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Rosemary and Crime (Spice Shop Mystery Series #1)
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Rosemary and Crime (Spice Shop Mystery Series #1)

4.5 8
by Gail Oust
     
 

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Murder comes well-seasoned in this charming mystery featuring a smart and spunky new amateur sleuth, small-town Georgia spice shop owner Piper Prescott

Piper Prescott, a transplanted Yankee living in the South, has got her sass back.  She might be down, but don’t count her out.  “Change of life?” she asks.  Bring it on

Overview

Murder comes well-seasoned in this charming mystery featuring a smart and spunky new amateur sleuth, small-town Georgia spice shop owner Piper Prescott

Piper Prescott, a transplanted Yankee living in the South, has got her sass back.  She might be down, but don’t count her out.  “Change of life?” she asks.  Bring it on.  Recently divorced, Piper decides to pursue a dream she’s secretly harbored: owning her own business, Spice it Up!, a spice shop in her adopted hometown, Brandywine Creek, Georgia.  But Piper’s grand opening goes awry when the local chef who’s agreed to do a cooking demo is found stabbed.  Not only did Piper find the body, she handled the murder weapon and doesn’t have a witness to her alibi, making the case look like a slam dunk to brand new police Chief Wyatt McBride.  Desperate to uncover the truth—and prove her innocence—Piper enlists the help of her outspoken BFF Reba Mae Johnson to help track down the real culprit.  The pair compile a lengthy list of suspects and work to eliminate them using their own creative brand of sleuthing techniques including stakeouts, breaking and entering, and one very unorthodox chocolate pie. When Piper narrowly avoids being a victim of a hit-and-run, she knows she’s getting closer to the truth, but can she catch the killer and clear her name before she becomes the next victim?

A captivating start to a new series featuring an unstoppably fabulous new crime-solving heroine, a colorful cast of small town characters, and more than a pinch of Georgia charm, Rosemary and Crime by Gail Oust is sure to delight fans of Diane Mott Davidson and Donna Andrews.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/07/2013
This quality first in a Southern cozy series from Oust (Shake, Murder, and Roll and two other Bunko Babes mysteries) introduces Piper Prescott, who has invested the money she received from her divorce settlement into a specialty food shop, Spice It Up!, in Brandywine Creek, Ga. The morning of the grand opening, Piper calls on celebrity chef Mario Barrone at his Italian restaurant. As guest of honor at the opening, Mario is scheduled to demonstrate how to roast a leg of lamb to get the business off to a brisk start. Alas, Piper finds Mario dead on his kitchen floor—after picking up a steak knife and leaving her fingerprints on what later proves to be the murder weapon. The practical, vulnerable Piper turns to her colorful BBF, Reba Mae Johnson, for help in proving her innocence. Two possible love interests add spice—and that’s not counting Piper’s former husband. This is a must-read for fans of Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand series, as well as those who like culinary mysteries. Agent: Jessica Faust, BooksEnds. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
“[A] quality first in a Southern cozy series… The practical, vulnerable Piper turns to her colorful BBF, Reba Mae Johnson, for help in proving her innocence. Two possible love interests add spice—and that’s not counting Piper’s former husband. This is a must-read for fans of Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand series, as well as those who like culinary mysteries.” –Publishers Weekly

“Piper's real-life problems as she negotiates her peril, along with some sassy small talk from Reba, will have fans of Oust (Shake, Murder, and Roll, 2011, etc.) looking for the sequel.” —Kirkus

“Struggles with her teen daughter and problems trying to keep business going add dimension to the story of Piper’s sleuthing efforts.  A strong cast of secondary characters add to the appeal.  Fans of Jenn McKinlay and Ellery Adams will want to add this series to their reading lists.” –Booklist

"Gail Oust has crafted an excellent mystery, chock full of savory treats including a charming small town atmosphere and a lively, engaging heroine, accented with a sprinkling of delicious spices.  Truly a cut above — and highly recommended!" –Donna Andrews, New York Times bestselling author of Hen of the Baskervilles

“Gail Oust has whipped up a killer read featuring the snappy new amateur sleuth Piper Prescott.  Added into the mystery mix are a sweet puppy, a troublesome ex, a charming new beau and a smokin' hot chief of police.  Rosemary and Crime is a character-driven zip zap of a tale with a robust mystery that readers will relish.” –Jenn McKinlay, New York Times bestselling author of Book, Line, and Sinker

“A down-but-not-out divorcee deals with a new life, an appealing but challenging teenage daughter, and murder, teeming up with a spunky dog in a delightful Southern romp. Fast, freewheeling, and fun.” —Carolyn Hart, national bestselling author of What the Cat Saw

“A delicious new mystery series guaranteed to make you hungry for more. Gail Oust's warm, witty characters bring southern charm to life.” –Krista Davis, national bestselling author of The Diva Digs Up the Dirt

Rosemary and Crime is a custom blend of humor and suspense with an added dash of flavorful characters. Piper Prescott is a tasteful addition to the world of amateur sleuths. Gail Oust has created a delicious new addition to the world of cozy mysteries. I'm definitely adding her to my must-read list.” –Jacklyn Brady, national bestselling author of Arsenic and Old Cake

 

Kirkus Reviews
2013-11-12
A divorcée starting over gets tagged as the primary suspect in the murder of a local chef. Piper Prescott is finally getting her due. She spent her younger years as a devoted wife and mother, but now that the ink is dry on her divorce, she's fulfilling her lifelong dream of opening a specialty spice store in her adopted Georgia hometown. Piper is so determined to popularize her new baby, Spice It Up!, that she's hired local chef Mario Barrone to cook up a special demonstration for her grand opening. Unfortunately, when Piper goes to Mario's restaurant with the spice delivery he's most recently demanded, she finds the cantankerous cook stabbed, leaving her holding the knife. Clearly, Piper's in need of a defense lawyer to prove she had nothing to do with the murder. But the closest she can hope to get is informal advice from her ex-husband, CJ, a glorified ambulance chaser. As the citizens of Brandywine Creek pressure new police chief Wyatt McBride to make an arrest, the otherwise friendly faces Piper usually finds around town turn against Piper and her store. Her wild-child BFF Reba Mae Johnson convinces Piper that the two must take the investigation into their own hands, even though it may provoke the ire of Chief McBride. Though the investigation is eminently predictable, Piper's real-life problems as she negotiates her peril, along with some sassy small talk from Reba, will have fans of Oust (Shake, Murder, and Roll, 2011, etc.) looking for the sequel.
New York Times bestselling author of Hen of the Ba Donna Andrews

Gail Oust has crafted an excellent mystery, chock full of savory treats including a charming small town atmosphere and a lively, engaging heroine, accented with a sprinkling of delicious spices. Truly a cut above--and highly recommended!
national bestselling author of The Diva Digs Up th Krista Davis

A delicious new mystery series guaranteed to make you hungry for more. Gail Oust's warm, witty characters bring southern charm to life.
national bestselling author of Arsenic and Old Cak Jacklyn Brady

Rosemary and Crime is a custom blend of humor and suspense with an added dash of flavorful characters. Piper Prescott is a tasteful addition to the world of amateur sleuths. Gail Oust has created a delicious new addition to the world of cozy mysteries. I'm definitely adding her to my must-read list.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250011046
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
12/17/2013
Series:
Spice Shop Mystery Series, #1
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

 

 

ACROSS THE SQUARE, a Confederate soldier atop a concrete pedestal stared sightlessly at a couple enjoying ice cream on a wrought iron bench. Wrens warbled in the willow oaks. The sky was cerulean and cloudless; the breeze warm and gentle. But anyone who’s ever been in the path of a hurricane wouldn’t be lulled into complacency by ice cream, blue skies, or a balmy breeze. They’d recall another time, perhaps another place, and remember what it was like—this calm before the storm. Unfortunately, I had no such experience and thus went merrily about my business, unaware of the havoc barreling in my direction.

“I declare, Piper Prescott, you’ve gone and outdone yourself.”

I gave Reba Mae Johnson, my very best friend in the whole wide world, a friendly jab in the ribs. “Unless my memory’s failing, you told me I was out of my cotton pickin’ mind the first time I mentioned a spice shop.”

Reba Mae grinned, unabashed. “Guilty as charged. Wasn’t just me who said that, either. Half the folks here thought you’d gone off the deep end, what with CJ dumpin’ you and all. Talk was, you might be havin’ a breakdown or somethin’.”

I refused to take offense. Granted, owning a spice shop is a far cry from playing bridge at the country club, but like the sign over my brand-new antique cash register says, WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, MAKE LEMONADE. It just so happens that Spice It Up!, Brandywine Creek’s newest enterprise, happens to be my own particular brand of “lemonade.”

After my dear husband “dumped” me, as Reba Mae so inelegantly phrased it, in favor of chasing ambulances and a twenty-four-year-old in a short skirt, I squeezed my lemons dry. I’d taken the plunge and invested the entire sum of my divorce settlement in a dream I’d harbored for years. Even more than I loved to cook and bake, I loved to experiment with food, to improvise. And the best way to do this, I found, was by using spices. A pinch of this, a dash of that, and abracadabra, a good recipe became a great recipe.

After twenty-some years married to a control freak, being my own boss held enormous appeal. I’d been such a bundle of nerves after signing the documents that made me proprietor of a building dating back to Prohibition that I barely made it to the ladies’ room before throwing up.

The original establishment, I’d been told, had burned to the ground when the still in the basement exploded and set fire to half the town. Two of the bootleggers had been killed outright, another injured. People still bemoan the fact that the event garnered little press since the fire coincided with the St. Valentine’s Day massacre in Chicago. A small town in Georgia, even one that boasts a reenactment of a Civil War battle and is home to the Brandywine BBQ Festival, can’t compete with names like Al Capone and Bugs Moran.

Unable to support the tanning salon–movie rental business of the previous tenants, the building had stood vacant for a couple years. The bank had been more than happy to unload it, and I counted myself fortunate it fit my limited budget. The upper floor provided living quarters—nothing fancy, like the home I’d once shared with CJ and my son and daughter, but adequate. I might be broke, but at least I wasn’t homeless.

I drew in a deep breath and let it out in a contented sigh. The heady scents of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg permeated the air. “Don’t you just love the smell of this place?”

Reba Mae sniffed. “Nope, can’t smell a dang thing.”

I aligned an already neat row of apothecary jars that contained sticks of cinnamon from such exotic locales as Sri Lanka, Sumatra, and China. “That’s because you spend all day sniffing those nasty chemicals—perm solutions and the like.”

“Maybe, but you won’t catch me bellyachin’.” Reba Mae fluffed her spiky magenta locks. Reba Mae loved nothing better than to experiment with hair color. She confessed she’d been aiming for auburn but wound up with magenta instead. “The Klassy Kut puts food on the table and a roof over the heads of me and my boys. Besides, there are certain perks that go along with runnin’ the best beauty shop in the county.” She gave me a wink. “You know I’m among the first to hear all the juicy gossip. Ask me, sugar, and I’ll tell you, life is good.”

“Yes, life is good,” I agreed. “It’ll be even better if tomorrow’s grand opening goes off without a hitch.”

“I think you’re mighty brave askin’ Mario Barrone to give a cookin’ demonstration. He’s got quite the reputation with that temper of his.”

I shrugged off Reba Mae’s concern. “So, he’s a little temperamental. That’s the way with a lot of great chefs.”

“A little? Honeybun, he’s got the worst temper of anyone I know.”

“He’s a fabulous cook,” I countered. I refused to admit, even to my BFF, that I had doubts of my own about Mario.

“Hmph! A fabulous cook with a fabulous ego. The man’s not a happy camper unless one of his staff’s in tears. Some nights you can hear him hollerin’ and carryin’ on clear out on the sidewalk.”

At that precise moment, none other than the subject under discussion himself stormed into my shop. Mario is owner and chef at Trattoria Milano, Brandywine Creek’s answer to fine dining. Most people simply refer to the little restaurant as the “Tratory,” knowing it annoys him … but always with a quick glance over their shoulders first to make sure Mario isn’t within earshot.

“This…?” Mario stuck his opened palm under my nose. “This is what you give me when I ask for juniper berries?”

I stared down at the waxy purple-black berries the size of small peas. I must admit they looked a little less round, and a lot more squishy, since I’d personally delivered them earlier that day to Mario’s newest sous chef. What had the guy done to the poor things? Sat on them?

“What do you take me for? A fool? An imbecile?”

Angry at his tone, I felt my cheeks burn—the curse of being a redhead. I had half a mind to pull a Donald Trump and, with ringing finality, utter the words, “You’re fired!” But I bit my tongue instead. My dream of a spectacular grand opening would go up in smoke. All the hard work and elbow grease. All the money spent purchasing only premium spices, choosing the best containers, designing the cleverest labels. Everything would be in vain without Mario Barrone, my superstar, to lure people through the front door. The man might be a prima donna, but no one, and I mean no one, questions his ability to prepare dishes that cause mouths to water. Temper or no temper, the man was a true genius in the kitchen.

Reba Mae shifted to peer over my shoulder. “Those … those … berries look okay to me. I don’t see anythin’ wrong with ’em.”

“Bah! What would you know about such things?” Mario glared at her briefly, his dark eyes glittering, then directed his ire back at me. “And furthermore, I distinctly requested juniper berries grown in Italy. Not ones grown in Albania.”

That did it! Folding my arms across my chest, I looked him square in the eye. “Look here, Mario, stop treating me like I’m the idiot. You asked for juniper berries grown in the Mediterranean and that’s exactly what I gave you. For your information, they are the only type I stock.”

“Garbage! Finito!

In a fit of rage, he hurled the juniper berries onto my newly polished heart pine floor and stomped out the front door.

Reba Mae wagged her head. “You’ve gone and done it this time, girlfriend.”

“Dammit,” I muttered as I trailed after him. “Mario, wait…”

We were now out on the sidewalk and passersby paused to watch the fireworks. But I ignored them. “The reporter from The Statesman is going to be here. He’s bringing a photographer. Think of all the publicity for the trattoria.” I’d nearly slipped and called it the Tratory but, thank goodness, caught myself in the nick of time.

He stopped and turned at hearing this. “Photographer, you say?”

I felt encouraged. “I was thinking of sending the photo along with a press release to Southern Living.” Necessity makes salesmen of us all.

“Hmm. Southern Living, eh?”

“And from time to time, Paula Deen features regional chefs in her magazine,” I continued, ad-libbing at a furious pace. “Who knows, maybe…?”

“Fine,” Mario snapped, saving me from even bigger whoppers. “I will cook for you my roast lamb with juniper and rosemary. But this time, remember,” he warned, shaking a thick finger in my face, “I want only the best. Capisce?

“If that means ‘understand,’ then yes, I capisce.

Mario turned on his heel and marched off.

The crowd parted in his wake. No one, it seemed, wanted to antagonize the man further. I found myself the center of attention and sensed sympathetic glances directed my way. I was about to return to my shop when I noticed a familiar figure lounging against the fender of a shiny silver Lexus. My heart sank. It was Chandler Jameson “CJ” Prescott III, my ex-husband. From the smirk on CJ’s face, I knew he’d enjoyed seeing me grovel.

 

Copyright © 2013 by Gail Oust

Meet the Author

The author of the Bunco Babes mystery series, GAIL OUST is often accused of flunking retirement.  Hearing the words "maybe it's a dead body" while golfing fired her imagination for writing a cozy.  Ever since then, she has spent more time on a computer than at a golf course.  She lives with her husband in McCormick, South Carolina.

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