"A southern cozy mystery with down to earth characters."
Reviewed by Teresa Cross
Posted July 28, 2020
Mystery | Thriller Serial Killer
I just found a new favorite cozy mystery series. I'm looking forward to reading each new adventure after the first in this Booklover’s B&B mystery series. BOOKED FOR DEATH by Victoria Gilbert is the first in this series. I already love the characters and their individual personalities that leave you wanting to read more. Easy to read and hard to put down, Gilbert created a B&B storyline that has a start that you can surely look forward to and room to add more. I love catching a new series in the beginning, especially when it is a strong one like this. You have your sweet main character who has suffered a great loss in her life, and is left with an inheritance that includes a B&B. You have the chef that has a temper but seems hard working, along with the lady who cooks the lunches and keeps the rooms clean that doesn’t seem to trust anyone. Add them with the neighbor, who I equally love, and the rest of the townspeople in the North Carolina area and you have a success for sure with this cozy mystery series!
In Beaufort, North Carolina, B&B owner Charlotte Reed - who inherited the place from her great aunt - has planned a week of book events for her guests in her beautiful bed and breakfast. All is going well until a book dealer claims to have dirty information on Charlotte’s great aunt that could destroy what she has built in her inn. The first night ends with a dead body and many suspects. With help from her neighbor, and friend of her once Great-Aunt Isabella, Charlotte is ready to prove her great aunt’s innocence, and to find a murderer before she is the next victim.
The pluses to this cozy series are, not only that it's based in North Carolina, but it is on the waterfront as well! The storyline itself is another reason to get hooked into reading BOOKED FOR DEATH. You will absolutely love the characters as they are down-to-earth, and the theme of the B&B is about books!! I cannot wait for the next book in this series by Victoria Gilbert.
A book lover's B&B in an idyllic waterfront village becomes the scene of a grisly murder--and a ruthless battle between treachery and the truth.
Nestled in the historic waterfront town of Beaufort, North Carolina, Chapters Bed-and-Breakfast is a reader's paradise. Built in 1770, the newly renovated inn hosts a roster of special events celebrating books, genres, and authors. It's the perfect literary retreat--until a rare book dealer turns up dead in the carriage house during a celebration of Golden Age mystery author Josephine Tey.
The victim's daughter points the finger at forty-two-year-old widow and former schoolteacher Charlotte Reed, who inherited the B&B from her great-aunt Isabella. Charlotte is shocked to discover that the book dealer suspected Isabella of being a thief who founded Chapters on her ill-gotten gains. Charlotte has successfully learned the B&B business in a year, but nothing has prepared her to handle a death on the premises.
Armed with intelligence and courage and assisted by her vibrant older neighbor, a visiting author, and members of a local book club, Charlotte is determined to prove her innocence and to clear her great-aunt's name. But the murderer is still at large, and equally determined to silence anyone who might discover the truth behind the book dealer's death. Now, Charlotte must outwit an unknown killer--or end up writing her own final chapter.
A ship may bob, safe at harbor, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t
experienced the wide world—or won’t again.
Shading my eyes with one hand, I surveyed the flotilla of
yachts and sailboats and skiffs anchored at the Beaufort, North
Carolina, docks. When people questioned my decision to become
an innkeeper in this historic waterfront town, I always told them
I was like those vessels—quiet and settled at the moment, but
still ready to sail off on a new adventure whenever I chose.
The morning sun swam in a sky streaked with ribbons of
pink and amber. Although I’d have preferred to linger, I needed
to leave the boardwalk and hike the few blocks to my home. It
was early morning—time for my workday to begin.
As the owner of Chapters, a local bed-and-breakfast, I wanted
to be present before any guests came down for breakfast. It was
one reason I always rose early. We served breakfast until ten, and
if I didn’t fit in my daily walk before our seven o’clock start, I
tended to get distracted and skip it altogether.
I strode up the narrow sidewalks, batting aside some lowhanging tree branches without thinking. I’d made this trek often enough to know when to avoid a slap in the face. Reaching Ann
Street, I turned left, passing a row of tree-shaded homes. As
always, my pace slowed as I admired the beauty of my neighborhood, where simple but elegant eighteenth-century houses were interspersed with mid-nineteenth-century cottages and
Chapters bed-and-breakfast was one of the oldest homes in
Beaufort. With a single triangular gable and white clapboard siding, it featured covered porches on both the main and upper levels. The shield-shaped historic designation plaque near the
delft-blue front door proclaimed that the house had been built in
1770. This was true, although one could quibble about the rambling addition that had been added at a later date. The addition was deep enough to be separated from the picket fence enclosing
the English garden only by a flagstone patio, but it was also narrow enough to render it invisible from the front. Many of our guests were shocked when they drove around to the parking lot
and realized the house’s true size. In fact, if I’d collected a dollar
for every time someone said, “It’s so much bigger than it looks
from the street,” I’d have amassed a tidy sum.
As I circled around the house to reach the staff entrance to
the kitchen, I noticed that the wax myrtles that lined the side of
the house had reached a height that would soon shadow the
kitchen windows. They’d need a good pruning in the fall. I mentally added this to my never-ending list of chores as I pushed open the back door and stepped into the bed-and-breakfast’s
Alicia Simpson, Chapters’ sixty-two-year-old housekeeper
and cook, stood at our commercial gas range, dubiously eyeing
the fish she held over a cast-iron frying pan. “Now, I ask you—
who eats this for breakfast?”
Although drawn by the aroma of strong coffee mingled
with the tangy scent of black tea, I halted my progress across
the kitchen. “Come on, you’ve done this sort of thing before.
I’m sure Great-Aunt Isabella hosted some literary events that
focused on British authors.” I stepped back to avoid the splatter of grease as Alicia dropped the fish into the pan. “Besides,this being a Josephine Tey celebration, we need to serve a full
English breakfast at least once. The guests expect that sort of
“But why this abomination?” Alicia, who was shorter than
me by a good five inches, turned and lifted her arm to wave
another kippered fish in my face.
“You’ve had smoked salmon on bagels before. It’s not that
different,” I said, while Alicia turned away again, muttering
about “dang fool notions.”
I crossed to one of our long work counters and lifted a silver
cloche off a white ceramic serving platter. Inhaling the smoky
aroma of cooked sausage and bacon, I glanced over at a foilcovered plate. That was probably the fried tomatoes. “All that’s left to do is the eggs?”
“And the toast. And finish frying up these dang fish,” Alicia
said, squaring her plump shoulders. Her dark hair, streaked with
gray the color and texture of steel wool, was caught up in a hairnet studded with multicolored plastic gemstones.
I smiled. Alicia always claimed that even though she was just
a housekeeper and cook, that didn’t mean she had to abandon all
sense of style.
Although, I thought, Alicia Simpson is hardly just an anything.
After running the bed-and-breakfast for over three decades—the
first thirty-five years for my great-aunt and the last one for me—I
suspected she was just as much an attraction as Chapters’ literarythemed guest rooms and extensive library.
I covered the bacon and sausage before leaning back against
the soapstone counter to survey the kitchen. Bright and airy,
with a twelve-foot-high beadboard ceiling, it was one of my
favorite rooms in the house. My great-aunt had remodeled the
original space when she’d converted her home into a bed-andbreakfast, adding commercial-grade appliances and other features that enhanced the kitchen’s functionality. But she’d
thankfully retained its traditional style. Plain white cabinets,
many with mullioned glass fronts, were fitted with black iron
hardware. Light spilling from the large windows set into the
pearl-gray walls sparkled off the bright-white subway-tile backsplash and stainless-steel appliances and sinks. A pair of French doors led to a large pantry that housed metal shelving, a standing
freezer, and our commercial-grade dishwasher.
“When is Damian supposed to arrive to start dinner?” I
asked, mentally bemoaning the complexity of the War of the
Roses–themed dinner party I’d planned to honor mystery author
Josephine Tey’s most famous story, The Daughter of Time. Of
course, I’d adjusted the menu to accommodate modern tastes—
no one wanted peacock or swan today—but we were serving
boar roasted with baked apples as one of the entrées.
“Not soon enough, I wager.” Alicia flipped the fish in the frying pan before turning to me. She swept her metal spatula through the air like a rapier. “He tends to overestimate his ability
to multitask, if you ask me.” She thrust the spatula in my direction. “And it doesn’t help when you have him cooking such complicated nonsense. Boar, for goodness’ sake. Who serves boar?”
“Richard the Third probably did, which is why it fits our
theme for tonight.” I bit my lower lip, considering the cost of the
meat, which I’d had to order in from a specialty provider. Hopefully, our freelance chef, Damian Carr, hadn’t been exaggerating when he’d claimed he could handle such a unique menu.
“Well, I just hope no one chokes on a bone from those pike,”
“I bought them already filleted.”
“Maybe, but that’s a fish with more bones than a cat has
whiskers, and the bones are just about that thin, too.” Alicia
deftly scooped the final kipper from the pan and flipped it onto
a pile of fish already layered on a serving plate. “Knowing how
fast he likes to work in the kitchen, I’m not trusting Damian to
check those fillets as carefully as he should.”
“I’ll look them over before he cooks them. But we’d better
focus on breakfast right now. I hear stirrings in the dining room,
which means at least some of our guests have already come
Alicia slapped the spatula against one palm. “Well, after the
ruckus they made last night, that bunch from Virginia can wait.”
I straightened and stepped away from the counter. “What
ruckus? I didn’t hear anything.”
“No, you wouldn’t have. It happened before you got back
from that party for your friend Julie.” Alicia shook her head. “I
almost had to say something, especially since that other lady, Ms.
Rowley—the one with the yacht—complained.”
“The Delamonts were making too much noise?” I frowned.
The family—bookdealer Lincoln Delamont, his wife Jennifer,
and their sixteen-year-old daughter, Tara—were three of the six
guests staying at Chapters for the week. “Was Tara playing her
music too loud?”
“No, it was the parents. Fighting like hens scrapping over a
last kernel of corn.”
“Really? What about?”
Alicia shook her head. “Didn’t hear much. Just a lot of yelling.
And before I could drag myself up the stairs to tell them to pipe down,
the whole thing apparently blew over. Anyway, they got quiet, so I just
left it alone. Although”—she turned back to the range—“I did pick
up a word or two. Something from the missus about cheating, which
doesn’t surprise me, given that fellow’s flirtatious behavior.”
“Oh?” I mulled this information, which fit with Lincoln
Delamont’s aggressively charming persona and well-groomed
A little too well groomed for my taste, I thought, experiencing
a pang as a vision of my late husband’s tousled hair and lazy
smile flashed through my mind. “I guess not all is well with that
marriage. Too bad, when they have a child . . .”
I closed my lips to silence my next words as that child bounded
into the kitchen, the dining room door slamming behind her.
“Any coffee yet?” Tara Delamont asked, popping a pair of
earbuds out of her ears.
She was all legs and arms and wide chestnut eyes. A girl just
this side of beautiful. A shore she will soon reach, I thought, when
she grows into that tall, slender frame.
“That’s served along with breakfast,” Alicia said, without
turning away from the range.
“But I just want coffee.” Tara’s lower lip jutted out.
I’d dealt with enough teenagers to know arguing over this
topic was a waste of time. “On the counter,” I said. “Mugs are in
the cabinet above the percolator.”
Tara grimaced as she stared at the silver urn. “That’s different.” She glanced back at me over one narrow shoulder. “So what, you just use that tab or something?”
“Yes, it’s just like a water cooler,” I said, hoping she’d experienced one of those. “We do have a single-cup coffee machine, if you prefer using that.”
“Nah, this is fine.” Tara grabbed a white ceramic mug from
the cabinet and filled it with coffee from the percolator. “It’s
pretty cool, actually.”
“Everything old is new again,” I said, and smiled as Tara
flashed me a grin.
A good kid. I hope she isn’t going to be too hurt by her parents’
problems. The knowledge that this was unlikely sobered me. I’d
spent eighteen years as a high school teacher. I knew the damage
family issues could cause in the lives of young people.
“Thanks,” Tara said as she left the kitchen, cradling her mug
to her chest.
“Children these days.” Alicia cracked eggs into a large metal
bowl. “It’s a wonder they don’t all grow up stunted, the way they
eat. Or don’t,” she added, furiously whisking the eggs.
“They seem to survive somehow,” I replied, fluffing my short
cap of hair. I knew better than to argue with Alicia on this
subject. As on many others, I thought with a grin. “Anyway, I suppose I’d better greet the guests.”
I tugged the hem of my cranberry blouse down over my black
slacks. After experimenting with wardrobe choices when I’d first
taken over Chapters, I’d found that adopting an elegant simplicity was my best option. A flowing silk or linen-blend blouse paired with plain cotton or wool trousers was always my best bet.
I needed to look put-together, but not too fussy.
Walking into the dining room, I called out “Good morning”
and reminded myself to smile. Knowing guests liked a cheery hostess, I’d trained myself to smile more frequently. It wasn’t too difficult—I’d also learned to project a pleasant but tough attitude
when I’d taught high school English. This was just a different mask.
“Hello,” said a tall, lean woman in her mid-thirties. She was
seated at one of the three round tables in the dining room, wearing a tight tank top that showed off her well-toned arms. Her lightly tanned skin still held a sheen of perspiration from what I
suspected was an early-morning run.
The husky man seated beside her was at least twenty years
older. His cropped white hair gleamed in vivid contrast to his
weathered face. Todd Rowley looked like someone who’d spent
too much time in the sun, which wasn’t surprising, given his selfproclaimed love of sailing. “Good day, Ms. Reed,” he said. “I hear we have a full English breakfast today.”
“Yes, and it’s just about ready. But please, call me Charlotte.
I may be the proprietor of Chapters, but we don’t stand on ceremony here.”
“Good, so you can call me Todd,” the man replied, with a
“And Kelly,” the woman chimed in, tossing her long braid of
golden-brown hair behind her shoulders.
I studied the couple for a moment. Todd Rowley was a fiftyseven-year-old entrepreneur who owned a lovely yacht named the
Celestial, currently docked at the Beaufort harbor. His much
younger wife—his third, if what I’d heard was true—had once
been a track star and had, according to her comments at the previous evening’s cocktail party, almost made the U.S. Olympic team.
Almost. I examined Kelly’s intelligent face. She had a natural
beauty that most would envy, but I detected a well of sadness in
those lovely hazel eyes. As if her life was all about that “almost,” I
thought, with sympathy. It was a situation I understood. I’d
almost led a different life as well—filled with love, and children,
and . . . I shook my head. No, I couldn’t dwell on such things.
“Had a good run this morning?” I asked brightly.
“Oh yes,” Kelly Rowley replied. “Surprisingly, the streets
were uncrowded. I heard there was a major fishing tournament
going on over in Morehead City and was afraid Beaufort would
be packed full of visitors this week.”
“Oh, they’re here. They just tend to head over to the Big
Rock tournament early. You’ll run into a lot more people later in
the day, when they come back to their inn or hotel rooms,” I said,
as a tall, lanky man entered the room. “Hello, Scott.”
“Hi.” The man ran his hand through his silver-threaded
auburn hair. “How’s everyone this fine day?”
“Great,” Kelly said, flashing him a bright smile. “It’s Scott
Kepler and you’re an author, right? I hope I remember that correctly from last night. I’m afraid I might’ve had one too many glasses of wine.”
“Nonsense,” said her husband. “I’m the one who was a bit
tipsy, as I recall.”
“Yes, I’m Scott Kepler and a writer,” the new arrival said,
laugh lines crinkling his brown eyes. “And I don’t recall either
one of you being noticeably under the influence, so not to worry.”
“You’re not here for the Tey event, though,” Todd said, looking Scott up and down. “At least that’s what I thought you said.”
“See, you remember.” Scott tapped his temple with one finger. “No, I’m out in the carriage house. I rent that space from time to time to work on my book.”
“Something about pirates, isn’t it?” Kelly asked.
“Exactly. Soon to be a major best seller.” Scott arranged his
elastic features into a humorous expression. “And if you believe
that, I’ve got a pristine stretch of beach to sell you.”
Todd Rowley laughed. “Might take a pass on that. Sounds a
Scott grinned as he took a seat at the adjoining table. “Smart
“Good timing, Scott. Breakfast’s almost ready,” I said.
Alicia poked her head around the door. “A hand with the
food if you don’t mind, Charlotte?”
I helped Alicia serve the platters of food before retreating to the
kitchen again to allow the guests to eat without someone hovering
over them. When I returned to the dining room a little while later,
I noticed that the three guests had apparently enjoyed the breakfast, judging by the empty plates. Although they’d studiously avoided the kippers, which would undoubtedly please Alicia.
As I cleared the dirty plates and platters, another couple
strolled into the dining room.
“Good morning,” said a short woman with a halo of curly
dark hair framing her round face. “I hope we aren’t too late.”
“Oh no, we serve until ten,” I replied. “I’ll just tell Ms.
Simpson to cook another batch of everything.”
“Sounds good.” The man following Jennifer Delamont into
the dining room was of average height and build but exuded an
air of confidence that made him appear taller.
Larger than life, I thought, with a wry smile. I managed a
pleasant “Good morning” as Lincoln Delamont held out a chair
for his wife. Lincoln’s blond hair, slicked back from his broad forehead, along with his fine-boned features and large, deep-set blue eyes, lent him the air of a middle-aged F. Scott Fitzgerald. I thought
this was probably a calculation rather than a coincidence.
Kelly shoved back her chair and stood up. “Todd, we should
be getting along if we want to tour some local sites before tonight’s
“Oh, right,” Todd said, standing to join her. “I do want to
check out the Maritime Museum and the Watercraft Center.”
“And the shops,” Kelly added, casting him a smile.
“Of course, and the shops.” Todd slipped one hand through
his wife’s bent arm. “How could I forget the shops?”
“Let us know if you want a bag lunch to take along,” I said.
“That’s part of your package deal. You can even put in an order
and pick it up later if you wish.”
“Hostess with the mostess,” Lincoln said, giving me a wink.
I ignored him, irritated at his attempt to charm. “Just don’t
forget that the War of the Roses party is tonight. Costumes are
optional but encouraged, and we’ve planned a lovely homage to
the fifteenth century in the menu.”
“Looking forward to it,” Todd Rowley said, as he escorted his
wife to the door. “Ready, dear?”
“Absolutely. The shops await,” Kelly said with a smile, before
they sailed out of the room.
Scott leaned back in his chair. “A costume party? Sounds like
fun, but I have another engagement. Of course, to be honest, I’m
not really a part of the Tey celebration, so I guess I can be forgiven for my absence.”
“Yes, you’re excused, but no one else.” I kept my tone light. I
never wanted to force my guests to participate in an activity.
Their payment for the event, which ran from Saturday to Saturday after a Friday evening check-in, included the dinner party, but if they wished to skip it, that was their choice. “We do have
some local people attending the party, so there are plenty of participants even if you can’t come, Scott. Although you are welcome, of course.”
“I, for one, wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Lincoln said. “I
have the perfect costume, which I certainly don’t want to waste.”
“Let me guess,” I said. “Richard the Third?”
“Oh no.” A slow smile spread over Lincoln’s face. “That’s
much too expected. No, I plan to represent his eventual adversary, Henry the Seventh.”
“Siding with the opposition—the House of Tudor against
the House of York?” Scott stood up and tossed his napkin onto
the linen tablecloth.
Lincoln sat back in his chair. “The Tudors won.”
“But even that line didn’t last,” Scott observed. “Still, your
choice is unique, so good for you.”
Jennifer tapped her chin with one finger. “According to Tey,
Henry was the villain who killed the young princes.”
Lincoln shrugged. “Who knows the truth of that story? Tey
had her opinions, but nothing has ever been proven.”
“At any rate, I hope you’ll all have a good time tonight, virtually traveling back in time just as Tey’s Detective Grant did,” I said, as Alicia appeared with fresh eggs and other items and
plopped them down in front of Lincoln and Jennifer.
“Full English breakfast,” she said. “Enjoy.”
Lincoln lifted his fork. “Thank you. Now, once more into the
breach . . .”
I turned aside, swallowing a remark about the inappropriateness of his quote. Because, as far as I knew, no one was at war, or in any danger of death.
Of course, as later events soon proved, I was quite wrong in
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