Unscrupulous bankers, abandoned homes, and a cold-blooded killer on the loose: Mags Rogers and her wire-haired dachshund, Baxter, digg up the dirt in the second scintillating novel in New York Times bestselling author Rita Mae Brown's delightful new series featuring some doggedly determined canine sleuths and their intrepid human companions.
Settling into ranch life outside Reno, Nevada, with her gregarious great-aunt Jeep Reed and Jeep's German Shepherd, King, former Wall Street trader Mags doesn't miss the cutthroat world of investment banking--because its destructive tentacles have reached westward to the Silver State. The foreclosure crisis has taken a huge bite out of the local real estate market, where rows of homes sit unsold and forsaken--but not empty.
A group of squatters, including desperate single mothers with children, are living under the radar in the houses on Reno's Yolanda Street--without water or electricity. Big-hearted real estate broker Babs Gallagher enlists Jeep and Mags to start a community outreach program, but that means going up against uncaring utility companies, corrupt officials, ruthless politicians--and a merciless murderer. When a former banker is found brutally slain in one of the abandoned homes, the notion of "cutthroat business practices" takes on a whole new meaning.
Baxter, King, and some other canine detectives leave no bone of contention buried as they help their human charges untangle a string of murders rooted deep in the heart of Red Rock Valley's prominent citizenry. Though Reno deputy--and Mags's unofficial significant other--Pete Meadows uncovers evidence of blackmail, shady real estate ventures, and rumors of lost treasure, the killer seems to hold all the cards in a city of gambling and sin. Luckily, Mags, Jeep, and Babs still have a few tricks up their sleeves. As nefarious sexploits and backroom backstabbing reverberate throughout the county, the dogs are officially off the leash--and on the hunt for a killer. Along the way, they encounter curious coyotes, human kindness and treachery, and a long-buried stash of riches.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
October 04, 2011
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Murder Unleashed by Rita Mae Brown
Waiting for spring in Reno, Nevada, is like playing weather roulette. Just when you think the ball will drop on your lucky number, the winds pick up, the mercury plunges, and the odds turn against you one more time.
Tuesday, March 15, dawned promising, but that promise was soon dashed as low clouds rolled over the Peterson Mountains. Babs Gallagher--late forties, owner and chief broker of Benjamin Realty--drove past the Aces baseball park toward one of Reno's modest working-class neighborhoods. She noticed the darkening skies, flicked on the SUV's radio for a weather report, and instead heard an ad for a used-car dealer.
Like many other real estate agents, Babs had computer files chock-full of old, possibly expired listings. She had printed some out, and decided today to visit a neighborhood especially rife with them. As she was the listing agent, she wanted to see firsthand if there remained any hope of future sales. She could have sent out another agent from Benjamin Realty, but one of the reasons Babs had succeeded over the years was that she did her own homework.
Street after street of abandoned homes signaled the hard economic times assaulting her state. Nevada led the nation in foreclosures and unemployment, although sometimes it shared the dubious distinction of the highest unemployment statistics with other benighted states, such as Michigan.
While not a political partisan, Babs kept up with newsworthy events. Unlike the government in Washington, D.C., the state government of Nevada couldn't print more money. Nevada would need to be resourceful and make unpopular, unpleasant decisions if it was to crawl out of this economic morass.
She pulled over on Spring Street. Keeping her motor running to ward off the cold, she propped her folder onto the steering wheel and flipped it open to the first page: 267 Spring Street. There were a number of expired listings on this one block alone.
Buttoning her coat, and taking her folder of listings, she stepped outside into the chilly air. Walking up the sidewalk to the front door of 267, she noted the real estate office's lockbox was missing. Gingerly, Babs tried the doorknob. The door opened.
Stepping inside, she was surprised. Even with the busted door, the interior remained in good shape. As she went room to room, she noted on her sheet that the appliances were missing. Other than that, nothing was destroyed. She flicked a light switch. Nothing. Tried a faucet. The water had been cut off.
Making a few more notes, she left, walking down the street to another expired listing. She passed empty house after empty house. Some were boarded up. No "For Sale" signs in what was left of these front yards. Other sellers and real estate agents had given up.
As she opened the door to 232--lockbox also missing from the doorknob--Babs heard someone in the kitchen.
"Hello," Babs called out, voice friendly.
A young man, perhaps twenty, stuck his head around the doors then stepped into the living room. "Are you the owner? I haven't taken anything."
"No. I'm the real estate agent."
"Oh." Sandy-haired and slight, the young man wore only a sweater, inadequate against the cold.
"You have no heat?"
"No. There's no heat, electricity, or water. But it's better than sleeping on the street. Are you gonna throw me out?"
"No," she answered, unsure what to do. "How do you keep warm?"
He pointed to a small ceramic chimenea, an outdoor stove that he'd placed in the living-room fireplace. Focusing only on him, she hadn't noticed it before.
"At night I put wood in. Most everyone down here has something like this that they light up once the police patrols pass by. They don't usually come back after nine. So we start fires. It helps."
"Wouldn't it be easier to just put wood in the fireplace?"
"The ceramic holds the heat better." He smiled.
"An oil lantern. Smells a little."
"I see." She looked him in the eye. He looked like a decent enough guy. "How did you come to this?"
He shrugged. "I was working my way through UNR, lost my job and had to drop out. I couldn't get another job and I don't yet have my degree."
"I'm not sure it would help in these times." She held out her hand. "Babs Gallagher. I own Benjamin Realty."
"You're not throwing me out? Are you going to report me? The cops don't like squatters."
"Actually, I'd rather have someone inside the house who isn't destructive than for it to be empty. Here's my card."
"How many people are living in the neighborhood?"
"I don't know. A lot of houses have somebody in them. Some have whole families." He paused. "If you go three blocks east it's full of crack dealers, meth dealers. I hope they don't move into our neighborhood. It's the end when they do."
"Yes." She hesitated. "Your name?"
She headed for the door. "I promise not to tell."
Once back in her SUV--a good vehicle in which to haul clients, especially if they were tall--she sat for a moment. Then she started the motor, turned the vehicle around, and drove to 141 Spring.
Again, the lockbox had been removed. Opening the door, Babs surprised a little girl, who was bundled up and riding a pink tricycle around the living room. The chill in this house was sharper than that in Donald Veigh's.
Smiling, Babs asked, "Where's your mommy?"
"Out? Who are you?"
"I'm Mrs. Gallagher. That's a nice tricycle."
"Uncle Bob bought it for me. I have lots of uncles. Do you?"
"I did." Babs's voice sounded soothing. "Are you here alone?"
"Mommy told me never to answer that."
"I see. Do you have any idea where Mommy is?"
"She's next door. She works there and I have to stay here while she works."
"I see." Babs walked into the kitchen. The child followed, nearly running her over.
The kitchen counter held bottled water neatly lined up, canned food, and a small camp stove. A skillet rested on the one burner.
A cooler was on the floor.
"Honey, when was the last time you ate?"
The little girl shrugged.
Babs then asked, "Are you hungry?"
The child, not fearfully but forcefully, replied, "Mommy told me never to take food from anyone."
"Your mommy told you some important things. I'll go next door and talk to her."
"She'll get mad."
With that warning in her ears, Babs left the little girl to her tricycle and walked across the denuded front lawn to the next house, which wasn't her listing. She noticed a few cars parked farther down the street.
She was going to knock on the door but then she thought better of it. Carefully, she opened the door. It was warmer in this house. Unlike Donald Veigh, whoever lived here wasn't worried about smoke. Perhaps they had made some sort of deal with the police.
Babs listened. The unmistakable sounds of sex filtered down the stairs.
Sighing, she let herself out. Maybe crack dealers hadn't moved in yet but other dysfunctions had.