It’s just days before Amy plans to open Birds & Bees on the first floor of her creaky Victorian house, but delayed seed shipments have prevented the fledging owner from stocking her shelves. And it doesn’t help that Amy’s best friend and business partner is out of town indefinitely. With locals skeptical about the niche shop taking flight, the last thing Amy needs now is a dead man in her storeroom—or for a crotchety tenant to catch her holding a bloody birdfeeder hook over his body . . .
Pigeonholed as a leading murder suspect by police and lacking a solid alibi, Amy’s delving into the victim’s ugly past and buzzing around Ruby Lake for clues on his killer . . . before she ends up like so many of her beloved feathery friends—trapped behind bars!
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"Welcome to Ruby Lake. Relax ... Enjoy!" read the sign at the edge of the road.
Two perfectly nice sentiments, but I was perfectly unable to indulge in either of them at the moment.
I whizzed by the sign into town and kept on driving. It was late and the night was falling down on me like the final curtain of a closing Broadway musical. There was so much to do — too much to do. This couldn't be happening. I was two days from opening my new and first business, Birds & Bees. And, so far, it seemed like all I had was a hornet's nest of troubles.
Relax and enjoy were mere dreams at this point. The stuff of fantasies. Like imagining myself starring in a big Broadway musical when I can't even carry a tune.
Why couldn't I relax? Why couldn't I enjoy?
First, my major birdseed supplier hadn't shown up. When I'd called the distributor down in Charlotte, I was told the driver's truck had broken down somewhere between here and there. It may as well have been Timbuktu and Sri Lanka for all the good that bit of information was doing me. How do you sell bird food and birding supplies when you have an insufficient amount of one and none of the other?
Second, my best friend and partner in this little enterprise, Kim, had had to leave suddenly for Florida to attend to her mother, who'd broken her hip in a spill outside the swimming pool of her retirement complex. Kim had been gone a week and I wasn't sure if she'd be back in time for our pending grand opening. My last voicemails and texts to her had gone unanswered. Not a good sign.
At least the rain had stopped.
I shot a glance in the rearview mirror. I took comfort in the fact that I at least had a batch of brand-new handcrafted bluebird houses to add to my understocked shelves. I'd purchased them from Aaron Maddley, a local farmer who was a woodworker on the side. He did good work too. The darling houses had gingerbread roofs, copper trim, and were each hand- painted pale blue. The birdhouses ought to sell well. I couldn't wait to get to the shop and set them up. Finding Aaron had been a prize.
I'd had a pair of bluebirds hanging around an old birdhouse at the edge of my front porch. The pine house was rotted and warped. I vowed to replace it with one of Aaron's new cedar ones as soon as I had the chance. Not only were they far more aesthetically pleasing, it would be good advertising. What customer wouldn't want one once they got a look at it? Especially if my bluebirds decided to create a nest.
As I pulled up to the curb outside my fledgling shop, I caught sight of Gertie Hammer walking past. She had wrapped herself up in a puffy, lime- green, plus-size, three-quarter-length down jacket that made her look like a big green shrub with a cold, holly-berry-red face. Her lips were pulled tight and her mitten-covered fists were balled up even tighter. She wasn't my biggest fan. She'd sold me the rundown old three-story Victorian Queen Anne–style house thinking she'd gotten the best of me.
Now I was turning the place into a store for bird lovers, bee lovers, and all things nature. If I was lucky, business would thrive, my love life would spark to life, and I'd be getting the best of Gertie Hammer. Our families have a long history. Think Thirty Years' War, western North Carolina style.
I wiggled my fingers in her direction. I knew that would get her goat. And it did. The woman practically bleated as she turned on her heel and headed across the street to Ruby's Diner, whose slogan was Eat Here, Get Gas. It was an old joke, but then Moire Leora Breeder, the café's owner, is an old jokester — well, older than me by a few years anyway.
Besides, the diner really had been a gas station originally, so it made sense. Moire had added the slogan to the old diner once she'd bought it from the retiring owner. Other than that, things hadn't changed much. The sign with the big green dinosaur on it still stood proudly in the parking lot at the edge of the street. Moire Leora did serve up her own take on a bronto burger as an homage to the corporate apatosaurus.
Moire Leora wouldn't be too happy about Gertie showing up at the diner. When Gertie ate in Moire's place, everybody else got indigestion.
I parked and opened the back door of the minivan. She's a white Kia Sedona with tan upholstery, what little there is left of it. The minivan's a bit of a dinosaur herself. The old girl's got 117,000-plus miles on her, but I'm sure she'd be good for plenty more — like 118,000, fingers crossed. The aging Sedona may not be the sweetest-looking vehicle on the road, but it suited my requirements, with plenty of room for everything I needed to haul, both in and out.
I glanced up toward the second floor of Birds & Bees. Sure enough, Esther Pilaster, Esther Pester, as I liked to call her — in private, of course — was peeking out her window.
Typical. Esther was my renter, at least for another nine months. She'd unfortunately come with the property and her lease wouldn't be up till the end of the year. I couldn't wait. The woman could teach a class in Busybody 101.
I walked up the short, uneven pink brick path and climbed the broad steps to the porch leading to the double French doors. I wasn't surprised to find one of them unlocked. With so many distractions, I'd been forgetting that a lot lately. Besides, Esther Pester sometimes used the front door, though I'd told her time and time again to stick to the rear entrance. Front for customers, rear for renters. I preached it over and over to the woman like a mantra. But it had always been in vain. You'd think she'd learn to listen. You'd think I'd learn to save my breath.
Maybe the Pester needed new hearing aid batteries. Maybe she needed a whole new hearing aid. Maybe I'd take up a collection for her.
The scent of fresh gardenias met me. I'd set two vases full of the flowers in the front window just that morning. I had purchased the gardenias from Francoise Early. Mrs. Early is a seventy-five-year-old widow with the greenest thumb I've ever seen. She's a prim woman with silvery hair, a fleshy nose on whose tip a pair of glasses is normally perched, a ruddy complexion, and a pleasantly plump figure. For all I know, she's secretly married to Santa Claus, because she looks exactly like I'd pictured Mrs. Claus when I was growing up.
Francoise Early lives at the edge of town on a large piece of property with its own greenhouse. We'd worked out an arrangement where I'd carry some of her plants in Birds & Bees. Francoise had even agreed to cultivate some of the specialty plants I wanted to make available to my customers, plants to attract and support various species of birds and bees throughout the seasons.
I sighed with contentment as I hit the light switch near the door, but nothing happened. Oh great. I could feel my contentment leaving like the tide. Did I have any spare lightbulbs? No. I did have some spare daffodil bulbs, but I wasn't sure what wattage they were. They sure would be eco- friendly if they worked though, wouldn't they?
I silently cursed my bad luck and went back to the minivan for the Aaron Maddley houses. It took me three trips, but I hauled all twelve of the bluebird houses in through the front door, dropped them on the counter next to the register, then paused to catch a breath. I know, twelve lightweight red cedar birdhouses shouldn't have tired me out, but it had been a long day.
It had been a very long two months. I was looking forward to opening the doors of Birds & Bees and watching all the customers fly in and the products fly out.
A girl could dream, couldn't she? Like Dorothy in The Wiz, I just wanted to "Ease On Down the Road" to happiness and success.
I'd heard some of the comments around town in my daily rounds since coming back home after so many years away. Some folks thought it was crazy to open a bird lover's shop in Ruby Lake. Well, let them eat crow when I succeed, that's all I have to say!
I locked the front door behind me and worked my way through the back. Getting farther and farther from the yellow light cast by the street lamp out front. Not for the first time, I realized just how spooky this old house could be in the dark.
As a girl growing up in Ruby Lake, I'd heard all the stories too, about the ghost that supposedly dwelt in this old place. I shooed the memory away before I scared myself any further. If I let my thoughts run in that direction any longer, no doubt I'd be hearing ethereal oohs, aahs, and clanking ghostly chains.
I have a vivid imagination. Sometimes a blessing but sometimes a curse.
Maybe I could find an extra lightbulb in the storage closet, or unscrew one from somewhere else for the time being. As I made my way awkwardly across the sales floor, feeling like a bat that'd lost its sense of echolocation, my shin banged against the sharp rim of a low-profile, hand-chiseled granite birdbath. The bowl wobbled. I grabbed it with both hands to prevent it from falling and felt one of my fingernails break against the coarse stone. I started to curse whoever had put the darn birdbath there in the first place, then realized it had been me.
Rubbing my throbbing shin and cursing some more, I felt around in the dark for the light switch to the small room in back that did double duty as a storeroom-slash-office. The office portion, at this point, consisted of a composition notebook resting atop two cases of berry blast suet cakes stacked on top of each other.
The light in back wasn't working either. For the first time, I wondered if the power was out in the entire house. But no, there had been a light on in Esther Pester's upstairs apartment, so that couldn't be the problem. Life should be so easy. I hoped the house wasn't having electrical troubles now. I had problems aplenty as it was. I didn't need more problems or more expenses. And if the house was having electrical issues, the solution would, no doubt, be expensive. It seemed everything in an old house needs fixing at one time or another and that such fixes are, as a rule, pricey.
I breathed a sigh of relief at the thought that whatever was wrong with the electrical system was likely limited to the first floor. Mom and I shared an apartment upstairs too, but not on the same floor as Esther. We had the entire third floor to ourselves. Well, there might have been some squirrels roosting between the ceiling and the roof. I hadn't quite made up my mind yet about those weird scratching noises coming from the rafters. If the noises were animal in nature, I preferred to think they'd emanated from squirrels rather than mice. Squirrels I could live with, at least temporarily. Mice creep me out.
Anyway, I was glad we weren't without power. Things were hard enough on Mom.
"That's it," I muttered to no one, "I'm calling it a day." It was nearly 9:00 p.m. I'd been up since five. Definitely quitting time. I had half a bottle of white zinfandel in the fridge. A glass of wine and a Lean Cuisine followed by a quick shower. That was all I needed. Plus, I was in the middle of a recently published tome on the birds of Western North Carolina. If you're going to own a store for bird lovers, you've got to stay current. I'd promised myself I'd read a chapter each night. Unfortunately, being alone — except for Mom — and single, I didn't have anything better to do. There, I've said it: I'm single.
As I set my foot on the stairs, I felt a thump and thought I might have heard a cry. In fact, the treads themselves seemed to shake ever so slightly. Like a train passing. But the nearest train track was miles from here.
What the heck was that? I hoped Mom hadn't fallen.
The stairs led up to the second-floor landing where Esther's compact one- bedroom apartment and a now empty two-bedroom unit sat separated by a small storeroom. I hesitated. Maybe I'd gone too far. Maybe my overactive imagination was playing tricks on me.
I steeled my nerves, or at least tried to, and slowly climbed the stairs. I was swallowed in darkness here. Not a beam of light penetrated this far back. I didn't hear anything now but the beating of my heart. The air grew chill. For a moment I considered turning back. "Mom? Ms. Pilaster?" No answer. The storeroom door stood open. The room was empty and unused, but I planned to store extra stock up there eventually. Right now, I didn't have enough stock for my shelves, let alone extra. A musty odor spilled into the foyer, tickling my nose.
"Hello?" I strained my ears. Nothing. "Anybody here?"
It was pitch-black inside. There were no windows in the storeroom or on the door leading to the outside stairs. The metal stairs on the outside of the house had been added to the house later, when the rooms on the second and third floors had been converted for use as separate apartments.
A bare bulb hung from the ceiling of the empty room. That is, I knew there was a bulb — I just couldn't see it. It was screwed into one of those light fixtures that you pull on and off with a string. Now, if only I could find that string. I fished around in the darkness, my hands swimming around like tentacles. Not that I'm saying I have a head like an octopus. Even if Jerry Kennedy did say I did back in third grade. Real mature, Jerry. Of course, the only thing dumber than being told you have a head that resembles an octopus is remembering that dumb comment decades later.
"Ouch!" My feet bumped into something on the floor and my juvenile thoughts jumped forward to the present. The mysterious something I'd hit clattered as it skidded away along the hardwood. I sank to my knees and groped around. My fingers found metal. Wrought iron, by the feel of it. My hands worked their way up and down the invisible object's length. Hmmm, it felt like one of the hooks I'd be selling. The kind you attach a birdfeeder to in order to keep the squirrels and raccoons at bay. What was it doing up here?
A light shot at my face and I was momentarily blinded. I held the hook out, not so much as a weapon, but to defend myself from whatever was trying to spotlight me to death.
The lightbulb blinked to life. My pupils shrank back to human dimensions. I could now see the string from the chain, dangling in Esther Pester's clawlike grip.
I looked at my feet. After all, that's where Esther Pester was looking.
I could now see the body of a medium-sized man lying on his back on the floor, his face twisted. He looked like he could practically reach out and touch my toes. Then again, judging by appearances, unless he had some zombie blood in him, I didn't think he'd be touching anything.
"Amy Simms, you're a murderer!" repeated Esther, aiming her free hand at me.
Esther took a step back.
I jumped and screamed.
Then Esther screamed too, exposing her long, uneven teeth, aiming her finger at me like a death ray.
I dropped the feeder hook — it landed on my big toe — and threw my hands in front of my face. "Please," I cried, "turn that thing off!" My foot throbbed smartly.
Esther, bless her pestering heart, complied. I was going to have to give the dear a tenth month's rent. Free. Plus, she was smart enough to own a flashlight. A darn good one too. I could have used a flashlight like that when I slammed into the birdbath downstairs.
Click. I was now in the dark. With Esther standing there accusing me of murder. With a dead body practically licking my toes. A chill shot up and down my spine. The hairs on my arms shot to attention. I really needed a better depilatory.
"No!" I cried. That's it. I was kicking the woman out just as soon as I got this dead body thing sorted out.
"Turn the lights back on! Turn the lights back on!" Geesh, I'd only wanted her to turn off that lighthouse-like LED flashlight of hers. That thing could burn holes through solid steel. I rubbed my eyes with my fists. What damage had that thing done to my retinas?
I looked down through watery eyes. The dead man seemed to be looking up at me out of one eye like it was my fault. But I swear, it wasn't.
That was when I noticed the sticky red substance clinging to my fingers.CHAPTER 2
A sudden pounding on the back door below set both of us off and we screamed in unison. It was nothing to make the church choir proud. But it sure would have set the cat's hair on end, if I had a cat.
We looked at each other in wide-eyed fear. Was it the boogeyman? Had Death come knocking on my back door? I struggled to calm my nerves. I cleared my throat. "Maybe you should go see who's at the door, Esther," I suggested.
Esther shook her head adamantly. "Not me, young lady. This is your house. You answer the door." Esther Pilaster is a small, narrow-shouldered, elflike woman with a hawkish nose, sagging eyelids, and silver hair normally pulled tightly to the back of her head in a four-inch ponytail held in place with an elastic black velvet hair tie. Her gray-blue eyes, topped with wispy white eyebrows, dared me to challenge her.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Die, Die Birdie"
Copyright © 2016 J.R. Ripley.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Title: Die Die Birdie - Bird Lover's Mystery Book 1 Author: J R Ripley Publisher: Kensington Books Published: 8-16-2016 Pages: 202 Genre: Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense Sub-Genre: Cozy Mystery; Women's Fiction ISBN: 97816901838308 ASIN: B018CGZ1J8 Reviewed For NetGalley and Kensington Books Reviewer: DelAnne Rating: 4.25 Stars For Amy Simms, hatching a birding shop in her hometown of Ruby Lake, North Carolina, hasn’t exactly been a breeze. But could a deadlydiscovery clip her wings for good? It’s just days before Amy plans to open Birds & Bees on the first floor of her creaky Victorian house, but delayed seed shipments have prevented the fledging owner from stocking her shelves. And it doesn’t help that Amy’s best friend and business partner is out of town indefinitely. With locals skeptical about the niche shop taking flight, the last thing Amy needs now is a dead man in her storeroom—or for a crotchety tenant to catch her holding a bloody birdfeeder hook over his body . . . Pigeonholed as a leading murder suspect by police and lacking a solid alibi, Amy’s delving into the victim’s ugly past and buzzing around Ruby Lake for clues on his killer . . . beforeshe ends up like so many of her beloved feathery friends—trapped behind bars! The first in a new series. R J Ripley and promises to become a great series. The characters will evolve and develop over time, but show the basic characteristics. The story moves at a steady pace and gives the reader a chance to give their brains a challenge as they try to figure out who the killer is before Ripley gives the final reveal. My rating of "Die, Die Birdie" is out of 5 stars.
I actually would give this a 3 1/2 star. This has the good bones for a series, I think the characters need a little developing. They have conversations but I never really felt a connection between any of them. Amy comes across as ditzy at times but her saving grace is that she is likable. I noticed that there were very few redeeming qualities on any of the men in this cozy, except one and he's sort of shoved to the side. The mystery was good, I didn't figure it out, there seems to be another story which really wasn't solved but with the ending, I'm wondering if that is continuing on. I love the idea of the shop being centered on Birds and Bees, that is something unique and I hope that we get a little more info on both as the series continues. As I said there is a strong base, I hope that the characters develop a little more with some better interaction. I will continue on to the next in the series.
You don't have to be a bird lover to love this book. Great light mystery, moves right along with lots of twists and turns. The author has a unique voice and a fun approach.
When opening a new store, you know you are going to have some glitches; but murder? Well, Amy Simms didn’t expect that when she opened her “Birds and Bees” store in Ruby Lake. When the murdered man is identified, there is hardly anyone in town that is not a suspect. Somehow Amy is the #1 suspect because she had a not so favorable history with the victim. Can Amy get herself off the suspect list, deal with a nasty renter and open the store in time? Good read!
Die, Die Birdie by J.R. Ripley is the first book in A Bird Lover’s Mystery series. Amy Simms is opening Birds and Bees in Ruby Lake, North Carolina in a beautiful old Victorian home. It is a shop that will have bird supplies, apiary gear and supplies, and other items related nature such as gardening items. Amy is hoping to open her shop soon if only her supplies will arrive. Amy has the shop on the first floor, apartments on the second floor (with a grandfathered in renter), and Amy lives on the top floor. Amy comes home and finds the front door unlocked (she remembers locking it). Amy decides to check out the place to make sure no one is inside (besides the crotchety renter). Amy is on the second floor and finds a body with a feeder hook nearby (which she touches). The next thing she knows Esther Pilaster, the renter, is accusing her of murder. The dead guy turns out to be Matt Kowalski. Amy knew him in high school and they had an encounter with a baseball bat. Unfortunately, Sheriff Jerry Kennedy (also knew Amy in high school) believes Amy to be the number one suspect (her fingerprints are on the murder weapon). Amy needs to clear her name pronto so she can open Birds and Bees. What was Matt doing in her house and why did someone kill him? Amy dives into the investigation. She will be busy as a bee trying to find the culprit and getting her shop ready for its grand opening. Die, Die Birdie is a cute book. I found it easy to read and the writing was good. I did feel that the crime happened too early in the story (chapter one). I wish there had been a little more build up to the murder. The author tries to divert the reader, but the mystery is really easy to solve (it needed to be more complex or have a good twist). I give Die, Die Birdie 3.5 out of 5 stars. The main character and the tenant are good characters, though Amy is a little scatterbrained. We did not get a lot of information on Amy, but I hope we will in future books. The setting is a typical small town with gossip central (everyone knows everyone else’s business). I liked the idea for the shop (unique). I wish there was one in my area (I have several bird feeders in my yard). I did find some things to be a little too silly (i.e. idiotic) for me (had me rolling my eyes). Die, Die Birdie is a good start to a new series. I look forward to reading the next book in A Bird Lover’s Mystery series. I received a complimentary copy of Die, Die Birdie in exchange for an honest evaluation. The comments and opinions expressed are strictly my own.
In Die, Die Birdie, the first book in the Bird Lover's Mystery series, author J.R. Ripley weaves an intriguing cozy mystery tale that follows the amateur sleuth adventures of Bird & Bees shop owner Amy Simms, when she unexpectedly finds herself a suspect in the murder of Matt Kowalski, who she found dead in her storage room. Set in the southern town of Ruby Lake, North Carolina, Amy has returned to her hometown and is a few days away from opening Birds & Bees, a birding supply store in an old three story Victorian home with her best friend and business partner Kim Christy. Amy's life is turned upside down when she stumbles upon Matt's dead body, and she suddenly finds herself a suspect in his murder when her nosy elderly renter Esther Pilaster, aka Esther Pester, finds Amy standing over the body holding a bloody wrought iron bird feeder pole in her hands. When Amy's ex-high school boyfriend Chief of Police Jerry Kennedy suspects her of the murder, Amy decides to search for clues into the identity of the murderer in order to clear her name and save her new business. Die, Die Birdie is a slow building southern whodunit tale that has enough quirky characters, witty banter and humor, drama, secrets, frenemies, and intriguing twists and turns that will keep you guessing the identity of the murderer. You can't help but get caught up in the drama and calamity that ensues as Amy tries to solve the murder. Amy's amateur investigative adventure unfolds with a wonderful balance of comedy, drama, and suspense that easily kept me guessing, and left me wanting more. Die, Die Birdie is an entertaining southern cozy murder mystery that will engage you to join in the crazy adventures and trials and tribulations that occur, while providing you with a dose of good ol' southern charm and humor. I really enjoyed the author's rich description of the charming western North Carolina small town of Ruby Lake and it's colorful townsfolk. So pull up a rocking chair and set down for a spell with some sweet tea while Amy takes you on her madcap adventure! Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review.
DIE DIE BIRDIE STORY LINE: Author J. R. Ripley has created a hilarious cozy mystery filled with laughter, mystery, murder, and numerous worthy suspects. Amy Simms is just days from opening her new store Birds and Bees in Ruby Lake, N. C. She has purchased an old Victorian house, which unknown to her, needs lots of tlc and money spent for repairs; to top it off she has a busy body nosy tenant know to the residents of Ruby Lake as Esther Pilaster and better know to Amy secretly as Esther Pester. As result, Esther Pester finds Amy standing over the dead body of Matthew Kowalski, murder weapon in hand; things start to go side ways. Amy begins to investigate on her own and things just become scarier and stranger with strange noises at night, strange goings on by the town elite, attempts on Amy's life, and break-ins. Come along with Amy and friends as they ferret out the murderer and the reasons for the all the strange goings on. DIE DIE BIRDIE CHARACTER, PLOTTING, AND DEVELOPMENT: First let me say, I found this an easy light read that provided hours of entertainment from the hustle and bustle of life. The plot was easy to follow without giving away the true villain. Author J. R. Ripley's writing style was clear and fresh with wit on each page. Amy was a charming character with a love for life and no illusions about herself. In addition, the secondary characters in this story added much to the story-line. Esther Pester was a hoot and you just know she is breaking the lease rules. Also, Mr. Ripley created several characters that could have been the villain in this book and did not reveal the culprit until the end. In concluding the review of Die Die Birdie, I found this book well-written with a steady pace that did not lag or bog down. DIE DIE BIRDIE RECOMMENDATION: 4 STARS In conclusion, Die Die Birdie is a clean cozy mystery that is suitable for anyone that likes a funny well-written story. I look forward to the next installment in this series. I received this book from Netgalley.com in return for honest book review. Book reviews of any novel are dependent on the book review author’s opinion; in addition, book reviews on line under my name and on my blog are my opinion.
Ruby Lake, North Carolina is the setting for Die, Die Birdie, an excellent story written by J.R. Ripley. Amy Simms is opening up a store in her hometown, aptly named Birds & Bees, a shop for anyone who is into bird watching or beekeeping. A delayed seed delay and a dead body are not what Amy had planned, and unfortunately she has both! Who would kill a man in her store? The victim is left in Amy's store room and her tenant, known as Esther the pester, finds Amy hovering over the body. I gets worse for Amy as she is considered the number one suspect! This story has a cast of colorful characters and the twists and turns kept me guessing. I really enjoyed this book and I was excited to receive an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my fair and honest review. Anyone who enjoys a fast paced cozy mystery should put this at the top of their TBR list.