Title: Campaigning Can Be Deadly (A Discount Detective Mystery #2)
Author: Charlotte Stuart
Genre: Mystery - PI, Female Sleuth
What begins as a political prank ends in murder.
Funded by an east coat family in the oil business, the out-of-state Congressional candidate takes the state by storm, marrying the daughter of a local prestigious family, and flooding the airwaves with negative ads.
Penny-wise Investigations, a discount detective agency located in a shopping mall, is hired to find who is stealing the local candidate’s political signs. Two of their investigators not only catch the thieves, they find a body next to a pile of stolen signs, proving that … Campaigning Can Be Deadly.
Chapter 1 – The Case of the Vanishing Yard Signs
A new crop of campaign signs had magically appeared overnight along the highway. To me they were symptomatic of the superficial bent our political system had taken recently. Flashy slogans and graphics in lieu of policy discussions. Did anyone honestly think a potential voter was going to make a decision about a candidate based on a yard sign? The only possible good I could imagine coming from the money and effort spent on signs was to serve as a reminder of the upcoming election. Although I doubted anyone unaware of the election would be persuaded to vote as a result of being bombarded by dozens of signs bearing the names of people running for everything from Congressional representative to county clerk. I dismissed the signs as a waste of money and gave them little more than a brief glance as I drove by.
It wasn’t until I got within three blocks of the mall that a tight grouping of campaign signs actually did catch my attention. They were on a vacant lot next to a small house that had somehow survived all the development in the area. It was a busy corner with open space and no visible owner, an easy target for volunteers eager to get their candidate’s name in front of the public. Just yesterday, I remembered seeing a row of bright green signs with dark green print—Nathan Knight for Congress—sticking up out of the uncut grass that blanketed the property. Today, however, the row of bright red signs screamed Vote for Bobby Mann in large navy-blue block letters superimposed over a U.S. flag. The transformation was both startling and strange. As I waited my turn at the stop sign, I wondered what had happened to Knight’s signs. Maybe they had been moved to another location. Or maybe someone supporting Mann had tossed them in the bushes at the back of the lot. It seemed possible. Emotions were running hot in the run for this seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The mall wasn’t officially open yet. There were, however, a number of cars clustered near the main entrance. Once inside, most of the storefronts were still blocked by grates or sliding doors to prevent early shoppers from sneaking in ahead of time.
In spite of the hour, there was a fair amount of activity, mostly seniors doing laps before gathering around the food court’s plastic tables with uneven metal legs to drink coffee and pass the time of day with other retirees. Although mall traffic generally was down, the walkers still gathered in the morning, getting their exercise in by walking back and forth the full length of the mall. Inside you didn’t have to worry about the weather.
I made my way past the familiar stores, occasionally moving out around clumps of walkers who assumed they had the right-of-way. The smell of coffee mingled with the aroma of the centrally located Cinnabon Bakery. I sometimes wondered if they used a fan to disperse the smell of their cinnamon rolls, a sweet invitation to everyone within smelling distance to stop and add approximately one million calories to their breakfast routine. . . .
I . . . thought of the job at Penny-wise as part work and part fantasy. No matter how small the problem, I was a bona fide investigator at a detective agency. Not exactly Wonder Woman, but still someone trying to dispense a bit of justice in a chaotic world.
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This is a “celebrate mothers” story partly because Cameron’s mother plays an important role in solving the mystery. She also shares a house with her daughter and two pre-teen children. That inevitably puts some strains on the mother-daughter relationship, but they manage to muddle through the ups and downs of daily living while Cameron helps to track down a killer.
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In a world filled with uncertainty and too little chocolate, Charlotte Stuart has a passion for writing lighthearted mysteries with a pinch of adventure and a dollop of humor. Her first Discount Detective mystery, Survival Can Be Deadly, was a ForwardINDIES finalist. The third in the series, Shopping Can Be Deadly, will be published November 2, 2021.
Currently Charlotte is the president for Puget Sound Sisters in Crime and lives and writes on Vashon Island in Washington State’s Puget Sound. She spends time each day entertained by herons, seals, eagles and other wildlife.
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