The Chocolate Clown Corpse: A Chocoholic Mystery

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9780451466181: The Chocolate Clown Corpse: A Chocoholic Mystery

Warner Pier’s most hated clown meets a bitter end in the latest from the national bestselling author of The Chocolate Falcon Fraud...

It’s been a month since a complete stranger was accused of murdering Moe Davidson, the miserable shop owner of Clowning Around. Everybody’s moving on, including Lee Woodyard. Her chocolate shop, TenHuis Chocolade, is next door to Moe’s shuttered tourist trap, and it’s giving her ideas to expand.

But when Lee tours the building, she finds Moe’s widow, Emma, unconscious. Now Lee wonders whether Moe’s real killer is still at large and is taking care of unfinished business. Unfortunately, since the town is celebrating Clown Week, there are so many potential suspects in grease paint and floppy shoes it’s not even funny.

For Lee, protecting Emma, freeing an innocent man, and rolling out hundreds of her clown-themed chocolates is a pretty tall order. But so is staying alive long enough to find out which one of her neighbors is a killer in disguise.

With Tasty Chocolate Trivia!

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About the Author:

JoAnna Carl is the pseudonym for a multipublished mystery writer. She is the author of the national bestselling Chocoholic mysteries, which include The Chocolate Book Bandit and The Chocolate Moose Motive. She spent more than twenty-five years in the newspaper business as a reporter, feature writer, editor, and columnist. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and also studied in the OU Professional Writing Program. She lives in Oklahoma but summers in Michigan. 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ALSO BY JOANNA CARL

OBSIDIAN

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Chapter 1

I don’t usually answer the telephone at the Warner Pier police station.

Warner Pier is a small town, true, and my aunt is married to the police chief, true, and somehow I wind up at the station now and then. But the PD has staff—the chief, four patrolmen, and a clerical assistant. The 9-1-1 calls go to a county system twenty-four hours a day, and after the office closes at five o’clock, ordinary business calls are caught by an answering machine after two rings.

They don’t need a volunteer to answer the phone in Warner Pier, Lake Michigan’s most picturesque resort.

But that day I was sitting around the station at five fifteen, the only person there, waiting for my aunt and uncle and my husband so we could all go out to dinner. I had plopped into a chair next to the empty desk usually occupied by the secretary. When the phone rang my mind was in three other places, and after just one ring I automatically picked it up.

“TenHuis Chocolade,” I said.

I’d not only answered a phone I shouldn’t have, I’d answered it the way I do for my job.

The caller, a woman, gasped. “Oh! I was calling the Warner Pier Police Department.”

“And you reached it. I’m not the regular person who answers the phone, so I said the wrong thing. But I’ll try to help you.”

“Oh. Well . . .” The caller had an odd, whispery voice. “I wanted to ask about a crime that happened about a month ago.”

“I can refer your question to the right person.”

“It was a violent death.”

Hmmm. Warner Pier doesn’t have all that many killings. Or did she mean an accident? “Yes?”

“The murder of Morris Davidson. The clown. A month ago. Do you remember it?”

“Oh yes. It caused quite a stir around town.” I looked at the caller ID on the secretary’s phone. The little screen held a number with an area code I didn’t recognize. “Where are you calling from? I’m surprised the Davidson killing got any attention outside of Warner County, since it was not too unusual.”

She didn’t answer my question. “Not unusual? Why do you say that?”

“It was the proverbial break-in with the burglar reacting violently when surprised by the homeowner.”

The caller gasped. “Is that what people think happened?”

“After the confession, there wasn’t much else to think.”

“Confession? Confession! You mean someone confessed to the murder?”

“Yes. He’s now in jail.”

“Oh.” I could barely hear her. The woman’s voice was more than surprised. It was amazed. Maybe beyond amazed.

“Who is this?” I asked.

She spoke but again didn’t answer my question. “In jail! But that’s awful!”

“It’s pretty standard procedure,” I said. “If you confess to killing someone, you are sent to jail. Can you give me your name?”

The only answer was a click as the woman hung up.

I stared at the silent receiver. “Weird,” I said.

There was a knock at the door, and I looked up to see my husband, Joe, through its window. I let him in and immediately told him about the phone call.

“Isn’t that strange?” I asked.

Joe shrugged. “You say there was no name on the caller ID?”

“Right. There was a number, but no name. Is that suspicious?”

“Not necessarily.” Joe is a lawyer who has some experience as a defense attorney. Plus, he served as city attorney of our little town for a couple of years, and his office was in the same building with the police station. So he’s drunk a lot of coffee with cops.

“The call was probably made from a pay phone,” he said. “There are still a few around.”

“But the woman sounded so amazed to learn a burglar had confessed to killing Moe Davidson.”

“We were all astonished, as I recall.”

“I admit I was.”

Joe grinned. “Lee, when the guy everybody loves to hate is murdered, every single person in town is a suspect. So finding out that Moe was taken out by someone who didn’t even know him—well, Agatha Christie wouldn’t have approved.” He sat down in one of the visitors’ chairs and picked up a magazine. “So I tend to agree with your caller.”

“What do you mean?”

“Just that the whole situation was astonishing. Not satisfying.” Joe looked into space for a moment before he spoke again. “Frankly, I don’t think the guy—Hollis? Is that his name? I don’t think he has good representation. If I were his attorney, that confession would never have been made, much less accepted as true.”

He gave a short laugh. “Although he’d probably still be right where he is now. In jail. And he may yet be sent for a decent mental examination.”

My uncle and aunt Hogan and Nettie Jones arrived then, and the four of us went out to dinner. I told Hogan about the odd phone call, but he simply shrugged.

“Some curious person. But Davidson’s death was surprising all around. His whole life was surprising.”

“Surprising how?”

“First off, how could such an annoying guy be so funny?”

When the caller had called Moe Davidson a clown, she hadn’t been slamming his intelligence or personality. Moe had literally been a clown. He’d dressed up in a comic hobo outfit and marched in parades under the name Hobo Moe. He had done pantomime jokes. He’d pulled quarters out of kids’ ears. He’d walked an invisible dog. He’d bragged that his makeup—including the row of painted teardrops near his left eye—was registered with a national listing of clowns and could not legally be copied by any other clown.

Moe had even run a clown business, Clowning Around, which happened to be located in the shop next door to TenHuis Chocolade, where I’m business manager.

Moe’s store offered clown paraphernalia and collectibles—dolls, games, costumes, DVDs, figurines, notepaper, and a million other items. He provided a clown act for parties. Anything to do with clowns was available at his store.

But Moe was equally well-known in Warner Pier for his nonclown activities. When he wasn’t being funny, Moe was one of the most annoying cranks in town. At one time or another—when he wasn’t wearing his clown outfit—all of us could cheerfully have killed him, or at least yelled at him.

As far as I know, Moe Davidson never hit, stabbed, shot, drowned, or otherwise physically attacked anyone. But, by golly, he hurt a lot of people.

Moe’s weapon was his tongue. He could figure out where anyone’s sensitive spot was, and he knew just what to say to make that sensitive spot hurt. He whacked my ego with a verbal crowbar every time he walked into TenHuis Chocolade, and he seemed to walk in there a lot more than I wanted him to.

I have this problem talking. I mix up my words. The highfalutin name for it is “malapropism,” named after a Mrs. Malaprop in an eighteenth-century play by Sheridan. She made Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations for describing a fellow character as “headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.”

I once remarked that an unusually kind person had “lots of apathy.” Personally, I don’t find Mrs. Malaprop very funny. To me the condition is embarrassing, not humorous.

I control this most of the time; it comes out mainly when I’m nervous. And I never once spoke to Moe Davidson without feeling nervous. He laughed whenever he saw me. That made me nervous, and I misspoke.

Once he came into TenHuis Chocolade for a pound of truffles, and I recommended the “Asexual Spice—I mean, Asian Spice!” Another time, he approached me with a formal document he wanted to present to the Warner Pier City Council, and I said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I make it a rule not to sign petit fours—I mean, petitions!”

Moe would laugh at me and tell everybody in town what I’d said. He became the only person in Warner Pier I actively tried to avoid. And I couldn’t avoid him, since he worked next door. When he wasn’t too busy with civic affairs to open the store.

When Joe was serving as city attorney, he couldn’t avoid him either. Moe Davidson was that annoying citizen who got up at every civic meeting and opposed something. He also frequently telephoned Joe to gripe, and he wrote letters to the local newspaper. He even gave money to the causes he supported.

At a public meeting, the most maddening thing about Moe was that he always started out by saying, “My family has been in business in Warner Pier since my great-great-grandfather came here in 1845.”

Joe said he always had an awful time not breaking in to comment, “So has my family, Moe, and none of us was ever very successful either.”

Because despite the Davidson family’s long history in southwest Michigan, no one in the clan ever became very prominent. They were farmers who didn’t own much land, operators of barbershops and dry cleaning establishments, managers and clerks for small retail businesses. None of them was in “the professions”—law, medicine, theology, engineering, and such. Joe could never understand why Moe thought an ordinary middle- and working-class background—even one covering one hundred seventy-five years—qualified him as an authority on civic affairs. A civics class would have been more impressive, and Moe didn’t even have that in his background.

Both Joe and I also found Moe lacking in common sense. His positions on the city’s doings seemed to come out of left field, or sometimes right field. One time he’d be strongly pro-environment. When the next issue came up, he’d take the position that government was putting environmental issues in front of individual rights. No one could ever predict if he was going to be pro or con on any particular issue until they saw his name on the list of donors.

But despite his fanatic and sometimes fantastic views on how to run the city, Moe never ran for office; he lived outside the city limits. He remained simply an interested local businessman and public-spirited citizen who always got up and spoke his piece. By doing this, he managed to infuriate everybody at one time or another.

Moe might have been run out of town if it weren’t for his clown act. At every community parade, carnival, or celebration, he painted on a smile and a row of tears, put on his Hobo Moe costume, and made all the children—and most of the adults—laugh. As long as he kept his mouth shut he was hilarious.

Moe Davidson was a strange combination of qualities, so maybe it was poetic justice that he died strangely and that his death led to a strange phone call.

I probably would have forgotten the whole thing—call, killing, and clown—if three things hadn’t happened.

First, Aunt Nettie and Hogan took their dream trip to the South Sea Islands.

Second, a For Sale sign went up next door.

Third, Joe was dragged into the case.

Or maybe he jumped in willingly.

Chapter 2

In midwinter in Michigan, we all dream of the South Seas.

Snow usually starts here in November. In December it’s fun—skiing, snowmobiling, skating, and Christmas. January . . . Well, by then the winter routine has set in, and we can live with it. February is a good time to catch up with your reading and to watch a bunch of DVDs; plus, I’m usually busy then because Warner Pier holds its annual winter tourism promotion that month, and I serve on the tourism committee. But when March starts, and the snow and cold seem to have no end, that’s when most of us are ready for the funny farm—as long as that farm is located someplace warm.

Joe and I usually take a vacation in December or January. I need to check in with my parents in Texas, and from there we go on down to the Gulf of Mexico or over to Phoenix or someplace else that is warm and sunny for a couple of weeks. Then we can face February or March, when Aunt Nettie and Hogan try to get away. It’s best for TenHuis Chocolade if Aunt Nettie and I don’t leave town at the same time.

This winter Aunt Nettie and Hogan had decided to splurge on Samoa and Tahiti—and they were going in late February. They were even booked for a week on a sailing ship, completely out of touch with civilization. No phones. Limited e-mail. Hogan found a retired sheriff’s deputy to stand in as police chief, and they began to pack lightweight clothes in flowery patterns.

As usual, TenHuis Chocolade and I were both up to our ears in the annual winter promotion of the Chamber of Commerce tourism committee. This year the theme was Clown Week, so our shop was full of foil-wrapped molded clowns and molded clown hats in one-inch, two-inch, and four-inch sizes.

Not only was I heavily involved, but my best friend Lindy and her whole family had also been sucked in. Lindy and I have been friends for half our lives, and we’re an example of how small-town lives can become entangled.

Lindy and I worked together at TenHuis Chocolade when we were both sixteen. At eighteen she married Tony Herrera, who just happened to have a close friend named Joe Woodyard. Twelve years later I married Joe Woodyard. (It gets even more complicated.)

Lindy and Tony have three kids. Tony’s dad, Mike Herrera, is a successful restaurant owner, and Lindy is catering manager for her father-in-law. Mike was elected mayor of Warner Pier, and in the middle of his third term he married my mother-in-law, Mercy Woodyard.

Anybody who can understand all this without drawing a diagram is a genius. And it largely came about because Joe and Tony both went out for high school wrestling.

So I wondered what was going to happen when Lindy told me her son, Tony Junior, now in ninth grade, had signed up for the wrestling team at Warner Pier High School.

“I’m almost surprised,” I said. “His dad will be a hard act to follow, after competing on the team that won State . . .”

“Oh sure. Haven’t you and I heard about that glorious event a million times?”

“At least half a million, anyway.” I laughed. “Is Tony Senior excited about Tony Junior—”

“Puh-leeze! There is no more ‘Tony Junior.’”

“What’s happened to him?”

“Now that he’s a high school athlete, he’s known as T.J.”

“Hmmm. It’s a good enough nickname, but how is Tony Senior taking it?”

“About like you’d expect. He doesn’t say much, but he doesn’t know whether he should be angry or hurt. Anyway, he accidentally pushed Ton—I mean T.J.—toward wrestling because they’re having a long-term hassle.”

“What about?”

“Wrestling! Professional wrestling.”

“I’m under the impression that all amateur wrestlers hate the pros.”

“You’re pretty close to right. Tony—Tony Senior—froths at the mouth when he catches T.J. watching those shows. Uses words like ‘stupid’ and ‘phony.’ It’s caused some homemade matches I haven’t enjoyed. The kind that include yelling and pouting.”

“Doesn’t Tony see that if he’d drop it, T.J. would probably lose interest?”

“Heavens! I wish one of them would lose interest. They’re driving me nuts. That’s why I talked both of them into working on Clown Week. But not together.”

“What are they going to do?”

“Tony has agreed to supervise the skating rink.”

“Oh good! Joe says he was always the best skater in their gang, growing up. And he’s big enough to keep any rambunctious skaters in line.”

Lindy nodded. “And T.J. is going to work on the sledding hill.”

“Learning to handle the public, huh? His grandfather will have him working as a waiter PDQ.”

“Oh, Marcia’s already going to work at the Sidewalk Café during Clown Week.”

Marcia was Lindy’s older daughter, now sixteen.

I laughed. “Send her around if she wants some hints on how to get good tips. Waiting tables saved my bacon several times bef...

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ISBN 10: 0451466187 ISBN 13: 9780451466181
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Descrizione libro New American Library, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Warner Pier s most hated clown meets a bitter end in the latest from the national bestselling author of The Chocolate Falcon Fraud. It s been a month since a complete stranger was accused of murdering Moe Davidson, the miserable shop owner of Clowning Around. Everybody s moving on, including Lee Woodyard. Her chocolate shop, TenHuis Chocolade, is next door to Moe s shuttered tourist trap, and it s giving her ideas to expand. But when Lee tours the building, she finds Moe s widow, Emma, unconscious. Now Lee wonders whether Moe s real killer is still at large and is taking care of unfinished business. Unfortunately, since the town is celebrating Clown Week, there are so many potential suspects in grease paint and floppy shoes it s not even funny. For Lee, protecting Emma, freeing an innocent man, and rolling out hundreds of her clown-themed chocolates is a pretty tall order. But so is staying alive long enough to find out which one of her neighbors is a killer in disguise. With Tasty Chocolate Trivia!. Codice libro della libreria BTE9780451466181

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Descrizione libro New American Library, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Warner Pier s most hated clown meets a bitter end in the latest from the national bestselling author of The Chocolate Falcon Fraud. It s been a month since a complete stranger was accused of murdering Moe Davidson, the miserable shop owner of Clowning Around. Everybody s moving on, including Lee Woodyard. Her chocolate shop, TenHuis Chocolade, is next door to Moe s shuttered tourist trap, and it s giving her ideas to expand. But when Lee tours the building, she finds Moe s widow, Emma, unconscious. Now Lee wonders whether Moe s real killer is still at large and is taking care of unfinished business. Unfortunately, since the town is celebrating Clown Week, there are so many potential suspects in grease paint and floppy shoes it s not even funny. For Lee, protecting Emma, freeing an innocent man, and rolling out hundreds of her clown-themed chocolates is a pretty tall order. But so is staying alive long enough to find out which one of her neighbors is a killer in disguise. With Tasty Chocolate Trivia!. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780451466181

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Descrizione libro New American Library, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Warner Pier s most hated clown meets a bitter end in the latest from the national bestselling author of The Chocolate Falcon Fraud. It s been a month since a complete stranger was accused of murdering Moe Davidson, the miserable shop owner of Clowning Around. Everybody s moving on, including Lee Woodyard. Her chocolate shop, TenHuis Chocolade, is next door to Moe s shuttered tourist trap, and it s giving her ideas to expand. But when Lee tours the building, she finds Moe s widow, Emma, unconscious. Now Lee wonders whether Moe s real killer is still at large and is taking care of unfinished business. Unfortunately, since the town is celebrating Clown Week, there are so many potential suspects in grease paint and floppy shoes it s not even funny. For Lee, protecting Emma, freeing an innocent man, and rolling out hundreds of her clown-themed chocolates is a pretty tall order. But so is staying alive long enough to find out which one of her neighbors is a killer in disguise. With Tasty Chocolate Trivia!. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780451466181

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