Table of Contents
Gourmet Girl Mysteries
by Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant
TURN UP THE HEAT
Dog Lover’s Mysteries by Susan Conant
A NEW LEASH ON DEATH
DEAD AND DOGGONE
A BITE OF DEATH
PAWS BEFORE DYING
GONE TO THE DOGS
THE BARKER STREET REGULARS
THE WICKED FLEA
BRIDE AND GROOM
GAITS OF HEAVEN
Cat Lover’s Mysteries by Susan Conant
SCRATCH THE SURFACE
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This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
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.
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.
Copyright © 2009 by Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
eISBN : 978-1-440-68717-4
1. Carter, Chloe (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Cooks—Fiction. 3. Boston (Mass.)—
Fiction. I. Conant, Susan, 1946- II. Title.
For Melissa, a friend for life
For contributing mouthwatering recipes, we thank Angela McKeller, Ann and Michel Devrient, Meg Driscoll, Josh and Jen Ziskin, Nancy R. Landman, Barbara Seagle, Raymond Ost, Bill Park, and Dwayne Minier.
And for testing some of those recipes, we thank Mary Fairchild, Gina Micale, and Rita Schiavone
For detailing icky restaurant health code violations, we thank Deborah M. Rosati, R.S., food safety consultant.
Many thanks to Natalee Rosenstein and Michelle Vega from Berkley Prime Crime and to our agent, Deborah Schneider.
And for rescuing the real Inga, Jessica thanks her husband, Bill, who knew that the starving, neglected Persian would be the perfect addition to our home.
I peeked in the rearview mirror of my car, touched up my lip gloss, and ran my hands through my hair. I was, after all, going to be on television, so I had every excuse in the world to double-check my appearance. Okay, well, it was actually my boyfriend, Josh, who was going to be on television. Still, I was going to be in the vicinity of the taping of a television show, and if the camera just so happened to find its way to me, I had to be prepared. My hair disagreed; far from behaving itself, it was doing everything it could to fight the anti-frizz and straightening products that I had slathered on this morning. I got out of the car, slammed the door, and cursed Boston’s triple-
weather: hazy, hot, humid. I should’ve taken my friend Adrianna’s advice about wearing my hair curly. I had taken her advice, however, about wearing a cute, if uncomfortable, outfit. I tugged at the hem of my lime green and sky blue retro-print dress and tried to smooth out the wrinkles that had developed during the drive. And these darn toeless pumps that matched the green in the dress were going to be hell; I could already feel my big toe whining about being squashed.
You have to suffer to be beautiful, you have to suffer to be beautiful,
I repeated to myself.
The parking lot of the upscale grocery store, Natural High, was moderately full for four o’clock on a Monday afternoon in late August. I was there—on location, as I liked to think of it—because Josh had been invited to participate in a local cable reality TV show called
I was tagging along, but Josh was one of three local chefs competing to win the prize of starring in a new eight-part cooking show. The other two contestants were Josh’s friend Digger and a woman named Marlee.
was scheduled to have nine episodes, three for each chef, with the contestants competing in rotation. Josh, Digger, and Marlee had each filmed one episode. Today was Josh’s second turn. When all nine episodes had aired, viewers were going to call in to vote for the winner. Each episode followed the chef contestant into a grocery store, where the chef approached a shopper and persuaded the surprised stranger to participate in the show. The chef then selected and bought food and accompanied the shopper home to cook a gourmet meal. The hope was that the chosen shopper would have a spouse or partner at home, an unsuspecting person who’d provide moments of drama by expressing astonished delight—or filmworthy rage, maybe—when the TV crew burst in.
considering that the cable station, Boston 17, provided one producer-director, Robin, and one cameraman, Nelson, the term struck me as a bit generous. Also, the premise of
hit me as disconcertingly similar to the premise of a big-time national program hosted by a hot Australian chef, but when I’d told Josh that Robin was copycatting, he’d brushed me off.
Still, my boyfriend’s first episode had gone well in spite of an unexpected challenge. Because the “lucky shopper,” as Robin called her, turned out to have numerous food allergies, Josh had been forced to cook an incredibly simple seared fish fillet with practically no seasoning. To his credit, instead of throwing up his hands in frustration, he had used the episode to showcase his technical culinary skills, and he’d taught his shopper and the audience how to break down a whole fish and cook it perfectly. Nonetheless, I was hoping that today he’d find a truly adventurous eater. I hadn’t been present for the taping of Josh’s first show. When Robin had given me permission to watch today’s taping, she’d made me swear that I wouldn’t make Josh nervous. I’d given her my promise.
The location, Natural High, was an elite market in the Boston suburb of Fairfield, which our local papers always described as the wealthiest community in Massachusetts. As the store’s name suggested, its specialty was organic produce, but it also sold fresh meat and seafood. As the automatic doors opened and I stepped in, I felt a surge of irritation at the show for what was obviously a search for wealthy guest shoppers. It seemed to me that the people for whom it would be a big treat to take a chef home were middle-income and low-income shoppers at ordinary supermarkets. The station, however, evidently preferred to have a good chance of shooting in a lavish-looking house with a luxurious, well-equipped kitchen. I consoled myself with the thought that Natural High did have a few advantages. The butcher at the meat counter, a guy named Willie, was the brother of my friend Owen, so at least Willie would get some airtime, and Josh was hoping to stop at a nearby cheese and wine shop run by Owen and Willie’s brother Evan.
I found Josh huddled close to Robin in the produce section of the market, where both were scanning for a desirable shopper.
“Found any victims yet?” I placed my hand on Josh’s lower back.
“Hey, babe.” He grinned and then gave me a quick kiss. Clearly fired up for today’s filming, Josh was wearing his white chef’s coat from the restaurant where he worked, Simmer, and his gorgeous blue eyes twinkled with energy. Josh usually left his dirty blond hair to its own devices—a look I found adorable—but today he had obviously spent a little time in the mirror styling his waves. As delicious as he looked in person, Josh had managed to look even yummier on TV, as if his enthusiasm for the competition had seeped into the camera. Although he wrapped his arm around me and pulled me in tightly, he continued looking at Robin’s clipboard.
“Hi, Robin,” I said to the producer.
Robin whipped her long brown ponytail to the side without dislodging her headset. She gave me a curt smile. “Chloe. I didn’t know you’d be here today. Nice to see you.”
She did so know I was going to be here! “Nice to see you, too.”
Robin looked back down at her clipboard and began frantically writing as she talked. “Okay, Josh, so I’d prefer to find a male shopper this time. We’ve already had three women. And he has to be camera friendly. Since we don’t have hair and makeup people, it’s got to be someone attractive. And find out about his kitchen. We don’t want to end up in some hellhole with cockroaches and no cooking equipment.” Robin’s sharp voice matched her appearance: a small, pinched nose; perpetually squinty eyes; and pursed lips. She had a very thin, dainty frame, and her no-nonsense clothes fell shapelessly on her body.
Josh and Robin started peering around the store again. When I stepped aside to let them work, I bumped into Nelson, the cameraman, and nearly toppled over.
“Um, hi, Nelson.” I stared into the big black lens of his camera, which was pointed directly at me. The light shining from the camera made me squint.
Nelson briefly leaned out from behind the camera to beam at me. “Hi, Chloe.”
Nelson, who was in his early thirties, had a prematurely bald head so shiny that I longed to pat his scalp with blotting paper or dust it with talc. His eyes formed two perfect circles, as though they’d been drawn on his face by a first-grader. He was close to six feet tall, and his bulky build must have made it easy for him to carry the heavy camera.