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Myra Barton, the missing ship of island sea captain Jonah Selfridge? Or the elusive Black Marguerite, which belonged to one of the most notorious pirates of the 17th century and vanished without a traceexcept for the ghost ship that old-timers say roams the water on fog-shrouded nights?
"The fourth in this pleasant cozy series highlights the glories of Maine, which this time include several recipes chock-full of cranberries."Kirkus Reviews
"The satisfying conclusion will whet the reader's appetite for Natalie's next adventure."Publishers Weekly
"MacInerney is at her whimsical best in her fourth visit to the charming Gray Whale Inn on Cranberry Island, Maine."Mystery Scene
About the Author
Critically acclaimed author Karen MacInerney also teaches writers' workshops and drives a mean carpool. Her book Murder on the Rocks was selected as an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel. When she's not writing or chauffeuring children, she loves to read, drink coffee, attempt unusual recipes, and hit the local hike-and-bike trail. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, two children, and a rabbit named Bunny, and escapes to Maine as often as possible.
Read an Excerpt
Berried to the Hilt
By Karen MacInerney
Midnight InkCopyright © 2010 Karen MacInerney
All right reserved.
Chapter One"What were you thinking?"
It was a question I had often asked myself over the last few years, ever since I quit my job, sold my house, and plunked down my life savings on the gray-shingled inn on Cranberry Island, Maine. As gorgeous as the locale was—after more than a decade in sun-baked Texas, I was still awed by the beauty of the mountains across the water, their granite shoulders now swathed in the brilliant golds and russets of early October—starting a bed and breakfast had been fraught with challenges.
But Charlene wasn't referring to my decision to gamble my life savings on a house on an island. Nor was she talking about my recent transition from bed-and-breakfast to full-service inn, which, even with help, was turning out to be a more-than-full-time job.
"I don't know," I said, switching the phone to the other ear and stepping out of my steamy kitchen onto the back porch. A welcome gust of cool fall air swept over me, and I took a deep breath of it before continuing. "I guess it sounded like a good idea at the time."
A month ago, Tom Lockhart, the Cranberry Island selectman and head of the lobster co-op, had asked me to judge the annual cranberry bake-off. Flattered to be included, I had said yes, thinking it was a wonderful way to become more involved with the community.
I was right about the involvement in the community. But I got the "wonderful" part all wrong.
"Natalie, you're doomed," Charlene said. "It doesn't matter who you give the prizes to; everyone else will accuse you of playing favorites. Ten years from now, they still won't have forgiven you."
"But the entries are anonymous!" I protested. "I won't know whose is whose!"
"We live on an island of under a hundred people, Natalie. Do you really think you won't recognize Claudette's sugarless cranberry pie?"
I puckered involuntarily at the mention of the infamous pie, realizing that Charlene was right as usual. As Cranberry Island's postmistress and general store owner, she was the arbiter of all things island. She and I had hit it off almost immediately, and now I couldn't imagine life without my impeccably dressed, bubbly friend.
"So what do I do?"
"I don't know. Maybe you could ask John to drop something on your head—something heavy enough to put you in the hospital for a few days. It might be easier."
Despite my dire situation, I couldn't help feeling a little tingle at the mention of my neighbor—and now fiancé—John. I held up my left hand; the sapphire stone of the engagement ring sparkled in the light. We hadn't set a date for the wedding yet—I'd been too busy with the transition to lunch and dinner service to do much other than sleep—but we were thinking maybe early spring, before the tourist season began. "I can't go into the hospital," I said. "I've got a business to run."
"Then we'll have to come up with a strategy," she said.
"I've got a novel idea. How about I taste all the dishes and give the best one the award?" I asked.
"You're so naïve," she said. "I'll think about it and get back to you. I've got to get down to the dock for a delivery. Talk to you later!"
And then she was gone.
I hung up the phone and shaded my eyes, squinting into the distance. Sure enough, the Island Princess was puttering over from the mainland, leaving a pearly wake in the dark blue water as it hauled tourists, groceries, and mail to the island. Unless you had a boat, the only way on and off Cranberry Island was the mail boat, which made stops only a couple of times a day. Today's load would not include a large grocery order for me, since my four guests would be departing the next day, leaving only one room booked for the weekend. The mortgage, unfortunately, didn't care how many rooms were occupied; it still needed to be paid.
And then there was the bake-off to worry about.
I turned reluctantly from the sweeping view, my eyes lingering only briefly on John's carriage house, which was just down the hill from the inn. I knew he had gone to Mount Desert Island in his skiff, Mooncatcher, to stock up on paints for the toy boats he sold at Island Artists. Like many on the island, he was a jack-of-all-trades: island deputy, artist, craftsman, and now part-time chef at the inn. The barn next to the small house functioned as his workshop, and would continue to—but to increase our income we had talked about renting out the carriage house once we were married. Married. Just the word was enough to send tingles through me.
The buzzer sounded as I opened the oven door, releasing the warm, yeasty scent of fresh rolls. Lunch was lobster salad, which I'd prepared a half hour ago and was already in the fridge, along with rolls, a lightly dressed green salad, and a cookie. I pulled the tray of golden cloverleaf rolls from the oven and put them on a rack to cool, then grabbed the flour and sugar from the pantry and set to work making my favorite gingersnap recipe. The recipe for the gingery cookies was a gift from an old friend, and a perfect accompaniment to the crisp fall air. The afternoon sun slanted through the old mullioned windows, making the yellow walls glow, and the antique pine floors creaked under my feet as I creamed the butter and sugar, then cracked an egg into the bowl. A few minutes later, as I scooped the stiff dough into balls and rolled them in sugar, I found myself smiling with contentment. So what if I didn't have any bookings for the next few weeks? So what if I was about to commit social suicide at the bake-off?
Maybe I'd run a fall special, I thought, rolling another round ball in the sugar. I could e-mail my former guests and advertise a special weekend getaway. Even if I got only one or two takers, it would still be better than an empty inn.
As the smell of fresh-baked rolls mingled with the smell of ginger from the cookies I'd slid into the oven, I glanced out the window at the dark green pines at the end of the driveway. The copper-tinged blueberry bushes made a gorgeous autumnal carpet at their feet, and a white gull hovered overhead. As mercurial as the business of owning an inn was, I couldn't think of anywhere I'd rather be.
* * *
I had just finished cleaning up from lunch when John burst through the kitchen door, adding his familiar woodsy scent to the already intoxicating aroma. His sandy hair was windblown, his tanned face ruddy. Biscuit, my well-fed ginger tabby, glanced up from her perch on the radiator, then settled back down. I, on the other hand, felt my heart pick up its pace a bit.
"Did you get everything you needed?" I asked as he came up and wrapped his arms around me, kissing the top of my head.
"They were out of the green paint until next week," he said. "But I heard some exciting news in Northeast Harbor," he said.
"They've canceled the bake-off?" I asked. I was still shaking off the dream I'd had the night before—the one that had half the women in the island chasing after me with cranberry-stained butter knives. I'd just locked myself into the town library when the alarm went off, allowing me to escape.
"You wish," he said, laughing. "Adam got a diver friend of his to clear up some tangled pots out by Deadman's Shoal." Adam Thrackton was a lobsterman—and also the beau of my niece, Gwen, who helped me manage the inn.
"I thought they just cut the lines and had done with them," I said.
"Usually they do, but this time there were about a dozen of them tangled up, and Adam didn't want to lose them. Anyway, you'll never guess what they found."
"Please tell me it's not a body," I said, feeling my stomach turn over. We'd had more than enough of those on the island recently; I wasn't sure I could handle another.
"A sunken ship," he said, his green eyes gleaming.
I shivered, thinking of the boats that occasionally disappeared in winter's brutal storms. "That's almost as bad. How recent?"
"That's the thing," he said. "They think it's one of the old wooden sailing ships, from a couple hundred years ago. Eleazer thinks it might even be the Black Marguerite."
Eleazer, the island's shipwright—and my dear friend—was something of an expert on sailing ships.
"What's the Black Marguerite?" I asked.
"The Black Marguerite belonged to Davey Blue, the pirate who used to operate off this part of the coast; he was supposedly in love with a woman who lived in the area. He and the Marguerite vanished sometime during the eighteenth century."
"There were people living here then?" I asked.
"Not many, but some. Some people say Smuggler's Cove was Davey Blue's hideout," John said. He was referring to a cove just a little way down the coast from the inn. It had a treacherous entry that was completely hidden at high tide.
"Why not call it Pirate's Cove?" I asked.
"Sounds like a mini golf course."
I laughed. "So, why do they think it might have been his ship? I've never heard of pirates prowling the Maine coast."
"He didn't prowl here, but he came from here, and returned often. He was supposed to be shipping out to the Caribbean, but he never made it, apparently. The legend is that it went down in a storm almost as soon as it shipped out, but it's never been found."
John gave me another squeeze and released me. "Smells like gingersnaps in here." The gingersnap recipe I'd gotten from my old friend Rhonda Shield, who worked at my favorite Austin library and was an amazing cook, was one of John's favorites. I called the cookies "Me-Maw's Gingersnaps,'" after Rhonda's grandmother, who passed the recipe down to her. Just the smell of them in the kitchen made me think fondly of Rhonda's ready smile. Plus, they had an autumn tang that went well with the weather. "Mind if I sample a few?" he asked.
"Go ahead," I said. He walked over and plucked three warm cookies from the cooling rack, making appreciative noises as he bit into the first one. Like my niece, Gwen, he could plow through half a jar and not gain an ounce. "How can they tell whether it's the Black Marguerite?" I asked as he groaned in ecstasy.
When he'd finished the cookie, he licked the crumbs from his fingers, then answered my question. "I don't know. Apparently they're calling in a bunch of experts to see what they can find." He opened his mouth to insert a second cookie, then paused. "You know, we've got a few mooring lines off the inn's dock. If we moved the skiffs over, they could stay here and tie up right outside. Business is kind of slow right now."
"As in dead," I said. I had a few rooms occupied now, but with the exception of one booking—a woman named Cherry Price, who was arriving from New York that afternoon—the next two months were not looking good.
"And it would help fund the wedding," John added. He had barely finished his sentence when there was a knock at the kitchen door. Adam stood on the back porch, an expectant smile on his face.
"Hi, Natalie," he said when I opened the door and invited him inside. It was obvious why Gwen was taken with Adam—with a shock of dark hair that contrasted with his light eyes, he was a handsome man, and he was gifted with an outgoing personality and a great sense of humor that made him excellent company. In jeans and a heavy wool sweater, he looked more like the college kid he used to be than the lobsterman he now was. The two were a good match, I thought, with a twinge of misgiving. What would happen if Gwen went back to UCLA? Would the couple survive?
"Is Gwen ready to go?" Adam asked.
"I thought she was going to do some painting this afternoon!"
"She is," he said, and winked. "Scenes at sea."
I laughed. "John tells me you've had some excitement the last few days. I just found out about it, but evidently all the island's abuzz with your discovery!" Except, I realized, Charlene. Maybe I'd get to fill her in on the local gossip, for the first—and probably the last—time.
"It was pretty amazing," he said. "I was with Evan Sorenson—he just got back into town a few weeks ago, and is thinking of getting into lobstering." Evan, who was selectwoman Ingrid Sorenson's son, was back from a stint in rehab, I knew. I was glad to hear he was moving forward—away from the drug addiction that had almost destroyed his life. "Ingrid asked me to hire him for a few weeks. He was out with me—he was helping with the winch. Anyway, we were having trouble pulling up one of the traps—I thought we were going to have to cut the line—when finally it comes up with this huge timber attached to it."
"How did a timber get in the trap?" I asked.
"It wasn't actually in the trap," he said. "It was tangled in the line; I'm surprised the rope didn't break."
"I've heard of that happening from time to time," John said, "but it's rare. How did you know it belonged to a ship, instead of just being part of an old pier?"
"It was too far out to be part of a pier. Plus, it was curved," he said. "That's what made me suspicious. I wasn't sure, so I called a friend of mine who does dive tours out on Mount Desert Island."
"What did he find?"
"It was murky, but he located several more timbers—they were jumbled up, and spread around down there, but because of how they were grouped, he said he was pretty sure it was one of the old sailing ships."
"What else did he find?" John asked Adam.
"He spotted an anchor sticking out of the sand, and something that looks like a cannon, but nothing he could bring up."
"Cannons? Maybe it is the pirate ship!"
"That's why I called the university," Adam said. "They should be here today."
"Do you think it could be Davey Blue's ship?" I asked.
"If it is, and there was treasure aboard, maybe Gwen's mom won't be so worried about my chosen career," he said with a lopsided grin.
"I hadn't thought about that," I said. "It sure would make things easier. Would the treasure be yours if you found it?"
He shrugged. "I majored in political science, not law. From what I've read, though, I think it depends on where the find is, and who owned the ship originally. There's a chance, though."
"What would you do with it?"
"I'd want it in a museum, of course," he said. "First, though, let's find out what it is."
"Wise man," John said.
Adam looked at me. "I'm hoping you'll get some business out of it—when I called the university, I told them about the inn."
"I appreciate the plug," I said, and gestured to the cookies cooling on the rack. I might have to make another batch if I kept getting visitors. "Help yourself," I told him.
"Thanks." He scooped up three and grunted appreciatively as he bit into the first gingery cookie. Rhonda's cookies had made another convert.
"I wonder what they'll find," I said, gazing out the window at the blue water.
"Could be Selfridge's ship," John said.
"Or Davey Blue's," Adam put in optimistically. "We'll just have to wait and see!"
Gwen came down the stairs, her dark curly hair pulled up in a loose bun, the canvas bag I knew held her art supplies slung over a slender shoulder. Her face glowed when she looked at Adam. "You're early!"
"You're late," he said, grinning at her. The two exchanged a quick kiss, and stood with their arms around each other. They'd been together more than a year, but they were both still smitten. "It sounds like Adam's filled you in on the news," she said, glancing at the cooling cookies. "Oooh. Rhonda's gingersnaps. Can you spare a few?"
"Of course," I said. Next time, I'd have to make a double batch. Or maybe even triple. "Gwen—how come you didn't tell me about the ship Adam found?"
"You were asleep when I got home, Aunt Nat!"
"Next time, wake me up!"
Gwen made herself a small stack of cookies and turned back to me. "It is pretty cool, isn't it? Wait until I tell my mother!"
I shifted from one foot to the other, wishing she hadn't brought up my sister Bridget. I had no idea what would happen when Gwen's mother found out that the boyfriend she thought was a shipping magnate—a misunderstanding I'd accidentally fostered and never got around to dispelling—was a lobsterman.
Gwen had come out to spend the summer with me a few seasons ago—largely to escape her mother's company for the summer—and ended up postponing her degree to stay on the island. She lived at the inn with me and helped me manage the place. A gifted artist, she also studied art with Fernand LaChaise, a well-known painter with a studio on the island. But I knew Adam was the real reason she stayed. Adam had a Princeton degree to his name—or at least he did, before he tipped it overboard—but his lobsterman credentials were not going to hold much weight with my sister Bridget.
Excerpted from Berried to the Hilt by Karen MacInerney Copyright © 2010 by Karen MacInerney. Excerpted by permission of Midnight Ink. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In the 4th installment of the Gray Whale Inn series there are mysteries from the past and the present. The discovery of a sunken ship leads to the death of a treasure hunter. The suspects include a local, the U of Maine archaeologists and the dead man's partners (plenty of red herrings). Is the sunken ship Jonah Selfridge's (who built the house that is now the Inn) Myra Barton, or the 17th C. Black Marguerite pirate ship? Author Karen MacInerney blends the past and the present beautifully. The sense of community of the islanders is heartwarming and uplifting, a delightful look at life on a small island. The 2 main romances of the niece and her lobsterman and main characters Natalie and John deepen and hint at a story for book 5 (please let there be one). The subplot of the annual cranberry bake-off adds great comic relief. Delicious recipes from the Inn and bake-off are included.
A sunken ship is found off the coast of Cranberry Island, Maine, and soon two rival groups are trying to identify and claim the wreck. Both teams are staying at Natalie Barnes' inn on the island, so when the leader of one of the teams is killed, she's in the perfect position to figure out who done it. I had forgotten just how much I love these characters; it was great to see them again. The plot dragged in the middle, however, before picking up again for the climax.
Natalie has her hands full at the Gray Whale Inn after Gwen's lobsterman boyfriend, Adam, discovers some timber from a possible centuries old pirate ship in the water. Two dueling research teams quickly descend on the tiny island, and it's not long before the head of one team is found stabbed in the back, possibly with old Eli's cutlass. Natalie must work to clear Eli's name, and keep herself and her loved ones safe in the process. Yummy recipes included (as usual!!!) in this cozy fourth installment of the Gray Whale Inn mystery series by author Karen MacInerney. 5 stars!
Interesting "Review" system you have here. I only rate this book as a 1, which is honest, but B&N won't let me leave a review unless I rate the book at 3 stars or more?? So, why don't they just call it "Good" Customer Reviews??
Really, Really like it <3
Cranberry Island is full of excitement. A sunken ship has been found off the coast. Could it be a pirate ship? The Black Marguerite belong to one of the most notorious pirates of the 17th century is said to have vanished without a trace. Or is it the Myra Barton, the ship of island sea captain Jonah Selfridge? It doesn’t take long and the island is crawling with treasure hunters and marine archaeologists. Natalie Barnes is happy because it’s great for business. The Gray Whale Inn only had one booked guest before the ship was found. Then a body is found floating near the wreck and it’s one of Natalie’s new guests. She finds herself immersed in the world of pirates and sunken treasure. Will her snooping lead her to the killer? Or will she end up a guest down in Davy Jones locker? Dollycas’s Thoughts I love this series. I jumped right in and read the whole thing in one sitting. This is another series that adds a little history to the mix of the mystery. In the last installment a 150 year old skeleton was found in a lighthouse. This time it’s pirates, sunken treasure and a ghost ship. That gives so much depth to the story. The characters are so relate-able, friends you would love to sit down and visit with. Plus who would not like to “escape” for a couple of weeks to Cranberry Island. It sounds like a glorious relaxing place, sans the murders, of course. Then there is the food, oh the food. My only complaint is that samples are not served with this story because everything sounds so delicious. But the author does include recipes!! Karen MacInerney writes a well crafted mystery for those of us who love the cozies. I can’t wait to get my hands on Brush with Death. It hits bookstores on May 8th.
Another great mystery in this fabulous series!
Fast enjoyabe and hated to finish. HOpes she adds another someday soon.
Another fantastic read from Karen MacInerney! She delivers fresh finds as well as pulling the past all together to make this another great in The Gray Whale Inn series. Keep it up. Can't wait for the next one.