In the California coastal town of South Cove, history is one of its many tourist attractions—until it becomes deadly…
Jill Gardner, proprietor of Coffee, Books, and More, has discovered that the old stone wall on her property might be a centuries-old mission worthy of being declared a landmark. But Craig Morgan, the obnoxious owner of South Cove’s most popular tourist spot, The Castle, makes it his business to contest her claim. When Morgan is found murdered at The Castle shortly after a heated argument with Jill, even her detective boyfriend has to ask her for an alibi. Jill decides she must find the real murderer to clear her name. But when the killer comes for her, she’ll need to jump from historic preservation to self-preservation …
Excerpt - Some people like to hear their own voice. That jewel of wisdom hit me as I filled the coffee carafes for the third time. As chamber liaison, I’d volunteered my shop, Coffee, Books, and More, to serve as semi-permanent host site for South Cove’s Business Basics meeting. The early morning meeting was scheduled to run from seven to nine but the clock over the coffee bar showed it was already twenty minutes past. With more items to cover on the agenda, we’d be ordering lunch, maybe dinner, before the end.
All because the newest committee member, Josh Thomas, owner of the new antiques store down the street, had issues. He didn’t like the agenda, the city’s promotion plan, and he especially didn’t like the fact the city didn’t have a formal animal control office. These subjects were not part of the regular list of discussion topics for the eclectic mix of owners of gift shops, art galleries, inns, and restaurants. I usually loved feeling the creative energy and listening to wacky ideas members brought to the table. Today, the meeting droned on and I couldn’t wait for it to end.
“I wonder why he even moved here,” Aunt Jackie fake-whispered to me as she sliced a second cheesecake. “He hates everything.”
“Hush.” I elbowed my aunt, trying to quiet her.
“Jill Gardner, don’t tell me you weren’t thinking the same thing.” She started plating out the cheesecake.
A couple of the council members snickered, and Josh’s face turned a deeper red than normal. His wide girth barely fit into the black suit he wore. From what I could tell, he wore the same threadbare suit every day. Watching the buttons on his off-white shirt, I worried one would pop off each time he took a labored breath.
“As I was saying, we must press the police department to deal with felonious teenagers running the streets.” Josh didn’t acknowledge he’d heard Jackie, a tactic I’ve often used with my aunt. She’s overbearing, opinionated, speaks her mind, and I love her to death.
“There’s no problem.” Sadie Michaels replied, the words harsh and clipped. “There’s not a lot for kids to do around here, so they hang out at the park. They don’t cause problems for local businesses. We’ve raised them better than that.”
“I beg to differ. Craig Morgan, the manager over at The Castle, has caught kids breaking in after-hours. They've been having drinking parties, swimming in the pools, and he’s even caught a few couples in the mansion’s bedrooms, doing heavens knows what.” Snickers from the rest of the members floated around the room as Josh wheezed in another breath. “We must stop these criminals before there’s real trouble. The antiques housed at The Castle are priceless.”
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