#52 Crapometer

Death Did Not Notice Me -- paranormal cozy

Meg Corey's impulsive purchase of a bed and breakfast in western Massachusetts has turned out to be more complicated than she expected.

After losing her Boston banking job through a series of mergers, she has no idea what she wants to do with her life. When she stumbles upon a charming colonial bed and breakfast and falls in love with it, she surprises herself by making an offer. The current owners are eager to sell, and two months later Meg is the proud owner of Warren House, built in 1762.

Then the problems begin. The faulty heating and leaky windows she can handle, but when Deborah Warren, dead since 1823, materializes in her kitchen one day, Meg fears she has finally lost her marbles. And shortly after she opens for business, the body of a man is pulled from her recently-installed septic tank. Not only was the man a guest at her establishment, but he was a former lover.

Watching her bank account dwindle, Meg wonders just what she has gotten herself into.

You say this all again, but with more detail, in the next two paragraphs. You only need to say it once.

Meg has little opportunity to worry about Deborah, since her first appearance coincides with the collapse of Meg's septic system. In a panic, Meg hunts for a plumber and is lucky to find Seth Chapin, a neighbor, who arrives quickly and tells her that perhaps he can keep the septic system going for a bit longer, much to Meg's relief.

Unfortunately Seth's fix doesn't last long, and soon it becomes clear that the tank has to be replaced. Seth finishes installing it in time for a weekend group of guests which includes Simon Philips, a banker from Boston who was once involved with Meg. Now Simon is spearheading a commercial development project in Meg's new town, and has chosen to stay at Warren House. Meg can discern no ulterior motive on his part, and she relaxes into a cordial relationship with him. She gives little thought to his abrupt departure from the B&B one night–until her plumbing backs up yet again. This time the problem is a very dead Simon in the septic tank.

Meg now faces a slew of problems. Is she a suspect in Simon's death? What will the discovery of the body do to her fledgling business? And what will happen to the development project, which has inspired strong reactions, both positive and negative, among the citizens of the town?

Meg is both relieved and dismayed to find that Deborah holds some key pieces of evidence regarding Simon's murder. Unfortunately, Deborah doesn't know and can't identify the people involved, and even if she could, how could Meg convey that information to the local police? Armed with Deborah's observations, Meg realizes she must find another way to implicate the real culprits and rescue her reputation.

Meg begins by contacting friends in Boston, to see who might have wanted Simon dead. She learns that Cinda Patterson has taken over Simon's role in promoting the development project, but she is surprised when Cinda books a room at Warren House. When Cinda arrives, Deborah identifies Cinda as the woman she saw with Simon on the night he died.

Meg now knows that Cinda has benefitted professionally from Simon's removal, and that she was involved with him on a more intimate level.
But Deborah has also told Meg that Cinda didn't act alone: she had a male accomplice, and Meg needs to identify that person as well.

She observes Cinda in furtive conversation with a man outside the B&B one morning; the man turns out to be Seth's brother and business partner Steven. Since the Chapin family land is part of the property targeted for the development project, both Seth and his brother have a stake in its outcome. Unfortunately they are sharply split on the issue.

Seth, a town selectman, sees the economic need for the project, to boost the town's financial base, but has reservations about the ambitious plan, which will change the face of the town; Steven wants to take the money and run. Meg guesses that Cinda saw Steven as an easy target and seduced him, to guarantee Steven's support in opposing to Seth--and to lend her a hand in eliminating Simon.

Meg finds physical evidence that links Cinda to the murder, but that leaves her with the problem of implicating Steven. If she does, she knows that she risks destroying her friendship with Seth, one of the few friends she has made in the area. When she approaches Seth to warn him that she plans to take her evidence to the police, he becomes angry and turns away from her, as she feared. Matters come to a head at the Special Town Meeting, called to vote on final approval of the development project, when Meg stand up and accuses Cinda of murder.

The police listen to her story and send her home, with the promise to investigate. But when Meg returns to Warren House, she finds a drunken, angry Steven waiting for her. Deborah's warning gives Meg time to call the police before confronting Steven, who admits to his role in Simon's death. Seth arrives before the police, and faced with a choice between his brother and Meg, he takes Meg's side. The police take Steven into custody, and leave to arrest Cinda.

Seth stays behind with Meg, and she tells him about the unlikely source of her information: Deborah. He doesn't take her seriously, and she decides not to make an issue of it. She figures she will have time to explain herself later, for when Seth learns that the development project will go forward despite Cinda's arrest, costing him the site of his business, Meg offers him the use of her barn. She has learned the hard way that with an antique building, it never hurts to have a plumber handy.

Clean, concise, zippy, conveys both the events, a bit of the voice, and doesn’t get bogged down in descriptions. We get a sense of what happens, and why. Other than repeating yourself in the first couple of paragraphs, this is very good.


mysterygirl said...

For whatever my opinion's worth: This sounds like a charming mystery and I hope it gets published so I can buy it. I agree with Miss Snark's comment about the repetitive opening. I also got a little confused by the three "S" names. (Any chance of changing Seth to Beth? No, I guess not.) Otherwise, I think it's a very strong synopsis and I bet you'll get some agent nibbles.

Seneca the Younger said...

Paranormal cozy?

McKoala said...

'Scuse my iggorance, but what is a paranormal cozy?!

Bernita said...

The title hurts my eyes though.

Anonymous said...

I second Mysterygirl's comment. But if the initial S is important for a plot point not mentioned in the synopsis, perhaps more variety to the names (eg; Sebastian, Steven, Sly) would make them less confusing.

Great story. Good luck!

Sal said...

'Scuse my iggorance, but what is a paranormal cozy?!

A cozy defined (courtesy the Agatha Awards folk): "no explicit sex, gore or violence, an amateur detective (usually), a confined setting, and characters who know each other."

"paranormal" is a signal, in this case, that a ghost who lived in the early 1800s is part of the detective's support crew.

Seneca the Younger said...

And here I had images of the Ghostbuster's tea warmer.