Monday, April 11, 2011

Money Money Money

Maggie's office - with Madonna's new puppies!
  Greed is one of the biggies, one of the “Thou Shalt Nots,” but human nature continues to err on the side of “I want more.”

Not so good if you desire peace on earth, but great news if you’re a mystery writer like me. Using people’s foibles is a time-honored means of moving a story along.

My Cleopatra Jones mystery series is based on a small town amateur sleuth who has expertise in accounting. Her insider knowledge comes in handy when she’s on a case.

In my brand new book in the series, On the Nickel, Cleo is propelled into action when Mama’s nemesis, the church lady from hell, is found dead by hit and run – and Mama’s Olds has a person-sized dent in the front.

Tension between the two seniors had been rising of late, and the church lady had even filed a police report citing Mama with terroristic threats. Cleo is in a bind. She knows that when people get cornered, they strike out and do terrible things. The church lady had cornered Mama, that’s for sure, but had Mama lashed out?

Cleo needs to know. The clock is ticking because the police are closing in on Mama. The only thing Cleo knows is that Mama is lying to her.

While Cleo digs around in the church lady’s life, she finds financial discrepancies. Money is a problem – the church lady is flat broke. The more Cleo digs, the more the noose tightens around Mama’s neck. Can she save her mother from the slammer?

Here’s a snip from the story:

The events of the day returned in a rush as I locked my car. I ticked them off on my fingers.

One, there had been a vehicular accident at the church. Two, Erica Hodges was dead. Three, Mama had a history of run-ins with Erica Hodges. Four, on Monday I listened to Mama and Erica Hodges exchange insults in public. Five, Mama’s whereabouts today were a mystery and her over-the-top behavior even more of a mystery.

I don’t know what made me look at her Oldsmobile. Honestly, I don’t know why I looked at all. But I did. And then I wished I’d gone straight inside the house and minded my own business.

The motion-detector light on the corner of the house had activated when I pulled into the driveway. The parking pad was now brightly illuminated.

I touched the jagged safety glass of Mama’s shattered headlight cover. A suffocating sensation tightened my throat at the large indentation in her not-so-shiny bumper. The hood of her car mounded in the middle, pushed back from the leading edge. This car had hit something.

Or someone.

Dread charged through my veins, taking my breath away. Fear clawed at my heart, dragging me down to a place where I didn’t want to go. Dazed and bewildered, I staggered over to my Volvo for support. The hood warmed my cold fingers.

This was very, very bad.


The pieces of the puzzle resolved in my head. With each connected piece, the picture became clearer. Mama and Erica. Rivals and combatants. Mama alive. Erica dead. Mama’s car damaged. Erica dead.

Even to a rank amateur like me, the evidence pointed to a devastating conclusion. I shook my head in disbelief. This was Mama I was talking about. She was stubborn, opinionated, and bossy, and those were her finer qualities.

Stars twinkled in the night sky overhead. Crickets chirped in the darkness. A light went on in my next-door neighbor’s kitchen. A diesel pickup truck rumbled past on Main Street. And I stood beside my mother’s damaged car in my driveway.

Ordinary things. Trivial things

But my life wasn’t ordinary or trivial any longer.

A cold-blooded killer lived under my roof.


Maggie Toussaint

On The Nickel

Five Star / Cengage ISBN 9781594149542

Available for order at Amazon, $25.95

Maggie Toussaint is a native Georgian who had a nearly 30-year sojourn in Maryland. While there, she tried her hand at golf and spent many hours chasing white balls in the woods. That experience imprinted on her vivid imagination and had her thinking, what if there was a dead body out here? That idea led to the first Cleopatra Jones book, In For A Penny. On The Nickel is off to a great start with reviews by Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publisher’s Weekly. Maggie also writes romantic suspense, with four books out now. Check for excerpts, reviews, stunning covers, and buy links for each title.

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