Death of an Irish Diva (Cumberland Creek Series #3)

Death of an Irish Diva (Cumberland Creek Series #3)

by Mollie Cox Bryan

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"A satisfying and surprising read." —Sheila Connolly, New York Times bestselling author on Scrapped

Spring is in the air, but the ladies of the Cumberland Creek Scrapbook Crop hardly have time to stop and smell the roses. Not when famed Irish dancer Emily McGlashen is found murdered in her studio just after the St. Patrick's Day parade--and one of the Crop's own members is the prime suspect. Vera's dance studio may have suffered when Emily waltzed into town, but the croppers know she's not a vengeful murderer. Lucky for her, co-scrapbooker Annie is a freelance reporter eager to vindicate her friend. What she discovers is a puzzling labyrinth of secrets that only add question marks to Emily's murder. Just when it seems they've run out of clues, an antique scrapbook turns up and points the croppers in the right direction--and brings them face to face with a killer more twisted than a Celtic knot. . .

Praise for Mollie Cox Bryan

"Thought-provoking and well-paced. . . A great story, well told!" —Juliet Blackwell, New York Times bestselling author of the Witchcraft mysteries on Scrapped

"Bryan's voice is rich with empathy, suspense, and a healthy dose of Southern charm." —Ellery Adams, New York Times bestselling author of the Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries

"A font of ingenuity. . .superb entertainment." —Mystery Scene magazine on Scrapbook of Secrets

Includes tips and a glossary of terms for the modern scrapbooker!

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617730290
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 03/19/2013
Series: Cumberland Creek Series , #3
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 162,086
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Mollie Cox Bryan writes cozy mysteries with edge and romances with slow, sweet burn. The first book in her Cora Crafts Mystery series, Death Among the Doilies, was a "Fresh Fiction Not to Miss” selection and was a finalist for the Daphne du Maurier Award. The second book, No Charm Intended, was named a “Summer 2017 Top 10 Beach Read” by Woman's World. She also wrote the Agatha-award nominated Cumberland Creek Mysteries. She makes her home at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, where she works as a researcher and fact checker and writes in the early morning hours. Visit her and sign up for her newsletter at

Read an Excerpt


By Mollie Cox Bryan


Copyright © 2014 Mollie Cox Bryan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61773-029-0


A green velvet dress, the skirt of which was flung over the top of the right hip of the victim, revealed she was naked from the waist down. Her white thigh and buttocks were so muscled, taut, and perfect that she almost looked like a statue, lying twisted, facedown, on the floor. Her long brown ponytail of curls was askew, but the green ribbon was still intact. A pair of tights was crumpled in a corner of the dance studio. Her underwear, if, indeed, she had worn any, was missing. One of her shoes was lying next to the tights, and it was without a lace, of course, because its lace was still wrapped around Emily McGlashen's neck.

"How long has she been here?" Annie asked Detective Adam Bryant after settling her stomach with a deep breath and calming thoughts.

Poor woman. So young. So talented.

And just yesterday Emily astounded Annie with her high leaps, twirls, and fast footwork during the St. Patrick's Day parade and festival. The green velvet dress had swung in off rhythm to the Irish music against Emily's in-sync movements. Bursting with life. Hard to believe that same skirt was now askew across Emily's lifeless body.

He shrugged. "As far as I can tell, maybe all day. We think it happened sometime early this morning. She was supposed to be at a meeting this afternoon, and her friend came looking for her, and this is what she found. You here officially?"

Annie grimaced. She had been working on her book about the New Mountain Order and had taken a leave of absence from her freelancing, and he knew it. But her editor called her to see if she'd cover this. Big news to a certain segment of the population, namely, those who followed Irish dance.

"Maybe," she said.

He went on. "Not much of a story here. Just the murder of a person who maybe was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"She was in the public eye. And strangling is a personal act, isn't it?" Annie twisted a curl around her finger. She was wearing her hair down, which was all part of the newer, more relaxed version of her former self. She didn't need to pull it back. She didn't need to control it. It was a relief. Chalk that bit of advice up to her mysterious friend and yoga teacher Cookie Crandall.

"Most of the time, yes," he said, his blue eyes sparkling. "But there was a robbery. Looks like the safe was ransacked. Maybe she surprised the perp. Maybe he didn't have another weapon."

"So he used her shoelaces?" Annie said. "C'mon."

The detective's mouth went crooked.

Still, it probably had nothing to do with the NMO. There were none of the symbols they had used in the past. Maybe it was true. Maybe they had really cleaned up their act.

"But she was a famous Irish dancer," Annie said, almost to herself.

"And?" he said with a crooked smirk. "One of her fancy-dancing competitors offed her?"

Flashes of Riverdance played in Annie's mind. There was nothing "fancy" about those dancers. They were in extraordinary physical condition. A hugely successful international dance show consisting of traditional Irish dance, Riverdance was spurring Irish dance classes across the country. And Emily McGlashen was in one of those big productions and had made a name for herself, which was one reason the kids in Cumberland Creek loved her. Besides all that, she was young and hip.

Annie crossed her arms and glared at Bryant.

The police photographer entered the studio again, and his camera flashed in the dim room, a large dance studio with beautiful polished wood floors, a mirror along one wall, and bars that ran along the side of it. Posters of Irish dancers, medals, and trophies decorated the facility. You could say what you wanted about Emily—and many townsfolk did—but she knew her Irish dancing. An international champion who came to Cumberland Creek and opened a new studio, Emily had drawn attention to herself right away.

A couple of uniformed officers pulled Bryant away to show him something they had found. Annie stepped out of the way of another officer, now bending over the body. A glint of a flash from the camera reflected in the mirror.

"Damn, it's hard to get good pictures. These mirrors are a problem," the photographer said and looked around for another angle. "Can you run and get some sheets from the van?" he said to the younger person who was assisting him.

"Well, that's an interesting piece of evidence," Bryant said.

Annie turned around to see his gloved hands reach for a red handbag that looked vaguely familiar to her. She was not a handbag kinda woman; she was more a designer shoe devotee turned sneaker aficionado. She didn't really pay much attention to purses, given that she avoided carrying one as often as possible.

But she was certain she'd seen that bag somewhere.

The detective reached in and pulled out a wallet, still there and full of money, credit cards, and a driver's license, which inspired a huge grin to spread across his face.

"Vera Matthews," he said and looked at Annie. "And I think we all know what Vera thought about Emily McGlashen."

"Don't be ridiculous," Annie said, but her heart sank. Vera had made no attempt at hiding her feelings about Emily. She hadn't been herself. But still she was far from being a cold-blooded killer. Vera? Not likely. "Vera Matthews may not have liked Emily, but she didn't kill her."

"But, Ms. Chamovitz, her purse is here. How do you explain it?" Bryant smirked as he placed the handbag in a plastic evidence bag.

"I don't have to explain it. You do," she said.

"You're wrong about that, Annie. She does," he said, slipping off his gloves.

She walked away from him. It took every ounce of restraint she could muster to not run out of the studio and call Vera to warn her that Bryant, or one of his underlings, would be stopping by to question her. As if it mattered, really. She was certain Vera hadn't killed anybody, especially after seeing the compassionate way she'd behaved over the past few years. Still, a little warning would be nice.

Vera's life had changed drastically recently. Her ex-husband, Bill, had moved in with a woman in Charlottesville and was rarely around to help with their daughter, Elizabeth. Her mother, Beatrice, was also living with the new man in her life. Vera was alone and claimed she preferred it. After Emily McGlashen came to town, stealing many of Vera's students by offering cheaper classes and preaching against the "archaic" dance form of ballet, her business income had plummeted. Vera was in such financial trouble that she was renting her house out, hoping to sell it, while she and Elizabeth lived in the apartment above her dance studio.

"Didn't she write a letter to the editor recently about Ms. McGlashen?" Bryant asked, still holding the purse as he approached her. Annie refrained from smiling at the decidedly manly man holding the evidence bag with the purse in it.

"Yes. Wow, you read," she taunted him. "Did you also see the letter she was responding to? The one that Emily wrote? The one that claimed ballet was an archaic dance form and that Vera was ripping kids off?"

"Oh, gee, I must have missed that," he said. "I'm sure I'll be reading it in about an hour, right, Johnson?"

"Yes, sir. Right on it."

Bryant started to walk by her and brushed up against her. "Sir," he said in a low voice. "Just how I like it."

His breath skimmed across her neck as he walked by. Telling him that she was a married woman, again, would do no good. He had been blatantly flirting with her for months, and sometimes right under Mike's nose. If they hadn't shared that one kiss during a moment of drunken weakness, she'd have more solid ground on which to stand. But he knew.

He knew what he was doing to her. And he was enjoying every minute of it.


When Vera opened her apartment door to Detective Bryant holding her purse in a plastic bag, her first thought was one of relief.

"You found my purse," she said. "Oh, thank heaven. I was looking everywhere for it." When she went to reach for it, she was interrupted by a crashing sound. "Oh, shoot," she said, taking off toward where the noise was coming from. "Come in, Detective," she managed to say, waving him in.

"Oh, Lizzie!" she said to her grinning daughter, who was sitting in the middle of a huge stack of CDs that had been piled nicely in several stacks around the floor. They were just too tempting for an inquisitive three-year-old. At least the silver disks were all still inside the covers. Lizzie hadn't gotten around to that yet.

Vera reached for Lizzie and pulled her up to her hip. She looked at the detective, who stood by awkwardly with her purse. Annie had just walked in behind him.

"Hey," she said.

Lizzie squealed and squirmed down from her mother. "Annie!" She ran to her.

"You want to come and play at my house?" Annie said.


"Annie, why do you want my daughter? Don't you think you should check with me first?" Vera asked, smiling. She was so glad Annie and Lizzie got along so well. After all, Lizzie's father was mostly never around these days.

"Detective Bryant wants to talk to you. I just thought I'd help out by taking Lizzie home with me for a little while.

Do you mind?"

Vera sighed. "Look at this place. No. I don't mind. I'm still trying to unpack."

Lizzie grabbed Annie's hand.

"Her diaper bag is in the hall closet there, just in case," Vera said. Lizzie was mostly potty trained. Mostly. Sometimes Lizzie was indignant at the thought of diaper bags, because she took great pride in using the potty.

After she kissed her daughter good-bye and watched as she and Annie left the room, Vera turned back around to face handsome, but annoying Detective Adam Bryant.

"Well," she said, straightening out the stacks of CDs on the floor, "what can I help you with?"

"How long has your purse been missing?" he asked.

"You know, it's the craziest thing," she replied, stacking up the last group of CDs. "I woke up this morning and thought I should charge my cell. I meant to do that last night, when I got in, but I was exhausted. I just fell into bed. So I looked for my purse this morning and couldn't find it. I thought maybe I left it downstairs. "

"Your cell is usually in your purse?"

"Usually," she replied. "So where did you find it?"

"Before I tell you that, can you tell me where you were last night?"

"After the Saint Patrick's Day parade and show, Lizzie and I went to my mother's house. We had dinner with Jon and Mom. Why?"

"Any reason your purse would be in Emily McGlashen's studio?"

"What? Why? No. That bitch. Did she take my purse? I knew the woman had some screws loose, but to take my bag? As if ruining my business wasn't enough, she had to steal my purse?"

Vera had hoped that Irish dancing was a fad, and that Emily McGlashen would have moved on by now. For God's sake, ballet was so much more important to the development of a dancer. Why would her dancers leave her studio to study with Emily? Okay, the dancing looked like fun, with its jumps and turns and precision footwork. And then there was the fact that Emily made sure her classes were cheaper than Vera's. How did she do it? Vera couldn't discount any more classes and make financial ends meet.

"Sit down, Vera," Bryant said and gestured with his arm.

"Why? What's going on?" she asked but sat down on her secondhand couch. Oh, how she longed for the comfortable, light blue, deep-cushioned couch sitting in her house. This couch was uncomfortable and stiff. Not very pretty, either, with its green plaid cushions. In fact, her apartment was full of mismatched, uncomfortable furniture. She had rented her house out fully furnished, which was what her Realtor had advised. And it went quickly: a visiting University of Virginia professor snapped it up.

He looked deflated momentarily. His eyes scanned the room. "You really do have your hands full, don't you? Big changes, huh?"

"Yes," she replied. "At least we have a roof over our head and food for the table."

He sighed. "Emily McGlashen is dead, Vera."

She gasped, and her hand went to her mouth. "What— what happened to her? So young ..."

"Twenty-eight, to be exact," he said. "She was strangled. Murdered at her studio late last night or early this morning. Time of death is inconclusive."

Vera felt the room spin as her mind sifted through the recent murders in her small town. Cumberland Creek had always been so safe. Except for the past few years.

"Vera, your purse was found at the scene of the crime. I'm going to have to take you to the station for questioning," he said.

"I don't know anything about this, Detective. Why would you need to question me?"

"Vera, you're the only suspect I have right now."

"Suspect? Me? I just told you that I was with Mom and Jon last night."

"What time did you leave?"

"Around eight," she said. "I had to put Lizzie down."

"What did you do after?"

"Nothing. I mean, I took a bath and went to bed, if you must know."

"And what was your purse doing in the studio?"

"I don't know."

Could he take her to jail? Who would stay with Lizzie? Who would run the few classes that she had left at her studio?

"It's a matter of public record that you two didn't get along," he said. "She wrote an editorial, didn't she? About how ballet is bad for children psychologically, physically. And she claimed that anybody taking parents' money for ballet lessons was a rip-off. And you wrote a scathing editorial back, right?"

"I won't deny that. I didn't like the woman," she replied, with eye contact. "Maybe she took my purse. Maybe that's why you found it there."

"Maybe," he said, looking away for a moment. "I think you better call your lawyer. I'm taking you in for questioning, Vera. Just procedure."

"Well, now my lawyer happens to be in a love nest in Charlottesville. God knows when he'll get back to me. At least our daughter is in good hands. Annie will take care of her."

The detective looked off into the distance; a stiff, pained expression came over his face. Was it the mention of Annie? Was he still brooding over her rejection of him? What made him think that a happily married woman would give it all up for him?


Beatrice and Jon were sitting on the screened back porch of her home, watching as the contractors dug a huge hole with a backhoe. She had thought for years about getting a pool in her backyard. It was a double lot, meaning it was deep, and there were no neighbors behind her. Ed, her first husband, had the foresight to buy two lots, for which she was grateful.

March in Cumberland Creek made it difficult to plan. They could start the digging and have to stop for weeks if it snowed or rained. Spring weather was tricky business. Jon got up from his wicker chair when the front doorbell rang. "I'll get it," he said.

Beatrice sat back in her chair. She loved to watch his quick little walk. It was so nice to have him around. Well, for the most part.

She'd gotten so used to being alone that sometimes just having another person around all the time was enough to make her want to scream. She was learning to go off in a room or to go for a walk when she felt as if she couldn't stand to hear him breathe one more minute. If she didn't get away from him, she'd find herself lashing out at him. And that was not good; it wasn't what she wanted. After all, she did love the man, even if he was French. At least he'd learned to stop bringing that up.

"In France, we do it like this...."

"If you were a Frenchwoman, I'd say this...."

"It's better in France...."

She had just about had enough of it and had told him so.

"Look, I love you, Jon, but if you'd like to go back to France, please do. Otherwise, please stop telling me about how wonderful it is and how much better it is than here."

He laughed.

"I'm sorry," he said. "It's so arrogant of me to be in your country and go on and on about France. Perhaps I miss it. Let's visit together this summer, yes?"

"Maybe," she said.

Instead, they decided to build a pool in Beatrice's backyard and spend the summer lounging and swimming together in Cumberland Creek. They might go to France next year. His visa was going to expire, so he had to go back. Whether or not Beatrice was going with him was up for debate.

When Jon came back to the porch, a police officer accompanied him.


Excerpted from DEATH of an IRISH DIVA by Mollie Cox Bryan. Copyright © 2014 Mollie Cox Bryan. 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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