by Mary Feliz
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pub Date: 7/18/2017
As a professional organizer, Maggie McDonald brings order to messy situations. But when a good friend becomes a murder suspect, surviving the chaos is one tall task . . .
Despite a looming deadline, Maggie thinks she has what it takes to help friends Jason and Stephen unclutter their large Victorian in time for its scheduled renovation. But before she can fill a single bin with unused junk, Jason leaves for Texas on an emergency business trip, Stephen’s injured mastiff limps home—and Stephen himself lands in jail for murder. Someone killed the owner of a local Chinese restaurant and stuffed him in the freezer. Stephen, caught at the crime scene covered in blood, is the number one suspect. Now Maggie must devise a strategy to sort through secrets and set him free—before she’s tossed into permanent storage next . . .
Thursday, February 16, Morning
Stephen was an early riser, so I’d agreed to meet him as soon as I dropped my teen boys at the middle school and high school. He’d promised me coffee and bagels. At the thought of food, my stomach rumbled and my mouth filled with saliva. I was starving and caffeine deprived. My golden retriever, Belle, thumped her tail, whined, and leaned into me, looking up with yearning. Normally, I didn’t bring Belle to work with me, but Stephen was a friend of mine, a dog person, and Munchkin was Belle’s BFF.
“They’ll be back soon,” I told her, referring to both Stephen and his seldom-absent canine partner. “I’m sure everything is fine. How often are they ever late?”
Belle made a polite sound in response. “Right,” I said. “Never . . . Well, nearly never.”
Extreme and unrelenting punctuality was a fault of Stephen’s, an artifact of his time in the military. Some of his friends found it an- noying, but I shared the trait and appreciated his timely arrival whenever we got together. I bit my lip, sighed, and squinted into the sun to scan the neighborhood. There was no car in the drive. He must have had a last-minute errand that went longer than he had planned. Unexpected traffic tie-ups were a recurring Silicon Valley problem. With the high-tech economy, growing population, and high-density building projects booming, the area was home to a record number of people. More people meant more cars. A trip to the dentist that took fifteen minutes a month or two earlier could easily take thirty minutes or longer today, even without a rush-hour fender bender creating gridlock. The problem grew worse daily and there was no easy solution.
I looked at my watch. Any minute, I expected to see Stephen and Munchkin loping up the street from one direction or the other. At six-foot-four inches, accompanied by a dog that weighed almost as much as he did, Stephen was hard to miss.
I paced in front of the house. This situation reminded me too much of a client session I’d begun four months earlier, standing on a front porch a few blocks away when my client was late. That morning had culminated in the death of a dear friend. I shivered, drew my fleece coat closer to me, peered at my phone, and dialed Stephen’s number.
Mary Feliz has lived in five states and two countries but calls Silicon Valley home. Traveling to other areas of the United States, she’s frequently reminded that what seems normal in the high-tech heartland can seem decidedly odd to the rest of the country. A big fan of irony, serendipity, diversity, and quirky intelligence tempered with gentle humor, Mary strives to bring these elements into her writing, although her characters tend to take these elements to a whole new level. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and National Association of Professional Organizers. Mary is a Smith College graduate with a degree in Sociology. She lives in Northern California with her husband, near the homes of their two adult offspring.
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