Caught in the Act (Amhearst Mystery Series #2)

Caught in the Act (Amhearst Mystery Series #2)

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by Gayle Roper

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Who would want to kill ordinary guy Arnie Meister? Reporter and small-town sleuth Merry Kramer was on the trail of the supposed killer when she uncovered more murder suspects than she ever thought possible—an ex-wife, an ex-girlfriend and suspicious business associates. Nothing added up.

But with Merry embroiled in the story, danger wasn't far behind.

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Who would want to kill ordinary guy Arnie Meister? Reporter and small-town sleuth Merry Kramer was on the trail of the supposed killer when she uncovered more murder suspects than she ever thought possible—an ex-wife, an ex-girlfriend and suspicious business associates. Nothing added up.

But with Merry embroiled in the story, danger wasn't far behind. And those she thought trustworthy—even charming Curt Carlyle—might not be who they seem….

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Introduced in the much less entertaining Caught in the Middle (LJ 6/1/97), reporter Merrileigh Kramer returns with another crime to solve in this humorous light mystery. Merrileigh's troubles begin when she accompanies a co-worker to her estranged husband's home only to discover that the man has been murdered. Soon enough, Merrileigh is plunged into a murder investigation while simultaneously juggling two ardent suitors as well as a feature article on unwed teen mothers. Roper balances the numerous plots as well as Merrileigh does, making this a thoroughly enjoyable mystery with a devoutly Christian heroine. This second volume in the series is genuinely funny, with an extremely likable lead in Merrileigh. Fans of Carolyn Hart should find much to enjoy. Highly recommended.

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Steeple Hill Books
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Amhearst Mystery Series , #2
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Chapter One

I have to stop going places with Jolene Meister. Every time I go, catastrophe results.

"Merry, could you drop me off at my parents' after work?" she asked as we left The News office for lunch. She waited while I pushed open the front door and held it for her. "My father brought me in this morning."

It sounded a reasonable request to me. I'd only have to go out of my way a couple of blocks.

"Sure. No problem," I said. "I don't have anything I have to do until eight when I'm supposed to take a picture of the committee for the Amhearst Annual Christmas Food Project." Or AAC-FOP, as Mac, our editor, irreverently called it.

And that easily and innocently I precipitated my involvement in murder.


Jolene and I walked to Ferretti's, the best eating our small town had to offer. The winter wind on this dingy December Tuesday bit through my new red coat, and I suspected my nose was turning almost as rosy as my wool blend. The two scars on my nose that I'd gotten in a bike accident when I was eight years old would be turning a contrasting blue.

Ah, well, I thought. If I smile, I can have a patriotic face: red nose, white teeth, and blue scars.

Gene Autry was serenading downtown Amhearst about Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer over a tinny public address system set up by Santa's little house. How come a cowboy had made millions off a deer's red nose, I wondered, and all I got from mine was a color scheme?

We were seated by Ferretti's hostess, a brassy blonde named Astrid, whom Jolene knew.

"How do you know Astrid?" I asked. It never ceased to amaze me how everyone in Amhearst knew everyone else. As a recent arrival I found it both cozy and unnerving.

"I went to school with her younger sister Elsa. She's a real dingbat."

"Who? Astrid or Elsa?"

Jolene thought for a minute. "Both."

Knowing Jolene as I did, that probably meant that both women were very nice and rather intelligent.

"Does anyone ever move away from Amhearst?" I asked as our waitress, an older lady whose nametag said Sally, came to take our order.

"Sure," Jolene said. "Sally's daughter Caroline moved to California to be in the movies, right?" She looked at Sally.

"Yeah," Sally said. "But she came home last month and I think she's staying. Astrid's sister Elsa got her a job as receptionist at Bushay's. Elsa's Mr. Bushay's administrative assistant." Didn't sound like dingbat territory to me, but it sure sounded like Amhearst. "So, what'll you have?"

I ordered an Amhearst version of Caesar salad (there were bacon bits and red cabbage in it and not an anchovy in sight) and Jolene ordered a huge plate of eggplant parmigiana.

Sally disappeared with her order pad and I looked at Jolene.

"And how do you know Sally?"

"She and my mom were in the PTA together."

"And you know Caroline, the would-be movie star?"

"Sure. She was three years ahead of me in school."

"See?" I said. "Weird."

Jolene shrugged. "Small town." She pressed her hands to her cheeks. "Do I look flushed to you?"

"Like you're getting sick, you mean?"

She nodded. Jolene was a hypochondriac.

I looked at her big brown hair and bangs, her bright brown eyes, her flawless skin. "It's just reaction from walking in the cold. You look great to me." In an overblown sort of way.

Soon Sally arrived with our lunches and I looked from my salad to Jolene's spicy, cheesy, greasy dish. "How can you eat that and not gain weight? It's swimming in oil. It's not fair."

"Fair?" she said, leveling a forkful of dripping eggplant at me. "Fair? Is it fair that you have two gorgeous men chasing you? Huh?" She snorted, a noise that sounded decidedly odd coming from her delicate nose. "Don't give me fair, Merrileigh Kramer. I'm not listening."

I grinned at her like an idiot. I'd never in my life had one man chasing me with any real enthusiasm, and suddenly I had two. It made me feel nervous. It made me feel powerful. It made me giggle.

It also made me check over my shoulder constantly because Jack was in town and Curt didn't know it yet. I hadn't quite figured out how to break the news to my new boyfriend that my old boyfriend, suddenly ardent, had come a-courting. And what was worse yet, Jack didn't even know that a warm, delightful, and charming man named Curt Carlyle existed.

My brother's favorite nickname for me wasn't Marshmallow Merry for nothing. No spine. No guts. No idea how to keep this wonderfully ego-boosting situation from turning into a roast-the-marshmallow pyre.

"So you're saying that Jack just showed up at your door on Sunday?" Jolene said as she buttered a piece of Italian bread with real butter.

I crunched a particularly large chunk of Romaine and nodded. "You go with a guy for six years and he refuses to make a commitment," I began.

"Six years?" Jolene's voice squeaked with disbelief.

I held up a hand. "Don't ask. Just accept my word that he's charming and I was stupid. Anyway, I'd hardly heard a word from him since I moved to Amhearst in September, and boom! There he was. Although I guess it really wasn't boom, now that I think about it. Four months is hardly boom."

"Merry Christmas, my Merry," he'd yelled when I'd opened my door Sunday afternoon. He pushed a giant silk poinsettia into my hands, smiling broadly at my confusion. Then he grabbed me and hugged me tightly, crushing the poinsettia painfully between us. Obviously he thought he'd brought me a wonderful gift, and he wasn't thinking of the flower.

"What are you doing here?" I'd demanded, ever gracious.

"Is that any way to greet your sweetheart come this great distance just to be near you?"

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