I live on a city block of small apartment buildings and stores built around a community garden with flowers and trees and a koi pond and clumps of Adirondack chairs where you can rest, or read, or toast marshmallows by the fire pit. It sounds pretty idyllic, right? I thought so too until this morning, when Tim Callahan died. Tim was a petty thief and a bully and no one was going to miss him. But unless I could figure out a way to prevent it, his death was about to turn my very secret life into another very public disaster.
Fabian Gardens was the refuge I’d crossed an ocean to find. My name is Theo Bogart, or at least that’s how I always introduce myself here. My English parents were famous and rich and now they’re dead and the way they died left me shocked, grieved and nearly consumed by a media firestorm, so I ran. So far, no one from my Maserati and Bollinger days had come looking for me behind the counter of a small neighborhood store 5,000 miles from home. I was desperate to keep it that way.
When I got up this morning, fog was obscuring my slice of Golden Gate Bridge view, which is fairly typical. I pulled on jeans after a quick shower, and gathered my emotional resources to face another day of lying to every single person I knew. The effort took a toll I hadn’t considered when I moved here eighteen months ago. Even so, for no particular reason, I felt more hopeful than I had for many months. The dim sum aroma from Hang Chow’s down the block was more appealing; the air a little crisper; colors a little brighter. If I’d been less absorbed by how my friends would react if they discovered the truth about me, I might have wondered what the hell was wrong with me.
I walked down to Helga’s Coffee Shop and strolled back with my morning tea. The climbing rose was doing its best to obscure the front window of the fancy little bath and body shop I co-own. The rose needed a trim, but the planter had been repaired and the building painted. So it looked good on the outside, even if the inside was still in the throes of an endless renovation.
When I got back upstairs to my flat the building trembled as it does every now and again. Minor earthquakes can be shrugged off after you’ve lived here for a while. The first few raise your heartbeat a little. I drank my tea staring down at the flowerbeds three floors below, which is how I saw Tim fall to his death. I was the only witness, too. Everyone else—Sabina, Davie Scotty and the others—only heard him scream.
So nothing much was different about the morning Tim Callahan died. He was a petty thief and a bully, and I was pretty sure no one would miss him. But the police thought he’d been shoved from that third story window, which meant intense police scrutiny for all of us, which meant our secrets might no longer be our own, which meant my life was going to be even more complicated than it was already.
You can read more about Theo in The Man on the Washing Machine, the first book in the mystery series featuring “Theophania Bogart,” published by Minotaur Books.
About The Man on the Washing Machine
When former party girl and society photographer Theophania Bogart flees to San Francisco to escape a high-profile family tragedy, a series of murders drags her unwillingly out of hiding. In no time at all she discovers she’s been providing cover for a sophisticated smuggling operation, she starts to fall for an untrustworthy stranger, and she’s knocked out, tied up and imprisoned. The police are sure she’s lying. The smugglers are sure she knows too much. Her friends? They aren’t sure what to believe.
The body count is rising and Theo struggles to find the killer before she’s the next victim or her new life is exposed as an elaborate fraud. But the more deeply entangled she becomes, the more her investigation is complicated by her best friend, who is one of her prime suspects; her young protégé, who may or may not have a juvie record; her stern and unyielding grandfather, who exposes an unexpected soft center; and the man on her washing machine, who isn’t quite what he appears, either.
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Meet the author
Susan Cox’s The Man on the Washing Machine is the first in a series of mysteries starring the secretive Theophania “Theo” Bogart and her friends and neighbors in San Francisco’s Fabian Gardens neighborhood. The Man on the Washing Machine, is the winner of the 2014 Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Award. Susan can be found at www.susancox.net and on Facebook