With a nose for crime and grime, Callahan Garrity has handled dirty killers on the streets as an Atlanta cop and on the job as a house cleaner. But she's always been able to keep her private life neatly separated from work -- until her cousin, Patti, is found dead. Exchanging her House Mouse cleaning uniform for a detective's cap, Callahan is hellbent to find the culprit. It's notthat she doesn't trust the Atlanta PD. She just knows that her suburbanite cousin's death is too strange to be accidental.
Callahan's search takes her on a convoluted trail from Patti's priest, who may have provided more than spiritual counsel, through Atlanta's inner city and into the shady deals of her cousin's newly prosperous husband. Yet, as the pieces start to fall into place, Callahan faces an even bigger challenge -- staying alive.
About the Author
Kathy Hogan Trocheck is the author of ten critically acclaimed mysteries, including the Callahan Garrity mystery series. A former reporter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, she is also the author of Little Bitty Lies and the Edgar®- and Macavity-nominated Savannah Blues, under the name Mary Kay Andrews.
Date of Birth:July 27, 1954
Place of Birth:Tampa, Florida
Education:B.A. in newspaper journalism, University of Georgia, 1976
Read an Excerpt
Nine-letter hint," I muttered, absentmindedly winding a curl around my finger. "Adumbrate," said a disembodied voice from behind the sports page.
I glared, but he didn't see me. Too busy reading about the ACC basketball tournament. Edna and I exchanged glances. My mother knows about my love/hate relationship with the Sunday crossword puzzle. I like to save them up and work them on Saturday mornings. I read the clues out loud. Helps me think. But I loathe it when someone tries to help me. And Lord help the person who tries to beat me to the puzzle. Edna knows better than to even talk to me while I'm working the crossword.
Reluctantly, I scribbled the letters in the box. Adumbrate worked, of course. Stupid word. Mac doesn't even bother with the Atlanta Constitution's crossword puzzle. He usually picks up a Sunday New York Times at Oxford Books.
"Any coffee left?" said the voice again. With a small, martyred sigh I put down the paper and got up to refill both our cups.
I caught the telephone on the first ring.
"Callahan?" The voice on the other end was low, muffled.
"Yes, I said. "Who's this?"
The response was whispered.
"Speak up," I said. "I can't hear you."
"It's me, Neva Jean," she hissed. "I can't talk any louder. I'm at a pay phone."
I rolled my eyes heavenward. Edna saw me, got up, refilled the coffee cups herself and sat back down.
"Must be Neva Jean," she told Mac. "She's got that look." Mac lowered his paper and looked for himself. "Definitely Neva Jean," he said.
"Callahan," Neva Jean said. "You gotta help me. I'm in trouble. Big trouble."
This was nothot news. Neva Jean McComb is rarely not in some sort of mess. She's a hard worker, one of my best employees, and she usually means well, but Neva Jean, is one of those souls who attract trouble like a black dress attracts lint.
"What's the deal?" I asked, leaning my back against the kitchen counter. "Where are you, anyway?"
"I'm at one of those fast-food emergency room places, over on Covington Highway," she said, raising her voice a little. "Swannelle's bad sick. Callahan, I might of sorta killed Swannelle."
"Alight have?" I repeated. "Speak up, Neva Jean. Is he dead or isn't he?"
"I don't know," she wailed, up to top volume now. "He's been back in with the doctor for over an hour now. The nurse won't tell me nothing. For all I know Swannelle's dead and they've already called the cops to come get me."
"Calm down," I ordered. "Tell me what happened."
"It was that goddamned bass boat," she said, sobbing. "It never woulda happened if it weren't for that damn boat. I didn't mean to kill him, really. I was so mad I didn't know what I was doing. Is pissed off a defense for murder, Callahan?"
"What bass boat? Did you try to drown him or what?
Quit crying and quit talking in circles, damn it. just tell me what's going on."
"Swannelle went to the boat show with Rooney. Rooney Deebs, that's his cousin. And when he came home last night he was towing a brand new candyapple-red bass boat behind his truck."
Slowly, the motive for Neva Jean's attempted murder was becoming clear.
"He bought a bass boat? Aren't they pretty expensive?"
"Twenty-eight frigging thousand dollars," she said, gasping for breath in between sobs. "Our house didn't cost but eighteen thousand. And it's got plumbing. He put eight thousand down-all the money we had saved, and signed a note for the rest. Said he was gonna sell McComb Auto Body and him and Rooney was gonna go on the professional bass fishing tour together."
"So you had a fight."
"Not this time," Neva Jean said. "I was so mad, I thought I'd bust a gusset. I slammed the bedroom door and locked it. Then I took every piece of clothes he owns, and all his bowling and softball trophies, too, and pitched them all out the window. And you know it rained last night."
"So what did Swannelle do?" I was almost aftaid to ask.
"Hollered at the locked door for a while. Stormed around, rippin' and rantin'. Then he got drunk. Kneewalking, commode-hugging drunk. Then he passed out on the living room sofa. I got up this morning. I saw the little prick, laying there, passed out on my good sofa, and when I looked out the front window and saw that twentyeight-thousand-dollar bass boat, I got mad all over again. I picked up the nearest thing to hand, a can of Raid, and I emptied it on that bad boy."
"You sprayed Swannelle with a whole can of roach spray?" Poisoning was a new frontier for Neva Jean. The last time the two of them got into it, she'd taken a steak knife and cut off his ponytail while he was sleeping. She'd grazed him once with the pickup truck in the parking lot of Mama's Country Showcase out on Covington Highway another time. And then there was the memorall time he'd abandoned her in a Waffle House parking lot in Macon.
"It was more like half a can," she said, calmer now. "We've had a bad bug problem this year."
She started sniffling again. "It was awful. He started coughing and choking. Grabbing at his neck like he couldn't breathe. Tried to sit up, but he fell back down again. His eyes were watering and his nose was running, he was drooling like a mad dog, and when I looked down I noticed he'd peed his pants, too. I never seen nothing like it in my life. He was dying, right there in front of me."
"You got him to an emergency room, right?" I said, encouragingly.
"Yeah," she said, pausing to blow her nose. "But he's been in there an awful long time. An hour at least. I just know something awful is happening. You reckon I killed him?"
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another good read in the Callahan Garrity series. Fast paced mystery with all the characters we've come to know. Callahan herself is a bit abrasive and keeps involving herself in police business. It's hard to believe that the police force puts up with her nonsense. A bit of foul language here and there. Well edited. Overall, a good series.
Trocheck doesn't seem to shrink away from touchy subjects. This book deals with the apparently car-jacking murder of Callahan Garrity's cousin. The repercussions threaten to destroy her entire family, not just Callahan herself.
Callahan and her mother, Edna, are shocked to receive a phone call one Sunday morning, telling them that Callahan's favorite cousin, Patti, has been murdered, the apparent victim of a senseless urban car jacking. And her nine year old son, Dylan (who suffers from a speech recognition handicap and can barely communicate under the best of circumstances), was asleep in the backseat when it happened, waking up just in time to see a "scary black man" blow his mother's head off. While Edna rushes to her sister-in-law's side to comfort her in the loss of her daughter, Callahan simply cannot accept the obvious and does not believe this was a random act of violence. What in the world was Patti doing in such a bad part of the city in the first place, when she is famous for her phobias and fears? Why was Dylan in the car in the middle of the day? And who was it that made the call to 911 to report the killing on that seedy street corner? Callahan's investigation irratates the police (as usual) and pisses off the rest of her family, too, who simply want to grieve and get over this and not rake everything up and keep the wound open and bleeding. Everyone is concerned for Dylan, the only witness, but while the rest of the family worries about his state of mind, Callahan is more concerned for his safety because sooner or later the murderer is going to try to take him out, she's sure of it.I have to say that this book was better than the first one I read. The recurring characters seem to ebb and flow and become more fleshed out in some episodes than they do in others. This series is more like a television series in that respect, with not a lot of progress made on any sort of backstory, just individual characterization and a new mystery each time. Callahan is a bit edgier in this book, but maybe I'm just beginning to know her a little bit better. I like her mother better, though, to tell you the truth. At any rate, Trocheck seems to have the Atlanta area down pat and the women who work for Callahan's house cleaning business, The House Mouse, are becoming more familiar.
First Line: "Nine-letter hint," I muttered, absent-mindedly winding a curl around my finger.When her cousin Patti McNair is shot to death in her new car near the Garden Homes project in Atlanta, a horrible situation is made even worse by the fact that her young son is in the car with her. Callahan refuses to believe that Patti's death is a random robbery and senseless murder, and sets out to find her own suspects and conduct her own investigation. In fact, she's being so mule-headed about the whole thing that she puts her own life in danger.I've enjoyed this series about a former Atlanta police officer who's now owner of the House Mouse cleaning service. Granted, Callahan's mother has always rubbed my fur the wrong way with her methods of getting her daughter to do as she wants, but I could overlook that. Unfortunately, in Homemade Sin there were a few too many things I couldn't overlook.For one thing, I can't help but compare this series to Ann Purser's Lois Meade series centered on a woman running her own house cleaning agency in small town England. Purser's series wins, hands down. It's obvious that Callahan had a career previous to House Mouse, and by the way she's always haring off to do something else, her heart isn't in her current career. On the other hand, Lois keeps a tight rein on her business, takes care of her family and solves crimes.Trocheck's series, set in Atlanta, also has a tendency to limit African American characters to the roles of domestics, gang bangers and project dwellers, which didn't set well with me.But what really got up my nose is the behavior of Callahan herself. At the very beginning of the book, there really isn't any evidence to support Callahan's belief that Patti's murder was planned. I'm sorry, but Callahan's guilt over not talking to or visiting with her cousin as often as she should have in recent years just isn't evidence to me. Our intrepid heroine then proceeds to ride rough-shod over everyone else in the family to pursue her gut feeling. She has no respect for anyone else's feelings or wishes. Then she pouts when family members give her the Silent Cold Shoulder Treatment. Gah!Yes, Callahan was proved right, but I'm still annoyed with her. Hmm... see why I have enjoyed this series? The characters can get to you! If you're in the mood for a cozy with a heroine whose heart is in the hunt and not the scrub bucket, give Kathy Hogan Trocheck's Callahan Garrity series a try. Not everyone is a curmudgeon like me!