What I’m reading now: Jonathan Kellerman


Of all the mystery writers who crank out a book a year, Jonathan Kellerman is one of my favorites. I’ve read his entire Alex Delaware series and enjoyed them all. I’ve tried to get into the other wildly famous mystery writers – but the only ones I continue to read are those who write series. Because, in the end, it’s about the characters for me. (Probably why I write a series, huh?) Sue Grafton, Robert Crais, and Louise Penny: it’s Kinsey Millhone, Elvis Cole, and Armand Gamache who keep me coming back.

Anyway. Alex Delaware is a child psychologist (as was Kellerman, originally) who consults with the LAPD on the psychological aspect of crimes. He gets to question witnesses, go to crime scenes and autopsies, and sit behind the one-way mirror during interviews, which removes any concern on my part that Jamie Brodie’s consulting with the police is unrealistic. His homicide detective best friend is Lt. Milo Sturgis, a gay cop, who has the best solve rate in the LAPD.

But for me these days, the BEST thing about the Alex Delaware series is that it takes place in West LA. Yes, Lt. Sturgis works out of the West LA Division of the LAPD – as do Kevin Brodie and Jon Eckhoff. I’ve learned all kinds of useful things about West LA by reading Kellerman’s books. Here’s an example, from his latest books, Breakdown:

“The other detectives at West LA work out of a big room with lockers and coffee machines, a clamorous environment that bustles with work ethic and frustration and gallows humor.”

Exactly as I’d pictured it.

The West LA Division, like the rest of LAPD, hasn’t always had the best reputation. Back in 1994 there was an investigation into widespread sexual harassment there. The LA Times said, “LAPD’s West Los Angeles station… has a long-held but hotly disputed reputation for hostility toward women” (http://articles.latimes.com/1994-02-18/news/mn-24464_1_sexual-harassment). Also, Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered in West LA territory, and the detectives that handled the case – including Mark Fuhrman, remember him? – were partly blamed for mishandling and possibly planting evidence, all of which helped exonerate OJ Simpson. That was 1995.

Since then, from what I can tell, things have improved at West LA Division. Their captains are a white woman and an Asian man. Their rating on Google Reviews is 4.2/5.

Jonathan Kellerman is, of course, a famous, award-winning writer, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been inside the station and knows officers there. He does live in LA part-time as well. That’s why I search his books for clues as to what Kevin and Jon’s work might be like. If you want to read more about crime in the West LA area, check out the Alex Delaware series.


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A sneak peek from Trapped to Death

In Jamie Brodie-land, Trapped to Death begins today. (The book is still on track for publication in late November.) To mark the occasion, here’s an unedited segment from Chapter 4.


What was that? By derivative work: Djmirko (talk) YellowLabradorLooking.jpg: User:Habj (YellowLabradorLooking.jpg) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, September 25

I was dreaming that Pete and I had returned to Jennifer’s former apartment. We knocked, but it wasn’t Jennifer that answered the door – it was Barb Simmons. Behind her, the apartment was stacked to the ceiling with thousands and thousands of books. She scowled at us. “What are you doing here?”

I said, “We came for your books.”

“Oh, no, you don’t.” Barb tried to slam the door shut. Pete stuck his foot out to block her, and Ammo began to bark…  

I woke up. Ammo was on his feet, ears perked, growling. I raised my head to look at him, and he woofed. Not a full-throated bark, but enough to make his point. Something was going on.

I glanced at the clock – 3:30 am. Ammo woofed again and went to the door. Pete made a “mmph” sound and rolled over. I slipped as quietly as possible out of bed and pulled on a pair of briefs. The windows of our bedroom were above head height, so I couldn’t see out of them. I parted the blinds in the door leading to the deck and peered out, but I couldn’t see much.

When I opened the bedroom door, Ammo shot downstairs to the back door. I tiptoed after him and went to the peephole. There was nothing on the first-floor deck or the steps leading to the pavement. Everything else was in darkness. I went to the living room; there was nothing outside the front door peephole. I cracked the blinds on our large front windows and saw nothing out of place.

Ammo stood at the back door, growling. He barked twice, sharply. I went back to the kitchen and peeked out the back door. Our back porch light revealed nothing. The rest of the alley was in shadow. I listened for a moment and heard nothing.

Ammo had his nose pressed to the screened door, sniffing and whining.


Whatever it was, it didn’t seem to be a threat to us. I said, “I don’t know, big guy. Wish you could tell me what you heard.”

Ammo looked up at me and whined again.

I closed and locked the back door. “Back to bed?”

He knew the word bed. He turned reluctantly and trotted back up the steps.

When I slid back into bed Pete grunted softly. “What?”

“Ammo heard something, but everything seems quiet.”


“Sorry I woke you.”

“Was Ammo’s toenails.”

“Ah. Go back to sleep.”

He followed orders as well as Ammo did and was out again in seconds. Before I went back to sleep myself, I made a mental note to clip Ammo’s nails.


Filed under Books

Sneak Peek: Trapped to Death

In honor of the first day of the semester at my own college, here is the first unedited page-ish of Trapped to Death. Unfortunately, there is a Thanksgiving scene at the end of the book, and therefore I can’t publish until Thanksgiving – and the election – have come and gone.

This takes place on Jamie’s first day of the fall quarter at UCLA. Since they’re on the quarter system, they start far later than we do. (Lucky.)

Trapped to Death

Thursday, September 22, 2016

“When you’re researching the history of science, your results will be more relevant if you don’t use the science databases.” I pointed to the screen. “We have databases for history and biography. For this class, it’s best to use these…”


By Tulane Public Relations (Student in Class Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

As I spoke, my audience gazed back at me, passive as a herd of sheep. In the front row of the classroom, a guy in a Star Trek t-shirt was writing down every word I said. In the back row, a couple of guys were passing their phones back and forth. The rest of the class – nearly forty of them – were either slouched in their seats or propping their heads on their hands. A couple of female students were smiling coyly.

Terrific. I sighed inwardly and plowed on. “The most frequent barrier to success when searching the databases is choosing the wrong keywords.” I tapped the search box at the top of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography landing page. “Don’t use too many words, and don’t type in an entire thesis statement. Use the two or three best words – the key words – that describe your topic. If you’re searching for a person’s name, surround it with quotation marks.”

It was the first day of fall quarter. Yesterday I’d received a panicked call from the instructor, Sam Herzog, an adjunct hired the day before, asking me to do a library presentation for this History of Science class. I’d asked him what his relevant assignments would be; he’d laughed and said, “Dude, I’m still writing the syllabus.”

Dude. I switched the screen to the History of Science research guide. “Everything you need – lists of appropriate databases, websites that we’ve chosen for their reliability and validity, tutorials on using the library website – is here. If you have a question, search here first for the answer. If you need more help, you can email me.” I tapped on the profile box containing my smiling visage and my email address. “My office is in the Young Research Library, and my hours are 8:30 to 5:00 Monday through Friday. If you have any questions once you dive into your research, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.”

Sam Herzog stood up. “Thanks, Dr. Brodie. Students, I hope you paid attention, because at the beginning of class on Tuesday, you’ll have a quiz on the material that Dr. Brodie covered today.”

There were a few audible groans. The guy in the Star Trek t-shirt smirked. The guys in the back sat up straighter and stared at Herzog, their mouths open.

Heh. Served them right, the little assholes. Herzog said, “I’ll see you all Tuesday.”

The class scattered. I logged out of the computer and turned off the projector. Herzog said, “Thanks again. I appreciate this.”

“You’re welcome.” Just doing my job. The suckiest aspect of my job.

He grinned at me. “You’re a history guy, not a science guy, right?”

“Right. Coming to the science building is like visiting Mars for me.”

“Ha! I hear ya.” He shook hands with me. “Thanks. You’re free to return to Earth.”

As I left the classroom a young woman pushed away from the opposite wall. She’d been in Herzog’s class; I recognized her hair – a headful of tiny blond braids that hung down to her waist. She gave me a dazzling smile. “Dr. Brodie?”

I stopped. “Yes?”

“I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your presentation.” She moved within a couple of feet and tipped her head slightly. “I’m glad to know that I can come to you whenever I need assistance.”

Uh huh. “Whenever you need research assistance, I’ll be pleased to help.” I held up my left hand. “But I might be able to save you some time. A, I’m married; B, My husband and I are very happy.”

“Well, dayum.” She grinned and stepped back a couple of feet. “Can’t blame a girl for trying.”

“No, I can’t. What’s your name?”

“Ashley. Ashley Bennett.”

I shook hands with her. “Pleased to meet you, Ashley Bennett. A word of advice?”


“Visit the science library.”

She laughed. “I will. Thanks.”


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Simplified searching for stories


Tag. By Tubezone at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

At the request of one faithful reader, I’ve made it easier to find the short stories on the blog. I created a new category, Short Stories, and tagged each story with its title. Now, if you want to find Best Men, for example, you can search for it by title and it will appear.

I did discover (actually I knew this, and had forgotten) that not all of the stories were published here on the blog. Three of them (Hearts, High Desert and Low Country) only appear within the books – both print and electronic version.

I’ll publish those three on the blog over the next few months, just for consistency’s sake. (Hearts will come first, since it’s the one that generated the request.)

Let me know if this system doesn’t work. And thank you for keeping me on my toes!😀



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Filmed to Death now at Smashwords!

Filmed to Death, Jamie Brodie Mystery #12 (and the latest novel), is now available at Smashwords. In another day or two it should be available at all of the other e-book outlets. Here’s the link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/657734

FYI, from now on I’m going to publish for Kindle and through Smashwords simultaneously. I’m done with Kindle Select – it’s a terrible deal for authors. So now those of you who read through iBooks, Kobo, Nook, etc. won’t have to wait!😀

Filmed cover

Jamie Brodie Mystery #12

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There Goes the Neighborhood, Part 6 (and final!)

I went with Alicia to retrieve her car from the underground garage at her apartment building a few blocks from campus and guided her through downtown Santa Monica to the police station as I texted Pete to let him know what I was doing. We showed the duty officer our IDs. A couple of minutes later, Detective Hooks retrieved us from the lobby.

I introduced Alicia to Hooks, and she took us back to her cubicle. Hooks pulled up chairs for us and handed Alicia a list of names. “Tell me if anyone there sounds familiar.”

Alicia gnawed on her lower lip as she read the list. “No.”

I said, “Some of her friends may have gotten married and changed their names. Would you recognize a picture?”

Alicia brightened. “I might. I’ve always been better with faces than names.”

Hooks turned to her computer and began pulling up driver’s license pictures for the people on the list. Alicia studied them, her chin on her fist, her expression growing more glum with each photo. At the end of the identity parade she shook her head sadly. “I’m sorry. No one looks familiar.”

Hooks tucked the list back into a folder on her desk. “It was a good thought. Worth a try.”

I said, “Did Kenzie admit to telling anyone about the book?”

“She said she couldn’t remember telling anyone.” Hooks frowned. “I didn’t think she was lying.”

I remembered what Liz had said. “Did you ask the Carters who’d been at Rich’s birthday party?”

Hooks gave me an odd look and dug out her notebook from under a stack of files. She flipped through it, frowning. “Apparently not. Damn.”

Although she’d made a mistake, I felt bad for Hooks. When an obvious solution was staring a cop in the face, he or she was less likely to consider other avenues. It was an occupational hazard.

Alicia said, “Kenzie was book smart but not people smart, and she was kind of an airhead. If she said she couldn’t remember, that might be true.”

“Yeah, that was my impression of her too. I’ll call the Carters and ask…” Hooks stopped as her phone beeped – just as my phone buzzed in my pants pocket.

We both checked our phones. Our Google alert had paid off. Hooks read the screen and grinned. “Hot damn.”

For sale: James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans, first edition, first printing, original cover and binding. $20,000. The alert included a URL.

Hooks turned to her desktop computer and typed in the URL. The website was called oldbooksfirst, and it appeared to be professionally done. On closer examination, though, I grew suspicious. “Detective? May I?”

Hooks traded seats with me. I opened a new browser window and did a Google Images search.


By Ch. Maderthoner (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Except for the Cooper book, all of the items listed for sale on the oldbooksfirst website were pictures of old books taken from Google Images.

Hooks raised an eyebrow. “Pretty slick.”

Alicia said, “Not slick enough.”

I said, “A buyer who was either too naive to check or too crooked to care would be drawn in by the low price. As soon as the transaction is completed, the seller shuts down the website and there’s no trace.”

Hooks sent a screenshot to her printer. “There is now.”

Alicia said, “Now what?”

Hooks grinned. “Now I pretend to be a buyer.”

I stood up and got out of Hooks’s way as she slid back into her own seat. She said, “I need to talk to my captain and get this set up. Ms. Kwan, thanks for coming in. Dr. Brodie, I appreciate all your assistance.”

As we left Alicia said, “That alert must be a relief.”

I said, “More than you know. If she nabs the thief in a fake buy, she doesn’t have to tell her supervisors that she forgot to ask an important question.”

“Do the police make mistakes like that very often?”

“They do. In an acute situation, it’s almost impossible for a cop to remember everything he or she should have asked. But I know she’s talked to the Carters a couple of times since then, and I suppose it just didn’t occur to her to ask about the birthday celebration.”

Alicia gave me a sideways look. “Are you going to ask them?”

I grinned. “As soon as you drop me at my house.”


Alicia left me at our front gate. I went inside to tell Pete what I was doing and found him on the sofa, his laptop open. It smelled like we were having roast chicken for dinner.

I set my computer bag on the loveseat. “Can dinner wait five minutes?”

“Sure.” Pete narrowed his eyes, suspicious. “What are you doing?”

“I need to tell the Carters that an alert came through on their book.”

“No kidding?”

“Yeah, while Alicia and I were at the police station. I’ll be right back.”

It was Renee Carter that opened the door this time. She was surprised to see me. “Jamie. Hello.”

“Hi, Mrs. Carter. I hope I’m not interrupting anything, but I wanted to let you know that we got an alert. Someone’s trying to sell a book exactly like yours online.”

Her eyes widened. “Oh, my! Come in.”

I stepped inside as Renee called up the stairs. “Rich? Jamie from next door is here. There’s been an alert on our book.” She gave me a quick smile. “He’s packing.”

“Ah, that’s right, you’re leaving tomorrow.”

Rich thumped down the stairs. “You’ve found our book?”

“Possibly.” I explained the details of the alert. “Detective Hooks is going to pretend to be a buyer.”

Rich scowled. “There’s no indication of who the seller might be yet?”

“No, sir. If you don’t mind me asking – who was here when you opened your birthday gifts?”
Rich and Renee looked at each other. Renee said, “We’d come back from dinner with Kenzie and her boyfriend. We ate cake while Rich opened his gifts.”

I said, “Is Kenzie’s boyfriend local?”

Rich said, “He is now. They met at USC, and he stayed here for grad school. At UCLA, as a matter of fact.”

Renee said, “We’re trying to discourage Kenzie, without being pushy about it. Michael is getting a master’s degree in literature. If they end up together she’ll be supporting him for the rest of her life.”

I said, “Long distance relationships are tough. Maybe it’ll die out on its own.”

Rich grumbled. “That’s our hope.”

“What’s his last name? If he’s at UCLA, maybe I know him.”

Renee said, “Fitzpatrick.”

Michael Fitzpatrick. I said, “No, that’s not familiar.”

Rich said, “Too bad. You could spy on him for us.”

Oh, hell, no. I smiled, trying to look sympathetic. “Sorry. I’d better go, my dinner’s waiting. I just wanted to let you know about the alert.”

Renee reached out to shake my hand, and squeezed it. “Thank you so much for all your help with this.”

Rich shook my hand somewhat more grudgingly. “Yeah, thanks.”

“You’re welcome. Safe travels.”


I texted Detective Hooks with the name and details of Michael Fitzpatrick; she sent back a terse K. Thx. She was probably in the middle of contacting the online seller.

Who just might be Michael Fitzpatrick.

I told Pete about the developments as we ate. He said, “You’re right, that’s a common mistake. A theft takes place during an event like that, the cops are going to assume that it’s linked to the event. I wonder if the boyfriend has a key?”

“Based on what Rich said about him, I doubt it. Although Kenzie might have given him one without her parents’ knowledge.”

After dinner, I got out my laptop and typed the URL for oldbooksfirst into the browser.

The website was already gone. Hooks must have made contact. I was sure that whoever had the book was anxious to get rid of it and pocket the profits.

I wondered, if Michael Fitzpatrick was our thief, if Kenzie Carter had any idea what her boyfriend was up to.

I hoped not.


Friday, September 6

As I closed the gate between our front yard and the sidewalk the following morning, I saw Detective Hooks approaching from the south. She lifted her hand in greeting. “Good morning. I’m coming to speak with the Carters before they leave town.”

I asked, “How did your sting work out?”

She grinned. “Like a dream. It was Michael Fitzpatrick, Kenzie’s boyfriend, and she had given him a key to the house without telling her parents.”

“Did you arrange a meeting with him?”

“Yep. Told him I needed to bring an authenticator with me.” She grinned. “The authenticator was our other property crimes detective. He’s about twice my size. I didn’t want any trouble.”

“I guess Fitzpatrick wasn’t worried about authentication. He knew the book was real.”

“He wasn’t worried about it at first. When my partner asked for documentation of provenance, he produced a badly faked letter from UCLA.”

I laughed. “When did you spring it on him?”

“We showed him the cash. Drug deal seizures do come in handy. He handed over the book, and we slapped the cuffs on him.” Hooks chuckled. “He never saw it coming.”

“Not a candidate for Criminal of the Year?”

“Hardly.” She shook my hand. “I’d better see the Carters. They’ll want to get this wrapped up so they can leave town.”

“Right. I’ve got a bus to catch. It’s been a pleasure, Detective.”

She grinned. “Pleasure was all mine.”


When I got to the library, I told Liz and Alicia about the resolution of the case. Alicia shook her head. “Poor Kenzie. She always had lousy luck with boyfriends. She wasn’t a good judge of character.”

Liz preened a bit. “I’m going to take the credit for solving this one, since I thought of the crucial question to ask.”

I held up my hands. “Go right ahead. I sincerely hope that my burgeoning career as an investigator is over.”

Alicia laughed. “Famous last words. You probably just doomed yourself to another case.”

Liz poked me in the shoulder. “You enjoyed this one.”

“Only because no one ended up dead.”

Alicia raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, I’d think that would be preferable.”

“Come on.” Liz tugged on my arm. “You can buy me a coffee to celebrate our victory over the forces of evil.”

I laughed and followed her.


Filed under Short Stories

There Goes the Neighborhood, Part 5

Wednesday, September 4

By Wednesday evening the Google alert had been activated for well over 24 hours and nothing meaningful had come through. After dinner, Pete and I were lounging on the living room sofa. Pete was idly flipping through channels and I was texting with Jeff about Gabe’s weekend. We weren’t expecting visitors, so we looked at each other in surprise when the doorbell rang.

Pete looked through the peephole and said, “Oh, it’s Helen.” He opened the door as I picked up the remote he’d dropped and muted the TV.

Helen held out a basket full of tomatoes. “I come bearing gifts. Hi, Jamie.”

Pete took the basket. “Wow, those are beauties. Thank you.”

I said, “Come on in, Helen. Can I get you something to drink?”

“No, no. I’ll just stay a minute.” She took the loveseat. “I’m not interrupting, am I?”

Pete had deposited the tomatoes in the kitchen and come back to the sofa. He said, “Not at all. How was the block party?”

“Very nice. I don’t know which caterer they used, but the food was delicious. All of the new neighbors seem like pleasant people. We had a lovely day until the police came.”

I said, “We were amazed to hear that the Carters had even gone to the party.”

“Yes.” Helen rolled her eyes. “Alyssa insisted. I know Rich didn’t want to go, but Renee has a soft spot for Alyssa.”

Pete said, “Rich should have stayed home, given what happened.”

“Oh, yes. And wasn’t he furious when he found out that their door had been left unlocked. The police had to separate him from Renee so they could get a word in edgewise.”

I said, “Renee thought this was a safe neighborhood.”

Helen said, “It is a safe neighborhood, relatively speaking. But for heaven’s sake, this is still Los Angeles. One doesn’t leave one’s doors unlocked.”

A thought struck me. “Did the police make anything of the fact that Alyssa encouraged the Carters to leave the house?”

“Yes, they questioned her extensively. Micah allowed the police to search their house and cars, and Alyssa was able to convince them that they knew nothing about Rich’s book.”

Pete asked, “Did any of the new neighbors know the Carters?”

“Not at all. I saw Detective Hooks this morning on the sidewalk when she came to speak to the Carters. She said that none of the new residents have any connections to the Carters.” Helen nodded at me. “She’s depending on that alert system you set up for her.”

I said, “There’s been zero action so far.”

Pete said, “It’s still possible that the thief sold it to someone in person.”

Helen said, “In that case, Rich may never see his book again.”


Thursday, September 5

When I left the house the next morning, there was an AT&T van parked at the curb. A technician was gathering equipment from within the van, and Renee Carter was standing at her front gate, watching him. I said, “Hi, Renee.”

She blinked at me. “Oh, hello, Jamie. We’re having a home monitoring system installed.”

“Ah, that’s a good idea.”

“Yes, since we’re in town so rarely. Rich wants to be able to keep an eye on the house


By Intel Free Press [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

remotely.” She sighed. “This used to be such a safe neighborhood.”

I didn’t have time to discuss that misconception with her. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Detective Hooks tells us that you set up an online alert in case someone tries to sell our book online.”

“Yes, ma’am. I checked it again a half-hour ago, and there’s been no notification so far.”

“Do you suppose the thief might be waiting? Maybe he or she thinks that the police will lose interest after a few weeks.”

I smiled. “If they believe that, they don’t know cops.” The technician had closed his van and looked like he was ready to start. “Good luck with your installation.”


When I got to work I checked all the other search engines I could think of, with all the search terms I could think of, to see if there was any mention of a book that might be Rich Carter’s. There wasn’t. I sighed and turned to my own work.

When Clinton approached the reference desk, he smiled. “The word of the day is remplissage.”

Liz checked the definition. “Needless padding in literature.”

I snickered. “Like The Last of the Mohicans.”

She grinned as she recorded the word. “Any progress in finding the book yet?”

“No. Although…” I snapped my fingers. “I forgot to ask the detective about something.”

I took my phone out and texted Scilla Hooks. Forgot to ask you. Was anyone else from the neighborhood at the party?


It was after 3:00 and I was back in my office when she answered. Yes. Several residents from the apartment building at the other end of the block, across from the hospital. Same apartment management company.

They all checked out with respect to Carters?


OK, thanks.

I wandered next door to Liz’s office. “Let me think out loud for a minute.”

“About the book theft?”

“Yeah.” I held up one finger. “Whoever stole the book had to know that the Carters owned it, and that Renee had brought it here. They also would have needed a reasonably good idea as to where in the house it was, since the Carters were only out for twenty minutes.”


I held up a second finger. “The thief also had to know that the block party was going on.”

Liz asked, “Was the party advertised beyond your block?”

“No. Everyone at the party was from our block. And Detective Hooks said that there are no connections between any of the party attendees and the Carters.”

“Someone’s lying.”

I looked at Liz in surprise, then nodded as the truth of that sank in. “Yes. Because here’s another thing.” I held up three fingers. “The thief went in the front door. Any experienced burglar would have gone in the back. He or she would never have taken the risk of being seen, no matter how small that risk might be. Rich or Renee could have glanced across the street at any time.”

“How would the burglar know the Carters were going to the party?”

“They wouldn’t, necessarily. If they were already at the party and already knew about the book, they may have seen an opportunity when the Carters showed up. Although that’s leaving a lot to chance.”

Liz said, “How would the burglar know that the front door had been left unlocked?”

I smiled as the realization dawned on me. “They wouldn’t have needed to know that if they had a key.”

Liz looked smug. “And if it was someone who could explain her presence in the house, then anyone who saw her go in would think nothing of it.”


“The daughter.”

“But why would the daughter steal the book? She doesn’t need money. Even if she did, her parents would probably just give it to her. Besides, she wasn’t at the party.”

Liz said, “Then a friend of the daughter’s. Someone who lives in those apartments who lied to the cops about knowing the Carters.”

“But a friend wouldn’t have the key.”

Liz cocked an eyebrow. “Unless the daughter was involved. Or maybe she innocently gave her friend a copy of the key at some other time.”

I mused. “Maybe the friend needed money. The daughter knew the book was insured, so the theft wouldn’t be a financial loss to her parents, and offered to help out.”

“But no one has sold the book online yet.”


Liz said, “Know anyone who went to USC recently?”

A grin spread slowly across my face. “Yes, I do. And so do you.”

Liz grinned back as it hit her. “Alicia.”

Alicia Kwan was a new graduate of UCLA’s MLIS program and was working in our East Asian Library on the other side of the second floor from Liz’s and my offices. She’d gotten her bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies from USC three years ago.

I texted Pete. Any idea what Kenzie Carter’s college degree is in?

He answered immediately; he was likely to be home by now. I only know about her major because I asked her once, soon after I moved in with Uncle Arthur. Asian-American studies.

I laughed out loud. “Bingo.”

Liz said, “Could be coincidence.”

“You should know by now, cops don’t believe in coincidences.”

She grinned and stood up. “Let’s go find Alicia.”


Alicia was at her desk, frowning at her computer monitor. The frown morphed into a smile when she saw us. “Hi, guys. What’s up?”

I said, “A long shot. Do you know anyone from your days at USC named Kenzie Carter?”

“Yeah, I do. I had several classes with her, and we lived in the same dorm.”

Liz applauded. I said, “Did you know any of her friends?”

“Some of them. Why?”

I gave Alicia a quick synopsis of the theft. “I think Kenzie may have told someone about her father’s birthday gift, and that someone may be the thief.”

Liz said, “Oh, this just occurred to me. Maybe the thief knew about the book because she was at the dad’s birthday party.”

I made a mental note to ask Detective Hooks who’d attended the birthday party and said, “Or Kenzie took it herself.”

Alicia wrinkled her nose. “Nah, that doesn’t sound like Kenzie. She wouldn’t pull a prank like that, and she wouldn’t need the money. She might have told someone, though.” She shook her head. “Kenzie was naive. She trusted everyone. She was always getting stuff stolen from her room because she’d leave the door unlocked or she’d leave her laptop unattended in the library while she went to the restroom.”

Maybe Kenzie had inherited that trait from her mother. I said, “Would you be willing to look at a list of names and tell the Santa Monica police if you recognize any of them?”


I called Detective Hooks, who asked Alicia if she could come to the station in an hour. Alicia agreed, as long as I could go with her. Hooks said that was fine.

Good thing, as I’d intended to show up anyway.

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