Crime & Clutter (Friday Afternoon Club Mystery Series)

( 7 )


A storage unit, a 1963 Volkswagen minibus, and tattered letters...reveal shattering secrets from the '60s.

It's been a year since Mary Alice lost her father — the father she never really knew. Now she's stuck cleaning out his rubbish from a storage unit. Just when she'd rather it all go away from her well-ordered life, her long-held secret is discovered by the feisty Marina, one of the six members of the ...

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Crime and Clutter

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A storage unit, a 1963 Volkswagen minibus, and tattered letters...reveal shattering secrets from the '60s.

It's been a year since Mary Alice lost her father — the father she never really knew. Now she's stuck cleaning out his rubbish from a storage unit. Just when she'd rather it all go away from her well-ordered life, her long-held secret is discovered by the feisty Marina, one of the six members of the Friday Afternoon Club. When these friends make it their mission to help Mary Alice tackle her stash, they arrive at the storage unit, prepared to clean. But what they discover takes them on a riotous ride through the crime and clutter of the sixties, the angst and betrayal of those caught in The Revolution, and the forgiveness that can only come through acceptance of a different kind of Cause.

Includes fun, easy, and tantalizing recipes!

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Good friends, good eats, and a juicy mystery!" — Susan May Warren, Author

"Laugh-out-loud humor — and recipes to die for! Cyndy Salzmann serves up delightful contemporary characters and a page-turning mystery that will make you want to pull out your bell-bottoms and tuck a flower behind your ear. Highly recommended." — Allison Bottke, Founder, God Allows U-Turns; Author, A Stitch in Time

"It's time to rejoin the ladies of the Friday Afternoon Club for more fun, friendship, and food. Once again, Cyndy Salzmann has penned a tale that will make you long for a Friday Afternoon Club of your very own. Forget the laundry, find your stash of chocolates, and escape with the lovable members of the FAC. You'll be glad you did!" — Judith Miller, Author, In the Company of Secrets and the Freedom's Path series

"Clever, thoughtful, humorous, and more, Crime & Clutter is one book you don't want to miss! My heart broke for the cost of poorly made choices and rejoiced for the redemptive power of forgiveness." — Gayle Roper, Author, Caught in the Middle, Caught in the Act, Caught in a Bind, Caught Redhanded

"Cyndy's books are not only fun, they're delicious! I devour the humor, and the recipes are nothing less than a waistline felony!" Lori Copeland — Author, Yellow Rose Bride

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582296449
  • Publisher: Howard Books
  • Publication date: 4/3/2007
  • Series: Friday Afternoon Club Mystery Series
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Cindy Salzmann is a wife and mother who does much of her writing on the back of fast food wrappers — usually while waiting to pick up her children. Desperate for an excuse to avoid laundry, she has written three Christian nonfiction books, launched a national speaking career, and taught her children how to sort colors. Dying to Decorate is her first novel and first book of the Friday Afternoon Club Mystery series. Cyndy and her family live in Omaha, Nebraska.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


1 cup sugar 9 cups cold water 1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel (yellow part only) Lemon slices and fresh mint leaves for garnish (optional) Instructions 1. Combine sugar and 1 cup water in small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. 2. Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and cool completely. 3. Combine syrup with lemon juice, peel, and remaining water. 4. Serve in a glass over ice. Garnish with a lemon slice and fresh mint, if desired. Makes 2 1/2 quarts.


5-6 frozen, skinless chicken breasts (bone in) lemon pepper seasoning 2 tablespoons melted butter Instructions 1. Season chicken breasts with lemon pepper. 2. Place in slow cooker. Pour melted butter over chicken. 3. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours.

I have always hated guinea pigs — or any kind of rodent for that matter. So why I agreed to become one in my sixteen-year-old son's psychology experiment is still a mystery.

Perhaps it was the puppy dog look in Josh's chocolate brown eyes. Or maternal pride at being asked to do something that didn't involve cooking or laundry. Maybe I'm just a sucker, and he knows it.

Regardless of the reason, I, Elizabeth Harris — grown woman and award-winning lifestyle columnist — find myself sitting at the kitchen table with a number-two pencil clutched in each hand, poised over two blank sheets of paper.

I am supposed to simultaneously draw a circle with my right hand and a square with my left. Although I'm trying to concentrate, all I can think about is how I'd like to get my hands on the sadistic psychology teacher who thought up this inane project.

"Ready, Mom?" My freckle-faced son is standing over me — thumb cocked to click on his stopwatch.

"I guess."

In a split second, I reconsider my answer. "No! Wait! My palms are sweating. Let me wipe them off."

I rise from the chair to grab the striped dishtowel hanging from the handle of the stove.

"Come on, Mom! I've got baseball practice in thirty minutes. We've gotta get this done. My project is due Monday, and my psych teacher — "

Hot button.

A spark of parental ire temporarily replaces my nervousness at garnering a low score and having my lack of dexterity whispered about at PTA.

"Josh, is it my fault you waited until the last minute?" I say, leaning back on the counter and wiping my hands on the dishtowel.

Do all children wait until a project is in crisis mode before beginning, or am I one of the lucky mothers whose kids claim to work best under pressure?

"Mom, you're the one who's been telling me all week we'd do it later," my son reminds me. Rather smugly, I might add.

Another hot button. Insecurity sprinkled with maternal guilt. A teenager's perfect weapon.

Before I can fully explore the depths of culpability, the telephone rings. All sense of scholastic duty forgotten, my son snatches up the cordless phone from behind the microwave.

No wonder I couldn't find the phone when I needed to call John this morning.

"Oh yeah, she's here, Miz Favazza," he says in a low tone. "But she's kinda busy."

Busy! Josh would kill me if I told one of his friends he was busy and couldn't come to the phone. I hold out my hand. "Josh. Give me the phone."

Josh blows a hank of russet-colored hair out of his eyes and gives me the handset.

"I'll just be a minute." I turn away before speaking into the phone. "Hi, Marina. You're still coming over for FAC today, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I'll be there," Marina booms on the other end of the line, "but maybe a little late. That's why I'm calling."

I hear the chirp of the police radio in the background.

"Hold on a sec, Liz, will ya? Hey, Stokes! Tell Nino to quit flirting with the counter girl."

I laugh to myself. Marina is one of two female lieutenants on the Omaha, Nebraska, police department. Although very feminine with her wild black hair and perfect manicure, she can stand up to even the most macho of men.

"Okay, I'm back," she says into the phone. "Nino thinks he's God's gift to women. Give me a break. Now...what were we talking about?"

"You said you might be late for FAC."

"Oh yeah. I'm wrapping things up at a sting out here in the boonies."

"Sounds exciting."

"At least it's better than the duty I pulled last week at the Omaha Country Club. Try watching a bunch of aging frat boys play golf all afternoon. It's enough to drive even a patient woman like me crazy."

I catch Josh's pleading look out of the corner of my eye and hold up a finger to let him know I'll be off the phone soon.

"But this afternoon did have its highlights," continues Marina, oblivious to the teenage angst in my kitchen. "I saw Mary Alice out here paying the rent on a storage unit. In cash."

This catches my attention. "M.A. with a secret stash of stuff? I always knew those uncluttered counters were too good to be true. Did you ask her what's up?"

"No, I couldn't. I was undercover. But when I get through with her this afternoon, the queen of clutter control better fess up. Or she may have to give up that crown." Laughing, I press the end button on the handset. My humor turns sour as I spot the dreaded experiment waiting for me on the kitchen table.

This has got to stop!"

I look up from my fourth try at completing Josh's experiment to see my normally patient husband red-faced and sweating at the door leading from the garage into the kitchen.

Granted, it's a welcome interruption from my torturous task. But what is John doing home so early?

"Wuz up, Dad?" asks my son. "You okay?"

"No. I am not okay."

I rise from the kitchen table and cross the room to place a hand on my husband's forehead. "Are you sick, sweetheart? Is that why you're home early?"

He gently brushes my hand away. "Don't worry, Liz, I'm not sick. I came home early because I knew you were having FAC. I wanted to get the kids out of your hair so you'd have plenty of time to do whatever it is you do."

"Really? You came home early for me?" I give his shoulders a squeeze. "You are so sweet!"

"Well, I try," says John, basking in my appreciation.

I can understand why he is basking. Poor guy — or should I say, guys. Most husbands have no clue about what makes a woman tick. Like how we can get absolutely ecstatic over an offer to clean the bathroom but then often greet attempts at buying us gifts with a smile that fails to mask the What was he thinking? in our eyes. A perfect example is the set of salad tongs shaped like bear claws that John bought me on his Alaskan fishing trip to let me know he was thinking of me.

Exactly what was he thinking?

But to my husband's credit, one thing he does get is my need for FAC. And his thoughtfulness in coming home early so I can enjoy the afternoon without the regular chaos of our busy home has earned him major brownie points.

So what in the world is FAC? Our family members have called it a lot of things in the past. Funky Adult Conversation. Friendship And Chocolate. Even, Fabulous After Children. The truth is far from exotic. FAC is short for Friday Afternoon Club — a group of women (Lucy, Jessie, Marina, Mary Alice, Kelly, and me) who get together on Friday afternoons for that vital shot of "girl time" that all women need but too often sacrifice.

Today is my turn to host — and my family is well aware that FAC is an important factor in keeping Mom happy. Just like the old saying: "If Mama ain't happy...ain't nobody happy."

My son interrupts my musings. "If you're not sick, Dad, then why is your face all red?"

John takes a deep breath, pushes a lock of sandy hair off his sweat-slicked brow, and straightens to his full height of six feet. "My face may appear to be a little red because I'm frustrated. I'm tired of people in this house borrowing my things and not putting them back."

"What did you lose now, honey?" I say in a soothing tone, my hand rubbing his shoulder.

When John delivers one of those "don't treat me like one of the kids" looks, I realize this is the wrong approach.

"I didn't lose anything. Someone took the garage door opener out of my car."

"The garage-door opener? You mean the controller?"

Before John can answer my question, Josh slips the stopwatch into his pocket and heads toward the door. "Gotta go! I'm late for baseball practice."

"Not so fast, young man." John blocks any hope of easy escape by placing a strong arm across the doorway. "Did you take the opener out of my car?"

"Why would I do that?"

"You didn't answer my question."

"I said I didn't take it, Dad. Why do you always blame me?"

The muscles in John's cheek begin to twitch.

Not a good sign.

Oblivious, Josh continues. "What about Katie? Why don't you ask her? She uses the car more than I do."

John's face takes on a deeper shade of red and a little bead of sweat meanders down his left cheek.

I attempt to diffuse the situation before it turns into a full-blown case of sibling rivalry, further frustrating my husband. Josh, our middle child, often feels overshadowed by his strong-willed older sister, Katie, and outmaneuvered by our precocious younger daughter, Hannah. "Now Josh, let's not bring — "

"Young man," John continues sternly, his brown eyes intense, "I'm sick and tired of hearing 'I don't know' or 'I didn't take it' whenever something is missing around this house. Someone has to know what happened to my garage-door opener, and I intend to — "

"Come on, Dad," Josh interrupts, "whaddya want me to say? I don't have it. And I'm already late for practice 'cuz Mom hates guinea pigs."

My husband shoots me a quizzical look.

I shrug. We've had many discussions about what I believe may be a vast conspiracy to pass rodents off as pets.

John obviously decides not to pursue the subject, sighs, and lowers his arm. "Fine. But this subject is not closed."

I shake my head sadly, knowing what the real problem is. My husband refuses to accept the presence of what I've come to call "the troll under the house." This ugly little pest emerges periodically with one goal — to drive unsuspecting parents crazy. He taunts us by secretly siphoning all the gas from the family car. He creates unimaginable frustration by wearing clothes that are not his — and hanging them back in our closets with mysterious stains. He is also a master at leaving dirty dishes and wet towels all over the house. If John could just learn to accept that our troll will probably get bored and move away after the kids go to college, he'd be much happier.

"Sweetheart, sit down. Let me get you something to drink."

I cross to the refrigerator to pull out a pitcher of my sugary lemonade. Perhaps an infusion of carbs will elevate both our moods.

Our younger daughter, Hannah, charges into the room, strawberry blond curls bouncing with indignation. "Mom, tell Katie to quit flicking her belly-button lint at me!"

"Katie is doing what?" I ask our eleven-year-old.

Hannah wrinkles her nose. "Mom, she is so gross! You would think that someone who is going to college next year would — "

"Just so you know, Mother," shouts my older daughter from the family room, "I would never do anything so disgusting. Hannah's trying to get me in trouble because I won't take her to the mall."

"Hannah...," I warn.

"Come here, sweetie," says John, reaching an arm out to Hannah. "Do you know what happened to my garage-door opener? There's a trip to the mall for the first person to find it."

Once again, my poor husband is forced to use a frustrated parent's tool of last resort. Bribery. I've been there myself. More often than I care to admit. As I check on the Lemon Chicken I put in the Crockpot for dinner, I wonder what Dr. Dobson would think.

Copyright © 2007 by Cyndy Salzmann

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2007

    Charming escapism!

    I so enjoyed reading Cyndy¿s cozy mystery, CRIME & CLUTTER, the second in the series. The first one was really a great read, and this one was even better. She did a great job of bringing the sixties to life. Denny and Ali¿s story was compelling¿though at first, I didn¿t want to leave the present day setting with the Friday Afternoon Club friends. But once I was introduced to Denny and Ali, I HAD to see what was happening in the commune! The writing was creative, sprinkled with Salzmann¿s sense of humor, and lovely phrases like ¿fragile tendrils of dust¿ that made me wish I¿d written them myself. Add in an abundance of tantalizing recipes and you have a treasure that is delicious in every way.

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  • Posted January 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Be Sure to Wear Flowers In Your Hair

    The 60s are my absolute favorite decade. I love the culture of that time period especially the music. I would have killed to be alive when the Beatles were popular. So when I heard about the premise for this story, I was excited to read it. And I was not disappointed. This story will give Baby Boomers and fans of the decade a time capsule of the events that happened. From the Beatnik years to the Summer of Love, the story reminds you of Forrest Gump as you happen to be in all the important events of the time. I really liked the articles that would appear at the beginning of the flashback chapters. They helped to make he story seem more real and place you during that time period. I thought it was interesting that the 60s was picked because, even though I think of it as history, in the literary world it is still modern time period. I really liked the chapters set during the Democratic National Convention. It's an even that gets skimmed over during high school history class so I was pleased to read about it from the protester point of view. The story of Mary Alice and her father was sad to read, having to learn to forgive. Very touching and moving. And then there are the recipes. My gosh, I could have gained a pound just from reading them. They all sound soooo good. I can't wait to try out some of them. They all look really easy to make with nothing too fancy so that anyone can cook them. So don't read this book on an empty stomach because after a few pages I guarantee you'll be raiding your fridge! The only complaint I have about the book is that with only one POV telling the story and so many women in the group, I feel like I haven't gotten to know some of the characters that well yet. Hopefully that will change in the upcoming books. Can't wait for them!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2007

    Great book, tons of fun

    I'd read Dying to Decorate and expected this to be fun but I didn't expect such a page turner. It's not what you think of as a fast paced thriller at all but the way it's written jumping from very interesting history to very interesting present, I just read and kept reading until I was through the whole thing in one evening. I loved this book. I am also now STARVING for those recipes Cyndy has in the book but that's secondary to an absolutely great, fun read.

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  • Posted January 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Riveting and fun to read fiction!

    Crime & Clutter has a totally unique plot, just like Dying to Decorate, the author's first book in the series. It's not often that I find a novel that entertained me as much as this one, yet also had the ability to also keep my attention on both ends. I enjoyed the portions of the story about the hippie experience from the 60's, but really got into reading about the current time as well. And the deep theme of forgiveness in this story will really tug on your heart. Very well done. Salzmann is great with tongue-in-cheek thoughts and humor. She can get you laughing about what seem like the most mundane things, but she shows you them in a humorous light. In short, I couldn't stop reading this book. It's full of life, has 'flavor' and depth, and I savored every page. The recipes were also pretty tasty-sounding. I'm sure my husband, who is the cook in our family, will want to try some of them. I also appreciated delving into the mindset of the 60s and how that influenced our culture at the time. My husband remembered being in Haight-Asbury at the same time as one of the real-life events that occurred in the story. The author sprinkled just enough history and lingo from that era into her novel to really bring it to life. It was so fun to read, I might even devour it again. If nothing else, it's incredibly practical because the recipes alone make it a keeper. Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2007

    by Cyndy Salzmann

    This is a hilarious and heart-warming book detailing the adventures of the six members of the Friday Afternoon Club as they help one of their members de-clutter her life and her heart when she inherits an old VW van and many memorabilia from her dad's life in the 60's Revolution. It is a story of the importance of friends, family and forgiveness. Each chapter opens with some great recipes ranging from down-home cooking to recipes used in hippie communes. Captivating characters, a surprise ending and lots of heart-squeezing emotion in between, make this a great read! Hope you will buy this book for your summer reading enjoyment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2007

    More than a mystery!

    What an unexpected find! Who would have thought an author could combine a mystery with the historical 1960s, recipes, a friendship club and Christ--and do it so successfully? I loved this book, and its predecessor, Dying to Decorate! In fact, I read them both in a single weekend. They were so fun and creative that I just couldn't put them down. And the recipes were fantastic! My hubby already told me that Cyndy's recipe for lemonade is the only one I should bother serving from now on! I highly recommend this book. It's a keeper!

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fine family mystery

    This week the six members of the Friday Afternoon Club (FAC) escape from their families meeting at Lizzie¿s house. At the gathering, Maxine the cop asks Mary Alice what she was doing at Storage Unlimited. She explains that her father, who abandoned her as a baby, had his stuff shipped to her so she rented storage space. --- Her friends accompany Mary Alice when she goes to open her storage facility. Inside she finds a 1963 Volkswagen minibus. Looking at the memorabilia by the car, a series of flashbacks tells the story of the brief marriage between her parents. Following the clues at the storage facility, the crew heads to a commune with no bathroom facility and the residents hung around getting high. Letters tell her more about how her dad went to the Chicago Democratic Party Convention where he became a fugitive on the lam from the police forcing him to abandon the child he wanted to cherish with love. --- The mystery of what happened to Mary Alice¿s father is explained in CRIME AND CLUTTER in such a way Denny is the prime character of the story line. He was disillusioned by society and then disappointed with his efforts to foster change that cost him so much he held precious, his Mary Alice and her offspring. The group does more than share recipes (there is plenty of that too) as they support one another with coping with life¿s curveballs. The FAC is fans will want more tales of this fascinating group of moms weekly escaping. --- Harriet Klausner

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