"Pizza lovers will relish Cavender's delightful first in a new cozy series." –Publishers Weekly
"Cavender introduces a promising cast of characters." –Booklist
"The camaraderie of the Timber Ridge, NC, sisters is reminiscent of Nancy Martin's Blackbird siblings." –Library Journal
"A delightful mystery--as filling as a big slice of warm pizza." –Armchair Interviews
"As warm and satisfying as a pizza straight from the oven. I can't wait for seconds!"
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A Slice of Murder
By Chris Cavender
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2009 Chris Cavender
All right reserved.
Chapter One"911? I need to report a murder," I said, clutching my cell phone in my left hand as I steadied the warm pizza box in my right. I should have put the pizza on the porch before I called the police. Instead, I was holding on to it as though it were the last life preserver on the Titanic. At least the heat radiating from the box felt good. We were two weeks past New Year's, and though only dustings of snow had found their way to our part of the North Carolina mountains this winter so far, I knew it wouldn't be long before it would make its first full-blown appearance.
My voice was calmer than I expected it to be as I spoke; I was startled to discover that I didn't really know how I would react to finding a body until it happened to me.
From the threshold, I glanced back in through the house's doorway and saw the long black handle of a kitchen knife sticking out of Richard Olsen's chest. There was a pool of dark liquid spread out on the floor around him that I guessed had to be blood, though I was in no hurry to confirm my suspicions. From the instant I'd arrived, it had been pretty clear that there was no need to check for a pulse.
"Did you have anything to do with the homicide?" the voice from the police hotline asked. I immediately recognized it as HelenMurphy. That was one of the advantages of owning a pizzeria in a small town: there weren't many folks in Timber Ridge, North Carolina, I didn't know. I'd gone through school with Helen's niece, Amy, and growing up, I'd had dinner with the extended family on more than one lazy Sunday afternoon cooking out by the Dunbar River.
"Helen, this is Eleanor Swift, though I suspect you already know that. What kind of question is that to be asking someone? I brought Richard Olsen the pizza he ordered, and when I got here, I found him dead."
There was a slight pause, and then Helen said, "It's my job to ask these questions, Eleanor. Is there anyone else there with you?"
I hadn't even thought of that possibility. Could the murderer be hiding just behind the doorway, lurking in the shadows while he was waiting to make his escape? I looked intently from my vantage point on the front porch, but I couldn't see anyone inside.
That didn't mean no one was there, though.
"I don't think anyone else is around." But thanks a lot for putting that thought into my head, Helen. I owe you one.
Again, there was a slight pause. Then Helen said, "Don't touch anything, Eleanor, and don't go anywhere until one of our officers gets to the scene. Do you understand?"
"Yes, ma'am. I'll be waiting right here."
I thought about the dismal prospect of standing alone on the porch near the body, but it was dark, I was cold, and there wasn't anything I could do for Richard, so I carried the pizza box back to my car and waited for the police.
I never should have been the one who found Richard Olsen's body in the first place, but Greg Hatcher-A Slice of Delight's number-one teenage delivery guy-had called in sick that night and left me shorthanded, though I suspected it had more to do with his girlfriend, Katy Johnson, than the flu he claimed to be experiencing. I'd thought about turning the late-night order down since I'd been hustling all evening trying to keep up with things at the restaurant, but my dearly departed husband, Joe, had taught me that every dollar counts, and I'd kept his credo strong long after he'd died and left me with a small business on my hands and a heart full of broken dreams. I probably shouldn't complain. Having the restaurant to run after Joe's car accident had kept me sane and focused when I had every right in the world to find the nearest hole and crawl into it.
I'd shoved the pizza-one of my specials decked out with pepperoni, sausage, ham, bacon, hamburger, and little bits of sliced sirloin-into one of the bright red boxes I use and headed for the address I'd been given on the phone. I hadn't recognized the house number right away, but then again, I didn't know where everyone in Timber Ridge lived, despite what my sister, Madeline, thought. Maddy helped me out at the restaurant, but she'd never made a delivery in her life. She claimed she was above schlepping pizzas all over our small town, but she wasn't too good to run a rag over a table or carry a pie ten yards to a likely-looking bachelor. Maddy came to work with me after Joe's death-coinciding with her most recent divorce-and despite a few relapses where we reenacted some of our childhood squabbles, it was good having her there with me.
A police siren brought me out of my reverie, and I looked up as it skidded to a stop less than a foot from my rear bumper. As I got out of my car to meet our chief of police, Kevin Hurley shot out of his cruiser like he was jet-propelled. Kevin and I had a history, one that wasn't all roses and wine, but at the moment it was great seeing his familiar face. I hadn't realized how tense I'd been while waiting for someone-anyone-to show up until he got there.
"Ellie, are you all right?" he asked, and I could see the concern clearly in his face as we stood under the street lamp. Kevin was still tall and lean, a kid who'd been one class behind me all through school, and was now a nice-looking man. A year didn't seem like all that much these days, but it seemed like a lot when I'd been eighteen and he'd just turned seventeen. Kevin had pursued me all one summer, and I'd finally let him catch me, but then one night by Miller's pond I'd caught him parking with Marybeth Matheeny, and that had been the end of that.
I gestured to the house and said, "I'm not the one you should be asking about. Somebody put a knife in Richard Olsen's heart." It sounded callous, the way I'd blurted it out, but there was no other way to phrase it, at least not while my shaky nerves were starting to kick in.
"Stay right here," Kevin said.
"Don't worry. You don't have to tell me twice."
I leaned against my car and watched him enter the house as he drew his firearm. That long-ago summer Kevin had begged for my forgiveness, but I'd been young and hurt, and I hadn't been willing to listen to him. Two months after I'd left for college, he'd married Marybeth in a hastily arranged wedding, and seven months after that his son had been born. Josh was seventeen now, and he worked for me at the pizzeria three nights a week after school. Though Kevin and Marybeth had separated off and on at least three times in the past dozen years, she still bought her pizzas in Edgeview, even though it was fifteen miles from Timber Ridge. I didn't mind. I'd never been all that big a fan of Marybeth's in the first place.
An ambulance arrived a scant thirty seconds after Kevin disappeared into the house, and I nodded to the attendants, two of my regular customers. They rushed inside; then after spending two minutes there, they calmly walked back out.
"He's gone," Hannah Grail said as she approached. "There was nothing we could do for him."
Her partner, Dave Thornton, shrugged. "And now we wait." He added with a grumble, "We're not going to eat until morning." I suddenly remembered the pizza box sitting on the passenger seat of my car.
"I've got an all-meat special that's going to waste, and it should still be warm. You're welcome to it, on the house."
Dave looked like he wanted to kiss me, but Hannah said, "Thanks for the offer, Eleanor, but we can't interfere with evidence."
"Of what, the fact that I was delivering a pizza to Richard's house? It's not like it was a murder weapon or anything. Nobody poisoned him, least of all me. Go on."
Dave said to his partner, "She's right. You don't want her to have to throw it away, do you?"
Hannah shrugged. "I guess not."
I grabbed the box and handed it to them, and after thanking me, they went into the back of their ambulance to eat.
Kevin came out a minute later and looked around for the AWOL EMS techs. "Where'd they run off to?"
"They're eating. You know how I hate for anything to go to waste, so I gave them the pizza I was delivering to Richard."
The chief of police frowned in their direction and said, "They shouldn't be doing that."
"Come on, Kevin. That pizza never made it into the house. It's got nothing to do with what happened to Richard, and neither do I. Now, can I go home? It's late, I'm freezing, and my feet are killing me."
He shook his head curtly. "I know what time it is, but I need to ask you a few questions first."
"How long is it going to take?"
Kevin smiled at me, and for a second I forgot he was our chief of police and thought of him as that teenage boy with a grin that could melt my heart back when I'd been pretty innocent myself. "Less time if you quit complaining about it, I can promise you that."
He flipped open a small notebook, then commanded, "Tell me what happened tonight."
"Richard called in his order. I made it and delivered it. That's when I found him like that."
He shook his head. "Come on, Ellie, I need more than that."
"Sorry, it's all I've got. And it's Eleanor, remember?"
He shook his head as he said, "You never used to mind when I called you Ellie."
"That was a lifetime ago, Kevin, and you know it."
His only answer was a shrug. Then he asked, "Isn't it a little unusual for the owner to deliver pizzas herself? I thought that was Greg Hatcher's job."
"Greg came down with a bad case of the lovesick blues. He said he was sick, but I suspect he was out with Katy tonight. It wasn't a big deal. I cover for all of my employees now and then."
Kevin stared at me for a few seconds, then asked softly, "And there's no other reason you were visiting Richard Olsen's house alone at night?"
What was he trying to imply? Then it hit me. "You think I was making some kind of booty call? You've been a cop too long, Kevin. You'd suspect your own grandmother, wouldn't you?"
"If she had the motive, means, and opportunity, I might," he said, not rising to my bait. Nanna Hurley was a sweet old lady who thought a slice of apple pie would cure whatever ailed you. In other words, she was my kind of people.
The severity of Kevin's tone finally struck home. "You can't be serious. Do you honestly believe I had something to do with what happened in there?" I could barely bring myself to look at the house now. The shock of what I'd found was finally sinking in.
He put the pad away and started ticking off fingers. "Look at it from my point of view. You had the opportunity; you're the one who found the body. The knife was from his kitchen; I saw the empty slot on the block of knives on his kitchen counter. That's two parts of the murder triangle."
"I had no reason to kill him," I said.
He raised one eyebrow as he asked, "Are you forgetting the Harvest Festival?"
I couldn't believe he was bringing that up. "Richard was drunk, and he wouldn't take no for an answer. A good slap sobered him up long enough for him to realize what he'd tried to do, and after that, we were fine." Richard Olsen had tried to kiss me by the beer tent, even after I'd protested that I wasn't interested. I blamed Luke Winslow for not cutting him off sooner when he saw the man was clearly drunk, but to Luke's credit, he'd been the one to step in after I'd landed an open, stinging slap on Richard's cheek. My handprint had still been etched there ten minutes later, and I was pretty sure everyone in Timber Ridge had seen my brand on his cheek.
Kevin didn't let up. "Are you sure it wasn't some kind of lovers' quarrel? Maybe tonight you two finished whatever you'd been arguing about at the festival."
I wasn't about to stand there and listen to his wild accusation. "Kevin, I'm going home."
He put a hand on my car door, stopping me from getting in. "I'm just saying, you have to admit that this looks bad."
"I'm serious-you're going to have to lock me up, or let me go."
He reluctantly moved his hand, and I got into my Subaru and drove home without a glance back.
I sat in my driveway ten minutes before I realized I didn't want to be alone tonight. My sister, Maddy, had a spare room at her apartment, and I figured she owed me a couple dozen favors, so it was time to cash in on one of them.
If it had been me, I would have been sound asleep at nearly eleven P.M., but Maddy looked lively and alert when she answered her doorbell.
"Hey, what are you doing here?" Maddy was tall and thin, while I was quite a bit shorter and had more curves than a backwoods mountain road. Growing up, we'd both been brunettes, but sometime around her ninth-grade year, Maddy had decided that she was truly a blonde deep down inside, and she'd dyed her hair and never looked back. Though my sister was two years younger than me, most days she acted half my age.
"I need a place to stay tonight," I said.
She moved aside. "Well, come on in, then. I was just about to make some popcorn. Would you like some? Casablanca is coming on in ten minutes."
I walked into her apartment, a lively swirl of oranges, golds, and greens, and plopped down on her sofa. "Don't you even want to know why I'm here?"
She shrugged. "We don't need an excuse for a sleepover."
"Richard Olsen is dead."
Maddy didn't even look all that upset as she shook her head. "That's too bad. What happened? Was it a car wreck?"
"Why would you ask me that?" Even the sound of the two words linked together still gave me nightmares about losing my husband.
Maddy frowned. "I was on my way home tonight, and he nearly ran me off the road in that beefed-up truck of his. He looked like he was running from the devil himself."
"You need to tell Kevin Hurley that," I said as I grabbed my cell phone.
"Why on earth would I want to do that?"
"Because there must have been some reason Richard was racing around town, and frankly, at this point, anything that diverts suspicion away from me is pretty welcome."
That got Maddy's attention. "Why on earth would he think you had anything to do with Richard's car wreck?"
"Because it wasn't a wreck that killed him. Someone shoved a knife into his chest, and I found the body when I delivered his pizza."
"That's terrible." Maddy frowned, then added, "Wait a second. I didn't take any orders for Richard Olsen tonight."
"That's true, he called right after you left. Since Greg wasn't there, I decided to deliver it myself on the way home."
"What are you going to do? Oh, no, I bet Kevin said something about what happened at the Harvest Festival, didn't he?"
"He did, but it doesn't matter. It was a clumsy pass, and I blocked it. End of story," I said.
"You know that, and I know that, but the rest of Timber Ridge saw the imprint of your hand on Richard's face. You almost took his head off."
"He was drunk. I had to get his attention."
Maddy grinned. "I'd say you accomplished your goal, then. Give me that phone. I'll call Kevin right now and tell him what I saw."
After a brief conversation with our chief of police, Maddy handed my cell phone back to me.
"What did he say?" I asked.
Maddy just shook her head. "He told me that he understood why I'd lie to protect you, but that it wasn't going to do anybody any good if I muddied the waters with rumors and lies about Richard Olsen."
It was starting to sink in that I was in deeper trouble than I'd realized. "This is bad, isn't it?"
Maddy nodded. "It's starting to look that way. But there's nothing we can do about it tonight. Let's make that popcorn and get lost in Bogart's eyes."
I stifled a yawn. "If you don't mind, I'm going to go straight to bed. I'm beat."
She nodded. "Absolutely; I understand completely. Let me move a few things and you'll be all set."
We walked into her spare bedroom, and I saw four dozen little quilted squares lying on her spread.
"When did you start quilting?" I asked. It was entirely out of character for the freewheeling woman she liked to portray to the rest of the world.
"It's something I started doing when I'm not at work, and I really enjoy it," Maddy admitted. "I've been reading Earlene Fowler's quilting mysteries, and it seemed like fun, so I decided to give it a try."
That was more like it. My sister was crazy about mysteries, and she read every chance she got. As she devoured mysteries on candle making, card making, soap making, and more, she had to try her hand at each of the hobbies as well, sometimes with mixed results. For instance, her soap would barely raise a lather. At the other end of the spectrum, I had several of her exquisite handmade candles decorating my home.
Excerpted from A Slice of Murder by Chris Cavender Copyright © 2009 by Chris Cavender. Excerpted by permission.
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
It’s a Gamble Okay, so admittedly the name of this book sounds like a title for a Psych episode and whenever I read it the voice in my head is Shawn Spencer drawing out the word murder. Which is probably 87% of the reason I read it, but of course I’ve read things for far less reasonable reasons and tend to take on the attitude of “what the hell”. That aside I want to preface my review with the idea that reading this book is a gamble. For the first hundred pages I planned on making it a two starrer but in the second hundred pages it managed to squeak itself into the three star range. So here are my findings. The action starts from the very first sentence(a plus). The pacing is a little hectic and definitely uncomfortable (big minus). I liked the small town atmosphere, but didn’t need to be continually slapped in the face with it. The humor was a bit forced, but eventually I did become mildly interested in the plot and felt some sympathy for Eleanor. This book wasn’t taxing to read and that is on occasion very desirable when you just need a break. On the other hand you could find other books like this of a higher caliber. Overall I’ve came away from this book with kind of a “meh” feeling, meaning I could take it or leave it. Rather unhelpful, I know, but unfortunately that’s all I’ve got.
This was a new author - I thought - until I started to read. After reading the second chapter, I was certain that the style and type of characters were familar to me. Yes, if you are a Tim Myers fan, you will enjoy this book. Apparently, Tim has a new pen name; after some research, I verified that fact. I so enjoyed all his earlier books, especially the ones about the lighthouses. The mysterious plots, simple twists and turns leaves the reader with clues to figuring out the murderer. I am anxiously awaiting the read of the next book. The reader, if a cook, will enjoy the simple recipes contained at the end of the story. You will enjoy the teasing between sisters, and how one of them becomes a hero. This is definitely a fun read!
Characters unlikable and annoying at best.
I was so disappointed I did the one thing I've never done before - put a book away without finishing it. By the time I got to the final chapter, I was sick to death of the flat characters, the horrific dialogue, the ridiculous scene layout, the transitions between events, the non existent clues, the stilted conversation (if you own a business, you usually refer to it as 'the office' or 'the store or shop') and the whiny main character. I'm glad I got this one on a Free Friday for my Nook, and want everyone to know - give this author another couple of years before you waste any hard earned money on her. The book is just bad literature all the way around. A waste of time, completely.
I had a difficult time finishing this book. I kept waiting for the story to build, or for the characters to become interesting. Neither happened for me. The most interesting piece of this story is the description of making pizza and running a restaurant. A shallow character development and boring mystery.
I enjoyed because the book was really a light mystery read. No going on and on with useless details. Series takes place in Timber Ridge Nort Carolina. A town not too far from Raleigh. Fun for me to picture where it might be. Had to be northwest though because of the snow. Two sisters join gorces to solve a murder. I fid not become bored and since i have been getting books electronically on the nook and nook color I fon t fall asleep. Miss Brena I think you will enjoy this series.
Nothing happens in the book's sleepy litle town and nothing happens in this book. Very predictable and boring and was not worth the price in hardcover.
This is a very enjoyable book with VERY enjoyable recipes!
Boring Times Three and Predictable I made myself slog through this book, but it sure was boring. The characters weren't even likable, and it was almost as if the author just had to keep talk, talk, talking and fill the book up with incessant chattering. Like others, I am surprised and wonder how this book has an average rating of 3.5.
I enjoyed this first book of the series and am now onto the second. I really like the camaraderie the sisters have, they genuinely care about each other, no rivalry there. Their small town sounds perfect! I would recommend this Cozy mystery series to those that feel like they're reading about their friends.
Dollycas’s Thoughts I have read several books by this author, under his many pseudonyms, (Tim Myers, Casey Mayes, Melissa Glazer) so I knew would like this story. Eleanor Swift and her husband owned A Slice of Delight. He has passed away and she and her sister now run the pizza joint with the help of a few part-timers. Eleanor takes a late pizza order and delivers it on her way home. But when she arrives at the address the door is ajar and her customer is dead on the floor. She does the right thing and calls 911 but when the police arrive she becomes the prime suspect. Before she loses everything she and her husband worked so hard for she needs to catch the real killer and knock the pepperoni out of them. I love pizza and I bet you do too. This tasty mystery will delight your mind and put your taste buds on high alert. Ellie is a wonderful woman still trying to get used to life without her husband and several people think she needs to be out there dating. She has one admirer that practically begs to date her on a daily basis. Her sister, Maddy, is pushing her to accept but with a murder on her plate she doesn’t have time to think about dating. The police chief happens to be an old boyfriend from her younger days and she can’t believe he honestly thinks she could kill someone. His son even works for her or at least he did before this investigation when his dad made him quit. He was one angry teenager when that happened. So with some help from Maddy they start the own investigation and what they find is quite surprising. Now if they can just get her old flame to open his eyes to what really happened she can get back to serving some of the best pizzas in town. Cavender has a great grasp on these characters. Ellie struggle to move on feels very real and her relationship with her sister is very believable. Police chief Kevin Hurley and the rest of the residents of Timber Ridge that actually thought Ellie was guilty really surprised me. I am glad she had some support and others came around to realize her true nature. But not the police chief. For me the jury is still out on him. This being the first book in the series I am holding out hope that he is better at his job in the future. We were given a good mystery to solve. Several twists but I figured this one out a bit before Ellie. I did enjoy the way it all played out. I love this pizza theme for a series. Each time Ellie knuckled out that dough, loaded on the toppings and sending those pizzas through the oven my mouth was watering. Will definitely be reading the next book in the series, Pepperoni Pizza Can Be Murder, soon.
A lot like alot of other books i have read it was ok and took up a few lonely night hours
"Slice of Murder" was an easy book to read. I liked the interaction between the two sisters who clearly had their own opinions on solving this crime as well as in life in general. I am looking forward to reading the next installment in this series.
This book read at a good pace, some of the dialog seemed a little forced and sitcomy, but other than that it was quite a page turner. Great rainy day read
It's about a woman and her sister who own a pizza parlor in a small town. She discovers a body in the back of her restaurant and things go down for her from there. It's a fun, light read, not deep, and full of plot twists. Enjoyed it a lot and will purchase the next in the series.
if you like mysteries this series is for you. i bought this for my mother and put the whole series on her nook. she loves them.
Tried this new series based on an email from B&N. I'm so busy lately that I don't have much time for reading, so it had better be good for me to get through it, and this book didn't disappoint. It has subtle humor, and the killer wasn't obvious until the end. A fun way to escape reality for a while.
For those who like mystery and pizza a perfect choice!
Title sums up what I think. I sincerely doubt that even the author knew 'whodunit' before the last few chapters.