Murder at Royale Court by G.P. Gardner

DH—darling hubby, although he hates when I call him that—and I are cleaning out the house. Not cleaning house, but cleaning out. Purging.

It’s not Marie Kondo’s fault. You know Marie Kondo, I’m sure. She’s on TV and has several books and videos in circulation, telling us about her childhood organizing binges and how we, too, can spark joy by folding our T-shirts just so. I enjoyed reading her books but I enjoy reading almost anything. In the shelves right here beside me, I see a volume titled Uranium, next to Iserson’s Death to Dust, which explains what happens to dead bodies. I’d rather read either of these, or almost anything, than go to my closet and pull out all the clothes that are too tight, too worn, too 1990s.

It’s not that I don’t love the idea of organizing—I do. I suspect most of us do. When I say my niece is a professional organizer, people are riveted. What kind of containers does she recommend, they ask. Does hoarding reveal an underlying psychiatric condition? Does she make emergency house calls? She has done so, I know. She once did an emergency cleanup just before social workers visited to determine whether children should be returned to an out-of-control house.

She’s an inspiration to me and to others, but my niece didn’t spark our purging project either.

Margareta Magnusson is responsible for that.

Have you heard of her? Her book is titled The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. The idea is that it will tell us how to free ourselves and our families from a lifetime of clutter and turn our homes into spacious retreats. Who could resist an offer like that?

Margareta speaks with the voice of experience, having cleaned out a number of houses after the resident died. She says many of the things Kondo says, but without the focus on joy. No, Margareta goes for stronger emotions. She plucks the guilt string, telling us we shouldn’t burden our families with the job of disposing of our possessions. Get rid of the excess now and enjoy the freedom of extra space, she says. She’s ruthless in pruning, and only keeps the books she hasn’t read yet! Ignoring that swipe at books, her advice seemed like a good idea, and was the motivation we needed to shred several boxes of papers left over from teaching careers, and to give away my collection of cute but useless little car banks.

But Margareta goes ever further. I’m paraphrasing here but she says something like this: Do your loved ones a favor and get rid of the items people might gossip about. She has kept a few things for herself only, in a box labeled “Throw Away.” The first thing her children will do, she speculates, is investigate this box.


Harbor Village is a vivacious retirement paradise known for its beachy locale and active senior scene. But ever since murder moved in, the idyllic coastal community is becoming a little less lively…

With the first annual antique car show cruising into the tranquil bayside oasis of Fairhope, Alabama, there are bumpy roads ahead for Harbor Village director Cleo Mack. As an automobile-themed lecture series gets off to a rough start, she finds herself balancing one too many responsibilities—and dodging advances from a shady event sponsor. It’s enough to make Cleo feel twice her age. But the festivities reach a real dead end when she discovers a body at the Royale Court shopping center…

When an innocent man lands in the hot seat for murder, Harbor Village residents look to Cleo to crack the case. Aided by an eclectic group of energetic seniors, Cleo races to identify the true culprit from a growing list of harmless Sunday drivers—before a killer revs up for another hit and run!