Authors: Susan M. Boyer
Tags: #Mystery, #private investigators, #humor, #british mysteries, #southern fiction, #cozy mystery, #murder mysteries, #english mysteries, #murder mystery, #southern mysteries, #chick lit, #humorous mystery, #mystery series, #mystery and thrillers, #romantic comedy, #women sleuths
Praise for Susan M. Boyer’s Liz Talbot Mysteries
“Is there anything more enticing than curling up with a thrilling whodunit that keeps you guessing until the very end? Susan Boyer delivers big time with a witty mystery that is fun, radiant, and impossible to put down. I LOVE THIS BOOK!”
– Darynda Jones,
New York Times
is that rare combination of suspense, humor, seduction, and mayhem, an absolute must-read not only for mystery enthusiasts but for anyone who loves a fast-paced, well-written story!”
– Cassandra King,
The Same Sweet Girls
inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s
“Another sharp, sassy, intriguing mystery…filled with unique southernisms, gracious charm, and a cast of eccentric characters…
is a cozy feeling, hard boiled PI novel with a little romance thrown in. The best of three genres all mixed together.”
– Nancy McFarlane,
Fiction Addiction Reviewer
“Imaginative, empathetic, genuine, and fun,
is a lowcountry delight.”
– Carolyn Hart,
What the Cat Saw
“I love this book. And you will, too...This light-hearted and authentically Southern mystery is full of heart, insight, and a deep understanding of human nature.”
– Hank Phillippi Ryan,
Anthony, Agatha & Macavity Winning Author of
The Other Woman
pulls the reader in like the draw of a riptide with a keeps-you-guessing mystery full of romance, family intrigue, and the smell of salt marsh on the Charleston coast.”
– Cathy Pickens,
Author of the
“Plenty of secrets, long-simmering feuds, and greedy ventures make for a captivating read…Boyer’s chick lit PI debut charmingly showcases South Carolina island culture.”
“Boyer’s deft hand at Southernese adds a rich texture to the narrative and breathes sass into the coastal setting, leaving no doubt that this author is a fresh new voice on the mystery scene.”
– Maggie Toussaint,
Death, Island Style
“Twisted humor has long been a tradition in Southern literature (maybe it’s the heat and humidity), and Boyer delivers it with both barrels…Boyer’s voice is so perky that no matter what looney mayhem her characters commit, we happily dive in with them. An original and delightful read.”
– Betty Webb,
“A fascinating story with the hint of ghost story mixed in with the mystery. With many plot twists and a very surprising ending,
kept me guessing all the way through.”
– Fresh Fiction,
A Fresh Review and Fresh Pick
Books in the Liz Talbot Mystery Series
by Susan M. Boyer
LOWCOUNTRY BOIL (#1)
LOWCOUNTRY BOMBSHELL (#2)
LOWCOUNTRY BONEYARD (#3)
coming September 2014
A Liz Talbot Mystery
Part of the Henery Press Mystery Collection
Digital Kindle edition | September 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including internet usage, without written permission from Henery Press, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
2013 by Susan M. Boyer
Cover art by Fayette Terlouw
Author photograph by Phil Hyman Photography
This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Printed in the United States of America
This one is for my parents, Wayne & Claudette Jones,
who inspired my love of fast, red cars.
First, foremost, and always, thank you, Jim Boyer. I could not write my stories and chase my dreams without your unlimited love and support. Thank you to each and every member of my wonderful family for your patience with my crazy schedule.
Thank you, Donald Spoto, for the detailed research that went into your fascinating biography of Marilyn Monroe. To Jenna Glatzer, for the feast of visuals and memorabilia in The Marilyn Monroe Treasures. These books informed my understanding of the person behind the icon.
Thank you Jonathan, the waiter at Anson Restaurant in Charleston, SC, whose tie-clip caught my eye, and who graciously agreed to appear as himself in a cameo in this book. Thank you to everyone on the other end of the phone at the Hampton Inn in Mount Pleasant, SC, and various places all over Charleston County who answered strange questions and saved me a second or third trip.
Thank you, Stephany Evans, literary agent extraordinaire, Jacqueline Murphy, Becky Vinter, and everyone at FinePrint Literary Management. To Kathie Bennett, possibly the world’s most creative publicist, Susan Zurenda, and everyone at Magic Time Literary Agency. To Rowe Copeland, The Book Concierge, without whose spreadsheets and schedules things would go the quickest route to torment.
Thank you, Kristin Weber. I count myself exceedingly fortunate that you are my first reader. To my sister, Sabrina Niggel, my mother, Claudette Jones, John and Marcia Migacz, Jan Rubens, and Bob and Vicki Strother, all of whom helped me find the mistakes I could no longer see.
A very special thank you to Jill Hendrix, owner of Fiction Addiction book store, for your advice, help, and creative solutions that have helped me numerous times along this journey.
To Darynda Jones, Cassandra King, and Nancy McFarlane, thank you, thank you, thank you!
Thank you to all my friends at Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop.
Thank you to all my Hen House sisters for your friendship and support—and let us not forget the roosters. And last, but never least, my heartfelt thanks to Kendel Flaum, Art Molinares, and everyone at Henery Press.
The dead are not troubled by the passage of time. I know this because my best girlfriend, Colleen, died when we were seventeen. She hasn’t aged a day in fourteen years. I turned thirty-one last February and commenced researching wrinkle creams.
My familiarity with the departed accounts for why, on that steamy Wednesday in late July, I entertained the notion that the blonde on my front porch was the ghost of Marilyn Monroe.
The doorbell rang at ten that morning. Rhett barked his fool head off upstairs where I’d stashed him. My golden retriever was unaccustomed to being on lockdown, but I’m a private investigator by trade and was expecting a new client.
Out of habit, I peeked through the sidelight by the front door. The woman on the porch was dressed in white capris with a white blouse knotted at her waist. There was no mistaking the platinum-blonde hair, calendar-girl figure, and beauty mark. Clearly, I hadn’t guzzled enough coffee and needed a closer look.
I opened the door. Hot, moist air washed into the foyer.
“Hi,” she said. “Are you Liz Talbot?” Her voice was smoky and breathless. It brought to mind Little Bo Peep, if Bo were trying to seduce you. She looked crisp and fresh, in utter defiance of the weather.
“Yes.” I nodded slowly. “I was expecting Calista McQueen?”
“That’s me,” she said.
I tilted my head and looked at her sideways, as if the view might be different from another angle. I could feel my face squishing up in one of those looks Mamma has warned me countless times will cause wrinkles. All that money I’d spent on high-dollar cream would be wasted if I wasn’t careful.
The woman on my porch sighed and fixed me with a double-barreled stare. “I’m not her. I’m not related to her, and I’m not one of those tribute artists, either.”
“Of course. My goodness, I’m so sorry,” I said. “The resemblance is just—”
“Startling, I know.” She glanced around the deep porch. Her gaze drifted from the swing, to the hammock, and settled on the Adirondack chairs. “Did you want to meet out here?”
“No, please.” I jerked the door open wider and scooted out of the way. “Come in. It’s so hot out there I’m afraid my manners must have melted.”
“Thanks.” She turned and scanned the yard, then crossed into the foyer.
I swept my arm towards the room to her right. “Why don’t we talk in here?”
She undulated into what now serves as my office. Like a giant Hoover, her presence sucked my self-confidence right out.
I followed, yanking the clip out of my hair and fluffing as I went. I could hear Phoebe, my hair stylist, ranting now.
Three freakin’ hours to get that multi-toned blonde and you cram it into a freakin’ clip.
When the temperature and humidity approach triple digits, all this hair causes my brain stem to overheat. At least I was dressed nicely in a cobalt blue shift that matched my eyes. It’s hard to go wrong with Ann Taylor Loft.
Calista stopped in front of the fireplace on the far side of the room. She waited, posing the way models do at the end of the runway. “You have a lovely home.”
“Thanks,” I said. “It was my grandmother’s.”
Gram had liked to entertain, and her living room was large enough for fifty of her closest friends to gather for mint juleps. I had divided it into sections with my home office, the only office for the Stella Maris branch of Talbot and Andrews Investigations, occupying the left half.
My walnut desk and two guest chairs stood in front of a wall of bookcases that wrapped around the far left corner and flanked the windows on both sides of the fireplace. The opposite side of the room held a big green velvet sofa with wooden trim and a row of fringe around the bottom. It had been Gram’s favorite piece. The sofa faced the wall of windows, with a set of chairs on each side to complete the conversation area.
I debated whether to sit behind the desk or on the soft furniture. I’d never met with a new client at home. Since I’d moved back to Stella Maris in April, I’d been holding initial meetings on neutral territory—a restaurant, maybe, or the park. But Calista had balked at that idea. I could see now why she was shy of public places.
I gestured toward the sofa. “Have a seat.” While I grabbed a pad and pen from the desk, she arranged herself on the end of the sofa closest to the door. I settled into a tropical-print wingback on her right. Calista looked at the ceiling.
I willed Rhett to stop barking. “Don’t mind him,” I said. “He doesn’t care to be left out. He’s accustomed to having the run of the house and yard.”
“You should let him come down. I had a dog once…”
“Thanks, but I think we’ll be less distracted if he stays upstairs. He’ll be quiet when he realizes I’m not letting him out.”
Mamma would have been mortified at how long I just sat there staring at Calista McQueen. I kept thinking I’d find something that differentiated her from the movie star, but the woman next to me was Marilyn’s doppelganger. I was acquainted with all manner of oddities, but a doppelganger—that was a new one. She must have been used to the staring because she just sat there with perfect posture, letting me get it out of my system.
Finally, I closed my eyes, shook my head to clear it, and located my professionalism. “How can I help you, Ms. McQueen?”
“Please,” she said, “call me Calista.”
I nodded. “I’m Liz.”
She moistened her lips. “I’d like you to keep me alive.”
“If someone’s threatened you, we need to call the police.”
“No one has threatened me.”
I squinted at her. “Then why are you in fear for your life?”
“This is a long story,” she said. “Could I please have a glass of water?”
“Of course.” I jumped up. “Where
my manners? I just made some fresh tea…”
“Oh, that’d be swell.”