About the Author
An accomplished master of mystery, Carolyn Hart is the author of twenty previous Death on Demand novels. Her books have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards. She is also the creator of the Henrie O series, featuring a retired reporter, and the Bailey Ruth series, starring an impetuous, redheaded ghost. One of the founders of Sisters in Crime, Hart lives in Oklahoma City.
Read an Excerpt
I struggled to breathe. If I'd come upon a cobra, hood flared, deadly tongue flickering, I could not have been more transfixed.
Yet, once my eyes saw the shiny white posterboard in its entirety, once my vision encompassed all of itthe cut-out pictures and story, the artfully pasted letters, the single stark sketch, and the taped plastic baga sickening acceptance washed over me.
The glistening cardboard had been folded in half to slip easily into the postal service's two-day, red-white-and-blue priority mailer. No cover letter, no note, no return name and address, simply the decorated posterboard.
I opened the envelope casually, standing by the walnut butler's table in my narrow entryway. I had no sense of impending drama, no inkling that my life would never be the same.
I unfolded the poster. There were six separate representations:
The first was my late husband Richard's obituary with the accompanying one-column news photo and the caption "Richard Lattimer Collins." A red pencil had underlined the words: Collins fell to his death at the remote cliff side home of Belle Ericcson on the island of Kauai. Ericcson is a legendary foreign correspondent whose credits include Vietnam, the Six-Day War and El Salvador.
I was swept by the hideous sense of emptiness I'd felt when I'd held a current newspaper in my hand, seen the story that spelled an end to the invincible joy of a happy marriage. I'd written obits in the course of almost a half century as a newspaper reporter. That's how young reporters started in my early days. It became a quick, automatic ordering of the facts of a life, typewriter keys clacking. I didn't realize then the pain of seeing aloved one's existence reduced to lines of type:..."Survivors include his wife of thirty-nine years, Henrietta O'Dwyer Collins; his daughter, Emily Collins Drake, and her husband, Warren; two grand children, Diana and Neal Drake. Collins was preceded in death by his son, Robert Lattimer Collins . . ."
The second consisted of cut-out letters and numerals in two straggly lines, forming the dates March 30 and April 1.
March 30 held no significance for me. April 1 was the day Richard died. I could never laugh again on April Fool's Day, a day meant for lighthearted games, silly teasing, elaborate jokes. Richard had loved April Fool's Day, and he and the children had outdone one another with straight-faced evocations of absurdities. "Hey, Dad, did you see that huge bird that just flew by? Big as a boxcar!" Richard looked inquiringly at Emily and Bobby. "Bird? What bird?" Emily grinned, "Why, Dad, it's a favorite bird of yours." "Really?" Richard craned his head, peered out the window. "Gosh, I don't see it." Then Bobby hung from the window, flapped his hand.
"Over there, Dad, over there." Richard peppered them with questions, but each time the bird flew by, he just missed it. Finally, he clapped his hands together and shouted, "There it is. It has to be. The bluebird of happiness. Right?" I heard the children's whoops of glee and Richard's dramatic declamations as if they were here beside me, close enough to hug, the three of them, Richard and Emily and Bobby. Then the happy voices subsided, plunged back into the recesses of my mind, there to be summoned but never again to sound in a careless present.
The third was a magnificent photograph of a steep cliff. Lush vegetation in every shade of green, from palest jade to darkest emerald, glistened in bright sunlight. Silvery falls splashed over sharp black rocks.
My hands trembled. The poster-wavered. I didn't have to ask what cliff this represented, though I'd never seen the site where Richard died.
The fourth was a dip from an advertisement showing two gloved hands, palms forward, fingers outspread. The brown gloves had the rich sheen and texture of expensive leather.
The pulse thudded in my throat. Hands move at the direction of a mind. Human choice. Not chance. Not accident. I'd survived loss before. My foreign-correspondent father disappeared in the deadly melee of fleeing refugees and strafing guns after the fall of Paris in World War II. War is brutal and rapacious and incalculable, but its destruction is catastrophic, like a tidal wave or an earthquake. There is no individual to be held accountable. I could bewail the world, the human passions that result in bloody destruction, but not a single mind or pair of hands. Richard and I together mourned the death of our son Bobby in a ear wreck. We grieved horribly, but it was an accident. No one deliberately snuffed out Bobby's young life. I blamed myself because I was the one who insisted we travel on the twisting mountain road to a fiesta. The brakes went out in the decrepit old truck that rammed us. But the driver's little girl was buried that next week, too. I could blame poverty, timing, my own willfulness.
But not a pair of hands.
The fifth was a sketch of a stick figure tumbling backward toward the jagged points of boulders far below.
The drawing was haphazard, almost childish, pressure unevenly applied to the thick black grease pencil. But no dlild had drawn that plummeting body. Before my eyes, the stick figure metamorphosed into Richard, my Richard, flailing toward bloody death.
The sixth was a sandwich bag taped to the bottom of the poster, beneath the scrawled boulders.
Through the slick plastic, I saw pieces of slate-gray card board. Whatever those pieces meant, I knew it would cause me pain.
It was as if the intervening years vanished and I was once again caught up in the shock and despair of Richard's death, my mind arguing that it had to be a mistake, that the call would come, the phone would ring, and it would be Richard saying, "It's okay, honey, I'm coming home." As he had come home through the years from odd and distant places, a first-rate newspaperman and the man I'd loved above all others.
But there was no call, there was only emptiness, a world swathed in steel-gray, all color gone. I could see the vivid hues, but there was no warmth in my soul. I was alone.
I walked into my kitchen, carrying the posterboard in one hand, the mailer in the other. Thin March sunlight angled through an east window. I placed the posterboard on my kitchen table and ripped the bag loose, spilling out the card board pieces into a pool of sunlight. Despite the sorrow washing over me, lapping around me, a rising tide of misery, I understood what I saw. The uneven, oddly cut pieces of cardboard were a puzzle, a puzzle created just for me by a nameless, faceless, cruel correspondent.
I almost scooped up the pieces, crushed them into a wad of smashed paper. My hands came close to the table. Somehow I made myself stop. It would not staunch the memoriesor the agonyto destroy these little pieces of cardboard.
I don't know how long I stood there, aching with loss.
The thin sliver of sunlight moved and now the cardboard pieces were dull, making them even more chilling.
What damnable message awaited me?
I started to reach down, hesitated. But I felt abruptly sure that I could touch these pieces with impunity, that there would be no fingerprints to smudge. The person who had so carefully and coldly created this hellish exercise would be far too intelligent to leave a trace.
I arranged the pieces.
They formed a tombstone. Black lettersR. I. P.scored the granite gray. A thick question mark was scrawled on the tombstone, over the letters.
My eyes moved from the tombstone to the tumbling stick figure. But I didn't see the drawing.. Instead, nausea clawing at my throat, I saw Richard's bodyfelt Richard's bodyplummeting faster and faster, inexorably, the law of gravity bleakly enforced, to slam painfully into rough black volcanic rock.
Oh, God, the pain Richard must have known! And the hideous heart stopping terror of falling out of control. . .
it takes so longso eternally longto fall.
That's how Richard's life ended, the brutal obliteration of a mind and body that had given me pleasure and delight through the years. His laughter was forever stilled. No more quick and clever thoughts, no more vivid, concise writing, no more passion or effort or joy.
My heart raced. I struggled to breathe. But through the pain of imagining, remembering, reliving, I understood the pointthe vicious, mind-bending pointof this ugly collection.
Richard was pushed to his death. Gloved hands shoved him over the edge of that faraway cliff.
Richard was murdered.
Copyright ) 1998 by Carolyn Hart
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"Henri O" received a piece of mail insinuating that her husbands death, years earlier was not an accident but murder. As she delves into the how and why she learns things she never knew and puts herself in the middle of a very deadly web of lies and deceit.I had never read this author, I seem to say that a lot any more but there are just so many good ones out there. I liked Carolyn Hart's style and I liked the way she built the crime and the surprise reveal. Up until the last pages I was still guessing and in the end I got it wrong. I love this type of book. One flaw if any would be the excessive use of metaphors, they were largely overused in my opinion.
Henrie O. gets a package that insinuates that her husband's death wasn't an accident but murder. Not able to let that go, she travels to Hawaii to find out what happens. The plot moved too slowly for my tastes and I had a hard time keeping the characters straight for the first half of the book.
Title: Death in Paradise - Henry O Mystery Book 4 Author: Carolyn Hart Published: 9-12-2016 Publisher: Endeavour Press Pages: 240 Genre: Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense Sub Genre: Women Sleuths; Crime Drama; Murder ISBN: 13: 9780380974146 ASIN: B01LZS2794 Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley Rating: 4.5 Stars I received a copy of "Death in Paradise" from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Description From the Publisher: Six years ago, Henrietta O’Dwyer Collins beloved husband Richard lost his life on the Hawaiian island of Kauai… Then, one brisk March morning, a chilling message has arrived by Priority Mail claiming Richard’s fatal fall from a towering island cliff was no accident — it was murder. Faced with this uncertainty, Henrie 'O' decides to take matters into her own hands. After all, the police investigation ruled Richard’s death as an accident. Henrie O needs to know the truth and she has reason to believe Richard’s death was not an accident … Following cryptic clues and her infallible instincts to a lush and verdant tropical Eden — and to the lavish mountaintop estate of wealthy matriarch Belle Ericcson, where Richard spent his final days — Henrie O becomes privy to terrible allegations of greed and jealousy, adultery and abuse. There are secrets in every family. The more Henrie O gets to know the Ericcson family, the more convinced she is that one of them must have murdered her husband. But, with the police and private detectives drawing the conclusion that nothing untoward happened, Henrie O has her work cut out. Her search for the truth has brought Henrie O to a lethal paradise where giant palm fronds hide evil deeds from inquisitive eyes and she may never be allowed to leave alive. Murder did not begin or end with Richard Collins … and someone’s dark and enduring homicidal passions have yet to be fully satisfied… Death in Paradise is an emotional thriller that will keep you gripped until the very last page. My Review of "Death in Paradise": Looking for a great mystery that will keep you guessing from beginning to end? The emotionally heart wringing story will pull you in and keep you captivated until the very end. With a strong lead Character such as Henry O, with equally developed support characters that Hart uses to bring a story of loss, answers and resolution to life. You will feel Herny O's pain and shock at the note that turns her world upside down because you are standing beside her as she reads it. You are with her as she returns to site of her husband's death and you will be there when a killer is revealed. My rating is 4.5 out of 5 stars.
I have read many Carolyn Hart's books and was very excited to see this one listed on Net Galley as one I could request. I was most certainly excited to see that I had been approved. Henrie O's husband had died a horrific death six years ago and one day she gets a poster in the mail saying it wasn't an accident. That it was certainly a murder. Of course, she needs to find out what really happens and finds herself in a hornets nest of suspects. No one wants her there and is very suspicious of her motives. Her husband, Richard, "died" at a very rich and famous family's retreat. Supposedly he fell to his death from a cliff which their house overlooks. Henrie O is famous for her writing books, one a true crime story. One of the six children had been kidnapped before Richard's death and they think she is there to write another story. I found this book to be very interesting with suspects everywhere Henrie O turns. There is absolutely no way you can guess who did this one which is exactly the kind of book I love to read. Everyone has their reasons. However who is evil enough to go through with it? Huge thanks to Endeavor Press and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review. I loved reading it and was happy to review it.