Mischief, mayhem and murder once again fill the streets of
Stoneham, New Hampshire in Lorna Barrett's CHAPTER &
HEARSE, the fourth book in her Booktown Mystery series.
Tricia Miles is a magnet for mystery and murder-- and
rightly so as the owner of "Haven't Got A Clue," the
mystery bookstore in a town noted for its bookstores. But
it's Tricia's wits and quick deduction skills that
come into play when the local history
bookstore is inexplicably blown to smithereens, killing
owner Jim Roth. Injured in the blast is Bob Kelly, head of
the Chamber of Commerce and Tricia's sister Angelica's
Although she is no big fan of Bob's, as a favor to Angelica,
Tricia begins checking into the cause of the
explosion, and she meets up with a cast of loony
characters. Roth's mother doesn't seem too
broken up over her only son's death. There is an ex-con
short-order cook with a sketchy past. A jilted girlfriend
mourns in her wedding attire. Tricia figures she must be on
the right trail when the evidence keeps leading her back to
the same set of clues, and right up to the steps of her
sister's cookbook store. This may be one whodunit that
Tricia wishes she couldn't solve.
Lorna Barrett's charming series, set in a town filled with
bookstores, is always guaranteed to be great reading.
Her latest installment, CHAPTER & HEARSE, is no exception.
Fans will enjoy the lively interaction among the
regular characters as they follow along while Tricia solves
yet another tricky murder case with a little help from her
favorite Sheriff's deputy. One of the leaders in the
bibliophile sub-genre of cozy mysteries, Barrett continues
to delight her faithful fans while picking up scores
of new ones along the way.
According to the gossip around Stoneham, New Hampshire,
Tricia Miles cannot put down a real murder mystery. After
all, the owner of the mystery bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue,
has been spending more time solving whodunits than reading
Tricia’s sister, Angelica, considers herself to be the next
celebrity chef. To celebrate her first cookbook, Angelica
hosts a launch party, but sadly the only guest is an
oversized cutout of herself. Worse than the lack of fans is
a nearby gas explosion that injures her boyfriend, Bob
Kelly, the head of the Chamber of Commerce.
Tricia’s never been a fan of Bob, but when she reads that
Bob is being tight-lipped about the “accident” and how it
killed the owner of the town’s history bookstore, it’s time
to take action. As the incriminating details emerge, Tricia
gets wrapped up in a murder that proves to be as
spine-tingling as the books that line her shelves…
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The poster on the Cookery's display window had
advertised the book signing for at least a month. Throngs
of people were supposed to be in evidence. A temporary cook
station had been assembled, with ramekins filled with diced
vegetables, chopped chicken, and spices all lined up like
props in a stage play.
Tricia Miles forced a smile and tried not to glance at
her watch. "Everything looks perfect," she said with a
cheer in her voice she didn't quite feel.
The "guest" author, her sister Angelica, stood behind
the cook station, head held high, although her eyes were
watery and her mouth trembled ever so slightly. Next to her
stood a larger than life-sized photo cutout of . . .
herself! The real Angelica was maybe five foot six in her
stockinged feet--the cutout was six feet tall, dressed in a
dark slacks and a white blouse, covered by a buff-colored
full-front apron with her name emblazoned across the front:
ANGELICA MILES, and beneath that, author of EASY DOES IT
Tricia tried to concentrate on the living Angelica, but
her gaze kept wandering to the cutout. It wasn't a good
likeness, but somehow Angelica had missed that when she'd
purchased the thing as an aid for promotion. Her rather
demented expression was one of perpetual surprise--either
that, or the victim of bad plastic surgery. With her
fingers splayed, the cutout reminded Tricia of a bird
spreading its bony wings. Yes, that was it--Angelica looked
like she'd been goosed. Either that, or the photographer
had coached her into an uncanny imitation of a constipated
The real Angelica spoke, her voice sounding
wobbly. "Nobody's going to come. Not one person."
"I'm here," said a smiling Ginny Wilson, Tricia's twenty-
something assistant at her mystery bookstore, Haven't Got a
"And I," said elderly Mr. Everett, Tricia's other part-
"Don't forget me," Frannie May Armstrong said in her
ever-present Texas twang. Angelica owned the Cookery,
Stoneham's cookbook store, although Frannie managed it for
her. Angelica also owned Booked for Lunch, a retro cafe
across the street. Writing cookbooks was just another entry
on her colorful resume.
Unfortunately, the village of Stoneham, known locally
as "Booktown," was more a tourist destination not far from
the New Hampshire/Massachusetts state line. Not many of the
locals supported the booksellers, who'd been recruited to
save what had been a dying village. Shops filled with used,
rare, and antiquarian books had done it, too, as evidenced
by new prosperity and a much-needed influx of tax revenue.
"Wasn't a busload of gourmands supposed to arrive for
the signing?" Mr. Everett whispered to Frannie.
"I got the call about an hour ago," she replied in
kind. "They cancelled, but asked for a rain check. They may
return some time next fall."
Tricia refrained from commenting. Thanks to the
Internet, Angelica had cultivated a relationship with
the "Gamboling Gourmets," who traveled New England
throughout the summer, tasting the local cuisines.
Tonight's signing was to be their first outing of the year,
and Angelica's launch party. She'd spent days preparing a
table full of desserts--all entries from her newly
published book, Easy-Does-It Cooking, which had been
officially available all of two days.
Angelica's cutout not withstanding, Tricia had expected
at least a few more warm bodies to attend the signing. Mr.
Everett's bride of eight months had come down with a cold,
which explained her absence, but surely the employees at
Angelica's café--Jake Masters the cook and Darcy Gebhard
the waitress--might have made an effort to be there. And
someone else was conspicuous by his absence.
"Anybody know where Bob is?" Frannie asked.
Bob Kelly, owner of Kelly Real Estate, and the president
of the local Chamber of Commerce, had been Angelica's
significant other for the past eighteen months--ever since
she'd come to live in Stoneham.
"I'm sure he'll have a perfectly reasonable explanation
for being late," Tricia lied. She and Bob weren't exactly
best friends, but she tried to overlook his many
shortcomings for her sister's sake.
"I saw his car parked down the street, near History
Repeats Itself," Ginny volunteered. "It's been there a
Angelica pouted. "He said he'd be here."
"There's still time," Tricia reassured her.
Angelica nodded, resigned, and tucked a lock of her
short, blonde hair behind her left ear. "Business hasn't
been good lately, and he's been preoccupied. It probably
just slipped his mind."
"I'm sure you're right," Tricia said, and hoped her nose
hadn't just grown an inch. For weeks, Angelica had done
nothing but talk about the event.
Frannie straightened the stack of unsigned books on the
side table, and everyone tried not to make eye contact with
Angelica as they waited in awkward silence for someone--
anyone--else to arrive. Finally, Ginny suggested Angelica
go ahead with her cooking demonstration.
"What's the point?" Angelica asked, defeat coloring her
"Well, it's almost seven thirty, and none of us has had
dinner. I can't be the only one eager to try your Hacienda
"Good old Tex-Mex--the best food on Earth," Frannie
piped up and sighed. "Next to a luau, that is." It was
Frannie's dream to some day retire to the fiftieth state.
Angelica gave a careless shrug and turned on the
Across the street, the newly installed gas lamps glowed.
The Board of Selectmen had approved the installation of the
old-fashioned streetlights in an effort to capitalize on
the town's history and its new lease on life. Tourists ate
up that kind of stuff, and the Board of Selectmen was eager
to do all it could to encourage their visits.
Unfortunately, when the bookstores closed, the visitors
disappeared, leaving no one to appreciate them.
Within minutes, Angelica had prepared the filling,
spooned it into corn tortillas, and passed them out to her
small--and hungry--audience. The desserts were then
sampled, and everyone sipped complementary coffee, not
making a dent in the contents of the five-gallon urn
borrowed from Angelica's café.
As Angelica served Mr. Everett another portion of
coconut cake, Tricia gave Ginny a nudge. "Buy a book," she
Ginny's eyes nearly popped. "They're thirty-four
dollars," she hissed. "I can't afford it."
"Use your charge card and I'll credit your account
tomorrow morning. I want Ange to make at least a couple of
Ginny shrugged. "If you insist." She set down her
Styrofoam cup, grabbed a copy of the coffee table-sized
book filled with glossy photos, and marched up to the cash
desk where Angelica stood, wringing her hands. "I don't
know about the rest of you, but I'm proud to be the first
to get my signed copy of Easy-Does-It Cooking."
Mr. Everett's nervous gaze shifted to Tricia. She
mouthed the words, Buy one--I'll pay you back.
"Uh, uh--let me be the second," Mr. Everett said.
Luckily, Angelica hadn't noticed the exchange. She
pressed a clenched hand to her lips, fighting back
tears. "You guys are just the best. Frannie, grab the
camera, will you?" Angelica said. Next, she played
director, carefully positioning Ginny with her back to the
camera, and posed. She shook Ginny's hand. She raised a
finger to make a point. She looked surprised--then serious,
and, ultimately, very silly. At last, Angelica reached for
her pen, wrote a few words on the flyleaf of Ginny's copy,
and signed her name with such a flourish that it was
completely illegible. Frannie kept snapping pictures as
Angelica handed the book to Ginny.
Ginny frowned. "Live free or diet?" Was Angelica mocking
the state motto?
"Yes, don't you think that's clever?" Angelica
said. "I'm going to sign that in all the books."
Though Ginny forced a smile, her voice was flat. "Go for
As Mr. Everett stepped up to have his book signed,
Tricia moved to look out the large display window that
overlooked Main Street. As Ginny had said, Bob's car was
parked near History Repeats Itself. Tricia's anger
smoldered. How inconsiderate of Bob to ignore Angelica's
very first signing. He had to know how much it meant to
Tricia glanced back at her sister and Mr. Everett, still
posing for Frannie. In a fit of pique, Tricia decided it
was time for action. She'd go find Bob and, if necessary,
drag him back to the Cookery by this thinning hair.
Besides, Angelica's photographic self was beginning to
creep her out.
Tricia took a Zen moment to calm herself before she
spoke. "I think I'll run out and see if I can find Bob,"
she told Angelica. "If his car is parked down the road, he
can't be very far away."
"I suppose," Angelica said. "But please hurry back to
help us pack up some of these desserts." She shook her
head, taking in the amount of leftover food. "I can't serve
all this at the café. Would you like to take some home,
"Would I? Hand me the cling wrap, will you?"
"Be right back," Tricia called and headed out the door.
The village was practically deserted, and Bob's car was
the only vehicle parked on the west side of Main Street.
Tricia crossed the street and started down the sidewalk.
Upon consideration, she decided she wouldn't berate Bob, at
least not in front of Jim Roth, owner of History Repeats
Itself. It wouldn't do to go ballistic with him as an
audience. Instead, her plan was to poke her head inside the
door and cheerfully ask if Bob hadn't forgotten another
engagement--and probably do it through gritted teeth.
The glowing gas lamps really did lend a quaint, old-
fashioned charm to the already picturesque storefronts.
While an expensive indulgence, they added to the village's
ambiance--especially outside of Haven't Got a Clue. It went
right along with the atmosphere she'd created, emulating
221B Baker Street in London.
Tricia was within two doors of History Repeats Itself
when she paused to look inside Booked For Lunch. Angelica
had done a wonderful job decorating the café. Heck, she'd
done a terrific job managing two businesses, and starting a
writing career. Not that Tricia had ever mentioned to
Angelica how proud she was of Angelica's accomplishments.
As it was, her swelled head could barely fit through a
Tricia took a step forward when she heard a phoomph. The
Earth shook as a shower of glass exploded onto the street,
and a rush of hot air enveloped her, the shock of it
knocking her to the ground.