"A well-written, humorous cozy that will delight fans"
Reviewed by Sharon Galligar Chance
Posted August 12, 2011
Mystery Paranormal | Paranormal Mystery
When Rory McCain returns her neighbor's dog, Hobo, who
wandered into her yard, she doesn't expect to find the
wandering canine's owner, Brenda Hartley, lying dead in the
middle of the kitchen floor. Not wanting Hobo to go to a
shelter, Rory decides to take him home, much to the
annoyance of her "roommate," the ghost of one-time US
marshal Zeke Drummond. The ill will goes both ways: Hobo is
frightened of the spectral lawman.
Having found the body, Rory is itching to search for the
killer, but since she is just a private investigator, she
can't unless someone hires her to do it.
Luckily, that someone is Tin Kovack, a close friend of
Brenda's, who hires Rory to find the dead woman's other
dog, a valuable purebred Maltese, named Tootsie, that
wasn't found at Brenda's house. Tina is certain that
Tootsie, was stolen by the person who killed Brenda. Rory
isn't sure if she agrees, but she takes the case, because
it means that while she's searching for the dognapper, she
can also hunt for Brenda's killer. With a little help from
Zeke, Rory races to find the answers before the killer
decides to take a "bite" out of her as well!
In Sharon Pape's second novel, TO SKETCH A THIEF: A
Portrait of Crime Mystery, she continues the lively
adventures of police sketch artist/private investigator
Rory McCain. Rory is an inquisitive gal, and with the help
of her ghostly mentor, Marshal Drummond, she tracks the
clues to this intriguing murder with skill.
The relationship between Rory and Zeke is fascinating -- he
is an old-fashioned gentleman who is sometimes appalled by
Rory's modern ways, but he admires the girl for her spunk
and helps her all he can, and tries to look out for her.
Rory's family can't quite figure out what is going on at
Rory's, but if they only knew ... The plot is fast-paced,
containing a mystery, within a mystery, within a mystery
that leaves the reader breathless with anticipation until
the very end.
Pape delivers a thoroughly pleasurable series with her
Portrait of Crime books, and fans of well-written,
humorous mysteries are sure to enjoy them immensely.
After a stray dog named Hobo leads former police sketch
artist-turned-paranormal private eye Rory McCain back to
his owner's corpse, she finds herself involved in another
homicide case-not to mention the new owner of a lovable
pooch, which makes Rory\'s ghostly partner, Zeke, more than a
Ghosts don’t make the best business partners. The
thought scrolled through Rory’s head like the news crawl on
CNN. It was an old loop of news that found its way to the
forefront of her mind at least once a day. Some days a lot
more often. What had cued it up this time was the latest
email to pop into her inbox: \"You fixin’ to live out
there?\" The note was signed \"Zeke,\" as if she might have
received similar questions from any number of people.
\"I’ll be in soon,\" she wrote back, stopping herself
before she could add, \"You need a hobby.\" The problem was
that she was his hobby -- she and the investigative firm
she’d started that bore both their names. Whenever her
patience with him was wearing thin, she reminded herself
that Mac believed without reservation that the success of
his PI firm had been due in large measure to the experience
and canniness of Ezekiel Drummond. And to be fair, she had
to admit that the marshal had been helpful, maybe even
pivotal, in breaking the double murder case that had
launched their strange partnership.
The trouble with Zeke sharing her business life was
that he also shared her domestic life in the old Victorian
home Mac had left her. She could hardly blame him, since he
seemed to be pretty much stuck in that haunting ground.
Yet whenever she’d suggested he look for the light that
might lead him out of his limbo, he’d become enraged and
would say only that he wasn’t going anywhere until he knew
for sure who’d shot him in the back more than a hundred
years earlier. Rory had given up trying to convince him
that having such information would be worthless, given that
whoever the player or players might have been, they were
all long dead themselves. Since Zeke was not without common
sense, she was sure that there had to be another, more
profound reason why he was hanging around. A reason he
hadn’t as yet felt inclined to share with her.
She opened the back door and walked into the kitchen,
nearly plowing right through the marshal, who had chosen
that moment to materialize a few feet from the doorway.
She slammed to a stop, the bucket, weeder and gardening
gloves flying out of her hands. She teetered there on her
toes for several moments, doing an impression of an awkward
ballerina, before regaining her balance enough to back
away. She’d come close to touching him a dozen times
before. Sooner or later her luck would run out. She didn’t
let herself dwell on what the encounter might be like,
although she supposed it could range anywhere from a yawner
to a Ghostbuster-like sliming. She’d find out when it
happened and she wasn’t in any hurry to rush that moment.
Zeke, on the other hand, having no doubt experienced the
mixing of mortal flesh and spiritual ether at some point
during his long tenure there, had stood his ground,
obviously enjoying her discomfort. His lips were canted up
in a sly smile, his moustache twitching with suppressed
laughter. Above the sharp planes of his cheeks, his dark
eyes twinkled with mischief.
More than once she’d thought of asking him what it felt
like, but each time she’d decided against it, since it was
likely to be a very different experience depending upon
which side of the veil one was on.
\"What happened to making the lights flicker before you
appear?\"she demanded instead, hoping to wipe the grin off
\"There wasn’t exactly time for that. First you weren’t
here, then suddenly you were. I’m a ghost, not one of those
sidekicks, you know.\"
\"Psychics,\" Rory muttered, sidestepping around him to
retrieve her gardening things. She usually found his
trouble with modern vocabulary endearing, but she wasn’t
feeling very charitable after being the target of his
amusement. \"Yeah, too bad about that. A psychic would be
more useful and less inclined to startle me.\"
Zeke’s smile only widened. \"I’m pretty sure I would
still be inclined to startle you. It just wouldn’t be as
Rory slipped her hands into the thick gloves as she
walked out of the kitchen. \"I’d love to stay and trade
barbs with you, but I have a date with some weeds.\"
\"You surely do know how to hurt a fella,\" he said,
following her down the hall to the front door. With
practice over the summer his hitching gait had improved so
that he no longer resembled an actor in a flickering silent
film. Although his stride wasn’t completely fluid yet, it
was good enough that the casual observer might think he
suffered from a touch of arthritis or the lingering effects
of a sports injury.
Before meeting Zeke, Rory would never have guessed that
a ghost might have problems approximating the walk of a
mortal. For that matter, before she met Zeke she would
never have guessed that ghosts actually existed. She still
hadn’t confided in anyone that she lived with a departed
soul who hadn’t completely departed, let alone that she had
a business relationship with him. Her mother was a worrier
who didn’t need the additional concern that her daughter
had bought a one-way ticket to a room with padded walls and
bars on the windows.
Her father, who generally left the worrying to his
wife, would have reached for the remote in much the same
way that a toddler might reach for the comfort of a
pacifier. Of all Rory’s relatives, Aunt Helene was the only
one who might be counted upon to take the mention of a
ghost seriously. Her eyes might bulge out of her eye
sockets, and she might stumble over all the questions that
sprang into her mind, but she would treat Rory’s claim with
respect and an eager desire to meet her ghost.
There were times when Rory so longed to have someone,
anyone, in whom she could confide about Zeke, that she
nearly called Helene. What invariably kept her from
reaching for the phone was the fact that Helene was
notorious for not being able to keep a secret.
The only other person Rory had considered telling was
Leah Russell, her mentor and colleague when she’d worked
for the police department and still her dearest friend.
They confided in each other about every aspect of their
lives. Zeke was Rory’s one holdout on her and she actually
felt guilty about it, as if she were hiding some dirty
little secret. Yet she couldn’t quite bring herself to say
the words out loud. Leah would surely want to believe her,
try to believe her, but Rory was afraid that their
relationship might never be the same.
Of course the easy solution would have been to invite
Leah and her family over for a meet and greet. It would be
hard… no, it would be downright impossible to deny the
existence of Zeke if the rugged, six-foot one lawman were
to materialize in front of them. But the marshal wanted no
part of it.
\"I’m not some damned ol’ rodeo nag you can trot out to
entertain folks,\" he’d said harshly.
\"I don’t see what the problem is. You certainly didn’t
waste any time trotting yourself out to meet me.\"
\"That’s different. You’re sharin’ this place with me,
same as Mac.\" His face had been set hard, his jaw clamped
down in a way that let her know it would be futile to
pursue the issue any further.
\"You gonna be long?\" Zeke asked once they reached the
\"I doubt it. It’s hard to garden in the dark.\"
\"That may be true, darlin’, but when you make up that
mind of yours, there’s precious little that can change it.\"
Look who’s talking, Rory thought, struggling not to say
it aloud. It was sometimes just easier to let him have the
last word. She paused at the coat closet to pluck her denim
jacket from its hanger, then she unlocked the front door
and went outside.
After depositing the gardening tools beside the farthest
flower bed, she pulled on her jacket and got down to work.
She’d been tugging away at the weeds for no more than
fifteen minutes when something unpleasantly cold and wet
slid across the back of her neck. She whirled around and
came face-to-face with a huge dog, gray and white and
shaggy as a yak. She could barely make out its eyes through
the cascade of hair on its face. The dog seemed delighted
to see her. His plumed tail wagging madly, he wriggled
closer to lick her face, miscalculated the distance and
sent her sprawling into the flowers.
She sat up, laughing and brushing off the loose soil
that was clinging to her. The dog seized that moment to
slather her face with his wide, raspy tongue. When she
reached out to hold him off, her hand hit the metal tag
hanging from the collar in the thicket of fur around his
neck. Leaning closer to read what it said, she bought
herself another bath in doggie saliva.
According to the tag, his name was Hobo and he lived at
9 Cooper Street, a mile or so away. His name fit him well.
He looked like a dog without a nationality or a pedigree.
He had the coat and bulk of a bearded collie, but he was
also clearly part Samoyed or husky or one of a dozen other
breeds, because his ears stood up straight, just the tips
folded over as if caught in genetic indecision. Rory
doubted there’d been a pureblood of any kind in his family
tree for many generations.
\"Hobo,\" she said, \"what are you doing all the way over
here?\" He cocked his large head to one side and then to
the other as if that would help him to better understand
what she was saying. The tips of his ears flapped up and
down with each movement, adding to his quizzical expression.
\"Are you lost, boy?\"
Rory braved another look at Hobo’s tag, hoping there was
a phone number. She found it on the reverse side, and since
Hobo had paused for a snack of pansies, she managed to
avoid any additional moisturizing.
She reached into the pocket of her pants, pulled out her
cell phone and dialed the number. The phone rang five times
before it went to voice mail. It was possible that Hobo’s
owner was even now out looking for him. She left a message
along with her number and weighed her options. If she lived
alone, specifically without a ghost who had developed an
aversion to dogs, she would have invited Hobo inside while
she waited to hear back from his people. As it was, she
decided to drive him back to his home and wait there for
someone to return. The flowers would have to wait another
day to be rescued. Of course, a good third of the pansies
were no longer an issue, since they were already making
their way down Hobo’s digestive tract. It was a good thing
she’d planted edible flowers.
She stood up, grabbed the dog’s collar and headed toward
her car in the driveway. Apparently Hobo enjoyed car rides.
As soon as he saw where they were going, he took the lead
and Rory had to run to keep up with him. She opened the
door and the dog bounded in, taking up most of the back
\"Be a good boy. I’ll be back in a second,\" she promised,
shutting the door. She went into the house, slowing down
just enough to maneuver around Zeke.
\"What’s goin’ on with that dog out there?\" he asked with
a sour look on his face.
\"He must have gotten out of his yard,\" she said,
grabbing her keys from the bench near the stairs. \"He has a
tag with his address, so I’m just going to take him back.\"
\"You oughta just let him be,\" Zeke grumbled. \"He’ll find
his way home sooner or later.\"
\"He could run into the street and be hit by a car or
something,\" Rory said, surprised by his reaction. \"What do
you have against dogs anyway?\"
\"Dogs and I don’t get along well since I cashed in my
flesh and bones.\"
\"It’s not like I’m asking you to drive him home,\" she
said with some attitude of her own. She pulled the door
closed behind her and ran back to the car.
Hobo had smeared the side window with drool in the two
minutes she’d been gone. She turned on the engine and
opened the window enough for him to stick his muzzle out,
but not enough for him to think about jumping ship. And off
She found Cooper Street without a problem. The houses,
all brick and wood Cape Cods, were set closer to one
another and to the street than in the area where she lived.
But they were well maintained and inviting, lawns mowed,
bushes trimmed, woodwork freshly painted. She turned into
the driveway at number 9 and parked behind a Honda
Civic. \"I think we’re in luck,\" she said to Hobo. \"Looks
like someone’s home now.\"
She opened the car door and was immediately trampled by
Hobo, who’d jumped into the front seat in his zeal to get
out first. He made a beeline for the front door. Rory ran
after him, hoping he wouldn’t be distracted by a squirrel
and take off on another jaunt. As she rang the bell, she
noticed that the door had been left ajar. Hobo didn’t waste
a moment. He trotted right inside.
Rory waited on the cement stoop for the owner to respond
to the bell. A minute passed. She called out, \"Hello,
anyone home?\" No answer. She stepped inside and found
herself in a small, neat living room. She called out again,
but the only sound was the clicking of Hobo’s claws on a
floor somewhere in the rear of the house. Having decided
she’d done all that social protocol demanded, Rory followed
the noise through the living room and dining room to the
kitchen. There she found Hobo whimpering and licking the
ashen cheek of the middle-aged woman who lay sprawled on
the floor in a dark pool of blood.
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