Four-Alarm Homicide

House Flipper Mystery #6

By Diane Kelly

ISBN 9781250816085


Carpenter Whitney Whitaker and her cousin Buck are hot for a historical property that has just come on the market—a fire station in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood that was built nearly a century ago.

The cousins have just begun the interior demolition work at the fire station when Joanna Hartzell, who lives in a townhouse around the corner, comes by with a plea for help. Joanna owns the right half of her building, which she proudly maintains in perfect condition, while the left side falls into disrepair: the seven adult children who inherited it years ago refuse to lift a finger on repairs. Never one to turn down a challenge, Whitney and Buck manage to acquire the rundown townhouse—though it turns out Joanna is only one of the many neighbors interested in buying the property once they’ve worked their magic.

Then Joanna shows up at the fire station confused and rambling, then collapses, never to recover. Alarm bells go off for Whitney: she suspects something—and someone—evil could be the real cause. Can she and Collin put the clues together and smoke out a killer? (From Goodreads)


The years I spent pushing construction documents contributed to my love of cozy mysteries with construction or refurbishing, so this is a fun series for me. Whitney and her cousin, Buck, had amazing, unique features on their special property, making the ones I was involved with boring. I was captivated by the property they were repurposing and the one being refurbished to flip. I also enjoyed Sawdust, the cat who owns Whitney, and the interesting neighbors in the Germantown area of Nashville. The author has given us delightful characters, both regulars and those appearing only in this mystery.

Everyone is defined well, according to their role. Their overall attitudes, conversations, and actions “show” who they really are. Whitney and Buck are caring, energetic, talented people who love their work. Whitney’s fiancé, Collin, a police detective, also loves his work and values Whitney’s insight into his cases. The people who live in the neighborhood behind the fire station, as well as the owners of the condo they are preparing to flip, are a mixed bag. Some are kind, generous, and help others out while others try to get everything they can.

Buck and Whitney won the bid on a project that fascinates me. A century old fire station, historically accurate, will be converted into a one-of-a-kind home, keeping the exterior essentially the same. Collin and Whitney were unable to find a wedding venue for months. Their projected completion date is close to their wedding, so it will be briefly used for their wedding and reception prior to the sale.

Joanna, a neighbor in a townhouse on the next street, questioned Whitney and Buck regarding the townhouse adjacent to hers that has been sitting empty for years. They inspected it and alleviated her concerns. They were curious if it would be sold soon, as it would be easy to refurbish and flip. It took fancy footwork and assistance from their attorney and their investor, but they purchased it from the seven sons and daughters of the former owners. A couple of the siblings tried to cause no end of trouble for Buck and Whitney.

Joanna’s daughter and son-in-law are expecting a baby. She asked for the opportunity to meet or exceed the highest bidder so she could get it for them. Her neighbor and close friend, Gideon, who buys and rents properties, wanted to buy it. A young couple who rents from Gideon wanted to buy it at a bargain, and the young mother was angry that Buck and Whit wanted to make a profit. She didn’t understand that the profit pays their labor and investment in another project.

The work on the fire station was fun and exciting, and when they had time, Whitney worked in the condo. The seven siblings argued over wanting more money. Someone entered the condo and sprayed graffiti on the walls, presumably a sibling with a door key. Much worse was the fire at the fire station that was determined to be arson. When the smoke cleared – literally – they saw it would cost extra time and money, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.

Only a couple days later, Joanna came into the fire station, seriously impaired, after a couple days of not feeling well. Whitney saw she was ready to collapse, and broke her fall. EMT’s tried to save her, but she died in route to the hospital. Purely by coincidence, Whitney was looking something up that Buck’s wife told her about. She realized the symptoms sounded like Joanna’s final days. When Whitney brought it up to Joanna’s daughter and it was discovered she was correct, Whitney became a suspect, as this cause of death rarely resulted by accident and was not a common means of murder.

Whitney has helped solve murders before, but her detective fiancé usually had involvement in the case. This time, a different detective was in charge who forced Collin to recuse himself. Whitney spent all the time she could trying to find the killer, finish their wedding plans, and complete the two projects she and Buck committed to.

I was shocked and saddened by who the killer really was. It was a terrible tragedy, as the person wanted results other than Joanna’s death. There was no joy in the solution, only determination to go forward. I highly recommend this mystery and series, and am looking forward to the next in this series.