Authors: Ellery Adams
Praise for the Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries
Peach Pies and Alibis
“An original, intriguing story line that celebrates women, family, friendship, and loyalty within an enchanted world, with a hint of romance, an engaging cast of characters, and the promise of a continued saga of magical good confronting evil.”
“Adams permeates this unusual novelâand Ella [Mae's] piesâwith a generous helping of appeal.”
Richmond Times Dispatch
“I love the world of Havenwood that Ellery Adams has created and every single one of her characters is fantastic. She fills each book with warmth and humor, and still manages to ground the magical elements within satisfying human conflicts.”
Badass Book Reviews
“A great bookÂ .Â .Â . The mystery kept me guessing but it was the relationship between Ella Mae and her relatives in this character-driven whodunit that made me feel like I was right there as they sought out a killer with an unexpected result.”
Dru's Book Musings
“A magical story, closer to urban fantasy or magical realism than mystery, although it still has murders and mysteryÂ .Â .Â . It's absolutely perfect, and left me eager to read the next book when it comes out. It's deep, and dark in spots, with references to Arthurian legends.”
Lesa's Book Critiques
Pies and Prejudice
“Will leave readers longing for seconds.”
New York Times
bestselling author of
the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries
“Enchanting!Â .Â .Â . Ellery Adams brings the South to life with the LeFaye women of Havenwood. This new series is as sweet and tangy as a warm Georgia peach pie.”
âKrista Davis, national bestselling author of
the Domestic Diva Mysteries
“[A] savory blend of suspense, pies, and engaging characters. Foodie mystery fans will enjoy this.”
“A little play of Jane Austen with a nod to Arthurian legend gets this new series from veteran author AdamsÂ .Â .Â . off to an enchanted start. A sensory delight for those who like a little magic with their culinary cozies.”
“Charming characters and a cozy setting make this mystery, the first in the series, warm and inviting, like a slice of Ella Mae's pie fresh from the oven.”
The Mystery Reader
Praise for the Books by the Bay Mysteries
“Not only a great read, but a visceral experience. Olivia Limoges's investigation into a friend's murder will have you hearing the waves crash on the North Carolina shore. You might even feel the ocean winds stinging your cheeks. Visit Oyster Bay and you'll long to return again and again.”
New York Times
bestselling author of
the Booktown Mysteries
“Adams's plot is indeed killer, her writing would make her the star of any support group, and her charactersÂ .Â .Â . are a diverse, intelligent bunchÂ .Â .Â .
A Killer Plot
is a perfect excuse to go coastal.”
Richmond Times Dispatch
“I could actually feel the wind on my face, taste the salt of the ocean on my lips, and hear the waves crash upon the beach.
The Last Word
made me laugh, made me think, made me smile, and made me cry.
The Last Wordâ
in one wordâAMAZING!”
The Best Reviews
“A very well-written mystery with interesting and surprising characters and a great setting. Readers will feel as if they are in Oyster Bay.”
The Mystery Reader
“This series is one I hope to follow for a long time, full of fast-paced mysteries, budding romances, and good friends. An excellent combination!”
The Romance Readers Connection
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Ellery Adams
Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries
PIES AND PREJUDICE
PEACH PIES AND ALIBIS
PECAN PIES AND HOMICIDES
Books by the Bay Mysteries
A KILLER PLOT
A DEADLY CLICHÃ
THE LAST WORD
WRITTEN IN STONE
Pecan Pies and Homicides
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
USA â¢ Canada â¢ UK â¢ Ireland â¢ Australia â¢ New Zealand â¢ India â¢ South Africa â¢ China
A Penguin Random House Company
PECAN PIES AND HOMICIDES
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright Â© 2014 by Ellery Adams.
Murder in the Mystery Suite
by Ellery Adams copyright Â© 2014 by Ellery Adams.
“The Mist-Covered Mountains of Home” copyrighted Â© 1856 by John Cameron.
Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.
Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.
BERKLEYÂ® PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
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eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-63752-4
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / January 2014
Cover illustration by Julia Green.
Cover design by Diana Kolsky.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.
For my friend Judy Beatty. Thank you for working your special magic.
Promise me no promises,
So will I not promise you:
Keep we both our liberties,
Never false and never true:
Let us hold the die uncast,
Free to come as free to go:
For I cannot know your past,
And of mine what can you know?
â“Promises Like Pie-Crust” by Christina Rossetti
“Do I have icicles hanging from my beard?” asked a small elderly man as Ella Mae LeFaye ushered him into her pie shop. She tried to shut the door quickly against the cold, but a breath of winter stole inside. The other customers hunched their shoulders and shivered as the brisk air snaked under the collars of their heaviest sweaters. Cradling their coffee cups, they launched into a fresh round of complaints about the record lows northwest Georgia had been experiencing for the past three weeks.
“Don't get your scarves in a knot, folks. I'm comin' around with coffee as fast as I can!” announced a middle-aged woman with nut-brown hair and the sharp chin and high cheekbones of a pixie. She filled half a dozen mugs and then intercepted Ella Mae on her way to the kitchen. “You've gotta warm these people up. And you know I'm not referrin' to the thermostat. What's in the oven? Somethin' real special, I hope.”
Ella Mae gestured at the chalkboard menu mounted behind the counter. “Lots of health-conscious dishes. It's the beginning of January, Reba. The whole town is on a diet. Except for you. You're in perfect shape, as always.”
“Don't try to butter me up. And I know what the specials are. I'm a waitress, for cryin' out loud. You've got a fine list of hot dishes written on that blackboard. Cheesy quiches and meat and potato pies. Warm berry cobblers and molten chocolate tarts. But where's the
?” Reba put her hands on her hips. “I know you've been feelin' wrung out lately, but these folks need somethin'
.” She shot a quick glance around the room and then lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “It'll do you good to give them a dose of magic. You haven't used any in weeks.”
Ella Mae pivoted to look at her customers. As a whole, their faces were pale and wan. The Charmed Pie Shoppe was normally an animated place, full of conversation and laughter, but today it felt lifeless and dull. Ella Mae's gaze swept over the room, and she couldn't help but notice the empty tables. A few months ago, there wouldn't have been a vacant seat in the place.
Frowning, Ella Mae was about to turn away when her eyes fell on the elderly gentleman she'd let into the pie shop. He was clutching the lapels of his wool coat with the thin fingers of one hand and reaching for his coffee cup with the other. His lips had a bluish cast and his scraggly beard did nothing to hide the gauntness of his cheeks. At that moment, he looked up and caught Ella Mae staring. In his pale blue eyes she imagined too many long and lonely winter nights and wondered if he spent most of his evenings sitting in front of a fire, dreaming of springtime and warm memories. Though she couldn't recall his name, Ella Mae knew that the old man lived a solitary life in a crude cabin off the mountain road. The fact that he'd driven to town in this weather made Ella Mae realize that he must be desperate for a homemade meal and a little companionship.
The old man lowered his face so that it hovered above his mug. He closed his eyes as the steam flooded over his wrinkled skin, and Ella Mae could see the slightest loosening of his shoulders. Ella Mae turned back to Reba. “Okay, I'll do it. I'll bring him a summer day. I'll give him heat and the drone of insects and the sound of fish splashing in the lake. I'll remind him that he belongs to this communityâthat he matters. I'll make him smile from the inside out,” she promised and pushed through the swing doors into the kitchen.
Ella Mae had just begun to comb the shelves of dry goods in search of a particular ingredient when Reba entered the room. She perched on a stool and pulled a red licorice stick from her apron pocket. “What do you have up your sleeve? A little cayenne pepper? Some dried jalapeÃ±os? Curry?”
“Red Hots,” Ella Mae said, dragging a stepstool in front of the shelves. She climbed to the top step and reached for a plastic tub of bright red candy. “There you are.”
“That old man's dentures don't stand a chance,” Reba muttered.
“Don't worry about his or anyone else's dental work. I'm going to bake them into a pie. An apple pie,” Ella Mae said, jumping off the stepstool. “Trust me.”
Reba put a hand over her heart. “With my life. Always.” She popped the rest of her licorice stick into her mouth, plated two orders of spinach and mushroom quiche with a side of field greens, and left the kitchen, humming as she walked.
Ella Mae peeled, cored, and sliced apples. While she worked, her mind began to wander.
“Hot,” she murmured as her knife flashed side to side and up and down, chopping the apples into bite-sized pieces. The word automatically called forth an image of Hugh Dylan, the man she'd been in love with since high school. She could practically feel his muscular arms sliding around her back, pulling her in for a deep kiss. “No. That is not the kind of heat I need to generate. I need something with a PG rating.”
Adding the cinnamon Red Hots and a tablespoon of lemon juice to a saucepan, Ella Mae cooked the mixture on low heat. As the candies melted, her thoughts drifted back to her childhood, to a steamy July afternoon on the banks of Lake Havenwood. She remembered how her mother and her three aunts, Verena, Sissy, and Dee, had stretched out on picnic blankets. The four beautiful sisters sipped Tab soda and gossiped while they sunbathed. Ella Mae's mother, who wore a red and white polka dot bikini and a black straw sunhat, looked every inch the movie star to her gangly, freckled daughter.
“Mom,” Ella Mae whispered, jerking the wooden spoon out of the saucepan. “I can't think about her. If I do, all of my customers will be sad. I need to find a memory that can't be tainted by my present problems. Something innocent and sweet.”
Removing the pan from the heat, Ella Mae poured honey and a pinch of cinnamon into the mixture and began to stir it with slow, deliberate strokes. The aroma of the honey made her think of the bees that gathered around the raspberry bushes along Skipper Drive during the peak of summer. Suddenly, she was a teenager again. It was another humid day. This one was in August, and Ella Mae was older than she'd been in the memory involving her mother and aunts, though she was still gangly and freckled.
In this memory, she was fifteen. School would be starting soon. Determined to savor every last moment of freedom, Ella Mae had ridden to the swimming hole with a towel and a transistor radio in her bike basket. She wore a cherry-red swimsuit under a Bee Gees T-shirt and her favorite pair of cutoffs and felt completely carefree.
Because a street fair was being held downtown, the other kids of Havenwood were unlikely to be at the swimming hole that day. And when Ella Mae dumped her bike at the top of the dirt path and raced down through the dense trees to the water, she saw that she had the popular hangout spot all to herself. Shucking her clothes, she climbed to an outcrop of rock and dove off, a blur of long limbs and a tangle of whiskey-colored hair rocketing toward the cool water.
Once the dust and sweat had been washed away and she'd grown tired of floating on her back and gazing up at the circle of trees, Ella Mae climbed out of the swimming hole and found a flat boulder to sit on. Dragonflies flitted through the air and she could feel the heat from the warm stone soaking into her skin. She lay back against its smooth surface, feeling every muscle in her body relax. She rested like this until the sun had dried the last drops of water from her skin and she felt the stirrings of hunger.
Ella Mae got up to gather wild raspberries from the nearby bushes. When her hands were brimming with berries, she brought them back to the flat stone and ate them one by one, relishing each sweet and slightly tart bite. When she couldn't eat any more, she leaned back on the stone again and sang “How Deep Is Your Love”
at the top of her lungs. She didn't care that she was off-key or that the echoes of her song startled a pair of whip-poor-wills from their nest in a pile of leaves. She shouted an apology to them as they rose into the clear sky, flying higher and higher until they were tiny pencil dots on a canvas of endless blue.
Years later, Ella Mae now stood in her pie shop's kitchen and remembered every moment of that perfect summer afternoon. Holding on to that feeling of warmth and utter contentment, she scooped up a handful of apple pieces and loosely arranged them in a pan lined with her homemade piecrust.
Smiling, she poured the melted candy mixture on top of the apples and then dropped tiny squares of butter over the fruit filling. After weaving a lattice top crust, Ella Mae brushed the dough with a beaten egg yolk and then sprinkled it with finishing sugar and put it in the oven.
She was cutting a ham, wild rice, and caramelized onion tart into generous wedges when Reba reappeared. “Perfect. I've got six folks waitin' on that tart.” She raised her nose and gave the air a sniff. “You did it! I don't even have to taste the pie to know that it'll light a fire inside your customersâlike they've gone and swallowed a pack of sparklers. The magic is thick as a cloud all around you. You're gettin' real strong, Ella Mae.”
“What good has magic ever brought me?” Ella Mae demanded. “Being enchanted has robbed me of my mother and forced me to keep secrets from the man I love.”
Reba made a strangled sound in the back of her throat. “Regardless of your thoughts on magic, we still need an extra pair of hands. The two of us can't run this place from dawn to dusk. I could ask around. See if any of our kind are lookin' for a part-time job.”
Ella Mae shook her head. “Hiring someone to take the position as a way of paying homage to my family won't work. It was my mother who sacrificed herself to keep all of us safe, not me. I don't want people doing me favors because she was brave and selfless.” She finished adding garnishes to the tart orders. “No, I need to hire a waitress from outside Havenwood, though finding someone interested in moving to an isolated mountain town in the middle of winter to serve pie isn't going to be easy. If I'd held interviews when this place was packed, when it was hip and fun, then it would have been more of a draw. But now? I hear people whispering that The Charmed Pie Shoppe won't see its first anniversary. Maybe they're right. We have smaller and smaller crowds every week.”
“My tips have been mighty lousy too,” Reba complained. “I keep tellin' you that it's time to snap out of it. I know Christmas was awful rough without your mama, but you're not alone. You've got me and your aunts and your best friend, Suzy. And you've got sweet Chewy and that beautiful fireman. Your louse of a husband is now officially an ex-husband, so you and Hugh are free to do all sorts of things together.” She fanned herself with her order pad. “Lord help me, but I'd better think about somethin' else or I may just spontaneously combust.”
Grinning, Ella Mae grabbed a handful of flour and tossed it at Reba. “Don't you have customers to serve? What about that old man?”
“His name's Mr. Crump,” Reba said. “And he's takin' his sweet time over lunch. I don't think he has much to go home to.”
Glancing at her watch, Ella Mae inhaled a breath of cinnamon, baking apples, and buttery dough. “Whatever you do, don't let him leave. I made this pie specifically for him. Just keep topping off his coffee.”
“The poor guy's gonna float away,” Reba mumbled. After placing the ham and onion tarts on a tray, she made room for a slice of cranberry and almond pie and a pear crumble drizzled in warm cardamom vanilla custard and left the kitchen.
Ella Mae stared at the empty cooling racks next to the oven and thought that not so long ago they'd been loaded with pies and tarts. A few months ago, Ella Mae had barely been able to keep up with the in-house and takeout orders. She'd had to turn down catering requests because she was too busy baking and serving half the town on a daily basis. She drove around Havenwood in her retired U.S. mail Jeep, waving at friends and neighbors like a homecoming queen. Everyone recognized her pink raspberry truck. One of Aunt Dee's artist friends had transformed the white Jeep. A luscious cherry pie glistened on the driver's-side door while a peach pie with a lattice crust sparkled on the passenger side. Silver stars shot across the hood, and the name, location, and phone number of the pie shop had been painted in a butter yellow font across both side panels.
“This is the most beautiful car I've ever seen!” Ella Mae had exclaimed when Dee revealed the transformed mail truck. But now the Jeep was encrusted with dirt and needed an oil change. Like everything else in Ella Mae's life, the lovely truck was showing signs of neglect.
Until I can find a way to free my mother, nothing else matters
, Ella Mae thought. For the thousandth time, her mind returned to the moment in which her mother had sacrificed herself to renew the magic of Havenwood's sacred grove. Adelaide LeFaye had spread her arms and leaned against the rough bark of the shriveled and dying ash tree. In the space of a few horrible and spellbinding seconds, the tree and Ella Mae's mother had merged. Instantly, the grove's power had been restored and everyone had celebrated. Everyone but those close to Adelaide. In the beginning, Ella Mae had been able to communicate with her mother, but with each passing day, she became less and less human. Eventually, she would forget that she had a daughter.