Bed-and-breakfast hostess Judith McMonigle Flynn isn't exactly bellowing "Bravo!" over the news that obnoxious opera star Mario Pacetti and his entourage are coming to stay at the Hillside Manor. The world-class tenor is a renowned pain-in-the-neck--a bloated buffoon who could easily eat her out of house and home. So when the puffed-up, would-be Pavarotti inadvertently drinks poison and falls down dead on his tosca, accusing eyes turn to Judith and her amateur sleuthing partner, cousin Renie. Now it's curtains unless the cousins can unmask the real culprit--before a killer's final, fatal encore.
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November 01, 1993
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Excerpt from Bantam of the Opera by Mary Daheim
Judith Grover McMonigle Flynn peered up at the clear blue October sky through the charred ruins of her toolshed. Glancing at the cluttered shelf behind her, Judith grimaced at the boot box that contained the ashes of her first husband, Dan McMonigle. Through what was left of the window, she observed her second husband, Joe Flynn, sitting in a lawn chair, presumably thinking about raking leaves.
"Joe," she called, coming out of the toolshed, "I can't stand it any more. We've got to get rid of Dan and put Mother here instead."
Joe turned his round face toward Judith. "But she's still alive," he said, not without a trace of regret. "Shouldn't you wait until
"I mean," interrupted Judith with a shake of her silvered dark curls, "redo the toolshed, expand it, turn it into an apartment for Mother. The situation with her and Aunt Deb living together just isn't working out. I can't stand any more of Mother's bitching and Cousin Renie is driving me nuts with her complaints about their complaints." Judith plopped her statuesque form into the matching lawn chair. "When Mother said she wouldn't live under the same roof with you, she meant it. But I don't think she ever dreamed she'd be the one to live somewhere else. In a way, it's not fain This was her home. If we turned the toolshed into an apartment for her, at least she'd be on her own turf."
"Turf," mused Joe, sipping at the mug of coffee that had been resting on a small wooden table between the two chairs. "How fitting. Your mother with a poleax. Your mother defending the goal line. Your mother spraying me with mustard gas. How did I know it would always come to this?" The round face with the magic green eyes grew vaguely morose.
"Knock it off, Joe," said Judith. "Don't be so damned Irish. At least we got rid of Mike and Kristin," she pointed out, referring to her son and his girlfriend. Both were forestry majors at the state university, a convenient three hundred miles across the mountains. But through an error in job assignments, they had ended up not in Montana as planned, but working at the local city zoo. Naturally, they had settled in at Hillside Manor for the summer, disrupting Judith and Joe's hopes of newlywed privacy. Not, Judith reflected with a wince, that there was ever a great deal of privacy in a home that was also a bed-and-breakfast establishment. Still, after their late-June wedding, Joe and Judith had hoped to have the third-floor family quarters to themselves. Instead, Mike had taken over his old room and, at Joe's somewhat old-fashioned insistence, Kristin had been ensconced in Gertrude's former hideaway. The guests, as usual, used the bedrooms on the second floor, and hardly a night had passed right up through Labor Day without the B&B being full.
Joe was now staring at the toolshed, still looking gloomy. "It'd cost a bundle," he pointed out. "Plumbing, rewiring, kitchen facilities. It'd take months to get permits from the city. In fact, I suspect you'd have to start with a new foundation . . ."
"Joe ..." Judith spoke in a soft, cajoling voice. "You work for the city. You're a big shot homicide detective. Don't you think you could get somebody downtown to wink a bit at our plans?"
"Wink?" Joe gazed at Judith, the gold flecks in the green eyes glittering. 'They'll blink. Hey, Jude-girl, I'm an honest cop, remember? Do you really think I'd try to pull the wool over the building permit guys' eyes?"
Judith's strong features set; her chin jutted. "Of course you would. Besides, I doubt we'd have a problem. I had this whole house redone when I converted it four years ago." She made an over-the-shoulder gesture in the direction of the blue-and-gray Edwardian saltbox that was, along with Mike, her pride and joy. Hillside Manor nestled in the shade of russet-leafed maples and two tall evergreens, high above the heart of the city, overlooking the bay, offering ease in the cul-de-sac of a stately residential neighborhood. "I didn't have that many problems.