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Checking the Traps by Joan Livingston - Book Tour

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Checking the Traps

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.

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For her third case, Isabel Long, amateur P.I., takes on a case from a surprising client: Gary Beaumont, a drug dealer who terrorized her a bit during her last. Gary is desperate to know how his brother, Cary, died. Did he jump from a bridge known for suicides or was he pushed? In this scene, Isabel and her mother (her ‘Watson’) meet with Cary’s widow, Cherie, who runs a hair salon in her home. To get her foot in the door, Isabel booked an appointment for her mother.

For the next several minutes, I leave Cherie and Ma alone. There’s a leatherette couch to the side, where I choose to sit. I don’t want to make Cherie uncomfortable hovering behind her. Besides, it’s a good spot to watch her talk with my mother about how short she wants her hair, not too much, and would she like to change her style, no. Then, they’re at the sink.
“This water’s not too hot, is it?”
“No, no, it’s just right,” my mother answers.
All I can say is I’m in deep trouble if I find out Cherie killed her husband. Ma would never believe it. She answers all of Cherie’s questions with a cheery note to her voice as she gets her hair shampooed and conditioned. They’re the usual questions you ask a stranger like where you live, who you live with, etc., you get the picture. I’m not surprised at Ma’s reaction. Cherie’s Beauty Shop reminds her of the salon in her hometown where she went for years until she moved in with me. This is nothing like the fancy-shmancy place, Ma’s words, not mine, that I’ve taken her to in the city.
Ma looks up from the sink.
“This is a very nice place,” she says. “Do you and your little girl live here alone?”
Ma’s voice is so friendly, I am certain Cherie couldn’t take offense. That question makes me so happy I feel like hugging her, but instead I wait for Cherie’s answer.
“It’s just me and Helen.” She reaches for a towel. “I like it that way.”
Cherie wraps a towel around Ma’s head and guides her to the chair. She glances over her shoulder.
“You wanted to ask me about my Cary?” she asks.
I smile when she says “my Cary.” She was his golden girl and a lot of other sweet things in that first book of poems.
“First, how do you feel about my investigating your husband’s death?”
Cherie concentrates on combing my mother’s hair into sections.
“I heard Gary’s message about you, but I didn’t pick up.” She holds a strand of hair upward as she cuts the ends with a neat snip. “He’s been thinking all along that my Cary didn’t kill himself, that somebody else was responsible.”
“Today, I only want to ask you a few questions about Cary’s poetry.”
Through the mirror, I see her smile back at me.
“You’re interested in his poetry?”
“Gary brought over the box containing your husband’s notebooks and papers for me to borrow. I’ve only gone through the first one, but it got me thinking about why he wrote poetry. There aren’t many men around here who do it.”
“Cary was a good student in school. He said he might’ve wanted to go to college, but that wasn’t gonna happen with his folks.” She raises the scissors. “He was the first in his family to graduate from high school. Do you believe that?”
Yes, I do.
“When did Cary start writing?”
She combs and cuts my mother’s hair as she talks.
“When we were going out, he’d write me mushy things on cards and notes. I have those somewhere,” she says. “I think he got ideas for poems when he was drivin’ truck for the town, especially when he was plowin’ in the winter. He’d keep his eyes on the road, but his mind would wander. He started keepin’ a notebook in the cab of his truck, and on his breaks, he scribbled stuff down.” She laughs. “The other guys on the crew kidded him about it, but he didn’t care.”
“When did he write?”
“At night usually, on the weekends some. He did it at the kitchen table. He wrote on paper. He didn’t use a typewriter or computer. When he was finished with a poem, he’d write it down in one of his notebooks.”
“Did he show you his poems?”
“All the time. He read them out loud, too. They changed over the years. You’ll see. They get more serious.”
“One of the notebooks looks like it caught on fire.”
“I came home one day and saw Cary throwing it into the woodstove. I grabbed the book and put out the fire. I think he was going to burn ’em all. He wouldn’t tell me why, but he was upset about somethin’.”
“How long was that before he died?”
She holds the scissors above a strand of hair as she thinks. She turns, blinking toward me.
“It was a few weeks before. I hadn’t thought of that.”


Author Bio
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. 

Social Media Links –
Twitter: @joanlivingston 

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