Authors: Sarah Graves
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths
Praise for the
Home Repair is Homicide
and sleuth Jacobia “Jake” Tiptree:
THE DEAD CAT BOUNCE
“No cozy this, it's amusing, cynical, yet warm, populated with nice and nasty characters and some dirty secrets… . All the ingredients fit the dish of delicious crime chowder. … I am already drooling for [Jake's] return.”
from The Poisoned Pen
“In her polished debut, Graves blends charming, evocative digressions about life in Eastport with an intricate plot, well-drawn characters and a wry sense of humor.”
“Jacobia has a witty and ironic voice, and the book resonates with good humor, quirky characters, and a keen sense of place.”
“Sarah Graves's novel is a laudable whodunnit, but it's also a love letter to Eastport, celebrating the cultural contrasts between the town and some misguided souls from the Big Apple… . The funky, low-key fishing community wins every time.”
Kennebec Valley Tribune and Morning Sentinel
“Graves affectionately creates believable characters… who lend depth and warm humor to the story… . The cozy details of small-town life and home repair make for an enjoyable read.”
is a smartly written story, with lots of interesting detail about the area and restoration projects. But it never gets in the way of the mystery, which turns out to be both complex and simple, an admirable combination.”
Contra Costa Times
“[Graves] describes the beauty of the Eastport area with a pure eye for both its wonders and weaknesses. This is a well-written … novel with a plot that keeps you pulled in close.”
Bangor Daily News
“Graves skillfully … draws out the suspense. Good entertainment.”
“Ms. Graves has created a bright and personable new detective who has been welcomed into the Eastport community with warmth and affection.”
Dallas Morning News
Other Bantam Books by Sarah Graves
THE DEAD CAT BOUNCE
WRECK THE HALLS
TOOL & DIE
THE BOOK OF OLD HOUSES
When I first moved to Maine, I missed my friends from the city so much that I would invite them to visit me. Shamelessly I lured them, promising steamed lobsters and blueberry pies, while they grumbled about the long drive and the probable absence of Starbucks mocha latte once they arrived.
Well, they were right about the Starbucks. Soon enough, though, they caught on: Eastport (population 2,000), located on Moose Island at the northeastern tip of the Maine coastline, is so remote it might as well be on Mars. And that, if you are a high-powered executive type—most of my friends had the kinds of jobs in which Maalox extra-strength is known only half jokingly as Vitamin M—can be a selling point.
Before I knew it, all my bedrooms were booked from the first of June right on through Labor Day weekend, and I began thinking of summer as a fine time to stock up the refrigerator, put fresh sheets on the beds, and leave town.
But this summer, I had decided, would be different. Anyone who angled for an invitation was told that the plumbing in my old house had exploded, and by the way, I was sure that it was only a coincidence, but also we all had hepatitis.
So on the morning when the whole awful business began, I was feeling pleased with myself. The guest rooms were empty and I had stripped down the faded old wallpaper. Armed with paint, brushes, rollers, and rags, I was about to begin giving the rooms a much-needed face-lift, the first they had received in decades.
Climbing the stepladder in the smallest room—I was also replastering a section of the dining room wall that summer and felt concerned about biting off more than I could chew—I began removing the screws that held up the cut-glass light fixture, a lovely old item that I did not want to get spattered with paint.
But when two of the screws had come out the fixture shifted, and with my arms extended it took both hands just to hold it up there. In this position I could not get the other pair of screws removed, or the first two back in. So it was a screw stalemate.
Just then my black Labrador retriever, Monday, wandered into the room looking bored until she spotted me up there on my perch. Instantly her tail began wagging and the back half of her body began slamming into the ladder. That was also when someone came up the back porch steps and knocked—shave-and-a-haircut!— on the back door.
Monday whirled to race downstairs and greet the visitor, in her haste delivering a final body blow to the ladder. I searched wildly with my feet, finding only thin air as the ladder toppled.
Falling, I recalled from the martial arts movies my teenage son, Sam, is so fond of that I should roll when I landed. So I did, and that, I imagine, is why I hit the wall so hard. But the stars I saw on impact were nothing compared to the sight of that lovely antique ceiling fixture beginning to fall.
Pushing off from the wall, I skidded on my back across the hardwood floor, arriving just in time for the heavy glass sphere to land hard in my solar plexus.
“Oof,” I said.
“Nicely done,” remarked somebody from the doorway.
“Who the hell are you?” I inquired irritably, sitting up.
He was tall, mid-thirties or so, wearing a white shirt open at the collar and faded denims. Shoving back a shock of straight blond hair that kept falling down over his forehead, he came in.
“Raines. Jonathan Raines? We spoke on the phone, you said I could come and stay here. …” He stuck out his hand, peering at me through a pair of thick wire-rimmed eyeglasses.
Good heavens. I remembered his call. But I certainly didn’t remember telling him any such thing.
“Mr. Raines, if I did invite you, that was back in January. And since then I haven’t heard another word from you.”
He looked chagrined. “I know. I’m sorry, it was rude of me. But I’ve been out of the country and— Oh, dear, I hope you won’t send me away. Because in addition to being very late on my Ph.D. dissertation—I’ve come all the way from Boston to research it here—I’m embarrassingly short of funds.”
Jonathan Raines, I recalled very dimly, was related to three of those old friends of mine from the city, and he was a graduate student of music history.
Or something like that; he’d been fuzzy on the details and when he’d phoned I hadn’t given them much thought, anyway. At the time, June had seemed very far away; winter in downeast Maine makes summer seem like something that only happens to other, more fortunate people, probably on some other planet.
I hadn’t even made my no-summer-guests resolution until April. So I could have invited him, I supposed, then forgotten I had done it. Why else, after all, would he have called, if not to get me to do just that?
And now here he was.
“Please let me help you,” he said, bending to take the glass ceiling fixture. And …
Dropping it. The crash was hideous.
“Oh, gosh, I apologize. I’ll replace it, of course.” Vexedly he began gathering up big glass shards.
“Mr. Raines. I’m terribly sorry, but no matter what I said months ago, you can see I’m in no condition for having company.”
The house was an 1823 Federal clapboard with three full floors, an attic, a cellar, and a two-story ell, and much of it at the moment was almost as torn-apart as the guest room. In addition to my larger projects, I was repainting window sashes, tightening doorknobs that had taken to falling off and rolling all over the place, and planning to repair the tiny but wonderfully-convenient-when-it-worked downstairs hall bathroom, which we called (inaccurately, lately, which was why it needed repairing) the flush.
“And,” I went on, waving at the glass bits, “I’m afraid that item is not replaceable. It was an antique, probably from—”
He was examining one of the shards. “Wal-Mart,” he pronounced.
Squinting through the eyeglasses, he went on. “See? The sticker's still on it. Probably someone else broke the original one and replaced it with this.”
Well, I’d never seen it up close before.
He looked up, smiling. “Not a bad copy. Funny, isn’t it? How an object can seem to be one thing and end up being another.”
Hilarious. At the moment, I wasn’t sure which was worse, believing the thing had been precious and irretrievably broken, or finding out that it wasn’t.