Monday, July 29, 2019

The Geezers. Lots of Carr's Characters All Back in The Last Thing She Said, by Lauren Carr!

In The Last Thing She Said, a Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery, Lauren Carr has brought together most of the main characters from her various series. Gnarly, of course, was right there in the midst of another fantastic novel, when Carr does a political spoof that is priceless, ingenious and so funny and..."spot on!" I couldn't help but share, even though it's not really a part of the mystery! And, of course, that's one of the delights for which Carr is known...going beyond the mystery into family, pets and romance! Another wedding is on the way after this book, for instance!

“Is that Buttwrinkle?” Chris tucked Sterling behind him—as if no one would notice the hundred-pound German shepherd concealing his appearance under a floppy cruising hat and mirrored sunglasses. “Yeah,” Mac said with a grumble in response to his observation. “It’s surprising to wonder how that big of a head can sit on those shoulders without a neck.” Chris was aware of the hour approaching ten o’clock. At the Spencer Inn, Lucille Del Vecchio was expected to be running the blood drive. Helen and Archie were on their way to interview her. If the chairman of the town council’s revelation took too long, Chris risked missing the entire interview.
Depending on what evidence Buttwrinkle had, Sterling risked missing a lot more. Sensing that trouble was brewing, Sterling huddled behind his master’s legs and surveilled the little man commanding the roomful of journalists and other local officials in the town council’s press room. 
His arms folded across his chest, Police Chief David O’Callaghan kept a close watch on everyone entering and leaving the room. Two of his officers waited behind him—as far from the odor wafting from the podium as possible. As David had predicted, the chairman of the town council wore his stench like a badge of honor gained from his ongoing war against the canine mayor. In addition to the skunk perfume, he also wore a round bruise in the middle of his forehead. 
“Your guess is as good as mine,” David replied when Chris asked about the source of the wound. “Buttwrinkle refuses to tell me anything. He says I’ll cover it up.” For his moment of triumph, Adam Buttwrinkle had set up not one, but two huge monitors on which to unveil his evidence of Gnarly’s criminal activities in action. In contrast to his ego, Adam Buttwrinkle was a little man. Clad in a blue suit and tie, he smirked and posed for the cameras from behind the podium. 
Offended by the odor, the journalists filmed the lead-up to the unveiling from as far away as possible. A routine developed for each journalist. He or she would head for the first row to catch all the action. Upon entering the stench field surrounding the chairman, the news person would do a U-turn and head for the back of the room. 
Oblivious, or maybe it was indifference, to Adam Buttwrinkle’s goal of obtaining his downfall, Gnarly sat front and center in the gallery with his unblinking eyes focused on the councilman. “Enjoy your freedom while it lasts,” Adam hissed at the German shepherd. “Your authoritarian reign over this town ends now.” 
Garrett County’s prosecuting attorney, Ben Fleming, entered the press room. After shaking hands and engaging in a brief conversation with the police chief, the sophisticated gentleman dressed in a fine tailored suit made his way toward Mac. Upon seeing the county’s top legal counsel, Adam trotted down from the stage toward him. As the stench closed in on him, Fleming backed away while cautiously stretching out his hand.
“I hope you brought a subpoena with you,” Adam asked while smirking in Mac’s direction. Ben exchanged quick glances with both Mac and David. “I figured you didn’t. Doesn’t matter. After I’m finished, the citizens of Maryland are going to demand the DOJ take swift action against Spencer’s criminal mastermind.” Adam puffed up and rose his voice to demand the attention of every journalist in the room. 
“I don’t care how much money and power Faraday has, the people will demand that there be justice. If this terrorist attack against me—an elected citizen whose only goal has always been to do what is right and just—is allowed to go without the perpetrator being held accountable—then our nation is truly in the state of a constitutional crisis.” He pointed at the monitors on the stage. 
“If this crime that you are about to witness had been committed by anyone else in Spencer—the perpetrator would have been arrested by now and be sitting in a jail cell!” Standing tall, he made his way back to the podium. Those in the room stepped back to allow plenty of room for the odorous cloud that encompassed him. At the podium, he turned around and took in the sea of journalists, members of the city council and county commission, law enforcement officers, county prosecuting attorney, and chief of police crowded at the opposite end of the room. 
Staring unblinking at him, only Gnarly sat in the front row—daring Adam Buttwrinkle to continue.
“Mac,” Chris said, “I hope you know what you’re doing.” 
“Wait for it.” Chris stiffened when he saw Mac slip his hand into his jacket pocket. He’s not seriously going to shoot that twerp in a room filled with witnesses!
“At three o’clock this morning,” Adam Buttwrinkle said, “a crime boss running his criminal enterprise right here in Spencer, launched a terrorist attack against me—” he pounded his chest—“an elected official, in an effort to obstruct justice. He knew I was closing in on exposing him for the crime boss that he is. For that, he sent his goons to attack me.” 
“What had Gnarly done?” one of journalists asked.
“What crimes have you been investigating?” 
“Terrorist threats for one.” Buttwrinkle pointed at the sea of journalists before him. “He’s made terrorist threats in plain view in front of most of you.” 
“Oh yeah,” Police Chief David O’Callaghan said. “How can any of us forget when the mayor peed on your leg after vetoing your law against snowball fights?” 
“Which is why I didn’t bring this evidence—real evidence—to you.” Adam pointed across the room at David for the journalists to photograph. 
“David O’Callaghan was appointed to be Spencer’s police chief, but instead he has been working as Gnarly’s personal protector. Instead of working for justice for Spencer’s citizens, O’Callaghan has been covering up our mayor’s crimes—like breaking into the grocery store last night and stealing every roll of toilet paper to use in his attack on my home.”
“Is that true?” A journalist near David stuck a microphone into the police chief’s face. 
“All evidence at the grocery story indicates that the toilet paper was stolen by squirrels and raccoons,” David said. There was a confused murmur throughout the room. “And the odor that you are smelling in this room is from skunk,” David said. “Not dog. And the landmines left at Mr. Buttwrinkle’s property have been traced back to black bears in the area—not canine.” 
“Then—” a journalist tried to ask only to be cut off by Adam Buttwrinkle pointing a finger at Gnarly, whose gaze was fixed on the councilman. 
“Acting on Gnarly’s direction—like the canine crime boss that he is!” 
Many of the journalists scoffed before one called out, “Are you seriously trying to tell us that Spencer’s squirrels, raccoons, bears—” 
“And let’s not forget the skunks,” another said with a laugh. 
“How could we?” yet another said while waving her hand in front of her face. “—actually launched an organized attack on you upon orders from Spencer’s mayor?” One of the more timid reporters cautiously asked, 
“Mr. Buttwrinkle, are you aware that Gnarly is a dog?” She glanced at the German shepherd in the front row as if to double check her own assessment. “He’s not a dog!” Adam Buttwrinkle shouted. “He’s Al Capone in a dog suit! I have him on camera—three o’clock in the morning, barking orders, standing on my property, directing the raccoons and the squirrels and the bears and deer.” To prove his point, Adam pointed at the bruise in the center of his forehead. “A big fat squirrel did this. Hurled a nut at me from the porch rail—hit me square between the eyes.” 
“With all due respect, sir,” a curvacious young journalist said in a loud voice, “I find it disgraceful for you to body-shame a poor defenseless squirrel. How do you know he didn’t have a thyroid condition?”
“I was right,” Chris told Mac in a low voice. “Squirrels do have thyroids.” Cringing in pain, Buttwrinkle jabbed at the bruise on his forehead. 
“That defenseless squirrel launched a missile at me. As I was blacking out, I heard him”—he pointed at Gnarly—“laughing at me!” 
Sensing that they were witnessing a mental breakdown before their very eyes, the journalists back away. Even in their rising fear, they made certain that they were recording everything for what promised to be breaking news. 
Their skepticism enraged Buttwrinkle more. “You may think that having a canine mayor who disregards our laws and obstructs justice is okay, but I’m not all right with that! No one is above the law!” 
He spun around and pressed a button on a remote. Ben Fleming turned to Mac. The corner of Mac’s mouth kicked up into a crooked grin. Chris tucked Sterling behind him. He hoped there was no image clear enough for the dog to be recognized. Gnarly sat up taller in his seat. Unblinking, his eyes were trained on Adam Buttwrinkle. The monitors behind the podium sprang to life. 
The journalists watched as the view of a table in an outdoor restaurant came into view. Adam Buttwrinkle was one of two men sitting at the table as the server walked away. 
“What—where—what the—” Adam sputtered upon seeing the image that splashed across the two monitors. 
In the recording, Adam Buttwrinkle chuckled at his companion while ogling the buxom server walking away from the table. “What I wouldn’t give for a piece of—” 
“I thought you ran on respect and dignity for working women,” the other man at the table said. 
Behind the podium, Adam pointed two remotes at both monitors and pressed button after button while trying in vain to turn them off, but nothing happened. Chris saw Mac take his hand out of his pocket to reveal—not a gun—but a remote identical to the ones with which Adam was wrestling. Mac winked at Chris. 
“Look, the average voter is just plain stupid.” Adam laughed on the video. “They’re so easy to manipulate. All you have to do is say what they want to hear, and they’ll vote for you—even if what you’re saying is idiocy.” 
“This is your doing!” Adam pointed a finger at Gnarly. On the monitor, Adam told the man across the table, “You haven’t deposited the money into my account yet.” 
The conspirator looked at his phone. “What assurance do my partners and I have that you’ll be able to come through with removing Spencer’s ordinance protecting the forest and wildlife on the north side of the mountain. Our people can’t move forward on the development project as long as that ordinance is in place.” 
“Most of the town council is made up of moronic puppets—” 
There was collective gasp among the council members in the room. 
“—and those with the guts to go up against me will learn real fast to fall in line.” Adam chuckled. “Everyone has skeletons in their closets. Once my people find theirs—What’s the saying? I’ll make them offers they can’t refuse.” 
“They had no right spying on me!” Adam yelled at Mac from the front of the press room. The audience that Adam Buttwrinkle had gathered together was riveted by the true colors of the town council’s chairman being fully displayed in the recording. 
Adam’s dining companion was not yet convinced of his ability to deliver his task in their conspiracy. 
“But Mac Faraday is a Spencer and it was his ancestors—” 
“Once I manage to bring down the mayor—” 
“You’ve been smearing the mayor ever since he took office. My people got the state attorney general to assign four prosecutors to that dog’s case. They’ve spent over two-hundred thousand dollars of taxpayers’ money digging into that dog’s life and no one has found any concrete evidence to use to remove him from office. The closest thing they’ve got is him palling around with a Russian blue cat, but there’s no law against that.” 
“As long as we stick together and continue to sing the same tune over and over again, the people will run him from office, if only by not re-electing him. It’s like that annoying song you keep hearing on the radio—you hear it over and over and over again until you can’t get it out of your head. Gnarly’s corrupt. Gnarly’s a criminal. Gnarly’s a crime boss. Gnarly’s a terrorist. Gnarly’s obstructing justice. After a while, no one needs any proof to believe it. The lie will seep into their collective consciousness until they believe it. By the time I’m through, he’ll be in the pound with a needle in his paw and I’ll be in charge.” 
Adam eased away from the podium under the dozens of daggers aimed at him. His exit from the room was blocked by the county prosecutor and a line of Spencer police officers. 
“And the zoning?” the companion asked. 
On the monitor, Buttwrinkle waved his hand in dismissal. “I’ll quietly make a recommendation to the county commission to change the zoning. No one will notice what’s happening until it’s too late. Your company will mow down the trees. Those flea-bitten squirrels, raccoons, and bears that the Spencer family so stupidly willed to be protected will be shipped to the zoo before anyone knows they’re gone.” He laughed. “We’ll all be rich.” 
He held up his phone. “But before any of that can happen, you need to pay my consulting fee.” Adam’s companion picked up his phone and pressed a few buttons. Bouncing with delight in his seat, Adam watched the screen on his phone. His face broke into a broad grin. “Thank you very much.” 
At the podium, Adam Buttwrinkle uttered a gut-wrenching yell and yanked a gun from his suit pocket. He aimed his weapon at Gnarly, who snarled in response. 
Before anyone could react, there was a blur from the back of the room. Sterling caught hold of Adam Buttwrinkle’s wrist. The gun went flying across the room. Buttwrinkle screeched like one of the wild animals he was aiming to displace in exchange for riches. The momentum of Sterling’s attack spun the town councilman like a top. 
Like a child joining in a fun game, Gnarly caught Buttwrinkle by the other arm. In a matter of seconds, the two dogs had the chairman pinned to the floor. Cameras poised, the journalists rushed forward to catch the photo op—and backed away just as quickly upon entering the skunk field. 
“Councilman Adam Buttwrinkle, we have a warrant for your arrest for accepting a bribe.” 
David O’Callaghan handed a pair of handcuffs to one of his officers. “Parker, cuff Buttwrinkle.” 
The officer covered his nose. “Why me?” 
Mac turned to Chris. “Told you I had everything under control.” 
Chris cocked his head at him. “Ain’t it ironic? He’s been doing everything that he’d been accusing Gnarly of doing?” 
“When Buttwrinkle started digging for dirt on Gnarly, I told him, ‘You go after Gnarly, and I’ll go after you—and I’ll bury you.’ He should have listened.”

What's especially fun about the Geezer Squad is that, those who have been dedicated to their jobs, even through retirement, have decided to form a book club...a club where they take on "cold cases" that were remembered by each of them, or new ones that have come to their attention.

The latest one came via Chris and was a mystery in itself! You see, the letter came as a request to discover who had killed her husband who had been found killed 40 years ago... The request came from his wife who was also dead...

True love is the basis for putting together this complex case which included, actually, lots of murders, some for their present case and some for another former cold case! Whew. So many trails were being followed that the Geezers split up to travel to various places, while, Chris and Helen, were schedule for lunch in Spencer, but got hung up on personal issues! LOL

But the network worked as each of the characters from other books were brought in to lend their expertise, although I admit, I really didn't have a clue whodunit! 

And, being built on a love story that was built over years of marriage and family, together with working within a town and building was a shock. Especially, since Christopher was only seven when he witnessed much of what had occurred so many years ago, giving readers a dimension of background that was wonderfully handled.

Too many twists and turns to easily share about this book. Nevertheless, Carr has pulled off another "hit" that kept me reading in one setting until the clues were so well together that the villain fell into our laps...or Chris's, LOL Carr has put a lot into the book beyond the mysteries this time...Characters enjoyed chocotinis, visited book stores...and even blundered into getting engaged (the ring had been purchased 4 months ago)... But, for me, a special thank you for the political spoof at a time when politics at the national level is devastating, gave me a laugh and lightened the load of it all!


1 comment:

  1. So glad you enjoyed my political parody. I just couldn't resist with Gnarly being in politics and all. I'm thrilled you enjoyed the latest Geezer Squad mystery and am certain your followers will enjoy it as well.