Going . . . going . . . gone wild for the Trash ân' Treasures Mysteries!
“It's showtime for Brandy and Vivian . . . the seventh entry
in the lighthearted cozy series.”
“The book is so funny, I honestly couldn't put it down. It's
so entertaining, pages simply fly by. Hey, did I mention
there are recipes for chocolate brownies in it? Now how can
you go wrong with that?”
Pulp Fiction Reviews
“A zany antiques mystery . . . A classic gathering of suspects
leads to an unexpected denouement.”
“Breezy, written with admirable wit . . . a wacky,
lightweight romp perfect for an evening's escapism. This
series is just pure fun, and the humor is a treat. Fans of
, take note.”
“Treasure, yes. Trash, no. A madcap adventure; a bright,
funny, and fast-moving mystery; all good fun and well
played . . . another charmer for Mr. and Mrs. Collins.”
Jerry's House of Everything
“Here's something to brighten your day . . . very funny, with
lots of great dialogue. There's even a Nero Wolfe homage,
along with a cliff-hanger ending . . . good news for us fans.”
Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine
“This humorous cozy is framed by life in small-town Iowa
and teems with quirky characters. It will appeal to readers
who enjoy Donna Andrews' Meg Langslow mysteries.”
“If you like laugh-out-loud funny mysteries, this next Trash
ân' Treasures installment will make your day.”
Romantic Times Book Reviews
, 4.5 stars
“An often amusing tale complete with lots of antiques-buying
tips and an ending that may surprise you.”
“Quirky . .. a surefire winner.”
“Stop shoveling snow, take time to chuckle:
is a fitting antidote to any seasonal blues. Plan to
shelve this one next to your Donald Westlake caper novels
or just before Lawrence Block.”
“Scenes of Midwestern small-town life, informative tidbits
about the antiques business, and clever dialog make this
essential for those who like unusual amateur sleuths.”
“Auction tips and a recipe for spicy beef stew enhance this
“You'll laugh out loud at the screwball dynamics between
Brandy and Vivian as they bumble their way through murder
“Genuinely funny . . . another winner! The funniest mystery
“If you need a laugh and enjoy a neatly plotted mystery
with a lot of engaging characters and lots of snappy patter,
not to mention a little romance, read
Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine
Antiques Flee Market
“Fast-paced . . . plenty of humor and tips on antiques collecting
will keep readers engaged.”
“Top pick! This snappy mystery has thrills, laugh-out-loud
moments, and amazingly real relationships.”
Romantic Times Book Reviews
“This is surely one of the funniest cozy series going.”
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
“Marvelous dialogue, great characters, and a fine murder
mystery.... I couldn't put [it] down.”
Reviewing the Evidence
“Charming . . . laugh-out-loud funny.”
Romantic Times Book Reviews
“The writers do a great job in developing the characters.”
Reviewing the Evidence
“Engaging and utterly believable.”
“A terrific new series. Grab it up!”
S. J. Rozan
“[Readers] will love this down-to-earth heroine with the
wry sense of humor and a big heart.”
“Fun from start to finish.”
“Funny, witty, irreverent . . . the distinctive voice pulls you
in and never lets you go.”
T. J. MacGregor
Nestled All Snug
was dreaming in my warm bed, visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, when Mother came into my room, rudely awakening me by banging on an old toy drum. She had bought the thing for the six-year-old me on a long-ago Christmas as a measure of self-defenseâan attempt to keep her pots and pans (and spoons) from getting further dented.
An old trick on her partâI had long since learned to work the noise of that toy drum into my dreams, but just as the sugarplums were lining up in a row right out of
Babes in Toyland
, Mother yanked the covers back, exposing me to cold air and colder reality.
I was not happyâ“I” being Brandy Borne, a thirty-two-year-old divorced bottle-blonde who'd come running home to Mother (a.k.a. Vivian Borne), home being the little Mississippi River town we call Serenity, Iowa. Well, everybody who lives here calls it Serenity, Iowa, but that includes us.
And someone else was not happy about being bothered: Sushi, my blind shih tzu, nestled behind my knees. The poochie was the consolation prize I'd slunk home with after the divorceâmy bad, resulting from an indiscretion with an old boyfriend the weekend of my ten-year high school reunion. Jake, my thirteen-year-old son, lived with Roger in Chicago. But my ex and I had patched things up to the point where we were more than civil.
Civil toward Mother was not something Sushi and I felt right now, and we let out a low communal growl.
Still drumming, Mother chirped, “Uppie-uppie-uppie,” as if I were still a child who might respond to that cheerfully delivered annoyance by reaching for, and tossing, a pillow.
I reached for and tossed a pillow.
Mother batted it away as if it were nothing more than an oversize snowflake, not missing a beat on the toy drum.
Croaking through the frog in my throat, I whined, “But I wanna sleep
Monday was the only day we didn't have to work at our antiques store.
“Starving children in China want ice water,” came her immediate if incoherent reply. “Up, up,
“Now, Brandy, we have places to go, things to do, and people to see.”
I hate it when Mother says that, which is about every day, it seems.
“What time is it?” I groaned, sitting up. It was hard getting comfortable without a pillow. (I already knew the answer: eight o'clock; this was just more grousing.)
“Why . . . time to get
, dear,” she replied sweetly, then strode out of the room (no longer banging her drum, thank goodness, but still marching to her own drummer . . . as always).
I had learned not to ask Mother about her agenda until I'd had a hot breakfast, just as she'd learned not to inflict it upon me until a cup of coffee had turned me semihuman.
I crawled out of bed, and stumbled off to the bathroom; Sushi, lucky her, stayed behind in a nest of blankets.
Shortly thereafter, refreshed, my shoulder-length hair squeaky clean (and actually brushed), I stepped into my DKNY jeans, tugged on a black V-neck cashmere sweater I'd snagged half-off last year, and headed barefoot downstairs. It's a two-story, turn-of-the-century home, or it had been before it got blown up (see
) and rebuilt from the original plans.
On the way to the dining room, I passed by our Christmas tree, in the front picture window, and shook my head. Not that it wasn't beautifully decoratedâit very much was, this and every year a stunning collaborative Christmas vision courtesy of the Borne girls. We always trim our tree early, and this one had been up since early Novemberâand I do mean
up . . .
. . . hanging as it was by its base from the ceiling, limbs fanned out in drooping surrender.
Mother had seen this done in a downtown store last Christmas and, eager to find a unique way to display our tree, copied the idea. The tree was artificial, so keeping it well watered in an upside-down state was a nonissue. And it had been easy enough to decorate.
But that first night, the thing had come crashing to the floor during the wee hours, startling us from our beds, making us fear we had a burglar. We'd run downstairs, each with a baseball bat poised as if waiting for Santa to yell, “Play ball,” and what to our wondering eyes should appear, but a pine tree that seemed to have dropped dead.
I'd just lowered my bat and eyed her, saying, “I'm not part of this. This is your mess.”
“My culpa, dear. Strictly my culpa.”
After thatâabout a third of the ornaments having shatteredâI felt sure Mother would upright the poor thing, but she merely reenforced the hooks on the ceiling. I only prayed she wouldn't nail the presents to the ceiling, and as a precaution decided not to wrap anything breakable.
In the dining room, I plopped down at our Duncan Phyfe table, set as usual with vintage dinnerware we'd snagged at a flea marketâbeige, rimmed in 22-k gold, made by Triumph, and labeled “Hollywood.” Very cool.
Even though Mother already owned enough dishes to feed those starving Chinese children their ice water, I hadn't squelched the buy because these were so impressively Art Deco in style, particularly the serving pieces.
While waiting to be served (the one thing not required of draftees is cooking their own food in the mess hall), I took the little capsule that Mother had placed on a small dessert dish for me, downing it with water from the glassâan antidepressant, which I'd felt necessary to use since coming home to live with her. (You may already understand my need for medication.)
Mother had a pill on her little plate, too, but hers was an antipsychotic for bipolar disorder, from which she'd suffered since her early twenties.
On the kitchen counter, next to a dual water/food dish that would soon be filled and placed on the floor, was a final dosage of medication. This was for Sushiâa syringe with insulin to be administered after the little diabetic's morning meal.
Now, before you go asking yourself, “Do I really want to spend any time with some mentally ill people and their sick dog?” I can assure you that we are all presently modulating within normal levelsâat least, our idea of normal.
And, as for me being a nasty girl who ruined her marriage, I have cleaned up my life, and gone straight, straight to Iowa, anyway. So, go ahead, read on. What do you have to lose besides what you already spent on this? And if you got it free somehow, who are you to complain?
Mother, breezed in from the kitchen, carrying a tray of steaming bowls of oatmeal, hot coffee, and orange juice. She is in her seventies (where, exactly, no one really knows, not even me, and possibly not Mother, who has been lying about her age for so many years, she may have lost track).
This morning she sported her favorite emerald green velour slacks and top (her going-places-doing-things-seeing-people outfit), wavy silver hair pinned up, her Danish ancestry evident in the pale blue eyes, gently sloping nose, apple cheeks, and wide mouth. In addition to all these pluses was the minus of out-of-date oversize glasses whose lenses magnified her eyes in a somewhat bug-eye fashion.
Mother set the tray down, then placed one of the bowls of brown-sugar-sprinkled oatmeal before me, and I reached for theâ
Mother to Brandy
: So sorry to interrupt, dear, but this is
story, not one of our novels. Do move things alongâwe don't need every nuance.)
Brandy to Mother
: I was just setting the stageâyou should know that, seasoned thespian that you are.)
Mother to Brandy
: Yes, thank you, dear, and I will assume you mean “seasoned” in the most flattering way. Now bring on the other players already.)
âspoon and dug in.
Besides antiquing, Mother is active in community theater, sometimes trodding the boards, other times directing. Attending one of Mother's plays is always an experience, and I would share with you now an amusing anecdote about one of her many artistic triumphs, but there simply isn't time.
Mother to Brandy:
Sarcasm is not becoming to a young woman, dear, often causing premature aging. Now move it along.)
Once we had finished with our breakfast (satisfied, Mother?), I felt human enough to ask her, “All right, so what's on the docket for today?”
She patted her lips daintily with the cloth napkin, then folded it neatly on the table. “Dear, we are in dire need of Christmas stock.”
She was right. We had recently expanded from a single rented booth in an antiques mall into our own business in a colorful old house located on the edge of the downtown. And Christmas sales could either make or break our expansion.
“Agreed,” I said. “Any ideas?”
Which was a dumb question.
she had ideasâthat's why I'd been rousted from my warm bed, sugarplums be darned.
“I have solid intel,” she was saying, “that Bernie Watkins is considering selling his entire Yuletide collectionâsome of it dating back to the nineteen forties! Or so I'm told. I can't remember back that far, obviously.”
I was nodding. If we could get to the old gent before anyone else, it would be quite a coup.
“And,” Mother said, “I don't need to tell you that we need to act and act quickly.”
“Right. Christmas is coming.”
“No! Well, yes, it is coming. But we're bound to have competition from you-know-who if he gets wind of this opportunity.”
“Lyle Humphrey, you mean.”
“Yes! He's the grinch who collects Christmas.”
As long as I could remember (which was definitely
back to the 1940s), the Watkinses' house was
place to drive slowly by during the holiday season, because of the wondrous indoor/outdoor displays he hadâChristmas lights everywhere, lighted-up snowmen and other festive figures arrayed around the yard, Santa in his sleigh with reindeer balanced on the rooftop, and a decorated tree visible in seemingly every window of the house. When Bernie paid his December electric bill, it must have made a wonderful late Christmas present for the power and water company.
The Watkinses, Bernie and Velma, had both been grade-school teachers. Though childless in their marriage, they loved kids, as evidenced by their elaborate Yuletide displays, and Bernie had frequently played Santa Claus at local events. Christmas became an obsession with the couple, and word was they collected all sorts of holiday stuff. Then, after Velma passed, Bernie met his second wife, Emma, at one of those year-round Christmas shops, and the new couple never missed a beat where elaborate holiday displays were concerned.
The only difference was that Bernie and Emma had moved from Mulberry Street to just outside of town on River Road, a twisty two-lane hugging the banks of the Mississippi. As soon as word got out that their Christmas display was up and alighted, the narrow highway became congested with crawling cars loaded with kids of all ages. Folks would enter Bernie's semicircle drive at one end, rubberneck, then slowly exit at the other end, and speed back to town past the endless caravan in the other lane.
Locals knew enough not to take River Road that time of year if they were in a hurry, and used the bypass instead. But some had no choice, like Bernie's next-door neighbor, Mr. Fusselman. Once, Mr. Fussy Man complained bitterly to the city council about the congestion, earning a collective hiss the following Sunday morning from the congregation of the Second Presbyterian Church. Nobody heard an anti-Christmas peep from Fusselman after that.
Mother had taken me to Bernie and Emma's one Christmas when I was just old enough to read. I had heard from another kid that there was a life-size Santa in the yard, holding a long list of the names of “good” kids, and that
name was on it! This kid was no prize, so I figured I was a shoo-in for the listâbut when we got there, little Brandy hadn't made the cut! I tearfully blurted out my protest at this injustice, inspiring Mother to grab a pen from her purse, jump out, andâ
Mother to Brandy
: Dear, please do stay on point. You weren't the first child to be disappointed at Christmastime, and you won't be the last. And, anyway, Mother took care of it, didn't she?)
When Emma died last year, I suppose it was too hard (and sad) for Bernie to carry on alone with the Christmas decorating, and of course he wasn't getting any younger himself. So it made sense that he might now want to unburden himself of his decorations and collectibles.
Still in a hot oatmeal afterglow, I asked Mother, “So, does Bernie know we're coming?”
Another stupid question. Mother was strictly a drop-by.
“No, Bernie adores a good surprise. And whose face doesn't blossom into a smile when they answer the doorbell and see that Vivian Borne has come to call?”
“Most of the population of Serenity?”
“Tish tosh,” she said. Is that a saying? Does or did anybody else ever say that? Anyway, she rose from the table. “Dress warm, dear. It's beginning to snow.”
Sushi could tell whenever we were leaving, even though we did our best not to utter certain words, including “go” and “car.” And yet there she was, dancing at my feet.
“All right.” I smiled, scooping up the little devil. “You can go in the car, too.”
And of course the word “car” coupled with “go” turned her into a wriggling furry mass of joy-to-her-world.
Soon we were trundling off in our heavy coats, out through a dusting of snowfall to my gently dented Buick, me behind the wheel, coaxing the car to life, Mother riding shotgun with Sushi on her lap. Then we were headed to downtown, a grid of five blocks nestled on the banks of the Muddy Miss, with everything a little Iowa burg like ours could need. (Notice I didn't say “want.”)