||Feb 15, 2004
In THE BODIES OUT BACK, Pat Montgomary and Phillis Toner solve their first murder and take their place along with Tommy and Tuppence, Mr. and Mrs. North, and Nick and Nora, but with a twist.
A posh home in Philadelphia's Society Hill. A sunny day. An inviting balcony for sunbathing. What's wrong with this picture? Don't look over the railing toward the patio below. Your neighbor is looking up at you, only she doesn't see you. She's dead. A bullet from the house in back found its target.
The next few days you'll have to cope with a voyeur in that house in back, a jealous boyfriend, another neighbor who's an expert marksman, one who listens over garden walls, and just when you think it's safe to sit on your patio again, another body is found. If the cozy whodunit, with a touch of romance, family intrigue, a snooping and unethical blackmailer, are your cup of tea, then join Pat Montgomary and Phillis Toner as they solve the mystery of The Bodies Out Back
It was almost eleven o’clock that same morning when, having returned home and changed into a bikini with a robe thrown over her shoulders, Phillis left her apartment, went down to the second floor, and walked to the end of the hallway. As she passed Pat’s sitting room doorway, she heard him talking on the telephone. She went through the French doors leading out to the sundeck, arranged a reclining chair, draped her robe over its back, and put her bottle of sunscreen on a small table next to it. She stood at the railing for a moment, took a deep breath of the warm air, then looked down at the garden below.
Pat replaced the telephone receiver when he heard footsteps hurrying along the hall. There was a loud, impatient pounding on his door.
“You better come down to the garden with me,” Phillis said excitedly as soon as he opened the door. “Something down there....”
She stepped aside and he came out of his room and ran down the stairs. She caught up with him as he squatted down in the middle of the garden off the kitchen.
“Who is she?” Phillis asked.
“Mrs. Heisler. She lives next door.” He stood up and went into the house. She heard him use the telephone.
A door opened someplace and footsteps came toward her. A man came through the door connecting this garden with its neighbor. He stopped in his tracks and looked down. “Gertrude!” he shouted and knelt down beside the woman who lay on her back staring up at the sky, her arms above her head. She was wearing navy blue slacks, a light tan golf jacket with a small area of red on its front, and lying next to her on the ground was a white sun hat. Pat came out through the kitchen door.
“Is she...?” Phillis mouthed the question.
Pat nodded. “I’ve called 9-1-1,” he told his neighbor who most likely did not hear him.
It wasn’t long before sirens were heard. Pat hurried to answer the front door and returned with two paramedics. They took over and began examining the body. From the looks on their faces, it was clear there was nothing they could do to help her.
“This your house?” one of them stood up and asked Pat.
Pat told him it was.
“Don’t move the body, don’t touch anything. The police will have to be notified.”
“She’s been shot,” the young man in white explained.
The shock of the news barely had time to sink in when a second set of sirens was heard. Within seconds, the back garden and the alley, which ran along behind it, were filled with police cars. Immediate neighbors as well as the inquisitive from blocks around came to see what all the excitement was about. Phillis noticed one policeman in particular. He noticed her, too, and came toward her.
“Carl,” she said and wondered why she suddenly felt nervous. She had done nothing wrong, but had she herself pulled the trigger that killed Mrs. Heisler, she couldn’t have felt more guilty.
“I knew you should never have moved into this house,” Carl said. He had a shock of blonde hair and light blue eyes showing his Germanic ancestry. “Know anything about her?” he asked and nodded in the direction of the corpse. “Who found her?”
“I did,” Phillis said. There was something accusing in Carl’s tone, she thought. Why should he blame her? And her moving into this house certainly had nothing to do with this woman getting herself killed.
“Who’s he?” Carl asked as he stared at Pat, who was busy answering questions from Carl’s superior.
Phillis was proud of the way she thought fast.
“Mr. Montgomary. He owns this house.”
“And your roommate? Wasn’t she supposed to arrive yesterday?”
“Something held her up,” Phillis lied.
“Well, I’ll have to get in touch with her. What’s her name? Know where I can reach her?”
Phillis stuttered. “Her... her... name?”
“Yes, you know, what people call her.”
Phillis didn’t like the new tone creeping into Carl’s voice. She’d never known him to indulge in sarcasm before. She thought desperately and tried hard to come up with an answer that wouldn’t exactly be a lie, yet one which would satisfy him. She was saved by Carl himself.
“Never mind,” he told her. “I can get that information from the owner.” He headed in Pat’s direction.
Phillis intercepted him. She reached Pat’s side in time to say, “Mr. Montgomary, this is Carl Wilhelm. He wants to know where he can contact your other tenant, my roommate.” She prayed Pat would get the message she was screaming at him with her eyes. Pat hesitated and stared at Carl. Phillis felt her heart stop.
“You mean Miss Knockenspiegel?” Pat asked the policeman. They were a study in contrasts: Pat with his jet black hair, dark brown eyes, and deep tan; Carl with his light blond hair, light blue eyes, and exceptionally fair skin. “She’s still in Tibet,” Pat went on to explain. “Studying in a monastery there. Got a letter from her only yesterday. She won’t be coming back. Afraid I can’t give you her address. Threw the letter away. Sorry.” He turned and addressed the senior police official. “As I was saying, Mrs. Heisler has lived in the house next door for the past twenty or so years, I understand. Mr. Heisler, is he all right? Someone with him?”
“His housekeeper,” Detective Sylvester replied. He was in charge of the scene. He was slightly taller than Pat, and heavier.
“Will there be anything else?” Pat asked.
“Just Miss Toner.” He looked at Phillis. “I understand you’re the one who found the body?”
“I didn’t exactly find it,” Phillis told him. “I went out on the sundeck upstairs--” She pointed overhead to the deck which projected out from the second story of the house, covering approximately half the garden area. “--and stood at the rail for a moment. I happened to look down and I saw... saw someone sprawled out on the bricks down here, looking up at me. When it registered that something was wrong with her, I told Mr. Montgomary and he was the one who came out first and discovered she was dead. That is really all I had to do with finding the body.”
Someone approached and whispered in Detective Sylvester’s ear. They walked away. Before leaving to follow his superior, Carl frowned and stared first at Phillis, who was still wearing nothing more than a bikini, then gave Pat an equally inquisitive glance.
“Thank you,” Phillis whispered to Pat as soon as Carl was out of earshot.
He bowed slightly. “You know, it’s not smart lying to the police anytime, but it’s especially stupid to do it in the middle of a murder investigation.”
“I didn’t lie. Not really.”
They were both talking through clenched teeth and pretending to be interested in what the police were doing.
“I said this was your house and Carl presumed I meant you were nothing more than just that, the owner,” she tried to rationalize. “I wonder now, though, when is it going to occur to him to ask what you were doing here this morning.”
“As soon as it sinks in that you just told Detective Sylvester that when you saw Mrs. Heisler, you ran to tell me.”
“And, Miss Knockenspiegel. Where did you get that name?”
They both giggled nervously. Pat had to turn away. “Here comes Sylvester,” he quickly turned back and warned her.
Detective Sylvester pointed toward the back of the house directly behind Pat’s house. “Who lives there?” he asked.
“No one right now,” Pat answered. “The owners are the Rhynns. They’re currently in South America. He’s with the State Department.”
Detective Sylvester told Carl to get working on it.
Carl tore his gaze away from Phillis and Pat and hurried off.
“What’s that house got to do with Mrs. Heisler’s death?” Pat asked.
“From the trajectory of the bullet and according to the M.E.‘s preliminary examination, it looks as though the bullet that killed your neighbor came from one of the upper floors of that house. Either of you hear a gunshot this morning or see anyone in or around that house lately?”
The Bodies Out Back
Going apartment hunting soon? Willing to move in with a roommate who isn't there? If you are, you'll need nerves of steel. Especially, after reading Bodies Out Back.
This is the situation in which Phillis Toner found herself when she answered an ad placed by a sweet old lady for an apartment in a lovely old house in a wealthy part of town. Though she had misgivings, the apartment and rent were too good to ignore and she desperately need a place to live so she moved in.
Then her roommate came home. Expecting a woman named Pat, the sweet old lady's niece, the Pat with whom she found herself living turned out to be a young man named Patrick Montgomary. And Phillis knew her jealous fiance, Carl, who was a policeman would not understand or accept the situation.
She immediately started making plans to move, in spite of the fact that she came to like Pat, when a body in the back yard put everything on hold. Then the suggestion was made that she might have been the intended victim.
This intriguing tale will keep you reading, wanting to know what is on the next page, wanting to know the why of each subplot and see how they are resolved. There is enough mystery in this imaginative tale to satisfy even the most demanding reader. I hope this is only the first mystery by this talented and creative author. Enjoy.
Anne K. Edwards
eBook Reviews Weekly
The Bodies Out Back
Sometimes ideal apartments aren’t always so ideal. Just ask Phillis Toner. She found out the hard way.
After months of unproductive searching, Phillis thought she’d found the perfect apartment: the entire third floor of a house in Society Hill. Granted, there was something suspicious about the way it just happened to become available, and the landlady’s persistent insistence that she take it made her hesitate. Nevertheless, Phillis couldn’t deny that it was wonderful. It was close to work, the rent was ridiculously low and best of all, her new roommate was in Europe and not due back for months. It seemed just too good to be true. The place was simply to die for!
The trouble was, dying seemed to come with the house. More precisely, it seemed to come with the arrival of Pat, the downstairs tenant and her housemate. Phillis was shocked to learn that Pat was not a she but a he. In addition, he owned the house, not the sweet little lady Phillis had rented it from. It seems Pat’s aunt had taken it upon herself to rent the third floor to Phillis without consulting him. Pat did not want, nor had he advertised for a roommate. Finally, he made it very clear that he wanted Phillis out of the house and the sooner, the better.
Before Phillis could begin the search for a new apartment, her world turned upside down. When she went outside to sunbathe, she discovered one of Pat’s next-door neighbors dead in their back yard. As the investigation into the murder progressed, Phillis learned to her horror that she had been the intended victim. Even more terrifying was the knowledge that someone had been spying on her from the house on the other side of Pat’s. But why? And who?
As Pat and Phillis worked to clear up the murder, another neighbor turns up dead. Was Phillis the target again? Or was the second murder simply a means of throwing the police off the scent of the real killer? Someone obviously wanted Phillis out of the house and would stop at nothing to make sure it happened. But who wanted her out that badly? Pat? Even though he didn’t seem like a killer, Phillis had her doubts. And what about Demey, Pat’s manservant? Demey made no secret of the fact that he wanted Phillis gone. Was Demey spying on her? Then there was Detective Sylvester. Was he a good guy or could he secretly be the killer? And what about Carl, Phillis’s persistent boyfriend? Was it he or someone Phillis didn’t even know?
As Phillis, Pat and the police work to clear her name, they find themselves getting deeply involved in the lives of their neighbors and the friends who knew them. As their investigation develops and intensifies, they find themselves encountering a network of blackmail and deceit from unexpected sources. The terrifying showdown between assassin and victim will have you on the edge of your seat.
Joe Wright has written a delightful, fast-paced mystery that doesn’t bog down and keeps the reader enthralled even after the identity of the murderer is revealed. The story keeps the reader guessing as to who committed the crimes and why. Each page takes the reader on a zigzag journey of finding a killer while also revealing why it was essential that Phillis occupy her particular apartment.
Mr. Wright’s greatest strength is his ability to write refreshing dialogue. The banter between Phillis and Pat is crisp and amusing and will have you chuckling – when you aren’t biting your nails from apprehension! Mr. Wright also deftly strikes an excellent balance between the tension of solving all the mysteries and introducing zany characters that make up Philadelphia society.
This is a first-rate book for anyone who enjoys a satisfying murder mystery. I highly recommend The Bodies Out Back.
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