My name is Ruth Clagan, and I am a yoga retreat failure. There, I said it. But it isn’t my fault. I had enjoyed the yoga, even though the appeal waned after day three, when my muscles started to rebel. At least the pain kept me from dwelling on my current predicament.
It had been bad enough I found out my husband was cheating, and he left me for a grad student. Such a cliche for a forty year old professor, and one that forced me to camp out in my friend’s guest room. But when the museum lost that grant, and my job got cut? No job and no husband added that certain something-something to my thirtieth birthday. The yoga retreat was supposed to take my mind off of things. I chalked up another hash in the loser side of the ledger.
I’d done a lot of thinking about where things had gone wrong in my life, and what I could do to right it. Separating my failures, and deciding what needed to change, was key. Men? I had sworn off them. My divorce papers were barely dry, and my heart was still broken. Or was it my pride? I wasn’t sure anymore.
But my job? The problem was, it wasn’t just a job. It was part of my DNA. I’m part of an horology dynasty that included my great-grandfather, my grandfather, and I. We’re all dedicated to the study of time, and the repair and creation of time pieces. The Clagan family was a clock family, through and through.
I’d spent summers and school vacations at the Cog & Sprocket, my grandfather’s shop in the Berkshires, learning from a great clockmaker, Thom Clagan. I called him G.T., short for Grandpa Thom. The advent of digital watches changed the horological world forever. For a while there was fear the field might die out, but the last few years had been good ones. I don’t know if it was the turn of the century, the steam punk movement, or just an appreciation for things that worked on their own, but my work had been fairly steady for the past six years. Steady, but not booming.
In metaphysical terms, I was obsessed with capturing, or at least displaying, time. My dream was to design timepieces, mostly on a large, impossible scale. I had a good reputation as a craftsman, but there aren’t a lot of fulltime job opportunities in my field. Not the kind that both fed my artist’s passion while also providing enough funds for me to move get my own apartment, preferably one with studio space. That was why the museum job had been perfect. But now funding for that job had been cut, and I had to figure out what to do.
A couple of days ago, while enduring the pain of a pigeon pose, I had another thought.
I could always call my grandfather.
Then I dismissed it.
My grandfather and I had been close, mostly because I had inherited his horological gene, which had skipped my father entirely. I’d been studying at the British Horological Society in London when my grandmother died, breaking both of our hearts. My grandfather forced me to go back to London right after the funeral, and finish my studies. I’d reluctantly agreed, thinking the time apart would be short. Then he got married a few months later, and the tie that bound us broke. I’d been angry that he replaced my grandmother so soon, and when I found out his new wife was fifteen years his junior, I blew a gasket. It was easy to have shouting matches on the phone from thousands of miles away. Hard to heal that distance even though we lived in the same state for the past five years.
Maybe it was time to rebuild that bridge.
Then I got the message that changed it all. “Ruth, this is Kristen Gauger. I’m a lawyer here in Orchard. Pat Reed has been trying to get hold of you. I have some bad news about your grandfather. And we need to speak, as soon as possible. Call me when you get this. No matter what time.”
That was the call that changed it all. G.T. hadn’t died a natural death. He’d been hit over the head when he was getting into his car, and died that same night. I was frustrated that with all my training, I couldn’t turn back time and save him. Instead, I could head to Orchard. Back to the Cog & Sprocket, where I’d left part of my heart six years ago. Time to make amends, face some ghosts, and find my grandfather’s killer.
You can read more about Ruth in Just Killing Time, the first book in the NEW “Clock Shop” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime.
About Just Killing Time
Ruth Clagan may be an expert clockmaker, but she’s always had a tendency to lose track of time. And when trying to solve a murder, every minute counts. . .
Ruth’s beloved grandfather instilled in her a love of timepieces. Unfortunately after her grandmother died and he remarried, Ruth and Grandpa Thom became estranged. She’s wanted to reconnect after her recent divorce, but sadly they’ve run out of time. Her grandfather has been found dead after a break-in at his shop—and the police believe he was murdered.
Now Ruth has been named the heir to Grandpa Thom’s clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket, in the small Berkshire town of Orchard, Massachusetts. As soon as she moves into the small apartment above the shop and begins tackling the heaps of unfinished work, Ruth finds herself trying to stay on the good side of Grandpa’s bossy gray cat, Bezel, while avoiding the step-grandmother she never wanted. But as old secrets and grudges start to surface, Ruth will have to kick into high gear to solve the killer case before someone else winds up dead. . .
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Meet the author
Julianne Holmes is the author of Just Killing Time, the debut novel in the Clock Shop Mystery series and is the pseudonym for J. A. (Julie) Hennrikus, whose short stories have appeared in the award-winning Level Best Books. She serves on the boards of Sisters in Crime and Sisters in Crime New England, and is a member of Mystery Writers of America. She blogs with the Wicked Cozy Authors. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. Visit Julianne at www.julianneholmes.com.