Bonus content: includes original recipes inspired by the Flip Side Pancake House menu!
When Marley McKinney’s aging cousin, Jimmy, is hospitalized with pneumonia, she agrees to help run his pancake house while he recovers. With its rustic interior and syrupy scent, the Flip Side Pancake House is just as she pictured it—and the surly chef is a wizard with crêpes. Marley expects to spend a leisurely week or two in Wildwood Cove, the quaint, coastal community where she used to spend her summers, but then Cousin Jimmy is found murdered, sprawled on the rocks beneath a nearby cliff.
After she stumbles across evidence of stolen goods in Jimmy’s workshop, Marley is determined to find out what’s really going on in the not-so-quiet town of Wildwood Cove. With help from her childhood crush and her adopted cat, Flapjack, Marley sinks her teeth into the investigation. But if she’s not careful, she’s going to get burned by a killer who’s only interested in serving up trouble.
Praise for The Crêpes of Wrath
“A very cute start to a new cozy mystery series . . . The red herrings are savory enough to be served as one of the dinner options in beautiful Wildwood Cove.”—Reading Reality
“I enjoyed every moment of this mystery from start to finish, and immediately found myself engrossed in Wildwood Cove living. It’s one of those cozy locales that’s a character itself.”—Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries & Meows
“I loved the characters, the seaside setting, and the suspense. Throw in some delicious-sounding recipes and a little romance, and this was an all-around wonderful cozy mystery.”—The Book’s the Thing
“Cute, action-packed, and engaging.”—Reading is My Superpower
“The writing was superb and the plot line was really well developed.”—Melina’s Book Blog
“The Crêpes of Wrath is an intriguing whodunit tale that has enough quirky characters, witty banter and humor, drama, secrets, a growing list of suspects, and surprising twists and turns, that it will easily keep you guessing the identity of the murderer.”—Jersey Girl Book Reviews
“A wonderful introduction to a brand new cozy mystery series.”—Book Babble
“The Crêpes of Wrath is a delightful, intelligent book that proves to be a great start in a new series.”—Cozy Up With Kathy
“This is a new cozy series and I think it is going to be a winner.”—Storeybook Reviews
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The lights of The Flip Side Pancake House shone like warm beacons in the dreary darkness of the foggy March morning. The clinking of cutlery and the buzz of cheerful conversation that filled the cozy restaurant provided a stark contrast to the chilly, empty street outside. I paused by the window, relishing the fact that I was inside rather than out, but the jingling of the bell above the front door soon drew my attention.
Fishing my pen and pad of paper out of the pocket of the red apron tied around my waist, I navigated my way across the room to approach the two newest patrons.
“Good morning,” I greeted the elderly couple as they settled in at a table. “What can I get you?”
“What’s happened to Leigh?” the man demanded instead of replying.
His question didn’t surprise me. Several customers had already asked about Leigh Hunter, The Flip Side’s full-time waitress. She’d worked at the pancake house for seven years and the residents of the small seaside town of Wildwood Cove knew her well. I, on the other hand, had been there for only a couple of weeks and the locals were still getting used to me.
“She’s had some car trouble this morning, but she’ll be here before long.” Or I hoped she would be, anyway.
My response seemed to satisfy the elderly man, and he and his wife both ordered cups of coffee and apple cinnamon pancakes. I relayed their order to Ivan, The Flip Side’s chef, and grabbed the pot of coffee. After I poured cups of steaming dark liquid for the couple, I made the rounds, refilling several mugs. As I headed back in the direction of the kitchen, the front door opened and Leigh rushed in with a blast of bone-chillingly damp air.
“I’m so sorry, Marley,” she said, shrugging out of her down jacket as she hurried toward the small back room where her locker was situated.
“It’s fine,” I called as she disappeared from sight.
She reappeared a minute later without her jacket and purse, her bleached-blond hair now twisted into a messy bun. She hastened in my direction, a harried air about her.
“Relax.” I stopped by the pass-through window to the kitchen and picked up the two plates Ivan had just set on the ledge. Both were loaded with golden pancakes, sausages, and bacon. “Everything’s under control. Did you get the kids to day care all right?”
Leigh nodded as she tied a red apron around her waist and tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “Kayla dragged her feet, as usual, but everyone is where they should be now.”
“That’s good.” I wended my way over to a table by the window and set the plates down in front of two burly men dressed in jeans and thick plaid shirts, one red and one blue.
“How’s Jimmy doing?” Ed, the one in the red shirt, asked as he poured a stream of maple syrup over his stack of pancakes.
“Much better,” I said. “He’ll probably come home from the hospital tomorrow.”
“It’s about time.” The comment came from Gary, Ed’s breakfast companion. He picked up his knife and fork. “Not that we don’t like seeing your smiling face every morning, Marley, but a man like Jimmy doesn’t want to be cooped up for long, even if he has had double pneumonia.”
“You’re right about that,” I said, remembering my last two visits to the hospital to see my cousin Jimmy, the owner of the pancake house. “He’s been grumbling about wanting to get out of there for several days now.”
“You won’t be heading back to Seattle right away, will you?” asked Patricia Murray, a woman seated at the next table with two teenagers, a boy and a girl. She ran the Driftwood Bed and Breakfast, situated two properties down from Jimmy’s house.
“Not for another week.” I glanced at the half-eaten meals on Patricia’s table. “Everything all right here?”
“Perfect,” Patricia responded. “Have you met my daughter, Sienna?” She nodded at the girl sitting next to her.
Like her mother, Sienna had dark hair, but hers was cut in an asymmetrical bob and highlighted in plum and burgundy. She’d lined her eyes heavily in black and had a silver ring through her bottom lip, which caught the light and glinted when she smiled at me.
“And her boyfriend, Logan,” Patricia added with a nod at the sandy-haired boy seated with them.
“Hi,” I said to both of them.
Although Sienna returned my greeting, Logan only flicked his eyes in my direction before returning his gaze to his plate.
I exchanged a few more words with Patricia before heading back to the window to fetch the freshly prepared plates of apple cinnamon pancakes.
As I delivered the plates to the proper table, the front door opened again, letting in another quick blast of cold morning air. I smiled when I saw that the new arrival was Lisa Morales, a woman with wavy dark hair.
I’d arrived in Wildwood Cove two weeks earlier after taking a leave of absence from my job in Seattle to take care of Cousin Jimmy’s business while he was in the hospital. Although I’d learned the names of many of The Flip Side’s regular customers, Lisa was the one with whom I’d hit it off the most. That probably had to do with the fact that we were the same age (thirty-three) and both worked as legal assistants.
“Morning.” I sent a smile and a wave in her direction. “Sit anywhere you like. Coffee to start?”
I smiled again at the eagerness behind that one word. It hadn’t taken me long to figure out that Lisa was one of those people who didn’t feel right until she had at least one good dose of caffeine in the morning.
As I grabbed the coffeepot, a party of four got up from their table and headed toward the counter near the front door. I almost changed directions to head for the cash register, but Leigh waved me off.
“I’ll take care of it.”
As she accepted payment for the four meals, I approached the small table by one of the front windows where Lisa had ensconced herself.
“How are you today?” Lisa asked as I filled her mug with coffee.
“Pretty good. How about you?”
“Chilled to the bone. That fog sure is thick this morning. I’m glad I live close enough to work to walk there. I could hardly see ten feet in front of me on the way over here.”
“Get some of that coffee into you and you’ll soon warm up.”
She wrapped her hands around the hot mug. “Do you have time for a chat?”
I surveyed the restaurant. Although about half the tables were occupied, there didn’t seem to be anything I needed to attend to immediately. With Leigh now here, I could probably sneak in a minute or two of downtime.
I set the coffeepot on the table and slipped into the chair across from Lisa. “What’s up?”
She let out a heavy sigh and I was surprised to see her brown eyes fill with tears. “It’s been a rough couple of days.”
“Why?” I asked, concerned. “Has something happened?”
“My brother Carlos is in the hospital.” Lisa pulled a paper napkin from the dispenser and dabbed at her eyes.
“He’s going to be okay, but he was beaten up pretty badly.”
“Beaten up?” I echoed, surprised.
“He owed some guy money for drugs.” Lisa shook her head, blinking back more tears. “He started hanging out with a bad crowd in his late teens and now he can’t seem to stay out of trouble. I’ve tried to help him, but he doesn’t want anybody’s help.”
I reached across the table and gave her arm a quick squeeze. “I’m so sorry.”
She drew in a shaky breath. “Thanks. I didn’t mean to get all teary-eyed. It’s just hard to keep it all inside.”
“Of course it is.”
Lisa dabbed at her eyes again and tried to smile. “Anyway, how are you managing? This is a popular place. You must be run off your feet half the time.”
“It’s been an adventure, but I’m enjoying every minute of it.”
“Even though you have to work with Ivan the Terrible?”
“He’s gruff, but I think his bark is worse than his bite.” I sent a quick glance in the direction of the kitchen where the burly, grim-faced chef was working. “Besides, his food is amazing and Jimmy swears he’s a good guy.”
“Having never spoken to him, I can’t attest to his character,” Lisa said. “I’ll have to take Jimmy’s word on that. But as for his cooking, I have ample personal knowledge of its excellence.”
“Speaking of cooking,” Leigh said, stopping on her way past the table. “What will it be this morning, Lisa?”
Lisa snatched the laminated menu from between the salt and pepper shakers and ran her eyes over it. “I probably shouldn’t, but I’ll go with the mocha mascarpone crêpes.”
“Never a bad choice,” I assured her.
“Not for my taste buds,” she agreed, “but my waistline might be another story.”
Leigh waved off that concern. “Nonsense, honey, you’ve got nothing to worry about there. The crêpes won’t be long,” she added before heading toward the kitchen.
My eyes moved to the front door as two more new arrivals escaped the fog and dampness of the outdoors and took refuge in the warmth of the pancake house. I was about to push my chair back and get to work when Lisa leaned forward and spoke in a low voice.
“As much as I’m sure Jimmy wants to get back to normal, I bet he doesn’t mind not having to serve Goldie for a while.”
Lisa nodded discreetly in the direction of the short, plump woman who’d just entered with a young man. “Goldie Krantz. Jimmy’s lady friend.”
My eyebrows shot up. “Really?” In all my visits to the hospital over the past couple of weeks, Jimmy had never mentioned a lady friend.
“Ex–lady friend, to be more accurate,” Lisa said before taking a sip of her coffee. “He cut her loose a few weeks back. Good choice, if you ask me.”
“Interesting.” My eyes followed Goldie and the tall, angular man with her as they settled into chairs at a table across the room.
As soon as they were seated, my focus shifted momentarily. With a party of three ready to pay for their meals and more patrons arriving, I knew I couldn’t linger any longer. “I’d better get back to work, but you can always call me if you need someone to talk to.”
Stopping to top up a couple of coffee mugs on the way, I headed over to Goldie’s table, surreptitiously studying her and her companion on my way. I guessed that Goldie was in her mid-fifties or so. Definitely a few years younger than Jimmy, anyway. Her short, spiky hair had been dyed a sickly shade of yellow-brown and she wore several rings on her pudgy fingers. As for the young man, I presumed him to be her adult son, and there was something odd about him. Even as Goldie spoke to him, his gaze slid from side to side in a way I could only describe as shifty. As I approached their table, he eyed me up and down, making my skin crawl.
“Morning,” I said, suppressing a shudder. “How are you today?”
“Oh, we’re fine, aren’t we, Jonah?” The shifty-eyed young man nodded, but Goldie wasn’t paying him any attention. She fingered the chunky beads of her necklace. “But of course I’ll feel so much better when Jimmy’s back here with us where he belongs. Wildwood Cove isn’t quite the same without him.”
“No, it’s not,” I agreed. “But hopefully he’ll be back to his old self before long.”
“That will be wonderful. The poor man was so weak and unlike the Jimmy I know when I visited him last week in the hospital.”
“You went by to see him?” That surprised me, considering that Lisa had described Goldie as Jimmy’s ex. I did my best to hide my confusion. “That was nice of you.”
“Anything for dear Jimmy.” She smiled, her eyes growing distant. “I took him flowers and my special homemade raisin pecan cookies. He does so love my raisin pecan cookies.”
That struck me as rather odd since, as I remembered, Jimmy detested raisins. But it wasn’t just Goldie’s declaration about Jimmy’s food preferences that struck me as strange. The woman herself seemed phony, like she was putting on some sort of act without any dramatic ability to back it up. Her lines sounded rehearsed, and her emotions lacked any real depth.
I managed to maintain my professional cheeriness, however, and took down their orders—blueberry crumble pancakes for Goldie and bacon cheddar waffles for Jonah. I left them with full coffee mugs and retreated across the dining area to relay their order to Ivan.
Although I was usually grateful for the fact that so many locals chose to eat at the pancake house—even if the booming business did equal exhaustion for me some days—I wouldn’t be disappointed to see the backs of Goldie and Jonah once they finished up their meals and left. This was the first time I’d seen them at The Flip Side, but already Jonah had creeped me out and Goldie had left a bad taste in my mouth.
What Cousin Jimmy had possibly seen in such a woman, I didn’t know.
Maybe I’d ask.
If things went well, he’d be out of the hospital and back home at his beachfront house the very next day. Once he was settled, I’d ask him to fill me in on his relationship with Goldie Krantz, because that was a mystery I knew I couldn’t solve on my own.