Title: A Trifling Murder
Author: Jo A. Hiestand
Genre: Cozy Crime
Not another death in Beaudin Trace. Not at the Robert Burns Birthday Celebration. The bakery will never survive this one... It was all Kate could think of while the bagpipes blared and the caterers served up the haggis, neeps, and trifle. I'll never survive, either, not with my knife as the murder weapon. But how can I convince anyone I'm innocent? The fight to clear herself from the suspicion of murder isn't as smooth as Scotch whisky, however. But she finds her help in an unlikely source: a slightly nutty songwriter and his Scottie dog. The help is comforting. Afterall, murder is no trifling matter.
The skirl of the bagpipes, accompanied by the staccato tenor notes of a dog's barking, died as the caterer placed the haggis on the head table. She stepped back, as though in homage to Scotland’s national dish, and waited for the Society’s president to give the welcome and traditional Address to the meaty main course. Everyone in the room appeared to be waiting, tumblers of whisky poised for the salute. Even the pipers looked ready to play again. And the Scottie dog seemed to be about to launch into a new volley of yaps.
Forty-year-old Kate Dunbar, resplendent in a starched white apron, navy blue slacks and shirt, and ankle-high black boots, stood near the kitchen door of the large room, watching the proceedings. Nearly four dozen people gathered in the town’s community center this evening to celebrate Robert Burns Night. It was an annual event, quite popular in the small Missouri town of Beaudin Trace, and helped to break the monotony of the wintry months. The group, seated at nine long tables comprising the letter E, was comprised of varying degrees of Scottishness and varying degrees of zeal about that Scottishness. Some of the attendees claimed one hundred percent Scottish ancestry. Some, including Kate, had Scottish genes mixed with other nationalities. All, however, had assembled for the traditional dinner to honor Burns on his birthday.
Even though Kate could, by the Society’s prerequisite, have shown up as a member of the group, she attended the event this evening in a professional capacity. Her bakery supplied the desserts for the celebration. But she showed pride in her heritage by sporting the Dunbar clan tartan as a ribbon in her hair. It didn’t matter to her that it was inconspicuous against the majority of kilted guests. Who would even notice the subdued red, green, and black of the Dunbar tartan against the masses of intense reds, bold blues, and brilliant greens of other clans’ modern sett colors? Just wearing the ribbon warmed her with Scottish pride.
Scott Munro, a middle-aged man of average height and giving the impression of being encased in tartan cloth, stood up. He held a large kitchen knife, dramatically poised over the haggis, but made no move to use it. Instead, he looked around the room, as though noting the people who were there. He cleared his throat before taking a breath. His voice matched his demeanor, confident and imposing, and--although not booming--rang with a mixture of authority and passion. “Robert Burns, that great man and national poet of Scotland, was born on this night, January twenty-fifth, in 1759. I shan’t wax lyrical about him, for most of you already know of his life. If you don’t, you can read about him online. But we are carrying on a tradition centuries old this evening and, as such, are a link in this long chain that winds back to his native land. It is an important and historical chain, I might add, for not only are we connected to Scotland through our birthday dinner celebration this evening, but also we are tied to other Scots around the world who are also observing his birth. And to that I say sláinte.” He raised his glass to toast the poet’s health, while his sentiment was echoed throughout the room.
“And now, to get down to one of the main highlights of the evening...whisky by no means taking a back seat to him...” He smiled as people laughed, then began reciting ‘Address to a Haggis’. He’d begun the second stanza when he lurched sideways. He grabbed the edge of the table as if to steady himself. As he did, his left hand brushed against the tumbler of whisky at his place and knocked it over. The liquid arched upward and outward before it plopped onto the empty plate of the woman sitting beside him. As the liquor gushed over the plate’s edge, she yelped and stood up.
“Watch what you’re doing!” The unfortunate victim grabbed her napkin and tried to blot the wet spots on her blouse.
Scott turned to face her, his face a picture of remorse. “Erin, dear, I’m so sorry. My ankle buckled and I lost my balance. I hope your clothing will be all right." He peered at her white silk blouse. "Please, send me the dry cleaning bill.”
Erin Joubert, the recipient of Scott’s accident, glared at him, her dark eyes throwing daggers as sharp as the knife he held. “At least it didn’t splatter onto my kilt skirt. Just be careful, please.” She sat down and laid the napkin on the edge of the table. Across the room, the Scottie dog joined her in protest.
“Certainly. I’ve been having trouble with my leg lately and—” He broke off as he seemed to lose his balance again. As he clutched at anything to check his fall, he dropped the carving knife. The handle hit the spoon beside his plate and sent it flying. It smacked Erin’s chest before it fell onto her lap.
She shoved back her chair as she got to her feet. Her stare shifted from her blouse to Scott's face, and her voice rose to match the angry flush surging up her neck. “Hurling the spoon at me is bad enough. You could’ve hurt me with that knife if it had gone airborne.”
Scott winced and wiped his hand over his mouth. “Technically, I didn't hurl the spoon at you." He enunciated the verb, speaking slowly and distinctly and giving it more emphasis than the other words. "It accidentally dislodged from its innocent placement and unfortunately your...chest...was in the path of the trajectory."
"Hurled. Flung. Heaved. Choose which clash you like. The outcome is the same. It hit me. "
It’s a brand-new year, full of possibilities. Did you make any resolutions/goals for 2022? If so, please share one.
Take at least a half week's break between finishing a book and beginning a new one.
Why is your featured book a must-read in 2022?
Harold Gibler, the wacky songwriter, is a great character. He takes his song writing very seriously although readers think he's funny. He owns a Scottie dog, who sort of steals the scenes she's in. I think Scottie lovers, or dog lovers in general, will warm to her and enjoy the read. Plus, I think it's a good story!
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon US or Canada gift card
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon CA account to win.
Runs January 1 – 31, 2022.
Drawing will be held on February 1, 2022.
Jo A. Hiestand grew up on regular doses of music, books, and Girl Scout camping. She gravitated toward writing in her post-high school years and finally did something sensible about it, graduating from Webster University with a BA degree in English and departmental honors. She writes two British mystery series—of which three books have garnered the prestigious N.N. Light’s Book Heaven ‘Best Mystery Novel’ three years straight. She also writes two Missouri-based mystery series that are grounded in places associated with her camping haunts. The camping is a thing of the past, for the most part, but the music stayed with her in the form of playing guitar and harpsichord and singing in a folk group. Jo carves jack o’ lanterns badly; sings loudly; and loves barbecue sauce and ice cream (separately, not together), kilts (especially if men wear them), clouds and stormy skies, and the music of G.F. Handel. You can usually find her pulling mystery plots out of scenery—whether from photographs or the real thing.
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