One would never guess to look at suburbanite homemaker Jane Jeffry that she would be interested in murder, but she's practically an expert on the subject. Which is why, with best buddy Shelley Nowack in tow, Jane's booking down to a nearby mystery writers' convention to mingle with the agents, publishing bigwigs, and famous authors ... and to maybe drum up interest in her own recently completed manuscript.
But what would a mystery convention be without a mystery? So when a famous ego-squashing editor is undone by an anonymous poisoner, and a much hated book-bashing journalist is himself bashed quite nastily in the parking lot, Jane and Shelley jump right on the case, ready to snoop, eavesdrop, and gossip their way to a solution. But the would-be killer they seek is no open book. And trying to read him/her/them may turn out to be harder and deadlier than anyone initially imagined.
About the Author
Jill Churchill has won the Agatha and Macavity Mystery Readers awards and was nominated for an Anthony Award for her bestselling Jane Jeffry series. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed Grace and Favor mysteries and lives in the Midwest.
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Bell, Book, and Scandal
On a surprisingly mild day late in February, Jane sat out on her kitchen porch waiting for her next-door neighbor and best friend Shelley Nowack to come home. When Shelley's minivan turned into the Nowacks' driveway at about fifty miles per hour and screamed to a violent halt, Jane strolled over.
"Look what I got in today's mail," Jane said, shoving a brochure though the window of the minivan.
"Help me unload the groceries first. I have a car that's full of stuff that needs to go in the freezer," Shelley said, handing the brochure back without looking at it.
When the food was stashed away, they sat down at Shelley's kitchen table with the brochure. "A mystery conference right here in town. Cool. Are you going?"
"I want to," Jane said. "The book I'm writing isn't exactly a mystery, but I think all good novels are mysteries. At least, they need the elements of secrets that need to be unraveled, even if there isn't a crime. Will she give the guy a second chance to straighten up his act or won't she? Is there a chance he'll be named in his rich grandfather's will? Will the child recover?"
"I never thought about it that way. You're right," Shelley agreed. "And the conference is at that fabulous hotel near that new mall we've never been to."
"I wasn't planning to stay at the hotel," Jane said. "What's the point when it's so close to home?"
"There are two points, Jane. For one thing, you learn more from people if you're staying at the hotel at conferences. Other attendees usually have drinks at the bar at night, and that's when they reveal a lot more inside poop to friends and eavesdroppers.
"The other point," Shelley went on, "is that Paul has invested in this hotel and, as such, always has a suite on hold for his use. We could stay in it for free."
Jane had often wondered just how rich the Nowacks were, but hadn't asked and never would ask Shelley. Paul's investment must have been a substantial one, however, to rate a full-time suite. But the Nowacks lived almost as modestly as Jane did. Their house was the same size as Jane's. Their children went to the same public schools as Jane's did. Their wallpaper and carpets were only slightly more expensive than Jane's, in spite of the Nowacks' obviously being far more affluent. Shelley's husband owned an enormous chain of Greek fast-food restaurants.
"We? Would you really be interested in going with me?"
"Of course I would. I like knowing the inside poop about nearly any business. I don't think I'd go to an accountants' conference, but this one would be interesting." Looking over the brochure, she added, "I see by the schedule that there are usually two or even three tracks of speeches. You could go to one and I'd go to another and take notes for you. And late April is such a good time for a perk."
"I'll sign us both up," Jane said. "This will be really fun, I hope. Some of my favorite mystery writers are on the list of attendees. I'd love to meet them or least see and hear them in person."
"Let me jot the date down and tell Paul we need the suite that weekend if it's not already booked."
Three days later, Detective Mel VanDyne, Jane's long-time lover, dropped in after dinner and said, "I have a day off tomorrow. I've got more laundry than most armies accumulate in a week, the floors are dirty, and I'm buried in paperwork, most of which needs to be thrown away. Any way you could help me out?"
"Sure. Have you had dinner? There's leftover pot roast, gravy, and peas."
"Yes, please," he said pathetically. "All I had in the fridge was disgusting cottage cheese."
When he'd finished the leftovers, Jane said, "I have something interesting to tell you ... "
"Could it wait until tomorrow? I have to go home and get a start so you won't know how sloppy my apartment really is."
"It'll hold," Jane said.
When she arrived the next morning, the cottage cheese was gone. Most of the paperwork was gone and Mel had started the first load of laundry.
Jane took charge. "Get me the vacuum and the attachments."
"All those little gadgets that came with it. You start cleaning from the top down. There are cobwebs on the ceiling. There's a tube that sucks them up, and the same tube gets the dust off the blinds. Then you do the carpet. I'll start in the front bedroom. You finish throwing trash away and put your first load of washing in the dryer."
It took three hours before almost everything was clean. When Mel started making the bed, Jane realized he didn't even know the right way to tuck the top sheet in tightly at the bottom. "Mel, stop. Don't you know how to do a nurse's corner? Watch this and do the other corner like I do this one."
He was surprised. "My mother failed to teach me that. In fact, I don't know if she knew this. She always had a maid to do things like this."
Jane sat down on the bed when they were finished. "Don't you want to hear my good news?"
"I'd rather we made good use of this bed first."
Jane smiled, slipping off her shoes while saying "Me, too."
Later, while Mel went for carryout Chinese for their lunch, Jane took a look in the fridge and decided he'd have to deal with it himself. But she'd tell him all about the writers' conference over the egg drop soup ...Bell, Book, and Scandal. Copyright © by Jill Churchill. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have read all of the Jane Jeffry Series and love the books and the characters. I was shocked when I read this one. Who wrote this -- a 7-year-old? The writing is so short and choppy. What a disappointment!
I read this book some time ago, and I'd enjoyed most of the series up to this point. I can't remember what the one before this was like, but the series definately declines with this entry. The plot seems lacking, with not that much of interest. It furthers the ongoing story of Jane's life, but other than that, nothing special. It didn't seem to be as well written as some of her earlier books. Jane and her friend have a very minor argument, and it's treated as if they're nearly on the verge of destroying their friendship, and I think this was also the book where some minor dispute occurs between Jane & her boyfriend, and she's afraid it'll break them up... Sheesh! It wasn't a big deal, and the reaction to these things seemed overblown. I was quite disappointed, though I may give the next in the series a try, because I enjoyed the beginning. The others were light, but fun.
I enjoy this series, light but entertaining. I enjoy seeing what's going on with the characters over time as well as the story. Unfortunately, this one seemed to fall a bit flat. There didn't seem to be much of a plot - or as much of a crime - as the other books. And some things seemed strangely blown out of proportion. I was surprised when Jane seems to feel that her relationship with Mel is in crisis - where did that come from?? He sounded no more irritated with her on the phone than he ever did with her involvement in crimes. And she feels that she's teetering on the brink of causing a rift between her and Shelley... with little provocation, and why over this rather than any case before? It felt quite odd. I will read the next book in the series, and hope it's stronger than this one.