Dirty Harriet

top pick 2

WINNER, BEST FIRST SERIES ROMANCE, RT BOOK REVIEWS

Goodbye mansion, hello Hog.

This former Boca Babe is now a Biker Babe with a rap sheet and a license to track down bad guys and solve crimes. Go ahead. Make her day.  Harriet “Dirty Harriet” Horowitz had it all. Money. Plastic Surgery. Servants. Then her husband raised his fist one time too many, and she shot and killed him. Now, she lives in the South Florida swamps, rides a Harley, and owns a private eye agency. Her best friend—the only friend who makes sense anymore—is an alligator named Lana.  Then the Contessa von Phul, a woman from Harriet’s society days, hires Harriet to investigate the death of a Mayan immigrant worker. With her assistant Lupe—an eccentric civil servant—and a .44 Magnum, Dirty Harriet hits the mean streets of Boca Raton to dig for clues. What won’t she do to uncover the truth? Her search for answers forces her to return to her old world of Boca Babes and McMansions. When she discovers scandal after scandal, will she be able to escape Boca with her life—yet again?


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Prologue – Dirty Harriet

I confess. I said it. When my husband raised his fists at me that last time, I said: “Go ahead, make my day!”

He obliged. So did I, putting a .44 Magnum bullet through his heart and putting him out of my misery. Permanently.

Hey – it was a clear case of self-defense, as attested to by the five hundred witnesses at the scene, a wedding reception at the Boca Raton Beach Club (BaR-B-Cue for short). Okay, so I ruined the bride’s big day. Give me a break, will you? The SOB had it coming, trust me.

Well, the press had a field day, dubbing me “Dirty Harriet” in honor of Clint Eastwood’s notorious Dirty Harry character. That suits me fine – there are a lot of similarities between old Harry and me. We both speak softly and carry a big gun.

My real name is Harriet Horowitz. I’m a recovering Boca Babe. No, those aren’t the opening lines of a Boca Babes Anonymous meeting. There is no such beast, and even if there were, groups aren’t my bag.

So what’s to recover from, you ask? Let’s start with personal appearance. The Boca Babe needs: a weekly manicure, biweekly pedicure, twice-weekly blowout, monthly highlighting and razor-edge trimming, lip and brow waxing, bikini waxing, a truckload of cosmetics to keep Estée Lauder and Lancôme in business, twice-weekly trips to the mall with the personal shopper, daily sessions with the personal trainer. Had enough? We haven’t even started on household maintenance. The Boca Babe must be in possession of a McMansion – the six-bedroom, five-bath faux-Mediterranean palazzo situated in one of the euphemistically named “gated communities” (translation: walled fortresses). And does this household take care of itself? Of course not. You need a gardener, a housekeeper, a pool service person – minimum. Those are your regulars. Then there’s the other help you call in for special occasions, such as hosting your son’s bar mitzvah or your parents’ golden anniversary. This requires a party planner, a caterer, a wardrobe consultant. Well, you get the picture.

Now, let’s face it, most women cannot acquire all of this themselves. But there’s one surefire way to achieve this fairy tale, and that’s to marry a rich American prince.

 My prince was named Bruce. I’d met him when I was attending one of those prissy women’s colleges up in New England. My mom had sent me there, not to get any useful education, mind you, just to become the right kind of woman to snare the right kind of man. And Bruce was it. He was a law student at Yale. He was hot, smart, charming, connected, and soon to be rich. A budding Boca Babe’s dream. Sure, there were the usual warning signs of incipient abuse – the moodiness, the possessiveness, the volatility. But just like most women, I didn’t put two and two together, or maybe I repressed whatever doubts I may have had, because I just had to have him. After all, you can’t be a Boca Babe if you’re man-less.I brought Bruce home to Mom in Boca. She thoroughly approved, so we got married and started living the high life. Bruce became an associate, then a partner, in Boca’s leading law firm, representing pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, and the tobacco industry against people who claimed they’d suffered injury or loss of a loved one due to the corporations’ negligence or malfeasance. Was it lucrative? Hell yes. Moral? I didn’t want to go there. I was too busy spending the money. Every time a little voice of conscience started nagging at me, I’d suppress it by going on a shopping spree with my friends.

While I was shopping, Bruce was working and hanging with Boca’s power brokers, fueling his energy and ego with cocaine. And as his blow use increased, so did his blowups and put-downs. In his eyes I’d gone from being a brainy babe to a babbling bimbo. Pretty soon the shoving, slapping, hitting, and kicking started. But while he was addicted to the coke, I was addicted to the money and the image it bought. So for ten years I put up with his verbal and physical abuse to “Keep Up Appearances.”

 My road to liberation started when my personal trainer suggested I take up the Israeli martial art Krav Maga to get my ass in shape. In the process of toning my backside, something else happened. I began to grow a backbone. As my self-defense skills increased, I started to ask myself: Did I really need to be a punching bag in order to keep the McMansion, the Mercedes, the manicures, the whole shebang? For that matter, did I really need the McMansion, the Mercedes, the manicures, and the whole shebang in the first place? Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: why didn’t I just divorce the shmuck – did I have to whack him? Easier said than done. You know the story. I left a couple times, he came and dragged me back, threatening to kill not only me but my mom if I ever left again. And then there was the response of the cops and the courts.

One time Bruce was arrested after he threw me to the ground outside a five-star restaurant. But he was buddies with the police chief, who personally went to the jail at three a.m. to release him and drop the charges. Another time he beat me so badly I had to go to the hospital. We almost made it to court on that charge, but then the hospital records documenting my injuries mysteriously disappeared, and the case was dismissed for lack of evidence.

 By then Bruce had incurred some serious debts with his drug habit. Some really shady characters started hounding him. Bruce bought himself a gun. He just didn’t figure that someday I’d use it on him. Neither did I. Until that night.

That was four years ago, when I was thirty-five. After the shooting, I spent a few nights in the county jail overlooking Donald Trump’s golf course up in West Palm. Finally, the DA decided it was justifiable homicide and let me go. So, I unloaded my Boca Babe lifestyle – the house, the car, the clothes, everything – and decided to start over as far from there as I could. Well, inasmuch as I hate winter and love Florida, I didn’t venture all that far. Just to the edge of the Everglades.Now, home is a two-room wood cabin up on stilts in the Glades just west of Boca. Basically, I’ve moved from swank to swamp. You know that magazine you see in checkout lines at the grocery store, Real Simple? That’s just for starters. I’m talking the real thing. No electricity lines (just my generator), no land phone (just my cell), and no neighbors (just Lana, the six-foot gator that lurks around my front porch). No roads either – just my airboat.

Now if all that seems like a drastic change, it is. Here’s why: With any kind of recovery, you’ve got to go cold turkey. You’ve got to change playgrounds and playmates. There’s no doing it half-assed, or you get sucked right back in to where you started. So I had to reinvent my life. And just moving to a different city wouldn’t cut it. I wanted to meet the challenge of total independence.

The only obstacle was money. I had no kids – neither of us had ever wanted them – so that’s one worry I didn’t have. But as a Boca Babe, I’d spent my husband’s income as fast as it came in. And he did too. Even the house was mortgaged to the hilt. So I was left with nothing but my jewelry, which I sold to buy my one treat to myself, my Hog – a 2003 100th anniversary 883cc Harley Hugger. That Evolution engine represents my own personal evolution. For some people there’s therapy, for me there’s my Hog. Anyway, I needed to support myself, so I went back to school and learned some skills for real life, as opposed to the twisted fairy tale I’d been living. Then I answered an ad in the paper for someone with computer skills, which turned out to be for a private eye agency, doing skip traces and background checks. When my boss learned that I also possessed a whole slew of Boca Babe skills, he sent me out on cases as a decoy, enticing cheating husbands into making a pass, then getting the whole thing on tape. It was pretty sleazy, but it gave me a start in the business. A year or so later I was able to get my own license and open my own agency, ScamBusters. And I set out to expose the seamy underbelly of Boca.

I’ve been in business a little over a year now, and let me tell you, it’s booming. Boca has scams aplenty. This is South Florida, after all. You didn’t think all that crisp new money floating around here was earned by honest hard work, did you? Insurance scams, investment scams, immigration scams – you name it, we’ve got it.

But the last thing I expected that February day when the Contessa von Phul walked into my office was a murder case. I guess even I hadn’t known just how ugly things could get in beautiful Boca Raton.

 

 


Reviews

Winner, 2006 Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Awards, Best First Series Romance.

 TOP PICK! ****1/2 stars. Dry humor, important emotional issues and interesting and moving details about the lives of field workers in Florida make DIRTY HARRIET impossible to put down. Here is a heroine I hope to see again.

      –Page Traynor, Romantic Times Book Reviews

 Boca Raton author Miriam Auerbach uses broad humor and satire in her look at the upscale Palm Beach lifestyle in her debut. DIRTY HARRIET works best when Auerbach concentrates on finding humor in the superficiality of Harriet’s former life. The author’s attempts to highlight the plight of       immigrant women add to the plot and give a needed heft to DIRTY HARRIET.  Auerbach does seem to have a flair for characters, making us want to see more of creations like the gay motorcycle mechanic and his partner.

      –Oline H. Cogdill, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

 Ms. Auerbach is off to a good start. Her book moves along quickly, her secondary characters are quirky and likable, and the identity of the murderer is a surprise.

      –Prudy Taylor Board, Boca Raton News

 Auerbach weaves an interesting story, and has a commanding but softly humorous voice. Interspersed with side comments about the Boca lifestyle, her first person narrative manages to do justice to a contemporary political issue, while still keeping the reader entertained. I read this in one night, and chuckled most of the way through.

      –Joanne Sinchuk, Murder on the Beach Bookstore

 ***** Stars. Besides a terrific investigative tale, DIRTY HARRIET is a deep look at the lifestyle of migrant field workers that should be mandatory reading for those in Congress who paint immigration issues as us and them. The story line is action packed from the moment her abusive Spouse makes the heroine’s day and never slows down as Harriet investigates the death of a “nonentity.” Miriam Auerbach provides a puissant tale using dark humor and starring a fabulous champion who deserves future tales.

      –Harriet Klausner, Amazon.com

 **** Stars. This is a good read; the author’s writing reminds me of a blend of Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich. Harriet is a likable character; her tough exterior and sassy nature kept me entertained, and I had a good laugh at her wit and sarcasm. This is a good debut novel by Miriam Auerbach and I look forward to her future releases.

      –Shannon Bigham, Curled Up With a Good Book (www.curledup.com)

 *** Stars. Great story line. Harriet starts acting like “Dirty Harry” and takes charge of her life. I loved her way of thinking and I want to BE her! She told things like they were. I laughed out loud at some of her observations!

      –Mona L., Paperback Swap (www.paperbackswap.com)

 *****Stars. Awesome! Harriet is my heroine! What a fabulous book. Please, please put out another one and another and another. Loved it!

      –P.D.H., Amazon.com

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