Title: The Case of the Bygone Brother
Author: Diane Burton
Genre: Cozy Mystery
After taking over O’Hara & Palzetti, Confidential Investigations from her dad and his partner, Alex O’Hara’s bottom line has taken a plunge. So, when a femme fatale offers her the case of a lifetime along with a huge advance, Alex sees her finances on a definite upswing. But someone doesn’t want her to find the long-lost brother. Complicating matters is the return of Alex’s old heartthrob, Nick Palzetti. Is he really there just to see her or does he have an ulterior motive? The Lake Michigan resort town of Far Haven is abuzz with the news that O’Hara & Palzetti are together again.
She had trouble written all over her.
Like a scene out of The Maltese Falcon, a beautiful woman begs the PI for help. Shades of Sam Spade, with a slight difference. The elegantly-dressed woman pounding on my plate glass window was more than twenty years older than me and, even though my name is Alex O’Hara, I’m not male. But I am a PI —O’Hara & Palzetti, Confidential Investigations since 1965. Not that I’ve been around since 1965.
I started working for The Pops—Frank O’Hara and Tony Palzetti—in my teens as a go-fer. After seeing how women in the business were treated, I reinvented myself by shortening my name from Alexandra to Alex. Having what could be a man’s name meant I wasn’t immediately dismissed just because I’m a woman.
As if being on my own wasn’t hard enough since The Pops retired, some people consider private investigating a man’s job. Thank God, The Pops weren’t narrow-minded. Lots of women are investigators. I met many of them at conferences. It’s just that the general public thinks digging up dirt on people or raking through their trash is a sleazy occupation, not fit for women. It’s a different story when they want to hire us to dig and rake.
Despite the late hour on a Friday evening, lights blazed in the reception area and my inner office door stood partially open. She could tell someone was home. At first, she tapped delicately, fingernails on glass. That sound barely registered since I was up to my eyeballs trying to figure out how I could pay my receptionist, the utilities, my loan to The Pops, and still eat. Ramen noodles would be making a comeback in my diet.
When she rapped with her knuckles, I finally glanced up—through the hunk of red hair that had escaped the scrunchie at the back of my head. My hairdresser calls my hair auburn. But auburn better described Mom’s beautiful hair. Mine’s just plain red.
The woman cupped her hands and peered through the window. She caught my eye and beckoned. As I rounded my desk, I reattached the scrunchie, unrolled the long sleeves of my white blouse and tucked it into my black slacks. I closed the door to get the matching jacket hung on the back. That’s when she resorted to pounding on the outer door. Maybe she thought I was hiding. As if.
“All right, already,” I muttered before abandoning the jacket and calling out, “I’m coming.”
When I got a good look at her, I saw the answer to my budget problems. Money, not trouble, was scrawled all over her, from the top of her blonde, perfectly-coifed hair to the tips of her Manolo Blahnik’s. In between, she wore a black Donna Karan sweater and skirt that cost more than I make in a week, or maybe a month. Add to that the Lincoln MKS parked in front of my office and you get my drift.
Wow. We don’t see wealth like that in Fair Haven, unless it’s summer when our population triples with tourists who flock to the Lake Michigan beaches.
You’re probably wondering how a small town private investigator who’s barely making ends meet recognized Manolo and Donna. One of my dearest friends owns an exclusive dress shop in Grand Rapids. She lets me try on the merchandise and I get to pretend I’m one of the beautiful people. Go ahead, laugh.
As soon as I unlocked the outer door, the woman burst through, a few maple leaves stuck to her Manolo’s. Frankly, I was surprised she wore only a sweater. She must have been freezing out there. In spite of the fact that it was mid-October, the temp had dipped that afternoon to the low forties. We might even get frost.
“Ms. O’Hara, thank God you’re still here. I was so afraid—” She broke off on a sob. Taking a small, white, lace-edged handkerchief out of her Louis Vitton purse, she dabbed at her eyes.
Now I’m not one to belittle a person’s worries. However, I thought she switched a little too quickly from imperious knocking to damsel in distress.
Damsel? Not quite. I pegged her around fifty-five, give or take a few years, and well-preserved. Even in her Manolo’s, she only came up to my chin. Next to her I felt like a hulking giant. Since I’m five-ten in my socks, I look down on most women. Despite her elaborate up-do, from my angle I could see her roots. A visit to her hairdresser might be in order. But I digress.
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What makes your featured book a must-read?
The heroine is quirky, clumsy, and funny. The setting is a lakeshore resort town on Lake Michigan, with references to actual places in west Michigan. The hero is the hearthrob from her youth, who is as mysterious as he is handsome. The two clash because of mistaken motives, while their mutual attraction soars. Only one problem. She has a case to solve, and he seems determined to thwart her.
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Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and The Case of the Bygone Brother, a PI mystery. She is regular contributor to the Paranormal Romantics blogsite. Diane and her husband live in Michigan, close to their two children and five grandchildren.
For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website: http://www.dianeburton.com
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Amazon author page: http://amzn.com/e/B00683MH5E
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