Dinah Pelerin has finally put her life in order. Living in Berlin with her boyfriend Thor, she has landed a job teaching Native American cultures at the university. She's never felt happier. And then her Seminole mother Swan shows up with a crazy scheme to blackmail a German tax dodger and dredges up a secret Dinah has kept hidden from the IRS and from straight-arrow Norwegian Thor, a former cop now with hush-hush international duties.
Germans harbor a century-long fascination with the American Wild West and American Indians. Some enthusiasts dress up as Indians and adopt Indian names. Like Der Indianer Club which has invited Swan to a powwow where she plans to meet her blackmail victim. Dinah tries to head her off, but arrives at the scene too late. A man has been killed and scalped and Swan quickly becomes the prime suspect. Torn between love for her mother and dismay at her incessant lies, Dinah sets out to find the killerhoping the killer doesn't turn out to share her DNA.
But Swan isn't the only liar. Everyone is lying about something. Margaret, Swan’s dead ex-husband’s former wife, come to the city with Swan. Dinah’s teen-age “ward.” Thor. Especially Dinah. Ghosts of Germany's terrible history haunt Berlin while she faces exorcising a hateful ghost of her own.
About the Author
Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mystery series including Bones of Contention, Bet Your Bones, and Bonereapers. Like her anthropologist sleuth, Matthews travels around the world learning about other cultures and mythologies, which she incorporates into her novels. www.jeannematthews.com
Read an Excerpt
Where the Bones Are Buried
A Dinah Pelerin Mystery
By Jeanne Matthews
Poisoned Pen PressCopyright © 2015 Jeanne Matthews
All rights reserved.
Dinah Pelerin wasn't used to waking up happy, and it scared the daylights out of her. She pulled the blanket to her chin and snuggled close under Thor's arm. They had known each other for almost a year, but had moved in together just three weeks ago. With every passing day, her confidence grew that she'd made the right decision. She cared about him more than she'd cared about anyone in a very long time, but the people she cared about had a habit of turning into liars or dying. Thor was too honest to lie.
She said, "I wish you didn't have to go. It's not fair. I haven't learned my way around the city yet, and the only person I know besides you is the wacko across the hall."
"You have a dozen Berlin guide books and street maps and Geert isn't a wacko. He's the resident caretaker. If the lights go off or the furnace dies, tell him and he'll take care of the problem. Anyway, I'll only be away for five days. Norwegian Intelligence can't function without my unerring wisdom."
"Can't you send your unerring wisdom to them in an email?"
"I'm glad you'll miss me, kjære, but I have my orders." He looked at his watch and sat up. "I need to be at the Embassy in an hour. I'm picking up two diplomats who will join me on the flight to Oslo."
"Just my luck to fall for a latter-day James Bond, forever charging off to save the nation." She placed a hand over her heart. "I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more."
He kissed her in a particularly melting way, then rolled out of bed abruptly and headed for the shower. "Hold that thought."
"You're a tease, Thor Ramberg."
"Like Bond, I leave them begging for more."
He didn't hear. The bathroom door snicked shut and she slipped on her robe and padded into the kitchen to make coffee. Rain pelted against the windowpanes, and the pedestrians on the Niederwallstrasse down below carried umbrellas and wore their collars turned up like KGB operatives. Until the Wall fell in 1989, this street and the area for miles around was Soviet-dominated East Berlin. Since that time, the Germanys had reunified and Berlin had reinvented itself as the cultural and financial hub of Europe. The only thing that hadn't changed was the KGB weather.
She shivered. If September was this cold and dreary, she didn't want to think what winter would bring. But in spite of the gloom, she'd never felt so happy. It seemed that the stars had aligned and, for the first time in living memory, every aspect of her life clicked perfectly. Thor was wonderful, her new job as guest lecturer on Native American cultures at Humboldt University was a plum, and the weather aside, Berlin was one of the most exciting cities she'd ever visited. She tried to put the thought of all this happy synchronicity out of her mind lest the gods grow jealous and snatch it away.
She brought in the International Herald Tribune, brewed a pot of the local Einstein coffee, and sat down at the kitchen table to read about the turmoil in Greece and Pakistan and Kenya. The world seemed fragmented, a jigsaw of violent factions that refused to fit together and fanatics willing to do anything in furtherance of their causes. She worried about Thor's work carrying out counterterrorism missions on behalf of his native Norway. He'd almost been killed in Greece last June while investigating a ring of arms-traffickers. She had encouraged him to go to law school or return to a less hazardous police job in Norway. But he was a patriot and he craved adventure. She had learned not to try to argue him out of his dream job as an international sleuth.
He breezed into the room in a dark suit and tie, bringing with him the ferny scent of Fitjar soap. With his deep brown eyes and almost black hair, he did look a bit Bond-like—a cross between Sean Connery and Genghis Khan. Descended from the Sami people of Arctic Scandinavia, he loved cold weather as much as she hated it. He poured himself a cup of coffee and glanced out the window. "Museum weather. You should go to the Pergamon this afternoon. The Gates of Ishtar will start your anthropologist's juices flowing."
"It's on my list."
"And there's a market in the platz with local fruits and vegetables and flowers."
"I'll check it out." His tie didn't need straightening, but she pretended it did, standing ready for a kiss that would have to last her for five days. "I'll probably spend the day preparing for my first class. I know that most Germans speak English, and the ones who sign up for my class will be fluent, but I don't want to use too many Americanisms."
"Most Germans under the age of fifty have studied English in school. Even those who say they speak 'only a little English,' can talk politics like a senator, which by the way, is the German word for senator."
He was so relaxed and reassuring. Too relaxed? She felt a frisson of superstitious fear. "You will be careful, won't you? Don't let the bad guys sneak up on you."
"I'm off to Oslo, not Kabul."
Her iPhone burst into its ringtone of imperative plinks.
Thor took a quick swallow of coffee and set down his mug. "Answer your xylophone. I've got to run."
"No, wait ..." she turned toward the phone.
"I'll call you." His kiss landed in her hair somewhere in the vicinity of her left ear and he hurried out the door.
Frustrated, she picked up the phone. "Hello."
"Dinah, is that you? It's your mother. Your friend Margaret and I are in the Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta waitin' for our flight. What's that number, Margaret? Here it is, Air France, eighteen thirty-four. Do we change planes somewhere, Margaret?"
"You're coming here? To Berlin?"
"We stop over in Paris, but we don't change. Good heavens, that's too little for me to read, Margaret. Anyhow, we'll be arriving this evening at ... what? Can that be right? All right, tomorrow evening at eight-thirty at TXL, which we think is the name of the airport. If you can come get us and put us up for a few days, that'll be just lovely."
Dinah fought back a groan. "How long do you plan to be here?"
"That depends, baby. We have a little detective job we need you to help us with."CHAPTER 2
Dinah watched in frozen fascination as the two former Mrs. Dobbs passed through Customs at Gate A of Berlin's tiny, soon-to-be-retired Tegel Airport and into the baggage area. Margaret Dobbs, the taller of the two, had aged considerably since her murder trial. The skin beneath her owlish eyes pouched and the pleats around her mouth had deepened. She still wore her blond hair sleeked back in a tight bun and the sharp point of her widow's peak resembled an approaching arrow.
Swan, the second Mrs. Dobbs, had made several treks to the altar since her divorce from Cleon Dobbs, once with Hart Pelerin, Dinah's father. Her nom du jour was Mrs. William Calms, a name distinctly at odds with the effect she had on Dinah. Black-haired, with high cheekbones and an inscrutable half-smile, she appeared as crisp and unwrinkled as if she'd stepped out of the pages of a ladies' wear catalog. In stockings and blue kitten heels, no less. She spotted Dinah and held out her arms. "Hey, baby, you look lost as last year's Easter egg." Her drawl was thick, but not cloying. She radiated an air of nonchalance and Chanel No. 5. "Come give us a hug."
Dinah embraced her mother, but she felt instinctively on her guard. Their relationship had been on a tentative footing for the last four years. "It's good to see you, Mother. Couldn't Bill take time away from work and join you?"
"Poor Bill is strictly a land animal. I couldn't coax him onto an airplane if I tickled him with mink mittens. Us girls will have to make our way in the big city as best we can, right, Margaret?"
Margaret's lips twisted into the shape of a crowbar, demolition end up. "You're the one who said he'd be useless."
These two women don't inhabit the same planet, thought Dinah. What conceivable circumstance had brought them together? She held out her arms to Margaret. "Long time, no see, Margaret. How are you?"
"Lousy." She waved Dinah off. "I won't hug you. I caught a cold on that damned flying petri dish. They ought to quarantine the snufflers and coughers in the rear of the plane. You pay a thousand dollars for a ticket and they throw in a passel of crying babies and a case of the flu for free." Her breath smelled faintly of gin and her voice was scratchy.
"Great heavenly days," said Swan. "I can't believe it's been over a year since I saw you." She held Dinah at arm's length and studied her face. "I expect you're wonderin' why Margaret and I buried the hatchet, and what gave us the notion to come to Germany."
"I admit I was surprised by your call." Blown bang away would have been a more accurate description. Forty years ago, Cleon Dobbs had divorced Margaret to marry Swan, and the two women had cordially hated each other ever since.
Margaret said, "Of course, we wanted to spend some time with you and meet your new boyfriend, but I confess we have other fish to fry."
Swan hooked an arm through Dinah's and began walking. "Let's collect our bags, shall we?"
It wasn't much of a walk. The baggage carousel was just a few feet beyond the customs booth.
"What fish?" asked Dinah. "What is this detective job you mentioned?"
Her mother gave her hand a little squeeze. "We'll tell you all about it when we get home to your apartment. I can't wait to meet your beau."
"Unfortunately, Thor isn't in the city." Dinah now thanked God he had been called away to Oslo. An impromptu dive into her family shark pool would give him the bends. But if her luck held, Swan and Margaret would be off to Paris or Madrid by the time he returned.
Margaret frowned and blew her nose. "Smart girl. You've always known how to clear the tracks when you see a train coming."
Swan smiled one of her enigmatic smiles. "Mercy, this is a little bitty airport for a big city, isn't it? Our bags are here already."
Dinah helped them load their suitcases onto a trolley and they proceeded to the parking lot through a mizzling rain. She should have remembered to bring umbrellas. Margaret appeared to take the elements in stride, but Swan brought out a plastic rain bonnet and tied it under her chin. Dinah searched for clues in their body language and facial expressions. But Margaret was as tight-lipped and self-contained as a clam and Swan was unreadable, as always. She kept up a steady patter-the awful fodder the airline had served them, the dreadful airport security checks, "and some of the stewardesses are boys. Can you believe it?"
"They're called flight attendants, Mom."
"And the way the passengers dressed. Not a shred of glamour. One man wore pajama bottoms and bedroom slippers."
"A lot has changed since nineteen sixty-nine," said Dinah as they arrived at the car. She popped the trunk, hoisted her mother's heavy, wheelless bag and slid it in. "Most suitcases today have wheels, for example."
"I've seen them. But those big ol' handles take up so much room. I can fit a lot more outfits in my old-fashioned American Tourister. I used it many times during the seventies. Cleon took me to Rome and Paris for our honeymoon."
Margaret's eyes narrowed, but she didn't comment. Maybe she had finally conquered her jealousy, or maybe she was reluctant to speak ill of the man she'd killed. She collapsed the handle of her rolling Pullman and swung it into the trunk next to Swan's. "Is the weather always this raw in September?"
"It's not that cold," said Dinah, feeling the need to defend her new turf. "I finished my dig in Turkey at the end of August and it was sweltering. The cool weather is a relief." She slammed the trunk lid closed while Swan automatically settled herself in the front seat. Margaret climbed into the back. Dinah took the driver's seat, untangled the straps of her mother's handbag from around the gearshift, and checked the rearview mirror. "Fasten your seatbelt, Margaret."
"Damn nuisance. What's the point? We're all going to die one way or another." She pulled the belt across her broad bosom and stabbed it into the fitting. "This car's no bigger than a matchbox. Don't the people who design airplanes and cars know we have legs?"
Swan scooted the front passenger seat forward. "Is that better?"
"A little. Is there a heater?"
Dinah started the engine and turned on the headlights. It wasn't cold enough for heat, but she turned that on, too. Margaret exuded a bitterness that lowered the ambient temperature like a block of dry ice. She had never been a bright-sider, but she hadn't sounded this morbid when she was in jail awaiting trial. And what had she meant about having other fish to fry?
The rain was coming harder. Dinah turned the windshield wipers a notch faster and waited for the climate control to dispel the interior fog. "Don't keep me in suspense, Margaret. What brought you and Mom all the way from South Georgia to Berlin?"
"We need you to help us track down a tax cheat."
"What?" Dinah let out a startled laugh. "Somebody from Georgia?"
"What does someone who cheats on his taxes in Germany have to do with you?"
"Cleon cheated your mother and me out of at least two million dollars we didn't know he had when we divorced him and he dragged both of us through hell. This German Judas that we're after was his accomplice. He's got money that by rights belongs to us."
Dinah had been on tenterhooks all day and she couldn't stifle her irritation. "Come on, Margaret. Cleon left you some money and anyhow, by law, you're not entitled to any of his other assets, let alone money he entrusted to a third party."
She sniffed. "There are more important things than the law. Who knows that better than you? You've been sitting on Cleon's illegal drug money for the last four years."
Dinah ground the gears as she shoved the stick into reverse and jerked the Golf out of the parking space.
"For goodness' sake," said Swan. "You've gone and upset her, Margaret. You should have waited until after we've kicked off our shoes and had a nice glass of merlot. She probably hasn't told her young man about that drug money yet. Didn't you tell me he was in some branch of law enforcement, baby?"
Dinah's stomach took a roller-coaster plunge. Was that an expression of concern or an implied threat? Her fingers clenched the steering wheel as the implications sizzled through her brain.
Swan didn't wait for an answer. She chattered on, seemingly oblivious. "Your brother Lucien sent you a sweet little watercolor of the pier on Cumberland Island that he painted for your new home and I smuggled a jar of your favorite kudzu honey past the TSA guards."
"How'd you do that?"
"I showed it to a young man and asked very politely if he could please let me through with it. He apologized like a gentleman and put it in a barrel on the far side of that machine that takes naked pictures and when I walked through and saw his head was turned, I grabbed the jar back and put it in my carry-on."
"You could've landed yourself in trouble, Mom."
"But I didn't. And I brought you something else. I've decided it's time to pass on your grandmother's sapphire pendant. She always wanted you to have it."
"It's no use trying to inveigle the girl with honey and geegaws, Swan. She's no fool."
Swan sighed. "It's sad to think everybody's some kind of an inveigler, Margaret."
"Sad, but true." Margaret blew her nose as if to trumpet her contempt.
And I'm in the company of two of the best, thought Dinah. If she could, she would put them out on the side of the road and make a break for it. But blood and history held her. She was tied to these women, and to the ghost of Cleon Dobbs, like a tin can to the bumper of a speeding getaway car. She could imagine cutting the cord, but in the crunch, she couldn't go through with it. Instead, she bottled her anger and followed the signs out of the airport on the Zugfahrt Zum Flughafen.
When she had nosed the Golf safely onto the road and reached cruising speed, she took a deep breath and asked, "Who is this alleged tax cheat and how did you find out about him?"CHAPTER 3
Dinah retraced her route, doglegging onto Tegeler Weg, a four-lane highway divided by a median. The now-bucketing rain obscured visibility, but traffic didn't slow. Cars slalomed in and out of their lanes like Olympic racers as brake lights flashed and horns blared. Driving in Berlin was not for the faint of heart even in good weather, and this rain turned the road into an obstacle course. If she could make it back to Bismarckstrasse, she could wend her way across to the Tiergarten and from there, she knew the way home.
Thor had leased a townhouse in an upscale neighborhood near Hausvogteiplatz in the central part of the city, the Mitte. The owner had painted their unit lavender, which made her feel a shade conspicuous, but the location was convenient to the Norwegian Embassy and within walking distance to Humboldt University on Unter den Linden. Proximity to the Tiergarten, a magnificent park with miles of walking paths, was an added bonus.
The car in front of her braked and she took the slowdown as an opportunity to elicit a bit more information. "Who is this man you want to find, Mom? Who was he to Uncle Cleon?"
Excerpted from Where the Bones Are Buried by Jeanne Matthews. Copyright © 2015 Jeanne Matthews. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press.
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