Autumn is settling around those of us in the north. Why not curl up with a comic mystery?
Baby Boomer Carol Andrews is shocked to hear that her hunky landscaper, Will Finnegan, has died, and feels obligated to pay her respects to his family. But this Finnegan’s wake is shut down before it even starts, when Carol discovers someone has added a pair of scissors to the guest of honor’s chest. Once again, her husband Jim and the Fairport police forbid Carol to get involved. But the always curious Carol can’t help herself when one of the most important people in her life jumps to the top of the suspect list.
Mallory and Mallory Funeral Home, Fairport, Connecticut
Another Finnegan’s Wake
“I hate wakes,” I said, turning my car into the parking lot of Mallory and Mallory Funeral Home on Fairport Turnpike and cruising for an empty spot.
This pronouncement was greeted by a heavy sigh from my passenger. “Mom,” said my usually patient daughter, Jenny, “first of all, nobody likes wakes. Or funerals. Especially the guest of honor. And Dad was right. We didn’t have to come at all. You weren’t that close to the deceased.”
I matched Jenny’s sigh with one of my own. “I know,” I said. “But when I saw the obituary in yesterday’s paper, I was so shocked. It was only last week that Will Finnegan was raking our leaves and getting our yard in shape. He seemed fine. And now, he’s gone. Just like that.”
I sighed again.
“Life is too short for so many people we know,” I continued, easing the car into the perfect parking spot for someone my age – the kind I can drive straight out of without having to back up. My neck isn’t as flexible as it was when I was younger. Nor are several other body parts, to tell the truth.
“It just seemed appropriate that I come to pay my respects to his family.” I reached over and squeezed Jenny’s hand. “I appreciate your coming with me, sweetie.”
“I didn’t want you to go alone,” Jenny said. “And Mark’s working. I hate it when he works nights. I always worry more about him than I do when he’s on the day shift. I guess I should be used to being married to a police detective by now, but I’m not. Maybe, after we pay a quick visit to the funeral parlor, we can go out and grab a quick dinner at Maria’s Trattoria. My treat.”
“I’m never one to turn down the chance of a dinner I didn’t have to cook myself,” I said. “And your father has plenty of leftovers to graze on, plus there’s a UConn game on television tonight. I bet he won’t even notice how long I’ve been gone.”
I frowned. “Maybe I should get a pair of pom poms and pretend to be a college cheerleader. What do you think?”
“Please, tell me you’re kidding, Mom,” Jenny said as we arrived at the front door of what some locals have dubbed M & M, the funeral parlor of choice for many Fairport, Connecticut residents.
I smoothed my hair down and tried to make myself look presentable. The late fall winds had been especially punishing on our brisk walk from the parking lot. I could hear organ music – probably pre-recorded – coming from Slumber Room A. There was a sign near the door marking it as the parlor for the William Finnegan wake, as well as a guest book for mourners to sign.
I couldn’t help but notice, as I wrote “Mrs. James Andrews,” that I was the first person on the page. I handed the pen to Jenny.
“I didn’t think we’d be the first ones here, Mom,” she whispered, adding her signature below mine. “Where’s the family? Didn’t he have one?”
“According to the obituary, he did,” I whispered back. “Maybe they didn’t feel they needed to sign the guest book.”
Jenny nodded and pushed me in front of her toward the sound of the organ music. “You first, Mom. At least you have a tenuous relationship to the deceased. I never even laid eyes on the man.”
Slumber Room A was dimly lit, but it took me only half a second to realize that Jenny and I were the only people here. Except for the recently deceased William Finnegan, whom I presumed was residing in the open casket at the other end of the room.
The organ music reached a crescendo, then the room became eerily silent.
“What’ll we do, Mom?” Jenny asked. “There’s no one to pay our respects to.”
“We sit down and wait a few minutes,” I whispered back. “The family is probably in another room, composing themselves for a long and emotional night.” I looked at my watch. “I don’t think I got the time wrong. I’m sure the obituary said the viewing started at seven o’clock. It’s ten past seven now.”
The organ music started up again. Not exactly a toe-tapper, but at least it made me feel like we were in the right place.
Or were we?
“Jenny,” I whispered, “I think I’ll just go up and say a prayer at the casket. And be sure I haven’t made a mistake.” I smiled weakly. “If I have, dinner’s on me.”
I threaded my way through the rows of empty chairs and found myself gazing at the waxen face of our late landscaper, sleeping in his casket.
Yup, Will was dead all right.
But just to be extra sure, one mourner, who’d gotten to the casket ahead of me, had plunged a scissors into Will’s chest.
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/funerals-can-be-murder-susan-santangelo/1120482102?ean=2940150549043
Also available at other online bookstores.
An early member of the Baby Boomer generation, Susan Santangelo has been a feature writer, drama critic and editor for daily and weekly newspapers in the New York metropolitan area, including a stint at Cosmopolitan magazine. A seasoned public relations and marketing professional, she has designed and managed not-for-profit events and programs for over 25 years, and was principal of her own public relations firm, Events Unlimited, in Princeton NJ for ten years. She also served as Director of Special Events and Volunteers for Carnegie Hall during the Hall's 1990-1991 Centennial season.
Susan divides her time between Cape Cod MA and the Connecticut shoreline. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Cape Cod Writers Center, and shares her life with her husband Joe and one very spoiled English cocker spaniel, Boomer, who also serves as the model for the books’ covers.
A portion of the sales from the Baby Boomer Mysteries is donated to the Breast Cancer Survival Center, a non-profit organization based in Connecticut which Susan founded in 1999 after being diagnosed with cancer herself.
Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Santangelo/e/B004H6JCZM/