Murder by Numbers by @TonyaWrites is a Cozy Mystery Event pick #cozymystery #99cents #99c #giveaway
Title: Murder by Numbers
Author: Tonya Penrose
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Our two zany sleuths, Page and Betsy, return in Book 3, landing another twisty murder case. The two cousins stop by The Perk Coffee Shop for pumpkin lattes to celebrate the first day of fall. An ever-observant Page notices Shell Isle's High School math teacher sitting nearby. His odd actions awaken her curiosity. Hunched over the newspaper's classified section, the teacher is frantically circling numbers and mumbling to himself. More troubling, the sleuth witnesses a bruiser of a guy joining him. With a quick exchange of laptops and heated words, the thug disappears out the door, leaving the teacher rattled. Immediately, Page gets one of her inklings, signaling there's more than coffee brewing at The Perk.
The story's twisty plot will keep readers guessing until the last chapter. Splashes of light romance, plenty of shenanigans, and a few unexpected surprises await. BONUS: Betsy's recipes are included. Calling them a 'bonus' may be a stretch. She's a lousy cook.
A smile dressed Page’s face as she held The Perk Coffee Shop’s door open for her cousin, Betsy. “What’s got you all sappy, happy and crooning some unrecognizable tune?”
Betsy spun around. “Well, for starters, I feel sappy happy because we’ve made it through the rest of the summer without you snagging another murder mystery for us to solve. Plus, we’ve been able to focus on growing our new business venture at Honey Bees. My life has actually felt normal the last couple of months, not chasing after baddies. And don’t you do anything to change it.” Betsy tugged the brightly-flowered Mumu over her generous hips and, with a wink, sauntered inside.
Page followed her to the coffee bar. “Duly noted, Bets, but when I get an inkling, you know—”
“For once, ignore any more of those trouble-making inklings. We’re all about living the good life at Shell Isle with plenty of beach time.” Betsy’s flushed face complemented her auburn wavy hair. Once upon a time called willowy, her figure now testified to her enjoyment of their Honey Bees Shop’s many baked delectables.
“Is there more to this sharing?” Page tucked her sunglasses into her handbag.
“Of course. I’m a cornucopia of words. Nice image for the harvest season, huh?” Betsy did a mock preening.
“The best. No finer. Pray continue. The barista is waiting for our order. I fear we’ll be standing here until the cows come home.”
“What does that mean?” Betsy cocked an eyebrow. “Oh, funny. You’re being sarcastic, referring to having to wait. Continuing, fall is in the air, which means it’s time for Honey Bees to embrace baking everything pumpkin. Yes, ma’am, envision pumpkin donuts, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin—”
Amusement found Page’s eyes as she reached for Betsy’s arm. “Stifle your pumpkin-loving self. Honey Bees is more than a bakery. You’re ignoring that we’ve added all the lovely honey body products to our inventory. Honestly, your world revolves around sweets. Besides, not everyone likes pumpkin.”
Betsy pulled a face and turned to the barista. “I want a large frozen pumpkin latte with extra whipped cream. Make that two. I’m treating Ms. Pumpkin Humbug.”
“No whipped cream on mine. And I am not a humbug.” Page scrunched her freckled nose at Betsy and moved her petite frame toward their two-favorite wing-back chairs tucked in the corner. The Perk had an interesting vibe with its eclectic décor that suited their patrons’ tastes. Page glanced around the coffee shop. Shell Isle’s quilters sat exclaiming over colorful squares of material displayed on the antique oak table. A young couple cuddled on a brocade loveseat, whispering and smiling into each other’s eyes.
Page noted a somewhat familiar-faced middle-aged man sitting alone at a nearby table. She couldn’t place him, but they’d interacted before, maybe at Honey Bees. Something in the classified section of the newspaper kept his pen moving and his mouth mumbling. She watched as his bushy brows created a furrow deeper than the Grand Canyon. A wise-guy type with a sinister glare joined him. Page guessed the navy parka on an eighty-degree day probably meant he was carrying. He exuded a ‘bust your chops’ kind of air. Page felt uneasy when his beady dark eyes darted around The Perk and landed on her. She grabbed a magazine and pretended interest in a story. Hearing muffled heated words flying back and forth across the table, Page stole a peek.
The wise guy stood and did something Page found peculiar. With an abrupt exchange of laptops, the wise guy stormed past Page toward the exit. Within seconds a new inkling came with the realization that more than coffee was brewing at The Perk. Betsy’s approach interrupted her further eavesdropping.
“Here you go. One pumpkin latte sans cream. Ya know, the joint looks pretty empty this morning.” Betsy’s eyes took in the few people seated nearby.
“Thanks for the coffee. Yep, guess Monday’s off to a quiet start.” Page’s gaze returned to the man now scanning the newspaper again. His pen went to work marking the classified ads. Maybe he’s job-hunting, surmised Page. Her cousin’s voice cut off more musings. As for the inkling, she’d ignore it…for the moment.
Betsy released a heavy sigh. “Geez. Get a load of the young love over on that sofa. I hate having to watch smooching when you’ve sentenced me to this long exile from men.”
Page sucked in a breath. “As I’ve explained a gazillion times, I think you’d benefit from not getting into other male relationships until your choosing improves.” With a chuckle, Page turned to her cousin. “Betsy Ross, face it; you pick lousy, and worst of all, you marry most of them.”
Betsy pulled her hand fan from her flowered tote. “Why did I have to bring up men and activate my hot flashes? Okay, I grant you I’m a disaster at picking men, but I can bake like nobody’s—who are you watching?” Betsy twisted in her seat to look.
“Shh. Not so loud. See that middle-aged, slouchy dressed guy a few feet away with the bushy eyebrows and bald head? He just had a run-in with a man whose name should be Knuckles. They exchanged laptops, which I think appeared rather odd.”
“I don’t see anyone—”
“Look to your left. The one who just mopped his forehead with a handkerchief.” Page took a sip of her latte.
“Oh, him. That’s Mister No Personality. I can’t remember his name, but I heard he’s from the northeast. He’s the new high school math teacher and not too well-liked according to my sources.” Betsy waved her hand. “Aren’t I impressive, having the skinny?”
Page bobbed her head, causing her honey-colored topknot to droop. Annoyed, she clipped it higher. She filed away Betsy’s scoop. “What else do you know about him?”
Betsy tapped her chin and looked up at the ceiling. “He’s single. That’s all I can recall.
Anyway, I like to keep up on Shell Isle doings.” Betsy’s focus returned to the mound of whipped cream, threatening to slide down her cup. She took a read on Page. “Don’t start. He’s not my type.”
Glancing back at the teacher, a smile quivered on Page’s mouth. “No, he’s definitely not for you. We know him, right?” She slipped a napkin to Betsy. The drips had found her Mumu.
“We do. He’s a regular customer every Wednesday morning ordering a fresh popover. Word’s on the street that our Ina’s popovers are sublime. You know we sold out in an hour last week? Wait. You weren’t there. That was the day you and Detective Dreamboat went sailing.”
“Would you please and thank you stop calling Steve my Detective Dreamboat? We enjoy each other’s company, love to sail, and he lives next door. It’s all easy. Plus, need I remind you that we should stay on Steve’s good side? His help proved invaluable with our last two murder-solving escapades. Besides, I’ve told you, I’m not getting serious with any man. Light romance I can do. My lifestyle as a single woman suits me just fine.” Page released a huff.
“So, you say. Need I remind you Dreamboat refers to us at the police station as the Shell Isle Snoops? Most unflattering, and after we pretty much solved their last two murder investigations. You might want to take that up with him next time you’re lollygagging on his sailboat.” Betsy batted her eyes.
Page swatted the air. “Oh, I don’t pay any attention to that nonsense. We’re talented sleuths. Those detectives are slow learners, but they need us. Grief, but that guy perspires nonstop. He’s back to wiping his face. What’s that about?” Page frowned.
Betsy sneaked a look. “I didn’t know men suffer from hot flashes, either? Did you? There must be a female god, after all, who divvies up hormonal things fairly. I love it.”
Page laughed. “I don’t think men get flashes, but I do think this man—has an affliction with the classified section. Somethings up with him.” Page watched as the flustered math teacher disconnected from a cell phone call and hurried out of The Perk, mumbling. “Listen, Bets, you need to hear what I witnessed a few minutes ago—”
“No, no, no witnessing. We’re not starting the first day of fall getting tangled up with—where are you going?” Betsy tried and failed to grab Page’s arm.
“Sit tight. Back in a sec.” Page snagged the section of the newspaper he’d left behind.
“Why are you toting that coffee-stained paper over to our table? Yuck.” Betsy scooted back into her chair, adding distance.
Ignoring her cousin, Page studied the circled numbers. “Curious, so very curious.”
“Don’t say curious. I hate it when you say that word. It always means that my life is about to—”
“Look at this, Betsy. I wonder what’s so special about these random numbers that Slouch marked? And listen to what the ad he starred says.”
Betsy leaned forward. “No. I don’t want to listen to you read some dumb ad and try to make something of it. Give me that paper. Forget Slouch as you’ve now dubbed him.” Betsy’s hand reached out, but Page was faster.
“Would you listen, please? It says: ‘The next cipher clock ticks at 2100, September 22. Numbers posted.’ That doesn’t sound good to me.” Page sighed and looked over at her cousin.
“Of course, it doesn’t sound good. You’re bored and looking for another mystery.” Jamming the straw to the bottom of her cup, Betsy took a gulp. “Please forget this and toss the paper. Come on. Let’s get to Honey Bees.”
Page’s eyes returned to the random numbers circled on different ads. These have to mean something along with that ad’s message. And don’t forget the encounter with Knuckles. It means—”
Betsy stood. “It means something to Slouch, but not to us. I repeat, not to us.”
“I fear it will soon,” Page said under her breath and followed Betsy outside.
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The story's twisty plot will keep readers guessing until the last chapter. Splashes of light romance, plenty of shenanigans, and a few unexpected surprises await.
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As an author, Tonya’s moved by the effect humor and narratives have on readers. That observation illuminates why her stories often convey messages inviting personal exploration. She is enthusiastic about crafting stories with beguiling characters, adding dashes of snappy humor, and engaging dialogue that leaves her fingerprint on each page.
When Tonya relocated to the mountains, she found fresh writing ideas waiting. From her favorite porch chair gazing at a tranquil lake, the nudge to scribe her first novel came calling. From her beach chair, she got the idea for a cozy series, Shell Isle Mysteries. Tonya confesses new respect for a chair’s ability to motivate writers. She chases her writing joy from the mountains to the seashore.
SHELL ISLE MYSTERY SERIES
BAUBLES TO DIE FOR
RED, WHITE, AND BOOM
MURDER BY NUMBERS (New release)
The characters of Page and Betsy keep chattering to Tonya, so expect future stories in this collection.
OLD MOUNTAIN CASSIE: THE THREE LESSONS
A SECRET GIFT
WELCOME TO CHARM (New release)
VENETIAN RHAPSODY (Releasing early 2023)
Tonya’s fiction and non-fiction stories are published in numerous anthologies, e-magazines, local press, and literary magazines. Find Tonya listed in the Poets and Writers Directory.
Please consider this your invitation to visit: www.tonyawrites.com
If you enjoy Tonya Penrose’s (pen name) novels, please tell others and do leave reviews.
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