Title: Decorated to Death
Author: Debby Grahl
Genre: Cozy Mystery
The historic town of Newcomsville, with its unique shops, quaint eateries and cozy inn, is getting ready for their third annual Christmas tour of decorated homes. A festive holiday mood engulfs the town’s residents, but greed, betrayal, blackmail and murder lie beneath the gentle mantle of new-fallen snow.
Police Chief Alex Mackenzie, the village’s one-man police force, has his hands full when his wife, Abigail, out for an early morning jog, discovers a dead body decorated as a Christmas display. As the investigation unfolds, it is revealed that during the late hours of the night of the murder a number of Newcomsville’s quirky citizens weren’t home sleeping innocently in their beds.
A dead body isn’t all that’s in store for Alex. A local bank officer is missing along with much of the bank’s deposits. Alex’s investigation takes him from the Cork & Bottle Inn, to Indulgence Salon, Flap Jacks Café, Yesteryears Antiques, and Two Bits Barbershop before Santa in his big red sleigh arrives just in time to help Alex discover the murderer as the next victim is about to meet their fate.
The congenially festive mood at the Mackenzie Thanksgiving dinner table was not at all in evidence at the Butterfield home up on the ridge.
Actually, if looks could kill, one of Victoria’s guests would have slid silently from his chair onto the thick Aubusson carpet and for evermore been silent.
Victoria inwardly sighed. The only thing I’ll be thankful for is that this dreadful day should end. She momentarily closed her eyes, willing away the headache which had begun at breakfast with the arrival of Agatha looking like a poor imitation of Carmen Miranda. She gazed around her elegant dinner table at her guests. It’s incomprehensible to me how Samantha can tolerate that drunken, disagreeable, vulgar Carl Edwards. She watched as he emptied another bottle of wine into his glass. I certainly can understand why Pauline looks as if she just discovered something rather offensive on her shoe every time she looks at him.
A loving smile touched Victoria’s face as she gazed at her son Charles. The smile vanished when she realized Agatha was still wearing that dreadful hat. With her headache increasing by the minute, Victoria silently reminded herself that for some inexplicable reason Charles was besotted with the woman.
Victoria was seated at the foot of the massive cherrywood dining room table which was covered with Irish linen and laid with Royal Doulton china and heavy antique silver. The crystal glasses sparkled softly beneath the exquisite Baccarat chandelier.
Henry was seated at the table’s head. To his right sat their daughter-in-law Agatha and her husband Charles. Next came Henrietta and her friend Stewart, seated to Victoria’s left.
I’m so glad they’re enjoying each other’s company. They make such a delightful pair. At least we can count on both of them for some intelligent dinner conversation, Victoria thought.
On Henry’s left sat Pauline Silverspoon, a tall slim attractive woman in her late seventies with a rather formidable disposition. Pauline’s short auburn hair was streaked with gray, and at the moment her clear green eyes were shooting daggers at her grand-son-in law Carl seated next to her, his wife Samantha on his left.
“Shall we remove the salad plates and serve the main dishes, Miss Victoria?” Annie Stokes, the Butterfield cook, asked.
“Yes, Annie, that would be fine. Mr. Henry will carve the turkey if you would please bring in the other dishes.”
“Hey, Annie, tell Brooks to bring more wine,” Carl slurred, “This bottle’s empty.”
“Carl, don’t you think you’ve had enough for now?” Samantha asked in a quiet voice.
“Hell, no, I haven’t had enough,” Carl replied in a biting tone which would have been hard for anyone at the table to miss. “It’s Thanksgiving, and I’m celebrating ev-er-y-thing I have to be thankful for. Would you like to hear what all I’m thankful for, my dear wife?”
“Here’s Annie with the turkey,” Agatha interjected. “Doesn’t old Tom Turkey look yummy? I’d like a drumstick please, Papa-in-law.”
Victoria didn’t miss the grateful smile Samantha gave Agatha or the mortification in her eyes.
“Finally, here’s Brooks with the wine,” Carl said. “Put it down right here, my good man.”
The glare Victoria gave Carl should have turned him to stone on the spot, but being oblivious to everyone around him he happily filled his glass.
Victoria knew her husband well enough to see his patience was about at an end. He scowled at Carl and began carving the turkey filling everyone’s plates which were soon heaped with turkey, dressing, and wonderful-smelling side dishes. To Victoria’s relief, the meal progressed in merciful quiet for a time.
Henry finally broke the silence. “Stewart, I understand you’ve received a shipment of new books. Are there any I’d be interested in for my rare book collection?”
Before Stewart had a chance to answer, Carl scoffed, “Henry, you’ve got to be kidding. How could you think you’d find a rare book in that dusty old store? Maybe a tattered old paperback or two.”
Henrietta visibly bristled in outrage. “I’ll have you know, Stewart not only carries the latest releases, but his selection of the classics, including a number of rare books, is quite impressive.”
“In order to know that, Henrietta, one would have to occasionally emerge from a bottle and enter establishments other than taverns,” Pauline said.
Samantha, her eyes blazing, turned to Carl, but before she could speak, Agatha said, “Henrietta, don’t you just love my new hat? I bought it at that delightful shop of Abigail’s.”
Henrietta smiled. “It’s really quite something. I also enjoy Abigail’s shop, especially the antique jewelry. In fact, I decided to treat myself to an early Christmas present, a beautiful broach that belonged to her grandmother.”
Carl sneered. “Agatha, that has to be one of the ugliest hats I’ve ever seen you wear, and believe me you wear some ugly hats. Besides, isn’t it in poor taste to wear a hat at the dinner table? But I doubt you were taught proper etiquette in backstreet Atlantic City hotel rooms.”
An audible gasp was heard around the table as Agatha’s large happy face suddenly crumpled. For the first time since she’d met her, Victoria’s heart went out to Agatha for she seemed on the brink of tears.
What I love most about the holiday season:
I love decorating my house, listening to holiday music, watching holiday movies, and having family and friends stop by.
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Debby Grahl lives on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, with her husband, David. Besides writing, she enjoys biking, walking on the beach and a glass of wine at sunset. Her favorite places to visit are New Orleans, New York City, Captiva Island in Florida, the Cotswolds of England, and her home state of Michigan. She is a history buff who also enjoys reading murder mysteries, time travel, and, of course, romance. Visually impaired since childhood by Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), she uses screen-reading software to research and write her books.
Her first published book, The Silver Crescent, won the Paranormal Romance Guild Reviewers’ Choice award. Her second book, Rue Toulouse, a contemporary romance set in New Orleans, was a finalist in the National Excellence in Romantic Fiction Award and was selected as a May, 2016, ‘local read’ by Hilton Head Monthly.
Decorated to Death is a holiday mystery cozy. She also has stories in three anthologies, The Haunted West, Never Fear/Christmas Terrors; and Ebb and Flow from the local Island Writers’ Network.
Debby was featured in the January, 2016, Hilton Head Monthly article ‘Intriguing People of the Lowcountry’. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Florida Romance Writers, and First Coast Romance Writers.
Her latest book, His Magic Touch, was released December 5, 2018, by Wild Rose Press.
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