Ian Dodge Mysteries Book 1
by Judy Nichols
Velma Saunders, the town clerk of Tobias, North Carolina never had a kind word to say to anyone. In fact, most people were afraid of her, including her boss, Mayor Mike Ellis.
Still, the whole town is shocked when Velma’s body is found in the Municipal Building’s old bomb shelter. The only clue to her murderer is a copy of a cryptic message from a Nigerian email scammer.
All the evidence points to Mayor Mike, who’s charged with killing Velma. Investigator Ian Dodge, a British transplant who’s never quite taken root in the Deep South,sets out to find out who else hated Velma enough to kill her.
In the course of his investigation, Ian discovers the dark secrets Velma has been hiding all these years, and exactly why she was so mean.
Why is it the last time always sticks in your memory?
Like the last time I saw my mum on a long ago visit to England. I can still see her, drinking her tea and raging against the new management at the Black Swan. Now it was ferns and toffee-nosed gits, she said. And the price of a pint was outrageous.
Or the last time I drove my beloved ’69 Camaro before it was stolen. Nicked right outside my New York apartment, it was. The cops never did find it. Not that they looked very hard.
And of course, the last time I saw Velma Saunders.
Velma was the secretary/bookkeeper for Tobias, North Carolina, my adopted hometown. To say Tobias is off the beaten track is being charitable. It’s forty miles away from anything interesting, like the city of Wilmington or the Atlantic Ocean. No one ever comes to Tobias unless they have family here—or they’re lost.
Velma was here because of family. I, on the other hand, count myself among the lost.
As always, Velma was at her post in the mayor’s office, answering the phone and guarding the mayor from salesmen and other petty annoyances, like irate constituents. And that’s how I picture her, sitting at her desk glued to her computer screen, engrossed in an e-mail.
At the time, I thought it was funny, seeing as how she’d fought tooth and nail against the Internet when the town fathers decided to enter the twenty-first century and invest in an Internet connection. Velma said more than once that telephones and the U.S. Postal Service worked just fine, why bother with all this e-rubbish? Only threats of forced retirement persuaded her to log on.
That day she wore her usual ensemble of a baggy brown cardigan] sweater, a beige blouse, and a brown and black plaid skirt. Always reminded me of the school uniforms the girls at my grammar school wore. Nobody ever looked good in those, especially a woman on the high side of sixty.
Trouble and Strife
Ian Dodge Mysteries Book 2
Lorrie Mattingly has it all.
Young and beautiful, married to the richest man in town, she spends her time driving fast cars, riding horses and keeping herself pretty. And yet, she’s down to earth, and sweet, devoted to her handicapped twin sister Linnie. Everyone loves her.
Maybe not everyone.
When she suffers from a severe allergic reaction during a tanning session, private investigator Ian Dodge is called in by the owners of the salon, since they’re getting sued big time. It doesn’t take long for Ian to figure out Lorrie’s attack wasn’t an accident, or negligence but attempted murder. Or to learn that there were plenty of people who wanted this sweet girl dead.
Needles and pins, needles and pins. When a man marries, his trouble begins.
My granddad loved that little ditty, and repeated it often, usually when my Nan was pissed off at the old bastard.
But never loud enough for her to hear it.
He knew what was good for him.
If I had known what was good for me, I wouldn’t have married so young. Or gotten married a second time, when I was old enough to know better.
My friends have told me the third time’s the charm, but I’ll pass on taking more of what Granddad called “the old trouble and strife.” Cockney rhyming slang for wife.
That about sums up my two marriages.
Of course, some people were made for marriage, like my friend Jerry Fowler owner of the Sunspot Auto Body Shop and Tanning Salon in Whitley, North Carolina. Best body man in the Cape Fear region and just a twenty minute drive from my adopted home town of Tobias, North Carolina.
Jerry and Brenda Fowler got together when they were in the eighth grade at Whitley Junior High School. He asked her to go steady at the Spring Dance. Forty years later and his face would still light up when she walked in the room.
Jerry was happy as a clam (although I’ve never understood what clams have to be happy about). He had his wife, his family and his cars to work on. Jerry was one of the few people I ever knew who made a good living doing what he loved. He’d be the first to tell you he had a great life.
Until things changed. In a most dreadful way.
However, on this particular day in January, Jerry was blissfully unaware of how fate was going to screw him over.
Ian Dodge Mysteries Book 3
Crusty British transplant Ian Dodge is back on the beat, this time in the service of Her Majesty, otherwise known as Laura Lane, the Food Queen, star of a popular TV cooking show. A blackmailer has threatened to expose her sordid past as a con artist, so she turns to Ian Dodge to get it sorted.
When her blackmailer is found stabbed to death in his hotel room, Her Majesty is the prime suspect. It’s Ian’s job to untangle the web of deception and pork pies (lies) to find the culprit, all the while dealing with the antics of his twin sons, Jesse and Mac.
My Nan always hated the pork pies.
“You’d best not be telling porkies, Ian Archibald Dodge,” she’d say.
And I knew I was in for it. Whatever story I was giving her wasn’t going to cut it and I would have to tell her the truth.
It was a constant in my life. Don’t tell lies. Ever.
I suppose that’s where I got my own aversion to lies, even though at times I’ve had to tell them. I admit to having misrepresented myself in the line of duty now and again.
But on the whole, I’ve done my best to avoid lying.
It’s always easier in the end. Who has the time and energy to keep track of them all?
Sooner or later someone catches you. And what do you then? You can’t take them all back and start over.
Still, there are people who manage to build successful careers based on lies.
Like my friend Ruth’s boss, who was always referred to as Her Majesty. The woman had a cooking show where she demonstrated her own original recipes, but she paid a slew of accomplished cooks to come up with them.
It was perfectly legal. Her Majesty had an army of lawyers spewing out contracts and binding agreements that covered everyone’s ass and made sure that it was everyone’s interest to maintain the deception.
I’d heard plenty about Her Majesty.
But I was about to experience her firsthand.
Judy Nichols lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, but she is by no means a “Southern writer.” Born in Cincinnati, Ohio and raised in the nearby town of Batavia, she still is a no-nonsense midwesterner. Although she does find true southerners quite charming.
Judy holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Kent State University. She has been a newspaper reporter, a teacher, a temporary office worker, a customer service representative, a stay-at-home mom, a volunteer, and a proud organizer of the now defunct Cape Fear Crime Festival mystery writers’ conference.
Judy started her first novel “Caviar Dreams” while her daughter was napping one day. Five years later it was finished. The biggest challenge arrived once her daughter stopped taking naps and eventually lost interest in watching the “Toy Story” video.
Since then she has gone on to write several more books, including the Ian Dodge Mysteries inspired by her UK born husband Nigel. Ian Dodge is a persnickety private investigator, living in coastal North Carolina, who refuses to be assimilated and instead hangs on to every shred of his Britishness.
Now that her daughter is grown up and gone, she spends lots of quality time with her husband and Bailey the Wonder Dog. Also, reading and writing good books.
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