In FIXING TO DIE, my new Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mystery, newlyweds Josie and veterinarian Dr. Ted Scottsmeyer look for their first home. During the house hunt, Josie learns that her real estate agent speaks English, but her words have a slightly different spin.
Josie’s house hunt is based on mine. My husband Don and I looked at a home where every room was gray, even the bathrooms. I used this experience for the scene from Chapter 1 in FIXING TO DIE.
Don and I bought the gray home our real estate agent showed us. Josie did not. Instead, she and Ted buy a house from Ted’s clinic partner, Dr. Chris, and Josie renovates the mid-century modern kitchen that’s on the cover.
Her husband Ted tears down a rickety gazebo and finds a body underneath it. The dead woman is Dr. Chris’ hippie sister. Everyone thought she went to California. Ted’s partner is arrested for murder. Meanwhile, Josie’s tween daughter, Amelia, is tormented by mean girls at her school. Josie works hard help her daughter, renovate her house and find out who killed Dr. Chris’ sister.
Here’s a scene where Josie looks at the gray house:
“Not a soft, sophisticated gray. Damp basement gray. Concrete gray.
Sally Redding Rutherford, the real estate agent, called the grim gray entrance hall “cozy.” Josie had looked at enough homes to translate real estate lingo. “Cozy” meant coffin sized. There was barely room for her and Sally in the entrance. Josie felt like she was stuck in an upright burial vault.
“Gray is chic again,” Sally said. “The right paint and a nice mirror will transform this entrance into a real showcase.”
Sally was small, blond, and muscular with a perpetually perky smile. Josie thought she must have been a cheerleader for a hopeless high school team, the way she relentlessly cheered one loser after another. Sally had shown her so many dogs Josie felt like she was at the Humane Society.
The living room was gray, too, from the floor to the fog-colored ceiling.
“Uh, the floor’s gray concrete,” Josie said.
“That’s right,” Sally said proudly. “Concrete flooring is stylish, smart, and tough. And look at that fireplace!”
It was gray slate with steel fireplace tools.
“You won’t find a feature like that in a—”
If Sally says “starter house” one more time, I’ll brain her with that poker, Josie thought.
“—starter house,” Sally finished.
Josie’s fingers twitched. But she got a grip on herself.
“The dining room is taupe,” Sally said.
More gray, Josie thought. But she saw bright spots of red in the chandelier, the only color so far in the house, except for Sally’s pink pantsuit.
“The owner wants to take the chandelier,” Sally said. “It’s Southwest style and he had it custom made.”
Josie fought back a giggle. The spiky wrought iron chandelier was trimmed with polished cow horns and long red plastic peppers.
“It’s amazing,” Josie said, truthfully. “But I don’t think this is the house for us.”
“But the seller is motivated,” Sally said.
That means “desperate,” Josie thought.
“What about that cute fixer upper?” Sally said. “It’s convenient to transportation, like you wanted.”
“It needed a gut rehab,” Josie said, “and was located between a highway ramp and the railroad tracks.”
“Trains sound so romantic,” Sally said.
“Not coming through the living room,” Josie said.
“What about that sweet split level with the country kitchen?” she asked.
“Ten minutes in that kitchen and I had nightmares that I was pursued by ducks with yellow ribbons around their necks,” Josie said.
“What was wrong with the charming rambler with the green shutters?” Sally asked. “It had a big sunny lot.”
“Sunny! So’s the Sahara,” Josie said. “Nothing grew in that yard, not even grass.”
“You’re overlooking the—” Sally said.
Potential, Josie thought, bracing herself. Sally’s going to say “potential.”
Josie saw the agent’s blond hair and trimly tailored suit swallowed by the real estate agency’s door and waved good bye. She didn’t realize this was the last time she’d ever see Sally Rutherford.
Here’s the trailer for Elaine’s ninth Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mystery, FIXING TO DIE.