Poppy Done to Death (An Aurora Teagarden Mystery)

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9780425252871: Poppy Done to Death (An Aurora Teagarden Mystery)

Eighth in Charlaine Harris’s acclaimed Aurora Teagarden mystery series—now in a new hardcover edition.

Not just any woman in Lawrenceton, Georgia, gets to be a member of the Uppity Women Book Club. But Roe’s stepsister-in-law Poppy has climbed her way up the waiting list of the group—only to die on the day she’s supposed to be inducted.

What makes Poppy’s murder even worse are rumors of infidelity on both sides of the marriage swirling around town. To find the killer, Roe must determine if the sordid stories are true. Suspects abound, and the things she uncovers make her question her own heart, but her passion for the truth drives her on—into the path of the cold-blooded killer.

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About the Author:

Charlaine Harris is a full-time author who writes in both the fantasy and mystery genres. She has lived in the South her entire life.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One Melinda sat next to me at the table nearest the door. We’d kept a chair open for Poppy the whole meeting, but she’d never shown up. The room was full of Uppity Women, and they’d all turned to look at us when Poppy’s name had been called and we’d had to say she wasn’t there. The other Uppities saw a very short woman in her mid-thirties with a ridiculous amount of brown hair and a wonderful pair of green-rimmed glasses, and a taller, very slim, black-haired woman of the same age, who had a narrow and agreeable face. (I was the shorter of the two.) I am sure all the Uppities who could see that far noticed that we had matching expressions, compounded of social smiles and grim eyes. I, personally, planned to rake Poppy over the hottest coals I could find. The president of Uppity Women, Teresa Stanton, was giving us a basilisk glare. “Then we’ll continue the meeting with our book discussion,” Teresa said, her voice clipped and businesslike. Teresa, aggressively well groomed, had that chin-length haircut that swings forward when you bend your head, as she did now to check the agenda. Her hair always did what it was told, in sharp contrast to mine. I was sure Teresa’s hair was scared not to mind. Melinda and I sat through the book discussion in mortified silence, but we tried to look interested and as though we were thinking deep thoughts. I don’t know what Melinda’s policy was, but mine was to keep silent so I wouldn’t draw any more attention. I looked around the room, at the circular tables filled with well-dressed, intelligent women, and I decided that if none of them had ever been disappointed by a relative, they were a lucky bunch. After all, a woman hadn’t shown up for a big-deal, high-pressure social engagement. Surely that was not such a rarity. I muttered as much to Melinda, between the book discussion and lunch, and she widened her dark eyes at me. “You’re right,” she said instantly, sounding relieved. “We’ll go by and see her after this is over, though. She can’t do this to us again.” See? Even Melinda was taking it personally, and she’s much more well balanced than I. We scooted out of the dining room as quickly as we politely could after Teresa had dismissed the meeting. But we were waylaid by Mrs. Cole Stewart, who inquired in her deep southern voice where Poppy was. We could only shake our heads in ignorance and mutter a lame excuse. Mrs. Cole Stewart was seventy-five, white-haired, and all of a hundred pounds, and she was absolutely terrifying. From her affronted stare, we clearly received the message that we were being charged with guilt by association. When we got to my Volvo, Melinda said, “We’re going over there and have a few words with her.” I didn’t say no. In fact, I’d never considered any other course of action. “Oh, yeah,” I said grimly. I was so focused on having a few choice words with Poppy that I couldn’t enjoy the clear, chilly November day, and November is one of my favorites. If we passed anyone we should have waved at, we never noticed it. “It isn’t as if she does a lot of work around the house,” Melinda said suddenly, apropos of nothing. But I nodded, understanding the extended thought. Poppy didn’t work outside the home anymore, she had one baby, and she didn’t even take very good care of the house, though she did take good care of the baby. She should have been able to manage what was on her plate, as my mother would have put it. As I’d half-expected, when we got to Poppy’s and saw that her car was still parked in the carport, Melinda quailed. “You go in there, Roe,” she said. “I’m liable to get so mad, I might mention a whole lot of other things besides the topic at hand.” We exchanged a meaningful glance, the kind that encompassed a whole conversation. I swung my legs out of the car. I noticed something on the ground by my feet, two long straps of embroidered cloth. “Oh crap,” I said, glad only Melinda was there to hear me. I tossed them into the car for Melinda to look at, and I marched to the front door. I was mentally loaded for bear. “Poppy!” I called as I turned the doorknob of the front door of the house. The door opened. Unlocked. Since by now I knew Poppy had already had company that morning, I was not so startled by this. I stepped into the foyer and called again. But the house was quiet. Moosie, Poppy’s cat, came to see what was happening. Moosie was a pale sylph compared to my huge feline basketball, Madeleine. The cat meowed in an agitated way and ran from hall to kitchen and back again. I’d never seen Moosie act so jittery. He was Poppy’s pampered pet, a declawed half Siamese she’d adopted from the animal shelter. Moosie was not allowed out the front door, only out the sliding glass back door, which led into a backyard enclosed all the way around with a six-foot-high privacy fence. After Moosie stropped my ankles a couple of times, I registered the fact that the sensation was sticky. I looked down and saw that my hose were stained. “Moosie, what have you been into?” I asked. Several unpleasant possibilities crossed my mind. The cat began cleaning himself vigorously, licking at the dark patch on his side. He didn’t seem hurt or anything, just, well, catty. “Where’s Poppy?” I asked. “Where’s your momma?” I know that’s disgusting, but when you’re alone with animals, you get that way. Poppy and John David actually had a human child, Chase, as well as the cat, but they’d had the cat longer. “Hey, Poppy!” I yelled up the stairs. Maybe she’d gotten in the shower after her visitor left. But why would she? Even for Poppy, missing such an important engagement was very unusual. And if she’d been up to her usual shenanigans … I had to press my lips together to hold in my anger. I stomped up the stairs, yelling Poppy’s name the whole time. She’d missed Uppity Women, and she’d missed lunch, and, by golly, I wanted to know why. The master bedroom looked as though she’d just stepped out. The bed was made and her bathrobe was tossed across the foot of the bed. Poppy’s bedroom slippers, the slide-in kind, were in a little heap on the floor. Her brush was tossed down on her dressing table, clogged with red-gold hair. “Poppy?” I said, less certainly this time. The bathroom door was wide open, and I could see the shower enclosure. The wall was dry. It had been quite awhile since Poppy had showered. I could see my reflection in the huge mirror that topped the two sinks, and I looked scared. My glasses were sliding down my nose, which is a very insignificant feature of my face. I’d worn the green-rimmed ones today to offset my bronze-colored jacket and tobacco brown sheath, and I took a little moment to reflect that autumn colors were really my best. Well, I could think about myself any old time, but right now I needed to be searching. I went back down the stairs faster than I’d gone up. Melinda, waiting out in my Volvo, would be wondering what had happened to me. I, however, was wondering why the central heating was roaring away on this cool but moderate day, and why I was feeling a draft of chilly air despite the heating system’s best attempts. I muttered a less ladylike word under my breath as I strode farther down the entrance hall to the kitchen, though striding is a moot word to use when you’re four eleven. Moosie wove in and out between my ankles and darted ahead when it suited him. The kitchen was a mess; although big and bright, it was scattered with dishes and crumbs and pieces of mail and baby bottles and car keys and the St. James Altar Guild schedule—a normal kitchen, in other words. To my left, dividing the room in half, was a breakfast bar. On the other side of it was a family dining table, positioned by the sliding glass doors so Poppy and John David could look outside while they ate. A mug of coffee was on the breakfast bar. It was full. I laid my finger against the side of it. Cold. Over the top of the breakfast bar, I could see that the sliding glass door was open. This was the source of the intruding cool air. A sharp-edged wind from the east was gusting into the kitchen. My scalp began to prickle. I stepped through the narrow passage between the end of the breakfast bar and the refrigerator and looked to my right. Poppy was lying on the floor just inside the open sliding glass door. One of her brown pumps had fallen off her narrow foot. Her sweater and skirt were covered in blotches. A spray of blood had dried on the glass of the doors. I could hear a radio playing from the house behind Poppy’s. The tune wafted over the high privacy fence. I could hear someone splashing through the water of a pool: Cara Embler, doing her laps, as she did every day, unless her pool was actually frozen. Poppy, who had laughed about Cara’s adherence to such an uncomfortable regimen, would never laugh again. The processes of life and living, continuing in the houses all around us, had come to dead stop here in this house on Swan-son Lane. Moosie sat by Poppy’s pathetic, horrible body. He said, “Reow.” He pressed against her side. His food bowl, on a mat by the breakfast bar, was empty. Now I knew how Moosie’s fur had gotten stained. He’d been trying to rouse Poppy, maybe so she would feed him. Suddenly, I had to escape from that suburban kitchen with its horrible secret. I flew out of the house, slamming the front door behind me. I had a fleeting impulse to scoop up Moosie, but tak...

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