Table of Contents
“Interesting, likable, and memorable characters, a picturesque New England town, and a murder as sticky as an intricate decoupage plaque will keep you turning pages in Lucy Lawrence’s charming new mystery.”
author of the Seaside Knitters Mysteries
The Morning After
. . .
Tara looked down at her hands and saw the knife she still held. She jumped and dropped it. She ran her hands over her nightgown and saw the brown stains. She looked up at Brenna with confused eyes.
“What is this?” she asked.
“Blood,” Brenna said.
“His?” Brenna guessed, pointing behind Tara to the body beyond.
Tara whipped her head around, saw the man in her bed, let out an ear-piercing shriek and leapt at Brenna.
“Oh, my God, who is that?”
“You don’t know?” Brenna asked.
Tara shook her head.
“I’m going to see if I can rouse him,” Brenna said.
She hunkered down beside the bed and, with a grunt, she gave him a shove and he flopped over.
It was the best man, and he was dead.
“Lawrence’s deft plotting and smooth writing style will sweep readers along on this crafty story featuring the art of decoupage.”
The Sweetheart’s Knitting Club
“Will keep you glued to your seat until you’ve found out who-done-it. A sweet read!”
A One-of-a-Kind Family
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Lucy Lawrence
STUCK ON MURDER
CUT TO THE CORPSE
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
CUT TO THE CORPSE
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / April 2010
Copyright © 2010 by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
eISBN : 978-1-101-18640-4
Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
For my pop, Donald McKinlay,
the best storyteller in the family.
First and foremost, I want to give a shout out to Team Orf; Beckett, Wyatt, and the Hub. You guys keep me going every day with hugs and laughter and I love you for it.
I want to thank my agents Jacky Sach and Jessica Faust and all of the staff at BookEnds, Inc. You’re the best!
Here’s a nod to my wonderful editors Kate Seaver and Katherine Pelz and the fabulous PR whiz Megan Swartz and to all of the staff that I don’t get to see at Berkley Prime Crime but I know are there.
I want to send hugs to the ladies of the loop and to my blog pals at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen. One of the best things about being a writer is getting to have all of you in my life.
Thanks to my extended families, the McKinlays and the Orfs. Your support means the world to me.
I also want to acknowledge the staff of the Phoenix Public Library. I have been fortunate to work there with some of the coolest people in the Valley of the Sun, and I just want to say, “You people rock!”
And lastly, I want to thank my girl Lucy. This is a dog that doesn’t walk but dances, doesn’t run but bounds, doesn’t play but flirts. She is something special and for all the walks and hours spent patiently listening to me figure out my characters and plots, I want to say, “Thank you, sweet girl. I love you.”
“Did you see that?” Marie Porter hissed at her twin.
“I’d have to be stone-blind not to,” Ella hissed back. “Can you believe it? Bold as brass, right in the middle of the town green, what is that boy thinking?”
“It’s not what he’s thinking, it’s what he’s thinking with,” Marie said.
Brenna Miller glanced up from the display table where she was arranging a new shipment of handmade papers. Purchased from an artist in the Berkshires, these were fine papers that had been hand dyed in rich jewel tones of ruby red, sapphire blue, and emerald green. Brenna had been wondering if she could use them to decoupage a small jewelry box she had picked up at a yard sale last week, but her contemplation had been repeatedly interrupted by the elderly twins’ ongoing dialogue.
The Porter sisters, Marie and Ella, were standing in front of the large bay window of Vintage Papers. They had their noses pressed to the glass and were leaning so far forward that Brenna’s view of the town square was obscured by their pear-shaped backsides. Ella wore a Day-Glo yellow T-shirt with matching walking shorts and Marie wore a neon green version of the same. When she looked at them, Brenna could swear she felt her pupils dilate.
She glanced across the shop at her friend Tenley Morse, the owner of Vintage Papers. Tenley had been Brenna’s best friend since their days at Boston University more than ten years ago. Tenley met Brenna’s gaze with a sympathetic wink, letting Brenna know she was not alone in her exasperation with the elderly twins.
Having lived in Morse Point all their lives and with age seventy knocking on their door with a firm fist, Marie and Ella considered themselves the town’s resident historians. Everyone else considered them the local blabbermouths.
“If he puts his tongue any deeper into her mouth, he’s going to give her a root canal,” Ella said.
“I was kissed like that once,” Marie sighed. “By John Henry.”
“Hunh,” Ella grunted. “Too bad he thought he was kissing me.”
“He did not,” Marie huffed.
“He did, too,” Ella returned. “You stole him and you know it.”
Brenna stepped forward and wedged herself in between the two ladies, pushing her auburn head in between their curly gray ones. She was afraid they were about to come to blows over the legendary John Henry; it had happened before, and it behooved her to protect Tenley’s shop from harm for job security reasons if nothing else.
Marie and Ella continued to scowl at each other around her, but Brenna didn’t budge.
“Is that Jake Haywood with Tara Montgomery?” she asked. “I heard they got engaged.”
Both ladies were immediately diverted.
“Last week,” Marie confirmed. “I was at Totally Polished getting a manicure when I heard Margie Haywood tell Ruby Wolcott that Jake even called Tara’s parents and asked permission.”
“And they gave it?” Tenley asked from across the room. Her blue eyes were wide with surprise.
“Apparently, little Miss Tara gets what little Miss Tara wants,” Ella said. “And now she wants Jake.”
“You mean ‘for now’ she wants Jake,” Marie said.
“Well, she’d better be sure, because if he marries that girl, it’s forever,” Ella said. “There has never been a divorce in the Haywood family.”
“Nope, they’re like swans, they mate for life,” Marie agreed. Her voice sounded wistful, and Brenna had to admit that nowadays that did sound rare and romantic.
Brenna glanced out the window. Jake Haywood wore gray coveralls smeared with grease, tan leather work boots, and a red rag half hanging out of his back pocket. By contrast, Tara wore a Juicy Couture summer sundress that was buttercup yellow and sported a charming bow in the front. Her feet were encased in matching yellow ballet flats and her long blond hair was held back by a wide white headband.
Jake nuzzled her neck, but when she would have pressed herself against him, he held her back in an obvious attempt to keep her dress free from his grease stains. Tara tossed her hair over her shoulder and giggled up at him, and the young man, who Brenna had thought so serious, well, at least he had been when he fixed the brakes on her Jeep last month, grinned down at the delicate girl before him with his heart in his eyes.
Brenna sighed and then realized that Ella, Marie, and Tenley had sighed at the exact same moment.