Welcome to the grand opening of Fromagerie Bessette. Or as it's more commonly known by the residents of small-town Providence, Ohio-the Cheese Shop. Proprietor Charlotte Bessette has prepared a delightful sampling of bold Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, delicious tortes of Stilton and Mascarpone, and a taste of Sauvignon Blanc-but someone else has decided to make a little crime of passion the piece de resistance. Right outside the shop Charlotte finds a body, the victim stabbed to death with one of her prized olive-wood handled knives.
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About the Author
Avery Aames is the Agatha Award–winning author of the Cheese Shop Mysteries and, under the name Daryl Wood Gerber, the Cookbook Nook Mysteries. She loves to cook, enjoys a good wine, speaks a little French, and has even played a French woman on stage. And she adores cheese.
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“I’m not dead, Charlotte,” Grandpère Etienne said.
“But you are retired, Pépère.” I tweaked his rosy cheek and skirted around him to throw a drop cloth over the rustic wooden table that usually held wheels of cheese, like Abbaye de Belloc, Manchego, and Humboldt Fog, the latter cheese a great pairing with chardonnay. Dust billowed up as the edges of the drop cloth hit the shop fl oor.
“A retired person may have an opinion.”
“Yes, he can.” I smiled. “But you put me in charge.”
“You and Matthew.”
My adorable cousin. If I had a brother, he would be just like Matthew. Bright, funny, and invaluable as an ally against my grandfather when he was being stubborn.
“What does Matthew say about all this?” Pépère folded his arms around his bulging girth. The buttons on his blue-striped shirt looked ready to pop. The doctor said Pépère needed to watch his weight and cholesterol, and I had been trying to get him to eat more of the hard cheeses that contained a lower fat content than the creamy cheeses he loved so much, but he had perfected the art of sneaking little bites. What was I to do?
I gave my grandfather’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Pépère, I love this place. So does Matthew. We only want the best for it. Trust us. That’s why you made us partners.”
“Bah! So many changes. Why fix something that isn’t broken? The shop made a good profit last year.”
“Because life is all about change. Man does not live by cheese alone,” I joked.
Pépère didn’t smile.
Fromagerie Bessette, or as the locals in the little town of Providence, Ohio, liked to call it, The Cheese Shop, needed to expand and get with the times. Our proximity to Amish country was driving more and more tourism in our direction. The town was exploding with bed-and-breakfasts, art galleries, candle and quilt shops, and fine restaurants. To take advantage of the boom, Matthew and I decided the shop needed a facelift. We had stowed all the cheeses in the walk-in refrigerator until the renovation was complete. The sign on the door of the shop read Closed.
“Pépère, why don’t you take a walk in the vegetable garden?” The town had a co-op vegetable garden and hothouse in the alley behind the shops on Hope Street. “Pluck me some basil. Maybe some heirloom tomatoes.” I intended to sell homemade basil pesto in jars. For a simple treat, basil pesto ladled over a scoop of locally made chévre and served with flatbread and a slice of a juicy heirloom tomato is an economical gourmet delight.
Pépère muttered something in French. I understood. “Give the horse the reins and the rider is quickly thrown off.”
For a little more than thirty years, I had heard Pépère’s witticisms and grown in the tutelage of his wisdom about all things cheese. Today, I turned a deaf ear. I needed to concentrate. Everything for the reopening of the shop was going smoothly. So far. But if we were to finish by next week, we had to maintain a strict schedule. The decorator was due any minute with the updated kitchen fixtures and lighting fixtures, none of which had been switched out since 1957. Antiques were to be prized in a home, but not in a thriving business concern. The painter was scheduled to arrive at noon to paint the walls and refinish the twelve-foot wood counter at the rear of the store, hence the need to stow the cheese and cover the display tables with drop cloths. The painter would stain the wood a warm honey brown to match the ladder-back stools by the Madura gold granite tasting counter, and then paint the walls Tuscany gold. Yesterday we had installed extra shelving that would soon be loaded with new additions like patés, chutneys, homemade jams made without pectin or preservatives, gourmet olives, crackers, and artisanal breads. I would cluster cheese baskets, gifts, and accessories on the five oak barrels stationed around the shop. My favorite gifts—the olive-wood-handled knives from France, the copper fondue pots from Italy, and the crystal cheese trays from Ireland—would sit on the largest barrel prominently stationed in the middle of the room. Over the last year, thanks to the Internet, I had “visited” many wonderful places and found one-of-a-kind items.
“Where is Matthew?” Pépère said, ending my moment of patting myself on the back for a job well done.
“Seeing to the wine annex.”
Matthew used to be a sommelier in one of Cleveland’s finest restaurants, but a month ago, life struck him a hard blow, and suddenly living in a big city didn’t appeal to him. His wife ditched him and his twin daughters and went back to dear old Mumsie and dear old Dad to live in their thatch-roofed vicarage in dear old England. My grandparents, who never liked the woman in the first place, had urged me to take in Matthew and the girls. How could I say no? When Pépère offered us the partnership in The Cheese Shop, Matthew jumped at the chance. He arrived bursting with new ideas. A must-see place like Fromagerie Bessette should also sell wine, he argued, and Providence didn’t have a wine shop yet. I had agreed wholeheartedly, and we set to work.
For the annex, we leased the empty space next to The Cheese Shop. We cut an archway between, laid travertine tiles on the floor, paneled the wine annex with dark mahogany, installed a bar and stools, and added rows and rows of wine bottle nooks. Voilà. In a short time, we had created an authentic-looking winery tasting room. When word got out, local vintners had clamored to provide samples.
“Progress, bah.” My sweet old grandfather uttered another grumble of disapproval and fled through the rear door of the shop.
I smiled. I had prepared myself for his resistance. After World War II, he and Grandmère had migrated from France and given their life’s blood to The Cheese Shop. Pépère did not like me bucking tradition, but I had such dreams: cheese and wine tastings, a mail-order business come the fall, cooking classes. I even planned to write a cheese cookbook. It would be so popular that the Barefoot Contessa would beg to write the foreword.
One thing at a time, I reminded myself and chuckled. Like cheese, if I set too many slices of life on a plate, the flavors would be indistinct.
The grape-leaf-shaped chimes hanging over the front door tinkled.
“Charlotte, take a look at these beauties.” Matthew bounded across the natural pine floor like a long-limbed Great Dane. He carried two mosaic bistro tables with S-scrolled legs that I had ordered from Europa Antiques and Collectibles, a quaint shop located in the building next to ours. “Très hip,” he said. “You did good.”
The antique shop’s proprietor, Vivian Williams, glided in behind Matthew, carrying a pair of matching mosaic chairs in black matte finish. She reminded me of a clipper ship, aloof and elegant, sails unfurled, her chin-length hair in a flip, the flaps of her Ann Taylor suit jacket flying wide. She said, “Take these. I’ll go get to the other set of chairs.”
I slipped the stools from her grasp, admiring for a second time the way the round mosaic seats matched the table. Definite conversation pieces. I traipsed after Matthew into the annex.
Vivian returned in seconds with two more chairs. “By the by, I saw the girls on their way to school. They’re so adorable.”
Matthew’s eight-year-old twins.
“Did they make their beds?” I asked Matthew.
His mouth quirked on the right side. “They pulled up the covers."
I sighed. It was a start.
“The littlest one, Amy, is a handful.” Vivian fussed with the chairs, arranging them with an eye for balance. “They’re not identical, are they? Amy’s like her mother, I assume?”
“Nothing like her.” Thank God. We didn’t speak her name in Matthew’s presence.
“My great-granddaughter is just like me.” Grandmère Bernadette trundled into the annex like a locomotive with no off switch, arms pumping, chest huffing, patchwork skirt swirling around her calves. She was always in a hurry and filled with boundless energy. I only hoped I could have that much energy at seventy-two. I think I can. I think I can. She fi nger-combed her short gray hair and tossed her red macramé purse on the drop-cloth-covered bar.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. “I thought you had rehearsal.” I strode to her and bent slightly to give her a hug. She was shrinking but would never admit it. She took pains to stand erect. Once a dancer, always a dancer, she told me.
“Later, chérie. Later.” She smacked her gnarled hands together. “Now, what can I do?”
I ushered her into The Cheese Shop. “The window displays.”
“Moi?” She tilted her head in that coquettish way she had.
“Yes, toi,” I teased.
“Oh, but I couldn’t.”
“Don’t be modest. You know you love it.” Not only was Grandmère the mayor of our little village, but she managed the Providence Playhouse, a local theater that had won dozens of regional theater awards. She had an eye for staging that was beyond compare. Sure, she could wax dramatic and she often dressed like a gypsy, but it was her ability to see the big picture in regard to set design, costumes, and crowd appeal that made her famous throughout the region.
“I’d help you, Bernadette,” Vivian said, “but I’ve got to run. Another appointment. Oh, that reminds me, Charlotte. The decorator is on her way. She called me to say she was sorry she was late. I guess she lost your cell phone number. Ta!” She sailed out of the shop as if launched on the crest of a wave.
As she exited, she dodged my clerk, Rebecca, who hurried in, gangly arms and legs jutting from her frilly blouse and capri pants. Luckily it was a cool day in May, so the air conditioning didn’t have to work overtime with all the comings and goings.
“She’s here!” Rebecca waved her hands like a singer at a Baptist revival, which was unusual since she was Amish and prone to quiet displays of excitement. Like the Fromagerie, Rebecca was a work in progress. Last year, at the age of twenty-one, she chose to leave the church and step into the modern world. She hadn’t lost her faith, just her desire to be cloistered. At twenty-two, her latest discoveries were the Internet and the wonders of Facebook and Victoria’s Secret.
“Who’s here?” I said.
“Her!” She pointed toward the front of the shop.
I noticed she was wearing red nail polish. I suppressed a smile.
“Her. Zoe, Zelda, Zebra. You know, that lady with the Z name.”
“The reporter from Délicieux?”
Perspiration broke out under my arms. The Gourmet-style magazine with an ever-expanding readership offered to do a feature on our family—how my grandparents, Matthew, and I were keeping the old French tradition alive, with modest changes like adding the annex and offering cheese and wine tastings. Pépère was against the idea of speaking to a reporter. He said for fifty years word-of-mouth had been good enough for his sturdy business. But with all the dreams that Matthew and I had for the future of the shop, we craved a little media coverage.
I tugged the hem of my linen shirt over the waistband of my Not-Your-Daughter’s jeans. Casual chic, in my humble opinion, was always best. “Do I look okay?” I whispered.
Grandmère toyed with the feathered-cut tresses around my face, then cupped my chin. “You look radiant, as always. Just be your delicious self.” She winked. “Get it? Delicious, Délicieux? I made a joke, no?”
“She’s not actually here here,” Rebecca said, amending her story as she gathered her long blonde hair into a clip. “She’s in the Country Kitchen having coffee. But she’ll be here when she’s done. Some of the local farmers are there, too. Don’t you have a meeting with them at ten?”
“They rescheduled. It’s now set for tomorrow at eight.” I glanced at my watch out of habit while ticking off impending appointments and feeling my blood pressure soar. Why did good things often happen all at once? For that matter, why did bad things happen in threes? I looked forward to the end of the day when I would curl up in my Queen Anne chair with a glass of wine and a good Agatha Christie mystery.
“That racaille . . .” Pépère stomped into the shop through the rear entrance, his arms filled with tomatoes and basil, and kicked the door shut.
I hurried to him. “What’s wrong? Who’s a rascal?”
“Ed Woodhouse.” The town’s biggest real estate holder. Powerful beyond measure. Ruled by his snappish wife who wanted to oust my grandmother from her position as mayor so she could take over herself. Elections were next week, set in early June because our town founder, Ed’s great-greatgrandfather, had wanted it to coincide with the birth of his son. Ironically, the son chose that very same date, sixteen years later, to dump a cartload of cow manure in the Village Green to protest his father’s stance on a youth curfew.
“What’s he done now?” I said.
“He’s selling the building.”
My heart leapt at the news. Pépère had been trying to buy our building for years, but Ed was never willing to sell. “That’s wonderful,” I said. “We’ll purchase it and be rid of him for good.” The man was not a nice landlord. He indiscriminately raised rents. We had to beg him to allow us to make the archway to the annex. Once, he said he wanted to put my grandparents out of business simply because they were French.
“He refuses to entertain an offer from us,” Pépère said.
“What?” I nearly screeched. “Can he do that?”
“Je ne sais pas,” he said, then mumbled a few choice snippets in French that would make a longshoreman blush.
Grandmère grasped him by the elbow and drew him into the kitchen by the walk-in refrigerator. I couldn’t hear what she was saying to him, but she had a way of calming him down with nothing more than a tender kiss. Their love was magical, like something out of storybooks, love I longed for but didn’t think I could ever hope to find. A moment later, they broke apart and Grandmère rejoined us.
“I must be gone,” she announced. “The theater awaits.”
“What are you putting on this summer, Mrs. Bessette?” Rebecca asked as she laid out more drop cloths. Before moving to Providence, she had never seen a play.
“A ballet of Hairspray.”
Grandmère’s events were quite unique and not to everyone’s liking. Last year, she had staged Jesus Christ Superstar as a ballet.
Rebecca gasped. “Can you do that?”
“Dear girl, I can do anything I please as long as the town votes yes.”
“I mean, isn’t that rock and roll?”
“If Billy Joel can do it, so can I. Adieu.” Grandmère did a curtsey, then jetéd toward the shop entrance, arms spread wide. She ran headlong into my best friend, Meredith Vance, who was entering. In a flash, Grandmère recovered.
“So sorry, chérie.”
“My fault.” Meredith, voted Providence Elementary’s most adored teacher, was lovely in a freckle-faced, natural way. Sun didn’t burn her; it kissed her. Sun didn’t bake her tawny hair; it glossed it with a shimmering sheen. She also smiled more than anybody I knew. But she wasn’t smiling now, and she was visiting during school hours. She stood half in, half out of the doorway, her lips a hard knot.
A peppery taste of anxiety flooded my mouth. “Is something wrong?” I asked.
Meredith yanked her arm. In trotted my niece, Amy, her cocoa bean eyes wide, her pixie face lowered. What had the little imp done this time?
I hurried to them with Matthew and Pépère at my heels. I steered Meredith and Amy away from the front door, to the empty area by the display window. We huddled around the duo as if circling the wagons.
“Tell them,” Meredith ordered.
Amy’s chin quavered. “I . . . I . . .” Gumdrop-sized tears fell from her eyes. “I . . .”
“Ah, heck,” Meredith cut in. “She hit the Woodhouses’ daughter in the nose.”
A light sparked. I spun to my right. A boxy woman in a T-shirt with a huge zinnia on it stood just inside the front door. She held up her camera and took another picture.
I cringed. Z for Zinnia. The Délicieux reporter. She was getting an eyeful.
Excerpted from "The Long Quiche Goodbye"
Copyright © 2010 Avery Aames.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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
In this first book of the series, Charlotte Bessette launches the long awaited grand re-opening of Fromagerie Bessette, otherwise known as The Cheese Shop, a family owned business in small town Providence, Ohio. What should have been a fun and profitable event quickly takes a negative turn when someone is murdered just outside the shop. Charlotte's grandmother, who happens to be the town's mayor running for re-election, is arrested as a suspect when it is learned that she had a heated argument with the victim and it doesn't help that he was the husband of her political rival Kristine Woodhouse. Charlotte sets out to clear her grandmother's name before the election but in doing so puts herself and her family in danger. With this being the debut of the series, many characters have to be introduced along with their backgrounds. There were too many to keep track of, in my opinion, but the main ones who will likely appear in upcoming stories include Charlotte, her grandparents, her cousin Matthew and his twin daughters, employee Rebecca, Charlotte's love interest Jordan Pace, best friend Meredith, and police chief Umberto Urso. This made for light reading and was entertaining but pretty much followed the same kind of storyline as others in this genre where a shop owner plays amateur sleuth because the murder is always somehow connected to her or someone she knows. In real life such a businesswoman wouldn't have time to chase after clues and get involved with an investigation but this is fiction and I read this genre for entertainment that doesn't require deep thought so it works for me. As with other food-themed mysteries, the reader is treated to recipes and in this case, learns some things about cheese and wine. The characters and theme have me interested enough to read future titles in the series. I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher but the opinion of it is my own and was not solicited, nor was a positive review required.
Love the cheese theme. Fast passed story excellent incorporation of information about celiac disease highly recommend this book and series
Fast reading hard to put down
Having read most of this author's other series, I wanted to get started on this one under her pseudonym. I liked it and will continue to read the series, when I can. I liked the characters and the cheese shop is interesting. I did not know who the killer was but I really didn't think it was who she kept thinking it had to be. I did like that she kept the Chief informed of any thoughts or clues she had but she did seem to pester him a bit much. But then they had known each other forever. And I liked that he didn't tell her to mind her own business too much because he felt threatened by her sleuthing. Say Cheese!
The grand reopening of Fromagerie Bessette, a gourmet cheese shop in a small Ohio town, is going well until Charlotte's grandmother is found kneeling over the corpse of a man she was just scene arguing with. The book started out a little slowly, but I quickly got into the characters and story.
In this book we meet local Cheese Shop owner Charlotte Bessette, her cousin Matthew, his twin daughters and her grandparents. Early in the book Charlotte hosts a wine and cheese sampling and confrontations run high between Charlotte's grandmother and Kristine who wants to over take and become Mayor of the town claiming to fix all that is wrong. When Kristine's husband winds up dead all leads point to Grandmère Charlotte's grandmother who gets placed under house arrest. Unlike most cozy books this one seemed to have no shortage of suspects but not much on motive or means. Could it be Ed's wife Kristine finding out that Ed was doing shaddy deals? Or was it Meredith Charlotte's best friend who seems to have something to hide? Was it the museum curator Felicia who had a falling out with Ed? And who is the mysterious person having an affair with Ed? What I liked: I liked the relationship between Charlotte and Rebecca it was such a great rapport between the two. They work well together in the shop. I also enjoyed how Rebecca convinced Charlotte to look into what was really going on! I also loved the references to various tv shows and mystery movies. I loved the relationship between Charlotte, Matthew and the grandparents it meshed well together. I also enjoyed the discussions on various cheeses and watching the romance between Charlotte and Jordan along with Matthew and his love interest. What I didn't like: The big thing I wasn't a fan of and if it was me as Charlotte I'd want to really scream at Kristine about being so blind as to how her daughter was behaving towards other kids. Taking things her mother said and running at the mouth to Matthew's daughters and instigating situations where the twins looked bad and like trouble makers, but in the end it seemed to work out to a better situation by the end of the story. Also I think Kristine got a little extreme with the whole election coming up and making a fool over herself trying to sell out Grandmère as a murderer. Being under house arrest really made it impossible for her to fix her image and work on things as the mayor, but I enjoyed how it played out in the end!
I enjoyed this book. I am looking forward to the next one.
I want to visit this cheese shop:)
Enjoyable but sometimes boring little ditty of a story. Recipes and cheeses are intriguing but the story is light and shallow. Not much character development.
As i was getting ten dollar mystery library together e g five books so just took a dollar one to make it my month read of mysteries
Aames keeps us entertained in this cozy with a vivid cast of characters and amateur slueths willing to take on the whole town to exonerate Grandmere Bernadette, matriarch of the Bessette Family. Grandmere is accused of murdering a prominent Providence citizen who made ample enemies making him fair game for anyone. The Long Quiche Goodbye, the first in the Charlotte Bessette Cheese Shop Mysteries had enough flavor to inspire following the series and maybe a quiche or two, recipes included. As a disclosure, I did receive this book in a Goodreads Promotion which did not influence my review.
The beginning of the series sets it up very well. Charlotte takes in her cousin (a divorced sommolier) and his two daughters while running her grandparents cheese shop business. She is devoted to all and getting very attached to her new boyfriend who is very mysterious. With all that, she still has time to help out her friends and help solve murders (albeit without the police's approval). This is giving me an education on cheese and wine as well as teaching me a little French. Great story! I'm looking forrward to the next one!
This book was a very good read. I would describe it as sort of a cozy type mystery. I really liked the characters and the way they interacted. It had good writing and the plot was well thought out. I have already bought the second book in the series. I look forward to seeing how the characters grow and develop.