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Professional organizer Maggie McDonald has a knack for cleaning up other people’s messes. So when the fiancée of her latest client turns up dead, it’s up to her to sort through the untidy list of suspects and identify the real killer.
Maggie McDonald is hoping to raise the profile of her new Orchard View organizing business via her first high-profile client. Professor Lincoln Sinclair may be up for a Nobel Prize, but he’s hopeless when it comes to organizing anything other than his thoughts. For an academic, he’s also amassed more than his share of enemies. When Sinclair’s fiancée is found dead on the floor of his home laboratory—electrocuted in a puddle of water—Maggie takes on the added task of finding the woman’s murderer. To do so, she’ll have to outmaneuver the suspicious, obnoxious police investigator she’s nicknamed “Detective Awful” before a shadowy figure can check off the first item on their personal to-do list—Kill Maggie McDonald.
Before any of us could say anything more, I heard the screeching of bicycle brakes. Linc careened around the corner with his legs outstretched and his jacket flapping behind him. His Irish wolfhound, Newton, loped beside him and made the turn easily.
Out of breath, the professor jumped from the bike and let it fall to the ground beside him as if he were an eight-year-old who was late for lunch.
“Sorry. Sorry. Sorry,” he said. “I had an idea for a new project in the middle of the night and I rode over to the university. Time got away from me. Sorry to keep you waiting.”
Linc unhooked the dog from the bicycle leash he’d invented ten years earlier but had never sought a patent for. Once he’d created it and proved it worked, he’d lost interest.
Newton barreled in my direction. I stepped back and knelt to give him more room to slow down before he plowed into me. Linc had trained him well, but his exuberance sometimes got the better of him. I scratched him behind the ears in a proper doggy greeting before turning my attention to Linc, who picked up the bicycle and leaned it against the fence.
“No problem, Linc,” I said. “You’re here now. Shall we get started?”
Linc patted the pockets of his jacket, his jeans, and his sweatshirt and looked up, chagrined. “I’m afraid I’ve forgotten my key again.”
Tess and I each reached into our own pockets and plucked out keys labeled with fluorescent tags. I laughed awkwardly and headed toward the back porch.
We stepped carefully around some of the boxes of discarded clothing and housewares that awaited pickup by a local charity resale shop. I unlocked the door and we trooped in.
Linc shifted from one foot to another, took off his glasses, and cleaned them with his shirttail. “Can I get you all a cup of tea?” It was a delaying tactic I recognized from experience.
“Let’s get started upstairs,” I said. “I want to show Tess how much progress you’ve made.”
Linc turned toward the staircase that divided the kitchen and living room. I started up the steps behind him, then stopped and called over my shoulder. “Tess, I’m going to show you Linc’s workroom first. He’s been working in there while I’ve been tackling the other rooms.”
Newton nudged past us to lead the way up the stairs. He growled, low in his throat, then whimpered. Linc moved down the hall toward his office and workroom. In the doorway, he gasped and froze. His mouth dropped open. He stepped back.
“Whatever it is, we can fix it,” I said, rushing toward him, terrified I’d tossed out something of great value. “Everything we moved out is still in the garage.”
Peering over Linc’s shaking shoulders, I bit my lip, swallowed hard, and grasped his arm as he tried to move forward into the room. We couldn’t fix it. Not this.
About The Author
Mary Feliz has lived in five states and two countries but calls Silicon Valley home. Traveling to other areas of the United States, she’s frequently reminded that what seems normal in the high-tech heartland can seem decidedly odd to the rest of the country. A big fan of irony, serendipity, diversity, and quirky intelligence tempered with gentle humor, Mary strives to bring these elements into her writing, although her characters tend to take these elements to a whole new level. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and National Association of Professional Organizers. Mary is a Smith College graduate with a degree in Sociology. She lives in Northern California with her husband, near the homes of their two adult offspring. Visit Mary online at MaryFeliz.com, or follow her on Twitter @MaryFelizAuthor.