When not organizing closets or toting her toddler on her hip, military wife Ellie Avery sleuths around Greenly Air Force Base in eastern Washington State, which has lately become unsafe for military wives in Rosett's satisfying, well-executed second Mom Zone cozy (after 2006's Moving Is Murder). Just hours after Ellie finds her friend Penny Follette in a strangely animated mood, the usually mousy art historian is discovered dead in her bathtub with slit wrists. Police first assume suicide, but Ellie knows Penny wouldn't have killed herself—Penny was thrilled about her new pregnancy. When another friend of Ellie's is hospitalized by an apparent poisoning, Ellie's connection to the two victims makes her a suspect in the eyes of officials. Rosett complicates the story with the murder of another military wife and with a stalker who harasses Ellie. The author, also the wife of an air force pilot, includes practical tips for organizing closets, but the novel's most valuable insight is its window into women's lives on a military base. (Apr.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Staying Home Is a Killer (Mom Zone Series #2)by Sara Rosett
Air Force wife Ellie Avery is so good at organizing she's turned pro. But when a fellow military wife turns up dead, Ellie tackles a different type of case--murder. . .
Ellie Avery balances motherhood, marriage, and her own business--Everything in Its Place--with cheerful efficiency. A maestro of organization, she sees her life as an easy checklist that does… See more details below
Air Force wife Ellie Avery is so good at organizing she's turned pro. But when a fellow military wife turns up dead, Ellie tackles a different type of case--murder. . .
Ellie Avery balances motherhood, marriage, and her own business--Everything in Its Place--with cheerful efficiency. A maestro of organization, she sees her life as an easy checklist that does not include the untimely death of Penny Follette.
Unlike the police, Ellie isn't convinced Penny's death was suicide. But it's an uphill battle getting the officials to take her seriously. Then another spouse is strangled, and someone tries to poison an outspoken female Air Force pilot. Poking about in closets and peeking through drawers, Ellie hopes to find the common thread tying the crimes together. With her husband Mitch about to be deployed in the "sandbox" (that's the Mideast for us civvies), she wants some quality time with her significant other. As the schedule tightens and the mystery heightens, Ellie's out to prove that home is not for killers!
*Filled with Ellie Avery's Great Organizing Tips*
"Plenty of action and lots of suspects and clues. . .this is a mystery with a 'mommy lit' flavor. A fun read."--Armchair Interviews
"Thoroughly entertaining. The author's smooth, succinct writing style enables the plot to flow effortlessly until its captivating conclusion." --Romantic Times (four stars)
Read an Excerpt
Staying Home Is a Killer
By Sara Rosett
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Sara Rosett
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAs soon as I opened the door to the 52nd Air Refueling Squadron I knew something was off. Penny Follette held open the inner door at the top of the incline, her smile radiating like a beacon in the dim light.
Penny didn't radiate. In fact, she was usually unnoticeable. "Penny, are you okay?" I asked.
"I'm fine," Penny said as frigid wind sliced across the back of my neck before the squadron's outer door thudded shut. I lurched up the steep hallway to the squadron. The incline was a safety feature left over from the Cold War. The squadron, located in the old alert facility at Greenly Air Force Base in eastern Washington State, had once housed rotating shifts of aircrews ready to respond to nuclear threats. I guess the steep walkways had been designed to slow down Communists raiding the building. They certainly slowed me down.
And I'm not that fast to begin with since I lug a small arsenal of toys, diapers, wipes, and snack food in a diaper bag, not to mention my twenty-month-old daughter, Livvy.
I squeezed through the inner door, dropped the diaper bag and my purse, a fuchsia Belen Echandia shoulder bag I'd snapped up from eBay, at my feet.
I'll admit it-I'm a bagoholic. I'm addicted to purses. They're my one indulgence. Well, that's not strictly true because I indulge in chocolate, too. But that's it. Only two indulgences. My fuchsia bag provided a nice bright spot on an otherwise dreary day, just like my purses provided the only stylish accent in my typical Mommy ensemble of sweaters, sweatshirts, jeans, and snow boots. I was too tired to coordinate outfits. All I could manage right now were purses with panache. Later, maybe when Livvy went to kindergarten, I'd try to accessorize. I shifted Livvy to my other arm. She wiggled and said, "Pen! Pen!"
"Are you sure you're okay?" I asked again.
Penny was practically glowing. She pushed her dull brown braid over her shoulder and reached for Livvy. "Hello there, little Livvy," she murmured. Even in the dim hall, in her droopy gray sweater and sagging broomstick skirt, Penny looked luminous. "I'm wonderful." Her smile's wattage edged up another notch. "The most amazing thing has happened. I'm dying to tell you." She sighed, "But I can't. I promised."
She handed Livvy back. Her petite size forced her to look up at me as she grinned mischievously. "I'll call you this afternoon and tell you."
"Okay," I said slowly. In the year and a half that I'd known her, I'd never seen Penny look mischievous. And I'd gotten to know her pretty well since Penny and her husband, Will, another pilot in the same squadron as my husband, lived down the street from me. She was one of my most dependable babysitters for Livvy.
She slung her scuffed backpack off her shoulder and pulled a small gold bag out of a webbed side pocket. A crossword puzzle book fell from the pocket to the floor. "Here. Won't be eating these anymore." She shoved the gold bag at me, then picked up the book and put it away. "You take them. Then I won't be tempted." The curly font on the bag read Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans.
I tried to give them back. "I don't even like coffee. You love coffee." My hands were full enough with Livvy squirming, but I knew better than to set her down. She'd motor away around a corner and I'd have to chase her down.
Penny continued to paw around in her bag. "I don't want them. Throw them away if you don't like them."
"I'll drop them off at Mitch's office. Someone will eat them."
Penny paused in her search of her backpack. "There is one thing I need to talk to you about." Her face still glowed, but her brown eyes were serious. "The thing last year." She hesitated, tucked a strand of wiry hair back into her braid. "Well. You figured it out."
I'd been embroiled in a search for a murderer in the squadron. "I didn't really ..." I said.
"Yes, you did. You knew something was wrong and didn't let it go. I think I need someone to-"
The outer set of doors clanged open. Icy air gusted up the incline and snaked through the cracks under the inner doors. We shifted to make room. Penny stood on tiptoe to catch a glimpse of the flight crew laboring up the incline. Livvy went still in my arms, her attention on the heavy tread and voices that echoed up the vaultlike incline. Penny's face shuttered. She zipped her backpack, heaved it up on her shoulder.
I blinked at her abrupt change. Penny was back in her usual lurk mode, fading into the wallpaper. Captain Zeke Peters, the pilot, led the crew. His tall figure filled the doorway as he said, "Come on. I've got to be out of here in an hour."
The next guy, Staff Sergeant Rory Tyler, strolled through the door. "She's not going to leave without you," he said. His round glasses reflected the light from the hallway, and I couldn't see his expression as he held the door open for the last crew member.
Zeke smiled at us and strode down the hall, saying over his shoulder, "Yeah, but you don't have to ride all the way to Seattle with her if you're late, so get a move on."
First Lieutenant Aaron Reed, the copilot, didn't look at us, just ducked his head with his thin blond hair as he stowed his hat in the ankle pocket of his flight suit, then hurried to catch up with the other two men as they continued down the hall. Their heavy flight bags and pub briefcases bumped against their legs, giving them an exaggerated swagger.
As she watched the departing men, I caught a change in Penny's expression that I couldn't identify, a flicker of fear or anger in her eyes? "Are you sure you're okay?" I'd never seen Penny's mood zigzag. Her emotions were usually as straightforward as a ruler.
"I'm fine." Penny pulled her gaze back to me. "Later? Can we get together?"
"Sure. I'm going to lunch with Mitch, but I'll be home this afternoon." With Mitch scheduled to leave in two weeks for a forty-five-day deployment to the "sandbox," the nickname for the desert, we were trying to spend as much time together as we could. "What have you been doing today?" I asked.
"I've been over at the Mansion interviewing General Bedford for an article about Frost Fest." The Mansion, a large antebellum-style building complete with portico, held the wing commander's office and various base VIPs.
"You're interviewing the wing commander about Frost Fest? Is he on a committee or something?"
"No. It's a human interest story. Bedford's dad was stationed here in the sixties and flew B-52s. Interesting angle, from military brat to wing commander."
"What does that have to do with Frost Fest?" I was still confused.
"Every year the organizing committee tries to showcase some aspect of Vernon. Last year it was the River. This year it's the base. The theme is 'Dreams Take Flight' and there's going to be an exhibit about Greenly along with an art show with local artists. I'm putting together a press kit with human interest write-ups for the media."
Maybe her volunteer job was the source of her sudden animation? "So you like being on the committee?"
"It's fine. Volunteer work to keep me in touch." She shrugged. Obviously not the source of her excitement, from her bland response. "Still no openings at the universities," she continued. "What can I say? Middle Eastern art archivists are not in high demand." With Penny's fadeaway personality it was easy to forget she held a doctorate in ancient Middle Eastern art. "At least it gives me something to put on my resume."
"And you're teaching art appreciation, too."
"Just continuing ed, though." Her mouth quirked down. "Not very impressive."
"Teaching is teaching," I insisted, trying to encourage her. We'd been over the woes of being a trailing spouse. Wonderful designation, trailing spouse. Makes spouses sound like we have a chronic disease that causes lethargy, but it meant we were trying to get a job at the new duty station. It was even harder for Penny because her skills were so specialized.
"Oh!" Her lips twitched up and her energy level zoomed up again. "I meant to tell you. Guess who showed up last week at my class? You'll never guess. Clarissa Bedford."
"The wing commander's wife?" I transferred Livvy to my other arm and leaned in closer. "Ms. Cosmo? Why?" I'd met Mrs. Bedford during a spouse orientation flight, a flight that lets the spouses go on a local sortie to see an AR, an air refueling. It was hard to think of her as Mrs. Bedford, since that name brought to mind a middle-aged matron. Clarissa Bedford was anything but matronly.
When she arrived for the orientation flight she'd glanced around, said a vague hello to everyone in the vicinity, and then commandeered one of the airline seats. She'd tossed her brown curls over her shoulder and spent the rest of the time flicking through a Cosmo, red nails flashing each time she turned a glossy page. I couldn't imagine her being interested in art appreciation.
"I'm not sure. She added late." The wing commander's recent marriage to a woman twenty years younger than him had generated plenty of speculation.
"She called me the other day," I said. "She wants me to organize her closets." I run a part-time organizing business, Everything In Its Place, in any spare moment I happen to catch between changing diapers.
Penny said, "Wow. You'll know all the dirt on her. Keep me updated. Well, I'm off to call my insurance company again. They have almost as much red tape as the Air Force."
"Didn't I tell you?" Penny leaned on the bar to open the door. "Last week, someone broke into my car, stole my radio and a handful of change out of the cup holder."
"That's awful. Where did it happen?"
"On our street. At least they didn't look in the trunk and find my backpack. I'd hate to lose my notes and my camera. I'll call you. Maybe stop by this afternoon."
"That would be great." Penny lived off base in our neighborhood along with practically every other member of the squadron. Thanks to the remodeling going on in base housing, our neighborhood of Windemere in the nearby city of Vernon was the most popular off-base housing site because of its small, relatively affordable bungalows and a convenient drive time to the base. Unfortunately, the multitude of detached garages tempted burglars. Stately pines and maples along with masses of mature shrubs in Windemere provided burglars with enough cover that garage break-ins were not that unusual in our neighborhood. I was glad we had one of the few houses with an attached garage.
I shoved the bag of espresso beans in the diaper bag, then grabbed the diaper bag and my purse before I wound my way through the quiet halls to the Scheduling Office. As I passed the squad's bulletin board, a short blond tornado, Lieutenant Georgia Lamar, one of the four females in the squadron, surged by me and entered the Scheduling Office a few steps ahead of me.
She set her steaming gourmet coffee down, tossed her gym bag under her desk, and threw a slip of paper down beside her cappuccino. "I can't believe I got a ticket. Seventeen! Two miles an hour over the speed limit! How anal can you get?"
"Took the shortcut through base housing?" Tommy Longfellow, chief of scheduling, swiveled his chair around and stretched out his long legs. "Hi, Ellie," he said to me.
"Yeah, but two miles?" Georgia ran her fingers through her short blond curls and shrugged out of her leather flight jacket.
"You gotta slow down, George. This is the military. Things change slow." Tommy's words were teasing, but there was an edge of seriousness to his tone.
Georgia snorted and whipped her hand through the air impatiently. "Things change. The Air Force has to get with it."
I set Livvy down and she waddled over to Mitch's office chair. Bundled in her thick winter coat, hat, and mittens, she looked like a small, pink-padded post as she shoved the chair and set it spinning. "Hey, don't I get a kiss?" Mitch asked as he crossed the room from a metal bookcase, carrying two thick notebooks. Livvy paused long enough to give him a distracted kiss on the cheek and then went back to spinning the chair with one mitten-covered hand. In the other, she clutched a two-inch plastic figure, a girl with short red hair in pink shirt and pants. Pink Girl, Livvy called her. Livvy didn't do anything, like eat, sleep, ride in the car, or nap, without Pink Girl.
"How was the vet?" Mitch asked me.
"Busy." My ears were still ringing from the high-pitched yaps of the poodle in the waiting room. "Rex is up to date on his shots. Ready for lunch?"
"Sure." Mitch put away the notebook and reached for his leather flight jacket.
I set the espresso beans down on the tiny table beside the coffeepot and the can of Folgers coffee (Tommy's) and the fresh-ground Kona (Georgia's). "Here's some espresso beans." It's a fact that inedible, stale food, like three-day-old donuts or hard cookies, left in any office will disappear within a day. I figured the beans would be gone in minutes, considering Georgia's love for coffee. Georgia's shriek overpowered my words. She turned from her little alcove by the file cabinet and removed a large framed poster that had been propped up out of view. "Very funny, guys."
The poster, a photo of a man in tight jeans clutching a dozen red roses behind his bare back, focused on the man's butt. Georgia twisted it around and put it against the wall. "You guys are gonna get me in trouble. Colonel Briman said I had to get it out of here."
"Then why were you so intent to get it up on the wall in the Hole?" Tommy asked with a wide grin. The Hole was the basement break room. It was adorned with plenty of posters of scantily dressed females holding beer cans.
Georgia rolled her electric-blue eyes. "Briman ordered me to get rid of it."
Mitch had Livvy in the chair now and was spinning her around. Her giggles had his full attention.
Tommy leaned back even farther in his chair. "I don't know why you're so spun up. They're just a bunch of pictures."
"They're smut. Soft-core porn. Why should I have to look at them?" Georgia turned to me, a female ally, and explained, "I wanted to take down everything, but Briman wouldn't buy that. Tradition! So I figured, fair's fair. The women in the squad should have something in there to look at, too."
"I don't know, George. McClintock doesn't seem to mind looking at those women a bit." McClintock, an angular no-nonsense sergeant, worked in Life Support. Rumors said she had a female lover, but no one knew for sure, since no one was asking and she sure wasn't telling.
Georgia looked at me for support.
I said, "I vote for smut." I wouldn't want to work in an office with photos of bikini-clad women on the break room walls. I feel guilty enough about not working out as it is.
The intercom crackled and a voice announced, "Aten-shun!"
As everyone in the office stood, I glanced at Mitch. "DVs," he muttered. "I forgot." Livvy made a dash for the door. Great. Distinguished Visitors were in the squadron and I'd brought our high-energy almost-two-year-old. A real career-enhancing move for Mitch. I scooped Livvy into my arms at the office's threshold and looked back at Mitch. He suppressed a smile as he and everyone else stood at attention. Oh well, if Mitch had remembered DVs were visiting, he would've met me at the car. I stood still and hoped my quietness would transition to Livvy. She squirmed, then noticed the stillness of the office and looked around, her eyes wide.
The flight crew I'd seen earlier was caught in the hall and stood against the wall with their posture sharp and gazes fixed in middle distance, except for Rory. He adjusted his round glasses and checked his cell phone. His stance was sloppy.
They made an interesting group with the two shorter men, Rory and Aaron bracketing Zeke, who was over six feet tall. Rory and Aaron both were shorter and had blond hair, but everything about Rory was plump and robust from his barrel chest to his thick, wavy gold hair. Aaron, on the other hand, with his skinny build, beige hair, and narrow face, looked reedy and water-colored as he stood stiffly at attention. Zeke seemed poised to sprint out of there when they gave the all-clear, Rory slouched lazily, and Aaron stood so stiffly he looked like he was carved from marble.
An entourage strode down the hall with an older craggy-faced man in the lead. A group of people, their shoulders liberally sprinkled with eagles and stars, followed him. Lounging against the wall, Rory whispered something to Zeke as the DVs passed and Zeke fought to keep a straight face until the DVs entered the Orderly Room.
Excerpted from Staying Home Is a Killer by Sara Rosett Copyright © 2007 by Sara Rosett. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >