Savannah Reid may have a few extra curves on her full-figured body, but that hasn't stopped her from becoming one of California's most successful private investigators. Her latest case puts her hot on the trail of a shady weight loss therapist who's made a killing treating--and cheating--his overweight patients. The question is, did he kill his wife, too?
Pound for pound, this is shaping up to be one of Savannah's toughest cases ever. But she'd better find the killer soon. . .or else the bodies will just keep piling up. . .
"Solid. . . Savannah's wit about food and healthy weight continues to sparkle."--Publishers Weekly
"Enjoyable. . . A nice mix of cozy relationships and mystery."--Booklist
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Wicked CRAVINGA SAVANNAH REID MYSTERY
By G.A. McKevett
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2010 G.A. McKevett and Kensington Publishing Corporation
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSavannah Reid rolled down the window of the rented pickup, breathed in the fresh sea-scented air, and decided it was a perfect day in sunny California. But then, barring earthquakes, mudslides, and brush fires, most Southern California days were pert nigh perfect.
She vacillated between being deeply grateful she had moved from rural Georgia to the picturesque seaside town of San Carmelita, and being bored to death with "perfect." She missed the drama of an old-fashioned, southern thunderstorm, complete with all-hell's-done-broke-loose lightning crashing around you and the scream of tornado sirens going off, warning you to shake some tail feathers and get your tail-feathers and all-into the nearest storm cellar.
Ah, yes, she thought, watching the palm trees glisten in the tropical noonday sun. There is nothing quite like huddling with your granny and eight siblings in a spider-infested tornado shelter at two in the morning, storm raging above you, to bring a family together.
"And we are close," she whispered, thinking of her loved ones in Georgia, so far away. "So close it's a wonder we haven't murdered one another yet."
"Murdered who?" Dirk asked as he guided the pickup truck away from the downtownarea and headed toward the poor side of town. The part of San Carmelita that didn't have perfectly matched palm trees lining the streets. The part where windows had bars, not flower boxes, and the only fresh paint on the building walls was gang graffiti. The part where you were more likely to see a pit bull chained to somebody's front porch than a Chihuahua poking its head out of somebody's purse.
"What?" she said to the guy sitting in the driver's seat next to her. Detective Sergeant Dirk Coulter was still with the San Carmelita Police Department.
She wasn't. And on most days, she was grateful for that. Occasionally, she waxed a bit bitter about the fact that she had been dismissed. But those days only came along about once a month ... like most of her truly dark moods. And a bar of chocolate or a dish of ice cream usually put her world right again.
"You were talking to yourself," he told her.
"Well, do you have to bring it up and make me feel like a nitwit who's losing my marbles?"
"Don't snap at me. You told me to tell you ... said you wanted to break the habit."
"Oh, right. Sorry." She sighed and wondered if she could blame her forgetfulness on perimenopause. After all, now that she was solidly in her mid-forties-and if she didn't admit that she'd been forgetful her whole life-it could float, excuse-wise. And it would carry her through to menopause and past to senility.
"I'm forgetting stuff lately," she said, "because I'm approaching the 'change o' life.' You wouldn't know anything about it. It's a woman thing."
"I know it's not why you're talking to yourself. You've been doing that for twenty years." He slowed the truck down to drive over a particularly deep drainage dip in the road and checked his cargo in the mirror. "But that might be why you've been extra irritable lately."
She shot him a look. "Ever consider it might be because you've been exceptionally irritating?"
"No, you haven't been irritating?"
"No, I haven't considered it might be me. I'd rather blame it on you and your hormones."
"A dangerous thing to do, blaming anything on a woman's hormones."
"You brought it up."
She didn't like this-him winning two arguments in a row. She decided to just keep quiet and say nothing for a while.
That never lasted long.
"It's just that I've been bored lately," she said, fifteen seconds later, as they headed deeper into a valley that stretched from the sea into the dry, brown, scrub brush-covered hills.
The tattoo parlors, pawn shops, porn stores, and junkyards had given way to tiny, dilapidated stucco houses and yards covered with dead, brown grass, surrounded by sagging fences.
Many of the inhabitants sat on sagging sofas on sagging porches, wearing saggy clothes and saggy facial expressions-much like many of the inhabitants of the poor, rural town where she had been raised.
Savannah understood despair. She knew, all too well, the toll it exacted on the human spirit.
"Do you miss being on the job?" he asked. "Is that why you're bored?"
She considered his question honestly before answering. Did she miss being a police officer? The constant adrenaline rushes? The camaraderie with the other cops? The fascinating view of ever-changing human drama? Having drunks throw up on her shoes?
"I do sometimes," she admitted. "Mostly when I don't have any clients. Private investigation can get pretty mundane when you don't have a single case to investigate. It's been a bit lonely at the Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency lately."
"And that's why you hang with me," he said, giving her a grin and a poke with his elbow.
"That and all this philosophical, mind-expanding conversation." She looked him over, taking in the Harley-Davidson T-shirt that had, in a former life, been black, but had gone through a navy blue stage and was now a muddy chocolate brown. "And your sense of style."
She glanced at herself in the truck's side mirror and saw a woman who wasn't exactly a fashion plate herself. Her thick, dark hair had a mind of its own, so she pretty much let it do its wayward-curls thing. Clean skin with a bit of lip gloss and mascara, hastily applied, were the extent of her daily beauty rituals. And her wardrobe was only a notch above Dirk's on any given day-a lightweight blazer over a simple cotton shirt with jeans or linen slacks. The blazer hid the Beretta strapped to her side. And the cotton and linen kept her cool under the California sun.
Years ago, when they had first met, both Savannah and Dirk had turned heads, especially when they were in uniform, before their detective days. And even though Dirk's T-shirt might be faded, and they both had gained some extra poundage here and there, in Savannah's mind, Dirk was still a stud, she was a babe, and as a pair, they were both pretty darned hot stuff.
On the seat between them lay the empty sack that had recently held two apple fritters and two cups of coffee, all compliments of the Patty Cake Bakery.
Patty, the blonde bimbo baker, liked the way Dirk filled out his worn jeans and, apparently, didn't mind the old T-shirt, because she was always generous, dolling out the sugar and caffeine. She was also a major cop groupie, which irked Savannah and pleased Dirk to no end.
Since Dirk was also in his mid-forties-a tad past his "glory days"-he was constantly starving for attention from the opposite sex, wherever he could get it. He wallowed in every bit that came his way, even from a moderately desperate, blatantly oversexed donut clerk.
Long ago, Savannah had gotten sick of the goo-goo eyes and the silly tittering and the deliberately deep bending over the counter while Patty was waiting on them. But Savannah kept her mouth shut. Patty was as well known for her generously frosted maple bars as she was for her appetite for the boys in blue, and Savannah was a woman with her priorities in order ... having a healthy appetite of her own.
She glanced down at her ample figure and wondered briefly how many of Patty's maple bars and apple fritters she was toting around with her on any given day. Several pounds' worth, to be sure. But Savannah liked to think that most of her "extra poundage" was well placed. And the admiring glances she got from quite a few guys told her that Patty's pastries were being put to good use.
The guy sitting beside her was one of those. Frequently, she caught him giving her a sideways look that wasn't very different from the ones Patty gave him when she was sacking up the goods. And, considering how long Savannah and Dirk had worked together-first as partners on the San Carmelita Police Department and then as investigators of numerous homicide cases-she found it most complimentary that he still noticed and enjoyed her curves.
But then he sped up a bit too much and hit a pothole, jarring every bone in her body.
"Dangnation, Dirk," she snapped. "If I had dentures, they'd be in my lap. Would you take it easy?"
He loved it when she criticized his driving. "Hey, I didn't do nothin' wrong! You know they never fix the roads out here. Besides, I can't drive like an old lady if you wanna nail this guy."
He had her there.
Savannah was just as eager as he was to slap a fresh pair of handcuffs on Norbert "Stumpy" Weyerhauser. And just because Stumpy's mom, Myrtle, had told them he was home an hour ago, didn't mean he would hang around. If he smelled a rat-or a cop sting operation-he'd be making tracks out of town.
"Do you think she bought it?" Dirk asked for the fourth time.
"Oh, yeah." Savannah chuckled at the memory of the telephone call her assistant had made on Dirk's behalf earlier. "You should have heard Tammy laying it on thick." Savannah dropped her southern accent and donned Tammy's valley-girl tone. "'Yes, Mrs. Weyerhauser, it's true! Your son, Norbert, has won a forty-one-inch, high-definition, flat-screen television! If you can assure me that he'll be home to sign for it personally this afternoon, your entire family will be able to watch TV in style this weekend!'"
Dirk frowned. "She said forty-one-inch?"
"Yeah, I think so. Why?"
"I don't think they make a forty-one-inch. I told her to say it was a forty-two."
Savannah shrugged. "Oh well. So, Stumpy gets shorted an inch. He's probably used to it."
Grinning, she said, "Didn't you ever notice that Stumpy and his limbs are normal height and length?"
"Uh ... yeah ... I guess."
"So, where did he get that nickname? I'm thinking from a former wife or girlfriend, someone who knew him intimately."
Dirk smirked. "You're a nasty, evil woman, Van. I like the way you think."
"Well, you know me." She shrugged. "I have a soft spot in my heart for nimrods who break into elderly ladies' houses, steal from them, and smack them around. I think about Granny Reid, and then I have this overwhelming need to beat them to death with a brick of week-old cornbread."
"Yeah, me, too. I can't tell you how happy I was to hear that this dude had violated his parole. I begged the captain to let me be the one to bring him in."
As they neared the street where Stumpy, robber and senior-citizen abuser, lived, they both dropped the casual banter and assumed an all-business demeanor. Stump wasn't known for carrying deadly weapons or assaulting anybody who was actually big enough or strong enough to fight back, but he was still a convicted felon. And they were pretty sure he'd have pretty strong objections to going back to prison. So, they couldn't exactly sleepwalk through the act of nabbing him.
"When we get there, you go to the front door," Savannah said. "I get to cover the back."
"That's the price I charge for going along."
"But he always runs out the back door!"
"I know. I read his sheet. Why do you think I want to cover the rear?"
"Hey, I'm the cop and-"
"Don't you even go there, buddy. If I wanted to watch cops doing their thing, I'd be home with my feet up, eating Godiva chocolate, and staring at the TV."
"Damn," Dirk grumbled. "I should have had Jake McMurtry or Mike Farnon come along instead of you. They take orders a lot better."
"Yeah, but they wouldn't have come. They don't like you."
Actually, nobody in the SCPD liked Dirk. Most respected him, even envied him; he was a gifted detective. But he never received invitations to hang out at the local bar after hours or drop by for a tri-tip sandwich when somebody in the department threw a barbecue.
Normally, Savannah wouldn't have mentioned that to a person. She wasn't cruel, as a rule. But she knew Dirk didn't care. He didn't have a people-pleasing bone in his body. And long ago she had decided to be Dirk when she grew up. He saved so much energy ... not giving a flying fig what anybody thought of him.
"But you like me," he said with more than a touch of little-boy vulnerability in his voice.
Okay, he cared a little what a few people thought-the people he loved. And he could count those on one hand.
She gave him a dimpled grin. "Oh, I'm plumb crazy about you, but I still get the rear of the house. End of discussion."
Dirk pulled the truck over to the curb. "Then get out here. The house is up there on the right. The yellow one."
As she started to climb out of the truck, he added, "Watch yourself. He's got a pit bull in the backyard."
She froze, one foot on the ground, staring at him, mouth half-open. "Are you yanking my chain?"
He grinned broadly. "Yeah."
"You lyin' sack!" She got out, slammed the door, and said through the open window, "I'll get you back. See if I don't."
She strolled along the street, picking her path among chunks of broken concrete that had once been a sidewalk, tree roots, weeds, and the leavings of dogs whose owners didn't carry pooper-scoopers.
Glancing up and down the block on both sides of the street, she didn't see anyone looking out the window, sitting on the porch, chatting with the neighbors, or trimming any hedges. Not a lot of hedges got trimmed regularly in this neighborhood.
As she got closer to the yellow house, she eyed the blue one next to it. There were no cars in the driveway. Instead of curtains, faded, flowered sheets covered the windows. The backyard was accessible and, from what she could see, there were no signs of a watchdog.
Looking back, she saw that Dirk was still waiting, watching her through the pickup's dirty windshield, grinning at her. He shot her a peace sign. She shook her head and chuckled. Some old hippies never grow up, she thought. But she wouldn't have him any other way.
After one more glance around to make sure she wasn't being watched, she darted down the side of the blue house. It was a small, shotgun affair, long and narrow, with rooms arranged end to end-not unlike the one she had been raised in.
Less than five seconds later, she was in the backyard. From there, she could see the rear of their suspect's house.
She reached into her pocket and retrieved her cell phone. She punched a couple of buttons, and Dirk answered.
"I'm here," she said as she walked through the tangle of weeds, past a collapsed, rusty swing set, and through a broken chain-link fence.
"I'm driving up to the front," he said.
She could hear the truck approaching as she scrambled up to the yellow house and positioned herself at the corner. From here, she couldn't be seen from any of the windows, and she had a clear view of the side of the house and the rear. "I can't see the right side of the house," she whispered into the phone.
"My right or your right?" he asked.
Knowing Dirk, she had already done the "math." Why confuse the poor guy? He confused so easily.
"The right if you're in the house looking out, or ..."
"Dirk! Are you still in the truck, on the street, looking at the house?"
"Then I'm at the left back corner of the house. I can't see the right of the house, so you'll have to keep an eye on it. Your right. You know, like your right hand. That's the hand you scratch your ass with."
"Jeez ... you really are irritable today."
She heard him cut off the engine and open the truck door.
"I'll keep my phone on," he said, "and put it in my pocket, so you can hear what's going on."
"Thanks," she said. "Good luck."
Her ear to the phone, her eyes on the back door and the side windows, she listened as Dirk walked up to the front door and knocked. It took longer than usual-or at least, it seemed like a long time as her adrenaline levels soared and her heart raced-before the door finally opened.
She heard Dirk say, "Hi, are you Myrtle Weyerhauser?"
"Yeah," was the reply.
"I've got a delivery, a wide-screen television, on the truck there. It's for a Mr. Norbert Weyerhauser. Is he your husband, ma'am?"
"No, Stu-I mean ... Norbert is my son."
"Well, if he can sign this form, I'd be happy to-"
"He ain't here."
"But you told our office on the phone that he is. I'm afraid I can't deliver it unless Mr. Weyerhauser signs for it."
"Gimme that paper. I'll sign for it."
"No, ma'am. Can't do that. And besides, I'll need Mr. Weyerhauser to help me unload it. See, my partner was sick today-out with the flu-and I can't carry it in by myself."
Excerpted from Wicked CRAVING by G.A. McKevett Copyright © 2010 by G.A. McKevett and Kensington Publishing Corporation. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Very good book. I have read every book in the series and have enjoyed them all very much. This one takes on the weight loss industry and Savannah Reid does her usual superb job of catching the murderer. The interaction between characters is good and Savannah and Dirk have their usual fights.
I enjoy this mystery series: entertaining, easy read.
Another enjoyable read. A cozy mysterie with a mix of humor & "who-done-it.......Savannah has so much spunk & charisma!!!
Wicked Craving by G.A. McKevett has "assorted celebrities and high society darlings," - a quote from the novel - all for the taking in this criminal investigation. Yet another crime centered on the theme of human weight and the need to look good with weight loss or other addictions. If you have a sweet tooth for the sweet stuff you'll find your craving satisfied for murder mysteries tucked in this novel. How many characters have aliases? How many characters have criminal intent on the brain? How many characters are leading a double life? For the answer to these and other fascinating and intriguing questions jump into the protagonist's life and find the "tasty" mystery to be solved. *This work of fiction will satisfy your craving for the "wicked" stuff.
I love Savannah and her friends so I eagarly await every book. It would be better if you have read a couple of her previous books before you read this one because of what happens with the characters relationships in this one But even if you haven't it is a fun, entertaining and relaxing way to spend your time.
There has been a dearth of clients at the Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency, which leaves owner Savannah Reid bored. She thinks she will have a lot of time to spend with her Granny who has come from Georgia on a visit to San Carmelita. However, her good friend Detective Sergeant Dirk Coulter asks for her help on a case he is working; piquing Savannah's interest so she cannot refuse. The corpse of Maria Wellman was found at the bottom of the steps leading from her home to the beach; both the cop and the private sleuth know instinctively she was murdered. Her husband, renowned diet guru Dr. Robert Wellman claims his wife's jewelry that she was wearing is missing when Savannah inquires about it. The doctor seems more concerned over the lost jewelry than his wife's demise, which enhances him as the prime suspect. However as Savannah and Dirk conduct a deeper investigation they unearth a horde of suspects especially when they learn the true names of the Wellman couple though the diet king remains the top choice. Except for Savannah's friends and family, the rest of the support cast is a selfish lot with some having performed criminal activities; none are endearing as each is nasty leading the audience to believe they are real and capable of murder, and wanting each one to be the killer. That is the cleverness behind this strong whodunit as the reader will miss clues because of a desire to see the multitude locked away. G.A. McKevett provides another spectacular mystery as the victim is placed on the ultimate weight loss program: death. Harriet Klausner