Dumpster diving for her lost paycheck is definitely the low point of Kiki Lowenstein's daythat is, until she finds a severed leg thrown in with the trash. Who'd toss a body part in the garbage outside the scrapbook crafts store where Kiki works?
Accompanying the grisly "gift" is a creepy computerized voice message, a warning to the store's "rich and snotty" female shoppers. Kiki soon discovers that the leg belonged to Cindy Gambrowski, a customer with a tyrannical and violent husbandwho's now harassing Kiki. Combing through Cindy's scrapbook projects for hidden clues, Kiki tries to find the killer. Was it a crime of marital malice, or did someone else beat Cindy's husband to the punch?
Includes holiday-themed projects and recipes!
“The characters are so well developed that each installment leaves the reader yearning for the next." Kirkus Reviews
"This author's craft mysteries are topically relevant and chock-full of side stories. Compare with Clare O'Donohue's Someday Quilts series for women's empowerment topics."Library Journal
"There are chuckle-out-loud moments as well as wonderful scrapbooking tips and recipes scattered throughout the book."RT Book Reviews
About the Author
Joanna Campbell Slan (Washington, D.C.) is an international authority in the scrapbooking community. She is the author of over ten books on the subject, and her work has appeared in all of the industry's top magazines. In 2004, Slan founded a contest for scrapbookers in the U.K called "The Best of British Scrapbooking," which still runs today. Additionally, Joanna is one of the early Chicken Soup for the Soul authors, and in 2007, she co-founded Sisters in Crime's Forensic University of St. Louis.
Read an Excerpt
Make, take, murderA Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-N-Craft Mystery
By Joanna Campbell Slan
Midnight InkCopyright © 2011 Joanna Campbell Slan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMONDAY, DECEMBER 14
I was rummaging around in the trash Dumpster searching for my lost paycheck, when I reached down and grabbed Cindy Gambrowski's severed leg.
Of course, I didn't know it was her leg. I didn't know whose leg it was.
In fact, I couldn't even be sure it was a real, live—er, dead—leg at all. I told myself I was nuts. (Which I probably am.) I immediately dropped what I was holding.
"Eeeeek!" I screamed. "It's ... it's ... a leg! I found a leg."
"Ha, ha, ha. Very funny, Kiki Lowenstein. When you're finished being a complete dope, how about you find your paycheck so you can get out of there?" said Bama. "We've got our Monday night crop to prep for."
That's my business partner for you. She has all the empathy of a pet rock. Clearly, she was not planning to come to my assistance. She thought I was kidding about the leg. Or wrong.
Well, maybe I was.
I swallowed hard and told myself to calm down.
After all, how could a human shin complete with five toes get inside the big green trash bin? Why would anyone dump body parts in with the paper garbage we generated at Time in a Bottle, the scrapbook store where Bama and I work?
This had to be someone's idea of a sick joke. I must have been mistaken. Who'd put a body part in the Dumpster? Especially in our trash bin? Don't be ridiculous, I told myself. Concentrate on finding that paycheck so you can get out of here.
If only I could see better!
It's pretty dark inside a Dumpster with the lid propped open only an inch. The day dawned unusually warm for December, but that's St. Louis for you. We tend to swing from one extreme to another. Either we suffer from muggy, ghastly hot days, or we rival polar expeditions for bone-chilling cold. You can walk outside to a clear sky one minute, dodge pelting golf balls of hail the next, and finish the twenty-four-hour period with a pea-soup colored haze announcing an oncoming tornado. It sure isn't boring; I'll give it that!
Neither was my life.
"I need some help here, Bama!" I called. I figured at the very least she'd hold the lid open for me, but no. She had given me a boost so I could climb into the slime pit. But that was all. After I scrambled over the edge and into the trash, Bama stuck a small stick under the metal lid and backed away. Bama didn't care how tough a time I was having. This was her passive-aggressive way of teaching me a lesson.
Unless I also learned Braille, this education was going no-where—fast. Too darn dark in here to see anything!
"I'm not climbing in after you, Kiki. I won't. Don't ask. Quit whining and find your paycheck. I still have to count out the register and get the store open."
Well, I did, too. I was eager for the activity that would take my mind off how horrible my twelve-year-old daughter was behaving lately.
"This is all your fault," Bama called to me, by way of adding insult to smelly injury.
Duh. That I knew. I should have paid attention. I shouldn't have pushed all those loose papers into the trash can by the desk. I should have put my paycheck in my purse the moment Bama handed it over.
Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda.
When I discovered my mistake, Bama explained she was not about to reissue my paycheck, thank you. "That costs money. Correction: That wastes money. You tossed it, you lost it."
I could tell by the smirk she was proud of her little rhyme. In fact, I bet she was standing outside grinning from ear to ear. All right, I would take my bitter medicine. But I couldn't perform my punishment without more light. "Bama, I'm trying! I want out of here. But I can't see anything! Lift the lid higher!"
"Can't. Don't want to touch it. I'll get dirty." She wore a brand-new, cardinal-red wrap coat that I coveted. I had finally, reluctantly, resigned my old winter coat to the garbage. Moths feasted on the sleeves over the summer. The lining drooped sadly out from under the hem. An unidentified stain crept across the shoulder blades.
I hoped our store was making money. If we were, perhaps I could use a part of the bonus to buy a new coat at the after-Christmas sales. I also wanted to purchase a nice Hanukkah gift for my daughter Anya. She lusted after a pair of Uggs. "All my friends own a pair," she pouted.
But instead of prepping for our upcoming crop or creating displays to entice our customers to spend money, I was stuck here in the trash bin, digging around for my lost paycheck. With no help forthcoming from my "partner," Bama. None at all!
She is so annoying.
"At least go get me some light!" I told myself I must be hallucinating to think I'd touched anything remotely human. But then, I haven't been sleeping well lately. No wonder my imagination shifted to high alert status.
"Hang on," she yelled. "I'll be back. Don't go anywhere."
As if I could! I was too short to climb out of the dumpster without (a) a hand up or (b) a ladder. Instead, I snuggled into the corner far away from the icky, sticky human calf-shaped thing I'd tossed back into the mess. At least in the corner, nothing could come up behind me.
I felt a tickle.
"Something fell down the back of my blouse!" I yelled so loud I thought I ejected my tonsils.
But Bama wasn't around to hear me. I tugged at my top and did the shimmy, hoping whatever small creature was sharing my clothing would vacate the building. Pronto.
"Here," Bama banged her fist against the metal to get my attention. The resulting BONG was as loud as if I were standing inside Big Ben. I could barely make out her next comment, "Got you a flashlight."
The lid opened wide. Sunlight flooded the interior and blinded me. I didn't duck as the big blue plastic flashlight flew by and conked me in the head.
"Bama, that hurt!"
"Sor-reee!" she sang out.
I knew she wasn't.
Ugh. I rotated the plastic cylinder in my hand and clicked it to "on." The stupid beam flickered twice, then died. I knocked it hard against my palm. The light came on. I dug around in the papers and goo of our leftover foodstuffs. When the light wavered, I banged the flashlight against the dumpster wall, and it stayed bright. I shined the beam in the direction of my feet. I moved it left to right in a sweeping motion.
Five pink toes with painted nails winked up at me from between two garbage bags.
"It's a leg! Bama, I'm not kidding! Help! Help! Get me out of here!" I stuffed the flashlight into my waistband and tried to scale the wall of the dumpster. "The lid! Lift the lid!"
Instead of lifting the lid, Bama dropped it. "Phone!" Her voice came from far away. "Be right back!"
"Bama! Wait! Please! Let me out! OUT!" I banged on the wall and yelled some more. I jumped up pogo-stick style and struggled to get a purchase on the rim. I couldn't do it. My fingernails screeched as they slid down the metal.
Carefully avoiding the far end of the heap (or Body Part Village, as I nicknamed it in my head), I heaped bags one on top of each other. When I had a small pile, I climbed them. That didn't work either. They shifted and sank under my weight. I tried again with the same result.
The whole time I yelled and cried and screamed for help.
Finally, I wore myself out. I sank down in the corner of the Dumpster and started to snivel.
Bama took her own sweet time.
I hate that woman.
I really do.
Excerpted from Make, take, murder by Joanna Campbell Slan Copyright © 2011 by Joanna Campbell Slan. Excerpted by permission of Midnight Ink. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Finding a human leg while looking for a missing paycheck is not how Kiki wanted to begin her day, but that is what happened one morning. When later it was discovered to be a missing customer who was abused, Kiki didn't know this would closely touch her as well. I could not put this book down and this story grabbed my attention as Kiki struggles with so many issues that life kept putting in her path and I enjoyed watching her become stronger from it. The mystery was good but what I liked best was the relationship among the characters from Kiki and Chad and Clancy and Dodie and even Sheila.
I think this may be the best one yet in the series, and they've all been great! The way Ms. Slan has depicted the hidden facets and the horrible end results of domestic violence/abuse is not exaggeration, and the way she has shown how other people felt after the fact, i.e., that they "should have known", is also not exaggerated. How the mystery is presented and solved, with all it's corresponding drama, will keep you on the edge of your seat. And the hilarious comic relief of Kiki's friends, family, coworkers, and animals is laugh-out-loud funny. Another well-written book in this amazing series.
First Line: I was rummaging around in the trash Dumpster searching for my lost paycheck, when I reached down and grabbed Cindy Gambrowski's severed leg.Finding a severed leg in the Dumpster would be a memorable beginning to anyone's day, and it certainly was to Kiki Lowenstein. The discovery begins a search for Cindy Gambrowski, and while the police are looking, Kiki has to keep on truckin' with her almost teenaged daughter who's an angel one second and a demon the next, with her mother-in-law (who always seems to be the latter), and with her prickly co-owner of their scrapbooking store Time in a Bottle. To put the icing on the cake, it's December in St. Louis, Missouri, and anyone in retail can tell you that the sales figures for this month can make or break a business. But Cindy Gambrowski was a customer, and Kiki can't get her out of her mind-- even when co-owner Bama goes ballistic when the shop is featured on the television news. Kiki searches for clues as best she can during the busiest season of all.The scrapbooking and retail aspects of this book are very well done. By the time I was finished with the last page, I had an itch to take up scrapbooking-- a craft I'd never had any interest in before. Slan shares ideas and tips that are guaranteed to get any crafter anxious to start a new project. Trying to walk that fine line of supply and demand, a shoplifter who's stealing some of their best items, having enough help in the shop to serve all the customers-- the author made this retail veteran feel right at home.There were some characters who got on my nerves a time or two. Kiki has a mother-in-law who goes out of her way to be hateful to her. I've said in other reviews that I can do without the obnoxious mother-in-law, and my opinion hasn't changed. Bama, the co-owner of Time in a Bottle, is abrasive to the point of being outrageous. Although the reason for Bama being the way she is is given at book's end, I still wondered why everyone let her get away with her behavior.Kiki seemed to me to be the type of woman who wants to be liked by everyone... a woman who wants to get along with no fighting and harsh words. Unfortunately, she's not surrounding herself with the right people for her wishes to be a reality. The only time I really disagreed with something she did, however, was when a man walked up to her and her co-workers at 11 PM and asked about a mutual acquaintance because he had flowers to deliver. Come on, Kiki-- what flower shop would spend the payroll to make deliveries at that hour of night?The search for Cindy Gambrowski is a puzzling one, and although subtle clues are given all along the way, the ending is still a shocker. This isn't your typical cozy mystery. There's more meat on the bone. Yes, the characters are front and center as they should be, and yes, you get a feel for the craft aspect of the book. You also see how difficult it is for a single mother with limited funds to raise a child. But there are even deeper issues-- such as spousal abuse-- that Slan deals with in such a way to make us all stop and think... and wonder what we would do in the same situation.Did it feel strange for me to begin reading a series with book four? No, the author does a good job of providing enough backstory for things to make sense without bogging down the plot. I enjoyed being in Kiki's world for a while and look forward to meeting her again.
This might be the best one yet; I loved the first three also. The spousal/family abuse very well "themed" in. I couldn't put it down. Enjoyed the growing prominence of previously minor characters.