Excerpt from Alice in Jeopardy by Ed McBain, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Alice in Jeopardy

by Ed McBain

Alice in Jeopardy
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2005, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2006, 384 pages

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"No, no," she says. "Actually, the name is an odd combination of Seminole and Spanish."

She goes on to explain that when the Spaniards first came to southwest Florida, the Seminole word tha-kee for "big" was already in place, and they added the Spanish word cabo to it, and came up with the name "Cabo Tha-kee," or "Big Cape." This eventually became slurred and contracted to "Cab'Otha-kee," which was then finally Hispanicized to "Cab'Octubre," which of course was "Cape October" in English.

"Or so the story goes," she says, and turns to him and smiles.

The eastern rim of October Bay is jaggedly defined by U.S. 41, more familiarly known as the Tamiami Trail. Frank Lane, the owner and sole proprietor of Lane Realty, believes that "Tamiami" is redneck for "To Miami." Alice doesn't know if this true or not. But if you follow 41 south, it leads eventually to Alligator Alley, which then crosses the Florida peninsula to the east coast and, of course, Miami. So maybe he's right.

There are four keys off the Cape's mainland. Beyond these so-called barrier islands lies the vast Gulf of Mexico. Sail out due west from the Cape, and eventually you'll make landfall in Corpus Christi, Texas. If you're lucky.

"So how old are you, Alice?" he asks her. "May I call you Alice?"

"Sure," she says.

"So how old are you, Alice?" he asks again.

She doesn't think that's any of his business, but he is a client, and neither does she wish to appear rude.

"Thirty-four," she says.

"Married?"

"Widowed."

"Sorry to hear that."

"Yes," she says.

"Any children?"

"Two, a boy and a girl."

"Tough break."

"Yes," she says again.

"How long ago?" he asks.

"You know," she says, "I'm sorry, but I'd rather not talk about it."

"Okay," he says, and shrugs. "Sorry. I didn't mean to intrude."

"That's okay," she says, and then softens her tone. "It's just that it's still painful."

"Must've been recent then, huh?" he says, and when she doesn't answer, he says, "Sorry."

They ride in silence for several moments.

"Was it an accident?" he asks.

She doesn't answer.

"Sometimes it helps to talk about it," he says. "I figure he had to've been young, right? I mean, you're only thirty-four. So it had to've been either a heart attack or some kind of accident, am I right?"

"He drowned eight months ago," Alice says, and Webb remains silent for the rest of the trip to Tall Grass.





"The house was built in 1956," she tells him. "Named for Jennifer Bray Healey, who had it designed by Thomas Cooley and his son. They're famous Cape October architects."

"Never heard of them," Webb says.

"They designed a great many of the buildings downtown, I'll take you to see some of them later, if you like. The Healey house is considered a hallmark of the Cape's modern architectural movement."

They are standing in the oval driveway in front of the house. Alice is deliberately postponing that moment when she unlocks the front door and opens it onto the spectacular panoramic view of Little October Bay. It never fails to knock the socks off any prospective buyer.

"The house fell into disrepair after Mrs. Healey died," she says, searching in her bag for the key to the lockbox. "The present owners -- Frank and Marcia Allenby -- bought it two years ago. They've been renovating it ever since, all in accordance with historic guidelines. The rules are that you can make changes provided you don't alter any 'historically or architecturally significant aspects of the design,' quote unquote."

"Sounds like bureaucratic red tape," Webb says.

"Well, no, not actually. The regulations are there to protect the environment and the property itself. This is a landmark house, you know."

From Alice in Jeopardy, chapter 1, pages 3-23. Copyright © 2005 by Hui Corp. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

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