Listen to a narrated excerpt from Death of a Fox.
Ever visit someone unexpectedly and find they are not all that thrilled to see you? Hmmm, makes me think they must be hiding something. For me it’s something like a messy room, but for other people it might be murder. Today we are looking at Death of a Fox by Linda Norlander.
About the Book
Jamie Forest, transplanted New Yorker, is enjoying her first spring in the Northwoods of Minnesota when her octogenarian friend introduces her to an elderly recluse, Nella Fox, who wants help writing her memoirs. Nella is the owner of an estate that was once a TB sanatorium. The hospital is long abandoned and crumbling. Rumors abound that the neglected building carries the secret of a long-ago murder. When one of the cousins who cares for Nells is found dead in the old hospital, Jamie is drawn into its dark history. Instead of enjoying the spring awakening Jamie finds herself piecing together the story of the estate and trying to solve two mysteries—one in the past and one in the present.
A mile beyond the dead skunk, Clarence directed me onto a gravel lane. The remains of a long-neglected stone gateway with a “No Trespassing” sign were the only indication the sanatorium existed. The driveway was in worse shape than mine—hardly more than two ruts with grass growing in between. “Doesn’t look like she has much traffic or has done much maintenance.” I didn’t want to think about what the road was like in the dead of winter.
“Nella is pretty much a recluse. She has been ever since her father died. There’s a sad story in it somewhere. Maybe it will be in her memoirs.”
After bumping down the tree-lined lane for a half mile, we came to a weedy clearing filled with tall brown grass and tangles of bushes just starting to green up. A large, three-story building stood at the end. Paint peeled from the weather-beaten siding, and most of the third-floor dormers were boarded up. The roof over the front portico sagged, and the wooden shingles were slick with moss. An older pickup truck was parked near the front door.
To the left, as we faced the building, was a covered walkway. Parts of the roof had caved in, and most of the screens on the walkway were either riddled with holes or missing. The walkway ended with a weedy foundation and a crumbling brick chimney.
“This doesn’t look very welcoming.”
“Vandals, fires, and neglect have taken most of the buildings over the years.
To the right of the old hospital stood a gray stucco house with an open porch. The house was in better shape than the main building. The roof looked new, although the white trim around the windows and porch was peeling like the main building.
Clarence pointed at it. “That’s where Miss Nella lives. It had always been the doctor’s residence.”
I pulled up close to the walk to the house and turned off the car. I needed a few moments to take this place in. In contrast to the weedy neglected grounds and the dilapidated look of the house, rows of red and yellow tulips lined the sidewalk to the porch. On either side of the house, lilacs were ready to bloom. A budding oak tree stood in the front yard, surrounded by a mowed lawn.
“Looks like she keeps the yard up.”
Clarence didn’t reply as he fumbled with his seat belt. I walked to the passenger side to help him out. He’d taken a fall in late winter and was still a little unsteady on his feet.
“Let me escort you.” I held out my arm.
“Getting old is not for the weak-willed,” he grunted as he stood up.
On either side of the front door were large picture windows looking out over the porch. Both were covered in dark drapes. I pointed them out. “Not very inviting.”
“As I said, Miss Nella has become quite a recluse.”
I wondered if something was motivating her to write her memoirs now.
When I rang the doorbell, I heard a soft chiming inside. Clarence waited beside me, leaning on his cane.
Footsteps approached, and the door was opened by a plain-looking woman in her early fifties. She wore a faded pair of jeans and a flowered smock top. Her dark hair was streaked with gray and pulled into a ponytail. A shiny, intricate barrette held her bangs back. The piece of jewelry didn’t fit with her drab appearance. She peered at us through the screen door. “Yes?”
Clarence took a step forward. “Hello. I’m Clarence Engstrom, Miss Nella’s lawyer. She asked me to come with my assistant.” He pointed at me.
The woman scowled. “She didn’t let me know you were coming.” Abruptly she turned and walked deeper into the house.
“Weren’t we expected?” The scene at the door puzzled me.
Clarence cleared his throat. “Ah, that’s a fair question.”
“What? Is this a surprise visit?”
Clarence touched my arm as if to calm me. “I’ll explain later. Meanwhile, let’s see where we get with Nurse Ratched.”
“Ratched?” It took me a moment to put the name together with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I glowered at Clarence. “What have you gotten me into?”
Find Death of a Fox at Amazon
About the Author
Linda Norlander is the author of A Cabin by the Lake Mystery series set in Northern Minnesota. Death of a Fox is the fourth in the series that also includes Death of an Editor, Death of a Starling and Death of a Snow Ghost. Each mystery takes place in a different season. The first book in her new series, Liza, Mrs. Wilkens and the Ghost Mysteries will debut in 2024. Norlander has published award winning short stories, op-ed pieces and short humor featured in regional and national publications. Before taking up the pen to write murder mysteries, she worked in end-of-life care. Norlander resides in Tacoma, Washington with her spouse.
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