Friday, September 26, 2014

WELCOME ... to Jan Christensen for her Blog Tour on Buried Under Clutter!

"How well off was your aunt, financially? Do you know?
Jenny gave that hollow laugh again. "She had millions.
I have no idea how many, but a lot." She look down at
her lap while everyone stared at her.
Looking back at the niece, Tina saw no reaction. Something about how Jenny's aunt had looked must have made her realize she'd been murdered. Tina took a deep breath to steady herself. It hadn't been so long ago when she had found a murdered person in a clutter house. She'd moved back to Newport for this?
An unmarked car drew up to the curb, and Tina saw the two officers who'd been in charge of the other homicide climb out. Lisbeth Dotson looked as trim and in charge as ever. John Smith, with his weak chin and belligerent stance, seemed the same, too. Tina sighed. She so did not want to deal with the police again...

Lisbeth looked skeptical. "Did you notice anything missing?
"In that mess? No."
"How often did you come to Newport to see your aunt?"
"About every six months. Frankly, that was all I could stand. It had to be a nice day so we could sit outside, out back. I haven't been inside for a long time until today...
Jenny shuddered. "I couldn't imagine it worse, but it was. Things were piled higher. How did she pile them so high? And the spaces to walk through-- not so many as before. And, oh, the smell. It was always bad, but this time was just awful.

Buried under Clutter:
A Lighter-Side Mystery
By Jan Christensen

Jan Christensen's Buried Under Clutter is here today at BRH on her blog tour! Welcome!!! Although reading the novel is a somewhat light mystery, the importance of the topic of hoarding is not. Kudos to Christensen for including the topic in her Tina Tales, Professional Organizer Series... The book certainly makes it clear that hoarding is, most times, a result of some type of medical change in the individual...
Me, I used to be somewhat of a hoarder of books, refusing to consider ever throwing them away... Now various charitable organizations receive the bounty of my "cluttered" bookshelves! 

But a hoarder is not normally one who "collects" although it may be a form of it...but Mrs. Blackwell's big, once beautiful Victorian home was filled from basement to attic with not only the original furniture and other inherited objects, but was filled with boxes of anything and everything, stacked from floor to ceiling!

And now she was dead, found murdered, surrounded in clutter... Sad...

The shock is wearing off. I'm afraid there was a lot of
affection between me and my aunt the last few years.
I'll be fine. For me, it was a duty to be sure she was
okay. Not much more than that. My mother will take
it hard, though." She put her hand in her mouth. "I
didn't think. I need to call her. Or maybe I should wait
until I get home and tell her in person. I wonder if the
police will notify her. I don't know what to do."
Time pulled her cell phone out of her pocket. I'll call
Lisbeth and ask her about it."
..."We have enough to do here for a few hours. As long
as she gets there within the next three, that will be all
right. We can wait that long..."
An uneasy silence filled the room. Finally, Jenny turned
to Tina. "I understand you're a professional organizer.
You know about the mess in my aunt's house. I can't
imagine cleaning it out myself, or cleaning up, you know,
everything where she died."
"Was it bad?" Laura [Tina's mother] asked gently.
Jenny shuddered. "Horrible. Blood everywhere, and
it looked as if someone had taken a baseball bat to
some of the boxes and stuff in Aunt Olivia's bedroom.
The smell of blood along with rotting garbage almost
made me pass out. It never smelled that bad before.
Although I hadn't been inside for years, I knew what
it smelled like by standing in the doorway." Jenny
shuddered again and took a long swallow of her
martini. "This is good." She settled back against the
couch pillows and closed her eyes...
Tina Shaw is now living back home in her parents house. She is a trained psychologist but found she was unable to deal with a tragedy that occurred involving a client...

While her mother is not happy that she has changed her career and become a Professional Organizer, Tina is quite happy. Well, maybe not so much when she was slowly pulled into the murder of one of her neighbors, living across the street, who had become a hoarder. In fact, she was there the day that her niece came running out of the house screaming. Jenny was hysterical from seeing her aunt, clearly murdered. Tina quickly offered to help and slowly Jenny pulled her in for much more...

The really strange thing was that her aunt had already included Tina in her will with the proviso that she take full responsibility of her house, clearing the house and ensuring all was handled properly. Mrs. Blackwell undoubtedly knew what Tina was now doing for a career... I think, though, that she chose Tina because she remembered when Tina was very young and would come to visit and eat cookies that she kept in a favorite tuxedo cat jar that she was later given when the family learned of her early visits...

Even stranger was her messages and then clues that were placed around her home, including items that could clearly implicate family members! All directed to Tina, related to her potential death! Obviously, she had become afraid for her life--or decided that nobody was going to win out over her final decisions and choices for her money... The latter is my opinion of her reason!
Tina turned and saw the label on top of the box--FOR TINA TO OPEN
"Interesting," Lisbeth [police] gave Tina a dubious look.
Does she suspect me now? Damn Olivia Blackwell and her little games.
Lisbeth raised an eyebrow. "You may open it."
Tina wasn't sure she wanted to. She used her box cutter to slice through the tape and...carefully, she pulled out an object wrapped in newspaper...Red Riding Hood with the wolf standing next to her...
Then she noticed a tiny tag word written on it, "Jenny."
...Next came a bisque Sleeping Beauty doll on her bed, tagged "Rebecca..."

On and on it went as various items were lifted out to represent others, seemingly who might be...the one...
Only one, a gingerbread man, was not named...

Got to say, I admired Olivia, being played by Angela Lansbury, even more when this was found--You have to admit that she had decided to live her life on her own, having loved, lived and traveled with a criminal as a husband... and in whatever way she wanted... 
Apparently, she was not as crazy as some people said her to be...

So the strangest find of all, which didn't enter into the murder mystery so I can tell you about it, was that they found a large box of jewels shoved back into the pantry! Apparently stolen by her former husband and stored there ever since!

No wonder that people started roaming through the house trying to stall the work that Tina and the police had started to not only clear the house but find something that would help find who had killed her!

And then a neighbor reported that she had seen a man talking to Olivia while sitting on her back porch... which put Tina and her mother on alert because Uncle Bob, who was now living with them after Laura's husband had died, had once dated the murder victim! Then they discovered that he had been awarded a million dollars in her will! But so had Laura! And Tina had inherited five million--more than anybody else other than her sister who would receive a multi-million dollar major inheritance--what was left of the approximate $50 million dollar estate...

So, of course, practically everybody was a "person of interest" in the murder. This was the first time, however, that the police became involved in de-cluttering a house, however. Not only did they need to do the usual search for clues, but Tina, who had been named to be responsible for the clean-up, necessarily was under investigation!

I must admit that the thrill of finding "treasures" within a house owned by a hoarder would be exciting, don't you think? Tina was, at first, until she found that she would have a police officer working along side her through every step of the way! 

Other members of the family came under suspicion when they found a large bedroom maintained in the attic, but, like every other room, enclosed and concealed by all sort of boxes and other items stuffed everywhere...

But they found fingerprints for two of family members there...

Then they learned that a couple of strangers were also named in the will! Laura recognized the woman's name since she had been a cleaning supply saleswoman who had also visited her home recently and tried to sell her products...What had happened that would cause Olivia to give them money?! Surely it was a scam...  But instead, Laura was the one to be arrested and charged with the murder! What?!!!

Soon Tina was finding out the secrets of all of Olivia's family, including a shoplifter, one who was having a secret affair with a high-ranking official...and, worse, a woman who was supposed to be agoraphobic but was seen outside! Geesh, this book has so many potential suspects, you may never guess who the killer is...I know because I didn't..."almost" doesn't count, right?

I must admit that, at first, I assumed this would be more humorous... A lighter-side mystery, I found however that doesn't necessarily mean light on complexity in solving the murder! This is a good, solid mystery that will keep you exploring the many potential suspects until the very end when the climax occurs and Tina herself is face-to-face, trying to use her counseling skills--but to save her own life! 

The book does have an underlying humor throughout especially between Tina and her "hunk." I'll leave out any comments on him since even Tina didn't know what he did for a living until he was forced to reveal it! And as I watched the new TV show with Debra Messing this week, I knew she'd make a perfect Tina--how about this duo for the movie?

Enjoy! High recommended!


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