Harvard professor Wilson Chaney's position in life is hanging by a thread; his marriage, his reputation, not to mention his tenure at Harvard are in the hands of a blackmailer, someone threatening to sell Chaney's secrets at very high prices. His enviable life could disappear into thin air should the blackmailer's evidence-proof of his affair with a young student-become public knowledge. So he hires Boston private investigator Carlotta Carlyle to track down the blackmailer and put a stop to the scheme. Can she do it? Of course, but should she? The professor doesn't inspire much loyalty-after all, he did commit adultery with one of his own students-but Carlotta agrees. Digging into the case, nosing around Harvard and the possible suspects from the rest of Dr. Chaney's life, she uncovers a suspicious death as part of the backstory to Dr. Chaney's situation. Suddenly Carlotta's sixth sense is telling her the case might be more complicated-and more dangerous-than it first seemed. Fresh from the success of The Big Dig, the masterful Linda Barnes delivers a bold and engaging novel infused with the deft touch and intricate suspense that have become her trademarks.
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March 08, 2004
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Excerpt from Deep Pockets by Linda Barnes
I hate running errands. I put them off and put them off, and then one morning the cat's got no food, there are zero stamps on the roll, and I realize I own no underwear minus holes. I understand some people like to shop for clothes, do it for pure pleasure and entertainment, but I count it as one more damned errand. When the tasks mount up and I can't put it off any longer, I make a list and set forth to Harvard Square. There are less pricey areas, granted, but the Square has its own post office and lies within spitting distance of my house.
I waited in line at the post office till my feet felt like they'd grow roots. I bought panties on sale at the Gap, mourned the passing of Sage's, where they'd always carried tons of my cat's favorite Fancy Feast, bought a few cans of an off-price substitute at the CVS instead. The wind tangled my hair, which helped me recall a shampoo shortage and led to cart-filling thoughts of toothpaste, soap, and lip balm.
I first noticed him as I was waiting, along with thirty-five other assorted students, panhandlers, and shoppers, for the scramble light at the intersection of Brattle and Mass Ave. His gaze lingered a moment too long and I wondered briefly whether I'd met him at a party or exchanged small talk with the man at a bar. He wasn't especially noticeable, a middle-aged light-skinned black man in a well-cut tweed jacket and charcoal slacks. Didn't hold a candle fashionwise to the young guy on his left wearing buckskin fringe. Still, I had the feeling I'd seen him before, and I thought it might have been behind me in line at the post office, or across the room at one of the writing tables, scribbling on the back of an envelope. When the traffic light changed, the herd charged across the street and dispersed, some heading for the subway, some the shops, some disappearing through the gates to Harvard Yard. I stopped at the Out of Town News Stand and gazed at the covers of foreign magazines. So did the black man.
The next time I saw him, he was standing outside the Cambridge Savings Bank while I was considering a bite to eat at Finagle a Bagel. He'd added a tan raincoat and a battered hat to his attire, and if I had to describe what he was doing, I'd have to say he was doing zip, simply loitering, which made him stand out from the crush of hurrying pedestrians. When I edged past, he fell into step thirty paces behind me.
Now, Cambridge is a crowded city, and Harvard Square is its hub. Teenagers cruise the streets, parading their finery, hoping someone will admire their most recent tattoo or pierced body part, but this guy hadn't been a teen in twenty years easy. I crossed Mass Ave again, turned right, then left on Church Street. I hurried past the movie theater and the Globe Corner Bookstore, hung a quick left on Palmer, a glorified alley, slowed down, and kept watch in the plate-glass windows of the Coop, purveyor of all things Harvard. Sure enough, he came hurtling around the corner, hurrying to catch up. I tried to get a better glimpse of his face, but it was obscured under the brim of the hat. I feigned interest in the fine-art posters displayed in the front window, then sauntered on.