"A fresh and original new series!" Krista Davis, New York Times bestselling author
When a glass-making competition turns deadly, glass shop owner Savannah Webb must search for a window into a criminal's mind…
As the new proprietor of Webb's Glass Shop, Savannah has been appointed to fill her late father's shoes as a judge for the Spinnaker Arts Festival, held in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. With her innovative glass works, the clear winner is Megan Loyola, a student of Savannah's former mentor.
But when Megan doesn't show up to accept her $25,000 award, rumors start flying. And when Savannah discovers the woman's dead body on festival grounds, the police immediately suspect her of murder. To keep from appearing before a judge herself, Savannah sorts through the broken pieces of glass scattered around the victim for clues as to who took this killer competition too far…
"Cheryl Hollon clearly knows her glass craft, but better still, she also knows how to craft a good mystery." Sheila Connolly, New York Times bestselling author
About the Author
Cheryl Hollon now writes full-time after she left an engineering career of designing and building military flight simulators in amazing countries such as England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, and India. Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, she combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art. In the small glass studio behind her house in St. Petersburg, Florida, Cheryl and her husband design, create, and produce fused glass, stained glass, and painted glass artworks. Visit her online at cherylhollon.com or on Twitter@CherylHollon.
Read an Excerpt
Shards of Murder
By Cheryl Hollon
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Cheryl Hollon
All rights reserved.
"You're going to love the Beach Blonde." Savannah raised her glistening pint of straw-colored beer to clink her former mentor Keith Irving's glass. "It reminds me of my favorite ale back in Seattle."
"You had a favorite? I seem to recall that you were determined to try a different beer every time we walked into a brewery."
Is he saying that I was flighty? When she had been Keith's student back in Seattle, she had been a little prone to fancy. She was always exploring new glass-working techniques before she had completely mastered the old ones. That must have been frustrating for him — he drew on an unlimited reserve of patience with her erratic experimentation.
Keith sipped the ale and his dark bushy eyebrows raised over his iris blue eyes. Putting his pint back on the beer mat, he looked around the 3 Daughters Brewing tasting room. "You have a point, though. This is as good as anything back home."
"Damn straight," Savannah grinned wide. It was a warm reminder of how much she desired his approval. She and Keith were sitting at a high top near the back of the tasting room. The noisy after-work happy hour crowd had gone and the Friday night date crowd hadn't yet arrived. That meant that the modern industrial décor felt cozy and intimate rather than raucous and celebratory.
Keith looked down into his beer. "My condolences on the death of your father. He was a significant loss to the stained glass world. I'm very sorry."
"Thank you, I appreciate that. I didn't realize how well respected he was until after he was gone."
"How are you coping?"
"Not as well as I would like. It was a —" She was startled by the tightening of her throat. It had already been a couple of months. "It was a difficult time. It still is, for that matter. But now, I've got some great help. My office manager, Amanda Blake, is an outrageously cheerful person and I've taken on Dad's apprentice, Jacob Underwood. He's incredibly talented, and the deep concentration required for the craft helps him manage life with Asperger's syndrome. Jacob is flourishing to the real benefit of Webb's."
"Is it true what I heard?" He tilted his head slightly with a gentle smile. "That you were involved in the investigation of your father's death?"
Savannah wiped a hand across her forehead, then cupped her pint. "Yes, it turned out that both Dad and his longtime assistant were murdered. I arrived here planning to sell up and return to Seattle, but I was driven to decode the messages my father left behind. Dad had been a cryptographer for the government. The result of the adventure was that it helped the police catch the murderer. Everyone helped and I felt like I found my forever home."
"So, you not only dealt with the death of your father, but helped catch his murderer — I just can't imagine the emotional toll."
Savannah looked around the brewing house, taking a long moment to clarify her feelings. "It was a horrible experience, but oddly satisfying in the end. I learned some valuable lessons. First, I have some incredible friends who care about me. Second, the local business community has supported Webb's from the time my grandfather had a motorcycle business here in the twenties until my dad started the glass shop. My family inspired that."
Keith nodded slowly and sat silent for a few moments. "Speaking of Webb's, what's it like to go from student to business owner in a heartbeat?"
Savannah looked up at the ceiling, "Wow, you are literally correct with that one. I'm still struggling with the abrupt change of focus. There are so many things that Dad took care of that I'm discovering surprise by surprise."
"It requires a totally different skill set from a carefree creative artist. The transition from student to master requires tremendous personal growth. Some can't do it. You appear to be doing fine."
Squirming in her seat, Savannah replied, "Carefree artist is a good description of my former self. I'm having difficulty with the role of community leader within the Grand Central District of St. Petersburg, Florida. I don't have a background in politics and it's all about relationships and history and things that I don't know about."
Keith leaned over, a conspiratorial glint in his eyes. "I'll tell you a secret. No one understands small-town politics."
Savannah laughed. "I'm so glad you're here. I've been tossed a huge speed bump. My dad's friends appointed me as the judge in the glass category for the Spinnaker Art Festival this weekend."
Keith was in town for the festival to support one of his current protégés in entering the competition. He already knew all about Savannah's appointment as a judge — and her nerves surrounding the job.
Keith chuckled. "As my former star pupil, I expect it won't take very much advice to bring you up to speed."
"Judging was not a part of your curriculum back at the studio." She sipped her beer. "Seriously, how do I choose?"
"I've never found it difficult to choose a winner. My challenge has always been to keep from alienating the chief judge and the other artists. Innovation in the glass arts is not always of interest to the mainstream art collectors or appreciated by the organizational committee. Did they give you some guidelines to follow?"
"They didn't have time to give me anything. The original judge was going to be my dad. He was famous for his widely popular choices — he wouldn't have needed them. Their first replacement had a family emergency, so they turned on the charm and I accepted. I'm simply a last-minute solution."
"Do you think the reason they called on you as a judge was solely due to your dad's reputation?"
"Frankly, I think it was the safe thing to do. They could give it to me as a tribute to my dad's memory and give the snub to Frank Lattimer once again."
She named the owner of Webb's rival glass shop. Frank was not well loved in town, and his failed attempt to buy out Webb's during a vulnerable time was well known. Even though she was nervous about judging a competition, she was privately pleased that the festival committee had given their support to her over Frank.
Keith looked surprised. "Oh, come on now, you can't believe that. Surely they wouldn't go that far to insult him. He has a business right downtown with a huge display gallery."
"I don't know who in particular he has annoyed on the committee, but Frank can annoy even the most amiable of supporters." She paused, then admitted, "Honestly, in all practicality, they should have given him the job this year. I don't have very many qualifications other than being John Webb's poor orphan daughter."
"Don't sell yourself short. I can give you enough practical guidance to get you through the Spinnaker Art Festival — I've been judging for more years than I care to admit. But, in reality, all I can do is tell you how I approach judging." He grinned. "Judge for yourself what makes sense to you. Your instincts are good."
"If you say so." Savannah sipped her beer.
"I say so. Remember what I used to say?"
"Oh no, not a test! You were a fountain of inspirational quotes."
Keith chuckled. "Okay, but this one is true. 'Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.'" He paused and poked a finger into her upper arm. "You know that."
Savannah leaned away and nodded. "I remember that one. I've been living it."
"Anyway, first I walk around and get a quick look at each exhibit booth and see if any of them hit me emotionally without analyzing or thinking about it. That gives me a chance to see if there are any works that immediately stand out from the rest, and it has been my experience that the winner is usually among them. Later, I stop in front of each booth and analyze what I see in design, color, and mastery of technique."
"That's easy enough."
"Also, if the technique is traditional, such as a Tiffany-style stained glass lamp, it should be a new approach. I always look for something unique showing me a deep understanding of the underlying principles, or a completely different twist on the ordinary."
"That sounds pretty straightforward."
"It should be — and that's the secret. A truly unique approach to glass should stand out like a flame in the darkness."
"Ugh, I'm terrified that I won't live up to Dad's reputation."
"Understandable, but no one would have more faith in your judgment." He covered her hand with his and gave it a light squeeze before letting go. "He was a great judge, but you're his daughter, and I have to tell you, the apple didn't fall far from the tree." He grinned widely, and Savannah smiled as well.
Maybe I have a natural instinct. That would be awesome.
"The timing couldn't be much worse." She ran a hand through her closely cropped curly black hair. "I'm starting a new weeklong workshop on Monday."
"Timing will never be right. What type of class?"
"This one teaches the major aspects of fused glass. I've got a monstrous new kiln installed along with one that Dad already had and we're almost ready to go. I haven't even tested the big one yet, but I'll do that this weekend. It has an electronic control panel to automate the timing and temperature changes for the firings. That makes the process less math intensive. Even better, we can let it run overnight and increase our production.
"That's good for both students and clients. The ones we use for teaching in the studio require hand calculations for glass size and a timer for changing the manual temperature settings. It's tedious, but the real purpose is to teach a thorough understanding of the principles of fusing."
"That's exactly the right approach." He touched her arm softly. "How about dinner?"
"Sorry, I'd like that but I'm totally distracted by everything that's swirling around right now. How about after the festival is over? I'll be in a much better mood."
She sensed a movement behind her.
"So, this is your mentor?" Edward pulled up a bar stool between Savannah and Keith. His posh British accent oozed smoothly from a thin frame in a black shirt over tight jeans tucked into tan rattlesnake Western boots. He extended a hand. "Hi, I'm Edward Morris, owner of the Queen's Head Pub, right next door to Webb's Glass Shop. I hear that you're the best hot glass teacher in the world."
Savannah widened her eyes. Edward must have stopped by to arrange for more beer for his pub. She didn't specifically invite him to meet Keith here. Edward was not yet a lover — but definitely a strong candidate. Savannah's reticence was mostly because her feelings were still a mess of unresolved ex-boyfriend angst. Plus there was the complication that Edward had been a principal suspect in the murder of her father.
Keith stood and shook hands with the very tall man. "Keith Irving. I've heard about you, too."
They stood looking eye to eye. Savannah felt the tension sizzle while also realizing in a flash that both men were the same height.
Savannah patted Edward's stool. He took the hint and sat.
Keith sat and looked sideways at Edward. "Glad to hear the nice part of my reputation precedes me."
"There's a not nice part?"
Savannah smothered a huge cough with her hand, then rearranged her face to disguise the surprise and slight annoyance at Edward's comment. "Keith has the well-deserved reputation for destroying glasswork that doesn't meet his exacting artistic standards. I've left the studio shattered in every sense of the word more than once."
Keith stiffened his back a bit taller. "In truth, there's no room for the merely ordinary at Pilchuck Glass School. It's not helpful for the growth of a student to condone mediocrity. Remarkably, the threat of immediate destruction brings out their best work. For the naturally gifted" — he eyed Savannah — "it gives them amazing confidence to start a successful career as a true artisan."
Savannah grimaced over at Edward. "A lecture I've heard more than once."
Keith sipped his beer and looked at Edward over the rim. "I've heard about your escapades with Savannah as well. Helping her find the man who murdered her father is a task most would not have accepted."
"It was a team effort. We're a very close community here in the Grand Central District. Besides, an actual third-generation St. Petersburg native is as rare as bluebells in July. She deserves to be safe from harm."
Edward waved a hand to the bartender. "Hi, Mike, my regular pint of Brown Pelican, please." He turned to Keith. "So, other than the lovely Savannah, what brings you to town?"
Savannah looked sharply at Edward. What's wrong with you?
"Good question," said Keith. "I am a long way from home."
Savannah smiled and propped her chin into both hands.
Keith raised both hands in surrender. "I confess I'm here for more than just a visit to see a former student. Two of our students from Pilchuck have taken jobs with the local Chihuly Museum as interns to learn the business end of art."
"But I thought there was a program for that in Seattle," said Savannah.
"There is, but there aren't enough positions for each student to have an opportunity to rotate through the program. It's not just learning about the various methods and history of the glassworks; they also learn to care for the exhibits and discover the harsh realities of an invisible monster named 'cash flow.' "
Edward squinted. "What do you mean by caring for the exhibits? They're all glass. They don't need to be fed or watered or anything."
Savannah and Keith looked at each other for a second. Keith motioned for Savannah to answer.
"It's extremely important that the glassworks in the museum stay dust free. It's not such an issue in Seattle, but here in hot, sandy Florida, it's quite a challenge. Each visitor brings in a bit of the outside and it's impossible to control that. So someone needs to dust the priceless and very fragile exhibits without breaking them. That's what students learn to do."
"Oh." Edward looked sheepish. "Duh."
"Don't feel bad." Savannah squeezed Edward's arm. "It's not particularly obvious."
"Anyway," said Keith, "I'm here to check up on the program and also to help one of them with setting up an exhibit booth tomorrow at Spinnaker."
"You have a student in the show?"
"Yes, he was admitted in good time so that we could arrange the intern position with the Chihuly Museum. Another of my former students, Megan Loyola, has also been accepted into the festival. She reminds me very much of you." Keith nodded toward Savannah.
"She's wicked smart and has a genius for inventing glass techniques to form something completely different and spectacular. I can't wait for you to see her work."
"Hey, you're not trying to influence a judge are you?"
Keith shook his head. "No chance. You are your father's daughter; he was unbelievably ethical. The interns are Vincent O'Neil and Leon Price. Vincent is a good craftsman with broad technical and mechanical knowledge. Leon, however, is a bit of an uptight urbanite and that rigidly controlled approach comes out in his work. They're sharing living and travel expenses. Leon is the one who has an exhibit booth at the Spinnaker Art Festival. Vincent applied, but didn't make the cut."
Edward shifted a bit and signaled the bartender for another round. He turned to Savannah. "Have you told Keith about your new project?"
"Not yet." She looked crossly at Edward. "I'm still in the investigation stage."
"What new project?" Keith drained the last of his beer.
"I'm going to open a new glass studio in this area. It will be the largest in the South once I've got it up and running."
"Wow, that's the kind of success we hope our students will achieve after they leave. Will it be in this area of town?"
"Only a few blocks south of here in an up-and-coming new industrial park district. It will be an artist's loft space with reasonable rental rates on a month-by-month plan. As an incentive to the eternally cash-strapped prospective client, I'm offering the space without a long-term lease."
"How much square footage?"
"I'm thinking over ten thousand square feet. Part of that will be an exhibit space. That will give my students a transition phase between student and professional artist. There will also be a media room for presentations and tutorials."
Edward shifted in his seat. "But you're keeping the original Webb's as well?"
Excerpted from Shards of Murder by Cheryl Hollon. Copyright © 2016 Cheryl Hollon. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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