Carol Higgins Clark, bestselling author of Fleeced and co-author with Mary Higgins Clark of He Sees You When You're Sleeping, returns in top form in her new Regan Reilly mystery, blending her talent for intriguing locales, eccentric characters, and fast-paced suspense laced with humor.
In Jinxed, smart, saucy sleuth Regan Reilly faces a new challenge -- the case of the missing wedding guest.
Regan, an L.A.-based private detective, returns to her office after a vacation with her beau, Jack "no relation" Reilly. Their tour of the wineries in Napa Valley and Santa Barbara County is cut short when Jack has to fly back to New York City, where he is the head of the Major Case Squad of the NYPD. Their last stop had been at Altered States, a run-down winery owned by three siblings who are all former hippies -- Lilac, Earl, and Leon Weldon. Not knowing how soon it would be put to use, Regan leaves her business card behind.
Within minutes of being back to work, Regan gets an excited call from Lilac. The Weldon family has been invited to the wedding of ninety-three-year-old Lucretia Standish, a former silent-screen star, who made a killing in a dot-com before it went bankrupt. Lucretia had been married to the Weldons' Uncle Haskell and had invested the money she inherited from Haskell in the dot-com. Lucretia's maid, Phyllis, clues Lilac in on the fact that Lucretia plans to give the Weldons $2 million each -- if they all show up at the wedding. The wedding is two days away, and there is only one problem -- Lilac's daughter, Whitney, aka Freshness, a young actress, has taken off on one of her go-with-the-flow weekends. Whitney is out of touch and goes where the wind blows. If it doesn't blow her back into town by Sunday morning, the Weldon family will be out $8 million.
Regan's job is to find Whitney. But unbeknownst to Regan, there's someone else on the hunt. Lucretia's fiancé, the much younger Edward Fields, has hired an accomplice in crime to locate Whitney and keep her away from the wedding. Edward knows Whitney will recognize him as the con man she'd met in acting class in New York. He wants to say "I do" to Lucretia and her millions before Whitney can protest. When Edward finds out that Regan Reilly has been hired to find the missing Whitney, he gives the order to get rid of her as well.
Meanwhile, Lucretia is befriended by a gang of bikers, the story of her upcoming nuptials is featured on national television news, and wildfires are threatening to consume the barn where Whitney is being held captive.
As in her previous novels, Carol Higgins Clark has created a novel that is both exciting and vastly entertaining. As no less a master of suspense than Nelson DeMille has said, "Clark's writing is elegantly clear and concise, her characters are witty and engaging, and her plots and pacing are perfect." And in Jinxed, she is at her very considerable best.
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January 30, 2006
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Excerpt from Jinxed by Carol Higgins Clark
Turn right at the bumpy dirt road," Regan Reilly instructed her beau, Jack "no relation" Reilly. He was at the wheel of her Lexus, and they were heading to the last winery on their tour of the Napa Valley and Santa Barbara County. Regan was reading from a guidebook.
"This bumpy dirt road " Jack asked as he made the turn and the car started to bounce along, stirring up a cloud of dust in its wake.
Regan smiled. "I don't see any others."
"I can just imagine what this place is going to be like," Jack mused. "With a name like 'Altered States' and this out-of-the-way location..."
"They say it's the perfect place to relax, sip a glass of wine, meditate, sleep in the charming bed-and-breakfast... get away from it all, and leave your stress behind."
"Well, they were right when they said we were getting away from it all." Jack reached over and squeezed Regan's hand. "This place is way off the beaten track. And in the last week we've been to some remote spots."
Regan and Jack had met five months ago in New York when Regan's father, Luke, was kidnapped at Christmastime. Jack, the head of the Major Case Squad in Manhattan, had been instrumental in finding Luke.
Luke was returned safely on Christmas Eve. Regan and Jack's romance began that night. Perhaps an odd way for two people to meet, yet Luke claimed full credit and protested that he had not yet been paid his Dolly Levi commission. He and Regan's mother, suspense writer Nora Regan Reilly, were convinced that Jack was Regan's perfect match. Not only was thirty-four-year-old Jack handsome, nice, and smart, with a wry sense of humor, but he also was a go-getter. A graduate of Boston College, he had two master's degrees, and his goal was to become police commissioner of New York. Few who knew him doubted he would make it.
Now they were finishing up their first vacation together, a driving tour that took them north from Los Angeles, up the Pacific Coast Highway, and across to the Napa Valley wine country, then back down through the valleys. Altered States was their last stop before heading back to Los Angeles where thirty-one-ear-old Regan worked as a private investigator.
The trip had been great. They'd walked the beach, stopped in little coastal towns, and discovered restaurants that were full of charm and good food. Even the characters in a couple of roadside dumps they'd stumbled upon provided a lot of laughs.
"You know," Jack said, smiling, "we haven't gotten on each other's nerves even once."
"What a miracle." Regan laughed as she glanced at his profile. God, is he good-looking, she thought. And he makes me so happy. He was 6 feet 2 inches tall, broad-shouldered, with sandy brown hair that tended to curl, strong even features, and hazel eyes. He was the perfect complement to Regan, who had inherited Black Irish looks from the Reilly side of her family. She had raven black hair, light skin, and blue eyes.
"This is the bumpy dirt road to end all bumpy dirt roads." Jack navigated the car down the seemingly endless stretch. It was almost five o'clock. They had been driving for hours and were looking forward to getting out of the car and having a glass of wine on the back deck of the inn that supposedly had a great panoramic view.