Multimillion-dollar listings, hefty commissions, and cutthroat deals are the name of the game for Kyle Cameron, south Florida's stylish and driven star broker. But her fast-track life ends abruptly when she is fatally stabbed at an open house.
Suspicious of the cops' haste in blaming the infamous "Kondo Killer," real estate agent Darby Farr puts her sharp instincts to work. Along with a disputed listing worth a cool forty million, Kyle had a shocking secretone that could've sealed her violent fate. Suspects include Kyle's estranged suicidal husband; her ex-lover, a ruthless billionaire developer; and his resentful, politically ambitious wife. And Darby's investigating puts her at the top of the killer's hit list.
"A touch of romance, a hint of danger and a mystery that keeps you guessing spice Darby's second case."Kirkus Reviews
"Diverting...cozy fans with an interest in high-end real estate will be satisfied."Publishers Weekly
"This is a good, southern mystery! Colorful characters abound and mysteries keep you guessing!"Suspense Magazine
"Doudera has created an interesting and likeable character in Darby Farr, whom we'll surely meet again."Portland Press Herald
"Doudera masterfully uses the backdrop of high-stakes realty as a great setting for a murder mystery."Bangor Daily News
"Sexy, savvy, and entertaining."Julia Spencer-Fleming, author of One Was a Soldier
"Readers beware: though the setting is sunny, there's a twist around every corner."Hank Phillippi Ryan, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity Award-winning author
About the Author
Vicki Doudera's debut mystery A House to Die For, was selected to the Best of 2010 list in Suspense Magazine. She is the author three nonfiction books on real estate and the Darby Farr Mystery Series, starring a crime-solving real estate agent.Doudera's articles have appeared in Parenting, People, Reader’s Digest, Yankee and Down East magazines.
Doudera has been profiled on WCSH-TV’s “207,” and her writing has been favorably reviewed in prominent mystery and book industry magazines, as well as in the Bangor Daily News, Times Record, Kennebec Journal, Lincoln County News and Midcoast Beacon. She belongs to Mystery Writers of America (MWA), is on the board of Sisters in Crime, New England, and blogs regularly for Maine Crime Writers (mainecrimewriters.com).
Doudera lives with her family in Camden, Maine, where she enjoys spending time with her friends, kids and funny pets; hiking, cycling and knitting; and living in a beautiful, old house. Like her protagonist, Darby Farr,Doudera also sells real estate with a busy coastal firm.She is president of her local Habitat for Humanity chapter and is a member of the National Association of Realtors.
Read an Excerpt
KILLER LISTINGA Darby Farr Mystery
By Vicki Doudera
Midnight InkCopyright © 2011 Vicki Doudera
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDarby Farr pulled her long black hair into a quick ponytail and surveyed the map of Serenidad Key, Florida. About an hour earlier, she'd picked up a sporty black Mustang convertible at the airport, promptly setting the car's air conditioner to full blast. According to the dashboard thermometer it was ninety-five degrees Farenheit, and all Darby could think about was a tall glass of lemony iced tea. Yes, it was hot, but then it was the middle of a July afternoon and she was on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
She consulted her directions, found the street she needed and pulled back into traffic, counting two traffic lights and then turning right, toward the Gulf of Mexico. A quick left and she was on Driftwood, a street of modest homes with glimpses of blue water through the backyards. Seconds later she was parked at her destination, a trim Caribbean style home with a porch framed by two massive coconut palm trees.
The front door opened and the tanned face of Helen Near broke into a wide grin. "You made it! Come on in out of this heat. Must feel especially brutal to a Northerner!"
Darby smiled. She didn't think of herself as being from the North, although she had been raised on an island off the coast of Maine.
"I'm from southern California, remember?" She grabbed her purse and slammed the door of the Mustang. She stepped onto the porch and gave the older woman a damp hug, inhaling the faint scent of coconut. "Helen, you look terrific."
"Why thank you, sweetie. You are just as pretty as when I saw you in Maine." The two women shared a quick smile at the memory of their first meeting the month before at the memorial service for Darby's aunt. Darby had been impressed with the kindness and common sense of her aunt's business partner, this tall and sensible woman in her late sixties with short silver hair and an athlete's figure. "For goodness sakes, come on in where it's not an oven." The older woman paused and gestured toward the Mustang. "I like your fancy car. Better lock it up. This isn't Hurricane Harbor, you know."
Darby acquiesced, hearing the soft beep of the automatic key lock, and entered the cool interior, feeling her body temperature lower in relief. She looked around the sunny spaces, furnished in a relaxed cottage style, and smiled.
"What a great house." She took in the original light woodwork, the pleasing symmetrical proportions, and laid-back beach style. "I'm guessing 1850?"
"Damn close. 1845. I've researched the house's lineage to a local shipping captain who was captivated by the Bahamas. Even married a Bahamian woman, which wasn't exactly legal in those days. He bought the land in 1843 and had local craftsmen build this place from a sketch drawn on a piece of bark. It's the only Caribbean style house—well, original that is—in the county. They're quite popular on Key West where they call them 'conch' houses, but you don't usually see them on this coast." Darby nodded. "I've heard of the unique architecture on the Keys, but never seen it myself. Someday I'd love to get down there."
"Key West is quite a distance from here, but growing up in Miami I went there all the time. They've changed—well everything has—but there is still something special about those colorful little bungalows, Papa Hemingway's adventures, and that feeling of being suspended out in the ocean." She gave Darby a kind smile. "Now, didn't you tell me that you own a bungalow as well?"
"That's right. Near San Diego, a small town called Mission Beach. Why is it that those of us in real estate seem to gravitate toward smaller homes?"
"Because we know it's grand to sell big places and get big fat commission checks, but way easier to live in something small!" Helen gave a booming laugh. "What the hell am I doing, not giving you a drink? What kind of Southern hostess am I, anyway?" She beckoned to Darby. "Come and see my kitchen. If you're a small house person, you're going to love it."
Darby followed Helen through a tidy little dining room with a built-in china cabinet, catching a whiff of something citrus on the air. "Don't tell me you have grapefruit trees?"
Helen smiled. "That's right. Just as sweet as oranges, they are. Lemons, too. You help yourself, Darby. Pick 'em right off the branches. Live the real Florida life while you're here."
The kitchen was tucked in the back of the cottage. Neat little cabinets and shelves made from the same light-colored wood were a pleasing counterpoint to yellow walls and a cheerful café curtain in a vintage cherry pattern. A small collection of Fiestaware pitchers filled several shelves, looking right at home. Wide windows looked out onto a small stone patio framed by blooming bougainvilleas in the same colorful hues as the china.
"That's my oasis," said Helen, waving a tanned hand toward the patio. "When it's not so blazing hot, we'll go out there. In the meantime, something to cool you down. One of my personal favorites—a Mojito."
Darby accepted the tall glass, verdant with crushed mint, and took a sip. It was the perfect antidote for the cloying humidity: fresh, clean, and bracing, like a cool breeze.
"Lime, mint, sugar, and white rum. The secret to making a good one is all in the muddling."
"The pressing of the mint. Most people use only the leaves, but that's not how you get the best flavor." She picked up a sprig of the aromatic herb and waved it. "The stems are where all the juice is, so that's what you gently crush. The leaves need to remain untouched, as they have the oils for that wonderful aroma." She smiled. "Good rum doesn't hurt, either."
Darby took another sip. "Is this triple distilled Matusalem?"
Helen gave her an incredulous look and reached behind her for the bottle. She glanced at the label and shook her head. "You're right. How in the world did you know that?"
"It's legendary—one of the highest rated white rums around. I tasted it at the San Francisco Spirits competition a few years ago, and I believe it won several awards." She smiled at the older woman, whose look of disbelief still lingered. "Some people liken the taste of high-quality platino rums like this to Sake, but I can't quite make that comparison. I do love its crispness ... the hints of vanilla, molasses, and roasted coconut." She took another sip of the Mojito. "And you're a Miami girl. So you'd never buy rum that wasn't steeped in the Cuban tradition."
Helen's smile was wide. "You've got me there. I've always said, it's a crime to make one of Cuba's most famous drinks with just any old rum." She picked up a yellow Fiestaware pitcher and a stirrer and signaled for Darby to follow her to the living room. She placed the pitcher on a glass-topped coffee table, sat down on a rattan arm chair, and crossed her long, tan legs. She was wearing a denim skort and a sleeveless white collared shirt with a green alligator on it. Darby thought she looked as if she'd just stepped off the ninth green at the golf course.
"Whew, sure is hot." Helen glanced at her watch, a no-nonsense analog with a tan leather wristband. "My new business partner is coming over any minute now, and before she arrives, I want you to know how much I appreciate your coming down to help me make this transition."
"I'm happy to do it," Darby said. She sipped her Mojito and gave Helen Near a grin. "Don't forget that you're helping me as well by finding someone to buy out my aunt's share. I've got my hands full with my clients in California, and with Jane's death I have her business in Hurricane Harbor, too. I'm sure Serenidad Key is a great place to sell homes, but I can't handle another location."
"I'm not so sure about that," Helen said. "Seeing you in action in Maine, I think you could sell a house just about anywhere." She uncrossed her legs and leaned closer to Darby. "You know, when your aunt and I started Near & Farr Realty, we were the first women business owners on the Key."
"There were husband and wife, mom-and-pop type businesses, and one widow who managed a grocery store owned by her son, but we were the first women to run our own show." She smoothed the front of her skort. "It wasn't always easy, and we ran up against some pretty tough criticism. Rumors circulated about our sexuality, that kind of thing. That probably hurt the most."
Darby glanced at Helen, but the older woman was looking down and did not see her face.
"But Jane was always a rock. 'Don't let them get you down,' she used to say. 'They can't stand that you just closed a deal, that's all!'" Helen's eyes flashed with excitement. "She was right, Darby. Real estate was one of the few professions where women could get equal pay for equal work. A commission's a commission, no matter who earns it. Of course, we lost out on some listings because we were gals, but we got some because of it, too." She chuckled. "We had a damn good time."
"Until my aunt had to leave ..."
Helen nodded slowly. "I'll never forget the day Jane called and said your parents were missing at sea. She sounded so—well, I'd never heard her like that. Bewildered, like all the air was knocked right out of her. She adored your father, and couldn't believe he was gone." She took a long gulp of her Mojito and surveyed the slim Asian beauty before her. "She did the right thing, your aunt. Moving up there to be with you, starting an office on Hurricane Harbor—she did what she needed to do, and I know that she never looked back." She raised her well-shaped eyebrows. "She was very proud of you, Darby. She may not have said it to you, but she told me so—many times, in fact."
Darby met Helen's gaze. "Thanks." Her feelings for her Aunt Jane were still complicated, even after her passing, but Darby appreciated Helen's kind words. "Now why don't you tell me about this new business partner of yours?"
Helen nodded and glanced at her watch. "She must be running a little late—which is unusual." She thought a moment, seeming to choose her words with care. "Kyle's in her early forties, good looking, and a very sharp agent. She's worked with Barnaby's International Realty at their Sarasota office for five or so years now, and is easily their top producer each year. She's brokered deals in the multimillions up and down both coasts of Florida, and has a star-studded clientele that includes all the big movers and shakers in this state, as well as names you'd recognize from overseas." She paused a moment. "Kyle reminds me of Jane back in our early days. She's an unbelievable go-getter, very driven, a real force to be reckoned with. She's also totally scrupulous."
There goes the comparison with Jane Farr, thought Darby. At least in her real estate dealings in Maine, Jane had been known to bend a rule or two. Or three.
Darby took a sip of her Mojito, savoring the clean, pungent taste. Once upon a time, Helen Near and Jane Farr had run successful businesses both in Florida and Maine, but neither had been the kind of star performer Helen was now describing. Near & Farr Realty was a small operation, with one or two brokers and one support person—if that. Barnaby's International Realty, on the other hand, was a world-wide franchise, each office outselling and outperforming hundreds of small brokerages. Comparing Near & Farr with Barnaby's was like comparing a chickadee and an eagle. Both were birds, but one twittered from branch to branch, while the other devoured small mammals in a single gulp.
Darby swirled the mint in her glass before bringing it to her lips for a final sip. She didn't ask the obvious question: why in the world would someone like Kyle Cameron want to work with Helen Near?
The older woman wagged a finger at Darby. "I know what you're thinking, and believe me, I wondered myself. And then I flat out asked Kyle whether she was thinking straight, wanting to leave Barnaby's behind."
"What did she say?"
"She gave me a little smile and said that she had other plans for herself, plans that wouldn't mesh with her position at Barnaby's. I didn't push her on it, because I didn't think it was my business."
"Maybe she'll tell us today," said Darby. She rose to her feet and asked Helen for the location of her powder room.
"Little door to the left just before the kitchen."
Darby walked through the dining room to the bathroom, thinking about Helen's decision to make Kyle Cameron her business partner. Whether Kyle was uber-driven or laid back, a millionaire or middle class, didn't matter to Darby, as long as she treated Helen with honesty and respect. Still, her decision to leave the fast track was curious, and Darby knew she'd need to ask Kyle for an explanation.
Helen's powder room was clean and spare, painted a light, turquoise blue reminiscent of the Caribbean. Darby checked her appearance in the bamboo-framed mirror, releasing her ponytail and freeing her silky black hair. A smooth oval face, with almond-shaped eyes the color of cappuccino, gazed back at her. Her mother's face, the Japanese features softened and rounded by her Caucasian father's genes, the eyes framed by the same thick black lashes she recalled rimming his blue eyes. She was a mixture of their heritages, a true American mutt.
Darby washed her hands and used some of Helen's coconut-scented lotion. Off in the distance a phone rang and Darby heard Helen say hello.
She switched off the bathroom light and went back to the living room. Helen was standing at the window, her back to Darby, her tall body rigid and still.
"Helen?" Darby sensed something strange with the woman's stiff posture. She reached out and touched her on the shoulder. "Anything wrong?"
The older woman turned slowly, a look of horror etched on her tanned face. "That call was from my friend Mitzi. She told me the most awful news ..." She swallowed, attempting to regain her composure. "She told me that Kyle—Kyle Cameron—is dead."
Excerpted from KILLER LISTING by Vicki Doudera Copyright © 2011 by Vicki Doudera. Excerpted by permission of Midnight Ink. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Kyle Cameron has it all, or at least that is how it seems to most people. She sells real estate and is great at it, she is buying into a smaller business, but bringing along some big clients, she is in good shape, but none of that stopped her from being the victim of a murderer. Darby has come to Florida to sell her portion of Near and Farr Realty, but all that falls through when Kyle is murdered at an open house. Detective Biggs is quick to blame Kyle's murder on the "Kondo Killer", but Darby isn't so sure. Darby realizes there is a long list of people who may have wanted Kyle out of the picture. These people include her suicidal husband, her ex-lover, a millionaire and her ex-lover's wife. She just can't resist doing a little investigation of her own, but doing that may be the last thing she does! Darby has some personal issues along the way, including missing her job in California, her very able assistant needing monetary help and taking in all the southern manners and hospitality! All this doesn't distract her or the murderer from Darby's investigation. This is a good, southern mystery! Colorful characters abound and mysteries keep you guessing! Reviewed by Ashley Wintters for Suspense Magazine
Kyle Cameron has it all, or at least that is how it seems to most people. She sells real estate and is great at it, she is buying into a smaller business, but bringing along some big clients, she is in good shape, but none of that stopped her from being the victim of a murderer. Darby has come to Florida to sell her portion of Near and Farr Realty, but all that falls through when Kyle is murdered at an open house.Detective Biggs is quick to blame Kyle¿s murder on the ¿Kondo Killer¿, but Darby isn¿t so sure. Darby realizes there is a long list of people who may have wanted Kyle out of the picture. These people include her suicidal husband, her ex-lover, a millionaire and her ex-lover¿s wife. She just can¿t resist doing a little investigation of her own, but doing that may be the last thing she does!Darby has some personal issues along the way, including missing her job in California, her very able assistant needing monetary help and taking in all the southern manners and hospitality! All this doesn¿t distract her or the murderer from Darby¿s investigation.This is a good, southern mystery! Colorful characters abound and mysteries keep you guessing!Reviewed by Ashley Wintters for Suspense Magazine