Acts of Violets (Flower Shop Mystery Series #5)by Kate Collins
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During the annual Pickle Fest, Abby's boyfriend Marco inexplicably disappears for a day. When he returns, he's the main suspect in the death of a clown. It seems the cops have found Snuggles pushing up water-spurting daisies-and Marco was the last person seen leaving Snuggles's house. Although Marco is still a mystery to her, Abby knows he's innocent. Now she has to find a way to prove it.
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The critics are throwing bouquets for the Flower Shop Mysteries
Snipped in the Bud
“Lighthearted and fast-paced, Collins’s new book is an entertaining read.”—Romantic Times
“Abby is truly a hilarious heroine. . . . Don’t miss this fresh-as-a-daisy read.”—Rendezvous
“Exciting . . . original and charming with . . . many unexpected twists.”—Midwest Book Review
“Ms. Collins’s writing style is crisp, her characters fun . . . and her stories are well thought-out and engaging.”
Slay It with Flowers
“Upbeat, jocular . . . an uplifting, amusing and feel-good amateur sleuth tale.”—The Best Reviews
“What a delight! Ms. Collins has a flair for engaging characters and witty dialogue.”—Fresh Fiction
“You can’t help but laugh. . . . An enormously entertaining read.”—Rendezvous
Mum’s the Word
“Kate Collins plants all the right seeds to grow a fertile garden of mystery. . . . Abby Knight is an Indiana florist who cannot keep her nose out of other people’s business. She’s rash, brash, and audacious. Move over, Stephanie Plum. Abby Knight has come to town.”
—Denise Swanson, author of the Scumble River mysteries
“An engaging debut planted with a spirited sleuth, quirky sidekicks, and page-turning action . . . delightfully addictive . . . a charming addition to the cozy subgenre. Here’s hoping we see more of intrepid florist Abby Knight and sexy restauranteur Marco Salvare.”
—Nancy J. Cohen, author of the Bad Hair Day Mysteries
“A bountiful bouquet of clues, colorful characters, and tantalizing twists . . . Kate Collins carefully cultivates clues, plants surprising suspects, and harvests a killer in this fresh and frolicsome new Flower Shop mystery series.”
—Ellen Byerrum, author of the Crime of Fashion mysteries
“As fresh as a daisy, with a bouquet of irresistible characters.” —Elaine Viets, author of the Dead-End Job mysteries
“This engaging read has a list of crazy characters that step off the pages to the delight of the reader. Don’t miss this wannabe sleuth’s adventures.”—Rendezvous
“This story was cute and funny, had a good plot line which entwined a lot of interesting threads . . . an enjoyable read and a fine debut for this new mystery series.”
—Dangerously Curvy Novels
“A charming debut.”—The Best Reviews
Other Flower Shop Mysteries
Mum’s the Word
Slay It with Flowers
Snipped in the Bud
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First Printing, March 2007
Copyright © Linda Tsoutsouris, 2007
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eISBN : 978-1-101-00759-4
Authors never write entirely alone; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There are always editors and agents and husbands and mothers and fathers and children standing silently (or not) in the background. Also those pesky little voices in our heads.
To that end I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my husband for providing a shoulder to whine on, as well as his legal expertise (the best lawyer in Indiana—not that I’m prejudiced or anything); my sister, Nancy, and best friend, Barb (more shoulders for whining; how do they stand me?); “My Kids: The Entire Collection”; my editor, Ellen Edwards; my agent, Karen Solem; the terrific artist who designed the Flower Shop Mystery covers (absolutely the coolest!); my step-mom, Bonnie (the American version of Grace); and of course the clowns Jocko and Bimbo, who were the true inspiration for this book, not to mention for Abby’s nightmares. The voices and I thank you all.
This book is dedicated to the memory of Joseph Eberhardt,
a man who endured unbelievable hardships yet never lost his enthusiasm for life. His ready smile and generous heart will always be an inspiration to those of us who loved him. God bless you, Joe.
“You think that was funny? You think I don’t know you did that on purpose? Well, I’ve got your number, shorty, so let me tell you something: Paybacks are murder.”
Paybacks? Murder? Shorty! Hugging my purse to my chest, I gaped at the bad-tempered buffoon as he gathered his cucumbers, climbed onto his unicycle, and rode off to join his troupe. You wouldn’t expect that kind of behavior from a clown named Snuggles.
Was it my fault he ran over my purse and fell off his tall perch? No, it was the bozo’s behind me—pardon the clown pun—who was too busy stuffing his face with a bratwurst to notice the short redhead with an even shorter fuse standing in front of him. This was a small parade. He was a big guy. Did he have to be in the front row? And who eats brats at ten o’clock in the morning?
I turned my attention back to Snuggles, who was once again juggling cukes from his seat-in-the-sky as he pedaled up the street. My policy was to stand up to bullies—and that snarled threat was certainly bullying behavior—but before I could give him a piece of my mind (I was thinking along the lines of recommending a place to store those cucumbers) I was yanked back onto the sidewalk by my best friend and roommate, Nikki Hiduke, an X-ray tech at the county hospital, who had shared many childhood adventures with me and lived to tell about it.
“Abby, are you all right? You look dazed.”
“Nikki, that clown threatened me! As if I elbowed myself off the sidewalk.” I cast a glare over my shoulder at Mr. Oblivious, who had finished his bratwurst and was slurping mustard off his fingers. I was amazed he wasn’t also talking on a mobile phone. Oh, wait. Yes, he was. He had on an earpiece.
“Snuggles the Clown threatened you?” Nikki stared after the troupe—three acrobats, two unicyclists, one stilt walker, and the last (my favorite because of the huge purple lily atop a long green stem waving from her bonnet), a baby-doll clown peddling a giant purple tricycle. “But he looks so harmless.”
“Don’t let that goofy smile fool you.” I scrubbed the black tread mark off the tan leather purse that I’d almost gone into hock for. “Beneath that greasepaint is a nasty temper and a voice that would make a polar bear shiver.”
“Abby, you have mustard on your shoulder.”
Wonderful. I took a tissue from my tire-engraved purse and blotted the yellow stain on my white shirt. Why had I even bothered to come? It was a sunny Saturday morning, and although my flower shop, Bloomers, was open on Saturdays, this was my one weekend a month to sleep in. But no. Attending the Annual Pickle Fest Parade was a family tradition, and to break that tradition was to incur the wrath of my mom, Maureen “Mad Mo” Knight.
Speaking of whom, where was she? I’d never known her to miss the start of the parade, when Peter Piper led his merry band of Pickled Peppers up Lincoln Avenue to the strains of a John Philip Sousa march.
I scanned the crowd lining both sides of the street. Today was the start of New Chapel, Indiana’s, fall Pickle Festival—a weeklong celebration of brine-soaked vegetables attended by thousands of people from all over the state, some from as far away as Chicago, giving the local newspaper, the New Chapel News, fodder for headlines such as VISITORS RELISH THE PICKLE FEST. I had a hunch it wasn’t so much the pickled produce as it was getting pickled that was the actual draw.
All four streets around the courthouse square had been blocked off to accommodate the huge crowds. Restaurant owners set up tables in front of their establishments to sell beer, hot dogs, bratwurst, dills, pickled beets, pickled tomatoes, pickled watermelon, and, yes, pickled peppers to the hungry visitors. For the truly desperate, pickled herring and pickled pig’s feet were also available. Shoe shops, gift boutiques, and clothing stores put out their wares, and even Bloomers had a display of mums, roses, asters, and greenery for sale.
Then there were the ever-popular arts and crafts booths that dotted the huge lawn around the big limestone courthouse in the middle of the square. Beneath the shady maples and elms, brightly colored canvas tents housed ceramics, watercolors, oils, clay sculpture, silver jewelry, quilts, pottery, toys, metal sculpture, and even marble birdbaths.
My mother would have her work on display somewhere in that mix. In addition to being a kindergarten teacher, Mom now fancied herself an artist, having received a pottery wheel for Christmas last year. Before she grew bored with clay, she had produced a variety of weird sculptures such as the infamous Dancing Male Monkeys Table and the Human Footstool. She had since moved on to mirrored tiles, with which she’d covered nearly every object in her house, making a washroom visit a truly frightening experience. I didn’t know what craft she was into this week. My father would only say, “It’s a tickler.”
“Do you see my family?” I asked Nikki. Being a head taller (even more if you added her spiky blonde hair), she had a sight advantage. She also had a body advantage—slender, long legged, and small breasted, something I had aspired to from the age of thirteen. My brothers, both doctors, insisted that people stopped growing when they reached puberty, but they were only half right; I hadn’t gone beyond my five-foot-two-inch frame since junior high, but I had gone way beyond my training bra.
“I don’t see any of them,” Nikki said, holding up her hand to shield her eyes.
Normally, they weren’t hard to pick out, since Jonathan and Jordan had the same flame red hair and freckled skin that my dad and I had. My mother’s hair was a soft brown, lucky woman, and my sisters-in-law—Portia and Kathy—had also escaped the curse of the red.
“There’s Marco,” Nikki shouted in my ear as the New Chapel High School marching band passed by. She pointed between green-coated band members to the opposite side of the street, but I had already spotted him. How could anyone miss a dark-haired, virile-bodied, extremely hot hunk like Marco Salvare, a former Army Ranger and ex-cop who now owned the Down the Hatch Bar and Grill—as well as my heart?
“Who’s that woman talking to him?” Nikki asked.
I eyed the attractive girl beside him. “I don’t know. She’s pretty, isn’t she?”
“Pffft. No way. Ew. And would you look at those split ends?”
“Nikki, you can’t see split ends from here, and besides, it’s okay to agree with me. I don’t feel threatened by the woman. I’m not the jealous type.”
She burst out laughing.
Ignoring her, I narrowed my eyes at the pair, watching as Marco tilted his head toward the woman to catch something she said. She couldn’t have been a day over twenty-five, and had an oval face with delicate features framed by long, thick black hair topping off a perfectly proportioned body. She was talking animatedly and pointing to something or someone up the street. The Pickled Peppers? The clown troupe? Someone in the marching band?
“Abigail, there you are!” my mother called. I turned to find her parting the crowd so the humongous feathered hat on her head could fit through. Normally, she wasn’t one to wear hats, let alone feathers, but she did have a way of surprising me. “We’ve been looking all over for you. Why aren’t you in front of Bloomers?”
“Because we always meet here, by the Clothes Loft. Where are Dad and the gang?”
“By your shop, which is where I thought you’d be.”
“It’s hard to see the parade from Bloomers, Mom. You know it doesn’t go down Franklin. Besides, we always meet here. If you wanted to meet elsewhere, you should have told me.”
“I would have told you if I thought there was a need to tell you. But since you’re a shop owner now, I really didn’t see the need.”
I started to argue that my being a shop owner had nothing to do with it, but Nikki nudged me and coughed. That was the signal we used when one of us was expecting a family member to be rational.
“Shall we go get everyone and bring them back here?” Mom looked at me from under the wide, feathered brim of her hat, her eyes scouring me for signs of illness or distress. Like a hawk, she instantly homed in on the yellow splotch on my shoulder. “How did you spill mustard on your shirt?”
“Ask him,” I said, hitching a thumb toward Mr. Oblivious, who was now giving a running commentary to whomever was on the other end of his phone line. “He pushed me into the path of a clown.”
“Well, thank heavens it was only a clown. It could have been that team of horses.” She pointed toward the two grays hauling a nineteenth-century fire wagon. Seated on a bench beside the driver was a giant inflatable cucumber dressed in an old-fashioned red fire hat and yellow slicker. Every entry in the parade had to incorporate something pickled, which could have gotten racy except that entrants also had to go before a review panel of six somber senior citizens.
“But this clown threatened me, Mom.”
“A clown threatened you?” asked a familiar, husky male voice from behind me.
My heart skipped a beat as I turned to see the owner of the voice, Marco (minus the pretty woman), looking extremely macho in his tan Down the Hatch T-shirt, slim-fitting blue jeans, and dusty brown boots. He’d managed to cross the street between floats and was now holding a strawberry ice cream cone, unaware that he was being ogled by every woman within a ten-yard radius.
Marco wasn’t handsome in the movie-star sense of the word. He didn’t have a straight nose, or baby blue eyes, or a wide, perfectly even smile. What he did have were deep, dark, bedroom eyes, a masculine nose, a firm mouth that curved devilishly at the corners when he was amused, and an olive complexion that was rarely without a five-o’clock shadow. He was tough and quick-witted, but amazingly sensitive to my moods and feelings. Maybe that was why he brought me the cone.
He held it out and I took it. Ordinarily, I don’t eat ice cream before lunch, but after being shoved and threatened and stained with mustard, I felt a strong need to soak my irritated nerves in butterfat. Once they were thoroughly saturated, I’d ask him about the woman.
“Morning, Nikki,” he said with a little nod in her direction. “Mrs. Knight, new hat?”
“Yes. Thank you for noticing, Marco.” Throwing me a shame on you for not noticing look, Mom gave him a hug. She gave everyone hugs. It was part of being a kindergarten teacher.
“Tell me about the clown,” Marco said, regarding me with that intense expression cops get when interrogating a witness. I knew that because my father had been a cop, and throughout my high school years my dates had been subjected to both the expression and the interrogation.
“He was just your standard, bulbous-nosed, orange-haired, cucumber-juggling unicyclist with an attitude problem,” I said between licks, “who mistakenly believed I threw my purse in front of him to knock him off his cycle. Who then went on to snarl something about paybacks being murder, as if he wanted to get even with me for tripping him. Go figure.”
Marco rubbed his jaw, staring up the street after the departing fire wagon. “Not your typical clown behavior.”
“His name is Snuggles,” Nikki put in helpfully. “It’s on the back of his costume.”
“Snuggles,” Marco repeated, as though storing it away for future reference.
My mother gazed at me sadly. “I’m sorry, honey. You’ve always liked clowns.”
I swallowed a big glob of ice cream. “I’ve never liked clowns. I’ve had a fear of them since I was five years old, when a clown with bad teeth tried to toss me into a burning building. You have to remember that.”
“We were at the circus and it was part of their act,” she assured me. “If there had been any danger involved, your father would never have let your brothers volunteer you.”
“They volunteered me?” I sputtered.
She handed me a tissue to wipe the ice cream off my mouth. “When Abby was little,” Mom explained to Marco and to anyone else who cared to listen, “she had imaginary friends who were clowns.”
What People are saying about this
Spend a sunny afternoon with this bright and witty series. (Nancy Martin)
Meet the Author
Kate Collins is the author of the best-selling Flower Shop Mystery Series. Her books have made the Barnes & Noble mass market mystery best-sellers’ lists, the Independent Booksellers’ best-seller’s lists, as well as booksellers’ lists in the U.K. and Australia. All books are available in paperback and hardback, large print editions. Kate’s ninth book in the series, SLEEPING WITH ANEMONE, was a February, 2010 release, and her tenth, DIRTY ROTTEN TENDRILS, will be out October, 2010.
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Snuggles the Clown is murdered. Marco, the hunky ex-cop and owner of Down the Hatch Bar and Grill, is their chief suspect because he was the last one seen leaving Snuggles' house. Marco asks Abby Knight, owner of Bloomers flower shop and his girlfriend, to help find the killer. She's solved some murders in the past, but she's nervous about this one. If she fails, Marco could go to jail. As a cop, Marco had a run-in with Snuggles (Dennis Ryson) and then Marco left the force soon after. Plus Marco fought with Snuggles shortly before the murder. Abby finds that Marco seems to have secrets. Who is Trina to Marco? She'd been threatened by Ryson and asked Marco to help her. Can Abby find the murderer so Marco won't go to jail? And why won't Marco let Abby meet his mother? Abby and Marco are great together. I liked that he asked Abby to do the investigating in this book. There were plenty of suspects and twists to keep me guessing and turning the pages. This series is a great cozy mystery series that I love reading. I highly recommend this book!
If you like the others read this
If you have loved the other books in this series then this one will not dissapoint. Abby always manages to find trouble no matter how much she tries to avoid it. This time she gets into a verbal fight with a clown and then runs to Marco. Marco has words and a few punches with the clown and later the clown ends up dead; with Marco being the prime suspect. It is up to Abby to track down the real killer without getting herself killed. Overall it was good and the characters are always a treat to be savoured. I really didn't guess the ending this time. The only thing that bugs me is Abby and Marco's relationship...they are supposed to be together but I find that Marco doesn't really show as much interest in Abby as she does him. Such as she has never met his parents or been to his apartment before this book. How close can they really be? All in all a good read, very quick and I will defintely buy the rest of the series.
Residents of New Chapel, Indiana enjoy the annual Pickle Fest though Abby Knight considered skipping the gala this year so that¿s he could sleep late. However, needing rest is not worth the cost of the wrath Maureen ¿Mad Mo¿ Knight, her mom for skipping the event. Thus Abby, owner of Bloomers Florist and her best friend Nikki Hiduke are watching the parade when Snuggles the Clown threatens her. Abby¿s boyfriend former Army Ranger and ex cop Marco Salvares joins them and her family, but abruptly leaves Abby fears he will beat up Snuggles for his snarling comment. --- Marco fails to return to the festivity soon afterward, Snuggles is found literally picking daisies as someone murdered him. The police think Marco killed the clown as a witness insists they saw him leave the deceased¿s home just before the murder occurred. Though he had motive (insult to his girlfriend), means (his military experience), and opportunity (last seen in the victim¿s house) Abby knows her Marco, man of mystery, did not kill Snuggles though he behaving suspiciously. Not trusting the police to look beyond her boyfriend, she makes inquiries that place her in danger. --- The fifth Flower Shop mystery (see SNIPPED IN THE BUD and DEARLY DEPOTTED, etc.) is a delightful lighthearted cozy that unlike its predecessors, which had a myriad of suspects, there is only one contender this time around. Thus Abby feels she must uncover a different motive as that seems too weak for a professional like Marco and once she finds the reason for the homicide, she assumes she will find the real culprit. Amateur sleuth fans will enjoy ACTS OF VIOLET, as Abby picks petals asking herself if he killed him he killed him not. --- Harriet Klausner