Today it’s my pleasure to share an extract from Ruby Roy and the Murder in the Falls by Rima Ray. I had hoped to share this almost a month ago but life and blog demands outwitted me, but I think you’ll agree it was worth waiting for! My enormous thanks to Ben at Cameron Publicity for facilitating this.
Published on 3rd May 2022, Ruby Roy and the Murder in the Falls is available for purchase here.
Ruby Roy and the Murder in the Falls
Meet Dr. Ruby Roy. She is a twenty-nine-year-old, goofy, warm, and absent-minded professor in her third year at Baron University, located a few miles from the Falls. A plus-size woman of mixed Indian and Canadian roots, and cursed with an overactive imagination stemming from watching too many Bollywood and Disney films, Ruby is struggling to make her mark and stay out of trouble.
It doesn’t help matters that she keeps stumbling into a series of embarrassing incidents, even as she desperately tries to keep her superiors in the College happy. Unfortunately for Ruby, things take a turn for the worse when she discovers Professor Peter Malcolm’s dead body in his office. But who could have killed him? And why? And why does the Detective investigating the case look like a famous Hollywood actor?
Suddenly all the Poirot, Marple, Sherlock Holmes, and Father Brown books she loves reading seem to have come to life as she finds herself in the middle of a real-life murder mystery. And with the murderer on the loose, no one is safe. With the help of her husband, Cleo, her very own Watson, Ruby tries to solve the mystery before she is next on the killer’s list!
An Extract from Ruby Roy and the Murder in the Falls
IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL fall day in October. Located in Rosewood, New York, a few miles from the majestic Niagara Falls, Baron University’s campus was recently voted “the most scenic campus in the Northeast.” The weather was a bit cold—a sign winter was coming. The occasional chilly breeze left students and faculty exiting buildings clutching their coats or burying their heads in hoodies, eager to head home to huddle. Despite the chill, the sun was still shining bright. Fall leaves glistened while strewn untidily all over the campus grounds. They formed a colorful mosaic of yellows, oranges, and reds.
Dr. Ruby Roy was just stepping out of Bailey Hall, the College of Business building on campus. She shivered slightly as she clung to her new men’s plus-size Ralph Lauren suit. The tiny piece of cloth with the Ralph Lauren logo was still visible at the helm.
“How would people know it’s Ralph Lauren if I remove it?” Ruby had complained when her husband, Cleo, suggested she remove the tag.
At five foot seven inches with honey-complexioned skin, warm chocolate-brown eyes, jet-black pixie-cut hair, and a plus-size frame at 190 pounds, Ruby Roy was hard to miss. She had led an eventful life prior to joining Baron. The sole offspring of a white Canadian mother and an Indian father, she was a dual American and Canadian citizen. And by age twenty-nine she had lived on almost every continent—thanks to her dad’s job as a diplomat.
Ruby looked sideways to see if her ride had arrived. She made for a curious figure on the sidewalk with her eccentric style. At present, she had paired her Ralph Lauren suit with a floor-length black skirt. She had accessorized her outfit with sparkling Tiffany & Co. diamond studs nestled on her lobes. Her look may appear conservative at first glance, but the yellow and black Snoopy socks that adorned her practical Dr. Scholl’s footwear suggested otherwise. As did the tiny red hearts on the yellow scarf around her neck. And the pink beanie covering her head and ears—a Care Bear logo displayed prominently on the side. Her style was an amalgamation, a reflection of her eccentric personality. Fancy yet whimsical, luxurious yet pragmatic, classic conservative yet colorful and childlike.
Her suit, for instance, was a recent online purchase. A pricy one at four figures, it was an aberration in her online purchase history, which consisted primarily of ten to twenty-five–dollar impulse buys from Amazon. Mostly cute stationery and T-shirts with famous cartoon characters such as Goofy, the Rugrats, Snoopy, and Mickey and Minnie. She had not planned on buying a new suit, especially not one from the men’s department. However, given her trusted black Calvin Klein suit had developed tears and stains from daily use and the women’s 1X suit was out of stock online, she didn’t have a choice. As a business school professor, she was expected to have a couple of suits at the ready for classes and other professional events.
Ruby had briefly debated getting the XL size for women, which was available, but she had decided against it after recalling her last unfortunate online purchase. The one time she had hastily ordered a pantsuit one size down, it had ripped in the middle of her conference presentation at the downtown Hilton in Chicago—right in the middle of her slide on “seamless structures,” exposing her posterior and her pink Hello Kitty underwear. For the rest of the afternoon, the incident had left her immobile, unable to get up from her seat to greet the conference chair or other participants at the end. The torturous situation had lasted for two more hours. All the while, she had been forced to continue remaining seated amongst a bunch of Catholic priests who had promptly assembled for the next session on “Exploring the Role of God in Vincentian Education.” Ruby had felt conspicuously out of place in the sea of black and white, as she felt the frequent glares of the messengers of God surrounding her as they discussed all things divine. That day, Ruby had prayed to God to be rescued. And her prayers were finally answered when her husband, Cleo, managed to save her from the conference room, replacement pants in tow.
Ruby rechecked her iPhone. It had been several minutes since she had texted Cleo to pick her up. She looked closely at the parked cars nearby, hoping to catch their “midnight green” 2020 Toyota Camry. It was a recent big purchase. “The only one left,” assured the fawning salesman as he egged them on to get it. It was a peculiar shade—blue and green with a slight shimmer. And like a kid in a candy store or a cat enchanted by a bright red laser pointer, Ruby couldn’t resist all things pretty and shiny. An hour into their first visit to the dealership, the contract had been signed. They had used Cleo’s insurance information since Ruby couldn’t drive, a fact that had amused Cleo when he had first met her at a Tim Hortons café in Montreal three years earlier. He couldn’t believe that the same woman who had just completed a five-year PhD program at McGill, two master’s degrees before that at Cornell and Toronto, and a bachelor’s at Princeton had not been able to master the simple yet essential skill of driving.
It wasn’t necessarily due to lack of effort, Ruby had assured him that day. She had tried learning in New Jersey while doing her bachelor’s. But then there was that somewhat unfortunate incident in driving school when she had mistakenly taken a right turn instead of a left in a residential neighborhood. Resulting in the car—with Ruby and the hapless, screaming driving instructor—breaking through the front door of a neighbor’s house and stopping inches short of bumping into the residents. A Mr. and Mrs. Jorgensen, an older couple in their eighties who were unfortunately in their birthday suits. Empty nesters enjoying some intimate time alone, only to be rudely and shockingly interrupted by a big gray Ford SUV right in the middle of their living room. Mr. Jorgensen, a World War Two veteran, had later said the incident had been “far worse than surviving D-Day at Normandy.” In the aftermath, Ruby’s father, Dr. Roy, a senior diplomat at the World Bank, had to heavily compensate the Jorgensens and the driving instructor to allow his daughter to continue her studies uninterrupted. His sole request to his only child when she came up to him to apologize after the debacle was, “Please don’t drive, sweetheart. It’s just not safe with you.” And that effectively had ended Ruby’s early efforts and interest in learning to drive…
…As Cleo drove off campus, passing the “Welcome to Baron University” sign, Ruby abruptly exclaimed. “Wait! We must go back! I forgot my backpack.”
“Really?” Cleo said. “You know this is only the hundredth time this has happened.”
“I know, I know . . . I’m sorry. I don’t know why I keep forgetting,” Ruby replied apologetically.
“Okay, no worries, let’s go back.”
Cleo dropped Ruby off at the front of Bailey Hall. The sun was just about to set. The skies were pinkish-red, and one could see the silhouettes of a line of birds flying away in the distance. The temperature had dropped by a few more degrees.
“I’ll be right back,” Ruby promised as she stepped out of the car. She shivered.
“You need my jacket?” Cleo asked as he moved his hand to the zipper.
“No, thanks.” Ruby smiled. “You’re such a gentleman. But I’ll only be a few minutes.”
“I aim to please, Madame.” Cleo grinned. His Quebecois French accent mildly came through on the last word.
Ruby blew him an air kiss and walked toward the building. Just then, the Belmont clock tower on campus chimed. Ruby turned around to see that the clock had struck six. She used her Baron University ID to unlock the building door, then she rushed to the elevators to get to her office on the third floor.
As she stepped out of the elevator, a figure in a black overcoat hurried past her down the stairs. She couldn’t tell who it was but surmised it was likely a faculty member or the cleaning staff.
The hallway to her office appeared dark and deserted. The motion-sensor lights turned on as she walked toward her office. Ruby walked past all the tables and chairs strategically placed for students to sit and work on during the day. The business school faculty offices were located at the far-right corner of the third floor, past all the vending machines. As she got to her door, she fumbled, trying to retrieve her office keys from her coat pocket. She noticed that the light was still on across the hallway. It was her chair’s office: room 365C.
That’s unusual, she thought. He is usually gone by this hour.
She debated if she should drop by and say hello. Since the Christmas party, she had been avoiding one-on-one interactions with her chair, barring the mandatory college and department meetings. On the surface, there wasn’t any reason to actively avoid him. Akin to the dean, he had understood her clumsiness and had said that all was good. But Ruby still felt guilty every time she saw him.
In a split second, she decided to let go of her guilt and stop by for a quick visit. He isn’t going to eat you, she assured herself. She walked gingerly toward his door, firmly pushing her glasses up her nose. She knocked. Lightly at first. No answer. Then a bit louder. Still no answer.
“Dr. Malcolm,” she called out. “Pete . . .” she said, remembering her chair preferred the more casual moniker.
Still no response.
Mustering a little courage, Ruby gently pushed open the door to his office.
“Hey, I just wanted to say—”
She froze at the sight in front of her.
Dr. Peter Malcolm was seated in his chair. His face was pointed slightly up. His mouth was wide open, and his eyes, large and round as a fish’s, stared blankly at Ruby.
A knife handle was protruding from his chest, blood staining the area.
“P-P-Pete . . .” Ruby stammered.
Suddenly she felt something hit her from behind. Then everything went black . . .
I love that extract! I think Ruby sounds just the kind of character I’d like to find out more about.
About Rima Ray
Rima Ray spent her childhood in Kuwait, Qatar, India, the Philippines, Japan, Canada, and the US, surviving the first Gulf War in Kuwait and the triple disaster in Japan. She holds Bachelors’ and Masters’ Degrees from Cornell University and Ph.D. from McGill University.
These days Rima leads a more peaceful life as a professor in upstate New York with her husband Frederik. Apart from reading mysteries and working on her next Ruby Roy novel, she enjoys eating Asian food and spending time with her Maine Coon cats, Million and Nobel.
Her next book Ruby Roy and the Hawaiian Mystery is currently in the works.