Debits and Credits by Lyn Fraser



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Description:
Amateur sleuth Grace Edna Edge uses well-honed business savvy to save clients from financial disaster, delve into an intriguing murder, and uncover a murky black market for seniors’ prescription meds.  What she can’t seem to solve is the great mystery in her personal life … how to fall in love.

EXCERPT:

My eyes glaze over as C. Granger Dockery cracks yet another egg. With one hand raised to shoulder level, he streams the white into a copper bowl, dropping the yolk into a smaller bowl. Now twenty minutes into funneling and speaking, he tips the containers forward to show the audience, audibly ooh-ing over his collection of golden dollops and slithery whites. 

Scanning for admirers, he can see me but not Aunt Arrow, because her seat remains vacant. That’s cost me quite a few glares, holding a place for her in the second row. With C. Granger’s presentation at the top of her do-not-miss list, Aunt Arrow intended to be up front and insisted we meet at ten before two to get a prime seat. She considers C. Granger the crème de la crème of thriller writers, which, translated, means that the two of them likely found the same watering hole after they appeared together on a “Celebration of Ink” panel several years ago. 

Today C. Granger’s promoting The Soufflé Conspiracy, and I’m astonished Aunt Arrow’s late. She and I go our separate ways on quite a few issues, but punctuality isn’t one of them.

I check my watch again. It’s a new one with flower petals in different colors and sizes instead of numbers. The big hand now sits on the medium-sized yellow daisy, which means Aunt Arrow’s thirty minutes late. The book signing, pastries and wine spritzers follow C. Granger’s talk, scheduled for the big hand’s arrival at the purple pansies. Which isn’t yet, so she still has some time to make it back for the soufflé puffing and assorted post-speech activities. 

Aunt Arrow persuaded me to attend this all-day writers’ conference because I’m an aspirant. Along with several hundred others, we’re spread around a University of Texas ballroom, better known as the Brazos Belle, gem of Texas dance palaces. Authors have a special appreciation for names like that.  Mine, by the way, is Jasmine McPherson—my pen name, that is. My real name is Grace Edna Edge, but that makes me sound more like a mystery writer, which wouldn’t work at all for promoting my romance fiction. I think marketing is one of the keys to success in this business, finding that promotional specialty, something I’ve managed to do quite cleverly in my paying work. 

Professionally, I’m a forensic accountant, which involves helping individuals, nonprofits, educational institutions and companies detect fraud, check forging, embezzlement, disappearing endowments, hyped financial performance, hidden assets, that kind of thing. Unfortunately, I thrive, because fraud is a growth industry. 

The subject of my most recent case was a woman who took thousands of dollars from the Parent Teachers Organization at her son’s middle school and then went on to teach there. No longer. I solved the case, as I often do, by tracing transactions—this one beginning small by siphoning funds intended to buy punch for the parent-teachers conference night, then moving on to renovation of the science lab and book donations for the school’s library. Next week I testify on behalf of a woman divorcing a well-known area businessman who’s managed to conceal almost four million dollars in property holdings abroad. And just this morning during a break, I tentatively accepted the case of a university professor who’s lost a bundle in a suspected hedge fund fraud perpetuated by a member of his church.

Surfaces can mislead. If I hadn’t read the conference program, I would have thought from this bizarre presentation that C. Granger writes cookbooks; but the program notes reveal that his newest tome “offers a Cordon Bleu chef whose personal relationships run amok in tandem with those of a sinister international cartel attempting to infiltrate Indian casinos in the southwestern United States.” I might have preferred the cookbook. Perhaps there’ll still be something useful for me after all, as he’s begun talking about his writing process, the alleged topic.

C. Granger tells us the idea for his current project began when he searched Native American lore for a puberty ceremony to help his own pubescent son deal with fallout from the second divorce. Enthralled, he then wanted to use the ceremony in a book, “but I had to make up a story where it would fit, where it would be essential to the plot." 

I'm on the edge of my padded folding chair, because that's one of the areas I want to improve, my plotting. But instead of going ahead with the story he’s made up that requires the ceremonial, he tells us how he’s trying to stop smoking. Hypnosis. The patch. Nicotine gum. E-cigarettes. And taking up gourmet cookery. That’s where the eggs come in. He warns us that the soufflé will be ruined from the outset without proper utensils. “Use only a large whisk with thin steel wires,” he demonstrates on the unadulterated whites.

I look around, hoping Aunt Arrow might have slipped into a seat behind me, not wanting to squeeze by disgruntled participants eyeing her empty chair. She’s easy to spot today, wearing the violet and tangerine headscarf that she’s arrayed as a turban for her public appearance. But she’s not among the sitters, and all I see moving in the background are a couple of waiters carrying large trays of wine glasses.

  • Published by: Mainly Murder Press


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