Full of lush descriptions of the Big Easy, Colley's seventh Charlotte LaRue whodunit (after 2007's Scrub-a-Dub Dead) finds the New Orleans maid a murder suspect, along with her friend and tenant, Louis Thibodeaux. When Charlotte stumbles on the body of her guest and Louis's ex-wife, Joyce, in her ransacked house, even Charlotte's New Orleans police detective niece thinks Charlotte may be involved. Never one to take a murder rap lying down, Charlotte fights to clear her name by worming her way into the psychiatric ward where Joyce was treated for alcoholism to uncover clues about the recently released victim. Uncovering far more than she bargained for, Charlotte crosses paths with everyone from a lowlife pawn shop owner to a potentially crooked West Coast cop. Series fans will delight in this rollicking adventure. (Feb.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Wash And Dieby Barbara Colley
As the saying goes, "No good deed goes unpunished." Charlotte LaRue knows she should take a broom and chase Joyce Thibodeaux off her front porch. Once married to Charlotte's tenant Louis Thibodeaux, Joyce is fresh out of detox and has no place to go. She pulls on Charlotte's heartstrings. . .and soon she's staying in Charlotte's guest room.
Charlotte survived Hurricane Katrina, but Joyce proves to be an ill wind of a different kind. Charlotte knows she has to show Joyce the door, but she never gets the chance. Instead her beloved parakeet Sweety Boy vanishes, her living room gets trashed, and Joyce ends up in the middle of the mess. . .stone cold dead.
Now Charlotte is on the list of murder suspects along with Louis, who's been out of town on business. . .or has he? Finding the answers means doing a little snooping herself. Grabbing her mop she's starting with the hospital where Joyce last stayed: a place with skeletons in its closets and a bucket full of clues that just might lead to a killer. . .
There is something so engaging, so charming about Charlotte LaRue. She has not had an easy life, and she works hard and keeps finding dead bodies. In her seventh mystery after Scrub-a-Dub-Dead, her tenant's ex-wife is murdered in Charlotte's living room.
Jo Ann Vicarel
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WASH and DIEA Charlotte LaRue Mystery
By Barbara Colley
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2008 Barbara Colley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneShe was running late, and Charlotte LaRue hated being late for anything. Pulling on her sweater, she snagged her purse on the way to the front door. If she hurried, though, she just might have time to go by the bank before her ten o'clock client.
Her thoughts on the notice she'd received about a so-called bounced check, she threw the dead bolt and opened the door.
A strange woman, with flaming red hair, was standing on the other side of the threshold, and Charlotte gasped with surprise, momentarily speechless. All Charlotte could do was stare at the woman as her mind raced with all kinds of dire consequences for having been so careless. With all the crime in New Orleans, a woman living alone could never be too careful. She knew better than to open the door without checking out the window first.
"I'm so sorry," the woman blurted out. "I didn't mean to startle you. I was just about to knock when you opened the door."
She was as tall as Charlotte, but probably outweighed her by a good twenty pounds. There was nothing all that menacing or frightening about the middle-aged woman, but these days one could never tell. Out of caution, Charlotte eased back a step and kept a firm grip on the doorknob, just in case she needed to slam it in the woman's face.
"My name is Flora Jennings." The woman smiled and batted her heavily mascaraed eyelashes. "I'm with Big Easy Realty." She thrust out her hand.
With one hand still firmly gripping the doorknob, Charlotte ignored the outstretched hand and simply nodded.
When Flora Jennings realized that Charlotte had no intention of shaking her hand, her fixed smile wavered and she dropped her hand. "I probably should have called first, but I just happened to be in the neighborhood...." Her voice trailed away.
Charlotte sighed, then shivered. "I don't mean to be rude, Ms. Jennings, but it's cold and I'm running late-"
"It is cold for November, isn't it? I can't believe it's already November. Thanksgiving will be here before we know it. Usually our weather doesn't get this cold until after Christmas. Why, I remember one year running the air conditioner-"
Would the woman ever shut up?
"Ms. Jennings!" Charlotte threw up her hand to silence her. "Like I said, I don't mean to be rude, but what do you want?"
For a second, Flora Jennings's expression grew tight with strain, but she nodded. "Sorry-I tend to rattle on and on. I'll try to be brief, then. Like I said before, I'm with Big Easy Realty." From the side pocket of her purse, she pulled out a business card and offered it to Charlotte.
Charlotte took the card and glanced at it. It looked legitimate, but anyone could have a business card printed.
"I'm not sure that you realize this," Flora Jennings continued, "but this part of Uptown has become quite desirable since Katrina, especially these old Victorian doubles. And may I say that yours looks to be in terrific shape from the outside."
It should, Charlotte thought, especially after what it had cost her to have it painted. She slipped the business card into her pants pocket, then gathered the front edges of her sweater together in an attempt to fight off the chill. She supposed she should be grateful, though. After Katrina, her insurance had completely covered the expense of a new roof. Others she'd talked with hadn't been so fortunate.
"Anyway," Flora went on. "As I was saying, a lot of people want to move back home to New Orleans, and I have a long waiting list of clients who are very interested in buying or renting homes in this area. What I'm doing today is going door to door and offering a free price analysis to anyone who might be interested. The process-"
Again, Charlotte threw up her hand, interrupting the woman. "Are you talking about an appraisal?" she asked.
Flora Jennings shrugged. "Not exactly. It wouldn't be official. More like giving you a ballpark figure. It would only take a few moments of your time," she hastily added.
And where would I live if I sold my house? Charlotte wondered, growing more impatient with each passing moment. Then suddenly, it hit her. Of course. The woman was probably under the mistaken impression that the other half of her double was for rent.
Charlotte opened her mouth with the intention of telling Flora Jennings that she wasn't interested, but at the last second, she changed her mind. Though she had never entertained the idea of selling the family home, where she had been raised and had raised her son, she had been curious about the market value, especially since Katrina.
Should I or shouldn't I? Charlotte glanced at her watch and decided that her visit to the bank could wait until that afternoon. "Okay," she finally agreed. "But you need to wait right here for a minute."
Without giving the Jennings woman time to reply, Charlotte firmly shut the door. Reaching in her pocket, she removed the woman's business card, then hurried over to the telephone and dialed the number listed on the card. It never hurt to be cautious these days.
"Big Easy Realty," a cheery voice answered.
"Ah, yes, I have a question for you. Do you have an agent named Flora Jennings working for you?"
"Why, yes-yes, we do. But Ms. Jennings isn't available at the moment. May I have her return your call?"
"No-no thanks." Charlotte hung up the receiver. Satisfied that the woman was who she said she was, Charlotte opened the front door. Motioning for the real estate agent to come inside, she said, "This had better be quick. I have to get to work."
Flora Jennings's face lit up. "Wonderful!" she exclaimed, and immediately stepped through the doorway. "I really appreciate this opportunity. What kind of work do you do?" But even as she asked the question, her eyes were eagerly taking in every nook and cranny of the living room area.
Charlotte placed her purse on the coffee table and pulled off her sweater. "I own Maid-for-a-Day, a domestic cleaning service."
"Oh ... how interesting."
To Charlotte's ears, the distaste in the woman's tone belied her words, but after forty-something years of being a maid, she'd gotten used to it. The insinuated snub no longer bothered her as it had when she was younger. She did honest work for honest pay, and there was no shame in that.
"The house is about a hundred years old," Charlotte said evenly. "And the double on the other side is almost an exact duplicate of this side."
Flora frowned. "You and your husband do own the entire house, don't you?"
Unwilling to admit to this perfect stranger that she didn't have a husband, Charlotte simply smiled, and said, "I own the house. Free and clear. I rent out the other side, and it's occupied right now."
Flora shrugged. "That doesn't matter. Just give me a minute to measure this room, and then you can show me the rest of this half." From her handbag, she pulled out a pen, a notebook, and a measuring tape; then, she placed the handbag on the chair near the front door.
Once Flora had measured the living room, Charlotte gestured with her hand. "Through this doorway is the kitchen- dining room."
Flora nodded approvingly. "It's nice and roomy." She began measuring and jotting down numbers in her notebook, and after a moment, she glanced up and said, "I noticed when I drove up that it looks like you have a nice deep backyard."
"Yes, I do," Charlotte murmured.
"Well, let's see the rest of the house."
Charlotte hesitated. "Don't you need to know the size of the lot or something?"
"Yes, but I'll measure that after we've finished inside." Charlotte nodded. "Okay." She motioned for Flora to walk ahead of her. "Over here are the bedrooms. There are two bedrooms and a bathroom."
"This one must be the master bedroom," Flora said, her eagle eyes scanning the room from top to bottom.
"Yes, it's the larger of the two." Charlotte had just recently redone her bedroom décor and had settled on a country look. She was really proud of the butterfly-pattern quilt she'd purchased at the annual Destrehan Plantation Arts and Crafts Festival upriver. Using it as a bedspread had provided just the right inspiration for decorating the rest of the room.
Within a few minutes, Charlotte had shown Flora the other bedroom and the bathroom. Each time, Flora measured and jotted down numbers in her notebook. That she also insisted on measuring the closets seemed kind of odd to Charlotte, but since she had never had her home appraised before, she didn't say anything.
Back in the living room, Flora picked up her handbag. "I really appreciate you doing this," she told Charlotte. "And I'll get back to you in a couple of days with your free price analysis."
"No hurry," Charlotte assured her as she opened the front door.
"Talk to you later, then," Flora said, but she paused at the front door. "You did say that you and your husband both live here, didn't you?"
"No, I didn't," Charlotte replied. "But I don't see where that's relevant, one way or another."
Flora stared at her a moment, then said, "It's not." Then she smiled. "I was just curious. Bye now." Then she turned and bustled out the door.
Once Charlotte had closed the door behind Flora Jennings, she walked over to the birdcage near the front window. "Well, that was a bit strange," she told the little green parakeet perched inside. From the corner of her eye, she saw a cream-colored car back out of her driveway. Figuring it had to belong to Flora Jennings, she said, "Guess she didn't have to measure the lot after all, huh, Sweety. Funny that she would measure the closets, but not the property."
The little bird sidled over to the side of the cage and stretched his head first one way, then another, a sign that he wanted to be petted.
"Oooh, you're such a good little birdie," Charlotte said softly as she stuck her finger through the cage and gave the parakeet a gentle head rub.
Though Charlotte had never entertained the idea of having a bird for a pet, after over two years of sharing her home with the little parakeet, she couldn't imagine not having him. Of course he looked far healthier now than when she'd found him. She'd discovered him after a deadbeat tenant had skipped out owing her money, and the poor little thing was in pitiful shape, half-starved and sick. Not anymore, though. Now he was as healthy as could be, and she'd even taught him how to say a couple of phrases.
Charlotte glanced over at the cuckoo clock on the wall behind the sofa. "Oops, time to go. Now you be a good little bird, and I'll see you later this afternoon."
As Charlotte hurried out to her van, she couldn't help noticing a black SUV parked diagonally across the street from her house. The lone man in the SUV didn't look familiar and he was simply sitting there.
So, why was he just sitting there?
What if he was a thief casing the neighborhood? Though her neighborhood wasn't a wealthy one by any stretch of the imagination, she and most of her neighbors still had a few valuables-TVs, stereos, jewelry, and such.
With an uneasy feeling crawling down her back, Charlotte pointedly glared at the man before she climbed into the van.
"Oh, for pity's sake," she murmured. "Get a grip. Not everybody is one of the bad guys." First Flora Jennings, and now ... "Probably just another real estate agent looking for property," she grumbled.
Even so, once she'd backed out of the driveway, she made it a point to get a good look at the car's license plate, noting that it was a rental car. She also made sure that she got a good look at the man as she drove slowly past his car. Too bad she was already running a bit late, or she'd stop and ask him what he was doing.
Yeah, right, Charlotte, you big coward.
"Well, I would," she muttered, countering the aggravating voice in her head.
Getting her bank account straightened out that afternoon had taken longer than she'd expected, but then everything seemed to take longer since Hurricane Katrina. By the time Charlotte turned down her street, it was almost four o'clock.
She glanced over at the bag of used books on the passenger seat, a gift from her client Bitsy Duhe. Since the death of Bitsy's husband, the elderly lady had more time on her hands than she knew what to do with, and though she filled most of her time on the phone gossiping, she also loved to read.
Bitsy knew how much Charlotte enjoyed reading too, and they both loved a good mystery. Even though she had a stack of to-be-read books on her bedside table, she could hardly wait to get home and go through the books.
With a sigh, Charlotte shook her head and snickered. It had been a while since she'd cleaned for Bitsy Duhe, and though Bitsy was generous to a fault, she could also be a real pain to work for.
During Katrina, Bitsy had evacuated first to Shreveport, where she'd stayed with an old friend, and then, at the insistence of her son, she'd flown out to California and stayed with him for several months. But like most of the tried and true natives of New Orleans, and in spite of her son's objections, Bitsy couldn't wait to come back home.
Charlotte was just thankful that she'd had the good sense to hire Dale Brown, and that Dale seemed to genuinely care about the old lady. And she was also grateful that Dale would be finished with his semester finals in time to clean for Bitsy the following Tuesday.
Too bad Dale only had one more semester till graduation. She'd have to start giving some serious thought to hiring someone else pretty soon.
Though her mind was still on the bag of books and her employee, Dale Brown, she did notice that the black SUV that she'd seen that morning, along with its occupant, was gone just before she pulled into her driveway.
As Charlotte shifted the gear into park, her gaze strayed to her front porch. Then she froze, her hand hovering above the ignition. A woman was sitting on the front-porch swing. But not just any woman, she suddenly realized.
Charlotte felt as if she'd just been sucker punched, and dread, like a slab of concrete, weighed down her insides.
"Dear Lord in Heaven, now what?" she whispered.
Chapter TwoFor more reasons than she could count, the very last person on earth that Charlotte wanted to see was Joyce Thibodeaux, the ex-wife of her tenant, Louis Thibodeaux. Before Joyce had finally been forced to enter a substance abuse program at a local hospital, she'd caused enough trouble and heartache for ten people, including Charlotte.
Poor Louis. Charlotte sighed. Did he know that Joyce was out of the hospital earlier than she was supposed to be? More than likely, he didn't. If he had known, he would have said something before he left Sunday afternoon for an assignment in New York.
"Oh, boy," she whispered. Louis was going to be furious when he did find out. But who could really blame him after what Joyce had put him through. After abandoning Louis and their troubled teenage son years ago, she'd come back into his life and claimed to be dying. But it had all been a lie. Knowing how Louis felt about her alcoholism, and desperately needing to get out of California, Joyce had used the dying ploy to play on Louis's sympathies and to cover up the fact that she was still a drunk.
Charlotte switched off the engine. Not looking forward to the confrontation with Joyce, she took her time gathering her stuff.
You did this.... This is your fault.... Joyce's accusation on the day she was taken away by paramedics whispered through Charlotte's head. Considering that she was partially responsible for helping Louis persuade Joyce to agree to a drug rehab program, Charlotte had a sneaking suspicion that Joyce wasn't there to pay her a social visit-especially since Louis hadn't given Joyce much of a choice in the matter. It was either agree to go into the program or fend for herself on the streets.
Knowing she couldn't delay the inevitable confrontation any longer, Charlotte finally climbed out of the van. Both women simply stared at each other, and neither spoke as Charlotte approached the porch.
The first thing that caught Charlotte's eye as she climbed the short flight of stairs was that Joyce had lost weight and was wearing the same clothes she'd had on when she had entered the hospital weeks before. Joyce was a couple of years younger than Charlotte, and according to Louis, Joyce had always been a thin woman, but now she looked even skinnier than before. Of course the fact that she had pulled her red hair back tightly into a ponytail made her look even more emaciated.
Excerpted from WASH and DIE by Barbara Colley Copyright © 2008 by Barbara Colley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Barbara Colley is an award-winning author whose books have been published in sixteen foreign languages. A native of Louisiana, she lives with her family in a suburb of New Orleans. Wash and Die is her seventh Charlotte LaRue mystery.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Charlotte LaRue owns Maid for a Day cleaning service in New Orleans. When she returns home from a hard day of cleaning, she finds Joyce Thibodeaux waiting on her porch. Joyce begs Charlotte to let her stay with her for a few days. Joyce is a known liar and con artist and has just gotten out of rehab. Against her better judgment, Charlotte says yes. Joyce was once married to Charlotte's tenant Louis Thibodeaux. It doesn't take long for Charlotte to regret letting Joyce stay. Joyce can't keep her room clean, lies about why a San Francisco inspector shows up looking for her, and steals Charlotte's father's gold watch and pawns it. Charlotte tries to recover her watch, but the pawn shop denies who pawned it and says it is sold. Charlotte comes home to find her house has been trashed and Sweety Boy, her parakeet, is missing. Since Charlotte fought with Joyce and kicked her out, she is a prime suspect. She and Louis, also a suspect, talk about the facts they each know and decide on avenues they will each pursue. When Charlotte goes sleuthing at the hospital where Joyce last stayed, she find herself in danger. If she's not careful, she might just find herself face-to-face with a murderer. I love this series. Charlotte is a great character and New Orleans is a wonderful setting. I like the fact that Charlotte is a maid. So many times people talk in front of the maid, helping her to find answers. This book has plenty of twists and turns to keep you turning the page. I highly recommend this book.
If you llke light murder stories thiz Is for you.
Police procedure is sorely lacking. Why would a niece be so insensitive. Feels like the person slinking down the basement stairs without a back-up. I purchased another book as well as this one . I'll not buy another.
"Clean" and good!
I love how Charlotte is in the mix of the adventure. I can't wait to read the next book
In New Orleans, Charlotte LaRue, owner of Maid for a Day, is unhappy to return home after a hard day of cleaning to see Joyce Thibodeaux waiting for her on her porch. With no place to stay, Joyce, formerly married to Charlotte's tenant Louis Thibodeaux and just out of rehab, begs her to let her stay here for a few days. Against her better judgment as Charlotte knows that Joyce is a lying con artist, she realizes she can not let the woman sleep on the street. --- Their arrangement fails to work out as Joyce may be a guest but she keeps her room looking like a pig sty, lies about why a San Francisco inspector wants to speak with her, and steals the gold watch Charlotte inherited from her father. After tossing out Joyce, Charlotte tries to recover the watch that the woman hocked, but the pawn shop proprietor rejects her plea. Frustrated, Charlotte comes home to find her house trashed from an obvious search, Joyce shot to death amidst the mess, her parakeet Sweety Boy gone. Charlotte and Louis discuss possible suspects before she begins her investigation to find her missing bird and a killer. Her snooping almost gets her killed twice by different people who want the dirt to remain unclean. --- Readers will admire the sexagenarian business owner who is determined to cleanse her name from the mud that it recently took as much as she also wants her beloved bird back. Yet with her cleaning enterprise, an amateur sleuth investigation and much more, Charlotte welcomes her newborn twin grandchildren with love and tenderness. She is the role model that insists the sixties today are the forties of yesterday. Readers will enjoy this fine thinking person¿s cozy as Charlotte escorts the audience around New Orleans in search of cleaning up a murder. --- Harriet Klausner