When a trip to the Big Apple ends in murder, the sewing circle searches for a killer who’s rotten to the core. . .
Winning an appearance on a top-rated, New York based morning show means the trip of a lifetime for librarian Tori Sinclair and the Sweet Briar Ladies Society Sewing Circle. Anxious to experience Manhattan with her friends, Tori is less than excited when fellow member Dixie Dunn opts to use the vacation as an opportunity to rendezvous with a man she met online.
Still, Tori never imagined her friend would be taken in by a con man specializing in scamming vulnerable older women—or that Dixie would be arrested for his murder.
Now, as the sewing circle goes up against Gotham’s elite to prove Dixie’s innocence, they will have to unravel tangled secrets and alibis, patch together a mess of clues, and put a clever killer in the city’s hottest spotlight . . .
PATTERN AND SEWING TIPS INCLUDED
About the Author
Elizabeth Lynn Casey is the author of the bestselling Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries.
Read an Excerpt
Life’s memorable moments tended to offer their share of distinct sounds.
A well-earned promotion brought the clink of glasses and a heartfelt round of congratulations . . .
A broken heart brought crying jags and bewildered moans . . .
A marriage proposal brought squeals of delight, a few sniffles, and sometimes even a combination of the two . . .
And while Tori Sinclair had never been hours away from embarking on an all-expense-paid trip to New York City with six of her best friends before, she expected it to sound differently than it did as she stepped into Margaret Louise Davis’s home with her suitcase in one hand and her airline ticket in the other.
Tilting her head to the side, Tori strained to pick out the thump of luggage against stairs, the gasp over an almost-forgotten toiletry item, even a verbal claiming of the always-coveted window seat from some distant corner of her friend’s home. Yet no matter how far she leaned or how utterly still she stood, she heard nothing more than the tick tock of the kitchen clock and the faintest hint of a sporadic tapping.
“Hello?” she called out as she set her powder blue carry-on beside a floral soft side bag and an ancient-looking maroon hard side suitcase tucked beneath Margaret Louise’s foyer table. A quick peek at the luggage tag on each let her know that at least Rose Winters and Beatrice Tharrington had arrived. “Margaret Louise? Are you here?”
The creek of a door toward the back of the house was followed by a never-before-heard hushed version of a voice that always made her happy. “We’re in here, Victoria . . . in my sewin’ room. But come quick. There ain’t much time.”
Her mouth froze mid-smile as an image of Rose’s eighty-year-old body, slumped atop Margaret Louise’s sewing machine, sent her sprinting across the house with nary a thought to the brightly colored obstacles that littered her path with the promise of a sprained ankle if she misnavigated. “Is Rose okay? Did she fall? Is she sick?” she managed to ask as she skidded to a stop beside her friend.
“Rose is fine, Victoria.” Margaret Louise rested a plump and reassuring hand on Tori’s shoulder while simultaneously guiding her gaze toward the beloved matriarch of their sewing circle. Sure enough, leaning toward the screen of Margaret Louise’s desktop computer was the diminutive white-haired woman that reminded Tori of her own late great-grandmother in everything from strength of spirit to shared tidbits of wisdom. “She’s havin’ a hootenanny in here lendin’ her smarts to Operation Dixie.”
Tori worked to steady her breath as she took in Beatrice’s typing, Rose’s fevered dictation, and the handsome gray-haired gentleman that smiled out at them from the nearly monitor-sized snapshot. “Operation Dixie?”
Dixie Dunn was, well, Dixie Dunn. Stout in mind and body, Dixie had served as head librarian of Sweet Briar Public Library for more than four decades. Her job, as she liked to remind everyone within a fifty-mile radius, was unceremoniously snatched from her still-able hands when she was forced into retirement by the library board. The fact that Tori’s hiring came after the board’s decision mattered naught to the seventy-something, who’d spent the next year or so glaring at the same newcomer the rest of her sewing circle had embraced with open arms.
Fortunately, time and a handful of olive branch offerings—including riding to Dixie’s rescue after both a fire and a dead body—had eased virtually all of Dixie’s resentment toward Tori and the two had become friends. Still, mention of the woman’s name tended to give her pause. Especially when it was said in conjunction with the mischievous glint Tori now saw in Margaret Louise’s eyes. “We”—Margaret Louise pulled her hand from Tori’s shoulder and waved it toward Rose and Beatrice—“think most of Dixie’s bellyachin’ comes from bein’ lonely. When Nina came back from maternity leave, Dixie’s volunteerin’ at the library wasn’t needed no more. And as much as she likes to toot her horn ’bout her involvement with Home Fare and the shut-ins, she still ain’t happy. Not like she should be anyway.”
“That’s why she needs a bloke.” Beatrice glanced over her shoulder at Tori, the hint of crimson on her pale skin a perfect accompaniment to the shy smile that flickered across the young nanny’s face. Employed by a wealthy Sweet Briar family, the British girl’s departure from her teen years four years ago gave her the honor of being Rose’s opposing bookend when it came to the age range within the Sweet Briar Ladies Society Sewing Circle.
Tori inched her way into the small, eight-by-eight-foot room until she was close enough to see that the man on the computer screen had brilliant blue eyes, was listed as seventy-two years old, and had the kind of face stubble that instantly elevated his appeal into the alluring category. “I really think you should leave the whole notion of dating up to Dixie. Maybe she doesn’t want a man in her life right now. Or maybe her tastes are different than yours.”
Margaret Louise unzipped the jacket of her polyester jogging suit halfway down her rounded stomach, shaking her head emphatically as she did. “Don’t you worry that pretty head of yours none, Victoria. Dixie already knows ’bout John Dreyer. In fact, they’re gonna meet face-to-face over breakfast tomorrow mornin’.”
Her focus ricocheted off the man and landed squarely on Margaret Louise. “But we’ll be in the city tomorrow, remember?”
“And so will John, on account of that’s where he’s livin’.” Margaret Louise rocked back on the soles of her Keds and clapped her hands with glee. “Why, it’s hard to think this is anything but a match made in heaven, ain’t it?”
Tori looked at the screen again, the incessant tapping of Beatrice’s fingers against the keyboard making it difficult to think, let alone truly process the situation. “Okay, so what are the three of you doing in here with his profile and picture on your screen?”
“Makin’ sure Dixie’s got the best bait on her hook, that’s what.” Margaret Louise nudged her chin in Rose’s direction. “Rose is Dixie’s smarts. Beatrice is Dixie’s quiet charm. And me? I make it sound as if she’s a pro in the kitchen.”
“Yeah, yeah . . . that’s good,” Rose said, grabbing hold of Beatrice’s upper arm with one hand while gesturing toward the screen with her other. “Now, tell him I backpacked through Europe as a teenager and that I’m considering doing it again!”
Tori watched in horror as Beatrice nodded then typed Rose’s words into the rapidly scrolling text box in the bottom-left-hand corner of the screen.
“Oh! Oh! And be sure to add that I’ll pack my backpack with an array of healthy homemade treats to share with other backpackers.” Margaret Louise beamed as Beatrice made the addition. “That way he gets domestic and charmin’ all at the same time!”
“Are you guys crazy? You can’t do that! Dixie would be—”
“Hello? Where is everybody?” Dixie’s voice rang out from the front of the house, kicking off a flurry of activity that had John’s breathtaking blue eyes disappearing from the computer screen in a single blink of Tori’s eye. Gone was the keyboard, the notebook with Dixie’s user name and password for the senior online dating site, and the self-satisfied smiles from the faces of Tori’s meddling friends.
A final check of the room for any remaining evidence of their misdeeds was followed by the scraping sound of Rose’s chair as she pushed back and struggled to her feet with a rare burst of speed usually reserved for dessert time at the group’s weekly sewing meeting.
“We’re comin’,” Margaret Louise bellowed. Then, lowering her voice for the benefit of those in her study, she spoke around the side of her index finger. “Now remember. Don’t breathe a word.”
For the second time in as many minutes, Tori opened her mouth to protest, only to have her second attempt at the same sentiment ripped from the air by Rose’s bony elbow. “You’re young, Victoria. You’re in love with a wonderful man. You don’t know what it’s like to be old and alone.”
“Come tomorrow, when they finally meet over tea and scones, Dixie will be on her own,” Beatrice whispered. “This just gets them started.”
“Started in lies, you mean,” Tori murmured before bringing up the rear of the parade that was now crossing the same toy-strewn room she’d navigated like a world-class skier less than ten minutes earlier. What Rose, Beatrice, and Margaret Louise were doing was wrong. Setting Dixie up to meet John under such false pretenses was handicapping any chance the woman had at something real.
But any and all thoughts of calling the trio on the carpet disappeared the second Dixie came into view. She was standing beside her awkwardly large black carry-on with the most genuine look of childlike joy Tori had ever seen on her face.
Sure, she’d seen Dixie smile while talking about books.
And yes, she’d seen Dixie smile when lavished with praise for just about anything.
But the smile on her friend’s face at that exact moment was different. It started with her mouth but it kept on going—claiming the woman’s eyes, cheeks, and virtually every other part of her five-foot-four, linebacker-like frame.
Was it really so terrible for Rose, Beatrice, and Margaret Louise to help Dixie along in an area where she’d had no experience since losing her husband fifteen years earlier?
Yes. Because it’s not real . . .
“Oh, shut up.”
Four sets of eyes beneath four sets of elevated eyebrows turned in Tori’s direction.
She waved her hands back and forth. “I—I wasn’t talking to any of you.”
Rose scowled. “No one else is here, Victoria.”
A succession of loud thumps from just outside the front door saved her from having to admit she’d been arguing with herself, and she was grateful. Right or wrong, Dixie’s exuberant mood would make the flight to New York City easier on whoever pulled duty as her seatmate.
“Would it be too much trouble for any of you to stop your endless chitchat long enough to assist me with my bags?” Leona’s perfectly made-up brown eyes peered through her stylish glasses at them from the other side of the screen door, an irritated expression marring her otherwise beautiful face.
She felt the weight of Leona’s irritation as it moved across each and every face before landing squarely on hers. With a shot, Tori sprang into action. “Oh. Sure. I can help.” She stepped around her friends and through the door Leona held open with a bored hand, only to come to a statue-like freeze at the mountain of luggage atop Margaret Louise’s front porch.
Her mouth gaped open.
Margaret Louise’s fraternal twin shook her head of salon-softened gray hair. “How many times have I told you not to let your jaw slack like that, dear? It’s a very unbecoming look for anyone, let alone someone who does so little to enhance their features—positive or otherwise.”
She knew she should say something to defend herself, or at the very least, wait a beat or two until Rose could jump in and begin trading barbs with her biggest adversary, but she didn’t. All she could focus on at that moment was the luggage.
Three bulging bags to be checked.
Four questionable-sized carry-ons.
And one very pampered garden-variety bunny with a bejeweled bow around her neck.
For a three-day trip.
“Leona, you can’t bring all those bags!”
Instantly, Leona’s chin rose into the air above Paris’s soft, velvety ears. “And why not?”
“Because we want the plane to actually get off the runway?” Rose quipped from her spot in the doorway between Beatrice and Margaret Louise.
Ever the mediator, Beatrice’s voice, quiet and sweet, rushed to smooth the fight-inducing words. “You look so lovely in everything you wear, Leona, I’m most certain you don’t need all of the things you packed.”
Leona’s anger-filled eyes left Rose just long enough to take in the British girl with a knowing nod before returning to her nemesis with flaring nostrils. “I figured at least one of the two of us should dress like something other than a housecoat-wearing, feet-shuffling, backwoods-living bumpkin.”
Silence permeated the air for all of about two seconds before Rose returned the volley. “And you think a teeny-bopper-clothes-wearing, street-walking, man-hungry floozy is better?”
Leona’s mouth gaped, then recovered, then gaped again.
“Pssst, Twin?” Margaret Louise mock-whispered. “I can see your partials when you do that.”
Unable to hold it back any longer, Tori laughed, the tension brought on by her friends’ shenanigans regarding Dixie all but a distant memory against the promise of three fun-filled days in the Big Apple. The fact that the trip coincided with their appearance tomorrow on the nationally syndicated morning television sensation, Taped with Melly and Kenneth, only made it more exciting.
The death glare that had been aimed solely at Rose until that moment grew to include Tori as well. But before Leona could give words to her anger, Margaret Louise waved off the negative vibes. “I got a call from Zelman this mornin’.”
“Who’s Zelman?” Beatrice asked.
“He’s the guy who makes sure that Melly and Kenneth’s show goes off without a hitch each day.” Margaret Louise pushed off the door frame and motioned everyone back inside. “He said a limo will pick us up at the hotel at one o’clock tomorrow afternoon and bring us to the studio.”
Beatrice patted the purse draped over her arm. “I have the picture of Georgina they requested.”
“And I have one of Melissa, too.” Margaret Louise unzipped the front of her own carry-on and reached into the side compartment, retrieving an eight-by-ten portrait of her daughter-in-law, her son, and her eight grandchildren, including Matthew, the twelve-week-old addition. “Can’t you just imagine all them oohs and ahhs when folks see this picture? Why, I’m bettin’ the phones will be ringin’ off the hook at the studio with folks wantin’ to know more ’bout them.”
“I sure wish Georgina and Melissa could come. It won’t feel quite right without them being there.”
Heads nodded around the room at Dixie’s words but stopped as Tori reminded them of the reason Georgina Hayes—the town’s mayor—and Melissa Davis couldn’t attend. “You know Georgina, she can’t miss a town council meeting. And Matthew is too young for Melissa to leave behind, no matter how badly she wishes she could come.”
“Well, we’ll just have to make sure we tell them all about it,” Rose said amid a sudden coughing fit.
Beatrice straightened up, waving a camera as she did. “And show them.”
“Look who I found out on the sidewalk looking all wistful!”
All heads turned back toward the door, the sight of the final sewing circle member and her lone suitcase filling the doorway a nanosecond before yet another familiar face came into view just beyond Debbie Calhoun’s shoulder.
Tori planted a warm kiss on her sewing sister’s cheek then stepped into Milo Wentworth’s waiting arms.
“I came to see you off. I hope that’s okay?”
She couldn’t help but smile at the butterflies that still flapped in her stomach every time her fiancé was near. It was one of many signs that this time she’d made the right choice in future husbands, after finding her first fiancé in the coat closet of the reception hall with her then-best friend.
“It’s perfect,” she murmured against his chest before stepping back and grabbing hold of her bag. When Milo tried to take it from her, she shook her head and nodded toward the front porch and the security line nightmare they were sure to have thanks to Leona. “I’ve got this one.”
Slowly, bag by bag, Milo got them down to the sidewalk and the first of several limos tasked with delivering the seven prize package winners to XYZ Studios on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Tori had known this day was coming for three weeks now, yet still, she found the whole thing hard to believe.
She—Tori Sinclair? A guest on a major television program? With six of her best friends in the whole world? In New York City, of all places?
It was a pinch-worthy moment for sure.
“I was hopin’ you’d both come to see us off.” Margaret Louise’s booming voice pulled Tori from her woolgathering in time to see Melissa and Georgina approach the limo from the opposite side of the street. In Melissa’s arms was baby number eight, sleeping soundly.
Hugs were exchanged, cheeks were kissed, and pictures were taken before it was time to say good-bye.
“Have fun,” Melissa called.
Shifting her straw hat forward on her head, Georgina nodded. “Now remember, if you find yourselves with any quiet time, I sure could use your help with those flower pins we talked about the other day. They’ll make a mighty nice addition to the Mother’s Day Picnic on the Green.”
“We’ll do our best,” Tori promised.
“Oh, and remember we want to hear every last detail when you get back.” Then, with a pointed look in Leona’s direction, Georgina added, “And I do mean every last detail.”
Tori shot a look at Margaret Louise and then Rose to see if they knew what was going on between the pair, but saw the same confusion on their faces she knew was on her own.
Oblivious to the silent messages passing between Leona and the mayor with a side order of knowing smirks, Beatrice lifted her camera into the air once again, a shy smile playing at the corners of her thin lips. “I’ll take pictures of everything—the buildings, the people, the shows, and maybe even a real live dead body or two.”
Debbie’s left brow rose in amusement. “A real live dead body or two?”
“Right-o! We are going to New York City, are we not?”
Tightening the belt around the waist of her plush white robe, Tori wandered into the tiny common area located in the center of the trio of bedrooms assigned to them by XYZ Studios. The hotel itself was grand, with ornate ceilings in the lobby, pristinely polished wood appointments in the hallways, and employees dressed to perfection, with impeccable manners and a desire to please.
The bedrooms themselves were a slightly different story.
They were nice, of course. Fancy, even. But as Leona had aptly stated upon her hasty return to the registration desk just moments after checking in, they weren’t much bigger than a mouse hole.
Especially if you ended up sharing said mouse hole with Margaret Louise Davis, World-Class Snorer.
Tori rounded the back side of the floral love seat and dropped onto the empty cushion beside Leona, the aroma wafting from her friend’s ceramic mug making her salivate. “Where’d you get that? And how do I get one, too?”
“Dial nine, dear. Ask for Luigi.” Leona lowered the mug to her lap and traced its rim with her index finger. “Call from the phone in my room and he’ll be at the door in no time.”
Tori smiled through the persistent throbbing behind her eyes. “Adding to your list of male admirers, I take it?”
“Luigi just knows an attractive woman when he sees one.” Leona glanced toward one of the bedrooms and then back down at her mug, her hand trembling ever so slightly as she hunched forward and raised the steaming liquid to her lips once again. “Though, frankly, it’s beginning to seem as if doing the hard work doesn’t matter anymore.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked, surprised by the hint of defeat in Leona’s voice. “What hard work? And what doesn’t it matter for?”
Slowly, deliberately, Leona peered at Tori over the top of her coffee cup, her eyes narrowing behind her morning glasses. “Does Milo know you look like that when you first wake up?”
“Like that,” Leona repeated in a voice tinged with horror. “The dark circles, the rumpled hair, the hint of dried drool at the edge of your mouth?”
She felt her mouth beginning to gape but reined it back in before Leona could add that to the list as well. “Leona, I just woke up. Though, in all fairness, that implies I actually slept through the night . . . which I didn’t.”
Leona rolled her eyes skyward. “The constant traffic noises and occasional siren from a passing fire truck is part of city life, dear. You, of all people, should know that after living in”—Leona’s right nostril lifted ever so slightly in conjunction with her next word—“Chicago, of all places. I’m quite certain those noises were only amplified there. Especially the sirens.”
“It wasn’t the city noises, Leona,” she protested around the yawn she could no longer hold at bay. “It was your sister’s snoring.”
“Why didn’t you warn me?”
“You didn’t ask, dear.” Leona set her coffee cup on the side table then bent forward to shower Paris with air kisses as the bunny hopped into the room. “How’s Mommy’s precious angel this morning? Did you sleep well?”
She tried not to laugh as Leona lifted the bunny into the air in much the way Melissa would lift baby Matthew. “Does Debbie snore?”
“Then Paris slept fine.” Tori pushed aside the momentary envy she felt for the long-eared creature and focused, instead, on the conversation she thought they were having before the apparent bags under her eyes came into play. “So what was this about hard work and Luigi the room service guy?”
Slowly, Leona lowered Paris to her lap and rested a flawlessly manicured hand atop the animal’s back. “Now, don’t get me wrong. This”—Leona’s hand left Paris long enough to indicate herself—“doesn’t take a lot of work. Natural beauty is natural beauty, after all. But even with such a gift, I put actual thoughtinto my clothes, my attitude, and the perception I wish to portray to those around me.”
“Okay . . .” She didn’t know where, exactly, Leona was going with her diatribe, but knew there was a point to be made and hell to be paid if Tori interrupted or was seen as anything less than enthralled.
Leona, of course, continued. “So it makes sense why men find me desirable. Why wouldn’t they?”
At a loss for what to say, Tori merely nodded while simultaneously stifling the laugh she knew would earn her a death glare if she were to let it out.
“Yet there are still a contingent of men who seem to be okay with women who”—Leona paused just long enough to run her gaze from the top of Tori’s sleep-tousled hair to the tips of Tori’s well-worn white slippers—“don’t care about their perception quite so much.”
She started to remind Leona about Margaret Louise’s snoring and her subsequent lack of sleep but closed her mouth when the reason for the woman’s angst finally took center stage. “Take this man—John—who Dixie is meeting for breakfast this morning. All he’s seen of her so far is a postage stamp–sized picture. That’s it. Yet despite that—and the fact that it’s not even an attractive picture to begin with—he’s invited her to meet him for coffee at some bookstore café on West Fifty-eighth.”
“Actually it’s changed to breakfast. At the Waldorf Astoria.”
Leona’s jaw went slack. “Dixie is going to breakfast at the Waldorf Astoria?”
At Tori’s nod, Leona pulled her jaw in tight. “Obviously the man is blind.”
“Leona, stop! Dixie is an attractive woman in her own way.”
“I don’t know how housecoats and moccasins can be seen as attractive and alluring in any way, especially to a man who breakfasts at the Waldorf!”
Tori pushed off the sofa and made her way over to the one bedroom from which no one had emerged yet. Putting her ear to the door, she listened for any sign that either Dixie or Rose was awake and listening. When she heard nothing, she returned to the sofa and Leona, who was still babbling away. “All I can think is that this John character must be neighbors with the chef. Either that, or he’s no prize himself.”
“You haven’t seen his picture yet?” she asked, surprised.
Leona shook her head emphatically. “I have not. In fact, I didn’t even know about him until the plane ride yesterday.”
“You’ll have to ask Margaret Louise to pull up his picture for you later . . .” She let her words trail off as her mind wandered back to the scene she’d stumbled across in the aforementioned’s study the previous day.
“You’ve seen him, dear?”
“He’s mousy, yes?”
Leona’s brow rose ever so slightly. “Nerdy?”
A hint of a smile played at the corners of Leona’s collagen-enhanced lips. “Homely?”
“Not in the slightest. In fact, he’s quite handsome.”
“H-hand-handsome?” Leona stammered.
“He has a nice smile and absolutely gorgeous blue eyes.” She dropped her own voice an octave or two as she searched Leona’s dumbstruck face. “But I take it that’s not what you wanted to hear?”
“I—I just can’t believe . . . oh never mind.” Leona wrapped her arms around Paris and scooted forward on the sofa cushion in indication of her pending exit. “Desperate can be wrapped in a handsome package every once in a while, I imagine.”
“What other explanation can there be for a man to seek out Dixie? Especially online of all places, where anyone can make themselves sound scintillating?”
She closed her eyes momentarily against the image of Rose, Beatrice, and Margaret Louise creating a cyber-version of Dixie that was sure to sound very different across a table at the Waldorf Astoria. And for the umpteenth time since she’d caught them in the act, she couldn’t help but feel they’d done Dixie a disservice.
Leona rose to her feet, tossing back her shoulders as she did. “That alone says he’s oblivious to the definition of discerning. Which, on a side note, is probably a good thing considering he’s meeting her in less than an hour and she’s still fast asleep and drooling all over her pillow, no doubt.”
“Lots of people meet each other online these days, Leona. It’s the wave of the future, actually.”
“Oh, shut up, dear.” Leona fairly pranced across the sitting room, only to stop mid-step at the knock on the other side of the door. “Oooh, perhaps Luigi came back with a rose . . .”
Poofing her hair from the ends, Leona took one bejeweled hand from around Paris and used it to open the door.
“Delivery from XYZ Studios.”
Tori joined a beaming Leona at the door as a man, dressed in the hotel’s black suit with red appointments, held a gift basket with candy and flowers in their direction. “Welcome to New York City. Your limousine driver will meet you in the lobby at one o’clock this afternoon to take you across town to the studio for taping. Until then, we hope you have a restful morning. Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to assist you in that regard.”
Leona gave a few well-timed bats of her eyelashes as she set Paris at her feet and retrieved the basket from the man’s outstretched hands. “How lovely of you to bring this up to us,” she fairly cooed. “Oh, and it’s so heavy.”
“Let me get that for you, miss.”
Leona stepped aside just enough to let the man pass, but not enough to eliminate all chance for physical contact. “Thank you”—her gaze dropped to the gold name tag on the front of the man’s jacket—“Samuel.”
The doorman set the basket down on a long marble-topped table beside the door then turned back to Leona, his awareness of Tori virtually nil. “Is there anything else I can do for you at the moment?”
Sliding her gaze to the table long enough to take in the array of treats, Leona smiled up at Samuel. “The limo will be here at one, you said?”
At his nod, Leona stepped closer to the man and increased the wattage on her smile. “Can you tell me how I might find the Waldorf Astoria?”
* * *
She’d tried to protest, to remind her friends that Dixie was a grown woman and perfectly capable of handling a breakfast date on her own, but she’d been outvoted five to one.
Margaret Louise, Beatrice, and Rose, of course, already knew what John looked like thanks to their separate and combined stints as Cyber Dixie over the past few weeks. As a result, their curiosity as to how the date was going was more about self-satisfaction and the desire to see the fruits of their labor than anything else.
Debbie, being Debbie, went along for the ride, her excitement over being in New York making her agreeable to just about anything.
Leona, on the other hand, was motivated by one thing, and one thing only . . .
Good old-fashioned nosiness with a side order of underlying jealousy that the woman would never admit aloud.
“Would you slow down, please?” Rose mumbled as she stepped onto the sidewalk beside Tori and stopped to take a breath. “I’m not used to all this walking.”
Tori waved to her friends to stop then stepped closer to the elderly woman. “Rose? Are you okay? I can hail us a cab and we can go back to the hotel if you’d like.”
“No, no. I’ll be fine. I just need a moment is all.”
Leona looked left and right, and then, when she was certain no one was watching, she stamped her foot on the sidewalk. “We don’t have time to stop. Dixie has already been gone more than an hour. Surely she can’t hold a man’s interest any longer than that.”
“Put a sock in it, Twin.” Margaret Louise moved in beside Rose and Tori, a look of concern crossing her face. “Rose, we can turn back if you want. We can just wait for Dixie to tell us the details herself.”
“I’ll be fine,” Rose hissed. “I just need a moment.”
Beatrice plucked her purse off her shoulder and rummaged around inside, withdrawing her camera from its depths. “This is perfect. It’ll give me a chance to take a picture for Georgina and Melissa.” The young woman flipped on her camera and then rummaged in her purse a second time. “I just need my—oh, here it is.”
Rose’s eyes narrowed. “Tell me that’s not what I think it is . . .”
Beatrice looked from the figure in her hand to Rose and back again. “Is there a problem?”
“That’s your Kenny Rogers bobblehead, ain’t it?” Margaret Louise chimed in.
Beatrice nodded. “I thought it would be something familiar for Georgina and Melissa when we’re showing them pictures from our trip.”
Ever the diplomat when it came to their sewing circle, Margaret Louise rubbed her chin between her thumb and her forefinger. “Well now, don’t you think seein’ one of us in the picture would be somethin’ familiar?”
A beat or two of silence was followed by a shrug of Beatrice’s narrow shoulders. “It will make the picture more special.”
Before she could think of something to say, Rose leaned in, her breath warm against Tori’s ear. “And that, Victoria, is why I refused to share a room with Leona on this trip. Being trapped behind a closed door with that woman can make anyone lose their mind, even someone as young as Beatrice.”
Tori allowed her laugh to propel her forward past a gaped-mouth, eavesdropping Leona. “I’ll hold Kenny when you take the picture,” Tori offered. “I’m sure Georgina and Melissa will be excited to see the skyscrapers—”
“So what’s your excuse for being feeble brained, you old goat?”
Margaret Louise shot her hand up between Leona and Rose. “Oh no, you don’t. This trip is ’bout friendship. And celebratin’ Victoria’s upcomin’ weddin’. Not you two cluckin’ at each other like a bunch of barnyard chickens.”
“Amen,” Debbie whispered just loud enough for all to hear.
Five or six shots—and a volley or two of evil glares between Rose and Leona—later, they were on their way again, the Waldorf Astoria soon rising before them majestically.
“Do you think it’s goin’ okay?” Margaret Louise pondered aloud as they approached the front door. “Do you think he’s fallin’ in love with her?”
“If he’s desperate enough to resort to the computer to find a date, I would imagine anything is possible.” Leona waved off their gasps in favor of smiling at the doorman, who greeted them from his position just outside the famed hotel. “Good morning!”
“Good morning, ladies. Are you here for breakfast?”
At Debbie’s nod, he pointed at Paris. “I’m sorry, no pets allowed.”
Leona’s hand found the man’s forearm and squeezed once, twice. “Don’t you worry, Paris fits inside my sister’s tote bag. No one will notice, yet I will most certainly remember your thoughtfulness.” She deposited Paris into Margaret Louise’s bag then batted her eyes up at the doorman once again.
Slowly, his gaze moved down Leona’s polished form before reengaging eye contact and opening the door for their admittance. “Enjoy your breakfast.”
They gathered just inside the lobby and took a moment to get their bearings, the spectacle that was Leona paling quickly against the beauty that was the famed Waldorf Astoria’s lobby.
“I have to take a photograph of this,” Beatrice insisted, only to have her hand smacked from her purse by Rose.
“Kenny isn’t allowed in the Waldorf.”
“Kenny isn’t allowed in the Waldorf,” Rose repeated.
The clatter of silverware in the distance aided in their collective decision to turn left and then right, their steps coming closer together as the elegant breakfast restaurant sprang into view.
“Oooh, lookee there! They’re sittin’ right there.” Margaret Louise motioned everyone behind a large potted tree then pointed to a table near the edge of the dining room.
Rose rested her hand slightly above that of a steely-eyed woman in her mid to late seventies who was also standing behind the plant for some reason, widening the view of the restaurant for both of them while simultaneously directing the gazes of her friends with the lift of her chin. “Why, he looks positively smitten with Dixie.”
A squeal rose up from Beatrice’s throat just before the quiet clap of her hands. “I knew John was the perfect bloke for Dixie!”
“Let me see,” Leona groused, pushing her way to the front of the group, only to gasp so loudly she sent Ms. Steely Eye in search of some much-needed personal space and everyone else ducking for cover behind the ill-fitting planter. “No, no, no . . .”
Tori took in the bewildered faces of her friends before focusing entirely on Margaret Louise’s red-faced sister. “Leona? Are you okay?”
“It can’t be . . . him . . .”
She grabbed Leona’s hand and turned the woman to her, the shock on her friend’s face sending an odd little chill down her spine. “It can’t be who, Leona?”
Looking back through the still-parted branches, Leona’s shoulders sank in defeat. “Paris.”
Tori peered past her own reflection to study Leona in the makeup chair across the room, the rapt attention of her friend’s style crew seemingly unnoticed by the queen of attention mongers. There was no eyelash batting at the male hair stylist, no words of advice given to the makeup artist, and no snide barbs aimed at the elderly woman seated to her left.
No, Leona simply sat still, staring straight ahead and working her bottom lip like a still-dateless teenage girl on the last day of prom ticket sales.
“You have beautiful hair, Victoria.”
She pulled her gaze back to her own reflection and nodded her approval of the final product. “Wow. Any chance you’d like to give up your job here and come to Sweet Briar, South Carolina, with me?”
If the stylist answered, she didn’t hear, as Zelman—the producer of Taped with Melly and Kenneth—stepped into the room and clapped his hands together. “Ladies, I must say you all look lovely this afternoon.”
At their chorus of gratitude, he continued, the jovial personality he emitted on camera throughout the syndicated talk show taking a backseat to a more no-nonsense, let’s-get-the-show-on-the-road sort of attitude. “I know you’ve all been briefed on what’s going to happen during your segment, but are there any questions you have for me before we start taping? Anything that’s unclear?”
“Can I sit next to Kenneth?” Margaret Louise hoisted her tote bag onto her lap and patted its exterior. “I baked him some of my famous cupcakes right before we left Sweet Briar and I’d sure like to give ’em to him before they lose their freshness.”
Zelman consulted the clipboard in his assistant’s hands. “I take it you’re the baker of the group then?”
Margaret Louise’s thick shoulders rose and fell in a shrug. “I like to bake and I like to cook, but Debbie here”—she swept her hand toward the makeup chair on her other side—“she’s the one who actually owns her own bakery. She’s the professional.”
“Debbie”—he liberated the guest list from the petite woman at his side—“Calhoun. You’re the one Ms. Davis described as unstoppable.”
Debbie’s narrow face reddened instantly. “I wouldn’t say unstoppable.”
“We would,” said Rose, Beatrice, Margaret Louise, and Tori in unison.
Zelman grinned then took a step toward the frailest of the group. “Okay, and you must be Rose, yes?”
“What gave it away? My blue veins or the fact my skin no longer fits my body?” Rose leaned forward in her chair and coughed so loud it echoed around the room. When her lungs were clear, she waved away the discomfort on Zelman’s face. “Don’t mind me. I’m old and I have no filter but I assure you I will behave on set.”
Beatrice slid off her chair and stood. “And I’m Beatrice. The nanny from England. And this is Dixie.”
Dixie, who hadn’t stopped smiling since returning to the hotel from her date with John, ran a trembling hand down the front of her lavender housecoat. “I’m the librarian who lost her job when Victoria came to town.”
Zelman looked back down at his notes, his finger quickly moving down the page and then slowly from left to right. “The librarian who will make sure to tell you she lost her job when Victoria came to town,” he read aloud. “Yup. I’ve got you right here in Ms. Davis’s letter.”
“And that’s Leona,” Beatrice added, pointing toward the chair across the room from Tori. “And Paris.”
“Paris?” Zelman glanced down at his notes. “I don’t have a Paris on the list.”
What People are Saying About This
Praise for the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries:
“The bewitching women of the Southern Sewing Circle will win your heart.”—Monica Ferris, USA Today bestselling author
“Visiting with the charmingly eccentric folks of Sweet Briar is like taking a trip back home.”—Fresh Fiction
“The Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries are full of down-home fun and charm.”—The Mystery Reader
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Taken In is the ninth book in the Southern Sewing Circle Mystery series. The ladies of the Southern Sewing Circle are looking forward to trip to the "Big Apple" and being on the Taped With Melly and Kenneth show. Dixie Dunn is really looking forward to the trip, as she will be meeting a gentleman that she met on the internet, for the first time. As the ladies are watching Dixie's breakfast with Dreyer, Leona recognizes Dreyer as a con man who preys on older single women. The group soon learns where he lives and they head over to where he lives and as they are approaching they notice a crowd has gathered and learn that someone has pushed Dreyer off his balcony. When the police come to question Dixie, she is soon taken away in handcuffs, arrested for the murder of Dreyer. The police found a torn scarf in her purse that matched a similar piece found in Dreyer's apartment. So, now it is up to the sewing circle ladies to find the murderer so they can ALL return to Sweet Briar. Luckily the ladies have met a bookstore manager with Dreyer and offers to help them. This was a very fun and funny book, with a great cast of characters. Tori is somewhat the leader of the group and the librarian back in Sweet Briar. Then there is Rose, who is 80 something, and a kind lady, but one that won't take any guff from anyone. The twins, Leona and Margaret Louise are like night and day. Margaret Louise is kind hearted and get all with everyone, Leona likes to act like she perfect and everyone should do as she does. I will be watching for the next book in the series.
Loved this book even though I had not read the first ones.
I've been a fan of this series from the get go. I love the setting and the coziness of the town. I've loved getting to know each and every one of characters - feeling right at home amongst them. And I've loved the murderous predicaments they've all found themselves in. But the camaraderie between the ladies is what makes the story so much fun! When I found out that the ladies would be taking a trip (and to NYC of all places!), I was so excited to see them outside of their element. Having traveled from small town USA to the Big Apple before, I knew exactly how they felt when they arrived. It's overwhelming and there are so many things that weren't what you expected them to be. But the awe of the big city is there - and being able to witness the mesmerizing wonderment of the girls as they experience something new was so exciting! Of course there's usual sleuthing (my favorite!) and a few laughs, as well as a great mystery that keeps you engaged and guessing. This is a wonderful series and I can't wait for others to fall in love with the ladies of the Southern Sewing Circle. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own.
love e.l.'s books. this series about a sewing circle of mixed age neighbors defies the norm, but there it is, and i enjoy every minute i spend reading about them. this time they venture to the big apple, to appear on a talk show, ( if you can't guess the reference here in the story) , and as luck would have it there is a murder, and uh oh, dixie is locked up under suspition of being the killer. the sewing circle goes into action, along with a new found friend named charles. intriguing, humorous, and a great fun read. you won't want to m ikss this series.
Taken In was really a wonderful title for this book, because I found out that I was really "Taken In" by it. I have been reading about the Sweet Briar ladies since Sew Deadly was Published. Elizabeth is very good at drawing me in, my desire it to live in Sweet Briar. ;-0 The ladies are in NY city! The trip was won by Margaret Louise, for writing a letter about friends. Can you imagine these ladies alone in the big apple? The ladies expected the trip to be a short one. A day or 2, then home to their lives in Sweet Briar. Everything was going according to plan until the murder. Sure NY had more than it's share of them, but one that the ladies were involved in? One where 1 of the ladies knew the con-man who died, the lady was accussed of it and arrested! Certainly NOT in their plans. Tori and the ladies set out to prove the innocence of their friend, but not without a few mishaps, and a new friend, Charles. He turns out to be heaven sent and does help in proving the lady's innocence. I think that we may be seeing more of Charles. Elizabeth has written about the ladies and Sweet Briar until I am ready to move there. I need to find a cozy cottage near our lady friends, and settle there for my golden years. Thank you Elizabeth for a series that touches my heart in every book. A copy of this book was sent to me by the author in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Taken In is the ninth book in Elizabeth Lynn Casey's Southern Sewing Circle series. This series focuses on a group of ladies that could not be more different from each other, but all have a love for sewing and solving mysteries. Casey uses humor, originality and a lot of interesting clues to keep her readers coming back for more. Taken In may be book nine in the series, but it is certainly no stopping place. From Sweet Briar to the Big Apple, these ladies are taking over! A great addition to the series! What I liked: There is something about a group of ladies getting together to do a project, whether it is sewing, quilting, canning, cooking, crafting, reading or anything in between that builds camaraderie and relationships. One of my favorite parts of the Southern Sewing Circle series is the friendships that develop between these women. When you start a group like this, you really don't know what you are going to get and that's the best part. There is so much diversity in this group of characters. You have big age differences, different ethnic groups, varied personalities. It just gives an author so much to work with and I think Elizabeth Lynn Casey really uses this to her advantage, especially in her latest book, Taken In. Because of the diversity of the group, Casey is able to take her characters into so many different directions. This time in Taken In readers get to see how the ladies fare in a different environment. The sewing circle is taking on the big city, as they go to New York to tape an appearance on a talk show. I love the fact Casey often uses common things and current situations in her books and the talk show angle was perfect, as well as, the internet dating scene which is also a big part of this mystery. Both were great ideas and very well executed. Dixie is quickly thrown in jail for the murder of a man she met on the internet, whom she found out was a con man preying on elderly women. Tori and the other gals are quick to come to her defense and to start sorting out the clues that might lead to the killer. The mystery was interesting and there were a lot of possibilities where suspects were concerned. I thought Casey did a fantastic job of not only making the mystery compelling and intriguing, but also making this one funny. There was so much humor and that just added to it's overall enjoyment. Bottom Line: I think this is one was a very well written addition to the series. It not only made me laugh, but it made me think. I didn't put it together to quickly and was surprised at the end. I loved the change of locale for the ladies, but I did miss Sweet Briar. There just wasn't anything not to like!
This the story of Margaret Louise and her fellow sewing circle(Lenora, Beatrice, Tori, Dixie, Debbie and Rose) going to New York City to be on a TV show. In the mean time Dixie is excited to meet a man she has been corresponding on line with. Margaret Louise, Rose and Beatrice also were adding to Dixie's profile. Dixie meet the gentleman for breakfast before the show. She was so excited. Then something awful happens the gentleman is murdered. Dixie is then arrested in NYC for his murder. He turns out to be a con man. The ladies turn into sleuths to find who did it and get their friend out of jail and go home to Sweet Briar. The twist and turns is very good and the people they meet are interesting. Be sure to read the book you will enjoy it very much.
I really enjoyed this book, taking the sewing circle from Sweet Briar to the Big Apple was as Margaret Louise would say a real hoot. I had a few laugh out loud moments despite poor Dixie being in jail. There is a new character, Charles, that I fell in love with, he was a whirlwind of energy. I hope that we see him visiting Sweet Briar often. The mystery was good, it kept me guessing until the end. I look forward to the next adventures of this group.
Dollycas’s Thoughts The Sweet Briar Ladies Take New York as only they can!! Look out Kardashians!!! This story was so much fun starting with the t.v. show Taped With Melly and Kenneth that brought the friends to the big city. Maybe the author should sent a copy to Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan, they would probably get a kick out of it!! I felt so sorry for Dixie being stuck in jail. But the rest did what they do best, and this time they had help from a new friend they met in the Big Apple. Together they tracked down the truth and the real culprit and I was completely taken aback as the clues panned out. Elizabeth Lynn Casey takes on quite an adventure with our friends from Sweet Briar. There is never a dull moment when these ladies get together and New York barely intimated them at all. She has written an absolutely wonderful story. The locale may have changed but these characters bloom wherever they are planted. There are parts that are laugh out loud funny and others that will warm your heart. The Ladies of the Sweet Briar Society Circle are quite a group. They range in age from 22 – 84 and are each as different as can be. There is even one that doesn’t even sew!! They don’t always see eye to eye, in fact there are times they don’t agree on anything, but their friendship runs so deep. They are there for each other through anything life throws at them. Friendship like this rare, something to treasure. I am thrilled to be able to tag along with them through each of the stories in this series. I hate it when these books end. I was completely Taken In by this story and I know you will be too!
The Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries are one of my favorite series and a new book in the series always tops my “must read” stack of books. TAKEN IN only solidified my love of this series. I’ll admit, I was a bit worried to see Tori and the ladies taken out of Sweet Briar and put onto the mean streets of New York City. My worry was for nothing. Turning that group of ladies loose in the big city was brilliant! I knew it was going to be a wild ride from page one, and I laughed my way through the first chapter. Who am I kidding? I laughed my way through the entire book! The only thing that could have been better than reading about these fun ladies and the mystery they find themselves embroiled in, would have been to get to go on the trip with them myself! Besides the fun, it was a wonderful mystery that kept me guessing the whole way through and into the wee hours of the morning, because I simply could not put in down until I was finished! If you are a fan of the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries, make sure to add TAKEN IN to your collection. If you haven’t read the series, get to ordering! You are missing out on a wonderfully written series, by a talented author who always delivers on mystery, fun, and characters that you will want to call friends.