Friday, October 18, 2013

Other People's Skeletons by Julie Smith Excerpt

Other People's Skeletons by Julie Smith
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Other People’s Skeletons is the FIFTH Rebecca Schwartz mystery by Edgar-winning author Julie Smith.

Rebecca Schwartz, “Jewish feminist lawyer,” as she’s fond of saying, thought she knew her best friend--and her boy friend. Not to mention her family. But everything’s about to change.

Secrets spill out of these pages like hornets out of a nest, each with its own distinct sting, as author Smith weaves a thrill-packed and complicated mystery that’s as much about how little we know about our nearest and dearest as it is about whodunit.

Rebecca’s shocked when Chris Nicholson, her glamorous law partner, is arrested for murder--but not nearly so shocked as when she discovers Chris can’t come up with an alibi. What she was doing, Chris says, involves a secret so damaging she’d be drummed out of San Francisco legal circles if anyone knew. All she’ll say is what her secret isn’t--crime, drugs, sex, alcohol, addiction, illness (mental or otherwise), or an eating disorder. So what’s left? Sure enough, when Rebecca uncovers it, her world tilts on its axis—and continues to list, ever more dangerously, as the story picks up speed and this formerly rational lawyer finds her worldview threatened by things she never knew existed. At least not in her circle! And Chris is far from the only one with a skeleton in her closet.

The murdered man, Jason McKendrick, was a much-loved columnist, a carefree bachelor with a million glamorous women, who also happened to have a very special friend who slept on a filthy mattress in his apartment. As Rebecca and Chris peel back the layers of Jason’s complicated world, they find he was leading not just a double life, but maybe many more. Only one person knows what made him tick. But can she stay alive long enough to tell his story?


I once said to one of my clients, a man who’d killed someone in self-defense, that it must have been the hardest thing he ever had to live through.
“Not even close,” he said. “Not nearly as hard as my divorce. Learning that someone I thought I knew was so different; living with that. That’s the hardest thing I ever had to do.”
The night Chris Nicholson, my law partner, was nearly arrested for murder I started to see what he meant. It was a time when everything I thought about the world changed, everything I thought I knew about human beings and who they are turned upside down and inside out. And it was probably a change for the better.
I can say that now that it’s over. I can even say that I think I’m a better person for it, a bigger and more aware person. I’m certainly a weirder person. But I notice I’m a little more careful about whom I call weird these days. Who among us is exactly like the rest of us? And more to the point, who hasn’t got a secret? Even, maybe, a whole secret life.
I think I should go back to the old Rebecca for a moment here, just to illustrate the progression of the thing; the Rebecca of the Cosmic Blind Date.
I was standing in line at the post office one day, mailing a birthday present, a job it’s not ethical to give to my secretary—  and anyway, he wouldn’t do it. I was impatient, in a hurry because I had to go home and pack for a business trip to Seattle. And a man was staring at me. He was sort of a nice-looking man, in fact a very nice-looking man, nothing wrong with him except that his hair was a little long and he was rumpled. That could have meant nothing or a lot, like maybe he was crazy and didn’t care how he looked, or maybe he was homeless and didn’t have a mirror, which also might have meant he was crazy. Without being narrow-minded about it, most urban women would agree, I think, that men who stare at you and might be crazy are probably best avoided.
I was busily keeping my distance and avoiding eye contact (or trying to) but I couldn’t help it, I kept sneaking little nervous glances to see if he was still staring. And he was, every time.
Finally, he simply walked up to me and said, “Excuse me, I know this sounds crazy, but you aren’t named Rebecca, are you? By any chance?”

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