Murder comes well-seasoned in this charming mystery featuring a smart and spunky new amateur sleuth, small-town Georgia spice shop owner Piper Prescott
Piper Prescott, a transplanted Yankee living in the South, has got her sass back. She might be down, but don’t count her out. “Change of life?” she asks. Bring it on. Recently divorced, Piper decides to pursue a dream she’s secretly harbored: owning her own business, Spice it Up!, a spice shop in her adopted hometown, Brandywine Creek, Georgia. But Piper’s grand opening goes awry when the local chef who’s agreed to do a cooking demo is found stabbed. Not only did Piper find the body, she handled the murder weapon and doesn’t have a witness to her alibi, making the case look like a slam dunk to brand new police Chief Wyatt McBride. Desperate to uncover the truth—and prove her innocence—Piper enlists the help of her outspoken BFF Reba Mae Johnson to help track down the real culprit. The pair compile a lengthy list of suspects and work to eliminate them using their own creative brand of sleuthing techniques including stakeouts, breaking and entering, and one very unorthodox chocolate pie. When Piper narrowly avoids being a victim of a hit-and-run, she knows she’s getting closer to the truth, but can she catch the killer and clear her name before she becomes the next victim?
A captivating start to a new series featuring an unstoppably fabulous new crime-solving heroine, a colorful cast of small town characters, and more than a pinch of Georgia charm, Rosemary and Crime by Gail Oust is sure to delight fans of Diane Mott Davidson and Donna Andrews.
About the Author
The author of the Bunco Babes mystery series, GAIL OUST is often accused of flunking retirement. Hearing the words "maybe it's a dead body" while golfing fired her imagination for writing a cozy. Ever since then, she has spent more time on a computer than at a golf course. She lives with her husband in McCormick, South Carolina.
Read an Excerpt
ACROSS THE SQUARE, a Confederate soldier atop a concrete pedestal stared sightlessly at a couple enjoying ice cream on a wrought iron bench. Wrens warbled in the willow oaks. The sky was cerulean and cloudless; the breeze warm and gentle. But anyone who’s ever been in the path of a hurricane wouldn’t be lulled into complacency by ice cream, blue skies, or a balmy breeze. They’d recall another time, perhaps another place, and remember what it was like—this calm before the storm. Unfortunately, I had no such experience and thus went merrily about my business, unaware of the havoc barreling in my direction.
“I declare, Piper Prescott, you’ve gone and outdone yourself.”
I gave Reba Mae Johnson, my very best friend in the whole wide world, a friendly jab in the ribs. “Unless my memory’s failing, you told me I was out of my cotton pickin’ mind the first time I mentioned a spice shop.”
Reba Mae grinned, unabashed. “Guilty as charged. Wasn’t just me who said that, either. Half the folks here thought you’d gone off the deep end, what with CJ dumpin’ you and all. Talk was, you might be havin’ a breakdown or somethin’.”
I refused to take offense. Granted, owning a spice shop is a far cry from playing bridge at the country club, but like the sign over my brand-new antique cash register says, WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, MAKE LEMONADE. It just so happens that Spice It Up!, Brandywine Creek’s newest enterprise, happens to be my own particular brand of “lemonade.”
After my dear husband “dumped” me, as Reba Mae so inelegantly phrased it, in favor of chasing ambulances and a twenty-four-year-old in a short skirt, I squeezed my lemons dry. I’d taken the plunge and invested the entire sum of my divorce settlement in a dream I’d harbored for years. Even more than I loved to cook and bake, I loved to experiment with food, to improvise. And the best way to do this, I found, was by using spices. A pinch of this, a dash of that, and abracadabra, a good recipe became a great recipe.
After twenty-some years married to a control freak, being my own boss held enormous appeal. I’d been such a bundle of nerves after signing the documents that made me proprietor of a building dating back to Prohibition that I barely made it to the ladies’ room before throwing up.
The original establishment, I’d been told, had burned to the ground when the still in the basement exploded and set fire to half the town. Two of the bootleggers had been killed outright, another injured. People still bemoan the fact that the event garnered little press since the fire coincided with the St. Valentine’s Day massacre in Chicago. A small town in Georgia, even one that boasts a reenactment of a Civil War battle and is home to the Brandywine BBQ Festival, can’t compete with names like Al Capone and Bugs Moran.
Unable to support the tanning salon–movie rental business of the previous tenants, the building had stood vacant for a couple years. The bank had been more than happy to unload it, and I counted myself fortunate it fit my limited budget. The upper floor provided living quarters—nothing fancy, like the home I’d once shared with CJ and my son and daughter, but adequate. I might be broke, but at least I wasn’t homeless.
I drew in a deep breath and let it out in a contented sigh. The heady scents of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg permeated the air. “Don’t you just love the smell of this place?”
Reba Mae sniffed. “Nope, can’t smell a dang thing.”
I aligned an already neat row of apothecary jars that contained sticks of cinnamon from such exotic locales as Sri Lanka, Sumatra, and China. “That’s because you spend all day sniffing those nasty chemicals—perm solutions and the like.”
“Maybe, but you won’t catch me bellyachin’.” Reba Mae fluffed her spiky magenta locks. Reba Mae loved nothing better than to experiment with hair color. She confessed she’d been aiming for auburn but wound up with magenta instead. “The Klassy Kut puts food on the table and a roof over the heads of me and my boys. Besides, there are certain perks that go along with runnin’ the best beauty shop in the county.” She gave me a wink. “You know I’m among the first to hear all the juicy gossip. Ask me, sugar, and I’ll tell you, life is good.”
“Yes, life is good,” I agreed. “It’ll be even better if tomorrow’s grand opening goes off without a hitch.”
“I think you’re mighty brave askin’ Mario Barrone to give a cookin’ demonstration. He’s got quite the reputation with that temper of his.”
I shrugged off Reba Mae’s concern. “So, he’s a little temperamental. That’s the way with a lot of great chefs.”
“A little? Honeybun, he’s got the worst temper of anyone I know.”
“He’s a fabulous cook,” I countered. I refused to admit, even to my BFF, that I had doubts of my own about Mario.
“Hmph! A fabulous cook with a fabulous ego. The man’s not a happy camper unless one of his staff’s in tears. Some nights you can hear him hollerin’ and carryin’ on clear out on the sidewalk.”
At that precise moment, none other than the subject under discussion himself stormed into my shop. Mario is owner and chef at Trattoria Milano, Brandywine Creek’s answer to fine dining. Most people simply refer to the little restaurant as the “Tratory,” knowing it annoys him … but always with a quick glance over their shoulders first to make sure Mario isn’t within earshot.
“This…?” Mario stuck his opened palm under my nose. “This is what you give me when I ask for juniper berries?”
I stared down at the waxy purple-black berries the size of small peas. I must admit they looked a little less round, and a lot more squishy, since I’d personally delivered them earlier that day to Mario’s newest sous chef. What had the guy done to the poor things? Sat on them?
“What do you take me for? A fool? An imbecile?”
Angry at his tone, I felt my cheeks burn—the curse of being a redhead. I had half a mind to pull a Donald Trump and, with ringing finality, utter the words, “You’re fired!” But I bit my tongue instead. My dream of a spectacular grand opening would go up in smoke. All the hard work and elbow grease. All the money spent purchasing only premium spices, choosing the best containers, designing the cleverest labels. Everything would be in vain without Mario Barrone, my superstar, to lure people through the front door. The man might be a prima donna, but no one, and I mean no one, questions his ability to prepare dishes that cause mouths to water. Temper or no temper, the man was a true genius in the kitchen.
Reba Mae shifted to peer over my shoulder. “Those … those … berries look okay to me. I don’t see anythin’ wrong with ’em.”
“Bah! What would you know about such things?” Mario glared at her briefly, his dark eyes glittering, then directed his ire back at me. “And furthermore, I distinctly requested juniper berries grown in Italy. Not ones grown in Albania.”
That did it! Folding my arms across my chest, I looked him square in the eye. “Look here, Mario, stop treating me like I’m the idiot. You asked for juniper berries grown in the Mediterranean and that’s exactly what I gave you. For your information, they are the only type I stock.”
In a fit of rage, he hurled the juniper berries onto my newly polished heart pine floor and stomped out the front door.
Reba Mae wagged her head. “You’ve gone and done it this time, girlfriend.”
“Dammit,” I muttered as I trailed after him. “Mario, wait…”
We were now out on the sidewalk and passersby paused to watch the fireworks. But I ignored them. “The reporter from The Statesman is going to be here. He’s bringing a photographer. Think of all the publicity for the trattoria.” I’d nearly slipped and called it the Tratory but, thank goodness, caught myself in the nick of time.
He stopped and turned at hearing this. “Photographer, you say?”
I felt encouraged. “I was thinking of sending the photo along with a press release to Southern Living.” Necessity makes salesmen of us all.
“Hmm. Southern Living, eh?”
“And from time to time, Paula Deen features regional chefs in her magazine,” I continued, ad-libbing at a furious pace. “Who knows, maybe…?”
“Fine,” Mario snapped, saving me from even bigger whoppers. “I will cook for you my roast lamb with juniper and rosemary. But this time, remember,” he warned, shaking a thick finger in my face, “I want only the best. Capisce?”
“If that means ‘understand,’ then yes, I capisce.”
Mario turned on his heel and marched off.
The crowd parted in his wake. No one, it seemed, wanted to antagonize the man further. I found myself the center of attention and sensed sympathetic glances directed my way. I was about to return to my shop when I noticed a familiar figure lounging against the fender of a shiny silver Lexus. My heart sank. It was Chandler Jameson “CJ” Prescott III, my ex-husband. From the smirk on CJ’s face, I knew he’d enjoyed seeing me grovel.
Copyright © 2013 by Gail Oust
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I liked her characters & found it to be a fun book to read Piper & her friend sure got caught a lot by the new Sheriff in there snooping around but it was fun to read! You well find it a easy read. Plus took a while to figure out who was the Murderer!
Welcome to Brandywine, Georgia. Piper Prescott has decided to follow her dream and open Spice It Up! A shop that features the best spices from around the world. Her ex-husband predicts the idea will be huge failure but with a little help of her BBF, Reba Mae, and even her ex-mother in-law she is determined to make it a success. But when she goes to meet with the chef she is featuring at her Grand Opening she finds he is not going to be cooking anything for her or anyone else. She finds him stabbed to death in his kitchen. The new police Chief Wyatt McBride quickly decides Piper makes a perfect prime suspect. Piper and Reba Mae will do anything to change his mind and go to great lengths to prove her innocence even putting their own lives in danger. Dollycas’s Thoughts A fun and spicy debut for this new culinary cozy series. Gail Oust has introduced us to some wonderful characters. Piper is a strong woman dealing with a new divorce, a new business, and a teenage daughter playing one parent off the other. Then there is her ex’s girlfriend who is closer to his daughter’s age than his own. She tries to become their daughter’s best friend by taking her shopping and telling her school really isn’t that important. Their older son is away at college. Piper also has a very prim and proper ex-mother-in-law and a best friend that has her back no matter what and is pretty far from prim and proper. There is also a hunky vet, a hunky police chief, and a fantastic little furry friend to round out the cast. She has also created quite the whodunit with plenty of suspects. Piper does get herself into a few sticky situations because she acts without thinking things through or is not sure she trusts the police chief but thankfully they are few and far between. The tense situations are balanced with humor to keep the story cozy. I really enjoyed this first adventure with Piper and hope there will be many more. I feel we have just scratched the surface with the antics originating from Piper’s Spice It Up!!
4 STARS I like Piper Prescott. She is starting a business after her divorce. She is feisty. A good mom. Her best friend is Reba Mae Johnson. She is a character you want things to workout for her and you want to see what happens next in her life. The plot is the day of her Spice it Up grand opening. She goes to the restraint where the chef works who is going to be doing a cooking demonstration and make sure everything is going as planned. She finds the door open and the chef is dead on the floor. Outside the restraint she finds a knife and picks it up and drops it by the body. The new sheriff in town thinks she is the main suspect. Especially when her alibi turns up missing. Chief Wyatt McBride does not get along with Piper's ex-husband. Piper and Reba are looking into who might have a motive to kill the chef. They try different stakeouts to find what people are doing but end up being caught by McBride. Their is lots of humor, characters that I like, lot of suspects, motives and a small town feel to the story. There is suspense to the story you don't know till the end who the murder is and why. The setting is modern day small southern city. The pace of the story was good. It keeps your attention with every day life plus trying to figure out who the real killer is. I would read another story about Piper Prescott in the future. I was given this ebook to read in return asked to give honest review of it by Netgalley and St. Martin publication: December 17th 2013 by Minotaur Books St. Martin's Press 320 pages ISBN:1250011043
A fun cozy mystery. Fresh out of a divorce, Piper decides to go into business for herself, opening a spice shop. When Mario, the chef who was supposed to do a cooking demonstration for her grand opening is murdered, Piper becomes the prime suspect. She discovered the body. She handled the murder weapon. And she was seen arguing with the victim earlier. The fun begins when Piper and her best friend Reba Mae, a delightfully colorful gal, decide to do their own sleuthing. They are caught doing a stake out by the hunky Chief of Police, Wyatt. I’m all for character driven stories. These characters are all flawed, all trying to make their way. This leads to lots of hi-jinx and laughs. Piper is down to earth but also vulnerable. CJ, her jerk of a husband, dumped her for a woman almost as young as her daughter. Starting over at middle age is never easy and she has to contend with a daughter who is acting out, her butinsky ex, and a sexy policeman, while trying to prove her innocence and get her new business off the ground. The author sets the stage, introduces her characters, drops in the crime, and sets you off to read and discover the clues, while adding in a budding romance and some very believable life situations. Trying to solve this mystery was vexing. Each time I thought I had my suspect, I was wrong and had to continue sorting out the clues. When I reached the end it was just what I wanted. Anyone looking for a new cozy mystery series with an easy flowing writing style, colorful characters, and a crime to solve, should give Rosemary and Crime a go.. I received this book for my honest review. As always, my opinions are my own.
I really enjoyed reading this cozy mystery. Piper Prescott is a recently divorced woman who decides to use her divorce settlement to open a gourmet spice shop in her home town of 20 years in Brandywine Creek, GA. Her grand opening plans go completely out the window when she finds the body of the temperamental chef who was going to do a cooking demo in her store. She becomes the prime suspect of the investigation by the new chief of police, Wyatt McBride. The small southern town cast of characters were enjoyable to meet. Having lived in a small town, it was easy for me to relate to the gossiping, everyone being related and everyone knowing every one else for years. The relationships between Piper, her ex-husband CJ, her 16 year old daughter, Lindsay and her mother-in-law, Melly, were handled realistically I thought. Her BFF, Reba Mae, is a great character that stands out in this book. She is funny, loyal and doesn't mind standing out in a crowd. Their friendship is based on years of being there for each other and it shows throughout this story. The story was well-paced; and I really never guessed who the "real" murderer was until the end. I will definitely be looking forward to the next one in this series. I received this book from NetGalley and St Martin's Pres in exchange for an hoest review.
Whens the next one?!
It’s been a little while since I read a cozy mystery. I forget how much I really like them or maybe this book was very good. I think it was more that this book was really good. I even broke one of my rules which is never skip and skim the last chapter. I did really well until about the halfway mark when I still had no clue who done it. And I half to tell you I was a little shocked. I loved this book and it was well written and a great cozy mystery. Now my only complaint is that I have to wait until the next book to see what kind of trouble Piper and Reba Mae get into next. I had lots of laughs at these two. <I>ARC courtesy of St. Martin's Press via Netgalley</I>