Authors: Victoria Hamilton
PRAISE FOR VICTORIA HAMILTON'S NATIONAL BESTSELLING VINTAGE KITCHEN MYSTERIES
“Has all the right ingredients: small-town setting, kitchen antiques, vintage cookery and a bowlful of mystery. A perfect recipe for a cozy.”
âSusan Wittig Albert,
New York Times
“A chilling whodunit.”
“Smartly written and successfully plotted, the debut of this new cozy seriesÂ .Â .Â . exudes authenticity.”
“Jaymie is a great characterÂ .Â .Â . inquisitive and full of surprises.”
âDebbie's Book Bag
“Well-plotted with several unexpected twists.”
âThe Mystery Reader
“If you're looking for a compassionate, interesting character with an unusual livelihood, and a charming town that just happens to have an occasional murder, you won't go wrong with Victoria Hamilton's mysteries.”
âLesa's Book Critiques
“Fans of Joanne Fluke or of Virginia Lowell's Cookie Cutter Shop Mysteries will feel right at home in Queenstown.”
“[A] fun cozy mystery.”
“I really loved the hometown feel that Victoria Hamilton brings to this bookÂ .Â .Â . Smart, funny and quirky. I smiled in places, blushed for the embarrassing moments and fell in love with cooking all over again as I read this book.”
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Victoria Hamilton
Vintage Kitchen Mysteries
Merry Muffin Mysteries
RAN NEW DEATH
AN ENGLISH MUFFIN
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
WHITE COLANDER CRIME
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright Â© 2015 by Donna Lea Simpson.
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.
BERKLEYÂ® PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME design are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.
For more information, visit
eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-13931-2
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / November 2015
Cover illustration by Robert Crawford.
Cover design by Lesley Worrell.
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.
To all of you who treasure “old stuff,” what others write off as junk, I dedicate this Vintage Kitchen Mystery. Both Jaymie and I understand the pure joy of finding usefulness in bygone ways, old utensils and vintage recipes. Happy reading, my friends!
ARE FINGERS NUMB
from the cold, Jaymie Leighton snipped one last branch from the holly bushes that lined one edge of her backyard, dropped it into the wicker basket and clambered to her feet. December in Michigan: sleety, snowy, frosty, foggy, damp. In turn, but sometimes all at once. At least there was no snow yet, though she was always torn between the joy of watching the first flakes of snow drifting lazily down in spiral paths, and the horror of driving in whiteout conditions and shoveling her walkway and part of the yard so little Hoppy, her three-legged Yorkie-Poo, would have a spot to do his business.
The gallant little fellow was shivering in the open door on the summer porch off the back of the house, vigilantly watching Denver, her crabby tabby, slip through the wrought-iron fence dividing her backyard from the lane that gave her access to parking in her garage. The cat ambled up the flagstone walk. Jaymie carried the basket into the house, made sure Hoppy and Denver were both in, then securely locked up. She set the basket on the long trestle table that was centered in her very vintage kitchen and grabbed an old white enamel colander rimmed in red. She stuck a square of floral oasis in the center with a dab of hot glue, unplugged the hot glue gun and eyed it thoughtfully.
She was making a festive holiday decoration for the Hoosier cabinet that was the focal pointâalong with the new gas stoveâof the kitchen in Queensville Historic Manor, now open and doing nicely in the weeks before the Christmas holiday. Dickens Days in the village had begun, a time when strolling carolers and folks selling packaged homemade goodies made money for the heritage society. This year was especially exciting, with the opening of the heritage manor that would eventually act as a Queensville museum, of sorts. The plan was for artwork and displays that would show the history of their town and its maritime heritageâthe St. Clair River was a part of the major shipping route into the heart of North America, the Great Lakesâas well as its connection to Canada. Queensville was named for Queen Victoria, just as Johnsonville on the other side of the river, in Canada, was named for President Andrew Johnson.
Holding her breath, she plunged the end of the first holly branch into the oasis and worked from there. She was not the craftiest of women; her bailiwick was cooking, especially using vintage utensils and old recipes. But sometimes one needed to be a Jill of all trades. She worked steadily with the fresh holly and ribbons.
“What do you think, Hoppy?” she asked her inquisitive little Yorkie-Poo as she pushed the last beribboned bundle of cinnamon sticks in place. She had adorned the holly branches with tiny cookie cutters in the shape of stars and gingerbread men, embellishing her masterpiece with fragrant cinnamon sticks, then finishing it with a rustic plaid bow.
Her little three-legged dog yipped and danced, and she smiled. She could always count on Hoppy to approve. Denver grumbled, sighed and turned around in his wicker basket by her old gas stove, the warmest spot in the kitchen.
“And now to cook!” she said.
She needed some sweet treats to sell to make money for the Queensville Heritage Society's ongoing projects. Thanks to her ingenuity in finding a treasure and solving a murder last spring, they had received a sizable donation in the form of a historic letter that sold at auction for over a million dollars. With that money the society had bought the manor and were refurbishing it back to its mid-nineteenth-century glory, with a few rooms done to turn-of-the-century and Depression-era standards. Much of the windfall money had been prudently invested. The fiscally responsible in the heritage society wanted to run the manor with money from donations and entry fees, as well as whatever society members could make. Dickens Days was the second moneymaker of the year, with the May “Tea with the Queen” event as the first.
So Jaymie was making treats for Dickens Days attendees, some to give away and more to sell. She had investigated nineteenth-century desserts and was overjoyed to find out that brownies were a thoroughly American treat. They were invented by a chef at the Palmer House hotel in Chicago for Mrs. Bertha Palmer, who wanted a lunchbox treat for ladies who came to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. “Well, Mrs. Palmer,” Jaymie said, as she melted chocolate and beat eggs, “your chef hit it out of the park. What does a lady need other than tea and brownies?”
Hoppy yipped in answer, and Jaymie chuckled. “You, sir, are neither a lady nor are you allowed to have chocolate!”
She had been chuckling a lot in the last weeks, and contentment swirled through her. She should be heartbroken because Daniel Collins, her boyfriend of several months, had unceremoniously dumped her for his old flame, Trish. In fact they were already married. Jaymie had gotten an email from him just a week ago, and had sent him a card of congratulations. Jaymie wished them nothing but happiness. She felt the same about Detective Zack, who had
found love after his move from the local police force to a more challenging position with the Detroit police. She seemed to be good luck to the men in her life, as they all found their proper partner after being involved with her.
Her present level of comfort and joy was due to a man she had recently met, Jakob MÃ¼ller: a lover of antiques, junk store owner, proprietor of a Christmas tree cut-it-yourself lot with his parents and father of an adorable little girl named Jocelyn. She sighed. He was the man she had never thought she'd meet, someone who loved where he lived and enjoyed being surrounded by “junk,” as her mom and sister, Becca, named all the stuff from bygone eras with which she surrounded herself. In fact, his huge store, formerly a factory, was called The Junk Stops Here; how perfect was that? He owned a piece of land, too, once part of his parents' farm, and had built a log-cabin-style home.
And here she was, sitting and mooning about Jakob instead of working. She would
get ahead of herself, she thought, smiling and shaking her head. She had begun to think she needed to just relax and not worry about romance, but that was before she banged on Jakob MÃ¼ller's front door in a moment of panic, and practically fell into his arms.
She tuned the radio to a station playing Christmas music nonstop and hummed as she made brownies, a double batch since she was going to Jakob's log cabin for a late dinner with just him and Jocelyn and wanted to take some along. It was something to look forward to. With Daniel there had been doubt, with Zack nervousness, but with Jakob there was peace, like a light switch had been flipped on in her soul.
After lunch she was on her way to Wolverhampton, the closest big town, to pick up pamphlets with full-color photos of Queensville Historic Manor. Those of the heritage committee members with harmonious voices would be carol singing through town starting the very next night. Jaymie didn't sing, but garbed in Victorian cloak she would hand out treats and historic home pamphlets.
Tourists would flock to Queensville this weekend for the Christmas sailboat regatta and other Dickens Days festivities. The pamphlet she gave them would encourage them to also visit the Queensville Historic manor just outside of town. The manor was almost ready, dressed up for a real old-fashioned Christmas. There would be carol singing at the candle-topped spinet, and a fire would be blazing cheerily in the hearth as historical interpreters went about their business. Jaymie, when she could, would be in the manor kitchen baking gingerbread men and sugar cookies.
Since she wrote a food column called Vintage Eats for the
Wolverhampton Weekly Howler
and was on good terms with the owner and his wife, Nan Goodenough, she had struck a bargain with them. They had printed, at cost, the glossy color pamphlets, which she had written, and for which Bill Waterman, local jack-of-all-trades, had provided photos, and Jaymie was picking them up. She drove through town past the Queensville Emporium where Valetta, her best friend and the village's pharmacist, stood on the porch, her hands wrapped around a steaming mug of tea. Jaymie waved, and Valetta waved back. Jaymie was scheduled at the Emporium the next morning so the Klausners could go Christmas shopping and visit one set of great-grandkids in Mount Clemons.
She arrived at the
in Wolverhampton in fifteen minutes. The paper published from a long, low old factory building, constructed of red brick in the thirties to house an appliance manufacturing firm and converted to a printing company in the sixties. That went out of business in the nineties as the electronic age began to take over. Joe Goodenough, a newspaperman, was crazy enough to buy it and convert it to a small town weekly early in the two thousands as a retirement hobby with his second wife, Nan.
Jaymie parked next to her editor's little blue sports car and circled the building, entering through the glass front door, the buzzer indicating her admission. The receptionist who was usually seated behind the front counter was absent, so Jaymie lifted the pass-through and strolled through the door to the carpeted offices beyond the public area. She turned in the direction of Nan's brash New York voice engaged in a heated conversation.
A young man hollered, “You don't know her, Mom. Give her a freaking break, will you?”
“I know who and what that girl is,” Nan yelled back. “As if you don't have enough trouble in your life, you have to pick up on a sleazy little piece of trash like that?”
Jaymie hesitated, one turn away from seeing the two, evidently Nan and her son in an argument.
“Screw you!” he yelled back.
There was the sound of a scuffle, ending with a dull thud, and Nan screamed. Jaymie bolted around the corner in time to see the two separated but glaring at each other. Nan's suit jacket was mussed, the shoulder hitched up as if her son had grabbed her. She leaned against the wall and stared up at him. The fellow was tall and lanky, with light brown hair worn collar length. He was disheveled, but Jaymie immediately recognized him; she had seen him around town more than once, and not in good circumstances. He whirled when he heard Jaymie and stared at her as if he didn't see her.
“Are you okay, Nan?” Jaymie asked, slowly approaching, eyeing the son.
The editor straightened, smoothed her reddish hair, coming out gray at the roots, off her forehead, and settled her jacket on her slim shoulders. “I'm fine. It's nothing, just a disagreement. Jaymie, this is my son Cody Wainwright. Cody, this is one of my writers, Jaymie Leighton.”
He turned back toward his mother. “I can't believe after everything I've been through you're not cutting me some slack,” he growled, his voice shaking with emotion. “I'm happy for once in my crappy life. But you don't want that, do you?”
“For once in your
life? Do you know how easy you've had it, howâ” She broke off and shook her head, with a side glance at Jaymie. She turned back to her son and in a deliberately calm voice said, “Cody, I want you to be happy. But Shelby Fretter is not good for you. If you
what her family was like, how often that name pops up in my newspaper and on the police blottersâ”
“Just like me, don't you get it? She's told me how you've hounded her family. I know
about your vendetta against the Fretters. No one ever gave Shelby a break, just like
!” He whirled and stormed past Jaymie, but stopped and turned back and pointed at his mother. “You've
been there for me, but I didn't think you'd sabotage the only good thing in my life!” He disappeared around the corner and the door buzzer sounded as he left the building.
Jaymie turned to Nan. The older woman's face was blotchy and tears welled in her eyes. She forced a trembling smile and said, “You did come at a good time, didn't you? Sorry about that little display. We're a family of shouters.”
Jaymie considered Nan a friend as well as a boss, and reached out, touching her shoulder. “Don't think twice about it. You look like you could use a cup of tea. Can you take a break?”