From Joanna Campbell Slan's Kiki Lowenstein Mystery series in advance of Make, Take, Murder
I know people don’t think I’m very smart. Maybe it’s my curly hair or my baby face. Maybe it’s because I was raised not to brag about my accomplishments.
And maybe it’s true that I’m NOT very smart. But when it comes to solving mysteries, I’ve got a pretty good track record.
Police Chief Robbie Holmes tells me, “I trust your instincts, Kiki. You have a rare gift. You can figure out people’s motives. “
I glow with pride when he says that, and lately he’s said it often.
I think that growing up in an alcoholic home helped. Right. I know you’re thinking, “There’s no such thing as an ALCOHOLIC home. Only people can be alcoholics.” Well, yeah, but there’s this culture, you see. The alcoholic infests everything with unpredictability. So it more than just living with an alcoholic. It’s living in a universe that’s full of human land mines. You learn to read people…fast. Or you don’t survive. I mean, one minute everything is hunky-dory, peachy-keen. The next, all heck is breaking loose and you’d better duck and cover.
Robbie was astonished when I figured out who killed Edwina Fitzgerald and why. The killer launched a sniper attack during a May Day celebration at the Charles and Anne Lindbergh Academy, the fancy-schmancy private school my daughter attends. Initially, Robbie thought the sniper meant to shoot me. After all, my husband’s killer remains at large—and he’s sent me lots of threatening mail.
But that didn’t feel right to me. I mean, Edwina and her son Peter were both hit. They were yards away from me. You’d only climb a tree and fire off a rifle if you were a pretty confident shot, right? While hitting Edwina might have been an accident, the shooter would have recalculated and the second shot would have hit me. But it didn’t. The bullet pierced Edwina’s son Peter’s upper thigh. A nasty wound, to be sure, but not fatal. Whereas the shot that killed Edwina neatly passed through her heart.
Of course, I gathered clues from the family scrapbook album. That’s because I’m a scrapbooker, and over the years I’ve learned to read family photos as though they were messages written in code. I guess if you look at enough of anything, you grow conversant with the nuances. Often people narrate their photo albums. But Deanna Fitzgerald—Edwina’s daughter-in-law and Peter’s wife—simply handed theirs over without commenting. That said volumes. She wasn’t attached to the album. She didn’t care about the contents, which were mainly photos of Edwina preening and taking center stage.
Nor did Deanna want to select favorite photos of Edwina to be displayed at the funeral.
That, too, told me a lot. Most of us decide how we want to remember someone who’s passed on. Deanna simply wanted to be done with Edwina.
Of course, Deanna didn’t shoot Edwina. The solution was more complicated than that, but I had a hunch that no one would really mourn Edwina. And I was right.
That smart thing. It’s overrated.
You can purchase Make, Take, Murder (Midnight Ink/May 2011) at any independent bookseller or order it from Amazon
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