"What a fun, lighthearted cozy! I can't imagine anyone not loving this book. [...] A perfect cozy (even the length was just right: not overly bogged down with unnecessary details or too short as to be rushed) that I sincerely hope continues well into double digits." Barbara, Goodreads
Late for Dinner (#1)
Marcy Collins proved her investigative skills in the field time and time again, but after an accident leaves her disabled, she’s forced into early retirement in a senior convalescent center. Although her mind and body may not be what they used to be, her steadfast determination to fight crime and advocate for victims continues.
When her well-meaning former partner is assigned with helping to keep her mind agile, he unknowingly inspires her to search for clues in a long-forgotten cold case. Before he knows what’s happening, Marcy assembles a team of sharp-eyed, witty, and often cantankerous senior sleuths to bring a criminal to justice and help her regain some of what she thought she’d lost for good.
Follow the former detective and her team of unconventional sleuths as they dig through the clues and wind their way down a treacherous path of deception, tomfoolery, and murder!
Lola stared at her manicured fingers gripping the card deck with the same disgust she’d shown when she discovered the local television station had replaced her favorite crime program with a teen reality show.
Her elderly bridge partner, Herman, had a shock of silver hair that waved over his skull similar to a rooster’s comb. Any hair in a man’s later years was all gravy to the point most of the other male residents grumbled that Herman was a show-off.
He waved his hand in front of her face. “Still breathing? Good partners are hard to come by.”
“Don’t I know it.” She shuffled, ignoring the twinge of pain in her hand.
Marcy and Jake laughed at her comment, but Herman narrowed his eyes, probably taking it as an insult regarding his failure to get the last two trumps.
Lola dealt out a card, still out of sorts, but not quite able to put her finger on why and retorted, “Retirement stinks!”
Marcy, always a calmer member of the group, shot her an easy smile that hardly creased her face. Most folks would think she was younger than her forty plus years with her dark hair hardly touched by gray and her trim body. The only old thing about her was the wheelchair, which was temporary.
If Lola had had a clue that chasing criminals would have kept her looking young, she might have chosen that as a career as opposed to making use of her long legs and other notable assets as a Vegas showgirl. Still, it had been a good life. Her ability to sum up people in a few seconds allowed her to have more than her share of pleasant adventures and adoring admirers. That was behind her. She sighed and acknowledged Marcy with a nod, curious to hear what the woman might say.
“Hear ya. Most working folks would envy us. We’re all living in a premier assisted living community with plenty of activities. What else could you want?”
Lola pursed her lips and rolled her eyes upward as she tried to explain how she felt without insulting her companions. “Sure, we have shuffleboard, fit and sit exercise class, flower arranging, and Bible Bingo. Those are old people things. Even the food has morphed into tasteless mush.”
“About that.” Jake held his hand up. “Something is going on with the dietary director.” He glanced around making sure he had everyone’s attention and cupped his ear with his hand. “I hear things.”
A general murmur of agreement followed, with the exception of Gus yelling, “What?” He sat at a nearby table playing solitaire. Gus didn’t know how to play bridge and had no desire to learn.
Various eyes connected around the table, knowing the inevitable process of repeating what had been said in a much louder decibel would probably result. Gus’s early life of working with explosives damaged the man’s hearing. Even though he had hearing aids, he usually didn’t wear them, because he thought they made him look old.
Instead of yelling his former comment, Jake ran a hand over his shoe polish black hair before mouthing the words. Gus popped up both thumbs, signaling his understanding. At some point, he taught himself to lip read, but it only worked if he was directly looking at a person.
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The Way over the Hill Gang is back at it again! This time their mission is to find justice for a slain single mother, but this cold case proves to be more complicated than they initially believe.
With little to go on, no resources, and a limited amount of time to search for answers, can they crack this long-forgotten case and bring the murderer to justice?
Excited chatter and a few whoops of joy came from the activity room. However, the aircraft carrier gray walls of the center didn’t shout fun. Most of Gus’s friends would be inside, gripping their bingo dabbers as the activity director called out numbers with all the solemnity of an awards show. Due to the residents’ need for something to do, they had bingo five days a week. With the frequency of the play, the prizes had diminished from containers of candy, monogramed handkerchiefs with initials that worked for no one, and bath sets, to donations from residents, which often included crocheted tissue box covers and second-hand books. Still, it was the thrill of being a winner which made you important for about five seconds. Such was his life now.
Someone had put up a sign in the hallway that featured a kitten wearing a hat that read, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” He wasn’t sure who was their inspirational poster person. Whoever it was, it annoyed the heck out of him. Depending on his mood, he sometimes pulled down the posters when no one was around.
The sigh escaped before he could stop it. He hated the sound. It made him as sad and pathetic as the residents who sat on the front porch to catch a glimpse of the families who came to visit the lucky few inside. Never for him. He was almost at the point that he forgot he had a son, except Daniel had put him here—in the home—so he would be safe. That was his word, not Gus’s. Safe made it sound like there was a war going on in his modest, quiet neighborhood. Wars, he knew. He’d been an explosives expert back in the day, one of the courageous who not only unearthed the mines, but disabled them, too. Unfortunately, many of his fellow explosive ordinance buddies didn’t make it back.
In that regard, he was the lucky one.
A familiar feminine voice sounded. “There you are.”
He turned to greeted Lola. The aging, former showgirl leaned on her walker, but still managed to bring a spark of life to the place with her glittery outfits and often outrageous quips. “Yep.”
She motioned in the direction of the activity room. “Glad you’re not in there. I’m betting Eunice and Herman are. Marcy asked me to round up the team. She’s received some new cases from her gentleman friend and former partner.”
Lola placed her hands over her heart and batted her eyelashes, possibly implying there was a relationship between Marcy and her former police partner. Anyone with eyes and common sense would know that. Men didn’t show up just to visit. Certainly not as often as Marcy’s previous partner did.
“Did you say case?”
“That’s right, bucko.” She gave him a little push. “Go extract Herman and Eunice and any other team member you might find in there. I know you are much better at that type of thing as a decorated veteran.”
He chuckled, giving her a broad wink. “I can see through your machinations. As far as I know, being a Vegas showgirl when the place was Sin City—not the family friendly version it is now—may have been a lot like being in combat.”
“I gotta agree. Sometimes, I did more dancing to get away from groping hands than I did on stage.” She shook her head. “You’re still going to get them for me, right?”
“You know me. Of course I am.”
**Only .99 cents!!**
The senior sleuths are hot on the trail of a veteran’s murderer and a missing dog in a cold case that’s raising eyebrows and causing a stir in their tightknit community.
The clock is ticking. Only a few short days before the victim’s home is razed and all the potential evidence is wiped clean.
With new complications at every turn, the Senior Sleuths feel the heat as the impossible deadline approaches.
Can they close this case before the truth is buried for good?
The long hall in the nursing home echoed with the tap-tap of Lola’s kitten heels. It wasn’t that Herman was any type of fashion expert, but the aging showgirl made a point of telling him things like what kitten heels were. Good heavens! He shook his head, unsettling the style he had created that morning with his mane of white hair. Lola treated him like a girlfriend. The woman smiled at him and waved with a fist full of colored paper.
“Yoo-hoo, Herman! So glad to see you.”
Her comment caused him to lift his chin and push his shoulders back. It was always good to be greeted by an attractive woman. Even better when said woman was delighted to see him. “Hello to you, too. What’s that in your hand? Raffle tickets?”
A giggle erupted from her brightly painted lips. “Aren’t you a hoot?”
Well, he did try. Sometimes, he even succeeded in making a funny. “Some say so.”
She shook the papers, then divided them so she had some in both hands. “They’re flyers for the shuffleboard tournament. I agreed to put them up.” She fluttered her eyelashes, thick with mascara. “You could help.”
The dark, thick lashes had him entranced. Some people claimed the eyebrow was a frame for the eyes, but he was sure it was the eyelashes. He heard more than one female resident remark on Lola’s appearance, claiming she wore too much makeup and was too glittery. A few even grumbled about what could you expect from a former showgirl. Personally, Herman didn’t see what the problem was. If the eyes were the gateway to the soul, Lola just made the entrance more tempting.
“Are you going to help me or not?” Lola’s voice carried a touch of exasperation.
He had missed something while being captivated by Lola’s twinkling eyes. A gentleman was always ready to lend a lady a helping hand. Added to that sentiment, he had nothing else to do, which had forced him out into the hall looking for a distraction. “Of course.”
“Good.” Lola’s eyes sparkled as she shoved some flyers at him. “There is your share. I’m doing wings E through G. You can do A through D. Ask Connie at the front desk for tape since I only have one roll.”
Herman nodded as he took the flyers, then watched Lola continue down the hall. As far as distractions went, this was not what he wanted. He could have stayed in his room and watched old reruns of shows from his younger years. A hoarse chuckle sounded behind him, startling him.
“Dang it, Gus! I told you about sneaking up on me.” His friend and fellow veteran had decided it was great fun to silently walk up behind people and scare the daylights out of them. In the service, he had been an explosives ordinance specialist, which at the time involved walking carefully and waving a long stick. He joked about his bomb-defusing skills. Occasionally, a pair of wire clippers were provided, too.
His friend laughed even harder and slapped Herman on the shoulder, moved into view, and remarked, “I see Lola trapped you.”
“What do you mean?” He had his suspicions but was willing to play into Gus’s hands. Besides, he had some Tom Sawyer whitewashing to do. Like the fictional character who got others to help him to paint a fence by pretending it was fun, Gus would be soon taping up flyers.
Gus replied. “Oh, you know. A fluttering of the eyelashes, a promising smile, and I’m so glad to see you comment before asking for help.”
Didn’t all those things already happen? Herman’s bushy brows went together as he realized he had been truly played. “I assume Lola did the same thing to you?”
“She tried. I was with Eunice, who shut her down toot sweet. I’m not sure, but I think there’s some bad blood between Eunice and Lola. If one wants to do something, the other won’t, just on principle. Besides, she’s not one to be taken in by flattery.”
“Really?” Herman managed to push up his eyebrows in an effort to look intrigued. Anyone with ears would know Eunice and Lola weren’t the best of friends. “Maybe you could tell me more. Go ask Connie for some tape. She likes you better.”
“True,” Gus acknowledged as he buffed the nails of his right hand against his plaid shirt. “I do have a way with women.”
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A missing woman. A surprising suspect. A curious conundrum.
The senior sleuths have a knack for sniffing out trouble, but when a missing woman cold case falls in their laps, all hands must be on deck to solve it. Unfortunately, this case hits a little too close to home, and quickly becomes an active case with dire consequences if they’re not careful.
To complicate matters, Heloise is planning an authentic barn dance for the residents of Greener Pastures Convalescent Center. She needs the senior sleuths’ help, and that means they must forgo their investigation.
The group will have to employ their best tactics to stay under the radar to root out the true culprit and avoid a barn dance disaster.
At a table closest to the door, three people sat: a short, bald man, and two women. The first had her blonde hair arranged in an elaborate style and lacquered into place by a liberal dose of hair spray. She winced a little but had her head tilted in the direction of a wiry woman whose lips were moving.
“This is how it works, Lola,” the woman explained while gesturing to the dancers. “The man calls out the moves for the dancers, then they have to do what he tells them to do.”
“Eunice,” Lola sighed and managed an eye roll at the same time, “I know how square-dancing works. This isn’t my first encounter, you know.”
“Ha!” Eunice tossed her head, bouncing her gray-threaded curls. “I figured that being a former Vegas showgirl, your extent of dancing involved teetering around on high heels, waving feather fans.”
The man sitting with them coughed, earning a sympathetic glance from Lola. “You okay, Gus? Need some water?”
He met her gaze, then shook his head as he pushed up to standing. “Think I’ll go back to my room and get some water.”
Both women watched Gus leave, then Eunice leaned closer to say, “He has no clue what you said. He’s already hard of hearing, but with…” She gestured to a nearby speaker. “…the music blasting, he doesn’t hear a word.”
While the music may have a few residents tapping their toes, it did nothing for those who could hear. Lola pursed her lips and wrinkled her nose before speaking. “You’d think they’re trying to deafen the rest of us. I’m leaving, too.” Lola reached for her walker and stood. She glanced back over her shoulder to address Eunice’s earlier comment. “Showgirl routines are choreographed. Some of it is quite complicated. We certainly never needed someone yelling instructions on a microphone.”
Eunice gave a derisive sniff. Even though both she and Lola were part of Senior Sleuths, a covert group within the center that solved cold cases, it was still fun to poke at the woman. After all, what woman wouldn’t feel a little uncomfortable around a former showgirl. Getting the aged blonde riled up evened the playing field, especially considering Eunice’s skinny form and acerbic nature didn’t make her popular with the opposite gender. Thank goodness for Gus, who had been waiting for a forceful woman to take charge of him.
Making friends was not something Eunice did easily. Her father once told her she should laugh at the other children’s jokes and occasionally compliment them on something they did. He also told her to be honest at all times. Talk about a paradox. It was hard to be honest and popular. Eventually, she settled on being honest and helpful, even when the help wasn’t wanted. Was it too late to change her ways? Better yet, did she want to?
One of the lady dancers, whose colorful skirt stood out with its multitude of petticoats, interrupted Eunice’s reflections and invited her to join in. Someone had deliberately picked her. Woo hoo! She jumped up and tried to ignore that most of the other attendees were in wheelchairs. That had nothing to do with them picking her. Obviously, the dancer recognized in Eunice a born square dancer.
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About the author:
M. K. Scott is the husband and wife writing team behind The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries. Morgan K Wyatt is the general wordsmith, while her husband, Scott, is the grammar hammer and physics specialist. He uses his engineering skills to explain how fast a body falls when pushed over a cliff and various other felonious activities. The Internet and experts in the field provide forensic information, while the recipes and B and B details require a more hands on approach. Morgan's daughter, who manages a hotel, provides guest horror stories to fuel the plot lines. The couple's dog, Chance, is the inspiration behind Jasper, Donna's dog. Murder Mansion is the first book in The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries. Overall, it is a fun series to create and read. Drop Dead Handsome is the second book in the series. Killer Review should be out in October 2016.