Saturday Excerpt: A Justified Murder by Jude Deveraux

If you’re a suspense fan looking for a new book to add to your TBR list, this excerpt is for you! A Justified Murder by Jude Deveraux is the second book in the Medlar Mystery series, featuring a team of three unlikely heroes as they solve murders in their Florida town. The book hits shelves on February 26, but you won’t want to miss the excerpt below!

About A Justified Murder:

A Justified Murder by Jude DeverauxThe small town of Lachlan, Florida, was rocked last year when two bodies were uncovered in the roots of a fallen tree. Despite their lack of investigative experience, Sara Medlar; her niece, Kate; and Jack Wyatt found themselves at the center of the mystery, working together to reveal the truth behind a decades-old secret in the sleepy town. After a narrow escape, they vowed to never again involve themselves in something so dangerous—until Janet Beeson is murdered.

When Janet’s body is discovered, everyone is shocked by the violence of the attack. The sweet little old woman has been shot, stabbed and poisoned, but no one can imagine who would want to harm one of the town’s kindest, most helpful residents.

Sara, Kate and Jack are determined to leave this case to the professionals. But they are soon bombarded by townspeople eager to tell their stories and clear their names with the trio who solved the Morris murders. Even the sheriff is hoping they’ll lend their skills to a crime that seems to have no explanation and no motive. And once the town gets talking, they begin to see that there are more secrets buried in quiet Lachlan than anyone could have imagined…

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***

DORA FOUND THE BODY—AND ALL SHE FELT WAS annoyance. Now she’d have to find someone else to clean for to fill out the week. Mrs. Beeson—as she insisted on being called even though there was no evidence that she’d ever had a husband—had been a good employer. She always left a hundred-dollar bill, always said thanks. At Christmas, she left an envelope containing three crisp, new one hundreds and a card that wished her a merry holiday.

Now here she was, slumped forward in the chair, face on her knees. There was a hole in the back of her head. Blood and… stuff was on the wall behind her. Dora didn’t see a gun but she guessed it was squashed between her belly and thighs.

Dora knew she ought to call the sheriff. But if she hadn’t cleaned the house yet, would she have a right to take the envelope on the desk that had her name on it?

She could almost hear her late husband, Herbert, chiding her. “Shouldn’t you feel sorry for her?” he’d say. “Poor thing was so sad that she took her own life. Didn’t she have friends who could help her?”

“Not that I know of,” Dora said aloud, then caught herself. She tried to keep Herbert’s voice to herself and not let anyone know how often she heard it.

She went around the body, picked up the envelope, and put it in her pocket. For a moment, she looked out the window at the palm trees and thought of what her beloved Herbert would advise. She knew she needed to work up some sympathy, maybe even some tears, for Mrs. Beeson. It wouldn’t do to call Sheriff Flynn sounding like she couldn’t care less that her employer had just offed herself. With her shoulders braced, Dora made the call.

Deputy Beatrice answered.

“Oh, Bea.” Dora was nearly choking on the memory of Herbert’s funeral. “The most awful thing has happened.”

“Take a breath,” Bea said, “and tell me what it is.”

“Janet Beeson killed herself.”

Bea didn’t hesitate. “We’ll be right there and don’t touch anything. Absolutely nothing.”

“I won’t.” Dora clicked off the phone, and her tears dried immediately. “Damn!” she muttered and put her pay envelope back on the desk. With a resentful glare at Mrs. Beeson’s body, she sat down in the living room to wait for whoever was going to show up.

* 

Sheriff Daryl Flynn was the first to arrive on the scene. After Bea told him what happened, he hadn’t gone tearing away, sirens blaring. It wasn’t a criminal act, but the suicide of a sad old woman. He knew that Janet Beeson lived alone. He didn’t think she’d even had any pets. Maybe the Lachlan website should include that article he’d read about how pets are good for old people and prisoners.

As he drove, taking his time, he realized he hadn’t been this far out on San Remo Avenue in a while and he saw that the local super-Realtor, Tayla Kirkwood, had been at work here. The houses looked as manicured as the ones inside those fancy gated communities down in Plantation. For himself, sometimes he missed the days when Lachlan front yards had old cars on concrete blocks. Pretty as the place was, it lacked a sense of personality. It was as though everyone was just alike.

Janet Beeson’s house was at the edge of the town limits. To his left, down Kirkwood Lane, was Tayla’s ridiculously big, gaudy house.

On the right were lush palm trees. When he neared the ad- dress, there was a tall, solid steel fence that seemed to go on and on. When did that go up? he wondered. A wide metal gate was standing open, but he saw the lockbox nearby. The place looked like the home of some California movie star, not suited for sleepy little Lachlan. Why had no one told him about this? He pulled into the drive that was shaded by overhanging trees, with f lowering shrubs along the sides. He knew professional landscaping when he saw it. All this had taken time and a whole bunch of money.

He parked his Broward County Sheriff’s car to the side, got out, and looked around the place. The house was long and low, with a red tile roof, blue-and-white Spanish tiles under the portal, expensive outdoor furniture, and a quietly splashing fountain with iron birds on it. He thought: wealthy widow. South Florida was full of the dears. Work-exhausted Yankee husbands died and left it all to their widows. The women moved south to Florida’s divine climate and tarted up some house, then…

Then lived in isolation, Sheriff Flynn thought. Sad, unhappy, lonely women.

Dora met him at the front door. She’d lived in Lachlan all her life and he’d gone to school with her. She was a little out of it since her husband died and tended to still talk to him, but she was a good person.

“What was it?” he asked. “Pills?”

Dora didn’t say anything, just turned and led the way to the back of the house.

As he followed, he saw lots of marble—cool in Florida’s warm climate—and things that glittered. Tables with gold- colored legs, shiny wood, heavy curtains that shimmered. His wife made fun of the style. “Might as well put up wallpaper that says ‘I am rich,’” she said.

When the sheriff entered the last room, he was almost smiling. But one look at Janet Beeson’s body and he halted. Holy crap! The woman had blown the back of her head out. On the wall was…

He turned away, not wanting to see what was there. For this, he was going to need backup. He took out his cell to put in a call to the main office, but then the body started to slip to one side.

Without thinking that he was changing the scene, he made a leap forward and caught poor Janet before she hit the floor. When the body fell back against the chair, what he saw so stunned him that he dropped his phone.

“Oh. My. God,” Dora said.

They both stood there, paralyzed.

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