Torie O'Shea investigates the tangled roots of an ancient family tree.
Torie O'Shea genealogist and amateur sleuth is having a killer of a day. The town gossip spreads the word that her sweet wheelchair-bound mother is having an affair with the sheriff! Then quiet Marie Dijon is found dead at the foot of her basement stairs. Did she fall? Was she pushed? All Torie knows is that Marie had a family tree with royal roots completely foreign to a folksy Middle America town like New Kassel, Missouri. As foreign as, say...murder.
But nosiness in New Kassel is as native as the upcoming Oktoberfest. To Torie, the open door to Marie's house is more tempting than chocolate. Finding a hidden key and old documents in French make further investigating irresistible. But while juggling her growing suspicions, a hectic job at the historical society, two kids, and a sexy husband, Torie overlooks the obvious. Curiosity killed the cat. Someone killed Marie Dijon. And now Torie might know too much to live...
About the Author
Rett MacPherson lives in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband, Joe, her two daughters, and her two cats.
Read an Excerpt
I marched across the street still in my vintage clothing from the tour I had just finished. I wore a pink paisley-print gown with wide lapels, a high neck, puffed sleeves, and straight skirt. On my head was a large flowered hat that matched the dress. In one hand I carried a lace-trimmed parasol. In the other hand was a copy of the town newspaper.
I was a woman on a mission.
My mission was to find and strangle Eleanore Murdoch, the town gossip and inkslinger. She and her husband Oscar owned the Murdoch Inn, which sported a glorious view of the Mississippi River. Eleanore also had a teeny-weeny column in the New Kassel Gazette that caused more trouble than it did good. She fancied herself a writer of the highest degree. Nobody in town agreed with her, except maybe Oscar.
I walked determinedly down River Point Road, watching Old Man River roll along with the enthusiasm of a languid mule and noting in the air the faint evidence of the changing of the seasons.
It was September in New Kassel, Missouri. September in Missouri is usually one of two things: extremely hot or extremely cold. Missouri is never down the middle of anything except the continent. Today, however, was extremely nice.
The shops and houses bordered the street on my right, the river ran on my left, and the Murdoch Inn sat directly ahead at the end of the street. It was not the oldest building in New Kassel, but it was definitely the most delightful. Alexander Queen had it built in the 1880s. A porch with particularly delicate lattice and spiral works wrapped around the large, two-story Victorian building. The building was white with two turrets and an attic that had been renovated for use as guest rooms in addition to the rooms on the second floor.
I marched up the front steps of the inn with a copy of the last issue of the New Kassel Gazette under my left arm. I opened the door, found several guests lounging in the cozy, peach-colored living room, and couldn't help but think how ridiculous I must look. A few guests waved, recognizing me.
I am the tour guide for the historic buildings in New Kassel. I deck out in vintage clothing, even the shoes. I'm also a member of the Historical Society, and as a result, I'm often recognized by the tourists. I waved back at the guests seated on the ecru-colored sofa, sipping tea from a silver tea set that sat on a mahogany table.
Shoes clopping on the wooden floor, I walked on until I found the hallway that led to the small office where the customers checked in. Gilt-colored mirrors hung on cream-colored walls, with the doorways and woodwork trimmed in stark white. I entered the office, rang the tinny-sounding bell on the desk, and tapped my foot while I waited.
Out came Eleanor Murdoch from another door in the room. Now, I will give her some credit. Her column, until the last few months, had never been vicious. Inquiring to the point of invading privacy perhaps, but never vicious. She was overstepping ethical boundaries now. At least, my ethical boundaries.
She's about forty-five, top-heavy, with a pretty face but terrible taste in jewelry. Big, bulky costume jewelry was all she ever wore, and it seemed as though she wore every piece she had all at one time.
She knew exactly why I was there, but still she smiled and said, "Hello, Torie. What can I do for you?"
Almost everybody calls me Torie. Not even my husband Rudy calls me Victory. My two daughters of course call me Mom, except when my oldest tried for a time to get by with calling me Victory. The only people who call me that are my mother and Sylvia Pershing. Both are women of consequence.
Eleanore stood with her hands clasped on the desk of the office, waiting for me to return her socially correct behavior, which I couldn't do even if I hadn't been completely furious with her. Most people who go by the laws of etiquette are actually as rude as the rest of us. They just disguise it.
I took a deep breath and swore I wouldn't call her any names. I wouldn't call her anything like hypocritical, vainglorious, snotty, gossiping battle-ax. No, nothing like that.
"Eleanore," I began as I spread the newspaper out on the counter for her. "Perhaps you'd like to explain the meaning of this."
Her brown eyes barely flicked down to the newspaper. "I was hoping you could explain it a little more to me," she said as she pulled a pencil and paper out of the top drawer. She was actually preparing to take notes. "I'm missing the finer points that are required to form the illiterate details of good writing."
"What?" she asked.
"You mean, literary details."
"Whatever. Get on with it," she said.
"There is nothing to tell."
She noted something on her paper. "It's all true. Your mother is having an affair with Sheriff Colin Brooke," she said, quite pleased with herself.
"She is not having an affair, Eleanore. She's divorced. He's divorced. They are two free people. Therefore it's not an affair. She is ... his friend."
"Well, I can't very well print friend in my column. It's boring," she replied.
"But it's the truth."
"Torie, Torie, Torie," she said. "This is journalism. Nobody wants the truth. Or at least if they do, they want a stretched-out, barely recognizable facility of the truth."
"That's facsimile, Eleanor. Facsimile of the truth."
She was focused as she went on like a detective reciting the facts. "On the night of August thirtieth, your mother was seen in the presence of one Sheriff Colin Brooke, leaving the movie theater."
"She was?" I asked. Sheriff Brooke is about twelve years younger than my mother. I think that I'm open-minded enough to get past the fact that my mother is involved in a May/December relationship. But Sheriff Brooke actually arrested me one time. I suppose what really bothers me is that my mother doesn't seem to have the least bit of loyalty where this issue is concerned. Of course, I could be overreacting and being slightly childish, as my mother has so delicately brought to my attention on several occasions.
"Yes," Eleanore said. "They were seen leaving the theater, just after seeing the new Sean Connery flick."
Sean Connery? That could only mean one thing. Mother had left the theater with a rapid pulse and labored breathing and not at all in her right state of mind. It would have been a perfect opportunity for the sheriff to take advantage of her.
"Eleanore, I don't care what facts you have to corroborate your column. I want a retraction. No beating around the bush. What my mother does is her own affair. It's not to be exploited like in the Enquirer. It makes it seem as though she is doing something wrong. If you want a job on Hard Copy, go get one. If you ever print anything about another member of my family that is less than complimentary, or less than the truth, I'll ..."
I wasn't sure what I could do. "I'll start my own column," I said.
"But, Torie. That's not fair. If I can't write about your family that will severely limit my subject matter. You're related to half of the town."
"I am not," I defended myself.
"Yes, you are," she whined and stomped her foot gently.
"Just drop it. I mean it. I want a retraction."
Just then the doors of the Murdoch Inn burst open. A very distressed Tobias Thorley swept past the shocked patrons and into the office.
"Torie," he said. "You've got to find the sheriff," he said to me.
"Calm down, Mr. Thorley. What's the problem?"
Tobias is our resident accordion player. Every German tourist town has to have an accordian player. And he is quite good. He's about seventy years old, spare as a scarecrow, with a large hook nose and kind blue eyes. He also has a great pair of legs that I've seen on many occasions when he wears his Bavarian knicker outfit.
"It's Marie Dijon," he said. "Ransford Dooley just found her at the foot of her basement steps. She's dead."
Nothing like a death to get people out of their houses.
I'd called 911 from the Murdoch Inn. The sheriff's office is located in Wisteria, which is about ten miles southwest of New Kassel. It serves the entire county, which is filled with tiny towns, Wisteria being the largest at a population of about four thousand.
I arrived at the home of Marie Dijon, on the corner of Hanover Road and Hermann Road. It was directly across from the firehouse, cattycorner to the New Kassel Cemetery, and next door to Pierre's Bakery on one side and a private residence on the other. It was a story-and-a-half brick home, of no real grandeur, but nice nonetheless.
The paramedics brought out Marie Dijon's body covered with a sheet. They put the gurney into the back of an ambulance and shut the door. At least half of the population of New Kassel was crammed onto the streets trying to get a glimpse of what was going on, though everybody kept their distance.
Deputy Edwin Duran looked around, saw a friendly face in the crowd, which just happened to be mine, and walked over.
"Hey, Torie," he said. "You workin'?"
"What?" I asked, confused. Then I
remembered the clothes. "Oh, well, I just finished up and hadn't changed my clothes yet." I received no strange looks from the people in the crowd. They were used to seeing me like this.
"Who called this in?" he asked.
Why did he automatically think that I'd know who called this in? Of course I did, but that's not the point. I suppose I have sort of developed a reputation of knowing everything that transpires in New Kassel.
"Did you find her?" he asked.
"No. Ransford Dooley found her. He's really shook up. He's over at the firehouse with Elmer."
Edwin is a few years older than I am. That would put him at about thirty-five. He has a thin, dark mustache, with hair of the same color, piercing blue eyes, and large ears. He looks spiffy in his deputy's uniform. I remember when he was the all-star quarterback for Meyersville High. New Kassel pounded them into the ground every time we played them.
"Is he ever going to retire?" Edwin said.
"Elmer? He's been the fire chief forever. He says he's going to retire but he never does."
"He's been saying it for about ten years now," Edwin said with a smile.
"I know. Poor guy."
Edwin glanced around at the crowd. "I swear," he said as he shook his head. "You could put dancing midgets on hot pink rubber balls, breathing fire and nailing spikes up their noses, and it wouldn't bring out the kind of crowd that one simple dead body brings."
"True." He was right. What more could I add to that? "So? What's it look like?" I asked.
"What? The body? Oh, she just fell down the steps. Older people do that."
"Marie Dijon was not that old," I challenged.
"How old was she? I don't know that much about her."
"She just moved here about two years ago. I'd say she's in her mid-fifties. That's not incredibly old, you know."
"People lose their balance all the time and fall. There was no forced entry, no sign of a struggle. She just fell down the steps. She was still in her nightclothes."
"Where was she when Mr. Dooley found her?"
"All the way at the bottom. Her neck was all twisted around so that you could see her face even though she was on her stomach. Wasn't pretty, I'll tell you that."
"Hmph," was all I said. I thought for a moment. "Her nightclothes? Do you mean, pajamas, or pajamas with a housecoat and slippers?"
"She had on a housecoat, one slipper was on her foot and the other one was found about midway down the steps. Why?"
I didn't get a chance to answer him. Just then Sheriff Colin Brooke pulled up in his yellow Festiva. The Lone Ranger rides again. He got out, took one quick look at me, and hit himself in the forehead with his open palm.
The sheriff is fortyish, has sandy hair and blue eyes. He gives the impression of being a big strapping boy. In fact he is about six feet. He rarely seems to be in uniform. I usually see him in jeans and T-shirt. He has muscular arms, and looks ticked off all the time. Well, at least around me he looks ticked off all the time. I don't know what his problem is. After all, I did solve a case for him. One in which I lost a tooth and had to have a bridge put in.
"Torie, what the hell are you doing here?"
Edwin looked a little taken aback by the sheriff's demeanor and decided to stick up for me. "Well, she called in the nine-one-one."
Brooke stared at me for the longest time, and I knew what he was thinking before he even said it. Finally, when he could stand holding his tongue no longer, he said, "Please, tell me that you did not find this body."
"No," I said. "I didn't."
"Ransford Dooley found the body, Sheriff," Edwin said.
"Where were you?" I asked. "We wanted you to come riding up on your gallant steed and save the city."
"I was at your house," he answered me. "Having lunch with your mother."
I glanced around nervously and could see Eleanore Murdoch with her stupid notepad and her stupid pen standing on the edge of the pavement. Just what I needed. Surprisingly, almost every face that I found in the crowd was a native of New Kassel. I couldn't see one tourist.
"You don't have to announce it to the whole town," I said.
"Hey, everybody!" he yelled, as if he were going to shout it to the town.
I didn't find him amusing. I slugged him a good one just under his rib cage and he shut up, but not before having a really hearty laugh at my expense.
"Jerk," I mumbled.
All the while, Edwin watched us, unsure of what to do. I wanted to tell him that the sheriff and I were basically teasing each other. Basically.
"Edwin," he said. "Do not under any circumstances let Mrs. O'Shea know any of the details pertaining to the death of Ms. Dijon," he said.
Edwin swallowed and looked at his feet.
"Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, of course."
Too late now. But what the sheriff doesn't know won't hurt him. I decided to slip out of the circus quietly and walk home. From Marie's house all I had to do to get home was walk a few blocks east on Hanover, hang a left on River Point Road, and a few houses later I would be home.
I was happy that I had decided to walk home because it gave me time to think. So far in all of this mess, I hadn't thought about the one person who had lost her life on this day and that was Marie Dijon. I can't say that I knew Marie intimately, but I knew her as well as you could know an acquaintance in a couple of years' time. I had spoken to her on several occasions and I believe she was even at the opening of our museum this summer.
I did not know anything about her of a personal nature. She was not a native of New Kassel, and in a town where three-quarters of the population is native, the nonnatives stick out. I would go so far as to say that she was not from this region of the state at all, quite possibly not even Missouri.
I'd never seen a guest of any kind at her home and never heard her speak of a family member. That was the most tragic part of all, I thought. Nobody would mourn her passing.
My husband, Rudy O'Shea, sat down on the edge of the bed and I studied him for a moment. He can be loud and obnoxious, but not nearly as much as I can be, so I try not to harp on it. He's naive and a genuine all-around good guy. He's only about five feet ten, which goes well with my five feet two, and he has chocolate brown eyes with a long face.
He's Irish, even though I know there is German in his family tree. I started tracing his lineage and his mother ordered me to stop. Any blood that's not Irish, they don't claim. Especially any blood that isn't Catholic Irish. Basically, my mother-in-law doesn't claim me because I'm neither of the two.
Rudy can tell anybody anything they want to know about holy days, holy weeks, how many candles to light for what, and any tidbit of information about saints and martyrs, especially if it's kind of gross. He can even name the popes in order.
But I'll be damned if he can tell you where the Battle of Jericho was fought.
He's not been to confession in several years and even longer since he went to church. I think the last time he went to confession was to confess that he hadn't been to church. Anyway, his mother of course blames this on me, along with our children's less-than-pure bloodline, of which I am wholeheartedly and completely innocent.
Excerpted from "A Veiled Antiquity"
Copyright © 1998 Lauretta Allen.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved this book as much as I loved Family Skeletons. I am unsure how I found out about this author but I am thankful that I did. She is fabulous and her books are short easy reads.
Torie O'Shea, local historian and tour guide in the small Missouri town of New Kassel, is the only one who thinks that the death of Marie Dijon wasn't accidental. Marie was found at the foot of her basement stairs with a broken neck, but there was no reason for her to have fallen. In her snooping through Marie's house after the police have gone, she discovers an envelope filled with ancient documents, written not only in French, but in code as well. After Torie takes photocopies of the documents to an old friend of hers in St. Louis for translation, the friend is the victim of attempted murder, too. Knowing that she is onto something, she won't stop till she has the answer, even when it becomes obvious that many have died trying to find the very answers she seeks.This story started out nicely enough, but then it looped completely into fantasy land with Knights Templar, Merovingian Kings, The Man in the Iron Mask, and one outrageous development after another. Having been born and raised in a small Missouri town like New Kassel, I realize just how ludicrous such flights of fancy truly are. The characterizations seem wooden and contrived and I have to say that Tori O'Shea seems like a selfish individual who tries way too hard to be funny. I don't think I'll be reading any more in this series. 1
"I did help you," she persuaded. (GTG BBT)
Sorry for have ever wasted your time and sorry for thinking this would be a good rp
*he watched the commotion by a tree. He slid his hands in his black dress pants pockets*
"Possibly," she ventured dubiously. "Worth a shot, eh?"
Grrrrr. Wish I was more actice here.
Got up and walked over, "the other relics" he concluded, remembering the dangerous objects.
A traveler appeared in the distance. Spotting the group, he waved his arms and slowly approached, the weight of his pack slowing him down.
Come to "we will rise again" res1
She walked over to the bar. The young teenager bought a bottle of wine and took her first sip of alc<_>ohol, ever.
(Rules?) He pokes her. "Where have you rped before?"
Sits in the shadows in a tree overlooking the forest
Oh. In that case, bye. I wanted to give it a try but the rules and ways here kind of killed it for me. No offence.)) While the boar is slow she walks in the opposite direction, hoping she will find a home.
Swings her swords around. (I could change her to be a villan.)
(Okay. I want to ask you if I can have these things. 1. Power over plants. 2. Ablity to talk to animals. 3. Ice arrows. You know, they freeze what ever they hit. 4. Two pet wovles. Named, Sunil, and Pepper. Thats it. So, I will wait for you to answer me.)
I thank seda for carrying me. I rest down on the ground in pain.
She watched as her hands errupted into the flames, licking up her arms.
(Everyone, please move to res 4! It's a multi-res book, and someone got locked out of this one. Thanks!) <p> He nods. "Yeah, same here."
A great writer, and interesting subjects. She's a good genealogist, with a flair for solving murders in her little town on the Mississippi River, New Kassel. Her family, the townspeople and the subject matter are always interesting. I've read all her books, so now I am reading the ones that have come out on nook. Mary Otto
Rett MacPherson makes these books enjoyable by making characters and places feel like real, especially if you know the area she is speaking about. Even though the towns names are not real, you can almost think of someplace that is just like what she is talking about. The people in the small towns in Missouri are just like she describes in the book. Great easy reading and I can not put her books down until I have finished them.