Crust No One

Crust No One

by Winnie Archer

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496707741
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 12/26/2017
Series: A Bread Shop Mystery Series , #2
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 99,329
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

The indefatigable Winnie Archer is a middle school teacher by day and a writer by night. Born in a beach town in California, she now lives in an inspiring century-old house in North Texas and loves being surrounded by real-life history. She fantasizes about spending summers writing in quaint, cozy locales, has a love/hate relationshiboth yoga and chocolate, adores pumpkin spice lattes, is devoted to her five kids and husband, and can’t believe she’s lucky enough to be living the life of her dreams. Visit her online at WinnieArcher.com.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

My favorite places in my hometown of Santa Sofia were located in three different areas. The first was the charming Tudor house I'd recently purchased. The moment I'd stepped foot into the foyer, it had felt like home. I still had to pinch myself. I owned it! I'd moved to Austin for college, had gotten married, started a photography business, and then ended up divorced. The very unexpected loss of my mother had brought me back home. I felt as if I'd been wrung out, but my quaint, coastal central California town had breathed new life into my body. Into my soul.

The second was my parents' house. Pacific Grove Street would always be home to me. My brother Billy was two years younger than me. Growing up, we'd alternated between being best friends and staunch enemies, depending on the day and our moods. Now we were adults, Billy was serious with my best friend (and the deputy sheriff) Emmaline Davis, and we leaned on each other for support. Luckily, we had both finally started to heal and were moving on with our lives, helping our dad do the same.

I still couldn't believe it, but the place where I felt most at home was Yeast of Eden. I hadn't grown up as a foodie or baker, although I was perfectly capable of adding eggs, oil, and water into a box mix of some sweet treat, ending up with something tasty. I'd come to realize that it wasn't so much the bread shop itself that I connected to; it was Olaya Solis. She was the owner, had taken me in when I didn't even know I needed to be taken in, and had become like an aunt. While I worked to build up my photography business, I helped out at the bread shop, both with baking and at the front counter. Every day, I met new and interesting people. The locals of our little beach town were eclectic and some were downright fascinating. The tourists came from all over. There was never a dull day in Santa Sofia.

At the moment, I stood behind the counter, boxing up a dozen chocolate croissants. The rich, flakey dough of the pastries scattered as I placed them into the white square box. A mother, her two towheaded children hugged up next to her, was next in line. She ordered three baguettes and three scones, one lemon and the others cinnamon chip. One of the kids looked through the cases, her eyes wide. I could almost read her mind: So many treats to choose from! Should she ask for something else?

"Oh!" she explained, pointing to the back corner of the glass-fronted case. "Mama, look!"

The girl's mother looked down to her, one finger to her lips. She had her wallet in her hand, a twenty-dollar bill at the ready.

"But Mama, look! A skeleton!"

The girl's little sister pressed her tiny hands against the glass, her nose pressed up against it. "Where?" she said. "Where is the skeleton?"

I grinned, looking down into the case and spotting the target of their attention. I leaned over the glass to talk to the girls. "It's called a sugar skull."

Olaya loved seeing the sweet smiles of the kids who came into Yeast of Eden. The sugar-skull cookies were like Easter eggs — hidden treasures tucked away where children could find them and exclaim with excitement. She made a single batch every other day, taking the time to decorate them like the traditional Day of the Dead skulls. She had it down to a science, able to complete the decorating of twelve cookies in about twenty minutes. She hid them in the displays of bread, tucked between scones, or anywhere else she could think of. When a bright-eyed child discovered one, he or she was treated to the cookie. I was convinced that Olaya had as much fun watching the surprised and elated expressions on the children's faces when they discovered a cookie as much as the kids who actually found them.

I reached for the pop-up box dispenser and pulled out a square of the dry wax tissue paper we used to take items from the cases, using it to retrieve the sugar- skull cookie the little girl had spotted. Once again, I leaned over the top of the glass. "Good job spotting it!" I said, handing it to her. "Maybe you'll share it with your sister?"

She looked to her mother for affirmation that she could take the cookie from me. "Can I?" she asked.

Her mother smiled and nodded. "What do you say?" she prompted.

The blond-headed girl looked up, gave me a toothless grin, and said, "Tank you." The gap in her teeth made the th come out as t.

I couldn't help but smile in delight. I could see why Olaya took the time to make the cookies. It was worth every extra minute it took to make a child happy. "You're very welcome, sweetie," I said.

She took the cookie, her chubby hands clutching it like a treasured prize and tried to break it in half. Her mom helped her and the little girl offered one half to her younger sister. They each took a bite, the crumbs falling onto their matching red jackets.

As I finished bagging the scones and collecting payment, laughter erupted from one of the bistro tables by the window. Four women were seated around the table, each donning fun hats adorned with flowers, ribbon, and a small bird. Once I'd realized they were blackbirds, I couldn't help but smile.

The Blackbird Ladies. They'd been called that since the dawn of time. Or at least since I'd seen them gathering for an every-other-day croissant at Yeast of Eden and had given them the moniker. They wore hats adorned with silk daisies, carnations, and roses.

Without thinking, I dubbed them the Blackbird Ladies. It was perfect. I'd tried it out in my head and then said it aloud, rolling the syllables around in my mouth. It described them to a T. Not only because of the little birds perched on each of their hats, but because the women were each so unique. So original. So utterly precious.

My favorite octogenarian, Penny Branford, was one of the four. Once everyone was served, I rounded the counter and approached the table. "What's with the hats?" I asked her as the other three women sipped their percolated coffees and nibbled on their breads.

She patted the wide rim of the one resting on her head. "Do you like it?"

My lips curled up into an amused smile. "I love it."

"Ivy, these three are my oldest friends in the world," Mrs. Branford said. She nodded toward the woman next to her. "Janice and I went to elementary school together." Janice, quite proper and sitting with her back stick-straight, dipped her head slightly in greeting. "Ivy? Quite an unusual name, isn't it?"

I shrugged, but my grin grew. "My mother liked plants."

Mrs. Branford swept her arm toward the next woman. "I taught school with Alice," she said, "and Mabel ... ah, Mabel. She was the shoulder I cried on once upon a time."

I loved a lot of things about Penelope Branford, but what I adored most about her was her honesty. I knew that if I had my skirt tucked up in my underwear, she'd yank it free. If I asked her if I had spinach in my teeth, she'd hand me a toothpick and hold up a mirror for me. And if she had something to tell me, she wouldn't hold back. Plus, she was detail oriented. It was her years as a teacher, I think. She was a dot-every-i-and-cross-every-t sort of person.

She was my kind of person.

Which meant these women probably were my kind of people, too.

"I can't imagine you needing a shoulder to cry on," I said, curiosity getting the better of me. I didn't want to dredge up old memories, but we'd already gone there once, and she'd opened the door again.

She shrugged, almost nonchalantly, but I saw a flash of emotion in her eyes. "Almost losing your soul mate can bring a torrent of tears," she said.

I swallowed hard. I knew about the almost-affair her deceased husband had nearly succumbed to ... with my other favorite woman in the world, Olaya Solis. Olaya had been the almost-mistress and the two women had been at odds ever since.

At least until I stepped in and somehow helped them begin to mend their fences. Because, as I'd predicted, they were basically the same person.

To the point where they'd loved the same man.

The Blackbird Ladies. They were here now, sitting at the little bistro table by the window. They'd sashayed into the bread shop in their orthopedic sneakers, velour sweat suits, and embellished hats.

"We've heard quite a bit about you, Ivy," the woman named Mabel said. "Photographer, baker, part-time Nancy Drew."

I laughed. "I'll cop to the photography and the sleuthing. That just kind of happened. But the baking? I'm a complete novice."

Olaya Solis swept into the dining area of the bread shop, the skirt of her caftan dusting the floor. She brushed her short, iron-gray hair back from her forehead. Even with a rogue curl falling over her forehead, she was statuesque, looking a bit like an Aztec queen, but, oddly, she was incredibly warm and approachable at the same time. A genuine smile spread on her face. "Hardly a novice." She cocked her head slightly as she looked at me. "Do not sell yourself short, mi'ja." To the other women, she said, "Beinvenidos, mis amigas. Everything is delicious?"

Mrs. Branford nodded, a flash of a twinkle in her eyes. "My dear Olaya, so good to see you."

Olaya shook her head in a barely perceptible way and scoffed. "You say that as if you are not here every day of the week, Penelope."

"Stop baking and we'll stop coming," she said.

"That, of course, will not happen. Now, do you need anything? A croissant? Cinnamon raisin bread?"

Janice, the most refined of the group, slathered strawberry preserves on her sweet bread. "My blueberry muffins can't compete, you know," she said with a wink at Olaya. "I tried. For years, we got together at my house, but when you and Penelope buried the hatchet — so to speak — that, as they say, was that. Who can pass up the best baked bread in Santa Sofia?"

"Certainly not me." Mabel Peabody, the most flamboyant of the four women, took a bite of her chocolate croissant. "I've gained close to eight pounds since we started meeting here. Eight well-earned, much enjoyed pounds."

The petite Alice Ryder looked Mabel up and down, and then raised her neatly shaped eyebrows. "With that tunic and — what are those? Culottes? A skirt?"

Mabel's forehead scrunched. "Wide-legged pants," she answered.

"Well, with those wide-legged pants and that tunic, you have room to add a few more," she said.

I thought for a moment that Mabel hadn't heard the hint of snark in Alice's tone, but then she leveled a look at Alice, smiled, and said, "Why do you think I wear them?"

Alice met her gaze. I waited, wondering what would happen next. For dear friends, the sparring was a little unexpected. But then Alice smiled back.

Mrs. Branford fluttered her hand in front of her. "It's impossible to compete with Olaya," she said. They all agreed and then their conversation shifted from bread and muffins to the television show of the day, to decorating. "Michael and I are having a gazebo built in the backyard," Alice said. She looked pointedly at Mabel. "Once it's done, we can start meeting there — with plenty of Olaya's breads, of course, so wear your expandable waistband pants."

Mabel scoffed. "You better believe I will."

"Well, of course," Janice said, pulling a few flakes and a soft tuft from her croissant and delicately placing them in her mouth. "No backyard could possibly be perfect without Olaya's breads. No offense, Alice, but baking has never been your strength."

I watched the dynamics of the women with fascination. They were sparring, flinging their verbal jabs as if they'd been choreographed and they were each playing their roles expertly. Alice turned toward Janice, paused dramatically, and then cracked a smile. "None taken. I never claimed to be a baker." She fluttered her hand, gesturing to herself. "If I were, I'd outgain Mabel."

Mabel held out a plate, half of a scone and a good spattering of crumbs on it. "It's never too late to start."

Mrs. Branford tapped her cane on the floor and the women all turned to look at her. She took the scone from Mabel's plate. "Now, now. We can't waste a perfectly wonderful scone on Alice, can we? She'd never appreciate it the way we do."

And then she took a healthy bite.

Mabel, Janice, and Alice all looked at Mrs. Branford for a long beat, looked at each other, and burst out laughing.

"You are so right," Alice said, her smile reaching all the way to her eyes.

"Is Michael building it?" Mrs. Branford asked and then took a bite of her own butter-slathered bread.

Alice cocked her head. "What?"

But Mrs. Branford's cheeks were puffed with her bread and she couldn't answer. Janice answered for her. "Your gazebo."

"Michael?" Alice blurted. "Ha! He can barely build a fire."

"Good thing we don't need to build many fires in Santa Sofia," Mabel said, dramatically dabbing a paper napkin against her lips. The women all nodded in agreement.

Alice turned to Janice. "Your handyman did a good job on Richie's patio cover, right?"

"Oh. You mean Collin?" Janice's face clouded for a moment, but then it cleared again. "He did, yes. A great job, in fact, but —"

"No, don't tell me he's too busy. There are a few things that can ruin a marriage. Moving, remodeling, infidelity, deceit — and in our case, Michael trying to build something," Alice said with a laugh, but I got the distinct feeling she wasn't really joking. "Your handyman might just save ours."

But Janice shook her head. "Another handyman might have to do that. He moved to the East Coast. I saw him off myself. I've missed him. He was quite good at building things."

"That's too bad," Alice said, her disappointment evident.

Janice patted the air with her palms facedown. "Settle down, Alice. I can get some names for you. I bet another one of Richie's tenants could probably do it."

The conversation was interrupted when the door to Yeast of Eden opened, the bell chimed, and a man, probably in his late sixties, ambled in. He walked slowly and with a slight limp, but he had a good build and he held his head high. The one thing that made me do a double take was his handlebar mustache. It was big and bold and ... well, you just didn't see a mustache like that everyday. He looked weathered and haggard, but every one of the Blackbird Ladies instantly perked up, preening in their hats.

Once again, I looked on in fascination as they fawned over him. Mabel was the first to speak, tucking a strand of her vibrant red hair behind her ear. "Why, if it isn't Mustache Hank. You are a sight for sore eyes."

I raised my eyebrows at Olaya. "Mustache Hank?" I whispered.

She nodded. "He is our local produce man. That is what people have called him for as long as I have been here."

Which was a long time. Olaya hadn't been born and raised in Santa Sofia, but it was most definitely her home and had been for decades.

It wasn't hard to know why the man in front of us was called Mustache Hank. That salt-and-pepper thing attached to his upper lip looked like it belonged on Hercule Poirot, not the local purveyor of veggies and fruits. "The Blackbird Ladies certainly seem to like him."

This time Olaya lifted her eyebrows at me. "Blackbird Ladies?"

I pressed my fingers to my lips, hiding my smile. "It fits, don't you think?"

She let her eyes settle on each one of the four women before turning back to me. "Yes, I do think it does."

"How's that bum ankle of yours, Hank?" Janice asked.

"I can tell you when it's going to rain," he said lightly, but the grimace gave away the apparent pain he was in, one side of his mustache lifting oddly. He looked away and I thought he must be uncomfortable being the center of attention.

Mabel stood up from her seat and rested her wrinkled hand on Hank's forearm. "Here, Hank. Do you want to sit?"

Mrs. Branford used the rubber end of her cane to push the chair closer to him. "Take a load off," she said. She preened less than her three friends, but I still detected a glimmer of something mildly flirtatious. Take a load off ? That was so not Penelope Branford.

And yet she'd said it, so maybe I was seeing a new side of her. As I watched the four women tumble over their words around Mustache Hank, I smiled to myself. Getting older — or just plain old — didn't mean your emotions shriveled up and died. These women definitely had libidos and poor Mustache Hank was the nucleus of their attention.

"You look pretty down in the dumps," Mabel said to Hank, concern on her face.

He shrugged and nodded his head. "Lost a friend."

The five women, including Olaya, frowned in sympathy. "That's never easy, is it?" said Janice. "Funeral?"

He shook his head. "No, no funeral," he said, but he didn't offer any more than that.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Crust No One"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Winnie Archer.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.

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Crust No One 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
Dollycas’s Thoughts We return to Santa Sofia for the Winter Wonderland Festival. Ivy is getting set to help Olaya do all the baking but before she can she learns a man has gone missing. Hank Riviera delivers his produce to several local businesses including Miguel Baptista’s family restaurant. Ivy was there to talk about a photography opportunity but that is forgotten as soon as they get the news that Hank has missed deliveries and can’t be found. She and Miguel along with a group of customers from Yeast of Eden, who Ivy lovingly named the Blackbird Ladies, start an investigation to find the missing vendor. Where their investigation leads them surprises everyone. Ms. Archer has written another fantastic mystery. Ivy grew so much in the first book in this series and she really seems very comfortable now in her life even though the tension between she and Miguel continues. The supporting characters are very well developed too. I felt like I was reconnecting with old friends. The new characters introduced were unique and interesting. The mystery itself developed and at a nice pace throughout the book. Twists galore took the story in a very unexpected direction. The author does an excellent job of dropping clues like breadcrumbs until we have not one but two “aha” moments. Even Deputy Sheriff Emmaline Davis was surprised. Winter in Santa Sofia, not quite winter in Wisconsin, but no matter where you live it is the perfect time to visit Yeast of Eden for a tasty treat. Doesn’t that cover just make you crave bread, rolls, and every other doughy product you can think of? I enjoyed every minute of this story. I don’t want to spoil anything, but this mystery unfolds a little differently than most cozy mysteries. I was engaged from page 1. The real-life moments, Em moving in with Billy, Ivy trying to find more photography work, customers in the bread shop, the baking, all tied into the plot seamlessly. I loved it! I can’t wait for the next book in this series! The Walking Bread comes out September 25, 2018.
ethel55 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed returning to Santa Sofia, the site of a delicious sounding shop called Yeast of Eden. The bread making takes a bit of a back seat to the investigating this time. Ivy hopes to do more of her photography on the side, with both Miguel's restaurant and one of the Mrs. Branford's friends interested in her services. When many local folk become upset at the apparent disappearance of local produce supplier "mustache Hank", Ivy dives right into her new hometown's goings on and tries to help figure out where he is. I really liked the addition of the Blackbird ladies in this story, plus there is no shortage of other good, quirky secondary characters. I look forward to learning more about Miguel and Ivy's past.
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CheliD 8 months ago
Ivy Culpepper is still honing her skills at the Yeast of Eden Bread shop and when one of the patrons goes missing and her old boyfriend ask her help to try to find him, Ivy gets caught up in the mystery of what happened to Mustache Hank? I really, really enjoyed this mystery mainly I think because of the variation from the typical cozy mystery where within the first few chapters, a character that you have no connection with is found murdered and you are expected to follow the amateur detective (main character) as they try to find out whodunnit. That is not the case here. In this mystery instead of a murder we are handed a missing person - what made Hank disappear, did he run away from a messy divorce, did he leave a failing business, did he swindle a friend out of a lot of money? What really happened? I loved this story, plot and the characters, including the eventual victim because we really dug down into the personalities of those involved. I wish more cozies were atypical once in a while. My favorite book so far for 2018!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
great easy read fun little stories i have passed them on to others we all enjoy them
ethel55 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed returning to Santa Sofia, the site of a delicious sounding shop called Yeast of Eden. The bread making takes a bit of a back seat to the investigating this time. Ivy hopes to do more of her photography on the side, with both Miguel's restaurant and one of the Mrs. Branford's friends interested in her services. When many local folk become upset at the apparent disappearance of local produce supplier "mustache Hank", Ivy dives right into her new hometown's goings on and tries to help figure out where he is. I really liked the addition of the Blackbird ladies in this story, plus there is no shortage of other good, quirky secondary characters. I look forward to learning more about Miguel and Ivy's past.
Tarri More than 1 year ago
There are so many things I like about this book; the characters, the plot, the bakery, the description of the bread, the touches of Spanish thrown in here and there, and the possibility of romance. All of these things add up to an enjoyable book in a new series which I hope will continue. Ivy is working in the bakery helping Olaya get ready for the festival and visiting with The Blackbird ladies when Mustache Hank stops by with a produce order. The next thing you know the festival is here and Mustache Hank has disappeared. Ivy, along with her high school boyfriend, Miguel, the highly entertaining Mrs. Branford, and the Blackbird Ladies try to find the newly divorced Hank at his son's request. As they investigate, a peek into Hank's life uncovers some uncomfortable secrets and a man who may have decided to disappear on his own. This author is great at weaving a tale and getting the reader invested in her characters. I thoroughly enjoyed reading both books in the series and hope there will be more and we'll be able to watch Miguel and Ivy repair their high school romance, now that they are adults. I received an advanced reader's copy of Crust No One from NetGalley. This review contains my thoughts and opinions.
KrisAnderson_TAR More than 1 year ago
Crust No One by Winnie Archer is the second installment in A Bread Shop Mystery series. Ivy Culpepper has found solace at Yeast of Eden run by her friend and mentor Olaya Solis in Santa Sofia, California. The Blackbird Ladies (as Ivy as dubbed them) come into the shop to partake in the delicious goodies and chat (gossip). Miguel Baptista calls to hire Ivy (professional photographer) to do photographs for his menus, advertising, and web site for Baptista’s (the restaurant he is remodeling). Ivy had hoped that the spark between them would flare up again, but there is something holding Miguel back. The Blackbird Ladies are worried when Mustache Hank, the local produce man, disappears. He has missed his deliveries, and no one has seen him recently. Miguel is also concerned about Hank who provides produce for his restaurant and has never missed a delivery. Ivy (who only met the man once) and Miguel team up look for Hank Rivera. They get assistance from the loquacious Blackbird Ladies who know all the local gossip. Hank had recently gone through a divorce from his high school sweetheart and he was having financial difficulties. Ivy and Olaya are also preparing for the Winter Wonderland Festival where they will have a booth. What happened to Hank? Will romance bloom between Ivy and Miguel? Crust No One is the second book in A Bread Shop Mystery series. It can be read as a standalone since the author provides the needed background information and a summary of events from the first book are included. The cozy elements are the dominant part of the book. Ivy settling into her new home, making bread, chatting, enjoying Winter Wonderland Festival, the various Blackbird Ladies, walking, eating, etc. The mystery is different with a missing person (instead of Ivy stumbling over a dead body). It is a medium level mystery and readers might not figure out all the elements (I do not want to say too much and give anything away). The issues between Miguel and Ivy were not enjoyable (I wanted to lock them in a room and tell them to talk it out). They broke up after high school and have yet to discuss the why. At the end of the book, the topic is finally addressed (but you will have guessed what happened long before then). I found the pace to be a little slow for my liking and my attention was not held by this story. The investigation consists of talking to people. These talks can provide pertinent information and vital clues. The story could have used some action and a faster pace. Ivy’s thinking/speculation and repetition of details (how many times do I need to be told Mrs. Branford’s age) along with bread making fill the book. I thought it was odd that Ivy became so invested in looking for a man she only met (briefly) once. Something else that stood out to me was when Miguel contacted Ivy for her photography services, she did not contact him back immediately. She waits two days because she will only do things on her terms (with regard to Miguel). Did she forget this is a business transaction and not personal? I preferred Kneaded to Death to Crust No One. Crust No One could have used a few tweaks.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Paragraphs and paragraphs of descriptions. Cumbersome reading