Pet chef Kitty Karlyle serves gourmet meals to pampered canines, cats, birds, snakes (ugh), Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs and most any other pet belonging to her wealthy and quirky LA clientele. This is a town where pets have their own psychologists, psychics and masseuses, so why shouldn’t they have their own chefs, right?
Kitty finds herself somewhat reluctantly hosting a new cooking show called The Pampered Pet on CuisineTV. While shooting the pilot, the show’s producer is found in her office with a knife in her back—one of Kitty’s knives, to be exact. The list of suspects is long and time is short. If Kitty can’t find the killer soon, her own goose might be cooked . . .
“Likable characters, an engaging plot, and plenty of L.A. local color bolster a cozy sure to appeal to all dog lovers” —Publishers Weekly
“A fun addition to the pet mystery genre.” —Booklist
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Lights, Camera, Murder!
By Marie Celine
Severn House Publishers LtdCopyright © 2015 Marie Celine
All rights reserved.
'Come on,' the strange woman said in a rush. Her accent said Caribbean, but her attitude screamed New York. She grabbed Kitty's hand and pulled. 'Gretchen's antsy. Let's get you to hair and makeup.'
Kitty followed as the woman hustled off to an alcove behind the set and pointed to a styling chair in front of a large mirror with a bright string of white lights running along the top and sides. It was like something out of the movies.
It was fitting, since she was deep in the cavernous bowels of Building Two at Santa Monica Film Studios; a small semi-independent film company that occupied a small corner of property off Pico Boulevard. The fenced complex consisted of six separate buildings, mostly soundstages by the looks of them. One taller office building stood nearest the gated entrance like a modern-day castle's keep.
'Who are you anyway?' Kitty managed to ask between breaths. She had imagined the job would involve a lot of standing around, not running around. If she'd known, she would have worn better shoes, something with traction, definitely not heels.
The woman stuck out her hand. Kitty would have clasped it but it held a thick hairbrush. 'Fran Earhart. Hair and makeup.' She extended her arms like wings. 'Like the flyer, you know?'
'Kitty Karlyle,' Kitty wheezed. 'Gourmet pet chef.' Though things were changing fast. In what seemed like the space of five minutes, Kitty had gone from being a struggling entrepreneur running her own little gourmet pet chef enterprise, to hosting a TV cooking show!
'Cute. So, what's all that?' The young woman's eyes cut to Kitty's handbag and gear.
'My purse and my chef's satchel.' Kitty shook the bag. 'I keep my knives and accessories in it.'
'We've got plenty of that stuff on set,' Fran said with a flutter of the hand. 'You can drop your things down here.'
'Are you sure they will be OK?'
Fran pulled a face. 'Don't worry, we're not all angels around here, but no one's going to mess with your personal stuff, girl.'
'Sorry, I didn't mean to offend you.'
'You didn't.' Fran tapped the back of the chair. 'Have a seat.'
Kitty dropped her gear and did as she was told. She shut her eyes while Fran and another woman began fussing over her like a couple of mother hens. Kitty cautiously cracked open an eye. 'So, are you any relation to Amelia Earhart?'
With her golden complexion, long black tresses and full, pouty red lips, Fran Earhart didn't look a thing like the pictures of the aviator that she'd remembered seeing in textbooks, but you never know.
'Nope. Not a chromosome.'
Fran and the other woman brushed, plucked, dabbed and smeared, and then smoothed out all the rough edges. Kitty had to admit, lying back in the chair – feeling the supple leather caress her spine, being pampered – it felt sort of good. In fact, it felt sort of great.
When she opened her eyes and saw herself in the mirror, she was flabbergasted. 'Wow.' She couldn't believe it; she actually looked glamorous.
'It doesn't even look like me!' Kitty exclaimed. 'Are you sure it is me?' She tugged approvingly at her fine brown hair. Just minutes ago, that same hair had looked like nothing more than a mess of spaghetti-like strands that couldn't make up their minds what they wanted to do. She'd never been very good at applying her own makeup and doing her hair. How had Fran and her taciturn partner managed it?
Gaping in the mirror, her blue eyes sparkled back at her with delight. Kitty turned to Fran. 'You are a wizard.' She could get used to this star treatment.
'Nah,' said Fran, with a laugh, 'I only helped you realize your true potential.' She played her fingers through Kitty's hair. 'You've just never realized how good you look before.'
'Ready?' Gretchen asked, sticking her head around the corner. Gretchen Corbett, the show's producer, was probably somewhere in her fifties, by Kitty's reckoning. Her toasty brown hair bore streaks of gray and fell to her prominent cheekbones. Her face had a certain chipmunk quality that Kitty wasn't about to comment on aloud. A simple, heart-shaped gold locket hung on a slender chain atop her sweater. Her fingers toyed with it as she regarded Kitty and Fran.
Kitty gulped. 'I think so.' She still couldn't quite believe she was here at a film studio to shoot the pilot for a new TV show called The Pampered Pet.
It had all come about because, unknown to her, one of her clients, whose pets she cooked for – Ernst Fandolfi, a world-famous magician – was friends with the show's producer, Gretchen Corbett. Ms Corbett needed a host for a TV cooking show and Fandolfi, without even asking Kitty, had given the producer her name, saying she'd be perfect.
Kitty thought it was all perfectly insane. Which was apropos in a sense, because she'd acquired Mr Fandolfi as a client through a referral from a Beverly Hills pet psychologist named George Newhart, who'd found one of her business cards tacked up on the community board in a local health food market.
One day they could all get their heads examined together.
'Don't worry, honey. Like I said, it's only a run-through. We'll tape the first real show tomorrow.'
Kitty let out her breath. That was a relief, though that didn't seem to match what Gretchen had explained earlier during their first meeting. But then, a lot of what the producer said was sketchy.
Kitty shrugged it off and followed Gretchen round to the stage. What else could she do? As Gretchen had so eloquently explained, the wheels were in motion. And this roller coaster was headed down the track. All she could do was hold on and try not to scream or fall out.
They reached the edge of the kitchen set, newly constructed for the show, when Kitty stopped dead in her tracks. There were two bleachers, separated by a narrow aisle, full of people not fifty feet away, whispering and waiting.
Kitty's eyes skimmed over them, her pupils growing wider by the nanosecond. 'Who are all those people?'
'That's your audience, Kitty.' Gretchen bobbed her head. 'Good crowd, too,' she said, rubbing her hands with glee. 'Nice age spread; plenty of women, young, middle-aged and elderly. The team did a good job.'
'But where did they come from?' Kitty couldn't imagine how Gretchen had managed to come up with two bleachers-worth of people on short notice, especially for an unknown cooking show hosted by an unknown chef in the middle of a weekday afternoon.
'Oh, we send out flunkies with clipboards who round them up off the street. It's easy. Offer them a free show, some air conditioning, some cheap pastries, soda and coffee. Toss in an inexpensive CuisineTV souvenir, in this case a potholder, and you practically can't keep them away!'
Gretchen's brown eyes darted over the faces in the audience. 'You never know what you'll get though. It's a real mixed bag out there on the streets, you know what I mean?'
Kitty nodded, hopelessly.
'Tourists, workers on breaks or playing hooky, folks on their days off. Vagrants, though, they're mostly easy to spot and we can usually keep them out,' she added, rather callously in Kitty's opinion. 'No, you never know what you'll get. We made out great today, though.' She pointed. 'Look, there are even some people with pets.'
Kitty had noticed several dogs in attendance. She had also noticed that her heart had stopped beating and her tongue – normally her friend – felt like it had been left out in the Sahara for a week to dry out. 'I don't know about this ...' Her voice trailed off.
Fran popped up by her side. She brushed an errant lock from Kitty's face and adjusted the pink apron they'd wrapped her in. 'Don't worry, girlfriend. You'll do great.'
The look in Kitty's eyes said that she found that hard to believe.
Gretchen introduced Kitty to the director – a short and slim, fifty-something male with long hair tied back in a loose ponytail – named Greg Clifton. His hair was more gray than black and thinning in the front. He was dressed casually in blue jeans and a loose primrose polo shirt.
The director said a brief hello then went back to barking orders to his crew. Then Steve Barnhard, the assistant producer Kitty had met earlier that day, ordered everybody who belonged there to get busy and everybody who didn't to get lost.
Kitty sensed that Steve was not an animal person – not even a people person – and she vowed to do her best to stay on his good side. He had wavy ginger hair and a light trail of freckles running from cheek to cheek. With his boyish features, she guessed he was in his early thirties, close to her own age. He wore designer jeans and an oversized gray-blue turtleneck sweater. A heavy gold cross with a diamond at its center hung from his neck.
Gretchen was shuffling Kitty on to the set when she crashed into a powerful-looking man in a deep blue business suit and wide cerise tie. 'Bill!' she exclaimed. 'I wasn't expecting to see you here. I didn't even know you were in town. I thought you were in New York.'
The man in the suit brushed himself off carefully, and then smiled. He had a firm chin and striking brown eyes that matched his hair. 'When I heard you'd managed to find the perfect host for our new cooking show, I ordered the corporate Gulfstream to get ready, and headed straight out. I didn't want to miss this. Gretchen, you had better be right.'
Gretchen visibly flinched.
He turned his smile on Kitty. 'You must be the young woman Gretchen has been gushing about.'
Gretchen spoke up. 'Kitty Karlyle, this is William Barnhard, president and CEO of CuisineTV.'
'Oh, my,' said Kitty. 'I've heard all about you. Thank you so much for the opportunity, Mr Barnhard.' Barnhard? She wondered what the CEO of the network's relationship to the assistant producer might be.
He held out his hand. 'Please, call me Bill.'
Kitty shook the CEO's hand, noticing it was quite warm to the touch. She was surprised she felt anything at all, as numb as she was feeling inside.
Greg, the director, shouted for everyone to settle down and for Gretchen and Bill to get off his set. Fran ran out once more and attacked Kitty's nose with a powder puff.
'Again?' Kitty said.
'Just for luck,' Fran whispered, then ran off again.
The CEO released Kitty's hand. 'Have a good show.'
'Thank you, sir,' replied Kitty, her stomach in knots. She felt the sweat beading up over every inch of her body as she found herself under the relentless heat of the studio lights.
'Perhaps I could prevail upon you to cook for my pets sometime, Kitty?'
'Of course, I'd be honored, Mr Barnhard. I mean, Bill.'
'Wonderful. We'll talk more after the show.'
Kitty swallowed nervously and nodded. Her life had become a maelstrom of activity.
Greg yelled. 'Quiet, everyone. It's show time!'
A thin young woman in an ecru pantsuit, whom Gretchen identified as the assistant director – or AD for short – strode out in front of the audience and coolly began explaining the show's premise. Kitty knew there was no way she was going to remain that calm under fire.
'You heard the man, it's show time,' said Gretchen. 'Now get out there.' She gave Kitty a push. Kitty found herself resisting.
'But I'm so nervous,' Kitty replied, digging in her heels – hard to do on a concrete floor in stilettos – and wringing her hands.
'So what?' quipped Gretchen, rather cold-heartedly. 'A little nerves will do you good, keep you on your toes,' she added, with a practically vicious smile. 'Now, get out there and knock 'em dead.'
'I don't know ...' Kitty was having serious misgivings about the whole thing. What had she been thinking going along with this?
She scanned the kitchen set. A fancy, professional, six-burner, stainless-steel Viking range, double-door refrigerator and other appliances gleamed like jewels. There were racks of top-of-the-line Le Creuset cookware to the right of the sink, which itself sat beneath a window with a painted backdrop of a garden in bloom. Built-in bookshelves lined with cookbooks written by famous chefs framed the far side.
It all looked like a lovely, cozy, yet high-end home kitchen – if you ignored all the bright lights overhead, thick cables strewn across the stage floor and dozens of people moving in dozens of directions at once.
'Trust me, you've got what it takes, honey. Hook them, reel them in, and then club them silly!' she said with ruthless pleasure, all the while making clubbing motions as if she was bludgeoning baby seals in the Arctic.
'You're going to be a star, honey. National exposure on cable stations everywhere.' The producer hooked a finger under Kitty's chin. 'You'll be in every house in America!'
Why did it sound like such a bad thing when the producer said it? wondered Kitty, her stomach churning enough to make butter out of her breakfast.
Gretchen spread her arms wide. 'The audience is going to love you. They'll eat you up, the same way their pampered pets will be eating up your dishes.' She snapped her fingers in front of Kitty's nose. 'Why, we could even do a deal with one of the big pet food manufacturers to brand a specialty line of foods.'
She slapped a hand against her forehead. 'Why haven't I thought of this sooner? I can picture it now. Pretty pink cans, Kitty Karlyle's CuisineTV brand gourmet pet food – for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.'
Kitty could practically see the dollar signs appear in Gretchen's eyes as she said, 'I can't wait to tell Bill all about it. He's gonna flip!'
The assistant director, Julie McConnell, interrupted Gretchen's soliloquy. 'It's time for Kitty to go on, Gretchen.'
'Right.' Gretchen gave Kitty's apron one last tug. 'Just remember to smile, Kitty. And tell the viewers in the bleachers how cute their pets are, they eat that stuff up. Though some of the dirty beasties have been peeing all over the studio floors,' she added with a scowl. 'We may need to think about a special section for audience members with pets down the road.'
Kitty nodded and tried to speak but Gretchen cut her off. 'Your audience awaits.' The producer pointed to the overhead TV monitor, on which Kitty saw row after row of filled seats with a handful of pets scattered among them. A sea of eyes was watching the stage. Waiting for her.
Gretchen waited until the AD gave her the signal, then shooed Kitty to the edge of the set. 'Just be yourself,' she advised. 'And don't forget to smile.'
Gretchen paused, a hand on each of Kitty's shoulders, her nails digging in like talons. 'Don't forget to make eye contact with the audience – and the camera!' she instructed. She turned to Julie. 'Where the devil is camera three?'
'Some sort of technical glitch, the cameraman's working on it. It shouldn't be long.'
Julie nodded once.
Gretchen cursed like a sailor with a losing poker hand. 'I swear, I'm gonna kill him!' Her eyes burned with fury. 'Tell him to get it fixed right away!' She turned to her new star. 'We'll have to make do.'
Too bad. For a fleeting moment, Kitty thought she might get a reprieve, if only briefly, from her pending ordeal.
'Like I always say,' Gretchen said, giving Kitty a final push that sent her under the spotlights, 'lights, camera, murder!'
'So here she is,' said Julie. 'Ladies and gentlemen, let's hear it for the host of CuisineTV's brand-new cooking show for pets, The Pampered Pet! Your host, Kitty Karlyle!'
The audience dutifully applauded as coached by the assistant director and the flashing applause signs. A couple of the dogs barked too. Who knew they could read?
Kitty was barely breathing and her ears were buzzing like there were seashells taped to each as she stood center stage and said hello to the audience. 'Thank you all very much for coming,' Kitty squeaked and felt her cheeks heat up. She nervously cleared her throat. Greg, the director, scowled and made throat-slashing motions.
Oops. Kitty tensed up and started again, more firmly. 'Thank you, again, for coming to the show. I'm Kitty Karlyle and I love preparing delicious meals for pets. After all,' she said, reading somewhat stiffly from the teleprompter, 'they deserve the best, don't they?'
This brought what appeared to be a spontaneous eruption of applause. Then Kitty noticed the applause signs were flashing again.
Excerpted from Lights, Camera, Murder! by Marie Celine. Copyright © 2015 Marie Celine. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Ltd.
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
Lights, Camera, Murder! by Marie Celine is the second book in the Kitty Karlyle Pet Chef Mysteries. Kitty Karlyle is a gourmet pet chef in Los Angeles, California. She makes meals for the pets of the very wealthy and famous (she does meals for all types of pets including pigs). Kitty is getting ready (reluctantly) to film a pilot for a new cooking show called The Pampered Pet for CuisineTV at Santa Monica Film Studios. After filming the pilot, Kitty looks for the producer, Gretchen Corbett to see how she liked the show. Unfortunately for Kitty, she finds Gretchen face down in her office with one of Kitty’s knives in her back. Kitty is shocked at her discovery. Then the security guard comes along and thinks she murdered Gretchen (she is standing over the body). The police are called and one of them is Kitty’s fiancé, Jack Young. Kitty is a suspect and she does not like being in the hot seat. Kitty with the help of her new friend (and roommate), Fran Earhart (who is loud, flamboyant, and can be a wee bit annoying) sets out to find the killer. Kitty will have to work quickly before she is arrest for the crime or the killer decides she is a nuisance. Kitty also has to deal with her jealously of Jack’s new boss, Lt. Elin Nordstrom (a goddess according to Kitty). Can Kitty keep her fiancé from falling for another woman while keeping herself out of jail? Lights, Camera, Murder! is the second book but it can be read as a stand-alone. It is a cute story, but a little too silly (and sometimes unbelievable) for me. For a reader who likes silly humor, this is the book for them. The mystery is child’s play to solve (the author gives it away). The writer tries to lead us on a merry chase on a search for the killer, but none of them make sense (or are logical). I wish the murder had not occurred so early in the book (it makes for a long book). There are a couple of references (ambiguous or incomplete) to the first book (Dishing Up Death) in the story, but they do not detract from the reading of the book. I did not like most of the characters (they are too over the top). Kitty is immature (and has a big jealous streak) for a business woman. I think the characters lacked depth. We are only given superficial information on the main people in the story. I give Lights, Camera, Murder! 3 out of 5 stars (it is okay). The idea is good, but the final product just needs a little more work. I received a complimentary copy of Lights, Camera, Murder! from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I didn't read the first in this cute series, but I had no trouble following the story. I think the plot was unique and I enjoyed reading this book. Having a cooking show for pets was a great story and the characters were well thought out. I would recommend this book to others. I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my fair and honest review.
Lights, Camera, Murder by Marie Celine was an enjoyable cozy mystery that hooked me from the first page. Although I had not read the first book in this series, it was easily read as a standalone. I enjoyed these well developed characters and found them all to be relateable. I also enjoyed meeting the pets that Kitty cooks for at each of the households. The pace was smooth and fast without any slow down as Kitty was on the trail of a murderer. Fran, Kitty's new friend and roommate, was adorable and so klutzy. I found myself laughing often when Fran was on the scene. I never guessed who was behind the murder or the attempts on Kitty until the reveal which was the reason that I just had to keep reading - to find out "who done it". I plan on finding the first book in this series so I can get caught up on Kitty and her adventures. Thank you NetGalley and Severn House Publishers for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.