Stolen Hearts (Grace Street Series #1)

Overview

David Randall’s perfect family life shattered when his little daughter Lindsey died in a car crash. Thrown out by his second wife and wanting to leave a dead-end detective agency to start his own, he reluctantly accepts his psychic friend Camden’s invitation to stay in his boarding house in Parkland, North Carolina. Meanwhile, Randall’s only clue to solve the murder of Albert Bennett is a notebook filled with odd musical notation. When another client, Melanie Gentry, hires him to prove that her great-grandmother ...

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Stolen Hearts: A Grace Street Mystery

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Overview

David Randall’s perfect family life shattered when his little daughter Lindsey died in a car crash. Thrown out by his second wife and wanting to leave a dead-end detective agency to start his own, he reluctantly accepts his psychic friend Camden’s invitation to stay in his boarding house in Parkland, North Carolina. Meanwhile, Randall’s only clue to solve the murder of Albert Bennett is a notebook filled with odd musical notation. When another client, Melanie Gentry, hires him to prove that her great-grandmother was murdered by her lover, a composer, Randall sets out to find a connection between the two crimes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A gratifying blend of the surprising and the spirited." —Publishers Weekly
 
"Tesh...gets her new series off to a promising start." —Kirkus Reviews
 
"Tesh’s entertaining third cozy…[has] Amusing characters and charming village atmosphere"—Publishers Weekly of A Little Learning

 
 "This is a really good start to the new series. Both David and Cam are strong characters and the plot keeps the pages turning." —Bookloons
Kirkus Reviews

AP.I. and a psychic team up to solve a series of crimes.

Private eye David Randall's life is a mess. The death of his daughter in a car crash has left him with a heavy burden of guilt and two failed marriages. Quitting his job with a detective agency to go out on his own, Randall immediately picks up a case. Since he's been living in his car, he reluctantly takes up his psychic friend Camden's invitation to stay in his huge boarding house, which even has room for an office. Camden's boarders are a mixed bunch. Many don't even pay rent. But Randall is hooked when he sees Kary Ingram, a beautiful college student with a troubled past. His first client is Melanie Gentry, who wants him to find proof that her great-grandmother Laura, drowned 60 years ago, was the real author of a collection of folksongs credited to her lover, John Burrows Ashford. Randall had recently stumbled on a murder distinguished by a book of musical notations found on the scene. Now bits of music seem to turn up everywhere. Ashford's great-grandson provides no help, but Melanie gives Randall the names of a few people who might know something. Camden is being pressured by his ambitious girlfriend to take part in a PBS program on folksongs. When he's suddenly possessed by Ashford's arrogant spirit, Randall has to do something to solve both the past and present mysteries.

Tesh (A Hard Bargain, 2007, etc.) gets her new series off to a promising start.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590589373
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
  • Publication date: 10/4/2011
  • Series: Grace Street Series, #1
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Tesh is the author of three Poisoned Pen Press mysteries: A Case of Imagination, A Hard Bargain, and A Little LearningStolen Hearts is the first mystery featuring PI David Randall, his psychic friend, Camden, and their search for home and family.

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Read an Excerpt

Stolen Hearts

A Grace Street Mystery
By Jane Tesh

Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 2011 Jane Tesh
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-61595-334-9


Chapter One

"I've Found a New Baby"

I didn't expect a murder to happen right down the street from my second wife's house, but then, I didn't expect a lot of things, including sleeping in my car. Admittedly, there's plenty of room in the back seat of a '67 Plymouth Fury, but October in Parkland, North Carolina, can be pretty steamy, even at dawn, so I was awake when the sirens and flashing lights came by.

My first wife, Barbara, and I parted ways two years ago. I really thought Anita and I might make it to our second anniversary—aluminum foil, I believe it is—but now that was another date I could scratch off the calendar. I'd parked outside my former home telling myself it was because Anita might relent and let me back in, but the real reason was I had nowhere else to go.

When I first heard the sirens, I was in that odd state of not quite awake not quite asleep, and my heart jumped, thinking I was back on that hillside twelve years ago searching for Lindsey through clouds of black smoke, not realizing my world was about to end. I shook myself as blue and red lights bounced off the interior of the Fury and zigzagged through the neighborhood like some crazed lightning. The eerie blue light made the trees look like they'd risen from some alien swamp and gave a zombie glow to the few curious neighbors who'd ventured from their houses. Car doors slammed. Shadowy figures ran and called to each other.

Lindsey! My God, where was she?

I shook myself fully awake. Get up! I told myself. This wasn't the wreck. This was something else, maybe something that needed my help. I wanted in on what was happening down the street.

When I arrived at the scene, my friend Jordan Finley, one of Parkland's homicide detectives, scowled at me.

"I saw that car of yours. What are you doing here?"

"I live down the street," I said. "Well, I used to."

Jordan spared me a brief look of sympathy. We'd worked together on several cases. Maybe "worked together" isn't the right term. When there's something like a dead body, I definitely call him, but there have been times when I fudged a little and kept clues to myself. Jordan likes to claim all the credit for solving a crime. I can't blame him. I like to claim all the credit, too. He's built like a refrigerator topped with a stiff brush of black hair and wary blue eyes. Right now, he was a refrigerator about to freeze over so you couldn't get the door open.

"And you just happened to be dressed and awake?"

"Anita threw me out, but never mind that." A body was brought out of the house on a stretcher, an elderly man in his pajamas. The bloodstains on his head looked black in the jarring patterns of blue and red light. "What happened here?"

"Albert Bennett was found murdered in his home. Did you know Mr. Bennett?"

I couldn't remember ever seeing anyone at this house. "No."

"Did you see or hear anything unusual last night?"

Besides my recurring nightmare? "No."

"Then you can move along."

Another policeman came up to Jordan and showed him a notebook. "Found this on the lawn. Doesn't appear to be anything else missing from the house."

The notebook had been mangled, and a few pages fell out. I managed to pick them up and have a look before Jordan grabbed them out of my hand. My brief glance had shown me what looked like music.

Jordan glared. "Do you mind?" He gave the pages back to the policeman. "What's inside?"

"Just some music notes and weird scribbling. Looks like code."

"Check it out."

The policeman left, and Jordan turned to me. "Heard you left Morton's."

"Yeah. I've got to go by and pick up a few things, but I'm done."

"Packing it in? Giving up being a detective?"

I wasn't sure what else I could do. "Morton's is a dead-end agency. I thought I'd give it a shot on my own, which is why I'd like in on this case."

Jordan signaled another policeman to move around to the other side of the house. "Doesn't look like much of a case. Someone broke in, possibly surprised Bennett, knocked him over the head and killed him, possibly by accident. Alarm goes off, they cut and run."

"Why would they be after a notebook?"

"That's what my team is going to find out."

"Does Mr. Bennett have any family?"

"That's something the police department will find out." Jordan gave me another look. "So, you got a place to stay?"

"Not at the moment."

"See if Cam's got a room."

"Yeah. Maybe."

I had one more friend left in the world, but did I really want to call him? He'd let me stay in his house. Camden lets anybody stay in his house. I called his goofball tenants the Sponge and Leech Club because, as far as I could tell, no one contributed a penny. The last time I was there, he was sheltering some old codger named Fred plus two factory workers who argued all the time and chased each other around the kitchen with a baseball bat and a water gun because one of them left the ice trays out. That was two years ago, when Anita and I were on the outs about something. I stayed for a week until I got tired of all the nonsense.

Until you got tired of avoiding Camden and his all-knowing stares, I reminded myself. I'm an only child and like to think of Camden as the brother I never had, but he's psychic, which sounds like a lot of fun, but most of the time it's damned annoying. He knew what my problem was. I knew what my problem was, too, and I didn't want to talk about it, or have Camden delve into my brain for the answers. In fact, I hadn't seen him in a long time. I kept telling myself it was because I was too busy.

It started to rain, and the inside of the Fury steamed up like a rain forest. I cranked up the air, and as soon as the windows were clear, I headed toward the nearest Motel 6. It takes about twenty minutes to navigate the one-way streets in town, crossing Smith and Elm to get to Regent, which is the main street going back out of the city. Plenty of time to rethink my life.

My life. What there was left of it. My life went off the rails when Lindsey died. Instead of clinging to each other, Barbara and I grew apart. We both blamed me for the accident. I bounced over to Anita. I don't know what I was thinking. It was vastly unfair to her, and to her credit, she figured out she couldn't fix me. I was useless.

But I wasn't going to be useless forever. I headed back to Albert Bennett's, hoping the crime scene team had finished and maybe I could look around, but no luck. The police cars were still there, the lights still shuddering through the neighborhood. I'd establish a base camp and come back later. I'd been jarred awake, not only from sleep, but from the dullness of my daily routine tracking deadbeat dads and cheating spouses. I wanted to solve this puzzling crime, a wealthy man with plenty of possessions, apparently murdered over a damn notebook. If I couldn't make Lindsey's life right, I sure as hell could avenge someone else's.

The situation called for a little mood music. At the next red light, I slid a CD into the player. I like traditional jazz, a preference from my early days when Dad played his favorite records during dinner and on into the evening. He liked The Dukes of Dixieland, a bunch of cheerful-looking guys in red and white striped jackets who tore into every tune so vigorously, it was impossible to sit still when the Dukes were rolling. Later, Dad and I progressed to the New Black Eagle Jazz Band, and that's what I had on now, specifically a zippy little number called "I've Found a New Baby." It helps me think. A burst of jazz makes my brain perk up, putting thoughts together like a run of notes along a staff.

But at the moment, my brain wasn't too perky. I pulled into the parking lot of the Motel 6 and looked at the drab building with its rows of dingy white doors, the empty beer cans, and plastic cups piled on the curb. I caught a strong whiff of rotten garbage from the overflowing Dumpster. The spluttering neon sign said "No Vacancy." I slumped in the car, trying not to see my life as a long row of large doors slamming in my face. There were hundreds of motels in Parkland. I'd keep sleeping in the Fury if I had to. Either way, it was clear that I needed refreshments.

The nearest convenience store was a little shop called Joe's Market just across the street. I found several packs of the fluorescent orange peanut butter crackers I like and was heading to the back for the beer when to my disbelief, Camden came up the aisle carrying a six-pack of Bud.

"Thought you might need this," he said.

As usual, he looked like he'd slept in his clothes. His pale hair was in his eyes, and his shirt was buttoned crooked. He had on baggy white trousers and a black vest decorated with iridescent hummingbirds, probably pulled from the depths of some Goodwill bag. Like me, he's fast approaching the big three-oh, but he looks years younger, because he's not very tall and has features women call "cute," and big blue eyes. Anita once told me women go for expressive eyes and that Camden's were "beautiful." She told me mine were nice, too, but that was an afterthought. Mine are brown and I can see out of them. That's all I care about.

And I wasn't really sure what I was seeing out of my brown eyes. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. "You frequent Joe's Market this time of day?"

"Sometimes. What's up?"

You tell me, I wanted to say. I knew he wasn't buying beer for himself. He has absolutely no tolerance for alcohol. A couple of sips and he's up on a table entertaining the troops, which is what he was doing when we met. There's something about sharing massive hangovers that creates a lifelong bond.

A bond that was scary right now.

"I've been pretty busy," I said. "Tracking down people, finding things. Anita decided she'd had enough of me, so I'm checking into a motel for the night."

He gave me the full force of those eerie blue eyes. "Well, I'm glad I ran into you. I need a ride home."

He said this with complete innocence. I knew he didn't drive. Too many signals coming in, he says.

"Yeah, sure."

I paid for my crackers, and Camden paid for the beer. We got into the Fury and I steered the car back toward the south side of town. After passing the community college and the coliseum, I turned back on Old Parkland Road, also known as "Food Row." Every town has one of these streets lined with fast food restaurants, but our Food Row has a median filled with magnolia trees, and when those trees are in bloom, the heavy flower scent mixed with the smell of burgers and fries is a heady combination. Then up three streets, and it's as if you've entered an entirely different city: calm, quiet, and green. It used to be the wealthy part of town, before all the rich folks moved to the suburbs, leaving their massive old homes hidden beneath ancient trees.

Camden's house is on Grace Street, number 302. It's a big three-storied house painted light yellow with white trim. It must have been quite a showplace in its day, but now, like all the houses in the neighborhood, it's sliding gracefully into old age. Because it's surrounded by even older trees, even when the sun is at its brightest, the house is still sunk in shade. There's a wide porch that goes around three sides complete with rocking chairs and a porch swing. When Camden came to Parkland, he lived there and helped the man who owned the house remodel it, making four bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, on the second floor, and another bedroom and bath out of the large attic. They worked out some sort of deal that if Camden kept up the house, he could live there. When the man moved on to other projects, he sold Camden the house. In order to keep it, Camden has to take in boarders, but, as I said, they usually aren't very helpful.

I parked the Fury in the dirt driveway. "Here you go."

"Thanks," he said. "Why don't you come in and have one of your beers?"

I was tired and thirsty and not ready to continue my motel hunt. "I guess I could do that. Just for a little while, though."

We walked up the wide stone steps. Camden opened the screen door, and we went in.

"Have a seat, Randall. I'll be right back."

I had to admit it was a relief to come into the house. Everything looked the same as it did two years ago. The smell was the same, too, a pleasant mixture of old wood and cinnamon. The living room sprawled over most of the first floor, windows reaching from floor to ceiling. I walked around to the left and sat down in my favorite spot, a faded blue armchair beside a green corduroy sofa parked on brightly colored throw rugs. This area was referred to as "the island," a kind of relaxing place where you could leave your book open and no one would turn a page, or leave your drink by your chair and no one would take a slurp. I pulled off my wet shoes and socks and propped my feet on the low wooden coffee table where a bag of pretzels shared space with stacks of magazines, including Sky Watchers Monthly and UFO Reporter, a couple of necklaces, and a glass paperweight shaped like a pear holding down a stack of coupons. Beside the wicker rocking chair, red and yellow yarn spilled out of a big basket of needlework. Next to another chair, textbooks and sheet music stood in a sloppy tower, topped by a well-chewed pet toy.

I glanced to my left. The old upright piano still filled the corner of the room, surrounded by music and hymn books on the floor and on the bench. A couple of big plants in tubs guarded the bookshelf crammed with books, knickknacks, and photographs. Toward the back of the room, a large round dining room table and eight matching chairs were still positioned in front of the bay window that displayed a scene of wet green backyard and more huge trees. I knew if I walked around the dining area, I'd find a counter and stools and a kitchen tucked in behind the stairs.

Camden came back carrying a large plastic cup that no doubt held a mixture of the most caffeine-laden sodas on the market. He indicated the bag of pretzels. "Free snacks."

"Thanks." I popped open a beer and took a swig.

He sat cross-legged on the green corduroy sofa. He didn't ask for details about my latest marriage disaster. He didn't have to. He took a drink of his soda. "How are things at Morton's?"

"The same." I loosened my tie. "Going to start my own agency."

"Got someplace in mind?"

"Not yet."

"You need an office? You can use the downstairs parlor there across the foyer."

I started to tell him I needed to find a place more private when a young woman came in. This girl was a knockout. Long corn-silk blonde hair held back by a headband framed a perfect face dominated by big warm brown eyes. Her long elegant legs were in tight jeans, the rest of her excellent figure in a soft yellow sweater. My mouth flopped open, but Camden wasn't fazed by this vision.

"Oh, hello." She gave me such a dazzling smile I checked my beer to make sure it wasn't foaming over. "I'm Kary Ingram."

I was surprised my voice worked. "David Randall."

"Randall will be staying here a few days," Camden said.

Another smile. "Nice to meet you, David. I hope the piano playing won't disturb you."

She could've played the tuba for all I cared. "I love piano music."

Her golden hair swung in a sleek wave as she turned to Camden. "Cam, about what we discussed earlier."

"It has to be your decision."

"Donnie's a wonderful person."

"Seems like a good guy."

"But am I doing this for the right reasons?"

"That's something you'll have to work out."

"That's true. Have you seen my Elements of Education textbook?"

"It's on the kitchen counter."

Kary went around to retrieve her book. "Kary's taking classes for her teaching degree at Parkland Community College," Camden said.

That was not the important info. "And who is Donnie?"

"A fellow she met at the college."

Damn. "Are they in a serious relationship?"

"Well, he is."

Kary came back and picked up a book bag propped beside the piano bench. "And if you'll excuse me, I'm on my way to class. Will we see you at dinner, David?"

"Yes, you will." I hadn't planned to stay, but there was no way I was refusing this angel's request. My spirits took a definite upswing. She was so full of life and energy and purpose, everything I wanted to be again. Was it only a few hours ago I stood surrounded by jittery police lights, haunted by death? The harrowing scene faded in the warmth of her smile. But what was the deal with this Donnie character, and how soon could I dispose of him?

When a car drove up and the driver honked the horn, the sound jarred me from my tangled thoughts.

Kary looked out one of the front windows. "There's my ride. See you later."

I stared at Camden, who settled back innocently on the sofa with his drink. "Don't tell me she's living here, too."

"Working her way through school on pageant money."

"You liar. You dirty old man," I said. "Any more like her upstairs?"

"Fred's still here, and Rufus Jackson. You remember him. He's doing construction work on the new stretch of I-85. That leaves a room for you."

"Any of them pay rent?"

This earned me a dark look. "They do what they can to help out."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Stolen Hearts by Jane Tesh Copyright © 2011 by Jane Tesh. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press. 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.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A good afternoon read...

    Reviewed by Karen P. for Readers Favorite

    In her new mystery series entitled "Stolen Hearts", author Jane Tesh introduces private eye David Randall. He is a twice married and unfocused individual who harbors a deep loss that continues to haunt him years after the event. It is unclear what exactly makes Randall able to focus on his detective work when success in his interpersonal relationships is so elusive. At any rate, he hooks up with his friend and psychic Cam, a man who is destined to be invaded by a dead spirit who holds clues to a case on which Randall is working.

    When various individuals in the music field begin to get murdered over seemingly insignificant things, Randall gets suspicious enough to do some serious investigation. As an aside, he searches for the true identity of his friend Cam who is literally coming apart at the seams. The mystery crosses generations and at times, the real issues appear vague to the reader. However, Tess does a credible job of pulling together everything at the end.

    This book was a bit slow to develop for me but I found a certain delight in Tess's somewhat unorthodox and unfocused character. When the reader finally learns the secret pasts of those featured, the story takes on new meaning and picks up in its pace. The main character David Randall is offered as an undirected soul who must somehow be led to a current identity. As such, Tess develops him well, although the reader is left wondering just how much Randall has really learned. All in all, this is a good afternoon's read.

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  • Posted August 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This is an engaging paranormal regional mystery

    In Parkland, North Carolina, the death of his beloved daughter in a car accident has left twice divorced David Randall in a permanent state of grief. He quits his job at a detective agency to open his own private investigative practice. His office and home is his car until his best friend Camden takes him into his boarding house.

    Melanie Gentry hires Randall to prove that her great-grandmother Laura was the only composer of the classic Appalachian folksong collection the Patchwork Melodies. His client believes John Ashford is not Laura's music partner but a thief and killer who murdered her late talenteds ancestor who drowned. Now PBS is filming a documentary on early American folk music and Melanie wants him exposed. Randall finds death and theft as he makes inquiries. Someone is murdering people to conceal something. As he wonders if Melanie hides information from him, Randall turns for help to Camden the psychic and his alleged murderous spirit who demands the sleuth proves his innocence of a homicide six decades cold.

    This is an engaging paranormal regional mystery with an intriguing full circle karma twist. David is a complicated individual who is at his best on the case or in his grief' when he falls in love with another boarder he seems fickle and out of character. Still readers will enjoy Stolen Hearts while singing "Oh! Susanna".

    Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2011

    A fun mystery with psychics and spirits!

    David Randall ?is living in his car. His second wife has kicked him out, he's employed at a dead end detective agency that he wants to leave. His daughter died in a car accident. He wakes up in his car one night to find the police outside at an elderly musician's house who has been murdered. Randall tries to help investigate and the police tell him to butt out. Randall gets taken in by his best friend, Camden, who is psychic. His house is full of a rag-tag bunch of people, particularly Katy, whom Randall seems to fall in love with at first sight. So, he starts his own detective agency with an office in the house and lands his first job. His client wants him to prove that her great-grandmother was murdered over the authorship of some old folk songs. Things really get strange as Camden is possessed by the spirit of the alledged murderer. Stolen Hearts is a solid paranormal mystery that is very character driven. I think the strongest thing about this book is the unique personalities Ms. Tesh introduces us to; alien abductees, psychics, spirits, pushy girlfriends, and good ol' country boys. They're all fun to follow and see what happens next. The main character, David Randall is likeable. Ms. Tesh seems to be patterning him after the stereotypical wise-cracking private detective. Sometimes he's really funny, sometimes he misses the mark a bit. A few things I found lacking in the book - the side storyline of Randall's finding objects for the rich couple felt fairly superfluous, and the issue of his pain over losing his daughter could have been fleshed out more for the readers. Also, while I do believe in love at first sight in life, I don't so much in literature. It felt strange to me how David's initial attraction to Katy felt obsession-like, then suddenly it's true love. That said, I really did enjoy reading this book. The storyline was unique, although it wasn't too hard to figure out "whodunit." Randall and his friends were likeable, seeing them all band together just made me feel good.

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