THE DECORATOR WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Mad for Mod Mystery #4
Hardcover ISBN: 9781635111989
Paperback ISBN: 9781635111958
Audio ISBN: 9781520071855
She wanted an escape from her nightmares. He wanted a romantic getaway. Will a murder during their vacation bring them together or push them apart?
When Interior Decorator Madison Night accepts an assignment in Palm Springs with handyman Hudson James, she expects designing days and romantic nights. But after spotting a body in the river by the job site, she causes a rift in the team. Add in the strain of recurring nightmares and a growing dependency on sleeping pills, and Madison seeks professional help to deal with her demons.
She learns more about the crime than she’d like thanks to girl talk with friends, pillow talk with Hudson, and smack talk with the local bad boys. And after the victim is identified as the very doctor she’s been advised to see, she wonders if what she knows can help catch a killer. An unlikely ally helps navigate the murky waters before her knowledge destroys her, and this time, what she doesn’t know might be the one thing that saves her life.
Can Madison leverage an out-of-town investigation to speed up her emotional healing?
The Decorator Who Knew Too Much is the fourth compelling book in the Mad for Mod Mystery series. If you like complicated protagonists, edge of your seat reads, and the getaway vibes of Palm Springs, then you’ll love Diane Vallere’s riveting cozy thriller.
Buy The Decorator Who Knew Too Much to get out of (virtual) town today!
If Hudson had gotten his way, I wouldn’t have known about the trip to Palm Springs until we arrived at the airport. Perhaps it was the fact that I’d already experienced the frustration of traveling with a suitcase filled with someone else’s clothes thanks to a baggage mishap at the airport a few years ago, or that there are some things you just rather do for yourself. Either way, his romantic notions of whisking me away with already packed suitcases were thwarted by my naturally inquisitive nature.
“It was a nice idea,” I said. “Impractical, but nice.”
“It was supposed to be a surprise.” Hudson bent down and grabbed my bag from the conveyor belt.
“Maybe I don’t like surprises,” I said.
“Who doesn’t like surprises?”
The kind of person who had lived through more than her share of them.
Hudson James had been my contractor for five years and my leading man for five months. I’d resisted the attraction for as long as I could because his talents had become vital to the success of my decorating business, Mad for Mod. But there was more to life than business, and I’d been pleasantly surprised by how easily we’d merged the various aspects of our individual lives. If only his cat and my dog got along as well as we did, we’d be golden.
“That’s all of the luggage,” Hudson said.
“Check the tags.”
“Madison, exactly how many vintage turquoise Samsonite suitcases do you think are floating around in the world?”
I smiled. “You’d be surprised.”
He flipped over the black luggage tag, exposing my pink, yellow, and blue business card.
Madison Night, Mad for Mod.
While Hudson adjusted the stack of suitcases on the rolling cart, I let Rocky out of his carrier and attached his leash. He looked up at me with his large brown eyes. He was a Shih Tzu, small enough that he was allowed to ride in the airplane cabin with the rest of us, but he wasn’t used to being cooped up for quite so long. I scooped him up, kissed him, and then set him down. He immediately ran over to Mortiboy’s carrier and sniffed. A lazy black paw stretched forward and swatted at Rocky’s nose. Mortiboy was under the influence of a veterinarian-prescribed sedative, but that didn’t mean he would let Rocky get the wrong idea about which one of them was in charge.
The Palm Springs International Airport was easy to navigate. Within minutes our bags were stacked in the back of a Jeep that had been left in short-term parking. Our trip to Palm Springs was only part getaway; Hudson’s brother-in-law owned a construction company and had recruited us to work for him for the next two weeks. The Jeep was part of his fleet of vehicles, and he’d mailed the spare key to Hudson before we left Texas. It was yet another detail that I’d gotten out of Hudson during the three hour flight. The top to the Jeep was off and it was safe to speak for all of us: in what felt like ninety degree temperature, the passing breeze was welcome, despite what it did to our hair.
I’d recently acquired the estate of an eighty-nine-year-old woman who’d spent her youth as a fit model for a couple of companies that produced sewing patterns. To hear her daughter tell it, mom had been hired to try on completed garments to make sure the measurements on the patterns were accurate, and part of her compensation was the opportunity to buy said garments at annual sample sales. Hidden amongst the various blankets and sheets sets in her linen closet were deep plastic bins of items that appeared to have been worn once, if at all.
Each perfectly coordinated outfit had been packed in a sealable plastic bag with the corresponding pattern. Today’s ensemble was Simplicity 6013, a sleeveless A-line tunic with high slits on either side and coral, mint green, and white striped Bermuda shorts underneath. I paired it with coral canvas sneakers, my footwear option of choice.
“Tell me again about the project that brought us to Palm Springs in September? It’s not exactly tourist season.”
“That’s part of the reason why we’re here,” Hudson said. He grinned. “You never did strike me as one to do the expected.”
“If you can take it, so can I.” I reached my hands up and pushed my blonde hair away from my face. “Give me a day to adjust and then I’ll be fine.”
He slowed for a red light and kissed me on the cheek. “I love your adventurous spirit.”
“Is that what you call it? I call it a job,” I said playfully.
“The job. Right.” He laughed. “It should have been a vacation. You need one. This was the only way to get you out of town.”
I reached over and took his hand. Hudson was right; I had a tendency to throw myself into work and the past few months had been no exception. When he’d first mentioned his sister’s husband was working on a mid-century modern-inspired project in Palm Springs, it had been my curiosity, not my financial status, that interested me. “You said your brother-in-law has been planning this for a long time—something about a themed strip mall? What is it we’ll be doing?”
“This has been Jimmy’s dream for a long time. He’s been acquiring wreckage from old buildings around outskirts of Palm Springs for a couple of years now, and he just bought a parcel of land in Palm Springs that he plans to develop into a strip mall. We’re talking stuff that’s been laying around since the Fifties. When he first got the idea, it was to buy signs and fixtures cheap and resell to developers, but so much of Palm Springs is rooted in mid-century style and the Rat Pack era that he invested in his own properties. We’re here to help him build and renovate what he bought. When we’re done he’ll rent them out.”
“Isn’t that a little backward? Don’t most rental companies rent out space and allow their tenants to fixture and sign them as they see fit?”
“That’s exactly his selling point. His strip mall will be totally cohesive. He’s hoping to make it a destination spot by incorporating history into his design. He filed a petition to remove some of the old, weathered external signs from abandoned businesses in Salton Springs and they’re going to restore them and use them here. I’m going to help him with the building and construction, and you can help with the decorating.”
“So it’s going to be authentically mid-mod but new.”
“That’s the idea. Palm Springs has always been a tourist town. It’s in the middle of the desert. Why would you come here? To get away. Real estate is pretty cheap, but a lot of people only live here November to April because the temperature gets to be too hot the rest of the time.”
I fanned myself with my hand. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“Jimmy thought we’d be able to take it because we’re used to living in Texas. The temperature is the same there as it is here.”
“I don’t know if I’ve gotten used to living in Texas.”
“Come on. I thought you said you were adaptable.”
“You’re right. I think the heat gave me temporary amnesia.”
Hudson consulted some directions he’d written on a sheet of printer paper and turned left onto a narrow road. He slowed significantly and we crawled along, passing ranch house after ranch house. I forgot about the temperature, absorbed in the architecture around us. Mid-century style—decorating, clothing, cars, and architecture--was my passion. I’d fallen in love with the look thanks to a steady diet of the Doris Day movies my parents had bought me on my birthday every April 3. The actress and I shared more than a birthday. After my parents had died in a car accident while I was in college I’d turned to Doris Day as a role model. She’d experienced her own share of adversity, but remained positive and charming through it all. I’d never once heard of her viewing herself as a victim, and that was the way I wanted to live. So Doris became my guide, and I set about creating the kind of world that she lived in.
In a world that was growing ever more casual, I knew that dressing in Sixties vintage made me different, but truth was, I was more comfortable in a polyester skirt suit than if I’d worn jeans and a Tee. I could hardly remember a time when I looked like everybody else. It had started with a miniskirt here, a capelet there. It wasn’t a stretch to see how her style had morphed into mine.
I’d built my whole decorating business around the aesthetic I saw in her movies too. Through the slightly morbid business model of reading the obituaries to identify estates that were likely filled with the kind of items I’d need, I amassed an collection of original (though sometimes in need of TLC) inventory to use in future jobs. Buying estates in whole had the secondary benefit of giving me first dibs at vintage clothes and accessories, which suited my lifestyle.
The Jeep bumped along the narrow road, occasionally swaying from side to side thanks to the uneven terrain. Hudson handed me the sheet of paper. “I recognize where we’re at. Emma and Jimmy’s house should be just up the street.”
“Great. I’m pretty sure Mortiboy’s sedative is wearing off. If we don’t get there soon, I’m afraid he’s going to start plotting revenge against me for keeping him in his carrier while Rocky has his freedom.”
As if he understood me, Mortiboy let out a long, low howl. Rocky turned around to investigate and the howl was followed up with a hiss. Hudson reached his right hand around behind his seat and stuck his fingers into the grate of the carrier. “Hey, little fella, hang on. We’ll be there in a sec.” He glanced behind my seat at the cat carrier just as a dirty SUV rounded the corner coming toward us.
I yelled. Hudson hit the brakes and pulled the steering wheel to the right. The SUV careened toward us. The Jeep swerved but not fast enough. The front of the SUV clipped the Jeep. The wheels caught on a snarl of upended tree roots along the side of the road and the car tilted. The jeep tilted and then fell like a wounded dinosaur. A cloud of dirt filled the air around us. The SUV backed away from us and drove off.
I undid my seatbelt and climbed out of the car. Rocky crawled across Hudson and hopped in circles in the middle of the road. I grabbed the end of his leash so he couldn’t run away and stooped down by Hudson’s head.
The heat and dust filled my lungs. I waved my hand through the air to see the damage. Hudson lay very still in the driver’s side. A streak of blood ran across his forehead. Seconds after being hit, we were stranded on the side of the road.