Tag Archives: Elaine Viets

A day in the life of Death Investigator Angela Richman by Elaine Viets

Detective Ray Greiman called me at midnight. “Luther Ridley Delor’s house is on fire. One body so far. They’re bringing it out. Get over there now.”

My heart sank. I’m Angela Richman, Chouteau County Death Investigator. That’s like a paralegal for the medical examiner: I handle homicides and unexplained deaths.

This was the third major fire in Chouteau County, a ten-square-mile preserve for the one percent and those who served them, near Saint Louis, Mo.

Seventy-year-old Luther called himself a financier to take away the sting of how his family made a trainload of money: running a nationwide chain of payday loan companies. I wondered who’d died: Luther? His 20-year-old fiancée, Kendra? A servant?

Burn victims were worse than badly decomposed bodies. When I arrived, the scene at the fiery mansion was controlled chaos. The victim was Luther, not Kendra Salvato, his Mexican-American fiancée. Detective Greiman had already decided Kendra had killed the old man. He told me Luther spent his last night at a local bar “pounding down Dos Equis and grabbing Kendra’s ass. Popped Viagra with a beer and said he and his little ‘greaser gal’ were going home to screw and we should expect to see flames. Too bad they were the wrong kind.”

Greiman’s evidence? A half-melted gasoline container found by Luther’s door. It had the logo of Kendra’s father’s lawn service. Jose mowed the lawns in Luther’s neighborhood.

“So?” I said. “The crew lost it.”

“Right before the house happens to go up in flames? I don’t believe in coincidence.”

I tried to ignore Greiman and concentrate on Luther’s body actualization – the examination. Luther seemed smaller in death – and he really was. Burn victims could lose up to 60 percent of their weight.

I slipped on four pairs of latex gloves. I’d strip off the gloves and put them in my pocket as the examination went on so I wouldn’t contaminate the investigation with fluids or fibers from other areas. I called up the “Body of a Burn Victim” form on my iPad. The routine questions soothed me, restoring order to this hellish chaos.

Were there any thermal injuries? Luther’s arms were raised in the classic “pugilistic stance” of a burn victim, as if he’d gone nine rounds with death and lost. His arm muscles had contracted in the heat. I measured the burns and blisters on his seared flesh, then carefully covered his fragile hands in paper bags secured with rubber bands. They might crumble when the body was transported to the morgue. The heat from a fire made bones brittle, and they could fracture when the body was moved. No bones jutted through his skin. I noted that, then tore my eyes away from the horror for the next question.

Hair color? Luther’s magnificent white hair had been burned away, but I knew the color and noted the absence of hair.

Eye color? I couldn’t tell. The eyes were cooked and shriveled. I fought back my nausea. Focus. You have a duty to help Luther. He was a rich, silly old fool led around by his libido, but now he needs your skill. Local gossip said the old man had given his young mistress $2,000,000 to wear his ring and another $2,000,000 when she married him. Now he was a brittle-boned mess of kindling.

Was the victim’s clothing consumed by fire? Luther wore the remnants of white silk boxer shorts: a melted elastic waistband and enough cloth to cover his genitals. I saw no sign of other clothes and didn’t remove his underpants. That would be the ME’s job.

Was there an odor of petroleum product on the clothing? I forced myself to lean in closer but couldn’t smell either oil or gasoline.

Was the victim known to drink to excess? I had no idea how much he’d drunk tonight—or rather, last night—but it had to be a lot. If his body was too cooked to do a blood alcohol test, the ME would have to use a piece of brain.

Could the victim’s medical problems have contributed to the fire or to his/her inability to exit the fire scene? “Witnesses said the victim was extremely intoxicated when last seen alive,” I wrote. Was Luther too drunk or confused to follow Kendra’s instructions? Did she even try to save him? If she abandoned Luther, she’d still have $2,000,000 – a lot of money for a manicurist.

Was the victim heard to cry out by any witnesses? That was the question. Plenty of witnesses were still watching the firefighters. I’d seen Greiman jump to conclusions before. It wasn’t my job to investigate Luther’s death—in fact, it violated the rules.

But I did have to record the facts. And I’d do everything I could to make sure Kendra was fairly treated.


You can read more about Angela in Fire and Ashes, the second book in the “Angela Richman, Death Investigator” mystery series.

In the exclusive, gated enclave of Olympia Forest Estates, death investigator Angela Richman watches a mansion go up in a fiery blaze. Seventy-year-old Luther Delor, who owns a sleazy but profitable chain of payday loan stores, dies in the fire. Luther, a drunken, bed-hopping rhinestone cowboy, scandalized the community when he left his wife for a twenty-year-old Mexican-American manicurist, Kendra Salvato. She’s accused of killing him and setting other fires in Chouteau County. Kendra is being railroaded to death row as a gold-digging killer.

All there is against Kendra is vicious gossip and anti-Mexican rage, and both are spreading like wildfire. Meanwhile, Angela is trying to douse the flames with forensic work that’s putting the Forest on edge. After all, facts could implicate one of their own. Now, sifting through the ashes of a vicious crime—and the guilty secrets of the privileged—only Angela can get to the truth, and prevent an innocent woman from getting burned.

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About the author
Award-winning author Elaine Viets has written thirty-one mysteries in four series, including the bestselling Dead-End Job series, featuring South Florida private detectives Helen Hawthorne and her husband, Phil Sagemont. She also wrote the Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper mystery series and the dark Francesca Vierling mysteries. She has served on the national boards of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. She’s a frequent contributor to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine as well as anthologies edited by Charlaine Harris and Lawrence Block. Viets has won the Anthony, Agatha, and Lefty Awards.

The Angela Richman, Death Investigator series returns the prolific author to her hard-boiled roots. Brain Storm draws on her personal experiences as a stroke survivor, as well as her studies in the Medicolegal Death Investigators Training Course at Saint Louis University’s School of Medicine. Fire and Ashes, the second novel in the series, was published July 25, 2017.

All comments are welcomed.

My Musing ~ Fire and Ashes by Elaine Viets

Fire and Ashes by Elaine Viets is the second book in the “Death Investigator Angela Richman” mystery series. Publisher: Thomas & Mercer, coming July 25, 2017

In the exclusive, gated enclave of Olympia Forest Estates, death investigator Angela Richman watches a mansion go up in a fiery blaze. With it, seventy-year-old financier Luther Delor, a drunken, bed-hopping rhinestone cowboy. Embroiled in a bitter divorce, Delor may have scandalized Chouteau Forest, but his murder has united it against the accused: Delor’s twenty-year-old girlfriend, Kendra Salvato, an “outsider.” With an engagement ring bigger than Chouteau County, she’s being railroaded straight to death row as a gold-digging killer.

All there is against Kendra is vicious gossip and anti-Mexican rage, and both are spreading like wildfire. Meanwhile, Angela is trying to douse the flames with forensic work that’s putting the Forest on edge. After all, facts could implicate one of their own. Now, sifting through the ashes of a vicious crime—and the guilty secrets of the privileged—only Angela can get to the truth, and prevent an innocent woman from getting burned.

This is one book that I could not put down, quickly becoming a page turner. Who killed Luther Delor? Everyone suspects his very young Mexican fiancee. Did she do it? Is she also the arsonist? Well, I have to tell you that Elaine wrote a well-executed intense drama that captured the essence of what was going on with the parties involved in this case. From the fire inspector to the detective, they already had the town convinced of her guilt. Enters Angela who feels there is more to this and once she gets involved, this becomes an all-around deeply insightful tale dealing with the aftermath of death and arson.

The narrative was visually descriptive letting me imagine the goriness that Angela faced as a death investigator but it’s her strength that prevails when all is said and done. The mystery was tightly woven with subplots that played off each other that helped enhance the telling of this tale. The author does a nice job in setting the stage in this hard-boiled thriller where scene by scene, eye-opening details are exposed and it’s the culmination of facts that involved the town’s own residents and their demons and a few strategically placed twists brought this story to a justifiable conclusion. This is an engagingly riveting read and I can’t wait to read the next book with in this gripping series.


FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the author.

A Day in the Life of Angela Richman by Elaine Viets

Brain StormI’m Angela Marie Richman, death investigator in Chouteau County, Missouri, home of the one-percent. At a death, the DI is in charge of the body. Police handle the crime scene. I work for the medical examiner. I was at the home of Ben Weymuller, ninety-two. He’d died at the bottom of his basement stairs. Ben’s daughter, Lucille, found him an hour ago. Now she was a murder suspect.

Ben lived in Toonerville, the snobs’ name for the community where the workers lived. Ben made carvings for chichi shops.

I hauled out my DI kit. I was shocked to see sixty-seven-year-old Lucille caged in a patrol car. A uniform wouldn’t let me comfort her.

To examine Ben’s body, I snapped on latex gloves, then fired up my iPad. The stomach-twisting odors of death overpowered the scent of fresh wood.

Ray Foster Greiman, my least favorite homicide detective, said, “Goddamn basement’s been trampled by a herd of buffalo. The daughter called EMS, and those assholes tried to revive him, even though he was DRT.”

Dead Right There.

I let him rant. EMS had to try to save Ben. The fine-boned old man lay on his back in a dark-red pool crisscrossed with footprints and dotted with medical debris. I photographed the scene, then moved in for closer shots.

Ben wore khakis and beige socks. His chest was burned by the efforts to restart his heart. IV lines trailed from his hands. I documented them and left them in place. His plaid shirt had been ripped off and tossed on the floor.

Ben’s snowy hair was matted with blood. The left side of his face and chest were purple-red. After Ben died, the blood pooled in his body: livor mortis. He must have died on that side.

I sketched the basement, diagramming the stairs splitting it between the storage and the workshop. Ben kept a neat basement.

“The daughter did him,” Greiman said. “She said, ‘It’s my fault.’”

I wasn’t sure that was a confession. Family members often blamed themselves for a loved one’s death.

“Why did Lucille say that?”

“She carried on, but I finally figured out she’d stopped by yesterday to bring her father lunch. She was in a hurry to go to the church volunteers’ lunch to get some two-bit award, and forgot to go downstairs to get him more canned soup. She says the geezer probably went downstairs himself about six. She thinks he fell because he wore those slippery socks.”

The stairs were made of reddish wood streaked with honey. “Why don’t the steps have treads?” I asked.

“He made the stairs himself. Thought treads would ruin them. Stubborn old coot. Ben had a bad heart, and she checked him daily. I figure she got tired of the demanding old guy and pushed him downstairs before she left for lunch. Those stairs are a death trap.”

“No!” I wanted to shout. But adult children did help demanding parents pass prematurely.

“They do look slippery,” I said. I counted the steps—twenty-four— and noted their slick surface and the forty-watt bulb that lit them.

I jiggled the handrail. It was sturdy. I photographed the blood streaked and spattered on the stairs, and measured the blood, including the clots painting the corner of the fourth step from the bottom.

Then I started the examination. Through the thick, crusted blood, I saw many bruises and scrapes on Ben’s scalp and face, and a “triangular-shaped indented defect” on his left temple.

“Did you see this blood on the fourth step, Ray? It looks like it matches the indentation in his head.”

“Not sure it’s a match,” he said. “If the daughter didn’t shove him, she clobbered him with a piece of wood. The tech is checking every stick.”

I photographed the bottoms of Ben’s socks. They were slightly gray, as if he’d walked around his house without shoes. I described the plain wedding ring on his liver-spotted left hand.

I took the room’s temperature, then made a slit below his ribs and recorded his body-core temperature, circled and initialed the cut in his skin.

A grumpy Greiman helped me turn Ben’s body, and I photographed more contusions and blood on his back, as well as the expected livor mortis on his left side.

“You done?” Detective Greiman asked. “Time to call the meat wagon.”

As the morgue attendants rolled Ben’s body to the van, I heard fresh sobs from Lucille.

Ben’s long, useful life had come to a violent end. But unlike Detective Greiman, I was sure Ben was killed by his own creation, not his only daughter.


Brain Storm is the first book in the NEW Angela Richman, Death Investigator mystery series, published by Thomas and Mercer, August 2016.

The ultrawealthy families of Chouteau Forest may look down on a woman like death investigator Angela Richman, but they also rely on her. When a horrific car crash kills a Forest teenager, Angela is among the first on the scene. Her investigation is hardly underway, however, when she suffers a series of crippling strokes. Misdiagnosed by the resident neurologist, Dr. Gravois, and mended by gauche yet brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Jeb Travis Tritt, Angela faces a harrowing recovery.

It’s a drug-addled, hallucinating Angela who learns that Dr. Gravois has been murdered. . .and the chief suspect is the surgeon who saved her life. Angela doesn’t believe it, but can she trust her instincts? Her brain trauma brings doubts that she’ll ever recover her investigative skills. But she’s determined to save Dr. Tritt from a death-row sentence—even if her progress is thwarted at every turn by a powerful and insular community poised to protect its own.

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About the author
Bestselling mystery writer Elaine Viets has written 30 mysteries in four series. In Brain Storm, the first Angela Richman Death Investigator mystery, she returns to her hardboiled roots. Elaine passed the Medicolegal Death Investigators Course for forensic professionals to research the series.

She’s written short stories for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and anthologies edited by Charlaine Harris and Lawrence Block. The Art of Murder, featuring South Florida PIs Helen Hawthorne and her husband, Phil Sagemont, is Elaine’s 15th Dead-End Job mystery. She’s won the Anthony, Agatha, and Lefty Awards. Elaine is director at large of the Mystery Writers of America. Connect with Elaine at www.elaineviets.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win an advanced reader copy (ARC) of Brain Storm. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end August 5, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!

My Musing ~ Brain Storm by Elaine Viets

Brain Storm by Elaine Viets is the first book in the NEW “Death Investigator Angela Richman” mystery series. Publisher: Thomas and Mercer, August 2016

Brain StormWhen The Old Money Façade Fails, The Lies Comes to Light.

The ultrawealthy families of Chouteau Forest may look down on a woman like death investigator Angela Richman, but they also rely on her. When a horrific car crash kills a Forest teenager, Angela is among the first on the scene. Her investigation is hardly underway, however, when she suffers a series of crippling strokes. Misdiagnosed by the resident neurologist, Dr. Gravois, and mended by gauche yet brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Jeb Travis Tritt, Angela faces a harrowing recovery.

It’s a drug-addled, hallucinating Angela who learns that Dr. Gravois has been murdered. . .and the chief suspect is the surgeon who saved her life. Angela doesn’t believe it, but can she trust her instincts? Her brain trauma brings doubts that she’ll ever recover her investigative skills. But she’s determined to save Dr. Tritt from a death-row sentence—even if her progress is thwarted at every turn by a powerful and insular community poised to protect its own.

All I can say is “wow!” This book immediately grabbed my attention with that first sentence and from that moment, I could not put this book down until the last page was read. The raw emotions contained in this narrative kept me riveted to what was going on as this multi-plot scenario captured Angela’s recovery and the investigation into the “favored” doctor’s murder. Superbly written, this fast-paced drama had me quickly turning the pages as I had to know how this will all play out. The author did a great job setting up this mystery with plenty of suspects and when I thought I had nailed the killer, the author changed direction with some intriguing twists that enhanced the telling of this tale, a twist I did not see coming. Elaine draws on her own experience as a stroke survivor and the depth in which she illustrates the recovery is testimony to the engaging tale that will leave you with awe and triumph for both Angela and Elaine. This is a terrifically gripping read and I look forward to more stories with Angela and her death investigations.

FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) book from the author.

A Day in the Life of Helen Hawthorne by Elaine Viets

Art of MurderYes, I went undercover as a high-priced call girl, chased a vicious killer through a fancy neighborhood, and nearly killed myself walking in hooker heels in The Art of Murder.

None of that would have happened if my landlady, Margery Flax, hadn’t dragged me to a Fort Lauderdale museum.

My name is Helen Hawthorne. I’m forty-one, a partner in a detective agency, Coronado Investigations, with my husband, Phil Sagemont. Margery is seventy-six. She owns the Coronado Tropic Apartments. That’s where Phil and I live and have our PI office.

Margery insisted I tour the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens.

I’m not big on museum house tours. I get bored looking at dead, rich people’s things.

But Margery said this tour was different, and once again, she was right.

Bonnet House is a lighthearted oasis tucked next to trashy tourist shops and grim, gray hotels on Fort Bonnet House Lauderdale Beach. It was owned by two artists, Frederic Clay and Evelyn Bartlett. The cheerful pale yellow mansion was Frederic’s idea of a Caribbean plantation house. We could see squirrel monkeys playing in the trees, white swans preening in a pond, and exotic orchids blooming everywhere.

“I could actually live here,” I told Margery, “and I don’t feel that way about most mansions.”

“Frederic and his wife, Evelyn, weren’t your usual super-rich,” Margery said. “They both had brains and talent. Evelyn is my role model. She appreciated good art, good booze, good living and good men. Made it to age a hundred and nine. After a scandalous divorce back in the twenties, she outlived her critics in style.”

Margery had her own style and juicy scandals. She’d once been arrested for murder.

We saw Frederic’s towering, two-story art studio with the clear north light artists love. I could almost see the boldly handsome Bartlett painting, a romantic figure with slicked-back hair and a mustache, holding his palette like a shield and wielding a brush. He looked like the sort of man who could get away with a poet’s shirt.

The tour guide told us Evelyn liked good food, but never set foot in the kitchen. She’d talk to the cook about the day’s meals through the window.

My kind of woman.

Margery and I admired the house’s whimsical touches: the gilded Baroque columns swirling around the bonnet_house3drawing room doors, the brightly painted carousel giraffes on a courtyard walkway, and the lacy wrought iron from New Orleans. We saw Frederic’s murals and paintings. Evelyn’s colorful, sensual art had its own white-walled gallery in a former guest house.

We both liked the Shell Museum, a 1930s bandbox housing Evelyn’s shell collection, her Bamboo Bar, and blooming orchids. “At the age of a hundred and one, Evelyn started a new hobby, collecting miniature orchids,” the tour guide said.

“Wonder what I’ll be doing at a hundred and one,” Margery said.

“Whatever you want,” I said. “I like the idea that Frederic gave Evelyn her own bar.”

“Most men won’t even fetch their wives a drink,” Margery said.

By the time we were at the Bonnet House courtyard, I felt slightly dazed and dazzled, as if I’d watched Evelyn and Frederic’s star-dusted lives on fast forward.

Bonnet2The courtyard, sheltered by feathery palms and bright with flowers, was cool even at noon. A flock of artists were working on the loggia, and we watched the teacher and the students.

I don’t know much about art, but I thought a student called Annabel was the best painter, maybe better than the teacher. Annabel was about thirty-five, but so thin, she looked like she might snap. A lime green cane was propped against her table like an exotic plant. At first glance, Annabel’s painting seemed slapdash, but I could feel the movement. Only the good ones have that power.

Then Margery’s fingers started twitching. “I’m dying for a cigarette,” she said. I was surprised she’d lasted more than an hour without a Marlboro.

I was sorry to leave Bonnet House. But it turned out I’d be spending lots more time there. That same morning after class, the talented Annabel collapsed and died. All that talent lost. No one knew if she was a suicide or a murder victim. I was hired to find out.

Margery, Phil and I caught the killers. But not before I was in a car chase that ended when a six-figure sports car crashed into a million-dollar yacht.


The Art of Murder, Elaine Viets’s 15th Dead-End Job mystery, debuts May 3rd as a hardcover online and at fine bookstores, published by Obsidian, May 2016.

From the national bestselling author of Checked Out, Helen Hawthorne must pose as a painter at Fort Lauderdale’s famous Bonnet House Museum to catch an artful killer . . .

The art world is a happening place—but a brush with death shouldn’t be in the picture. Unfortunately that’s just what happens to Helen Hawthorne and her friend Margery. While touring gorgeous Bonnet House, a mansion-turned-museum, they observe a painting class and note an up-and-coming artist. When they later see her deadly end, Helen is hired to canvas the crime scene—undercover, of course.

Sketchy suspects lurk in the victim’s bohemian past. Was the promising painter killed by her jealous husband? Her best friend? A rival using her artful wiles? With her husband Phil busy setting a trap for a gold thief, it’s up to Helen to paint this killer into a corner . . .

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About the author
The Art of Murder, Elaine Viets’ new Dead-End Job mystery, opens at Bonnet House, a whimsical elaineVietsFort Lauderdale museum with rollicking art, exotic orchids, carousel figures, and a troupe of mischievous squirrel monkeys that escaped from a bar. Elaine worked as a museum volunteer while she researched her fifteenth Dead-End Job mystery.

She’s written 29 bestselling mysteries in three series: hardboiled Francesca Vierling mysteries, traditional Dead-End Job mysteries, and cozy Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mysteries. Checked Out, Viets’ 14th Dead-End Job mystery is set at a library. Suspense magazine called it one of 2015’s best cozies. The Palm Beach Post named, Shop till You Drop, Elaine’s first Dead-End Job mystery, one of 16 must-read Florida books, along with John D. MacDonald, Elmore Leonard and Jeff “Dexter” Lindsay.

Elaine has written numerous short stories for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines, and anthologies edited by Charlaine Harris and Lawrence Block. She’s won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards. Visit her at www.elaineviets.com.

Elaine will tour eight cities May 3-10. To see where she’s signing, click HERE.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Checked Out. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end May 9, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

All comments are welcomed.

Spending More Time With Margery Flax by Elaine Viets

CatnappedMargery Flax here, the Coronado Tropic Apartments landlady. At least I was until that Snakehead Bay detective arrested me for murdering my ex-husband, Zach.

I’m Helen and Phil’s landlady. They live at the Coronado with their fur bag, Thumbs.

Most people don’t know it, and that’s fine with me, but I was married to Zach the seagoing rat. Then the DEA dropped by one day and told me he was running drugs. I didn’t believe it. I went to his charter boat and caught him with Daisy. He stepped out on me with that frizzy-haired frump.

I bounced the bum and he disappeared for thirty years. Then he walks back into my life with a big purple bouquet, like a few flowers are going to make me forget what he did. Zach swears he loves me and wants to get married.

Married! I wound up with my own personal senior stalker. When he died, I didn’t waste any tears on him. Helen and Phil, the husband-and-wife private eyes who run Coronado Investigations, wanted me to hire a lawyer, Nancie Hays.

arrestedI couldn’t see wasting good money on lawyers, but I did hire Coronado Investigations to find who killed Zach. They hadn’t done much good, when I was arrested for killing Zach.

Helen wanted me to identify some of Zach’s wharf rat buddies in an old photo, so she tagged along with Nancie the lawyer to visit me at the Broward County jail. I could tell by Helen’s face she was shocked by my appearance. Purple’s my color, not these ugly jail scrubs.

Once we got the photo ID out of the way, Helen asked, “Now, how are you, Margery?”

“How do you think? I can’t smoke.”

“You said you can’t smoke officially,” Helen said. She’s a sharp one.

“You can get anything you want in prison,” I said. “I’ve scored some tobacco, but the price was high.”

“How high?” Helen asked.

“The jail has these things called Care Packs that family and friends can send. You buy them online through a Web site. I need you to send ten weeks of the thirty-dollar protein-pack Care Packs for this inmate here.”

I handed Helen a scrap of paper. “This has her prisoner ID number, name and the Care Pack Web site. Don’t lose the ID number. That’s more important than her name.” People in jail are numbers, not names.

“She gets one protein pack a week. You can’t order more, and it has to start right away.”

“You paid three hundred dollars for tobacco?” Helen asked.

“I’ve been smoking for sixty years and I had to go cold turkey,” I said. “I would have signed away the Coronado for a smoke.”

“Of course I’ll do it,” Helen said. “What’s in this protein pack?”

house“A festival of junk food. Beef and cheddar sticks, salami sticks, chili cheese corn chips, cashews, peanuts, a hot fudge sundae Pop-Tart, two kinds of cookies. There’s more, but you get the idea. It’s the death penalty by coronary.” I was practically drooling as I recited the list. My stomach might have growled, too.

“You’ve got the contraband tobacco,” Helen said. “Where are you getting the rolling papers?”

Like I said, she’s smart. But I wasn’t telling her everything. I said, “My pocket Bible is a great comfort to me.”

“Huh?” Helen said. She knew I never used that particular B-word. But Nancie figured it out and started lecturing – one I’ll have to pay for, since I’m renting her by the hour.

“Margery, if you’re caught using Bible pages for rolling paper—if you’re caught with any contraband—you understand the penalties are severe,” the lawyer said.

“Worth the risk,” I said. “Besides, I’m a harmless old lady.” Nancie didn’t buy that.

Helen switched the subject, the way she does when she gets uncomfortable.

“How’s the food in here?” she asked.

I shrugged. “Bland. You know what BSO stands for?”

“Broward Sheriff’s Office?”

“Baloney Sandwiches Only.”

“Would you like a Care Pack?” Helen asked.

“Would I! I’ll pay you. I’m starving. I’ve got the munchies since I quit smoking.”

“Quit?” Helen said.

“Cut back,” I said.

“I’ll send you one a day,” Helen said.

“Can’t. Like I said, prisoners are limited to one Care Pack a week.”

“How are the other prisoners treating you, besides smuggling you contraband?” Helen asked.

“Okay. Some are mean, some are crazy, and some are mad-dog dangerous. Most like me because I killed my old man. They’ll be disappointed when they find out I’m innocent.”

Nancie looked alarmed. “You aren’t talking to them about Zach’s murder, are you?”

I’m old, but I’m not stupid. I straightened her out right quick. “I’ve watched enough TV to know about jailhouse snitches. Right now, it helps if they think I’m a stone-cold killer.” I gave her my best hardcore face.

“Is there anything else I can get you?” Helen asked.

“Yeah. Out of here.”


You can read more about Margery in Catnapped!, the 13th book in the “Dead-End Job” mystery series, published by Obsidian. The first book in the series is Shop Till You Drop. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Catnapped! Synopsis
Socialite Trish Barrymore and her rich husband, Smart Mort, can agree on only one thing in their bitter divorce: shared custody of their beloved cat. But when Mort is found dead and the cat is being held for a half-million dollars in ransom money, it’s up to husband and wife PI team Helen Hawthorne and Phil Sagemont to go undercover in the world of cat shows to find the catnapper — and Mort’s killer. Another cat-tastrophe looms. Their home, Coronado Apartments, is slated for a tear-down when Margery, their landlady, is arrested for murder one.

Read the first chapter of “Catnapped!” HERE

Check out the book trailer for “Catnapped!” HERE

GIVEAWAY
Comment on this post by 6 p.m. EST on May 17, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of CATNAPPED!. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.

Meet the author
Catnapped!,” Elaine Viets’ new hardcover mystery from Obsidian, is set in the world of cat shows and pet custody. The New York Times Review of Books praises her “quick-witted mysteries.”

Elaine’s bestselling Dead-End Job series is a satiric look at a serious subject – the minimum-wage world. Her character, Helen Hawthorne, works a different low-paying job each book. Elaine’s second series features mystery shopper Josie Marcus.

Elaine is a St. Louis native who now lives in Fort Lauderdale. She won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards.

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Catnapped by Elaine Viets

CatnappedCatnapped by Elaine Viets is the 13th book in the “Dead-End Job” mystery series. Publisher: Obsidian, May 2014

No more pussyfooting around! Husband and wife PI team Helen Hawthorne and Phil Sagemont have barely scratched the surface of the world of show cats when a cornered kitty kidnapper’s claws come out.

This show cat is a no-show.

The one thing celebrity Trish Barrymore and her no-account accountant husband, Mort, can agree on in their bitter divorce is shared cat custody. But when Mort is found brained by a mahogany cat tower, and Justine, their pedigreed Chartreux show cat, goes missing, Trish calls on Helen and Phil. Despite a ransom note from the catnapper, Trish is still the prime murder suspect in the eyes of the police. As they await the post-Mort-em, it’s up to Helen and Phil to find the feline filcher and let the cat out of the bag.

Discovering that Mort had some shady dealings within cat show circles, Helen goes undercover as an assistant for a woman who shows prizewinning Persians. But Phil is not buying Trish’s cat-that-swallowed-a-canary act—he thinks she might be staging the whole catnapping.

As Helen and Phil get deeper into a high-pressure world of primping, posing, and purring to collar a killer, they get caught up in a cat-and-mouse game where the stakes are literally life and death.

One of the things I like best about this series are the dead-end jobs that Helen takes and in their latest caper, Helen gets a job as a cat groomer when her client is jailed for murder and her prized cat is kidnapped. This was a very enjoyable read with an interesting subplot peaked my interest – the behind the scenes look at the preparation of what it takes to “show” a cat. This quickly became a page-turner as I had to know what happens next and the author did a good job in keeping me busy collecting clues in this well-defined whodunit. As always, it’s a fun ride when we get to see Margery, Peggy and even Pete as Helen and Phil enjoy their daily lives and respite at the Coronado Tropic Apartments.

FTC Disclosure – The publisher sent me a digital ARC provided through NetGalley, in the hopes I would review it.

A Day in the Life of Amelia Marcus by Elaine Viets

Fixing To Die“Amelia, you are not wearing that skirt to school,” my mom said. “Your cheeks are hanging out.”

“Mom, that’s gross!” My new hot pink bubble skirt was cute.

“Not as gross as that skirt,” my mom said.

I sighed. Mothers just don’t get it.

My name is Amelia Marcus. I’m twelve and I go to the Barrington School for Boys and Girls in St. Louis. My mom’s a mystery shopper and knows where to find cute clothes.

But this morning she went all preachy about my skirt. “You know it doesn’t meet the dress code. Go change. Now. We have to leave for school.”

“Don’t have to change.” I tugged on the hem and suddenly the length was okay. That was the first time I saw Mom smile since everything turned weird.

Grandma told me Mom used to roll up her skirts at the waist like I do when she was young. Grandma Jane made her fix them before she left home.

But about our house: Dr. Ted, my mom’s new husband, is a veterinarian in Maplewood, Mo. house They bought a house that’s like an antique and I have my own room. Purple, my fav. Our house used to be owned by Dr. Chris, Ted’s vet partner. When Ted tore down the rickety backyard gazebo, there was a dead woman under it. Mom kept me inside so I wouldn’t see her. But I did see poor Dr. Chris. The dead woman turned out to be Dr. Chris’ sister, who everyone thought went to California. Dr. Chris was arrested for murder.

Then Barrington School got weird, too. Zoe, she’s like the head mean girl, put up a Bitches of Barrington page on Facebook, four pictures of me and my friends in doghouse frames. When we left school, the other kids howled at us like dogs.

mean girlsMom figured out something was wrong. I didn’t want to talk about it, but she took me to a coffeehouse with Wi-Fi. I almost never get cappuccino. I showed her the Bitches of Barrington FB page on my laptop. It was dark in the coffeehouse and I cried, but nobody saw me except Mom. She was so mad, she drove us right back to school. The other three girls’ parents were there and they marched in to see Miss Apple, the head of school.

I sat in the waiting room with other BOBs. We call ourselves that because our parents don’t like us to say the B-word. On the BOB page, I was “Clumsy Bitch.” Zoe took my photo when I dropped spaghetti on my white blouse. My best friend Emma was “fugly,” a word Mom won’t let me use. Bailey was the “fat bitch.” That’s just mean. Her father is a big deal lawyer and he was mad, too. Palmer was the “rich bitch.”

We BOB girls didn’t expect Miss Apple to do anything. Zoe and her friends are her pets and their parents donate major money. We were right.

The ’rents told us what happened later. Miss Apple said there was no proof the BOB photos were taken at school by Barrington students. Even though everybody knew who did it. Well, she didn’t say that, but the whole school knows who did it.

Mrs. Apple said the lawyers made Facebook take down the page and if we could prove Barrington students did the BOB page, they’d be expelled.

Bailey’s father wanted to sue, but that’s how lawyers talk. Emma and I texted each other and decided we would prove who did it cause we’re good with computers.

Did we succeed? Did Mom figure out who killed the lady under the gazebo at our new house?

Read “Fixing to Die” to find out.

Synopsis:
Mystery shopper Josie Marcus has been happily married to veterinarian Ted Scottsmeyer for months. But her newly wedded bliss is about to be cut short.

Josie and Ted have finally tied the knot, and they’re ready for the next step: buying a house. Ted’s business partner, Christine, has one she’s willing to sell, but it needs a lot of love. Luckily, the newlyweds are up for the challenge.

But when they tear down a rickety gazebo in the backyard, they find the body of Christine’s sister, a free spirit who supposedly took off six months before. The police arrest Christine for murder, leaving Ted to work overtime at the office to cover for his partner. With no time to work on the house or be with her husband, Josie will have to find the real killer quickly, before both her house and marriage are beyond repair.


Thanks to Penguin, I have one (1) copy of “Fixing to Die” to give away. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Contest ends November 22; US entries only per publisher’s request.


Meet the author
Mizzou grad Elaine Viets (BJ ‘72) writes two bestselling mystery series for Obsidian, a division of Penguin USA. “Murder Is a Piece of Cake” is the eighth book in her Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series. Set in Elaine’s hometown of St. Louis, the series features mystery shopper and single mom Josie Marcus. Fresh Fiction says, “Without a doubt, the combination of love, humor, and wedded bliss truly distinguish ‘Murder Is a Piece of Cake’ as one of Viets’ very best.”

The New York Times Review of Books praises her “quick-witted mysteries.” Elaine’s bestselling Dead-End Job series is a satiric look at a serious subject – the minimum-wage world. Her character, Helen Hawthorne, works a different low-paying job each book. Her current hardcover, “Final Sail,” looks at life aboard a 143-foot yacht. “Board Stiff,” Elaine Viets’ new hardcover mystery set in the cut-throat world of Florida tourism. will be published in May.

Elaine won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards. She just signed a contract for two more Dead-End Job mysteries and two Josie Marcus Mystery shopper novels.

Listen to her weekly Internet talk show, Dead-End Jobs Radio Show, at radioearnetwork.com. Follow her on Facebook and check out the first chapters of her mysteries at www.elaineviets.com.

Fixing To Die by Elaine Viets

Fixing To DieFixing To Die by Elaine Viets is the ninth book in the “Jose Marcus, Mystery Shopper” mystery series. Publisher: Obsidian, November 2013

Mystery shopper Josie Marcus has been happily married to veterinarian Ted Scottsmeyer for months. But her newly wedded bliss is about to be cut short.

Josie and Ted have finally tied the knot, and they’re ready for the next step: buying a house. Ted’s business partner, Christine, has one she’s willing to sell, but it needs a lot of love. Luckily, the newlyweds are up for the challenge.

But when they tear down a rickety gazebo in the backyard, they find the body of Christine’s sister, a free spirit who supposedly took off six months before. The police arrest Christine for murder, leaving Ted to work overtime at the office to cover for his partner. With no time to work on the house or be with her husband, Josie will have to find the real killer quickly, before both her house and marriage are beyond repair.

Elaine has done it again by delivering a wonderfully crafted whodunit that was both enjoyable and entertaining. This terrific mystery kept me engage from beginning to end and I enjoyed following the clues along with Josie that led us closer to the killer’s identity. It was great watching Josie grow stronger with much confidence as a heroine. Boasting a solid storyline, great dialogue, a wonderful cast of characters that includes Ted and Amelia, and a nice comfortable tone, this is one of the best books in this fabulously excellent series.