Authors: Jessie Crockett
Praise for the national bestselling Sugar Grove Mysteries
Drizzled with Death
Drizzled with Death
, the first in the Sugar Grove series by Jessie Crockett, reminds me of exactly why I love cozy mysteries so much. Hilarity ensues from the first chapter and doesn't let up, even with a murder mystery to solve. I loved the character of Dani. She's spunky, beguiling, loves maple syrup, and I can relate to all the problems she's going through with her familyÂ .Â .Â . The fact that you'll probably not be able to guess who the killer is until the big reveal is just another reason to get your hands on a copy, along with the delicious maple syrup recipes you get at the end.”
“The mystery was well put together and had my inner amateur sleuth working overtime, trying to solve it before Dani. I was in suspense, right up until the end, while I watched the mystery unravel before meÂ .Â .Â . Dani and her family were a hoot and I can't wait to see what trouble Dani is going to get into next!”
Cozy Mystery Book Reviews
“It's a hysterical tale of maple syrup and mayhem set against the backdrop of the New England leavesÂ .Â .Â . This book had me snickering from the first chapter. Author Jessie Crockett has a knack for writing comedy into her mysteriesÂ .Â .Â . The mystery aspectÂ .Â .Â . was just as funny as the rest of it. There were so many suspects and a plethora of motives, but Crockett easily keeps the readers guessing all the way to the end.”
Debbie's Book Bag
“[A] light, fun mystery with colorful characters, the majority of whom seem to be keeping secrets. Dani Greene was an enjoyable character with a lot of spunk.”
Once Upon a Romance
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Jessie Crockett
DRIZZLED WITH DEATH
A STICKY SITUATION
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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A STICKY SITUATION
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright Â© 2015 by Jessie Crockett.
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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-18655-2
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / April 2015
Cover illustration by Mary Ann Lasher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.
Writing this book has been a pleasure and a privilege. Several people have helped to make it even more so. I'd like to thank my agent, John Talbot; my editor, Michelle Vega; cover artist Mary Ann Lasher-Dodge; and all the people at Berkley Prime Crime who make everything work behind the scenes. A big thank-you also goes out to the nice guys at Sap House Meadery in Center Ossipee, New Hampshire, for answering questions and providing inspiration.
I am also very fortunate to have support in my personal life for my endeavors. My fellow Wicked Cozy authors, Sherry Harris, J. A. Hennrikus, Edith Maxwell, Liz Mugavero, and Barbara Ross have been an invaluable group of traveling companions on the writing journey. I don't know what I'd do without all of you!
I am so grateful to be blessed with enthusiastic encouragement from my mother, Sandy Crockett, and my sisters, Larissa Crockett and Barb Shaffer. I'm also so appreciative of the endless patience and staunch support shown by my children.
And lastly, I want to thank my husband, Elias Estevao, the hero at the heart of all my stories.
I knew there was trouble when Celadon sought me out in the sugar bush. Usually she sends one of her children to find me in the woods, preferring her fuzzy slippers to snow boots. My sister is generally considered a handsome woman but this could not be said as she waddled toward me through the snow. She knows to use snowshoes but in her haste must have forgotten them. Her earmuffs lopsidedly clung to her head for dear life and her scarf dragged behind her like a leash that lost its dog. By the time she got to me she was out of breath and had to reach out her hands to steady herself on a tree. Just looking at her I felt panic rising.
“Who's hurt?” I imagined my grandfather slumped in his chair, something vital burst in his brain or my brother, Loden, clutching at a hand short a couple of fingers. Celadon shook her head.
“Hazel.” And with that one word the joy sucked out of my day like the air from a plane in a suspense movie when a mad bomber blows a hole in the side. As a sugar maker, I love the early spring. Those four to six weeks every year when the days are relatively warm and the nights are still cold. My whole family waits for this period when the sap runs like most families anticipate an annual vacation at a beach house. And when I say the whole family, I mean the whole family.
The Greene family is a big one and has a vast array of members, most of whom manage to find their way back to Sugar Grove at some point while the sap is running. You can never be sure when Aunt Peridot or Cousin Moss will descend on us but you know it will happen. Like flu season, its course trends and you note the signs with trepidation. But my grandfather's sister Hazel and her granddaughter Jade were sure to appear every year in time for the Sugar Grove Maple Festival. Their exact arrival date is always a surprise but they never fail to be around for the festival weekend.
The festival is the highlight of the year in town and so naturally, that was when they would visit. It was more fun and less work and for all the years her age was right, Jade entered and won the Miss Maple competition. Now that she is beyond competition age and runs her own pageant coaching business she still makes time to come every year. Her days as Miss Maple may be behind her but she still reminds us every time we see her that she won over and over and Celadon and I never even entered.
“She'll be here in fifteen minutes. She hired a car to drive her up.” Of course she did. I wasn't sure why she came every year to participate in sugaring since it is, at its heart, a do-it-yourself kind of thing. Our aunt has a policy of never doing for yourself what you can get others to do for you and she has taught her granddaughter to approach life in the same manner. It would never occur to any of the rest of us to hire a car. There's a perfectly good bus that runs from Boston to Concord, NH, where any one of us would have unhappily picked them up from the station. But Hazel didn't like public transport and nothing was ever good enough for her granddaughter Jade, as she was quick to point out to anyone within earshot.
“Did you think to grab some car keys on your way out?”
We crept to the back of the barn and Celadon silently gestured to the family minivan. She slid into the passenger seat. I expected her to want to drive since she prefers to be in charge of everything but I took the keys and started the engine. I decided to risk the noise it might make and gunned the engine, tearing down the driveway and setting a personal best in terms of speed.
Grandma might have been standing on the porch waving her arms at us but I won't swear to it. I hated leaving her in the lurch knowing full well she'd feel obliged to put on a big dinner for Hazel and Jade but desperate times called for desperate measures. Besides, our brother, Loden, never seemed to mind Hazel's
company anywhere near as much as we did, so he could help Grandma out if she needed it.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
“Have you turned off your cell phone?” I asked as I braked hard and swung us out onto the main road.
“I can't do that. What if the school calls because one of the kids is sick?”
“Then switch off the ringer at least. We can't have anyone at the Stack telling the family we ignored calls,” I said. Celadon dug in her purse and fiddled with her phone.
“There is a bit of good news,” Celadon said.
“How can there possibly be good news when Hazel and Jade arrive?”
“That's just it. Jade isn't arriving.”
“What do you mean, âisn't arriving'?”
“I mean, when Grandma asked what Jade might like for supper Hazel said Jade wasn't with her.”
“But Jade always comes with her.”
You know how every member of a family seems to have a role to play and no matter how old you all get, how far from your roots, you never quite shake it off? Our cousin Jade's role is to be the one thing Celadon and I ever entirely agree upon. We both wish she didn't exist. Summers when we were kids involved extended doses of Jade. Her parents worried she needed more interaction with her cousins since she was an only child and they felt long bouts of time with us was the answer.
They weren't particularly interested in her developing
better social skills; they wanted her to stop asking them for a sibling. After all, how likely would it be for them to produce a second perfect child? They were sticking with one and that was that. Jade not visiting was the best news I'd had in a long time.
“Maybe after what happened last year she decided it would be best not to come.” Celadon dug her long fingers into my arm. “You do remember the visit last year?” Celadon's breath was coming in shallow pants and her cheeks flushed like a male cardinal.
“How could I forget?” Last year, when Celadon's daughter was five, Jade decided she had found her heir to the Miss Maple throne. She snuck Spring off for a day of beauty and returned with a miniaturized version of herself: high heels, clingy short dress, bubble gum pink lipstick, and a generous squirt of a heady fragrance unfortunately named Every Man's Desire wafting from her tiny body. Jade had registered her for the competition, purchased her competition wardrobe, and schooled her in a routine involving a striptease down to a polka-dotted bikini without asking Celadon's permission for any of it.
When chided for her actions she asked if Celadon really wanted her daughter to turn out like me. Spring was overwrought by the whole experience and tugged in two directions by a pair of emotional powerhouses; she locked herself in the bathroom where she announced through the keyhole she planned to eat toothpaste to stay alive until the fighting stopped. It was a low point for us all.
Then I had another thought that burst my bliss bubble before it really had a chance to inflate.
“What will Hazel do if she doesn't have Jade to focus on? Will she turn all that attention on us?”
“It doesn't bear thinking about.”
The Stack was still serving the breakfast crowd when we walked in, and heads turned to see both of us there together. Celadon is the old-fashioned sort of woman who dresses to go to town and to see her standing there with her hair straggling out and her pant legs soaked to mid-thigh was a first for most of the patrons. The Stack Shack is always busy in the morning but there was an even bigger crowd than usual gathered around the counter, coffee mugs clutched tightly in work-hardened hands. The chatter was unusually loud, too.
Instead of grabbing a stool at the counter I steered Celadon to my favorite booth in the back. Before long Piper hustled up with a sparkling coffeepot and some questions.
“Is it Hazel or Jade?” she asked, flipping the mugs upright and filling them with a practiced flick of the wrist.
“What makes you ask that?” Celadon said, gripping the mug in her two hands like it was Jade's perfect, lily-white neck.
“Every sugaring season the two of you burst in here like a couple of escaped convicts, your eyes lolling and furtively darting. If I didn't know you I would have phoned the police before your butts hit these seats. The only thing I know that rattles both of you that much is the arrival of your great-aunt and her offspring.”
“It's just Hazel. Jade isn't with her.”
“That's one more thing to set tongues wagging,” Piper said.
“It does seem especially lively in here this morning. Is something going on?”
“You know that old building someone's been fixing up at the end of Church Street?”
“The one that used to be a general store?” The building had been a general store for years before the Mountain View Food Mart set up in town. Over the years it had languished and when the last owners died no one had wanted to keep running the place as a store. The space was large but not really large enough for a grocer and the town wasn't big enough to support two grocery stores anyway. Parking was a problem, too. And the septic wasn't built for heavy use so converting the building to apartments wasn't even an option.
It sat and sat, growing more depressing each year. Everyone said something ought to be done about it and we all felt guilty over what was becoming of the place. Grampa had mentioned buying it but Grandma had nixed that idea pretty quickly. She said he was already spreading himself too thin and the projects that really had his heart would suffer for it. So it continued to sit vacant, chiding us all.
“That's the one.”
“What about it?”
“There's a sign on the front of the building saying that the work is almost done and that the owner will be unveiling it tomorrow afternoon.”
“You're kidding.” No wonder there was a buzz of
excitement. For months hammering and banging could be heard almost constantly from inside the building. The windows were all covered over with newspaper and the crew hustling in and out couldn't be convinced to say a thing. And believe me, people had tried. According to Myra Phelps, police dispatcher and gossip extraordinaire, the property had been purchased by a corporation that didn't seem to be connected to the town in any way. None of the names she'd been able to track down looked familiar and the purpose for the purchase remained shrouded in mystery.
“I want to know who snatched away the best contractor in town.” I had hoped Wesley Farnum would be available to start the work on the opera house project but the mystery owner of the building booked him first and he had been right out straight ever since.
“We'll finally find out who's responsible for the Russ Collins situation,” Celadon said. We had been forced to hire Russ to get the project at the opera house started when the pipes in the building froze and we couldn't delay work any longer. Russ was usually available since he paced himself like an arthritic inchworm. On the plus side he was a gifted storyteller. I had heard more creative excuses for why so little had been done clearing the coal room in the cellar of the town hall than I could have imagined possible. I'm used to Grampa and his embellishment of favorite stories but Russ had missed his calling. He would have been a champion wandering bard, raking in the coins for singing exaggerated praises
of the local big cheese. Well, if he could get motivated enough to wander away from a soft bed and a hot meal.
“I'll be glad when Wesley is freed up and able to work on something new.” I had ended up being the point of contact for Russ. Celadon's strategy for suffering fools was to put them out of their misery. Not without reason Grandma had asked me to deal with Russ until the job was complete since she didn't want the family ending up in the papers on account of any violence. Celadon had sensitive skin and would never be able to endure the soap in the county lockup.
“Why don't you put those menus away? I'll be right back with just what you need to take your mind off all your troubles, family or community.” Piper hurried off and returned just a moment later, placing an overflowing vintage dessert bowl, the cut glass ones with the feet, in front of each of us.
“What is it?” I asked, lifting a spoon in anticipation.
“Chocolate cherry lava cups.” Piper nodded and smiled. “Nothing like chocolate and cherries and cake to fix what ails you. Let me know what you think” She headed toward the door as a new set of customers entered the Stack. I stuck my spoon down through the gooey layers of chocolaty goodness. Lifting it to my mouth I spotted cherry preserves, hot fudge, and chunks of chocolate cake. Divine. Even Celadon seemed to be simmering down. Maybe she would be lulled into a sugar stupor and forget.
“This is incredible.” Celadon forgot herself enough
to dribble fudge sauce down her chin. “Piper is an amazing cook. Maybe we should just stay here.”
“How would we get away with that? Everyone will see us in here and report back to the family.”
“Maybe we could get Mitch to arrest us. I'm sure you could do something that upsets him enough to get us thrown in jail for a few days.”
“I don't think that will work anymore. At least not as long as he is still dating Phoebe.” Mitch was a local cop and my former boyfriend. He had been ruthlessly harassing me for the last few months. That is until he started dating Phoebe Jones and his obsession with me began to cause friction in their relationship. I hadn't gotten so much as a parking ticket or jaywalking fine in weeks.