Authors: Elaine Viets
Tags: #Fort Lauderdale, #Women detectives, #Saint Louis (Mo.), #Mystery & Detective, #Consignment Sale Shops, #Florida, #Fiction, #Women Sleuths, #General, #Hawthorne; Helen (Fictitious Character), #Fugitives from justice
Also by Elaine Viets
The Dead-End Job Series
Shop Till You Drop
Murder Between the Covers
Dying to Call You
Murder with Reservations
Clubbed to Death
Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper Series
Dying in Style
High Heels Are Murder
Accessory to Murder
Murder with All the Trimmings
The Fashion Hound Murders
Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
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First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Copyright © Elaine Viets, 2010 All rights reserved
OBSIDIAN and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA:
Viets, Elaine, 1950-
Half-price homicide: a dead-end job mystery/Elaine Viets.
p. cm. “An Obsidian mystery.”
1. Hawthorne, Helen (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Fugitives from justice—Fiction. 3. Women detectives—Florida—Fort Lauderdale—Fiction. 4. Consignment sale shops—Missouri—Saint Louis— Fiction. 5. Saint Louis (Mo.)—Fiction. I. Title.
Set in Bembo
Designed by Ginger Legato
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For Sherry Schreiber, who said I would be amazed by what happens at designer consignment shops. You were right.
There is no Snapdragon’s Second Thoughts. It doesn’t exist, nor does its clientele. Fort Lauderdale has lots of designer consignment shops. My personal favorite is Hibiscus Place Emporium, 1406 East Las Olas Boulevard. Special thanks to former owner Manny Lopez, Laurie Hooper, Chris Lopez and Josefina Rivas, who does the finest alterations in Fort Lauderdale. I did button shirts at Hibiscus Place, and dusted the stock, including those pineapples. Why those pineapples are so popular is a mystery I will never solve.
Special thanks to D. P. Lyle, MD, for helping me determine signs of death. His Writer’s Forensics Blog (writersforensicsblog.wordpress. com) is recommended for all your forensic needs. Fred Powers of Powers Bowersox Associates, Inc., told me how to bury a body in a basement.
If you follow my account of body disposal and get caught, those mistakes are mine, not theirs.
Librarian Doris Ann Norris helped me plan a traditional Catholic funeral.
Steven Toth, of Mr. Entertainment and the Pookiesmackers, answered my questions about punk/indie bands, even after I admitted to liking the Dandy Warhols.
Thanks to the tax experts and lawyers who advised me on Helen’s tangled financial and legal affairs, including M. Susan Carlson of Chackes, Carlson & Spritzer.
A special thank-you to editor Sandra Harding at NAL, her assistant Elizabeth Bistrow, Kara Cesare and Lindsay Nouis, and the NAL production staff. Thanks also to my long-suffering husband, Don Crinklaw, who eats the orange chips and butter-and-onion sandwiches like Phil does, and to my agent, David Hendin, who is always there when I need him.
Many other people helped me with this book, including Detective R. C. White, Fort Lauderdale Police Department (retired), Synae White and Rick McMahan, ATF special agent.
Special thanks to Valerie Cannata, Colby Cox, Jinny Gender, Karen Grace, Kay Gordy, Jack Klobnak, Kevin Lane, Robert Levine, Janet Smith and Carole Wantz, who could sell fur coats at a PETA convention.
Les Steinberg of Steinberg & Steinberg, LLC, is my expert on boys’ toys, not to be confused with boy toys. Tom Barclay and Mary Lynn Reed told me how to get fired from radio.
Librarian Anne Watts lent me her cat, Thumbs, for the Dead-End Job series. Thanks again to the librarians at the St. Louis Public Library and Broward County Library. Yes, I could get information from the Internet, but I’m not smart enough to know what’s solid and what’s misleading. I need librarians for that.
Thanks also to my sister bloggers on The Lipstick Chronicles, for their advice and encouragement—Nancy Martin, Harley Jane Kozak, Sarah Strohmeyer, Lisa Daily and Kathy Sweeney. Read us at
I’m also grateful to the many booksellers who hand-sell my work and encourage me.
Finally, any errors are my own. If you want to complain or, better yet, tell me what you like about the novel, please e-mail me at
“I need to see Vera right away,” the pocket-sized blonde said. Her voice was a sweet whisper.
Helen Hawthorne could barely see the woman’s curly head over the counter. She reminded Helen of a cream pie with her high-piled sugar white hair and lush curves. A size two, Helen estimated, based on her years in retail.
Cutie-pie was no tourist vacationing in Fort Lauderdale. She belonged on fashionable Las Olas Boulevard. But Helen figured Cutie-pie would pay full price for her skimpy white dress, not hunt used bargains at Snapdragon’s Second Thoughts, the high-end clothing consignment store where Helen worked.
Cutie-pie dropped a stack of soiled men’s shirts on the counter. They landed with a thud that told Helen extra starch wasn’t what weighed them down. She hoped the dark red stain on the white shirt was ketchup.
“Do you have any dry cleaning for pickup?” Helen asked.
Cutie-pie looked around as though checking for spies, then said, “Tell Vera it’s Angelina Jolie. It’s urgent.”