When Helga Oliver, the town's elderly historian, is found crumpled in the basement of the Historical Museum, the close-knit town is devastated. But after some tenacious digging, Stan discovers Helga was pushed down the stairs--and that this picture-perfect New England town may hide some dark secrets . . .
Stan's dogged determination reveals Helga's ties to an unsolved death in 1948 . . . but how does that connect to Adrian Fox, who's just arrived in town to shoot an episode of Celebrity Ghost Hunters? Stan is going to have to be very careful in chasing down the killer--if she wants to live to see another winter . . .
Includes Gourmet Pet Food Recipes!
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The Icing on the Corpse
By Liz Mugavero
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Liz Mugavero
All rights reserved.
Groundhogs invaded the basement of the Frog Ledge Unitarian Universalist Church. They came in all shapes and sizes, at least sixty of them—tall, short, fat, skinny, fluffy tails, flat tails. Some stood around drinking coffee, others chatted in groups, still more milled around the makeshift podium at the front of the meeting room, waiting for the festivities to begin.
"This is surreal," Stan Connor said quietly.
"You just feel out of place because you don't have a groundhog costume like the cool people." Jake McGee, her sort-of boyfriend, gazed solemnly at her. "I told you I would've gotten you one."
She elbowed him. "Oh, be quiet. You don't have a costume." Not that he needed one to stand out. He was easily one of the best-looking people around, in his own jeans, baseball cap, and stubble kind of way.
"I'm not cool." He winked.
All eyes turned to the podium now commandeered by Betty Meany, Frog Ledge's librarian. Betty was so short you could barely tell she stood two steps above the crowd. But the tangerine-colored scarf she'd tied around her spiky white hair, combined with her bubbly energy, made up for what she lacked in height. A drop-down screen lowered behind her. Not surprisingly, a smiling groundhog image appeared.
"Happy Groundhog Day," Betty continued. "I'm so thrilled you're all here. We have such a great program planned for you today. Before I give you a sneak peek, I'd like to introduce you all to this year's Groundhog Gift-Giver: Stan Connor, owner and chief baker at Pawsitively Organic!" She led a round of applause. "Stan has been chosen to present Lilypad, our groundhog guest of honor, with her annual gift. Stan, can you please come up?"
Stan felt her face heat up. She'd never been asked to give a groundhog a gift before. That alone was stressful. And a groundhog named Lilypad took it to a whole new level. Couple it with being on display for the whole town's critical eye, and it was worse than her most contentious media face-off at her old corporate job. The situation was exacerbated by the continuous replay of the Ally McBeal theme song in her head—because certainly, this could only happen on a nineties TV show. She still hadn't lost her old habit of assigning most things in her life a soundtrack. She mentally shoved the song out of her head. Jake gave her a gentle push forward.
"Go! You don't want to miss your moment in the sun," he said.
She didn't have time to glare at him as all eyes turned toward her. She took a deep breath and squeezed through the crowd until she reached Betty.
Betty beamed at her. "Congratulations! Would you like to say a few words?" She moved aside, giving Stan room at the podium.
Luckily, thanks to her past life in public relations, Stan could recite a good quote without even thinking about it. "I'm absolutely honored Pawsitively Organic has been chosen as the gift-giver for Lilypad. I can't think of a better way to spend my first Groundhog Day in Frog Ledge." She smiled brightly, showing plenty of teeth.
A flashbulb went off from the front of the crowd, nearly blinding her in the dim room. Cyril Pierce, publisher and lone reporter for the local newspaper, the Frog Ledge Holler, called out. "Is the gift edible?"
"The gift is edible," she assured him. "But that's all I can tell you before the unveiling."
As the "chosen citizen"—the one who presented a gift to the town groundhog—Stan had a tradition to uphold. Namely, no one could see the present before Lilypad. Many citizens had been vying for the honor of gift-giver for years and had never even been considered. At least that's what her friend Char Mackey had told her in awed tones when she'd heard the news. Who knew? But the whole town had been speculating like crazy about what Stan would do for Lilypad. Which had resulted in a whole lot of pressure over the last two weeks since the mayor had tapped her as "the one."
"Thank you, Stan." Betty led the round of applause as she stepped down. "We can't wait to see the gift. In the meantime, we'll continue social hour right here, with refreshments, stories, a slideshow of our past events"—she indicated the screen behind her—"and then we'll move outside around eleven. Lilypad will arrive shortly thereafter. We'll have live music and our town historian, Helga Oliver, will start the ceremony with a history of Groundhog Day in Frog Ledge. Mayor Tony Falco will present Lilypad with a citation. Then Lilypad will offer her verdict and hopefully, we'll bring winter to a close!" Betty smiled and nodded as the crowd offered up another round of applause.
"Stan will present the gift in closing. Lastly, I just want to remind everyone what an honor it is to have Lilypad the groundhog here. Lilypad's handler told me when she accepted our invitation that Frog Ledge is the only celebration she would consider, because our programs are so classy. So thank you all for your help in making our town's celebration the go-to event! We'll see you outside in an hour!" And she hurried off the podium. Behind her, the slide show began to flash across the screen as "We've Only Just Begun" began playing. The Carpenters? Really?
Stan looked at Jake. "Do other towns really do this? I thought it was just that little town in Pennsylvania where the media always converges."
"We're the only ones in Connecticut who do it up this big," a voice from behind Stan chimed in.
They both turned to find Cyril Pierce behind them. He wore his typical outfit—a black trench coat over black jeans and a button-down shirt—and his short, curly hair stuck out every which way, thick glasses askew. He carried a steno pad and the offending camera. He nodded at Stan. "Congratulations."
"Thanks. Is there a reason we do it up big?" Stan asked.
Cyril shrugged. "We like to celebrate random holidays."
It was as good a reason as any. Stan had gotten to the point where, almost a year after moving to Frog Ledge and despite still feeling sometimes like she'd gone down the rabbit hole, she was much better at accepting the way things were done.
"I'm going to go see if Betty needs help." Jake leaned down and kissed her cheek. "I'll find you." He walked off. She watched him go, not sure if her cheek was really burning from his lips or if she was having some weird flashback to sixteen.
"Hello? Stan?" Cyril waved his steno pad at her. "I have a couple more questions."
"Hmm? Oh, sure. Shoot." She focused on him. "But I can't give anything away about the gift."
She spent the next few minutes dodging specifics while explaining that, based on her research, groundhogs were vegetarians who enjoyed an occasional bug. Those findings had given her pause considering her occupation—baking healthy, natural, organic pet treats—and the task before her, but she figured she could make it work. She'd spent all day yesterday baking a special, full-sized, carrotshaped cookie flavored with nuts and berries, resting on a bed of grass. Organic, homegrown cat grass, to be specific. She hoped Lilypad liked it.
"Excuse me." A groundhog-costumed man tapped her on the shoulder. "Do you have any treats here? I promised my dog I would bring some home. I hope you do. He'll be real upset if not." He looked anxious.
Stan glanced at Cyril. He seemed about to protest this diversion of her attention when a portly old man with an unlit cigar clamped between his teeth materialized at his elbow. Stan noticed their resemblance to one another immediately. Namely, the same thick glasses and unkempt curly hair, although the older man's was gray.
Cyril looked startled. "Dad. What are you ..." He turned so Stan couldn't hear him and said something. The old man looked annoyed. Cyril glanced back at Stan and flipped his notebook closed. "I'll need comments and a photo after the presentation."
"Absolutely," Stan promised. She watched them walk away, the faint smell of stale cigar following. Cyril had a dad. Funny thing to be surprised about. She'd never actually thought about Cyril as a real person with a family. Mostly he was Frog Ledge's prickly newsman.
"So what kind do you have?" the groundhog man asked, dragging her attention back.
She focused on him. "I have broccoli and cheese, peanut butter and banana, and blueberry vanilla barley. Three sizes—large, medium, and small."
The man pumped his furry fist in the air. "Awesome! Are they ..."
"Groundhog shaped?" Stan finished. "You bet." She smiled as she led the delighted customer to her display set up on one of the folding tables Betty and her team had dragged from the storage room and dusted off that morning. She was catching on to this group of quirky townsfolk and their preferences. It had been a mad search for three sizes of groundhog-shaped cookie cutters, but her persistence had paid off. She'd even made salmon-flavored cat treats in the same shape.
She packed up some cookies, collected her money, and sent the guy on his way, then scanned the crowd for Jake. Nowhere in sight. If he'd offered himself up to Betty, she was sure to keep him busy for the rest of the event. He might even miss her gift presentation.
"Hey! You ripped out my fur!" The ear-splitting shriek jolted Stan. Two kids faced off, one with a clump of fake fur from the other's costume in his hand, an evil smile on his face. The kid unfortunately missing his tail burst into tears and began screaming for his mother, who didn't seem to be anywhere in sight.
In the midst of the chaos, Stan heard the shrill voice behind her loud and clear. "You're the pet food lady!"
She turned automatically at the title—she was used to it in some form or another these days—to find a woman with long, frizzy platinum curls, dressed like Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac. Her flowy purple skirt was accented by a lacy top and high-heeled boots. All that was missing was a top hat and a microphone with a scarf tied around it. She smiled eagerly at Stan, waiting for her response. Her right front tooth was smeared with Corvette red lipstick, a color that remained only in faded tones on her lips. Immediately, the opening bars of "Gypsy" floated through Stan's head. She half expected the woman to break into a signature twirl. Another woman who seemed to be accompanying her stood a couple of steps behind, a slightly mortified smile on her face. By contrast, she looked like an affluent soccer mom, sporting a North Face coat, expensive-looking yoga pants, and carefully messy, salon-streaked hair. And a very nice Louis Vuitton bag.
"That's me." Stan offered her hand, clamping down on her runaway mental activity. "I'm Stan Connor."
"Sarah Oliver. I have heard delightful things about you." Sarah took her hand, clasped it between both of hers, and closed her eyes.
What the heck is she doing? "Oliver. Are you Helga's daughter?" Stan asked, delicately trying to tug her hand away.
Sarah didn't say anything for a long minute and continued to hold on to Stan's hand, her grip like a vise. Finally, she opened her eyes. "You have strong energy," she said.
Sarah smiled and nodded. She finally dropped Stan's hand. Stan swore it felt hot. "I am Helga's daughter. Do you know Mum?"
"I do. I'm—I know her through Jake. McGee." Four months in and she still didn't know what to say about Jake. Were they dating? Was he her boyfriend? As much as she liked him—heck, she really liked him—did she want to put a label on it? This stuff shouldn't be as complicated in your thirties as it was in your teens and twenties.
But the recognition dawned as Sarah put two and two together. "Of course. Jake's new gal. We've heard all about you. But I knew about you because my mum is a fan of your cat treats. Her Benedict is a picky eater."
Heard all about her? Was Jake talking about her to Helga? She knew Helga was a very close family friend of the McGees, basically a surrogate grandmother to Jake and his two sisters. The thought of Jake confiding in her about his sort-of relationship made her blush.
The other woman finally stepped forward. "Hi. I'm Carla Miller."
"Nice to meet you, Carla." Stan shook her hand, too.
"Carla's my sister-in-law," Sarah said. "I drive her crazy. "
Carla flushed. "You do not. Hush."
"She's a politician's wife," Sarah told Stan. "That's why she's so polite. And a little snobby." She elbowed Carla playfully, but Carla did not look amused. She shifted her bag to her other shoulder, adjusting it so the Louis Vuitton tag was unmistakable.
"Politician?" Stan asked.
"Don Miller. Town councilman," Sarah said. "My big brother. Different fathers," she added.
Carla looked like she wanted the floor to open up and swallow her. Sarah was oblivious to the discomfort she appeared to be causing her sister-in-law. She leaned closer to Stan. "Are you giving the groundhog a dog cookie?"
Stan glanced around to make sure no one else was paying attention and answered in her own stage whisper. "It's not a dog cookie ... it's a groundhog cookie."
Sarah's lips formed an O. "Can I see it?"
Stan cringed at the question, hoping no one had heard. Too late. Betty materialized at Stan's elbow, and the look on her face could've crumbled the cookie into a million pieces. "Sarah, what do you think you're doing? You know better than that!"
Stan opened her mouth to intervene, but Sarah suddenly closed her eyes and swayed, grabbing the edge of the table. Alarmed, Stan reached for her.
"What's wrong?" She looked at Betty. "Is she okay?" Betty's look of disdain said it all, but Sarah's eyes flew open. "Where's Mum?" she asked urgently.
Stan looked around. "I haven't seen her."
"Neither have I," Betty said, still sullen. "Why?" Sarah's flighty demeanor was gone. In its place, Stan read fear in her eyes. "Something's wrong. We need to find her."CHAPTER 2
"She's just a drama queen. She was trying to divert my attention from her inappropriate question about Lilypad's gift." Betty stormed outside and scanned the crowd huddled in the parking lot, braving the cold and waiting for the event to start. The green itself was still covered in at least six inches of snow, so they were relegated to the smaller concrete area for the festivities. Stan hurried to keep up with her.
"Everyone knows you can't peek at the gift! She doesn't bother with her mother that much anyway. All of a sudden she's worried about her?" Betty made a hand gesture that Stan wouldn't expect from a librarian.
"Are you sure?" Stan asked. "She seemed pretty serious." After her near-fainting spell, Sarah had rushed off, Carla in tow, presumably to look for her mother. Stan didn't know where they'd gone.
"Trust me. You don't know Sarah. She's trouble with a capital T Raymond!"
Ray Mackey turned from the group of people he huddled with. "What can I do for you, Betty? Hello there, Stan."
Stan gave him a hug. Ray and Char Mackey, owners of the Alpaca Haven Bed-and-Breakfast, were her first and most trusted friends in Frog Ledge. They knew all the gossip, were always supportive of her, and the fact that Char was from New Orleans originally didn't hurt. She made the best food and strongest drinks in town, though Stan wouldn't tell Jake that. As the owner of McSwigg's, the local Irish pub, he would find that assessment offensive.
But Betty was in no mood for niceties. "Where's Helga?"
Ray, in his usual slow and steady manner, thought about that long enough that Betty looked about ready to pop. "I'm afraid I don't know, Betty."
"Aargh," Betty muttered. "She's got to be around here somewhere."
"Do you need a replacement historian?" A man with a scraggly beard and tiny eyeglasses appeared behind Betty. "I'm happy to jump in if Helga is neglecting her duties. I'm quite an expert on our town's Groundhog Day legacy." He smiled at Stan and held out a cold, thin hand. "Dale Hatmaker. I'm—"
"We'll be fine, Dale," Betty cut in, stepping in front of Stan before she could shake his hand. "Thanks for offering."
Despite Betty's curt tone, Dale Hatmaker didn't look offended. Instead, he smiled at them both, clasped his hands together, and bowed his head at Betty, then walked away.
Stan looked from Betty to Ray. Both were glowering after Hatmaker. "Who was that?"
Betty rolled her eyes. "That's Dale. Self-elected historian. He wants Helga's job and doesn't make it a secret. Shameless, if you ask me."
"Completely shameless," Ray added, snapping his suspenders. "As my wife would say, he ain't got the good sense God gave a rock."
Stan smiled at the southern phrase so common to Char. "Her job? You mean you get paid to be the historian?" she asked.
"Well, of course you do!" Betty looked at Stan like she was slow. "It's not a fortune, but it's a small salary. Dale just wants the title. He knows some things, sure, but he's not a lifer in town like Helga and her family. He's only lived here about fifty years." Betty sniffed, as if that were equivalent to about two weeks. "He just wants his name in the paper. Anyway, I must go find her. If you see her, please find me right away." She hurried off, leaving Stan and Ray staring after her.
Excerpted from The Icing on the Corpse by Liz Mugavero. Copyright © 2015 Liz Mugavero. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
The murdered person sounds so interesting, I wish she could have stayed around longer. Although we do get a real feel for her from the things said by those remaining. The connection between this murder and a death/murder back in 1948 works well. The characters are interesting with just enough red herrings for fun. And the dog wedding is a fun touch.
4 STARS This is a cute animal lover mystery. There is a dog wedding in this cozy mystery. There is a death and it might be connected to a murder in 1948 that was never solved. Lots of drama, relationships, and humor. It is also a clean read. Kristan "Stan" Connor is single and she makes pet treats and meals as a business. She has been dating Jake. She has 2 dogs and 1 cat and finds a cat on her door step with a note on her collar asking for a home. There is a celebration on the green on ground hog day when the local historian can't be found. She has fallen down the stairs at the museum. Some thing it might be murder. Adrian Fox star of Celebrity Ghost Hunters comes to do a episode on the old library. A boxer died in the basement in 1948. The town is in a uproar half wants to stop the filming others want it. Kristan is a big fan of the show. Kristan has also been asked to help a few people in town. She has trouble saying no. She is also asked to plan a dog wedding on Valentines day. It sounds cute and fun to dress up and make special cake and treats. The setting is Frog Ledge, Connecticut. A small town that is a farming community. I have liked this series. It makes you smile while reading it. I hope there is more of this series. I was given this ebook from Net Galley and Kensington Books . In return I agreed to give a honest review of The Icing on the Corpse.
I remember when I read the first book in this series, KNEADING TO DIE, and thought to myself, “I can’t wait to come back to Frog’s Ledge for another visit. So, when I started reading THE ICING ON THE CORPSE, book three, I immediately felt like one does when they go on vacation to a favorite spot. I was happy, excited, and relaxed. Author Liz Mugavero has penned another winning story. The opening paragraph alone insured I would spend more time reading at one sitting than I should…and I did! All the characters, as with the first two books, are so delightful. Any reader can’t help but have fun while learning more about them. And animal lovers will be thrilled with the adorable cast of pets. I can’t forget about the murder and the mystery that revolved around solving it. Ms. Mugavero really kept me guessing with this one. No sooner than I was sure I had it figured out, there would be another twist to throw me off. I love when that happens! If you have read the first two books in this series, you will certainly love this wonderful addition. If you haven’t read them yet, this is only book number three, so add them all to your TBR and get yourself caught up before book four comes out. You will not regret it!
A doggie wedding, a ghost hunt, a dead historian and a 60 year old cold case, add up to one hell of a week for Stan and the denizens of Frog Ledge. With crackling wit, clever plot twists and the usual cast of quirky characters, The Icing on the Corpse, is a delightfully twisted addition to the Pawsitively Organic Mystery series!
It's a fun read. Can't wait for the sequel
Fast paced, interesting characters including dogs and cats.
Accident or Murder? Frog Ledge is one of the only communities in Connecticut to celebrate Groundhog Day, and they go all out. Kristan “Stan” Connor is thrilled to be asked to make the official gift from the town to the groundhog, a true honor for anyone but especially a newcomer. However, this year the festivities are cut short when Helga Oliver is found dead in the basement of the town museum after having fallen down the stairs. Helga was the town historian and well loved by everyone in the community. In fact, several people viewed her as a surrogate mother or grandmother, including Stan’s boyfriend Jake and his family. While everyone in town seems convinced that it was a tragic accident, Stan’s friend Betty is certain it was murder, and she offers some pretty compelling evidence to support her claim. Could she be right? If so, can Stan figure out who the killer is? Not being a pet person (allergies), I was originally reluctant to start the series, however I have quickly warmed up to Stan and her neighbors and friends, both the two and four legged varieties. It was wonderful to go visit them again, and the characters, old and new, are truly great. The plot starts off a little slowly, introducing some plot threads that seem unrelated. As I expected, these threads became important to the story by the end. If you love pets, this series is definitely for you. Even if four legged friends aren’t your first love, you’ll still find plenty to enjoy in this fun addition to a charming series. NOTE: I was sent an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Great Series! This is such a great series; this is the third book in the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries series by Liz Mugavero. This book can be read as a standalone but once you read one book you will want to read the other books in this series. Kristan “Stan” is excited when she is asked to bake her homemade organic pet treats at the Groundhog Day festivities in Frog Ledge, Connecticut. But when Helga the town’s elderly historian is found pushed down the stairs, Stan decides to see if she can find the killer. Once I started reading this book, I did not want to put it down until the end. The characters are funny and entertaining with a great mystery that kept me guessing until the end. I highly recommend this book! A Review copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. The free book held no determination on my personal review.
The Icing on the Corpse by Liz Mugavero is an enchanting cozy mystery. It is the third book in A Pawsitively Organic Mystery series. We get to return to Frog Ledge, Connecticut where Stan Connor has been living for the last year and has started her business Pawsitively Organic (making meals and treats for pets). It is Groundhog’s Day which is a big celebration for the town. Stan has been chosen as the Groundhog Gift-Giver and she has to give something special to Lilypad, the groundhog. Before the ceremony, Helga Oliver, the town historian, goes missing. The search finds Helga dead at the bottom of the stairs (puts a damper on the festivities). Betty Meany, the librarian, tells Stan that she is sure that Helga was murdered, but Betty makes Stan promise not to tell anyone. Jake McGee, owns McSwigg’s, who is Stan’s boyfriend (at least she thinks he is her boyfriend) was very close to Helga and is upset over her passing. Jake is also having trouble with the work on the new bookstore. Jake co-owns the building with Izzy Sweet. The two just do not get along. Someone has reported the house as being haunted to Adrian Fox and his show Ghosts in Your Neighborhood. Izzy is excited and gives them permission to investigate (Jake is very disgruntled over the whole business). Stan thinks there is something else going on and looks into the history of the building. Stan discovers that a murder occurred in Jake and Izzy’s building over 60 years ago (it used to the site of the original library) and it was never solved. Is there a link? Stan is going to keep digging until she gets answers. Stan is also busy planning a doggy wedding for a new client as well as the food and treats needed for the new clinic. Stan has a lot on her plate including an orange cat showing up on her doorstep (with a cute note), but she wants to get to the bottom of the murders. Will Stan be able to solve the murders without getting herself killed in the process? Will she be able to pull off an outdoor doggy wedding in February? Read The Icing on the Corpse to see if Stan solves the murders and to find out more about the doggy wedding! The Icing on the Corpse is such a cute, cozy mystery. I give it 5 out of 5. It has two great mysteries, fun and quirky characters, romance, and lots of cute animals! I likes that the murders were not easy to solve and could not be work outed within the first 100 pages. The Icing on the Corpse is an entertaining and amusing book! I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I always love visiting Frog Ledge with Stan and the gang. Stan finds herself again in the middle of a murder investigation when the towns historian falls down a flight of stairs. This is a fun book! I read the whole thing in a day, it was hard to put down. What is not to love about a murder investigation, a ghost hunt, and a doggie wedding? I look forward to the next in the series!
Some of the descriptions get long and involved when not needed. Felt like story was plodding in places.