Title: The Marquesa's Necklace
Author: P.J. MacLayne
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Harmony Duprie enjoyed her well-ordered life in the quiet little town of Oak Grove—until her arrest for drug trafficking. Cleared of all charges, she wants nothing more than to return to the uneventful lifestyle of a historical researcher she once savored.
But when her beloved old car “George” is stolen and explodes into a ball of flames, it sets off a series of events that throws her plans into turmoil. Toss in a police detective that may or may not be interested in her, an attractive but mysterious stranger on her trail, and an ex-boyfriend doing time, and Harmony’s life freefalls into a downward spiral of chaos.
Now she has to use her research skills to figure out who is behind the sinister incidents plaguing her, and why. And she better take it seriously, like her life depends upon finding the right answers.
Because it might.
Officer Felton left me in the barely-furnished lobby. It was a place you don’t want to stay in too long—several hard plastic chairs, a beat-up fake wood end table and a few old magazines scattered about. It smelled like stale cigarettes, and appeared not to have been cleaned for weeks. I perched on the edge of a chair and put my hands between my knees to keep from touching anything. Thankfully, it was only moments until Detective Thomason appeared. I gave him the once over—brown hair still cut short—check. Glasses hiding those dark brown eyes—check. His shirt rumpled and in need of an iron—check. No wedding band in his finger—check. Yep, nothing had changed.
As I stood, his eyes wandered from my face down to my shoes. The corners of his lips curled upward, but I wouldn’t say that he smiled. A smile would have looked odd on his normally grim face.
“If you would come with me, please?” he said.
He even put the please in there, unlike our previous encounters. Of course, those times, I had been either in booking or in one of the interrogation chambers. I know, I know, they’re interview rooms. Whatever. I followed him through a maze of desks and hallways and into a small but comfortable office, my heels clicking on the tile floor. I’d never noticed before what a nice behind he had. I wondered if it was just the pants he was wearing, or if I’d just not looked before, having other things on my mind. Like calling a lawyer.
“Have a seat, please,” he said, indicating an armless office chair—at least its seat was padded. He sat on the other side of a desk covered with an assortment of files and paperwork, and picked up a file from the top of the stack.
“Harmony,” he said tentatively.
“Detective Thomason,” He might be trying to be friendly, but I still hadn’t forgiven him for arresting me.
He cleared his throat, and set the file back on his desk. “Did you let anyone borrow your car today?” he asked.
“No, my keys are right here.” I started digging through the contents of my purse.
“I’ll take your word for it,” he said, after I pulled out my checkbook, a packet of pink tissues, and a paperback with an almost-naked man on the front cover and piled them on the corner of his desk. His mouth twitched. “Have you made any new enemies recently, Miss Duprie?” I guess he got my message about the terms of our relationship.
“Besides a certain insufferable cop?” Even in the artificial fluorescent light, I saw the red rising in his cheeks. I could almost hear him counting to ten as I pretended to consider the question. “I think Larry, the florist, is ticked off that I’m not receiving flowers anymore. And Bart at the grocery store yelled at me last week when I went through the ten items or less line with fourteen items. But what does that have to do with someone stealing and wrecking my car?”
He took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and exhaled. “Bear with me a moment. Did you go anywhere today?”
I couldn’t figure out where this line of questioning was going, but I answered anyway. “No, I woke up with a killer headache, realized it was going to rain, and decided to stay home and work.”
“And when was the last time you saw your car?”
“This morning. I planned to go to the library, but it started to storm as I was leaving. Why?”
He swiveled his chair so he was facing away from me. I fidgeted in my suddenly uncomfortable seat and waited. He turned back around and leaned forward with his forearms on his desk. “Your headache may have saved your life. We’ve asked for help from the state police to verify our theory, but our preliminary investigation and accounts from a few eyewitnesses indicate your car exploded.” Sitting back and rubbing his forehead, he added. “A tall man in a brown suit was seen in the vicinity.”
I sputtered. “What do you mean my car exploded?”
“In a fireball. Burnt to a crisp. If you had been in the vehicle, you’d be dead.”
What makes this book a must-read and/or what inspired you to write this story:
When I started writing the book that become The Marquesa's Necklace, it wasn't supposed to be a cozy mystery. It was meant to be a paranormal romance, with a ghost as the romantic lead. In fact, the original title was The Ghost Who Loved Me.
Well, Harmony Duprie, the main character, wasn't having it. She insisted the ghost wasn't a ghost at all, but a real man. One that caught her interest and got her to dreaming of falling in love. And I'm glad I listened to her. The book turned out better because of it.
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Born and raised among the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania, P.J. MacLayne still finds inspiration for her books in that landscape. She is a computer geek by day and a writer by night who currently lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. When she's not in front of a computer screen, she might be found exploring the back roads of the nearby national forests and parks. In addition to the Oak Grove Mysteries series, she is also the author of the Free Wolves series.
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