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The Fifth R.A. Huber Novel

THE FALL OF OPTIMUM HOUSE is Alice Zogg’s fifth mystery novel featuring R.A. Huber.  After solving a murder case in Switzerland in “The Lonesome Autocrat,” the athletic yet chic private eye is back in California.  Iris Camden, owner of Optimum House, engages her to find out who’s responsible for the bizarre thefts and pranks at her facility.  Huber decides to send her newly hired young assistant, Andi, to pose as a modeling school student at Optimum House in the Big Bear Lake area.  Rookie Andi handles the investigation quite well and soon suspects that a pool drowning treated as an accident by the authorities is in fact murder.  When another homicide is committed, it is time for Huber to make a trip to Big Bear for herself.  So the seasoned lady sleuth and the novice put their heads together and crack the mystery, but not before the killer strikes again and threatens R.A. Huber’s life.


The Fall of Optimum House is available in paperback and hardcover at
www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com 

Purchase: 
Hardback & Paperback
Publisher: Aventine Press (October 2007)
ISBN: 
Hardcover: 1-59330-504-4
Paperback: 1-59330-503-6
List Price - Hardcover US $28.50 
List Price - Paperback US $15.95

Excerpt from Chapter 3

On the drive to her office in Pasadena the following morning, R.A. Huber considered the prospect of asking Andi to come on board. Her encounter with the young woman had stayed vividly in her mind. One day in January, her office door had been flung open and Andi had blown in like a whirlwind. At first, the investigator was not sure of the young person’s gender. All she could see was a lanky figure clad in jeans, a black leather jacket and cowboy boots. She could barely make out a face beneath the helmet. Then Andi had pulled off the headgear in a swift movement with both hands and vigorously shook her head, causing a cascade of wavy, auburn hair to fall around her shoulders. A pair of mischievous green eyes had peered at the investigator. It was now the beginning of May, but the dialogue that followed was imprinted in Huber’s mind as if it had only been the day before. The young woman had asked, “You the detective?”

“That’s me.”

“Miss Huber?”

“Mrs.”

“Can you use any help around here?”

“Help?”

“An assistant, a right hand, a coolie, anything?”

Huber had smiled and asked, “What’s your name?”

“Antoinette LeJeune, but I go by Andi. Only Daddy called me Antoinette.”

“How old are you?”

“21.”

“Try again.”

“Okay, so I’m 18, but mature. I’m also good at detecting.”

“Did you graduate from high school?”

“Sure did; with honors too.”

“You have a bit of an accent. Where are you from?”

Grinning, Andi had replied, “You too!”

“Fair enough! I’m originally from Switzerland.”

“New Orleans, Louisiana, is my home.”

“So you speak Cajun French?”

“Not much, but Daddy did.”

“We’d better keep to English, then.”

She shrugged. “You wouldn’t get it anyhow. It’s pidgin French.”

Then Huber had said, “Tell me a little about your­self.”

“Like what?”

“Your family, your life, your interests, that sort of thing.”

So she told her story. “I never knew my mother. She died when she gave birth to me. My daddy didn’t remarry, so it was always just him and me. Daddy brought me up and took care of me. He didn’t let me run wild, though. He made sure I was clean and proper, that I went to Church on Sundays, wore a dress at Christmas, Easter and on special occasions, and did my homework. He taught me stuff, and - -”

“What kind of stuff?”

“Oh, like how to play the fiddle and dance the Cajun Waltz, fishing, riding the Harley; loading, shooting and taking care of a gun. Oh, and cooking.”

“Can you prepare gumbo and jambalaya?”

“Sure can.” And winking, she had added, “I fix a mean jambalaya!”

At this point of Huber’s musing, she thought it was significant that cooking came last on Andi’s list of things her father had taught her. Being domestic did not seem the young woman’s top priority, even if she fixed a “mean jambalaya.”

Huber was driving east on the 210 Freeway and the Lake Avenue exit was coming up in two miles as she recalled the rest of the interview.

Andi had continued, “When I got old enough to date, Daddy made sure I wasn’t running around with hoodlums.”

“Is your father still living in New Orleans?”

“Daddy is dead.”

“Not because of Hurricane Katrina?”

“He died last June of liver decease.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“No need to be. He had a wonderful life.”

“How did you fare in the hurricane?”

“I was out of town before Katrina hit.”

“Because you heeded the warning?”

“It had nothing to do with the hurricane. I was scouting colleges.”

“I see. So you’re in school now?”

She shook her head. Then she went on, “I came back to New Orleans in September, or to what was left of it. Then I sold Daddy’s place and took care of his affairs. He owned a small bar in the French Quarter. There wasn’t that much damage in that area since it’s on higher ground. Daddy had life insurance and some savings put aside. He also paid into a college fund for me. I’m not touching the insurance money or the fund, but his savings and what I got for the property should tide me over for a while. Before he died, I promised Daddy I’d go to college.”

“So how come you’re not attending?”

"I promised I’d go, but didn’t say when.”

“I see.”

Andi had continued, “So by end of October I was ready to roll. I shipped two suitcases with my stuff off to California, packed my essentials into the touring bag, hopped on my Harley and headed west.”

“Just like that!” Huber had remarked, and then inquired, “Why California?”

“Got kinfolk here.” And chuckling, she had added, “They’re getting tired of me, I reckon. Been here since November. I’ll move into a place of my own soon as I get me a job.”

“How did you find my business?”

“Was in the neighborhood and saw the shingle out front.”

“So you’re a walk-in off the street, so to speak.”

“I figured it never hurts to ask.”

Huber had taken an instant liking to the young woman. So it was with regret that she had stated, “Sorry, there is no work for you at the moment. I’ll keep you in mind, though.”

Visibly disappointed, Andi had nodded and left her cell phone number with the private investigator.

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