AN UNHOLY DEATH
A prequel to the Agatha-Award winning Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries (Originally published in Carried to the Grave and Other Stories)
Beyond the Page Publishing, August 29, 2023
In paperback and ebook
From the cover:
To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, we’re bringing out stand-alone editions of readers’ favorites from Carried to the Grave and Other Stories. Our first selection is the novella An Unholy Death, a historical prequel to the Agatha Award-winning series opener, Death al Dente.
It’s 1910 and newly married Kate Murphy arrives in Jewel Bay, Montana, with her husband Paddy, proprietor of Murphy’s Mercantile, intent on building their life together in this unfamiliar place. The conditions are rough—as are some of their clientele—and get even rougher when Kate discovers the dead body of the widowed local preacher. She’s determined to keep his young daughter safe, but the task takes all the courage Kate can summon as she faces the first of many mysteries unfolding in her new home . . .
Praise for the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries
“A pleasing read with a thoughtful heroine, a plethora of red herrings, and some foodie tips.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“A lighthearted and amusing story with the added bonus of several yummy recipes.” ―Mystery Scene
“Treble at the Jam Fest has all the necessary elements to satisfy cozy mystery lovers: likeable, believable characters, a fast-moving plot, and a logical ending. Great fun!” ―Suspense Magazine
“A delicious mystery as richly constructed as the layers of a buttery pastry. Wine, enchiladas, and song make for a gourmet treat in the coziest town in Montana!” ―Krista Davis, New York Times bestselling author of the Domestic Diva Mysteries
“Leslie is a fellow foodie who loves a good mystery and it shows in this delightful tale!” ―Cleo Coyle, New York Times bestselling author of the Coffeehouse Mysteries
“Music, food, scenery and a cast of appealing characters weave together in perfect harmony in Leslie Budewitz’s Treble at the Jam Fest.” ―Sheila Connolly, New York Times bestselling author of the Orchard Mysteries and the County Cork Mysteries
“Small-town charm and big-time chills. Jewel Bay, Montana, is a food lover’s paradise.” ―Laura Childs, New York Times bestselling author
ÒGentlemen. We’ll have no such rough language in Murphy’s Mercantile,” Kate Murphy told the two loggers as she plucked their change from the drawer of the brass cash register and slid the coins across the glass-topped counter. “About the sheriff or anyone else. Besides, it’s too pretty a day for talk about thieving.”
Both men cackled, their bushy beards in need of a good trim, then dropped the coins into the pockets of their wool pants and gathered up their supplies.
“Thank you, Mrs.,” the older one said. “We’ll be well fed for another week in the woods. Maybe next time we come into town, we’ll visit the barber.” He gave her a broad, blue-eyed wink, as if he’d heard her thoughts about his beard.
“Off with you now,” she said with a wave of her hand.
The men laughed. “She’s a feisty one,” the younger man told his companion, a beefy hand reaching for the brass thumb latch on the front door. “Paddy’s got his hands full with her.”
At that, Kate’s embarrassment turned to anger. Don’t let it show, she warned herself. You know what they say about the Irish. In less than two years, Murphy’s Mercantile had gone from a supply tent to a whitewashed shack to this grand building made of locally fired clay bricks, with plank floors and wide display windows and milk glass lights hanging from the tin ceiling. Paddy had sunk everything he had into the business and she dare not do or say a thing that might jeopardize its future. Their future.
She’d been Paddy Murphy’s wife for thirty-one days now, the last twenty-two here in Jewel Bay, Montana. The town wasn’t anything like what she’d expected, nothing like their hometown in Wisconsin. Paddy had been honest in his letters over the six months before their marriage. The older cousin of a schoolmate, he’d come from Ireland at twelve and worked hard to get a start in the new country. A boy she’d known but never given any serious thought, until he’d come back to Wisconsin for a visit last winter. They’d locked eyes in an understanding, though she’d just turned twenty-one, and when he left to return to Montana, they entrusted their courtship to the postal service and planned a late August wedding. Then what was already being called the Great Fire of 1910 swept through the region, endangering millions of acres and thousands of people. Thankfully it had spared this valley. After their wedding and two nights in a grand hotel in St. Paul and the long railroad trip west, here she was.
No, Jewel Bay was nothing like she’d expected. Both more, and less, and every day full of surprises.
“Don’t you mind them,” said a woman in a yellow dress, lace and a green ribbon trimming the stand-up collar. She wore no hat, the dark hair fashionably coiled on top of her head accentuating her height, and her warm smile eased Kate’s tensions. Or maybe it was the hint of lavender that surrounded her. “The valley’s full of men like that. More comfortable with squirrels and silence than a pretty young woman. I’m Laura Peterman. I think you’ve met my husband, James, at the bank.”
Kate felt herself blushing again. Was that going to be the way of things, at least until she’d met all the customers and figured out where all the canned goods were shelved and who paid cash and who had credit? Surely the Petermans had credit. Paddy had shown her the books, but he’d gone out to make deliveries, leaving her here alone for the first time.
And she wasn’t pretty, not by a long shot. Short and slight, with fair skin and hazel eyes, brown hair and a pointy chin. A heart-shaped face, if you wanted to put it kindly. She didn’t look Irish at all. Paddy said maybe not, but she wore her heart on her sleeve as well as her face, and that made her the sweetest lass to him.
“Kate Flan—” she began, then corrected herself. “Kate Murphy. I’m not quite used to it yet.”
Laura Peterman’s lips curved, but there was less warmth in her expression this time. Had Kate offended her? She couldn’t imagine how.
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