Could an old-fashioned ballgown be used to commit murder?
Daiyu Wu is aware that fear of the Yellow Terror has made her nationality a rare breed in the Lone Star State. Being Chinese and blind makes her doubly unique in 1930 Dallas. Despite these impediments, anyone who dismisses her for either fact does so at their peril.
One day, at her family-owned laundry business, Dai detects the scent of burned garlic. With the help of her companion, Jacques, the source is soon discovered. It is a green ballgown. The gown has money pinned inside it to pay for the cleaning, but oddly, it came with no address label to identify its owner. Her extensive knowledge leads Dai to believe someone has committed murder using arsenic. The perpetrator is trying to use White Laundry to hide the evidence. But no mention of foul play turns up in the newspapers, and there’s not enough proof to convince the police there’s been a crime.
Her curiosity and intellect stimulated like never before; Dai ignores the possible consequences and sets out to solve the mystery with the help of her canine companion, Prince Razor, and her confidant, Jacques Haskins. It’s either that or let the killer get away with it — assuming a spoiled popinjay, his jealous self-appointed girlfriend, and Dai’s overprotective parents don’t get in her way.
A Daiyu Wu Mystery – Book 1
Targeted Age Group:: 14+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
As an author, all my novels up to date have been standalone's. I figured it was about time I tried my hand at a series. 😛 This is also my first stab at a cozy historical mystery. Several of my favorite authors not only wrote fantasy and science fiction but also mysteries. Several of my fantasy and ya fantasy novels already had mystery elements, so I decided to branch out. History is fascinating and a cozy would be a great way to explore some of it. 🙂
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I thought long and hard about the type of mystery I would be interested in reading and what time in history wasn't usually covered. The 1920s have always been very popular, but what about the 1930s? From there I started thinking about what would make for some fun characters and those I'd not seen before. That's how I eventually came to decide on Daiyu Wu (AKA Dai). Chinese and also blind — so she needed a companion or two. In the tradition of Sherlock Holmes, Jacques Haskins is the one telling her stories and her right-hand man and confidant. Dai's second companion came to me not long after – Prince Razor. He's a Pomeranian and Scottish Terrier mix and smart as a whip. The three were a lot of fun to write.
The Adolphus Hotel was located on Commerce Street in downtown Dallas. Built in 1912 at twenty-two stories, it was the tallest building in the city until 1922. It was designed specifically to be the grandest hotel in Dallas, and was constructed in the Beaux-Arts style. This gave the hotel an appearance that was a mixture of Imperial Rome, Italian Renaissance, and French Baroque. Red and trimmed in white, it became ever more impressive the closer we approached. Cherubs, shields, faces, columns, and armament façades were sculpted near rounded window frames. White iron rod screens gave a bit of color to the hotel windows. The entrance was extravagant, featuring columns and polished marble, while dark wood paneling covered the vast guest reception area. The check-in desk was inviting and fully manned, the back wall filled with rows of golden hooks on which hung the brass keys for the rooms. Several young porters in smart uniforms and pillbox hats stood ready to render assistance at a moment's notice.
Dai held Prince in her arms as I guided her forward with a light touch at her elbow. The front desk manager spied us crossing the lavishly carpeted room and came out from behind the check-in area to intercept us.
It surprised me when the pencil-mustached manager made eye contact with me rather than Dai. Her glasses were in place, so there was no way for him to realize she was blind—at least not yet.
"I'm very sorry, but you can't bring that in here."
Dai held Prince higher, and he raised his front paws to show he was all about obeying the rules. "I assure you, Prince is a well-behaved canine."
The manager ignored Dai completely and continued to look and talk only to me. "Sir, I wasn't talking about the dog."
Heat rushed up my neck and into my face as the meaning of his words crystalized in my brain.
"We can make arrangements, sir, if we must. But not here, not in public. We have a reputation to maintain and the sensibilities of our guests to consider. If you depart then come round the back, I will see what can be done."
Dai was blind, not deaf! How dare he say such things in front of her? Who was he to make such judgments? My hands curled into fists, my rage building by the second. His expectant and solicitous expression only made it burn hotter. I would show this cur what I thought of his misguided opinions!
"Jacques, don't." Dai grabbed my sleeve. "It's all right."
It wasn't all right. It was far from all right. I shook where I stood. It would be worth a night in jail to show this bastard some proper manners.
"Alphonse, my good man!"
A gentleman in his mid-twenties came toward us, trying to catch the front desk manager's eye. Clean-shaven with slicked-back sandy blond hair, he wore a black suit with thin gold stripes, a gold vest with black stripes, a black shirt and gold tie. With a knowing look in his blue eyes, he flashed a brilliant, pearly-white smile. I felt an instant and irrational dislike for him.
"So glad I caught you. I meant to let you know I was expecting a special guest today." His gaze roamed Dai's length and breadth, then focused solely on Alphonse. He lowered his voice to a bare whisper. "This is the daughter of Dr. C. C. Wu, the minister of China's legation in Washington, D.C."
Alphonse's face paled, and he darted a glance in Dai's direction.
"She's here incognito, you see—no limousines or fanfare. My father is very keen to get mineral rights in China. He invited the minister and his family to visit, to show them our famous Texas hospitality. I'm sure you wouldn't want to put the kibosh on Father's plans, now, would you?"
By this point, Alphonse was looking a little green. "No. Of course not, Mr. Pierce. I'm very sorry. If I'd known—"
Before I could think about what I was doing, I took a menacing step forward. "He's not the one you should apologize to."
The manager almost tripped in his haste to step back from my aggressively looming presence. "Yes, yes, of course." He half-turned and looked at Dai directly for the first time. "I'm very sorry, madam. Please forgive me for any offense I might have caused. Let me know if there's anything we can do to make your visit more agreeable." He swallowed hard. "Welcome to the Adolphus Hotel."
He bowed low, his entire posture stiff and awkward.
Our 'savior' chuckled softly to himself as the manager scampered away to the safety of the front desk. "I shouldn't say so, but that was a total gas." He flashed Dai a big devilish grin. "Alphonse gets a little too full of himself on occasion."
I was sure Alphonse wasn't the only one.
"Thank you for your help—Mr. Pierce, was it?" Dai set Prince down, keeping hold of the short leash she'd attached to his collar. The strap was more for the comfort of others than something Prince needed. Much like Dai's teashade glasses.
"Oh, forgive me, dollface."
Before I could intervene, he took Dai's hand in his and kissed it. "Truman Pierce at your service."
He lingered over her hand until a warning growl made him release it and step back. Luckily Prince's loud rumble drowned out my own. I liked this fellow less and less by the moment. The fact that Dai's cheeks had gained a bit of color at his attention didn't help matters.
"Prince Razor, quiet, please. We mustn't be rude."
The dog quieted but didn't move from between them. If I could have found a way to wedge myself in there without attracting even more unwanted attention than we had already, I would have.
"That's a unique name for a dog." Pierce flashed another devilish smile. "I rather like it."
If the fool didn't watch himself, there was a good chance he'd find out exactly why Prince's second name was Razor.
"And what might your name be, China Doll?"
With an entirely straight face, Dai answered him. "Daiyu Wu."
Pierce looked taken aback for a second then laughed. "For real?"
"Yes. But I'm not the minister's daughter or a relative. The matching last name is purely coincidental."
"But a gas all the same."
I'd had my fill of this. "Yes, well, thank you. Nice of you to help us out, but we have to be going. We have a meeting to attend. So if you don't mind…"
Pierce arched a brow in my direction. "You do realize Alphonse is watching our every move, don't you? If I don't at least pretend to go with you, he'll realize something is up, and you're likely to be accosted again."
Glancing toward the front desk, I saw that the manager was still frowning in our direction. I very much doubted he'd approach us again, despite Pierce's warning. Still, there might be more staff or even guests with outmoded views hanging around who might decide to take advantage of the opportunity.
"Jacques, we also don't know the exact location of the gathering," Dai pointed out. "Perhaps Mr. Pierce, with his knowledge of the establishment and the staff, will be able to assist in this as well."
I didn't like it. She might be right, but I didn't like it one bit. I wanted her far away from this cretin as soon as possible.
"I would be delighted to help." More flashing teeth. "Nothing would please me more."
Yes, he was too keen, indeed. The sooner we parted ways with this playboy, the better.
The day, as I would find out to my chagrin, had other plans.
"So how can I help?" Pierce asked.
I gently guided Dai as we moved past the reception desk toward the elevators and stairs, and out of most people's immediate view.
"We're looking for a private gathering being held at three. A wake of sorts for a Miss Laura Cooper."
Pierce stopped in his tracks. "Oh, this proves it." He laughed out loud. "This more than proves it! It wasn't a mere coincidence that we met each other today, China Doll. It's fate!"
He stepped forward, looking as if he was going to sweep Dai off her feet and swing her around the room. In a panic, I dived to get between them, and we collided. This pushed me backward, and I bumped into Dai. Prince barked as she lost her balance and fell.
"Jacques! What in the world is the matter with you!" Dai smacked her small purse on the carpet in indignation. She had no way of knowing the embarrassment I'd just saved her from—though falling flat on her bum probably wasn't much better than being swung through the air like a child.
"Dai, I'm so sorry!" I reached to help her up, while Prince bounced behind her to keep any unseen threats from coming near her. I quickly made sure her dress fell correctly and that her hair hadn't gone into disarray. It was only then that I noticed her teashades were gone.
"China Doll, your eyes…"
Dai turned her head in the direction of Pierce's voice, her silver-white, blind eyes almost shining in the hotel's inner lighting. "Ah, you've caught me. Yes, I'm quite blind, as you can see." She gave him a dimpled smile. "I hope you won't hold it against me."
Though I hated how some people looked at or treated Dai once they discovered she was blind, this once I would have welcomed it. I hoped the sight would dissuade this popinjay from wanting to hang around us any longer.
Pierce gave an involuntary laugh for the third time that day. "For such a little package, you sure are full of surprises."
Gloria Oliver lives in Texas, staying away from rolling tumbleweeds while bowing to the never-ending wishes of her feline and canine masters.
Her previous works have been fantasy, urban fantasy, and young adult fantasy novels. Several contain romantic and mystery elements. Her short stories of speculative fiction can be found in many anthologies, covering things from the fantastic and strange to a Bubba Apocalypse.
Her latest release, "Black Jade – A Daiyu Wu Mystery" is Gloria's first cozy historical mystery novel. This is her ninth published novel.
Gloria is a member in good standing of BroadUniverse though she has yet to make the list for Cat Slaves R Us. In her spare time (what's that?), she watches TV shows, movies, anime, plays PC games, and reads books.
For some free reads, novel related short stories, sample chapters, appearance schedule and more information on her and her works, please drop by and visit her at www.gloriaoliver.com
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