Robert Jeschonek is an envelope-pushing, USA Today-bestselling author whose fiction, comics, and non-fiction have been published around the world. His stories have appeared in Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, Clarkesworld, Pulp Literature, and other publications. His novels have won the International Book Award, the Forward National Literature Award, and the Scribe Award.

Death by Polka by Robert Jeschonek

Robert Jeschonek is a USA Today bestselling author. He won the grand prize in Pocket Books' nationwide Strange New Worlds contest. He also won an International Book Award and a Scribe Award from the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. His young adult novel, My Favorite Band Does Not Exist, won a Forward National Literature Award and was named a Top Ten First Novel for Youth by Booklist magazine.

Who killed Polish Lou, the famous Prince of Polka Music? His daughter, musicologist Lottie Kachowski, comes home to the polka heartland of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, to find the answer. Lottie has an unbeatable talent for using music to solve crimes, and she does just that on the trail of her father's killer. But the stakes turn deadlier than ever when another polka legend comes to a tragic end. As the danger rises, Lottie recruits her father's wacky girlfriend, Polish Peg, to help her dig deeper into the wild world of small-town polka. The investigation takes some fancy footwork, but with help from Polish Peg, an old boyfriend, and a mysterious cat called Ghost, Lottie might just stand a chance of cracking the case. Because when you've got polka in your blood, you just know the bad guy's going to face the music.


I love the cover of this book. It looks the way I imagine the inside of Bob's mind to appear. Musical instruments, beer, and yes, a very curious cat (which just might be an avatar for Bob himself). Bob's one of the most creative creative writers you'll find. So when he puts death, cats, and polkas in the same book, you know you're in for something very, very special. – Kristine Kathryn Rusch



  • "Just finished reading this book which was very entertaining and enjoyable. Brought back so many memories of family, growing up and my Polish heritage. My husband and I actually broke out the polka music and reminisced about our childhoods, listening to live radio polka programs every weekend, the polka band at our wedding, etc. I really hope there will be a second book very soon in the polka town mystery as I look forward to following the antics of Lottie, Baba, Peg, Eddie Jr and all the other characters — and Ghost the kitty."

    – MomD, Amazon Reviewer
  • "Murder, mystery, and mayhem converge in the town of Johnstown, PA. With this small ethnic town as his backdrop, Mr. Jeschonek's cleverly written novel mixes a cast of colorful characters with an intriguing storyline, laugh out loud humor, and an ending that you'll never see coming. I hope this isn't the last we hear from Robert Jeschonek and his "friends" from Johnstown. Together they make for a truly delightful reading experience."

    – SandyK, Amazon Reviewer
  • "Although I don't polka, Jeschonek and I are from the same home town and the culture he establishes for his story is the culture that was so familiar in my growing-up years. Family was, and remains, a vital component of that culture, and it plays an important role in the story."

    – Jo Ann Sherbine, Amazon Reviewer



Slowly, I pulled the door open.

The scratching stopped. Looking down, I saw a shape, low to the ground and white as snow. It scooted back out of the way before I could get a good look at it.

It was some kind of animal, I guessed, which was probably all I needed to know...but curiosity got the better of me. I eased the door open another crack, staring wide-eyed into the dim light from the bulb outside my door. But the animal seemed to be gone; I must've scared it away.

Pushing the door wider, I tried for one last look. Just then, a streak of white zipped out of the shadows and through the doorway into my room.

Heart hammering, I gasped and leaped back. Finally, I got a clear look at the thing as it streaked across the carpet and under my bed.

A cat. It was a white cat, and now it was in my room.

The question now was how to get it out again. Though I'm not a cat hater, I've never been a cat person, either. I had no idea how to handle this refugee under my bed.

Leaving the door cracked just enough for the cat to get out, I walked over to the bed. "Hey, kitty." I patted the mattress, hoping the sound might be enough to alarm the cat. "Come on out of there, kitty."

I heard no movement under the bed, so I patted harder. Still nothing. "You've got to go, kitty. Go back home now."

Looking around the room, I wondered what to do next. Call the night clerk at the front desk? Call Animal Control? I doubted they were on duty at this time of night.

Maybe I could use something to push the cat out. If only I had a broom or a mop. Was there anything else long enough to reach under the bed?

A light bulb of inspiration went on over my head, and I marched to the closet. Yanking open the door, I reached for the full-length ironing board hanging from a peg inside.

Determined to get the cat out, I marched back to the bed...but just as I crouched and prepared to slide the board under the foot of the bed, I saw the cat walk around from the far side.

He stopped about three feet away and stared at me, tail flicking. His bright green eyes looked like sparkling emeralds in the snow white fur of his perfect little face.

He looked like he was in great shape for a stray, if he was one. His clean white fur had a healthy gloss and was closely trimmed, free of burrs and tangles. I saw no nicks or scratches, none of the wounds a cat could pick up in the wild.

Plus, he wore a collar. It was red and studded with glittering rhinestones. From where I crouched, I couldn't read the fine print engraved on the tiny gold nameplate.

So he was either a brand-new stray or a local housecat out for his nightly prowl. Either way, he didn't worry me as much as if he'd been a mangy feral cat seething with disease.

"Okay then." I let go of the ironing board and held out my hand. "Let's see what your name is, kitty."

Head bowed, the cat slinked forward two steps...then suddenly backed up three. He lifted his head, eyes locked with mine, and let out a long meeeow.

"Sorry, but I don't speak cat." I leaned forward and reached out again. "If I could just take a look at that collar of yours..."

The cat meowed again and licked his lips.

"Is that what you want? Food?" Leaning my elbow on the bed, I looked at the mini-fridge. Nothing to eat in there; I hadn't had time to stock it. "Well, I got nothin'. Wasn't expecting company tonight, you know."

Again, the cat meowed and licked his lips.

"I'll be sure to pick something up at the market tomorrow. Now how about a quick look at that collar?" Lunging forward, I made a grab for the animal.

Who of course was much too fast for me. My fingers didn't even brush his fur as he turned tail and sprinted out the door.

I got to my feet and followed. But by the time I got to the door, he was gone. I stood on the sidewalk in front of my room and looked in all directions, but there was no trace of him. The white, mysterious cat had disappeared in the night like a...

"Ghost. That's what I'll call you." I padded down the walk in my stocking feet and looked around the corner of the building...but there was no sign of him. "My own little Ghost, popped in for a visit."

I walked back to my room then, went in, and shut the door. I lay back down on the bed and stretched out on the spread.

"I wonder who that little guy was," I said. Talking to myself was another habit of mine, though not as troublesome as smoking or nail-chewing. "Just out looking for a saucer of milk, I guess."

As I thought about the white cat with the emerald eyes, I yawned. I rolled over and curled up, and then my eyes drifted shut.

"Goodnight, Ghost," I said softly. "Sweet dreams of sweet cream."

And then, finally, without another word, I fell asleep.