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Lorene Robbins

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Member Since: Jul, 2006

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The Dead Detective
by Lorene Robbins   

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Publisher:  Swimming Kangaroo Books ISBN-10:  1934041041 Type: 


Copyright:  2006

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Swimming Kangaroo Books

CJ Thomas wishes she had never heard of Budge Dirkwood. It's not the fact that she stumbled over his dead body when she went to meet him for the first time, and it's not the fact that the victim's obnoxious rich cousin seems intent on having her arrested for the murder. It's not even the fact that the victim was a somewhat flaky pawnbroker who dabbled in the I Ching and believed in all the paranormal phenomena that CJ's rational mind automatically rejects. No, the problem is that the ghost of the victim won't leave her alone.

CJ can't explain it, and isn't quite sure she believes it, but the ghost of Budge Dirkwood has popped into her life, and it seems the only way she can get rid of him is to help him solve his murder. With his help, she investigates all the possible suspects ranging from teen-aged gang members to the rich and powerful members of Highland Park society, checking out some wife beaters and Elvis impersonators in between. Will she find the killer and succeed in getting this ghost out of her life? Or will she be stuck with the ghost of a pawnbroker for the rest of her life?


Budge did not recognize the body on the floor. After all, most of its face was missing. To his mild surprise he was not really curious about it. Instead he was more concerned with all the police in his place taking photographs, tromping over his floor, going through his stuff and sprinkling their little black dust all over. He followed first one and then another as they performed their annoying rituals that turned his slightly messy home into a very messy home. Despite his annoyance, he did not feel like saying anything to them. He was satisfied just to glare at them and wonder who was going to clean the place up when they were through.

As he looked over the shoulder of a man who was lightly spreading black dust over his folding table, Budge noticed Leo sitting on the couch. Leo's face was pale and sweaty, and he looked agitated. Beside Leo was a blonde, curly-haired woman Budge had never seen before. She and Leo were talking to a tall guy who looked as though he should be wearing a cowboy hat even though he wasn’t.

"I've never seen anything like this before," Leo said in a slow, halting tone. Well Budge could certainly relate. He'd never seen anything like it either.

But, so far everyone was completely ignoring him, which seemed kind of strange since the body was on his floor. Budge reluctantly decided to leave Leo to his story and wandered over for a closer look at the body. He stood near the corpse and tried to figure out why there was a dead man on his floor, and why he couldn't remember anything about it. The last thing he remembered was hearing a knock on the door and opening it. After that everything was swallowed in blackness.

As Budge stood lost in thought an arm, a blue-sleeved masculine arm, suddenly came out of his chest, tapped the cowboy on the shoulder, and then disappeared again.

Budge gulped and looked down at his chest. Yes, it was quite whole. A flat expanse covered by a Star Trek t-shirt. So where had that arm come from? He looked up, and the cowboy was looking straight at him. Only he wasn't talking to Budge. He was talking to the cop who stood just behind him as if he weren't even there.

Budge walked back over to the corpse and made himself look at it again. It wore the same clothes he wore: Star Trek t-shirt and cheap blue jeans. It looked to be about five foot six inches, his height exactly. Above what had once been a face was a tangle of unruly brown hair that looked like his hair. Near the remains of its head was part of a pair of wire-rimmed glasses. The rest of the glasses must have been embedded into its--his face by the blast. Budge felt his face. For the first time since he was eleven years old, he could see clearly without his glasses.

The minutes slipped by while he stood and stared at the dead body. His own dead body. The word reverberated through his mind and filled it to the exclusion of all other thoughts. Dead. Dead. Dead. Passed on. Deceased. Dearly departed. Gone. Dead.

Even though Budge had read all about psychics, ghosts, poltergeists, astral planes, reincarnation and life after death experiences, and even though he had attended two séances and three channeling sessions, he had not really thought about what it might mean to be dead.

Now he wouldn't have to. He was experiencing it first hand. He didn’t know whether to be upset that he was dead or excited at the incredible opportunity that had just been handed to him. Finally he had a chance to find out for sure the answers to the big question that he had always wondered about, indeed, a question that had troubled philosophers and theologians for millennia. What happens after death?

Well, from everything that had happened to him since he regained awareness, Budge decided he must be a ghost. He wondered what that meant, exactly. He had already figured out that nobody could see him, and given that one of them had put a hand through his chest, he had to assume that they couldn't feel him either. There was only one thing left for him to do. Budge walked up behind the cop who was busy examining the door and, in a shout loud enough to wake the dead, yelled, "Boo!"

His hopes were raised for an instant as the cop turned but then he walked through Budge's body to compare notes with another cop. Budge looked around to see if anyone else had heard him, but no, they were all busy with their appointed tasks.

Budge sighed. No one could see him. No one could hear him. No one could feel him. People walked right through him without seeming to notice anything. No icy cold, no clamminess, no stepping on your grave dread. Nothing. What was the good of being a ghost if no one was even aware he was around?

A full eternity of ghosthood stretched ahead of him, eons and eons of being just an observer, with no hope of anyone ever being aware of him. That dark blackness started closing in on him again, but this time he welcomed it. The void was better than being a ghost if being a ghost meant no one could see, hear or feel him.

Just as he was about to lose himself totally in the inky depths, Budge heard his own voice on the answering machine. That was a very spooky feeling, listening to the sound of his voice after he was dead. Then he heard Deb’s voice. Deb! Budge hadn’t even thought about her. It would just kill her when she found out about him!

Resolutely Budge pushed the blackness away. Just in time, too. The cops were talking about notifying her that he was dead. The last vestige of darkness vanished from his mind. If Deb was about to find out that her only brother was dead, he needed to be there to comfort her. Maybe blood was thicker than death, and she would be able to feel his presence.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Leo and the woman with the Trixie Belden hair headed toward the door. On a whim he followed them. He wasn't sure why. It would have made more sense to stay with the cops, but for some reason, he followed the two outside. They slammed the car doors before he could get inside the car, however. He stood feeling helpless while Leo turned the ignition key. Budge didn't know what to do. He pounded on the window, but his arm just went through it. Of course. He was a ghost. A mere car door shouldn't be able to stop him. So, as Leo shifted into drive, Budge dove through the door, scrambled over Blondie's lap, and settled in the back seat of the car.

It was his first official ghostly act.
"Mouse, Mouse, Mouse." The man shook his head sadly. "I'd like to help you. Really I would. But if I let you off, then I have to start letting everybody off, and I'd never make any profit."

"I know, but-"

Mouse didn't get a chance to finish. The man nodded to the two thugs and they started systematically working the kid over with an eerie expertise. Budge yelled and screamed along with Mouse. He tried placing his body between the boy and his attackers, but it was no use. All he could do was sit and listen to the sickening splat of hard fists hitting the boy's limp body. Budge finally looked out the window so he wouldn't have to watch. It had started raining, a spring flash flood. The drops pelted against the windows of the car as he focused on them, willing the thrumming of the rain to drown out the sound of their blows and Mouse's moans and whimpers.

When they were finished, they opened the car door and threw Mouse into a puddle on the ground before driving away with a squeal of their tires. The rain continued to fall, mixing with the blood on his body and running in rivulets down his skin. Budge sat beside him, unable to lift a finger to help him, unable to even cry real tears.

Professional Reviews

The Dead Detective
What would you do if after stumbling on a gruesome murder, the victim’s voice suddenly started popping into your head? Worse yet, what would you do if you were the only person that could hear this ghost? This begins the lighthearted tale of the girl and the ghost out to solve a mystery.

CJ Thomas is a young and beautiful computer consultant, totally satisfied with her independent and hassle free lifestyle. Late one evening, on her way to solve a friend of a friend’s computer problems they discover the slain body of Budge, a pawnshop owner that everyone seemed to love. Unfortunately for CJ, Budge’s disembodied spirit has not left the crime scene and the ghost chooses CJ as the one person able to hear his voice. Worse yet for CJ, Budge threatens to haunt her until she helps him find the murderer so he can finally pass beyond.

Well, haunt may be a bad choice of words to describe Budge as he turns out to be a harmless lost soul looking for a friend. CJ, at first, is a reluctant heroine. She is constantly annoyed by the invisible spirit who pops in at inconvenient times, like during a shower or romantic interludes with the police detective assigned to the case. The ghost grows on her, however, and together they follow the clues that lead from a local gang, to a disgruntled pawnshop customer and eventually to Budge’s own family.

Robbins deftly mixes a not too complex cast of suspects with witty and often humorous dialog between CJ and Budge. Told in first person from both protagonists point of views, the reader sometimes has to make some mental adjustments. But in the end, the transformation of CJ from unwilling participant to amateur detective works well.

At less than 250 pages, THE DEAD DETECTIVE is a good and fast read without being too cerebral. If you like mysteries and don’t want to get lost in a dozen plot twists, this could be a good way to spend a weekend.

Reviewer: Gregg Haugland, Allbooks Reviews.

Five Clues Up
Just as "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" kept me on the edge of my seat, so does "The Dead Detective" by Lorene
Robbins. A twist and turn suspense mystery that will keep you turning the pages as you try sorting out all
the facts, relations, names, and who-done-what-to-whom. A satisfying romp for a dead pawn broker, Cecil 'Budge'
Dirkwood, a computer consultant, C.J., one very pregnant sister, Debra and Lieutenant Frank Guerman, a
former highschool boyfriend. Five satisfying clues up!
Lillian Cauldwell
Book Reviewer

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