By Richard Whitten Barnes
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Mystery/Crime, 302 pages
Cover art by Trisha FitzGerald
A serial killer at large.
Detective Andy Blake’s life couldn’t have been better. Her love life with Grant Stacey is on track, and she is happy in her new job with the Ontario Provincial Police. But her tranquil life on beautiful St. Joseph Island is interrupted with a simple request to take over the investigation of a two year old poisoning death.
The routine case turns complicated when curiously similar unsolved deaths are discovered over a period of several years, and cyanide is a common thread. Adding to the turmoil is Dan Graves, a renaissance man if there ever was one, and a contender for Andy’s affections. She finds herself pulled in all directions before coming to grips with the A Scent of Almond.
Pauline Acardi opened the door to her unexceptional house near the Desbarats ice rink. She couldn’t have been much over thirty, her trim figure dressed in a halter and shorts, as if celebrating the unexpectedly beautiful weather. “Yeah?”
Andy flashed her ID. “I’m Detective Blake—” she began.
“Thought someone would show up. I heard they found Vinny.”
“May I come in?”
She was led into the parlor furnished in an eclectic collection of pieces—modest, but decently kept. She scanned the room, but found no trace of Vincent Acardi. The shelf over the propane heater bore none of the framed photographs of family. Mrs. Acardi appeared a bit defensive, standing with her mouth set, arms folded across small breasts, feet braced apart.
“What are your feelings about your husband being finally found?”
The question wasn’t expected. “I…guess…I’m curious. Yeah.”
“Yeah. The constable said he was found in a house on St. Joe. Been dead since he went missing. That’s weird.”
“I read the report of your calling the OPP back then. You and Mr. Acardi were having some problems.”
“Vinny was a skinny little shit, but he was big enough to knock me around. The last time was just too much, and I called to get a…” She searched for the term.
Andy already knew. “Restraining order.”
“Yeah. I was embarrassed to go to work all bruised up like that. He was doing it for years. My friends said I better call the OPP. Then one night he just don’t come home.”
“Where were you that night?” Andy asked.
“Here … with a friend.”
“Andy checked her notes. Mrs. Hanks?”
“Why was she here?”
“She worked at the Legion Hall on the Island where Vinny and I would go once in a while. I got to know her. That night she comes to my house—tells me Vinnie’s been all over Debbie Wharton, a waitress who works there.”
That name wasn’t in the file. “Debbie…” Andy made a note.
“Wharton.” Pauline spelled it.
“So you think they had an affair?”
“Who knows? Debbie says no, I hear.”
“You said he’d been abusing you for years. Why didn’t you complain sooner?” Andy closed the file and walked to the door.
“I did, when we lived in the Soo. The police came to the house after the little bastard slammed me up against the side of the house. Actually, a neighbor called them.”
“You lived in the Soo?”
Pauline nodded. “Vinny was good with engines. Got a job at the marina on Kensington Point. We been here three years. I mean I been here that long now.”
Andy thanked her and began to leave, wondering how she was getting along without her husband, until a pickup pulled up at the curb and a man dressed in jeans and tank-top got out, and started up the walk.
Andy didn’t wait to be introduced, but it was apparent Pauline Acardi wasn’t pining away for Vinny.