Someone screams inside the old, neglected Victorian house next door, and Tina Shaw runs to find out what’s wrong. A woman bursts out the door saying her aunt is dead. Murdered. Tina notices that the hallway is piled high with cartons. Later when the woman begs her to help clean up the house, Tina hesitates. She’s just begun a career as a professional organizer, though, and her hands itch to start on a new job.
As Tina sifts through the clutter, she finds clues the murdered woman left behind. She learns the woman was rich, and all her relatives are suspects. But when the will is read, Tina and her family also become suspects. After her mother is arrested, Tina begins investigating in earnest with the help of her boyfriend, Hank (the Hunk). Will she find out who the killer is before her own life is put in danger?
Second in the Tina Tales series.
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Excerpt from BURIED UNDER CLUTTER
The scream pierced the cold winter air. Tina whirled around in her driveway and stared at the old, decaying Queen Anne next door, then began running toward it. Fumbling in her bag for her cell phone, she stumbled on the cracked sidewalk leading to the house.
Tina dashed up the steps to the porch, then hesitated at the front door. Common sense told her not to go in. She dialed nine-one-one and waited. The silence from inside the house seemed more ominous than the screams.
Dispatch answered on the second ring. “What is your emergency?”
“Someone screaming next door to my house.”
Tina told her. “I’m standing outside. Should I go in?”
Before the dispatcher could answer, a distraught-looking woman burst out of the front door and banged into Tina, making her drop her cell. Tina bumped against the rotten railing, which gave way behind her. She caught herself by grabbing onto the also-decaying post. At least it saved her from flying into the dead bushes in front.
“Sorry. Sorry,” the woman mumbled. Her eyes were wide, her face pale as death. She ran her hand through her brown hair and plopped herself down on the faded green metal chair in front of the bay window. Tina shuddered. The paint was peeling. What would it do to the woman’s clothes? Nice clothes; expensive clothes, she noticed.
“What’s wrong?” Tina began to search for her phone. A stench from the open front door made her hesitate, but she couldn’t place the smell, so she continued the hunt.
“My aunt. It’s my aunt. She’s… she’s dead.”
“Mrs. Blackwell’s dead?” Tina stopped looking for her cell and stared at the woman.
A tinny voice from under the glider helped Tina find her phone.
“Hello? You there? Hello?”
“Yes.” Tina grabbed the phone and looked for a place to sit down because her legs were shaking. Nothing appealed to her—the other metal chairs were rusting and the glider looked dangerous. “Apparently there’s a dead woman in the house. Her niece found her just now.”
Mrs. Blackwell’s niece nodded. And nodded. Couldn’t seem to stop. Tina asked her, “You the one who was screaming? Is anyone else in there?”
More nodding. Then a shake of the head.
Tina made an effort to loosen her cramping hand on the cell. “She was screaming, but she’s not hurt. There’s no one else here. That we know of.”
A lone siren sounded, coming closer. The patrol car stopped in front, and two officers jumped out and ran toward the house. Another siren wailed, and an ambulance parked behind the police car.
Tina saw her mother and great-uncle come through their front door and approach the yard. Her mother’s eyes were wide and a little frightened. Uncle Bob had his service dog on her leash and had a determined set to his jaw. Here comes trouble. Tina said goodbye to the dispatcher and faced the two officers.
“Who called? And why?” the one who had been driving asked.
Mrs. Blackwell’s niece didn’t answer, so Tina said, pointing to her, “I called. She found her aunt inside. Dead.”
The officers dashed inside, the EMTs close behind.
“What’s going on?” Tina’s mother asked. “Olivia’s dead?” She gave the niece a sharp look. “Jenny, you all right?”
So, her mother knew the niece. Why wasn’t Tina surprised? Tina didn’t remember ever seeing her before. Must not have been a frequent visitor.
Jenny nodded. Tina noticed she wasn’t tearful. Just shocked.
The smell coming from the house was getting to her. She approached the doorway and peeked inside. Recoiled. The place was crammed with junk, piled to the ceiling in the hallway. It smelled like a dumpster in there. Tina backed away and caught her mother’s eye. Laura frowned at her and raised her eyes heavenward. So, she knew Mrs. Blackwell had been a hoarder.
Why hadn’t Laura told her about that? Tina had come back to Newport just a few months ago and started a professional organizing business. Laura should have known Tina would be interested in a hoarder living right next door. Oh, right, Mom didn’t approve of my new profession. She certainly wouldn’t want me anywhere near this awful mess. Tina had no enthusiasm for mucking around in there, either.
One of the officers, the cuter one with the spikey blond hair, stepped onto the porch. He held a white handkerchief over his nose, and his eyes were watering. But he wasn’t crying. Tina realized the stench caused the tears.
He talked to the radio on his shoulder as he moved down the steps and onto the cracked sidewalk. “We need the M.E. Yes, looks like a homicide.”
BURIED UNDER CLUTTER is a fast-paced, suspenseful read with an opening that pulls you right into the story.
Tina Shaw, a home organizer, gets pulled into the case when her neighbor is murdered. Olivia Blackwell was a hoarder and collector of clutter. Tina is subsequently hired to clean up the house and in the process, finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation.
In the process of going through the house, Tina finds mysterious clues left in every room. Things get even more interesting when Tina finds out that she and her family inherited millions of dollars from the neighbor. All of the heirs are suspects in the murder.
After her mother is arrested for the murder, Tina jumps in with both feet to try and find out who really did kill Mrs. Blackwell, getting into danger in the process.
An intricately plotted mystery with a large cast of characters, this story will keep you guessing until the very end. The ongoing relationship with the mysterious Hank adds a bit of romantic intrigue.
Buried Under Clutter by Jan Christensen is a page-turning suspenseful cozy mystery. This book is second in the Tina Tales series. I enjoyed this one so much I will have to go back and read the first one! The action starts on the first page and continues until the end of the book. It captivated me from the very beginning and kept me guessing to the very end.
Tina Shaw is a professional organizer who moved back home to live with her mother and uncle and his service dog, Princess who aids him with his hearing impairment. As she goes outside, she hears screaming coming from a next door neighbor’s house and someone running out of the house. The screaming is coming from her neighbor’s niece, who tells Tina that her aunt, Mrs. Olivia Blackwell is dead. While she was not the most favorite person on the street; she did not deserve to be murdered.. After her mother is arrested, Tina begins investigating in earnest with the help of her boyfriend, Hank. Will she find out who the killer is before her own life is put in danger?
The suspect list is long: Mrs. Blackwell’s nieces, her nephew, her sister and brother and two con artists who had befriended her. With the reading of the will, there are millions of motives because Mrs. Blackwell was very rich and left a lot of money to each suspect. She was also an extreme hoarder and left Tina five million dollars that is hers after she declutters the mess in Mrs. Blackwell’s house. This will give Tina the chance to look in the house for clues as to the killer’s identity.
With Tina’s psychological background she begins to understand how the clutter began, Mrs. Blackwell had suffered a fall and had a head injury. Olivia left hidden clues to try to help Tina solve the crime. I also learned things about hoarders that I never knew, and I really liked that.
This was a fast suspenseful cozy mystery with a touch of romance that kept me guessing to the very end who the killer was. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a cozy mystery. I have never read any other books by Jan Christensen but it will definitely add her to my favorite authors. Please keep more of her books coming!
Buried Under Clutter is the second in the Tina Tales Mystery series by Jan Christensen. But it works just as well as a stand alone mystery. I wasn’t lost at all reading it. I think there were only one or two references to whatever may have happened in the first book of the series.
Tina lives with her mother and great uncle in Newport. A quite little neighborhood. Well until their next door neighbor, Mrs.Blackwell, ends up dead. She is found, murdered, in her very cluttered house by her niece, Jenny.
Mrs. Blackwell was an extreme horder. And when Jenny learns that Tina is a professional organizer, she hires her to clean out her aunt’s house. Tina is given a crew of policemen to help her with this gigantic task.
After the reading of Mrs. Blackwell’s will, it seems like everyone and anyone could be the murderer, even Tina, her mom and her uncle. So as Tina is working on the hordered house, she is amazed that Mrs. Blackwell has left clues all over the house to help point them in the direction of who her killer was.
Will they figure it out in time before there is another victim? Tina is not so sure. Especially with mysterious visitors being spotted in Mrs. Blackwell’s house after all of the workers have left.
Trust me, you will not see it coming when the true murderer is revealed. I know I sure didn’t. You will be left guessing for sure to the very end. I love these kinds of mysteries!!
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