As her big 3-0 approaches, Josie Toadfern's life seems more or less wrinkle-free. Since the laundromat owner, stain removal expert, and confirmed snoop's local stain-busting column went regional, she's become a true small-town celeb. And now she's been asked to give a speech in honor of her deceased junior high school teacher, Mrs. Oglevee—even though Josie remembers finding herself in hot water with the dour disciplinarian on numerous occasions.
But then the late educator's alleged long-lost daughter hands her a note claiming that Mrs. O was murdered. Suddenly more than unpleasant middle school memories keep Josie up nights, as her unauthorized investigation begins turning up some very interesting dirt. Mrs. O, apparently, was more than just a tight-lipped prude who ruled detention with an iron fist. And when an Oglevee relative ends up dead, Josie realizes she'll have to air all of the family's dirty laundry . . . or she'll be spending her thirtieth birthday removing bloodstains.
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
Murder UnfoldsA Stain-busting Mystery
By Sharon Short
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Sharon Short
All right reserved.
"We're gonna die," Cherry Feinster said, although her words didn't come out that smoothly. Her teeth were chattering, which was no surprise since we were on a small, leaking house-boat on Lake Erie. At about two-thirty a.m. On New Year's Day.
"You want your last words to be a statement of the obvious?" Sally Toadfern said, also stuttering. If we'd known we were going to be kidnapped and then forced aboard a boat on a stormy winter night, I'm sure we'd have all bundled up in extra scarves and gloves.
Cherry and Sally had every reason to think we were doomed to young deaths, either due to hypothermia if we managed to stay on the boat, or from drowning when the ice storm pitched our boat over and then tossed us into the freezing—and in some parts frozen—Lake Erie.
And it wasn't as if anyone would come along and find us, even after the ice storm blew over. Fishing charters and ferries stop running on Lake Erie in late November, and they don't start up again until March.
By then, we'd be walleye bait at the bottom of the lake.
Except, I wasn't about to let that happen. I'm Josie Toadfern, owner of Toadfern's Laundromat and the best stain-removal expert in Paradise, Ohio. Or in Mason County. Maybe even inall of . . .
We hit something hard. Ice chunk? Pier? Land? In the dark, it was impossible to tell.
Sally, my cousin and one of my two best friends—the other being Cherry, who was now crying and hiccupping—started humming the "My Heart Will Go On" theme song from the movie, Titanic.
"Stop that," I chattered. Sally and Cherry were tied to each other, back to back, ankles bound. They'd been kidnapped first.
I'd been kidnapped second.
I was bound at my ankles and wrists, my wrists in front of me, which gave me a little hope, because if I could get to something sharp, I'd have an easier time cutting through the rope tying my wrists.
I also felt a bit of hope because I wasn't bound to anything, although Sally and Cherry were tied to the anchored legs of the dinette table. I'd been brought onboard last, and there hadn't been anything to quickly bind me to. So our captor had just whacked me in the head, knocking me out for the second time that night.
When I'd finally come to, I'd tried chewing on the rope around my wrists. Two gnaws told me that was going to be impossible. So I started to butt-scoot toward the tackle box I knew was just outside the cabin. Butt-scooting was a painfully slow inch-by-inch process, given the cold, the listing of the boat, and the fact I was bound.
Still, my plan was get to the box, pray that it wasn't locked, that I could open it, and then find something sharp like a fishing knife that I could use to cut my bindings, and then free Cherry and Sally.
I hadn't thought beyond that, but I was lucky to have come up with any plan at all, given our situation: the leaking boat, the icy water, and Sally's persistent humming/chattering of the Titanic theme song.
At least our captors had left our mouths uncovered, since our screams wouldn't get the attention of anything other than a few frigid walleye, trout, and salmon, so we could talk. Of course, I'd hoped our talk would be about getting out of our predicament.
But Sally was intent on trying to use humor to lighten our last minutes on earth. Well, on lake.
"Sorry," she said. "Since you don't like Celine Dion, how about the old Gordon Lightfoot tune about the Edmund Fit-fit-fitzgerald—"
"Th-that freighter went down on L-lake Superior," I said, surprising myself with the recollection.
"Then how about the th-theme from G-G-Gilligan's Island," Cherry stuttered. "At least they ended up on a w-w-arm island."
We'd been left without any light, and since it was the middle of the night and there was an ice storm, we didn't even have a glow of moonlight.
Thud. This time, I went skidding across the floor. I used the momentum to butt-scoot even faster, and finally hit the edge of the cabin door with my leg. Eager now, I scooted my way out. As soon as I was outside the cabin, icy rain lashed my face.
I slowed, hoping to find the tackle box with my legs or arms, before going over the edge of the boat.
Finally, I bumped into the box. I struggled, but soon used my bound hands to lever the lid open.
With my teeth, I pulled the glove off my right hand. I knew I'd risk cutting myself, feeling around for a knife that way, but I also knew it would be harder to find with a gloved hand.
Carefully, I pushed my hands into the top of the box, feeling around and drawing back when at last something sharp stabbed into the side of my hand.
But the pain was wonderful because it meant I'd found the knife! I yelped with joy. I turned my hands so that the rope on the top of my right wrist was against the sharp edge. It was more awkward than trying to cut the rope straight on, but I didn't want to risk a sudden lurch sending the sharp edge between the insides of my wrists.
The rope suddenly gave way. Freedom! But then, the boat lurched again, and I didn't pull back in time. The knife jabbed into the top of my right wrist. I pulled away, gasping in pain. But I grabbed the knife with my right hand. I knew I needed to use the knife to cut Cherry's and Sally's bindings.
"Josie! What's happening?" Cherry cried, from inside the cabin.
"I . . . I think I'm bleeding . . ." I called back.
Excerpted from Murder Unfolds by Sharon Short Copyright © 2007 by Sharon Short. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Did Pearl Oglevee die of a heart attack or was she murdered? That¿s what she wants to know. She goes to Josie Toadfern for the answers. Approaching her thirtieth birthday is no party for Josie even though her stain-removal column is growing in popularity her Laundromat is bustling she has two men vying for her attention and her apartment is getting a new look. Yet, she is plagued by nautical visits from the most disliked junior high teacher in Paradise, Ohio. Mrs. Oglevee appears in her dreams, nagging her with advise and criticizing her life style. Josie agrees to a deal she will find out how her grumpy teacher died and Pearl Oglevee will agree to leave her alone forevermore. It might be a good birthday after all. When Josie starts sorting through the dirty laundry, she¿s attacked, a relative of Pearl¿s is killed, Josie and her friends are kidnapped and left to die. It is truly a birthday she will never forget¿if she lives. No way will you put this book down without getting all the answers. This is the first Stain-Busting Mystery I¿ve read, it won¿t be the last. Thank you, Sharon Short, for Josie Toadfern, Pearl Oglevee, and this very entertaining series. Review by Wanda C. Keesey
Josie Toadfern, local stain removal expert and laundromat owner, has been asked to give a speech honoring Mrs. Oglevee, her deceased junior high school teacher. When Mrs. Oglevee was alive, Josie was often in hot water with her. She has a lot of trouble finding much of interest to talk about. When Mrs. Oglevee's long lost daughter gives Josie a note that Mrs. Oglevee was murdered, Josie beings to investigate further. She and her friends turn up some interesting and unknown facts about her. All Josie ever knew her as was a grumpy teacher. Seems there was more to her than that. To complicate Josie's life further, she's turning 30 and has two men vying for her affections. When Josie is attacked and one of Mrs. Oglevee's relatives killed, Josie knows she's getting close. Can she find the killer without anyone else being killed, especially her? I really enjoy this series. Josie is such a fun person. I want to go hang out in her laundromat! I love her friends and the men in her life. They all work so well together. The author has created a great small town in Ohio for the setting. It's a place I'd love to visit. This latest installment was very enjoyable and a quick read. I liked that it was set away from home. It changed the dynamics, but in a good way. I can't wait to read the next one! I highly recommend it and the whole series.