Authors: Carolyn Haines
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths, #Cozy
ALSO BY CAROLYN HAINES
SARAH BOOTH DELANEY MYSTERIES
Bones to Pick
Summer of the Redeemers
Summer of Fear
My Mother’s Witness: The Peggy Morgan Story
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
. Copyright © 2010 by Carolyn Haines. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Bone appetit / Carolyn Haines. — 1st ed.
1. Delaney, Sarah Booth (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Women private investigators—Fiction. 3. Cooking schools—Fiction. 4. Beauty contests—Fiction. 5. Cookery—Competitions—Fiction. 6. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. 7. Mississippi—Fiction. I. Title.
First Edition: July 2010
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
For Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth—may your
keyboard never stop clicking and your
pencil never grow dull.
First of all, I want to thank Rhonda Zion for the fabulous title. It’s so perfect for this story. I am always amazed—and flattered—by the time and energy my friends and readers put into my characters and books. When I’m frustrated by my errant characters or a plot that constantly tangles on itself, I only have to remember the many people who care about Sarah Booth, Tinkie, and the Zinnia gang.
While writing is done alone, the final read-through is best done by someone with distance from the work. Suzann L. Ellingsworth has been invaluable. A woman of many talents.
Kelley Ragland and the entire team at Minotaur Books put the final polish on this book with their sharp eyes, great editing, and attention to detail. A good book is always a reflection of great editors.
My experiences at Minotaur Books have been wonderful,
and part of this is working with Matt Martz in editorial and Anne Gardner and Sarah Melnyk in publicity and the entire marketing department. Professionals in every sense of the word.
And I love this cover! Hiro Kimura—what a fun and wonderful creation.
With each of my books, the sales staff has worked harder and harder. Talk about unsung heroes, the men and women in sales have gone above and beyond to bring the Mississippi Delta mysteries to the attention of booksellers across the board. Thank you.
My agent Marian Young has served as professional representative and so much more over the years. Therapist, friend, shoulder to whine on, and motivational speaker when necessary. Thank you.
I’d like to thank the booksellers who carry my books. Many stores have staffers who hand-sell books they love. How wonderful that my books are on some of those lists.
One of those booksellers (and a former student) is my assistant, Priya Bhakta. She has made my life easier with her great attitude, fun ideas, and smart actions. If you ever want to know what I’m up to, check out my Facebook page, where Priya keeps everything up-to-date and posted.
You can also sign up for my newsletter at my Web Site
And because I love animals, please look at the Web Site
. My friends and I are trying to find homes for stray cats, dogs, horses, and other creatures. If you have space in your home, please adopt. And be sure to spay and neuter.
Spring smote the Delta and fled before the onslaught of May heat. A thick haze of warmth hangs over the fields and the rivers, blanketing the land and the cotton bursting from the ground, green and vibrant. Hope is alive here, where farming is still a way of life.
To my shame, hope has died in me. The loss of my child, my potential son or daughter, has done something to me, and I’m afraid it can’t be repaired. While the cotton is growing and my partner’s husband, Oscar, and Deputy Gordon Walters have both fully recovered from the “plague” that nearly killed them, I have not fared so well. At least not emotionally. Doc says my body is healing fine. No permanent internal injuries, and my broken arm is all but mended. There should be no ill effects.
So what’s wrong with my heart?
Dahlia House, my family home, echoes with loneliness.
The familiar rooms are too big and empty in a way I never noticed. Perhaps this malaise of melancholy is hormone induced, as Cece Dee Falcon, my transgender friend who is an authority on the tricky role of endocrine chemistry, tells me. She assures me that my body will balance itself and that time will buffer this loss.
I wish I could trust her words. There are no known Delaney genes for moping, yet I can’t seem to stop. Songwriter Jesse Winchester says it best, it takes “nothing to pity yourself—but it’s dangerous fun.”
Unable to endure the shadows of Dahlia House, I’ve taken myself outdoors into the heat laden with the smell of summer. The scent of this sun-warmed land—the taste of it—is imprinted on my DNA. These fields have been my solace through so many losses, but I find no comfort here now. I walk to the oak grove behind the Delaney Family Cemetery—the place I saw my dead mother in a dream or vision or visit from the spirit world. She assured me I would recover from this miscarriage. I hope she’ll return today to guide me to that path, but I know she won’t. She’s warned me about lingering in the past, and she won’t facilitate my melancholy.
“You’re damn right, she won’t!”
Jitty, the resident haint of Dahlia House, has found me. Jitty has the tracking abilities of a Parchman prison bloodhound and the fashion sense of Jackie Kennedy or, on some days, Carrie Bradshaw. Therefore I’m stunned by her white apron and chef’s hat. Jitty does not “do” domestic, despite the fact she was my great-great-grandmother Alice’s nanny and best friend. What she does do is tap into my private thoughts—a habit I find more than annoying.
“Don’t badger me, Jitty, I’m not in the mood,” I warned her.
“Pull it together, Sarah Booth. Tinkie will be here any
minute to pick you up. You’re packed and ready, so quit waffling. This trip will be good for you, and the Richmonds have spared no expense. Tinkie and Oscar are tryin’ to bust you loose from the tar baby of grief. ’Course, instead of lettin’ go, you keep pokin’ in another appendage. Soon enough you won’t be able to let loose.”
“I’m not going to Greenwood.”
“Says me.” My fingers brushed against the rough bark of an oak tree, igniting a tickle of childhood sensation, just a split second of the past. I don’t want a vacation or a stay in a luxury boutique hotel. What I want is to time travel, to go back to a place where my parents are alive and I’m the protected and beloved child.
Jitty is having none of that. “Wrong. Tinkie has gone to a lot of trouble to plan this trip for you. From what I’ve seen, you can sure benefit from some cookin’ classes. Girl, that handsome Graf Milieu is gonna wanna eat sometimes. Even movie stars got to feed the gullet on occasion.”
“Then he can cook.” My tone was reasonable, cloaking the deep sense of loneliness brought on by the mention of Graf’s name. He was my man, and I needed him beside me even though my logical brain knew he could not walk out on a movie. “At the moment, Graf is building his film career, and he doesn’t care if I cook or not. Eating at Millie’s Café makes me happy. She’s a better cook than I’ll ever be.”
Jitty eyed me. “
would be happy—if you’d eat. You go up there and stir the food around on your plate. You look like an abused greyhound.”
“Nothing like a compliment to make a girl feel better.” That she was right only made me more morose. I did look unhealthy. My skin was waxen, and I’d given up shirts that showed my protruding collarbone. I didn’t wear grief well.
“You want some compliments? Then go down to Greenwood and relax with Tinkie. Take your mind off things here. Have some laughs.” Her expression became sly. “You can kill two birds with one stone.”
“What two birds?”
“One, get away from here and start to heal your heart, and two, let your business partner take care of you. She wants to do that, Sarah Booth. It’s selfish not to let her.” Tinkie and I co-owned Delaney Detective Agency, but she was so much more than half owner. She was my closest friend.