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  • Writer's pictureSusan Russo Anderson

Not Exactly

Death and Disappearance is the fifth standalone in the Fina Fitzgibbons Brooklyn mysteries. While Denny battles demons of his own and Cookie and Clancy disappear, a pregnant Fina Fitzgibbons investigates the death of a friend’s husband and in doing so lands in the middle of a group of art and drug traffickers.

Here’s how the novel begins.

An insistent buzzing woke me. Slowly I lifted my head from the pillow and stared at the vibrating piece of metal on my nightstand. My cell. Jane Templeton’s name flashed across the screen. Hadn’t she heard of sleeping in? I sat up too quickly and felt sick, then pressed the speaker.

“Just a friendly wake-up call.” Her voice was so grating in the morning—come to that, anytime. Jane Templeton, NYPD Detective First Grade, my nemesis.


“Are you still in bed at this hour?”


“We’ve found a body in Brooklyn Bridge Park near the dog run. Not much blood. The killer knew how to handle a knife.”

Jane Templeton needed help. Even I knew that, despite the time, or why would she be calling me? I glanced at the clock. After nine? I looked at the rumpled bed. Denny’s day off, so why wasn’t he still sleeping? I sniffed to see if food was in the air because my guy, when he wakes up, heads straight for the kitchen and works his magic with eggs, toast, bacon, the works. But I could smell nothing.

I asked her why she was calling.

“If you want the real truth, I’m doing your husband a favor. Denny said you hadn’t had a case in a while, and he thought it might be good for you to get out of the house, you know, sink your teeth into work for a change.”

She continued. “I thought you might like to know about the homicide, seeing as how the victim was the husband of one of your friends.”

I tried not to sound too excited. “And who would that be?”

“Her name’s Lake Cojok.”

It took me a while to register, so there was silence for a few beats. Jane gave me an address and an apartment number in Cobble Hill. Then I remembered. I blamed my sluggishness on distance—I hadn’t seen Lake in years, don’t ask me why. And Cojok must be her married name. What was her husband’s name? I’d think of it in a minute.

“Right,” I said, swallowing. Slowly I rose from the bed, but pregnancy was not all it was cracked up to be, and I sat down again. “We went to school together, but I haven’t seen her in an age.”

As a matter of fact, I hadn’t seen her since her wedding two weeks after graduation. In school, she was part of our inner circle before she started dating that awkward jerk. Slowly the ceremony came back to me, how Cookie was bummed not to have been chosen as a bridesmaid, the meager church attendance, the stale hors d’oeuvres served up in a small restaurant in Cobble Hill. Lake had thought they had to get married, Cookie told me later, but she’d lost the baby a few weeks after the wedding or it was a false alarm, something like that. Whatever, I’d taken an instant dislike to him. But Lake was in love. Now she was a widow. Widow? The word made her seem so other.

Jane started in again. “Lake is the deceased’s next of kin.”

As if I didn’t know. “His name?”

“Stephen Cojok.”

Of course. I ranged back over the years. When we were introduced, I’d called him Steve and he’d corrected me. Said he wanted to be called Stephen, never Steve—only his father called him Steve and for that reason, he’d hated the diminutive. Tall with unruly black hair, a sneer for a smile, caked jeans, dirt underneath his fingernails. That was how I pictured him, an outsider. But Cookie insisted he treated Lake like a princess. Last time I’d seen them, the two passed me by on Court Street, laughing, talking to one another, in their own world.

Jane brought me back to the present. “We’ve done most of your work for you, like giving his wife the news.”

Poor Lake. “Let me get this straight. You’re hiring the Fina Fitzgibbons Detective Agency to take over the case?”

“Not exactly. You owe me.”

Photo: Cover, Death and Disappearance. Cover Design, Avalon Graphics

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