As the party is winding down, Liv’s sense of triumph fizzles when the body of town councilman Bubba Rowland is discovered on the festival grounds. And now the prime suspect in his murder is Liv’s mother’s fiancé, Earl, who had a flare-up recently with Bubba. To clear Earl’s name, Liv and her best friend Di burst into action to smoke out the real killer before another life is extinguished . . .
“A small Southern town with charm as well as bodies provides a terrific backdrop for two appealing sleuths. Down home and delightful.” —Carolyn Hart
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One Fete in the Grave
By Vickie Fee
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Vickie Fee
All rights reserved.
There were a series of deafening explosions. Babies were crying. A dog was howling. And out of the corner of my eye, I could see the outline of a man, no doubt intoxicated, relieving himself in the bushes.
It was the annual Fourth of July fireworks celebration in Dixie, Tennessee, capping off a daylong festival.
I was lying on a blanket next to my husband, watching the pyrotechnic display. The fireworks were being ignited in a field just the other side of Tiptoe Creek, which runs through Centennial Park. Balls of fire raced through the night sky directly overhead looking as if they would fall on us and set the crowd ablaze.
Larry Joe reached into the ice chest, pulled out an unlabeled brown bottle, and popped it open. If anyone asked, he'd say it was root beer. It wasn't root beer. But alcoholic beverages were technically illegal in the public park. On holidays, the law turned a blind eye to such infractions, as long as people made an effort to be discreet.
He tilted the bottle toward me in a gesture that asked, "Want one?" I shook my head. Words would be useless at this point competing with the ear-piercing explosions, now being accompanied by the high school band playing a John Philip Sousa tune. The fireworks show had started tentatively with lapses between the colorful explosions and crescendoed to rapid-fire bursts stacked one upon another like a deck of cards.
An impressive multicolor firework erupted as the band reached a rousing conclusion. Everyone clapped and cheered. A moment later, an even more impressive display lit up the velvet sky. The crowd remained silent for a few seconds to see if this truly was the finale before bursting once again into cheers and applause.
Eventgoers started streaming toward the exits. The row of bouncy houses that had earlier been buoyant with the energy and laughter of children was now in various stages of deflation. The aroma of fried foods, from funnel cakes to pronto pups and catfish, clung to the humid air even as vendors packed it in and shuttered their walk-up service windows.
Larry Joe and I stood up and started gathering our blanket, ice chest, and other supplies: sunscreen, sunglasses, mosquito repellent.
Suddenly, a woman's scream pierced through the noise of the crowd. The clapping tapered off as the hysterical screaming persisted. Everyone looked around for the source. I could see Sheriff Eulyse "Dave" Davidson and Deputy Ted Horton making their way to a row of porta potties beyond the vendor booths.
Helen Maples was standing outside one of the portable outhouses screaming her head off. I assumed she had entered the facilities and had an unfortunately intimate encounter with a snake or some such thing. But I was wrong.
The sheriff opened the door and there sat town councilman Bubba Rowland, with his pants around his ankles and a large red circle staining the front of his shirt.
This wasn't the first time Bubba had been caught with his pants down. But it certainly looked like it would be his last.
Deputy Ted closed the door on Bubba and started cordoning off the area around bathroom row. The sheriff spoke with some of the security volunteers and reserve deputies before making his way to the stage microphone. Dozens of people had clearly seen Bubba through the open door, and that information had spread like wildfire within moments, so Sheriff Dave didn't skirt the issue.
"We're investigating the death of Councilman Bubba Rowland," he said into the microphone. "Anyone who talked with Mr. Rowland, and, of course, anyone who noticed anything that seemed suspicious, make your way to the stage area so we can take your statements. Everyone else may leave in an orderly fashion, but please give your name and phone number to one of the volunteers who will be standing at the exits with clipboards to take your information. Thank you."
Dave came down the stage steps and made a beeline to where I was standing. He nodded to Larry Joe before turning his attention to me.
"Liv McKay, you're up first on the interview list."
"Because every time a dead body shows up in this town you're within spitting distance of it. And for once I'd like to ask you some questions before you launch your own little investigation."
I opened my mouth to protest that accusation, but he cut me off.
"And ... since you were the events coordinator for the festival, you're probably in the best position to fill me in on any incidents or unpleasantness that went down today. I'm especially interested in anything that involved Bubba Rowland, as you might expect."
Larry Joe started to walk away, but Dave stopped him.
"Larry Joe, just a couple of quick questions while I've got you here."
"Have you been around the festival much today? Did you help out in any particular area?"
"No, this was Liv's baby. I was at work most of the day. I did stop by and eat lunch here on the grounds with Liv and I came back shortly before the fireworks show tonight. I was here at the park for a while last night helping them set up the stage."
"Did you have any conversations with Bubba Rowland today?"
"No. He waved at me as I walked through from the parking lot this evening and I returned the favor," Larry Joe said.
"All right, thanks. I think we're good."
Larry Joe wandered off to start picking up litter on the festival grounds.
"Okay, Mrs. McKay, follow me."
Generally, Dave calls me "Mrs. McKay" only when he's interrogating me. I'm not sure why he calls my husband "Larry Joe" during questioning, but I'm always "Mrs. McKay" when someone drops dead in my vicinity.
I fished a Diet Coke out of the ice chest at my feet, trailed Dave to the stage area, and took a seat in one of the folding chairs.
"That big bloodstain on Bubba's shirt makes natural causes seem unlikely," I said. "Is it too much to hope it was suicide?"
"Not unless Bubba managed to shoot himself in the back," Dave said. "There's a bullet hole through the back of the porta john. My best guess is someone with a rifle positioned themself in that strip of woods," Dave said, motioning toward a stand of trees and underbrush.
"You've been here pretty much all day, right?" Dave asked.
I nodded before adding, "Feels longer."
"So tell me every time you remember seeing Bubba today and who was with him at the time."
"We started things off with the 5K run. I'm pretty sure Bubba wasn't here for that," I said, envisioning the overweight councilman with a limp, who kept putting off knee-replacement surgery.
I related to Dave what I remembered about an altercation between Bubba and the man who was running against him for his seat on the town council in the upcoming election. Webster Flack is a staunch conservationist who represents a passionate group of protesters with ecological concerns about a proposed residential/commercial development. Bubba had strongly advocated for the development, in which — not coincidentally — he was one of the major investors.
Flack and his placard-toting followers had recently picketed in front of Bubba's building supply company and were strongly suspected of leaving behind some unflattering graffiti on the side of the building.
Flack had rented a booth at the festival, as had other candidates running for the council. Difference being, instead of just passing out pamphlets that touted his stellar attributes and qualifications, Flack had additional literature, signs, and posters pointing out Bubba's many moral shortcomings. Bubba naturally took issue with this and the two men had had a loud and ugly name-calling confrontation, followed by some chest-thumping.
"Your deputy broke it up before any punches were thrown," I said. "I overheard bits and pieces, but Ted could give you more details."
"All right," Dave said, scribbling something on his notepad. "Who else did you see talk to Bubba?"
"Bubba spoke to half the people at the festival at some point," I said incredulously. "He was in full-on campaign mode, shaking hands and kissing babies." After pausing to think for a moment, I said, "Oh, there was some unpleasantness with Bubba over the Miss Dixie Beauty Pageant results."
"I heard some people thought Cassie Latham should have won," Dave said. "What did Bubba have to do with it?" "I heard part of a conversation Pageant Director Rosemary Dell had with Bubba," I said. "She started out talking in a hushed tone, but she looked livid. As I walked past, she was giving him a piece of her mind in a very loud stage whisper. Apparently she overheard part of a conversation Bubba had with one of the judges and accused him of trying to influence the outcome of the pageant in favor of his niece, Jennifer Rowland — who ended up winning, as you know."
"When was this?" Dave asked.
"Shortly before the pageant started."
"And where were they?"
"Standing near the contestants' tent."
"What's your take on the accusation? You think there's anything to it?"
"I don't know if Bubba interfered with the judging or not. I do know that I felt certain Cassie would be the hands-down winner after the talent portion. I think most other people did, too. Did you hear her performance?"
"No, I can't say that I did."
"Jennifer Rowland played a number on the piano that any third-year piano student could have managed. Cassie, on the other hand, sang a song she wrote herself that I believe could land her a recording contract in Nashville if the right person heard it."
Dave made another entry in his notebook.
"Do you know if Cassie or her family has lodged a formal complaint? Did you hear anybody else take issue with the pageant results publicly?"
"I don't know about anything official, but later, after the pageant, Lynn Latham, Cassie's mother, had a tearful encounter with Bubba. She walked past me crying, and obviously drunk. I didn't hear much of what she said to Bubba except, 'Why?' Bubba, talking loud enough that I could hear him from a distance, was acting solicitous and told her he understood she was disappointed, but she should be proud that her daughter was named first runner-up.
"I think someone must have gone and found Lynn's mama and alerted her to the situation, because in a minute Nonie Jones came over and said something to Lynn before putting her arm around her and leading her daughter away."
"When and where was this?"
"This was maybe an hour or so after the pageant results were announced," I said. "Lynn came up to Bubba. He was standing by the Coca-Cola stand with a bunch of other men, sipping Cokes spiked with whiskey from under the counter."
I sat back and massaged my temples. I had a throbbing headache.
"I can't really think of anything else at the moment. It's been a long day," I said.
"Okay. Thank you, Mrs. McKay," Dave said. "Go home and get some sleep. But come by the office sometime tomorrow afternoon, so we can continue our little chat."
Apparently, Sunday was not going to be a day of rest for me.
"You're too good to me," I said, before turning to walk back to where we'd left the ice chest, blanket, and other items on the grass.
I scanned the park and waved to Larry Joe to signal I was ready to leave. Since we had driven separate vehicles, I assumed Larry Joe had hung around only to see if I needed help with anything. He came over and took charge of the ice chest, while I gathered up the blanket and other small items. I'd have to come back tomorrow to make sure everything was cleaned up and hauled away, but I was more than ready to call it a day.
When Mayor Virgil Haynes had asked me to take on the job of event coordinator for this year's Fourth of July festival my gut instinct was to say "no." I should have listened to my gut. I honestly tried to say no, in a roundabout way. I quoted a price for my services as a professional planner that I believed the town council would never go for. They approved it without batting an eye. That should have been a warning.
I was serenaded by cicadas as I walked to my car. Past ten-thirty, the air was still thick with humidity and my SUV, which had been parked in the sun all afternoon, was stuffy and hot when I opened the door and climbed in. I started the engine and cranked up the air-conditioning. In the enclosed car, I was overwhelmed by the scent of mosquito repellent I had liberally doused on myself. Summer in Dixie — and all across the South — means heat, humidity and mosquitoes. With two reported cases of West Nile virus and one case of Zika virus in western Tennessee so far this season, local stores were selling a lot of DEET.
Once I made it past the traffic leaving the festival area, the streets were dark and quiet as I drove the short distance to our house on Elm Street.
I was dead on my feet by the time I made it home. But my shoulders were aching and my head was throbbing. I took some aspirin and told Larry Joe, who had made it home just ahead of me, that I was going to take a quick shower.
I pinned up my cocker spaniel blond hair, as my mama has dubbed my dishwater blond locks, because I didn't think I could stay awake long enough to blow-dry it. I stripped and stepped into the downstairs shower — the only working shower in the slightly dilapidated Victorian we call home, which is in the midst of never-ending renovations.
The hot water from the massage showerhead pelted against my neck and shoulders, smoothing out the kinks. The aspirin had helped my headache, as well. I slipped on a nightshirt that was hanging on the hook and slowly ascended the stairs to the bedroom. I crawled into bed with Larry Joe, who woke up just long enough to lean over to kiss me before rolling over and snoring like a bear. I was too tired for the snoring to bother me. I was asleep almost as soon as I closed my eyes. During the night I awoke in a sweat when the image of Bubba Rowland's blood-soaked shirt invaded my dreams.CHAPTER 2
I usually try to make it to church on Sundays and Larry Joe tags along occasionally. But after an action-packed Saturday that ended with an ugly bang, I didn't even bother to set the alarm.
By the time I made it to Centennial Park to check on things, a volunteer crew was breaking down the last of the tents and a Cub Scout pack was haphazardly picking up litter. All the porta potties had been hauled away, except the one in which Bubba had been discovered. It was still festooned with crime scene tape. We wouldn't be getting our security deposit back on that one.
I spotted Deputy Ted Horton and a couple of reserve deputies combing through the strip of woods where Dave thought the shooter had been positioned. I made the rounds, thanking the volunteers and chatting for a moment with the weary den leader before getting into my car and driving to Sunrise Mobile Village.
When I pulled onto the gravel parking pad my best friend shares with her neighbor, I found Di Souther sitting on the small deck in front of her trailer reading the Sunday newspaper. Her strawberry blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she was wearing cut-off denim shorts, her legs showing off the sunshine she soaks up as a mail carrier with a walking route.
"Any good sales in the paper?" I asked as she opened the door and motioned for me to go through.
"Nothing worth driving all the way into Memphis for," Di said, folding up The Commercial Appeal, the Memphis daily, and laying it on the dining table.
"There's still coffee if you'd like a cup," she offered.
"Thanks. I could use it," I said. I poured myself a cup and doctored it with a splash of milk from the carton I retrieved from the fridge before taking a seat on the sofa.
"I'm glad I didn't stick around for the fireworks show last night, since it ended kind of ugly, with the dead guy and everything," Di said.
"Did you talk to Dave?" I asked.
"No, a neighbor rushed over to tell me the news this morning as soon as I stepped out the door to grab the newspaper. If somebody was going to get killed, I guess it's not a huge surprise it was Bubba Rowland."
"Yeah. He had his fans, of course. Enough to keep getting reelected to the council. But there were also plenty of people who won't be shedding any tears over his death."
"He lived next door to your mama, didn't he?"
"Uh-huh. They always got along fine, although she was a lot closer to Bubba's wife, Faye, who passed away a couple years ago."
"Okay, Sherlock, you were on the spot all day watching the action. Who do you think knocked him off?"
"You're as bad as Dave. I was the very first person he questioned last night after Bubba was discovered. He accused me of always being on hand when a body turns up."
"There is some truth to that, you know," Di said.
Unfortunately, she was right. I had discovered a couple of corpses in a client's garage once. And I had also stumbled over a body during a businesswomen's retreat last fall. But it's not like it's a hobby.
Excerpted from One Fete in the Grave by Vickie Fee. Copyright © 2017 Vickie Fee. 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When the fireworks show ends, party planning Liv McKay thinks her day organizing her town’s Fourth of July festival is over. Unfortunately, someone finds the body of councilman Bubba Rowland. Despite being on the council, Bubba had his enemies, and one of them was Earl, her mother’s new fiance. Can Liv help her mother by clearing Earl’s name? This book starts with a bang – of fireworks, but it isn’t too long before we find Bubba’s body. Unfortunately, the book does still have some pacing issues as Liv’s party planning business slows things down. I did find one sub-plot lots of fun, however. The mystery does have some good suspects and twists before we reach the logical climax. Liv’s family and friends, including best friend Di, are as charming as ever. The suspects work, although we don’t get to know them as well as we might in some mysteries. This is a fun cozy for a relaxing summer read or any time of the year.
This was my first encounter with Liv and Di, the two amateur sleuths in One Fête in the Grave by Vickie Fee. I really enjoyed the action, the details of the job of being a party planner, and the character interactions. Mama and her wedding plans were an absolute hoot! There was just enough humor to make me smile/laugh at just the right times. Based on this book, I have just ordered the other two books in the series. I gratefully received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher and NetGalley, which in no way influenced my opinions, which are solely my own.
I really enjoy this series. I like that there is a main character but the sidekick is just as important. It's like having Thelma and Louise fighting crime. Really cool storyline and fun boom to read. Very excited for the next one.
I love Liv and Di! They have a great friendship and make a great team. I love seeing what they'll get themselves into next. Vickie Fee added great tips in the book that follow the events Liv planned.
ONE FETE IN THE GRAVE is a cozy festival of mystery, mayhem, and fun! In this third installment of Fee’s series, ONE FETE IN THE GRAVE started off with one of, if not the best murder scenes I have read. In keeping with cozy guidelines, it’s not gory, but that doesn’t mean the image won’t stick in your head for a while. Oh yeah, you’ll see this one every time the victim’s name is mentioned. Author Fee kept a steady stream of intrigue going, while also keeping the story fun and light, and everything moving along with a great flow. I became lost in her world of Dixie, TN. Seriously, more than half way through this book, I finally came up for air and food. I was so engrossed in the story, I lost all track time! Since reading book one, DEATH CRASHES THE PARTY, I have loved everything about the Liv and Di in Dixie Mysteries. Author Vickie Fee has created wonderfully fun and richly written southern characters that always make me smile. She also has a real feel for what makes a mystery cunning and exciting. ONE FETE IN THE GRAVE is no different. This is the strongest, and best of the series by far. As a matter of fact, I think Ms. Fee has set a new bar for herself. Oh! You have got to check out the back of the book when you’ve finished the story. There are pages of tips on throwing a great Fourth of July part, and for a baby shower! And these tips also come with recipe ideas!
One Fete in the Grave by Vickie Fee is the third book in A Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery series. Liv McKay is enjoying the fireworks on the Fourth of July with her husband, Larry Joe when they hear a scream. Helen Maples (the screamer) is standing in front of a portable bathroom. When Sheriff Davidson and Deputy Horton run over and look inside, they find Councilman Bubba Rowland inside. Councilman Rowland is dead and looks like he perished from a shotgun wound. Liv was responsible for the town’s annual Fourth of July day long festival and is first to be questioned. Sheriff Davidson wants to know if Liv witnessed any altercations with the victim (and unsurprisingly there were a couple). On Sunday Liv and Larry Joe are invited to dinner at her mother, Virginia’s home. At the end of the meal, Virginia and her boyfriend, Earl announce that they are getting married. But the good wishes are short-lived when it is discovered that Earl’s rifle was the murder weapon. Virginia wants Liv to clear Earl’s name so they can move forward with their wedding. It turns out that many people wished Bubba harm. He was not a well-liked man and he abused his position on the city council. While narrowing down the suspect list, Liv keeps Virginia busy with wedding plans. Virginia has some over-the-top ideas for her special day (which includes swans and a Viking gondola). Will Liv find the killer or will her mother’s wedding venue be the local jail? One Fete in the Grave is easy to read and can easily be a stand-alone. A Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery series is for readers who prefer novels that are humorous and light in content. I was a little bored by this one. The mystery was not complex and is easily solved (the clues are not subtle and killer stands out). Several things are repeated throughout the book. They include the events of the Fourth of July, Emma’s dislike of Earl, and the new development (a secondary storyline). Food descriptions seem to dominate the story. I really do not need a description of every meal Liv ingests especially since she eats from Taco Belles frequently (yes, I spelled it correctly). I give One Fete in the Grave 3 out of 5 stars. I prefer novels that have more depth, less repetition of information, and a mystery that is difficult to solve. If you prefer a light hearted, humorous cozy mystery, then pick up a copy of One Fete in the Grave.
I've been a fan of this series from the start. Each book gets better and I'm always excited when I see a new book is coming out. Liv is the ultimate party planner and ending the 4th of July celebration with a huge bang is exactly what Liv is counting on. What she doesn't count on is another dead body and this one is close to home. Liv has to investigate and find the truth, putting herself in harm's way. This story will have you longing for your own celebration. I voluntarily read an ARC of this book provided by the publisher and NetGalley.