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Authors: Dead Man's Island

Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Women Sleuths, #Henrie O (Fictitious Character), #South Carolina, #Women Journalists, #Fiction

Carolyn G. Hart_Henrie O_01

BOOK: Carolyn G. Hart_Henrie O_01
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PRAISE FOR AWARD MIMING AUTHOR CAROLYN G. HART

DEAD MAN’S ISLAND

“Recalling the elegance and cerebration of Agatha Christie at her best … alert readers should never forget that Henrie O is like O. Henry—capable of coming up with surprise endings, even when the case seems solved and resolved”


Mystery Scene

“Henrie O, crusty, witty, and capable, favors us with a whole new look at one of today’s top writers.”


Book Page

“The creator of the popular Annie Darling series introduces an older sleuth of forceful charm and infinite wisdom … A surefire winner.”


Library Journal

“… A tantalizing tale with enough twists, turns, and red herrings to satisfy the most devout Agatha Christie fan … She also prolongs suspense until the last minute—when she tosses in not only an unpredictable solution, but a secret of Henrie O as well.”


The Oklahoman

SOUTHERN GHOST

“This month’s class act is Carolyn G. Hart’s
Southern Ghost.”


The Washington Times

“A fine mystery … Cunningly plotted and contains revelations in the first third of the novel so surprising that the momentum could carry the most disinterested reader racing to the end. But
Southern Ghost
is much more than a clever mystery,”


Mostly Murder

“There are plenty of spooky trails to follow and no shortage of wit and humour.”


The Globe and Mail
, Toronto

“If you like your mysteries suspenseful, with clues strewn everywhere, you’ll love this one.”


The Sunday Oklahoman

“A special mystery. Read it and experience a Southern haunting.”


Nashville Banner

“A true modern-day Gothic … The Darling duo is as winning as ever, and the book contains a marvelous bonus.”


The Sun
, Baltimore

“Carolyn G. Hart’s large following will likely hail this latest Darling caper as—what else?—simply darling.”


The San Diego Union-Tribune

“Fascinating.”


The Orlando Sentinel

“You’d have to be made of stone not to like the Darlings…. Mystery buffs will have fun with the family tree and the maps involved here. Shades of Ellery Queen!”


Advocate and Greenwich Time

“Tantalizing … keep[s] the reader guessing all the way.”


The Denver Post

“Pleasing … chillingly effective … remarkably satisfying.”


Publishers Weekly

“[Annie and Max] make one of the most attractive pairs of sleuths since Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Nora Charles.”


Chicago Sun-Times

DEATH ON DEMAND

“Irresistible! Expertly written. Hart drops big names from the mystery world like murderers drop clues, and it’s all great fun. The plotting is classic perfection. Annie and Max are the most endearing new pair of sleuths since Tommy and Tuppence. More, please!”

—Nancy Pickard, author of
I.O.U.

A LITTLE CLASS ON MURDER

“A classy mystery with … more twists than a Low Country river … Hart’s mysteries give us some much-needed entertainment. I’ll look forward to the next one”


Mystery Scene

“Mystery readers will find this series a delight. Hart is on to a good thing.”


The Drood Review of Mystery

“Hart has a light touch with her characters, a fresh heroine in Annie, and a delightfully different setting.”


Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

DEADLY VALENTINE

“Carolyn G. Hart is the new shining star in the mystery galaxy….
Deadly Valentine
[is a] marvelously plotted mystery.”


The Clarion-Ledger
, Jackson, Mississippi

“Ms. Hart is on target once again with
Deadly Valentine
. Annie and Max are … one of the most charming and intelligent teams in fiction.”


Mostly Murder

THE CHRISTIE CAPER

“Hart … exuberantly celebrates the centenary of Agatha Christie’s birth with a clever plot and an array of puzzles for readers.”


Publishers Weekly

“Christie fans should love the trivia that fills this book. This is a great mystery with a terrific twist.”


Mystery Books

“Carolyn Hart has constructed a puzzle for mystery buffs, a classic whodunit, and a loving homage to Agatha Christie—and put them into one book. All this and witty dialogue, believable relationships and an unpredictable ending, too.”


Mystery News

“Carolyn Hart’s … book … provides a clever, intricately plotted story, as well as a lovely romp through the mystery world.”


Mostly Murder

“Agatha Christie devotees will be enchanted with
The Christie Caper
, as will mystery fans who relish a wickedly clever plot sprinkled with gentle wit and beguiling characters. Carolyn G. Hart has written a marvelous tribute to her mentor.”

—Joan Hess, author of
Death by the Light of the Moon

“A sharp and witty examination of what can happen when fans of each type of mystery confront one another …
The Christie Caper
is the best entry yet in Ms. Hart’s pleasurable series; eminently logical and meticulously plotted, it does justice to the Mistress of Mystery herself.”


The Sun
, Baltimore

OTHER BANTAM BOOKS BY CAROLYN G. HART

The Death on Demand Mysteries:

DEATH ON DEMAND
DESIGN FOR MURDER
SOMETHING WICKED
HONEYMOON WITH MURDER
A LITTLE CLASS ON MURDER
DEADLY VALENTINE
THE CHRISTIE CAPER
SOUTHERN GHOST

A Henrie O Mystery:

SCANDAL IN FAIR HAVEN

With love to Sarah and Bruce

I would like to thank the following for sharing with me their knowledge and expertise:

Tom Siebe, Chief Deputy Coroner of Sonoma County, California
.

Lt. Robert S. Young, U.S. Coast Guard, Air Station Savannah, Georgia
.

Prologue

I
don’t consider myself an angel, avenging or otherwise, but I can’t always accept fate as the answer. Timing makes all the difference.

There exists a rather charming school of thought that the motorist who looms out of the fog at precisely the right moment or the fatherly old man who takes a lost child’s hand and leads her to safety are heaven-sent messengers.

Unknown to themselves, of course.

It was the episode in the hotel lobby that made me, Henrietta O’Dwyer Collins, ponder the imponderable and my role in it.

Had I come downstairs one minute later, Willa Benson would have been sitting pretty.

But I was strolling past the reception area a few minutes after eight with nothing more in mind than a
leisurely jog. Midway down the polished pink-and-white-marbled hallway, my right shoelace flopped loose. I propped my Reebok on the edge of the heavy blue porcelain planter. As I tied the lace, I glanced at the mirror that reflected me in navy sweats and, behind me, the hallway and the ornate mahogany front desk.

That’s why I saw the sleek, satisfied, sly look on Willa Benson’s plump face as she turned away from the front desk and looked down at the envelope in her pudgy hands. What made it doubly interesting was the contrast between that unguarded expression, one of malice laced with amusement and contemptuous pleasure, and her usual demeanor of chirpy congeniality as she dealt with the needs of Mamie Duvall, the frail, elderly woman whom she served as a companion.

So I yanked on the shoelace, reworked it, and continued to watch the mirror and the pink-cheeked, motherly-looking woman with the envelope in her hand.

What made it triply interesting was that she didn’t open the envelope. Instead, she moved out of sight of the clerk, ripped the envelope—the unopened envelope—in half, then stuffed the pieces in her purse, still looking pleased and satisfied in a thoroughly nasty way.

I suppose most people might have seen all of the above and shrugged, thinking it none of their business, no matter how intriguing. Not I. As soon as the elevator door closed behind Willa, I walked to the lobby desk.

There are clerks and clerks. This young lady had a big smile and she always tried to please.

“Any messages for me, Anita?”

“No, Mrs. Collins. I just sorted the mail.”

I half-turned, then paused. “Oh, Mrs. Duvall’s expecting an important letter. I told her I’d ask.”

“It’s on its way to her right now. The lady who’s with her, Mrs. Benson, just picked it up.”

So I was right. This was mail for Mamie Duvall—not for her canary-faced companion.

I breathed an audible sigh of relief. “Oh, I do hope it was the letter from Sheila, the one she’s hoping for.”

“Well,” Anita said brightly, “it was postmarked from Phoenix—and it looked like a woman’s handwriting.”

“That’s the one.” I beamed. “I believe I’ll go right up and talk to her.”

As I waited for the elevator, I saw my own reflection: dark hair silvered at the temples, dark eyes that have seen much and remembered much, a Roman-coin profile, a lean and angular body with an appearance of forward motion even when at rest—and the angry light in my eyes. I can’t abide meanness. And I didn’t need a minute’s consideration to decide that Willa Benson was up to something very mean indeed.

I didn’t go to Mrs. Duvall’s room, of course, but to my own and my telephone. Sometimes you pick up as much by what people don’t say as what they do, and I figured I had a line on Mamie Duvall.

I’d played bridge several evenings with a trio of elderly women, one of whom was Mrs. Duvall. Mamie Duvall was a soft-voiced widow with a pale, aristocratic
face, mournful blue eyes, and a, sad droop to her mouth. She had the least to say, but she listened hungrily to the other players’ tales of family and friends. Bonhomie was encouraged at Monahan House, an amiable, quietly friendly compound in the Shenandoahs offering golf and horseback riding, tennis and croquet, gently spectacular views of wooded ridges and valleys, sedate activities—bird walks, bridge, guest lectures—for guests, even spa waters for wan health-seekers. Not, actually, my usual kind of vacation spot, but an old friend owned it, and I’d come for a week’s visit. I was leaving tomorrow. So, I understood, was Mrs. Duvall.

I had a laptop and modem with me. It was child’s play to tap into the hotel system. I pulled up the Duvall registration: Mrs. Marguerite Duvall, 2903 Egret Marsh Road, Pensacola, FL 32505. Ten minutes later, courtesy of the Pensacola library system, I had the telephone numbers of her neighbors on either side and across the street. I did a little more exploratory work—newspaper morgues are so helpful—and came up with the date of death for Marguerite’s husband and, more important, the obituary list of survivors: his daughter, Pamela Duvall Wilson of Phoenix, Arizona, and one grandson, Thomas Charles Wilson, also of Phoenix.

Dolly Garrison, who lived across the street from Mrs. Duvall, never suspected I wasn’t a long-lost cousin of Mrs. Duvall’s trying to get in touch. “Why, it’s the funniest thing. First Mamie’s daughter called, oh, a couple of days ago, and now you! Pam says her mother’s number is unlisted! Why on earth! Nobody I know has an unlisted number….”

I worked fast. Needless to say, I missed my jog, but by the end of the day I knew all about Marguerite Duvall, her daughter, Pam, and her grandson, Tommy. I knew about Mamie Duvall’s broken hip and the woman, Willa Benson, who’d answered her ad for live-in help. But the real low-down came when I talked to Pam. “I’ve written and written….”

BOOK: Carolyn G. Hart_Henrie O_01
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