Ex-detective Georgia Thornton returns to reality TV in the third mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of A Second Chance at Murder—
POOL YOUR RESOURCES...
After two hit reality TV shows brought ex-detective Georgia Thornton into America’s living rooms, audiences can’t get enough of her quest for love and justice. Now producers have come up with an all-new show set in a haunted castle in Golden, California. Georgia and nine other contestants will need to solve the mystery of a young woman who disappeared at the castle in 1960.
Except there’s one rather substantial problem waiting for everyone when they arrive: a groundskeeper is found drowned at the bottom of the castle’s empty pool. Now Georgia and the other contestants will need to work together, because there’s a different sort of game afoot—and it’s not one they can afford to lose...
About the Author
Diana Orgain is the USA Today bestselling author of the Love or Money Mysteries (A Second Chance at Murder and A First Date with Death), the Maternal Instincts Mysteries, and coauthor of Gilt Trip with Laura Childs in the New York Times bestselling Scrapbooking Mystery series. She holds an MFA and BA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University with a minor in Acting. Diana’s plays have been produced at San Francisco State University, GreenHouses Productions, and PlayGround in San Francisco. She lives in the city with her husband and their children.
Read an Excerpt
The raven swept down upon us in a terrifying plunge, talons outstretched, screeching at an ear-shattering pitch. Instinctively, I jumped out of the way and reached for my gun, only remembering too late that I hadn't carried one in eighteen months, since I'd been let go from the San Francisco Police Department.
The bird's massive wings flapped so close to me that the breeze lifted my hair and I fought the urge to strike out at it. Suddenly, the bird arched up and flew to the top point of the castle, perching itself overhead.
The woman next to me gasped. "A raven? That's a bad omen."
Cheryl Dennison, our executive producer, yelled, "Did you all catch that?"
"I got it," one of the cameramen shouted excitedly. "I got a great shot."
"Good," Cheryl said, a self-satisfied smile playing on her face. "We'll want to use that in the promos."
"Cheryl probably shipped that bird in from Hollywood," I said under my breath to the woman next to me. "Just to capture that shot."
The woman, a former FBI profiler, made a face. As if she disapproved of Hollywood histrionics.
We were on location at the Golden Castle, said to be haunted and the scene of an unsolved murder. During its heyday, it'd doubled as a reform school. It stood nestled on the hill overlooking the charming old mining town of Golden, California. But the castle was far from charming. It was so large it blotted out the sun and the windows were dark and murky. The exterior bricks had been built in San Quentin Prison and they projected a feeling of doom and gloom. Overall, the castle had such an ominous presence that it screamed "horror film," or in our case, "bad reality TV."
My best friend and the assistant producer, Becca, had begged me for weeks to accept the casting offer. She knew I wasn't too keen on the paranormal aspect of the show. I wasn't exactly a "believer" but now, despite myself, looking at the castle sent a shiver up my spine. I squeezed Scott's hand as we hiked up the gravel driveway toward it.
"All right!" Scott said, barely able to keep the excitement out of his voice. "It's downright menacing."
I giggled. I knew that, being a horror writer, this haunted castle was right up his alley.
"Remind me again why I'm doing this?" I asked.
"To solve the crime," he said.
"The fact that this is my third stint on reality TV is the crime," I said.
Scott flashed me his winning smile, reminding me again why I always felt so warm and happy in his presence.
We'd met and fallen in love on the first show, and won the cash prize to boot. However, the money hadn't stretched as far as we'd hoped and we'd signed up for the whole rodeo again. But the second time, I hadn't won the money, and after starring on reality TV, my chances of ever landing a job again as a police officer were between slim and none.
I figured I better take the opportunity to solve a case while I could. Who knew, maybe I'd be able to salvage a shred of my reputation.
Beside us, the famous forensic archaeologist from the Hunting Bones reality show chuckled. "You know you love it," he said.
I turned to him. "Love what? Solving a crime?"
He glanced over at Scott and was seemingly deciding if he should say what was really on his mind. When he noticed that Scott was mesmerized by the castle looming over us, he said, "The limelight."
"You don't seem to mind it yourself," I said, trying my best not to bristle.
He was tall with piercing blue eyes and a confidence that made him handsome. He had the type of square jaw and prominent nose that was extremely photogenic. I knew without a doubt his looks were the reason that Hunting Bones had been such a smashing success.
"All right, listen up, folks," Cheryl said. "As you know, we need to get some final images for the intro montage, so please line up over here where the light is best and let's get some usable footage before we get on to filming the first episode."
A rumble of excitement worked its way through the cast and crew. We were quite a crowd. On location, there were ten of us contestants, the show's host, Harris Carlson, several cameramen, lighting techs, sound techs, the hair and makeup folks, along with the production team.
The cast took turns lining up against the awful red bricks; preening, primping, and pirouetting on Cheryl's request.
We were five teams of two players. Scott and I made up one team. Dr. Arch, the forensic archaeologist, and his sometimes cohost, the FBI profiler Karen Kenley, made up the second team. There was a historian from an Ivy League college paired with her brother, a priest. Then a professed ghost hunter partnered with a psychic. And finally two young women, the castle docent and the unsolved murder victim's great niece.
Our mission was to solve the murder of Jane Reiner. According to the limited information we'd been given, the historical accounts about Jane's murder all differed. Some said she'd been hung in the kitchen, other accounts claimed she'd been stabbed in the basement, and still others said she'd been shot in the supply room.
All accounts seemed to believe that Jane haunted the castle and would continue to do so until her murder could be solved. Rumor had it that she appeared from time to time to visitors either hanging in the kitchen or bleeding in the basement or supply rooms.
None of the information squared, so in Cheryl's infinite wisdom, she'd pitched to a Hollywood Studio the idea that a team of misfits might be able to solve the historic murder on national television.
Needless to say, it was such a bad idea that Hollywood loved it.
Once inside the castle, the creep factor only escalated. The inside of the building was like a maze with steps and hallways spinning in every direction, vertically and horizontally. The stairs were worn and creaked as the cast and crew climbed them to what was known as the prayer room.
A strange smell filled the room, like sulfur mixed with stale kerosene that someone had attempted to mask with a flowery perfume.
"Whoa! Do you smell that?" the psychic asked. "It's a presence! Most certainly a presence!"
The man claiming to be a psychic was the least likely person I would have expected. I figured Cheryl would have cast a pretty blond young lady, but instead the man before us was as large as a lumberjack, complete with a burly red beard. I'd liked him immediately, even though, of course, I couldn't believe a word he uttered.
I wrinkled my nose. "I think the room's probably been closed up a long time."
"No, no," the docent disagreed. She worked at the Golden Castle as one of the tour guides. "We air it out every day, but the smell always returns."
Fingers tickled the back of my neck and I involuntarily jumped as Scott leaned in close to me, his lips touching my ear. "Oooh," he whispered. "Creeeeeppppy."
"I thought you were here to protect me, not freak me out," I said.
He pressed his forehead to mine, looking into my eyes. "You certainly don't need my protection, but you have it, babe, always."
As Scott leaned in to kiss me, Cheryl's screechy voice interrupted our romantic moment. "People! Listen up. The team is going to need a few minutes here to set up the cameras, lights, and mikes. We'll kick off the show here. Harris will give the introduction. The camera will pan on each of you as Harris introduces you. Then we'll go ahead and start the castle tour for the viewers. You'll all need to make sure your hair and makeup are set. Please don't wander off and get lost."
Scott rubbed at his shaved head. "I'd better see to getting my hair fixed."
"It is kind of messy," I joked. Suddenly, I had the strange sensation of being watched. Which one would think I'd be used to after two tours of reality TV; nevertheless I still found the feeling mildly disconcerting. I turned to find Dr. Arch staring at Scott and me.
"You two don't seem to be taking this very seriously," he said.
Scott hid his amusement. "You believe in all the hocus-pocus going on here, doctor? Spirits trapped in the in between."
The priest, who'd been meditating in front of a candle, snapped to attention. "Oh, I do think there is evil here. With much prayer, we can send the spirits on."
Cheryl strode between us. "Now, now, father. We had this discussion, didn't we? Save it for the cameras." The priest shook his head and seemed ready to argue, but Cheryl was already on to the next group, calling out, "Five minutes, people. Ready in five."
"Anyway, what I meant," Dr. Arch continued, "is that you have to take this one seriously. It's viewer determined, you know. If you don't get the votes, you'll be sent packing. Even though I'm betting against myself here for a moment, I think you two probably have the best chance of solving the mystery."
Dr. Arch's partner, Karen Kenley, sidled up to him. "That's some vote of confidence, Arch."
The doctor looked chagrined. "I didn't mean anything against you, honey."
Karen Kenley, the FBI profiler, looked like the type of woman who never accepted any excuse, either from a man or much less from a woman. Her straight black hair hung like a curtain around her face. She had the type of sharp features that let you know right away if you messed with her, you'd get cut.
Cheryl clapped her hands again. "Okay, people," she shouted. "Places please. Cast, line up here." She indicated a row of blue painter's tape the crew had laid down for us. "Harris, you'll stand here-" A large thump against one of the windows startled Cheryl. She put a hand over her heart. "What was that?"
"A bird, I think," Scott said. He rushed to the window, but the glass was so hazy it was impossible to see through.
The lumberjack psychic next to me moaned and pressed his fingers to his temple.
His partner, the ghost hunter, fiddled with a device strapped to his belt and asked, "Can we go outside and take a look? I have to investigate. My EMF is going crazy."
"What's that?" Scott asked.
"It measures fluctuations in the electromagnetic fields," he said.
Cheryl collected herself. "Let's not get distracted here, folks. We have to start filming." She put on a headset and made a beeline to the back of the set and motioned for the cameras to start rolling.
Harris took center stage and said directly into the camera, "Welcome, America, to Cold Case in the Castle!" Harris's voice boomed in his made-for-TV persona. "We're coming to you from Golden, California, where the town has had a dark and tragic unsolved mystery haunting them since 1960. You see, back in the early 1900s this castle was a reform school, a home for the state's most delinquent wards. However good-intentioned the state may have been in wishing to rehabilitate the wards, horrors came to pass: abuses, escape attempts, violent encounters, inhumane punishments, and, yes, ladies and gentlemen, even murder."
Harris gave a dramatic pause, then continued. "There were five murders that took place on these grounds. All were solved." Harris held up his index finger and gave a flourish as he said, "Except for one.
"The disturbing and brutal murder of Jane Reiner. Jane had been an innocent and lovely youth, working as a librarian in training, when she mysteriously disappeared. Her body was later discovered heinously murdered on the premises of the reform school."
The cast made the appropriate gasps and tsking sounds.
Harris launched into a brief recap of the facts we'd been given, then said, "And that's where you, dear viewer, come in." Harris continued, "Join us, as we travel back in time and solve Jane's murder. We've assembled a cast that we believe can help us do just that."
One by one, he motioned toward us and introduced the cast. When he finally landed on the last contestant, the lumberjack psychic suddenly moaned as if in pain and fell to his knees. He screamed out, "Oh, no!"
"Oh, brother," I mumbled to Scott, but before he could respond there was a deafening and repetitive pounding on the windows. We all jumped and turned toward them only to see a massive onslaught of small black birds flying directly into the glass.
Karen and Dr. Arch gasped; the ghost hunter rushed toward the glass with his EMF device in hand and the historian from Harvard fainted.
A loud splintering sound echoed through the room as the ancient glass shattered against the assault. Then Cheryl called in a cheerful voice, "Cut!"
The fresh air buffeted my face as I followed Dr. Arch outside. The sky was dark, covered with a full blackbird migration, swarms of them passing the castle. On the grassy area in front of the castle were literally hundreds of dead blackbirds, as if they had been steamrolled by an imaginary vehicle. Behind me, Scott and Karen Kenley emerged from the castle, followed by several more cast, crew, and cameramen.
Scott laced his fingers through mine and pulled me back, away from the carnage. "Holy cow! This is terrible. I've never seen anything like it."
The cameramen began to shoulder their equipment and film the disaster. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Cheryl jumping up and down. This would be gold in her promo.
"What's going on?" Karen, the FBI profiler, asked.
"Blackbird migration," Scott said.
Growing up in the country, I knew that birds, or other animals, sensed things better than us humans. There was definitely something going on in our environment that was cause for alarm.
"This is a bad omen," Ashley, the paranormal docent, said.
The priest, Father Gabriel, agreed. "Yes, a bad omen. A sign of evil."
"That's ridiculous," Scott replied.
"It's not," Father Gabriel insisted.
The ghost hunter, Jack, laughed heartily. "Well, let's see if we can figure out what's happening here first."
Both men squared off against each other, glaring. I looked from one to the other, preparing to stop their quarrel.
Scott put a hand on my shoulder, stopping me from interfering. "Should we go back inside?" he asked. "They'll probably need help clearing the birds out of there."
I hated to leave, but followed him back into the castle anyway, which despite the awful squawking of the trapped birds, seemed quiet relative to the pandemonium outside. We climbed the rickety stairs together.
"What is it supposed to mean, do you think?" I asked Scott. "All those birds?"
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A ghost ridden castle – five couples are asked to stay in to solve a 30 year old murder. The couples include: Dr. Arch (a forensic archaeologist) and his partner, Karen Kenley (an FBI profiler). An Ivy college historian, Martha and her brother a priest, Father Gabriel. Professional ghost hunter, Jack and his partner Bert, a psychic. A docent of the castle, Ashley and her partner, Jessica whom is the great niece of the murder victim. Finally, there is Georgia and Scott; whom have won several previous shows and are struggling with their relationship. While trying to solve the old murder, some new ones happen. Will Georgia and Scott survive and find out who has committed the murders? Where will their relationship go during the process? Do you have the guts to stay in a haunted castle with old and new murders? Great read! Best in the series so far!!!
Dollycas’s Thoughts Georgia and Scott are appearing on their 3rd reality show, Cold Case in the Castle, where the task is to solve an old murder in a creepy, old, dilapidated castle. Each day a couple is eliminated and hopefully at the end the winning couple solves the cold case. Of course the producers never imagined some new murders would take over the show and place the contestants in danger. Georgia finds herself trying to solve them all. Fans of realty shows will be delighted with this series. In the first book, A First Date with Death, it was like The Bachelorette. The second, A Second Chance at Murder, was like The Amazing Race, this time it is like the short lived series, Whodunnit?, with a little bit of Ghost Hunters thrown in. Diana Orgain has given cozy readers another fun story. At first I was a little tentative about the setting but this mansion/castle with its interesting and at times dangerous floors, rooms, and hiding spaces turned out to be a perfect place. The grounds also added some interesting areas. She has brought back Becca, Cheryl, Kyle, and Georgia’s father, Gordon, and introduced a variety of new characters in the cast and crew. We also meet the head of the historical society who is not happy to have all these people traipsing around “her” property. Each person’s personality comes through clearly and realistically. In addition to the murder mysteries to solve, Scott and Georgia are having a bit of trouble in their relationship, Becca meets someone new, and Cheryl and Gordon are still an item. I really enjoy the way Ms. Orgain writes. All these books in this series have a brisk pace and there is always something happening. This one was a little bit shorter but readers are not shortchanged. She has packed these pages full. She takes us behind the scenes of reality television and beyond in a refreshing way.
Reality can be brutal but author Diana Orgain has created a series with characters that take reality to a new level. The setting featuring a reality show is one that readers can relate to and for some, long to participate in. The backdrop of a castle believed to be haunted enhances the story. Filled with suspense and intrigue, the story moves at a steady pace holding readers’ attention until the very end. The core characters are well-developed, likable and realistic. The secondary characters are quirky and add depth to the story. The blend of a reality show with murder, mystery, and mayhem is a good combination. The addition of personal conflicts among the contestants heightens the story. THIRD TIME’S A CRIME is a fascinating story that will entertain and have you wondering where reality ends and fantasy begins. The story can be read on its own even though it is the third installment in the series. FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.
Having won one and lost one, Georgia has truly become a mainstay in the reality television world. Hoping to win again, and help out her father's farm among other things, she and boyfriend Scott gear up to solve a cold case in what appears to be a haunted castle. The historical society hopes the added publicity will pump up tourism and aid in the final restoration of the castle. What a perfect set up for a show--it's a former reform school, a young woman was killed and with Georgia's ex-cop instincts and snoopiness gene, what could go wrong? Turns out, quite a bit, particularly after a groundskeeper is found dead and parts of the castle seem less stable than they should be. The book reads very quickly to mimic the fast pace they are living while recording the show and was a lot of fun.
Solving This Cold Case is Murder With all the TV I watch, I have been loving Diana Orgain’s Love or Money Mysteries. Each book in the series is set during a different reality TV series as Georgia Thornton finds herself trying to win the contest and solve a crime. She’s back for a third show in Third Time’s a Crime, and it would be a crime to skip this book. Georgia and her boyfriend Scott have teamed up for Cold Case in the Castle, a new show that pits five teams of two against each other in a race to solve an unsolved murder from 1968. At the time, this old castle outside of Golden, California, was used to rehabilitate wayward teens. One of those teens was found dead in the castle’s kitchen, but the killer was never caught. Because of this and other things, the castle is rumored to be haunted, and events when the cast and crew first show up to seem to bear that out. However, things take a deadly turn when Georgia finds a dead body in the castle’s empty pool the next morning. The freaky thing is the man drowned. Is this modern murder related to the mystery Georgia is already trying to solve? If you are looking for a book filled with spooky atmosphere, this is the book for you. It’s hard not to feel the shivers from the opening pages as Georgia gets her first look at the castle. That continues throughout the book as Georgia gets caught up in solving the case. The pace of the book never slows down as there is always something happening. However, that isn’t always related to the mystery. There are plenty of other conflicts in the book, especially between the contestants, and those tend to take center stage. However, I only realized this after I’d finished the book. It is still a completely enjoyable read. And the mystery itself does come a logical and satisfying conclusion. Because of the nature of the series, there aren’t many returning characters. Georgia and Scott get a sub-plot that enhances both of them and really makes sense based on what has happened to them in the first two books in the series. All the contestants for the reality show can be overwhelming at times, but Diana Orgain does an excellent job of helping us keep them all straight early on in the book. I never once felt like I needed to go back and look up who they were, and as the book goes along and we get to know them better, this becomes a complete non-issue. Third Time’s a Crime is something different for the cozy genre, and as such is completely enjoyable. Pick it up today and get caught up in a cold case and a modern mystery filled with atmosphere. NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
Reality TV is at its best worst can be found once again in the latest installment of the Love or Money Mysteries. People . . . step away from your televisions and read a book! A mystery book! A mystery book about . . . well . . . television! Trust me when I tell you, reading about a TV show is even more entertaining than watching one, as long as it’s written by author Diana Orgain. THIRD TIME’S A CRIME is book three in the Love or Money Mysteries. And let me tell you, the third time certainly is the charm! I watch Big Brother and Survivor, but other really shows don’t really appeal to me. Even the two I mentioned don’t thrill me. Now, if we could lift the show, Cold Case in the Castle, out of THIRD TIME’S A CRIME, I’d be glued to my TV. Diana Orgain captured the feel of reality TV, as well as giving readers a behind the scenes look that felt so believable! She masterfully blended the cold case in the story with the present death and investigation, and delivered a wonderful cozy mystery that readers with truly enjoy.