Read The Body in the Landscape (A Cherry Tucker Mystery Book 5) Online

Authors: Larissa Reinhart

Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Amateur Sleuths, #Cozy, #Crafts & Hobbies, #Amateur Sleuth, #british cozy mysteries, #chick lit, #cozy mystery, #craft mysteries, #detective novels, #english mysteries, #female detective, #humorous murder mystery, #murder mysteries, #murder mystery books, #murder mystery series, #Women Sleuths

The Body in the Landscape (A Cherry Tucker Mystery Book 5)

BOOK: The Body in the Landscape (A Cherry Tucker Mystery Book 5)
8.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Praise for
the Cherry
Tucker Myster
y Series




“One fasten-your-seatbelt, pedal-to-the-metal mystery, and Cherry Tucker is the perfect sleuth to have behind the wheel. Smart, feisty, as tough as she is tender, Cherry’s got justice in her crosshairs.”

– Tina Whittle,

Author of the Tai Randolph Mysteries


“Reinhart succeeds in mixing laughter with the serious topic of cyber-bullying through blogs and texts, all the while developing a chemistry between Cherry and Luke that absolutely sizzles.”

Kings River Life Magazin


“Artist and accidental detective Cherry Tucker goes back to high school and finds plenty of trouble and skeletons…Reinhart’s charming, sweet-tea flavored series keeps getting better!”

– Gretchen Archer,

USA Today
Bestselling Author of the Davis Way Crime Caper Series




“The fast-paced plot careens through small-town politics and deadly rivalries, with zany side trips through art-world shenanigans and romantic hijinx. Like front-porch lemonade, Reinhart’s cast of characters offer a perfect balance of tart and sweet.”

– Sophie Littlefield,

Bestselling Author of
A Bad Day for Sorry


“Bust out your gesso and get primed for humor, hijackings, and a handful of hunks!”

– Diane Vallere,

Author of the Style & Error and Madison Night Mysteries

“Reinhart manages to braid a complicated plot into a tight and funny tale...Cozy fans will love this latest Cherry Tucker mystery.”

New York Journal of Books



“Reinhart’s country-fried mystery is as much fun as a ride on the
hirl at a state fair. Her sleuth wields a paintbrush and unravels clues with equal skill and flair. Readers who like a little small-town charm with their mysteries will enjoy Reinhart’s series.”

— Denise Swanson,

New York Times
Bestselling Author of the Scumble River Mysteries


“Reinhart lined up suspects like a pinsetter in a bowling alley, and darned if I could figure out which ones to knock down...Can’t wait to see what Cherry paints herself into next.”

– Donnell Ann Bell,

Bestselling Author of
The Past Came Hunting


“The hilariously droll Larissa Reinhart cooks up a quirky and entertaining page-turner! This charming mystery is delightfully Southern, surprisingly edgy, and deliciously unpredictable.”

– Hank Phillippi Ryan,

Agatha Award-Winning Author of
Truth Be Told




Portrait of a Dead Guy
is an entertaining mystery full of quirky characters and solid plotting…Highly recommended for anyone who likes their mysteries strong and their mint juleps stronger!”

— Jennie Bentley,

New York Times
Bestselling Author of
Flipped Out


“Reinhart is a truly talented author and this book was one of the best cozy mysteries we reviewed this year…We highly recommend this book to all lovers of mystery books. Our Rating: 4.5 Stars.”

Mystery Tribune


“The tone of this marvelously cracked book is not unlike Sophie Littlefield’s brilliant
A Bad Day for Sorry
, as author Reinhart dishes out shovelfuls of ribald humor and mayhem.”

Mystery Scene Magazine

Books in the Cherry Tucker Mystery Series

by Larissa Reinhart














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A Cherry Tucker Mystery

Part of the Henery Press Mystery Collection


First Edition

December 2015


Henery Press


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from Henery Press, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.


2015 by Larissa Hoffman

Author photograph by Scott Asano


This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Related subjects include: cozy mysteries, women sleuths, murder mystery series, whodunit mysteries (whodunnit), humorous murder mysteries, book club recommendations, amateur sleuth books, southern humor, chick lit.


Trade Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-943390-37-3

Digital epub ISBN-13: 978-1-943390-38-0

Kindle ISBN-13: 978-1-943390-39-7

Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-943390-40-3


Printed in the United States of America



For Biscuit



Thank you to my editors Anna Davis and Kendel Lynn. You are both amazingly talented, and I consider myself blessed to work with you.


Also to Captain Pye of the Peachtree City Police for his advice, entertaining stories, and for organizing the Citizen’s Police Academy, one of the best classes I’ve ever taken.


To the Mystery Minions for all your support.


To Gina Niebrugge for all your help, Hailey for your assistance, Lily and Bill for the encouragement, and Lettie for the dog modeling.


To Fred and Demar Hill, thanks for giving me the inspiration for this book with your wild hog hunt stories, especially the one about the rock star.


To Flat Creek Lodge of Swainsville, Georgia. Thank you for all the assistance in answering my odd questions, for your wonderful hospitality, and excellent food and service. I will never forget your cheese platter. Nor the shrimp and grits. Or homemade jelly. And the local honey. I loved every minute.


And as always, my love and thanks to Trey, Sophie and Luci.



I found the body. Actually, if you want to get technical, I found his hat, then the body. I had escaped the guests at Big Rack Lodge to do a spot of plein air painting when my peaceful Monet-inspired afternoon took a nasty turn toward disturbing. Landscapes aren’t even my usual genre. I’m a portrait painter. But how often do I get a free weekend getaway in the countryside that included a portrait commission?

I’ll tell you how often. A big fat never.

I planned to take advantage of time away from the insanity currently running amok in my hometown of Halo for the autumnal splendor of rural Georgia. Watercolor landscapes are always popular with art buyers. And I was in need of the kind of tranquility brought about by a forest glen and the zen-like murmur of wet brushstrokes across heavy dimpled paper.

It’s not easy for me to find peace. Especially in my current circumstances. But I had it all. Complete absorption in my woodsy surroundings, even with the damp chill. Total focus on color, form, and space. Bare recognition of the rustling of squirrels and other woodland critters. Or the song calls of birds who had not yet retreated farther south before the temperature dipped beyond nippy. The sharp scent of woodsmoke and the mustier smell of wet leaves hung in the air. But all my attention was given to ochres, umbers, and greens with the occasional sienna.

And then that spot of royal blue.

My position must have prevented me from noticing that dab of blue nestled in the background. I sat slightly to the side of my portable easel on one of those folding camp stools that makes your back ache after thirty minutes, even a back as young as my twenty-six years. I had stood to stretch and step away from the watercolor to check the depth on my middle ground when I zoomed in on that blue in the distance.

For a few seconds, I just stared at the incongruous color, not registering the form. Finally, it occurred to me that this unnatural blue was most likely trash.

Woodsy Owl had taught me well.

I trekked across the clearing to do my environmental duty, admittedly enjoying that sanctimonious high brought about by do-gooding. As I drew closer, I found my watercolor background was actually the border of a shallow ravine. The blue, a ball cap, lay on the edge of the ridge disguised by the accumulation of fallen leaves and pine straw.

I bent over to pick up the hat, smirking at the cursive white “A” embroidered on the front but stopped before actually touching it.

Not three feet from the cap, the ground cover had been disturbed. A skin of water-darkened deep ruts dug into the clay. Muddied tracks mangled the soft cover of pine straw and leaves. More mud and leaves had been churned into clumpy mush, exposing the chewed roots of a late growth of young ferns. My thoughts flew from the Braves cap to the impetus for this weekend.


My breath caught, and I took a longer scope on the feral hog rooting, switching my gaze from painterly to hunterly. I had my suspicions that the supposed giant boar terrorizing Big Rack’s property and surrounding farms wasn’t as large as famed, but the churned ground did give the appearance of something big.

Feral hogs had been wreaking havoc throughout the South for some time, eating crops and causing damage that cost American farmers millions every year.

Raised on my Grandpa Ed’s dairy farm, I heard enough swine-induced horror stories to make me no friend to pigs other than what appeared on a dinner plate.

But recently, some stories had taken a fantastical bent. Reports of mammoth-sized wild hogs crisscrossed the state of Georgia. One was bagged in the swampy marshes of south Georgia. Still another in the countryside just outside Atlanta. Twelve feet long and more than a thousand pounds of vicious, deadly pork.

And now another in middle Georgia, rampaging the forest and fields of Big Rack Lodge.

Hunters chomped at the proverbial bit to get this behemoth bit of bacon in their crosshairs. So much so that Big Rack decided to hold a contest. A contest costing the competitors ten thousand smackers to enter. That price tag rankled me, even when Big Rack condescended to hold a raffle to allow one lowly local to enter the hunt for free. And now I was party to this classist tournament because my proletariat-turned-patrician friend, Max Avtaikin, paid for my admission. Not to hunt, mind you. Just to paint. And stay in the luxurious lodge digs that rich hunters liked to think of as “roughing it.”

I was trying really hard not to enjoy myself. I’d been accosted with enough snobbery lately to last me a good long time. But Big Rack’s two thousand thread-count Egyptian cotton-sheeted beds needed more than a few peas to keep me from a good night’s sleep.

Dangit, I was weak when it came to bedding.

Behind me, I heard the stirring of leaves and a pop of snapping twigs. I hopped up, spun, and teetered, but planted my boots in the pine straw. Thankfully, the animal approaching was no porcine monster. His splendiferous form and handsome face ran to the other extreme. Tall and muscular with cerulean blue eyes and golden hair, this angelic-looking creature might have battled hog-monsters in some Norse myth. If Norse myths had Hogzillas.

And considering Todd McIntosh was neither hero nor villain, I doubted he’d have eligibility for Valhalla.

Particularly not in the camo pullover, cargo shorts, and drumsticks he sported. A slot machine cherry tattoo brightened one muscular calf. A reminder of our past relationship which had evolved into our current friendship.

“Cherry,” called Todd. Spotting me, he tramped through the undergrowth toward the ravine. “I came out to fetch you. Smells like it’s going to rain.”

I smiled. “You do have a nose for weather. I noticed I was losing light fast.”

“Did you finish painting?”

“I’d have liked to stay out longer. But I’m really looking forward to the meet and greet this evening.” I studied the flash of panic that crossed Todd’s normally untroubled face. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to rush
Bass. I’ve been a fan since grade school, but I promise not to bother him. Maybe ask for an autograph. And one for Casey. Pearl’d probably like one too. And Cody, of course.”

I paused in thought. “You think Cody could use a
Bass autograph as barter in jail? I’m not sure how much of that goes on in Forks County Corrections, but if there’s some big Bubba who’s a
Bass fan, maybe Cody could swap the autograph for an extra TV privilege or something. What do you think?”

“I don’t know if it gets that serious in jail. Better wait to see if your brother actually goes to prison.” At my look, a grimace flickered across his beatific features. “Sorry, baby.”

I kicked a hunk of mud. “I’m taking the weekend off from those worries, Todd.”

“I bet you’ll walk away from this weekend with a whole new perspective on everything.”

“I can’t see too many other ways to look at my brother’s arrest for that ridiculous charge. He could get life.” I kicked another clay clod.

“I meant a new perspective on how all this is affecting you. Personally.”

“It’s certainly put a dent in my art career, not that it was taking off in Halo. I am grateful for this opportunity Max offered. I know it’s a silly bet between him and
Bass, getting their portrait done as a trophy, but it’s a chance to get my name in front of a celebrity. We’re lucky the Bear wanted to appear to have an entourage like
Bass.” I cut him a sharp look. “Don’t tell him I said that.”

“I’m no fool.” Todd winked.

“Course you’re not. Just make sure the Bear doesn’t realize the real reason I wanted you along. If he thinks you’re here to babysit him…I’d rather face a mammoth-sized pig than a Max Avtaikin hissy fit.”

“Gotcha,” said Todd. “What’re you doing over here anyway? We should pack up your stuff.”

“I was distracted by a discarded Braves cap and found this.” I pointed toward the churned earth. “Evidence of the Super Swine.”

Todd squinted at my point. “It does look like something a wild pig would do.”

“But is it a Hogzilla-sized rooting? I am finding this legendary giant hog hard to believe. I can’t imagine painting a portrait of the winner standing next to a dead thousand plus-pound pig. It gives me the shudders.”

Todd ran long fingers through his blond mane and shrugged. He was not much for deliberating on pigs, legendary or otherwise. “What about that Braves cap? I could always use an extra hat. I came out to tell you a storm is headed this way. An extra ball cap might come in handy.”

“Who knows how long it’s been lying in the woods.” I curled my lip and glanced at the royal blue cap lying at my feet. “It looks like something’s been chewing on it.”

“Just the brim. And that just adds to the authenticity.” Todd bent to snatch the hat, but I laid a hand on his bicep to stop him.

“Your authenticity could be full of Hogzilla germs,” I said. “Let’s use a stick to pick it up. I think I’ve got an extra baggy in my painting tackle. Maybe housekeeping could wash it for you.”

I turned to search out an appropriate stick, stepping closer to the edge of the shallow ravine. Below me, a small stream ran through the rocky ditch, pooling before an unnatural dam. Woodland flotsam had caught against a body of an old man. Sweetgum leaves in arrays of Indian Yellow-Brown to Golden Barok Red brightened the darkly dampened jeans and flannel shirt. His hands lay outstretched on either side, one partially submerged, the other covered by the autumnal debris. Blank eyes stared at the trees overhead.

I gawked for a long minute, not really believing that while I worried about celebrity autographs and giant pigs, a dead man had been lying practically at my feet.

And I knew him.

BOOK: The Body in the Landscape (A Cherry Tucker Mystery Book 5)
8.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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