White Elephant Dead (Death on Demand Series #11)by Carolyn G. Hart
Murder is, surprisingly, not all that uncommon on timy Broward's Rock, an idyllic sea island community off the South Carolina coast. Annie Darling's popular mystery bookshop, Death on Demand, is where the locals come to discuss the juicy details of each criminal offenseunder the watchful gaze of a pampered feline prima donna named Agatha. But now Annie's dear
Murder is, surprisingly, not all that uncommon on timy Broward's Rock, an idyllic sea island community off the South Carolina coast. Annie Darling's popular mystery bookshop, Death on Demand, is where the locals come to discuss the juicy details of each criminal offenseunder the watchful gaze of a pampered feline prima donna named Agatha. But now Annie's dear friend (and best customer) Henny Brawley stands accused of murdering a Women's Club volunteer-cum-blackmailer. So Annie rouses her husband Max into action, and together they dive into the shark pool of dotty eccentrics and imperious belles who constitute the island's smart set. Because only there can the Darlings prove hapless Henny innocentby detemining who among the well-heeled had the dirtiest little secret...and would kill to protect it.
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Loretta Campbell tugged at the twisted sheet. She was so uncomfortable. And so cold. If she pushed the bell, no one would come. Or it would be that impatient nurse's aide. Never saw a real nurse anymore. It wasn't the way it had been when Robert was a young doctor and she was a nurse. She was so sick. Too bad about knowing so much. Everyone pretended she was going to be all right. But she knew better.
Loretta wished she'd changed her will. It still made her mad. How could Gary ignore the truth, treating Sam and Kate the same? It wasn't right. All these years she'd not said anything. Aloud. Oh yes, Marie knew how she felt. One Christmas Eve, Marie had come up to her bedroom, stepped inside, closed the door and leaned against it. She was small, but that night she'd been formidable. Marie made it clear: Not a word, not a gesture, not a hint of difference or she'd make sure Loretta never saw Sam. Never.
"Not right." She pushed the words out of her tight throat. The old resentment boiled inside her, blotting out the pain.
"Of course it wasn't right." The voice was calm, soothing as ointment on a bum.
Loretta blinked but she couldn't see, not really, just a dark shape at the bedside. That woman. One of the hospital volunteers. She'd come before. Always so quiet. A listener.
A soft hand gently held Loretta's cold fingers. "Tell me all about it." The voice was as soothing as honey to a parched throat. "'Don't hold anything back. No one will ever know but me. It will make you feel so much better...
Kathryn Girard's hands moved swiftly, competently. She loved the steady, pulsing click of the knitting needles. She satquietly, as comfortable as a cat in her cushiony easy chair behind the low Queen Anne table that served as her cash desk. She always smiled when customers commented on the lack of a cash register a cash box served her needs-and the absence of computers or credit card paraphernalia. "I enjoy the simple life," she always said with a slow, satisfied smile. "No credit cards. Not even a car." People were accustomed to seeing her on her sturdy bicycle. Some even went so far as to praise her commitment to a slow pace. As for the store, "'Cash or a check," she always said, her lips curving.
When the bell tinkled at the door of her narrow, dimly lit shop on a steamy Tuesday in September, she looked up without much interest. Then her eyes widened. For an instant, her hands were motionless. But the needles were clicking softly as the woman neared the desk, sharp gray eyes scanning the display of Delft china. A careful observer would note that most of the pieces were chipped.
The woman approaching was a very careful observer.
Kathryn looked down at her knitting, ignored the woman. After all, the lighting was dim. Perhaps Frances wouldn't even notice.
The woman was tall and thin, with a jutting-out face and uncompromising wire glasses; she came to an abrupt stop in front of the table.
Kathryn continued to knit, her eyes downcast.
"Frieda!" The sharp voice rose in surprise. "Frieda! Whatever are you doing here? Why, the police are still looking for you. Someone at church told me the other day that they never close a missing person case. It was a seven-day wonder when you disappeared."
Kathryn looked up slowly. "I beg your pardon?" Her eyes widened. A slight frown marred her heart-shaped face.
Frances Wilson clapped her hands on her bony hips, poked her face forward like a questing turtle. "Frieda March. I'd know you anywhere."
"I'm sorry." Kathryn's voice was slightly amused with just the right dash of kindly condescension. "Actually, you don't know me. I'm Kathryn Girard. I suppose your friend must resemble me. But I assure you, I'm not who did you say "
"Frieda March," Frances snapped.
"No." Kathryn was firm. "And where are you from?"
Kathryn gave a slight shrug. "Where is that?"
"Winnetka, Illinois." Suspicious gray eyes scoured Kathryn's face.
"I've never been there." Kathryn put her knitting on the table. "I hope you are enjoying your holiday." That was the trouble with resorts. People came from everywhere. "Are you looking for anything special? I have a nice selection of sandwich glass. And some pewter candlesticks from Boston."
"No. No, thanks." Frances was backing toward the door.
As soon as the bell tinkled, Kathryn rose from her chair. She was thinking fast. No matter who Frances contacted, nothing would likely happen for a few days. Today was Tuesday. Kathryn nodded. Thursday would be time enough. She needed a car. Usually her customers came to her. She thought longingly of her sleek black Porsche garaged at her hacienda in San Miguel de Allende. How could she Oh, of course. She laughed aloud. What fun. What a clever way to make one last run.
Vince Ellis clicked off his computer. He looked at the yellow legal pad next to his keyboard. He was on to a hell of a story. But there was no spring in his step as he moved away from his study, walked softly up the stairs and stopped by the first bedroom. He opened the door gently. In the shaft of fight from the hall, Meg's long blond hair splayed on the pillow. But even in a deep sleep, Piggy, the old ragged cloth animal, was tightly clutched to her side. Piggy was all she'd brought from her old life. Meg was doing well now, although perhaps too often silent for a seven-year-old. And she still had nightmares. Doing well, but still oh so vulnerable.
Vince Ellis closed Meg's door. Desperate danger called for desperate measures. He would do what he had to do...
Meet the Author
An accomplished master of mystery, Carolyn Hart is the author of twenty previous Death on Demand novels. Her books have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards. She is also the creator of the Henrie O series, featuring a retired reporter, and the Bailey Ruth series, starring an impetuous, redheaded ghost. One of the founders of Sisters in Crime, Hart lives in Oklahoma City.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This book is part of a series. Read alone it's good. Read in the context of the series you get a warmer feeling. The two main characters love, love love each other. Annie & Max. Then there is their circle of friends. Max mother, who is a hoot. She is always happy & thinks the best of everyone.
I've read all of Valerie Wolzien & Mary Daheim's books and never thought I would find another series I would enjoy as much, but I have. Great story & characters.
Although sometimes a bit confusing with a long list of suspects, this is a nice evening's reading for fans of the genre.