Authors: Joan Hess
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PRAISE FOR JOAN HESS
AND THE CLAIRE MALLOY SERIES
“A good substitute for a trip to Egypt.”
“Lively, sharp, irreverent.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Hess fans will find much to entertain them …”
Damsels in Distress
“Larcenous shenanigans… breezy throughout.”
“With her wry asides, Claire makes a most engaging narrator. The author deftly juggles the various plot strands… the surprising denouement comes off with éclat.”
Out on a Limb
“A winning blend of soft-core feminism, trendy subplots, and a completely irreverent style that characterizes both the series and the sleuth.”
“Refreshing… blends humor, eccentric characters, familiar emotions, and plot twists into an enjoyable lark.”
“A colorful kaleidoscope of plotting and clues… undeniably funny.”
“A wildly entertaining series.”
“Joan Hess is one of the best mystery writers in the world. She makes it look so easy that few readers and fewer critics realize what a rare talent hers is.”
—Elizabeth Peters, author of
Tomb of the Golden Bird
“Joan Hess is seriously funny. Moreover, she is seriously kind as well as clever when depicting the follies, foibles, and fantasies of our lives. Viva Joan!”
—Carolyn Hart, author of
Dead Days of Summer
“Fresh and funny… her trademark humor is stamped on every page.”
The Goodbye Body
“Breezy and delightful… Claire Malloy is one of the most engaging narrators in mystery.”
The Drood Review
“Hess is one very funny woman.”
—Susan Dunlap, former president of Sisters in Crime
“Amiable entertainment with an edge.”
“If you’ve never spent time with Claire and her crew, I feel sorry for you. Stop reading this nonsense and hop to it. You’ll see wit and humanity all wrapped up in a nifty murder mystery.”
—Harlan Coben, author of
THE CLAIRE MALLOY MYSTERIES
BY JOAN HESS
The Murder at the Murder at the Mimosa Inn
Dear Miss Demeanor
Roll Over and Play Dead
A Diet to Die For
A Really Cute Corpse
Death by the Light of the Moon
A Holly, Jolly Murder
A Conventional Corpse
Out on a Limb
The Goodbye Body
Damsels in Distress
St. Martin’s Paperbacks
If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2008 by Joan Hess.
copyright © 2009 by Joan Hess.
All rights reserved.
For information address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2007051831
Printed in the United States of America
St. Martin’s Press hardcover edition / April 2008
St. Martin’s Paperbacks edition / February 2009
St. Martin’s Paperbacks are published by St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
This book is dedicated
with love and respect to Barbara Mertz
(who also goes by the aliases Elizabeth Peters and
I would like to express my gratitude to the following, who willingly or unwittingly provided me with knowledge and opportunities to learn about aspects of Egypt unavailable to most travelers:
Dr. Barbara Mertz, Ph.D. in Egyptology, University of Chicago; Dr. W. Ray Smith, Director, Chicago House, Luxor; Dennis Forbes, editor of
KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt;
Joel Cole, artist and steadying hand on arduous treks; Dr. Otto Schaden, excavator of KV63; Dr. Salima Ikram, American University in Cairo; Bill and Nancy Petty of Museum Tours; Dr. Marjorie Fisher, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Egyptology, Department of Near East Studies, University of Michigan; and Charles Roberts, who bears sole responsibility for coercing me onto that blasted camel.
“Those Do Not look like camels to me.”
“That’s because they’re horses.”
“Where are the camels?”
“How should I know?”
“You’re the one who said there’d be camels all over the place.”
“I did not!”
“You did so!”
What a dandy way to start a honeymoon, I thought as I came into the parlor of the suite. My daughter, Caron, and her best friend, Inez, were on the balcony, engaged in what was clearly an argument of cosmic significance. I felt as if I’d been flattened by a giant waffle iron. The three of us had left Farberville many hours ago, possibly even days ago. We’d flown to Dallas, then Atlanta, then Frankfurt, followed by a six-hour layover and a flight to Cairo. After an interminable time snaking through customs at that airport, we’d flown on to Luxor. A lovely man whose name I did not remember had met us at the gate, collected our luggage, and whisked us to the hotel. Although the sun was still shining, I’d brushed my teeth and collapsed in bed.
Now, showered and wearing the terry-cloth bathrobe I’d found in the bathroom, I joined the girls on the balcony. The view was dazzling. Below us were terraces delineated with marble rails, a lush garden of shady grass and cheerful flowers, and beyond those the corniche, a boulevard that ran
alongside the Nile. The medians were dotted with palm trees, shrubs, and minimal litter. Boxy metal cruise ships were docked at a large concrete pier, and small boats with triangular sails sliced through the brown water. On the other side of the river, hostile mountains dominated the horizon. There was no trace of vegetation on the slopes, only rocks and sheer cliffs. The fabled West Bank, with its Valley of the Kings and, somewhere to the south, the Valley of the Queens. The pharaohs, it seemed, preferred separate accommodations, even in the next world.
“Horse-drawn carriages and frenetic little cars,” I said, “but no camels. Camels have humps.”
Inez coughed delicately. “What one would expect to see here are dromedaries, or Arabian camels. They have one hump. Bactrian camels are indigenous to Asia and have two humps. Camels can go for two weeks without water, and a month without food. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t store water in their humps. The fatty tissue metabolizes with—”
“Hump, hump, harrumph.” Caron sat down on one of the padded chairs. “We were about to call for the paramedics, Mother. You slept for fifteen hours.”
“Don’t worry, Ms. Malloy,” Inez said earnestly. “It’s classic jet lag, and at your age, it—” She stopped and stared. “I guess I should call you Ms. Rosen, shouldn’t I? I’ll try, but it still sounds really weird. I’ve always called you Ms. Malloy.”
“I’m not going to change my name,” I said.
Caron snorted. “Yeah, all that paperwork. What does Peter think about it—or did you bother to ask him? Where is he, anyway?”
I leaned against the marble rail. “It’s my decision, not his. As for his whereabouts, they are unknown. He was supposed to be here when we arrived. He must have been tied up in a meeting in Cairo.” I was relieved when neither girl persisted with questions. I’d intentionally been vague about the trip in general, saying only that Peter might be asked to discuss police matters while we were there. I did not want them to know the extent of his involvement, and frankly, I didn’t
want to know, either. He’d attended a training session at what I blithely had called FBI summer camp and, after a brief furlough, returned to the East Coast for six weeks of further tutelage in the delicacies of international skulduggery. He’d had three days off to come home to give me tickets and travel information, confer with the captain of the Farberville Police Department—and show up at our wedding. Two days later Peter left for final briefings, and I hadn’t seen him since. I suspected the CIA, Interpol, and the Department of Homeland Security were behind all this, but Peter hadn’t volunteered any information and I hadn’t asked.