Beth and Arnie have retired to the building where Beth’s last rental unit is located, and Beth, the klutzy landlady, has declared herself through solving mysteries. Then, her renter is arrested for the murder of the neighbor who fell (was pushed?) from the tenth-story balcony and the dead neighbor’s grandchildren are left with only their wheelchair-ridden grandmother to care for them. Beth feels compelled to help out. Are Sylvester’s psycho-cat behaviors providing clues? Is the renter actually the killer? Do the break-ins and elevator problem have anything to do with the murder? Even Arnie, who has always told Beth to keep her nose out of police business, gets involved—for the sake of the children.
Today we have Beth’s sister, Meg Knells, visiting our blog.
Q: Meg, welcome to Island Confidential! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself–maybe something readers might not guess?
A: You may think I’m a staid middle school teacher, but I my younger years, I was a party girl. Beth’s and my mother died when we were teenagers, and I tried to help guide my little sister. Later, I dropped out of college for a couple of years to bartend and travel. In Europe, I hitchhiked across the continent until I met my future husband, Paul, in Italy. We came home and settled down.
Q: Who’s the character you get along with the best? Why?
A: I get along with my sister, Beth, now. We’re best friends. She has an adventurous spirit. A few years ago, she flew to the Virgin Islands to find my missing stepdaughter who was accused of embezzlement. (Catastrophic Connections) Since then, I’ve helped her solve other problems.
Q: Which other character do you have a conflict with? Why?
A: I’m not a fan of Detective Renquire. He never seems to do enough to find the real killers. Well…I mean…I guess he comes through in the end.
Q: Just between you and me: What do you really think of your author?
A: To tell the truth, I am the result of a bit of a learning curve in Joyce Ann Brown’s mystery writing exploits. Sure, I was there as the sidekick to her sleuth, Beth Stockwell, from the beginning. But, in Nine Lifelines, her latest book in the Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mystery series, the development of the characters and the twists and turns in the plot make this her best book yet.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: Oh, I’m done helping Beth solve her mysteries. I’ve retired from school teaching and want to relax. I’m taking a quilting class and am thinking about writing a family history. Sigh…I suppose if Beth asked me, I’d be there for her. After all, she is my little sister. Her causes are compelling. I do come up with clever ideas to help gather information. Sigh…Smile.
“Don’t tell me. Let me guess. We stopped on the wrong floor—again.”
Beth’s lanky husband, Arnie, his bottom half inside and his top half outside the elevator, held the Open button with one finger while he twisted his head around his grocery sack to see the number above the door in the hallway. He had pressed 10 in the lobby, and the display read 10, but the number in the hall didn’t match.
“It took us to the eighth floor this time,” Arnie said, “and there’s no one here waiting—again.” He pulled his head back inside and punched the 10, none too gently, his irritation emphasizing the wrinkles on his suntanned forehead.
“This has happened every time.” Beth shifted her bulky grocery bag to the other arm and ran her hand through her undisciplined silver-blond curls. “Don’t you think we’d better tell the management? Darn it, I’m getting tired of this.” She bumped her bag with the arm she jerked down to emphasize her words. “Oops.” Arnie caught and stabilized her load before the groceries could fall all over the elevator floor. “Thanks.”
“Sure.” Her husband took Beth’s habitual klutziness in stride.
“This problem has probably been reported,” Arnie said. “We just moved in. We don’t want to start complaining so soon.”
Beth sighed and leaned her small frame back against the wall to relieve the weight of her package. “But this is inconvenient and…and spooky and…”
She glanced through the opening from her new viewpoint just as the doors were about to snap together. With her free hand, she slapped the Open button, and the doors swooshed aside as if this unruly machine was always obedient to her every command. As if.
“Arnie, look. Something’s going on. Half the people in the building are standing in front of a door down there.” She took a step out into the hallway and crooked an index finger at Arnie.
With a skeptical frown, he followed. “Maybe they’re getting ready for an outing or something. We aren’t invited. It’s none of our business.”
“No, it looks like they’re looking at the door. Let’s go see what’s going on. We can explain we’re new to the building and accidentally got off on the wrong floor.”
“Humph. Here, give me your bag. I’m going on up. You can satisfy your curiosity without getting me involved.”
Beth heard snippets of conversations as she neared the cluster of people. “Something needs to be done.” “I’m having double locks installed.” “One of these times, someone will be home, and then what will happen?”
At the edge of the noisy crowd, Beth sidled up to a young teenaged girl who was holding a phone that emitted a constant series of beeps and chirps. Sending and receiving text messages, Beth decided. She must be telling the world, or at least her sphere of friends, about whatever was happening.
“What’s going on here?” Beth asked.
The kid, her wavy red hair half over her face, glanced sideways at Beth and then back at her phone. Somehow she kept her thumbs busy punching letters while she answered. “Another lock was picked. That old woman’s apartment got robbed.”
Her actual tenants have never disappeared, murdered, or been murdered. Nor have any of them found a skeleton in the attic. Joyce has never solved a crime. Moose and Chloe, her cats, haven’t sniffed out a mystery, at least not yet.
Joyce spends her days writing (with a few breaks for tennis, walking, and book clubs) so that Beth, the landlady in the series, and Sylvester, the Psycho Cat, can make up for her real-life lack of excitement in a big way.