Monday, November 2, 2009

A mysterious box is delivered....

RO: Last Saturday started like any other. I forced myself to work out and embarked on the endless round of minor chores which alway seem to need doing - dropping off at Goodwill, heading to the hardware store and dry cleaners and then I let myself get happily sidetracked by a tag sale.

When I got home, there was a cardboard box on my doorstep, about three feet by one and a half feet. Scribbled on the box in blue magic marker were the words "these are the plans for your house. I thought you might like them."

I should back up a bit and say that my husband and I never met the woman who sold us our house fifteen years ago. The house wasn't even for sale but my husband fell in love with it one day as he was jogging and dragged me back to see it. I was convinced we'd get arrested for trespassing, but we didn't. Anyway, the owner's brother orchestrated the sale for his sister who by all accounts was a colorful, i.e., eccentric character.

And now we have this box of plans and blueprints dating back to 1948. Some of them are very cool and show the house before its numerous additions. Others show proposed changes in the 80's which never materialized but are amazingly close to things my husband and I are considering doing.

I haven't gone through the whole box yet - there are dozens of plans. What if there is an underground room I don't about? A secret panel in the basement? Something that was razed for unknown reasons... hmmm, so what think? Should I scrap the beginning of the as yet unnamed book four which takes place at a flower show and write this story instead? Where would you take this story?

JAN: I don't know, I'm intrigued by murder at the flower show -- but if I were going to write this one, there would definitely be a secret underground room with both dead bones and a LOT of money in it.

HANK: Misdirection. That's the key. After much searching and speculating, the plans are nothing. But! There's something written on the back of the plans. Or! One of the pages is mistakenly mixed in from somewhere else. And THAT takes her to the real mystery.

RO: Ooohh, you gals sound like mystery writers. I took a writing class with Stuart Kaminsky once and he started us off with a story line and we each had five minutes to sketch out what happened next. So, JR find a mysterious box of house plans on your doorstep with a cryptic note. What happens next? At the end of the week, I will pick my favorite story line from JR's readers and send the winner a signed copy of The Big Dirt Nap.

Hallopalooza Winners...

canyonson - Royal Flush, Rhys Bowen

DarcyO - Prime Time, Hank Phillippi Ryan

Helen Kiker - A Confidential Source, Jan Brogan

Librarymom - Preaching to the Corpse, Roberta Isleib

Riss - Bibliophile's Devotional, Hallie Ephron

Penny Tuttle - Pushing Up Daisies, Rosemary Harris
Winners should contact the author whose book they've won by ckicking on our pictures above and visiting our website. Congrats and thanks for playing!!


  1. What about if the box includes plans for a sunken perennial garden (this has to involve your sleuth's interests, right?) which leads her dig up the top layer of the current garden to find it and she finds a body along with the old garden? Or the plans are for a hedge maze, then she realizes her current hedge out back used to be the maze and she reprunes and finds bones?


  2. I have a friend who, um, liberated the plans for her house from a major museum. She figured that she owned the house and had the right to have them (the architect was fairly well known)--and now they're hanging on her wall. This isn't uncommon among museum and library patrons, particularly where genealogical items are concerned ("hey, my sixth great-grandfather wrote that letter, so it should be mine!" and into a pocket it goes).

    Would someone kill a museum employee if that person tried to intervene?

  3. I love this setup. And of course, examining the plans carefully they find a hidden room.

    Ro, stay with the book you're writing...I want this one.

  4. I think the house no longer conforms to the original plans, and the original design reveals something that is no longer there: a peculiar, asymmetric number of windows on the same side of the house.

    Was this aggressive architecture of the day or does it reflect the wishes of a client who wanted an unobstructed view of something (or someone) next door? Companion notes to contractors indicate the client had a major voice in the design, changes that evolved as the house was being built, and the result wasn't pretty -- Stanford White with a hangover meets Frank Lloyd Wright with a migraine.

    Local lore suggests the original owner, a withdrawn man of rumored wealth, lived thirty years in his eccentric, odd-eyed house. Elderly neighbors remember him standing at one window or another, facing east and gazing, gazing.

    He died alone beneath one of them. "Wasted away," said the coroner at the time, as though the old fellow had forgotten to eat. He died unmourned, his wealth unfound.

    A tight-lipped nephew inherited the house, battered, patched and drywalled it to a more conventional symmetry and sold it. It sold again. And again. And again. In the decades since, the entire cityscape has changed. The original house is obscured. Its view is entirely gone.

    And so who was this man in his house of many windows? And what did he look for out them? Was it madness that killed him, or guilt -- or yearning?