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For Better or Hearse

For Better or Hearse

4.8 4
by Laura Durham

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Wedding planner extraordinaire Annabelle Archer is used to dealing with difficult personalities — neurotic brides, despotic mothers, and prima donna bridesmaids. However, being chased from a swank hotel kitchen at knifepoint by a shrieking Chef Henri takes the cake. Soon after, Washington's most thoroughly despised culinary



Wedding planner extraordinaire Annabelle Archer is used to dealing with difficult personalities — neurotic brides, despotic mothers, and prima donna bridesmaids. However, being chased from a swank hotel kitchen at knifepoint by a shrieking Chef Henri takes the cake. Soon after, Washington's most thoroughly despised culinary artist is discovered dead, impaled on an ice sculpture — a crime which surprises no one, since revenge is, after all, a dish best served cold.

Unfortunately, the police think the hotel's sometimes temperamental but always stylish catering exec (and Annabelle's good friend) Georgia Rhodes did Henri in — so the planner and her posse set out to put the real murderer on ice. But when the corpse of a rival culinarian turns up in a walk-in freezer — and more nasty chef-deaths quickly follow — the suspect list suddenly shrinks . . . as do Annabelle and her cronies' chances for survival, if they get caught poking around in a killer's kitchen.

Editorial Reviews

Ellen Byerrum
“[W}itty characters and murder amidst matrimony are a match made in mystery heaven...absolutely unforgettable.”
Elaine Viets
“As bubbly as a champagne toast, with an unforgettable wedding party. Durham has given her readers another reason to celebrate.”
Nancy Martin
“Cozy readers will love this invitation to a wedding to die for.”
Washingtonian Magazine Online
“[M]arries fact and fiction in a smart, snarky, and fun-filled narrative...about as sweet as buttercream.”
Publishers Weekly
The weddings and woundings continue in Durham's second slapstick romp (after Better Off Wed) starring Annabelle Archer, owner of Wedding Belles wedding planning service in Washington, D.C. A posh reception at the Fairmont Hotel is abruptly preempted when Annabelle finds the head chef skewered on one of the event's enormous ice sculptures. Enter Detective Reese, the handsome police officer from Annabelle's first murder 'n' matrimony, and his new competition, Ian, leader of the band scheduled to play the reception. Kate, Annabelle's assistant, heads a long list of wild associates who want to help Annabelle clear the name of her friend Georgia, prime suspect in the murder. As more chefs drop dead of unnatural causes and an array of hellacious brides and mothers-of-the-bride pile up in Wedding Belle's appointment book, Annabelle and company juggle the resulting pandemonium and glean clues from every direction. The final pages bring the entire puzzle into focus, and the answer to whodunit is clever enough to keep most readers guessing. Durham's band of merry miscreants makes up a crackpot-as opposed to crackerjack-team, but the combination works superbly. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Annabelle Archer Mysteries Series
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.68(d)

Read an Excerpt

For Better or Hearse

An Annabelle Archer Mystery
By Laura Durham

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Laura Durham
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060739045

Chapter One

"I barely escaped being sliced up like a sushi roll, Richard." My shaking hand pressed the cell phone to my ear as I paced the marble lobby of the Fairmont Hotel. "I'm not exaggerating, either. Chef Henri tried to kill me." The only thing worse than working with a temperamental bride is dealing with a temperamental chef, and as one of D.C.'s top wedding planners, I'd had my share of both.

"He refuses to serve the Peking Duck as a passed hors d'oeuvre, but with all these additional guests, we don't have room to do it as a station." I'd called my best friend, and arguably the city's best caterer, Richard Gerard, for some insight into the mind of a culinary despot. While I had a wedding at the Fairmont Hotel, Richard had one at the Dumbarton House in nearby Georgetown. His guests weren't due to arrive for another hour, and I could hear the clattering sounds of setup in the background.

Richard let out a high-pitched shriek. "We do not throw things, people. If I see anyone else tossing my imported Hungarian salad plates on the tables, heads will roll." He switched to his most calming voice. "Now Annabelle, you know he has a valid point. The real art of Peking duck is in the carving."

I should never have asked for practical advice from someone who matched the food at a dinner party to the outfit he planned to wear.

"Richard, he chased me out of the kitchen with a knife and threatened to walk off the event if I ever set foot in there again."

"He's a chef. They're known for being dramatic, especially this one." A gasp. "Who put this cloth on the sweetheart table? I specifically requested the linen pintuck for the bride and groom, not the satin stripe."

I tapped my square-toed black pump in rapid fire. "I've about had it with chefs. I knew Henri had a reputation for being difficult, but I had no idea he would be so evil."

"You think you've seen evil?" Richard gave a low whistle. "You should hear the stories his former employees tell."

I didn't have time for Richard's stories now. They usually involved at least one person wearing something "totally wrong for them" and ended up with Richard giving an impassioned speech worthy of an Oscar.

"Okay, I get it, but what am I supposed to do?" I walked to the heavy glass doors leading from the lobby to the Colonnade room and glanced at my watch. The guests would be arriving from the church in a few minutes, and I had a chef who had threatened to walk off the job if I questioned his creative control again.

"Where's Kate? Maybe she could bat her eyelashes at him and he'd be a little more agreeable." Richard referred to my faithful assistant. Faithful to me, that is, not to any man she'd ever known.

"At the church. Anyway, I think it would take a bit more than eyelash batting to calm Chef Henri down."

I walked into the Colonnade and smiled. I often described it to my brides as "dramatic, yet feminine," and it ranked as one of my favorite ballrooms in the city. Walled entirely in glass, it looked out onto an open air courtyard that had a massive granite fountain and brightly colored flowers that were changed according to the season. At the moment, they were vibrant autumn shades of yellow and orange.

Inside, waiters lit votive candles around the ledge of the raised gazebo that took up the center of the room. Garlands of red roses curved around the gazebo's whitewashed columns, and tiny rosebuds strung on transparent thread hung between them to create a delicate curtain effect.

The bride had wanted to use elements from her Chinese background to personalize her wedding, so we'd incorporated lots of red, the Chinese color of celebration, and used signs from the Chinese zodiac in everything from the invitations to the ice sculptures. Huge mounds of deep crimson roses sat in the middle of each square table on crisscrossed red satin runners, and menu cards personalized with each guest's zodiac sign had been tucked into the napkins.

Two giant ice carvings, a tiger and a rabbit, rose up from huge blocks of ice and faced each other across the room. The ice tiger stood on its hind legs with his two front paws extended, and represented the groom's zodiac sign, while the rabbit had been carved in profile on its hind legs and represented the bride's sign. The sculptures were lit from above with beams of white light, and they glistened like fine crystal. Despite my usual distaste for ice sculptures, I had to admit that the room was striking.

"I swear these waiters are going to push me over the edge. I don't think a single one read the look book I put together for this event." Richard's voice crackled at me through static. "Are you still there, darling?"

"I'm admiring my handiwork, that's all." I walked back out into the hallway that led to the Colonnade.

"Is this the same little wedding planner who didn't think she could compete with the grand dames of the industry only a couple of years ago?" A gasp. "Flat-fold napkins, people, not fan-fold. This is not a Rotary lunch."

I adjusted the flower arrangement on the marble credenza next to the ladies' room and cradled the phone against my shoulder. Glancing in the mirror above the flowers, I brushed a long strand of auburn hair off my face. I pinched my cheeks to give them a bit a color and noticed that I actually had hollows now. The one advantage to having brides run you ragged -- no time to eat!

"I've come a long way under your watchful eye, Richard."

"Don't mention it. Name your firstborn child after me and we'll call it even."

I laughed. "That's a safe promise since I haven't even had a date in months." To be completely honest, I hadn't had a real boyfriend since I started Wedding Belles four years ago.


Excerpted from For Better or Hearse by Laura Durham Copyright © 2006 by Laura Durham. 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.

What People are Saying About This

Elaine Viets
“As bubbly as a champagne toast, with an unforgettable wedding party. Durham has given her readers another reason to celebrate.”
Nancy Martin
“Cozy readers will love this invitation to a wedding to die for.”

Meet the Author

Laura Durham has been named Washington, D.C.'s top wedding planner for the past three years by Washingtonian magazine, has been featured in numerous national wedding magazines, and is the author of a wedding planning guide. After graduating from Duke University and stumbling into wedding planning nearly ten years ago, she's lost count of the number of weddings she's planned. So far, though, no one has been murdered at any of them. She is the author of two previous mysteries featuring Annabelle Archer: Better Off Wed, which won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, and For Better or Hearse.

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For Better or Hearse 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
tillypop More than 1 year ago
Great vacation book, fast, fun, done!
harstan More than 1 year ago
Washington DC wedding planner Annabelle Archer is hosing a wedding at the Fairmont Hotel but she is having a problem with one of the chefs. Chef Henri came after her with a knife when she went into his kitchen to talk about changing the serving of an appetizer. Working around the problem, Annabelle awaits for the newly married couple to arrive from the church at the reception from the church when she sees Chef Henri impaled on the ice tiger. --- Georgia Rhodes, the catering executive at the Fairmont for years is afraid the general manager, who hates her, will use the murder as an attempt to fire her. Nobody is more surprised than Annabelle when Georgia is arrested because the police have evidence, a motive (they argued just before he was killed) and plenty of opportunity. She asks Annabelle to help clear her name. In the course of the investigation evidence Annabelle collects and give to he police mysteriously disappears two more employees of the Fairmont are killed and her car disappears in the valet parking lot. --- FOR BETTER OR HEARSE is an awesome Annabelle Archer mystery because everyone who knew the victim hated him so there are a lot of suspects for the heroine to eliminate. The plot is filled with humor especially during scenes when the newlyweds decide on wedding details. Annabelle¿s loyalty to Georgia is strong because her friend helped her when she first started her company even if it means putting her own life in danger. Laura Durham has a hit series on her hands. --- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
For the second time Annabelle Archer has found trouble. Annabelle is a top D.C. wedding planner with the reputation of pulling off beautiful weddings among high-society. This time the wedding is at the elegant Fairmont Hotel. All falls into chaos when the widely-despised Chef Henri is found dead, impaled on the claw of a tiger ice carving. ............................ The police believe Georgia Rhodes, Fairmont's catering executive, is the culprit. Annabelle disagrees. Of course this means Annabelle is going to do some 'investigating' on her own, much to Detective Reese's dismay. And her suspect lists just keeps on growing! Anyone who has EVER met Chef Henri is glad that the man is dead. .............................. **** This story is full of vivid and colorful characters guaranteed to please one and all mystery fans. I would never have guessed that there was so much stress involved in planning someone else's wedding. But Annabelle gives us just a taste of the crazy clients that wedding planners seem to get. Readers will find this story to be fast paced and highly entertaining. I am looking forward to learning what kind of trouble the future hold for Annabelle and her quirky friends. ****