs, an exclusive retirement community in the Ozarks. She's helped clear Sheriff David Hendrickson of a manslaughter charge, been caught almost in the act with said sheriff by his parents, and been recruited into bridesmaid duty for a shotgun wedding -- senior citizen style. Just a typical day in Sanity, Missouri.
Then the circus comes to town . . . and Hannah gets a visit from a man she never knew: her father. At least, thatÆs who magician Reilly Boone claims to be. Reilly's overjoyed by the reunion -- until his lady illusionist wife, AnnaLeigh, catches a real bullet in the bullet-catch trick . . . and he's arrested for murder.
The show must go on.
Circus folk stick by their own, and no one's talking. And with David and Hannah in the middle of their own three-ring circus of romance, secrets and homicide, it's up to the gang of senior sleuths to get to the bottom of things under the big top.
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Until five minutes ago, Hannah Garvey had never considered the advantages to being the sole surviving member of a family small enough to have held reunions in a convenience store's rest room.
Amazing how getting caught in flagrante delicto with the Kinderhook County sheriff when his parents dropped in for a surprise visit could change one's perspective.
Hannah's great-uncle Mort had often said, some things were funny "ha-ha," and others were funny "hmm." Being horny, naked and trapped in a shower recently occupied by an equally horny and likewise naked David Hendrickson wasn't destined to be funny "ha-ha" anytime soon.
In this lifetime, for instance.
From what she'd overheard, neither Ed nor June Hendrickson had explained how they'd set out from Florida for Toronto and wound up on their eldest son's porch in the central Missouri Ozarks at the freakin' crack of dawn.
Only fair, Hannah supposed, since neither, had inquired whether David often answered his door wearing nothing but a homicidal expression, a towel and a woody the size of a Louisville Slugger.
She further supposed she couldn't fault him for not shooting the then-unknown intruders as he'd promised when he stormed out of the bathroom. Taking his parents out of the world they'd brought him into thirty-six years ago because their timing was worse than their ability to read a road map might have been a little excessive.
Hannah pulled on the black sweater and pants that had been derigueur for the previous night's semi-felonious activities. Breaking and entering a motor vehicle and committing a noninjury assault with her own were unquestionably illegal, but so was framing the county sheriff for murder.
In her opinion, all's well that had ended well, even if some statutes, several law enforcement officers of her acquaintance and her Blazer's front end had gotten slightly bent out of shape in the process.
Wiping the steam from the bathroom mirror exposed a mass of shoulder-length, towel-dried hair about six shades darker than its natural brownish auburn. Pouches beneath her eyes from sleep deprivation, a scowl indicative of sex deprivation and dual, dark mascara smudges completed the perimenopausal Goth look.
Whimpering softly, Hannah squatted on her heels and opened the vanity cabinet's doors. A visual survey revealed that male sheriffs with quasimilitary haircuts don't own hair dryers. Male sheriffs who've been divorced for three years and have no children don't have bottles of baby oil lying around, either.
Then again, the unopened box of maxi-condoms, but no maxi-pads, tampons, diaphragm containers, whips or chains was a definite plus.
In the process of discovering that Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion stings like hell but does remove waterproof mascara, she jumped at a knock on the bathroom door. A familiar baritone asked, "Are you decent?"
A two-beat pause. "Well, is it okay if I come in?"
She consulted the mirror. "Yeah, but it's risky, unless you have a cross in one hand and a wooden stake in the other."
The undaunted, living, breathing, albeit no longer naked epitome of Michelangelo's statue waltzed through the door. Not that a T-shirt and jeans shaved any points off David's overall lust-o-meter score. Hannah just wouldn't have minded another peek at six feet three inches of original sin.
For posterity, if nothing else. After all, on at least three occasions, experience had shown that God had taken the vow of celibacy she'd made after her last romantic disaster a lot more seriously than she had.
David snuggled up spoon fashion, pressed his head to hers and squinted at the mirror. "So your hair's a little damp and mussy. I think it's kind of sexy."
"I think you ought to trade Rainbo in on a Seeing Eye dog," she said, referring to his rottweiler, who was trained to snack on strangers who thought Beware of Dog signs didn't include them. "Come to think of it, why didn't Rainbo bark when your parents drove in?"
Better yet, why hadn't the beast treed them for an hour or two?
"I suspect Rambo barked like sixty, until he recognized them." A lazy grin crawled across David's face. "I can't imagine why we didn't hear him."
The image of David's slickly wet, hard-muscled body shimmied behind Hannah's eyes. She visualized the steam swirling around them ... his arms crushing her to his chest ... the hungry tenderness of his kiss ... water channeling erotic paths of least resistance ...
Hannah leaned back into his embrace. Her voice deepened to a husky whisper. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"Yep." He retreated a step. "Mom's probably pretty close to having breakfast ready by now."
This from a man who'd demonstrated an uncanny and annoying ability to read her mind? Either David's internal satellite dish was malfunctioning, or Mother Hendrickson was scrambling signals, along with the eggs.
Hannah turned from the sink, braced an arm on her chest and propped an elbow on it. An index finger tapped her chin. "Do you know what this bathroom needs?"
"A window. The room would be ten times brighter if it had one."
David stared at her as though she'd switched from English to Serbo-Croatian.
"By golly," she said, "if this were my house, I'd grab a saw and get right to it. Really, how long would it take"
"Only one problem, sugar. All the walls are of the interior variety."
"Oh." Hannah gandered at the ceiling. "Well, then ..."
David shook his head. "Old farmhouses with sheet-metal roofs aren't prime for skylights, either."
Frowning, she asked herself, what would Steve "The Great Escape" McQueen do?
David rested his hands on her shoulders. "Look, I realize this is sort of embarrassing"
"but I figure a gal who's been involved in two murders, an assault with a deadly weapon, a pot bust and a bogus, second-degree manslaughter charge against me ought to be able to take this in stride."
"Stride is precisely what I'd like to do, Hendrickson. Straight out the front door to my Blazer and outta here."
"We're adults, Hannah."
"Speak for yourself. I may be seven years older than you, but I feel like I'm back in junior high."
"Same here." He kissed her forehead. "But bear in mind, I'm the one who's gonna get razzed by my...
Excerpted from North of Clever by Suzann Ledbetter. Copyright © 2001 by Suzann Ledbetter. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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The geriatric residents and the staff of the Valhalla Springs Retirement Community in the Ozarks as well as the citizens of Sanity, Missouri are excited over the arrival of the circus. However, the community manager Hannah Garvey turns into numbing shock when circus magician Reilly Boone introduces himself claiming to be her long lost father. He knows a lot about Hannah, but her main squeeze Sheriff David Henrickson thinks Reilly is pulling a sleight of the hand con. The situation turns deadly when Reilly¿s wife and partner AnnaLeigh takes a bullet during a performance. Reilly has the motive (beneficiary of a large life insurance policy), the means (their joint act that included a gun prop), the opportunity (during a performance), and a history (two previously dead wives). Everyone except Hannah believes he killed his spouse. As Hannah sets out to prove her father could never commit murderer, her elderly charges don clown costumes to infiltrate the circus and keep their beloved manager safe. NORTH OF CLEVER, the third Hannah Garvey ¿sedate¿ Ozarks tale, retains the wonderful wackiness of the previous novels (see EAST OF PECULIAR and SOUTH OF SANITY) due to the endearing, but ultra-eccentric ensemble. Though the story line is a romantic amateur sleuth tale, the plot is much more humorous than it is a taut suspense thriller. The characters leave readers laughing from one incident to another so that fans will impatiently await West of whatever and hopefully other in-between ¿due¿ directions on the amusing compass of Sanity. Harriet Klausner