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Authors: E.J. Copperman

Night of the Living Deed

BOOK: Night of the Living Deed
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Table of Contents
 
 
Praise for
Night of the Living Deed
“If you love classic caper comedies, as I do, you’ll have a real affinity for the tart-tongued Alison Kerby and her lively entourage.”
—Claudia Bishop,
author of the Hemlock Falls Mysteries
 
“Two restless ghosts, one creaky old guesthouse, a single mother and her nine-year-old daughter, a whole mess of cracked plaster, murder, and mayhem . . . all add up to one fun, spirited mystery. In
Night of the Living Deed
, E. J. Copperman brings together all the elements of a great, ghostly tale within a well-plotted mystery.”
—Juliet Blackwell,
author of the Witchcraft Mysteries
 

Night of the Living Deed
could be the world’s first screwball mystery. You’ll die laughing, and then come back a very happy ghost.”
—Chris Grabenstein, Anthony and Agatha
award-winning author
 
“A bright and lively romp through haunted-house repair! Engaging plot and fun characters, even the dead ones—I look forward to more from house-fixer-upper Alison and her ghostly private detective pal.”
—Sarah Graves,
author of the Home Repair Is Homicide Mysteries
“A couple of demanding ghosts, a quick-witted heroine, a creaky old house and a delightful cast of characters make
Night of the Living Deed
a must-read for cozy fans. What a fun and enjoyable story!”
—Leann Sweeney,
author of the Cats in Trouble Mysteries
“E. J. Copperman begins a wonderful new series by crafting a laugh-out-loud, fast-paced and charming tale that will keep you turning pages and guessing until the very end.”
—Kate Carlisle,
New York Times
bestselling
author of the Bibliophile Mysteries
 
“Fans of Charlaine Harris and Sarah Graves will relish this original, laugh-laden paranormal mystery featuring reluctant ghost whisperer Alison Kerby, a Topper for the twenty-first century. Meticulously crafted,
Night of the Living Deed
is a sparkling first entry in a promising new series.”
—Julia Spencer-Fleming, Anthony and Agatha award-winning
author of
One Was a Soldier
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
 
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEED
 
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
 
PRINTING HISTORY
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / June 2010
 
Copyright © 2010 by Jeffrey Cohen.
 
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
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375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
 
eISBN : 978-1-101-18785-2
 
BERKLEY
®
PRIME CRIME
Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
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To my brother,
Charlie,
the other writer in the family.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
It would truly have been impossible for this book to exist without the incredibly talented and dedicated Shannon Jamieson Vazquez, the editor who took a wisp of an idea and helped it become an actual book, and then a much better book. My sincere thanks.
And none of that would have happened had it not been for my agent, Christina Hogrebe of the Jane Rotrosen Agency, whose inexhaustible energy and belief in my work warm my heart and boggle my mind.
Special thanks to Luci Hansson Zahray, “The Poison Lady,” for figuring out what would be needed to dispose of three unlucky people.
Thank you to the generous authors who read this work in an earlier form and offered kind words, many of which you’ll find on these pages. The camaraderie of mystery authors is a powerful force, and one that I think is quite rare among people who could see one another as competition.
And finally, thanks to my family, my friends, those who will read this book and hopefully enjoy it. Encouragement is a powerful drug, and luckily, a legal one. It is greatly appreciated.
One
“I don’t get it, Mom. If this is our house, why are other people going to live here?” My daughter, Melissa, nine years old and already a prosecuting attorney, looked up from the baseboard near the window seat in the living room, which she was painting with a two-inch brush and a gallon can of generic semigloss white paint. Never use the expensive stuff when you’re letting a fourth grader help with the painting.
“I’ve explained this to you before, Liss,” I told her without looking down from the wall. I was trying to locate a wooden stud, and the stud finder I was using was being, as is often the case with plaster walls, inconclusive. Using a battery-operated gizmo to find a stud and failing: I tried not to dwell on its metaphorical implications for my love life.
“Other people aren’t coming here to live,” I continued. “They’ll be coming here when they’re on vacation. We’re going to have a guesthouse, like a hotel. They’ll pay us to stay here, near the beach. But we’ve got to fix up the place first.”
“Mr. Barnes says these houses have history in them, and it’s wrong to make them modern.” Mr. Barnes was Melissa’s history teacher, and at the moment, he wasn’t helping.
“Mr. Barnes probably didn’t mean this house. Besides, we’re fixing it up the way it was meant to be. I mean, no one would want to live in the house the way it looks now, right?”
Our hulk of a turn-of-the-last-century Victorian house was not, by the standards of anyone whose age was in double digits, livable. Sure, the house had once been adorable, maybe even grand, but that was a
long
time ago. Now, the ancient plaster walls downstairs were peeling and, in some places, crumbling. There was a thick coat of white dust pretty much everywhere, and as far as I could tell, the heating system was devoid of, well, heat. The October chill was already starting to feel permanent in my bones.
However, it was clear that
some
work had been done by the previous owner, though by my decorating standards, he or she must have been demented. The living room walls had been painted bright bloodred, and the kitchen cabinets were hideous and hung so high Shaquille O’Neal would have a hard time reaching the cereal. Luckily, the upstairs walls had been patched and painted, the landscaping in the front of the house was quite lovely (although the vast backyard had been untouched), and the staircases (there were two) going upstairs had been refinished beautifully. It was a work in progress. Slow progress.

I
would live here,” Melissa said, and went back to painting. That settled it, in her view.
“You
do
live here,” I answered, not noting that there was no furniture, and that we were both sleeping on mattresses laid directly onto the floors of our respective so-called bedrooms and living out of suitcases. Why remind her of all the things we’d left in the house in Red Bank after the divorce? Melissa’s father, Steven (hereafter known as The Swine), hadn’t wanted the furniture, but he
had
wanted half the proceeds when I sold it all to help make the down payment on the house. The Swine.
Besides, now the house was a construction site, and any furniture would have been prone to disfigurement or worse while the work went on. As soon as the house was in shape, the new furniture I’d ordered (and, in some cases, collected from consignment stores) would be delivered.
BOOK: Night of the Living Deed
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