“Daheim writes with wit, wisdom, and a big heart."
Cormac McCarthy has nothing on Mary Daheim—whose fabulous Bed-and-Breakfast mysteries win hands down when it comes to outrageous zaniness. In All the Pretty Hearses, Daheim,“the reigning queen of the cozies” (Portland Oregonian), embroils Hillside Manor hostess Judith McMonigle Flynn in a lethal case of insurance fraud and mystery meat gone bad, in the twenty-sixth installment of the hilarious, New York Times bestselling cozy mystery series that remains as fresh and funny as the very first.
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All the Pretty HearsesA Bed-and-breakfast Mystery
By Mary Daheim
William MorrowCopyright © 2011 Mary Daheim
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJudith McMonigle Flynn flinched, winced, and wondered
why Cousin Renie was screaming her head off while trying
to batter down the back door of Hillside Manor.
"What's wrong with you?" Judith demanded, opening the
door. "Are you insane or being chased by ravenous wolves?"
Renie virtually fell across the threshold. "Both," she gasped,
leaning against the wall next to the pantry. "That's the last time
I ever stop by the parish school office to drop off my Campbell's
Judith gestured for Renie to follow her into the kitchen.
"I didn't realize you still saved them after all these years. You
haven't had a kid at Our Lady, Star of the Sea School for twenty
five years." She pulled out a kitchen chair for her cousin. "Sit. Stop
Renie shook her head as she flopped into the chair. "Old habits
die hard. Old SOTS just die," she went on, using the acronym
for her fellow parishioners, "but not before they can avoid falling
into the clutches of younger parents who are active school
"Oh." Judith sat down across from Renie. "I managed to avoid
some of that by going into exile out on Thurlow Street with Dan.
My son's tenure at SOTS was all too brief before he had to attend
public school. Since I held down two jobs, I was rarely an active
parent except when I'd try to find where he'd hidden his latest
"Count your blessings," Renie murmured. She twisted around
to look at the old schoolhouse clock. "Almost noon. I could've
sworn it was five o'clock. The last twenty minutes seemed like
hours." She reached for the sheep-shaped cookie jar on the table.
"I'm hungry. They're having hamburger lunch today at school. I
was tempted to wait for the delivery from Doc's Burgers and steal
one." She tapped the cookie jar's lid. "What's in here?"
"Stale Christmas cookies," Judith responded. "I vowed not to
bake again until January tenth. Between running the B&B and all
the holiday goodies, I'm tapped."
"Hmm." Renie's brown eyes twinkled. "You, too, will be
dragooned into this charitable work. You're a parishioner. Contributors
aren't limited to school parents. In fact, you don't even have
to be a SOT."
"If you told me what it is," Judith said, "I'd know how to
"Martha Morelli has the last of her five kids in eighth grade this
year," Renie said. "You know what a demon she is for fund raising.
It's not enough to have the annual auction, the crab dinner, the
St. Patrick's Day dinner, the Italian dinner, the sauerkraut dinner,
the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome dinner . . ."
Judith held up a hand. "Whoa. We don't have a . . . what did
you just say?"
"Oh." Renie held her head. "That's right. Bridget McDonough
suggested that event a couple of years ago, but Father Hoyle
pointed out that the First Martyrs in Rome were dinner. For the
lions, that is. Nero's Circus Maximus was short on clowns and
"Not all the fund-raisers are for the school, though," Judith
sale in early December, but the spring auction is the major source
of school funding. It's been enormously successful."
Renie nodded. "We lucked out with some of the city's high
profile athletes moving to Heraldsgate Hill and joining the parish.
But now they've either retired or been traded. That's part of the
problem, so they're looking at additional revenue producers.
Martha wants to put a cookbook together. Guess who she wants
to design it."
Judith laughed. "That's logical. You are a graphic designer."
"Yes," Renie conceded with a longing look at the cookie jar.
"But I'm trying to scale down. This year I'm only taking on the gas
company's annual report, but my deadline is late January. Plus I'm
doing a brochure for Key Largo Bank and reworking somebody's
in-house botched newsletter for retired city lighting employees.
Both are due in mid-February, the same as the cookbook. Martha
should've asked me sooner, like in the fall."
"Why didn't she?"
"She insists she tried to get hold of me in early November,
but we'd all gone on our Boston trip," Renie explained. "By the
time you and I got back, it was mid-November, and Martha was
caught up with Thanksgiving and Christmas. So were we, for that
Judith got up from the chair. "I've got to start making Mother's
lunch. If you're hungry enough to eat the sheep's head on the
cookie jar, I'll make you a sandwich, too."
"No, thanks," Renie said. "I should go home. Ohby the way,
we're all supposed to contribute cookbook recipes. That includes
"I can do that," Judith said. "What are you going to offer?"
Renie was on her feet, rummaging in the newand huge
handbag Bill had given her for Christmas. "Shrimp Dump."
Judith almost dropped the mustard jar she'd taken out of the
fridge. "I hope you're kidding."
"No. Hey, I like it."
"Nobody else does."
"You mean like you and the rest of my family?"
"More like the rest of the world. Why not offer your Bean
Glop and Clam Doodoo, too? The names alone would make most
"Heyhave you forgotten that at one of my bridal showers
the guests were asked to bring their two favorite recipes and your
contributions were Pottsfield Pickles and How to Can a Tuna
"That was over forty years ago," Judith said, placing two ham
slices on the cutting block in the middle of the kitchen. "Well . . .
you knew I was joking. You aren't."
"That's right." Renie clutched her key ring and slung the handbag
over her shoulder. "Ohthere's another new parish event on
the schedule for next fall. This one you'll love."
Judith regarded her cousin warily. "What?"
"Alicia and Reggie Beard-Smythe want to sponsor a hunt club
outing. Shall I sign you up now?"
"Very funny," Judith said drily. "Will my horse have an artificial
hip like mine?"
"I'm sure that could be arranged." Renie headed through the
hallway to the back door. "See ya."
"Wait," Judith called. "Is this hunt club thing serious?"
Renie turned around. "Yes. There's a new hunt club over on
the Eastside. The Beard-Smythes are avid hunters. For a mere
three hundred bucks apiece, parishioners can take part in a hunt.
Horse provided, bad riding habits optional. The money goes to
"It's a good thing all those dot-com zillionaires have moved
to Heraldsgate Hill in recent years," Judith said. "The Beard-
Smythes might get some of them to sign up. I assume you won't
be one of them."
"Correct. As you may recall, I was the first person to ride a
horse on the I-5 Interstate before it was completed. I did not want
to do that, but my horse did. I never got on a horse again and don't
"Good thinking," Judith said.
"Which reminds me," Renie said, "when do the guests arrive
for their free overnight?"
Judith clapped a hand to her cheek. "Oh my God! I forgot
about them. Let me check my schedule."
Renie followed her cousin back into the kitchen. "The auction
was in May," Judith said, sitting down at her computer on
the counter. "I completely forgot I'd offered that overnight during
the slow January season." She paused, scrolling through Hillside
Manor's January confirmations. "This Friday, January seventh.
Norma and Wilbur Paine bought it for their children and
grandchildren. I can't believe they have grandchildren old enough to
stay at a B&B."
"I could never believe they had children," Renie remarked.
"Nobody as homely as the Paines should've been allowed to
Judith pointed at the names with her cursor. "Andrew and
Paulina Paine, Walter and Sonya Paine, Sarah and Dennis Blair,
Hannah and Zachary Conrad, Chad and Chase Paine, Zoë Paine
and Octavia Blair. Does that sound right to you?"
Renie shrugged. "The Paines had kids in the school, but they
were older than ours. I vaguely recall that Hannah was a year
ahead of Tonyor was it Tom?"
"So Chad and ChaseI assume they're both boysmust
belong to either Andrew or Walter Paine," Judith said. "Oh
Zoë, too. Octavia has to be Sarah's daughter."
"Was dinner included?"
"I'm afraid it was," Judith replied. "I must've had a weak
"Does it say where these Paines live? If I've seen them at Mass,
I haven't recognized them."
"No," Judith said, turning away from the monitor. "The only
contact information is for Norma and Wilbur. I don't recall
running into any of their offspring at church. Maybe they all moved
"Good thinking on their part," Renie remarked, once again
heading for the back door. "I'd move, too, if Norma was my
mother." She stopped suddenly, a stunned expression on her
round face. "My Goddo you think that's why all three of our
kids live so far away?"
"Probably. If I were you, I'd blame it on the Shrimp Dump."
Renie glowered at Judith. "Right. I now formally withdraw my
offer to help you with the dinner Friday night."
"You didn't volunteer."
"I didn't?" Renie shrugged. "It crossed my mind. Say, maybe
the Paines would like Shrimp Dump for dinner."
"I'm not that desperate."
"Let me know if you change your mind." Renie made her exit.
"Not a chance," Judith murmured under her breath, keeping an
eye on Sweetums, the orange and white feline whose legal human
and kindred spirit was Judith's mother. The cat had entered the
house before Renie closed the door behind her.
Ten minutes later, Judith went out to the converted tool shed
that served as her mother's apartment. Gertrude Grover peered
suspiciously at the sandwich her daughter set on the cluttered card
table. "You call this ham?" the old lady rasped. "It looks like
linoleum to me."
"It's the ham we had for New Year's Day dinner," Judith
informed her mother.
"Which New Year's?" Gertrude snapped. "How about 1995?"
"The New Year's dinner we had Saturday," Judith said patiently.
"It's Tuesday. You're the one who kept ham until it turned blue."
Gertrude poked a gnarled finger at the newspaper in front of
her. "You see this? Elder abuse, that's what. This is part two of a
series on how children torture their aging parents. Spoiled pork
must be one of the ways they do it. It gives old folks like me
"You mean trichinosis," Judith said.
Gertrude glared at her daughter. "Isn't that what I just told
you? You must be going deaf, too. You're already daffy."
"Do you want me to take a bite first?"
Gertrude snatched up the plate. "Aha! Now you want to starve
me! By the time I get through to the last part of this series on
Friday, I may be dead. And where's the rest of that cheesecake you
bought at Begelman's Bakery for New Year's Eve?"
"We ate it," Judith replied. "Do you want some of Kristin's
"I don't like bagels," Gertrude declared. "Especially fat ones.
They're too hard to chew with my dentures."
"They're not bagels," Judith said. "They're Norwegian Christmas
. . . never mind." The old lady was chomping away at the
ham sandwich. Kristin's colossal output of holiday foodstuffs was
probably past its pull date. Judith never ceased to be awed by her
daughter-in-law's prodigious domestic enterprises. "If you want a
sweet, Mother, you must've gotten ten pounds of Granny Goodness
chocolates for Christmas. I assume you haven't eaten all of
them in ten days."
"Ten days of what?" Gertrude asked, stabbing a fork into one
of the gherkins on her plate. "I thought there were twelve days
of Christmas. Or have the lunkheads in the Vatican changed that
with everything else, too? And whatever happened to those two
old saps, the Ringos?"
"They died," Judith said. "They were almost as old as you are.
Your new Eucharistic minister is Kate Duffy, remember? She's
been coming by every week for the past two years."
"I wish I could forget Kate Duffy," Gertrude muttered. "She's
as bad as the Ringos. She always wants to pray with me. The last
time, I told her I'd been praying for her not to come. All that
phony baloney pious claptrap is as bad as your screwball cleaning
lady, but in the other direction. 'Born again,' huh? Once was
enough for Phyliss Rackley."
Judith sighed. "I know Phyliss can be a trial, but she's a good
cleaning woman. And Kate means well. She's sincere, if
misguided. Our family managed to keep our feet planted firmly on
"That's because us old folks went to the School of Hard
Knocks," Gertrude asserted. "Common sense, that's what it is,
not Satan hiding behind every bush like Phyliss says, or hearing
the Holy Ghost whisper in Kate's ear. When she came by after
Christmas, she told me the Holy Ghost wanted her to go to
Nordquist's designer clearance."
"Ah . . . well . . . I hope the Holy Ghost gave Kate an increase
in her credit limit," Judith said, edging toward the converted
tool shed's door. "If I have time tomorrow, I'll bake some
"Then snap to it," Gertrude said, spearing another gherkin.
Excerpted from All the Pretty Hearses by Mary Daheim Copyright © 2011 by Mary Daheim. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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