Hi peeps, we have J.L. Merrow stopping by with her new release Blow Down, we have a great excerpt so check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
Death is what happens when you’re making other plans.
The last thing newly engaged plumber Tom Paretski needs is to stumble over another dead body. He’s got enough on his mind already as the reality of his impending marriage sinks in. Not only is his family situation complicated, his heroism at a pub fire made him a local celebrity. Now everyone and their uncle wants a piece of his psychic talents. Hired to find a missing necklace, Tom and his fiance, private investigator Phil Morrison, wind up trying to unmask a killer – and there’s no shortage of suspects, up to and including the local bishop himself. As Tom and Phil try to uncover the truth, they find themselves pulled in all different directions by the conflicting pressures of their families and their own desires. But the murderer they’re up against is a ruthless schemer who won’t hesitate to kill again. If Tom and Phil aren’t careful, their love – and all their plans for the future – could be blown down like a house of straw.
Warning: Contains a bishop of questionable Christian charity, a necklace of questionable taste, and a plumber of questionable nationality who may be running out of time.
These days, when my big sister phones me, I don’t expect anything worse than an invite to lunch and the latest gossip, so I hit accept call that night without even a hint of a suspicion of foreboding.
Just goes to show, this being-psychic lark really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
“’Lo, Sis. What’s up?” I held the phone to my ear with my left hand while I stirred the pasta sauce with my right. Phil was coming round for tea but wasn’t sure when, so I was doing something I could leave on a low heat to keep warm if need be.
“Oh, hello, Tom.” Cherry paused. “Um, how are you?”
I sighed. The only time she ever opens with How are you? is when she’s desperate to ask for a favour but thinks it’d be rude to launch straight in without a bit of chit-chat. “What is it?” I asked, resigned to doing another job for mates’ rates for someone who was no mate of mine.
At least, I hoped it was a job, not anything family-related. Especially seeing as my family had recently got a bit more complicated.
“Amelia Fenchurch-Majors,” Cherry said. “She asked me to ask you to do a job for her. She’s based in St Leonard’s—I know it’s a bit further afield than you’d usually go, but honestly, you’d be doing me a huge favour if you could go over and see her. At your earliest convenience.”
From the sharp tone in Cherry’s voice, I guessed (a) she was hoping I’d focus on earliest rather than convenience, and (b) she’d been getting her ear bent by Mrs. Double-Barrelled Shotgun. “Friend of yours, is she?”
“She’s not a friend. We just happen to know one another.”
“Let me guess—through Greg?”
Greg is my big sister’s unfeasibly reverend fiancé, canon of St Leonard’s cathedral. Mrs. Fenchurch-Majors sounded like the sort of person he had over for sherry all the time. She was probably a drill sergeant in his army of grey-haired old dears who’d outlived their husbands by twenty years or more and now seemed to worship the ground under Greg’s unusually large feet. I could see her now, barking orders at the twinset and pearls brigade to Crochet faster andDon’t put those flowers there, put them THERE.
“Not exactly. The bishop held a garden party over the summer, and we were introduced there. Amelia was very interested to hear about you. Well, of course she heard all about your heroics at the Dyke.”
I winced. Not only was all this well embarrassing—they’d put a picture of me in the paper and everything—but several months down the line, I was still having nightmares about that night. Only in my dreams, I didn’t get there in time. So I wasn’t too chuffed to be reminded about it.
“Oh yeah? So exactly what did you tell her?”
“Nothing.” Cherry sounded hurt. “Although I don’t see why you’re so keen to have everyone forget about it all. It’s hardly something to be ashamed of.”
“I’m not ashamed. Course I’m not. It’s just—well, you know they put that bit in the paper about me having psychic powers, yeah?” I wasn’t sure who’d blabbed—hopefully not one of my mates, but then I hadn’t exactly sworn anyone to secrecy, which was beginning to look a bit short-sighted of me. Course, it wasn’t beyond the bounds some disgruntled copper had made an off-the-cuff remark about me being DI Southgate’s tame psychic.
“So, I’ve had everyone and his bloody dog asking me all kinds of crap ever since, up to and including Will it rain tomorrow? and Can you just fill in this lottery form for me? ta very much.”
“That’s just silly. You can’t do anything like that.” She paused. “Can you?”
“Sis, I live in a two-bed semi in Fleetville. What do you think? But try telling them that. Everyone seems to think psychic means whatever they bloody well want it to mean.”
Look, I’ve just got a bit of a knack for finding things, that’s all. Hidden things, that is, and I have to be fairly close to them to start with, although Phil’s constantly on the lookout for ways of extending my reach. All the better to help him make a killing in his chosen profession and retire early on the profits. I used to think he was onto a loser, but ever since the fire at the Dyke, I’ve been starting to wonder. Something about that night amped the vibes up way beyond anything I’d ever felt before—and no, I’m not talking euphemisms here, ’cos by the time we’d made it home, we were too bloody knackered for anything like that.
Phil, of course, had various theories as to what exactly might have sharpened the old spidey-senses: the danger to yours truly; the way a couple of people I cared about were also at imminent risk of getting toasted; even the heat counteracting moisture in the air (water messes with the vibes, which is handy when you’re trying to locate a leak underground but not so much the rest of the time). Fortunately, Phil’s caseload had been busy enough over the summer to take his mind off too much experimentation with my dubious talents.
Well, that sort of experimentation. We’d managed to find time for a few experiments of a different sort. But yeah. Not your all-purpose psychic. My so-called gift doesn’t hold with multitasking. “It’s like they think it’s some kind of one-size-fits-all thing,” I muttered down the line.
There was a weird sort of breathy sound down the phone. “I suppose that’d be medium, then. The size.”
“I literally can’t believe you just said that,” I told her after a healthy pause to let her know just how much I meant it.
“So what’s the job?” I asked before she could come up with any more comedic gems.
“She didn’t say. I gave her one of your cards and suggested she call you direct, but she seems to have this bee in her bonnet that you’d be more likely to accept the job if it came through me.”
“Right, gimme her number and I’ll give her a bell.”
There was a pause. “They’re ex-directory, and she doesn’t give out her number. You’ll have to go round.”
“You’re kidding, right? Seriously?”
“Look, she’s very persistent,” Sis said, which was an admission of defeat if ever I heard one. “Please just go round? You can come over to Gregory’s for tea afterwards. We’ve got some very nice cakes.” Translation: the cathedral ladies had been baking again. Come to think of it, I wasn’t sure they ever stopped. Maybe they took a short break every now and then for knitting bedsocks and crocheting jam-jar covers, that sort of thing.
“Are you actually living there now?” I asked, because Sis had her own house in Pluck’s End, a village not far from St Leonard’s, but every time she invited me and/or Phil anywhere lately, it’d been to the Old Deanery, currently occupied by the Youngish Canon.
(I nearly said the Middle-Aged Canon, seeing as how Greg had to be in his mid-forties, but since reaching this side of thirty, I’d gained a whole new perspective on the subject. Funny, that.)
“No, of course not,” Cherry said as if the very idea was ridiculous. “That wouldn’t be at all proper.”
“Course not. What was I thinking of? Fine, I’ll go and see this pushy old biddy of yours. Tell her I’ll be round Friday afternoon—I’ve got a couple of hours free then.”
There was another of those breathy sounds.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Cherry said brightly, and reeled off the address.
Just as I finished writing it down, Phil walked in followed by his adoring public, otherwise known as Merlin and Arthur, my two cats. “Emergency call-out?” he asked after I’d hung up.
“Nah, just an extra job for tomorrow,” I told him, expertly dodging the cats so I could give him a welcome snog and a grope of that magnificent arse, which he returned with interest. “Nothing serious,” I muttered into his shoulder.
Like I said, Nostradamus I am not. If anyone was daft enough to hand me a crystal ball, I’d see bugger all. And then drop it on my foot.
Other books in the series
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.
She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy, and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards finalists.
JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.