Black Beans & Vice is the sixth book in the warm and wonderful Supper Club mystery series.
Featuring recipes for tasty vegetarian entrees, a simple and refreshing cocktail,
and delicious desserts!
The five members of the Supper Club of Quincy's Gap, always looking for new ways to slim down, try hypnotherapy, with mixed results.
Though he's far from convinced that visits to the Wellness Village's resident hypnotist will work, librarian James Henry has a very important reason to get in shape. His former wife Jane and son Eliot are back in his life, and he hopes to keep the relationship permanent. When a vehement animal-rights group stages a noisy demonstration at a local food fair, James and his friends Lindy, Lucy, Gillian and Bennett are drawn into the investigation of the death of the local councilman whom James and Eliot were unlucky enough to find dead of an apparent heart attack in a Village bathroom. Meanwhile, Jane has been plagued by someone who's leaving dead crows and cryptic messages at her home. Now that her former boyfriend has transferred back to her department, Supper Club member and police officer Lucy Hanover has gotten over her failed relationship with James, and they pitch in together to see if they can catch the vicious prankster. When the leader of the animal-rights demonstration is found dead, James and family take in the victim's Schnauzer and her cat, and the whole Supper Club put their efforts into solving the crimes.
Calorie-conflicted cozy fans will enjoy the latest exploits of the Supper Club (The Battered Body, 2009, etc.) along with the appended recipes.
Read an Excerpt
Black Beans & Vice
By J.B. Stanley
Midnight InkCopyright © 2010 J.B. Stanley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBLACK JELLY BEANS
Head librarian James Henry held the brochure as though the glossy, tri-fold paper covered with photographs of happy, healthy people might suddenly ignite in his hands. "You want us to get hypnotized?" he asked, his voice rather shrill.
High school art teacher Lindy Perez nodded calmly. "Hypnotherapy is a very effective weight loss method. Or so I've read. There are loads of testimonials on the Internet."
Tossing the brochure on the surface of the circulation desk, James reached for a glass bowl filled with jellybeans. Picking out two black ones, he popped the candies into his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. "I'm having a moment of déjà vu, Lindy," he declared once his mouth was empty. "It doesn't seem too long ago that I met you right here for the first time. You had schemes then too, remember, and you were seeking permission to hang a flyer on the bulletin board—"
"In search of folks to join a dieter's supper club!" Lindy finished for him, her brown eyes glimmering at the memory. "You were mighty nervous about becoming a member back then too, and look how that's turned out!"
James couldn't help but grin. "One of the best decisions of my life, no doubt about it. What would I do without all of you? You're my best friends." He gestured at the brochure. "Still, this is a bit out there. I could picture Gillian appearing at one of our meetings with this brochure, but not you, the ever-so-sensible Lindy Perez. You're too level-headed to be reaching for these mumbo-jumbo straws."
Lindy's eyes flashed and James shrank back a little, worried that his friend was about to demonstrate her infrequent but fierce Brazilian temper. "I may be Ms. Practical, but I've also gained fifteen pounds over the last three months. I was maintaining my weight until your stepmother's sister had to go and get herself murdered. After that, PLOP!" Lindy smacked her palms together. "I fell off the wagon in a big way. Now, I'd like to gain control over the way I eat once and for all. I'm sick and tired of food controlling me, James, and I am not looking for another diet plan." She pointed a finger at her temple. "We're never going to change our bodies until we fix what's going on in here."
"And a hypnotherapist can do that?" James was doubtful.
Lindy nodded enthusiastically. "What's the one thing you can't seem to resist? When you go on a diet, what food do you miss most?"
"Cheese puffs," James answered right away. "And in a close second, anything made with sugar." He held up another jellybean. "Like these, for instance."
"Exactly!" Lindy cried and several library patrons sent frowns in her direction. "Sorry," she whispered and gave a self-effacing wave to those browsing the new-release section.
"We're all addicted to sugar. Candy, cake, soda, ice cream, cookies—"
James held out his hand. "Enough! Do you want me to drool all over the barcode scanner? I don't think it's waterproof."
Lindy picked up the brochure and gave it a triumphant wave. "See? Sugar is ruling you even as we speak. How many of those jellybeans have you had?"
Embarrassed, James shrugged. "Um, I don't know. Enough to turn my tongue black?"
"Pick a number," Lindy insisted.
"Well, since I've only been eating one color out of five possible shades and I bought a jumbo-sized bag, I'd say twenty-five."
"Okay! Let me give you a brief lesson in mathematics. I might be an art teacher, but I can demonstrate some basic addition that will have your black tongue hanging on the floor." Lindy dashed over to the shelving cart, grabbed a few books, and pushed them against James' soft paunch. He automatically reached out to grab them. "Feel those books? Would you say they weigh somewhere between two and three pounds?" Lindy asked expectantly.
James tested the weight by bobbing the tomes up and down. "I'd say that's accurate."
"That's how much sugar the average American eats every week! Sugar weakens our immune system, rots our teeth, and makes us fat!" Lindy looked down at the ground, her face flushed, and murmured. "I think it's why Luis isn't proposing. He's watched me grow bigger and bigger over the past few months. I've stopped going to the gym and my portions are the size of a linebacker's. He must believe I have no self-discipline, no self-respect. He might even wonder how big I'm gonna get after having a few kids. With that unpleasant visual, it's no wonder he's had second thoughts about popping the question."
"Oh, Lindy." James put an arm around his friend's shoulder and squeezed. He hated to see sadness etched on her face. "Anyone worth his salt would be lucky to call you his wife. You're smart, kind, funny, and easy on the eye. And Luis is not so shallow that he'd stop loving you because you put on a few pounds. You wouldn't be in love with him if he were. Have you two talked about your future recently?"
Sighing, Lindy nodded. "He wants me to fly to Mexico to meet his mama when school is out. His treat, of course."
"There you go!" James proclaimed boisterously. "He's taking you home to Mother. You're halfway up the aisle already."
"Yeah, if she likes me!" Lindy snorted. "I'm not her first choice, remember? That honor goes to the daughter of her best friend. Luis' mama set her sights on that girl to be her daughter-in-law, so how am I, an outsider to their community and a woman who is half-Southern American, half-Brazilian, supposed to compete with Miss Mexico 2010?"
Leading Lindy to the lobby door, James said, "You're going to dazzle her just like you dazzle everyone you meet."
"Well, I only have two months to look like a priceless diamond, so I'm going to book us an appointment with the hypnotherapist. She can explain the process to all of us at once. Do you have Eliot this weekend?"
At the mention of his son's name, James felt a rush of pleasure that seemed to increase in intensity whenever he thought of his little boy. Six months ago, James hadn't even known he had a child, but when his ex-wife introduced him to a sweet and shy four-year-old named Eliot Henry, James had fallen instantly in love. Since then, James had been spending most of his free time with his son and every time Eliot ran into his arms, James felt as though his heart would burst with joy all over again.
"Jane's taking Eliot to visit her parents in Tennessee for the better part of spring break," James said. "I was invited to go along, and while Jane and I are really enjoying getting reacquainted, I'm not quite ready to spend five days with my former in-laws yet. So I'm completely available to be put under a spell."
Lindy swiped at him with the hypnotherapy brochure. "You'd better not show up at the consultation with that kind of attitude, Mister."
"Yes, Ms. Perez." James used a high, squeaky voice to mimic one of Lindy's students. "I will be on my best behavior. Just don't expect me to get acupuncture next if this experiment fails. I have no desire to resemble a human pin cushion."
Backing up a few steps, Lindy helped herself to a handful of jellybeans and smiled self-effacingly. "A few for the road. And don't worry about the other lifestyle gurus at the Wellness Village. We can bypass the masseuses, acupuncturists, and yoga masters. We're only interested in one therapist: the woman who is going to kick our sugar craving for good!"
Visualizing the new complex south of town, which consisted of six offices built to resemble a row of small cottages surrounding a courtyard, James grew pensive. "You know," he told Lindy as she reached for the front door, "if we let Gillian near that place we may never see her again."
Lindy laughed. "Then we should tell Lucy to bring along a pair of handcuffs. She'd better cuff Bennett to Gillian because it's going to take a miracle from the Almighty to get our favorite mailman within a mile of those pink and purple 'health' houses!"
"Yes, I believe it's quite likely he'll balk at the idea of being hypnotized, especially in a setting that looks like it was teleported straight from Disneyland." James gave Lindy his sternest look. "The first sign of an oversized mouse wearing gloves and suspenders and I'm leaving."
"The only oversized creatures there," Lindy answered with a wry snort, "will be us!"
* * *
Later that week, James met Bennett at the local YMCA. It had been a long time since the two friends had worked out together and they spent the first few minutes in the weight-training alcove simply studying their images in the mirror and frowning. While they meticulously examined their protruding bellies and flaccid limbs, a pair of younger men with hard, streamlined bodies entered the room.
After greeting James and Bennett with friendly waves, the two men opened a notebook and began to discuss their goals for the day's workout. They discussed and debated a variety of different exercises until an agreement was reached in which each man would complete five rounds of three hundred jump ropes, twenty-five weighted front squats, and fifteen shoulder presses. The men gathered their equipment, picked up their jump ropes, and synchronized their watches.
"Ready?" the first one asked in a business-like tone.
"Let's do it," the second responded. When the subtle beep of his watch indicated the commencement of the stopwatch feature, the two twentysomethings began to jump.
James and Bennett, who up to this point had been gathering a haphazard pile of impressive-looking dumbbells in an attempt to appear as fit and strong as the new arrivals, paused to watch. The jump ropes whirled so quickly that the blue plastic cords blurred in the air. The men held their bodies rigid, their wrists circling with incredible speed as the jump rope passed under their feet again and again. Their even, fast rhythm never altered and neither of the men missed a jump or got tangled in the rope. Not once. The sound in the room was like that of a small helicopter in hover mode.
"Hey, man. How about some bicep curls?" Bennett suggested after finally turning away from the athletic jumpers.
"Yeah. Let's go heavy," James stated in a deeper voice than usual. He and Bennett selected the largest dumbbells from the rack. As James curled the weight toward his shoulder, he compressed his lips to bite back a groan. He couldn't believe how weak he'd become.
And that's my strong arm! he thought woefully.
After two pathetic reps, he switched to his left arm. Meanwhile, Bennett was focused on lifting a forty-five-pound Olympic bar in one motion from the middle of his thighs to over his head. Normally, he would conduct this motion with slow deliberation, being careful to maintain correct form, but the intense pace of the younger men encouraged him to increase his speed. Now, Bennett raised and lowered the bar as fast as he could, his back rounding dangerously. Suddenly, the bar became unbalanced. With an anguished yelp, Bennett dropped it directly onto his shoe.
"AAARRRGH!" He shouted in pain and began to hop on one foot. In his awkward dance of agony, he ended up bumping into James. The weight of the heavy dumbbell in James' left hand lurched, forcing him to pitch forward. In order to keep his grip on the weight, he reached across his body with his right hand and as he did so, he twisted his entire torso in an awkward, unfamiliar motion that painfully wrenched his back.
"OOOOO!" James howled and immediately sank down on the carpeted floor. Digging his fingers into his lower back, he moaned and winced in acute discomfort. Bennett plopped down alongside him, took off his sneaker and white tube sock, and gingerly bent the toes on his right foot to make sure none were broken.
Eventually, when James was able to speak, he turned to his friend. "Are you hurt?"
Bennett eased his sock back on. "I don't think my little piggies are gonna be runnin' all the way home for a real long time."
Feeling clumsy, weak, and old, James glanced in the mirror and was relieved to see that the younger men were far too busy lifting superhuman amounts of weight to have noticed their inelegant collapse.
"So much for our workout," Bennett mopped his face with a dish towel. "It's gonna take me twice as long to deliver the mail tomorrow, since I'm gonna be limpin' every time I've gotta carry a box to someone's door."
"And I'll be the Hunchback of the Shenandoah Public Library," James answered with shame. "Bennett. I think this may be a sign that we should give Lindy's hypnotherapist a shot. We're clearly floundering on our own."
Bennett mulled the proposition over as he retied his shoe. James witnessed his friend's internal debate as Bennett's expression changed from a frown to a look of hopefulness and back to a frown again. "You really believe this woman can change our minds without turnin' us into zombies or makin' us—I dunno—squawk like parrots whenever we stop at a red light?" He wiggled a finger at James. "'Cause I sit through an awful lot of lights every day."
James clapped Bennett on the back, though the motion made him grimace in pain. "Don't worry, my friend. I doubt anyone intends to turn you into parrot."
Sighing with visible relief, Bennett helped James rise to his feet. The two friends hobbled toward the locker room just as the younger men removed their shirts and began to jump rope again.
Bennett gazed at their rippled abs, the bulging muscles in their arms, and their rock-hard pectorals. "Okay, man, I'm in. Let this woman brainwash me. If I end up lookin' half as good as those two, she can even sneak the parrot squawks in."
Sharp stings exploded across James' lower back and he placed his palm on the wall for support. "Don't make me laugh!" He remonstrated. "It hurts too much!"
* * *
The next day, the five friends gathered in the parking lot of the new Wellness Village. Lucy Hanover, dressed in her brown and beige sheriff's deputy uniform, stood with her hands on her hips, looking rather nervous. To her left, owner of The Yuppie Puppy Pet Grooming and Pet Palaces (custom designed pet homes) Gillian O'Malley rubbed her hands together in buoyant expectation. She gazed at the sign reading, "Your Map To Good Health," her expression bordering on rapture.
Lindy pointed at the map. "Harmony York's office is in Health House Number Four. This way." She began to march down a cobblestone pathway.
"Harmony?" Bennett spluttered. "That's her real name? Oh man, she's gonna be one of those Flower Child-types."
Gillian looped her arm around his and beamed. "Not only is it a lovely name but I find it very symbolic. Isn't our goal to rebalance our bodies and minds? To create an inner harmony? I have complete faith that we are not meeting a woman named Harmony by coincidence. This is the cosmos working on our behalf, my friends!"
"Pink Health Houses! Hrmph! Where's the yellow brick road," Bennett grumbled, clearly apprehensive. "I never thought I'd wanna be whisked away by a flyin' monkey before, but if I see a chimp with wings, I'm gonna wave him down and get the hell outta here!"
Gillian nearly yanked his arm off as she dragged him up the path toward one of the purple cottages bordered by a garden of riotous and fragrant wildflowers.
Next to the light blue front door, a simple placard bearing the name, A Better State of Mind, hung by a gold chain. Letting Lindy take the lead, the rest of the supper club members entered the waiting room and took in their surroundings.
"Something smells funny," Lucy whispered, and James pointed at a burning stick of incense in the far corner. The opposite corner was occupied by a small wall fountain, which gurgled pleasantly at a slightly lower volume than the instrumental music being piped into the space through a set of speakers resembling gray stones.
"Do I detect the sound of pan pipes?" James murmured softly in hopes of making Lucy grin. Ever since Jane and Eliot had become such a significant part of his life, Lucy had become more distant around James. She was always polite, but he knew that she was still coming to terms with the reality that any chance of rekindling their romance had evaporated.
Not only did Lucy place law enforcement at the center of her life, but she also wanted to be free of dependents other than her trio of gargantuan German Shepherds. Still, James knew that although the gift of fatherhood had changed him forever (and for the good), Lucy viewed his new circumstance as a personal slight. He felt completely fulfilled and as of this point, she did not. Because he understood the crushing weight of loneliness and the sorrowful feeling of having been rejected, James tried to make his former flame smile whenever he could.
Excerpted from Black Beans & Vice by J.B. Stanley Copyright © 2010 by J.B. Stanley. Excerpted by permission of Midnight Ink. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
J.B. Stanley has a BA in English from Franklin & Marshall College, an MA in English Literature from West Chester University, and an MLIS from North Carolina Central University. She taught sixth grade language arts in Cary, North Carolina for the majority of her eight-year teaching career. Raised an antique-lover by her grandparents and parents, Stanley also worked part-time in an auction gallery. An eBay junkie and food-lover, Stanley now lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, two young children, and three cats.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >
The best supper cluubbook yet!
In this sixth edition of the Supper Club Mysteries, all the Flab Five friends are in different stages with their aim to be healthier, with good body weights. They are all also becoming blessed in their love lives, expanding the group of friends that we are making as readers. James found himself a father, in the last book, when his ex-wife introduced him to, Eliot, his four year old son. Now he and Jane are also rekindling their relationship, but someone doesn't like this, leaving dead birds in strange places around their homes. Little Eliot has decided to become a vegan after watching a kids show. So the whole Flab Five have decided to give veganism a try, but while attending a Wellness Village Fair, a town official is found murdered. Soon after another body is found, sending the group on another mystery adventure. These two mysteries keep everyone busy. I hate to see the end of this fun cozy series that has become filled with characters that seem like my friends. They've grown so much through the series, and their detective skills have developed exponentially. Hopefully JB Stanley will feel the need to revisit these characters in further books!
James and the group of the 'Supper Club' have a new idea of how to lose weight..hypnosis. If they no longer crave sugar, they no longer gain weight or at least that is their plan! James' life is going better than he ever hoped, he is completely adored by his newly-found four-year-old son and he and his ex wife have a closer relationship than he ever dreamed possible. His family is mostly accepting of the new wonderful turns of his life and he is on cloud nine. On a family outing to a food festival, protesters are there actively campaigning for animal rights. For the most part, the members of the Supper Club agree with what the protesters stand for, but do not approve of their methods. At the festival, James and his son discover the first body. No one is overly interested in the death except James' ex girlfriend who has moved back to town and is honing in with her reporter instincts. When the second body is found, the members of the Supper Club have to figure out what is going on! The Supper Club members are finding love, hooking up with old crushes and trying to get into shape. James' stress is added to by someone nailing a dead bird to his ex wife's front door and then sending him a threatening note. He needs to protect his family and his friends are there to help him with both moral and police support. The latest in the supper club mysteries is an enthralling read! From page one it pulls you in and is a wonderful 'cozy' mystery. Reviewed by Ashley Wintters for Suspense Magazine
The Flab Five has decided to try hypnotherapy in their attempts to slim down. James and his ex-wife, Jane, and son, Eliot, are spending a lot of time together. Added incentive for James to get in shape. A radical animal rights group begins stirring things up in Quincy's Gap. Then there are two suspicious deaths. The Supper Club friends set out to solve the mystery. I love this series and am very sorry to know this is the last book in the series. I hope at some time in the future the author will decide to write more. I love them! James and the other members of the Supper Club, The Flab Five, are such fun. They each have their quirks and I think that's what endears this series to me. No one is trying to be perfect. They all know they are flawed and are working on it. They work well, together. I like James being the town librarian and his relationship with his father. It took me a while to warm up to his ex-wife, Jane, coming back into his life, but who couldn't love his son, Eliot. So while this is the last book in the series (for now), I truly enjoyed it. I savored each and every page. I highly recommend this book, but it's best if you read the full series and in order. Each book grows on the past.