When you're the frazzled mother of eight rambunctious children, there's little in life that throws you for a loop. So thinks Mormon mom extraordinaire Annie Fisher . . . that is, until she finds herself embroiled in the baffling disappearance of family friend Angus Puddicombe. Following the delivery of a puzzling message and a few startling discoveries, all signs point toconfusion. What Annie knows for sure is that Angus is in over his head, and there is no time to lose. Unaware of the danger that awaits, Annie, her trusty husband, Newton, and a vanload of kids forge ahead to unravel the mystery. Can this group of amateur sleuths get to the bottom of what's going on before something goes horribly wrong?
|Publisher:||Covenant Communications, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Kristen Garner McKendry began writing in her teens, and her work has been published in both Canada and the US. She received a Mississauga Arts Council MARTY Award in Established Literary Arts in 2012, and her book Garden Plot was nominated in 2011 for a Whitney Award for excellence in LDS literature. Kristen received a bachelor's degree in linguistics from Brigham Young University and has always been a voracious reader. She has a strong interest in urban agriculture And environmental issues. She enjoys playing the bagpipes, learning obscure languages, growing wheat in the backyard, and making cheese. A native of Utah and mother of three, she now resides with her family in Canada. As a linguist, Kristen is annoyed by English homonyms, and it was the contemplation of these that led to the idea for this book. For more information on Kristen and her books, check out her website at www.kristenmckendry.webs.com, where you will also find a link to her blog, My Daily Slog Blog. ISBN Descriptive Content/Synopsis
Read an Excerpt
"I pity the man who marries you. He'll have his hands full." So said Newton Fisher three months before he proposed to me. Well, let me correct that. He never actually proposednot properly, that is. We were driving home from band practice with two twelve-year-old band members carpooling in the backseat, and Newton was going on at some length about his opinion of the music the pipe major had selected. Suddenly, he interrupted himself, turned toward me with a somewhat fierce expression, and said, "When's the university semester over?" "Christmas break starts December 15," I said. "Then we'll get married at Christmas," Newton said. He gave me a challenging look, and I replied, startled, "All right." "I still think he could have chosen a half-decent hornpipe," Newton said, going back to his complaining without a pause. Larry and Liam, the two boys in the backseat, stared at the back of his head in bemused silence. Two days later, on the way to another band practice, Newton tossed a little velvet box into my lap. I opened it to find a slim gold band with a solitary diamond. I put it on my finger, put the box in the glove compartment, and nothing more was said about the subject until he phoned me at home a week later to inform me he had booked a hall for the reception. At this point in the narrative, Newton always interrupts me and says that isn't the way it happened at all. But I remember vividly every detail because I have kept a meticulous journal since I was seven years old, and every fact about each day's events was faithfully recorded immediately upon my arrival home every night. Whenever Newton disagrees with me about the way a certain event transpired, I have only to pull out the appropriate volume and show him in black and white the facts of the matter. Because Newton has not kept a similar journal, he cannot argue with mine. I have had frequent occasion to employ my journal for this purpose throughout the twenty-three years of our marriage. I should, perhaps, point out that I had known Newton Fisher for approximately four years when I accepted his unorthodox proposal. It wasn't an impulsive gesture on his partI found out later that he had in fact been planning to marry me from the first moment he saw me. He didn't inform me of the fact at the time, however, because I was seventeen, just starting as a student at the University of Toronto, when we first met. He waited until I was a sedate, mature twenty-one before marrying me. I, on the other hand, had not considered the idea of marrying him until it was actually put to me, and I was as astonished to hear myself agree to it as were Larry and Liam (who, incidentally, played the bagpipes for our reception three months later). The reason for my astonishment was that I had started out not liking Newton very much. There was a friendly animosity between us right from the start, when he appeared out of the blue at one of our band practices and proceeded to take over. My feelings never bloomed into outright irritation but settled somewhere in the region of determined tolerance. When or how this changed into affection, I cannot guess. On this topic, my usually loquacious journal for once lapses into silence. However it came about, the day Newton tossed the ring into my lap, I realized I cared for him a great deal, and I did not stop to analyze it. It seemed only natural to agree, and I have not regretted it for a moment since. Well, I suppose I am straying slightly from the truth. There were eight times in my life when I regretted marrying Newton Fisher. Those were the eight times I found myself being turned inside out in the delivery room. At those moments, I could have found it in me to wish I had never heard of Newton Fisher. But, of course, such extreme emotion can be forgiven under the circumstances, and I trust I have returned to my usual amiable self immediately afterward each time. The results of these eight deliveries were my eight children. I suppose most people would consider eight a rather large number, but I come from Utah, where many families amount to that number, if not more. I myself was the third of nine, so eight was not a staggering number for me. I had assumed since childhood that that was just the way things would go. Newton, however, was born and bred in Toronto, Canada, where the average family has one or two, maybe three at a stretch. He was the eldest of two children himself, and judging from his mother, it was wise that she stopped when she did. A week before we were married, Newton and I sat down with our clipboards and had a lengthy discussion about several pertinent matters, including the size of family we intended to have. He was floored by my nonchalant mention of numbers. "Annie, you can't possibly have that many," he protested. "We can't afford that many." "You are a psychiatrist. We can afford a dozen." "I will lose my mind." "Your partner can give you free therapy." "You will lose your figure." "I will when I'm forty anyway," I reasoned peacefully, charmed at this indirect compliment. As I predicted, Newton quickly discovered he enjoyed fatherhood after all. When child number eight arrived, he hardly gave the ink on the birth certificate time to dry before burbling on about what to name "the next one." I informed him politely but firmly that there would be no next one, at least not immediately, and so faras the youngest nears threethere hasn't been. In a household of eight children, six of them boys, one learns to appreciate the quiet times. One Saturday afternoon, while the older boys were at rugby practice, Newton and I hired the Burke girl down the street (whose name was something like Candy or Brandy or Mandy; I never could keep it straight) to babysit and spent a couple of hours at the central library together. Most couples would not consider this a romantic sort of date, but I would beg to differ. Nothing is more soothing and stimulating at the same time than sitting side by side in a silent room, reading and soaking in the silence while holding hands with one's spouse. On this occasion, I looked up from my magazine to find Newton scowling at me. As this was his usual expression, I was not alarmed. I merely waited for him to express his thoughts. "This is a ridiculous article," he said in a stage whisper. "The writer of it should be forever barred from publication." I craned to see what journal he held, expecting Psychology Today or something similar. He was holding Canadian Woman's Weekly. "There is an entire three-page article about how to find fulfillment through self-indulgence." "Surely not." "'Give in to impulse. Your subconscious is sending you a message,'" he quoted, then sighed. "Which would be fine, except this writer's subconscious appears to be narcissistic." ,I laid down my own National Geographic and pulled his magazine closer. "'I decided not to deny myself anything. It was time to stop being a caregiver and start caring for myself,'" I read. "It's this focus on the self that I object to," Newton said, forgetting to whisper as he gained momentum. "How did she give up being a caregiver without being swallowed by an avalanche of laundry?" I asked, peering closer. "It's a total disregard for the welfare of the family and society as a whole," Newton went on. "I am of the opinion that, from a sound psychological point of view" I will spare the reader Newton's professional views. Suffice it to say that he went on at some length. After a few polite coughs from the librarian, I smoothly interrupted the monologue. "My subconscious is sending me a message," I announced. "which neatly ties together the arguments of both Jung and Zhuang Zi," Newton continued. "It's saying there's just enough time to go get ice cream before we have to go home and rescue Brandy Mandy Candy." "Though Taoist philosophy admittedly oversimplifies the" "Or would Baskin Robbins be too self-indulgent?" I added. "Exactly as I was saying to Angus the other day," Newton finished with a nod. I blinked. "Angus?" I hadn't heard him come into the monologue. "Surely you remember Angus," Newton said. "Long shaggy hair. Six foot four. We've known him for years." "I know who Angus Puddicombe is," I said through slightly gritted teeth. "But I didn't know he was in town." "Not that I mind his hair," Newton added. "I would wear mine long myself if I had the opportunity." "Don't be silly, Newton, you would look like an aging flower child. Angus only gets away with it because he's so tall and thin. We should have him over for dinner." "I invited him for tomorrow night," Newton said, turning the page of his magazine. "Didn't I tell you?" "That's marvelous. When did he get back from Washington?" "Just last week. He dropped by the office on Friday, all excited about some research he's been doing on something or other. I confess I was thinking about one of my passive-aggressive patients and didn't pay much attention." "I'll do up something Canadian for him," I said, setting aside my National Geographic again. "I could make maple-glazed ham." "He's been away from Canada for two months," Newton said. "I'm sure he hasn't gone through maple-syrup withdrawal in that short a time." He paused. "Did you say something about ice cream?" When Angus arrived at the house the next evening, he wore a battered tweed jacket and carried a fistful of grocery-store flowers, which he thrust at me before swooping down to kiss my cheek. I caught a whiff of the cigarettes he smoked and wished for the hundredth time that I could cure him of the habit. It was the only thing about him that I could find fault with. I held the flowers in one arm and gave him a hug with the other. "They're beautiful," I told him. "I'll use them for the centerpiece at dinner." "Angus!" Six-year-old Maisie launched herself at him from the stairs, and he caught her midair and swung her around, endangering the umbrella stand. The other children gathered around eagerly. Angus was always good for entertainment and, more often than not, kept Jolly Ranchers in his pockets. He dug out a handful now, and the kids passed them around, ignoring the bits of lint stuck to the wrappers. We met Angus Puddicombe when Newton was an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto. Though they were in different fields Newton in psychiatry and Angus in historythey bumped into each other at a faculty event and hit it off immediately. Newton admittedly has poor social skills and a penchant for making long speeches. Angus expected none of the former and possessed amazing patience for the latter. He reminded me a bit of an abandoned puppy, unkempt and scrawny, with an air about him of never having had enough food or sleep. I admit I often thought of him more as one of the children than as one of the adults in the group. We'd moved from Toronto to our current home in Port Dover, in southern Ontario on the shore of Lake Erie, when Maisie (child number seven) was born, and Angus had followed us five years later. He'd bought a rundown but once-beautiful Victorian house, already furnished, and now taught Canadian History at a local high school. "Come in and sit down. Dinner's just about ready," I said. I left them to it and carried the flowers into the kitchen. I couldn't find a vase, so I stuffed them into a mason jar and set them in the middle of the table. We always ate in the kitchen. We had a dining room, but it served as an office and homework spot, and I hadn't seen the top of the table in years. "Would you believe I saw someone putting up his Christmas lights already on my way over here?" Angus remarked, following me. "It's not even Labor Day yet." "Maybe he wants to get a head start before the temperature drops," I said. It could get down to thirty-five or forty below in the winter. "What's he planning to do, use orange lights and turn them on for Halloween?" Newton asked. I think Newton was secretly defeated by Christmas lights. Our neighbors all up and down the street were heavily into decorating, throwing nets of white lights over low bushes, attaching beautiful lights along the eaves of their houses, following every roofline, surrounding every window frame. Some used the dangly kind that looked like glittering stalactites the colors of candy canes. One neighbor had fanciful lit-up statues of deer and polar bears on his lawn, which moved their heads in slow and graceful bows. Some put fake candelabra in the windows. Newton invariably plunked three spotlights in the ground and angled them toward our house to give it a demonic red glow, and that was all. Personally, I think he was reluctant to admit to acrophobia, but that was all right with me. I would prefer he avoid ladders and tromping all over the roof anyway. During dinner, the kids wanted to hear all about Angus's adventures in Washington State, which, being on the other side of the border and continent, might as well be on the other side of the planet, since they hadn't ever been there. "You'd like it," Angus assured them with his mouth full. "Beautiful trees, beautiful ocean, beautiful museums" "Bleh," Enoch said. "Beautiful rocky beaches with beautiful girls on them" "Bleh," Enoch said again. His older brother Isaac poked him with his elbow and said, "Speak for yourself." "And I saw a really beautiful cougar skeleton on the side of the road once." "That's more like it." "Something had eaten it completely clean. I don't know what would eat a cougar; do you? Maybe vultures." "Cool!" My dinner was starting to taste a little off, and I changed the topic. "Remind us what you were researching there," I prompted brightly. Angus leaned forward, oblivious to his shirt front dragging in his gravy. "In 1905, there was a train robbery just outside of Tacoma. The railroad payroll was stolen and never recovered, and the villains were never found." "Yes, I remember you wrote a book about it, laying out the various hypotheses, didn't you?" Angus nodded eagerly. "Well, I think now I may know what really happened," he said. "I came across some very interesting information in Seattle. In fact, they're publishing a new edition of the book with my findings added in a new chapter. It comes out in the spring. I'll make sure you get a copy." "That is wonderful," I told him. I was glad to hear about his publishing successes. I'd always felt a little guilty about his leaving his tenured position at the university to follow us to Port Dover. At the high school, he certainly couldn't be earning what he'd earned as a professor, but if he was able to augment his finances with his books, it made me feel better. "Put me down for two copies," I told him. "I'll buy one for Newton's mother for her birthday." "My mother?" Newton blinked at me. "The only book she's ever read is the TV Guide." "So what's the answer to the mystery?" Isaac asked. "Who stole the money?" "Ah, you'll have to read the new edition to find out," Angus said, grinning and wiggling his eye brows. The boys groaned. "Who wants dessert?" I asked, gathering plates. "I picked up some key lime pie at Sally's Bakery yesterday. "Jane recoiled, her eyes wide. "Where's Chairman Meow?" "Why? What's the matter? "Scott dug her in the ribs and laughed. "She said 'key lime pie' not 'feline pie.'" There was general laughter, more so when the cat in question poked an inquisitive head out of Angus's capacious tennis shoe by the door. Chairman Meow was an indeterminate breed, a stray that had fastened himself to our family when we moved in. He was one of us now, and we all took turns caring for him, but ten-year-old Jane was his special favorite. Jane, who tended to be a bit shier around people than her siblings, felt the same toward him.After three servings of dessert all around, Angus let the older boys haul him out to the driveway for a game of basketball. They didn't often get a chance to play against someone of Angus's height. Judging by the pounding and shouting that followed, Angus was enjoying it as much as the children. I distinctly heard him call, "Twelve to two! Neener neener neener! "Newton helped me carry the empty bowls to the sink, and I ran hot water over them. "Do you think Angus really has solved a hundred-year-old mystery?" I asked. Newton said philosophically. "But it's terribly exciting," I said, reaching for the plastic scrubby. "Why won't he tell us what he found out? What evidence could possibly still be around after all this time to confirm one theory over another?" Newton cornered Andrew, our youngest, and lifted him onto the counter. Andrew sat drumming his heels on the cupboard while Newton expertly ran a rag over our son's pie-smeared face. He pulled the rag away and gave a mock astonished gasp. "Look! It's an Andrew! And what's that you have all over your face? It's a smile! Is that a smile? Wipe that off immediately!" He rubbed Andrew's face again with the rag and pulled it away. "Oh no! It's still there! Mom, what are we going to do? Andrew has a smile smeared all over his face!" "Try again," I said .Again, he applied the rag. Andrew gave a muffled giggle. Newton peeked beneath the wash cloth. "Nope, still there. It won't come off. I guess there's nothing for it. He'll have to go out with a smile all over him." He lifted Andrew down, and the little boy toddled off, laughing. Newton tossed the rag onto the counter. I scooped it up and dropped it in the dish on the edge of the sink. "No water on the counter. The Formica is peeling badly enough as it is." "It is pretty bad, isn't it?" Newton bent over to examine the warped counter and the shard of white Formica hanging loose on the edge. "Maybe it's time for a new countertop. "My heart quickened. "Really? That would be lovely. This one is so scarred and damaged I can hardly tell if it's clean. "Newton rubbed a hand over his jaw, musing. "Of course, it means lifting the sink. Might as well get a new one put in while we're at itthis one is all rust-stained and chipped." "As long as we're doing that, we could repaint the cupboards, and the kitchen would look like new," I said. "You were always talking about wanting a longer counter and more cupboard space," Newton said. "If we're ever going to extend the counter, now's the logical time to do it. It could wrap around to make a U-shaped kitchen, and you'd have 50 percent more storage space." "It would mean having to replace the linoleum." "We could install tile instead." "We might have room for one of those big double fridges." I was really getting into this. "Imagine, room for everyone's water bottles!" "I think we'd have to rewire the kitchen. I don't know if our current wiring would support a big fridge like that." "What does that entail? Knocking out the drywall?" "Yes. You have always said the paint color in here reminds you of bile anyway ."I frowned. "We'd have to paint the hall too, then, because it runs right into the kitchen. It would look funny being a different color." "I wouldn't paint the hall until I extended that powder room like we've talked about," Newton said. We had talked several times about adding a shower to the two-piece, main-floor bathroom. That would give us threea real luxury when you have eight kids. "We can't extend the bathroom until we move the front closet," I reminded him. "If we make the closet smaller, the shower will fit just fine. But where do we put all the stuff in the closet? We'd miss the storage space." "We've talked about building a storage shed in the backyard," Newton said. "There's no reason all the basketballs and roller blades and tennis racquets have to be in the front closet. That could all go in a shed." "You'd never get a truck in there to pour a cement pad for a shed," I said. "We'd have to take out a portion of the fence," Newton agreed. "After the truck is finished, we could put in a side gate. Easy access to the boulevard." "So if the neighbors ask why we're tearing down the fence in the backyard, I can tell them it's because my Formica is peeling!" "And we're gutting the rest of the house besides." Newton started to laugh. "Who's gutting the house?" Angus had come in behind us and was looking astonished. "We're just fantasizing," I told him, lifting Chairman Meow off the counter, where he'd been creeping toward the butter dish in the hope that we wouldn't notice him, and setting him on the floor. "We won't really do it." "I wouldn't recommend it," he agreed glumly. "I'm in the middle of adding an office onto the back of my house. You wouldn't believe the trouble I've had with my contractor. Crooked windows, wiring not up to code, no water barrier on the foundation. Way over budget. The man has the brains of a blueberry." "Then why did you hire him?" I asked. "You're supposed to interview contractors very carefully upfront before committing to anything. I saw a design show on TV about it. "Angus waved a hand. "I know all that. But the reality is, you phone eighteen contractors, and you end up going with the only one who ever bothers to return your call. You can't pick and choose, you know. And since I've been away, he's been working unsupervised. An unwise move, I admit. I was hoping it would be finished by the time I got home, but no joy." "Why do you need to add on an office, anyway?" Newton asked him. "You have five bedrooms in that drafty old house. Couldn't you have used one of those?" "They're all upstairs. I wanted an office on the ground floor. That way when I'm too old someday to climb the stairs, it can serve as my bedroom and workspace. "It saddened me, suddenly, to think of energetic, enthusiastic Angus growing slowly into a stooped old man with arthritic hips. And if he kept smoking, he'd end up with emphysema, hauling one of those canisters around on a pushcart. I toyed with the idea of finding him a wife so he wasn't alone in that big, old house. A good woman would have a positive influence on him. I said nothing about it, though. Newton wouldn't have stood for my interfering, and Angus would have been humiliated. But I made myself a mental note to keep my eyes open. "Thank you for dinner, but I'd better head home now." Angus sighed. "Can't you stay longer?" I swatted Chairman Meow away again as he made another foray for the butter. "You know, you could just do this," Newton murmured and put the cover on the dish. "A lot of things get out of hand when you're gone for two months," Angus said. "I only have one more week before school starts again and lots to do between now and then." "Don't remind me." I had heard other mothers express relief and delight at the thought of school resuming, but secretly, I hated it. I liked having my kids around me and the lazy freedom of summer. I thought of the back-to-school shopping yet to do, the return to the grueling routine of alarm clocks, homework, piano lessons, andworst of allhaving to pack school lunches again. Last spring, I calculated I'd made roughly 7,345 sack lunches in my time, and I had 25,503 still to make before Andrew was out of school. It was a depressing thought. How many cheese sandwiches could a person stand before insanity set in? Angus left amid fond shouts of farewell from the children and much back-pounding from Newton. I extracted a promise from him that he would come again next Friday for dinner. I decided to invite the first counselor in the Primary presidency to dinner that evening too. Sylvia was a sweet woman, thirty years old and unmarried (and admittedly, the only unmarried female I could think of at the moment). I decided not to mention this decision to Newton until the last minute. At the corner of the street, Angus honked a good-bye and waved his left arm vigorously out the window of his Honda. He turned into the traffic on Bleasdale Road and was lost to sight. Sylvia accepted the invitation, albeit unwitting of my ulterior motives; I had neglected to mention the fact that a handsome eligible professor would also be coming. The following Thursday, I phoned to remind Angus of the dinner. Angus's answering machine kicked on, and his bright voice cheerfully said, "This is Angus Puddicombe. Actually, it isn't, it's his machine. Please leave your message at the beep, and if this is Wendell, I'm not paying you another penny until the leak is fixed, so don't bother asking." Wendell must be the ham-fisted contractor, I decided. I left my reminder and hung up. And didn't mention that Sylvia would be joining us. Well, after all, he would find that out eventually anyway, right? Angus didn't come. Sylvia enjoyed the roast chicken and potatoes, helped clear the table, told funny stories, and answered with a straight face when eight-year-old Ethan asked her (in all seriousness) if she liked the Mormon Pterodactyl Choir. She was a perfectly charming guest. But the whole point of her coming had beensecretlyto meet Angus Puddicombe, and he never showed. He also never called, which wasn't like him. After Sylvia left that evening, still oblivious to my devising, I tried phoning Angus. There was no answer. "Do you think he's all right?" I asked Newton. "He's never stood us up before." "Oh, I'm sure he's fine. Probably got to reading or something and lost track of time," Newton said. He wiggled his eyebrows at me. "Or maybe his contractor goofed and walled him up in the new office without a doorway to get out of." "It's not funny. I'm worried. "Newton glanced at my face, and his lips twitched. "Angus is forty four years old. He can take care of himself," he said gently.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a FUN book! AND just what I NEEDED! Light-hearted, yet mysterious... Funny with a twist of a suspense... A mystery will need to be solved~ A treasure will need to be hunted~ A friend will need to be found~ Annie can't get a hold of Angus, a family friend. She asked him to come to dinner, but he never showed up. He also didn't show up for the first day at the school he taught at. Something must be wrong. Annie feels that it will be up to her to find out what happened. As she gets in deeper and find more clues it will take her whole family to figure it out before it is too late. This book will make you laugh out loud while keeping you on the edge of the pages to see what happens next :) I LOVED this one and will DEFINITELY read more from this author!7