A SECOND CHANCE TO DIE
For his favorite charity, the high school drama club, Willard Platt fakes his own murder as an April Fool stunt. But the repeat performance later that day is the real thing. And some, including the next-door neighbor, say he deserved it.
Investigator (and ex-nun) Christine Bennett is haunted by the sad state of Willard's survivors. His widow roams the road at night. His son has a troubled marriage and bizarre secret life. Behind this suburban family's respectable facade, violent passions are seething. For this is not the first tragedy to strike them. Nor will it be the last. . . .
From the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Lee Harris's e-mail address is email@example.com. She also had a Web site which she shares with three other mystery authors. It can be reached on the Internet at www.NMOMysteries.com
From the Paperback edition.
Read an Excerpt
It was a particularly unpleasant March. It blew in like a lion and showed no signs of blowing out any other way. The trees and spring flowers that normally began blooming toward the end of the month remained bare. I cut several long branches of forsythia from the bushes in our backyard and put them in water in our living room and family room to force the flowers, checking daily for a hint of yellow.
Eddie, who had turned three the previous November, had one cold after another, several of which I caught my-self, and even Jack, who was rarely under the weather, came down with a debilitating flu at the end of February that kept him home for a few days at the beginning of March. A windstorm in the middle of the month brought down an old tree at the far end of our backyard, narrowly missing our garage. Observing the damage the next morning, I felt utterly drained. It would be a big job to cut it into pieces the right size for firewood or for the DPW to pick up at the curb.
“I have had enough!” I said out loud to the cold air, the cloudy sky, and the still hard ground. But no one heard me.
Eddie had been attending nursery school two mornings a week, probably the source of all the sniffles in the family, but during March he missed almost as many sessions as he went to. That meant I had to ask Elsie Rivers, my chief baby-sitter and surrogate grandmother, to come to our house while I taught my poetry course on Tuesday mornings.
All in all, it wasn’t the best month of my life, and I had T. S. Eliot’s cruelest month to look forward to when March was over. Sometimes you just can’t win.
It was in March that I ran into an Oakwood man I had heard of but never met, and I lived to regret that run-in. For run-in was what it was. I was in Prince’s, the upscale supermarket—we have two in our area, one ordinary, one carrying more exotic, and more expensive, items that I like to buy for treats. No chance this penny-pincher will ever take something off a shelf that costs ten cents more than I can pay in another place close to home.
Jack, my lawyer-cop husband who is a fabulous cook, had asked me to pick up some oil-cured olives for a dish he was planning to make over the weekend, and I was staring at cans and jars of green, black, and dark red olives when I heard the sound of a small boy imitating a train or a race car. I wasn’t sure which, and I looked down to find my cart of groceries gone and my son zipping down the aisle pushing the cart at a dangerous level of speed.
“Eddie, stop!” I called as I took off after him, holding a jar of what might be the olives I needed to buy.
But I was too late to avoid disaster. I heard a male voice say, “Ow!” and then, a second or two later as I scampered on the scene, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Eddie had managed to smack the man in the rear, probably rather painfully, and my son no stood looking up at me, his hands behind his back as though the cart had simply taken off by itself, and a sympathetic onlooker, of which there were none, might generously conclude that he was in the process of stopping it when its victim got in the way.
“I’m terribly sorry,” I said to the man, who looked en-raged enough to do us both in. “Eddie, you are not to push the cart by yourself.”
He fought back tears, which had no effect on either me or the man rubbing the back of his leg.
“If you can’t control that kid, leave him home when you shop. He’s a goddamn menace.”
“I’m very sorry,” I said again.
“Sorry doesn’t cut it.” He then bent down and, to my utter chagrin, picked up a cane that had apparently been knocked out of his hand when the cart hit him.
I felt terrible. “I hope you’re all right,” I said lamely, taking Eddie’s hand so he could not get away, not that he wanted to. “Can I help you? Is there anything I can do?”
“Keep that kid away from me,” the man growled, taking hold of his cart and pushing it away from us.
“Eddie, you hurt that man,” I said, lifting him and set-ting him in the child’s seat, where he should have been in the first place.
“Yes, you did. You pushed the cart right into him and you hurt him.”
“No!” he shouted.
“Keep quiet. We’ll talk about it when we get home. I just need a few more things.”
“You picked the wrong guy,” a woman’s voice said be-side me.
“What do you mean?” I turned to see a woman that I knew vaguely from church, or maybe the town council.
“He growls if you pat him on the head. You’re lucky he just walked away.”
“Who is he?”
“That’s Willard Platt.”
“I’ve heard the name.”
“He and his wife live over in Oakwood on the hill, a big house set way back from the road.”
I knew the one she meant. My aunt had pointed it out many years ago when I was still a nun and came to visit monthly. It was a beautiful home, although somewhat for-bidding in its setting, larger than I could ever imagine living in myself and, frankly, not the kind of place I would send my child to trick or treat on Halloween. “Well, my son has left him black and blue. I notice he walks with a cane. I really feel terrible.”
“He probably won’t do anything, but he’s initiated some pesty lawsuits.”
“That’s all I need,” I said.
“Have a nice day,” the woman said breezily and went down toward the other end of the aisle.
I finished my shopping, got in the express line, and checked out. It was late in the afternoon and cold. I pulled Eddie’s hood over his head and tied the cord. He was very docile, sensing my anger. I pushed the cart through the automatic door and turned toward where I had parked my car. As I crossed the car lane that ran in front of the store, I saw someone standing next to a car parked about twenty feet from us. I stopped and looked. It was Willard Platt, cane in hand, watching us. My heart pounding, I went to our car, which was quite close, got Eddie in his car seat and the bag of groceries in the front seat, and went around to my side. I glanced at Platt just before I sat down. I couldn’t be certain, but I thought he was writing some-thing down.
From the Paperback edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
THE APRIL FOOL'S DAY MURDER is one of the most puzzling cases to date in this inventive holiday-themed series, and its eventual resolution tests both the author and her series heroine, former-nun-turned-amateur sleuth, Christine Bennett's ingenuity to the hilt. Dour, misanthropic Willard Platt is not a nice man. He is heartily disliked by most of his less charitable neighbors, but shortly after losing her own first encounter with the rough side of his tongue, Christine is absolutely horrified to discover his 'dead' body lying on his front lawn with a knife in its back only to learn (after she's called out the police) that his 'murder' was an April Fool's Day hoax aimed at the local high school drama club. However, the joke quickly turns sour just a few hours later when his wife finds him well and truly dead, stabbed to death with an unknown weapon, sprawled on the floor of their garage. Later that evening, Christine sees Mrs. Pratt wandering aimlessly along the road beside her house. Distressed by her plight, she drives the new widow to her son's home and is shockd by the lack of concern and degree of estrangement that apparently characterize the family environment. Moved by pity and her own innate need to set things right, Christine starts off on the track of a murderer who seems to have left no traces behind. When a look at the past turns up evidence of a previous tragedy in the Platt household, she gladly enlists the help of her mentor, series-regular Sister Joseph, who puts enough of the pieces together to point Christine in the right direction so that she is finally able to deduce first how and ultimately who was behind this seemingly unsolvable murder just in time to prevent a miscarriage of justice and provide a measure of healing and reconciliation to a deeply-troubled family. Whether you choose to call them cozies or mysteries of malice domestic, I've always believed that the mark of an author's mastery of that genre is that the reader should leave the writer's world feeling just a little bit better about hir own for having spent some time there. Lee Harris' novels alays have that effect on me, and I get great pleasure from their wonderful realism and compassionate characterizations.
Christine Bennett meets Willard Platt when her three-year-old son Eddie hits him with a shopping cart. Christine learns that Willard has filed many pesky lawsuits. Christine relates the incident to her spouse, New York City Detective Sergeant Jack Brooks, who also says that Willard is a disagreeable individual. On April Fool¿s Day, a driving Christine sees a man lying on the ground. She finds Willard dead with a knife in his back, but that proves false because he is working with the high school drama club. However, later that same day someone kills Willard. That night, a driving Christine sees a woman walking on a lonely street. It turns out to be Willard¿s widow trekking a mile and a half to her son¿s house. Perhaps it is a vestige of her fifteen years in a monastery, many as a nun, but the Good Samaritan Christine takes the woman to her son¿s home. There, Christine witnesses the ultimate dysfunctional family, which raises Christine's curiosity and her concern for Willard's wife. She begins to investigate what happened to Willard. Lee Harris¿ holiday murders are always a time to celebrate because they are typically among the year¿s best cozies. The latest tale, THE APRIL FOOLS¿ MURDER, is the usual well-written suburban mystery that hooks readers from start to finish as a seemingly innocent lamb of a plot turns into a roaring story line cozy-style. In her thirteenth appearance, Christine retains her freshness due to her caring nature and curiosity. Fans of the series will relish the newest entry while newcomers will know that the kudos bestowed on the Bennett novels are not April Fool¿s Day jokes. Harriet Klausner