When murder strikes in the Tunnel of Love, Erica Bloom has to rock the boat to catch a killer…
For a small town like Otter Lake, New Hampshire, the annual Fall Festival is a big deal: a Ferris wheel, corn maze, caramel apples, and pumpkin pieseven a Tunnel of Love. Back in her hometown, Erica Bloom is trying to enjoy herself, which includes getting better acquainted with Sheriff Grady Forrester. But when a swan boat sails out of the heart-shaped exit of the tunnel with a dead man slumped over a wing, her own romance will have to take a backseat.
PUMPKIN PICKING WITH MURDER
Speaking of love affairs, the other passenger in the boatand only witness to the elderly Mr. Masterson’s swan songis not his wife. It’s Erica’s beloved and feisty “aunt,” Tweety, who quickly becomes the prime suspect. Vowing to clear Tweety, Erica teams up with her sassy BFF and self-appointed security expert Freddie Ng to solve the murderdespite the objections of Grady, who’s convinced the amateurs are going overboard in their investigation. And he just may be right. But as Erica and Freddie start to dredge up long-kept small-town secrets, will they heading straight into troubled waters?
Pumpkin Picking with Murder is the second book in Auralee Wallace's Otter Lake Mystery series!
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Pumpkin Picking with Murder
By Auralee Wallace
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Auralee Wallace
All rights reserved.
"Okay," I said, stepping off the dock onto the cracked asphalt of the parking lot. "I'm here. Can you please tell me what's going on now?"
"Nope," the voice on the other end of my phone said. "It's a surprise. You have to see it."
I sighed and turned my face up to the warm autumn sun. "You know I don't have really great experiences with surprises. In fact, I pretty much hate them. Especially when I'm ... here."
The voice chuckled on the other end.
Yup, here I was. Home again in Otter Lake, Live Free or Die, New Hampshire.
Otter Lake was a special kind of place. It had long docks stretching into lakes, nights with a billion stars, and, this time of year, crisp air tinged with ripened apples. It was also a place where everybody knew your name ... and your family, where you lived, maybe what you had for breakfast, and most likely the reason behind you picking up that prescription the other day. And if they didn't know any of those things, it wouldn't take them long to find out. It was just that kind of town.
On my last trip home, I had dealt with a lot of the issues that had kept me away from Otter Lake for nearly eight years — most of them stemming from a bizarre prank-gone-wrong that involved me standing half naked in front of the entire town with a geriatric beaver at the annual Raspberry Social, but I had put all that behind me ... and wanted to keep that kind of thing behind me. Hence my aversion to surprises.
"Home, Erica. It's your home. You can say it. It won't hurt you," Freddie said. "And just so you know, this surprise is awesome because it's not about you. It's about me. Although," he added, drawing out the word, "it could be about you if you played your cards right."
"Yeah ... no." I shook my head and headed toward the crowds of people filling the street. Freddie Ng was my newly reinstated best friend from high school. We had always gotten along as the oddballs in Otter Lake. Me, because my mother ran a spiritual retreat for women that focused on veganism, yoga, and goddess power — which really sounded like a description of witchcraft to a lot of people around here. Freddie, because he had a trifecta of otherness going for him — gay, Asian, and mega-rich. Nobody knew what the hell to do with him. Me included. But it wasn't because of any of those things. No. It was Freddie's ... zest for life that had me worried. Mainly because his big, big plans usually included me in some way whether I liked it or not.
Freddie and I had hung out a lot last time I was in town, and while it had been really good to reconnect, I couldn't help but think that when we did get together, in person, we got ourselves into situations that we would never normally get ourselves into. Well, at least I wouldn't. Hard to tell with Freddie. When Freddie told me a couple of days ago about his big surprise, I figured it could be anything from wanting to me to check out his new cell phone to showing off his new pet monkey. Now I was thinking that whatever this surprise was, it was definitely on the pet-monkey side of the spectrum. And I did not have time for pet monkeys this visit. Oh no, I was going to be too busy with other ... stuff. Good stuff. Sheriff stuff.
Time to nip this thing in the bud.
"While that's very sweet of you to include me in whatever this surprise is, I'm going to preemptively have to decline taking any part," I said, skipping around a little dog on a leash making a nip for my heel. Man, the whole town was out today. "Thanks, though."
"But you're going to love it!"
"No. Nope. No, thank you. Not this week."
"Oh come on," Freddie said. "You don't even know what you're turning down."
"No," I repeated. I may have even half pointed at the phone. "You will not draw me into any of your tomfooleries this visit."
"Tomfooleries?" I could practically hear Freddie blinking his eyes on the other side of the phone. "You did not just say tomfooleries."
I shook my head as I picked a toy stuffie off the ground and passed it to the outstretched hands of a toddler harnessed in a stroller. The mother thanked me. I was pretty sure I went to school with her, but she was a few years ahead. I gave her a smile. She smiled back ... like I wasn't infamous in this town. This was good.
"Besides, I'm not the one who gets us up to the monkeyshines," Freddie went on.
I stopped walking. "Is this like a thing? Are we doing this now?"
He ignored me and plowed on. "And, besides, you're the one who has the knack for stumbling across dead bodies."
I closed my eyes, but that only gave me a clearer vision of Dickie Morrison lying at the bottom of a well impaled by a weenie skewer. Dickie had not been a great guy by any stretch of the imagination, but nobody deserved that. It had happened during my last visit and had set Freddie and me off on a quasi-murder-investigation. I had actually originally booked this week off — I worked as a court stenographer back in Chicago — to testify at the trial, but much to my relief the murderer had pled guilty, so I was off the hook. "Well, I won't be finding any bodies this time around. This is going to be a nice, normal, relaxing visit. I'll see my mom. Eat some pumpkin pie —"
"Kiss some sheriffs," Freddie added, mocking my list-making voice.
I stopped a moment then side-shuffled around a child clutching a red balloon — a shade that probably matched the color of my cheeks. "Yes, I plan to see Grady." A lot of Grady actually. Maybe more of Grady than I had ever seen before ... if I was lucky. "What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing. Nothing," Freddie said quickly with a laugh. "I mean your voice is all nervous like a teenage girl right now, which is hilarious, but nothing."
I half sighed, half growled. Grady Forrester was the town sheriff, my adolescent crush, and winner of Otter Lake's most beautiful baby contest three years in a row back in the day — he had just been that beautiful. Still was. He also happened to have one of those man smiles that made your knees go weak and your brain go stupid. Grady and I had a history of, well, chemistry — the explosive kind of chemistry — that always seemed to prevent us from getting things right. But that too was going to change this visit. Grady had taken the entire week off to be with me, and we were planning to spend it figuring out what was what between us. We had never made it this far in our relationship before, and I found myself wanting something to happen so badly that I was too terrified to even think about it, let alone talk about it.
I stopped again in the middle of the sidewalk, forcing people to move around me like a stream around a boulder. "Can we just not talk about Grady. It's not like ..." I began, then stopped to find my words. "I mean, we're not ..." I stopped again. "Can we please just drop it?"
Freddie laughed some more.
I ignored him, instead opting to take in the sight of Otter Lake's transformed Main Street. Colorful banners fluttered from every lamppost as people milled in the streets. A few shops had set up tables outside showcasing wares — pies, tackle, and snowmobile gear were all popular items — and half-barrel planters overflowing with orange, pink, and maroon mums marked the corners of every intersection — all two of them. I looked up at the huge banner stretching across the street.
WELCOME TO OTTER LAKE'S FALL FESTIVAL!
I couldn't help but smile as the sound of calliope music reached my ears. Finally a town event that didn't have a traumatizing memory to go along with it. "Hey, so — Whoa."
"What?" Freddie asked.
I couldn't answer at first. I just shook my head for a moment. I was surprised I hadn't seen it sooner given that ... it was about the size of the Ferris wheel. The bright sun had caused just the right amount of glare. But now ... now it was impossible not to see it. "The berry. What happened to the berry?"
A few months ago MRG — colloquially known as Many Rich Guys, the development company trying to turn Otter Lake into a cottage playground for the very rich — had erected a giant wooden raspberry with a cartoon happy face over the town for Otter Lake's annual Raspberry Social. It was meant to be gesture of good faith to reassure the town that the development company's presence wouldn't change the local flavor of the town — and, of course, it did just the opposite.
Freddie chuckled. "Terrifying, isn't it?"
I nodded, then realized Freddie couldn't see me. "Yeah, terrifying is the right word." As if the smiling monster raspberry threatening to flatten Otter Lake hadn't been bad enough, it looked as though somebody had made some changes to it for the Fall Festival. "What happened?"
"Well, MRG hasn't hired a new PR person since Candace left, and no one really knew who to talk to about the berry. It was kind of Candace's berry." He paused a moment. "That sounds wrong. Anyway, someone at the high school thought it might be a good art project for the students. You know, turn it into a cute pumpkin for the fair."
I blinked a few times. The sun was making my eyes water. "That's supposed to be a pumpkin?"
"Yeah, well, I don't think they used enough coats of the orange paint, so the red just kept bleeding through."
Yes, bleeding would be the right word.
"We're voting on whether or not we should have an exorcism at town hall next week."
"You are not!"
Freddie laughed again. "I guess you'll have to stick around to find out."
I dragged my eyes from the monstrosity looming over the town and resumed walking toward the entrance for the fair. "I'm at the gate. Hang on a sec," I said, pulling out money from my pocket to pay an older gentleman at the entrance booth to get in. I recognized him, but I couldn't quite remember his name. The people who organized the fair were all community volunteers. I then held out the hand holding my phone for my entrance bracelet. It wasn't exactly polite in Otter Lake to be talking on the phone when real live people were in front of you. A fact that was made all the more apparent by Freddie's voice calling, "Heeelllooo? Heeelllooo?" from my hand.
"Sorry," I said to the man.
He flashed me a half-pitying, half-disdainful smile.
"Right." I walked on. "Okay, I'm in," I said bringing the phone up to my ear. "So where are you?"
"By the Ferris wheel."
"Got it." I walked past the deep-fried-everything stand, plugging my ear with my index finger. I was getting closer to the rides, and all the people screaming was making it hard to hear. "I'm almost there. Where exactly are you?"
I sidestepped around and through the throngs of people, making my way to the lineup underneath the giant wheel. Wow, a lot of people had made it to opening day. "Okay, seriously, I don't see you."
"You're getting closer."
"Stop it," I said, getting up on my toes to scan the crowd. "You sound like a serial killer."
Suddenly I felt someone move up behind me. "Boo!"
I spun around then blinked a few times.
"Well," Freddie said, spreading his arms wide, "what do you think?
I squinted. "Why are you dressed like a state trooper from ... I want to say the 'seventies?" Actually with the aviator glasses and half-grown-in mustache I wanted to say he looked like a porn star dressed as a state trooper from the 1970s, but I didn't want to set him off.
Freddie brought his shoulders together in a self-hug of excitement. "Awesome, right? I found it in a thrift store. I had to fight a vacationing hipster for it. I hate hipsters. They try to make everything that's awesome ironic. I wanted to wear the star badge too," he said, looking down at the right breast of his shirt. You could still see the faded outline of the star that had been there. "Grady wouldn't let me, though. But this is just my daytime outfit. At night I wear one of those black pullover sweaters that zips up to the chin."
"Um," I said, squinting at him. "I think you've lost me. What exactly is going on here?"
He looped he thumbs around his belt buckle and swayed on his feet. "Erica Bloom, you are looking at the newly instated CEO of Otter Lake Security."
I cocked my head. "CEO of what now?"
"It's my new job," he said with a big smile.
"What? Why?" I couldn't seem to uncock my head. "What happened to Madame F?" Last time I had been in town, Freddie was telling fortunes on the Internet. He seemed to like it. Had an outfit for that job too.
"Oh, Madame F was my old life." He waved a hand at the idea. "You knew I was thinking along these lines, especially after we did such a good job solving Dickie's murder."
"Again, we didn't really solve it."
"Technicalities," he said, blowing out a puff of air. "Anyway, the next logical step was to become a private eye."
"Obviously." I squinted at him again and said, "But I thought you were going to just become an author of private eye novels?"
A satisfied smile came over his face. "Why write about it, when you can do it?"
"O-kay," I said, drawing out the word.
"Besides, there's plenty of time to write about it in my memoirs later."
"Sadly, it turns out there's a whole bunch of rules about becoming a private investigator." He flared his nostrils with disgust. "Like work experience."
"But it's not like there were any private security companies around Otter Lake where I could apply for a job. Besides I don't really see myself as an employee per se."
"So I started my own."
"Really?" I asked, dropping my chin to my chest.
"You can just do that?"
"Well," Freddie said, shaking his head and looking up at the sky, "Grady had some issues with it at first — maybe still has one or two — but he can't fight the people, and the people love me."
"He ... he didn't mention any of this on the phone, and since when do the people love you?"
"You don't have to sound so surprised."
He cut me a look. "Yeah, the town was so grateful that you and I solved Dickie's murder that they thought the whole thing was a great idea."
I scratched the side of my head just as a hand clapped me on the back. "Good to have you home, Erica," said a booming male voice. I stumbled a step or two forward before I could turn to see a large man, trailing scents of nicotine and grease, walking past me with the flow of the crowd.
"See what I mean?" Freddie said.
"Was that Mr. Smith from the body shop?"
"It was. And notice how he didn't call you Boobsie Bloom?"
"I don't think he's ever spoken to me."
"That's because before you were just the daughter of the wingy mom. The girl who flashed her boobs that one time at the Raspberry Social. You, not your mom, I mean."
"Thanks. I remember."
"Not that I'd put it past ol' Summer. But she'd do it as a some sort of statement — Free the Turtles! They've suffered too long!" Freddie said putting a fist in the air. "I digress. The point is, now you're a hero ... or maybe sidekick is a more accurate term." He waved a hand at me. "We can work all that out later." Freddie turned to walk the midway and gestured for me to follow.
I skipped a few steps after him.
"So what do you think?" he asked when I caught up to him.
It seemed harmless enough. There really wasn't much crime in Otter Lake, and it was probably good for Freddie to get out of the house — he had hermit tendencies. And yet the whole thing really did seem to have a reckless vibe to it. "I'm still trying to figure out what to say."
"Just say you're jealous. That always makes me feel good."
"Who's paying you to do all this?"
"The town! Haven't you been listening? Towns hire private security all the time." Suddenly Freddie moved quickly to step in front of a teenage boy. The kid stopped in his tracks, looking mildly concerned. Freddie pointed to an empty french fry carton lying in the dirt a few feet behind the kid. The teen held his gaze for a moment, then turned, picked it up, and threw it in the trash can. Freddie gave him a nod then walked back over to me, holding his stern face. As he got closer, I watched him close his eyes and whisper, "Power." He then flashed me a smile, and we continued walking.
"Well," I said, somewhat surprised to feel a smile spread across my face, "this is not at all what I expected, but ... I'm happy for you, Freddie."
Excerpted from Pumpkin Picking with Murder by Auralee Wallace. Copyright © 2016 Auralee Wallace. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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
This is the first book I read in the Otter Lake Mystery Series and I really had mixed feelings about it. When I started the book, I almost put it back down. The author just seemed like she was trying to hard to be funny. The characters in Otter Lake all seem to be rather eccentric. Names like KitKat and Tweety, along with the retreat belonging to the mother of the main character holding a vow of silence retreat and the mom miming when she tries to communicate with her daughter just seemed to be a bit over the top. Having said all that, once I got in to the story, I began to enjoy it. Erica Bloom has come back for a visit to spend time with Grady, the sheriff of Otter Lake. Freddie, her long time friend has opened his own security company and has been hired by the town council to do security at the Fall Fair. When Mr Masterson dying in the tunnel of love with Tweety, Erica's aunt, she is arrested for murder. Erica and Freddie set out to find proof that she is innocent. This does not go over well with Grady. He feels like they are undermining him and this does not bode well for Erica's and Grady's relationship. As another murder takes place, Tweety's sister KitKat gets injured and Erica and Freddie get arrested, the story takes on a fun tone that I was able to enjoy. Erica and Freddie have a wonderful relationship. The two of them seem to jump blindly into situations that are not safe and at different times, each one seems to be the leader in their enterprise. They are funny and act more like a sister and brother with their relationship. Grady and Erica do not seem to have any luck at all with trying to get together. They have all sorts of hurdles to get over, but we are left at the end of the book with hope that they may be able to have a relationship in upcoming stories. I am not sure if I am going to read another one by this author or not. I may give it a whirl and if it works out, then this series may be a go for me. Cozy mystery readers that enjoy really quirky characters and a sense of humor in their books will probably enjoy this series. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.
Title: Pumpkin Picking with Murder - Otter Lake Mystery Book 2 Author: Auralee Wallace Published: 8-30-2016 Publisher: St. Martin's Press Pages: 352 Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Sub Genre: Women Sleuths, Cozy Mystery; ISBN: 13-978-50077783 ASIN: B01BKMXKZ8 Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley My Rating: 4 Stars I received a copy of Pumpkin Picking with Murder from NetGalley and the Publisher in exchange for my honest review. . Erica Bloom has come home to Otter Lake to explore a possible relationship with Sheriff Grady Forrester and enjoy the Annual Fall Festival. While enjoying the festival with Grady they hear screams coming from one of the rides. When they arrive at the Tunnel of Love they are in time to see a Swan Car coming through the exit with the body of the much married Mr. Masterson draped over the wing. The woman next to him, who is not his wife,is none other than Erica's "Aunt" Tweety, who quickly becomes the prime suspect. Knowing Tweety would not hurt a fly, Erica enlist the help of her close friend Freddy Ng to help find the real killer, much to Grady's displeasure. Will the cost of helping Tweety, cost Erica her chance of a future with Grady. I enjoyed Pumpkin Picking with Murder, but often became aggravated with Freddy & Erica's amateurish actions. Freddy, Erica and Grady are established adults but often are portrayed as almost juvenile. Overall I enjoyed the book very much. I found the characters for the most part well developed and the story line with enough twist to keep it interesting and fast paced. Auralee Walters uses humor and wit to keep the story light and fun. My rating is 4 out of 5 stars.
I had a great time with the first book in this new series, Skinny Dipping with Murder. It's a cozy mystery series set in the small town of Otter Lake, New Hampshire. Our main protagonist is Erica Bloom and she, along with her best friend Freddie Ng, can't help but get involved when murder is suspected. Erica is back in Otter Lake for the annual Fall Festival. There have been some changes since she left a few months prior. Her best friend Freddie has opened a security company and is playing up to the local residents. So much so that Erica's love interest and local Sheriff Grady, has been taking a beating in the popularity polls. Erica came back to see if she and Grady can make a relationship work. That is until the death of a prominent member of the town. A married man who died while on the Tunnel of Love ride with Erica's "Aunt" Tweety, who was not his wife. Now Erica is determined to make sure that neither Tweety nor her twin Kit Katt take the fall for his murder. There was an interesting twist in this book, with the introduction of a second love interest for Erica. One that I think suits her better than Grady. But we will have to see how that plays out in future books. I was also glad to see that Erica would be staying in Otter Lake instead of returning to Chicago. We knew it would have to happen and I was happy that it wasn't drug out. St. Martin's and Netgalley provided me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Erica Bloom goes back home for a vacation to try and figure out her relationship with sheriff Grady Forrester but a murder in the tunnel of love during the annual fall festival changes everything. Instead, Erica finds herself involved in a murder investigation trying to clear her "aunt" against Grady's wishes. This cozy mystery mixes in some humor and romance and will keep you guessing about who really did it until the very end. I received an ARC from net galley in return for an honest review
Pumpkin Picking with Murder by Auralee Wallace is the second book in An Otter Lake Mystery series. Erica Bloom is returning home to Otter Lake, New Hampshire for a visit. She is looking forward to spending time with Grady Forrestor, boyfriend and local sheriff as well as enjoying the Otter Lake’s Fall Festival. Unfortunately, their time together is cut short when they hear screaming at the fair. They rush over to find Tweety (who is like an aunt to Erica) in a swan boat with Mr. Masterson exiting the tunnel of love. The problem is Tweety is the only person still alive in the boat. This is the end of Grady’s time off. Erica knows that Tweety would never hurt anyone. Erica teams up with her best friend, Freddie Ng (who doing security for the fair and thinking about becoming a private detective). Erica is determined to find the real culprit for Tweety and to get to spend more time with Grady. Will they succeed? Join them for their hijinks in Pumpkin Picking with Murder. Pumpkin Picking with Murder is easy to read, but I thought the author was trying too hard to be humorous. It ends up coming across as just ridiculous. It was one silly thing after another. It seemed like every single person in this town was eccentric (Grady might be the only normal person). The mystery can easily be solved. One clue is the key (if you even need that). Erica and Freddie run around town trying to solve the murder and they acted like two kids instead of adults. It was one over-the-top thing after another through the whole book. Pumpkin Picking with Murder was just not my type of book. I wanted to give the series a second chance, but An Otter Lake Mystery series is just not for me. I like books with the small town charm, engaging (likeable) characters, and a complex mystery. I give Pumpkin Picking with Murder 3 out of 5 stars. While this series is not my cup of tea, it will appeal to other readers. I suggest you get a sample of the book to see if it appeals to you (for those of you with e-readers). I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. The comments and opinions expressed are strictly my own.
This is a great book; this book is part of the Otter Lake Mystery series written by Auralee Wallace. Erica Bloom is enjoying herself at the annual fall festival in her small town Otter Lake, New Hampshire. But when a swan boat sails out of the heart-shaped exit of the tunnel with a dead man slumped over a wing, her own romance will have to take a backseat. The other passenger in the boat and only witness to the elderly Mr. Masterson’s swan song is not his wife. It’s Erica’s beloved and feisty “aunt,” Tweety, who quickly becomes the prime suspect. Vowing to clear Tweety, Erica teams up with her sassy BFF and self-appointed security expert Freddie Ng to solve the murder. This is a great book with a wonderful story and well developed characters. This book will keep you reading long into the night. If you are looking for a great book, then you need to read this book. I am looking forward to reading the next book by this great author. A Review copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. The free book held no determination on my personal review.
Pumpkin Picking With Murder by Auralee Wallace begins a few months after the first book in this series, Skinny Dipping With Murder. The plot pace was smooth and Erica and Freddie are once again up to their necks in a murder investigation. As usual with Erica and Freddie, there are some humorous moments and a lot of breaking the rules to solve this case. However, too often Erica and Freddie seemed to ignore common sense and rush headlong into situations that could have resulted in disaster. The mystery was excellent and the twists kept me turning the pages for more clues. My overall rating would be 3 1/2 stars. I was given an eARC from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I received an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my fair and honest review. All thought and comments are my own. To be honest, my star rating is a high 2, not quite a 3....I am not familiar with this author so my opinion and thoughts are based solely on this book only. Erica Bloom was a good character, she seems to have a fun personality but she was portrayed as very immature. Freddie Ng ( how do you pronounce that last name?!) was a horrible character. His persona of rich boy who created his own " security" company which apparently overrules the local police was too far fetched for me. His character appeared entitled, arrogant and childish, it was very off putting. Sheriff Grady Forrester was portrayed as a laughing stock in the community and he almost seemed afraid of Freddie. The story itself was good, but the titled was deceiving, I was looking for more in the story that related to pumpkins, Fall, Halloween.....I was disappointed. There were some funny scenes and the other characters were interesting, I'm still on the fence about Mrs. Bloom, I don't know enough about her to make a decision. I do know that her part in this story was annoying, again, very childish persona. I don't know if I would read another book in the series, I might, just to see if anything changes. I wouldn't purposefully purchase this book for anyone nor would I feel comfortable recommending it.