Happy Book Birthday, WHACK JOB!

Kendel LynnAgatha-nominated Kendel Lynn stops by the Hen House to discuss her perfect meal (from start to finish), WHACK JOB’s quirkiest characters, and her happiest place on earth. (Spoiler: It’s Disneyland!)

HP:  For someone who doesn’t cook, your deliciously vivid descriptions of Elliott’s food choices in WHACK JOB keep our mouths watering. Please tell us, in Elliott-style detail, your perfect meal (including appetizer, entrée, and decadent dessert).

KL:  I love writing scenes featuring food! I was long ago inspired by the sandwich making of the late great Lawrence Sanders’ Edward X. Delaney. Man, those suckers always sound so divine on the page, I could almost taste them. A perfect meal starts will a plate of crunchy homemade potato chips drizzled with a light parmesan cream with bleu cheese crumbles, followed by a crisp green salad topped with pulled pork marinated in a tangy bbq sauce, and sweet coconut macaroons to end this delightful meal. Gluten free, of course.

HP:  We’ve heard you’re one of the world’s biggest Disneyland fans. What is your absolute favorite thing to do at the park, and who is your favorite character? (And how many times have you actually been there?!)

KL:  Too many times to count (fifty maybe?)! I grew up in Southern California, so going to Disneyland multiple times a year was natural – and made me giddy with anticipation every single time. Still does to this day. I cannot possibly name one favorite thing, but I can narrow it down to a few faves: the Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Matterhorn, Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones, churros, frozen bananas, and reading the plaque as I walk beneath the train station: Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.

Note: Disneyland is not the same as Disney World. Not even close. Just saying. And Pluto has always been my favorite.

WHACK JOBHP:  WHACK JOB makes us laugh with an array of eccentric characters that drive each other crazy over the annual Wonderland Tea Party. Which character in WHACK JOB was the most fun for you to write, and why?

KL:  Zibby Archibald is always a joy. She’s quirky and an oddball and I love her. It was also fun to write Gilbert as his character slowly devolved. There’s something about mismatched pants and inside-out shirts that appeals to me (and Elliott). But the Ballantyne events are such an enjoyable part of Elliott’s life, and the Wonderland Tea Party made me dream of topsy-turvy cakes and a Dixieland band. I so want to go!

HP:  You’ve recently started a new chapter of Sisters in Crime in North Dallas. How significant has Sisters in Crime been in your writing career, and what are a few programs you have planned?

KL:  Sisters in Crime helped get me to where I am, from the support of the group as a whole to specialized chapters (yes, Guppies, I’m looking at you!) to individual members where I’ve formed friendships and received career-building advice.

f6e8c0d3afd2386fc46e308f87096ef8I’m excited to bring a new chapter of SinC to North Dallas. Our first meeting is in June and I’ve already had such a welcome response. We’re working on programming now which will include writing workshops, law enforcement experts, marketing/PR speakers and a trip to the gun club.

HP:  Finally, tell us your favorite mystery novel and what draws you to that particular author and the genre as a whole.

KL:  I was first drawn to the genre reading Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigator mysteries. A secret junkyard headquarters and a stuttering parrot? I was in! There was something so engrossing and satisfying to put puzzle pieces together and solve the crime alongside these literary sleuths. I also loved Trixie Belden! I never cared for cartoons (except Scooby, obviously), so if I couldn’t watch Quincy or Columbo (which surprisingly was not often on early Saturday mornings), then I’d grab one of my well-worn mysteries and revisit those adventures.

Today, I’d say A IS FOR ALIBI is probably my favorite mystery. I’ve read it about a dozen times! Such a well-crafted, well-written whodunit. Sue Grafton writes with authority and humor while keeping the mystery engaging, as does my other favorite who I mentioned earlier, Lawrence Sanders. Elli was definitely inspired by their characters: the sensibility of Kinsey Millhone and the whimsy of Archibald McNally.

Happy Release Day! WHACK JOB by Kendel Lynn

It’s Party Time!

Grab your bucket hats, beach bags, and barrels of hand sani–you’re going to Sea Pine Island! Agatha-nominated Kendel Lynn delivers another laugh-out-loud page-turner with her second Elliott Lisbon mystery, WHACK JOB. Download your copy today! (Nothing says summer like a Mini coop and a dead body.)


“Elli Lisbon is proving herself to be the most lovable OCD PI since Adrian Monk.” – Maddy Hunter, Agatha-Nominated Author of the Passport to Peril Series

“A must-read mystery with a sassy sleuth, a Wonderland of quirky characters, and a fabulous island setting that will keep you turning pages.” – Riley Adams, Author of the Memphis Barbecue Series

As always, feel free to reach out if you have questions or comments.  We’d love to hear from you.


Hen House Staff
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Henery Press

Whack Job is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon          Barnes&Noble          Kobo          Google Play



Mystery Gone Mad! WHACK JOB by Kendel Lynn

WHACK JOB by Kendel LynnFightin’ Crime with the Top Down

Take a trip to Sea Pine Island this summer where the wealthy get wacky and someone always gets killed. WHACK JOB, Kendel Lynn’s anticipated follow-up to the Agatha-nominated BOARD STIFF, is a page-turning puzzler with punchy characters and a snappy wit. Slap on your best bucket hat because Elliott Lisbon’s latest adventure hits shelves May 13, 2014.

When Elliott Lisbon blends her directorship of the Ballantyne Foundation with her PI-in-Training status by planning parties and performing discreet inquiries for charitable patrons. But when the annual Wonderland Tea Party makes everyone go mad as a hatter, Elli gets pulled into a shooting, a swindle, and the hung for a Faberge egg.

From seedy pawn parlors to creepy antique shops, Sea Pine Island’s other half prove to be as wacky as the wealthy. As Elli falls farther down the rabbit hole, she finds a scheming salesman, a possessive paramour, a dead donor–in fact, the only thing missing is a bottle labeled “Drink Me.” As events evolve from curious to crazy, Elli gets lost in the maze and finds herself trapped in a house of cards with a killer.


Visit us on the Henery Press website to find out more. And as always, feel free to reach out if you have questions or comments – to the Hen House or Kendel.  We’d love to hear from you.



Good things come in threes! CONGRATULATIONS to THREE Henery Press Authors on their Agatha Award Nominations

CONGRATULATIONS to our THREE Henery Press Authors on their Agatha Award Nominations:

Best First Novel:
BOARD STIFF by Kendel Lynn
Best Short Story:
“The Hindi Houdini” by Gigi Pandian

We’re so proud, so happy, so delighted for these talented authors! We’ll be cluckin and feather-flappin for weeks!!So many wonderful things come in threes: Three French hens, Three Musketeers, Three Dog Night, Three Coins in a Fountain, three Bronte sisters, three bean salad, three holes in a bowling ball…

Here’s the full list of Agatha nominations:

*Agatha Award winners will be announced at the banquet during Malice Domestic on May 3, 2014.


Death Al Dente by Leslie Budewitz (Berkley)

You Cannoli Die Once by Shelley Costa (Pocket Books)

Board Stiff by Kendel Lynn (Henery Press)

Kneading to Die by Liz Mugavero (Kensington)

Front Page Fatality by LynDee Walker (Henery Press)


“Evil Little Girl” by Barb Goffman, Don’t Get Mad, Get Even (Wildside Press)

“Nightmare” by Barb Goffman, Don’t Get Mad, Get Even (Wildside Press)

“The Hindi Houdini” by Gigi Pandian, Fish Nets (Wildside Press)

“Bread Baby” by Barbara Ross, Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold (Level Best Books)

“The Care and Feeding of House Plants” by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March/April 2013


Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Minotaur Books)

Pagan Spring by G.M. Malliet (Minotaur Books)

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)

Clammed Up by Barbara Ross (Kensington Books)

The Wrong Girl by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)


Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)

Death in the Time of Ice by Kaye George (Untreed Reads Publishing)

A Friendly Game of Murder by JJ Murphy (Signet)

Murder in Chelsea by Victoria Thompson (Berkley)

A Question of Honor by Charles Todd (William Morrow)


Georgette Heyer by Jennifer Kloester (Source Books Inc.)

Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova (Viking Penguin)

Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea: An Interesting & Entertaining History of Malice Domestic’s First 25 Years by Verena Rose and Rita Owen, Editors (Wildside Press)

The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower (Minotaur Books)


The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau (HMH Books for Young Readers)

Traitor in the Shipyard: A Caroline Mystery by Kathleen Ernst (American Girl Mysteries)

Andi Unexpected by Amanda Flower (Zonderkidz)

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein (Random House Books)

Code Busters Club: Mystery of the Pirate’s Treasure by Penny Warner (Edgmont USA)

Blogroll: Jungle Red Writers

Does The Chicken Have a Name? (or: How does Kendel do it?)

Hank Phillippi Ryan: I’m trying to think of what to say here. At first I thought “funny”, because Kendel Flaum is one of the funniest people (and authors) ever. But “funny” doesn’t do it, because

Kendel Flaum is also a visionary, an entrepreneur, a risk-taker, and a whirlwind of ideas and projects. And  there’s still more..she’s  tireless and nimble and imaginative and generous. And if you don’t know her or her books or her publishing company–well, good, because that’s why you visit Jungle Red! 

HANK: When people say—what do you do for a living—what do you say? Or maybe, finish these sentences: Kendel Flaum is: and Kendel Lynn is:

Kendel Flaum is: The managing editor of Henery Press.

Kendel Lynn is: The author of BOARD STIFF, the first in the Elliott Lisbon Mystery series.

I generally answer based on who’s asking. Or I end up mushing them together into something jumbled as I ramble about writing and editing, but it doesn’t matter because they were just being polite anyway.

HANK: You are so…brave, on so many levels. You started a publishing company, you dumped your big time agent, you…well, talk about your decisions, and why you made them.

KENDEL: Like most, I spent years getting that big time agent. I wrote and queried and revised, and when the offer came in, I was truly overjoyed and delighted when my book went out on submission.

At the same time, I was involved in several writers groups, some focused on alternative publishing options, like small presses and DIY models, boutique agents and publishers. As I listened to their experiences, I was appalled most of the options: horrifying contracts, scary too-quick to market publishers (FOUR WEEKS!), AWOL editors, out-of-date websites. There are only a handful of solid, legitimate houses. The mystery market needs better choices.

So I created one–Henery Press.

My business partner and I wanted something fresh, engaging, and fun. A community where we help our authors put out the best book possible, and they help one another achieve their dreams. And there’s a chicken in rain boots for a logo, so of course we’re successful.

My big-time agent was unable to sell my book to big-time New York publishing houses,  she wanted to start on smaller targets. I took a pass, putting my eggs in the Hen House basket, figuring I might as well join the fun.

HANK: Your debut novel—BOARD STIFF—where did that come from? Tell us about the wonderful Elliott Lisbon…

KENDEL: I spoke at Malice Domestic this past weekend, and a nice lady who sat through my chatfest told me it was clear I really loved Elliott, that it showed in the way I talked about her, and I do! She’s the director of a well-funded foundation on a South Carolina island filled with wealthy, eccentric residents. Elliott has a slight aversion to all things germy and is only four thousand hours away from getting her PI license. One reviewer said she a cross between Stephanie Plum and Monk. I also think of her as a mash-up of Kinsey Millhone and Archibald McNally. Serious when she needs to be, and sassy when that doesn’t work.

HANK: So I read this on your website—“I’m left-handed, prefer cupcakes for dinner, and would love to eat In-N-Out every single day. I can spot a bug on the floor across the room even with the lights out and I really hate shopping.” You are hilarious! And that sense of humor really comes through in BOARD STIFF. Do you think about “funny”?

Kendel, Hank and Diane Vallere at Malice

KENDEL: This is a total fan moment. You were the first established/successful/famous author to tell me my writing is funny, several years ago. Talk about a boost! You so generously volunteered to read for me, then called me to give me encouragement, advice, and truly made my writerly life exciting.

I don’t usually think about humor when I’m writing the draft, and it’s such a surprise when I read it back and something makes me laugh right out loud. I do try to the temper humor, though. I don’t want to wear out the reader. But it’s kind of fun to wake up in the middle of the night with a really hilarious tidbit, scribble it out, then giggle about how funny I am. Only to discover it makes no sense in the morning.

Yay for Susan Boyer! Henery’s first Agatha Winner!

HANK: Henery Press—so rocks! And congratulations on your debut author Susan Boyer, whose delightful LOWCOUNTRY BOIL won the Agatha for Best First! What’s it like being a publisher?

KENDEL: I know!! What a dream night – it was like being at the Oscars. I was so totally thrilled for Susan and her LOWCOUNTRY BOIL. She deserved it, and I’m lucky she took a chance on me to be her publisher. We talked often before she signed, about our vision, commitment, where we were going and what we wanted to build. Sometimes those leaps of faith work out.

I enjoy publishing, even though it feels like I’m juggling wet cats most of the time. It’s very deadline driven. Each book has about fifteen different deadline milestones to hit before publication, so with another twelve books due out this year, we’ve got a lot of deadlines. Luckily, every book is at a different stage, so some of those cats are cute little kittens (while others are mean old cats).

We try to pioneer, look at things differently. From promotions and reviews to content and distribution. Since it’s our own venture, we can do what we want, in our own way, and not follow any set convention.

HANK: How do you possibly manage your time?

KENDEL: Lists. Lots and lots of lists. I have an entire wall of my office covered in to-do lists, one for each book. There’s something extremely satisfying about grabbing my blue marker at the end of the day and making little x’s on each sheet. I build wiggle room into every schedule, for every person who needs to work on each project. Henery comes first, but I pencil in writing time at the end of every day. And for those days that don’t go as planned, I eat cupcakes. (So yes, I eat lots and lots of cupcakes.)

HANK: What are you looking for as a publisher?  (Sorry, I’m imagining wet cats…)

Are these adorable or what? Win one! See below.

KENDEL: Tightly-written, well-plotted, page-turning whodunits. I tend to enjoy humorous mysteries the most, with Southern charmers right behind. I’d love to get my hands on a magical mystery, a fast-paced traditional PI novel, and another crafty killer series. But truly, any engaging story that grabs me and won’t let go is exactly what I’m looking for.

HANK: What do you know now that you didn’t before?

KENDEL: I’m learning and growing with each day, and I love it. Writing, querying, submitting can be a heartbreaking, soul-crushing experience, but it’s important to take control of your career. Pull yourself up, make different decisions, take some chances. It’s empowering and invigorating and who cares what anyone else thinks? My biggest lesson I’ve learned: do what’s right for you and the rest will follow.

Hank, you’re an amazing mentor and a true super star. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, friendship, encouragement, and time with me – I don’t know how you do it, but I’m so glad you do!

HANK:  Awww…my complete pleasure. And let’s give away some loot to a lucky commenter! Kendel says:   “How about a signed copy of Board Stiff (very valuable), plus a Henery Press mug (we commissioned an artist to paint them, they are numbered and signed!).”

So–questions for Kendel? Anyone want to name the chicken? (Or, Kendel, does the chicken have a name?)


Kendel Lynn is a Southern California native who now parks her flip-flops in Dallas, Texas. She read her first Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators at the age of seven and has loved mysteries ever since. Her debut novel, BOARD STIFF, won several literary competitions, including the Zola Award for Mystery/Suspense. Along with writing and reading, she spends her time as the managing editor of Henery Press where she acquires, edits, and figures out ways to avoid the gym but still eat cupcakes for dinner.


As director of the Ballantyne Foundation on Sea Pine Island, SC, Elliott Lisbon scratches her detective itch by performing discreet inquiries for Foundation donors. Usually nothing more serious than retrieving a pilfered Pomeranian. Until Jane Hatting, Ballantyne board chair, is accused of murder. The Ballantyne’s reputation tanks, Jane’s headed to a jail cell, and Elliott’s sexy ex is the new lieutenant in town.

Armed with moxie and her Mini Coop, Elliott uncovers a trail of blackmail schemes, gambling debts, illicit affairs, and investment scams. But the deeper she digs to clear Jane’s name, the guiltier Jane looks. The closer she gets to the truth, the more treacherous her investigation becomes. With victims piling up faster than shells at a clambake, Elliott realizes she’s next on the killer’s list.

Henery Press Loves Malice!!

The Hen House is chirping with excitement over our fun weekend at Malice Domestic. We met readers, fans, colleagues, and lots and lots of favorite authors. And oh, yeah, our very own Susan M. Boyer won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel!! Chicken kisses to Susan and her fantastic LOWCOUNTRY BOIL!!  So deserved and we are so proud of you!!

For more Malice scoop, peek at the pictures posted on our Facebook page. And you might want to read through these great blogs for more details and even more cute pics.

My First Malice, by LynDee Walker

Malice Domestic 2013! by Diane Vallere

Malice Domestic 25: Interview of a Lifetime, Friends Winning Agatha Awards, and More Fun! by Gigi Pandian

Marvelous Malice, by Catriona McPherson

“Oh Kaye!” Goes to Malice, by Kaye Barley

Our feathers will stay happily ruffled for a very long time. Mystery, mayhem, and Malice is soooo enjoyable! See you next year, little chickens…

Blogroll: Mystery Writing is Murder

Using Pinterest for Pinspiration


When I first heard of Pinterest, I wanted to cry. Another social networking site to use, learn, master? Can’t be done. It’s asking too much of me.

I can barely handle Twitter and Goodreads, and I’m not on the Facebook or Google Plus, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, StatWatch. (I made that last one up.) However, someone kindly took the time to show me what Pinterest truly was, and once I figured it out, and how it worked for me, I was hooked.

Pinterest is a way to organize all those beautiful pictures you see every day, from the delicious torte you’d love to make (but never will) to the beach you’d love to visit (and hopefully will). And for us creative types, it’s a visual playground of inspiration. In one weekend, I created boards for different aspects of my protagonist’s world. While Elliott Lisbon comes to life on the printed page, she’s viewed in vibrant color on the Pinterest page. [Read more...]

Blogroll: dru’s book musings

A Day in the Life of Elliott Lisbon by Kendel Lynn

BOARD STIFFThe patio of the Ballantyne Foundation manse overlooks seventy-five acres of lush Sea Pine Island landscape. Majestic oaks draped in Spanish moss mingled with sweet blooming magnolias, winding amongst tennis courts, croquet lawns, formal gardens, and a sparkling pool not ten feet from my chair.

I took a slow drink of lemonade, trying to make my five minute break feel like ten. It had already been a hectic day, though as director of the Ballantyne Foundation, I’d yet to encounter a day that wasn’t.

“Oh, Elli, what am I to do?” Zibby Archibald, the Ballantyne Foundation’s oldest board member, and truly the most interesting, teetered across the patio and plopped into the chair across from me. “Someone stole my piñata. Right from my house!”

I tried to hide my dismay, lest I start a piñata panic. A missing paper party accessory isn’t usually cause for panic, but our Cinco de Mayo celebration was in five hours, and Zibby’s piñata was the showpiece.

“Start at the beginning,” I said as I passed her an icy glass of fresh lemonade.

“I went inside to get my good tweezers. There was a sticky sliver of wood on my sledgehammer and it kept poking my palm. Thought I better pluck it out before I finished beating the hook for the pig’s hat.” [Read more...]

Blogroll: Literary, etc

 Book Review: Kendel Lynn’s Board Stiff

BOARD STIFFTitle: Board Stiff
Series: Elliott Lisbon Mystery #1
Rating: ★★★★★
My Copy:

Elliott Lisbon is the Director of the Ballantyne Foundation and is working on her private investigator license. She conducts discreet inquires on behalf of the Foundation and when a board member, Leo Hirschorn, is found murdered, the Foundation’s benefactor specifically asks for Elliott’s assistance. She agrees, but then realizes that means trying to clear another board member’s name, Jane Walcott Hatting, and there’s no love lost between her and Jane. Elliott recognizes her investigation would be easier if the new Lieutenant, Nick Ransom, would take her seriously, but she understands that may never happen. After all, he’s her ex-boyfriend who ended things suddenly and quickly walked out of her life. Will Elliott solve Leo’s murder without Nick’s assistance or will she realize the culprit is who the police suspect?

Can I take a moment to talk about Nick? He’s sexy and sparks fly when he’s with Elliott, but he’s also very protective of her. There’s a scene with Elliott and an interview with a hotel manager and your heart breaks for Elliott when she realizes what Nick did; however, at the same time you can’t help but appreciate that Nick wants to protect her. I loved Elliott! She’s intelligent and isn’t afraid to take matters into her own hands. Elliott is a strong woman and it’s clear that everyone in Sea Pines loves her and there’s a reason. As the director of the Foundation, she’s hands on and is involved with all aspects of charity fundraising and since Sea Pines is a wealthy resort, she knows the people and area. [Read more...]

Blogroll: CRIMINALELEMENT.COM – Fresh Meat: Board Stiff by Kendel Lynn

Board Stiff by Kendel Lynn is the first book in the Elliott Lisbon humorous mystery series (available April 30, 2013).

BOARD STIFFAs director of the prestigious Ballantyne Foundation, Elliott Lisbon has her hands full. Not only is it her job to plan fundraisers and vet grant applicants, but the Ballantynes also expect her to fill their shoes as hosts whenever they’re away—a task that is often much trickier than it sounds:

Tod was helping me man the Bash in the absence of the Ballantynes, who were on safari in India. Or maybe it was mountain climbing in Pakistan. They entrusted me with their life’s work while away doing more life’s work. Tonight that included acting as one part host and one part referee.“So what’s up? Is Mr. Abercorn dancing naked on the tables again?”

“Not quite,” Tod said. “You have three fires to put out, though Jane is more of a firestorm of seething lava and flaming fireballs.”

“Don’t be so melodramatic.” I glanced at my watch. It was already past eleven, dreadfully late for a party that started at five. How did I miss seeing Nick Ransom for the last six hours? My lips tingled at the thought of him being so close. Traitors.

Tod snapped his fingers. “Hello, Elliott?”

“Right, melodramatic. Things can’t be that terrible, can they?”

“Jane is beheading board members, Mr. Colbert is serving guests from the canapés stuffed in his pockets, and Mrs. Kramer is singing with the band.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“They’re in the men’s room.”

Elliott’s also assigned with helping board members solve certain kinds of problems—ones police or press involvement would only serve to complicate. This part of the job is usually a piece of cake for Elliott; she does have a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice, after all, and is in the process of becoming a licensed PI, to boot. But Sam Spade, she’s not (at least not yet), so when the Ballantynes task her with solving the murder of eccentric board member Leo Hirschorn and exonerating prime suspect (and board chairwoman) Jane Hatting, she understandably balks at the request:

“About Jane,” Mr. Ballantyne continued. “I’m going to need your help sorting things out with the police.”“How can you possibly know about Jane? I heard not ten minutes ago.”

“The chief phoned me this morning, and I’ve just hung up with Jane. She assures me she has nothing to do with Leo’s murder, nothing at all, Elli, and I believe her. I need you on this one; I’m counting on your expertise. You’ve helped many a donor out of a pickle before, you can do it again!”

“But Mr. Ballantyne, this is a murder. I’m afraid I don’t have much expertise with those.” As I protested, my mind raced. I grabbed my notebook and started listing questions from yesterday’s excursion to Leo’s house: Why the mess? Where was Bebe?

“You can do it, my girl! Clear your plate. This is your top priority, your top priority, Elli. We owe Leo and we owe our Jane. I know you won’t disappoint me!”

I scribbled as we spoke: Police suspect Jane. Why? “I suppose I could poke around a bit. I don’t have any other inquiries at the moment.” How much harder could this be? A stolen golf cart, a missing brooch, a man shoved into a clock…My heart sank a bit as I thought of Leo. He definitely deserved better.

The Ballantynes have every faith Elliott can accomplish the task at hand, but Elliott suspects Leo’s murder will be more difficult to solve than the other cases she’s tackled. And as it turns out, she’s right. Her “client” is less than cooperative:

“Hi, Jane, it’s Elliott. Do you have a minute?”“No, Elliott, I don’t.”

“Great. I spent the afternoon with Leo’s neighbors. It seems you neglected to mention you were at Leo’s house the night of the murder.”

“Are you still pretending to be an investigator? I’m going to talk to Edward. You have too much time on your hands.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“You didn’t ask one, Nancy Drew. Care to try again? I should warn you, I may hang up at any time.”

I spoke slowly. “Jane. Why didn’t you tell me. You were at Leo’s. On Saturday. After the party?”

“Because I wasn’t there. If you’ll excuse me—”

“No, I won’t excuse you. Leo’s neighbor saw you, Jane. Saw. You. Black Sebring, scarf in your hair, speeding away from the murder scene. A witness.”

“That’s ridiculous. That police detective tried to pull this same stunt at the station. The neighbor is obviously lying. I wasn’t there. Period.”

“Then where were you?”

“Look, Elliott, I’m not interested in playing this game with you.”

“It’s not a game. I’m trying to help you. I’m the only person trying to help you.”

“You’ll have to try harder than this,” she said and hung up on me.

The local police force—of which her ex-boyfriend is a member—seems determined to freeze Elliott out:

“Now, if you’ve finished mocking me, I’d like to get back to work.”He slowly picked up his jacket. “I’m not mocking you, Elliott. I’m serious. This investigation doesn’t concern you.”

“Have you not been listening? Of course it concerns me. You are questioning one board member about the murder of another. This isn’t a job, Ransom, it’s my life. The Ballantynes treat me like a daughter; they’re my only family. They were there for me when my parents died. You left. They were all I had. I won’t let you shred their reputation while you witch hunt my board. Besides, your chief called my chief last night.” I stabbed his chest with my finger. Twice. “I’m in this.”

Ransom stepped forward, his jaw tight. “What did you say?”

“Mr. Ballantyne asked me to find out who killed Leo Hirschorn and I’m going to.” So maybe not exactly what Mr. Ballantyne asked, I thought, but close enough. The extra investigation hours could go toward my PI license, and that also helped the Ballantynes. “I don’t answer to you. We’ve always had the cooperation of the Sea Pine Police, and based on my phone call, this won’t be any different.”

“It will be on my terms,” he said, an edge in his voice.

“If you’d like to think that, have at it. Now, when I said afternoons spent by the pool, I didn’t mean me. I have a job.” I walked along the path by the garden toward the front. “I really liked Lieutenant Sully,” I muttered.

“Maybe you’ll like me, too,” he said over my shoulder. “Just stay out of my way and we’ll be fine.”

“You do the same, Lieutenant.”

Her love life is in shambles (which proves more than a little distracting):

I placed my palm on his chest to push him back. I met a warm brick wall covered in silk. “Stop. We’re not doing this here.”“Doing what?” Matty asked, walking up to us. I dropped my hand, startled. “Hey Matty.”

Ransom remained two inches from me, but stretched out his hand to Matty. “Lieutenant Nick Ransom, Island Police Department, former Special Agent FBI. Ex-boyfriend and new neighbor of Red’s.”

“Mattias Gannon, Headmaster of Seabrook Prep,” Matty said. “And a very close friend of Elli’s.”

They shook hands. They held on too long. The men were nearly the same height and their eyes locked together tighter than their hands. Seconds ticked by, then they finally released.

“Well, I’m glad we cleared that up,” I said.

It was kind of interesting, actually. To see men stripped down to their natural competitive instincts. Both vying for the top prize. Which I think was me in this bizarre scenario, considering neither man actually wanted me. Matty and I weren’t even dating and Ransom had a girlfriend.

I put my hand on Matty’s arm. “We should be getting back.” I wanted to get out of there before the tension swallowed me whole.

Ransom tipped his head. “Of course. Have a good night.”

I felt his eyes searing into my backside as I steered Matty through the lobby and over to our table. The waiter had delivered fresh pots of coffee and slices of pineapple upside-down cake while we were gone. A perfectly centered pineapple ring and cherry topped each one. Pete and Kyra had already finished; only crumbs remained on their pale blue saucers.

“You failed to mention your new neighbor is your ex-boyfriend,” Matty said. He chopped off a slice of his cake, but didn’t eat it.

“He’s not my ex-boyfriend, Matty. We spent one night together. Maybe five. Well, not like the whole night, every night. We kissed, made out, rounded a few bases.” Jesus, Elliott, what are you saying? I stuffed a piece of cake in my mouth.

Matty wouldn’t even look at me. I felt my cheeks pink up.

Which made me think of Ransom, which made them pink up another shade. Five more minutes and my head would explode.

“What did you mean by ‘we’re not doing this here’?”

“I didn’t mean anything, Matty. He’s probably on a date for Pete’s sake.”

“You’re on a date for Pete’s sake.”

A date? The stomach slivers returned. How did I miss that signal?

And then there are the other assorted and sundry hiccups she encounters over the course of her inquest:

I went to grab my handbag from the dining room and noticed it sat on a massive glob of puff paint. The entire back side was soaked in blue and stuck to the table. Like dried macaroni on a pencil cup. With a solid yank, the purse came loose but my elbow cracked into the Cookie Corral. It toppled to the floor, hitting the wall on its way down.Holy shit and OH MY GOD.

Dust floated everywhere and covered everything. The carpet, the drapes, the table, the wall. I started to choke. Air and sound battled for release. Breathe or scream? Breathe or scream? Panic crept from my toes to my fingertips. I stared at a large broken shard covered in Leo dust.

My fingers shook. I couldn’t think and I couldn’t look away.

The dust on the floor wasn’t dust. It was Leo. Literally Leo.

Ten seconds slid by, then twenty. I stared in horror, torn between doing the right thing and the wrong thing. Only I had no idea which was the right thing and which was the wrong. Other than Bebe simply could not find out about this. Nor could Mr. Ballantyne. Or any person I ever met, saw, or even thought about.

When it comes right down to it, though, the Ballantynes were right to put their faith in Elliott. Elliott’s not just a charity director or a social host or a disastrous dater or a fledgling private eye—she’s all of these things. Elliott Lisbon is a Renaissance woman, dammit, and that makes her uniquely suited for the task at hand. Renaissance women know how to throw good parties, but as it turns out, they’re also perfectly capable of catching cold-blooded killers; it simply takes determination and a little chutzpah—two things the Ballantyne Foundation’s director has in spades.

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