The murder of an exotic young woman brings crime too close for comfort
Murder hits close to home for Death on Demand bookstore owner Annie Darling and her beloved husband, Max. While investigating a new case, Max calls Annie to let her know he may be late getting home. He never shows up. Annie knows something dreadful has happened to him.
During the search for Max, his car is found on a remote road -- with a murder weapon in the trunk and a beautiful but very dead young woman nearby. The case becomes a media sensation with Max portrayed as an unfaithful husband willing to kill to get rid of a mistress.
As the evidence against Max continues to mount, chief of police Billy Cameron is called off the case. But Billy risks his career to continue the hunt for a silver car briefly seen following Max's on the night of the murder, and Annie is forced to go undercover in a desperate attempt to clear her husband's name. Risking her life, she enters the victim's unfamiliar world in the hopes of understanding how and why Max is involved. With time running out, Annie has one last chance to capture a wily murderer who just may have committed the perfect crime.
About the Author
An accomplished master of mystery, Carolyn Hart is the author of twenty previous Death on Demand novels. Her books have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards. She is also the creator of the Henrie O series, featuring a retired reporter, and the Bailey Ruth series, starring an impetuous, redheaded ghost. One of the founders of Sisters in Crime, Hart lives in Oklahoma City.
Read an Excerpt
Dead Days of SummerA Death on Demand Mystery
By Carolyn Hart
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Carolyn Hart
All right reserved.
The moon broke free from the low -- lying bank of clouds, revealing the white crests of breaking surf. Pinpoints of light sparkled at the water's edge, the bioluminescent glow of tiny zooplankton. Humid summer air lay over land and sea heavy as a funeral pall. Waves boomed and water surged around the pilings of the fishing pier. Footsteps echoed as a shadowy figure walked alone to the end of the pier, reached out to grip the railing. The grasp was tight, unrelenting.
Anger burned, scalding and uncontrolled. The thought came, words vivid as scarlet neon: She had to die.
Resolution provided release. Taut muscles eased. The hands fell away.
She had to die.
Vanessa Taylor surveyed the dimly lit restaurant with satisfaction. Not a woman she saw could match her for beauty. Vanessa felt exultant. Everything she wanted was within her grasp. She looked across the table at her companion. Her richly red lips curved in a cat -- in -- the -- cream smile.
He reached into the pocket of his blazer, pulled out two snapshots, handed them to her. His eyes were intent, though he managed a smile. "Think you can handle it?"
She glanced at the photographs. "Of course. I'llpersuade him. You can count on it. And once it's done, we'll be together. Everything will be wonderful." She lifted her wineglass. "To us."
He raised his glass, dark head bent forward.
Vanessa drank every drop and laughed aloud.
The burst of laughter turned the head of a nearby diner, a tired single -- mom real estate agent out for an evening with a chattering group of friends. She rubbed an aching temple. God, to be young again, to be happy and confident, to be triumphant. Not to be worried about the slowdown in house sales and the ugly whispers that real estate might be the next bubble to burst. Not to be frantic about her son Mike and his thirteen -- year -- old girlfriend who wore her blouses too tight and her shorts too short. Not to be fearful that her mom was making less and less sense. Not to be tired to her bones, yet wake up in the night scared and anxious, sleepless until dawn. Too beaten down for envy, she stared at Vanessa, admiring the raven black hair that curled in soft ringlets, the bold, forceful features, the voluptuous body in the low -- cut crimson dress.
The older woman sighed. If she had a dress like that, it would hang from her thin shoulders, making her look like a bony hag. Her face bleak, she watched as Vanessa dropped two snapshots into a small silver purse. The man with her watched attentively. He wasn't smiling. He looked intense and determined.
The observer wondered what that look meant. Was he crazy about the girl who laughed with such delight? Probably. The single woman's face drooped. Nobody had looked across a table at her for more years than she wanted to remember. She felt a hot rush of tears, dipped her face until her hair swung forward. She was tired, so tired. She wished bitterly that she and the dark -- haired woman in the beautiful red dress could change places. Just for one night.
Heather Whitman ignored the knock on her bedroom door. After a pause, the knock was repeated, soft, inquiring, yet subdued. Heather clutched her pillow with tense fingers. The knock didn't come again. The only sound was the rev of a motor in the drive in front of the house, the throaty purr of Jon's car. She glanced at the bedside clock. Almost noon. Her stepfather always took his own sweet time but he had no need to hurry to his office. Not since he'd married Mother. Of course, Mother always lauded him to the sky, said how lucky the island was to have a man of his caliber, inferring he was so successful. Successful at marrying a really rich woman, that was for sure. Damn Jon. She didn't like him. He was always snide about Kyle. How many times had Jon brought up the flagpole flap? For God's sake, it was years ago, a high school prank. Heather pushed away other moments when Kyle's daring and defiance had landed him in trouble. And now . . . Could she overlook his last wild escapade? Oh damn, damn, damn.
Thoroughly awake, Heather rolled from the bed. She stopped at the vanity, yanked up a brush to pull at her tousled dark hair. She didn't look at her face. She was likely pale as a ghost, with huge smudges beneath her eyes. Whenever she got upset, she looked like a wraith, all gray and silver, insubstantial as a ghost. She flung down the brush, walked to the French window. She pulled it wide, looked out at the familiar sweep of the gardens, brilliant with roses and hibiscus and bougainvillea. The wedding was supposed to be there at the gazebo. I, Heather, take thee Kyle . . .
Was there going to be a wedding?
Lillian Whitman Dodd paused at the top of the steps, looked down the hall toward Heather's room. Perhaps she should go back, knock again. Clearly, Heather was distraught. Lillian was surprised at her sudden feeling of dismay. That was odd. She should be overjoyed if this marriage didn't happen. She'd never tried to hide her regret at the engagement. She'd hoped Heather would outgrow Kyle, but she had never looked at another boy, not from the first moment she met him. Admittedly, Kyle was appealing with an impish charm and good looks, but he was a disaster waiting to happen. Why now did Lillian feel sadness for her daughter? Perhaps because passionate love is rare and when it happens it is worth fighting for. Just as she'd been determined to marry Jon despite Heather's opposition. Lillian had been certain Jon was the right man for her from the moment they'd met. He'd done such a fabulous job on the promotions for the . . .
Excerpted from Dead Days of Summer by Carolyn Hart Copyright © 2006 by Carolyn Hart. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love a good murder mystery, but could not get into this one. First time reading this author and may not read again. Too much description of every litlle detail. Skimmed through to finish and was not impressive.
Death on Demand is a lovely sweet series with a lot of cozy feeling to it. It is a very relaxing fun group of books and this is one of them. Highly enjoyed it.
This book is the best of the series that I have read. Ms. Heart is an excellent cozy mystery writer. I have all of her books in my library and have read them all. My favorite was a Henrie O mystery 'Dead Man's Island'.
On Broward¿s Rock, an island off the coast of South Carolina, Max Darling begins a new case, but shockingly fails to return home. His worried spouse, Death on Demand bookstore owner Annie, frantically calls the police. The cops begin a search for the missing sleuth. When they locate his abandoned vehicle, they also find the corpse of a young woman nearby and the murder weapon in the trunk of Max¿s car.----- The media has a field day painting Max as a womanizing cheater who murdered his girlfriend, Vanessa Taylor. Not long afterward the police arrest Max charging him with homicide. Annie knows her spouse is faithful and no killer. She plans to prove both by going undercover with her only advisor being local mystery author Emma Clyde.------ In the award winning Death on Demand series, DEAD DAYS OF SUMMER may be the best novel to date. The story line focuses on the efforts of Annie and friends trying to do the impossible to prove that Max is not a killer or an adulterer although the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of his being both. This fine amateur sleuth cozy with some police procedural elements is filled with heart as a stunned Annie believes to the max in her beloved spouse.---- Harriet Klausner