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(Ten months later)
It was a glorious fall night in East Hampton. The sky was inky black with thin clouds racing past a full moon, and the ancient trees along the village streets cast long shadows in the silver moonlight. In the distance, the ocean waves murmured, providing a romantic background soundtrack. The air outside was crisp, not too chilly, but with just enough kick to necessitate roaring fires in the Windmill Inn's public rooms. It was a cozy Friday evening; just how innkeeper Antonia Bingham had imagined it would be when she dreamed of her move to the East Coast from California. Combined with the medley of delicious smells wafting from the kitchen, the weather and atmosphere gave Antonia a sense of great satisfaction.
The dining room of the Windmill Inn was by no means filled to capacity, but for the first time in the six weeks since Antonia had opened the restaurant, half of the tables were occupied. She had heard, of course, that it takes a while for new restaurants to gain momentum, particularly when they are replacing old restaurants that had reputations for terrible service and inedible food. But still, those first few nights when the seats remained empty she had felt completely disheartened. Not to mention embarrassed: the sound of every ice cube clinking in a glass seemed magnified and the busboys were too eager to replace half-eaten rolls, just to have something to do. But gradually — very gradually — reservations had picked up, with locals and weekenders popping by, eager to try a new place, and more guests booking rooms at the inn and venturing down to try Antonia's home-cooked meals.
Finally, in Antonia's mind, the future was beginning to look a little brighter. She hoped she wasn't delusional; she was by nature an optimist who chose to look at the bright side of things. However, Antonia's optimism made her prone to bad judgment calls, resulting in infrequent but spectacular failures. "Older and wiser" was one of her mottos, and with her recent purchase of the inn, Antonia was hoping that she could put some of the knowledge and experience that she had acquired in her thirty-five years (twelve years of catering!) to good use. She just needed to avoid past mistakes.
Now, as Antonia roamed the sleek navy and white dining room, she surveyed it critically. It was a large space that seated sixty-five diners and the décor was comfortable, while also streamlined and uncluttered. Whereas Antonia had chosen to make the rest of the inn feel cozy-formal with antiques, lots of prints and colored fabrics, she had given the restaurant a bright and crisp interior. The walls were painted eggshell white and held large canvases of modern art, mostly bright abstracts, but a few small, individually lit oil paintings as well. The floors had been stained a dark walnut wood, brushed smoothly and evenly. In the front of the room, by the maître d' station, was a dark azure lacquered bar. Its eight barstools had button-tufted backs and sides studded with pewter nail head trim. Beyond that were a dozen freestanding tables set formally with starched white linens, white china and blue Murano goblets.
When she was decorating the inn, Antonia had sat on dozens of chairs in an effort to find the most comfortable; one that would encourage diners to linger and order more courses. The winners were softly rounded and upholstered in blue, with gently sloping arms and maple-stained legs. In the back of the room, beyond the swinging door to the kitchen was a nook housing four booths, their banquettes covered in in cobalt vinyl with white piping. Antonia had debated whether or not the booths made the place feel too casual, but tonight they had allowed her to successfully accommodate a last minute party of seven. Smiling benevolently at the happy group, Antonia knew she had made the right decision in adding the booths. They made the restaurant feel complete.
Tonight Antonia was clad in her best black satin dress, replete with a plunging neckline to both accentuate her ample breast and move everyone's eyes away from her widening girth. (Ah, the havoc that working with food wreaks on your waistline, Antonia often despaired.) She had on the lowest high heels that she could find, as anything even a half an inch higher caused major wobbling in the manner of a drunken streetwalker. It was the last thing Antonia would have liked to have been wearing — sweats, elastic waisted ruffled skirts, soft cardigans and Crocs were more her speed — but her manager had told her that she needed to "sex it up and work the room" in order to encourage first-time customers to become repeat customers. She hardly thought that her looking all dolled up would entice diners, especially in this small town, but with all of her money on the line with the restaurant and inn, she agreed to do whatever had to be done for the bottom line. As a result, Antonia had pulled out all the stops tonight, blowing dry her glossy black hair until it fell in cascading waves down to her shoulders and even applying makeup. Her cupid's bow lips were deep red, her porcelain cheeks blushed pink and her already thick lashes fluttered darkly around her bright blue eyes.
"Another wonderful dinner, Antonia, thank you," said Joseph Fowler as he signed his check and flipped the leather-bound cardholder closed. He placed it on the table next to the small pumpkin centerpiece. After finishing the last sip of his sherry, he dabbed his mouth with the cloth napkin.
"Thank you, Joseph. You always make my day!" Antonia beamed at her favorite dinner guest.
Joseph was a renowned writer of historical fiction. He had been recently widowed when his wife of thirty-plus years died after a long bout with cancer. Joseph was Antonia's first customer at the restaurant, and for that she was eternally grateful, especially as he had turned out to be a tremendous cheerleader for her. An elegant man, with refined features (aquiline nose, arched eyebrows, chiseled cheekbones, impeccably combed silver hair) he always dressed in custom-fitted monogrammed dress shirts and a bowtie, cords or khakis (depending on the weather), and a beautiful tweed blazer. As he was still only in his early sixties, Antonia fervently hoped he would find romance again. It was too soon for her to play matchmaker but she had already targeted some of the ladies who came to tea at the inn as potential suitors. Should she mind her own business? Probably. But that wasn't really her style.
"Joseph, I'd love your feedback, what did you think of the truffled polenta with Gorgonzola? It's a new recipe I'm trying out. You can tell me honestly."
He smiled. "It was exquisite."
"I'm not fishing for compliments, are you sure?"
He patted her hand. "My dear, I would have it every night if I could."
"You know how to make a lady happy," she said, wagging her finger at him. "I'll take your word for it, but I still think it needs some tweaking — maybe a different herb. It says rosemary but I have to be honest, I'm not the biggest rosemary fan. It sort of tastes like shampoo, don't you think? I much prefer tarragon or sage. Even chervil. Thyme could work, but it's kind of wimpy. Well, we'll see ..."
"My advice to you is don't over-think it. The best thing about your food is that you cook from the heart. And it shows."
"Well, I try."
Antonia motioned for Glen, the maitre d', to assist Joseph into his scooter. Joseph had suffered a bout of polio as a child and although he could walk with the assistance of crutches, in recent years he had primarily used a scooter to get around.
"There ya go, Mr. Fowler," said Glen in his strong Long Island accent. "I tell you, I could use one of these things to escape from the ladies."
Glen was attractive but in an unctuous, hair-gelled way, like Guido the Killer Pimp. A failed actor with an inflated ego, he was a high-maintenance employee but very good at charming women and making customers feel at home.
Joseph chuckled. "Well, I don't exactly have that problem."
"All in good time."
"Have a great night," said Antonia cheerily.
Joseph winked. "You too, my lady."
Antonia moved around the room to greet other guests and to solicit any suggestions they might have about the food. She enjoyed meeting people as much as she enjoyed cooking, and it was always an internal debate as to where she should spend more time. It was fun for her to find out where guests were from, and what their story was, but at the same time, she also adored her time in the kitchen, concocting her latest culinary adventure, darting about, plating dishes. If she could slice herself in half and do both she certainly wouldn't hesitate.
After sending off a cute couple that was visiting from New York City (house-hunting) she stopped off at Len and Sylvia Powers' table. Len headed up security at the Dune Club, a very fancy country club on the ocean, and his wife was a teacher. Tonight they had brought their son in to celebrate his twenty-fifth birthday.
"You've done an amazing job, Antonia, I tell you, just amazing. The inn looks gorgeous and the food is fabulous," said Sylvia Powers, her big cerulean eyes twinkling. She patted her mouth with her napkin, leaving a stain of the hot pink lipstick that was her trademark, then patted her stomach appreciatively. "I tell you, it is so wonderful that you brought this place back to life. And so quickly, what was it, only six months?" She didn't wait for an answer but continued, "I can't tell you how sad it was to see it fall into disrepair all the years Gordon Haslett owned it. What a mean guy! And that made the place mean. We stopped coming here long ago, didn't we Len?"
"Well you didn't really have a choice, Mom," said Matt, giving her a sly smile.
She frowned. "Nonsense. We had a choice. That business was all settled. Right, Len?"
Len Powers glanced up from his apple cheddar crisp, and looked around, dazed by the interruption. He was a large man, with a belly that arrived in a room ten seconds before he did. Everything about him was big and fleshy, from his bulbous nose to his ruddy cheeks and giant ears. "I can't talk! I don't want to tear myself away from this incredible dessert."
Sylvia laughed. "I already inhaled my dessert. I tell you, that chocolate caramel cake with the little dots of sea salt was majestic. This is our third time here and every time I sample some new yummies."
"Thank you," Antonia beamed.
"This may seem like a back-handed compliment but you cook in a very homey style. The way I like to think I can cook, but actually can't. I like that it's not all that fancy new wave stuff — foams and edible flowers. That just sounds disgusting to me. Some of those cooking shows, I think, yuck! Fois Gras ice cream? Come on. When I have ice cream, I don't want meat in it. But I'm not a food snob. I just prefer food that tastes how it's supposed to. Don't mess with what ain't broke."
"Well, I'm so glad you liked it," replied Antonia. "And thank you for your kind words. I say to everyone I know that the biggest compliment they can give me is to spread the news around. I want everyone to know that there's a new sheriff in town, and the Windmill Inn is back in business."
"Oh everyone knows that already, Antonia," said Sylvia, chattering on. "East Hampton is a small town. Especially when the summer people are gone. Ah, the summer people! Did you know we call the season '100 days of hell'? Oh, they're not all bad, I'm joking. But it's nice to have the town back to ourselves, where we can get up in everybody's business! Ha, I'm joking again. But of course everyone knows that the inn changed hands when Gordon Haslett died. In fact, Matt was there — he's a paramedic." Sylvia gestured proudly at her son.
Antonia was having a hard time following Sylvia's dramatic stream-of-consciousness rambling. She looked to Matt for clarification.
Matt put down his fork and nodded. He had a pretty boy face composed of dainty features: a small straight nose, plump red lips, and thickly lashed eyes. There was also something morose and gloomy about his temperament that Antonia was certain thrilled girls who were attracted to the dark, broody types. Looking at his jolly, big-boned parents, it was hard to tell where Matt had come from.
"Yes, I was the first responder to the scene," he said solemnly and with an air of authority. "I arrived less than oh-five minutes after the call. But there was nothing I could do, he was already D.O.A."
"Well, I've no doubt you would have done everything you could have," said Antonia sympathetically. She patted his shoulder warmly. "But obviously there's not a whole lot you can do when someone suffers a massive heart attack and dies before you get there."
"Right," said Matt, nodding, his face oddly empty of emotion.
"If it was a heart attack," said Sylvia. She nudged her spoon into her husband's crisp and took a huge bite for herself.
"Mom," warned Matt, rolling his eyes. "Let's not go there."
Sylvia shrugged and put her hand to her lips to block the view of food while she talked with her mouth full. "Didn't you say, sweetie, that you thought he died of a bee sting?"
Matt squirmed uncomfortably. "Official cause of death was a heart attack."
"Yes, but one that was brought on by a bee sting," prompted Sylvia. She dove into her husband's dessert for another bite.
"Yes, I did suspect that," said Matt officiously. "He had a red welt on his cheek at the two o'clock position, and his face was inflamed concurrent with an allergic reaction. But that idea wasn't pursued."
"Why not?" asked Antonia, vaguely intrigued by this new information, gossip or not. She motioned for a busboy to refill the Powers' water glasses.
Matt rolled his eyes. "The family didn't want to. Didn't want an autopsy. But it was December, and who gets stung by a bee in December?" He was indignant.
Antonia nodded. "I guess that is strange."
"They thought I was an alarmist, being swayed by the whole reputation of the inn ..." he continued.
"Um, Matthew ..." his mother interrupted. She widened her eyes and shook her head.
Admonished, Matt abruptly stopped speaking. Sylvia shifted uncomfortably in her chair, and Len shoved a large bite of crisp into his mouth. Antonia glanced at each of them quizzically.
"What is the reputation of the inn?" she asked finally.
Matt looked past her at the wall. "Um, nothing, just an old superstition."
"What's the superstition?" pressed Antonia.
Sylvia sighed. "It's nothing, just a silly thing. And we all know that old stories like that are nothing more than stories. Someone wanted to concoct a ghost story and that's all it was."
"But what was it?" asked Antonia again.
"I wouldn't worry about it, dear," said Sylvia in a cool, reassuring voice (one that she probably used on her third graders at the John Marshall School). "I tell you, it's nothing."
"You can't leave me hanging!" Antonia said in a light voice, although underneath, her heart was racing. "Come on, now, help me out. I bought this place sight unseen eight months ago on the advice of my friend Genevieve. I moved all the way from Petaluma to East Hampton, a town that I had never stepped foot in. Then I poured every last penny I could to get it up and running. I have eight guestrooms and a restaurant, and a dozen full time employees. I need to know every facet of the inn's reputation so I know what I'm up against."
Antonia blinked her long lashes several times and smiled brightly, in an effort to alleviate the panic she was feeling. Ever since she'd bought the inn she had been experiencing moments of extreme nervousness and self-doubt, basically questioning her impulsivity. Had she made a mistake? Perhaps she should have been more suspicious of how quickly the sister of the deceased had accepted her low-ball offer. She had congratulated herself on a steal, but maybe she had been the one who was swindled? She wished she would have done more research, but she always became completely restless whenever she was in front of a computer. Honestly, she found the Internet to be a colossal waste of time in regards to everything excluding searching for recipes or antiques. But perhaps if she had taken time to Google Gordon Haslett's death she wouldn't be having this conversation.
The Powers family all glanced at each other uneasily. Finally Len spoke. He held his fork in the air, indicating he would be brief so that he could return to his dessert.
Excerpted from "Death on Windmill Way"
Copyright © 2016 Caroline M. Doyle.
Excerpted by permission of Dunemere Books.
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
Well written and edited with excellent plot and over 200 pages. I purchased the next two books in the series and read them in two days.
The Hamptons, summer playground of the rich, can be murder for the locals. Carrie Doyle's first book in her Hamptons Murder Mystery series follows innkeeper and chef Antonia Bingham. Antonia hears a local story that her newly purchased inn is cursed for it's owners...they all end up dead. This, of course, sets her off to find out how the other innkeepers were murdered and who did it. Doyle has done a good job with the setting of this book. I got a good feel for the Hamptons of the locals, and their views on the summer people. Otherwise, I found this book average. Her writing style is good, but not as engaging as other cozies I have read. Her main character, Antonia, feels a bit uptight and a little too trusting for the background she was given. The plot was predictable, and I figured out who did it about half way through. Despite this, I would be willing to read another book by this author to see how she improves as she gets further into the characters of her series. I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book from the publisher Dunemer Books via the Cozy Mystery Review Crew.
Antonia Bingham, a well-known chef, has moved to East Hampton and is the new owner of the Windmill Inn. She’s taken the old building back to its original glory, and business is starting to boom. A chance tidbit of gossip alerts her to the fact that owners of the Inn may be cursed. The inn's previous owners may have been victims of murder. Is she next? Anxious to find out if she will become a victim, she begins talking to former guests, employees, and the townspeople, thus stirring up a hornet’s nest. This is the first book in the Hamptons Murder Mystery series by author Carrie Doyle. While I’ve never been to the Hamptons myself, this book gave me a glimpse into the lives of not just the elite who summer there, but the men and women who call the area home 365 days a year. While I do think parts of the book could have been tightened up, and some threads went unfinished (perhaps setting up for the next in the series?), I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery, and seeing how Antonia sussed out the red herrings to find the truth. I won’t give it away, but the ending was very reminiscent of a Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple mystery. This was a thoroughly charming book, and Antonia’s specially prepared dishes made me quite hungry more than once. The characters came alive, as did the setting, and I longed to see the Hamptons for myself. I won the book from the author, and I’m very much looking forward to the next in the series!
I know they say you can't judge a book by its cover, but when I saw my copy of Death on Windmill Way by Carrie Doyle, I fell in love with it -- it is very reminiscent of the M. A Hadley pottery I grew up with as a child, and just charming. The story is wonderful and engaging as well. Antonio Bingham has moved from California, escaping an abusive marriage, to East Hampton, New York to run the Windmill Inn and Restaurant, which has seen much better days. She finds she is very talented at both, especially in the kitchen, and is making a success of her new endeavor. One night, she discovers that the the previous owner of the Windmill Inn may have been murdered, and that there may be a curse on the Inn. Known as "Snoopy" as a child for her inquisitive nature, Antonia is determined to investigate and make sure that she does not become a victim of the curse as well. I really enjoyed this book. It was fun to read about the workings of the Inn, Antonia's friendships, and of course the mystery of the previous owners. There are some great characters in Death on Windmill Way, and Antonia is a strong protagonist who is determined not to let go of her dream of being an Innkeeper. You can see the love she has for the Windmill Inn and East Hampton throughout the story. This book is the first in the Hamptons Murder Mysteries, and I look forward to future books about Antonia and the Inn. I voluntarily reviewed this book, and all opinions are my own.
Not just a new beginning, but a new enterprise sends Antonia Bingham from her life in California to the East Coast at the urging of her best friend Genevieve. The East Hamptons, although bustling with summer people 100 days of the year, turns into regular small town in the off season. Antonia's new inn/restaurant are struggling as any new business will, with vendors, staff, hours and ideas constantly looked at. Belatedly, she learns of the 'curse' of the inn, and with her interest piqued, Antonia can't help but investigate the two most recent innkeepers deaths. A wide variety of well described characters and suspects appear, with everything leading to a Poirot-like summons at the end. Doyle seems to tie the cozy genre to a bit more meatier mystery, hope there is more to come
Will Antonia be able to save her own skin and bring a murderer to justice? DEATH ON WINDMILL WAY by Carrie Doyle The First Hamptons Murder Mystery Antonia Bingham has finally escaped from an abusive husband in California and is starting over across the country. With a love of cooking and not much experience, Antonia bought the dilapidated old Windmill Inn in the Hamptons and poured all of her money, sparing no expense, into refurbishing it into a high end inn and restaurant. She soon discovered, however, that not only was her money running out, but the previous owners of the inn had died under suspicious circumstances. Was there some inn owner killing lunatic on the prowl? Not trusting the police, her abusive ex-husband was a cop, Antonia starts looking into the previous owner's death. Will her questions cause a killer to act once more or will Antonia be able to save her own skin and bring a murderer to justice? Carrie Doyle gathers an interesting group of characters in her first Hamptons Murder Mystery. Antonia is a strong woman with a certain naivete who is determined to discover the truth behind the deaths of the previous innkeepers while trying to make certain she's not next to die! There's the vintage clothe wearing manager with an attitude, a flakey best friend, a volatile cooking crew, and a debonnaire father figure. There's also a lot of suspicious behavior as the number of possible suspects increases. Not only do they have motives, their actions belie their innocence. The mystery took a while to draw me in, but soon I was eagerly involved in the story. There were moments that made me laugh, picturing the scene in my head, and moments that were touching. A most satisfying conclusion rounded out DEATH ON WINDMILL WAY and I look forward to reading the next book in the series. FTC Disclosure – The publisher sent me a copy of this book in the hopes I would review it.
A slightly longer than usual cozy mystery, Death on Windmill Lane does not disappoint. The heart of the story centers around Antonia, the new inn keeper who discovers that she may be next in line for murder based on an urban legend. Antonia is an outsider to the area so Carrie Doyle focuses the character development on her as she navigates her way through the Hamptons’ secrets. As Antonia discovers the Hamptons and those who live there, it also provides the reader with an insider’s view of the life and times of living there in the off season with actual real life references. Doyle intrigues the reader by building multiple suspects and scenarios for the murders. With the book playing out like a game of Clue, it is an exciting mystery to solve! I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.
This was a fun new mystery series to start. I felt like it was a little different than the normal cozy mystery but I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe it was the setting and the cast of characters or the length as this is a bit longer than most cozies, which I enjoyed. I thought the author did a good job of developing the characters. Especially the main character Antonia and I love how she got close to Joseph and looks up to him. Another thing I enjoyed about this author was that she was very descriptive from the food to the locations and everything in between. I like that the author gave me so many different suspects and scenerios so I was kept guessing until the end. I am looking forward to the next book in this fun series.
Carrie Doyle's Death on Windmill Way Welcome to the Hampton's better known as the playground for the rich and famous!! The location, houses, furnishings and clothing worn in the story are vividly described making the reader feel as if you were there with the characters. Antonia Bingham has bought the East Hampton Windmill Inn. She is a well known chef hailing from California. Antonio has spent a lot of time researching the historical structure and features of the earlier Inn. She has renovated the Windmill Inn to fit into the Hampton older households and furnishings traditions. But has Antonio has made an unpleasant discovery....the Inn has a curse attached to it. It seems all the other owners have meet with unnatural deaths!!! Then unexplainable pranks start to befall on her. She needs to figure out what is happening and who is behind the murder and mayhem associated with the Inn. The cast of characters are vivid, colorful, engaging and entertaining. They were many suspicious suspects for Antonio to investigate. Creative writing, unique plot with twists, turns, thrills and chills. This is the first book in the Hampton's Murder Mystery series. A very enjoyable read. I highly recommend this book. I volunteered to read this book. Thanks to the author via The Cozy Review Crew for the book. My opinion is my own.
This first book in a new cozy series is sure to delight with it’s mouth watering descriptions of the scrumptious food served in the restaurant at the inn, to the gorgeous architect inside the inn, around town, and down at the beach. This cozy was a bit different than any other ones that I have read. The cozies I normally read come in paperback, whereas this one is a trade paperback (so it’s larger in dimensions), and it was much longer than a lot of other cozies. Whereas most top out at 300 pages, you get 100 more to enjoy with this book. It took a bit for me to get use to this one since is was so descriptive. A lot of other cozies focus more on the relationships between the characters. While this one did too, I’m thinking that’s where the extra 100 pages came in handy, to encompass all the wonderful depictions. I am so happy that the possible future love interest is not a law enforcement agent. So many series do this, and while it’s handy for the plot, it is really over done. Another thing that I really enjoyed was the relationship between Antonia and Joseph. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any other cozies where the characters are decades apart in age and are not also both women, that have such a great friendship. Carrie Doyle included lots of red herrings when it came to the mystery. While I can’t claim that it took me to the end to figure out the killer, I will say that all the various scenarios of who it could have been, were very well thought out. And I really enjoyed how the final showdown to reveal the killer was done in a style that would have made Miss Marple proud. I highly recommend this mystery, and am looking forward to book two in the Hampton Murder Mysteries, Death on Lily Pond Lane.