Authors: Larissa Reinhart

Tags: #amateur sleuth, #british mysteries, #cozy, #cozy mysteries, #english mysteries, #female sleuths, #humorous fiction, #humorous mysteries, #murder mysteries, #mystery and suspense, #mystery series, #southern fiction, #women sleuths


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Praise for Larissa Reinhart’s Cherry Tucker Mysteries




Death in Perspective
is one fasten-your-seatbelt, pedal-to-the-metal mystery, and Cherry Tucker is the
perfect sleuth to have behind the wheel. Smart, feisty, as tough as she is tender,
Cherry’s got justice in her crosshairs, and
Death in Perspective
is an accomplished addition to this winning series.”

– Tina Whittle,

Author of the Tai Randolph Mysteries


“Loved it! I feel I might have dated Cherry Tucker once, she’s that real; she’s also
funny, tough, and brilliant. Now she’s even involved in theatre—maybe that’s where
we met.”

– Phillip DePoy,

Edgar Award Winning Author


“Reinhart succeeds in mixing laughter with the serious topic of cyber-bully through
blogs and texts, all the while developing a chemistry between Cherry and Luke that
absolutely sizzles.”

Kings River Life Magazin


“Cherry is a quirky spitfire that lights the match that sets her little town on fire.
With a laugh here and a laugh there, I enjoyed this whodunit and I’m eager to see
what happens next in the adventures of Cherry Tucker.”

Dru’s Book Musings


“Artist and accidental detective Cherry Tucker goes back to high school and finds
plenty of trouble and skeletons…Reinhart’s charming, sweet-tea flavored series keeps
getting better!”

– Gretchen Archer,

USA Today
Bestselling Author of the Davis Way Crime Caper Series




“The fast-paced plot careens through small-town politics and deadly rivalries, with
zany side trips through art-world shenanigans and romantic hijinx. Like front-porch
lemonade, Reinhart’s cast of characters offer a perfect balance of tart and sweet.”

– Sophie Littlefield,

Bestselling Author of
A Bad Day for Sorry


“Cherry is back–tart-tongued and full of sass. With her paint-stained fingers in every
pie, she’s in for a truckload of trouble.”

– J.J. Murphy,

Author of the Algonquin Round Table Mysteries


“Bless her heart. Artist Cherry Tucker just can’t help chasing after justice, even
when it lands her up to her eyeballs in Russian gangsters, sexy exes, and treacherous
truckers. A rambunctious mystery as Southern as chess pie and every bit as delectable.”

– Jane Sevier,

Author of the Psychic Socialite 1930s Memphis Mysteries


“A true work of art…I didn’t want this book to end! I was so caught up in Cherry’s
crazy life, I wanted to just keep reading.”

– Gayle Trent,

Author of
Battered to Death


“Reinhart manages to braid a complicated plot into a tight and funny tale...Cozy fans
will love this latest Cherry Tucker mystery.”

– Mary Marks,

New York Journal of Books


“Cherry Tucker’s got an artist’s palette of problems, but she handles them better
than da Vinci on a deadline. Bust out your gesso and get primed for humor, hijackings,
and a handful of hunks!”

– Diane Vallere,

Author of the Style & Error and Mad for Mod Mystery Series




“Reinhart’s country-fried mystery is as much fun as a ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl at
a state fair. Her sleuth wields a paintbrush and unravels clues with equal skill and
flair. Readers who like a little small-town charm with their mysteries will enjoy
Reinhart’s series.”

— Denise Swanson,

New York Times
Bestselling Author of the Scumble River and Devereaux’s Dime Store Mysteries


“Still Life in Brunswick Stew
proves beyond doubt that Larissa Reinhart and her delightful amateur sleuth Cherry
Tucker will be around to entertain us for many books to come.”

– Lois Winston,

Author of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series


“Cherry Tucker finds trouble without even looking for it, and plenty of it finds her
Still Life in Brunswick Stew
…this mystery keeps you laughing and guessing from the first page to the last. A whole-hearted
five stars.”

– Denise Grover Swank,

New York Times
USA Today
Bestselling Author


“Reinhart lined up suspects like a pinsetter in a bowling alley, and darned if I could
figure out which ones to knock down...Can’t wait to see what Cherry paints herself
into next.”

– Donnell Ann Bell,

Bestselling Author of
The Past Came Hunting


“The hilariously droll Larissa Reinhart cooks up a quirky and entertaining page-turner!
This charming mystery is delightfully Southern, surprisingly edgy, and deliciously

– Hank Phillippi Ryan,

Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Award-Winning Author




Portrait of a Dead Guy
is an entertaining mystery full of quirky characters and solid plotting…Highly recommended
for anyone who likes their mysteries strong and their mint juleps stronger!”

— Jennie Bentley,

New York Times
Bestselling Author of
Flipped Out


“Reinhart is a truly talented author and this book was one of the best cozy mysteries
we reviewed this year…We highly recommend this book to all lovers of mystery books.
Our Rating: 4.5 Stars.”

Mystery Tribune


“The tone of this marvelously cracked book is not unlike Sophie Littlefield’s brilliant
A Bad Day for Sorry
, as author Reinhart dishes out shovelfuls of ribald humor and mayhem.”

– Betty Webb,

Mystery Scene Magazine


“Larissa Reinhart’s masterfully crafted whodunit,
Portrait of a Dead Guy
, provides high-octane action with quirky, down-home characters and a trouble-magnet
heroine who’ll steal readers’ hearts.”

—Debby Giusti,

Author of
The Captain’s Mission
The Colonel’s Daughter


“A fun, fast-paced read and a rollicking start to her Cherry Tucker Mystery Series.
If you like your stories southern-fried with a side of romance, this book’s for you!”

— Leslie Tentler,

Author of
Midnight Caller


Books in the Cherry Tucker Mystery Series

by Larissa Reinhart













Copyright Information



A Cherry Tucker Mystery

Part of the Henery Press Mystery Collection


First Edition

Digital epub
edition |
June 2014


Henery Press


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner
whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from Henery Press,
except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.


by Larissa Hoffman

Author photograph by Scott Asano


This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real
locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are
the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales
or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


ISBN-13: 978-1-940976-


Printed in the United States of America



To Trey, Sophie, and Luci.

You are my greatest blessing.



A huge thank you to Diana Concepcion, Noel Holland, and Phillip Depoy for your advice
and expertise. Also to my fellow hens Gretchen Archer, Terri L. Austin, and LynDee
Walker for their friendship and input. Gina Neibrugge and Sally Reinhart for helping
me to plot over margaritas. To all the Mystery Minions for their friendship and support.
Love you guys! To Dru Ann Love for the cover release opportunities and encouragement.
To Ann Charles for reading while writing and preparing for a move. Tina Whittle for
reading and recommending Tai’s doppleganger to your fans. Trey and the girls for putting
up with a wife/mother with W.S.B.S. (writer’s scattered brain syndrome). And to everyone
at Henery Press who puts Cherry Tucker in readers’ hands, especially my incredibly
talented and indefatigable editor, Kendel Flaum, who has taken a fledgling press and
given it giant raptor wings.



e should have told me Maranda Pringle was dead. For the past twenty minutes, I’d been
sitting in her office, picking at my Toulouse La’Lilac painted nails and wondering
where in the hell Miss Pringle could be. Hindsight later taught me she’d be found
somewhere in that mystical realm between the Peerless Day Academy and the Great Beyond,
but currently, it ticked me off that Miss Pringle had clearly forgotten I had a twelve
o’clock appointment with Principal Cleveland. I had spent plenty of time waiting on
principals in my previous life as a high school troublemaker, so waiting on one now
had brought back feelings of anxiety.

Which was why my nails appeared so spotty.

Before I had the nerve to leave Miss Pringle’s small antechamber and knock on Principal
Cleveland’s door, another woman entered Miss Pringle’s room and proceeded to stare
at me for a long five seconds before finding her voice. Her blunt blonde bob, expensive
blue suit, and no-nonsense designer pumps gave her a look of authority, but a snazzy,
silk scarf knotted around her neck said, “I’m also fashionable.”

“Who are you?” she asked. “Why are you in Miss Pringle’s office?”

“I’m Cherry Tucker. I’m waiting for Principal Cleveland to discuss my clearance for
working with the drama department on the backdrop and props for
Romeo and Juliet

My fingers flew to smooth my cornsilk blonde strands and straighten my belted
Bert and Ernie
t-shirt dress. I had figured school personnel would appreciate
Sesame Street
characters as educational innovators. And as most teachers I knew wore khakis and
polo shirts and I owned neither a khaki nor a polo, retrofitted
Sesame Street
attire from the Big Boys department would have to do for an interview.

“I am the assistant principal, Brenda Cooke. Why would the drama department need help
with the stage art? We have a fully equipped art department.”

I waited a moment to see if the question was rhetorical. Then I remembered this was
a school and teachers expected answers. “I got a call from a Mr. Tinsley needing an
artist to help with ‘original art pieces’ for his ‘avant-garde’ musical production
Romeo and Juliet
. Why he doesn’t ask the art teacher, I haven’t the faintest. But here I am.”

When she didn’t respond, I added, “I’m an artist. Portrait artist by trade, but classically
trained at Savannah College of Art and Design in a number of genres. I’m also a graduate
of Halo High School, and although I know your school is located near Line Creek, I
figure you don’t have the animosity toward Halo’s Fighting Angels that Line Creek
Legions does. As you’re a private school and all.”

“I’m not sure about this,” said Ms. Cooke. “I can get you the background check paperwork,
though. At the moment, I need you to leave this office. Why don’t you leave your card
with me and Principal Cleveland or I will get back with you.”

I knew what that meant. I stuck my proverbial foot in the metaphorical door. “How
about I swing by later today? Your drama teacher wanted me to start as soon as possible.”

“Today is not a good day.” Ms. Cooke’s shoulders sagged, and she dropped her principal
swagger. “Actually, we just learned we lost Miss Pringle this past weekend. Principal
Cleveland is at her home right now and this afternoon we’re having an emergency staff

“Bless your heart. I’m sorry to hear that. I had no idea.” My cheeks reddened at my
hustle to gain a job when the school had just lost their secretary.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t aware of your appointment.” She offered a faint smile and took
my business card. “After the staff meeting, I’ll talk to Mr. Tinsley, our drama teacher,
and find out what’s going on. He has his own budget and tends to make unilateral decisions.
I didn’t realize he had spoken to Mr. Cleveland about hiring you.”

“No problem
” I smiled. “I’m very sorry to hear about Miss Pringle, though. Was she sick?”

“It was unexpected.”

I reached for Ms. Cooke’s hands and squeezed. “That’s just horrible.”

Ms. Cooke nodded. “Thank you. It’s tragic, but I’m worried about the school. I don’t
want to see our students suffer from this loss.”

“Of course.” I dropped her hands and turned to pick up my portfolio bag.

“I’ll get you the fingerprint cards and forms for the background check. Drop them
off at your convenience.” She moved to stoop behind Miss Pringle’s desk, thumbed through
her file drawer, and returned with the forms.

I slipped them into my satchel. “Thank you, ma’am. Sorry again to hear about poor
Miss Pringle.”

I left Ms. Cooke in the small office and walked into the large reception area. Students
chatted in small groups and harried teachers trotted through, clutching reams of copies
in their arms. At the front desk, I eyed the woman who had sent me to poor Miss Pringle’s
office and wondered why no one had told her Miss Pringle would no longer take visitors.
The brunette did not have the khakis look. She had the sleek haircut, chunky jewelry,
and tasteful yet cleavage
baring top of someone who had never considered pursuing the not-for-profit world of

I stopped at the front desk and leaned a hip against the counter.

Mrs. Brunette raised a freshly waxed eyebrow and ran her eyes over
Bert and Ernie
. “Can I help you? Why aren’t you in uniform? Are you new?”

“I’m not a student. I’m Cherry Tucker, the artist. You just sent me to Mr. Cleveland’s

Mrs. Brunette turned slightly in her chair, enough to deliver the message that she
didn’t want to talk to me. “Right, I forgot. Did you need directions somewhere?”

“No, there’s something you need to know. It’s about sending folks into Miss Pringle’s

Mrs. Brunette sighed. “Yes?”

“Don’t do it anymore today.”

“Thank you,” she wiggled French manicured fingers in dismissal.

“Don’t you want to know why?” The funny thing about dismissing me, it makes me want
to stay. “Are you on staff here? You don’t look like a teacher.”

“Good Lord, no. I’m a parent. We’re required to volunteer and this is one of my days.”
She readjusted so I could get the full frontal. Her cleavage showed a lift and separate
appropriate for packaging bowling balls. Except she didn’t need a bra. “I’m Pamela
Hargraves. We live in Ballantyne.”

Ballantyne Estates was an exclusive, gated community in Aureate County. Ballantyne
culled folks who liked horse stables and golf course views with their country living.
That and easy interstate access to Atlanta. Although inside Forks County, Peerless
Day Academy hovered near the border of neighboring Aureate County because of a strange
bite chomped out of Forks County’s northwestern corner. A nibble almost taken from
the township of Line Creek, which ticked those city officials off to no end.

“I suppose a lot of students come from Ballantyne. Y’all aren’t too far from here.
Like a twenty minute drive?”

“Yes. There’s a bus, but my Kadence refuses to take it.”

“Of course she does.”

“We gave her a Volvo. Totally safe, but she’s not allowed to drive it until she’s

“I know how frustrating that is. I started driving my Grandpa Ed’s tractor when I
was twelve. I learned how to drive the
eep at fourteen. Stick shift, too. Used to take it out to the back forty to bring
in the cows. Seemed ridiculous I wasn’t allowed on the roads for another two years.”

Pamela cocked her head, unsure if I was serious. “Anyway, what did you need?”

“It’s Miss Pringle. She passed yesterday. So don’t send anyone to her room today.”

Pamela leaned forward, gripping my arm with her multi-ringed fingers. “No. Way. That
bitch is dead?”

I cleared my throat and gave her the stare my now deceased Grandma Jo had used when
I forgot my manners. “Yes, ma’am. Poor Miss Pringle.”

“Have you met Miss Pringle?” Pamela wrinkled her nose.

“No, but I know enough not to speak ill of the dead.”

“I should be sorry, but that woman made Kadence’s life miserable.”

I know this is where a better person should not give in to the call of gossip, particularly
since Pamela Hargraves didn’t seem to have a remorseful bone in her toned and botoxed
body, but sometimes I’m just not a better person. Instead, I grabbed a nearby chair
and scooted in next to her.

“What did Miss Pringle do to Kadence? I just assumed she was some kind of spinster
with love in her heart for children. I also figured her for the house full of cats

In my imagination, Miss Pringle secretly gave butterscotch candies to the troublemakers
leaving the principal’s office. She knew the troublemaker didn’t mean to bust Elvira

nose. Fists tended to fly when Elvira made comments about the troublemaker’s mother
and fatherless state.

“Spinster with love in her heart for children? Ha. Maranda Pringle never met a child
she liked,” said Pamela. “And I guess you could call her a spinster, but that’s by
choice. Her legs have trouble closing. Ask Principal Cleveland. And Coach Newcomb.
Actually, may as well ask some Peerless fathers, too.”

“Whoa. I guess she didn’t have a house full of cats either.”

Pamela turned in her chair. “Chantelle, can you grab me a yearbook?” She waited for
a young girl to flit to another part of the room, bring back the thick book, and return
to the corner where the girl and her friends loitered in matching gray plaid uniforms.

Flipping through the yearbook, Pamela stopped on the administration page and tapped
on a picture. “That is Maranda Pringle.”

The color photo showed a platinum blonde thirty-something with green eyes, an impish
smile, and gleaming white teeth.

“Not the Miss Pringle I had imagined,” I said.

“That woman made Kadence miserable. Those girls, too.” Pamela jerked her head to the
huddle of seventeen-year-olds in the corner. “They’re office helpers. Part of a work
experience class run by Mrs. Overmeyer. It’s hard for her to find students to work
in the office.”

“What did Miss Pringle do to the girls?”

“She’s plain ol’ mean. Snarky. Gives them crap jobs. Poor Kadence. One of her teachers
sent her to Principal Cleveland’s office. Said Kade talked too much in class and didn’t
pay attention or some nonsense. Miss Pringle had her in tears by the time Kadence
had to go in to speak to Cleveland.”

“What happened?”

“It’s not what Maranda Pringle said, it’s how she said it. The words didn’t matter.
Something about being pretty and popular and boys. Things that should be a compliment,
but when Maranda Pringle says them, they sound like a knife to the heart. Kadence
wanted me to take her out of Peerless and put her in public school. Can you imagine?”

Considering I had graduated from public school, I could not imagine. But I could understand
how pretty words could get twisted to sound ugly.

“Poor Kadence
,” I said. “
Why would the school keep Miss Pringle if she was so horrible to the students?”

“Well, she had Principal Cleveland eating out of her hand for one thing. And two,
she’s really good at her job. God, that cyberbullying thing last year really could
have blown up on them if it wasn’t for Maranda Pringle’s quick thinking.”

Pamela thumbed through the yearbook to the sophomore section and her finger landed
on another photo, this time a young girl. “This poor thing committed suicide last
year. We had a rough year, but Maranda Pringle saved the school.”

“I had no idea,” I said. “I vaguely remember hearing about a teen suicide, but I figured
she was a victim of depression or something.”

“Thanks to Miss Pringle, the news didn’t get much coverage and her parents were too
stricken to care. I would have yelled my head off if that had happened to Kadence,
but Ellis Madsen’s parents moved away instead.”

“Poor things.”

Pamela sniffed. “Raise your kids to be strong. When Miss Pringle made Kadence cry,
I told Kade she should not give a flying flip what some secretary thinks. These students
have to build a strong backbone for today’s world. Teens will always play head games,
but now they take that crap online.”

“Dang,” I said. “That reminds me of something. I have my own Miss Pringle to deal
with and I never thought about what could be happening online. My recent financial
situation has limited my Internet options. I haven’t checked my website or media pages
in a long time.”

“Don’t you have an app on your phone?” Pamela pulled out her bejeweled phone and slid
her finger across the screen. It brightened, and she tapped on a gleaming box. “I’ll
friend you, and we’ll see what’s on your wall.”

I spelled as Pamela thumbed my name into the question mark box, then peered over her
shoulder to view my page. “I have some messages from college friends. That’s nice.”

“You’ve also been tagged in a bunch of photos with this guy and girl. Aren’t they
a cute couple?” Pamela held the phone closer to her face, squinting. “Hang on, I want
to make the pictures bigger. Wow, he’s a looker.”

My stomach landed somewhere near my toes. “Dark curly hair, gray eyes, and dimples?
Body of a Greek God? Square jaw and chiseled cheekbones?”

“Oh yeah, although I can’t see the dimples.” Pamela enlarged the screen.

“Who tagged me?”

“A Shawna Branson. But you’re not in any of these pictures. Looks like the girl is
Tara Mayfield, but the guy doesn’t have an account. Wait, Shawna’s written his name
in the comments.”

“Luke Harper.”

“Yes. And the comment says, ‘Congratulations, Tara. You and Luke Harper are the perfect
couple. Don’t worry about that crazy ex-girlfriend, Cherry Tucker.

I chewed the inside of my cheek instead of saying what wasn’t appropriate for a school.

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