With the fireplace crackling, the tree twinkling, and the carols humming, few things in life are as picture perfect as Christmas in Maine—until murder dampens the holiday spirit. It must be something in the eggnog…
Eggnog Murder by New York Times-bestselling author Leslie Meier
When a gift-wrapped bottle of eggnog—allegedly from the Real Beard Santa Club—proves to be a lethal concoction for a Tinker’s Cove local, all Lucy Stone wants for Christmas is to find the murdering mixologist who’s stirring up trouble.
Death by Eggnog by Lee Hollis
Food and cocktails columnist Hayley Powell has never cared much for Bar Harbor’s grouchy town librarian, Agatha Farnsworth. But after the Scroogy senior has a fatal—and suspicious—allergic reaction to supposedly non-dairy eggnog, it’s up to Hayley to ladle out some justice.
Nogged Off by Agatha Award finalist Barbara Ross
Julia Snowden’s tenant Imogen Geinkes seems to be jinxed. First, her poorly named “Killer Eggnog” gives all her co-workers food poisoning at the holiday party. Then her boyfriend’s body shows up in Julia’s moving truck as she’s headed back to Busman’s Harbor. Now Julia has to get moving to catch the cold-hearted culprit.
Cozy up with a glass of eggnog and enjoy the spirit of murder and mystery in a Yuletide treat perfect for those winter holidays…</
Praise for Steamed Open
“Sure to appeal to readers who treasure the Maine coast, Ross’s latest continues the lives and minor dramas of her fic
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About the Author
LEE HOLLIS is the pen name for Rick Copp, a veteran Hollywood screenwriter who has written for numerous television series, including The Golden Girls, Wings, Scooby-Doo, Teen Titans, and Barbershop. He is the co-writer of The Brady Bunch Movie and has written a number of novels under his own name. He also produces, writes, and stars in the hit web series Where the Bears Are. With his sister Holly Simason, he co-authors the Hayley Powell Food & Cocktail Mysteries book series using the Lee Hollis name. He lives in Palm Springs, California.
Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. The first book in the series, Clammed Up was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel, the RT Book Reviews, Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for Amateur Sleuth and was a finalist for the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She is co-editor/co-publisher of Level Best Books, which produces anthologies of crime stories by New England authors. She writes at her home overlooking the harbor in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Readers can visit her website at MaineClambakeMysteries.com.
Read an Excerpt
By LESLIE MEIER, LEE HOLLIS, Barbara Ross
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Kensington Publishing Corp.
All rights reserved.
"'Beware of gifts from strangers,' that's what I told Wilf, when he found this bottle of eggnog on the back porch," said Phyllis, producing a distinctive old-fashioned milk bottle decorated with red and green ribbons and a sprig of faux holly from her red and green plaid tote bag and setting it on the reception counter in the Pennysaver office. The Pennysaver, formerly the Courier and Advertiser, was the weekly newspaper in the coastal town of Tinker's Cove, Maine.
"He said it wasn't from strangers, it's a welcome gift from this new club he's joined," she continued. Phyllis's official title was receptionist at the Pennysaver, but that only began to describe her duties, as she handled ads, subscriptions, billing, and the classifieds. Today was the Monday after Thanksgiving and the Christmas season had officially begun, so she had painted her fingernails in alternating shades of red and green polish and was wearing a sparkly sweater. She had long ago forgotten what color her hair actually was, but had dyed it a brighter shade of red than usual, also in honor of the holiday. Her cat's-eye reading glasses were decorated with candy cane stripes and were resting on her ample bosom, where they dangled from a rhinestone-encrusted chain. No one dared to ask Phyllis how old she was, but somewhere between fifty and sixty was a safe guess.
"What club is that?" asked Lucy Stone, who worked part time at the paper as a reporter and feature writer. She was already seated at her desk this Monday morning, tapping away on her computer keyboard. Lucy wore her dark hair in a short, easy-care cut and dressed in easy-care clothes, usually jeans and a sweater. In warm weather she wore running shoes, but now, since it was almost winter, she was wearing duck boots like just about everyone else in the little Maine town.
"The Real Beard Santa Club," replied Phyllis. "He was driving me crazy hanging around the house, now that he's retired from the postal service, but I can't say I'm very happy about his choice."
"I don't suppose growing a beard actually keeps a person very busy," said Lucy, who was struggling to decipher the notes she'd scribbled when covering a Conservation Commission meeting. "Which is more likely?" she asked Phyllis. "Does the commission want to require that dogs be leashed in the conservation area or days be limited? The only word I'm sure of is be."
"Probably both — I wouldn't put anything past that bunch of nincompoops," grumbled Phyllis, voicing the suspicion of the town's regulatory boards that was heard whenever two or more taxpayers were gathered together. "And like you said, growing a beard isn't really an occupation that keeps a person busy, though now that I think about it, Wilf does spend a lot of time in front of the bathroom mirror, admiring his facial growth. I told him it's like watching a pot to make it boil, admiring it in the mirror isn't going to make it grow any faster." She paused. "To tell the truth, I really don't like the beard...."
"No?" asked Lucy, whose husband, Bill, had grown a beard when he gave up his Wall Street job to become a restoration carpenter in Maine, a move they'd made more than twenty years before. Once a lustrous brown, these days Bill's beard was lightly sprinkled with gray. "Why not?"
"Lots of reasons. It seems dirty. It's prickly when I kiss him. I miss seeing his chin. It makes him look old."
"Well, Santa's no spring chicken," said Lucy, reluctantly coming to the conclusion that she'd better call Dorcas Philpott, the chairwoman of the Conservation Commission. "And he's much fatter than Wilf. Is he going to try to gain weight so he'll have a belly that shakes when he laughs like a bowlful of jelly?" asked Lucy, paraphrasing the famous Christmas poem.
"Absolutely not," snapped Phyllis. "That was the deal. I'll put up with the beard but not a Santa-sized stomach." Her tone became very serious. "You know how they say belly fat increases your chances of dying young, and I'm not taking any chances. We got married late in life and I want to have as much time together as possible, so he's going to have to keep eating healthy. He says I've got him eating like a reindeer, what with all the baby carrots, but I'm not giving in. He'll have to wear padding, that's all there is to it."
"Is that okay with the Real Beard Santa Club?" asked Lucy, who was reaching for the phone. "They have to have real beards, but it's okay to have a fake stomach?"
"I presume so," said Phyllis, primly. "It's not called the Real Belly Santa Club, now, is it?"
Lucy was suppressing a laugh when Dorcas Philpott answered the phone on the first ring. "Oh, Lucy, it's you," she said, with a distinct lack of enthusiasm when Lucy identified herself. "I was waiting for the oil man to call — my furnace went out. You know, for a while there at the meeting I thought you might be falling asleep."
"Oh, no, not at all," claimed Lucy, who had in fact struggled to stay awake during the evening meeting, which had not adjourned until after eleven o'clock. "But I do have a question about my notes. I can't seem to read my own handwriting."
"Well, I can't say I'm surprised, people nowadays hardly ever take pen to paper, they just poke at electronic screens. Do you know they don't even teach cursive writing anymore?" asked Dorcas, her voice trembling with indignation. "I was shocked when my granddaughter asked why my writing was so funny looking!"
"I didn't know that," admitted Lucy, fearing she wouldn't be able to keep Dorcas on track. "But about the meeting?"
"We should have a meeting with the school committee," declared Dorcas, jumping on the idea. "And let them know that dropping penmanship instruction is simply not an option. They have a responsibility ..."
"That's a good idea," said Lucy. "But about the concom meeting, didn't you make some new regulations for the conservation area?"
"They say it's because everyone uses computers these days, that nobody needs to have good penmanship, but I ask you: Can you write a proper thank-you note on a computer? And what about notes of condolence? Those absolutely must be on the very best plain white paper and written with great care...."
"My late mother would most certainly agree with you," said Lucy, who had been most carefully instructed in the rules of formal correspondence, and thanks to an eighth-grade dance class she'd found excruciatingly awkward could also dance the waltz and the fox-trot, not to mention the cha-cha and Charleston. Times had changed, however, and she had found these skills were no longer appreciated or valued as they once were. "Now, are you changing the hours that the conservation area is open?"
"Where did you get an idea like that?" demanded Dorcas. "Next thing you'll be telling me we'll be requiring dogs to be leashed."
"I did wonder about that," admitted Lucy.
"I noticed you nodding off," said Dorcas. "Try coffee, that's what I do. I find a cup of coffee after dinner enables me to stay sharp in the evening, which is when I usually handle my correspondence — which I might add, I write by hand, with a fountain pen."
"I'll keep it in mind," said Lucy. "So no action was taken on either issue?"
"They were both tabled for a later meeting," admitted Dorcas. "But I will be expecting to see a story in the paper about the school committee's shortsighted and irresponsible decision to drop penmanship from the curriculum...."
"I'll look into it and run it by Ted," said Lucy, ending the call just as the little bell on the door jangled, announcing Ted Stillings's arrival.
"What are you going to run by me?" asked Ted, bringing in a burst of cold air that made Phyllis, whose desk was by the door, shiver and pull the sides of her cardigan sweater together across her substantial chest. Ted was the chief reporter, editor, and publisher of the Pennysaver, which he owned. In other words, Ted was the boss.
"Hi, Ted," said Lucy, greeting him with a smile. "I was talking to Dorcas Philpott. She says the school committee voted to drop penmanship from the curriculum and she's worried that the kids won't know how to write thank-you notes."
"That ship has sailed," declared Ted, hanging up his hat and coat. "Pam says she never gets thank-you notes from any of our ungrateful nieces and nephews, and not from Tim, either, even though our son was brought up to write them," said Ted, picking up the bottle of eggnog and examining it. "What's this?"
"It's eggnog, Phyllis brought it," said Lucy.
"It was given to Wilf as a welcome present from the Real Beard Santa Club. He's just joined and eggnog is the club's official drink," said Phyllis.
"Doesn't he want to drink it?" asked Ted. "Why is it here?"
"Wilf would love to drink it, but I won't let him," said Phyllis, who was reaching for the phone, which was ringing.
"Why can't Wilf drink his eggnog?" asked Ted.
"Because it's fattening," said Lucy, "and Phyllis made a deal that he can grow a real beard, even though she doesn't much like beards, but she doesn't want him to have a Santa-sized stomach."
"Oh," said Ted, studying the bottle with hungry eyes. Hearing the jangle on the door, he turned, smiling as Corney Clark breezed in. "You're just in time, Corney. I'm thinking about cracking open this eggnog. Will you join me? It's officially Christmas, you know."
Corney stopped in her tracks, recoiling from the bottle. "I never touch the stuff. It might as well be poison!"
Ted looked crestfallen. "What do you mean? It's Christmas and eggnog is the traditional drink." He paused, thinking. "I've actually got a bottle of whiskey in my desk — journalistic tradition, you know? I could doctor it up...."
"You're mad! Take the most fattening drink in the history of the world and add more calories?" Corney pulled off her knitted cap and shook out her blond hair, which she got cut and colored every six weeks at great expense in Portland. "And I might add that the sun is not anywhere near the yard arm, much less over it!"
"I never thought you were a party pooper," grumbled Ted, replacing the bottle on the counter.
"I am certainly not a party pooper, I enjoy a good time as much as anyone. Why not serve the eggnog at the holiday stroll on Friday?" suggested Corney, remembering the errand that had brought her to the paper. She was the director of the Tinker's Cove Chamber of Commerce and her job required her to work closely with the Pennysaver staff to promote local events. "This year's stroll is going to be bigger and better than ever. We want to encourage people to shop here in town and support local businesses."
"Bigger and better's not saying much," said Phyllis. "Last year's stroll was pretty much a non-event. Wilf and I got all bundled up and attempted to finish up our Christmas shopping, but only a few places stayed open after six o'clock."
"That's true," said Lucy, with a nod. "Bill and I brought our grandson, Patrick, thinking he'd enjoy the horse-drawn sleigh ride...."
"I know, I know," admitted Corney, pulling off her gloves and stuffing them in her designer handbag. "Ed Hemmings had to cancel because one of his horses lost a shoe and he couldn't get hold of the blacksmith. A lot of people were disappointed, which is why this year I'm determined to make it the best stroll ever. I've gotten commitments from every business on Main Street; they've all agreed to stay open until nine and they're all going to offer refreshments and special promotions, raffles, giveaways, free gift wrapping, it's going to be great."
She paused for breath, then pointed a finger at Ted. "This is an opportunity for you, too, Ted. You can open your doors, put out eggnog and cookies, and offer a special reduced rate for new subscribers."
"Most everybody in town subscribes already," said Ted.
"Well, offer a special rate to folks to extend their subscriptions," said Corney, refusing to be deterred. "You know, the Chamber is a major advertiser, and that's why I'm here. The stroll will kick off the holiday shopping season — we only have three weekends this year because Christmas Eve is on a Saturday — and I want to go over the special insert with you and make sure it's got all the latest information ..."
Ted scratched his chin thoughtfully. "There's still some ad space in the insert. I could run an announcement about the special offer," he said.
"And give the Chamber a break on the cost?" urged Corney, who didn't miss a trick.
Lucy bit her lip, wondering how Ted would react. She knew that these were tough times for independent newspapers that faced competition from the Internet, rising costs, and ever-fewer readers.
"Why not?" said Ted with a nod of agreement. "It is Christmas after all."
"That's the spirit!" exclaimed Corney, pulling a couple of sheets of paper that were rather the worse for wear out of her tote and presenting them to Ted with a flourish. "This is going to be the most wonderful Christmas Tinker's Cove has ever seen!"
Ted ushered Corney into the morgue, which doubled as conference room, to put the final touches on the insert. Phyllis got up and put the eggnog in the office mini-fridge where they stashed their lunches and coffee creamer, and Lucy returned to her Conservation Commission notes, which remained as indecipherable as ever. She was about to raise the white flag and call the commission's secretary and beg for help when her cell phone beeped. A glance at the display revealed the caller was her oldest daughter, Elizabeth, calling from Paris where she worked at the tony Cavendish Hotel.
"Hi!" exclaimed Lucy, adding one of the phrases she remembered from high school French. "Ca va?"
"Très bien, merci, Maman," replied Elizabeth, automatically replying in French, but losing none of the efficient manner that had enabled her to leave the reception desk and cross the Cavendish's tastefully decorated lobby to her present post at the concierge's desk. She promptly switched to English. "Everything is fine, I just want to check some dates with you — I'm coming home for Christmas."
"That's wonderful!" exclaimed Lucy. "You're coming home for Christmas! When are you coming? How long can you stay?"
"That's what I want to discuss with you," said Elizabeth. Lucy could picture her, seated at an antique Louis XIV desk, thoughtfully fiddling with a pen and making careful notes. "I can get a seat on a flight December twenty-third, but it's expensive, but if I come two weeks earlier, on December ninth, it's much cheaper. I have a lot of vacation time due me, but I'm not sure about staying for such a long visit, especially since the house is already pretty full...."
"Don't be silly!" declared Lucy, in a burst of motherly affection. She'd been thrilled when her son, Toby, who had been working on developing sustainable fisheries in Alaska, had announced he'd been sent to nearby Winchester College for a year to continue his graduate-level studies in genetic modification. Since their house on nearby Prudence Path was rented while they were in Alaska, Toby's little family had moved in with Lucy and Bill. "Toby and Molly are using the family room, so there's plenty of room upstairs. Patrick's little," she continued, referring to her adored five-year-old grandson, "he can sleep anywhere."
"Well, you know what they say about fish and company, that they stink after three days...."
"You're not company, you're family!" said Lucy.
"Okay," said Elizabeth. "I'll order the tickets. I'll arrive in Boston on December ninth, at five forty-five PM. Can somebody pick me up at the airport? I looked into connecting flights to Rockland, but they're all sold out."
"That's a three-hour drive into rush hour on a Friday in Boston," said Lucy, a note of dismay in her voice. She'd been caught in Boston traffic a few too many times and knew that Friday evenings were the worst as the city's entire population seemed to be leaving for the weekend. "Couldn't you take the bus?"
"Mom!" protested Elizabeth. "I'm coming all the way from Paris and you want me to take the bus?"
"Of course not," said Lucy, relenting. "How about a limo? My treat?"
"I am really surprised, Mom. Don't you want to see me as soon as you can?"
"Of course I do," said Lucy, somewhat chastened. "I'll take the afternoon off to give myself plenty of time, and after I meet you we can get a bite to eat before attempting Route 1."
"Super!" exclaimed Elizabeth, pronouncing it "soup-air" in the French manner. "A bientôt!"
"A bientôt," replied Lucy, ending the call. She was saddened to realize she wasn't quite as enthusiastic about Elizabeth's homecoming as she had been at first. Maybe Elizabeth was on to something when she suggested a short visit would be preferable to a long one. Then she shook her head, remembering how much she loved her daughter and how eager she was to see her, and made up her mind to banish such thoughts. "I'm being a Grinch," she decided, taking a page from Corney's book and resolving to make this Christmas the best Stone Family Christmas ever, a Christmas when the entire family would be together.
Excerpted from Eggnog Murder by LESLIE MEIER, LEE HOLLIS, Barbara Ross. Copyright © 2016 Kensington Publishing Corp.. 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.
Table of Contents
ContentsBooks by Leslie Meier,
DEATH BY EGGNOG,
Iced Under Teaser,