Saturday, February 19, 2011
Talented Horsewoman is the first book in my Leigh McRae horse mystery series.About the book: Leigh McRae leads a quiet life in a small Florida town, surrounded by horse farms and alligators. For the sake of her daughter, she has traded her own happiness for job security and a truce with her ex-husband Kenneth, a poster boy for control freaks. But her peaceful existence is shattered when she discovers the body of her friend and fellow horsewoman, Rita Cameron. The police conclude Rita died in an accidental fall from a hayloft. Leigh is sure the death was a murder and she sets out to convince the police to investigate so her friend can rest in peace.
Meanwhile she has to deal with escalating demands from Kenneth, demands that may cost her her horses as well as her home. And on top of everything else, she has to help her cousin Sammi, who's dating a burglar. But Leigh doesn't let personal problems stop her from sleuthing, even though she admits she is not the world's greatest detective. While digging for evidence, she discovers a secret in Rita's past. Now Leigh and her daughter are in danger, and only Leigh's actions can save them.
Here's short excerpt from Chapter Two. Leigh has gone home after discovering her friend's body.
I was in the middle of slicing a tomato when a familiar, older model, black Buick rattled up the driveway and coughed to a stop near the garage. Sammi hadn’t wasted any time.
I watched her get out of the car. Like me, Sammi had inherited her height from her father. Our fathers were brothers and we referred to them—along with my brother Chad--as the Hollister men. Sammi had three inches on me, though. She was six feet tall. I was fortunate enough to get my mother’s slender figure. But Sammi was solidly built like a Hollister man--she weighed close to two hundred pounds.
She flung herself across the yard in the direction of the house, her waist length hair flying loose behind her like a silk, golden cape. At least she hadn’t brought along Jeeves, her Old English sheepdog, known for his world class drooling and shedding.
She’d dressed as if she were ready to conduct a séance. Her loose, purple crepe top flowed down over her arms to her wrists and her matching skirt reached almost to the tops of her shoes. That much material could have made drapes for my entire house, but the outfit suited her, somehow managing to impart an air of grace that she didn’t normally have.
She let herself in through the sliding glass door into the kitchen and stopped short when she saw me. “Leigh, your eyes are as red as those tomatoes. Tension headache, right?”
She took the knife out of my hand. “Let me do that before you cut off something important. You should be resting in bed.”
“I can’t.” I knew by now to refrain from shaking my head and aggravating the throbbing in my temples. “Wait until we sit down and I’ll tell you about it.”
“I already heard," she said in her husky, ex-smoker’s voice.
"You heard about Rita Cameron?"
"Lead story on the radio. I figured I better detour on over here and offer you a shoulder to lean on. They didn't identify the victim, but of course, everyone knows who it is; you know the gossip line in Del Canto. I stopped at the grocery and the head cashier—she’s Paris Winslow’s aunt--told me it was Rita and that you found her. Is it true she's dead?”
“I'm afraid so. Sorry I didn’t return your call earlier, but this has been one hell of a morning.”
“I hear ya, hon.”
Sammi finished slicing the tomato and arranged the pieces neatly on top of the salad. With a final dash of artistry, she dropped five black olives in the center of the bowl and squirted a dollop of French dressing on top.
"I’d confuse my body if I ate this early, but you go ahead."
A queasy feeling rose suddenly in my stomach, and I knew food would only make me sick. "Let's skip it then." I waved at her to follow me down the hall.
We settled ourselves in the living room, me draped sideways in my faithful recliner, and Sammi taking up most of the love seat. She pushed her hair out of her face two or three times and finally gave up, letting it slide down over her eyes. Sammi had a long face, a long straight nose, and almond shaped brown eyes, so with her hair parted in the middle she reminded me of an Afghan hound.
“So Rita was dead when you found her?” She sounded half out of breath.
“Isn’t that what it said on the radio?”
“Yep. Horrible, isn’t it? One minute she's tossing hay bales around and the next she's on her way to a slab at the morgue.”
Without warning Sammi hauled herself to her feet and strode over to peer out through the front curtains. As suddenly as she’d gotten up she was back in her seat, perched on the edge of the cushion and swinging the gold chain of her necklace in front of her like a tiny lasso.
“The police are sure it was a freak accident?”
“I think so. I mean, I wasn’t there watching in helpless fascination as she fell. Millie Destin, Rita’s neighbor, was there before I was and she didn’t see it happen, either. Then there was a guy, Jared Beaumont I think he said his name was, who got there after me, so he knows less than I do.” I didn’t mention that I had a nagging doubts about Rita’s death because Sammi would expect me to know exactly what was bothering me and I didn’t have a clue. “Are you okay, Sammi?”