Cover image for Unbreathed memories : a Hannah Ives mystery
Unbreathed memories : a Hannah Ives mystery
Talley, Marcia.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [2000]

Physical Description:
272 pages ; 18 cm
General Note:
"A Dell book".
Format :


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Material Type
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X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Closed Stacks

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Is the key to a therapist's murder hidden a patient's mind?

Is a shrink's death fall a Freudian slip?

Hannah Ives has every reason to mind her own business. Having survived a recent bout with breast cancer, she's opting for reconstructive surgery and a fresh start. Her Annapolis home is decorated for better feng shui. Her parents are living close by. And her sister, Georgina, is finally getting help for recurring depression. Everything is coming up roses-until her sister's therapist takes a nosedive off a balcony.

Now, with Georgina a prime suspect in the murder, Hannah needs to do some analysis of her own. A few pages torn from an appointment book may hold a crucial clue. And some bizarre memories from her sister's past may point to a motive...if Hannah can keep a clear head and dare to enter the darkness of a killer's twisted mind....

Author Notes

Marcia Talley 's first Hannah Ives novel, Sing It to Her Bones , won the Malice Domestic Grant in 1998 and was nominated for an Agatha Award as Best First Novel of 1999. Unbreathed Memories , the second in the series, appeared in 2000. Both were featured alternates of the Mystery Guild. She is also the editor of a collaborative serial novel, Naked Came the Phoenix , where she joined with twelve bestselling women authors to pen a tongue-in-cheek mystery about murder in an exclusive health spa. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and collections. Talley lives in Annapolis, Maryland, with her husband, Barry, a professor at the US Naval Academy. When she isn't writing, she spends her time traveling or sailing.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

An engaging combination of domestic drama and murder mystery, Talley's second Hannah Ives mystery (after Sing It to Her Bones) centers on the plucky heroine's ability to see her family through a crisis. After Hannah's recent battle with breast cancer, her retired parents move back to Annapolis, Md., where Hannah, her husband and her older sister reside. The family seems peaceful until Georgina, Hannah's younger sister who lives in Baltimore, is accused of murdering her therapist, who had been treating her for a protracted bout of postpartum depression. To make matters worse, the childhood memories that Georgina claims caused her emotional problems threaten to tear the family apart. Hannah resolves to prove the memories false and, with the advice of a retired mystery writer (and a few pages from the therapist's appointment book), she sets out to find the real killer. Talley's Hannah is an indefatigable caretaker and an irresistible protagonist who does her amateur sleuthing in between helping her parents move and babysitting her sister's kids. Ultimately, however, the novel is more a heartfelt (and melodramatic) story of a family's healing than a suspenseful mystery. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



chapter 1   Believe it or not, there are advantages to having had cancer. When the bloodmobile folks come to town, for one, they're not the least bit interested in siphoning blood from you, even if you've got some rare blood type known only to God and six people on a remote island off the coast of South Carolina. Two, I get my mammograms at half price. Third, I've discovered one can get away with being a bit eccentric. If you decide to take up skydiving or transcendental meditation, for example, or suddenly become a vegetarian addicted to broccoli sprouts, people may think you're a little nuts, but they don't give you a hard time about it. They just nod their heads, peek at each other sideways, and whisper knowingly, cancer.   That's probably why my sister Ruth thought I'd be interested in those New Age gizmos she sells in her shop on Main Street in downtown Annapolis when they've never particularly interested me before. She had just telephoned to say she'd be coming over with "a little something" to show me. I shuddered. The last time she'd brought me "a little something"--bamboo curtains meant to slow down fast-moving chi between the family room and the kitchen--it had ended up costing me seventy-four dollars just to get them hung.   While I waited for Ruth, I sat at my kitchen table going through the mail. The kitchen was particularly pleasant that day, unusually warm and bright, with sunshine flooding the room, reflecting off the thin layer of snow covering the ground outside. Spread out before me were all the Christmas cards I had missed while I was out in Colorado attending the birth of my first grandchild--a little girl named Chloe, after one of my son-in-law Dante's clients. A particularly wealthy and grateful woman, she had brought him a lot of new bodies to massage. To me, "Chloe" was the title of a raucous old Spike Jones tune with gongs and bells, but my daughter Emily liked the name because it sounded like a warm, spring breeze. I looked it up--"Chloe" is a Greek word meaning "young, green shoot." Not very zephyr-like, but I wasn't going to mention it.   I shuffled through the greeting cards, looking first for ones from absent friends. With enthusiasm I slit the envelopes open with a kitchen knife so I could catch up with lives via hastily scribbled notes or elaborate, mass-produced Christmas letters in which happy family groups smiled out at me smudgily from poor-quality photocopies.   Beneath an oversized seasonal communication from State Farm Insurance, I uncovered a manila envelope from a plastic surgeon in Severna Park I had consulted about reconstructive surgery just before leaving for Colorado Springs. Reconstruction. I liked that word. It evoked visions of something new and wonderful rising from the ruins. I daydreamed about it while putting the teakettle on to boil, wondering what my chest would look like after surgery when they removed the bandages for the first time. The plastic surgeon had shown me samples of her work; photographs of other women, naked from the waist up, with black rectangles covering their eyes. I imagined my own picture--a dark oblong wearing light brown curls, a crooked smile, and just below my shoulder and to the right, a pert little hill jutting out of a ravaged plain.   I measured some jasmine tea into a silver tea ball and dropped it into the pot to steep. While I waited, I opened the envelope from the doctor. It contained a letter encouraging me to call her office "at my convenience" to confirm the surgery, and a two-page, legal-looking consent form. Reading this stuff required a strong stomach and an equally robust cup of tea, so I poured myself a mug, covered the pot with a cat-shaped tea cozy, and had just settled down to plow my way through the small print when the telephone rang.   "Hi, Hannah, whatcha doing?"   "Looking over some stuff from Dr. Bergstrom. I'm trying to decide about reconstructive surgery."   "I'd sure have it if I were you."   Easy for her to say. My sister Georgina was a C-plus-plus to my insignificant A-minus.   "Listen to this." I dragged a chair over to the telephone and settled into it. " 'These are my wishes if I am ever in a persistent vegetative state ...' Yuck! I'm nervous enough about going through more surgery without being reminded of all that!" I tossed the document toward the kitchen table, where it ricocheted off a potted geranium, floated to the tiles, and slid under the refrigerator. It had been a little over a year since my mastectomy, and the memory of the surgery and my long recovery was still fresh in my mind. "I'm thinking about not going through with it, now that they mention the risk."   Georgina sounded bubbly. It must have been one of her up days. I could hear high-pitched squabbling in the background, the twins from the sound of it, Sean and Dylan, who were seven. "It will be fine, Hannah. You'll be fine. Better than fine."   I rested my head against the wall with the receiver to my ear and didn't say anything. My sisters didn't talk to me very much about It these days. I suspect they had convinced themselves that if you didn't talk about It, It wouldn't exist.   Keeping the receiver clamped to my ear and uncoiling the cord as far as it would go, I walked to the refrigerator, stooped, and retrieved the document, shaking off a couple of greasy dust bunnies that clung to the edges. "I think I'll add a line to this form, Georgina. If I should end up in a persistent vegetative state, I'm saying I want them to start hydration and artificial nutrition and then I want you to remind Paul to call his lawyer and sue the pants off them."   Georgina chuckled. "I'll try to remember that."   "You better, or I'll come back to haunt you." I laid the document on the table near the Christmas cards and took another swig of tea. "How's it with you?"   "Busy. Trying to keep the kids out of Scott's hair while he's working."   "Why doesn't Scott get an office outside the house? I don't know how you stand it! As much as Paul and I enjoy each other's company, we'd soon be at each other's throats if I had him hanging around the house all day."   "Scott's working on it. He's got his eye on a place off York Road in Towson, and if he can land this big Mahoney account, he'll have it made." Scott was a CPA, and I couldn't imagine how he managed to work, let alone land any big accounts, with three children underfoot. Sean had evidently popped Dylan, or vice versa, because there was a piercing wail and Georgina's voice became muffled. "Sean! Cut it out! Now! Trucks are for playing, not for hitting. And turn down that TV!" Poor Georgina. I sometimes baby-sat for my nephews, identical down to the sandy hairs on their mischievous little heads, and it was exhausting. No wonder Georgina stayed so thin. And now there was baby Julie to trip over, born when Georgina was in her late thirties, just turned four and prancing about everywhere.   Over the background of the TV, playing cartoons at a decibel level high enough to rupture all eardrums within a half-mile radius, Georgina persisted, "Help me remember something."   "How do you stand the noise?" I asked, but she didn't give any indication that she heard me.   "Where did we live when I was two?"   I didn't have to rack my brain to come up with an answer to that. I could still remember the sunny days, the faultless blue of the Mediterranean sky, and the smoky outline of Mount Vesuvius in the distance across the sea. "Dad was stationed in Sicily then."   "Who took care of us?"   "What do you mean, who took care of us? Mother did. And Marita, the maid. Why do you ask?"   "It's something I need to know for my therapy."   Georgina had been seeing a therapist who was helping her deal with a protracted postpartum depression. In my opinion, all she needed to cure what ailed her was to get her husband out of the house and hire a baby-sitter once or twice a week, and I told her so.   "It's not just the pressure at home, Hannah. Lionel was absolutely beastly at church this Sunday."   The Senior Warden at All Hallows Church in Baltimore where Georgina played the organ was a piece of work. After listening to Georgina's complaints, I decided that he was the psychotic who needed therapy, not Georgina. I thought about the organ concert where I had last seen the odious Lionel--Mr. Streeting to his friends--pacing self-importantly in his slimy, silver-gray polyester suit, peering over the tops of oversized tortoise-shell eyeglasses and making two-finger come-hither gestures as he seated the audience. How Georgina could stand even to look at the man--his black hair, laced with gray, parted too neatly on the side, and so thick with hair cream you could see the tooth marks of his comb--was beyond me. Streeting controlled every aspect of All Hallows, from the choir director to the Junior Warden, from the Altar Guild to the church secretary, even the rector, with an uncompromising hand. Look up "prick" in the dictionary and there's his picture, right between "pricey" and "prickle."   Georgina's antipathy knew no bounds as she launched into her latest diatribe. "The hymns are always too loud for him, never too soft. I'm to play faster or slower, depending upon the phase of the goddamn moon. During the prelude today I caught sight of him in my mirror, flapping his arms like a wounded bird. I thought someone had died, for Christ's sake! Then the light on the console started flashing off and on and I knew he wanted me to quit playing but I only had sixteen bars to go so I ignored the SOB." She paused for breath. "And then, do you know what he did?"   "I hate to think."   "He oozed up to me after the service, tapped his watch, and said, 'We simply must start the services on time. Your prelude was two minutes over, Mrs. Cardinale.' Honestly!"   "Why don't you quit?" I asked.   "I thought about applying for the organist position at Union Memorial downtown, but I've been Episcopal since forever, and All Hallows is so close to home." Excerpted from Unbreathed Memories: A Hannah Ives Mystery by Marcia Talley All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.