Laundromat owner and stain removal expert Josie Toadfern knows her tiny twon's dirty clothes and most of its dirty little secrets. But an upcoming "Psychic Fair" is bringing a brand-new mess to Paradises, Ohio. The arrival of all manner of mystics and soothsayers has raised the dangerous ire of a local evangelist and his minions, as well as the more conservative citizens of Paradise—so it doesn't take a crystal ball to predict that murder will ultimately foul the fair. But Josie couldn't foresee that she'd be the one to stubmle upon the body, or that her impeccable stain-sense would embroil her in the nasty homicidal happenings. And suddenly her attempt to psych out a killer has Josie's own future looking very grim indeed.
About the Author
Sharon Short's humor column, "Sanity Check," appears every Monday in the Dayton Daily News. Her fiction credits include several short mysteries published in Murderous Intent Mystery Magazine and Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine. In addition, Ms. Short is a principal of her own marketing communications firm and has a bachelor's and a master's degree in English. She lives in Miamisburg, Ohio, with her husband and two daughters.
Read an Excerpt
Death in the Cards
A Stain-busting Mystery
That there is a devil, there is no doubt. But is he trying to get in ... or trying to get out?
This was the only commentary my Aunt Clara Foersthoefel-- may she rest in peace -- ever made about religion, and she made it often until the Sunday she quit church.
At least, she quit attending the Paradise Church of Almighty Revelations, a fundamentalist, nondenominational congregation that still meets in a log building on the outskirts of Paradise, Ohio, just down the road a piece from the Happy Trails Motor Home Court.
Uncle Horace and I fancied sleeping in on Sundays, the only day our family-owned laundromat closed. But on that Sunday some fourteen years ago, when I was about fifteen, our slumber was shattered when Aunt Clara came slamming in the back door, proclaiming she'd quit her once-beloved church, and giving as her answer to our question of why: "that there is a devil, there is no doubt. But is he trying to get in ... or trying to get out?"
It was the last time she ever uttered that saying.
Then Aunt Clara herself slept in for two Sundays in a row. The Sunday after that, she roused Uncle Horace and me from slumber, made us put on churchgoing clothes, and turned us all into demure Methodists, which I have been ever since.
I never knew just where Aunt Clara's devil saying came from. Was this Aunt Clara's personal theory? Or a doctrine she'd heard the Almighty Revelations pastor, Dru Purcell, preach on some fine Sunday morning? Truth be told, I never quite understood it, either. All I know for certain is that it still gives me the willies.
A few years after Aunt Clara uttered her saying one last time, Uncle Horace died. Aunt Clara passed on two years after that, and I inherited the laundromat. In the years since then, Aunt Clara's devil saying slipped from my thoughts entirely.
Until the morning a few weeks ago, back in late October, when I met Ginny Proffitt, and suddenly Aunt Clara's adage seemed like more than just a scary old saying.
It seemed like prophecy.
I'm Josie Toadfern, owner of Toadfern's Laundromat, and a stain expert. Self-taught and proud of it. Best stain expert in Paradise, Ohio. Or in Mason County. Or in Ohio. Maybe even in all of the United States.
After my aunt died, I took over the laundromat that had been my uncle's (my aunt helped with the laundromat but worked full-time at a local pie company) and eventually renamed it Toadfern's. I also took over the guardianship of my aunt and uncle's only son, Guy Foersthoefel, an adult with autism who lives at Stillwater Farms, a residential home fifteen miles north of Paradise. My life has been plenty busy in the nine years since I took over the laundromat (I'm twentynine now). I didn't have much time to dwell on the past or contemplate the distant future -- my thoughts and actions were firmly embedded in the present and near future, and I liked it that way.
At least, that's how I felt just a few weeks ago on a Friday morning in late October. I was happily anticipating the weekend. That evening, I was going on a date with my boyfriend, Owen Collins, to a local "haunted" corn maze, and I planned to relax with him Saturday evening after working in my laundromat all day. Sunday, after church, I'd tutor my literacy student, Hugh Crowley, and after that, I'd visit my cousin Guy at Stillwater Farms. For Sunday night, I envisioned more snuggling with Owen. This pleasant rhythm would be accented with chats with my best friends -- Winnie, Cherry, and Sally -- or by reading a good book.
As I contemplated my upcoming calm weekend, I staggered across the parking lot of the Rhinegolds' Red Horse Motel, my gait awkward because I embraced a large laundry bag overstuffed with fluffy ecru towels and washcloths.
But my load didn't stop me from letting my thoughts drift from the pleasures in my immediate future to the perfection of the autumn morning. The pleasantly crisp air. The cloudless sky blue with a hue that can only come in autumn, as if it's taken the heat of an entire summer to burnish the sky into deep cobalt. The huge oak tree that grew right out of the asphalt by the motel's entrance, my ultimate destination.
I love that tree and the fact that the Rhinegolds paved around it back when it was a sapling and have never cut it down. The tree was a brilliant orange red, the perfect counterpoint to the vibrancy of the sky.
The autumn colors were, ironically, made more vibrant by the fact that we'd suffered a long spell of drought from late summer into autumn.
Across from the Red Horse was Beeker's Orchard, acres of apple trees laden with Jonathans and Red Delicious and Winesaps. Just a glimpse of the orchard made my mouth water from the taste-memory of hand-pressed cider and homemade applesauce.
With all that sensory input, who could blame me for gazing around, taking it in -- and not seeing the woman crossing the parking lot?
The woman herself, it turned out.
We ran smack into each other. She bounced off the front of my laundry bag with a loud "oof!" I dropped the bag and staggered around, stunned from the surprise impact.
I regained my balance and took a good look at the woman, sprawled on the asphalt, knocked out cold right by the sign proclaiming, red horse motel, vacancy, color tv, pool, air conditioning, an ultramodern amenity when the sign was put up in the 1950s.
I ran over to the woman and knelt beside her. She wasn't breathing and her eyes were closed. I held my hand over her face and didn't feel any breath. My heart started racing, my throat tightening. Oh Lord, I thought. I've killed her!Death in the Cards
A Stain-busting Mystery. Copyright © by Sharon Short. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
What People are Saying About This
“DEATH OF A DOMESTIC DIVA is an immaculate conception, and more importantly, good clean fun!”
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In Paradise, Ohio, Josie Toadfern is a laundromat owner and the local stain removal expert. This time, instead of a bake competition piling up bodies, it is a psychic fair. ............................................. Josie has rented out the second apartment over her laundromat to a couple that owns the New Age bookshop and Tarot Card reading room in town. The Paradise Psychic Fair is coming up and soothsayers seem to be everywhere. One even tells Josie that danger approaches. ............................................. Major tension fills the air as the more conservative town residents go head-to-head with the New Age groups. Then, you guessed it, Josie literally stumbles across a body. ............................................. **** If you enjoyed 'Death By Deep Dish Pie' then you will love this one as well. This mystery is a bit easier to figure out than Sharon Short's last, but readers will still find it challenging. Very good reading here. ****
Death in the Cards by Sharon Short was one of the best books I have tead on a long time! Not only was the story a good murder mystery, but also you lrsrneda lot about the inhabitants of a small town. Mrs. Short keeps you guessing until the finsl few chapters.