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by Sheila Simonson
Description: Lark Dailey faces a weekend at the mountain lodge of her mother's mentor, poet Dai Llewellyn, without enthusiasm, but Lark's detective-lover Jay finds the proximity of a notorious pot-farm interesting. The setting, a remote Sierra lake, is idyllic, perfect for canoeing and wind-surfing, not to mention fireworks. Neither Lark nor Jay expects the Fourth of July to end in murder. Surrounded by old friends, ex-lovers, devoted servants--and someone who does not love him--the poet collapses. He has been poisoned by tincture of larkspur in his Campari. The irony is not lost on Lark, whose bookstore is called Larkspur Books, nor on Jay, who is tapped to investigate. Jay's investigation is complicated by the murder of two key witnesses and by bizarre embellishments in all three killings. The embellishments suggest that something less straightforward than greed is driving the killer, something like madness. The tangle of suspicion widens to include not only the poet's weekend guests but even Lark's charming, book-loving clerk. Lark worries that her mother, who comes to town after the San Francisco funeral, may be in danger too, because someone does not like poets, and Mary Dailey, a noted poet, is Llewellyn's literary executor. Her co-executor may have his own reasons for wanting to control the relics of Dai Llewellyn's past. As Jay awaits a search warrant, a cocktail party of survivors gathers to honor Lark's mother, and Lark determines to crash it in time to prevent another poisoning. Unfortunately, she's not sure who the murderer is.
eBook Publisher: Uncial Press, 2011
eBookwise Release Date: September 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [297 KB]
Reading time: 179-251 min.
"Nothing is over-dramatic, nor predictable. There is a nuance of humor that is exemplary and makes the combination of likable and despicable characters a perfectly good cozy." Mystery News "...a light-hearted mystery." Tulsa World "Lively and appealing first mystery..." Publisher's Weekly
Llewellyn's breathing had quickened, and Jay was frowning at his watch, trying to time the heartbeat. Suddenly the old man's body jerked. His back arched, and his face contorted horribly, eyes rolling back in his head.
"Back off!" Jay shouted.
I scrambled out of the way, but the convulsions didn't last long. All too quickly Llewellyn lay still on the crumpled blanket, and Jay was feeling his throat for a carotid pulse. "Cardiac arrest."
"Want me to do the chest?"
"Breathe for him." Jay straightened the still form, clearing the old man's tongue and wiping his face clean.
I knelt, removed the pillow, and slid my left hand under his neck to tilt his head back. I put the heel of my right hand on his forehead and reached down to pinch his nostrils shut. Then I took a lungful of air and puffed four sharp breaths into his mouth. His chest rose. I could taste bile.
Jay was kneeling opposite me and down a bit. He had found the breastbone and measured up from it with his thumb the requisite inch and a half. He pressed straight down with the heel of his hand--not too hard--and relaxed and pressed again, once every second. He was counting so I could hear the time--one thousand and one, one thousand and two... Every five seconds I breathed for Dai Llewellyn. Every second Jay pressed his chest. We found our rhythm almost at once.
I was vaguely aware of D'Angelo and Ted Peltz running up with questions. Miguel was sobbing. After fifteen minutes Jay tried for a pulse again. No dice. We kept rhythm. Eventually we changed over, still keeping time. It was like a bizarre, squatting dance--or a strange poetic meter. Boom, boom, boom, boom, puff. Llewellyn didn't like meter.
Bill Huff and Janey came down, and Jay told Bill to phone again, that we had an infarction. Bill ran off.
Sometime in the afterglow one of the others had the wit to turn on all the yard lights. They didn't quite reach the flat area by the boat dock, and D'Angelo and Janey eventually moved four of the cars down, shining their headlights so the landing spot was lit. Jay and I kept to our rhythm. It was all-absorbing, and it went on and on.
Finally we heard the wail of an ambulance siren in the distance. We kept our rhythm even as the emergency vehicle jounced down onto the lawn and the doors were thrown open.
Then the pros took over with their fibrillators and oxygen tanks and injections. Dai Llewellyn, still not breathing on his own, still without an independent heartbeat, was bundled onto the gurney and into the ambulance. The life-flight helicopter was dealing with a massive chain-reaction accident on I-5.