So Faith decides to cut through the scrap and piece together what really happened. With a sexy prosecutor, a determined homicide detective, a handful of sticky suspects and a crop contest gone bad, Faith quickly realizes if she's not careful, she'll be the next one cropped.
Part of the Henery Press Mystery Series Collection, if you like one, you'll probably like them all! CROPPED TO DEATH is the first book in the Faith Hunter Scrap This cozy mystery series. Bonus: Includes book club discussion questions.
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The industrial sized straight-blade trimmer sliced through the air. Even from across the room, I heard the blade going through paper — whoosh, whoosh. I poked a finger into my left ear and pressed the cell against the other. My grandmother Hope's instructions garbled through the device, the words loud and then soft, an effect that had nothing to do with being in a technological dead zone. Not that keeping a cell phone connection was easy to do in Eden, West Virginia.
Since we started the Scrap This employee crop two hours ago, the whacking hadn't stopped. The blade, like my sanity, was near breaking. I covered the mouthpiece and leaned across the front counter, trying to catch Marilyn's gaze as I avoided jamming my side into the cash register. "Could you adhere something for a while?"
Marilyn Kane picked up the useless part of the picture and dropped it. My gaze followed the fluttering photo cast-off to the ecru colored linoleum floor. A discarded pile of Michaels littered the area beside the eight-foot table.
My friend and fellow employee discovered six weeks ago that her husband, Michael, did more than just commute with his co-worker. I didn't know if she was more upset about the affair or the fact the twenty-two-year-old harlot would give birth to Michael's baby in four months.
"Faith, are you there?" Hope asked. "Are you taking notes?"
"Yes." I tried to keep the chipper in my voice and the exasperation out as I reached for a pen and a piece of paper. My grandmothers had as much trouble leaving me in charge of their store as they did remembering at twenty-six, I was a grown-up.
"We still need layouts for the back display wall. It'll be off-white so use vibrant colors so they'll pop. Also, bring the box of flyers and business cards."
"I know." I rolled my eyes, thankful there were no security cameras to catch my attitude.
"Cheryl and I wish —"
"That you could handle the booth." I was perfectly capable of handling a booth at the community art benefit show. I've handled the store just fine. Okay, there was that one incident involving the paper racks but that was almost a year ago. "Grandma, you have to help Cheryl host the show. You can't let her do it on her own."
Not that Grandma Cheryl wasn't qualified to host. She had hosted all of my slumber parties growing up. With a sharp look and even edgier words, Cheryl whipped everyone into shape. I learned the fine art of snarkiness at her knee.
"You're right." Hope sounded resigned to her fate. "I'm just worried about tomorrow. Did you remember —"
"Grandma, I read the list you taped to the front counter by the register. I read the one in the break room. And I've taken my own notes. We'll have everything we need."
"Including the prizes for the contest?"
I squeezed my eyes closed. "What contest?"
Hope sighed. "I told Cheryl to leave a written note rather than a voice mail."
My forgetfulness for checking phone messages was legendary in my tiny family. No amount of scolding from my grandmothers — or from myself — corrected the flaw.
"Since we're closing the store for the Art Benefit Show, we decided to hold two contests to make it up to our customers. And hopefully, it'll draw in some new ones."
Business was down across the county, especially for those of us who offered consumers the non-essentials in life. Hobbies were the first items cut from a budget.
"One contest will be opened for seasoned croppers and the other for novice scrappers," Hope said. "To encourage new scrappers to enter, we'll hold two teaching crops next week. I also need sign-up sheets for those."
I jotted down the time and cost for the crops, then snapped the cell phone shut.
Car lights flooded through the slats of the blinds covering the large display windows. Tunnels of beams bounced off the jars holding fabric flowers and ribbons lining a row of shelves. Shadows flickered across the walls, doubling the inventory of the overstocked store in a dark and menacing hue. We had to start moving the product. A store morphing into a warehouse didn't do well for the bottom line.
"I should've brought sunglasses." Sierra Brodart squinted as the harsh light hit her face. She wiggled her fingers over a glass jar then moved to the next. Fifteen small jars filled with various embellishments were scattered around the work surface. She plucked out two forest green brads from a jar and then pressed them through the cream cardstock.
Whoosh. Whoosh. The slicing and dicing resumed. I held in a long-suffering sigh and glanced at tomorrow's work schedule. In the morning, my grandmothers wanted all the employees at the Art Benefit Show.
Knowing our receivables for the last quarter, I worried about that decision. Scrap This had two full-time and two part-time employees. My grandmothers, Hope and Cheryl, believed part of their purpose in life was helping women through financial transitions. Marilyn was facing a divorce. Sierra's three boys were all in elementary school and her husband Hank was once again out of work. Linda Anderson was an empty-nester who lost her beloved husband of thirty years in a car accident eighteen months ago. I was their prodigal granddaughter who joined the military to take on the world only to have the world slap me back home. Hard.
Eden was a great place to live — well, start over — as no one held high expectations. Here it made sense to go from working in JAG to helping in my grandmothers' scrapbooking store. No one thought a scandal caused the switch in my career path. Here, everything boiled down to family.
Marilyn slapped another picture onto the trimmer. With a whack of the guillotine style blade, she was single.
I ventured from behind the counter and headed toward Marilyn. We needed professional layouts on display tomorrow to demonstrate scrapbooking as a legitimate art, not just a mommy-hobby. The best way to increase income was tapping into the professional art market. I doubted a collage of body parts would entice people into the store. Emerging serial killers probably weren't interested in keeping a scrapbook. Even if they were, they weren't quite the clientele I wanted for Scrap This.
"One day, your children," I stressed the last two words, "might want an intact picture of their father."
The evilest of gazes landed on me. I never knew Marilyn's wide blue eyes could look so beady and narrow. "And what would you know about that? Maybe the only good husband is a ..."
"Forgiveness, Marilyn. It's a good thing," I said and stole a look at Linda who sat beside the chopping diva.
Linda hunched over her page, lips pinched together, complexion pale except for two red splotches on her cheeks. Her hands shook as she placed a picture of her twenty-something son onto a piece of cardstock.
"What would you know about forgiving a husband?" Marilyn shoved disheveled blonde curls away from her face.
A lot, actually. But I kept the thought to myself.
"Faith's just trying to help." Sierra punctuated her sentence with a snap of her wrist. Two yards of brown and blue grosgrain ribbon furled out. A click of the scissors completed the page starring her three elementary school-aged sons Harold, Henry and Howard, affectionately known by the greater community as the Hooligans.
Sierra swore they took after their father. Having heard of Hank's pranks, which usually ended with a ride in the backseat of a squad car, I agreed with her assessment. Hank was a good guy, but one you never really trusted. The bad boy from high school still lurked inside of him.
Marilyn snorted and returned to hacking her philandering husband from the photo history of her life.
Who was I to judge? I didn't trust anyone with anything other than the sanitized version of my past. Yep, I served in the Army. Yep, I worked in JAG. Nope, it's not like on TV.
I wandered back to the counter and picked up my crop tote. I could only procrastinate so long with administrative duties. My insides squirmed as I dropped myself into a vacant seat at an empty table and pulled out a pack of photos. Public scrapbooking always left me a little anxious as I opened snippets of my life to the scrutiny of others.
Sierra draped herself over my shoulders and stared at the photos. She tapped a manicured nail on the picture of my grandmothers and me at a Renaissance Festival. "Who took the photos?"
I flicked the flap of the packet. "Steve."
"Ah, say no more." Sierra launched a knowing wink at me before returning to her layout.
Steve Davis, my neighbor two doors down, and the one man who could make me think about reconsidering my commitment phobia. Nothing would please my grandmothers more than Steve and I becoming a couple. Nothing could be less likely to happen. A woman couldn't maintain a lifestyle of confidentiality with a significant other in her life.
I cringed. I would fall asleep hearing that sound in my head. "I think you should give the cutting tools a break."
Marilyn continued her violent scrapbooking techniques. She held up a picture of a holiday gathering, placed it on the trimmer, and pressed the handle. Michael was dismembered from Thanksgiving dinner.
"You can't cut him out of all the pictures," I said. "It's really ruining the composition."
Marilyn's evil glare returned as she eliminated her philandering husband from two more family portraits. "Yes, I can."
"Think of the children," I said.
"This is my private book. I can crop off whoever I want," Marilyn said.
Linda packed up her supplies and flicked a desperate gaze at me. Unlike her, I didn't have a choice. I had to stay and offer guidance and suggestions. We needed layouts, not body parts.
"It won't look good, Marilyn," I said.
"I think it looks great!" Sierra giggled. "Go, Marilyn, go. Crop that hubby!"
The stress in Marilyn's face evaporated as she laughed. She grabbed more pictures. "Crop you. Crop you. Crop you!" Marilyn slammed the blade down the middle of a picture of Michael. The man fluttered to the floor in two pieces.CHAPTER 2
Fog swirled around the Allegheny Mountains on Saturday morning. A fine layer of whiteness dipped into the valley as if the city moved up a few notches during the night and Eden was now closer to heaven. Pinpricks of light broke through the haze. In a few hours, the mist would burn off to leave the day bright and engaging.
Surrounded by mountains, the town of Eden was a mixture of franchise stores, office buildings, farms and quaint Victorian style buildings. The town couldn't decide between evolving into a bustling metropolis or staying true to its roots of a farming community. The loss of landscape, faster pace of living, and rise in crime caused distrust to bloom and lines were drawn in the community. The farmers blamed the problem on the artists who wanted more tourists visiting, and the artists blamed it on the tech people who wanted to enter into the 'new' century. Though everyone took credit for the higher paying jobs and better services.
The drive to the convention center took longer than expected. It appeared everyone in town was at the Art Benefit Show or ABS as it morphed into when texted and tweeted.
I turned into the parking lot and finally found a space at the far end of the last row. Every choice had a consequence, and this was mine for hitting the snooze button one too many times. I switched my beige wedge sandals for dusty rose canvas sneakers. Comfort out ranked cute when a walk turned into a cross-country hike.
I opened the trunk and removed my large brown and pink striped artist tote. I hauled the heavy leather strap onto my shoulder and started across the parking lot.
I peered through the evaporating mist and spotted Marilyn. I really needed a cup of coffee before I heard about Michael. Again. I was starting to want to hack the man into little pieces myself.
Marilyn rushed over to me. "I'm really sorry about my rant during the crop. I worked on some layouts this morning. I promise all the people remained in one piece."
"Divorce will do that to a woman." I offered an unrestrained smile and mentally patted myself on the back for the quick forgiveness I bestowed.
"Michael says that woman's baby isn't his. He wants us to try counseling. I agreed." Marilyn dropped her bomb and hurried away.
I gaped at her back. A blare of a horn got my feet moving again. I ran and caught up with her. "You don't believe him? You can't. There is no way you can consider getting back together with the louse." I shifted the strap of my tote from one shoulder to the other.
"Weren't you the one talking about forgiveness?"
"Sure, but that meant not chopping up all your photos."
"A decision like this isn't cut and dry when you have children."
"Your kids are teenagers. They'll understand." I gave her the look my grandmothers' gave me when I ignored their wisdom. "What are you teaching your children by accepting that kind of treatment from Michael?"
"That I love them more than I can hate someone." She stomped away but I followed after her.
"Marilyn, no one is questioning your love for your children. Heck, everyone knows you're a great mom. You have terrific teenagers. And terrific and teenagers aren't two words usually linked."
"Liz has been crying for days over the divorce. Mark actually considered not going to an Orioles game with his father. I won't make my children feel it's disloyal to me to love their father. Besides, maybe that woman is lying and not Michael."
"But you don't know that."
Marilyn shot me a triumphant smile. "And you don't know that Michael is."
We reached the sidewalk and our conversation stopped. The smell of brewing coffee and fresh baked pastries started my stomach rumbling. Hitting the snooze button also required crossing breakfast off the morning to-do list.
Steve Davis headed toward me carrying a cardboard cup. A tool belt hung around his waist, the metal gizmos clanging with each step he took. "Faith, I've been waiting for you."
The man looked lethal in faded dark blue jeans and a t-shirt. I usually saw him in suits and khakis. Even on the weekends his normal attire was business causal. Not like today ... bad boy biker. His shaved head added to the edgy look.
I swallowed my sigh and took my gaze from the man and placed it on the cup of coffee. Also sigh-worthy.
Marilyn tugged the strap of my tote off my shoulder. "I'll start setting up while you flirt with Steve." She continued into the building.
I accepted the coffee from Steve. "I'm not flirting with you. Just being polite since you waited for me."
His expression remained neutral though a twinkle glittered in his deep brown eyes. "I volunteered to help your grandmothers today. They asked me to walk you to your booth. Here I am."
"I can find my way." I took a sip of the coffee and nearly burned my tongue.
"I have a hard time denying a request from Hope and Cheryl. They worry about you."
Poor, unknowing man. Pairing Steve and me together motivated my grandmothers, not worry. Their matchmaking plan had topped every to-do, resolution and prayer list since I moved home fourteen months ago. They turned on the fragile, old women charm whenever Steve and I entered the same orbit. A wasted effort, but I treasured the care and love motivating their antics.
I scanned the large open area and tried locating the Scrap This booth. The art gallery arena was spectacular. Bright, bold signs directed attendees to different exhibits and fabulous art displays. Fans could easily spot their favorite artists and make their way to the booth.
"This is great," I said. "The setup makes it very easy to move around the space."
"Your grandmothers did a good job organizing the traffic flow." Steve draped his arm around my shoulders.
My heart fluttered and I ordered the treacherous organ to stop. What woman wouldn't be thrilled at the attention? But I wasn't looking for a relationship. I was unavailable. My heart still continued at the more rapid pace. A heart was a fickle thing.
Marilyn ran over, exasperation on her face. She raised her eyebrows as she stared at Steve's arm. "Faith, you're needed at the booth."
I stepped away from Steve. "That's where I was headed." He suppressed a smile and waved goodbye. "I'll let your grandmothers know you're here safe and sound."
"What's going on?" I asked.
Marilyn looked heavenward and shook her head. "One of Linda's layouts was damaged. She stored them without page protectors and one layout with brads poked a hole in the corner of a picture of her husband and son. She ran off in tears toward the restrooms. Sierra is trying to fix the page. And talking about Sierra, she arrived with the Hooligans. Hank's working security today here at the show. Then some photographer is running around taking photos without permission and upsetting the artists."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Cropped To Death"
Copyright © 2012 Christina Freeburn.
Excerpted by permission of Henery 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Scrapbooking, art shows, cheating husband, pregnant mistress, murder, interesting characters...all the ingredients for a enjoyable quick cozy who-dun-it. Looking forward to seeing what kind of trouble Faith finds herself in next...
When one of Faith’s employees is accused of murdering her husband, a secret past and a promise propels Faith into investigating and she’ll have to crop the killer out of the picture if she wants to see another scrapbook. This was a great read that had me reading non-stop from the moment I turned the first page. The author did a good job in keeping me in suspense with plenty of twists and turns and every time I thought I had it figured out, the author changed the direction in which the story was headed. What intrigued me most is Faith’s past and how it played in her approached to the clues she uncovered. The writing flowed easily and I liked the cast of characters in this charming whodunit. Christina has written an enjoyable story and I look forward to learning more about Faith and her friends.
Dollycas’s Thoughts Faith Hunter has a past. Her dismissal from the Army is a bit unclear, it is something she wants to keep to herself. Her grandmothers think she needs a new man in her life and they have no problem pushing and nudging one specific man her way. She is happy managing their scrapbooking shop, Scrap This, and taking things easy for now. She is excited about a local Art Fair her grandmothers have organized. The shop has a booth and is running a couple of contests so she hopes it will draw some new customers. Trouble arises before the fair barely starts. Then it turns major when someone is murdered and Faith’s friend, Marilyn is the prime suspect. It’s a sticky mess and Faith feels she needs to try to paste the clues together to help. It was kinda her fault that Marilyn was arrested. I really like that characters in this story. Faith is trying so hard to keep her secret and protect her heart. Her grandmothers, Hope and Cheryl, just want her to be happy. Steve Davis, the easy on the eyes prosecutor, is the man Hope and Cheryl would like to see their granddaughter matched with but hunky Homicide Detective Roget may have some designs on her himself. The dialogue between the characters is well written. The scrapbook theme is fun and sparked my creative juices. The mystery itself was very intriguing and while I knew who the culprit couldn’t be I truly didn’t know who did it until right along with Faith. The ending was full of suspense. The author blends a good dose of humor throughout the book too. This little snippet made me giggle. “We should unlock the door,” Cheryl said. “Are you sure?” Hope asked. “It looks like someone said George Clooney was here giving out his phone number.” This story was a great introduction to this series. All the cozy elements are present, great characters, a charming small town, and a murder with plenty of suspects. I plan to read the rest of the books available in this series very soon.
Interesting characters and interesting story line. Kept you wanting to find out who did what :)
Interesting characters and story line. Really enjoyed the scrapbooking setting. Disappointed in the large amount of editing errors.
I could not wait for this book to end. It was all about scrap booking and supplies with a little bit of mystery thrown in. A lot of it made absolutely no common sense. Her best friend is accused of murder and she never went to visit her in jail. No explanation as to why not. People kept coming in to the book and leaving just as fast. It ended very abruptly with no conclusion. If you are into scrap booking you may still enjoy this.
This was a good read. Enjoyed it very much
Totally annoying that there were so many grammatical and spelling errors. Proofread before publishing people!
Main character totally unbelievable. She supposedly had a military background and worked in JAG, yet in this book she seemed to cry, tear up, or cower in fear every few pages. She wouldn't have made it through the first few weeks at any service academy with the constant water works. The fact that the plot seemed to hinge on pictures taken at a craft fair that could id the killer, yet the police didn't think to check people's cameras or cell phones for that info? Really? Pictures of the event are placed in the shop window for all to see, yet no one thought to check them for info. Sad to say, don't waste your time with this work of fiction. Instead of mystery it should be listed as a fantasy since it is so unbelievable.
Although I don't consider love triangles to be relaxing reading, it was a good mystery. And the ending line was so funny.
This on was a fast read, but didnt end. Is there a book 2?
Reviewed by Brenda Casto for Readers' Favorite Cropped to Death by Christina Freeburn creates a cozy mystery that left me itching to learn the art of scrapbooking! The author transports the reader to the tiny town of Eden, WV where everything comes down to family. No one gave it a second thought when Faith Hunter left her career in JAG, the US Army's special forces group, to return home to help her grandmothers Hope and Cheryl run their scrapbooking store called Scrap This. Something happened though, that sent Faith home to the hills of WV, and she is determined to keep that something a secret! When Marilyn Kane, a store employee and friend, is accused of murdering her cheating husband, she asks Faith to help prove her innocence. After all, it was Faith's statement to the police that sort of pointed the finger at Marilyn. As Faith tries to figure out Who-dun-It, she realizes that the secrets she has guarded might come to light, but soon exposed secrets are the least of her worries, because her snooping just might cause her to be the next victim! I love well written cozy mysteries, and when they are set in my home state of WV they then become a must read for me. With Cropped to Death, we know from the beginning that we are dealing with a cheating husband, and soon he winds up dead. Thing is, in addition to the murder we get hints of Faith's past that left me wondering what secrets she was holding. The hunky next-door neighbor Steve is an assistant prosecuting attorney, and Faith's grandmothers have high hopes that he and Faith might strike up a relationship. In addition to the slow embers that are threatening to spark between Faith and Steve, the interactions between Detective Roget and Faith kept me guessing about a relationship between the two. Hope and Cheryl, the two grandmothers, were often funny, and they along with several other supporting characters really added depth to the story. I loved the small town feel of the story,and the shop was a great setting for meeting some of the townsfolk. I loved the scrapbooking aspects of the story, and it really seemed as if the author knew quite a bit about the hobby. Overall, a very well written story where the plot flows well, the characters are really likeable, and a mystery that isn't easy to solve made this a great little cozy read, one that left me anxious to read the next book in the series!
* I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. A cute mystery set in West Virginia. It's filled with interesting characters and has the beginnings of a nice romance in it for the protagonist. A fine debut mystery-I'm looking forward to reading other books in this series. The only problem I had was Faith letting her friends taking advantage of her, hopefully she'll start standing up to them in the other books.
Wow, "Cropped to Death" is a great book to read; it is intriguing with alot of great twists & turns in it. "Cropped to Death" start out in Scrap This (name of their craft store), where Faith & her two grandmother's run the store. They had an art show to attend, where they had a booth. One of the ladies (Marilyn) who work at Scrap This, see her husband with his pregnant mistress. Few minutes later, Marilyn husband is found dead. Everyone, assumes that she did it, all except Faith. Faith, started looking into it; The police don't want her nosey around in the investigation. But Faith, keep on trying to find out who did it. All of sudden Faith, start getting phone threats & breaking her front window. So, Faith knew she was getting closer to finding out who did it. To find out who kill Marilyn husband, go get a copy of "Cropped to Death" by Christina Freeburn. When you start reading, I promise that you, will not want to put it down until the last page. You will not be disappointed "Cropped to Death", I give it four and half stars.
Reading Cropped to Death might make you want to get the scrapbooks out. I enjoyed reading about Faith Hunter trying to help her friend. This is a mystery that keeps you guessing right till the ending. It is also a clean read. The plot idea is simple. Marilyn found her husband had been cheating on her and got the other woman pregnant. She started to crop his picture out of all the family photos. She was also threatening him. He is murdered and police think she did. Marilyn was arrested and asked Faith to prove her innocence. Faith only worked in the office of Jag. Typing in the office. Faith was arrested once for something her husband did. She has kept her past a secret, even her grandmothers. Detective Ted Roget warns her to stay out of his case. He really is about ready to arrest her a few times. He keeps telling her time after a time. Faith grandmother's keep throwing neighbor and prosecuting attorney Steve at her. They like him for her. Steve keeps telling her to let the police do their job. Faith believes Marilyn is innocent and she wants to help her. The scrapbook shop is hurting for business too. I would like to see another Faith Hunter Scrap this Mystery novel. It was fun, suspenseful and lots of scrapbooking talking on top of the mystery. Plus I want to see what happens next in Faith's life. I was given this ebook to read and asked to give honest review of it by Netgalley.
2.5 stars. I have read 6 previous Henry Press mysteries & have really enjoyed them with this being the exception. The story was just flat. The characters were one demensional & the killer was apparent early on in the book. It was quite boring that I skipped many pages at a time.