A Catered Thanksgiving (Mystery with Recipes Series #7)

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Overview

Sisters Bernie and Libby Simmons have handled plenty of catering challenges with grace and aplomb. But this Thanksgiving, they're cooking a feast for felons...

Whipping up Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings can be stressful for anyone, but that goes double for the Field family. They know that every family get-together has to be picture perfect, or they risk getting ...
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A Catered Thanksgiving (Mystery with Recipes Series #7)

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Overview

Sisters Bernie and Libby Simmons have handled plenty of catering challenges with grace and aplomb. But this Thanksgiving, they're cooking a feast for felons...

Whipping up Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings can be stressful for anyone, but that goes double for the Field family. They know that every family get-together has to be picture perfect, or they risk getting cut out of dominating patriarch Monty's extremely lucrative will.

That's where A Little Taste of Heaven, Bernie and Libby's catering company, comes in. Surely with their lumpless mashed potatoes and to-die-for gravy on the table, even the super-dysfunctional Fields can pretend to get along for one meal. But no one can dress up the disaster when the cover-worthy turkey goes boom right in Monty Field's scowling face, sending him to that great dining room in the sky.

With every member of the Field family harboring their own cornucopia of secrets, figuring out who wanted to carve up Monty isn't going to be easy. And to make matters worse, the Field Mansion is draped under a freak November snowstorm, making any hope of escape—or getting outside help—vanish faster than the Simmons' famous stuffing.

Now, trapped with a killer determined to get more than his fair share of the pumpkin pie, Bernie and Libby are going to have to convince the Fields that they aren't to blame—and find out who really is, fast. Because it won't be long before the leftovers—and the Simmons sisters' chances of surviving this real turkey of a day—run out for good...

Includes Original Recipes for You to Try!
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Crawford's sprightly seventh mystery with recipes featuring sisters Bernie and Libby Simmons (after 2009's A Catered Birthday Party), the proprietors of A Little Taste of Heaven, their Longely, N.Y., catering company, prepare a Thanksgiving feast for Scrooge-like fireworks manufacturer Monty Field and his family at the Field mansion. When Monty comes into the kitchen to test the roasting turkey, Bernie and Libby watch in horror as Monty taps the pop-up button in the bird's breast and the turkey explodes, blowing off the top of his head. Libby fears their stuffing made the turkey explode, but they soon learn that there was plenty of rivalry among the assembled family members, any one of whom had reason to want Monty dead. A heavy snowstorm ensures the suspects stay put as the sisters start to investigate. That their father, Sean, was on bad terms with the victim complicates their task. The action builds to more fireworks and a dramatic rescue. (Nov.)
Library Journal
In Crawford's seventh foray (after A Catered Birthday Party) into the wacky world of caterers Bernie and Libby Simmons, the gals are cooking Thanksgiving dinner for eight very snarky members of the Fields family in a Westchester mansion. When the turkey explodes in the face of patriarch Monty Field and a snowstorm strands the party, the sisters must find out which of the Fields wanted to kill Monty to avoid being cut out of his will. VERDICT Fans of culinary cozies by Joanne Fluke and Diane Mott Davidson will enjoy discovering Crawford. Her murder method is original, and the recipes are good.
Kirkus Reviews

A Thanksgiving meal blows up in a diner's face, leaving the catering team on the hook for murder.

Monty Field is too cheap to heat his dismal house, much less pay for a catered holiday dinner. So his equally repellent clan gets together and hires Bernie and Libby Simmons (A Catered Birthday Party, 2009, etc.) of A Little Taste of Heaven to prepare their Thanksgiving feast. Their business name turns out to be prophetic, since one tap on the turkey sends Monty to his eternal reward, leaving his trophy wife Lexus, his brothers Ralph and Perceval, his insecure children Geoff and Melissa, his pampered niece Greta and his nephews Bob and Audie to squabble endlessly over what he may have left whom in his will. A snowstorm strands the luckless Simmons sisters overnight in the Field homestead, where they overhear the family hatching plots to pin the murder on them, witness the reappearance of Monty's body on Lexus's bed, listen to various family members' complaints that other family members are trying to kill them and of course get locked in a bunker filled with fireworks. But they can't see a shadowy figure called "El Huron" (described in such cleverly gender-concealing language as "El Huron slid a gloved hand under the wool mask and scratched El Huron's cheek"), who may hold the key to Monty's gruesome death. Includes four recipes, three for Thanksgiving and one for Passover.

The inane dialogue and preposterous plotting are unlikely to tempt even the most devoted fan of cook-me cozies.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780758247391
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 11/1/2011
  • Series: Mystery with Recipes Series , #7
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Read an Excerpt

A CATERED THANKSGIVING

A Mystery with Recipes
By ISIS CRAWFORD

KENSINGTON BOOKS

Copyright © 2010 Isis Crawford
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-4739-1


Chapter One

Sean Simmons peeked out of the kitchen door into his daughters' shop, A Little Taste of Heaven. They were definitely over their occupancy limit. The space between the front door and the counter was jammed with so many people waiting to pick up their orders that a line was beginning to form outside the shop door. The counter people, Googie, Amber, and the new hire, were working at light speed, but they couldn't keep up with the crush. The day before Thanksgiving was always crazy, but this one, Sean decided, outdid all the others.

Ever since A Little Taste of Heaven had gotten a one-line mention in the New York Times food section lauding their pies, the shop's phone had been ringing off the hook. Naturally everyone wanted one thing. Pies. You'd think that Westchester didn't have any other bakeries. His daughters, Libby and Bernie, had been baking around the clock, and they still had 150 orders to finish before the end of the day. They both looked exhausted, but they weren't going to be able to catch a breather, because they had to cater the Fields' Thanksgiving dinner the following day. Now, that was a bad idea on several levels, if you asked him, which no one had. It was probably just as well that he was going to his sister's, Sean reflected as he leaned against the door frame to give himself a little extra support.

That way Bernie and Libby could come home from the Field house and collapse, instead of having to take care of him. Not that they had to—he could always eat a bowl of cereal for dinner—but they would never allow that to happen, especially not on Thanksgiving.

As he looked at the people milling in front of the counter, Sean felt bad that he couldn't help out. Back in the old days, he'd always pitched in when his wife, Rose, was swamped, but now he was just thankful that he could walk around with a cane, instead of being confined to a wheelchair. Standing for long periods of time was out. And he couldn't even mix up the fillings or peel the apples. His hands weren't steady enough for that.

Basically, he was useless for anything other than giving advice and counting and banding the money. God, when he was younger, he could practically leap tall buildings with a single bound, and look at him now. Who would have thought he would have ended up like this?

No, the best thing he could do right now was stay out of his daughters' way, Sean thought as he took a bite of the pumpkin walnut scone he'd lifted off the baking sheet. The scone was perfect. It had a good crumb and just the right amount of sweetness, which was balanced by the tang of ginger and the seductive taste of Vietnamese cinnamon. He took a sip of his coffee.

His girls were the best bakers he knew. They didn't cut corners, and they used only the freshest ingredients—just like their mother had. Their pie crusts were made with butter; their pumpkin pie filling was made from sugar pumpkins, which they baked instead of boiled to get maximum flavor; their apple pies were made from a mix of Cortlands, Northern Spys, and Crispins; and they ordered their spices online to make sure they weren't stale.

This year the girls had not only made their own mincemeat, but they'd reintroduced an old holiday favorite—nesserole pie, the recipe for which Libby had found in one of his wife Rose's recipe books. There was no canned anything in any of their pies. It was an expensive way to do things, but judging from the mob scene outside, people were willing to pay the price—even in economic hard times like these—for quality.

"Your mother would be proud of you," Sean told Libby and Bernie as they came up behind him.

"She probably would have had something to say about the mincemeat," Bernie said. "I substituted applejack for brandy."

Sean laughed and brushed a few scone crumbs off of his shirt. He was dressed for Florida in khaki pants, a white knit shirt, and sneakers. "I'm sure she'd understand, Bernie."

"I'm not," Bernie said. Her mother had been a stickler for following recipes to the letter, whereas she tended to take a more free-form approach to baking.

"Well, she wouldn't be able to argue with the sales figures," Sean pointed out. It seemed to him as if the shop was going to have its best day ever. "So you must be doing something right." He looked at his watch. "Marvin will be here to take me to the airport in ten minutes."

Libby gave Sean a hug. "I wish you weren't going."

Sean patted his daughter on the shoulder. "I'll be back on Saturday."

Libby bit her lip. "It'll just feel weird not having you here for Thanksgiving."

"But you're catering the Fields' dinner, anyway," Sean told her.

"Which we wouldn't be doing if you were going to be here," Bernie pointed out.

In her mind, Thanksgiving dinner was sacrosanct. It was a law their mom had enforced, and Libby and Bernie had continued that tradition. Except for this year. This year their dad was going to visit his sister down in Florida. Bernie and Libby had been invited as well, but they'd had to decline since from now until after New Year's was one of their busiest times of the year and they couldn't just take off, even though by now both women would have liked nothing more.

Sean sighed. "I couldn't very well say no, could I?" Bernie retied her apron strings. "Why not? You haven't seen Martha in twenty-nine years. What's another three months?"

Sean gave her "the look." Which Bernie ignored.

As per usual. It had worked with his men. It had worked with the guys he'd arrested. It had never worked with his daughters or his wife.

"Well, it's true," Bernie reiterated, putting her hands on her hips. "She calls and you go running." "Flying, actually."

"Not funny, Dad." Bernie tapped her fingernails against her pant leg. "I just don't see why we can't all go down to Orlando ..."

"Sarasota ..."

"Whatever ... in February."

"Because Martha invited us for now," Sean said.

"What happened between you two, anyway?" Libby asked before her sister could say anything else. The last thing she wanted was for Bernie and her dad to have a fight before he left. "Why did you guys stop speaking to one another?"

"To be honest, I don't even remember anymore," Sean lied. In his opinion, not everything was for sharing.

Bernie favored her dad with an appraising look. "Why do I so not believe that?" she said.

Sean was going to tell her that was what happened when you got old—your memory failed—when Brandon, Bernie's boyfriend, walked through the door.

"Evening, Mr. S," he said as he gave Bernie a hug. "All ready for Florida, I see."

"That I am," Sean said.

"Don't worry. Marvin and I will keep an eye on things when you're gone," Brandon assured him.

Bernie put her hands on her hips. "We don't need anyone to keep an eye on anything, thank you very much."

"Sure you do. Isn't that right, Mr. S?"

"Absolutely, Brandon," Sean said. "Appreciate it."

"Listen," Bernie began, but she didn't finish, because at that moment Marvin pulled up in his Volvo.

Brandon grabbed Sean's suitcase, and they all trooped out to the car. Marvin already had the trunk open. Brandon stowed the suitcase while Sean hugged Bernie and Libby and got in the car. Sean rolled the window down.

"I'm counting on you," Sean told Brandon.

"Don't worry about a thing," Brandon told him.

"I always worry. That's what I do," Sean replied as Marvin pulled away from the curb.

Bernie turned to Brandon. "Keep an eye on things?" she said when Marvin had turned the corner. "What was that about?"

Brandon grinned. "It made him feel better, so what's the harm?"

"I guess you're right," Bernie said.

"I'm always right," Brandon said.

Bernie turned and punched him in the arm.

"That hurt," Brandon complained.

Now it was Bernie's turn to grin. "It was supposed to."

Chapter Two

"Poor Marvin," Libby said, once she and Bernie were back in the shop. She was thinking of Marvin driving with her dad. "We should have taken Dad to the airport. That way we could have spared Marvin an hour and a half of hell." Her dad was a notorious backseat driver.

"We can't take Dad." Bernie indicated the line in front of the counter. "We have one hundred and fifty more orders to finish up. Marvin will survive. He always does. Besides, he likes Dad. Don't ask me why, but he does. And then if we took Dad, he couldn't smoke, because we're not supposed to know that he smokes, and he's going to want to because he's nervous about the flight."

"How could he think we wouldn't know?" Libby asked. "I can smell it on his clothes, for heaven's sake."

Bernie shrugged. She'd thought the same thing when she'd started smoking at eighteen. Her mother, however, had quickly banished that notion.

"Anyway, he shouldn't be smoking," Libby said.

"Are you going to tell him not to, sister dear?"

Libby snorted. "No."

"Well, neither am I."

The sisters walked back into the kitchen. It was cold and damp outside, and they could feel the late autumn chill through their clothes.

"Forget the smoking thing," Libby said. "It just feels wrong not to see Dad off."

Bernie rolled her eyes. "He's only going to Florida, for heaven's sake. He'll be back on Saturday."

Libby glared at her sister. She was tired and irritable and not in the mood for attitude. "That's not the point. The point is he needs help."

Bernie bent over, picked an apple peel off the floor, and put it in the trash. "Marvin will help him."

"I realize that." Libby paused to take a piece of chocolate out of the pocket of her flannel shirt, unwrap it, and pop it into her mouth. "But we should be doing it."

"Maybe, but I think Dad actually prefers Marvin's help, even though Marvin's driving makes him crazy," Bernie observed as she went over to the sink and washed her hands.

"But why?" Libby asked.

Bernie shut off the water and wiped her hands on a paper towel. "Because he doesn't want us to see him needing help if we don't have to. It humiliates him."

"Maybe," Libby replied. She finished her chocolate and reached in her pocket for another piece. "But what if that storm they're predicting hits? What if he's stuck someplace? What then?"

Bernie brushed a stray wisp of hair off her forehead. "He'll manage. He always does."

"How can you be sure?"

"I can't, okay? But he's going, so let it alone. For heaven's sake, you sound like Mom," Bernie pointed out.

Libby bridled herself. "No, I don't."

"Yes, you do. You're a worrier, just like she was." Bernie went over and gave her sister a quick hug. "It'll be okay, Libby," she said. "It'll all work out. You'll see."

"I suppose," Libby conceded.

"No, definitely," Bernie reiterated. "If I didn't think he could make the trip on his own, I never would have let him go. However, we are going to be in trouble if we don't finish up those pies. Now, that I can guarantee." By Bernie's count they had sixty apple, twenty-five apple-cranberry, fifty pumpkin, eight mincemeat, and five nesserole pies to finish up. She flexed her fingers to work the cramps out. "You know," she said to Libby, "if I never see another pie, it won't be too soon for me."

Libby sighed. Her back was aching from bending over the table, and her feet hurt from standing. "You say that every Thanksgiving."

"But it's never been like this. We're going to have to take on an extra baker if it's like this next year. It's amazing what one line in the Times can do."

"Why did they have to mention our pies?" Libby lamented. "Why couldn't they have mentioned our cheesecakes instead? Those are so much easier to make, not to mention so much more profitable."

"This is true," Bernie said.

A while back she had added in their labor costs to the pear-and-almond tart that they made, and the results had been so dismaying that she'd never done it again with similar products.

Libby stifled a yawn. She'd been up since four in the morning, and they weren't even halfway through the day yet. "I mean, we make a great pumpkin cheesecake, and we've only had four orders for those."

"Maybe next year," Bernie said, looking at the mound of apples waiting to be prepped. "Yes, why can't people have something else for dessert?" she mused. "Something like a pumpkin mousse, or a sweet potato torte, or an assortment of cookies and chocolate, or an ice cream cake, or some sort of pudding? If I had time to sleep, I'd dream about pies."

"Or at least have one pie and a cheesecake," Libby said, taking up the conversation where she'd left off as she started ladling pumpkin pie filling into the shells she'd made earlier. "All I know is that I'm going to have carpal tunnel syndrome if this keeps up, not to mention a bad back and flat feet."

"All I know," Bernie said, "is that I'm going to fall asleep on my feet."

Libby stopped ladling and went to put the water on to boil so she could make a fresh pot of coffee. "The only saving grace is that the Fields' dinner is going to be relatively easy to do and then we've got Friday off."

Bernie sighed. "And they're eating at five, so we can get a little bit of sleep before we have to be there. We could be there even later if we could cook the turkey here," Bernie observed.

Libby shrugged her shoulders. "What can I say? They wanted the smell of the bird cooking. One of the brothers ..."

"Perceval ..."

"They both look the same to me...."

"Perceval is the one with the comb-over and the jowls...."

"Fine. Perceval said, and I quote, 'The aroma of the roasting bird was one of his favorite parts of the holiday.' "

Bernie put down her paring knife. "I wonder if they have a spray with that scent on the market. I bet they do."

"It's probably called Holiday," Libby said, beginning to measure out the coffee. "Or Pilgrim's Progress."

"They didn't eat turkey the first Thanksgiving. That came later."

"Well, in any case we should dress warm," Libby said, changing the subject because she wasn't in the mood to listen to a history lesson at the moment.

"Believe me, I will...."

"Because I am," Libby said.

"You always do. I think you support the flannel industry." "Ha. Ha. Ha."

Bernie started on another apple. "I bet it's fifty degrees in that place."

Libby laughed. "At the most. Old man Field could afford to heat that place, if he wanted to."

"I believe the salient words are 'if he wanted to.' How can anyone be that cheap?" Bernie asked, having heard Marvin's story last night at RJ's about Monty Field not wanting to pay for an extra large casket for his wife.

Libby shrugged. Her mom had been frugal, but certainly nothing like Field. "It's a sickness."

"Personally, I think it's a lack of generosity, which is entirely different." Bernie peeled two more apples, cored them, sliced them into eighths, and dropped them in a bowl of acidulated water before continuing. "Maybe it doesn't run in the family. His brothers are spending a fair chunk of change with us," she continued.

"And they have given us some leeway menu-wise," Libby pointed out.

"Thank God." Bernie waved her paring knife in the air to emphasize her point. "But not enough."

"Thanksgiving menus are always traditional."

Bernie wrinkled up her nose. "Some traditions should be dispensed with. Like marshmallow and sweet potato casserole. Yuck."

"Be happy they don't want something like cocktail franks and grape jelly," Libby said.

"You're kidding, right?"

Libby shook her head. "I read that in one of Mom's old food magazines."

"That's beyond disgusting."

"Maybe it's not," Libby said, even though she shared Bernie's opinion on the matter.

"Why are you trying to pick a fight?" Bernie asked.

"Am not," Libby replied.

"Are too," Bernie said, lapsing into her childhood sing-song voice.

"No. I'm not. It's just that you don't need to be such a snob," Libby told her.

"In food, I don't think that's such a bad thing, and anyway, you know you are, too," Bernie retorted.

"What did I hear you say about using canned pie fillings yesterday? That they're an abomination?"

"I said that they were inedible."

"Same thing," Bernie pointed out.

"Not really," Libby said as she got ready to roll out the next batch of pie crusts.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A CATERED THANKSGIVING by ISIS CRAWFORD Copyright © 2010 by Isis Crawford. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. 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.

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

A CATERED THANKSGIVING

A Mystery with Recipes
By ISIS CRAWFORD

KENSINGTON BOOKS

Copyright © 2010 Isis Crawford
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-4738-4


Chapter One

Sean Simmons peeked out of the kitchen door into his daughters' shop, A Little Taste of Heaven. They were definitely over their occupancy limit. The space between the front door and the counter was jammed with so many people waiting to pick up their orders that a line was beginning to form out the shop door. The counter people, Googie, Amber, and the new hire, were working at light speed, but they couldn't keep up with the crush. The day before Thanksgiving was always crazy, but this one, Sean decided, outdid all the others.

Ever since A Little Taste of Heaven had gotten a one-line mention in the New York Times food section lauding their pies, the shop's phone had been ringing off the hook. Naturally everyone wanted one thing. Pies. You'd think that Westchester didn't have any other bakeries. His daughters, Libby and Bernie, had been baking around the clock, and they still had 150 orders to finish before the end of the day. They both looked exhausted, but they weren't going to be able to catch a breather, because they had to cater the Fields' Thanksgiving dinner the following day. Now, that was a bad idea on several levels, if you asked him, which no one had. It was probably just as well that he was going to his sister's, Sean reflected as he leaned against the door frame to give himself a little extra support.

That way Bernie and Libby could come home from the Field house and collapse, instead of having to take care of him. Not that they had to-he could always eat a bowl of cereal for dinner-but they would never allow that to happen, especially not on Thanksgiving.

As he looked at the people milling in front of the counter, Sean felt bad that he couldn't help out. Back in the old days, he'd always pitched in when his wife, Rose, was swamped, but now he was just thankful that he could walk around with a cane, instead of being confined to a wheelchair. Standing for long periods of time was out. And he couldn't even mix up the fillings or peel the apples. His hands weren't steady enough for that.

Basically, he was useless for anything other than giving advice and counting and banding the money. God, when he was younger, he could practically leap tall buildings with a single bound, and look at him now. Who would have thought he would have ended up like this?

No, the best thing he could do right now was stay out of his daughters' way, Sean thought as he took a bite of the pumpkin walnut scone he'd lifted off the baking sheet. The scone was perfect. It had a good crumb and just the right amount of sweetness, which was balanced by the tang of ginger and the seductive taste of Vietnamese cinnamon. He took a sip of his coffee.

His girls were the best bakers he knew. They didn't cut corners, and they used only the freshest ingredients-just like their mother had. Their pie crusts were made with butter; their pumpkin pie filling was made from sugar pumpkins, which they baked instead of boiled to get maximum flavor; their apple pies were made from a mix of Cortlands, Northern Spys, and Crispins; and they ordered their spices online to make sure they weren't stale.

This year the girls had not only made their own mince-meat, but they'd reintroduced an old holiday favorite-nesserole pie, the recipe for which Libby had found in one of his wife Rose's recipe books. There was no canned anything in any of their pies. It was an expensive way to do things, but judging from the mob scene outside, people were willing to pay the price-even in economic hard times like these-for quality.

"Your mother would be proud of you," Sean told Libby and Bernie as they came up behind him.

"She probably would have had something to say about the mincemeat," Bernie said. "I substituted applejack for brandy."

Sean laughed and brushed a few scone crumbs off of his shirt. He was dressed for Florida in khaki pants, a white knit shirt, and sneakers. "I'm sure she'd understand, Bernie."

"I'm not," Bernie said. Her mother had been a stickler for following recipes to the letter, whereas she tended to take a more free-form approach to baking.

"Well, she wouldn't be able to argue with the sales figures," Sean pointed out. It seemed to him as if the shop was going to have its best day ever. "So you must be doing something right." He looked at his watch. "Marvin will be here to take me to the airport in ten minutes."

Libby gave Sean a hug. "I wish you weren't going."

Sean patted his daughter on the shoulder. "I'll be back on Saturday."

Libby bit her lip. "It'll just feel weird not having you here for Thanksgiving."

"But you're catering the Fields' dinner, anyway," Sean told her.

"Which we wouldn't be doing if you were going to be here," Bernie pointed out.

In her mind, Thanksgiving dinner was sacrosanct. It was a law their mom had enforced, and Libby and Bernie had continued that tradition. Except for this year. This year their dad was going to visit his sister down in Florida. Bernie and Libby had been invited as well, but they'd had to decline since from now until after New Year's was one of their busiest times of the year and they couldn't just take off, even though by now both women would have liked nothing more.

Sean sighed. "I couldn't very well say no, could I?"

Bernie retied her apron strings. "Why not? You haven't seen Martha in twenty-nine years. What's another three months?"

Sean gave her "the look." Which Bernie ignored. As per usual. It had worked with his men. It had worked with the guys he'd arrested. It had never worked with his daughters or his wife.

"Well, it's true," Bernie reiterated, putting her hands on her hips. "She calls and you go running."

"Flying, actually."

"Not funny, Dad." Bernie tapped her fingernails against her pant leg. "I just don't see why we can't all go down to Orlando ..."

"Sarasota ..."

"Whatever ... in February."

"Because Martha invited us for now," Sean said.

"What happened between you two, anyway?" Libby asked before her sister could say anything else. The last thing she wanted was for Bernie and her dad to have a fight before he left. "Why did you guys stop speaking to one another?"

"To be honest, I don't even remember anymore," Sean lied. In his opinion, not everything was for sharing.

Bernie favored her dad with an appraising look. "Why do I so not believe that?" she said.

Sean was going to tell her that was what happened when you got old-your memory failed-when Brandon, Bernie's boyfriend, walked through the door.

"Evening, Mr. S," he said as he gave Bernie a hug. "All ready for Florida, I see."

"That I am," Sean said.

"Don't worry. Marvin and I will keep an eye on things when you're gone," Brandon assured him.

Bernie put her hands on her hips. "We don't need anyone to keep an eye on anything, thank you very much."

"Sure you do. Isn't that right, Mr. S?"

"Absolutely, Brandon," Sean said. "Appreciate it."

"Listen," Bernie began, but she didn't finish, because at that moment Marvin pulled up in his Volvo.

Brandon grabbed Sean's suitcase, and they all trooped out to the car. Marvin already had the trunk open. Brandon stowed the suitcase while Sean hugged Bernie and Libby and got in the car. Sean rolled the window down.

"I'm counting on you," Sean told Brandon.

"Don't worry about a thing," Brandon told him.

"I always worry. That's what I do," Sean replied as Marvin pulled away from the curb.

Bernie turned to Brandon. "Keep an eye on things?" she said when Marvin had turned the corner. "What was that about?"

Brandon grinned. "It made him feel better, so what's the harm?"

"I guess you're right," Bernie said.

"I'm always right," Brandon said.

Bernie turned and punched him in the arm.

"That hurt," Brandon complained.

Now it was Bernie's turn to grin. "It was supposed to."

Chapter Two

"Poor Marvin," Libby said, once she and Bernie were back in the shop. She was thinking of Marvin driving with her dad. "We should have taken Dad to the airport. That way we could have spared Marvin an hour and a half of hell." Her dad was a notorious backseat driver.

"We can't take Dad." Bernie indicated the line in front of the counter. "We have one hundred and fifty more orders to finish up. Marvin will survive. He always does. Besides, he likes Dad. Don't ask me why, but he does. And then if we took Dad, he couldn't smoke, because we're not supposed to know that he smokes, and he's going to want to because he's nervous about the flight."

"How could he think we wouldn't know?" Libby asked. "I can smell it on his clothes, for heaven's sake."

Bernie shrugged. She'd thought the same thing when she'd started smoking at eighteen. Her mother, however, had quickly banished that notion.

"Anyway, he shouldn't be smoking," Libby said.

"Are you going to tell him not to, sister dear?"

Libby snorted. "No."

"Well, neither am I."

The sisters walked back into the kitchen. It was cold and damp outside, and they could feel the late autumn chill through their clothes.

"Forget the smoking thing," Libby said. "It just feels wrong not to see Dad off."

Bernie rolled her eyes. "He's only going to Florida, for heaven's sake. He'll be back on Saturday."

Libby glared at her sister. She was tired and irritable and not in the mood for attitude. "That's not the point. The point is he needs help."

Bernie bent over, picked an apple peel off the floor, and put it in the trash. "Marvin will help him."

"I realize that." Libby paused to take a piece of chocolate out of the pocket of her flannel shirt, unwrap it, and pop it into her mouth. "But we should be doing it."

"Maybe, but I think Dad actually prefers Marvin's help, even though Marvin's driving makes him crazy," Bernie observed as she went over to the sink and washed her hands.

"But why?" Libby asked.

Bernie shut off the water and wiped her hands on a paper towel. "Because he doesn't want us to see him needing help if we don't have to. It humiliates him."

"Maybe," Libby replied. She finished her chocolate and reached in her pocket for another piece. "But what if that storm they're predicting hits? What if he's stuck someplace? What then?"

Bernie brushed a stray wisp of hair off her forehead. "He'll manage. He always does."

"How can you be sure?"

"I can't, okay? But he's going, so let it alone. For heaven's sake, you sound like Mom," Bernie pointed out.

Libby bridled herself. "No, I don't."

"Yes, you do. You're a worrier, just like she was." Bernie went over and gave her sister a quick hug. "It'll be okay, Libby," she said. "It'll all work out. You'll see."

"I suppose," Libby conceded.

"No, definitely," Bernie reiterated. "If I didn't think he could make the trip on his own, I never would have let him go. However, we are going to be in trouble if we don't finish up those pies. Now, that I can guarantee." By Bernie's count they had sixty apple, twenty-five apple-cranberry, fifty pumpkin, eight mincemeat, and five nesserole pies to finish up. She flexed her fingers to work the cramps out. "You know," she said to Libby, "if I never see another pie, it won't be too soon for me."

Libby sighed. Her back was aching from bending over the table, and her feet hurt from standing. "You say that every Thanksgiving."

"But it's never been like this. We're going to have to take on an extra baker if it's like this next year. It's amazing what one line in the Times can do."

"Why did they have to mention our pies?" Libby lamented. "Why couldn't they have mentioned our cheesecakes instead? Those are so much easier to make, not to mention so much more profitable."

"This is true," Bernie said.

A while back she had added in their labor costs to the pear-and-almond tart that they made, and the results had been so dismaying that she'd never done it again with similar products.

Libby stifled a yawn. She'd been up since four in the morning, and they weren't even halfway through the day yet. "I mean, we make a great pumpkin cheesecake, and we've only had four orders for those."

"Maybe next year," Bernie said, looking at the mound of apples waiting to be prepped. "Yes, why can't people have something else for dessert?" she mused. "Something like a pumpkin mousse, or a sweet potato torte, or an assortment of cookies and chocolate, or an ice cream cake, or some sort of pudding? If I had time to sleep, I'd dream about pies."

"Or at least have one pie and a cheesecake," Libby said, taking up the conversation where she'd left off as she started ladling pumpkin pie filling into the shells she'd made earlier. "All I know is that I'm going to have carpal tunnel syndrome if this keeps up, not to mention a bad back and flat feet."

"All I know," Bernie said, "is that I'm going to fall asleep on my feet."

Libby stopped ladling and went to put the water on to boil so she could make a fresh pot of coffee. "The only saving grace is that the Fields' dinner is going to be relatively easy to do and then we've got Friday off."

Bernie sighed. "And they're eating at five, so we can get a little bit of sleep before we have to be there. We could be there even later if we could cook the turkey here," Bernie observed.

Libby shrugged her shoulders. "What can I say? They wanted the smell of the bird cooking. One of the brothers ..."

"Perceval ..."

"They both look the same to me...."

"Perceval is the one with the comb-over and the jowls...."

"Fine. Perceval said, and I quote, 'The aroma of the roasting bird was one of his favorite parts of the holiday.'"

Bernie put down her paring knife. "I wonder if they have a spray with that scent on the market. I bet they do."

"It's probably called Holiday," Libby said, beginning to measure out the coffee. "Or Pilgrim's Progress."

"They didn't eat turkey the first Thanksgiving. That came later."

"Well, in any case we should dress warm," Libby said, changing the subject because she wasn't in the mood to listen to a history lesson at the moment.

"Believe me, I will...."

"Because I am," Libby said.

"You always do. I think you support the flannel industry."

"Ha. Ha. Ha."

Bernie started on another apple. "I bet it's fifty degrees in that place."

Libby laughed. "At the most. Old man Field could afford to heat that place, if he wanted to."

"I believe the salient words are 'if he wanted to.' How can anyone be that cheap?" Bernie asked, having heard Marvin's story last night at RJ's about Monty Field not wanting to pay for an extra large casket for his wife.

Libby shrugged. Her mom had been frugal, but certainly nothing like Field. "It's a sickness."

"Personally, I think it's a lack of generosity, which is entirely different." Bernie peeled two more apples, cored them, sliced them into eighths, and dropped them in a bowl of acidulated water before continuing. "Maybe it doesn't run in the family. His brothers are spending a fair chunk of change with us," she continued.

"And they have given us some leeway menu-wise," Libby pointed out.

"Thank God." Bernie waved her paring knife in the air to emphasize her point. "But not enough."

"Thanksgiving menus are always traditional."

Bernie wrinkled up her nose. "Some traditions should be dispensed with. Like marshmallow and sweet potato casserole. Yuck."

"Be happy they don't want something like cocktail franks and grape jelly," Libby said.

"You're kidding, right?"

Libby shook her head. "I read that in one of Mom's old food magazines."

"That's beyond disgusting."

"Maybe it's not," Libby said, even though she shared Bernie's opinion on the matter.

"Why are you trying to pick a fight?" Bernie asked.

"Am not," Libby replied.

"Are too," Bernie said, lapsing into her childhood singsong voice.

"No. I'm not. It's just that you don't need to be such a snob," Libby told her.

"In food, I don't think that's such a bad thing, and anyway, you know you are, too," Bernie retorted. "What did I hear you say about using canned pie fillings yesterday? That they're an abomination?"

"I said that they were inedible."

"Same thing," Bernie pointed out.

"Not really," Libby said as she got ready to roll out the next batch of pie crusts.

"Of course it is," Bernie said.

Libby looked at her and stuck out her tongue. Bernie laughed and the moment of tension was over.

"I'm just tired," Libby explained.

Bernie rubbed her hands again. "Me too."

The two women went back to work. They could hear the hubbub of the crowd out front over the strains of Simon and Garfunkel coming from Bernie's iPod. For some reason, these days Libby liked cooking to them. Maybe because she found their music soothing and she had an abiding belief that food always tasted better when you weren't rushed making it. Food, like people, needed attention to bring out its best.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A CATERED THANKSGIVING by ISIS CRAWFORD Copyright © 2010 by Isis Crawford. Excerpted by permission.
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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 30, 2011

    This was highly entertaining!

    I just wrote a review for "A catered Valentine's Day" in which I stated that I was very disappointed in the storyline. Well - I can say that "A catered thanksgiving" was a complete 180 for me. This book was enjoyable, fast paced, great characters and the ending was not what i was expecting ...it had a great twist in plot at the end!

    I would recommend this book!! It was fun !!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 4, 2010

    A Scrumptious Mystery!!!

    As a fan of the "Catered mystery series," I not only look forward to another great story when these appear on the market, but I also look forward to the original recipes that are included in these books. Being dedicated to Thanksgiving, (the ultimate savory holiday), this new novel had my mouth watering before I even opened the cover. We are back with Bernie and Libby - the fantastic sisters who own A Little Taste of Heaven catering company. They're still as witty, charming, and talented as they have been in other stories, and their business has grown by leaps and bounds. They had no idea that with only a one-line mention in the New York Times about how fantastic their pies were, that there would be lines out the door this day before Thanksgiving, and that they would still be working on filling over 150 orders before the day was over. Their father, Sean, has decided to go visit his sister for Thanksgiving in Florida. He hasn't spoken with her in twenty-nine years, but he really wants to get out of his daughters' way so that they can concentrate on the catering job they have to do for Thanksgiving Day. They have been hired by the Field family - a wealthy bunch who made all their money in fireworks - to serve them a feast they won't soon forget. And, boy.was that an understatement. On Thanksgiving morning the sky opens up and a blizzard begins to take over their town. As Bernie and Libby load up their van and try desperately to get through the snow, they barely make it to the Field's "compound." Inside, they meet up with a variety of family members including: Lexus - the young, blonde trophy wife of the patriarch, Monty Field - who is constantly complaining because she thought she'd be dripping in diamonds and furs by now; Ralph and Perceval, Monty's two brothers who, literally, can't stand their brother but know that if they don't show up for the Thanksgiving dinner they might be cut out of his will; Geoff - Monty's grandson; and, Melissa, Monty's daughter from his first marriage who is slightly overweight, despises Lexus, and works as a nurse in the local E.R. When readers first meet this family, they're sitting in a room that is no more than fifty degrees, on furniture that looks like it belongs to a hobo living on the street, wondering why Monty Field is so unbelievably cheap and ornery. There isn't one of his family members who don't wish that he would simply drop dead so that they could split the forty million dollar art collection and turn the heat up before they freeze to death. When the caterers arrive, they begin to set up the feast for the family. When Monty Field appears in the kitchen to check the turkey in the oven, Bernie and Libby watch in fear and amazement as the roasting bird explodes in Monty's face.literally. Now there are family members pointing fingers at every other member of the family accusing them of murder. Secrets begin to surface about a divorce in the works that would've left Lexus penniless - to a takeover of the company that Monty hadn't told his brothers about. There is no shortage of suspects, and Libby and Bernie need to solve this puzzle before the police arrive and haul them off to jail for bringing the deadly poultry into Monty Field's home. Just like the Murder She Wrote series, and the best that Agatha Christie had to offer, these books are extremely fun "who-dun-its" with great action, well-written puzzles, and dialogue a reader will not soon forget. - Amy Lignor

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A fine Thanksgiving whodunit.

    They have opposite personalities but Bernie and Libby are sisters who are also good friends while running a catering business A Little Taste of Heaven in Westchester, New York. There latest job is catering a Thanksgiving dinner at the Field Mansion; for Monty, his two children (Melissa and George), his brothers (Perceval and Ralph) and his wife Lexus as well as Geoff, Bob and Pauline. They all must be on their best behavior or Marley will cut them out of his will.

    While the sisters cook the turkey, Marley walks in and taps the bird until the timer pops up and blows his head to smithereens. Someone placed a mini-bomb in the turkey connected to the pop-up and everyone knew Marley always tapped on the bird. His death was obviously a premeditated murder. Libby and Bernie prefer to leave because most of the people there have motives to kill the victim. However, a blizzard trapped them. Not wanting to feel useless, the siblings do what they do second best (after cooking): investigate a murder.

    The latest Isis Crawford amateur sleuth is a holiday treat because of the two hilarious sisters who argue, fuss and detect while debating what to do next. Bernie is a kick butt in your face while Libby is a girly girl, but both are brave and together form a yin and yang terrific sleuthing team. The case is interesting as the victim was a control freak who uses money to make his family obey his whims and those who fall out of favor fall out of the will. Even from the grave, his presence is felt all over this fine Thanksgiving whodunit.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2013

    poorly written.

    This one you can skip.

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  • Posted November 17, 2013

    Dull characters, no tension, really tedious. I'm kind of amazed

    Dull characters, no tension, really tedious. I'm kind of amazed by the positive reviews on this (they got me to spend my hard-earned money on it), but not as much as I am astonished that even Kensington would publish it. I don't recall ever reading a book before where I thought there was TOO MUCH dialogue!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2013

    terrible

    I stopped reading about halfway through.

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  • Posted December 11, 2012

    A little slow-going, SO many characters

    Should have been more recipes. Many more food items were mentioned in the novel than appeared at the end as recipes. And for a Thanksgiving novel, well, you just expect lots of food ideas, right?

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    Posted November 25, 2010

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    Posted July 11, 2014

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    Posted September 6, 2011

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    Posted January 7, 2012

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    Posted November 29, 2013

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    Posted November 10, 2012

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