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Shortbread and Dead by Jo A. Hiestand is a Christmas in July Fete pick #cozymystery #holidayreads #christmasinjuly #giveaway

Title: Shortbread and Dead


Author: Jo A. Hiestand


Genre: Cozy mystery/cozy crime


Book Blurb:


It’s two weeks before Christmas. In the small Missouri town of Beaudin Trace, the holiday spirit is revving up: shops are adorned in seasonal decorations and the annual Winter Scavenger Hunt is in full swing. This year, the grand prize for the hunt winner is provided by The Cookie Cutter, a bakery owned by 40-year-old widow Kate Dunbar. It’s her first time to supply the prize since moving to the town several years ago. And she’s thrilled to give the winner a huge basket filled with muffins, scones, jams and hot chocolate mix…and shortbread.


But the thrill doesn’t last long, for an hour later the winner is found dead outside the bakery—conveniently close to Kate and her employees.


Despite pleas and stern warnings from her friend, Deputy Sheriff Josh Cline, Kate decides to investigate, taking the heat off her and her staff before her business crumbles.


As Kate hunts for the killer, she uncovers secrets that reveal the killer’s identity. The trouble is, that revelation may turn her into victim #2.




Kate sat at one of the tables, sipping a cup of tea and staring at the businesses across the street. Dusk had descended early, and the tiny white lights outlining shop windows and strung among leafless tree branches gave depth to the gray landscape. And turned the dullness into a winter wonderland, even if there was no snow.


She leaned against the chair, enjoying the quiet. Manny and Tonya, her day-shift bakers had gone home, so there was no normal bustle from the kitchen. Lynsey, her other counter help, had left. She was holding down the fort, as she liked to say, and she reveled in the peace. This was the first break since the bakery had opened that morning. Saturdays were usually busy, but today had seen a steady rush all day. Getting ready for Christmas and Hanukkah, she thought. It was fine: most of her baked items froze well.


The music changed from the lively songs that had filled most of the day into the melancholy “White Christmas.” A little early, but at least it isn’t a carol. She took another sip of tea, thinking about tomorrow’s orders. The door opened, and Pam Dannhausen hurried inside, her cheeks red, her eyes glistening and slapping her hands together.


Kate put down her cup and stood up. “Pam. So glad to see you, despite your frozen appearance.”


“I don’t know how I look, but I feel like ole Frosty. It is cold outside. I may not thaw out until July.” She exhaled sharply and stomped her feet. “Nice and warm in here. Can I rent space in the window and slowly defrost?” She smiled, pulling off her gloves. “Whew, what a brisk breeze.”


“I hear that from most everyone who’s come in, though I haven’t experienced it yet.”


“You don’t want to.”


Kate nodded and moved aside. “We hear you’re the grand prize winner of the scavenger hunt. Congratulations!”


“That’s the same thing I heard. It must be true.” The older woman laughed and rearranged the scarf at her throat. She wiped the back of her leather glove across the upper half of her face, then blotted it on her wool jacket. “A strong wind like that always makes my eyes sting. This must be it,” she added, coming over to the table displaying the large basket. She pulled the cellophane enveloping the basket slightly, ridding it of wrinkles, and looked at the contents. “Oh, good! I was hoping there’d be some of your shortbread in the bunch.”


“I could give you more and remove the cinnamon rolls, for instance. Or exchange the hot chocolate mix for a packet or two of tea.“


Pam made a motion like shooing away a fly. “That’s not necessary. I’ll stick with the cocoa mix. You know I like everything I’ve had here. I’m just happy to get some shortbread.”


“Some are plain, and some are iced—frosting and chocolate-dipped. I like variety,” Kate said, gesturing toward the cookies in the basket.


“It’s a wonderful selection, Kate. You and your staff do such a great job with this. I’m going to enjoy everything, I know.” She patted her ample thighs. “What a way to go, right?” She slipped a lock of her brunette hair under her stocking cap, staring at the poster. “Good Lord. I look like the scavenger hunt snowman.”


Kate glanced from the graphic to Pam. “I don’t think it’s that bad. His nose is longer.” She smiled as Pam’s laugh blasted into the quiet.


“Well, snowman or not—and thunder thighs or not—I’ll have some hot chocolate and a shortbread or two this evening. After all, ‘tis the season.”


“Well, we’re happy you won. Enjoy.” She smoothed down a loose piece of adhesive tape hanging from the cellophane wrapping before handing the basket to Pam. “If it’s windy, you don’t want the covering getting ripped off and tumble down the street.”


“Definitely not. The scones and shortbread might follow suit.” She laughed, thanked Kate again, and left with a shout of “Merry Christmas to you!”




An hour later, Kate turned the key in the side door’s lock and wedged her purse under her arm. She remained at the door for a moment, going over her mental list. The shop lights were out—except for the overhead fixture in the main room—the floor was swept, the counter and display case were clean, and the tables were set for tomorrow. That was it for the moment. This evening, at home, she’d concentrate on developing her new recipe for candy bar brownies.


She tucked the ends of her muffler under the neckline of her coat, took a deep breath, and started walking to her car. Her footsteps crunched the hardened, brittle grass, stiff with frozen moisture, and left crushed indentations in the soil. If anyone was looking for me, she thought, holding her knitted tam as a blast of wind threatened to dislodge the cap, I’d be easy to find.


The sun had set nearly two hours ago, leaving the land dark except for the pearl-like pools of light cast by streetlamps. Her car sat at the fringe of one of these, the light glancing off her windshield. The curb stretched away from her car in both directions, empty except for the fingers of fog starting to brush the earth.


Kate got her key out of her purse and walked more swiftly now that she was leaving the illuminated patch near the side door. She had just stepped into the blackness between the building’s light and the streetlamp when she stopped. A dark lump sprawled on the ground. A lump that hadn’t been there that morning when she’d come to work.


She dug her pocket flashlight from her purse and snapped it on. As the beam played over the shape, she realized what it was. Pam Dannhausen lay on the ground, the grand prize basket overturned beside her, and strands of her hair waving in the wind.


Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):


Trade Paper –



Ebook –








What I love most about the holiday season:


Baking is a favorite thing of mine, followed by decorating the tree and the house.  I love the sense of anticipation leading up to Christmas. But I think the thing I absolutely love the most is the feeling late at night on Christmas Eve.  There is magic in the air, as if the world was holding its breath, waiting for peace and love to descend.


Why is your featured book a must-read to get you in the holiday mood?


Besides the cozy feel of a small town and interesting characters, I think the Christmas feeling permeates the book.  People who revel in that sensation will probably like the book just for the atmosphere! 


Giveaway –


One lucky reader will win a $100 Amazon gift card.



Open internationally.


Runs July 1 – 31, 2024


Drawing will be held on August 1, 2024. 


Author Biography:


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 a British mystery series that stems from living and vacationing in England, and a Missouri-based cozy series that is 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.


Social Media Links:



Amy M. Judkins
2 days ago

For me, my favorite part of Christmas is the Christmas Eve Candlelight church service. It is so peaceful and moving. It is a beautiful reminder about what Christmas is really all about.


Sarah Taylor
Sarah Taylor
Jul 10

I Love spending time with my children, grandchildren and great grandbabies


Unknown member
Jul 07

I love to spend time with family. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity. Commenting under Michael Law


Jul 04

I love a time with family most.


N. N. Light
N. N. Light
Jul 02

Thank you, Jo, for sharing your delightful holiday cozy in our Christmas in July Fete!

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