Saturday, 30 March 2019

Checking The Traps by Joan Livingston + Excerpt

Checking The Traps by Joan Livingston
Published by Crooked Cat Books on the 22nd March 2019.

Add Checking The Traps to your Goodreads

Isabel Long is a bit banged up from her last case with a broken collarbone and her arm in a sling. But that doesn’t stop her from pouring beer at the Rooster Bar or taking her third case with Gary Beaumont, a local drug dealer who once terrorized her. Gary is convinced his brother didn’t jump off a bridge known for suicides. Somebody pushed him.

Gary’s brother was a boozer who drove for a highway crew. But what interests Isabel and her ‘Watson’ — her 93-year-old mother who lives with her — is that the man wrote poetry.

The chief suspects are one of Gary’s business associates and a famous poet who plagiarized his brother’s poetry for an award-winning book. Yes, he was that good.

As a journalist, Isabel did regular meetups with her sources for stories. She called it checking the traps. She does the same as a private investigator, and this time, she’ll make sure she doesn’t get caught in one.


In this scene, Isabel Long rides with Gary and Larry Beaumont to the bridge where their brother, Cary, is supposed to have jumped to his death. Gary, the alpha brother, doesn’t believe it, so he hires Isabel to find out what really happened. By the way, the Beaumont brothers are drug-dealing bad boys who terrorized Isabel in her last case although they redeemed themselves when they helped her out of a wreck. What interests Isabel about this case is that Cary was a highway department worker who wrote poetry at night.

I’m sitting between Gary and Larry Beaumont in the front seat of Gary’s behemoth of a pickup truck as we head toward the bridge in Titus where their brother was supposed to have jumped. Larry just farted something awful, and Gary orders his brother to roll down the window, goddammit, even though it’s started raining because he’s stinking up the cab. I swear my eyes are watering, but I don’t say a word. If Larry is embarrassed, he doesn’t let on although I hear him mutter some choice curse words under his breath. The man is a master at it.
Besides, I’m more concerned my bad arm doesn’t get jostled when Gary shifts gears although I notice he is trying to be careful and apologizes when he slips up.
“Isabel, you sure that list is gonna work for you?” Gary asks.
“It’s a good start,” I answer. “I have a few ideas of my own. I’ll start with the easy ones and work my way up.”
“Alright,” he says.
An hour ago, the brothers sat at the kitchen table with my mother as we went over the case so far. I made coffee. Ma baked a loaf of banana bread this morning for the occasion.
“Haven’t had anything homemade in a long time,” Gary said with his mouth full.
Larry didn’t say a word as he helped himself to a third piece.
Ma smiled. She figured rightly the bread would help put the brothers at ease. We didn’t have much time to dawdle. We’re making that field trip to the bridge, and besides, it’s supposed to start raining heavier, and I want to get there before it does. My broken collarbone is already aching from it.
Gary’s list has four names. Of course, Cherie Moore, Cary’s widow, is at the top, and Gary swears up and down it would be okay to call her. He didn’t speak to the woman, but he left a message on her phone, so we should be good to go. His reassurances aren’t exactly convincing, but I’ll make the best of it.
Gary came up with the name of the Penfield highway superintendent, Stan Gifford, who I had already decided to visit, so that wasn’t a surprise, but the third belonged to a neighbor who was. I recognized the name. Cyrus Nilsson is kind of a big shot in the poetry world. He certainly was a darling of the arts department of the Daily Star. If the guy burped, he got a story from it. People even read his books in college. You might have heard his back story. He was a poor kid of a poor single mother growing up in upstate New York. He went to Harvard on scholarship and found himself in the right place at the right time with the right people. His first book of poetry, Yonder, made him an instant star of the literary world. He’s written a bunch more since.
My understanding is that Cyrus chose to live in the hilltowns to get away from it all. I heard him being interviewed on NPR after one of his books was published. He had a voice that came deep from his gut and a polished way of speaking that defied his humble upbringing. I saw him once when I covered a reading at the Penfield Public Library, of all places. I was the hilltown reporter then, so that was perhaps twenty-five years ago. As I recall, he was rather vague about his personal life even when I pressed him. That will have to change now that he’s a part of this case.
“What’s Cyrus doing on this list?” I ask Gary in the pickup. “He’s a well-known poet.”
“That’s what Cary told me. They used to be neighbors. He kinda got him goin’ on that poetry stuff.”
“You ever meet Cyrus?”
Gary works his mouth. 
“Only at Cary’s funeral. He spoke.” 
“Yeah, he delivered what you call the… ”
“That’s it. He said some nice stuff about my brother, how he was a good poet.”
“I look forward to reading what your brother wrote. Thanks for bringing the box.”
The fourth name belongs to one of Gary’s so-called business associates, actually one of his suppliers. I recognized the name right away: Victor Wilson. Perhaps you do, too. He lives way in the woods in Conwell, and for a brief time, he was a suspect in the Adela Collins case. It would have made sense. He fit that killer MO, that is, he’s quiet and keeps to himself, really keeps to himself with high fencing and no-trespassing signs all around his property. 
I talked with Victor twice for my first case. I can’t believe I had the nerve since I knew about his reputation from the town meetings he attended. Victor was always against anything and rather obnoxious about it. He got himself banned permanently from the Rooster for spouting white supremacist crap and for generally being a scary dude. He also carries a gun, a big no-no at the bar. Jack wouldn’t even go with me to meet the man.
But Victor didn’t kill Adela.

Meet the author

Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Checking the Traps, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the third in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first two are Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge.

An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure.

After eleven years in Northern New Mexico, she returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long mystery series.

Author links: 
Website ~ FacebookTwitter ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Joan Livingston / Crime fiction / Books from America

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