Dead Detective Seamus Hanrahan waits on the ship that carries dead souls to what comes after, hoping someone will need his unique expertise. He admits that existence on the ship is perfect, but since when is perfect exciting?
When new arrival Cassie Parker refuses to believe she’s dead, Seamus returns to Life to find out what happened to her. Despite his willingness to investigate, Cassie is adamant that she’ll never believe what anyone on the ship says, including Seamus. Hoping he can find something to convince Cassie she’s indeed on her way to a better place, Seamus leaves the ship.
In a small theater in Toronto, Seamus finds Christy Parker, who came from the country to visit her sister only to learn that she’s dead. Asked to take over Cassie’s job as wardrobe mistress, Christy’s life changes so fast she can hardly keep up. The loss of her only remaining relative, the demands of the new job, her interesting and eccentric coworkers, and a chance meeting with an old friend keep her mind more than occupied.
Seamus travels through the theater troupe, trying to discover who might have hated Cassie enough to murder her. There are lots of secrets, but he can find neither guilt nor any definite sense of what happened the day Cassie died.
Christy is disappointed that the police quickly declare Cassie’s death an accident and move on. Her old friend has come to conduct his own investigation, and gradually they realize that the two crimes are connected. Someone wants Christy dead, though she doesn’t know why, and she must fight desperately to survive in the old, deserted theater.
As Seamus tries to protect Christy, he senses something he’s never encountered before, an odd presence that shouldn’t be there. Can a dead guy be haunted, and if so, is it a good thing or really, really bad?
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
DEAD FOR THE SHOW is the 3rd book in a series called The Dead Detective Mysteries. In my mind when I start writing, there’s an arc of how many books it will take to “tell” the character’s story. For Seamus, my dead detective, the arc is 4 books. THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY introduced him. DEAD FOR THE MONEY showed more of his personality. DEAD FOR THE SHOW introduces what Seamus has been missing–a partner. In Book Four, tentatively titled DEAD TO GET READY–AND GO, Seamus will solve the questions of his own life and death.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I have no idea where Seamus came from, or even the idea of people in the afterlife sending detectives back to investigate their deaths. Once it came to me, though, it was too much fun not to write. Readers who share my Sunday-school background will get a kick out of the slant this series takes on life after death. As one reader put it, it’s “comical but in no way heretical.”
“LOOK, LADY. YOU’RE DEAD. YOU MIGHT AS WELL FACE IT.”
“You look, mister! I’m not falling for your stupid joke, so get out of my face!”
Chewing his lip, Seamus tried to stay calm. Mike had warned him about Cassie Parker, but her outburst, so unseemly that those nearby stared in open-mouthed astonishment, made his neck feel warm and his ears redden. How was he supposed to find out how the girl died if she refused to believe she was dead?
He should have chosen a less public place than the deck of what everyone simply called “the ship.” Cassie’s arms were folded in a classic posture of denial, and her fingers dug into her skin till the knuckles were white. While everyone else at the rail stood facing outward, she’d turned her back to the stunning view, staring instead at the ship’s dull-gray wall, eyes glazed, mind obviously abuzz with dark thoughts.
Earlier that morning Miss Parker’s counselor, a serene angel named Nancy, had told Cassie as gently as possible that she was dead. The meeting had been dignified and private, but Cassie’s response hadn’t been the usual tears and regrets. She’d told Nancy flatly that she didn’t believe she was dead and never would.
A guest’s refusal to accept death complicated matters for those in charge. How could they ask Cassie to decide her future if she refused to face reality? When Cassie stalked out of the office, Nancy had contacted Gabe, who’d talked to Michael, the angel in charge of client services, who’d sent Seamus, a dead detective, to offer to help Cassie understand her death.
Seamus was a cross-back, one who investigated suspicious deaths to give clients the closure they needed to move on. Though death was a fact, some of the dead didn’t know why they’d died or at whose hand. Seamus was willing to return to life and find out how Cassie Parker, at the tender age of twenty-five, had died without any idea how it happened, or even that it had.
It had been a while since he’d had a client, and Seamus was bored, as usual, by the idyllic but monotonous conditions on the ship. As a result, he’d been anxious to meet Cassie and get the details of the job. He’d handled it badly, explaining who he was before she was ready to listen, which raised Miss Parker’s hackles.
Seamus had tried to be subtle, though he wasn’t much for small talk. “Pretty, isn’t it?” he’d said when he joined her at the rail. “The ship’s called the Celestial, and that—well that’s something there’s no word for.” He gestured at the soft-colored void before them.
Cassie didn’t answer, so he’d tried again. “It’s kinda like watching a waterfall or a fire burning, you know? I lose all sense of time.”
She waved an angry hand over her shoulder. “That, I would guess, is pyrotechnics, along with a mild hallucinogen piped into the staterooms. The rest is a matter of hiring con artists like you to play the roles. The question is why.”
“Miss Parker, I’m—”
“—An actor sent to convince me I’m dead. Just save your breath, okay?”
Seamus had squared his shoulders, standing a little taller so he was almost eye to eye with her. “No, miss. I’m a detective. Gabe, the angel in charge, told Mike—”
An index finger approached his nose in a gesture that was almost violent. “I don’t know Gabe or Mike, but I’ll tell you what I told Nancy, who’s no angel, either. I’m not dead, and you people will never convince me I am.”
That was when Seamus had abandoned tact in favor of facts and was rewarded with an order from Cassie to get out of her face. Shifting his shoulders inside his pin-striped suit jacket, he tried once more. “Doesn’t this place feel different to you, kind of unreal?”
“No!” she said a little too vehemently. “I feel fine. Not sick, not hurt. Alive.”
He shook his head. “Don’t you get that stuff here is impossible? The clothes, the anything-you-want meals, the entertainment, all perfect? Life was never like that.”
“It’s reality TV.” She ran a hand through her short hair, tousling curls that immediately returned to order. “Or maybe you guys injected me with something.”
He understood her confusion. Everything here felt real: the ship, the crew, even the bodies they were provided to ease them through the transition.
“Why would they drug you?” he asked.
Cassie rubbed at her nose with an abrupt gesture. “I don’t know. That’s what’s so stupid about this. There’s no reason to—” Her voice broke. She was near tears, from fear or anger or both. “I was at work, at a completely safe place, and then I was here.” She stood upright, and one hand extended toward Seamus in an almost pleading gesture before she pulled it back. Her lips tightened, and her final sentence came through her teeth. “I’m not dead, and I’m not saying another word until someone here admits that.”
Cassie returned to staring at nothing, her eyes hard. Seamus hesitated a moment before accepting the futility of further argument. Touching the brim of his hat lightly, he left her to her anger.
Mike waited down the deck, his handsome face pinched in concern. As he neared, Seamus spread his hands in a gesture of defeat. “You’ve got yourself a situation, pal.”
The angel nodded. “Gabe thinks you should go back anyway. If you find out how she died, it might convince her this is no trick.”
“It might not.” Seamus’ brows rose, wrinkling his forehead. “I’ve seen her type before.” He grinned weakly. “In fact, I was married to her type.”
“Really?” Mike’s voice remained casual, but his eyes sparked with interest.
Like Cassie Parker, Seamus was one of Mike’s difficult cases. Unlike Cassie Parker, however, Seamus had no trouble believing he was dead. The problem was with the decision to move on. Those who left the ship became part of something beyond human comprehension. That something required giving up one’s individuality, the person each man or woman believed himself to be. As they had in life, the dead had free will. Each person could take as much time as he wanted to think about it.
For reasons he couldn’t explain, even to himself, Seamus couldn’t give up being Seamus. He remained on the ship, one of many called Portalists, who worked at jobs of their own choosing as they delayed the decision to go on. The elegant lifestyle, the “goodies,” to use the popular term, didn’t appeal to him. The chance to return to life did.
Seamus ran a finger around his shirt collar and adjusted the knot in his wide, brown tie. The angels might not understand what kept him here, but he served a purpose. And at least he’d never refused to believe he was dead.
He returned to the particulars of the present case. “How much do you want to know about Miss Parker?”
Mike considered. “Everything you can get. When she accepts that her life on Earth is over, she’ll want to know how she died.”
Seamus adjusted his fedora. “I’ll get what I can.”
“Take your time,” Mike advised glumly. “It’s going to be a while before this one’s ready to listen.”
“I’ll leave as soon as Gabe gives the okay. While I’m gone” –He put a hand on Mike’s shoulder— “have a nice time dealing with a corpse who refuses to cooperate.”
With a rueful grin, Mike moved off. Seamus returned to the ship’s rail to wait, staring into the beautiful nothing. Colorful mists, almost transparent but not quite, changed constantly in a soft, lazy pattern. They were so delicate it appeared that at any second the colors would resolve, and the watchers would see their destination. The sight was both mesmerizing and calming. He still felt its attraction, even after all this time.
A couple of elderly women passed, possibly on their way to quilting class or Bingo. Others strolled at a leisurely pace, taking in the view as they talked quietly. Along the rail solitary figures leaned, staring outward as they pondered where they’d been and where they were going. Farther down the deck was a lively scene as badminton players shouted encouragement to each other and laughed at near misses.
Pensively silent, busily content. It was a common dichotomy. Despite an infinite variety of things to do on board, most guests spent significant time alone, contemplating unfathomable questions of life and death. Time was a factor in the decision they all had to make. On the ship, details of an individual’s life faded unless he made an active effort. After a few days, a person might recall that he liked oatmeal cookies but be unable to remember the grandmother who’d once baked them for him. Forgetting led to acceptance, and as memories of life faded, the choice became easier.
Seamus refused to let that happen to him. Every day, he went over the details of his life carefully, making sure he remembered everything. It took a great deal of effort to hold onto who he’d been and how he’d died, but his determination was strong. To Seamus, life with all its uncertainty and sorrow was better than this perfect existence where a raised voice was a rarity and every day was exactly like the one before.
He’d never shared his reasons for staying with anyone, angel or fellow traveler, remaining apart from others and telling himself he preferred it that way. There were times lately, however, when he wished there was someone to talk to. Twice now he’d returned to life with a partner, and while it hadn’t always been easy, he’d liked the company. When Mike sought him out today, Seamus had found himself wishing the angel had someone in mind to go along on the case.
It would be hard to find someone, he thought, setting his foot on the bottom rail. Most Portalists went on when the days of luxury became routine, once they realized the identities they clung to were gone forever. Few stayed as long as Seamus had. Even fewer went back to life, as he did, to serve as detective to the dead.
Seamus knew other cross-backs, but none he’d choose for a partner. Mostly young men eager for adventure, they gathered in groups on deck like members of an exclusive club, chuckling over the private thoughts and secret desires of the living. They weren’t bad guys, but Seamus thought it was rude to use the living as hosts and then make fun of them. Unable to defend humanity’s silliness but unwilling to defame it, he avoided his fellow cross-backs.
Maybe he could find someone on board who’d be willing to go back and see life one more time. Strolling the deck, Seamus looked at the people around him. Who among them might leave this idyllic place and brave the pain of the crossing to take up the weight of a physical body and the grind of life on earth? There had to be someone. When he finished Cassie Parker’s case, he’d see if he could find that person. This time he’d go alone, as he’d done many times before.
That was okay. He was used to it.
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