Is this the best job or what? I wake up with a warm pug and an equally warm Siamese (that’s Good Cat) on my bed. Sun streams through the window of my attic accommodation, lighting the faded cabbage rose wallpaper. If I am lucky I will manage to shower and get dressed without being decorated by the sharp claws of the other, not quite so cuddly, Siamese: Bad Cat. One of these days, I’ll learn to tell them apart.
I race down from the third floor and along the endless corridors of Van Alst House. I try not to look at Vera’s unattractive (such a mild word) relatives who glare at me from portraits on the walls. Walter the Pug will be at my heels and the Siamese will have managed to precede me to the Conservatory where we breakfast at eight. I know better than to be late. I am always properly dressed. I wouldn’t want to jeopardize the best job in the world.
My employer, Vera Van Alst—well-known as the most hated woman in Harrison Falls, New York—may look up from her New York Times crossword puzzle or she may not. I am lucky to get a grunt today. Never mind, Signora Panetone is thrilled to see me and before I take my seat she will have filled my cup with fragrant espresso and stacked my plate with goodies. Today she’s serving blueberry pancakes with maple syrup. Eat! Eat!
I need my strength because, as well as helping Vera with her magnificent collection of first editions—think secure, climate-controlled, rosewood-lined room, Aubusson carpets and rare books from floor to ceiling— there’s also Uncle Kev to consider. Uncle Kev, the world’s largest and most dangerous child, keeps me on my toes because when he’s around because you just never know when something will explode or collapse. That kind of thing. Never mind. He means well. And it appears he can eat a half-dozen pancakes this morning.
Today, Vera and I are invited to lunch at Summerlea, the grand summer home of the Kauffman family. It’s a dream come true for me and I have the perfect deep raspberry vintage dress picked out. Vera is as excited as she ever gets, although, naturally, there is no visible indication of it. But that’s Vera. Deep down, I know she must be happy because the purpose of our visit to Summerlea is for Vera to acquire a valuable and rare complete collection of first editions by the great mystery writer Ngaio Marsh. We have the money with us (quite a bundle) and we’ll get lunch in a beautiful, historic property. I predict elegance!
(painting by Victoria Maffini)
With so much turmoil (and yes, even murder) to deal with in the last couple of years, it’s wonderful when I can keep my mind on my job which is to help Vera build her magnificent collection of mystery first editions. This day will be a bit of a reward.
I’m not sure if I mentioned that I’m the first person in my family to find a legal way to make a living. I’m proud of that, even though, with my Kelly relatives, it’s not always easy going straight. . . For sure, life might be smoother if I wasn’t dating Officer Tyler “Smiley” Dekker of the Harrison Falls Police. The thing is, while I find him irresistible, my uncles are horrified. Plus I’m pretty sure I cause problems for “Smiley” at work. Oh well. The heart knows what it wants.
To get back to our scheduled trip, for some unknown reason, Uncle Kev seems to be included in the visit, but if I keep my eyes on him, well, in a place like Summerlea—steeped in old money on a gracious and secluded property, crammed with art and artefacts—what could possibly go wrong?
The answer to that, of course, can be found in The Marsh Madness. We hope that it will keep you up past your bedtime. Because we love being here at Dru’s Book Musings, we’re offering a ‘giveaway’: a copy of The Marsh Madness. We’ll mail it to Canada, the USA or wherever you are on the planet. Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on Thursday, September 24 for the chance to win.
You can read more about Jordan in The Marsh Madness, the fourth book in the “Book Collector” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first three books in the series are The Christie Curse, The Sayers Swindle, and The Wolfe Widow.
About the author
That shadowy body known as Victoria Abbott is actually a dangerous collaboration between artist and photographer Victoria Maffini and her mother Mary Jane, author of thirteen mysteries in three other series. So far, they have managed to stay alive during the writing of their four book collector mysteries and expect that to continue during the completion of the fifth, The Hammett Hex, September 2016. When not writing, they can be found lurking mysteriously on the outskirts of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada’s capital. Most likely they will be surrounded by dogs, including Peachy the Pug.