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Authors: Carolyn G. Hart

The Christie Caper

BOOK: The Christie Caper
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Praise for Award-Winning Author Carolyn G. Hart and
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, award-winning 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 onto 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
will more than satisfy anyone looking for a wonderfully old-fashioned … and 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

“In the sixth novel in her award-winning series, Hart is in top form…. All in all,
Deadly Valentine
is a classy performance.”


Mystery Readers Journal

A
LSO BY
C
AROLYN
G. H
ART

DEATH ON DEMAND

DESIGN FOR MURDER

SOMETHING WICKED

HONEYMOON WITH MURDER

A LITTLE CLASS ON MURDER

DEADLY VALENTINE

SOUTHERN GHOST

DEAD MAN’S ISLAND

SCANDAL IN FAIR HAVEN

MINT JULEP MURDER

A
VAILABLE FROM
B
ANTAM
B
OOKS

Contents

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Cast of Characters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Author’s Postscript

Copyright

I
n honor of Agatha Christie,
the world’s greatest mystery writer.

My thanks to Barbara D’Amato and the Malice Domestic Mystery Convention for permission to use portions of the “Agatha Christie Treasure Hunt,” which Barb and I co-authored for Malice Domestic I, April 1989.

And my thanks to Dorothy Cannell for sharing memories of Garden Fêtes from the coconut shy to the lucky dip.

CAST OF CHARACTERS

NEIL C. BLEDSOE

Sarcastic, brilliant, unpleasant, the rugged critic is definitely looking for trouble.

VICTORIA SHAW

A soft-spoken, kindly woman, but she has not forgotten and she will never forgive.

HENNY BRAWLEY

Mystery reader extraordinaire, she looks forward to the conference and showing off how much she knows about Christie.

KATHRYN HONEYCUTT

She hated to think ill of anyone, even her nephew, Neil Bledsoe.

JOHN BORDER STONE

He couldn’t wait to arrive at the meeting. His life would never be the same.

ANNIE LAURANCE DARLING

Owner of the best mystery bookstore this side of Atlanta. Lively, intense, determined.

INGRID SMITH

Annie’s wonderful assistant at Death on Demand. Always patient, sometimes acerbic.

LAUREL DARLING ROETHKE

Annie’s ever cheerful, unpredictable, maddening mother-in-law. In the grip of a new enthusiasm.

EMMA CLYDE

Broward Rock’s famous resident mystery author. Suspected of authoring a real-life mystery.

NATALIE MARLOW

Author of
Down These Steps.
Awkward, frumpy, brilliant. How angry is she?

FRANK SAULTER

Chief of police. Thoughtful, honest, worried.

VINCE ELLIS

Young and energetic publisher of the
Island Gazette.

BARB

Secretary at Confidential Commissions, Max Darling’s “counseling” agency.

NATHAN HULMAN

CEO and Executive Editor of Hillman House, who lost more than a prize author when Pamela Gerrard Davis married Neil Bledsoe.

DEREK DAVIS

He blamed Bledsoe for the death of his mother.

MARGO WRIGHT

Literary agent. She would never forget what Bledsoe did to her.

MAX DARLING

Annie’s unflappable, equable husband. “Joe Hardy all grown up and sexy as hell.”

FLEUR CALLOWAY

Why did she stop writing? She won’t even look at Neil Bledsoe.

JAMES BENTLEY

A conference attendee. He sees the marksman outside Death on Demand, but he can’t give a good description.

BILLY CAMERON

Chief Saulter’s assistant. The conference gives him a colossal headache.

LADY GWENDOLYN TOMPKINS

Co-sponsor of the conference, England’s reigning Crime Queen. Sprightly, perspicacious, indomitable.

ED MERRITT

The hotel manager. He wants all this murder nonsense to stop!

BRICE WILLARD POSEY

The pompous circuit solicitor. He and Lady Gwendolyn do not have a meeting of the minds.

JEAN REINHARDT

She remembers Stone’s manuscript—“all those missing feet!”

DUANE WEBB

Ingrid’s good friend. He tells Bledsoe to bug off.

TERRY ABBOTT

Says Stone had only one problem: no talent.

The Agatha Christie Title Clues at the beginning of each chapter are part of the Agatha Christie Treasure Hunt in
Chapter 15
.

AGATHA CHRISTIE
TITLE CLUE

Beware the false face;

Can’t trust someone in this place.

G
reat minds have great ideas. Neil Bledsoe enjoyed a very good opinion of himself, but the inspiration which had struck so abruptly was brilliant, peerless—and the answer to all his problems.

Where the hell was that brochure? Impatiently, he dumped the wastebasket, ignoring the cigar ashes and crumpled balls of printer paper. He found it finally and spread open the wrinkled flyer. Quality printing, quality paper. No expense spared.

The first panel told the story:

THE CHRISTIE CAPER

A Centennial Celebration of
the birth of

AGATHA CHRISTIE
The greatest detective-story writer of all time

September 9–September 15
The Palmetto House
Broward’s Rock Island, South Carolina
Co-sponsored by England’s Present-Day Crime
Queen
Lady Gwendolyn Tompkins

and
DEATH ON DEMAND
Bookstore
Proprietor Annie Laurance Darling

They’d all be there, all those bloody women writers and editors and agents and the damn pansy men who wrote whodunits instead of real blood-and-guts mysteries.

Neil leaned forward, selected a cigar from his humidor. When it was lit, he rolled the oily smoke over his tongue, savoring the pungent, masculine odor that enveloped him. Women hated cigars. So he smoked them everywhere. Especially in elevators. Inevitably, some skinny bitch complained, stabbed a red-nailed finger at the No Smoking sign. Neil took great pleasure in telling her where she could stick it. No-smoking laws were a joke. Was some asshole going to make a citizen’s arrest? Of him? He shifted his two-hundred-pound bulk until he could see his dark visage in that prissy damn mirror that Pamela’d put up. All that was left of Pamela.

A face to reckon with. Heavy, black brows drawn in a menacing frown. Florid, acne-scarred skin, tougher than leather. Nobody’d ever mistake him for one of those pansy writers.

And they hated him.

Hated him and feared him.

By God, he’d crash their party. He flipped through the brochure. A garden party, author panels, English dinners, a classic-car display, a Christie Treasure Hunt, a Christie Trivia Quiz, the Agatha Christie Come-as-You-Wish-You-Were Ball. He scanned the list of authors scheduled to attend. Bubbles of laughter stirred in his chest. Holy shit, it couldn’t be better. A conference filled wall-to-wall with his enemies. And if they weren’t enemies when he got there, he’d make damn sure they were before he left.

The registration form and hotel reservation slip were on the last panel of the brochure. Despite the cigar clamped in his teeth, his mouth split in a ferocious grin as he wrote his name in bold, black strokes.

Oh, Christ, was he going to raise hell.

AGATHA CHRISTIE
TITLE CLUE

Lucky, lovely, rich Linnet.

Luckiest girl in the world—or is she?

V
ictoria Shaw stood in front of the rural mailbox, the envelope in her hand. Her heart thudded. She’d walked up the lane too fast. Janice kept urging her to have a check-up. But what did it matter, really, how many heartbeats remained? She hadn’t cared, not since—

No, no, no. She wouldn’t think about it. She would not.

The frail hand holding the envelope trembled. If she mailed this letter, if she attended the conference, wouldn’t it reawaken not only the anguish but the poisonous fury that had corroded her spirit when Bryan died?

Not unless she permitted it to do so. She had learned one painful lesson these past lonely years. The mind could be controlled. Not joyfully, perhaps, but effectively. Victoria had been forced to learn that lesson or go mad.

BOOK: The Christie Caper
7.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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