One of the mainstays of Prescott's Antiques and Appraisals has always been the cheerful and helpful assistant, Gretchen, who turned up unexpectedly just as Josie was setting up shop in New Hampshire. Gretchen has always been so dependable that it seems odd when she doesn't show up for work one day. Surprise soon turns to alarm when a dead body is found in Gretchen's house, with Gretchen the prime suspect.
How much does Josie know about Gretchen, anyway? Enough to believe she isn't capable of murder, so Josie, with a crack team of antiques appraisers at her side, sets out to find the real killer and bring Gretchen home safely, no matter the cost.
About the Author
JANE K. CLELAND once owned a New Hampshire-based antiques and rare books business, and now lives in New York City with her husband. Her first novel, Consigned to Death, is an Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller and was nominated for the Macavity, Agatha, and David book awards. Her second, Deadly Appraisal, won the David Award for Best Novel 2007. She is the past president of the New York chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and chair of the Wolfe Pack's literary awards.
JANE K. CLELAND once owned a New Hampshire-based antiques and rare books business. She is the author of several previous Josie Prescott Antiques mysteries, is the winner of two David Awards for Best Novel, and has been a finalist for the Macavity and Anthony Awards. Jane is the former president of the New York chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and chairs the Wolfe Pack’s Black Orchid Novella Award. She won the Agatha Award for her book Mastering Suspense, Structure and Plot. She is part of the English faculty at Lehman College and lives in New York City.
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By Jane K. Cleland
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 Jane K. Cleland
All rights reserved.
I glanced at the Mickey Mouse clock on Gretchen's desk. It was nine thirty in the morning, a half hour after Prescott's: Antiques and Auctions' regular start time, and my assistant wasn't there. Gretchen, who was supposed to be back to work yesterday after a two-week Hawaiian vacation, and who, in four years, had never once been tardy, hadn't shown up or even called. I was worried sick.
I thought again of the man, the stranger, who'd been trying to reach her. He'd called frequently while she was out of town, wouldn't leave a message, and had seemed increasingly frustrated that we wouldn't reveal details of her schedule. It was company policy that we never gave out specific information about anyone on staff, but he took it as a personal affront.
"Has anyone spoken to that guy lately?" I asked. "You know, the one calling for Gretchen?"
"I did. Tuesday," Fred said, pushing up his square, black-framed glasses. Fred was an antiques appraiser who'd joined my firm a couple of years back, moving from New York City to New Hampshire. He was a terrific find — he had a keen eye and an educated sensibility.
"How did he sound?" I asked.
"Pissed off. He got sarcastic when I told him she wasn't available and offered to take a message. He asked if we kept her chained in the back."
"Wow. That's pretty intense."
Yesterday, I'd managed to contain my anxiety enough to limit myself to one cheerfully worded, "Welcome home, are you okay?" voice mail message. Today, I needed to do something else, something more, but I didn't know what, and then I thought of Gretchen's friend Mandy Tollerson.
I'd first met Mandy about four months ago when Gretchen had solicited my help on her behalf. According to Gretchen, Mandy's boyfriend, Vince Collins, was a complete creep, and she was encouraging Mandy to break away. When Mandy had confided to Gretchen that she dreamed of starting her own business, an art gallery, Gretchen had brought her to me, hoping that I'd fire her up to act, and that somehow being independent in business would make her independent in her romantic relationship, too. Since then, Mandy had stopped by every few weeks with some business questions. Last week, she'd asked about tracking sales and expenses, and I'd taught her how to calculate break-even.
I dialed her home phone number. A machine picked up after four rings. "Hi, Mandy. It's Josie. Josie Prescott. Would you give me a call, please?" I asked, adding my phone number. It was too early to call her at her job — she was an assistant manager at the Bow Street Emporium, a high-end gift shop in Portsmouth — and I didn't have her cell phone number. A dead end.
I turned to Sasha, my chief appraiser. "If you wanted to call someone who knows Gretchen, to see if they've heard from her, who would it be?"
She tilted her head as she considered my question, her intelligence apparent in her thoughtful expression. Her fine, shoulder-length brown hair hung straight to her shoulders. "She mentioned that a friend was watering her plants while she was gone, but I don't know who."
I asked the same question of Fred and Eric, my back room supervisor, and got the same answer. I wasn't surprised. None of us knew much about Gretchen. From the day she'd showed up on my doorstep, promising to work hard and help my business grow, until the day she'd left for vacation, she'd shared almost nothing about herself. Not long after she started, Sasha had asked her if she was traveling over the holidays to visit family, and she'd given a vague, peppy response. "Home is where the heart is," she'd said.
I didn't even know if Gretchen had family. She was inexorably cheerful, physically beautiful, and quick to learn and adapt. She loved celebrity gossip, but about herself she was relentlessly private. I had no idea where she came from or what she did in her free time.
Trying to figure out what to do, I unlocked the file cabinet where I stored employee personnel files. On Gretchen's, the line for an emergency contact was blank. I'd never noticed that before. I located her condo contact information and called the property manager. Meryl, an associate in the office, listened to my explanation, then put me on hold while she asked for and received permission from her boss to allow me to enter Gretchen's unit. She agreed to meet me there right away with the key.
I told Sasha where I was going.
"Please call as soon as you know something," she requested.
I said I would, and as I spoke, I saw my apprehension reflected in her eyes. We shared the unspoken fear that something was very, very wrong.
I beat Meryl to the Pond View condo complex, where Gretchen owned unit eight, and while I waited for her to arrive, I knocked on Gretchen's door. Nothing. From my perch on the second-floor balcony, I noticed three cars in the lot, not counting mine, and Gretchen's wasn't one of them. An old Chevy with Tennessee plates was parked closest to Gretchen's front door. A Ford SUV and a Toyota sat on the other side of the lot.
A steady stream of traffic noise rose from the street. I heard a complaining caw, caw from the pond barely visible through a passageway between two buildings. A red minivan turned into the parking lot, parking near the Chevy.
A stocky woman of about forty stepped out of the van. She brushed unruly auburn hair out of her eyes as she scanned the area.
"Meryl?" I called.
"Josie?" she asked, squinting into the sun.
She saw me waving. "Have you knocked?" she asked when she joined me.
"Yeah. A couple of times."
"Just in case," she said. She banged the clapper, stared at the ground for a count of fifteen, then clapped again. After another ten seconds' wait, she looked up.
I met her anxious gaze and shrugged. "Let's do it," I said.
Meryl opened the door and shouted Gretchen's name before crossing the threshold. There was no reply. We walked inside. The apartment felt very still. Something smelled bad, like rotten eggs, except worse. I heard a hum — a low-pitched, soft, machine sound. The refrigerator, I thought, glancing into the empty kitchen. Shoulder to shoulder, Meryl and I edged down a short carpeted hall. Meryl stepped into the living area, stopped short, and screamed.
At the sound, my heart began to race, and my mouth went arid.
She turned to me, her eyes wide open, shocked, and then she crossed herself.
My stomach leapt into my throat, then plummeted. I stepped around her to gain a better view. Sprawled on the sofa was a man — dead — shot.CHAPTER 2
The dead man was a stranger. He was in his early thirties and lean; picturing what his lifeless features might look like if he were alive, I imagined that he would have been handsome. Except for the angry slash of red on his forehead, just over his right eye. I covered my nose with my hand and breathed through my mouth. The stench was foul.
He was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, the uniform of a working New Hampshire man. His skin was parchment white. There was a hole in the right side of his chest the size of an egg. Black singeing suggested that he'd been shot from close range, and the disgusting odor and black-purple stain of dried blood made me guess that his murder wasn't recent. His belt buckle was intricately designed. It showed an old Native American man in profile wearing a feathered headdress. There was no blood splatter, no disarray, no bullet holes in the walls or ceiling, nothing to suggest that there'd been a struggle. I didn't see a gun.
"Do you know him?" I asked.
"No," Meryl managed, and then she began to cry, covering her face with her hands.
Cope first, Josie — fall apart later, I told myself. I patted Meryl's shoulder. "We need to call the police," I said softly, finding my phone in my oversized tote bag and dialing 911.
As I talked to the emergency operator, Meryl began to back away. Rivulets of mascara-stained tears striped her cheeks.
I hung up and clutched my phone to my chest.
Gretchen, I thought, where are you? I glanced toward a door off to the left — to her bedroom, I guessed. Was she in there, hurt — or worse? I looked back at the corpse. "I want to see if Gretchen is here," I told Meryl.
"I can't," she whispered.
I could see in her eyes that she wanted to stay to help almost as much as she wanted to be gone. She was trembling, and her skin was too pale. I thought she might get sick.
"It's okay," I assured her. "Go and wait in your car. The police will be here in a sec."
She nodded, her lips quivering, and fled.
As soon as she left, I walked slowly through the rest of the apartment. I wasn't afraid, not really, but whatever small concern I felt faded to nothing in the face of my serious worry about Gretchen's well-being. I gingerly opened closet doors, held my breath as I slid open the shower curtain to peer into the tub, and knelt on the gray carpet to look under the bed. Gretchen wasn't anywhere.
The apartment was spotless, the bed neatly made, the fireplace swept, the counters bare. A flashing red "5" on the answering machine told me that I wasn't the only one to have called during her absence. Back in the entryway, I saw something I'd missed before — a crumpled checked baggage tag bearing the letters BOS lay against the baseboard. Gretchen had arrived home from her vacation.
Did Gretchen find the body? Or, I wondered, swallowing hard, did she kill him? I shook my head. Impossible!
As I stood in the carpeted hallway looking at nothing, other questions came to me. Had Gretchen known the man and welcomed him into her home? Or was he a stranger she had surprised in the middle of a break-in? I went to the front door and examined it; there was no sign of forced entry.
"Where are you, Gretchen?" I said aloud, adding in a whisper, "Are you okay?"
I'd never been to Gretchen's apartment before, and, looking around, I was impressed. Half a dozen fruit plates hung over the dining area table. An unusual light fixture in the hall, probably an antique, certainly hand-painted, showed a field lush with yellow and red tulips and a windmill in the background. An architectural pedestal stood in the corner. I approached it and noted that a faint circle in the center was less dusty than the rest of the top. What had stood there? A sculpture mounted on a round base? A vase? A ewer?
I heard a thump, and my heart stopped, then began to pound. Heavy footsteps were approaching the front door. It was Officer Griffin. He stepped into the apartment. I'd known Griff for years, from back when Ty, my boyfriend, had been the Rocky Point police chief.
"You okay?" he asked.
"Yeah. Sort of."
"You don't live here, do you?"
"No. It's Gretchen's apartment. Gretchen Brock, my assistant."
He nodded. "Where's the body?"
I pointed, and as he started toward the living room, he told me, "Wait by the door."
Moments later I heard him speaking to someone, confirming my report of the murder.
"You know him?" he asked as he rejoined me in the hall.
"No. I've never seen him before."
"Did you touch anything?"
I thought back. "Yes. Some things — the shower curtain, some door handles ... I don't know what else."
He nodded and told me to wait again while he returned to the living room. I stood without moving until the recently promoted Detective Claire Brownley arrived about ten minutes later. She opened the door, and Griff stepped into view to greet her.
Detective Brownley had creamy white skin, celadon blue eyes, and thick black hair that fell in soft waves to her shoulders. She wore a burgundy pantsuit with a white blouse and low-heeled pumps. "What do you know about the situation?" she asked.
"Gretchen didn't come to work after her vacation. She's organized and thoughtful — she'd never get the dates wrong, and she'd never just not show up. I've been calling since yesterday. I left a message. I knew something was wrong. I just knew it." I took a deep breath and looked at her straight on. "I didn't know what else to do, so I called the property manager." I glanced around the apartment, then looked at her again. "What in God's name happened here?"CHAPTER 3
Griff escorted me to the parking lot and handed me over to a young woman in uniform. She was tall and thin, with Scandinavian-pale skin and hair. She wore no makeup. Her badge said she was Officer F. Meade. Meryl sat on the backseat of the patrol car, her feet on the asphalt. Two men in plainclothes arrived carrying large black cases. I guessed they were crime scene technicians.
No one spoke. The sun was bright and warm, and I felt myself relax, just a little.
A gray Volvo station wagon pulled into the lot, slowing to a stop as the driver, an older woman with salt-and-pepper hair and pink glasses, gazed in our direction. She parked and hurried over.
"That's Gretchen's apartment," she said, pointing to the door the technicians had just entered. "Is she all right?"
"Could I get your name and contact information, please?" Officer Meade asked, ignoring her question.
I recalled what a local reporter, Wes Smith, once told me. The best way to avoid answering an unwanted question, he said, was to pose one of your own. Without hesitation, the woman told Officer Meade that her name was Fern Adams.
I listened in as Mrs. Adams gave the officer her home and office phone numbers, then pointed to the Chevy. "Is that car involved somehow?"
"Why would you ask that?"
"When I came home for lunch yesterday, that car was here. With a man in it. The engine was running." She shrugged. "I'd never seen it before."
"Can you describe him?" Officer Meade asked, flipping to a new page in her notebook.
"Thirty, maybe. Not much older than that. He had a deep tan, like he worked outdoors. Dark brown hair cut very short." She paused, concentrating, then shrugged. "I just saw him for a few seconds as I drove past."
Mrs. Adams was describing the dead man. Meryl, still seated in the police car, met my eyes. She looked frightened.
"When you left after lunch, was he still here?" Officer Meade asked.
"The car was here, but the man was gone."
"What time was that?"
"Just before one."
"Thank you. If you'd wait just a minute," Officer Meade said, "I'd appreciate it."
She walked around the car and spoke into a microphone pinned to her collar. I couldn't hear what she said.
"Can you tell me what happened?" Mrs. Adams asked me in a nearwhisper.
"A man is dead." I fought a sudden, unexpected urge to cry and paused to regain some measure of composure. "In Gretchen's apartment."
"Oh, my," she murmured. "Was it him? The man in the Chevy?"
I shrugged. "From your description, it sounds like it."
Detective Brownley clambered down the steps. Officer Meade joined her, and they talked, their heads together, for several minutes.
A small gray bird with blue-tipped feathers circled the pond, its wings on high, then glided out of sight below the roofline. "How well did you know Gretchen?" I asked.
"Enough to chat with her about the weather and the fox I saw on the property, that sort of thing," Mrs. Adams said. "Gretchen's always got a smile and a kind word. Once when I had the flu, she brought me a bag of groceries. She didn't ask, she just did it. So sweet."
Detective Brownley joined us. She glanced down at Meryl, still sitting hunched over, then turned back to Fern Adams. "I'm Detective Brownley, in charge of the investigation," she said. "Thanks for coming forward. You said that when you arrived home for lunch you saw the Chevy with the man sitting in it. Did you recognize him?"
"No." She shook her head. "I'd never seen him before."
"How about his car? Was it familiar?"
"How about Gretchen's car? Was it here, too?"
"No. I looked for it, but then I remembered it's in the shop for a tuneup."
"What? It's in the shop?" Detective Brownley asked.
Excerpted from Killer Keepsakes by Jane K. Cleland. Copyright © 2009 Jane K. Cleland. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
Publishers Weekly "Cleland's fun, fast-paced story has realistic characters, an original plot and a solidly constructed mystery. She provides an intriguing glimpse into the world of antiques and collectibles."
RT Book Reviews "Fans of intelligent traditional mysteries who also also enjoy Antiques Roadshow will appreciate."
Library Journal "Another agreeable cozy studded with appraisals and antiques lore."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Josie Prescott hired Gretchen to be the assistant at Prescott's Antiques and Appraisals some time ago. When Gretchen doesn't show up for work one day, Josie becomes concerned. When a dead man is found in Gretchen's house, Gretchen becomes the prime suspect. Josie is certain Gretchen isn't a killer. But as she begins to investigate, she realizes she doesn't know much about Gretchen and even less about Gretchen's past. She is more determined than ever to find Gretchen and help prove her innocence. Some of the information she turns up does make her begin to question where Gretchen could really be the killer. I love the characters and settings of these books. Josie and all the people working with her are such a great group. The plots are so well-written. The characters are three-dimensional and I often forget this is fiction. I am not a big fan of antiques, but I learn a lot from each book in this series. And I love the New Hampshire setting. While Josie often gets herself into some jams, she is a very smart woman and always finds a way to get out of these tight spots. I highly recommend this series and book.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire antiques dealer Josie Prescott becomes concerned when her always responsible assistant Gretchen Brock fails to come to work two days in a row and does not call. This is so out of character for the reliable Gretchen, an extremely concerned Josie goes to her assistant's apartment to see if she is all right. Instead of finding Gretchen, Josie finds the corpse of an unknown thirty something bloodied male lying on the sofa. Josie believes Gretchen is innocent of at least the homicide though she wonders about a missing valuable vase no longer in the apartment; but also realizes she knows very little about her assistant who has worked for her for four years. The police consider the vanished woman as the prime suspect in the murder. Adding to the mystery is Josie's two friends deny knowing where she is or much about her past and the missing Meissen vase appears in the shop's safe. Finally reporter Wes Smith claims Gretchen obtained her current Social Security number four years ago. As she traces the vase back to a Denver homicide and robbery, Josie realizes who the victim was, how that person was related to Gretchen, and who her assistant was prior to her hiring her. However, if Gretchen did not commit the homicide who did remains out of Josie's reach. The latest Josie Prescott Antiques mystery (see ANTIQUES TO DIE FOR and DEADLY APPRAISAL) is a superb amateur sleuth invigorated by who is the focus of the heroine's inquiry. As always readers obtain an interesting look at antiques interwoven into the exciting story line. Josie is at her best as she believes deep in her soul that Gretchen is no killer, but the evidence is damning. As Josie connects the dots between the Meissen murder and the current homicide, readers will enjoy a strong brisk New England cozy. Harriet Klausner
Gomez 1 Emanuel Gomez Mrs. Lamas English I – T/Th 8th 15 May 2018 Killer Keepsakes Killer Keepsakes is a fictional book that’s part of the series Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery. It’s written by Jane Cleland and published by St. Martins Publishing Group. Other books Jane Cleland has published are: “Antiques to die for”, “Consigned to Death” and “Deadly appraisals”. The book is based on, Josie Prescott, the owner of an antiques store in New Hampshire. The story unfolds when her assistant, Gretchen, goes missing. After not going to work for a week Josie becomes suspicious, and after calling Gretchen multiple times she decides to act. She visits Gretchen’s household and after opening the door and scanning the house she finds something…. a dead body. With the dead man’s prints unrecognizable, it leaves questions. Who is the dead man? Why are there no prints at the scene? Most importantly, where’s Gretchen? It’s written in the first-person point of view. The pace of the book can be explained as fast paced or very rapid. The main antagonist is the character: Peter Boulanger (AKA Chip Davidson), throughout the story and he seeks to find and kill Gretchen because of something that happened. The protagonist is: Josie Prescott, throughout the story she dedicates herself to finding and caring for Gretchen. She plays a strong central role in the novel, and I’m glad she does. The major conflict would be finding Gretchen after she disappears (That conflict lasts around 41 chapters). My favorite character was Josie Prescott because she’s smart, caring and determined. I don’t think I would change anything in the novel, I just don’t see a reason to and honestly it was written well. I’m glad that this book can be part of a series whilst also being a standalone book. Overall, I really enjoyed the novel and I would honestly recommend it to anyone who loves a good mystery book. This book is a real nail biter and I’m glad I read it. I would honestly give it five stars because of how good it is. At first I was skeptical, but in the end I’m glad I read it.