Murder by Mushroom (Love Inspired Suspense Series)

Murder by Mushroom (Love Inspired Suspense Series)

by Virginia Smith

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Original)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373442539
Publisher: Steeple Hill Books
Publication date: 08/07/2007
Series: Cozy Mystery
Edition description: Original
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 4.22(w) x 6.61(h) x 0.67(d)

About the Author

Virginia Smith wrote her 1st story in her mid-twenties and discovered that writing well is harder than it looks; it took many years to produce a book worthy of publication.During the daylight hours, she steadily climbed the corporate ladder and stole time to write late at night after the kids were in bed.With the publication of her 1st novel, she left her twenty-year corporate profession to devote her energy to writing stories that honor God and bring a smile to the faces of her readers.

Read an Excerpt

While the congregation of Heritage Community Church prayed, Jackie Hoffner fidgeted in her pew. Her backside had gone numb from a full torturous hour of sitting on the unyielding wooden surface.

For cryin' out loud, wrap up the prayer so we can get to the food!

She cracked open an eye and peeked toward the podium. From her seat near the center of the small sanctuary, she saw Pastor Earl Palmer standing with his eyes closed, his big black Bible clasped in his hands and his face alight with passion for the holy conversation in which he was engaged. As far as Jackie could tell, Pastor Palmer showed no sign of getting close to Amen, but instead seemed intent on reviewing in prayer every one of the finer points of his sermon. As if the Lord hadn't just heard it along with the rest of the congregation.

As on any potluck Sunday, the small sanctuary of the Kentucky church was practically full. Jackie doubted if anyone paid attention to the pastor's prayer. All around the sanctuary people shuffled in their pews, reaching for their purses or replacing their hymnals in anticipation of the moment of dismissal. Directly behind her, Justin Hart's stomach growled and his wife, Nancy, giggled. Jackie balled her hand and pushed a fist into her own stomach, which seemed determined to shout out an answering rumble.

And no wonder. The tangy odor of barbecued baked beans wafted from the fellowship hall where Lizzie Wallace had plugged in a Crock-Pot before the service. A variety of other smells had tantalized or tortured Jackie's nose through the service, as well. One row up, Mrs. Watkins sat with a casserole dish on the pew beside her, the telling odor of asparagus seeping from beneath the foil cover. Next to Jackie, Sarabeth Engelmann had set down a plate of foul-smelling deviled eggs that actually started to smell pretty good as Pastor Palmer's sermon lengthened and Jackie's stomach grew emptier.

With smug pride, Jackie thought of her own casserole on the floor of her car, wrapped in a thick layer of towels to keep the heat in. She had reason to feel good about it: at last month's potluck, Beverly Sanders had remarked, "At least we'll never lack potato chips as long as Jackie keeps coming to church."

Jackie's cheeks went hot at the memory of her snide tone and down-the-nose glance. Beverly, who was pushing fifty, presided over the monthly church-wide potluck like a queen. She assumed that a single female twenty-five years her junior couldn't produce an edible potluck offering. Well, Jackie had proved her wrong today.

Enough already! Say Amen!

A breath later, as though he heard Jackie's impatient thought, Pastor Palmer intoned, "Amen." The congregation's fiddling increased, as did the noise of bulletins shuffling and hymnals dropping with loud thuds into wooden slots. The jingle of Jackie's car keys added to the clamor as she fished them out of her purse.

At the front of the sanctuary, the pastor wasn't ready to let them go yet. "I have a couple of prayer requests for this week. Please continue to remember Mrs. Sawyer as she recovers from hip surgery. And this is our week to hold Bible study at the jail, so pray for that, too." His head turned in a sweeping motion as he scanned the congregation. "Are there any other announcements before we close?"

Lois Thatcher spoke up from halfway back on the left side of the sanctuary. "I need some men to carry tables out to the yard."

He nodded. "Okay, anyone who can help Lois, please go with her. Anything else?"

No one spoke. Pastor Palmer smiled and held his right hand high, palm toward the congregation. Jackie uncrossed her legs in preparation for her dash to the car the moment he pronounced the benediction.

As did everyone else. The instant the last word left the pastor's lips, the noise level rose considerably. Adults shouted orders here and there, and children called to one another in high-pitched voices as Jackie darted into the aisle and toward the exit. Pastor Palmer didn't even try to make it to the back of the sanctuary. No one would have shaken his hand anyway. They were too busy rushing to grab their covered dishes and get out to the yard.

Outside in her gray Toyota, Jackie uncovered her casserole dish and left a pile of towels in the passenger seat. She inhaled deeply of the spicy tomato sauce. Why had Beverly's comment bothered her so much? Maybe because it sounded like a stinging remark Aunt Betty had made several years ago, after tasting Jackie's first attempt at chili: "You'd better hope your looks help you snag a man, honey. Your cooking sure won't."

Well, she might not have a man yet, but she intended to prove today she could at least manage a decent casserole. Trying to keep the smirk off her face, she marched across the grass to where Beverly stood beside the buffet table. As Jackie approached, the woman's plucked eyebrows arched.

"Why, Jackie Hoffner, I thought you couldn't cook." Her voice dripped Southern charm, reminiscent of Scarlett O'Hara. Jackie suspected the inflection was fake, since the local accent around this part of central Kentucky sounded more hillbilly twang than Southern-belle drawl.

"I never said I couldn't cook. I just don't do it often." Jackie kept the sweetness in her smile as she placed her casserole dish on the table in front of Beverly. She removed the glass lid with a flourish.

Beverly's cherry-red lips formed an O. "Why, it looks simply divine! Is that cheese on top?"

Jackie inclined her head. "Mozzarella. It's spiral pasta in homemade tomato sauce with beef, peppers and mushrooms."

"Homemade? I declare, Jackie, you are the surprise of the day. You will share the recipe, won't you? It's not a family secret?"

Jackie didn't feel compelled to admit she'd Googled the recipe. Prior to yesterday, the only spaghetti sauce she had ever cooked—a total of twice in her life—had come from a jar. With a smile she promised to write down her special recipe and turned away so Beverly could continue organizing the food on the buffet table. She indulged in a moment of self-satisfied smirking. She'd sure shown Beverly Sanders who could cook. From now on, someone else could bring potato chips.

The sun shone brightly in a clear blue sky. The weather had cooperated so they could hold their potluck outside for the first time since Jackie started attending the church. The white-plank building, erected back in the early 1900s, lay snug between the gentle swell of rolling hills on the outskirts of Versailles. Early-summer weeds poked through a meager layer of gravel in the parking lot that fronted the building, but the flat yard on the side boasted a thick lawn of true Kentucky bluegrass. Today the smell of freshly mowed grass almost overpowered the odor of the food. Across the lawn, filmy plastic tablecloths on the tables from the fellowship hall flapped in the slight June breeze, held down with rocks on the corners. HCC's five teenagers were busy unfolding metal chairs and setting them in place. Beneath the tables, the Dorsey twins energetically covered their Sunday clothes with grass stains.

The buffet table filled quickly. A smaller drink table held an assortment of two-liter bottles and plastic pitchers of sweet tea and lemonade. Jackie stepped out of the way as women bustled around her, rearranging the food at Beverly's direction so the salads, meats and casseroles were at one end and the desserts at the other. Several of the men had already staked their claims on seats, while a rapidly growing crowd lingered near the far end of the food table, ready to form a line.

Finally, Beverly clapped her hands for attention. "I think everything's about ready, y'all. Pastor Palmer, you want to ask a blessing?"

Jackie groaned. Don't get him started on another prayer. We'll never get to eat!

Pastor Palmer nodded, and a hush fell over the crowd as everyone bowed their heads. "Father, we thank You for the beautiful sunshine today. Thank You also for the freedom of gathering in fellowship with one another, when so many of our brothers and sisters in the world don't have that privilege. Bless the food we are about to eat, and all those who prepared it. In Jesus' Name, Amen."

At the last word, the feasting on the lawn of Heritage Community Church began.

Margaret Palmer speared a twisty pasta and a mushroom on a plastic fork. She stole a glance at her husband, whose single-minded attack on his plate of fried chicken, potato salad and green beans had her thinking she should feed him better at home. Of course, as pastor he felt he had a responsibility to taste and exclaim over every dish, but he actually went back for seconds on potato salad. She made a mental note to find out what spices Esther used, then directed her attention across the table when Alice Farmer's endless string of complaints turned to the UPS driver.

"Rude, that's what he was." The elderly lady gave a vicious nod that shook her tightly curled gray hair. "He wouldn't even help me with a few boxes. I told him I couldn't lift them. He left me standing on the porch without even a by-your-leave. And me a widow with a weak heart."

The creases around Alice's mouth deepened as her face settled into its habitual scowl.

Seated beside Alice, Jackie Hoffner stiffened and drew an outraged breath. "You mean he just dropped the boxes off on your porch and wouldn't bring them in for you?"

"Of course not," Alice snapped. "He was delivering a book I ordered off the television. I'm perfectly capable of carrying a book. The boxes are up in my attic, and he refused to go up there and get them down for me."

Margaret saw Earl hide a grin behind a chicken leg. "But Mrs. Farmer," Jackie said, "UPS probably doesn't allow their drivers to go into people's houses. Maybe he was just following his company's rules."

Alice's lips pursed as her chin shot upward. "Then whoever told him that ought to be ashamed of himself. It's scandalous, I tell you. The Good Book says people should take care of widows, but do they? Of course not. This generation hasn't been taught proper respect. They don't respect their elders or widows or anyone else."

Margaret tried not to laugh at the expression on Jackie's face. The girl looked especially nice today in white slacks and a loose pink blouse that suited her creamy complexion and emphasized her slender figure. What a shame there were no single young men her age in the church. Maybe… No. Margaret mentally shook herself. Earl often accused her of obsessively trying to change the marital status of every single person over the age of twenty.

With a practiced gesture, Jackie tucked a lock of curly dark hair behind her ear and leaned back in her chair, her high forehead wrinkling as she searched for an appropriate defense for the UPS man. She was an earnest young woman who tended to consider a differing opinion from her own as a personal challenge. She'd started coming to the church six months ago, shortly after Earl replaced the previous pastor of HCC. Margaret often wondered how long she would be satisfied with the rather traditional small church when the area boasted plenty of bigger, more contemporary congregations with far more single men to choose from.

However, Jackie seemed perfectly happy at HCC. Odd that an attractive young woman would prefer the company of older people to those her own age. But look where she'd chosen to sit today—with a boring middle-aged couple and a complaining old woman.

Alice Farmer's eyes focused on something over Margaret's shoulder, and her scowl deepened. "No respect for the Bible, either, or the Ten Commandments. It's a crime, that's what it is. A crime."

Margaret turned her head, wondering what caused such venom in the old lady's voice. Behind her, people ate and chatted amicably. Several had returned for second helpings and hovered around the food. Richard Watson stood talking to Steve Townsend, while his wife, Laura, used a wet wipe on little Charlie Dorsey's sticky face. Kathy Dorsey had her arms around her second son, Jamie, holding him in place while she scrubbed at the spaghetti sauce on his hands. Esther Hodges stood close to Sylvia Graham, whispering rather intently in her ear.

Margaret turned back to Alice as Earl answered in his most soothing pastoral voice.

"We live in a fallen world, Mrs. Farmer, but we've been given a powerful weapon. Prayer. Our job as Christians is to pray for those who are struggling."

"Struggling is one thing." The old woman's gaze slid over to him. "Wallowing in sin is another."

Earl's eyebrows rose. "Those in sin need prayer as much as anyone. And that is every one of us. Remember, All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

Margaret gave him a quick look. She couldn't remember easy-going Earl ever quoting Scripture to chastise someone.

Before Alice had a chance to flare at his reprimand, he pushed his plate away and stood. "I'm ready for dessert. Can I bring anything for you ladies?"

Jackie and Alice declined, but Margaret stood with him. "I want to see what choices I have."

As they walked away, Earl leaned toward her to whisper. "I don't know how Mr. Farmer died, but I'll bet he did it just to escape the complaining."

"Shh. Someone might hear you." Margaret aimed an elbow at his ribs, but he jumped away in the nick of time, grinning.

One end of the buffet table was a center of industrious activity. Several ladies busily dished leftovers into plastic containers, ready to send them home with anyone who wanted to take them. Margaret and Earl slipped into the line at the opposite end.

Dessert had always been Margaret's downfall. She loved homemade cakes and pies and had never met a cookie she could refuse. For years she fluctuated between a size fourteen and a sixteen, but lately those sixteens had felt a little snug. With a sigh, she took one of the small dessert plates and halved a slice of pecan pie. As she moved down the line, her resolve lessened and she cut a sliver of Mrs. Lewis's carrot cake and then added a moderate-sized spoonful of banana pudding. After only a second's hesitation, she picked up a chocolate-pecan cookie before scanning the tables for a seat not quite so near to Alice.

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Murder by Mushroom (Love Inspired Suspense Series) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Deborah_K More than 1 year ago
This was a fun book to read (although don't attempt on an empty stomach!) I liked Jackie even though she's no Nancy Drew. Her character changed throughout the story as her original intentions were purely to clear her own name. Then as she found out what really happened to everyone else she changed for the better. What I found most interesting about the story was the attitude that other Christians had against Alice. It's tough to show love towards someone so spiteful. So I was glad that there was actual animosity towards the character. It would have been unrealistic for everyone to start crying and mourning her passing. Alice Farmer is a mean old woman who seems to take delight in hurting others. There are many people who suffered because of her. Unfortunately no reason is given for her cruelty which is kind of unsatisfying. It was sad reading that there are some Christians who believe that this is how Jesus wants them to act. Dennis seems like a really nice guy. A huge contrast compared to Detective Connor who doesn't seem to have a very high opinion about women. I was clueless about the murder's identity until the very end but it was very satisfying to find out who it was. I really enjoyed this book and am hoping for more adventures with Jackie. If you like cozy mysteries, you'll like this book. Just don't eat any mushrooms while reading it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Omgbessies you are going to be such a great writer.My fav. Character is Jackie because she is trying to find the killer and trying not to get invovled with officer Walsh.Little does she know that laura,little miss perfect,is working with Richard and that Jackie is getting framed for so many things.oh and jackie and walsh have such a happy ending. Virginia Smith is such a suspenceful lady who is awesome and very christlike.I am sure that she is known for being a romance novel who keeps things very appropiate and thoughts and actions are very clean and is always exciting. Thanks Virginia you are amazing God bless you From a person who loves to read your books along with Margeret daley Terri Reed Camy Tang Stephanie Newton Gayle Rooper
anamatt More than 1 year ago
enjoyed reading this author. Would make a great discussion book. All readers would enjoy this book especially mystery bubbs.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love this book! I couldn't put it down! Jackie kept me entertained throughout the book and kept me constantly second guessing myself! I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a great read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
You will never look at church potlucks the same again. This books holds your attention all the way through and you don't know who committed the murder until the very end. The front picture even attracts people to the book as I learned when I went to see my doctor. Uplifting and encouraging too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved the book! Jackie was a unique character and the church family was typical of many of our churches in rural America. I felt I had known all of them at some time in my life. The story was intriguing and compelling as I read from beginning to end, enjoying the indepth detail that covered a very short time frame. I breathed a sigh of relief when the mystery of the mushrooms was solved and the character I identified with was innocent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jackie wants to impress people with her mushroom dish at a potluck, but instead her creation makes her a murder suspect. Like most people in that situation, she wants to help clear her name. Her processes are creative and fun, but much to the local investigators chagrin, she's always underfoot in their process. Murder by Mushroom is a fun read. The more I read, the harder I found it to put down. I recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
HCC was a normal church until one Sunday when they had a potluck lunch. A few days later, a long-time member, Alice Farmer, dies from mushroom poisoning in Jackie¿s left-over casserole. When the police come to Jackie¿s door investigating her for murder, she realizes she has to do some detective work to solve the crime and clear her name. Jackie finds that hard to do when another crime is committed and the evidence again leads to her. I liked this book a lot and look forward to reading more of Virginia Smith¿s books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a fabulous novel! It kept me on the seat of my chair through the entire book!! I love it when that happens!!! This was a very well written suspense novel!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jackie Hoffner, the lead character in Murder By Mushroom, is somebody who is like a lot of us. A church member ends up murdered and Jackie is suspected, early on, of concocting the deadly food. She takes things into her own hands and tries to find the killer, partly to clear her name. (She may not be the best cook but she doesn't want people to think her food would kill anyone). She has a friend, Margaret, who stands by her and supports her sleuth work, but tells her when she's going too far. Jackie botches some of the investigation. This seemed realistic and a bit unusual for the typical mystery. I couldn't figure out who did it until it was revealed. And I was on the wrong trail several times, even wondering if she'd discover it was a suicide at some point. I recommend this book for entertainment. Also, in describing the relationships of the people in church, it made me think about how I treat people and the assumptions I make about them, that are often dead wrong.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Welcome to Heritage Community Church---just don't eat at potluck!! This little novel came at just the right time, and was so much fun to read! Jackie Hoffner is new to HCC, and a backhanded comment at a potluck supper gets her dander up. Taunted that she can keep them supplied in potato chips, she decides to show the women of HCC. Her spiral noodle dish is a hit, and little is left to pack up as leftovers. But Alice Farmer snags a dish full, and it isn't long before Alice is dead and the police come knocking on Jackie's door. But Jackie didn't poison Alice with mushrooms---did she? And if she didn't do it, who did? While the cops are looking at Jackie (and one with more than just investigative interest:-), Jackie is looking a church members to find a killer. It's hard to write a murder mystery, albeit a cozy one, about a church. And to write it in a non-offensive and entertaining way is tricky. But Virginia Smith pulls it off masterfully. Pick up a copy of this delightful cozy's great summer reading! Happy Reading! Deena
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kept me on the edge of my seat and laughing the entire time!