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The Balloon Man

by Charlotte Macleod

Long-lost relatives and priceless jewels turn a wedding upside downFor all the Kellings' quirks, no other family in Boston is more adept at throwing a wedding. So when Max Bittersohn's wife, Sarah Kelling, offers to organize his nephew's nuptials, Max is smart enough to stay out of her way. But when the art-fraud investigator stumbles onto a family mystery, he is drawn into something far more serious than the question of who will catch the bouquet. Stolen years earlier, the priceless Kelling jewels were last seen in Amsterdam, so how did they end up among the wedding gifts? Max is trying to answer that question when a talkative burglar wallops him with a shovel in a failed attempt to rip off the rubies. Then, as the reception winds down, a hot-air balloon lands on the wedding tent, spilling out the Zickerys, a branch of the Kelling clan who prove even odder than the original strain. Family weddings are never easy, but for Max Bittersohn, this one could be murder.

The Bilbao Looking Glass

by Charlotte Macleod

Sarah finds a strange mirror that, though unbroken, proves to be very bad luckAccording to Max Bittersohn, he and Sarah Kelling have witnessed enough murder and unhappiness, so it's high time they got married. And though Sarah hasn't yet agreed to such drastic measures, she invites Max to summer with her at Ireson's Landing. But they haven't been in the house ten minutes when they stumble upon summer's first mystery--a mint-condition, antique Spanish mirror that is tremendously rare and valuable. Sarah has never seen it before and she doesn't know how it ended up in the summerhouse, but the sleuthing couple will soon find this looking glass to be more troublesome than anything Lewis Carroll ever invented. As the zany Kelling clan descends on Ireson's Landing, Sarah and her beau try to uncover the mystery of the Bilbao looking glass--a quest that is disrupted when a vicious next-door neighbor is found hacked to death with a woodshed ax. By summer's end, Sarah and Max will learn that some murders can be solved simply by looking in the mirror.

The Convivial Codfish

by Charlotte Macleod

At Christmastime in Boston, a thief targets the local scroogeThe angry old men of the Comrades of the Convivial Codfish club celebrate yuletide doing what they do best: eating, drinking, and greeting the season of giving with a spirited "bah, humbug!" Though well past sixty, Jem Kelling is a relative infant compared to some of the club's elder statesmen, and he has waited decades to host their annual Christmas scowl. And during his first evening as Exalted Chowderhead, he is thrilled to find the wine abundant, the chowder superb, and the humbugs as lusty as ever. But as the night winds down, Jem is horrified to find that the ceremonial Codfish necklace has vanished--right off of his neck! His nephew-in-law, art investigator Max Bittersohn, is convinced his new uncle was the victim of a practical joke. But when the old man takes a hip-snapping tumble, Max is forced to conclude that one of the scrooges is trying to perpetrate a deadly Christmas jeer.

The Corpse in Oozak's Pond

by Charlotte Macleod

On Groundhog Day, secrets surface alongside a waterlogged corpseThe rural town of Balaclava greets Groundhog Day as an excuse for one last cold-weather fling. The students and faculty of the local agricultural college drink cocoa, throw snowballs, and, when the temperature allows, ice skate. Oozak's Pond is not quite frozen this year, though, and as the Groundhog Day celebrations reach their peak, the students see someone bobbing through the ice. The drowning victim is long past help, though; he's badly decomposed and dressed in an old-fashioned frock coat with a heavy rock in each pocket. First on the scene is Peter Shandy, horticulturalist and, when the college requires it, detective. But solving this nineteenth-century murder will take more than Shandy's knack for rutabagas. Relying on his wife's expertise in local history, the professor dives into a gilded-age mystery that cloaks secrets that remain potent enough to kill.

The Curse of the Giant Hogweed

by Charlotte Macleod

Chasing a vile English plant, Professor Peter Shandy and his friends go on a most peculiar tripThe giant hogweed, a creeping menace known for crushing the life out of any plant foolish enough to get in its way, has put the hedgerows and pastures of the English countryside in jeopardy. Fishermen find their streams clogged, young lovers are caught with rashes in embarrassing places, and the English nudist colony has been all but exterminated. Only Peter Shandy, the famed horticulturalist responsible for the world's finest rutabaga, can save the day. But when Shandy and his colleagues set out to find hogweed samples, they stumble into an unusually mystical adventure. Quite by accident, Shandy trips through a publican's portal, and finds himself conversing with a giant. Trapped in a land of castles, wizards, and knights, Shandy must use every scrap of his horticultural genius to get back home--lest the hogweed triumph in his absence.

A Dismal Thing to Do

by Charlotte Macleod

After witnessing a strange explosion, Janet becomes a murderer's next targetJanet Rhys is driving through the backwoods of Canada when she sees the truck ahead of her lose control, smash into a snow bank, and flip sideways, completely blocking the road. Springing to action, she darts into a nearby barn, searching for something to use to rescue the person trapped inside. When she hears an explosion, Janet returns to find the truck is nothing but smoking wreckage, and the driver has stolen her car. Janet takes shelter in an abandoned house, and is waiting for help to come when the truck driver's accomplices set fire to her hideout. Just before she is engulfed in flames, she leaps through a window and escapes into the snow. The killers think their witness is dead, and if Janet doesn't move quickly, they will be right.

Exit the Milkman

by Charlotte Macleod

When the dullest man in town goes missing, and Professor Peter Shandy must figure out where to lookAlthough he towers over his neighbors, Jim Feldster is otherwise unremarkable, except for his mastery of cow milking and his membership in every lodge, rotary club, and brotherhood that Balaclava County has to offer. And anyone who's met his wife, Mirelle, a vicious gossip with a hysterical streak, can understand why he never misses a meeting. But one night their neighbors, the sleuthing academics Peter and Helen Shandy, wake at 2:47 a.m. to the sound of Mirelle screaming. Jim hasn't come home, and she will lose her mind if he isn't found quickly. None of Jim's lodge brothers know where to find him, and Peter's investigation turns up few clues. But when a mystery author comes to town and Mirelle is found murdered, Peter begins to wonder if the master milker is less wholesome than he appears.

The Family Vault

by Charlotte Macleod

A mislaid corpse strikes terror in the hearts of Boston's strangest familyLike many old New England families, the Kellings live to die. Although their family vault is spacious and comfortable, for Sarah Kelling's Great-Uncle Frederick it will not do. In his will, he demands to be buried inside the ancient family tomb at Boston Common, which hasn't admitted a new member in over a century. But when the Kellings crack the old vault's door, they find a recently built brick wall. And behind it lays a surprisingly fresh corpse--a skeleton with rubies in its teeth. Her name was Ruby Redd, and many years ago she was the toast of Boston's burlesque scene. Her murder case is ice cold, but when Sarah begins investigating it, she finds that the burning passions behind this beauty's death still burn white hot. With the help of art-fraud investigator Max Bittersohn, she will solve the stripper's murder, or take her own place in the family vault.

The Gladstone Bag

by Charlotte Macleod

On an island of misfit artists, it's Aunt Emma's turn to play detectiveThough a few years past sixty, Sarah Kelling's Aunt Emma is as vigorous as a girl of twenty-two. She sings, she dances, and when the local fire department needs a fundraising boost, she's happy to jump out a window for charity. This summer, she decamps to Maine, to beat the heat at an island retreat for artists and great thinkers. There are writers, painters, a psychic, and a historian, and their company promises to be great fun--until a few of them go treasure-crazy. Sensible people have long dismissed rumors of the Pocapuk Island treasure as myth, but artists are seldom sensible. When their rampant digging stirs up buried trouble, it leads to theft, drugging, and a murder. And although Sarah and her husband Max give investigative advice by phone, it's up to Aunt Emma to save the islanders from themselves.

Grab Bag

by Charlotte Macleod

Seventeen priceless stories from the author often referred to as "America's Agatha Christie"Charlotte MacLeod's heroes were men and women like Peter Shandy and Sarah Kelling--genteel sleuths who fight crime with brains, not brawn--and her settings were the drawing rooms and servants' quarters of New England and beyond. With a keen wit and a strong eye for detail, she crafted some of the most memorable victims, murderers, and innocent bystanders of twentieth-century detective novels. In this volume, she proves herself a master of the short story as well. Here is the original Peter Shandy story, featuring the school that would eventually metamorphose into Balaclava Agricultural College. Here is peculiar Cousin Claude, who strangles himself with his own necktie. And here is the tale that answers the question "What does Max Bittersohn do when his wife is not around?" Whether the characters are familiar or not, the style is irresistible, and the mysteries are as delightfully puzzling as ever.

The Grub-and-Stakers House a Haunt

by Charlotte Macleod

A widow meets a ghost with an appetite for treasure, liquor, and revenge Zilla Trott is pouring her cat some chamomile tea when the drifter appears in her kitchen. He is grubby and crude--not at all the kind of person you'd usually find in the pleasant town of Lobelia Falls--but something about him intrigues the aging widow. Perhaps it's his rugged good looks, or the way he seems to come from another time and place. Or perhaps it's the fact that he's been dead for nearly a century. When Lobelia Falls was in its rough-and-tumble frontier infancy, Hiram Jellyby was the best mule driver the town had ever seen, until an argument over a hidden cache of gold left him bleeding to death in a back alley. He returns in spectral form to secure a proper burial, and finds that in modern-day Lobelia Falls, no one knows more about turning the soil than Zilla Trott's gardening buddies--all members of Dittany Monk's fearless Grub-and-Stake Gardening and Roving Club.

The Grub-and-Stakers Move a Mountain

by Charlotte Macleod

To prevent Lobelia Fall from being turned into a subdivision, a citizen turns to cold-blooded murderAnyone growing up in Lobelia Falls is taught to learn the elegant, ancient, and occasionally deadly art of shooting with a bow and arrow. Practicing the craft, freelance secretary Dittany Henbit is strolling through the woods with her bow at her side when she meets a surveyor making surveys where he shouldn't. Dittany is giving him what-for when an arrow goes whizzing above her head. It is sharp enough to kill, and was not fired by accident, but Dittany wasn't the target. She and the surveyor find Mr. Architrave, the head of the water department, not far away--lying dead beneath the trees that he loved so much. Progress is coming to Lobelia Falls, and one resident will do anything to stop it. But in a town where every child can shoot, how can Dittany discover who drew the killer bow?

The Grub-and-Stakers Pinch a Poke

by Charlotte Macleod

An amateur play turns serious when a prop gun is swapped for a real oneWhen Jenson Thorbisher-Freep announces an amateur theatrical contest, the women in the Grub-and-Stake gardening club race to join in. They enlist Osbert Monk as their playwright--not only is he married to their club leader Dittany Monk, but he's famous the world over as Lex Laramie, bestselling novelist of Westerns. Taking the legend of Dangerous Dan McGrew as his inspiration, Osbert delivers a rough draft faster than the Pony Express. Now all the Grub-and-Stakers have to do is cast it. To play McGrew, Dittany picks town cad Andrew McNaster, who has recently improved his manners in an attempt to woo Osbert's aunt, Arethusa. The gunslinger's performance gets a bit too real on opening night, though, when his prop bullets are replaced with real ones, and claim the toe of a fellow thespian. Is McNaster as nice as he pretends to be? Or has he taken his part too close to heart, and decided to become very dangerous indeed?

The Grub-and-Stakers Quilt a Bee

by Charlotte Macleod

Before Lobelia Falls can have a museum, the curator's killer must be caughtThe Grub-and-Stakers gardening club has traditionally limited its activities to serving tea and gossiping about wildflowers, but when water department supervisor John Architrave is found murdered in the woods, club member Dittany Henbit turns to solving mysteries. After Architrave's will reveals that he bequeathed his ramshackle old house to the Grub-and-Stakers, with instructions for it to be turned into a museum, Dittany resigns herself to weeks of cleaning out the mansion and sorting through donated town "artifacts." The task turns interesting, however, the minute bodies start falling from the sky. The new curator is airing out the house's attic when he takes his tumble off the roof. So unlikely is it that he would fall out the tiny attic window, that Dittany has no choice but to attempt to add one captured killer to the young museum's permanent collection.

The Grub-and-Stakers Spin a Yarn

by Charlotte Macleod

A corpse in a yarn store leads to a very crafty mysteryWhen word gets out that Dittany Monk, the sleuthing gardener of Lobelia Falls, is expecting twins, every knitter in town races to Miss Jane Fuzzywuzzy's Yarnery to begin work on a complete wardrobe of hats, booties, and tiny sweaters. One customer, however, has even more urgent business: the man with the gunshot wounds in his back. The victim stumbles out of a bullet-ridden car, dripping blood all over the freshly cleaned sidewalk, and dies with a peculiar phrase on his lips: "The raveled sleeve!" Before Miss Jane can offer advice on how to rescue an unraveling sweater, her unfortunate customer expires. To ensure her twins can be raised in a safe hometown, Dittany will have to get the yarn-store murder sewn up.

The Luck Runs Out

by Charlotte Macleod

At Balaclava Agricultural College, a kidnapping and pig-napping are followed by murderNewlyweds Peter and Helen Shandy are picking out flatware when a pair of gun-toting hooligans burst into the silversmith's shop, empty the safe, and leave with Helen as their hostage. Although the police recover Helen quickly, her professor husband is badly shaken by the ordeal. Early the next morning, the college's head of animal husbandry frantically reports another hostage situation in progress. Belinda, the school's beloved sow, has been kidnapped, and only Peter can bring home the bacon. There is a possible witness to the pig-napping in Miss Flackley, the farrier, but before she can point Peter towards the vanished porker, she is found dead in the barn's mash feeder. By the time Peter discovers the link between the two heists, pigs may really fly.

The Luck Runs Out

by Charlotte Macleod

At Balaclava Agricultural College, a kidnapping and pig-napping are followed by murderNewlyweds Peter and Helen Shandy are picking out flatware when a pair of gun-toting hooligans burst into the silversmith's shop, empty the safe, and leave with Helen as their hostage. Although the police recover Helen quickly, her professor husband is badly shaken by the ordeal. Early the next morning, the college's head of animal husbandry frantically reports another hostage situation in progress. Belinda, the school's beloved sow, has been kidnapped, and only Peter can bring home the bacon. There is a possible witness to the pig-napping in Miss Flackley, the farrier, but before she can point Peter towards the vanished porker, she is found dead in the barn's mash feeder. By the time Peter discovers the link between the two heists, pigs may really fly.

Murder Goes Mumming

by Charlotte Macleod

In the frigid Canadian north, Madoc and Janet try to keep warm and stay aliveThough he may not look the part, Madoc Rhys is a Mountie--and his keen sense of detection tells him it's time to ask Janet Wadman to marry him. They have just gotten engaged when Christmas rolls around, and Janet's boss invites them to his family estate for a last holiday fling before Janet leaves her job. After a long helicopter ride, they are at Graylings, ancestral home of the Condryckes, a family so strange that Canada's shortest Mountie fits right in. There is a psychic old woman, an erudite butler, and a family patriarch who is the spitting image of an English country squire. And when the elderly Mrs. Condrycke is found murdered, Janet will be glad she brought Madoc along. Though civilization is far away, when there is a Mountie in the house, justice is close at hand.

Murder Goes Mumming

by Charlotte Macleod

In the frigid Canadian north, Madoc and Janet try to keep warm and stay aliveThough he may not look the part, Madoc Rhys is a Mountie--and his keen sense of detection tells him it's time to ask Janet Wadman to marry him. They have just gotten engaged when Christmas rolls around, and Janet's boss invites them to his family estate for a last holiday fling before Janet leaves her job. After a long helicopter ride, they are at Graylings, ancestral home of the Condryckes, a family so strange that Canada's shortest Mountie fits right in. There is a psychic old woman, an erudite butler, and a family patriarch who is the spitting image of an English country squire. And when the elderly Mrs. Condrycke is found murdered, Janet will be glad she brought Madoc along. Though civilization is far away, when there is a Mountie in the house, justice is close at hand.

The Odd Job

by Charlotte Macleod

One of Boston's landmark museums is shaken by a savage murderWhen the doddering patrons of the Wilkins Museum learned that dozens of their priceless masterworks had been stolen and replaced by forgeries, there was no one to turn to but Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn--the savviest art detectives of the Boston upper crust. Nabbing the crooks was easy, but finding the missing paintings has proven trickier. Years later, the collection's prized Titian is still lost, and the new director, loudmouthed cattle baron Elwyn Fleesom Turbot, is getting impatient. And things get even more troublesome when members of his staff begin to die. It starts when Dolores Tawne, the elderly, bossy museum administrator, is stabbed through the base of her skull with an antique hatpin. Inside the dead woman's safe deposit box Sarah finds clues to a conspiracy that stretches back decades and a way to stop the murders that are still to come.

The Odd Job

by Charlotte Macleod

One of Boston's landmark museums is shaken by a savage murderWhen the doddering patrons of the Wilkins Museum learned that dozens of their priceless masterworks had been stolen and replaced by forgeries, there was no one to turn to but Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn--the savviest art detectives of the Boston upper crust. Nabbing the crooks was easy, but finding the missing paintings has proven trickier. Years later, the collection's prized Titian is still lost, and the new director, loudmouthed cattle baron Elwyn Fleesom Turbot, is getting impatient. And things get even more troublesome when members of his staff begin to die. It starts when Dolores Tawne, the elderly, bossy museum administrator, is stabbed through the base of her skull with an antique hatpin. Inside the dead woman's safe deposit box Sarah finds clues to a conspiracy that stretches back decades and a way to stop the murders that are still to come.

An Owl Too Many

by Charlotte Macleod

Each was anxious for a clear sighting. Rules demanded that each bird be positively identified by at least two members of the team. What judge was going to believe a snowy owl in Massachusetts in October without an oath sealed in blood by the entire group, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof?

An Owl Too Many

by Charlotte Macleod

When a nocturnal hike turns deadly, Professor Peter Shandy takes an interest in owl spottingEmory Emmerick comes to Balaclava Agricultural University as a scout for a television station. Although the faculty and students are hardly ready for prime time, Emmerick's interest is in environmental programming--a subject that inspires even the driest Balaclava professor to wax poetic. In his search for material, Emmerick joins Peter Shandy and a few of his colleagues on the annual owl-count. And though the television producer's loud mouth and heavy feet make him a dismal birdwatcher, none of the academics expect him to make a fatal blunder. Chasing what appears to be a badly lost snowy owl, Emmerick stumbles into a trap that yanks him into a tree. By the time the professors reach him, he's been stabbed to death. Discovering that the snowy owl was nothing more than a handful of feathers attached to a fishing pole, Shandy concludes that Emmerick was murdered. Plenty of people might like to kill a television producer, but which would-be killer had the gall to make the helpless Nyctea scandiaca an accomplice?

The Palace Guard

by Charlotte Macleod

When a museum guard takes a tumble, Sarah and Max find a forgeryIt has only been a few months since Sarah Kelling's elderly husband passed away, and she is struggling to adapt to life as a penniless young widow. To make ends meet, she converts her stately Boston home into a boardinghouse, a decision that brings something even better than money: the company of art-fraud investigator Max Bittersohn. The budding couple is standing on a balcony, recovering from a second-rate concert at a third-rate museum, when something plummets past them. The museum has been robbed, and a guard has fallen to his death. Dozens of priceless paintings have been stolen and replaced with forgeries, and to recover these masterworks will mean tearing the lid off the quiet life of the Boston upper crust. But it is a chance Sarah and Max must take, lest they join the guard on his long trip down.

The Palace Guard

by Charlotte Macleod

When a museum guard takes a tumble, Sarah and Max find a forgeryIt has only been a few months since Sarah Kelling's elderly husband passed away, and she is struggling to adapt to life as a penniless young widow. To make ends meet, she converts her stately Boston home into a boardinghouse, a decision that brings something even better than money: the company of art-fraud investigator Max Bittersohn. The budding couple is standing on a balcony, recovering from a second-rate concert at a third-rate museum, when something plummets past them. The museum has been robbed, and a guard has fallen to his death. Dozens of priceless paintings have been stolen and replaced with forgeries, and to recover these masterworks will mean tearing the lid off the quiet life of the Boston upper crust. But it is a chance Sarah and Max must take, lest they join the guard on his long trip down.

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