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Authors: Ayelet Waldman

The Cradle Robbers

BOOK: The Cradle Robbers
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Praise for the

M
OMMY
-T
RACK
M
YSTERIES

“Customary humor . . . dependable tart mommy-track wisecracks.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“Fabulous.”

—Midwest Book Review

“Human and credible characters—in particular, a smart, sensitive sleuth . . . should delight committed fans and attract new ones.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Waldman always provides full-bodied characters, humor, and a socially conscious plot that entertains as it enlightens.”

—Booklist

M
URDER
P
LAYS
H
OUSE

“Well-plotted . . . Juliet is a wonderful invention, warm, loving, and sympathetic to those in need, but unintimidated by the L.A. entertainment industry she must enter to search for clues . . . What a motive, what a resolution, and how clever of Juliet to figure it out.”

—Publishers Weekly

“The Mommy-Track Mysteries get progressively feistier and wittier.”

—Midwest Book Review

“As always, Waldman uses humor to portray the Los Angeles scene while making some serious points about what is really important in life. This thoroughly modern cozy will be popular.”

—Booklist

“Witty Waldman is so endearingly pro-kid that you may run right out and get pregnant, and so unsparing about Hollywood sylphs and pro-anorexia websites that you may never diet again.”

—Kirkus Reviews

D
EATH
G
ETS A
T
IME
-O
UT

“Juliet and her patient husband make an appealing couple—funny, clever, and loving (but never mawkish). Waldman has an excellent ear for the snappy comeback, especially when delivered by a five-year-old.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Waldman is at her witty best when dealing with children, carpooling, and first-trimester woes, but is no slouch at explaining the pitfalls of False Memory Syndrome either.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“Think
Chinatown,
but with strollers and morning sickness. Arguably the best of Waldman’s mysteries.”

—Long Island Press

A P
LAYDATE WITH
D
EATH

“Smoothly paced and smartly told.”

—The New York Times Book Review

“Sparkling . . . Witty and well-constructed . . . Those with a taste for lighter mystery fare are sure to relish the adventures of this contemporary, married, mother-of-two Nancy Drew.”

—Publishers Weekly

“[A] deft portrayal of Los Angeles’s upper crust and of the dilemma facing women who want it all.”

—Booklist

T
HE
B
IG
N
AP

“Waldman treats the Los Angeles scene with humor, offers a revealing glimpse of Hasidic life, and provides a surprise ending . . . An entertaining mystery with a satirical tone.”

—Booklist

“Juliet Applebaum is smart, fearless, and completely candid about life as a full-time mom with a penchant for part-time detective work. Kinsey Millhone would approve.”


Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone Mysteries

N
URSERY
C
RIMES

“[Juliet is] a lot like Elizabeth Peters’s warm and humorous Amelia Peabody—a brassy, funny, quick-witted protagonist.”

—Houston Chronicle

“A delightful debut filled with quirky, engaging characters, sharp wit, and vivid prose.”


Judith Kelman, author of After the Fall

“[Waldman] derives humorous mileage from Juliet’s ‘epicurean’ cravings, wardrobe dilemmas, night-owl husband, and obvious delight in adventure.”

—Library Journal

Berkley Prime Crime Books by Ayelet Waldman

NURSERY CRIMES

THE BIG NAP

A PLAYDATE WITH DEATH

DEATH GETS A TIME-OUT

MURDER PLAYS HOUSE

THE CRADLE ROBBERS

THE

CRADLE
ROBBERS

Ayelet Waldman

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada

(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia

(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India

Penguin Group (NZ), Cnr. Airborne and Rosedale Roads, Albany, Auckland 1310, New Zealand

(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

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.

THE CRADLE ROBBERS

A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author

PRINTING HISTORY

Berkley Prime Crime hardcover edition / August 2005

Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / July 2006

Copyright © 2006 by Ayelet Waldman.

Cover illustration by Lisa Desimini.

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,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

ISBN: 978-1-101-66461-2

BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME

Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

The name BERKLEY PRIME CRIME and the BERKLEY PRIME CRIME design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Table of Contents

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty-one

Twenty-two

Twenty-three

Twenty-four

Twenty-five

Twenty-six

One

N
INE
years ago, in preparation for my third date with Peter, I schlepped out to Queens on two subways and a bus in order to borrow a black lace bra from my friend Cindy Rappaport. And now? Now I couldn’t even be bothered to scrape the baby spit-up off my T-shirt before crawling into bed. If my husband’s hand had accidentally brushed against those parts of my body once seductively draped in expensive French lace, I would probably have chewed it off. I love Peter, I really do. It was only because I’m so crazy about him that I was at all concerned that our matrimonial bed had become as arid as the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. I understood the
reasons for the drought, but I was far too drained and exhausted to miss the rain. At four months old, Sadie, our third child, weighed in at nineteen pounds. I realize that only other mothers of freakishly sized children have the infant growth charts burned into the insides of their eyelids, so let me provide a translation: Sadie was officially off the charts. So far off, in fact, that the nurses in our Los Angeles pediatrician’s office recalibrated the scales every time we came for an appointment, positive there was some mistake. The baby had done nothing but nurse since she was born, and her need for constant access to my body meant that my husband was obliged to keep his hands to himself. His hands, and everything else.

“Don’t even think of touching me,” I said as Peter leaned in for a kiss. Then I pasted an insincere smile to my face. “I mean, gosh, honey, I’m just so tired tonight.”

“So what else is news?” Peter said, sighing.

Before our current romantic crisis, I had assumed that I was the source, from both the nature and nurture sides, of my children’s thespian talents. Those tremulous sighs, that bitten lip, the eyelashes wet with barely suppressed tears—hadn’t I seen
those reflected back in the mirror all my life? Hadn’t my own parents shown a truly remarkable fortitude in the face of precisely the same wiles? And yet here was Peter, giving my six-year-old daughter Ruby and her younger brother Isaac a run for their money in the drama queen department.

Peter sighed again, so loudly that it was almost a groan. I looked at him. He was sunk in the deep crevasse in the middle of our massive bed, staring at himself in the mirrored ceiling, and practicing his beleaguered husband expression. He’d become rather adept at it over the past few months. He looked downright wounded, so pathetic that I was almost willing to overcome my aversion to all things physical. Almost.

“The crack in the mirror is getting bigger,” I said, to distract him.

“Are you serious? Where?” Peter’s expression changed to one of concern, even panic. Ramon Navarro built our house in 1926. The actor lived in it for only a few years before he went on to more fabulous accommodations and ended up murdered in a Hollywood Hills mansion in 1968. The only reason we could afford the house was because it was not only completely run down, but a bit, well,
quirky. The Latin lothario had had something of a baroque design inclination, and while touches like the basement dungeon, which Peter used as an office, and the Maxwell Parrish–style murals that seemed entirely innocent until you realized that the lovely young woman in the long pink gown sported a distinct Adam’s apple and hands and feet that were a mite too big for a lady, were part of the charm of the house, we could have done without the mirrored bedroom ceiling. Our contractor had informed us, however, that as soon as we pried off the splintering glass we were going to have to deal with the ancient plaster crumbling above it, and the rotten floor joists above that. Until we had the desire and financial wherewithal to replace not just the ceiling but the floor of the third story above it, we were going to have to live with our reflected selves. Then the contractor made some joke about bordellos, which neither Peter nor I thought was funny, for obvious reasons.

Through necessity I had discovered that in order to distract Peter from thoughts of sex, I had to turn his attention to something potentially more disastrous, like the possibility that our slowly cracking
mirrored ceiling was going to come crashing down on top of our heads.

Peter heaved himself onto his elbows and glared up at the crack. Our bed was also a legacy of the late Mr. Navarro, handed down to each subsequent owner of the house by virtue of the fact that there was no way to move the massive thing out. The room had clearly been constructed around it. Judging by its size, the entire house may well have been built around it. While I was quite in love with the intricately carved headboard, I would happily have bought a new mattress to replace the ancient and sagging one that was on the bed. It couldn’t possibly have been the same one on which the movie star had entertained guests of various genders and professional and religious affiliations, but it sure smelled that way. However, nowadays nobody, it seems, makes a king and a half, and I hadn’t yet gotten my act together to order a specially constructed mattress to fit the huge old bed. It looked like I was going to have to do it soon, however, because a series of tiny pink dots had lately appeared on Sadie’s belly and back, leading to the inevitable conclusion that the mattress suffered from something
far worse than mere malodorousness: an infestation of creepy-crawlies. Nothing like spending a king’s ransom on a house only to find it populated by an entire nation’s worth of invisible citizens.

BOOK: The Cradle Robbers
4.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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