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The Deadliest Blessing - Provincetown Mystery Series #3 by Jeannette de Beauvoir Book Tour and Giveaway :)
Mystery Series #3
Jeannette de Beauvoir
If there’s a dead
body anywhere in Provincetown, wedding consultant Sydney Riley is
going to be the one to find it! The seaside town’s annual
Portuguese Festival is approaching and it looks like smooth sailing
until Sydney’s neighbor decides to have some construction done in
her home—and finds more than she bargained for inside her wall.
Now Sydney is again
balancing her work at the Race Point Inn with an unexpected adventure
that will eventually involve fishermen, gunrunners, a mummified cat,
a family fortune, misplaced heirs, a girl with a mysterious past, and
lots and lots of Portuguese food. The Blessing of the Fleet is
coming up, and unless Sydney can find the key to a decades-old
murder, it might yet come back to haunt everyone in this
otherwise-peaceful fishing village.
I’d parked my Civic—known
affectionately as the Little Green Car—in the row of vehicles
facing Herring Cove Beach, one of the few places on the East Coast
where the sun appears to set into the water. As usual, the light was
spectacular. It’s the light that made Provincetown what it is, the
oldest continuously operating art colony in the United States: the
light here, apparently, is like nowhere else.
Or so my friend Mirela tells me. She’s
a painter, and is constantly talking about the light, though when it
really comes down to it, she can’t explain exactly what it is they
all see, the artists who live and work here. I know; I’ve asked.
It was late spring, and I didn’t yet
have too many weddings crowding my daily calendar, so I was taking
advantage of the calm before the storm of the summer tourist season
really hitting when my spare time, like everybody’s else’s, would
disappear altogether. I’m the wedding coordinator for the Race
Point Inn, and while we do tasteful winter weddings inside the
building, the bulk of my work is in the summertime, as Provincetown
is pretty much Destination Wedding Central, mostly for same-sex
couples but really for anyone who wants this kind of light. The sun
was carving a path of gold right up to the beach, glittering and
gilded, and I knew I was smiling, settling back into my seat with a
My phone rang.
Cell coverage is spotty out here in the
Cape Cod National Seashore, and my experience is that it’s when you
really need to reach someone that it’s not going to happen; on the
other hand, when it’s something you don’t want to deal
with, the signal comes through loud and clear. Murphy’s Law, or
something along those lines. I sighed and swiped, my eyes still on
the sunset. “Sydney Riley.”
“Sydney, hey, hi, it’s Zack.”
My landlord. This couldn’t be good. I
mentally checked the date. Um, I’d paid my rent this month, right?
“Hey, hi. Listen, Sydney, I’ve got
Mrs. Mattos here and she’s looking for you.”
Of course she was. I live above a
nightclub, which makes for reasonable rent with free Lady Gaga thrown
in at one o’clock in the morning; Mrs. Mattos is the
eighty-something widow who owns the very large house directly across
the street. Property developers are probably checking on her health
daily as they wait for her demise; I can’t imagine how many
million-dollar condos they could create in that space.
I take her grocery shopping to the Stop
& Shop once a week and I’ve noticed, lately, that she’s
finding more and more excuses to come over and buzz my doorbell.
She’s lonely and probably a little scared and most of the time I
try to help, but the silly season was already upon us and there was a
lot less of my time available. Generally I try to wean her off daily
visits by May, but we were already into the beginning of June now,
and she was crossing the street rather than calling, a sure sign of
Mrs. Mattos is frequently distressed.
Still, it must have been something out
of the ordinary for her to have buzzed Zack, who owns the nightclub
as well as the building and was probably peeled away from his
never-ending paperwork to talk to her. Mrs. Mattos is usually a
little nonplussed around Zack, who regularly paints his fingernails
chartreuse or purple, and owns an extensive assortment of wigs.
“She’s there with you now?”
A murmur of conversation, then Mrs.
Mattos’ quavering voice on the line. “I just need you to come
over, Sydney,” she said.
The sun was dipping into the water now;
the show would soon be finished. Above it, scarlet and pink streaked
across the sky. Some day, I told myself, I was going to be old and
quavering, too. “Okay, you go back home,” I said. “I’ll be
there in twenty minutes.”
Her name is Emilia Mattos, she stands
about five-feet nothing and might weigh a hundred pounds. But every
bit of her, like most of the Portuguese women in town, is muscle and
sinew. I know her first name, but I’ve never used it; there’s a
certain distance, a certain decorum the elderly Provincetown widows
observe, and I respect that. Out on Fisherman’s Wharf there’s a
collection of large-scale photographs of elderly Portuguese wives and
mothers, an art installation called They Also Face The Sea; Mrs.
Mattos isn’t one of them, but she could well be.
Back when Provincetown was one of the
major whaling ports, ships stopped off in the Azores to take on
additional crew, and a lot of those people settled back in town and
sent for their families; by the end of the 1800s they were as
numerous as the original English settlers. Nowadays there are fewer
and fewer Portuguese enclaves, as gentrification switches into high
gear and Provincetown’s fishing fleet dwindles; but the names are
still here: Mattos, Avellar, Cabral, Gouveia, Silva, Amaral, Rego,
Up until about ten years go, a
prominent advertisement in the booklet for the Portuguese Festival
was for the small Azores Express airline, when there was still a
generation in town that was from Portugal itself; you don’t see
She was standing in her doorway when I
found a parking place for the Little Green Car and got to our street.
I’ve read in books about people twisting their hands; I’d never
actually seen it until then. “Mrs. Mattos! Are you all right?
“Probably nothing,” she said, on
that same quavering note. “Oh, I’m probably disturbing you for
“Not at all,” I said firmly, taking
hold of her elbow and turning her around. “Let’s go in, and you
can tell me all about it.”
She was docile, letting me steer her
back in the house and into the big kitchen where most of her life
seems to take place. She has a home health aide who comes in to help
her with bathing and laundry, but she doesn’t let anyone touch her
stove: not to cook, not to clean. And when I say clean, I mean clean
within an inch of its life: everything in Mrs. Mattos’ kitchen
gleams. Not for the first time, I lamented that she couldn’t make
it up my stairs: if she expended about an eighth of her usual zeal,
my apartment would be cleaner than it had ever been.
She sat down, still fussing with her
hands. “I’m having construction work done,” she said, and stood
up again. “I should show you.”
“What kind of work?”
“Insulation.” Her voice was
repressive, as if she were delivering censure of something. We’d
just come off an amazingly, spectacularly cold winter, with
single-digit temperatures and a nor-easter that brought the highest
tides ever recorded, so I suspected she wasn’t the only one
thinking about making changes. “In the walls. Them people at the
Cape Cod Energy said I should.”
“Okay.” I still wasn’t getting
what was wrong here. “Do you want to show me?”
She turned and led me into the front
parlor (in Mrs. Mattos’ house, you don’t call it a living room);
I had to duck to get through the heavy framed doorway, and the
ceiling here was about an inch or so over my head. She, of course,
had no such problems. A loveseat had been pulled away from one of the
exterior walls and a significant hole made. She didn’t have
drywall, but rather plaster and lathing, as older houses tended to.
“There wasn’t nothing wrong with it. The insulation before was
just fine,” she said, resentful. “Seaweed.”
She nodded vigorously. “Dried out.
It’s what they used.” No need for anything else, her tone
“Okay,” I said again. “What is—“
“Go look,” she said, flapping her
hands at me. “Just look.”
I looked. I pulled my smartphone out of
my pocket and used the built-in flashlight. Wedged between strips of
lathing was a box. “Is this it?”
Mrs. Mattos blessed herself. “Holy
Mother of God,” she said, which I took for assent.
“Can I take it out?” I asked,
eyeing the box. It looked as innocuous as last year’s Christmas
present. Well, maybe not last year’s. Maybe from sometime around
Another quick sign of the cross. “Just
don’t make me look. I can’t look again.”
I put my smartphone in my pocket and
reached gingerly into the opening. Didn’t Poe write a story about a
cat getting walled up somewhere? “Who’s doing your work for you,
Mrs. Mattos?” It didn’t look as though they’d gotten very far
in opening up the wall.
She was back to twisting her hands
again. “The company wanted so much,” she began, and I nodded.
Rather than getting a contractor, pulling a permit, having a bunch of
workmen in her house and paying reasonable rates, she’d found
someone to do it on the side. Someone’s unemployed cousin or
nephew, probably. That sort of thing happens a lot in P’town,
especially among the thrifty Portuguese. It explained the size of the
hole, anyway: this was someone without a whole range of tools.
I pulled the box out—it was about the
size of a shoebox, only square—and set it down carefully on the
coffee table. Mrs. Mattos was looking at it as though something were
about to pop out and bite her, like the creatures in Alien;
she actually took a physical step back. This wasn’t just Mrs.
Mattos being Mrs. Mattos; this thing was really spooking her.
I sat down beside the table and
gingerly—you can’t say that I don’t pick up on a mood—lifted
the top off the box. Sudden thoughts of Pandora blew by like an
errant wind and I shook them off and looked inside.
Shoes; small shoes. Children’s shoes.
Three of them, and none matching the others. It was wildly
anticlimactic. “Shoes?” I said, doubt—and no doubt
disappointment—in my voice.
“It’s not the shoes,” she said.
“It’s that we shouldn’t never have moved them.”
I looked at them again. Old leather,
dry and curling and peeling. But shoes? She was clearly seeing
something I wasn’t. Had these children died some horrible death?
Were these memories of lives that hadn’t been lived to their
fullest? Something haunting, a song or an echo of laughter, moved
through my mind as though on a whisper of summer air. I didn’t
recognize the tune. “Mrs. Mattos?”
“It’s to keep them witches out,”
she said, grimly.
She nodded. “An’ now there’s
nothing to keep ’em from coming in. And nothing we can do about it,
de Beauvoir grew up in Angers, France, but has lived in the United
States since her twenties. (No, she's not going to say how long ago
that was!) She spends most of her time inside her own head, which is
great for writing, though possibly not so much for her social life.
When she’s not writing, she’s reading or traveling… to inspire
author of a number of mystery and historical novels (some of which
you can see on Amazon, Goodreads, Criminal Element, HomePort Press,
and her author website), de Beauvoir's work has appeared in 15
countries and has been translated into 12 languages. Midwest Review
called her Martine LeDuc Montréal series “riveting (…)
demonstrating her total mastery of the mystery/suspense genre.” She
is currently writing a Provincetown Theme Week cozy mystery series
featuring female sleuth Sydney Riley.
Beauvoir’s academic background is in history and religion, and the
politics and intrigue of the medieval period have always fascinated
her (and provided her with great storylines!). She coaches and edits
individual writers, teaches writing online and on Cape Cod, and
thinks Aaron Sorkin is a god. Her cat, Beckett, totally disagrees.
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