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Three Bedrooms, Two Baths, One Very Dead Corpse

Three Bedrooms, Two Baths, One Very Dead Corpse

2.2 19
by David James

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Location, location, location. Like any realtor worth her designer sling-backs, Amanda Thorne knows the golden rule of selling homes. Unless, of course, the prime property includes one very dead corpse...

Amanda is pretty resilient, but she's taken a few hard knocks since she moved to plush Palm Springs. After a divorce from her husband and business partner,


Location, location, location. Like any realtor worth her designer sling-backs, Amanda Thorne knows the golden rule of selling homes. Unless, of course, the prime property includes one very dead corpse...

Amanda is pretty resilient, but she's taken a few hard knocks since she moved to plush Palm Springs. After a divorce from her husband and business partner, Alex, she's determined to make it on her own in real estate—despite scorpions, 100-degree heat, and an encounter with a cactus en route to her first big listing. And when she finally arrives at the Mid-century modern manse, a lifeless body in the living room really ruins the ambiance.

Amid the shattered Eames surfboard table and vintage glassware lies local environmentalist Doc Winters, his mouth stuffed full of rocks. Since Doc's main cause was opposing development in the pristine, tremendously valuable Chino Cone mountains, every realtor in town is suspect.

So Amanda embarks on her own investigation. With the help of Alex—who it turns out is gay but still her Best Friend Forever—her red-hot geriatric neighbor, Regina, and the reluctant cooperation of dishy Detective Ken Becker, she sets out to unravel the truth.

After a fellow real estate agent is murdered, some pissed-off Black Widow spiders planted in her car, and a body found floating in her pool, it's clear someone wants Amanda's inquiring mind off the market—permanently. But she's tracking down this killer...even if it leads her to death's handcrafted, Mission style door.

Advance Praise For Three Bedrooms, Two Baths, One Very Dead Corpse

"In this wild cross between Agatha Christie and Million Dollar Listing, it's an Open House for laughter and suspense when murder brings down the Palm Springs housing market, and the only thing cool about the blistering desert heat is real estate agent and amateur sleuth Amanda Thorne, who is crass, brash and totally hilarious as she tries to unmask the killer." —Rick Copp, author of Fingerprints and Facelifts

"Home inspection takes on hilarious new meaning in David James's laugh-out-loud whodunit in which plucky real estate agent Amanda Thorne gets both her first listing in Palm Springs, and a dead body to go with the property. This is a truly fun, funny, and romantic romp through the murderous business of selling houses. Buyers beware: You'll laugh your subprime off!" —R.T. Jordan, author of Set Sail For Murder

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
James’s sparkling debut introduces an appealing new sleuth, dizzy Palms Springs, Calif., realtor Amanda Thorne. Still adjusting to single life after divorcing Alex, her super successful but decidedly gay husband, Amanda yearns to become Apex Realty’s number one agent. Sadly, her first showing of a major listing is a total disaster when she discovers environmentalist Doc Winters fatally poisoned. As Amanda races to clear her name, Alex lends support and police detective Ken Becker offers welcome romantic distraction. Since Doc was against the development of land on the Chino Cone, a local landmark, Amanda suspects that pro-development realtor Mary Dodge might be guilty. The subsequent murders of another agent and Doc’s girlfriend add a stressful twist, and Amanda figures there’s more at stake than just closing a deal or saving the environment. Witty, accident-prone Amanda should attract fans of Rick Copp, Laura Levine, and R.T. Jordan. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Hosting a broker's open house is a natural for a real-estate agent. But Amanda Thorne turns it into a three-ring circus when she arrives late and finds a corpse in the living room. VERDICT In this series debut, Palm Springs will never survive Amanda's antics or her potty mouth. Sadly, the author does not have a clue about women.
Kirkus Reviews

Ex-spouses team up in a new venture—solving murders—in James's raucous debut.

Alex and Amanda Thorne have a great relationship. They love and respect each other; they support each other in adventures and in their realty business; and they finish each other's sentences. It's too bad their marriage didn't fare as well. Apparently when Alex turned out to be gay, being married to Amanda just didn't make sense anymore. Amanda's determined to make it in the hot Palm Springs realty market without Alex's help—until she finds local activist Doc Winters dead and splayed on the floor of her latest listing. Because Alex can't resist the intrigue of a mystery, he and Amanda team up once more in witty banter and mystery-mongering. Cue the local residents, a series of over-the-top caricatures from Amanda's elderly, oversexed, oversharing neighbor Regina Belle to Doc's widow Monica Birdsong, whose fake breasts accompany her on her quest for higher consciousness. As a bonus, Alex isn't the only man taking an active interest in Amanda's well-being. Hot homicide detective Ken Becker is keeping one eye on the case and the other eye...

Though the precious dialogue steals the stage from the plot, the chapter titles alone are worth the price of admission.

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Three Bedrooms, Two Baths, One Very Dead Corpse



Copyright © 2010 David Stukas
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-0640-4

Chapter One

A Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

"... and by morning I had a yeast infection that you wouldn't believe! (sob, sob) Then when I'm finally able to leave my house, I find that one of my neighbors keyed my Hummer. (sob, sob)"

As I sat in Judith Sackets's obscenely large living room in Palm Springs, barely listening to her unappetizing story and histrionic crying, I wondered how I got here. Not how I got to her house per se, but how my life brought me here. I'm sure that I am not the first person in the history of the world to ask this question, but if ever there was a time to ask such a question, this was it.

"I work so hard for the charity I started, but no one seems to understand me or what I'm trying to do!" Judith lamented. "You understand me, don't you, Amanda?"

Judith, sensing that my nanosecond of hesitation signaled that even I didn't want to understand her, burst into a great sob that threatened to make her lungs come out her nose, which was immediately followed by a sharp intake of breath caused by the enormous vacuum in her lungs—I feared that Judith would inhale the paper napkin underneath my glass of water. In and out, in and out, the oxygen was sucked in, then expelled by the great bellows. I smiled meekly back at Judith, hoping to show some sense of sympathy.

It's not like I hadn't been warned. My ex-husband, Alex, also a real-estate agent here in Palm Springs, told me to stay away from Judith. Jeb, the top producer in my office, said the same thing. And just about any carbon-based life-form living here in the Coachella Valley echoed the same sentiment. Perhaps even the rocks and mountains that encircled our valley warned me, but I turned a deaf ear to their cries, because I, Amanda Thorne, would single-handedly tame Judith Sackets and get the listing to her 4,500-square-foot, six-bedroom house where all other agents had failed. And the gates of success would open, and I would get listings that would startle and amaze seasoned Realtors worldwide. Crowds of agents would part as I walked in their midst, and they'd speak in hushed tones of stifled amazement. "Look, that's Amanda Thorne. She's the one who listed and sold Casa de Loco. Not even Mary Dodge would touch her!" It's amazing that I, a woman with almost no sense of self-confidence, could fantasize about taking on a client like Judith Sackets. Unfortunately, the real reason I was sitting here taking what amounted to little more than mental abuse was that I was desperate for a sizable piece of business.

It wasn't that I needed the cash. Alex had been very generous to me in the divorce. Too generous, I often thought, flooded with guilt about how much he settled on me. "Don't worry about me, Amanda ... I'll earn it all back in a year or two," he'd said. I had little reason to doubt him—he was capable of the impossible. But I needed to show my most tireless critic—me—that I could be a big success on my own. Plus, I'd developed a reputation in this town. Alex and I had landed some of the largest sales in town. I had to prove I could land the same kind of business on my own.

But right now, my ability to discern a hopeless cause from one full of promise was rather suspect. As I looked at Judith, I marveled at how she could have the audacity to tell me she's having the worst day anyone ever had. Nothing is further from the truth. It is a little-known fact that the shittiest day ever experienced by a human being was had by C.B. Lansing, a flight attendant for Aloha Airlines. On April 28, 1988, she was serving drinks to surly assholes in her section of the cabin of a Boeing 737, when quite unexpectedly, a large section of the outer fuselage of the plane peeled back, sucking Ms. Lansing out into the void and, presumably, to meet up with the ocean a minute or so later in a manner that I won't speculate about. True story. This is, arguably, the worst day anyone ever had, so fuck you, Judith Sackets.

Not that my present predicament comes anywhere near C.B.'s, but I, too, am having a very bad day in my life. Or, more correctly, a run of bad luck lately. I moved from a profitable career in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, to a city where I know almost no one. I'm marked by the stain of a humiliating divorce, old-time Palm Springs agents are full of jealous hatred toward me, the house I bought here is riddled with termites and dry rot, the yard is full of scorpions, my contractor has taken to living in my backyard in a tent and showering naked there using my garden hose, I have still yet to land a home-run listing by myself, and worst of all, I am a straight, single woman living in the gay mecca of Palm Springs. Can things get any worse?

Oh yes. Far worse. Very soon. But at that moment in time, the poop hadn't yet hit the fan. However, thanks to the nefarious workings of some mysterious person who was about to change the course of my life, it was definitely airborne.

In the real-estate business, one of the biggest legal landmines an agent encounters concerns disclosures. Disclosures are forms that sellers are supposed to fill out, indicating everything that they know about the property being sold—both good and bad. These forms are designed by state regulatory bureaus to get sellers to expose the fact that, say, the house being sold is built over an ancient Indian burial mound. Or that a family of six was slaughtered on the premises. These revelations often have a bearing on whether a buyer wants to proceed in buying a particular house, or whether to call in an exorcist or good carpet-steaming company.

The unfortunate thing about disclosures is that they apply only to real estate—not people. This is a sad thing, because it would make life so much easier. Instead of going out on a blind date with yet another psycho, you could ask to see his disclosures first.

"I see that you killed and ate your mother back in 2003," you'd point out, smiling confidently since you hold all the aces in your hand.

"True, but I'm vegan now," your date would protest.

"Ah, yes ... well. And I see that, in 2000, you got drunk and unruly on a flight to Las Vegas and you ended up taking a dump on the beverage cart ..." you'd finish, handing back his disclosures and sending him on his way.

My ex-husband, although I still dearly love him, didn't come with a set of disclosures, either, which is a pity. He turned out to be gay.

Finding out your husband is gay after six years of marriage is something that would make some women bitter and hostile toward all men. But not me. Without a doubt, those six years were the best of my life. I traveled more, explored more, learned more, and earned more than most people would in a lifetime.

So how could I marry a gay man and not know it? It's easy. When you look at the caliber of available straight men out there, you'd know what I'm talking about. I mean, what heterosexual woman wouldn't want a man who cooks like Wolfgang Puck, goes shopping for home furnishings with you and actually enjoys it as much as you do, never talks football with you or even watches it, and—this is the topper—actually stays in bed with you hours after he's had an orgasm, cuddling you like it was your last day on earth?

Tell me I'm right, ladies. Or, to be fair, some of you guys.

Now I don't want to go on and on about how I married a gay man, especially since my mother still brings the issue up whenever she needs some ammunition to fire across the bow of the unstable dinghy that I call my self-esteem. After all, there is a body—or two—to stumble across in the pages ahead. But the question of what does a homosexual look and act like does arise, mostly by married women who wonder about the fact that their husband has an innate sense for buying sexy and smart-fitting clothes for himself, prefers to vacation in San Francisco or New York, and keeps his crotch hair trimmed. You can see the fear in the faces of these wives. I can't tell you how to spot a gay man, since to this day, I still miss some surefire club members, but I can tell you how it happened to me.

I was working in a real-estate firm in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, deliriously happy that I had moved out of my hometown of nearby Waterford some years ago, had a nice house in Birmingham, and a respectable amount of money in the bank. I could now live the kind of life led by a madcap heiress, but one thing was still missing: I had the means but not the skills. How do you live a life full of daring adventure and reckless abandon when you don't know how to do it?

I felt that our educational system had let me down by not offering adult education courses taught on the subject. This seemed completely illogical to me. I was never going to use the Pythagorean theorem to figure out the length of the third side of a right triangle, but when I needed to know something really useful, like how to hire a Sherpa for a Himalayan mountain climb or whether it's legal to bungee jump off the Empire State Building, I drew a conspicuous blank. So while I was busy trying to figure the solution to my problem, the answer walked into my office one day.

His name was Alexander Thorne. Besides being strikingly handsome, he climbed mountains in Nepal, had a fifth-degree black belt in Isshinryu karate, cycled 25 miles daily, scuba dived, hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail, bought and sold million-dollar-plus houses like they were candy bars, and best of all, he was single.

I pounced on him like Kirstie Alley on a tray of sticky buns. Although I had done a little exploring and experimentation in my life, I was not on Alex's level. But I certain of one thing: I was going to be.

Anyway, to make a long story short, we married a year and a half later, and had a wild and crazy time until Alex dropped the bomb. No, not the gay thing, but the moving thing. The year was 2004, and Alex smelled money to be made in Palm Springs, California. He had looked at the limited supply of houses there, the climate, the favorable demographics, the proximity to Los Angeles and San Diego, heard about the hordes migrating from San Francisco to Palm Springs, and what it all added up to was a lot more than anything the moribund real-estate market that was Michigan could offer. So off we went.

There's an old joke: A man named Old MacGreggor is sitting in a pub in Scotland, lamenting that no one remembers him as the man who once valiantly saved the little town in which he lived from a terrible flood. Do they remember Old MacGreggor as the man who once single-handedly spared the town from a raging fire? No. And does the town connect his name with the time he warned the locals of an impending landslide? No. "But you fuck a sheep just one time ..."

Palm Springs is like this joke. Yes, a lot of fucking goes on in this town, but that's not the point I want to make here. When most people think of Palm Springs, they think of celebrities: Bob Hope. Frank Sinatra. Cary Grant. Dinah Shore. All stars, all gone. Or they think about golfing. In doing so, they're missing the reality of what's really going on here.

The year is now 2005, and Palm Springs is on a roll. In the year we've lived here, hip restaurants, hotels, and shops were springing up like California wildfires. Dilapidated mid-century modern houses were being snapped up and renovated at an astonishing pace. Like many of its former residents, Palm Springs was being snatched back from God's waiting room and given another chance at life.

Of course, when I moved here with my then-husband, Alex, these were the things I was seeing. The drooling idiot transfixed by a shiny object.

The one thing I explained away was the heat. One hundred and six degrees normally in the summer. Occasionally, 123 degrees. Oh well, you can't have everything.

Palm Springs more than compensates for summer heat with mild winters. You could be sitting around a firepit at night warming yourself by the flames, then go bicycling in a short-sleeved shirt the very next morning. And the setting—oh, the setting. Surrounded by mountains on every side, the city is notably set right smack up against the base of 10,834-foot San Jacinto. We're not talking against foothills that eventually lead up to the mountain itself in the distance, but right up against the mountain.

So Alex and I bought a house that needed some TLC (thousands to local contractors) and began remodeling it immediately. We landed jobs at one of the best real-estate firms in town and the money started rolling in. And rolling in. And rolling in. But we didn't just work ... that wasn't Alex's way. Oh no.

We hiked. We went cycling. We fucked like rabbits. We cooked like mad. Life, I thought, couldn't get any better. Then the other shoe dropped. Alex confessed that he was gay.

This shouldn't have been a surprise since Alex had told me that he had had several bisexual experiences in his late teens. In fact, it was one of the many exotic things about him that I found so attractive: There was nothing he hadn't tried. Little did I realize that once you try ass crack, you never go back.

So after the obligatory several-days-of-crying thing, we agreed to split up. Okay, Alex thought it would be better if we separated. Me, I pleaded for us to stay together. I mean, pleaded. I told him he could go out and sleep with men and I wouldn't care. It's funny, now that I think back on all those tears, I've come to realize that most of them were tears of embarrassment. No, really! It wasn't that Alex had betrayed me. He just became aware of something that was a part of him and he was powerless to change. Lack of real self-awareness, which is something we all suffer from. Plus, how could I be angry with him? In the six years we were married, I lived more than I had my entire lifetime. I saw Paris and London, New Zealand, South America, and scores of other locations around the world. I skydived, learned to scuba dive, went hang gliding—everything a little girl from Waterford, Michigan, would never even consider. Plus, we're still best friends—just like in our marriage—so what I lost is compensated by all that I gained, and continue to gain. Plus, I came up with my own definition of love: Love isn't a greedy, needy thing as in "I need you ... or I'll die if something should happen to you." Love, for me, is helping someone become the most they can be. In Alex's case, it's helping Alex be the most Alex he can be. Love that's unselfish, but giving. And if Alex realized that he was gay, he needed to be what he was meant to be—as long as he didn't start dating any actors.

So after leaving Judith Sackets's house, I drove back to The Curse, a name I created for the house I bought after Alex and I divorced. I was going to call it The Soul-Destroying, Money-Sucking Motherfucker house, but it just didn't have the ring that The Curse had. Plus, it summed up the house better than any other words I could think of. From the first day I moved enough of my belongings into the house to live there during my brief sabbatical and planned remodeling, the house had it in for me. As I found out, you didn't actually live there—you did hand-to-hand combat with the structure.

I pulled up in the driveway and parked my car. Stepping out of my vehicle, I proceeded to navigate the obstacle course of bricks, stacks of plywood, rolls of roofing felt, boxes of nails, and a mountain of drywall scraps in my faux-alligator Kate Spade slingbacks. The house had ironically become a metaphor of my life: full of potential, but under constant construction.

What I couldn't understand is how Alex made renovation of our previous love nest look so easy. There never was any shouting, cursing, or throwing of objects. No horrendous surprises. Like everything in his life, it all flowed smoothly and effortlessly.

Mine was another story. The contractor whom Alex hired was out of commission for months with a broken back. So I called around, but Palm Springs was in the middle of a real-estate boom that had no end in sight. Contractors were as scarce as real breasts in Los Angeles. I ended up dealing with drunks, drug addicts, thieves, or psychos—it looked like I was hiring men from the work-release program of San Quentin. Unfortunately, I ended up paying many of these guys just to get rid of them. As Alex warned, they all knew they could put a mechanic's lien on my house, preventing me from doing anything with it. So now I was down to one contractor: Edwin. Edwin was polite, careful, and he did beautiful work. He was just slower than a Department of Motor Vehicles employee. And there was one other drawback: He moved into a pup tent he pitched in the backyard and proceeded to live there, showering naked using my garden hose on the side of the house. You just couldn't get good help nowadays.


Excerpted from Three Bedrooms, Two Baths, One Very Dead Corpse by DAVID JAMES Copyright © 2010 by David Stukas. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Three Bedrooms, Two Baths, One Very Dead Corpse 2.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Disgusting, language was foul and I didn't read much. Sure glad I didn't buy this crap.I could not get past the vulgar language showing the authors poor vocabulary and don't even get me going on the homosexual aspects. Does not deserve one star should have negative 5 star rating
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too bad I can't give it a negative star. The story line was good, but Amanda has a terrible mouth. I was shocked to find such junk in a cozy. And not just once or twice but constant throughout the book. Does anyone ever miss the f word in a book? Does anyone ever miss vulgar comments and sayings? 'Oh, what a disappointment, there wasn't any vulgarity in this book. I will never read another because it was too clean'. Terrible, and I won't read another one of his.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Completely discussed that this author thinks a 40 year professional woman would dare talk like this. I am a 40 year old woman who grew up catholic and in a large city. I would have never referred myself or any female as a broad! Get real man. Use hero's instead of heroines.. The vulgarity makes this book not worth the 1.99 I paid for it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so bad, on so many levels. Langauge is horrendous. If you have any morels at all then this is not a book for you. This is not humor, it is stupidity. Adults. AD
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is probably one of the worst books I have ever read. Full of cliches, the "f-word", detailed descriptions of subtle seduction of a gay or lesbian person. The main character is a crass, unrefined woman with a mouth that I am sure, since I am a woman, that most women would not have. Seems as if the author doesn't know or understand women. He has assigned male characteristics to a supposedly heterosexual woman. A total waste of time and money. In short....it's not a good book.
RatPS More than 1 year ago
This book made me laugh from beginning to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately, that doesn't amount to much. Too much unnecessarily foul language, a weird fixation on homosexuality, and overall crassness. It had potential, but fell disappointingly short.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Less than 1 star.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
In Palms Springs, California, realtor Amanda Thorne struggles with adjusting to being single following her divorce from her gay husband Alex. Amanda buries herself in her work with her goal being recognized as Apex Realty's top agent. Her showing of a major listing becomes ugly when she finds the corpse of environmentalist Doc Winters, who was poisoned. Amanda assumes she is a person of interest to the local police so with Alex at her side she investigates to clear her name; at the same time police detective Ken Becker keeps coming around because he just wants to take her out. The realtor's theory is that pro Chino Clone landmark developer Mary Dodge eliminated Doc for his opposition to her project. When another realtor and Doc's girlfriend are murdered, Amanda changes her assumption. Something greater than a land dispute must be the motive, but nobody knows what that could be. Amanda makes for a fun amateur sleuth tale as she is an intelligent klutz who totally misunderstands the signals of the cop. Readers will laugh at Amanda's amusing escapades as she lands in one accident or incident after another. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everyone is complaining about the language in this book... but I loved it! Cozy mysteries are the best, but there is room for cozy mysteries with real world elements. The heroine of the book talks just like me and most of the women I know.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
However if an author starts potty mouth in second chapter you are .....ed page counter
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didn't really like this. Silly but not funny!