Something Missing

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  • Edition: Original
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-07-14
  • Publisher: Broadway Books

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A career criminal with OCD tendencies and a savant-like genius for bringing order to his crime scenes, Martin considers himself one of the best in the biz. After all, he's been able to steal from the same people for years on endvirtually undetected. Of course, this could also be attributed to his unique business modelhe takes only items that will go unnoticed by the homeowner. After all, who in their right mind would miss a roll of toilet paper here, a half-used bottle of maple syrup there, or even a rarely used piece of china buried deep within a dusty cabinet? Even though he's never met these homeowners, he's spent hours in their houses, looking through their photo albums and reading their journals. In essence, Martin has developed a friendship of sorts with them and as such, he decides to interfere more in their livesplaying the part of a rather odd guardian angeleven though it means breaking many of his twitchy neurotic rules. Along the way Martin not only improves the lives of others, but he also discovers love and finds that his own life is much better lived on the edge (at least some of the time) in this hilarious, suspenseful and often profound novel about a man used to planning every second of his life, suddenly forced to confront chaos and spontaneity. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Biography

MATTHEW DICKS lives in West Hartford, Connecticut. This is his first novel.


Martin opened the refrigerator and saw precisely what he had expected. The Pearls were nothing if not consistent. A gallon of milk, long since expired, cold cuts, opened jars of jam, tomato sauce, a carton of eggs, and, in the door, what Martin had predicted: salad dressing. More salad dressing than anyone would ever need. Newman's ranch, blue cheese, Thousand Island, French, Italian, two brands of balsamic vinaigrette, and Martin's favorite, parmesan peppercorn.

In the nine years that the Pearls had been Martin's clients, he had yet to see a head of lettuce or a fresh tomato in their refrigerator, yet there was always an excellent supply of salad dressing. And unlike most of his clients, the Pearls' salad dressings rarely reached their expiration dates, so someone in this house was using the dressing, but to what the dressing was being applied remained a mystery.

Martin took the bottle of parmesan peppercorn and examined it in his gloved hand. Satisfied with its expiration date, he placed it in the burlap sack and scanned the rest of the refrigerator. The sack, which hung off his left shoulder by a length of rope, was more for appearance's sake than anything else, a means of projecting an image of which he was quite proud. In Martin's estimation, he was at the top of his game, a master of his craft. Though any bag or sack would do, and some might serve him better, he had become attached to his burlap, and so on his shoulder it remained.

Martin then checked the butter drawer and found four and a half sticks. Selecting two and placing them in his sack, he closed the refrigerator door and headed for the pantry, reexamining the list that he had tucked carefully into his coat pocket. The list was written in French, so that in the event he was one day caught, it would be indecipherable by most police officers. Realistically, Martin knew that it wouldn't take long for any self-respecting detective to have the list translated, but the cautious nature of the list enhanced the image that Martin attempted to project.

beurre [butter]
sauce salade [salad dressing]
detergent Æ lessive [laundry detergent]
conserve [canned vegetables]
savon [soap]
diamant [diamond]

Martin found the Pearls' pantry well stocked with vegetables and selected two cans of peas, a can of corn, and two large cans of whole, peeled potatoes. Had the supply of vegetables been low, he would have bypassed this item on his list, adhering strictly to Rule #1:
If the missing item will be noticed, don't acquire it.

Certain items could be taken from a home without anyone ever noticing, particularly if one is familiar enough with the homeowner's inventory to determine how long an item has been in stock. A bottle of Liquid Plumber, for example, should never be taken during its first month on the shelf, because the homeowner has likely purchased it for a specific reason. A kitchen sink is slow to drain. The bathtub is filling with water during a shower. In these instances, a missing bottle of Liquid Plumber, which isn't cheap, might be noticed. But after thirty days, it's safe to assume that the homeowner has solved whatever plumbing problem from which he or she might have been suffering, and then the bottle can easily vanish without a trace. Sure, the client might one day think, "I thought I had bought an extra bottle when it was on sale," or "I didn't think I had used it all up," but as long as Martin followed Rule #2, these thoughts would be quickly dismissed.

Always married, without children, maids, or dogs.

Rule #2 was based upon a theory that Martin had proven long ago, and one that he considered to be the keystone of his success: When items go missing in a house, the suspicion of theft occurs only if the possibility of a thief exists.

The secret behind Martin's success was that the possibility of a thief operating in his clients' homes never entered their minds.

Excerpted from Something Missing: A Novel by Matthew Dicks
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.

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