by Laurel Richards
Cassie Wynn Mystery Book One
Nothing ever happens in a small clamming town like Fatmire, FL.
At least, that’s what Mitch Chase thinks until he teams up with eccentric mystery writer Cassie Wynn to solve a murder.
Vicki Cash is found facedown in her seafood dinner after someone at the Clam Festival slipped her a deadly ingredient.
Now Mitch and Cassie have to eliminate suspects, but that’s easier said than done. Vicki wasn’t exactly well liked. She took her ex-husband for everything he was worth, evicted the town’s most successful clam farmer, feuded with her sister, and bad-mouthed the mayor’s wife.
As they investigate, Mitch discovers this small town isn’t what it seems, and he’s attracted to more than Cassie’s powers of observation. With his quirky and intriguing partner by his side, he’s sure to lose his heart while he catches a killer.
Genre: Romantic MysteryPurchase link(s): Amazon ARe BAM iTunes Kobo B&N
Content/Theme(s): Romantic Comedy, Amateur Sleuth, Small Town, Cozy
Release Date: May 1, 2016
Excerpt & More
“Detective, based on your appearance here, may I assume Vicki Cash’s death wasn’t an accident? Do you suspect foul play?”
Cassie overheard the question and watched the man who had asked it from her vantage behind the side garden of her house. The profusion of plants prevented people on the street from seeing her small paved patio with its table and chairs, but she could observe them and much of the rest of the neighborhood at her leisure. That’s why she liked to sit here in the afternoons.
Today, what she saw held her full attention. The man speaking was a stranger to her, which was unusual in the small town of Fatmire, Florida. He was currently questioning Shane Waters, their local detective.
Her next door neighbor, Vicki Cash, was dead, and the newcomer—a reporter, apparently—seemed to realize there was more to the case than met the eye. Keen intuition and tenacity were two qualities Cassie gave to all her novels’ heroes. She was pleased and intrigued to learn they were part of this fellow’s character, as well.
Of course, Cassie also liked to make her heroes attractive. This man certainly had the right look with his strong physique, sharp blue eyes, and thick light-brown hair. She didn’t know his name, but she was hoping it was something wonderfully exotic or macho like Falcon or Axel. Maybe he was a martial arts expert or a former covert agent or sniper. The possibilities fired her imagination.
Barely breathing, she continued to eavesdrop on his conversation with Shane. They were standing outside Vicki’s house, which had been tidily cordoned off with police tape. Cassie saw Shane pause for a moment and rock back on his heels.
“We’re still investigating the matter,” the detective replied. “All I can say right now is that there were no signs of forced entry, burglary, or violence. The evidence thus far indicates that Ms. Cash died alone while in the middle of eating supper.”
“Who discovered the body?”
Cassie held perfectly still when Shane pointed at her house. “That would be Miss Wynn next door.”
Her new hero glanced her way and jotted something down in his notebook. Had he seen her? With his sharp eyesight and advanced military training, he probably could have spotted her in a sea of replicas. He was so focused on his interrogation, though, that it appeared he’d missed her behind her blind.
Cassie took a second to write the word replicas in her writing journal before she lost the thought. It had potential as a plot device.
“How old was the deceased?” her hero asked next, snagging her attention again. “Do you know if she had any pre-existing conditions?”
Shane’s lazy expression never altered. “Ms. Cash was in her late forties and wasn’t suffering from any chronic health problems that we know of.”
Not a bad question, considering Vicki had died during dinner.
“In a manner of speaking,” Shane answered as he returned to his car. “Apparent cause of death was anaphylaxis. Good day.” These last two words were uttered over his shoulder as he opened the driver’s side door and hopped in.
“One more question.” Her hero didn’t give up. He leaned down to look at the detective. “What was Vicki Cash eating when she died?”
This time, Shane smiled. “Got herself some shrimp from the Clam Festival. You should head over there yourself. It lasts all week.” He punctuated this remark with a muffled slam of his car door and started the engine.
Cassie watched her hero eye his own vehicle before turning and walking toward her house. When he reached her door, he studied her front garden with a small frown of concentration. Perhaps he was a botanist or herbalist who liked to experiment with various elixirs. Or maybe he was looking for signs of a trap.
Just as he was about to knock on her door, she cleared her throat. “She’s not home. You’ll have better luck if you come over here and talk to me.”
She could see she’d surprised him. The way he shifted—had he been ready to fall into a crouch? Was he poised for action every moment, in constant peril while dealing with the terrible scars of his past?
Cassie sighed. “You poor man. Why don’t you sit down and have some tea? You can keep your back to the wall if you sit over there.”
For a long moment, Mitch just stared at the interesting creature before him. His first thought, if it could be called a conscious thought, was that she was quite pretty. Her wheat-blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail, and he would have sworn her eyes were made of equal flecks of gray and brown. She was neither buxom nor skinny, glamorous nor plain. No, she was simply pretty, except for one very distracting quality: her eyes twinkled. He didn’t know whether they twinkled with mischief, laughter, or insanity, but the effect seemed to owe nothing to the sun.
His second thought, which was most definitely conscious, could best be summed up with a single syllable: huh? “The wall?”
“I’m looking for Miss Wynn,” he explained, glancing at his notes again. “You say she isn’t home? Do you know when she’ll be back?”
Her nodding grew more emphatic as she pointed at the seat again, forcing him to accept. He lowered himself into the wrought-iron chair and looked gratefully at the umbrella above his head. It was a relief to sit in the shade. The summer afternoon was sweltering, and frustration wasn’t helping his heat level.
Mitch had only been offered a freelance position with the local paper. He needed something juicy to prove himself. For some reason, the locals didn’t seem impressed that he’d worked the city crime beat. So far, there was no reason to think this story would develop into anything, and yet…
Mitch knew better than to ignore his hunches. For some reason, he had a feeling about this one. Since he didn’t have anything else to do right now, what would it hurt to dig a little deeper?
“Tea?” The woman sitting across from him made the offer with the same bright smile.
She held an old-fashioned teapot in one hand and plucked another cup and saucer from the formal tray in front of her. Mitch didn’t have time to refuse before she started pouring. He was surprised to hear the clink of ice chips as she passed the little teacup to him. Iced tea in a cup and saucer? With a shrug, he took a tentative sip, followed by a long, hardy swallow. The cold was refreshing.
“Thanks,” he said. “I needed that.”
She waved her hand before thrusting it out to shake his. “I’m Cassie Wynn, or Dusty Zain, depending on what I’m doing. And as you can see, I’m out of the house but still available to meet with you. How do you do?”
Mitch was known for having a good poker face. He was even considered pretty slick by some, but he still had to blink hard before he could formulate an answer.
“Fine, thanks.” He paused and then asked, “Dusty Zain?”
“My pen name.” She returned another one of those brilliant smiles and leaned forward. “I write mystery novels. And you are?”
“Sorry,” he muttered. He returned her handshake more firmly. “I’m Mitchell Chase, but you can call me—”
“Chase!” She blurted the word with an excited bounce in her seat.
“No,” he answered with a bemused smile, “you can call me Mitch.”
“Oh.” She pouted, withdrawing her hand. “I thought for sure you’d go by Chase. Falcon or Axel would have.”
“Falcon or Axel?”
“Never mind.” She smiled again. “You’re investigating my neighbor’s murder, right? You’re a reporter?”
“I’m writing this piece for the newspaper, yes.” He was surprised to feel himself grinning back at her. She was sort of a daffy little thing, wasn’t she?
He picked up his notebook and returned to business.
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Be on the lookout for Laurel Richards' future release(s): The Fish Fry Fiasco coming June 2016 and The Sand Castle Calamity coming July 2016
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