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In$ured to the Hilt by Charlotte Stuart is a Stress Busting Festival pick #humorousmystery #giveaway



Title: In$ured to the Hilt (A John Smith Mystery)


Author: Charlotte Stuart


Genre: Humorous Mystery


Book Blurb:


In$ured to the Hilt is a serious mystery with a laugh track. John Smith, an insurance investigator as ordinary and nondescript as his name, is a magnet for mayhem and a symbol of everyone’s inner klutz. His well-intentioned but unorthodox investigative techniques quickly become a catalyst for murder.


Excerpt:


CHAPTER 1


BUZZZZ. BUZZ. BUZZZZ. A persistent drone interrupted my mid-morning nap.


“Are you in there, Mr. Smith?” a voice snapped at my left elbow. The sleepy haze slowly lifted, taking with it the scantily clad women dancing to the refrain of Fanta, Fanta! Don’t-cha wanna wanta Fanta.


“Mr. Smith!”


I blinked at the angry red light on my Intercom. Groggily punching buttons, I managed to announce to half the staff that I was in my office before finally hitting the right one and putting an end to the buzzing.


“It’s about time you answered.” Emma’s short-order cook voice left no doubt that she was displeased. “Your door is locked. I’ve been trying to let you know that Mr. Van Droop wants you in his office in fifteen minutes.” Click.


That was Emma’s urbane way of telling me that employees have no right to privacy, that she didn’t like me any better than she had ever liked anyone, and that I’d better hustle because you don’t keep the vice president in charge of claims waiting, especially if you are an insignificant “trainee in claims,” barely above an amoeba in the corporate ecological food chain.


Dazed but determined, I pushed myself away from my desk and willed my body to unlock the door. Then I stumbled back to my chair just in time for Emma to open the door, poke her head in and say, “That was fifteen minutes from fifteen minutes ago, and you have a red spot on your forehead.”


She disappeared before I could open my mouth to reply. The door shut with a whoosh followed by a muffled click.


Fifteen minutes from fifteen minutes ago didn’t sound so good. And something was definitely wrong with my forehead. I could feel an indentation, right in the middle, where I had been resting on my class ring. But the important thing was that the vice president wanted to see me. Right now.


I leapt up, swaying unsteadily like the proverbial sailor on shore leave. Unless we were having an earthquake, I was not yet fully functional. Mother always says that if you are groggy after coming out of a deep sleep you should have a drink. Of course, she probably means water, but if I was going to meet with the vice president, I needed something stronger.


In the bottom drawer of the ancient battleship gray filing cabinet that fills about a quarter of my modest office was a locked wooden box with a tiny hair positioned across the lid as a security measure. I glanced over my shoulder to make certain I was still alone and reached for the box. Even in my stuporous state, I remembered to check the hair before fumbling in my pockets for the key. Inside was a bottle of vodka and a single unwashed glass. The only secret I’ve managed to keep from Emma’s lyncean watchfulness.


The two-gulp shot I poured myself brought the contents down to half a bottle. Not bad. Eight months with the company, and I had only required half a fifth of reinforcement. Of course, I had never been called before the vice president. If there were going to be many such meetings, I’d have to get a larger box. Unless he was going to fire me. In that case, I’d be packing up my half-empty bottle and my unwashed glass and saying goodbye to Universal Heartland Liability and Casualty Assurance Company of America, Incorporated. Not in one breath, of course.


Just the thought of being fired was disconcerting. I didn’t want to say goodbye. My job with Universal had saved me from food stamps and generic peanut butter. How can you expect to get any nutritional value from something labeled Product 438 Crunchy!


The only other job I’d been able to land after joining the ranks of the educated unemployed was as a private detective. I always wanted to be a detective. Even as an undergraduate philosophy major, I read every classic mystery in existence, from hard-boiled to cozy. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as rosy as the brochure promised. Despite my unremarkable appearance, one irate ex-boxer husband had no trouble at all remembering my face. And he didn’t like me tailing his wife to get evidence against her lover. I almost had my nondescript face made descript, spent two weeks in the hospital, and promptly retired from the private detection business.


No, I didn’t want to say goodbye. I wanted to stay right where I was. So, I needed to get my act together and hotfoot it over to Van Droop’s office pronto. Feeling better, I hurriedly locked up the bottle, replaced the hair, and took several loud breaths with my mouth open to dissipate the liquor odor. Worried that there might still be a slight alcohol aroma, I looked for some mints in the top drawer of my desk. Finding none, I settled for an allergy pill. They have a minty flavor and melt in your mouth. And they last for twelve hours.


There’s a mirror just to the left of my door. I paused on the way out to check how I looked. The red spot Emma mentioned was still there. I tried pulling my hair forward to conceal it. That looked stupid. Lazy or stupid—those were my choices. I brushed my hair back in place and headed for Van Droop’s office. Maybe he would think it was a birthmark.


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What’s your favorite way to combat stress?


Laughter and walking in the woods are my two favorite de-stressors. I can even do both at once!


Why is your featured book a stress busting read?


If laughter is the best medicine, John Smith belongs in your medicine cabinet . . . or on your bookshelf. When you think you can hear mimes or the sun is too loud, please enjoy laughing at and with John Smith, a nondescript claims adjuster who drives a yellow Saturn, has a penchant for singing commercials while driving, likes poker and curvy women, and manages to solve crimes using what most would label as unorthodox methods.


Giveaway –


One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon US or Canada gift card



Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon CA account to win.


Runs May 1 – 31, 2023.


Drawing will be held on June 1, 2023.



Author Biography:


Charlotte Stuart PhD is an award-winning mystery writer who got her start in academia, left a tenured faculty position to go commercial fishing in Alaska, spent a frustrating year as a political speech writer, enjoyed time as a management consultant, and survived several years as a VP of HR and Training.


Her current passion is for writing humorous mysteries with twisty plots. She has published ten mysteries since 2019 and won numerous awards including a Global eBook gold, two NYC Big Book Distinguished Favorites, a Pinnacle Book Achievement Award and two Firebird Book Awards for humor. She’s also been a Silver Falchion and Chanticleer International Mystery and Mayhem finalist. Charlotte lives and writes on Vashon Island in the Pacific Northwest and is the past president of the Puget Sound Sisters in Crime.


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