One Dead Under the Cuckoo's Nestby Lori Avocato
When Pauline Sokol goes undercover to investigate brokers who match psychiatric patients with treatment facilities for high dollar bounties, she suddenly finds herself confined against her will in a mental hospital run by nuns! Of course, convincing the staff that she's not crazy is like convincing a jailer that she's innocent, so Pauline decides to use the… See more details below
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When Pauline Sokol goes undercover to investigate brokers who match psychiatric patients with treatment facilities for high dollar bounties, she suddenly finds herself confined against her will in a mental hospital run by nuns! Of course, convincing the staff that she's not crazy is like convincing a jailer that she's innocent, so Pauline decides to use the time to her advantage and continues with her investigation. Just as she starts to immerse herself in this strange world and make some headway, her hunky cohort Jagger shows up. When Jagger won't help her escape, Pauline knows that she's in deeper than she ever imagined and her only hope is the help of her colorful and "off kilter" new friends – her fellow patients. But when a crooked cross dressing nun winds up dead, Pauline knows that only her wits can save her from a killer that's committed to silencing her...permanently.
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One Dead Under the Cuckoo's NestA Pauline Sokol Mystery
By Lori Avocato
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Lori Avocato
All right reserved.
"This won't hurt."
I looked at my well-meaning best friend and roommate, Miles Scarpello, and then snorted immediately after he spoke the foolish words.
My second best friend and roommate (Miles's significant other), Goldie Perlman, joined in. "Really, Suga, it won't hurt. Blow." He waved his hand in the air like a magic wand but only managed to snag his lovely ecru silk scarf with a long, coral-painted nail. Goldie looked lovely in ecru. Matched his skin tone and made his golden-haired wig look more real.
Then again, Goldie looked beautiful in any color.
And always real.
My father added, "Come on, Paczki, I want a piece of cake."
Everyone in the room leaned near, as if a budding thirty-five-year-old didn't have the wind to blow out thirty-five stupid birthday candles. I groaned at Daddy's pet name for me. He had used the endearing Polish term (for a big, fat, round, often prune-filled Polish donut, pronounced more like "paunchki") since my birth, when I weighed in at a svelte ten pounds, five ounces. Okay, maybe svelte wasn't exactly the correct term, but I remember seeing myself in the reflection of the metal bars of my bassinet and thinking I looked svelte and the nurse probably had her finger on the scale when she had weighed me.
My mother, Stella Sokol, blew out a breath and said, "Really, Pauline Sokol. You are making a mountain out of a molehill. Turning thirty-five is not the end of the world."
I looked out the window of my mother's house. It wasn't hard to do from my seat, since she pulled back the "winter" drapes to let the sun shine through the sheer white ones each spring season. Yep. The world hadn't ended and was still out there in full force.
And I was officially thirty-five years old.
And in a profession I knew very little to nothing about -- but wouldn't trade for the world. Sure, I had thirteen years experience as a registered nurse, but being a "slightly experienced" medical-insurance-fraud investigator was just fine with me right now.
It was this stupid birthday thing that bugged me.
I looked around my parents' house, which, by the way, was straight out of a Leave It to Beaver television show -- with color added -- and thought some days I might go insane.
Not that insanity ran in my family, but then again, there was that aunt back in Pennsylvania who used to wear five dresses at once when she traveled to Hope Valley, Connecticut, to come see us. Aunt Flo had insisted her dresses wouldn't get wrinkled in her suitcase if she wore them all in the car. Once, when she'd had surgery on her knee, she put three fitted sheets on her bed so that post-op, she could peel one off each week, and she wouldn't have to do a lot of laundry.
I thought that was very clever.
I turned back to look at my family and wondered if Aunt Flo had been the only one with "those" genes. Daddy was already licking cake frosting off his finger before my mother even had a chance to pick up the knife. He reached out again. She swatted his hand away.
Uncle Walt, my favorite uncle, who had lived with us since I was born, slept soundly -- in his seat at the dining-room table -- with telltale frosting on his lower lip, too.
Miles and Goldie giggled like little kids while pouring each other champagne into the crystal goblets my mother had had since the fifties. Wasn't love grand?
The room was full of nieces, nephews, siblings and their spouses. I tried not to look.
Next to me at the table was Nick Caruso, a fellow investigator. Okay, I was stretching it. Nick was truly an investigator. Me, I was still a "newbie," as my seamy boss, Fabio Scarpello (Miles's uncle, since Miles had been adopted into the Scarpello family) would call me.
But hey, I'd finished two investigative cases, and didn't get killed once.
As for Nick, he had become a bit more than a peer. We'd recently started dating. Dating. A term I'd almost forgotten. It hadn't taken me long to get back into the swing of it, pretty much like riding a bicycle.
But, and I have to be honest here, Nick didn't "do it" for me completely. Some might find him nice-looking, dressed impeccably in camel hair, suede or expensive linen anything, but I never got detonation -- only a few shimmers. Nick was a doll, though, and treated me as such.
Then still, sitting across the table, and at the invitation of my mother, was . . . Jagger.
Oops. There went my heartbeat in a pitter-patter rhythm, and I hadn't even looked at him that closely.
Jagger'd worked on my two cases with me, although, to this day, no one, including moi, knew who the hell he worked for. FBI. Insurance company. PI. No one knew, and Jagger didn't share . . . anything. But he was darn driven.
Our eyes locked. Make that his locked mine as usual, and he gave a slight smile. I'd never done very well with that body language stuff, and trying to read Jagger was like fingering Braille. Not a clue. For all I knew, the smile could've come from some thought he'd just had -- and not one about me.
He looked toward the cake, whose frosting was now nearly covered in wax. For a second I thought about those wildfires that burn across millions of acres out west.
"Blow, Sherlock," he said.
Sherlock. Damn. He used that pet name on me and each time my pretty damn high IQ took a nosedive to zero. And that "blow" part didn't exactly have me thinking birthday cake.
Nick touched my arm. "Go ahead, Pauline."
I yanked my eyes from Jagger to smile at Nick. Then I turned toward the cake, and puffed out my cheeks.
Excerpted from One Dead Under the Cuckoo's Nest by Lori Avocato Copyright © 2005 by Lori Avocato.
Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
After serving in the Air Force as a registered nurse, Lori Avocato decided to give up nursing to write fiction. She lives in New England and is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, PASIC, NINC, Romance Writers of America, the Author's Guild, and Sisters in Crime. She's raising two teenage sons (heaven help her!), and one darling dog, Spanky. Lori is the author of six novels featuring Pauline Sokol: A Dose of Murder; The Stiff and the Dead; One Dead Under the Cuckoo's Nest; Deep Sea Dead; Nip, Tuck, Dead; and Dead on Arrival.
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I loved reading all her books, funny, witty, and lovable characters. Always a good read!
Former nurse Pauline Sokol is enjoying her birthday party with her parents when the mysterious Jagger, who she has worked with before, shows up claiming he needs her help. He wants Pauline, a Scarpello & Tonelli insurance fraud investigator, to assist him in escorting Mary Louise Huntington to the Cortona Institute of Life mental institution near Hartford, a facility run by nuns Jagger insist that the escort must be a nurse. At the same time her sleazy boss Fabio dumps a psychiatric fraud case on her lap while he goes to gamble at the Mohegan Sun Casino. The two simple cases collapse when the nuns take Pauline in as their patient. No one including Jagger bails her out and she fails to prove to the Sisters that¿s she is sane. So rather than mope, she begins sleuthing only to learn other patients have been abducted and committed to this institution. However, the fraud turns ugly when murder occurs, but Pauline refuses to walk away as she has befriended some of the innocent victims. --- The third Sokol insurance fraud mystery (see A DOSE OF MURDER, THE STIFF AND THE DEAD), ONE DEAD UNDER THE CUCKOO¿S NEST, is a terrific tale. Pauline is not only at her courageous best, but her family, the mental institution patients, others and especially Jagger add depth and to a degree eccentricity to the exciting story line. Lori Avocato writes a fabulous mystery starring a delightful protagonist and a horde of supporting players who together provide a fine who-done-it reading experience. --- Harriet Klausner
Pauline Sokol is a burned-out registered nurse. [In the first book of this series] Pauline leaves nursing and becomes an insurance fraud investigator for Scarpello & Tonelli Insurance Company. .................... Pauline should have known something was up when Jagger shows up at her parents' house for her birthday party. Jagger says all he needs her to do is help him escort a lady to the Cortona Institute of Life, a mental institution run by nuns. By coincidence, her boss has given her a third case. This one is for psychiatric fraud. So Pauline now has two psychiatric cases at the same time. ........................ It all goes down hill and Pauline is the one committed, unwillingly, to the institution. Even her attractive sometime-cohort Jagger refuses to help get her out. No one believes that she really sane and a mistake has been made. Since she is there anyway, Pauline begins doing what she does best, snooping. Turns out that she is not the only one that has been kidnapped and committed. A huge scam is going on and she is in WAY over her head. ...................... When the first body shows up, Jagger wants Pauline out. However, Pauline now refuses to leave. Other innocents are depending on her. With a little help from Jagger, her own kooky family, and a few 'sanity-challenged' friends, Pauline just may survive this case. ............................................. ***** This is Pauline's most serious case yet! There is more romance, more time spent with her interesting family, and the secondary characters (in and out of the institution) are even more colorful than before. The Sokol's extended family members have carved a place for themselves within my heart. ............................................. If the book has Lori Avocato's name on the front, buy it! Don't even bother reading the synopsis on the back cover. You won't be disappointed! *****