30 SECOND DEATH
A Tobi Tobias Mystery #2
by Laura Bradford
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pub Date: 7/11/2017
To help an old friend, Tobi Tobias gets a third-rate thespian a part in a commercial, and learns that in the advertising business, bad acting can lead to murder . . .
When Tobi Tobias opened her own advertising agency, Carter McDade was there for her every step of the way. A brilliant hairdresser, Carter has just landed his dream project: doing hair and makeup for a theatrical production of Rapunzel. But the dream turns into a nightmare when he runs into Fiona Renoir, a cruel, talentless starlet who won’t let Carter touch a hair on her head.
To get Fiona out of Carter’s hair, Tobi hires the difficult actress for a bit part in her latest commercial. But true to character, Fiona is a terror on set, and Tobi is starting to think she’s made the biggest mistake of her life. But things get even worse when Fiona drops dead in the hairdresser’s chair, and the only suspect is the man left holding the tainted hair dye, Carter McDade. And unless Tobi can prove his innocence, he’ll never do hair in this town again.
Hell had officially frozen over. And, oddly enough, there was no
swell of background music, no thunderous blast like I’d always
There was simply crunching.
Loud, deliberate crunching.
In fact, it was the cruncher and the crunchee that had turned the
fiery flames of the dreaded underworld into the clichéd icicles referenced
at the end of virtually every nasty breakup.
My best friend, Carter McDade, was standing less than five feet
from my sofa eating a bowl of Cocoa Puffs.
That’s right, Carter McDade—the same guy who lectured me daily
on the gaps (okay, seismic gullies) in my eating habits. The same guy
who could draw a textbook food pyramid in mere seconds. The same
guy who’d willingly and happily choose broccoli in a head-to-head
with a Caramello bar.
Which is why his puff-crunching pointed to one indisputable conclusion:
Carter was stressed. Big-time.
A rarity in and of itself, Cocoa Puffs or no Cocoa Puffs.
My upstairs neighbor was the most positive human being I’d ever
met. One of those happy-go-lucky, always-has-a-smile types. You
know, the kind of person everyone needs in their life, but few are fortunate
enough to have.
I was one of the fortunate.
I was also dumbfounded. Utterly and completely dumbfounded
by what to say and how to say it. So I took the not-so-subtle approach.
“What’s wrong, Carter?”
Now I’ll admit, I have a leg up when it comes to deciphering pufftalk
(it is, after all, my second language), but I was feeling pretty proud
that I could decode it from even the most novice of crunchers.
“Nothing? Nothing?! Do you realize what you’re eating right now?”
Carter looked at the bowl in his left hand and then the spoon moving
toward his mouth with his right. “Uh-huh.”
“They’re Cocoa Puffs, Carter! Co. Coa. Puffs. As in chocolate--
or as you call it, sugar central. You know, void of roughage. In fact, if
I do recall correctly, you refer to them as the downfall of mankind.
The reason for society’s ills.”
I guess I thought if I really hammered home the point, it might
sink in. Then again, I was living proof that tactic failed. Just ask my
Besides, it was hard to hammer home drawbacks when I didn’t
believe a word of what I was saying. Why? Because I, Tobi Tobias,
am a chocoholic. And proud of it, I might add.
So I did what any good chocoholic would do. I sauntered into the
kitchen, grabbed my Bugs Bunny melamine bowl and matching
spoon, filled it to the brim with the last of the crunchy brown puffs
(don’t worry, I’ve got four more boxes in the cabinet over the stove),
and headed back into the living room. I mean, let’s face it, the expression
“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” was coined for a reason,
Not that my commiserating helped. In fact, when I returned, Carter
showed no signs of having noticed my departure or subsequent return.
His facial expression was still void of its trademark smile, and his eyes
held a vacant look. Somehow, though, I managed to coax him onto
“C’mon, Carter, spill it. It’s Fiona again, isn’t it?”
Call it a lucky (or, really my only) guess, but it was worth a shot.
And judging by the look of complete mortification on his face as my
words (and thus, his choice of food) registered in his subconscious,
I’d hit the jackpot.
“Oh, good God, please tell me I’m not eating what I think I’m eating.”
Carter squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them slowly, cautiously.
A tortured gasp escaped his mouth, along with a partially
“It’s okay, Carter, really. It’s been a long time coming. And it’s
not a good idea to keep depriving yourself of the finer things in life.”
I reached out and touched his shoulder, a teasing smile tugging my
lips. “Thanks for letting me be a part of your spiritual awakening.”
If looks could kill . . .
He rolled his eyes upward and then frantically wiped his tongue
with the sleeve of his cable-knit sweater. “Ugh, how on earth can you
eat that stuff?”
“Same way you just did, my friend. One yummy spoonful at a
time.” I winked and popped some puffs into my mouth. I knew I was
being ornery, but I couldn’t help myself. Let’s face it, I’d endured
more pontificating about my eating habits from this man than I could
possibly recall. So this was, in a way, sweet justice. Payback. Comeuppance
at its finest . . .
“My mind was compromised.” Carter released a long, slow sigh
and wiped his tongue one more time. “I swear, Sunshine, that woman
will be the death of me yet. Mark my words.”
I took the bowl from his shaking hand and set it on the end table
to my right. It never ceased to amaze me how fast the sugar rush hit
the chocolate virgins. Especially the stressed ones.
“What’d Princess Fiona do this time?”
“In the interest of time, it might be better if I tell you what she
didn’t do.” Carter pushed off the couch and wandered over to the
window. Drawing back the curtain, he peered outside. “Have you
ever noticed the way Ms. Rapple kinda looks like Gertrude? Around
the eyes and snout—I mean, nose?”
That did it. I laughed. And snorted. Loudly.
“I’m serious, Tobi. The eyes droop in almost the exact same spot,
and the nose, well, it’s a perfect match. Right down to the persistent
Ewwww . . .
Thinking about my next-door neighbor, Ms. Rapple, was enough
to make my stomach turn. The old biddy was something of a thorn in
my side and had been since the day I moved into my apartment at 46
McPherson Road. In fact, I’m not sure I’d even turned the key in the
front lock before she’d descended on me with her over-the-top questions,
mean-spirited honesty, hideously bad breath, and her yippity-
yappity dog, Gertrude. Fortunately, having Carter in the apartment
above me, and Mary Fran and Sam Wazoli living above Ms. Rapple,
made the situation more bearable.
Still . . . was I wrong for hoping she’d win the lottery and move
out into the countryside? Or, even better, to another continent entirely?
Carter, I knew, felt the same way about our elderly neighbor, though
he tried his best to smooth over her abrasiveness with his normally
sunny disposition. When that didn’t work, he resorted to other things.
Like ducking to the side of windows in true surveillance mode.
By Laura Bradford
(30 Second Death—Tobi Tobias Mystery #2)
One of my favorite parts of writing a series is the way the characters become like old friends. Between books, when I’m not actively writing a particular group of characters, I often times find myself wondering what they’re doing, where they’re hanging out, et cetera.
Sometimes, when I’m in the car for a while, one of them invariably starts chattering in my head. I try to tell myself this is just my writerly muse helping me plot. But the part of me that’s been writing mysteries for a lot of years knows it’s more that. You see, these characters are real to me, just as they are for my readers. I know what makes them tick, what upsets them, and what they want more than anything else in the world. They make me laugh, they drive me up a wall on occasion, I miss them when they’re not around, I get sick of them when we’ve spent too much time together, and they make me feel like I always have a place with them.
This has never held true more than with the characters in my Tobi Tobias Mysteries. There’s something about Tobi that is easy to connect with. She’s very real. She makes mistakes, she puts herself down, she’s impulsive in some ways, and methodical in others. And her friends? I want to be their friend, too. They’re funny, quirky, always happy to provide a reality check when necessary, and fiercely loyal. And to me, that’s a huge part of this series: Tobi’s friends. Sure, she’s the main character, but the people in her world (Carter, Mary Fran, Sam, Andy, Grandpa Stu, and even Rudder Malone) help humanize her and make her shine—just like the core people in our lives do for us.
So if you’re looking for a little fun and an opportunity to hang out with a really cool crew for a few hours, give my Tobi Tobias Mysteries a try. Death in Advertising (Book # 1) and 30 Second Death (Book # 2) are both available now.
Laura Bradford is also the author of the Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries, including Silence of the Flans and Éclair and Present Danger, and the national bestselling Amish Mysteries, including A Churn for the Worse and Suspendered Sentence. Under the pen name, Elizabeth Lynn Casey, she writes the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries, including Wedding Duress and Taken In. She lives in Yorktown Heights, New York, with her husband and their blended brood.
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