Husbands and Lap Dogs Breathe Their Last
David Steven Rappoport
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ISBN 978-0-9861780-3-0 paperback, 978-0-9861780-4-7 e-book
Paperback $15.95, e-book $3.99
Book 1 in the Cummings Flynn Wanamaker Mysteries: Amateur sleuth Cummings Flynn Wanamaker attends the monthly meeting of a steampunk occult group in Chicago, where a speaker combusts—perhaps spontaneously. Meanwhile, a body is discovered in a boat in rural Maine. To solve the connected crimes in this funny and eccentric mystery, Cummings navigates quirky clues and characters, including an ethereal gay romance novelist, a broken-down recluse who once wrote Cold War thrillers, assorted occultists with assumed names, a museum devoted to ephemera, a pagan reliquary and fetid feta cheese.
Mainers take care of what they own; the weather and Yankee frugality demand it. When winter comes, they put their boats in dry dock and often shrink-wrap them in white plastic. When summer approaches, they rip the shrink-wrap off and put them back in the water.
It was early June in the village of Horeb, Maine, population 2,421, a village on Merrymeeting Bay. The weather had finally turned warm, and Elektra Philemon, with the assistance of three local boys, was about to launch her employer’s boat for the season. It was stored at a neighbor’s place — Ernestine Cutter’s. Ernestine knew that in recent years the dock and storage fees at the town marina had become too much for Deuteronomy Smelt, the man for whom Elektra worked as a housekeeper.
Elektra was a monumental woman in late middle age, part Praxiteles and part Bride of Frankenstein, with more curves than a Greek island and a headful of frantic gray ringlets. She strode forcefully in her L.L. Bean waterproof boots across the acres of garden, septic system and muddy meadow that separated Ernestine’s Greek Revival home from the bay. The leach field was particularly soft; major repairs had been done in the fall and covered over with earth just before winter set in.
As Elektra and her helpers approached, they noticed an increasingly foul smell. By the time they reached the boat, the smell was overwhelming. The shrink-wrapping, while still more or less intact around the sides of the boat, had a large gash on the surface.
“A fisher cat must have crawled in there and died,” one of the boys suggested, referring to a nasty species of local weasel.
Elektra sighed and nodded in agreement. “Boys, we rip the plastic, then back to the house for bleach I going, and the boat we scrub.”
Vigorously, she began to rend the white plastic that covered the boat like a cocoon. The boys assisted.
The cause of the smell was not immediately evident, so Elektra hoisted herself into the boat and looked inside the interior. Entering the front cabin, she shrieked monumentally. She climbed down to terra firma and fell to her knees, shaking her fists.
“What is it?” one of the boys asked.
She wailed. Startled by her behavior, the boys expressed fear in its more subdued Yankee form: they stood frozen. Then one of the boys, returning more quickly than his peers to his normal state of New England pragmatism, went on board to see what the problem was.
“So, is it a fisher cat?” one of his friends asked.
“No. It’s a person.”
The second boy joined the first in the boat. “Who is that?” he asked, peering at the remains.
“Don’t know, but he looks wicked dead,” the first boy said.
“Somebody should call Officer Bernier,” a third boy concluded, referring to the Sagadahoc County Sheriff who lived in the village. This boy pulled a cell phone out of his pocket.
Elektra wailed again, then added, “Ask police if bringing some bleach!”
“Witty, sardonic and fast-paced, Husbands and Lap Dogs Breathe Their Last sends an engagingly eccentric sleuth chasing down a tangled skein of clues that reach from rural Maine to Chicago’s occult scene and back again. Highly recommended.”
–John Michael Greer, author of The New Encyclopedia of the Occult and editor of The Golden Dawn
“Set in Chicago’s Magickal underworld, this book … [is] not your everyday noir mystery. Just when you’ve gotten tired of the usual coming out saga or fantasy romance, I would recommend this funny and exciting new novel that … parodies the world of spirits but also bows gracefully to it.”
–William Hoffman, author of As Is and The Ghosts of Versailles
“Rappoport’s unique debut novel serves up a diverting cornucopia of eccentric characters and whimsical situations for fans of the detective novel: everything from a gay detective to contemporary pagans, spontaneous combustion, an orgone box factory in Maine, gothic mansions in Chicago, and much more.”
–David Carter, author of Stonewall and Allen Ginsberg: Spontaneous Mind