The Case of the Invisible Dog: A Shirley Homes Mystery

The Case of the Invisible Dog: A Shirley Homes Mystery

by Diane Stingley

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101884553
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/19/2015
Series: Shirley Homes , #1
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 385
Sales rank: 468,888
File size: 906 KB

About the Author

Diane Stingley is the author of Dress You Up in My Love and I’m With Cupid. She was also a columnist for The Charlotte Observer and received e-mails from around the country in response to her columns. She currently resides in North Carolina and is hard at work on the next Shirley Homes mystery.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

How did I end up working for Shirley Homes? One word: desperation.

Things didn’t work out with Wayne. He’d seemed so normal when we met—a regular, simple guy. I thought he was my chance to get out of my cousin Anna’s house and try on a regular, simple life. To see if I could make it work; see if I could fit in. Wayne had a good job with a cable company, upgrading systems for new dish receivers. Made a decent salary. Had a nice truck. At least I think it was nice. It was big and shiny and had a lot of legroom.
Wayne had health insurance and a cozy little house in Archerville out by Lake Gregory. Compared to the guys I had once dated in L.A., he was definitely a step down. But compared to the guys I had hooked up with since I came back to Springville, North Carolina, Wayne was a huge step up.

I wasn’t looking for true love. I didn’t want to invest my heart and soul. Been there; done that; lost just about everything. This time around I would settle for simple companionship and it would be fine. Just fine.

Phil McGuire: Where did you and Wayne meet?

Me: In a bar. Hey, don’t give me that look. (Phil denies having given me a look; but I saw it very clearly.) You and Anna both kept telling me I needed to start getting out more. I went out more.

Phil McGuire: How long have you known him?

Me: Four or five weeks.

Phil McGuire: Do you think moving in together so soon is a good idea? Isn’t that what you did with Mark?

(I have mentioned to Phil several times that I believe we have thoroughly exhausted the subject of Mark. But he continues to bring him up.)

Me: I know that’s what I did with Mark, but the situation with Wayne is totally different.

Phil McGuire: Situation?

Me: I mean relationship.

Phil McGuire: In what way is it different?

I explained that this relationship wasn’t based on passion that would fade, but on shared interests. (Not a total lie; we were both carbon-based life forms, weren’t we?) It was steady and reliable, not like the volatile relationship I’d had with Mark. I listed all of Wayne’s great qualities, such as being straight, unmarried, not in prison, and holding down a steady job. He has good teeth, too, although I didn’t mention that, and a top-of-the-line barbecue grill on his back deck.

Me: And he can actually watch Bridesmaids without whining. He even laughed at some of the funny parts.
But then Wayne and I moved in together, and we never watched Bridesmaids together again. I moved in on a Saturday, and that night we watched the first three Fast and Furious movies. Or at least Wayne did. I started dozing off by the end of the second one. The weekend after, he wanted to watch the next two after grilling some steaks for dinner. I suggested a reasonable compromise: one Fast and Furious and then one movie picked by me. He agreed. I planned on finding something I thought we could both enjoy, like Ocean’s Eleven or Gravity (if you’re noting a common theme in those two possibilities—the presence of George Clooney—you would be right on the money). But as soon as it was time for me to pick the movie Wayne hooked up his Xbox, put in his earbuds, and sat playing video games for the rest of the night.

Now, here’s the sad part: I really didn’t mind. Just like I didn’t mind that all Wayne did was work, take care of the yard, go out for beers with some of his work buddies a couple nights a week, watch action movies, and play video games. We hardly ever talked, and we never went out. And I didn’t mind.

Unfortunately, Wayne believed there was one certain exact way of doing every single thing. I mean every single thing. He was always correcting me. How to load the dishwasher. How to unload the dishwasher. How to fold the laundry. What time to turn on the porch light. When the kitchen wastebasket needed to be emptied; and not a minute sooner, or, God forbid, a minute later. Which glass is used for iced tea, which glass is used for water, and which glass is used for juice. How to separate the mail into piles based on a system I never did figure out. And—most importantly—how the toilet paper roll should operate (paper rolling over not under; apparently it’s what separates us from the animal kingdom).

Wayne never got angry. He never raised his voice. He just quietly made it clear from his measured tone, the glint in his eyes, and the way he crossed his arms rigidly over his chest, that there was no room for discussion. First he would demonstrate what I had done wrong; which unwritten rules of the universe I had violated. Then he would redo it the correct way. And the next time I tried to do whatever it was, he watched. One morning, after a month of this, I went to the bathroom and used up the last of the toilet paper. As I went to change the roll I realized that I was finding it hard to breathe. Literally.

Phil McGuire: So how are things going with Wayne?

Me: I’m moving out.

Phil McGuire: Oh? (For just a second or two he looks startled, and maybe a tiny bit smug, as if he’s dying to say If only you’d listened to me, but he quickly recovers his neutral expression. Phil is nothing if not a professional.) But I thought you said things were going so great with the two of you.

Me: Er . . . (this is true; that’s exactly what I’ve been saying for the last month) well . . . no. Anyway, I found this really cheap apartment over in Springville. That’s where I should be anyway since that’s where my aunt lives and she’s getting older. Not that she’d ever admit she needed any help. She’s very independent. But I’ll feel better being nearby. My cousin, Anna, and her husband, Paul, are going to move me out on Monday while Wayne’s at work.

Phil McGuire: He doesn’t know you’re leaving?

Me: God, no. He’d probably tell me that I wasn’t following the correct procedure to break up with him.

Phil McGuire: I see. (That is therapist code for What you just said is kind of crazy and, although I will exhibit no visible dismay or concern, I will make a note of it in your file for future reference.)

Me (offended that Phil doesn’t see what a healthy decision this is): I know what you’re thinking. First she moves in with him too fast. And now she’s moving back out and doesn’t even have the courtesy to tell Wayne that she’s leaving. But Wayne isn’t someone you can talk to. And, okay, I should have known that since I’m still kind of shut down emotionally I’d attract someone who is also shut down. Maybe that’s even what I liked about him. That probably was what attracted me. And I shouldn’t have moved in with him so fast. I’ll give you that. That’s probably why I kept trying to pretend everything was fine, because deep down I knew that I should have listened to you (every once in a while I like to throw Phil a bone). But Wayne is a control freak. Every little thing has to be done a certain way. Stupid little things that don’t even matter. It’s exhausting.

And he isn’t going to understand why I’m leaving. So that whole conversation would be long and drawn out, and no matter how long it went on it would be pointless. He won’t get it. Also, and unfortunately, for some weird reason the sex is still really good.

(Actually, the reason wasn’t all that weird. Sex was the one area where Wayne’s insane attention to detail and obsession with doing everything in precisely the right way actually worked in my favor. By the time he got through with his end of things there was little or nothing that I needed to contribute to the effort. It was a real win-win.)
Me (on a roll now): So I’d end up feeling guilty and we’d have sex. And then he’d try to talk me out of leaving, and I’d get exhausted trying to explain myself. And then we’d have sex again. And it would just go on and on and on. But I’m going to call him as soon as my stuff is out. I’m not going to have him walk inside his house and find out I’m gone. And I will tell him I’m sorry and that it’s not him—it’s me. I’m just too much of a mess right now to be in a relationship. Wayne will totally buy that as the only logical explanation.

Phil McGuire did not say that my reasoning was well thought out, sound, and in the best interest of everyone involved. He just kind of nodded and wished me luck and said our time was up. He also didn’t say, “I told you so.” I’ll give him that. But he did miss a valuable clue. He didn’t ask me why I didn’t need to be at work on Monday.
He must have assumed that I had some sick time or vacation coming. I did not. The morning that I woke up and realized I couldn’t take it anymore—that I had to leave Wayne—I also realized that regular life wasn’t simple or easy. Even with extremely diminished expectations, it was still hard. Maybe too hard. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to adjust. Maybe I wouldn’t have the courage. I’d lost all those years that other people spent working on their careers and their relationships. Then I remembered that I had three days of sick time built up. It was just sitting there going to waste. And getting out of bed seemed like a lot of trouble for nothing.

When I was on day five of calling in—I know, I’m sorry, but the doctor said this flu bug is a killer—I made the mistake of going over to Redbox to rent a couple of DVDs. In my mind this was a great step forward—Hey! I am out of bed and it’s not even noon! Unfortunately, the coworker on an early lunch break who spotted me as she came out from CVS had a completely different take on the situation. So did my boss, who called me shortly thereafter to terminate my employment.

I didn’t tell Phil or anyone else that I had been fired but was choosing to move into an apartment on my own anyway. I didn’t want to explain about not getting out of bed or how most days I feel as if I have twenty-pound weights on my back every time I take a step. Or how painful it would be to move back in with my cousin, Anna, who works full time, raises two children, has a stable marriage, and thinks sleeping in means letting the sun come over the horizon before brewing your coffee. I imagined whispered conversations late at night between her and her husband, Paul. That’s what you said when she first came back, that it would just be for a while, until she got on her feet. But she can’t even hang on to a receptionist job, for God’s sake.

But even if my cousin’s family had been delighted to have me back in their house because I was a ray of sunshine that brightened up all their lives, I still wouldn’t have moved in with them. I needed to be alone; I needed time to think. I always had big dreams to carry me through the rough spots, and now they were gone. I didn’t know if I had the energy to start over; or the endurance for ordinary life.

I haven’t told Phil McGuire how I really feel or how hard I am struggling. The last thing I want is for Phil McGuire to become concerned.

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The Case of the Invisible Dog: A Shirley Homes Mystery 2.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Mama_Cat More than 1 year ago
The Case of the Invisible Dog is an impressive first in a new series book! It seemed to start a tad slow, and when it did take off, it went with a bullet! Diane Stingley had my attention within a couple chapters and kept it throughout. The benefit to what I first thought of as starting slow was in seeing the stage set for the rest of the novel. This includes the depth of the two primary characters, Tammy Norman and Shirley Homes. The characters quickly became like old friends. Nothing in Tammy’s previous work situations could have prepared her for Shirley Homes. Desperate for a job and an income, she followed the newspaper ad instructions and received a letter back that gave her an interview appointment. She didn’t anticipate being hired on the spot, and in spite of her later best plans to quit and get a different position, she simply became too fascinated with the case to leave. After a couple weeks of doing little other than playing on the computer and caring for Tilly the fern, Matt Peterman comes to see Shirley – their first case. He claims that a dog is barking, night after night, and he is so exhausted that he can’t get anything done on or off his job. When he goes outside to look, however, he doesn’t ever find a dog. Shirley decided to “help” out her client with a late night visit to see/hear what dogs might be in the neighborhood. When Shirley breaks into his house, convinced that Matt’s life was in danger – well, Tammy wished she had not gone out with her new boss. And when Matt is found shot to death in his car in the following day, guess who police Detective Brad Owen goes to see first. The characters are fascinating as we learn more about them. I’m not sure we’ll ever really understand Shirley, whose job is to think rather than converse, but she is not entirely what she seems. Tammy had hit an emotional bottom due to recent changes in her life. The understanding that this author gives to Tammy’s current position are excellent. This is a change from many cozy mysteries – while there is humor, there is also darkness. Tammy and Shirley have a unique need for each other, a need that they don’t fully realize. Thank you, Diane Stingley, for showing Tammy so thoroughly, with her conversations with Phil McGuire included - while I like Shirley, computer-phobia, quirks and all, I really like Tammy for the strength of character to get up and moving! And for the time that you spent building Tammy’s background. I hope to see more of Shirley in future novels. The supporting characters, particularly Lawrence Dunbar, make this seem like the most bumbling, unlikely team to find a murderer. This wonderful page-turning plot was different; how many ladies go out in the dark of night to look for the invisible barking dog? The clues were interesting, and the twists that the plot took were fascinating, to say the least. Even though I did finally get the motive and the location of the dog before Tammy did, I did not know who the perpetrators of the deception and the murder were. As the suspense builds and the dangers increase, these ladies persevere even if it costs their lives. My feelings about the ending are mixed; it is not a typical cozy in the aspect that every loose end is tied up. It does, however, leave an opening for the future of this series. A future that I am looking forward to as I want to see how Shirley and Tammy proceed in the future. My only relatively minor disappointment is the language used in some places, I highly recommend this to mystery lovers who enjoy humor, unusual clues, and a female sleuthing team that can’t be beat. With a grateful heart, I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of an honest review. All opinions are my own, and no monetary compensation was received for this review.
TheAvidReader_KA More than 1 year ago
The Case of the Invisible Dog by Diane Stingley is the first book in A Shirley Homes Mystery series. Tammy Norman is twenty-eight and has many issues. Tammy does not know what she wants to do with her life and has trouble committing. Tammy was fired from her job as a receptionist after calling in sick for five days and being seen by a co-worker out renting a DVD. She is now waitressing, but Tammy is not a people person. Tammy has seen Shirley Homes’ ad in the classified for a few weeks and decides to apply. To apply she has to send a written letter without a resume. Tammy gets a return letter with a set time for an interview. When she arrives at Shirley’s office, there is a note saying not to disturb her. It is all a test. After making Tammy wait a certain amount of time to see what she would do, Shirley comes out of her office (where she was watching Tammy through the keyhole) and offers Tammy the job as her assistant. Tammy accepts the position because the salary is quite good. What is Shirley’s occupation? Tammy will not find out for two weeks. Shirley Homes is rich and very eccentric. She has a scientific mind and believes she is better than everyone else. Shirley talks down to people and insults them (she is very obtuse). Shirley also believes she is the great-great-granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes (yes, the fictional character). Shirley believes that Sherlock Holmes was a real person and that his enemies have wiped him out of existence. Shirley is a private investigator (she does not have a license, but does have a cane and deerstalker cap). Shirley recruits her first client from the Mrs. Hobson’s bakery (on the first floor of their building). Matt Peterman is being kept awake at night from a barking dog. None of his neighbors have a dog and do not hear the barking. Matt lives on a street with five houses. Only three of them are occupied. One house has an elderly couple and the other home is inhabited by the Brown’s who just moved into the neighborhood. Shirley is excited to solve her first case. The next day they are visited by Detective Brad Owen. Matt Peterman was shot in the alley behind his office. A few days later something happens to the elderly couple that live in the same neighborhood. What is going on? Despite being told by the police to stay out of the investigation, Shirley and Tammy are determined to solve the case. The Case of the Invisible Dog sounded like a cute book, but I was very, very disappointed. Shirley Homes inane prattle really got on my nerves. I found the whole thing idiotic (I am sorry, but it is very true). This book could have done with some serious editing and revisions. This book is twice as long as it needs to be and we are left without a real ending. The book ended with solving part of the puzzle, but left the reader with questions. There are also long sections where Tammy is talking to her psychiatrist that really do not contribute much to the book. I give The Case of the Invisible Dog 2 out of 5 stars. I received a complimentary copy of The Case of the Invisible Dog from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The review and opinions expressed are strictly my own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was an interesting story, but it was a little slow.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I know that I have never read it myself but the title seems apelling to me. Who ever heard of anything invisible?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cannot believe this is a Random House product! Can't force myself to continue reading it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Repeatative. Poor plot. Boring characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awful! There is nothing endearing about the main characters. In fact they are incredibly annoying. I could not force myself to finish even half of this stupid book. Even $2.99 is too much to pay for this drivel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JimStampfl More than 1 year ago
Couldn't stand any of the characters. At the end of the book I still had no idea what was really going on. Sorry I spent so much time on it.
carol223CS More than 1 year ago
Diane Stigley's The Case of the Invisible Dog   This is the first story in a new cozy series. Surprising, witty and utterly unpredictable plot with many twists and turns. There is plenty of mystery, suspense and drama. The characters are engaging, quirky, interesting and fun. Tammy Norman returns home to North Carolina. Tammy finds a job with Shirley Homes as her assistant. Shirley believes she is the great-great-granddaughter of the famed Sherlock Holmes. Shirley claims ahe has proof that Sherlock Holmes was real not fictional and she is a relative. The first case to come their way involves an invisible dog. The man claims he hears the dog whenever he gets goes to sleep but never can find the dog. Then the man is murdered. Now Tammy and Shirley have a real case to solve even though the police keep warning them to let the authorities handle it. Shirley is full of surprises throughout the book. Her disguises are a hoot!!!! Fun read. Thank you to Net Gallery and Alibi for this eBook. My opinion is my own.
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ArizonaJo More than 1 year ago
The Case of the Invisible Dog by Diane Stingley is a deubt cozy mystery. It is a tongue-in-cheek and often humorous nod to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries. My rating of this book is 3.5 stars. Tammy Norman is a failed actress that has returned home from Los Angeles. She has taken several jobs to keep herself going while she tries to "find herself" now that she is home. She even attends regular sessions with a psychiatrist/psychologist because her cousin thought it would help her. However, her sessions are often based only on the thoughts she wants him to know and not what is truly going on in her head or her life. I found her to be very down-to-earth and somewhat relatable throughout the book because she was a woman just trying to make it through life one day at a time. Shirley Homes is a very eccentric character who believes that she is the great, great granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes. She often goes off on long explanations regarding almost any topic that may or may not apply to the current situation. I did find these to tax my interest and my patience while reading. However, she was often the cause of my laughter, too. I found the book to filled with a diverse group of characters, Shirley's sister, Myra, a taxi driver who wants to be a PI, sinister villains, and a handsome detective that believes that Shirley and Tammy are nuts.The plot was smoothly written and the clues are all there for the reader to find as they progress through the story. I was given an ARC of this book by NetGalley and Alibi in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
dibbylodd More than 1 year ago
Great fun! An out of work actress and the (possibly) great-great-granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes. Add in a dog only one person hears, overly "nice" neighbors, a murder, and more. It's all in good fun while still having an interesting mystery line. This looks like an excellent business combination with these two women. And there appears to be a Moriarity character, too!