Death at a Fixer-Upper is Book #1 in the Home Sweet Home cozy mystery series by Sarah T. Hobart. As a real estate agent, Sarah knows a thing or two about Northern California real estate and the real-life weird things that can happen during real estate transactions. She also has a great sense of humor. Those two qualities lend authenticity to this cozy mystery set in small-town coastal Northern California and make it a lot of fun to read. Of course I love Northern California’s quirky small coastal towns, so I may be just a bit biased; however, I think anyone who’s ever had any dealings with real estate is likely to relate to this story. Should Death at a Fixer-Upper be on your TBR pile?
Sam Turner and her son, Max, love their little coastal Northern California village of Arlinda. Since her divorce, she’s gotten her real estate license and she’s feeling really good about life in general. Although she’s only had her license for about five months, she knows her small town like the back of her hand and she can’t wait to help people buy or sell their homes there…she just has to figure out how to make that work.
Unfortunately Sam has a landlord a lot of us could relate to – one who could care less about her and has decided he’s going to evict her so he can do something else with his property. That’s landlord loyalty for you…oh well. Luckily, she’s found a little place to buy and is just praying escrow will close before they have to be out of the rental.
And she’s suddenly getting a lot of interest in a really old local Victorian home for sale, which is odd because it looks like it’s in awful shape. It’s one of those homes that’s been allowed to fall into disrepair and is going to need major work to be salvaged. Sam can’t imagine taking on such an extensive renovation…especially one for a house rumored to be haunted.
“But when I rounded the last turn and the once grand old house loomed into view I almost stalled the engine again. It was a three-story tumbledown structure smothered by thick vines that climbed right up to the eaves. Weathered redwood boards covered the exterior, any paint long since pulled off by relentless fingers of ivy…”
Still you never know who will get the flipping/renovation bug and want to buy an older home, and who is she to tell buyers what they should or shouldn’t want to buy. As she lines up showings, she’s optimistic that a bidding war could ensue with so much interest. Still she has to wonder why so many people seem so interested in this particular property. Why is it so special all of a sudden?
Very quickly she finds that she’s got three offers on the property before anyone has even seen or inspected it, and that is beyond weird. I mean California real estate moves at a fast pace but not that fast, especially in a small remote town far away from San Francisco and Los Angeles. Then the unthinkable happens. When she arrives at the house to show it to one of the bidders, she finds him in no condition to view the house – he’s been murdered. Well hell, that’s not good.
“I don’t believe in ghosts.
So when I found the corpse I didn’t fall apart. Not then, anyway. Maybe later, after some other stuff had happened – but that’s getting ahead of myself…I admit that a chill settled on my spine: clammy fingers of fear and dread that were only natural, given the circumstances. But ghosts? I don’t think so.”
Now the police are involved, but they don’t seem to have a clue what to do to find the killer. Sam can see her badly needed commission flying out the window – not to mention that there’s a killer on the loose and it could be anyone – from one of the other bidders to a local resident to her ex-husband, who’s suddenly reappeared after 14 years.
Why is he back? What are his ties to this property? Would someone want this property so badly that they’d kill to get it and, if so, why? What the hell is going on? Looks like Sam is going to have to be the one to find out if she has any hope of clinching a deal to sell it. Just what she needs right now…not!
“When it was all over, I could have kicked myself for missing the obvious. But that’s hindsight for you. By the time I’d made sense of things, people were dead, and I was…changed. Like I said though, there’s no going back.”
I know my synopsis probably makes Sam sound a little cynical and only concerned about her commission, which is not the case. She’s actually a very compassionate and caring person, the kind of person you’d like to have as a friend and a real estate agent…and she’s between a rock and a hard place financially. She does have to be concerned about that commission…and she’s horrified that a client has been murdered on her watch. Those two things drive her to work to find out who killed him much more persistently than the police. Like most small towns everywhere, Arlinda has its share of quirky characters and empire builders – and that makes for some interesting dynamics.
Sarah T. Hobart has populated Death at a Fixer-Upper with a cast of people who anyone from a small town can easily recognize, and their quirks and foibles lead to a lot of chuckles. That coupled with a story thread with enough twists to turn into a pretzel make for one hell of a fun cozy mystery. I read it in one sitting because I was having too much fun to put it down. It transported me to the Northern California coast, one of my favorite places in the world, and provided a great popcorn read. I can’t wait to see where this series goes!
Can’t wait to read it? Death at a Fixer-Upper is available as a bargain e-book from your favorite online bookseller. Click on the book-cover link below to download it for only $2.99 to read on your Kindle, tablet, computer, or cellphone instantly!
I’d love to get your comments on Death at a Fixer-Upper, Sarah T. Hobart, and/or this review!