Bossa Novas, Bikinis, and Bad Ends (Happy Hoofers Series #4)

Bossa Novas, Bikinis, and Bad Ends (Happy Hoofers Series #4)

by Mary McHugh

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"Cozy adventure for mystery buffs." —Library Journal

Murder's a showstopper…

The fancy-footed Happy Hoofers—Tina, Janice, Pat, Mary Louise, and Gini— are kicking off Carnival by entertaining posh guests at the most elegant hotel in Rio de Janeiro. Stunning beaches and spectacular views abound. But the party is cut short for the fab five when their alluring Brazilian companion is found dead in her room, without a clue as to what killed her.

As the samba-loving sleuths sift the evidence, they realize that even in beautiful Rio, murder can set the stage—and steal the show…

Includes Travel Tips And Tasty Recipes

Praise for the Happy Hoofers Mysteries

"A fun read . . . the camaraderie between the characters is intriguing." —RT Book Reviews

"McHugh delivers murder and mayhem." —Jerilyn Dufresne

"Hilarity and hijinks." —Nancy Coco

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496703743
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 04/26/2016
Series: Happy Hoofers Series , #4
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Mary McHugh graduated from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, with a B.A. in English Literature and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. She is the author of the first three books in the Happy Hoofers series—Chorus Lines, Caviar, Corpses; and Flamenco, Flan, and Fatalities; and Cancans, Croissants, and Caskets; nineteen nonfiction books; and two other novels. She was a contributing editor for Cosmopolitan, an articles editor at Woman's World, Travel Holiday, and Bridal Guide, and has written articles for The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, and Family Circle.  She loves to tap dance and to travel—two passions that inspired her to write the Happy Hoofers series. She lives in the New York area. Visit her at

Read an Excerpt

Bossa Novas, Bikinis, and Bad Ends

By Mary McHugh


Copyright © 2016 Mary McHugh
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4967-0375-0


Welcome to Rio — Or Not

When I told my friends in New Jersey that the Happy Hoofers had been hired to dance at the Copacabana Palace, in Rio de Janeiro, they said, "It's a beautiful city." Then they would add, "But be careful. Hold on to your purse."

I was a little worried when we got on the plane in Newark, but I figured I was used to New York where I hang on to my handbag without even thinking about it, so I quashed my anxiety. I tend to worry too much about things anyway. I imagine all the bad things that can happen before I do anything and try to prevent them ahead of time. Of course, there's always something I couldn't have possibly foreseen. Like a murder or two, for instance.

I'm Pat Keeler, a family therapist, and I'm going to tell you the story of my adventure in Rio with my four best friends. We're a bunch of crazy, fiftyish in age, thirtyish-in-attitude tap dancers, known as the Happy Hoofers, and we were hired to perform at the luxurious Copacabana Palace. But our visit to Brazil turned out to be way different than any of us had expected. In fact, it was downright terrifying. We had been through some scary times in some of the other places where we danced, but this one beat them all.

Gini is always trying to get me to relax. "You just can't predict everything, Pat," she says in her usual exasperated way. "So you might as well relax."

Gini is great. She's my favorite of all my friends in this dancing troupe because she says what she thinks and is always honest with me. As a therapist, I'm used to people fooling themselves, trying to make me believe the illusions they foster about their relationships, so I cherish people who see life as it really is.

After we landed in Rio on a bright April afternoon, we loaded our bags and ourselves into a black limo provided by the hotel. The driver, whose bright smile more than made up for his fractured English, pointed out local attractions as he took us past a beautiful beach that stretched for twenty miles along the coast of the city.

We were staying at the Copacabana Palace Hotel on the Copacabana Beach. It really is a palace, pure white, and it seems to go on for acres. Built in the twenties, it was the place for movie stars and other celebrities to stay when they came to town. It was the only hotel for Marlene Dietrich, for instance, who, they told me, asked for a champagne bucket filled with sand in her dressing room because her dress was too tight to use the regular ladies' room. Ava Gardner trashed her room because she had just broken up with Frank Sinatra. Orson Welles threw furniture into the swimming pool after a fight with Dolores del Río. Even Edward, the temporary Prince of Wales, got drunk there and tried to catch fish in the fountain. It was a hotel for legends.

The manager, Miguel Ortega, greeted us at the front entrance. He was really good-looking, with black hair, dark, wicked-looking eyes, and a black beard and mustache surrounding a sensual mouth. He exuded a sexiness that was overpowering. He wore a charcoal-gray, expensive suit, and shoes that were definitely Prada.

"Welcome to the Copacabana, lovely ladies," he said with a slight but charming Portuguese accent. "We have been looking forward to your visit."

When Janice, our actress Hoofer, got out of the car, he ignored the rest of us and moved in on her like the ocean caressing the shore. "And you are?" he asked, taking her hand and kissing it. People always respond to Janice that way. She's used to it but can never understand what the fuss is about. She's so much more than just a beautiful face. She's won awards for her acting and directing, and she raised her daughter alone.

"I'm Janice Rogers, Senhor Ortega," she said, pushing her blond hair back from her face. "Your hotel is magnificent."

"As are you," he said, unable to take his eyes off her.

A woman who had been standing in back of Ortega stepped forward and put her arm through his. "We are so glad to have you here this week," she said to us. "I'm Maria Oliveira and will be your translator and guide while you're here. I will show you Rio, and I hope you will allow me to help you with anything you need." She was a slender woman, in her early thirties, her hair in tight braids all over her head, her skin a pale brown. Her English was flawless, with no trace of an accent.

She gently pulled Miguel away from Janice and asked, "Which one of you is Tina Powell?"

Tina, a magazine editor and our fearless leader, held out her hand. "I'm Tina," she said. "We are grateful to have your help, Maria. None of us knows Portuguese, so we will rely on you."

Miguel tore his gaze from Janice to Tina and kissed her hand. "We will do everything we can to make your stay here a pleasant one," he said.

"I'm sure you will," Tina said. "Thank you, Senhor Ortega."

She introduced him to Gini, a documentary filmmaker, Mary Louise, our housewife Hoofer, and me. He guided our group into the imposing lobby of this incredible hotel. Everything about it was grand. The lobby was huge, and the marble floors and columns gleamed in the afternoon sunshine. The Happy Hoofers were definitely moving up in the world.

"After you get unpacked and rested and have some dinner," Maria said, "I'd like to take you to one of my favorite places in Rio. I don't want to tell you much about it because I want it to be a surprise. It's a typically Brazilian experience."

"Sounds intriguing," Tina said. "We're looking forward to it. See you later, Maria."

We got our keys at the desk and went up to our rooms.

When I saw the suite I would share with Gini, I was impressed. It had a huge sitting room with a balcony that had a view of the beach, an iPod dock, a wide-screen TV, a fully stocked minibar, and WiFi. There was a sleek modern bedroom with abstract paintings on the walls, an enormous marble-tiled bathroom with a bidet, a separate shower and bathtub, and a little kitchen with an espresso machine. Gini and I grinned at each other when we saw our home for the next week. "Sure beats New Jersey," Gini said.

"Oh, yeah!" I said. "Look at that beach. It's huge. You could fit the whole Jersey shore on that sand."

Gini went out on the balcony. "I know," she said. "Acres of sand and water just waiting for us to dive in. Want to go for a swim?"

"Do you think it's safe?" I said, worrywart that I am. I try not to be one, but it's no use. I was born that way.

"Unless there's a demon undertow waiting to drag us out to sea, never to be heard from again, I think we're fine," Gini said, throwing one of the ten silk-encased pillows on her bed at me.

"I'll go ask the others if they want to come with us," she said and left the room. "Don't go without me."

I unpacked and put my clothes in the drawers and closet. By the time Gini got back into the room, I had slithered into my two-piece, black bathing suit that, I have to say, really showed off my dancer-slim, flat-stomached, terrific-legged, figure. Tap dancing will do that.

"Way to go, Pat," Gini said. "That bikini is perfect for you."

"Come on, Gini," I said, embarrassed. "You're the one with the big boobs. Are Jan and Mary Louise and Tina coming to the beach with us?"

"No, they wanted to finish unpacking and shower. Maybe rest up for a while."

"They don't have your energy, Gini," I said. "But then, who does?"

"Too little time, too much to do," she said, putting on her own swimsuit, which proved my point. "I want a swim first."

We threw shirts over our suits and grabbed some sunblock, dark glasses, and towels and headed for the elevator.

As we walked out onto the beach, which was crowded with sun worshipers, we felt overdressed. Others on the beach wore string bikinis and thongs so tiny, our swimsuits felt like granny gowns by comparison. Topless bathing was not allowed on the beaches in Rio, but the tops the women wore were practically nonexistent. They left very little to the imagination. The sun blazed down on us. It felt like it was about ninety degrees, so the thought of the cooling ocean was enticing. The sand was gleaming white and clean. Cleaner than any of the beaches I've seen at home. We dropped our stuff near the water's edge and ran into the sea.

The tide was going out, so we had to push our way through the shallow waves for a short distance before it was deep enough to swim. The water was cool, not icy cold the way it is on Cape Cod, where my family took me as a child and is still my favorite place to vacation. I dove in and swam out to deeper water, taking long strokes, not having to kick my legs very hard because the sea pushed me along. It felt glorious.

Gini caught up with me before long. Her style was shorter strokes and faster leg movements, just like her personal style on shore. We swam along together side by side in the salty water, looking up occasionally long enough to smile at each other.

Gini turned over on her back and kicked her legs. "Is this great or what?" she said.

I rolled over onto my back, too, and did a slow, lazy backstroke.

"How did we get so lucky, Gini?" I asked. "We're in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! Getting paid to sleep in a gorgeous suite, and swimming off one of the best beaches in the world. We must be doing something right."

"Maybe God likes dancers," she said. "Maybe He wishes there were more of us, so He does things like this to encourage others to take up dancing too."

I'm not always sure there's a God up there helping us along, but I felt too blessed to argue with her.

"Race you back to shore," I said, flipping over and swimming toward the beach.

We kept even until the very last lap, when Gini passed me with a burst of energy, ran up on the sand, and flopped down on her towel. A trio of tanned teenagers interrupted their volleyball game long enough to admire her.

I shook myself when I came out of the water and spattered droplets all over my competitive friend. "You always have to win, don't you?" I asked.

"Second best is no good," she said, drying her red hair. "At least, it's not as much fun."

"You should know," I said. "You're definitely a winner, Gini. I wish I were more like you."

She made a face and said, "Watch what you wish for, Pat. But I keep trying."

"Let's just lie here and not try to do anything," I said.

"As if you could," Gini said.

"Watch me," I said.

I lay back on my towel to soak in that life-restoring sun when a man and a woman stopped in front of us, casting a shadow.

"Are you two with the Happy Hoofers?" the man asked.

I squinted and shaded my eyes as I looked up at him. He was dark- skinned, sexy-looking, with a gorgeous body. So many good-looking men in this city. It was almost enough to turn me into a heterosexual. Almost.

The woman with him was wearing a barely visible top and a thong. Her large sunglasses covered most of her face and made it hard for me to get an accurate idea of what she looked like, but her lips were sensual and shiny.

Gini spoke first — of course. "We are. Who wants to know?"

The man held out his hand. "I am Lucas. I used to be the bartender at the hotel. This is Yasmin. She still works at the hotel — as an accountant."

Yasmin looked at us over the top of her Ray-Bans and said, "Actually, I'm the only accountant. I'm glad to meet you." She didn't really look all that glad.

"What can we do for you?" Gini said. Her manner was not friendly. I was surprised because Gini is usually open to all comers.

"Nothing," Lucas said, sensing her hostility and starting to move away. "I just thought I'd introduce myself to you in case you wanted to see the sights in Rio. I work as a guide now."

"Thanks," Gini said. "I don't think so. Maria has planned our schedule while we're here."

At the mention of Maria's name, Lucas's smile vanished, and his eyes narrowed. He grabbed Yasmin's arm and pulled her away. "Enjoy your visit," he muttered, clearly not meaning it.

When they were out of earshot, I said to Gini, "What was that all about? You weren't your usual warm and kindly self with them."

"I don't know what it was about those two," Gini said, sitting up. "There was just something about them I didn't like. Did you see his face when I mentioned Maria's name?"

"Yeah," I said. "I wondered about that. He definitely doesn't like her."

"I'll see what I can find out why when we meet Maria later for our mysterious trip," Gini said.

"You'll be too busy taking pictures to ask her anything, if I know you," I said. Gini was a professional photographer. She truly loved taking pictures. She took photos and videos wherever we went. I was always amazed at how unusual her shots were. She was brilliant at finding a different angle, a different perspective, a fresh new way of looking at things. I guess that's why she wins prizes with her documentaries.

"Well, I'll try to find out about those two between shots," Gini said.

I picked up my towel and lotion. "Let's go back," I said, putting on my shirt.

We took showers and dressed for dinner in silk pantsuits.

We met our gang and Maria in the lobby. It was even more elegant at night, with the chandeliers glowing and only one person behind the main desk.

"Please be our guests for dinner in the Palm Room," Maria said, gesturing toward a restaurant that was lush with greenery. "Afterward, as promised, I'll take you to a side of Rio that very few tourists ever experience."

"Sounds exciting," Gini said.

"Meet me here at seven," Maria said. "Wear comfortable shoes. And be sure to bring your sense of adventure."


Magical Mystery Tour

At dinner in the quiet, softly lit, luxurious dining room, with its tables set far enough apart so that guests could talk without being overheard, we feasted on partridge with acerola fruit sauce — divine!

"What's in this sauce?" Mary Louise asked the waiter. "What's acerola?"

"Oh, senhora, it's a berry."

"What kind of berry? I've never tasted anything like it before."

"It tastes like a combination of apple and cherry," he said. "I don't think you have it in the States. It's found mostly in Central and South America. It's especially good with partridge, I think."

"It's marvelous," Mary Louise said. "Thank you."

The waiter was pleased. He loved answering questions about the food he served, and he especially enjoyed answering Mary Louise's queries. She so obviously loved food and cooking.

"I'll certainly miss this food when we get home," Mary Louise said. "Back to roast chicken and baked potatoes."

"Your cooking is wonderful," Tina said. "You're way beyond roast chicken."

After dinner, we met Maria in the lobby. She looked stunning in a white pants suit and turquoise earrings. She led us outside the hotel to a white van with the hotel logo painted on its sides. We drove through the main streets of Rio. As we wove through the traffic, we saw a beautiful, modern city. People in bright summer clothing strolled the busy streets, vendors hawked their wares from sidewalk stands, and high above the city on Corcovado Mountain stood the statue of Christ the Redeemer, His arms spread in a timeless, benevolent gesture. After about fifteen minutes our driver turned onto a narrow dark street paved with cobblestones and stopped in front of a rather seedy little house. Its chipped paint and dusty windows contrasted with the gleaming glass-and-steel structures closer to the beach.

Maria led us into the building and down some stairs to a large basement room. On the stone floor, a half-dozen women dressed in white robes were dancing barefoot, swaying, their eyes closed, as a muscular, dark-skinned man provided a hypnotic rhythm on a colorfully decorated drum. Mesmerized, we sat on wicker chairs to observe the scene.

As we watched, one of the women went into a trance. She stood out from the other women in the room because her head was clean-shaven. Her face was thin, her cheekbones prominent. I could not stop looking at her. The room was still as her body shook and she fell to the floor. For a while she was motionless. Then she rose up, lit a cigar, opened her eyes, and beckoned to Maria.

Maria walked toward her as if she were hypnotized, as if she had no choice.

"Your name is Maria?" the psychic asked.

"It is," she said, her voice a monotone.

"You are in great danger. Someone wants to kill you."

"Who?" Maria asked.

"I do not know. But I feel the presence of evil around you."

"You have to tell me who wants to kill me," Maria said, panic in her voice.

The mystic handed her cigar to another woman nearby, closed her eyes, and fell to the floor again. She swayed back and forth, then opened her eyes and looked at Maria.

"You have taken something that belongs to this person. If you don't give it back, you will be killed."

"You have to tell me more about whoever it is who wants to harm me," Maria said, shaking the mystic's arm.

The woman slumped over, her head in her lap, and was silent, unreachable.

Maria returned to our group, shaken. Mary Louise, our mother hen, pulled a chair over for her to sit on and knelt beside her.

"You can't believe anything she said. She doesn't know you, Maria. She's just making all that stuff up. It's her job to be dramatic like that."

Maria shook her head. "These people have special powers. They can see things nobody else can. I believe her. She knew my name. There was no way she could have known my name." She looked around at the rest of us, fear in her eyes.


Excerpted from Bossa Novas, Bikinis, and Bad Ends by Mary McHugh. Copyright © 2016 Mary McHugh. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.

Table of Contents


Standing Ovations for Mary McHugh,
Also by Mary McHugh,
Title Page,
Chapter One - Welcome to Rio — Or Not,
Chapter Two - Magical Mystery Tour,
Chapter Three - What's Another Murder Among Friends?,
Chapter Four - Thank You, God,
Chapter Five - Slow Down!!!,
Chapter Six - Sing, Samba, Swim,
Chapter Seven - And a Very Bom Dia to You,
Chapter Eight - Come to the Garden of Eden,
Chapter Nine - Have Another Bite, Honey,
Chapter Ten - And When She Passes By ...,
Chapter Eleven - Did Somebody Call a Doctor?,
Chapter Twelve - May I Have This Dance?,
Chapter Thirteen - What's Shrimp Bobo?,
Chapter Fourteen - What Are Those People Doing?,
Chapter Fifteen - Not Again!,
Chapter Sixteen - Surprise!,
Chapter Seventeen - One More Time and I'm Out of Here!,
Chapter Eighteen - God's Gift,
Chapter Nineteen - Travel Tips for Rio,
High Kicks, Hot Chocolate, and Homicide,
About The Author,
Cancans, Croissants, and Caskets,
Chorus Lines, Caviar, and Corpses,
Copyright Page,

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