The Dead Cat Bounce (Home Repair Is Homicide Series #1)

The Dead Cat Bounce (Home Repair Is Homicide Series #1)

by Sarah Graves

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The Dead Cat Bounce (Home Repair Is Homicide Series #1) by Sarah Graves

dead cat bounce n. Stock market jargon for a small, temporary rise in a stock's trading price after a sharp drop.

Since she bought her rambling old fixer-upper of a house, Jacobia Tiptree has gotten used to finding things broken. But her latest problem isn't so easily repaired. Along with the rotting floor joists and sagging support beams, there's the little matter of the dead man in Jake's storeroom, an ice pick firmly planted in his cranium.

Not much happens in her tiny Maine town, but that's about to change. Jake's unknown guest turns out to be a world-famous corporate raider, local boy turned billionaire Threnody McIlwaine. When Jake's best friend, quiet and dependable Ellie White, readily confesses to the murder, cops and journalists swarm into snowbound Eastport.

Jake smells a cover-up, and begins poking into past history between McIlwaine and Ellie's family. But someone doesn't like nosy neighbors...and Jake's rustic refuge may become her final resting place.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553578577
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/01/1998
Series: Home Repair Is Homicide Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 167,569
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.85(h) x 0.85(d)

About the Author

Sarah Graves lives with her husband in Eastport, Maine, where her mystery novels are set. She is currently at work on her eleventh Home Repair is Homicide novel.

Read an Excerpt

My house is old, and rambling, and in some disrepair, and I think that it is faintly haunted: a cold spot forming inexplicably on the stairway, a scuttling in the hall.  Then of course there is the matter of the enigmatic portrait, whose mystery I had not yet managed to resolve on that bright April morning when, after living cheerfully and peacefully in the house for over a year, I found a body in the storeroom.

Coming upon a body is an experience, like childbirth or a head-on collision, that takes the breath out of a person.  I went back through the passageway between the kitchen and the small, unheated room where in spring I kept dog food and dahlia bulbs, and where apparently I now stored corpses.

"Ellie," I said, "there's a dead man out there on the floor."

Ellie White looked up from the kitchen workbench where she was planting pepper seeds, sprinkling a few into each little soil-filled peat pot, to be set out later in the cold frame.  Ellie has coppery hair cut short around a thin, serious face lightly dusted with freckles; her pale blue eyes are so intense that even through her glasses, her gaze makes you feel your X-ray is being taken.

Her index finger paused in the act of tamping soil onto a pepper seed.  "Who?" she asked.

Sometimes I think Ellie has formaldehyde in her veins.  For instance, when I moved to Maine I thought sill work meant painting them, and if you have ever restored an elderly house you will understand the depths of my innocence; sill work is slightly less radical than tearing the house down and starting over entirely, and almost as expensive, and if you don't do it the old house ends up at the bottom of the cellar-hole.

Ellie, upon hearing that this was what my old house needed, merely remarked how lucky I was that I could pay for it, because she knew of another woman whose house had needed sill work, too, and that woman was now living in the cellar-hole.  Ellie's comment shut me up pretty quickly, as she had intended, and I resigned myself to getting the job done in spring, but along about March I'd discovered that sill work was only the beginning.  There was also the poignant little problem of the rot-raddled floor joists, and of the support beams holding up the floor joists.

Or rather, not holding them up.  "I don't know who.  He's lying facedown in the corner where everything sags.  I should have had that floor jacked up last autumn."

Ellie was wearing denim coveralls, a bright yellow turtleneck with jade-green turtles satin-stitched onto it, and shiny green gardening clogs over thick, yellow socks.  On anyone else the outfit would have been hilarious, but Ellie is so tall and slender that she could wear a painter's drop cloth, possibly with a couple of frayed dishrags belted around it, and still look just like a Paris runway model.

"I don't think the floor is the issue here," she said.

"That's because it's not your floor.  The only thing holding that floor up now is habit, and when the homicide detectives and the medical examiner and I don't know who all else start tramping in and out of there, then that floor is going to ..."

She was looking at me as if I'd just arrived from Mars.  "Jacobia," she said, "I don't know what kind of law enforcement you got used to, back in the big city where you come from."

She picked up the telephone, dialed George Valentine's number, and let it ring.  "But in case you haven't noticed, you're not in New York anymore.  You're in Eastport, Maine, three hours from Bangor and a heck of a lot farther from anywhere else, and the only person tramping in and out of that storeroom is going to be George.  That is, if he ever answers his phone.  He was over at my house earlier, but I don't know where he is now."

Of course it was George's number.  In Eastport, George was it: if you had a fire, or a flood, or a skunk in the crawlspace, George was the man you wanted, which was lucky since the rest were out on fishing boats: dragging for scallops, hauling lobster pots, or collecting sea urchins, depending upon the season.

"I'm going out there," Ellie said, after George had picked up at last and promised to be right over.

People in Eastport do not think the telephone grows naturally out of the tympanic membrane, and some of them will actually decide whether to answer it or not based on what sort of news they are expecting.  But George always answered his telephone sooner or later on account of being the clam warden, on call to make sure diggers had valid clam licenses, chase poachers out of forbidden clam areas, and spot-check the clams themselves with his two-inch metal claim ring, through which a legally harvestable bivalve must not be able to pass.

"I think," Ellie added, "we should make sure the man is really dead."

This struck me as pointless, since an ice pick in the cranium promised little in the way of future prospects.  But Ellie was determined; it was part of her downeast Maine heritage, like being able to navigate in the fog or knowing how to dress out a deer.

"It might be he's only wounded," Ellie said.  "It might be we can still do something for him."

Right, and it might be that next we could multiply some loaves and fishes.  When she had gone I ran a glass of water and stood there by the sink, pondering whether to drink it or not.  Just breathing in and out suddenly seemed to require a series of massive, separately considered decisions, as if each small action of mine had abruptly become huge compared to all the ones the dead man was not taking.

Outside my kitchen window a flock of cedar waxwings descended on the crabapple tree and began devouring frozen fruit, their short, metallic cries creating a happy clamor.  A shower of snow as fine as salt fell around them, whitening the snow already lying on the ground, so their lime-green feathers and candy-corn beaks stood out as brightly as paint drops.

Down at the breakwater, the big ship Star Verlanger sounded her massive horn and cast off, loaded with paper pulp, and the dockworkers jumped in their pickup trucks and headed for a well-earned bottle of Narragansett beer, no bottle of which the dead man would be enjoying.  I wondered if his absence would be noticed, or if he was from away.  Whichever; by tonight, news of his death would be all over town.

That was what I thought when the whole thing began.  But back then, I didn't know the half of it.

* * *

My name is Jacobia Tiptree, and my ex-husband says I am insane.  I have proved this, he says, by giving up a perfectly charming little townhouse on the upper east side of Manhattan—complete with doorman, elevator, and building superintendent—for a huge antique structure every centimeter of which needs paint, plaster, or the underpinnings required to hold up both.  The roof leaks, the gutters dangle, and the bricks in the chimneys are quietly turning to sand; when the wind blows hard, which it does very often here, the windows rattle as if they are trying to jump out of their frames, and if you put a marble down on the kitchen floor it will probably roll forever.

I found the place on a warm August day when the garden was clotted with raspberries and zinnias, poppies and Michaelmas daisies whose blooms were wide as saucers.  I was coming back from Halifax and the kind of contentious stockholders' meeting that sets one to wondering how early man ever found his way out of the cave, and why, considering his natural tendencies, he didn't stay there, when on impulse I drove over the long, curving causeway connecting Moose Island with the U.S.  mainland.

I bought my lunch of a sandwich and coffee at the IGA, and walked all over town before sitting down on the green-painted front steps of a big old white house whose bare windows showed a shimmeringly vacant interior.  In front of the house I stood on tiptoe and peered in, watching a patch of sunshine move slowly across a pale maple floor that was badly in need of refinishing.  Someone had torn the carpeting down from the stairs; the risers looked wormy with old nail holes.

I noted with surprise how certain I felt, how calm.  Later I found my way to a tiny storefront real-estate office on Water Street, overlooking Passamaquoddy Bay, and that evening when I drove back to the mainland, the house belonged to me.

What were you thinking of? my ex-husband asked, and so did my relatives and friends.  Even my son Sam looked doubtful, although at sixteen he had begun looking doubtful about everything.  With a brain surgeon for a father and a money expert for a mother, he was unhappily aware of the problem of living up to all the brilliant genes he had supposedly inherited.

The trouble was, Sam's brains were not of the quick, flashy variety so popular with Ivy League admissions committees.  He was the type who could take one look at a broken washing machine, come back from the appliance store with a part that cost five dollars, and a little while later the washing machine would be fixed.  He could do the same with an ailing cat, or the gizmo that makes (or doesn't make) a doorbell ring.  What he couldn't do was explain how to fix the washing machine, or what sort of attention to give the cat; his perceptions were visceral and immediate, not filtered by words and numbers.  They weren't particularly quantifiable, either, unless you happened to have a broken washing machine.

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Dead Cat Bounce (Home Repair Is Homicide Series #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I returned the entire series after reading the first book. What a disappointment. Extremely long sentences that lasted for an entire paragraph. Too many dashes and thoughts within thoughts. I completely lost track of everything. bch
nancydrew123 More than 1 year ago
I felt like I got to know the people in Eastport, Maine. I loved the descriptions of the repair projects along with the description of the town and scenery. Jake is a likeable character and I felt I was solving the murder right along with her. I felt sorry for her son who went back and forth with his father about his future career. The beginning of the book was a little slow and at times the author took too long to describe the scene. The mystery had nice twists and turns and a few red herrings. I can see why this series is so successful. I enjoyed the romance, character, suspense and even the storms. I look forward to reading all of the books in this series.
Trewbeliever More than 1 year ago
I picked this book off the shelf on a whim - the cover art and synopsis caught my eye. Really glad I did -- currently reading #8 of the series. Really love the characters and feeling of being in Maine. All the elements - suspense,romance,murder, characters -- and Sarah Graves has a great way of making the action - even storms at sea come alive. Very character driven as well. Jake Tiptree is one of my favorites.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to disagree with the previous reviewer in that I really enjoyed the descriptions of the house repair projects. It added to the atmosphere and made for some fun mirroring with the action of the people (what Jacobia was doing to her house and what was happening around her!) I can totally picture the town, the locals, the tourists, the scenery, and it was a fun mystery to boot! Have loved this whole series.
Carstairs38 More than 1 year ago
Jacobia "Jake" Tiptree has moved to Maine and bought a fixer upper in an attempt to get away from the rat race. But it doesn't quite work out when she finds a dead man in her house and her best friend confesses to the murder. The book starts out very slowly, but as I went along, it did begin to get better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'd read this before, years ago, but when I had a chance to get the ebook version, I couldn't resist. I enjoyed reading it again as much as the first time. There are a few typos, probably caused by scanning errors, but they didn't detract. Now I have to get the few of her books I haven't read yet.
TheDownloader More than 1 year ago
The book was well-written and edited. I enjoyed meeting the characters and the descriptions of Maine made me want to make it my next vacation destination. The mystery was fun, and It was very easy to become absorbed in the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do not count on reviews listed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You well like
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Gaph More than 1 year ago
Yawn ....this book did not hold my interest. It was more like a History of Maine.
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PattiBascomb More than 1 year ago
Review by PattiBascomb The 'Home Repair is Homicide' series gets off to a hammering start with this first installment. Jacobia Tiptree has purchased a fixer-upper on an island in Maine and while handy with a wrench and other assorted tools, she is not prepared for the corpse she discovers in her storeroom one murky morning. When the body is revealed to be that of a local billionaire and Tiptree (the newbie in town) begins to investigate why he wound up in her house, her safety and that of her son is threatened. Family trust is tested, an ex-husband proves to be a forever jerk and Tiptree relies on her Wall Street savvy to uncover the truth behind the murder. Graves reveals that 'dead cat bounce' refers to stock market jargon for a temporary rise in a stock's trading price after a sharp drop."even a dead cat will bounce if dropped." Along the way, we learn handy home repair tips for old houses. I now know why sagging floors have to be jacked up slowly and that if repairs turn out to be extensive, "you might as well stick your checkbook on the back door and let people fill out their own." "Dead Cat Bounce" is a witty take on murder in a small town, with home repair as the source for many of the plot twists. A gal with a tool belt can not be underestimated.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago