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The first chance Minty Wilcox gets in January 1899, she sets off to find a stenographer’s job in Kansas City. But her search is jinxed from the start.
First, a soldier named Hanks falls backward down the steep Ninth Street Incline, site of the cable car line. Next, Clayton Cole, an old man with a gun and a badge, accuses Minty of murdering the soldier. Then Cole chases Minty away before she can find out if Hanks is alive, dying or dead.
On Minty’s way home, a young, bearded stranger approaches her. Though he turns out to be her mother’s prospective boarder, Daniel Price stays a mystery in other ways. For instance, what was he really doing next door inside the house of the nosy Miss Agnes Shackleton?
Minty barely has time to tell her mother about her jinxed morning when Miss Shackleton shows up and repeats malicious gossip about the Wilcox family. She even threatens to run the Wilcoxes out of the Quality Hill neighborhood.
Before Mama can get rid of Miss Shackleton, who should show up but Clayton Cole, demanding the steep sum of one hundred dollars to forget what he claims he saw Minty murder Soldier Hanks.
So there’s nothing for Minty to do but set aside her search for employment and go looking for Soldier Hanks. At Mama’s insistence, Daniel Price escorts her. Talk about nosy! Why else does Price keep showing up wherever Minty goes? Why else would he sneak into her room and look at her diary? (Thank goodness, she writes her installments in shorthand.)
In spite of her efforts to clear her name, eventually bad luck spreads like a nasty cold from Minty to her entire family and to Mr. Daniel Price as well. Minty feels that she brought all these troubles to her family and friends, so she must set things right.
This won’t be easy in Kansas City where, a hundred years ago, living could get downright deadly.
Praise for January Jinx
Book 1 of the Calendar Mysteries
Mystery and romance in old Kansas City
By Juliet Kincaid
What fun it is to read a mystery set in a different locale, Kansas City in this case. The main character, Minty Wilcox, is the kind of young woman you root for: gutsy and daring for her time while still trying to maintain her manners. The love interest is fun, the plot engaging and the ending a surprise. Jump into another century with a rich variety of characters and have a good read.
The story moves with no dead spots at all. One little surprise after another triggers the wonder when the next in the series will arrive. Overall, an enjoyable few hours of reading. Cleverly done.
Sometimes a girl just can't catch a break and that's certainly true for Minty Wilcox. Everything just keeps getting worse, but Minty knows she's not a murderer and she's bound to prove it. January Jinx is a great mystery and a great kick-off for this series.
The delightful, creative, and charming January Jinx introduces a terrific character in Minty Wilcox, a good old-fashioned cozy mystery persona who will surely be able to carry the planned-for series. It’s Minty who drives the readable narrative, and author Juliet Kincaid keeps the pace steady and fast at the same time for quite a readable experience. The writing is appropriate for the historical setting without ever being gimmicky or archaic . . . The unique setting of 1899 Kansas City is full of flavor that never overwhelms the story and characters. With a terrific, original, but still comfortable series concept, there are certainly big things afoot for Juliet Kincaid and Minty Wilcox’s Calendar Mysteries.
Minty plodded along Pennsylvania Avenue with nary a glance at the houses, mostly red brick with gold painted trim or deep blue or jade green though here and there stood a stately home with a mansard roof in the French style like the Wilcoxes’ own or an eccentric Queen Anne with a porch here, a bay there.
Minty lifted her head and looked at the busts of Romeo and Juliet on either side of the front porch of the house across the street. Earlier they’d seemed to smile at her, urging her on her way to inquire at Corley and Son about the position for a stenographer/typewriter posted in the newspaper before Christmas. Now the romantic couple stared blindly into the wind-blown dust.
Minty passed these homes so eagerly, so confidently not long before, how long she didn’t know because she no longer had the watch her brother had loaned her.
She pressed her hand to her mouth. What will I tell Eddie? I should have made Cole return my things. But how? He had a gun. Maybe I should have reported the soldier’s fall to the police. But what if the sheriff reported me to the police? They’ll arrest me and–
A man in a reddish brown suit ran down the steps from Miss Agnes Shackleton’s porch as Miss Shackleton herself, as ever in black, vanished into her house. In ghostly gray, Miss Shackleton’s maid followed.
The man stopped in front of Minty. He was bearded, but his complexion was young and so were his dark brown eyes. He carried a large leather Gladstone traveling bag and a black coat.
“Who are you?” Minty asked. “How do you know my name?” Oh, no, here you go again, Minty, talking to strangers on the street. Look where it led last time. “Good day.” Minty stepped forward.
The man jumped aside, dragged his hat off and bowed. “I’m Daniel Price, Miss Wilcox. Forgive me for being so forward. I wrote the address down wrong, you see.” He held out a slip of paper that bore “1070 Pennsylvania” in bold, square letters.
“I guess I see, if you meant to come to our house. Though why you would want to, I wouldn’t know.”
Instead of clarifying that issue, the young man waved vaguely to his right. “That lady up there?”
His eyes sparkled. “She doesn’t speak highly of the Wilcoxes.”
“She wouldn’t.” Minty glanced at Miss Shackleton’s house, a vast white pile, not nearly so elegant as the Wilcox home, 1074 Pennsylvania, a four-story red brick with olive green trim. A mansard roof topped it and a porch jutted from the front of the main level. “So why are you paying us a call, sir?”
Minty gave the stranger a closer look. His suit was tweed and new. The collar of his white shirt was crisp, his necktie modest, his beard and mustache neatly trimmed. “I warn you, sir. My mother doesn’t deal with itinerant salesmen.”
“I’ve come about the room.”
“Last week there was an advertisement in the newspaper.”
Mama had said not a word to Minty about taking in another boarder, but it wouldn’t do for her to let this stranger know that. “Oh yes, that room. You’d best come along then.”
With what she hoped was grace and elegance, she swept past him and up the steps to the porch of 1074. She stopped in front of the heavy oak door while the man opened it for her. At the other end of the vestibule, she stopped while he opened the inner door as well. “Do come in, Mr. Pierce. Let me call my mother.”
“It’s Price, Miss Wilcox. Daniel Price.”
“Oh yes, Mr. Price.” Minty turned to her right once, then right again. She stopped by the small oak table against the wall that separated the vestibule from the front hall. She lifted her gaze to the mirror. Minty gasped. Some time during the hectic morning, her small black hat with a deep red rose below the brim had slipped off the top of her head and now perched on her right ear. “Oh.” Minty yanked out her hatpin, removed her hat, and dropped it on the green damask table cover. She smoothed her brown hair.
In the mirror, Minty glimpsed a girl in a blue dress on the oak staircase, still garlanded with Christmas greenery. A black cat just ahead of the girl jumped off the next to the bottom step, sprinted across the front hall and sprang onto the window seat while the girl teetered on the last step but three. Then Minty’s youngest sibling jumped, picked herself up, and danced from foot to foot, her blond curls and pink ribbons bouncing. “It’s him, Minty. Miss Shackleton’s beau.”
“Miss Shackleton has a beau?” the young man said. “Surely not.”
“Un huh, she does. It’s you!”
“You think I’m Miss Shackleton’s beau? Interesting.”
“Come here, Peach. You look a sight.” While the little girl gawked at the young man, Minty smoothed her blond curls.
“I’m no one’s beau at the moment, but I know who you are.”
“You’re Miss Priscilla Wilcox.” Mr. Price took Peach’s grubby hand and shook it. “I’m very happy to make your acquaintance.”
Peach pulled away. “I’m Peach. That’s what Papa calls me and everybody else, too, ‘cause I’m Papa’s peach of a girl.”
“I can see that.”
“Hold still, Peach.” Minty retied the pink ribbon on the right side of Peach’s head.
“How did you know my name’s really Priscilla?”
“Miss Shackleton next door gave me the particulars of everyone in this household.”
“Huh?” Peach said.
Minty tugged the blue skirt out of Peach’s drawers. “She told him all about us apparently, but you know, Mr. Price, you shouldn’t listen to that old . . . to Miss Shackleton. She bears us many grudges for things we never did. But you probably want to speak with my mother about the room, Mr. Price, instead of hanging about the front hall all day. . . . Peach? Where’s Mama?”
“Mama’s in the cellar helping Gerta with the wash,” said Eddie, Minty’s youngest brother, as he limped into the front hall. Small for his age, he wore a starched white shirt with a gray vest and matching trousers. He had narrow, foxy features and reddish brown hair. “Who’s this?” He stared through wire-rimmed spectacles. “My mother doesn’t deal with men who sell door-to-door, sir.”
“You must be Master Edward.”
“It’s Mr. Edward Wilcox. I’ll be fourteen next month.”
“Mr. Wilcox.” Price edged past Minty and Peach. He held out his hand.
“Eddie, this is Mr. Daniel Price. He’s come about a room Mama advertised in the newspaper.”
Eddie shook hands with Price, but stood his ground.
“I am impressed with your cautious nature, Mr. Wilcox. Let me show you my references, sir. Let’s see. Where are they?”
Price folded his black coat inside out to reveal a black and dark green plaid lining and an Emery, Bird, Thayer label. Bold as brass for someone who didn’t yet know if he’d be accepted into the house as a lodger, he laid the coat on the armchair with green plush upholstery by the table and his hat on top of the coat. He dropped the valise on the tapestry Brussels carpet in front of the chair.
“I think they’re in here,” Price said. Kneeling, he rummaged in his bag and pulled out a pair of socks, rolled together. He dropped the socks back in the valise and drew out a white shirt, then put it back. “Where can they be?” Price splayed his hand across his bearded chin. “I remember!” He jumped up and pushed his hand into his jacket pocket. “Not there.” Ever faster, he patted his inside pockets, his vest pockets, large and small, his outside jacket pockets above and below, inside pockets, back trouser pockets, front trouser pockets.
Minty tapped her right foot.
Finally, Price put his hands on his hips. “Peach, you little imp!”
“I’m not no imp.”
“Grammar, Peach.” Peach was the youngest member of the household, so everyone who lived at 1074 Pennsylvania except the cat corrected her. “You need to say, I’m not an imp.”
“Well, I’m not no imp neither.”
Price reached behind Peach’s left ear and tousled her curls. “Funny. I don’t feel any horns.”
“I don’t have horns!”
“Here it is. You had it all the time.” Price held out a silver coin he’d apparently plucked from behind Peach’s ear.
“I’m showing Mama.” Peach grabbed the coin and skipped out of the room. The cat jumped down from the window seat and padded after.
“Cheap parlor trick,” said Eddie. “Will you show me how to do it?”