Looking for a new cozy mystery author to love? Dive in to this collection of excerpts from the Minotaur Books/St. Martin's Press WINTER 2018 season (books published from January to April). The Cozy Case Files collection includes:
Another One Bites the Crust: A Bakeshop Mystery by Ellie Alexander
A Whisper of Bones: A Jane Lawless Mystery by Ellen Hart
Curses, Boiled Again! A Lobster Shack Mystery by Shari Randall
Death in the Stars: A Kate Shackleton Mystery by Frances Brody
The Purloined Puzzle: A Puzzle Lady Mystery by Parnell Hall
Death of an Unsung Hero: A Lady Montfort Mystery by Tessa Arlen
Death by Dumpling: A Noodle Shop Mystery by Vivien Chien
Date with Malice: A Samson&Delilah Mystery by Julia Chapman
Lost Books and Old Bones: A Scottish Bookshop Mystery by Paige Shelton
Antique Blues: A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery by Jane K. Cleland
About the Author
ELLIE ALEXANDER is a Pacific Northwest native, who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she's not coated in flour, you'll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of "research." Find her on Facebook to learn more!
ELLEN HART, “a top novelist in the cultishly popular gay mystery genre” (Entertainment Weekly) and MWA Grand Master, is also a Lambda and Minnesota Book Award winner. The author of twenty previous mysteries featuring Jane Lawless, she lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
A librarian and military wife, SHARI RANDALL lives in a drafty house by the sea. She loves books, art, antiques, travel, stationery shops, tea time, and dancing.
FRANCES BRODY is the pseudonym for Frances McNeil. She lives in Leeds in the North of England, where she was born and grew up. Frances started her writing life in radio, with many plays and short stories broadcast by the BBC. She has also written for television and theatre. Her one woman play Jehad was nominated for a Time Out award. Before turning to crime, she wrote historical sagas under her real name, winning the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin award for most regionally evocative debut saga of the millennium.
PARNELL HALL has been an actor, screenwriter, and singer/songwriter. He is a former president of the Private Eye Writers of America and a member of Sisters in Crime. He has been a finalist for an Edgar, two Lefty, and three Shamus Awards. He lives in New York City.
TESSA ARLEN is the author of Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman and Death Sits Down to Dinner. She is the daughter of a British diplomat and had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi, and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the US in 1980 and worked as an HR recruiter for the LA Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. She lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington.
VIVIEN CHIEN was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio where she grew up in a mixed-race home, making for some very interesting cultural experiences. She found her love of books and the written word at an early age while writing short stories about her classmates in elementary school. Currently, she writes side-by-side with her toy fox terrier who refuses to sit anywhere else. When she’s not writing, Vivien enjoys frequenting local Asian restaurants, frolicking in the bookstore, and searching for her next donut.
JULIA CHAPMAN has lived in Japan, Australia, the UK, the USA and, more recently, France. She has worked as a waitress, a 'check-out chick', a bookseller, a pawnbroker, and as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language. Tempted by a love of cycling and a passion for mountains, she moved to the gorgeous Ariège-Pyrenees region of France and ran a small hotel with her husband where she was able to add chambermaid, receptionist, cleaner, and chef to her résumé all in one go.
PAIGE SHELTON had a nomadic childhood as her father’s job as a football coach took the family to seven different towns before she was even twelve years old. After college at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, she moved to Salt Lake City where she thought she’d only stay a few years, but she fell in love with the mountains and a great guy who became her husband. After a couple of decades in Utah, she and her family recently moved to Arizona.
JANE K. CLELAND once owned a New Hampshire-based antiques and rare books business. She is the author of the Josie Prescott Antiques mysteries, has been a finalist for the Macavity and Anthony Awards, and won the Agatha Award for her book Mastering Suspense, Structure and Plot. She has twice won the David Award for Best Novel. Jane is the former president of the New York chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and chairs the Wolfe Pack’s Black Orchid Novella Award. She is part of the English faculty at Lehman College and lives in New York City.
ELLIE ALEXANDER is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she's not coated in flour, you'll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. She is the author of the Bakeshop Mysteries, including Meet Your Baker and A Batter of Life and Death, as well as the Sloan Krause mysteries. You can find her on Facebook to learn more!
ELLEN HART, named the 2017 Mystery Writers of America’s Grandmaster, is the author of more than thirty mysteries. Entertainment Weekly has called her “a top novelist in the cultishly popular gay mystery genre.” She has won multiple Minnesota Book Awards, and has been nominated twenty-two times for the Lambda Literary Award, winning six. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her partner of forty years.
A librarian and military wife, SHARI RANDALL lives in a mid-century money pit in Connecticut. When she’s not committing murder (on the page, of course), Shari enjoys walking the beach near her house, traveling and eating the local cuisine, reading, and dancing. When she isn't writing the Lobster Shack Mysteries, she is the Library Liaison for Sisters in Crime.
FRANCES BRODY lives in Leeds in the North of England. Before turning to crime with her first book in the Kate Shackleton series Dying in the Wool, she wrote historical sagas, winning the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin award for most regionally evocative debut saga of the millennium. Other Kate Shackleton Mysteries include Death at the Seaside, A Death in the Dales, and Murder on a Summer's Day.
Parnell Hall is the co-author of the New York Times bestselling Teddy Fay thrillers. He is the author of the Puzzle Lady mysteries, the Stanley Hastings private eye novels, and the Steve Winslow courtroom thrillers. He is a Shamus Award winner, and has been nominated for the Edgar and the Lefty. He lives in New York City.
Tessa Arlen, the daughter of a British diplomat had lived in, or visited her parents in: Singapore, Berlin, The Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the U.S. in 1980 and worked as an H.R. recruiter for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband in 1983 for a job. She lives in New Mexico.
Vivien Chien was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio where she grew up in a mixed-race home, making for some very interesting cultural experiences. She found her love of books and the written word at an early age while writing short stories about her classmates in elementary school. Currently, she writes side-by-side with her toy fox terrier who refuses to sit anywhere else. When she’s not writing, Vivien enjoys frequenting local Asian restaurants, frolicking in the bookstore, and searching for her next donut.
She is the author of the Noodle Shop Mystery series, including Death By Dumpling.
JULIA CHAPMAN is the pseudonym of Julia Stagg. Julia currently lives in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales in the north of England. When not writing, she spends her time out in the hills, running on the fells that provide the beautiful setting for the Dales Detective novels, or riding her bike through the small hamlets and villages that are a vital part of her books.
PAIGE SHELTON had a nomadic childhood, as her father's job as a football coach took her family to seven different towns before she was even twelve years old. After college at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, she moved to Salt Lake City. She thought she'd only stay a couple years, but instead she fell in love with the mountains and a great guy who became her husband. After many decades in Utah, she and her family moved to Arizona. She writes the Scottish Bookshop Mystery series, which begins with The Cracked Spine.
JANE K. CLELAND once owned a New Hampshire-based antiques and rare books business. She is the author of several previous Josie Prescott Antiques mysteries, is the winner of two David Awards for Best Novel, and has been a finalist for the Macavity and Anthony Awards. Jane is the former president of the New York chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and chairs the Wolfe Pack’s Black Orchid Novella Award. She won the Agatha Award for her book Mastering Suspense, Structure and Plot. She is part of the English faculty at Lehman College and lives in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. After a week away from my beloved town of Ashland, Oregon, I knew this to be true. The sidewalks along the plaza seemed merrier, the budding spring trees looked cheerier, and the southern Oregon sky glowed in warm pink tones as I made my way to Torte. It was as if Ashland had rolled out the welcome mat to greet me. I smiled as I passed sleepy storefronts and drank in the cool, early morning air. Our family bakeshop sat at the corner of the Elizabethan-inspired village. Huge Shakespearean banners announcing the new season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival danced in the slight breeze. Torte's front windows had been decorated with matching maroon and gold banners, ribbons, and twinkle lights. Platters of cupcakes adorned with edible, hand-painted theater masks, busks, and scrolls made for a colorful and tempting display.
"I'm home," I said to no one as I took a deep breath and unlocked the front door. Inside, the bakeshop was blanketed in darkness. I flipped on the lights and surveyed the dining room. Torte was divided into three unique spaces. The front served as a dining room with red and teal walls, corrugated metal siding, an assortment of small tables, and cozy booths lining the windows. An espresso bar and pastry counter divided the dining room and kitchen. A large chalkboard menu took up most of the far wall. One of Torte's youngest customers had colored a stick figure family with a dog, cat, and what I could only guess might be some kind of a bird in the bottom corner of the chalkboard. We keep an assortment of colorful chalk on hand to entertain youngsters while their parents nosh on pastries or linger over coffee. It's been a tradition since my parents opened the bakeshop to reserve a special section of the chalkboard for budding masterpieces.
The same was true for the rotating Shakespearean quote on the top of the chalkboard. My father had always been a fan of the Bard's work and enjoyed sharing his passion for poetry with customers. When he died, Mom continued the weekly quotes as an homage to him. This week's quote was from Antony and Cleopatra. It read: "Give me some music; music, moody food. Of us that trade in love." Not only was it a lovely quote, but it was also a teaser for the new season at OSF which kicked off in a week with the premiere of Antony and Cleopatra. Everyone in Ashland had been buzzing with excitement. The commencement of another season meant that soon our calm streets would be packed with tourists in town to take in a show and shop and dine in our little hamlet. I liked Ashland's seasonal rhythm. When the theater went dark for the winter, so did we. GONE FISHING signs hung from storefront windows, locals packed up and followed the sun south, and business owners spruced up their shops and planned for the coming year. Having a cold and snowy reprieve where things quieted down and assumed a more leisurely pace for a few months was always nice, but by February the entire town was ready and eager to welcome tourists from around the globe.
I'd been away on a temporary assignment as head pastry chef for the luxury cruise ship The Amour of the Seas, where I had spent many happy years with my now estranged husband, Carlos. Our time together had been blissful, although perhaps not grounded in reality. Traveling across oceans had allowed me to explore the world and taste exotic pastries, like Taiwanese buns with dried jujubes and traditional star plum pastries from Finland. My palate expanded with every bite at each new port of call. I credit my years on The Amour of the Seas for making me the chef I am today. Yet, when I left it behind I never looked back. From the moment my feet hit the pavement in Ashland I knew I was home.
That changed a few weeks ago when Carlos called out of the blue and begged me to fill in. The ship's pastry chef had stormed off in a huff, leaving the kitchen in a lurch. At first I had resisted the idea, but the timing had been perfect. Plus, Carlos had offered an all-expenses-paid vacation for Mom and the Professor. A week at sea under the tropical sun had been just what the doctor ordered for all of us. I got some much-needed clarity on my relationship and future with Carlos, and the Professor finally popped the question, getting down on one knee under a glowing sunset to ask for Mom's hand in marriage. Every time I replayed his romantic proposal in my head my eyes began to mist.
Being back on the Amour had been a reminder of the life that I'd left behind. I didn't harbor any ill will toward my memories or my years spent sailing on calm, azure waters. Nor did I regret marrying Carlos. What I had come to understand, though, was that it was possible to love more than one person or thing. I knew that my heart belonged in Ashland, even if Carlos would always hold a piece of it. It was time to let go of the past, even if that meant saying good-bye to Carlos. The ache of leaving him this time felt different. I knew that things were shifting, and I was ready to dive headfirst into my life here.
For starters that meant focusing on the task at hand — preparing vats of homemade soups, breads, and sweets for the incoming crowds. I tugged off my coat, grabbed an apron from the rack next to the espresso bar, and headed for the kitchen. In addition to gearing up for the busy season, we were in the middle of a major expansion. The basement property beneath the bakeshop had recently come on the market and Mom and I had decided there was no time like the present to take the plunge. While we were on the cruise, the first phase of construction had begun. The space had been waterproofed by adding special drainage and shoring up the foundation. With that project complete we could now turn our attention to the fun part — designing a state-of-the-art kitchen.
Our current plan was to roll the remodel out in stages. The next step involved gutting the current floor plan to make room for an industrial kitchen and small seating area. Once that was complete, baking operations would move downstairs. Then we would knock through the current kitchen, add stairs, and expand the coffee bar and dining room. I was most excited about the open-kitchen concept that the architect had drafted. We had discovered a massive brick oven that would serve a dual purpose — baking wood-fired pastries and pizzas and offering a cozy spot for guests to watch our team of bakers at work and nibble on buttery croissants. For the past week, I'd woken up in the middle of the night dreaming about pulling beautiful charred crusts and bubbling ramekins of macaroni and cheese topped with apple-wood bacon from the new oven.
It all penciled out on paper, but I was nervous about how everything would come together and keeping the contractors on track. But with one glance at our current kitchen I knew whatever stress this project brought would be worth it. We had reached maximum capacity in the current space. If we wanted to expand our offerings, and continue taking so many special orders for weddings and catering, we had to have more square footage.
One task at a time, Jules, I told myself as I fired up our shiny new ovens, which would eventually be repositioned downstairs, and studied my to-do list on the whiteboard. There were wholesale bread orders, four custom cakes, two corporate pastry orders, and the daily Torte menu to complete. I quickly sketched out a plan of attack. Stephanie, our pastry protégée, and Bethany, our newest recruit, could tackle the bread and corporate orders. I would work on the custom cakes. Sterling, our chef-in-training, would be responsible for soup and sandwiches, and Andy would man the espresso counter. Fortunately, Mom had decided to scale back a bit to focus on wedding plans. I would miss having her steady energy around, but honestly, I wasn't sure how we could squeeze one more body into the tight space. Our expansion couldn't happen fast enough.
As I turned on the sink and began washing my hands, the front door jingled and Stephanie and Andy arrived together.
"Morning, boss!" Andy grinned and waved.
Stephanie made some sort of grunting sound, hung her head, and shuffled inside after him.
"Someone needs a java — stat." Andy mimicked Stephanie's posture.
She shot him a harsh look. "Do you pound espresso before you get here?"
"Nope. But my mom always says that the early bird catches the worm." He winked and tipped his baseball hat at her.
Stephanie scowled. "Will you please just make me a coffee?"
I hid a smile. I was used to their unique personalities. They were both students at Southern Oregon University, but that was where their similarities ended. Nothing ever appeared to fluster Andy. He was perfect in his role as Torte's lead barista with his jovial attitude and easy ability to chat with anyone. Our customers loved him. They also loved his coffee. He had a natural talent for combining unique flavors and was a master at latte art. The things he could do with nothing more than foamed milk and a toothpick would make a professional sculptor's head spin. From a swan floating on puffy white clouds to a pirate ship, complete with a skull and crossbones, Andy could create almost anything on the top of a cup. As of late he had been perfecting Shakespeare's bust in foam, and starting to take requests. Watching him flourish had been one of the highlights of my career thus far.
Stephanie might not have Andy's laid-back attitude, but I had learned that sometimes there's a soft and sweet center under a crunchy exterior. Her goth style, shockingly purple hair, and tendency to dress in all black paired with her sometimes-surly smile made her appear uninterested and aloof. But nothing could be further from the truth. She was loyal, dependable, and a quick study. Mom and I had been teaching her the tricks of the pastry trade, and I was impressed by how much her skills had grown in the last few months. She often surprised me. Like the fact that she binged on hours and hours of Pastry Channel baking shows for entertainment and her own education. Or that she had forged a strong bond with Bethany and seemed genuinely excited about taking on independent projects like Torte's Web site and social media accounts.
Andy removed his baseball cap and gave Stephanie a half bow. "My pleasure. I'm here to keep you caffeinated."
"You better make that a double," I hollered from the kitchen.
Stephanie tied on an apron and joined me while Andy began to steam milk and grind beans.
"Late night?" I asked, handing her the wholesale order sheet.
"Don't even get me started. A new girl moved in next door. She's a music major and likes to belt out show tunes all night long. All freaking night long. It's been going on for a week and I think I might snap."
I couldn't help but chuckle. "Show tunes, really? Somehow I don't think of your generation being big into show tunes."
Stephanie scowled. "We're not."
Andy turned to face us. "I second that! Man, I feel for you, Steph."
"Thanks." She rubbed her temples. "If I hear the soundtrack of Oklahoma! one more time I'm going to lose my mind."
"Only in Ashland." I shook my head and laughed. "You know who would love this? Lance."
"No. Don't give him any ideas," Stephanie pleaded. "Gawd, can you even imagine? He'd probably want to have her come in and audition or something."
"Good point." I gathered mixing bowls and nine-inch round pans. "I promise this will be a show-tune-free zone today. Are you okay with working on the bread orders? Once Bethany gets in I thought the two of you could focus on the corporate deliveries, too. They want an assortment of pastries, so we can double up our daily offerings."
"Sure." Stephanie's eyelids, which were coated in purple shadow, drooped as she read through the bread orders. Upon closer inspection, her deep-set eyes were puffy with heavy bags beneath them. Her skin looked pale, but not from makeup. She absently twisted off the lid to a flour canister and nearly dropped it on the floor.
I felt sorry for her. Having a noisy neighbor was the worst. I was fortunate to have complete privacy in my apartment in Ashland. It was located above Elevation, an outdoor store that closed at seven every evening. However, I remembered my early days working for the cruise line when I had to bunk with three other women. The crew quarters were often an all-night party, which did not lend itself to bakers' hours. I had invested in an expensive pair of earplugs to get to sleep. I wondered if I still had them. I would have to check later and bring them in for Stephanie.
We worked in silence for the first thirty minutes of the morning. I creamed butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the mixer and then sifted in dry ingredients for the first cake. The order was for a vanilla sponge with vanilla buttercream. A simple but classic request. The customer hadn't specified any design preferences so I planned to use an old method called spooning. After frosting the layered cake with generous amounts of buttercream I would pipe vertical dots all over the cake. Once the cake was covered with dots of buttercream I would use the back of a spoon and start at the base, making small swirls up to the top edge. Then I would repeat the process around the entire cake. The final product would look like fluffy clouds or flower petals. It's a gorgeous vintage look that never goes out of style.
Andy cut the silence by bringing us two brimming mugs of black coffee. "Coffee anyone?"
I poured the creamy vanilla batter into the cake pans, slid them into the oven, and turned toward Andy.
He handed a ceramic mug to me. "I went with a straight-up light roast. It's delicate and floral and I think it's best without any cream or sugar."
Stephanie, who was up to her elbows in bread dough, frowned and stared at Andy's offering. "Light roast. I need caffeine — like an IV of caffeine. I can't stop singing 'Oklahoma!' in my head."
Andy bit his lip to keep from laughing and rested the cup next to the mound of springy bread dough Stephanie was kneading. "Trust me. This will do the trick. There's no difference in caffeine when it comes to roasts. People assume that dark roasts have more caffeine because it's a bolder coffee." He paused and shook his head. "Nah, total myth. Roast has nothing to do with caffeine. Nothing. It's kind of a big controversy in the coffee world, though. There's a whole camp of people who think that light roasts actually have more caffeine. You know, because roasting the beans for longer brings out oils, so I guess you could say that more caffeine burns off in the process."
Stephanie stared at him as if he was speaking a foreign language.
Andy looked to me for confirmation. "Right, boss?"
I shrugged. "Don't look at me. To be honest, I've never considered the caffeine content of a roast." I wrinkled my nose. "How do you know all of this?"
"YouTube." Andy's wide smile made his face look even more boyish.
"Really?" I cradled the coffee mug. The scent of floral notes hit my nose.
"Sure. I have to know what I'm talking about. When it comes to caffeine people get kind of crazy."
"Light roast, dark roast, I'll drink whatever you brew." I held up the mug in a toast and took a sip. As promised the coffee was smooth with a sweet complexity and a fruity tanginess. I inhaled its fragrant, almost floral scent and took another sip. "This is fantastic."
"Glad you like it. I'm going to experiment with this blend today. It should be a nice spring drink. I'm thinking of trying to pair it with some infused rose water or maybe orange blossoms. I'll bring some stuff for you guys to try in a while." With that he returned to the espresso bar.
Stephanie took a long drink of her coffee and then punched a mound of bread dough on the island. "Oh my Gawd, I'm such a tool."
"What?" I looked up from the next order sheet.
She dug her black nails into the pillowy dough. "I accidentally put sugar in this instead of salt." Then she pointed to a row of canisters next to her flour-coated workspace. Sure enough, the sugar lid was off and had measuring spoons resting inside it.
"It's okay." I set the order sheet near my coffee and walked to the other side of the island. "We can salvage this, no problem."
Stephanie brushed flour from her hands with such force that I thought she might injure herself. "This is supposed to be French bread."
I ripped off two tiny pieces of the dough, popped one in my mouth, and handed the other to Stephanie. "Taste it."
She rolled her eyes. "Yeah?"
"Improvise," I said, swallowing the sweet, stretchy dough. "Any good chef will tell you that some of their most revered dishes were nothing more than happy accidents."
"It's true." I cut off a hunk of the dough and formed it into a round ball. "Here's what we'll do. Why don't you coat the loaf pans with olive oil? Then we'll drizzle each loaf with honey and a dusting of sea salt. Suddenly, you'll have a crisp crunch, a light sweetness, and a touch of salt. Ta-da! Honey French Bread."
"But that isn't on the order list."
"No problem. We'll make another batch of standard French, but I guarantee you this is going to be a hit."
Excerpted from "Cozy Case Files: A Cozy Mystery Sampler, Volume 4"
Copyright © 2018 Kate Dyer-Seeley.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Table of Contents
Another One Bites the Curst,
A Whisper of Bones,
Curses, Boiled Again,
Death in the Stars,
Death of an Unsung Hero,
Death by Dumpling,
Date with Malice,
Lost Books and Old Bones,
About the Authors,