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Good old-fashioned murder lurks behind the Old World charm of Santa Fe, New Mexico. And nobody knows that better than former attorney turned consignment-shop owner—and part-time amateur sleuth—Irene Seligman.
When New York assistant DA Irene Seligman moved home to take care of her demanding mother, Adelle, she thought she was leaving a world of corruption and violence behind. But after opening her store, Irene’s Closet, and getting reacquainted with the locals, she learns that something’s rotten in sunny Santa Fe. Even upstanding citizens like her friend Juanita Calabaza, a Native American artisan, can’t seem to escape the decidedly unfashionable surge in crime.
Juanita’s handcrafted jewelry has been known to catch the eye of many a tourist on the plaza in Santa Fe’s historic district. But lately she’s been attracting the wrong kind of attention . . . from the police. With her son missing after falling in with a bad crowd, Juanita foretells the death of one of his associates—which comes back to haunt her when the scumbag actually turns up dead. Now Juanita’s trading in her turquoise beads for an orange jumpsuit, and Irene will need to call upon all her old investigative skills to clear Juanita’s name—before her friend pays the ultimate price.
Paula Paul’s delightful mysteries featuring Irene Seligman can be read together or separately: A KILLER CLOSET | BROKEN POTTERY
Under the Cover
An excerpt from Accessories to Die For
The sounds were elongated, melancholy, haunting. A flute singing in harmony with the wind, notes wafting across the mesa in the juniper-scented twilight.
Danny Calabaza gave the flute its voice as he sat on a low hill that was sparsely carpeted with the brown and white grass of his tribal land. He had crafted the instrument himself from a piece of cedar wood in the manner of his grandfathers—hollowed from a branch, not split and glued together as some men did now. He’d pulled the sweet-smelling red heart from the branch and replaced it with a little of his own heart each time he played the instrument. Now, the voice of the flute spoke the language of the gods and the ancestors.
The song that drifted from the flute was a mournful song. It was a song Danny didn’t consciously control. It came unbidden, an involuntary lamentation for Danny’s troubled and frightened spirit.
Soon he would die.
It wasn’t death that troubled and frightened him, though. It was something that he had done a few weeks earlier. He had done something to separate himself from his family, his tribe, his ancestors, his gods.
Something made him turn and see that a shadowy form had materialized behind him. He feared that death had arrived. Sooner than he had expected.
Juanita was one of at least twenty-five Native Americans seated in a single row in front of Santa Fe’s Palace of the Governors. Her body was there on the plaza, selling her handcrafted jewelry, but her spirit had wandered away to the high mesa of Kewa, the pueblo that was her home and the home of her ancestors for at least a thousand years.
Her spirit searched for the spirit of her son. He was Danny Calabaza, the flute player who had disappeared a week ago. Sometimes the music of his flute came to her at night when she was between sleep and wakefulness. Sometimes it came to her when she walked alone on the mesa. Danny said his music was meant as medicine to heal broken spirits, but when the music came to her, it would not heal her spirit because it would not tell her where he was.
She could hear the flute now, somewhere in the distance, somewhere on another level of existence. Maybe it would tell her this time. Maybe it would—
The music stopped suddenly. A voice had interrupted.
“How much is that one?” The voice belonged to a woman standing over her. Juanita saw the slender tan legs first as she came out of her trance. She looked up to see straight blond hair and blue eyes that were encircled with too much makeup. The woman was pointing a well-manicured finger to a Native American heishi necklace that was part of the display of Juanita’s work on the blanket in front of her.
Juanita picked up the six-strand necklace and held it up for the woman. “One thousand four hundred dollars,” she said.
“Good Lord! I could buy a diamond necklace for that much.”
Juanita nodded slowly, but she did not speak.
“Oh my, that is truly a lovely piece!” Juanita recognized the voice of the speaker this time. It was Irene Seligman, who owned the consignment clothing store on the plaza, less than a block away from the Palace of the Governors. The store was called Irene’s Closet, and she sold designer clothing brought in by Santa Fe’s elite. The blond tourist turned around to look at Irene.
“I’ve coveted that piece for a long time,” Irene said. “It’s handcrafted, you know.”
The tourist rolled her eyes. “They all say that, but how do we know—”
“Even those tiny turquoise beads are handmade, and they’re strung on strings made from the sinew of deer in exactly the same way her ancestral mothers did it a thousand years ago.”
The woman’s blue eyes widened. “Really? A thousand years ago?”
“Oh, yes,” Irene said. “She’s of the Kewa people, one of the most conservative pueblos in the country. They are intent on keeping their ancient traditions.”
The woman took another look at the necklace and took it from Juanita when she offered it again. “It’s really authentic, huh?”
“And one of a kind,” Irene said. “If you buy it, that means I won’t ever be able to . . . Well, never mind.” Irene turned and walked away.
“Will you take a thousand dollars?” the woman asked.
“Thirteen,” Juanita said.
Within a few minutes she had sold the necklace for twelve hundred dollars. Juanita used her mobile phone to complete the credit card transaction and handed the woman a receipt. By then it was time to pick up her wares and relinquish her spot to Marcela Aquino.
“Are the sales good today?” Marcela asked.
“No,” Juanita said. “It was a slow day.” She spoke to Marcela in Spanish because Marcela was from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo and spoke the Tewa dialect. Juanita spoke Keres. Spanish was their common language, along with English. Juanita told Marcela the sales had not been good because she didn’t want the girl to feel bad in case she made no sales. Marcela was young, maybe no more than twenty. She sold paintings of scenes from her pueblo and worked nights at her tribe’s casino as a waitress.
Marcela knew about Danny’s disappearance, as most people did, since it had been in the Santa Fe newspaper and on television. Neither of the two women mentioned it, however. Marcela busied herself with setting up her display, and Juanita carried the suitcase containing her jewelry with her as she made her way up the plaza toward the store known as Irene’s Closet.
Award-winning novelist Paula Paul was born on her grandparents’ cotton farm near Shallowater, Texas, and graduated from a country high school near Maple, Texas. She earned a BA in journalism and has worked as a reporter for newspapers in both Texas and New Mexico. She’s been the recipient of state and national awards for her work as a journalist as well as a novelist. She’s the author of many mysteries, including the Alexandra Gladstone series and the Mystery by Design series, which she wrote as Paula Carter. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.