Set in New Jersey, Audrey Nealon has a successful estate auction business. While prepping the recently deceased Mrs. Saabo’s estate for sale, Audrey’s crew finds the oddest things – Ecstasy hidden in the kitchen and a trunk of jewelry hidden in the attic. Unexpectedly, her mother’s ring was in that trunk, which brings up all sorts of questions for Audrey, since her mother disappeared 30 years ago, supposedly drowned in a freezing lake after a car accident. Audrey’s pursuit of the truth leads her into danger and she starts to wonder just who she can trust.
This book is part cozy mystery (humor, beloved pet), part thriller (stalking, gruesome injury, betrayal), and part murder mystery. For the most part, it all works well together. Audrey is a single child raised by a father that was rather indifferent, if not outright disapproving of her. She managed to obtain a math degree but then decided to go into the estate sale business, gaining yet more disapproval from her math professor father. But she has this dedicated crew of two – Jill with her crew cut hairstyle and piercings, and Tyshon with his prickly dignity and ex-con past. Audrey’s life is cozy and orderly and predictable, that is, until her mom’s unique ring shows up unexpectedly at Mrs. Saabo’s estate.
Just a few days after discovering her mom’s ring, along with the drugs and other jewelry, she’s jumped by a masked assailant that leaves her unconscious and bleeding. The trauma to her head was rather severe and she spends some quality time in the hospital. For the rest of the story, she’s a bit jumpy, especially around strangers or in underground parking lots. While this was realistic, I did get a little tired of her screaming and breaking down so often. I kept hoping she would do something practical, like start carrying pepper spray or a tire iron. This was one of the few things about the story that I didn’t like.
Audrey’s dog, Ethel, was often a source of amusement and cute cuddliness. However, the author often used Ethel as a way to bridge two characters, since Ethel likes everyone who has a treat for her. I really liked this aspect since it was a bigger role for the Ethel than just a beloved pet and comedian. For instance, Audrey’s father really likes Ethel and their mutual love of the dog allows them to have a conversation, even if neither one of them is comfortable with the other.
There’s a little romance in this book. Cal Tremaine, Mrs. Saabo’s nephew handling the estate, is a lawyer who is currently working hard on the campaign for the next hopeful state governor. When Audrey tells him about the trunk of jewelry and the Ecstasy, Cal wants to keep both quiet until after the campaign is over. Audrey is obviously a little smitten with him from the beginning and they have a few impromptu dates. Sex is implied but the curtains always close before we get to anything steamy. The romance never eclipsed the mystery (hooray!) but I did have to endure one lengthy scene where Audrey agonizes over what to wear to a dinner party.
Meanwhile, after Audrey’s attack that left her in the hospital, detective Shawn Kaughlin is focused on Tyshon Griggs because of his past conviction. Shawn is a big stalwart force, but Audrey isn’t sure she can trust him. She defends Tyshon, convinced he would never do something so vicious as the attacker did. Of course, this adds tension to the small team as they continue to work on setting up further estate sales.
At the end, the author gave a little twist that I didn’t see coming and I quite enjoyed being surprised. After the various threads the author had lead me on in the book, I was squinting at each character in suspicion of having done something at some point, but the final telling of who did what and why was quite good. Over all, I enjoyed this book and I expect the series just gets better from here on out.
I received a free copy of this book.
The Narration: Janelle Tedesco did a great job with this book. Her male characters sounded masculine and I really liked how she tossed in regional accents. I was most impressed with her ability to give voice to Audrey’s father, who is recovering from a stroke in the book, so his speech is definitely impeded.