In my thirty-three year soap career, I acted in dozens of scenes that involved the soap’s entire cast. A wedding, costume ball, or New Year’s Eve party were popular settings for the multi-episode shoots that would resolve one storyline and launch a new one. Romances would blossom or fall apart, a betrayal would be revealed, a life would begin or end. Sometimes, a character who died in a previous extravaganza would make a grand re-entrance (perhaps with a completely new face!).
I thought my participation in such spectacles was over when the soap was cancelled and I returned to my hometown to start a new career as the owner of a charming boutique. Yet there I was at the village’s annual flea market playing an extra in a melodrama never seen live by the trash-to-treasure crowd.
The action proceeded with flabbergasting speed, starting with young architect Scott Culverson paying ten dollars for a vintage letterbox. In an extraordinary twist of fate, a rough nudge from brutish contractor Vin Bradley forced the wood box from Scott’s grasp. The impact with the hard ground broke the box, revealing a hidden drawer.
I don’t know if even a soap writer could imagine what Scott discovered in the drawer. A million-dollar painting by renowned artist George Bradshaw. Also in the drawer was a love letter, written by Bradshaw in 1925 to a woman on the eve of her marriage to another man. A soap opera within a soap opera!
Cue the divas. Scott’s girlfriend, Isabel, and Regina Quinn, the great-granddaughter of the artist’s beloved, engaged in a nasty verbal catfight. Regina wanted the painting returned to her family. Isabel, a lawyer, hissed they had no claim to the valuable canvas. Ned, the grocer who sold Scott the box, pitched his case for the painting, and Regina’s great-aunt Ella threatened a lawsuit. Vin and his brassy wife, Debbie, added some coarse language to the dialogue.
A bewildered Scott stood there holding his Bradshaw painting while his friend Jack and my guy, Mark, kept Isabel and Regina from a full-out catfight. A good thing, because it’s been a few months since I engaged in one and I’ve lost my hair-pulling, face-slapping touch.
Isabel spirited Scott away before someone could swipe his new nest egg. Mark and I left the flea market thinking we had seen everything, but that was just the beginning of the drama.
The next scene took place that evening at The Hearth. Mark and I dined with friends a few tables from where Scott, Isabel, Jack, and Isabel’s co-worker Hillary sat. After dinner, Mark and I joined the group for a drink.
Scott was still on a high from his new acquisition and already had plans for it. He was going to auction it off and use the fortune to pay off his student loans, break ground for his dream house, and start a rich man’s wine collection. Isabel wanted a prize of her own, preferably one contained in a ring-sized Tiffany box.
I was silently ruing their lack of appreciation for the beautiful work of art they possessed when Regina swooped into the dining room. She was easy to spot in the white smock she wore for her job as The Hearth’s head chef. Regina headed straight to our table and launched into a renewed furious demand for the painting. She and Isabel again had to be separated before they started hurling hot coffee, tiramisu, or stain-producing booze at each other.
Then George Bradshaw’s daughter, Leona Kendall, entered, trailed by her two spoiled adult children. Leona, an ice queen, expected Scott to bow at her feet and hand over the painting. When that didn’t happen, Leona’s petulant daughter, Natalie, got into it with Isabel and Regina while Theo, Leona’s shifty-eyed son, stood by in brooding silence.
Thank goodness no one called the cops. When The Hearth’s owner appeared, everyone mumbled insincere apologies and left the arena, I mean dining room. Mark and I also departed, taking one last glance at Scott. He sat at his table, a contented man, beckoning to the server for another drink. Despite the dispute and threatened lawsuits, it was probably the best day of his life.
So why isn’t Scott telling you about it? Because, as in some of those soap opera storylines, murder was in the Barton script. Scott was stabbed to death two nights later and the painting stolen from his home.
I was back to a role I never played on the soap. Amateur sleuth.
Murder, by George is the second book in the Veronica Walsh mystery series, published by Five Star, May 2016.
Retired soap opera actress Veronica Walsh leads a fulfilling second act in her Adirondack hometown of Barton. Her boutique, All Things, is thriving and she enjoys a romance with Professor Mark Burke. She has neither the time nor the desire to be an amateur sleuth.
Trouble finds her when architect Scott Culverson buys a vintage box at the village’s annual flea market and discovers a valuable painting and love letter inside a locked drawer. The awe over the masterpiece, a 1920’s portrait of Barton’s main street, turns to rage when a fierce argument ensues. The box’s seller insists the painting was not included in the sale, while Ella and Madeline Griffin, whose mother received the painting as a wedding present, demand that Scott return the painting to their family. The artist’s daughter, the formidable Leona Bradshaw Kendall, later joins the battle over Orchard Street.
When Scott is stabbed to death and the painting and letter stolen, the Griffin sisters ask Veronica to help clear suspicion from their hot-tempered great-niece, Regina. Despite a vow to stay out of the investigation, Veronica’s loyalty to her friends draws her into the case.
Veronica crosses paths with a shady contractor, brassy hairdresser, overwrought lawyer, and adoring Czech housekeeper as she searches for both killer and work of art. Whom can Veronica trust, and who will lead her to the brink of death?
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About the author
Jeanne Quigley grew up reading mysteries, watching soap operas, and vacationing in the Adirondacks, never imagining these pleasures would inspire the Veronica Walsh cozy mystery series. Jeanne’s love of characters—real and fictional—led her to study Sociology and English at the University of Notre Dame. Jeanne has never been a soap star, but she has worked in the music industry and for an education publisher. She resides in Rockland County, New York and is a member of the Sisters in Crime. Connect with Jeanne at jeannequigley.wordpress.com.
Giveaway: Leave comment below for your chance to win an advanced reader copy of Murder, by George. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end May 27, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!
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