by Lindsay Deutsch)
Want to get a preview of the buzzy books coming out this spring and summer? Online newsletter Publishers Lunch has released its Buzz Books 2014 Spring/Summer a free e-book with 40 exclusive pre-publication excerpts.
Here, read an excerpt of File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents, a collection of noir mysteries from the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler). Like his other work, the 13 tales are illustrated by Seth:
This is an account of an eventful weekend I had unchaperoned. I was unchaperoned because S. Theodora Markson decided to leave one Thursday morning to visit her sister, who lived in a charming cottage out in the country with a beautiful garden and a darling teacup collection and no little boy underfoot to muck up everything and ruin their fun. That was me. I was going to stay by myself all weekend and not make any trouble and maybe she would bring me a teacup as a reward if I did. "That's all right," I told her. "You don't have to steal your sister's teacups on my behalf." Theodora glared at me and put her suitcase in the back of her roadster, which was parked crookedly in front of the Lost Arms. My chaperone drove around in a green car that was so dilapidated I was afraid it would fall apart every time someone touched it. "I expect you to be good and follow all the rules of our organization." "It's against the rules of our organization for the chaperone to take a vacation and leave her apprentice all alone," I said. "You sound like a person who doesn't want a brand-new teacup." "Most people sound like that," I said, but Theodora just shook her head and put on the leather helmet she always wore when driving, which captured her wild hair about as well as a handkerchief would capture a swarm of eels. She was a curious sight, S. Theodora Markson. She always was, and I was always curious about her. "What does the S stand for?" I asked, over the ragged sound of the engine. "What?" she shouted back. "What does the S stand for in your name?"
"See you Sunday!" she said, and puttered off. I watched her go and then waited a sensible amount of time in case she forgot something and had to come puttering back. She didn't. I went back up to my room, and I'm not ashamed to say I did a little dance. It was the sort of dance you do when you're finally alone in your room. It was a short dance, and I had plenty of time to head on over to the library and read as long as I liked.
That was Thursday.
The next morning I took a walk to the oldest neighborhood in Stain'd-by-the-Sea. I don't know what I was looking for. I was thinking about my biggest case, a mystery which had started long, long before I'd arrived in town. Most of the clues had vanished. I thought perhaps a good place to look was the town's first business district, which was a few blocks of buildings around a small paved courtyard. The buildings had once been very impressive and now looked only as if they had once been very impressive. Weeds had come through the cobblestones of the courtyard, pushing them aside like their turn was over, and little metal chairs where people had once sat and sipped drinks were now scattered and rusty. I found something straightaway, but I'm sorry to report it was Harvey and Mimi Mitchum, Stain'd-by-the-Sea's only police officers and the sort of married couple who argued from the moment they woke up in the morning to the moment they fell asleep in the middle of some cranky sentence. They weren't very good police officers, but to be fair, it was probably because they didn't have enough time to do a good job. They were too busy arguing. This particular Mitchum argument was taking place in front of a shop window which had been shattered, leaving jagged fragments of glass everywhere on the sidewalk. According to the sign, the store was called Boards, and sure enough, the man waiting for the officers to stop arguing was holding a thick plank. "And I'm telling you, Mimi," Harvey Mitchum was saying when I approached, "that he only thought he heard the heart beating in his room. It wasn't actually beating." "You're wrong about that," Mimi said. "I read the story better than you did." "You can't read something better, Mimi. That's absurd." "Then why did you think the store was called Broads when we first got here?" "I just glanced at the sign." "It's because you were thinking about broads, that's why." "Excuse me," I said, and everyone turned to look at me, although only the man holding the board wasn't glaring. "Move along, Snicket," Harvey said sternly. "This is police business. The Big Bad Brick Gang has struck again." "Who are the Big Bad Brick Gang?" I asked. "Not that it's any of your business," Mimi said, "but the Big Bad Brick Gang is an anonymous group of vandals and other malcontents who strike in secret in the middle of the night, with clever strategy and bricks. We cannot know when they will strike next and no one will ever catch them, but the whole world knows the menace of the Big Bad Brick Gang." "I've never heard of them," I said. The Mitchums looked at each other as if they were a little embarrassed. "Confidentially," Harvey Mitchum said, using a word which here means "please don't tell anyone," "we hadn't heard of them until this morning." "My son has mentioned them before," said the man with the board. "When we heard the crash in the middle of the night, he guessed it was the Big Bad Brick Gang who was responsible." He called into the shop through the shattered window. "Kevin!" A boy about my age stepped forward, holding a board in each hand. "Tell the police," the man said. "Tell them what you've heard about this Big Bad Brick Gang." "Not much," Kevin said. "Just that they're an anonymous group of vandals and other malcontents. Vandals are people who destroy property, and malcontents are people who are angry enough to do such things." "My son has been telling me that we should get a weapon to keep the store safe from this gang," the man said, using the plank to gesture down the street. "He's always going on about fencing and swashbuckling and all the other nonsense he gets from pirate books. I've told him it's foolishness." "It is foolishness," Mimi said. "Weapons would be of no help. We cannot know where they will strike next." "Did they steal anything, or just break the window?" I asked. "They stole a board," the shopkeeper said. "It's our bestselling model, and it looks like this. In fact, this might be it. It's hard to tell. But there was a board in the window we had on sale, and I think they took it after they threw the brick." "I'm glad that's all they took," I said. "Don't be glad," Harvey snapped. "The police force of Stain'd-by-the-?Sea will do all we can for Boards. It's an Old family business." "I'm Bob Old," the shopkeeper explained. "My family has run this business for years. I'm grateful that you came, Officers, but I'm not sure what the police can do." "That's true," Harvey said. No one will ever catch them."
*Blogger's note: I have been hearing about this book forever and am a big fan of this author. His was one of the series of books I was able to read during the period where I was not reading. It was simple enough for me and I remember it well for some reason. I was so sad when it came to an end. I am glad to see he is back and I think he had a Christmas book out. In fact I ordered it and just realized I never got it! Well you all know me...I will be checking into that and I am trying to hold on to my Barnes & Noble gift cards but with this kind of sure to be favorite coming out, who would blame me if I did not take hubby's advice and wait until summer?