A To Live & Die In Dixie: Callahan Garrity Mystery

A To Live & Die In Dixie: Callahan Garrity Mystery

3.8 10
by Kathy Hogan Trocheck

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From her time on the Atlanta police force, Callahan Garrity, house cleaner and private investigator extraordinaire, has excelled at mopping up messes -- of all kinds. But she has no idea what she's getting into when she agrees to work for infamous antiques dealer Elliot Littlefield.

The first day on the job she and her crew discover the bloodied body of a

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From her time on the Atlanta police force, Callahan Garrity, house cleaner and private investigator extraordinaire, has excelled at mopping up messes -- of all kinds. But she has no idea what she's getting into when she agrees to work for infamous antiques dealer Elliot Littlefield.

The first day on the job she and her crew discover the bloodied body of a young woman in a bedroom -- and are soon on the trail of a priceless Civil War diary stolen by the killer. As if two crimes aren't enough, deadly serious collectors, right-wing radicals, and impulsive teenagers make the case even more difficult to tidy up ... and more dangerous.

Editorial Reviews

Martin Brady
It's talky, contrived, and too long--but that doesn't mean that this mystery, modeled somewhat after the infinitely better Kinsey Millhone books by Sue Grafton, won't appeal to a solid core of readers. Trocheck's second whodunit starring Callahan Garrity, ex-cop turned cleaning-service entrepreneur cum private detective, finds her heroine involved in the recovery of stolen Civil War collectibles, the murder of a teenage girl, and some dirty dealings by a supposedly benevolent, not-for-profit group finding creative ways to house the homeless. The Atlanta setting, while not artfully rendered, certainly rings true enough, and Trocheck keeps the suspects in and out of the limelight effectively until the real culprits are brought to justice. The novel suffers a bit from stereotyping: every man in the book (save for Callahan's vaguely liberated main squeeze, Mac) is a bit of a jerk, and every women who's not in Callahan's coterie of plucky house cleaners is a bit of a bimbette or just plain pathetic. Callahan's crusty old mom, Edna, does, however, try to keep the proceedings in the proper perspective with her sardonic wit. Not the best but certainly not the worst in the ever-burgeoning ranks of mystery series with female sleuths.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Chapter One

The lump under the sheet stirred, ever so slightly. I poked it with my toe. No response. I poked again. Put my lips up to his ear.

"Give you a hundred dollars if you'll get up and put the coffee on."

The only response was an exaggerated snore.

"A hundred dollars and I'll scratch your back for five minutes."

He pulled the sheet up over his head and turned his back to me.

I sighed. "Okay. A hundred dollars, back scratching, plus... "

Before I could finish the offer he turned and put arms around my neck, lazily running a finger down his bare spine.

I slapped his hand away.

"Forget it, MacAufiffe," I said. "A hundred dollars, back scratching and first dibs on the shower. That's my final offer."

He groaned loudly but sat up, pulling half the covers with him. It was June, but we'd cranked up my air-conditioner the previous night and the room was chilly. I snatched the covers back.

"Deal," he said, then padded, naked, toward the bathroom.

I dozed a few minutes, until the doorbell rang. "Get the door, Mac," I called, but the shower was still running full blast.

"Damn," I muttered, feeling around on the floor far my robe. "Who the hell's here this early in the morning?"

By the time I'd groggily made my way through the hallway to the front door, the bell ringing had been replaced with a persistent knocking. I put one bleary eye to the front door peephole, took a look and tried to shake the cobwebs away.

I looked again, but she was still there. I shot the deadbolt and opened the door a crack, leaving the chain on.

A Southern belle from hell stood on my doorstep.She'd poured her two-hundred-pound-plus self into a long hoop-skirted ball gown made of some kind of white-and-green flowered imitation satin. The sleeves had been pulled down over her shoulders, forcing the double-D bosom forward at a gravity-defying angle. A green velvet sash was wound tight around her waistso tight that her chubby cheeks were stained an unnatural pink. Her head was wrapped turban style in a faded yellow towel. She fluttered a pair of half-inch-long fake eyelashes and smiled coquettishly at me.

"Hey, Callahan," she said sweetly, trying to push the door open. "Tell your mama I'm here for my combout."

I held the door steady. "Edna's still in Swainsboro, at my cousin's wedding, Neva Jean," I said. "What the hell are you doing in that getup at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning?"

She fluttered the eyelashes again. "Come on and let me in, Callahan," she said plaintively. "It's eighty-five degrees out here already. I don' wanna sweat on my ball gown. Edna promised she'd be back in time to comb me out before I head up to Kennesaw for the big battle. She'll probably be here any minute now."

"I've got company, Neva Jean," I said, tightening my grip on the door. "I'll have Edna call you when she gets in. See you later."

Before I could slam the door an arm snaked around in front of me unlatching the chain. "What big battle?" Mac asked. I hadn't heard him come up behind me. He opened the door wide, forcing me to step back into the hallway. "Come on in, Neva Jean," he said expansively. "Coffee's on."

She bunched her skirts up tight to her body and squeezed past, treating Mac to another spasm of eyelash fluttering.

I gave Mac a sour look, but he smiled back innocently. "You never heard of Southern hospitality?" he whispered. He doffed an imaginary hat at the swaying backside of Neva Jean McComb, assistant head House Mouse, dressed up as a trailer-park version of Scarlett O'Hara.

Neva Jean doesn't always show up in costume at the front door to the bungalow Edna and I share in Candler Park. Usually, she and the other girls come in the back door. Generally, they wear white slacks and one of our Pink or white House Mouse smocks. We run a cleaning business, you see, the best damn cleaning business in Atlanta, I think. We're pricey, but when a Mouse has been in your house, you know it's clean.

In the last year or so, we've acquired a sideline, one I hadn't planned on after I quit the Atlanta Police Department and bought the cleaning business. The new business cards don't mention it, but J. Callahan Garrity, the co-owner and president of House Mouse, has also reluctantly — gotten back into the private investigation racket.

Slowly, I trailed Mac and Neva Jean back into the kitchen. As usual, she had her head poked inside the refrigerator. Her voice was muffled, but audible. "Didn't I see a plate of sausage biscuits in here yesterday?"

"Gone," I said. "Mac had a midnight snack off 'em."

Neva Jean stood up straight and waggled a finger at me. "Callahan Garrity, your mama would have a conniption if she knew you were entertaining overnight company while she was out of town."

Mac had the grace to blush, but I waggled my finger right back at her. "Guess again, Neva Jean," I said. "Mac spends just about every Friday night here. It's too far for him to drive back out to Alpharetta."

Neva Jean gasped in horror, but Mac shook his head in agreement. "It's true," he said, handing her a mug of steaming coffee. "These Garrity women are very open-minded."

While Neva Jean drowned her outrage in her coffee I sat down at the oak kitchen table and ran my fingers through my hair, trying to pretty up a bit for my gentleman friend, Andrew MacAuliffe.

"Neva Jean," I said reluctantly, "run that battlefield thing past me again, would you? Just exactly what are you doing on a battlefield and why are you dressed in that tacky getup?"

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