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Appraisal for Murder
by Elaine Orr

Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series Book 1

If your name translates to "pretty nice" in French, you've probably gotten used to teasing. It doesn't prepare you to find out that your soon-to-be-ex-husband has a gambling problem, raided your assets, and embezzled from his bank. Jolie Gentil moves to Great Aunt Madge’s bed and breakfast at the Jersey shore, taking her cat Jazz, and joining Madge's pair of prune-eating dogs. Jolie does not view this as a retreat, just a smart change. She had no idea her life was about to get even more complicated.

Jolie settles into the rhythm of late fall in a beach town and finds a work as a real estate appraiser with Aunt Madge’s friend Harry Steele. But a low-life named Joe Pedone demands that Jolie repay some of her husband’s gambling debts and she runs into Michael Riordan, her high school crush -- she's not sure which one is more trouble. Michael's good-looking but arrogant, and when she appraises his mother's house and finds Mrs. Riordan dead in bed she's not sure what to think.

At the Riordan home after the funeral, Jolie becomes begins to think that Aunt Madge is right -- Michael couldn't have murdered his mother. The police disagree. His mother's death leaves him as owner of the house, adding greatly to the wealth of the estate he is to inherit. After the funeral they arrest Michael.

Soon, the mundane work of appraising real estate and dodging suggestions that she go to the 10-year high school reunion become mixed with calls from reporters, scary suggestions from Pedone, and requests that she help the local busybody with First Presbyterian's social services work. Jolie also runs into Scoobie, the high school friend she hung out with most. With his blue jeans and longer hair, he’s the antithesis of oil company executive Michael, and much easier to be with. His haunting poetry reflects how different his life has been since Jolie knew him.

Scoobie cuts Michael no slack. Still, with Aunt Madge upset that her late best friend's son stands accused of murder, Jolie looks for indications he's not guilty. Michael, out on bond, insists that Jolie leave his defense to his lawyer. If only she could.

Jolie takes Aunt Madge’s dogs for a run on the boardwalk and runs into Pedone, who has Jolie’s roughed-up ex-husband, Robby, in tow. Pedone wants his money, but the exuberant dogs call attention to Pedone’s threats, so the thug leaves Robby with Jolie and Scoobie. He warns he'll be back. Jolie balances her fear of Pedone, conviction that Michael is innocent, and sometimes uneasy friendship with Scoobie. Her growing list of other possible murder suspects includes Michael's soon-to-be-ex wife and a couple other beneficiaries of Mrs. Riordan's will. Those suspicions don't include Scoobie, but he makes it to the police department's list. Jolie plots other ways to prove both friends innocent. But will Pedone's plans leave Jolie alive to find the truth?
 

Any Port in a Storm

Ocean Alley Adventures

Rekindling Motives

When the Carny Comes to Town

Trouble on the Doorstep

Behind the Walls

Vague Images
 
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