Chocolate Covered Murder (Lucy Stone Series #18)by Leslie Meier
It's frigid in snow-covered Tinker's Cove, and Lucy is fighting the winter blues--and her widening waistline. No one in their right mind would vacation in Maine this time of year, but to boost the economy, the town is launching a travel promotion for Valentine's Day. As a reporter for the Pennysaver, Lucy is assigned a puff piece on upscale Chanticleer's Chocolates, and its deliciously handsome owner, Trey Meacham.
Soon Lucy discovers there's another tantalizing tart behind the counter. Sultry store manager Tamzin Graves is only too eager to serve her male customers. Leaving a throng of jealous women in her wake, it's almost no surprise when Tamzin turns up dead, her body covered in chocolate. . .
Could a bitter ex-wife be behind the crimes? Or a candy shop competitor? There's no sugar-coating the truth, and as Lucy closes in on the culprit, she may find herself locked in the clutches of a half-baked killer. . .
"I like Lucy Stone a lot, and so will readers." --Carolyn Hart
"Fast-paced. . .intriguing." --Publishers Weekly
"An enjoyable story." --RT Book Reviews
Read an Excerpt
CHOCOLATE COVERED MURDERA Lucy Stone Mystery
By LESLIE MEIER
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2012 Leslie Meier
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIf the cold didn't kill her, the slippery ice on the sidewalk surely would, thought Lucy Stone as she stepped out of the overheated town hall basement meeting room into a frigid Monday afternoon. January was always cold in the little coastal town of Tinker's Cove, Maine, and this year was a record-breaker. The electronic sign on the bank across the street informed her it was five forty-five and nine, no, eight degrees. The temperature was falling fast and was predicted to sink below zero during the night.
Lucy hurried across the frozen parking lot as fast as she dared, mindful that a patch of ice could send her flying. Reaching the car, she made sure the heater was on high, and waited a few minutes for the engine to warm up. While she waited, she thought about the meeting she had just attended and how she would write it up for the local paper, the Tinker's Cove Pennysaver.
The topic under discussion was improving toilet facilities at the town beach and quite a crowd had turned out for the meeting. In her experience as a reporter, only dog hearings excited more interest than wastewater issues and this meeting had been no exception.
Of course, people had been complaining about the inadequate facilities for some time; a group of concerned citizens had even entered a float in the Fourth of July parade as a protest. The parade theme had been "From Sea to Shining Sea" and the float depicted the town beach strewn with sewage. The ensuing controversy had prompted the selectmen to address the issue, but there was little agreement on the solution. The budget-minded had favored continuing the present Porta-Potties, the cheapest option. Installing earth closets, the eco-friendly option, had brought out the tree-huggers; the business community, which depended on tourist dollars, had lobbied for conventional toilets, which would require digging a well and putting in an expensive septic system.
This was going to be fun to write up, she thought, as she shifted into drive and proceeded cautiously across the icy parking lot and onto the road. In addition to the cold, they had recently had a big snowfall, so the road was lined with high banks of plowed snow. It was hard to see around the piles of snow, so Lucy inched out into the road, hoping nothing was coming.
As she drove along Main Street, past the police station and clustered stores, past the Community Church with its tall steeple, she thought of possible opening sentences. She'd driven this route so often that her mind was wandering and she was halfway through her story when she cleared town and the landscape opened with harvested cornfields on both sides of the road. The winter sunset was fabulous, the sky a blazing red that took her breath away. She couldn't take her eyes off the gorgeous color that filled the sky and was barely paying attention to the road when a large buck leaped over a snowdrift, landing right in front of her. She slammed on the brakes and skidded, hanging onto the steering wheel for dear life and praying she wouldn't hit the animal, when the car fishtailed and slammed into the snow-bank on the opposite side of the road.
Heart pounding, she caught a glimpse of brown rump and white tail bounding unhurt across the field, and sent up a little prayer of thanks. Then she shifted into reverse, intending to back out onto the road. Pressing the accelerator, she heard the dismaying hum of spinning tires. Climbing out of the car, she found the front end deeply imbedded in the snow and the rear tires sunk up to the hubcaps in soft slush and realized she wasn't going to get out without help.
The sun was now falling below the horizon, the sky was a deep purple, and the road was deserted. She got back in the car and reached for her cell phone, remembering she hadn't charged it lately. Indeed, when she flipped it open, the screen blinked BATTERY LOW and immediately went dark. She was only a bit more than a mile from home, but in this frigid weather she didn't dare risk walking. Her best option was to stay with the car and keep the engine running. Unfortunately, she'd been running close to empty for a day or two, too busy to stop and fill the tank.
It was just a matter of time, she told herself, before her husband, Bill, would wonder why she wasn't home and would come out looking for her. Or not. He might figure she was working late, covering an evening meeting, in which case they'd probably find her frozen body the next morning.
Perhaps she should write a note, letting her family know how much she loved them. Then again, she thought, perhaps not. What sort of family didn't come out and look for a missing member, especially on a night when the temperature was predicted to go below zero? She thought of Bill, who habitually watched the six o'clock news, and her teenage daughters, Sara and Zoe, probably texting their friends, all in the comfort of their cozy home on Red Top Road. Didn't they miss her? Weren't they worried? They'd be sorry, wouldn't they, when she was on the news tomorrow night. Local woman freezes to death. Family in shock. "I should have known something was wrong," says grieving husband.
A tap at the window startled her and she turned to see a smiling, bearded face she recognized as belonging to Max Fraser. She lowered the window.
"Looks like you could use a tow," he said.
"It was a deer," she said. "He jumped in the road and I swerved to avoid him."
"Doesn't look like the car's damaged," he said. "You were lucky."
"I'm lucky you came along," said Lucy. "I don't have much gas and my cell phone is dead."
"I'll have you out of here in no time," he said, signaling that she should close the window.
Max was as good as his word. In a matter of minutes, he had fastened a tow line from his huge silver pickup to her car. She felt a bump and heard a sudden groaning noise and all of a sudden her car popped out of the snowdrift. Max looked it over for damage and listened to make sure the engine was running okay, and when she offered to pay him for his trouble, he looked offended.
"Folks gotta help folks," he said. "Someday maybe you can help me, or pass it on. Help somebody else."
"I will," promised Lucy. "I certainly will."
Next morning, Lucy was writing her account of the meeting when Corney Clarke popped into the Pennysaver office, like a glowing ember leaping out of a crackling fire and onto the hearth. Her cheeks were red with the cold, her ski parka was bright orange, and her stamping feet sprayed bits of snow in all directions. "This is big, really big," she exclaimed, pulling off her shearling gloves.
Phyllis, the receptionist, peered over her harlequin reading glasses and cast a baleful glance at the melting puddle of snow. She drew her purple sweater across her ample bust and shivered. "Mind shutting the door? There's an awful draft."
"Oh, sorry," said Corney, pushing the door shut with difficulty and setting the old-fashioned wooden blinds rattling. "It's just I'm so excited about my big news." She paused, making sure she had the attention of Ted Stillings, the weekly paper's publisher, editor, and chief reporter.
"I'm listening," said Ted, leaning back in his swivel chair and propping his feet on the half-open file drawer of the sturdy oak roll-top desk he inherited from his grandfather, a legendary New England journalist. Like practically every man in town, he was dressed in a plaid shirt topped with a thick sweater, flannel-lined khaki pants, and duck boots.
Lucy typed the final period and turned around to face Corney. "This better be good," she said. Corney, an interior designer who wrote a monthly lifestyle column for Maine House and Cottage magazine, was always pitching stories, looking for free publicity.
"Oh, it is," said Corney. She took a deep breath and paused dramatically, then spoke. "Chanticleer Chocolate was voted 'Best Candy on the Coast.' "
It landed like a bombshell, and for a moment there was stunned silence in the newspaper office.
"You mean ... ?" began Phyllis.
"What about ... ?" murmured Ted.
"Talk about an upset!" exclaimed Lucy.
"That's right." Corney gave a self-satisfied nod. "It's the first time since the magazine began the Best of Maine poll that Fern's Famous Fudge hasn't won."
"Fern's Famous is an institution," said Phyllis.
Lucy nodded, thinking of the quaint little shop with the red-and-white striped awning that had stood on Main Street in Tinker's Cove since, well, forever. The business was started by Fern Macdougal, who needed a source of income after her husband was killed in the Korean War. She started selling her homemade fudge through local shops, eventually buying her own place as the little business took off in the nineteen fifties when tourists began flocking to the Maine coast. Fern's Famous, with its big copper kettle and marble counters, was a must-see and nobody passed through town without picking up one of the red-and-white-striped boxes of fudge or salt water taffy. Nowadays, Fern was in her nineties, but she still kept a sharp eye on the business, which was run by her daughter Flora Riggs, who had added a catering service to the company, and her granddaughter Dora Fraser, Max's ex-wife.
"Now, Ted," said Corney, turning to the reason for her visit. "You have to admit this is a big story. And it just happens to tie in very nicely with the Chamber of Commerce's Love Is Best on the Coast February travel promotion." Corney, as they all knew only too well, was chair of the Chamber's publicity committee.
"Whoa," said Ted, raising his hand. "February travel promotion? Are you crazy? This is Maine. I don't know if you've noticed, but there's two feet of snow on the ground, the temperature is fifteen degrees, and the forecast is for, surprise, more snow."
"Sleet," said Lucy. "We're supposed to have a warm spell. Global warming."
"Either way, snow or sleet," said Ted, "it's not exactly picnic weather."
"Maine is beautiful every time of year," said Corney, "but winter is my favorite time. The snow is so beautiful ..."
"It's treacherous," said Lucy. "I barely made it home alive last night. If Max Fraser hadn't come along, I'd be headline news this morning. I got stuck in a snowdrift when a buck jumped in front of my car, out by those cornfields."
"There's a lot of deer out there," said Phyllis. "They eat the corn the harvester missed."
"You've got to be careful in the snow," said Corney, "but the town does an excellent job with the plowing. And you have to admit, on a day like today, when the sun makes the snow sparkle and the air is crisp, it's just a little bit of heaven here in Tinker's Cove."
Corney had a point, thought Lucy, thinking of her antique farmhouse on Red Top Road and how pretty it looked covered with snow, especially at night when the windows glowed with lamplight. Of course, the snow made it impossible to keep the house clean inside. Her daughters, Sara and Zoe, were constantly tracking in snow and mud, as did her husband, Bill. Even the dog added to the mess, rolling in the snow and shaking it off as soon as she came through the door. The kitchen floor was littered with boots and shoes; the coat rack was loaded with jackets and scarves and ski pants. Hats and mittens and gloves were spread on the old-fashioned radiators to dry.
It wasn't just the constant sweeping and tidying that got her down in winter, it was the way the house seemed to shrink in the bleak months after Christmas. The walls seemed to move in and the furniture grew larger. Every surface became cluttered with projects and busywork: the fishing reel Bill was repairing, the scarf Sara was knitting for the high school Good Neighbor Club, Zoe's rock display for eighth-grade science.
Going out for a meal or a movie, even a shopping trip, was the obvious cure for cabin fever, but it wasn't easy. It took a lot of determination to get anywhere. First you had to layer on all those clothes, then you had to shovel your way to the car, which might or might not start. Once you were on the road, you had to be constantly vigilant, watching for slick spots and creeping slowly through intersections made blind by enormous piles of snow, and you had to remember to start braking well in advance of every stop sign. Once you reached your destination, you had to hunt for a plowed parking spot and then you had to watch your step when you got out of the car because the sidewalks, even when shoveled, soon became slick with ice.
None of that seemed to bother Corney, who was listing the advantages of winter. "Sleigh rides in the snowy woods," she said, prompting a snort from Phyllis.
"Endless shoveling," complained Ted. "Heart attacks—did you see the obits last week? Three old guys, in one week."
Corney ignored him. "We have all these romantic B&Bs with canopy beds and fireplaces...."
"Fireplaces are awful messy. Wood chips, twigs, even leaves, and then there's the ashes. Filthy," said Phyllis. "And that stuff jams up the vacuum."
"Hot toddies and cocoa with tiny marshmallows," said Corney, as if she were raising the stakes in a poker game.
"The stink of wet wool," countered Lucy.
"Tree branches coated in ice, sparkling in the sun," said Corney, laying down a few more chips.
"Broken bones from falls on the icy sidewalks," said Ted. "The waiting time at the emergency room last week was three hours."
"We need to let the world know that Maine doesn't shut down in winter," declared Corney, ready to show her hand.
"It doesn't?" Lucy was skeptical.
"We have so much to offer," insisted Corney.
"Cabin fever. She's been cooped up too long and now
she's hallucinating," said Ted.
"I'm sure that's it," said Lucy, laughing.
"Have your fun," said Corney, slipping off her fur-trimmed hood and giving her short, frosted blond hair a shake. "Let's face it: the economy sucks. Businesses are going bankrupt, people are losing their jobs, even their houses. Things are bad."
It was true, thought Lucy. Bill, a restoration carpenter, hadn't had a big job in over a year. He was making do, barely, with window replacements and repairs. Her oldest, her son, Toby, who was married and the father of little Patrick, now almost three, had become disillusioned with his prospects as a lobsterman and had taken out student loans to finish up the business degree he had abandoned. Even her oldest daughter, Elizabeth, who had landed a dream job with the Cavendish Hotel chain after graduating from college, was worried about looming layoffs.
"We have to do whatever we can to attract customers and get things rolling again," said Corney, "and that's what the Love Is Best on the Coast Valentine's Day promotion is designed to do." She smiled, as if explaining basic arithmetic to first graders. "Who cares if it's cold outside? That's better for business. The tourists will have nothing to do except shop and eat and drink. They'll have to spend money."
Ted was scratching his chin. "So what do you want? I can't write about Fern's Famous losing, they're one of my biggest advertisers."
"They didn't lose," said Corney, who always saw the glass as half full. "They came in second, just a hair behind Chanticleer. We have the two best candy shops in Maine right here in Tinker's Cove!"
"I suppose Lucy could do something with that," speculated Ted. "She can be pretty tactful, when she tries."
Lucy gave Ted a look. "Thanks for the vote of confidence."
"I know Lucy will do a great job." Corney turned her big blue eyes on Lucy. "You're going to love Trey Meacham. He's a fascinating guy, and a real visionary. Chanticleer Chocolate typifies the kind of success an enterprising entrepreneur can have in Maine. We're becoming a lot more sophisticated, it's not about whirligigs and fudge anymore. We have top-notch craftsmen and artists making beautiful things—oil paintings and handwoven shawls and burl bowls. And the local food movement is the next big thing: fudge and lobster rolls are great, but there are small breweries, artisanal bakeries, and farmers' markets with hydroponically grown vegetables, free-range chickens, grass-fed beef, all raised locally. That's the market that Trey has captured. His chocolates are very sophisticated, very unusual."
Phyllis raised one of the thin penciled lines that served as eyebrows. "I like fudge myself. With walnuts."
"I have absolutely nothing against fudge, especially Fern's Famous Fudge. This is a win-win situation. Two terrific candy shops. The old and the new. Something for everyone." Corney paused. "And believe me, Lucy, you're going to love Trey."
Excerpted from CHOCOLATE COVERED MURDER by LESLIE MEIER Copyright © 2012 by Leslie Meier. 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.
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Meet the Author
Leslie Meier is the acclaimed author of sixteen Lucy Stone mysteries and has also written for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. She lives in Harwich, Massachusetts, where she is currently at work on the next Lucy Stone mystery.
Karen White is a classically trained actress who has been recording audiobooks for over ten years. Named on of AudioFile's Best Voices of 2010, she is an Audie Finalist and Best Audiobook of the Year 2009 winner with The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon Reed, she has earned several AudioFile Earphones Awards, most recently for Too Good to Be True by Erin Arvedlund and Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz.
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I love the entire Lucy Stone series and this one was no exception, you should start with #1 and go from there.
In the continuing stories of Lucy Stone Chocolate Covered Murder is everything you would expect. I have fallen in love with Lucy because she seems so real- just like a friend. Great characters are the reason I return again and again to a series. Chocolate Covered Murder is a mystery you can read st bedtime and still know that everything will be okay in the morning!
Chocolate Covered Murder by Leslie Meier Typical New England seaside town where in a small town everybody knows everybody. She is a newspaper reporter and there's a lot going around in town during the winter. Death on the ice while ice fishing, chamber of commerce meetings how to promote the town so others will visit and celebrate Valentines Day, award to 1st and 2nd best New England chocolate shops-both are in town and in competition with one another, returning military man, tourists looking for a house to buy, and drug related crimes, Valentine ball to attract tourists in winter, dessert contest, Lucy continues to gain info about things going on in town to help solve the murder while doing her regular job. Some things just don't fit. Economy during this time is bad but people find things beside money to pay for things to get done. Even though a lot of things are going on it is easy to keep track of everybody and what they do for a living and how they are related to. There are a lot of mysteries as murders become solved: the title makes sense. Really like this town, people and how they help one another. You just don't see that in today's society is some towns. Whoever says nothing ever happens in the winter needs to read this book. I rate it a 5 out of 5.
Reviewed by Alice DiNizo for Readers' Favorite Leslie Meier has created another first-rate story featuring news reporter Lucy Stone of Tinker's Cove, Maine. In "Chocolate Covered Murder", it is wintertime but things heat up when Chanticleer Chocolate, newcomer to the town, is voted "Best Candy on the Coast". Longtime local Fern's Famous Fudge has always won this award. And now Lucy gets to interview the owner of Chanticleer Chocolate, the handsome Trey Meacham. Lucy drives off on a frigid Maine night to interview Trey and is helped by Max Fraser when she runs off the road to avoid hitting a deer. But then Max is found dead, frozen solid in local Blueberry Pond. There are certainly problems cropping up around Tinker's Cover. Tamzin Graves, Trey Meacham's assistant at Chanticleer Chocolate, wears revealing and very tight clothing and thinks nothing of throwing herself at the local male population. And Lucy's friend Renee who sells real estate is dealing with a charming couple, Roger and Helen Faircloth, who are looking at expensive local homes for sale but they seem to be leaving unpaid bills behind in their wake. Lucy is fighting off extra pounds. The question is whether she can find out what is really going on in Tinker's Cover. "Chocolate Covered Murder" is another well-written and delightful murder mystery by Leslie Meier that will leave readers totally satisfied and awaiting the next Lucy Stone mystery. Not too much blood and gore, totally believable characters, both good and bad, being seductive and not so seductive, make "Chocolate Covered Murder" a must read for mystery lovers everywhere. The plot line proceeds with twists and turns to the story's conclusion and the dialogue suits the storyline well. Leslie Meier has done it again: created a story that readers everywhere will love.
I have enjoyed evry book I have read by Leslie Meier. I think she always pulls you into her books.
This book was ok
There¿s never a dull moment in Tinker¿s Cove, Maine¿or so it seems to the ¿Pennysaver¿s¿ star reporter, Lucy Stone. After sitting through a seemingly never-ending town meeting about wastewater issues (which was about as exciting as watching grass grow) Lucy heads back to her home on Red Top Road, only to end up stuck in a snow bank while trying to avoid hitting a deer. Shaken, but okay, Lucy pictures her frozen demise on the front page of the Pennysaver. Out of nowhere, good Samaritan, Max Fraser stops and tows her snow-buried car to safety. He refuses payment and suggests she ¿Pay it forward¿. Little did Lucy know how she would be doing just that.When Max¿s body is found frozen and tangled in his ice fishing line with a silver jigging spoon in his mouth, Lucy puts her ¿sleuthing cap¿ on to determine if he actually fell through pithy ice or who his killer might be.Complicating her already hectic schedule of family, home and job is the Tinker¿s Cove Chamber of Commerce¿s Valentine travel promotion, ¿Love is Best on the Coast¿ complete with a Valentine Dessert competition, a semi-formal dance and a request to do an article on an older romantic couple who have ¿Made Their Love Last¿. Lucy chooses a new-to-the-area couple; Roger and Helen Faircloth who seem like the ideal couple..so affectionate, genuine and loving after 40+ years of marriage. Or are they?? With a million details to complete before Valentine¿s Day, promotion organizer, Corney Clarke breezes into the newspaper office and relays a tremendous scoop that the newest business in town.¿ Chanticleer Chocolate¿ has swept ¿The Best Candy on the Coast¿ distinction away from locally owned ¿Fern¿s Famous Fudge¿. Was the win really due to the unique flavors of their exorbitantly-priced candies? Or could it be due to the charms of the over-exposed sales clerk named Tamzin Graves? She had charmed the men of the community, including the late Max Fraser! Lucy is sent by Editor and Boss Ted, to interview her as well as her ruggedly handsome but mysterious Boss, Trey Meacham . She combines her sleuthing abilities with her reporter¿s duties, while accusatory fingers point to the sometimes caustic and sarcastic co-owner of ¿Fern¿s Famous¿, Dora Fraser who also happens to be Max¿s jealous ex-wife. She runs her theories past preoccupied Sheriff Barney Culpepper whose Son, Eddie has just returned home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan and hooks up with Max and Dora¿s Daughter, Lily. Could Dora be capable of such a deed? She had received a double whammy with Max¿s death and losing the contest for best candy on the coast to a new business who didn¿t even make their product on the premises! Who else would be strong enough to lift Max¿s lifeless body? There are many twists and turns in this story as is true with all of Ms. Meier¿s murder mysteries. I truly enjoy the new and returning quirky characters. You think you have it figured, then you¿re thrown a curve ball! This is a fast, easy read and another Lucy Stone adventure you¿ll truly enjoy and be anxious for the next.*Kensington ARC* Nancy Narma