Foggy with a Chance of Murder (Paperback)
What should have been a peaceful walk on the beach turns tragic when best-selling suspense author Chloe Greene fails to save a ten-year-old boy from drowning along the California coast. For Chloe, the boy's death is simply more evidence that God does not exist - that anyone or anything can be taken by random chance, just as her own father was taken five years earlier.
Rob Stevens, the boy's grieving father and a recent widower, isn't sure he believes in God anymore, either, but when he becomes the target in a chain of violent attacks that are anything but random, he is forced to examine what he believes and what he has to live for.
As the pair search for answers, Chloe is introduced to a new religion that offers her the first hope and peace she has felt in years. That peace is threatened, however, when Chloe's old boyfriend, Luke, reenters her life and stirs up old memories and old desires.
Chloe rinds herself at a crossroads of the heart as well as of the soul, but her chance for a new beginning could be destroyed when a dense fog provides the perfect cover for an unknown assailant and one final attack.
- Size: 6x9
- Pages: 273
- Published: 05/2011
About the Author
G.G. Vandagriff received a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Stanford University and a master’s degree from George Washington University. Besides writing, research, and genealogy, G.G. enjoys traveling and playing with her grandson. She and her husband, David, are the parents of three children and reside in Provo, Utah.
Chloe’s tiny but unusually self-effacing mother was repentant the next morning. “I’m sorry, sweetie. I guess I got a little tipsy last night. But you didn’t need to disappear. All my neighbors wanted to talk with you. It’s not every day they can meet a best-selling author.”
Chloe looked at her hungover mother. She lay on the couch with a compress over her eyes, carefully arranged so as not to disturb her strawberry blonde hair. What had happened to the lovely Texan beauty queen with the head for business who had accompanied Chloe and Daddy all over the world? Mother had managed both hers and Daddy’s creative temperaments with a discipline that could run a small country and still manage to rustle up a dinner fit for royalty. Now her hands weren’t even steady enough to put on lipstick.
“Your neighbors include drunken lechers who love to pinch women. Mother, you were supposed to stick to club soda last night.”
“I know, honey bunch. I’m sorry. I wanted it to be a good night for you, just back from your book tour and everything. Some of the people who live down here are retired from real influential jobs. They have pull. I thought maybe it would help your sales.”
Chloe didn’t answer but walked toward the window and looked out at the ocean. The peace of her return was shredded. Not only had her mother gone off the wagon in her absence, but an innocent child had died and the happiness of a father had been destroyed. She was all too familiar with grief. Any comfort she had taken in the success of her tour to promote Blood and Wine had vanished, and she knew she was going to have a job of getting it back. Maybe a stint at the shooting range would give her some illusion of power.
Life in Cinque Terre had been good, simple, and restoring, but her writing was not something she was particularly proud of. She wrote only suspense novels that took place in offbeat locales.
She had withdrawn from a career as a promising novelist because she couldn’t go deeper and show her pain to the world. Light fiction was the only way to control the hurt of Daddy’s death and Luke’s desertion. Hers was a superficial existence, and she knew it. She despised herself for offering brightly colored alternate worlds full of take-charge women, entertaining her readers instead of tackling the hard questions. Daddy would have called her a coward.
“I’m going down to the corner to get a paper,” she told her mother.
After a quick glance in the mirror that showed long, violently wavy red-blonde hair, she shrugged hopelessly at her wild appearance and walked out into the foggy morning. Crossing the railroad tracks, Chloe turned the corner to the 7 Eleven. How she missed Daddy! When he was alive, they used to take morning walks together and then settle down in their beachfront living room to share the Orange County edition of the Los Angeles Times. If he were alive, her mother wouldn’t be a drunk. Most of all, Chloe could talk to him about last night, about this sense of helplessness she was feeling. She had to get her mojo back. Right now, the world wasn’t a place she cared to dwell in. Men were killed in random accidents on freeways, small boys drowned in the charming ocean, and even the strongest of mothers got drunk from grief.
Purchasing a paper and a bottle of orange juice, Chloe wished she had someplace to go besides the beach. She thought suddenly of house number 35. It was 10:00 A.M. Surely the old man whose telephone she had used would be awake by now. She must thank him properly.
The house was trimmed in white and nautical blue. Hesitantly, she unlatched the gate and went to the door. It had a brass knocker and a doorbell. She opted for the doorbell, thinking the occupant might be hard of hearing.
The white-haired man opened the door and smiled at her. The smile made him appear surprisingly youthful. “May I help you?”
“Hello. I’m Chloe Greene. I’m the one who tore through here yesterday and summoned the paramedics. I just wanted to say thank you.”
The man opened the door wider. “Come in. I gather the poor boy didn’t make it. You couldn’t be his mother. If you were, I’m the last one you would be thinking about.”
Chloe entered the neat home and noticed the nautical touches had been continued inside. The walls were paneled in teak, and the fixtures were brass. He was either a recreational sailor or a retired Navy man.
“No. I don’t know who he was. I just ran into his father on the beach. I helped pull the boy out, that’s all.”
Gesturing to a white leather, overstuffed chair, the man introduced himself. “I’m Edward Petersen. I’m afraid I can’t offer you any coffee.”
“That’s all right. As a matter of fact, I brought some orange juice.” She sat down across from a coffee table littered with magazines, books, and a yellow legal tablet filled with notes.
“Don’t mind the clutter. I’m working on a project.”
Chloe laid her newspaper on the coffee table. “I thought we could find out the identity of the little boy,” she said, opening it. “I’d like to do something, but I don’t know what.”
“Let me get a glass for your juice,” Mr. Petersen said. “By the way, are you Chloe Greene, the author?”
“I am,” she answered, scanning the paper.
“Well, I’m a great fan,” he said, indicating a row of her thrillers on a nearby teak bookshelf. She noticed a row of books beneath hers that seemed to be mostly ecclesiastical in nature—Jesus the Christ, A Disciple’s Life, History of the Church. What an odd juxtaposition!
Her eyes went back to the newspaper, searching for an article on the drowning. “I’m glad you like my books. Let’s see, would it be in the Orange County section?”
Mr. Petersen had picked up that section of the paper. “Here it is,” he said, holding it out to her. “No! The boy was Robert Stevens III. Oh, my.” He handed the paper to her and shifted his gaze to the ocean outside his window. “I loved that child. If I had guessed it was Robbie, I would have gone out and tried to help. My instinct was to stay out of the way. But his father must be distraught. What does it say?”
Chloe focused on the small photo of the boy that looked like a school picture. He had on a red-and-white striped rugby shirt, his hair blond and carefully combed. Brown eyes looked solemnly at the camera, his face stark, oddly like his father’s and not that of a little boy.
“‘Son of Local Tech Tycoon Dies in Drowning Accident,’” she read aloud.
“‘Robert Stevens III, age 10, succumbed to the incoming tide at approximately 8:30 last night along the beach of the Capistrano Shores development. He had apparently been swimming alone. His father, Robert Stevens Jr., was away at the time the boy went into the water. He returned home to find his child, left in the care of his aunt, Ginger Stevens, missing. Assisted by an unknown good Samaritan, Stevens pulled his boy from the water. Paramedics were called, but efforts to resuscitate the boy failed.
“‘Robert Stevens III was a student at San Clemente Elementary School, where he played soccer. His teachers described him as a quiet, serious student who had recently lost his mother to breast cancer. His father, Robert Stevens Jr., is the founder and CEO of Stevens Communications, a manufacturer of circuit boards for handheld electronic devices.’”
Chloe put the paper down and opened her bottle of orange juice. Seeing the emotion-packed facts reduced to black and white disoriented her, as though two different events had occurred. “What do you think? This doesn’t tell us much.”
“Oh, I think it says a great deal,” Mr. Petersen said. “And combined with what I know of the family, it makes a sad story. I wonder where the memorial service will be held. The boy’s mother is buried in Pacific View.”
“In Newport Beach?”
“That’s where Rob Stevens’s company is headquartered. The cemetery has a beautiful view of the ocean, but now Rob may not want that. Will you come to the services with me if I can find out where they are?” Mr. Petersen asked.
“I’m sure Mr. Stevens never wants to see me again. And besides, I’m not much of a believer.”
“What do you mean?”
She gestured toward the lower row of books. “I guess you’d call me an agnostic.”
“You don’t believe in an afterlife?”
“I’m not sure. I can’t believe there’s a God who cares about me.” Oddly, it didn’t seem strange to be talking so existentially to this man. Somehow the occasion and his quiet serenity warranted it. His snug little house and his calm, accepting smile radiated a tranquility she had thought she would never feel again. She found she wanted to talk.
“Why?” he persisted.
“What about all the tragedy we see here? The boy’s mother died of breast cancer. For all we know, he could have committed suicide out of grief.”
Chloe remembered the black wetsuit the boy had been wearing and thought suicide unlikely. She frowned. “But what about this aunt? The one who was supposed to be watching him? Where was she when she was needed? Why didn’t God use her to protect little Robert?”
Mr. Petersen’s brow furrowed, and he began to fold the portion of the newspaper he had retained.
“What?” Chloe demanded. “What is it you know?”
“She has an affliction,” he said. “I doubt if she realized he was gone.”
“What kind of affliction? I mean, my heart is breaking here. Please tell me what you know. Help me understand.”
“Between the two of us?”
“Ms. Stevens is an alcoholic, I’m afraid.”
The news hit Chloe with the impact of a Mack truck. Suddenly, it was just too personal, too much. Tears stung her eyes. “Now I really don’t believe God cares.”
Mr. Petersen sighed, and his bright blue eyes sought hers. “We don’t know the whole story, Chloe Greene. There may be a reason we can’t see.”
“And what was the reason my father was killed in a random multicar crash on the Santa Ana freeway?”
His eyes softened, and he handed her a clean handkerchief from his trouser pocket.
“How long ago was that?”
“Five years ago. My mother’s become an alcoholic, too.” Chloe stood defiantly. “I’m sorry, Mr. Petersen. It’s just too much.”
He stood beside her. “I know this is hard for you to hear, but death isn’t the end. It’s part of life. Part of a vast continuum. There’s a bigger picture.”
“Even if I believed that, can you explain why it had to happen so tragically? Breast cancer, a car accident, a drowning?”
“Only God knows why. And He does know. I can imagine that it must be hard for you to trust Him, but He’s crying along with us now. He doesn’t like to see us drenched in grief like this. But it’s part of mortality. It’s the price we pay for coming to this earth.”
“How can you possibly know that? How can you trust such a whimsical being?”
“I’ve lived a lot of years, Chloe Greene. I’ve learned a lot in that time about eternal perspective.”
Chloe sat again, as though her legs had given out. Mr. Petersen reseated himself.
“I trust God,” he told her. “Ultimately, He is the only being who is trustworthy. There is hope for a better world.”
Chloe blew her nose into the handkerchief. “You sound so sure.”
“I’ve seen the hand of the Lord work over the years, not just in isolated events. It was part of my job.”
“You’re a minister?”
“No. A missionary. Before my wife died, she and I went to Russia on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“A lot of people call us Mormons.”
“Oh. I know about Mormons. I had a friend in school who was a Mormon. She didn’t smoke or drink or have sex or even swear. As a matter of fact, she almost got me to believe in God. We had a lot of interesting discussions. But she committed suicide. Your religion must not have brought her much comfort or hope.”
“Well, they’re finding out a lot of new things about depression these days. It’s an illness, as real as cancer.”
“And it kills.”
“Yes, I’m afraid so, in some cases. Where did you go to school?”
“Stanford. I graduated about ten years ago.”
“And you’ve been writing ever since?”
“I worked for my father for a while in order to get the money to travel to Prague. Then I wrote a novel set just before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. But after Daddy died, I’m afraid I hadn’t much left in me for serious fiction. So I started writing my offbeat thrillers. Ironically, they were a success.”
“So your whole life hasn’t been a tragedy.”
“No. But I’d give up my career to have Daddy back.” She sniffed. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this. Do you still work for your church? Are you trying to convert me?”
He smiled. “I’m just trying to offer you a little comfort. And it’s a comfort for me to talk about these things at a time like this. But, no, I’m retired now. I write a little myself, as a matter of fact.” He indicated the mess on the coffee table.
“What do you write?”
“Well, right now I’m writing a book on hope.”
“Hope? How can anyone possibly write a book on hope?”
“Like I said, I’ve been around long enough to have more of an eternal perspective. I think that in this troubled world I can bring a message about what is important about living to people’s hearts.”
Chloe digested this. Finally, she asked, “Do you have a family?”
“My Rachel died about five years ago. I have four sons living and twenty-four grandchildren.”
“Good grief! That’s a lot of grandchildren. You said four sons living. Have you had other children?”
“A daughter who died of polio when she was ten and another son who was killed by a drunk driver five years ago.”
“The same year as your wife! That must have been a rough year. And you can still write about hope?”
He gave her his calm smile. “Oh, yes. I have mighty hope. It’s what keeps me going.”
“Don’t you get lonely here by yourself?”
“The grandchildren are all in college now. They like to visit the beach. It’s one of the reasons I live here. I’m also an old sea dog. The smell of the ocean is a tonic for my soul.”
Chloe realized that she’d been uncharacteristically nosy. “I’m sorry to give you the third degree. It’s just that you were so emphatic about the hope thing . . .”
“It’s all right. The reason I’m writing about hope is that people need it so badly. No one knows that more than I. I don’t say I don’t hurt. But hoping helps.”
“I can see that.” She stood again. “So you know the Stevens family. You’re going to the funeral?”
“I think I’ll try. Are you sure you wouldn’t like to come with me?”
“No. I really don’t think Mr. Stevens would like it. But I’ll send flowers if you let me know the name of the funeral home.”
“If I might suggest something—I know at his wife’s funeral Rob requested no flowers. He wanted the money to go to breast cancer research instead. This time he may have a similar request. Shall I let you know?”
“Yes, please. Here. I’ll write down my telephone number.”
by Steph - reviewed on May 28, 2012
I've always enjoyed GG's books and was excited when our library got this one. But it was not at the level of her previous books. The plot was unrealistic, characters weren't developed, and I felt it just skipped from one thing to another with no continuity. It also had a lot of editing errors which was surprising to me. It wasn't the fun amazing read that her other books have been.
by Heather - reviewed on April 28, 2011
Life is a precarious balancing act, and Whitney Award winning author, G. G. Vandagriff understands that on more than one level—both in her own life and in her prolific writing. Vandagriff is the author of a variety of books, including the non-fiction work Deliverance from Depression, the women’s novel, Pieces of Paris, which deals with a woman who must overcome PTSD to save her marriage, the wild and humorous Alex & Briggie mystery series, and an epic pre-WWI historical novel, The Last Waltz. In Vandagriff’s recent novel, Foggy With a Chance of Murder, Chloe Green exists just above layers of grief, despite her talent and success as a best-selling novelist. She writes formula mystery novels to numb her mind, just as her mother drinks to forget her husband’s death. The only thing that is keeping Chloe’s mother semi-functional is Chloe’s successful career as an author. Fed up with her mother’s continually tipsy guests, Chloe escapes to walk the beach. There she meets a man—in the worst of circumstances. Rob Stevens is frantically searching for his young son who’s gone missing. When the young boy drowns in the ocean right before her eyes, Chloe spirals back into a void of self-doubt. Despite her sympathy for other’s losses, she knows that she needs to make a serious change in a world she’s allowed to fill with hopelessness. Watching Rob’s grief reminds Chloe of her own tragedies, including her father’s death, and a heart-breaking romance she thought was over forever. As a result of the young boy’s drowning, a cast of characters enters Chloe’s life, and before she realizes it, she is starting to change. Despite the fact that Chloe’s soul is expanding toward new possibilities, mystery and danger is around every corner as she grows closer to Rob and the volatile circumstances that seem to surround him. Then, an important part of her past returns and Chloe finds herself in the middle of more than one life-threatening situation. Foggy With a Chance of Murder may be shelved with the other garden-variety suspense novels, but Foggy is so much more than the average offering. Vandagriff gives us glimpses into human nature that just aren’t found in the boilerplate mysteries, delving deep into characterization and stacking up the odds in a plot rich with complication and intrigue.
Solid writing, unrealistic plot
by Customer - reviewed on September 09, 2011
G.G. Vandagriff is a excellent writer, but this plot was just too far-fetched for me. Too often the main female character made stupid choices and just didn't seem to have basic common sense. The various suspense elements tended to be forced and/or unrealistic. The up side was that in general the characterization was pretty solid.
Kept me up till I finished it!
by Michele - reviewed on June 08, 2011
From the very first page I was hooked. The setting, though beautiful, held an immediate sense of danger and I found myself holding my breath with the turn of every page. GG Vandagriff, a master of mystery, wove an amazing tale of suspense, romance, excitement and conversion. All the elements worked well together and the pace of the story made it impossible to put the book down. Chloe, the main character and true heroine of the story, is a character we all wish we knew, a friend we wish we had. As she encounters Rob, a distraught father, looking for his young boy who is missing, Chloe catches a glimpse of the boy, out in the ocean and doesn't pause to think twice. Before we know it she is in the water, risking life and limb to save the boy. Heart wrenching and real, each relationship is highly charged with powerful emotion. Each character brings a strong presence to the story, but Chloe and Rob shine as the main focus. Readers will keep their fingers crossed that the friendship Chloe and Rob share will grow into something more serious, but will be kept on the edge of their seats to find out if and how it all works out. A fabulous book that will have you biting your nails and cheering all at the same time!
by Alana - reviewed on May 14, 2011
Once again GG Vandagriff has pulled us into suspense and mystery with a touch of romance and religion. "Foggy with a Chance of Murder" introduces you to some fascinating characters and some that may hit a nerve and/or heart with the readers. Her characters are realistic, not superficial or unbelievable, they are everyone's neighbor, friend and maybe a possible nemesis. It starts off with a bang and just keeps going from there, turning the reader into an armchair Sherlock Holmes trying to solve the mystery that keeps getting deeper and deeper. GG did an outstanding job with this crafty story and has again proven that she is a top notch author of suspenseful fiction. I have recommended "Foggy with a Chance of Murder" to several of my mystery loving friends.
by Dena - reviewed on June 08, 2011
It wasn't the best read, but it wasn't the worst. The murder attempts were a little over the top. Genre: suspence/romance