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. . .
"Murder, dirty politics, pirate lore, and a hot police detective: Guidebook to Murder has it all! A cozy lover's dream come true." --Susan McBride, author of The Debutante Dropout Mysteries
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Mission to Murder
A Tourist Trap Mystery
By LYNN CAHOON
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Lynn Cahoon
All rights reserved.
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 to Business 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."
"My son, Nick, is one of these hooligans you want arrested. I've never heard him or any of his friends talk about breaking into The Castle. They know better." The red on Sadie's face rivaled Josh's. She stood and pointed her finger at Josh sitting across from her. "You like causing trouble."
After setting the full carafes on the table, I put my hand on Sadie's shoulder, easing her back into her chair. "This topic needs to be tabled until next meeting. We'll invite Detective King to attend to address Mr. Thomas's concerns about property safety. Bill, do you want to get us back on track with the agenda?" I threw a lifeline to Bill Simmons, our council chair and owner of South Cove Bed and Breakfast on Main Street.
Bill shot me a grateful smile. "I'm sure Jill is anxious to get the meeting over and get back to business. As a side note, the mayor has reappointed Ms. Gardner as the chamber's liaison for next year. Mr. Thomas, if you have questions about our procedures, she will be happy to work with you."
Okay, now I officially hated Bill Simmons. Taking a deep breath, I pasted on a flight attendant smile and nodded. "Of course, I'll stop by and visit with Josh this week."
Josh didn't seem pleased with the idea of spending quality time with me, either. Cool, I could plan on the visit being quick.
Bill's relief at regaining control swept across the room, calming everyone, except me and Josh. "Let's move on. The Annual Summer Festival starts up next month. Can we get a report from the committee on how the preparations are going? Darla?"
As the owner of the local winery explained the committee's goals, I took a seat next to Sadie. "Thanks," she whispered.
"Not a problem." I liked Sadie. She and I had become friends in the last year, mostly over coffee after the business-to-business meetings In her forties, the woman was a single mom, led the women's group at her church, and ran a small business. She got more done in two hours than I accomplished in eight. She'd been a rock for me when I'd been put in charge of Miss Emily's funeral earlier this year. Without Sadie's help, my friend would have been sent to the afterlife without a proper good-bye.
My coffee shop/bookstore was the best customer for her business, Pies on the Fly. She was easygoing and would give you her left arm if you needed it. But no one messed with her kid.
Nick Michaels chaired the school debate team, served as youth leader for his church's Boy Scout troop, and led the high school football team as an all-star quarterback. Calling him a hooligan was like saying the pope ran around throwing rocks through windows. Trouble wasn't in the boy's DNA.
Somehow Bill pushed the last two items off until the next meeting, and before I knew it, the meeting adjourned. Sadie stayed around to help clean up after the others refilled their cups with a last free coffee and said their good-byes. I started wiping down the hodgepodge of tables we'd shoved together for the meeting. Sadie shoved paper plates and used napkins into a sack with a gale wind force.
"I can't believe that man." Sadie crumpled a leftover paper cup and shoved it into a trash sack. "He doesn't like kids. That's all. He's so used to working with the past, he can't see the future right in front of him."
"He's a character, I'll agree with you on that point." I wiped a table clean and returned it to a spot near the window. Pulling chairs around the table, I watched my friend's face as I said the words she didn't want to hear. "Listen, Craig's been complaining to everyone the town kids are sneaking in after-hours. Greg's been out on calls there three times this month."
Detective Greg King had returned to town after his divorce to serve as the town's lead police officer. Greg also was my boyfriend. The word still rankled when I thought it, let alone said, boyfriend. Seriously, wasn't there a grown-up word a thirty-two-year-old could call the hunk of boy toy she dated?
"You don't think my Nick would be part of anything like that, do you? He knows better." Sadie's eyes filled with tears. She'd raised Nick alone after her husband was killed on an off-shore oil rig when their son was five. His mom's eagle eye kept the boy in line, but sometimes I wondered if he wasn't too controlled. Boys needed a wild side and breaking in to swim in the most expensive pool in town could be Nick's way of getting his freak on. So to speak.
"Wouldn't be the worst thing for the boy," Aunt Jackie called from behind the counter, where she stood making a pot of coffee and eavesdropping. "Maybe he's getting lucky with some girl."
"Aunt Jackie!" I glanced over at Sadie, whose face had turned whiter than the wash towel in her hand. I tried to console her. "I'm sure it's not Nick."
"Now, Jill Gardner, you know as well as I do boys will be boys." My aunt huffed and left for the back of the store.
After making sure Jackie had left, I glanced at my friend. Her face now appeared mottled gray. "Sorry, you know how she is. Talk first. Think later."
"That's the thing. I'm not sure Nick's innocent." Sadie slumped down into a chair.
"Problems?" I sat at the table with her.
"There's a new girl at church. Her folks moved the family here from LA. The girl got kicked out of the last prep school she attended."
Sadie scanned the room to see if anyone had remained and paused from wiping the same spot on the table for the tenth time. She whispered, "Drugs."
"I'm sure that's a rumor." I gently took the rag from her hand. There'd be no varnish left on the tabletop if I didn't intervene.
She shook her head. "It's not a rumor. Cindy told me and she heard it from Gladys, the church secretary. She'd overheard the girl's folks telling Pastor Bill." Sadie reached out for my hand. "She works at The Castle giving tours." She uttered the words she must have thought hammered the nails into Nick's prison cell.
I watched Sadie leave the coffee shop a few minutes later, a pie order for next week in her hand and her heart on her sleeve. Sighing, I sat down with the book catalogue and made a list for Jackie to order later that night.
Nearly two hours later, glancing around the still-empty dining room, I picked up the phone and called Amy, South Cove's city planner, secretary to Mayor Baylor, and my best friend—roles that got her kidnapped and stranded on a remote Mexican island a few months ago. But true to Amy's character, she'd been too excited by the mondo waves she'd ridden to worry about rescue.
"South Cove City Hall." Amy's perky voice came over the speakerphone.
"Lunch today?" I nodded at Toby Killian, who'd entered the shop for his afternoon shift. Toby worked for me during the day and for Greg most evenings as one of South Cove's finest. I pulled off my apron and glanced into the mirror behind the coffee bar. My makeup had disappeared, leaving my face pale and blotchy, and the curl in my black hair rivaled Little Orphan Annie without the flame-red. I finger-combed my curls into a controlled chaos, the phone still cradled between my shoulder and my ear.
"Eleven-thirty. I'm finishing last night's council notes." Amy disconnected the call. No good-bye, and since we only had one restaurant in town, no need to plan any further.
"Hey, boss." Toby came around the counter and put on an apron with Wired Up? printed on the front. Aunt Jackie's newest promotion for the coffee shop focused on the free Wi-Fi we offered our customers. From what I saw, after adding the service we gained a lot of the hooligan teenage crowd Josh had been complaining about. Our sales had doubled in the late afternoon hours, so I wasn't complaining.
"Do we have problems with the after-school crowd? Anything I should know about?" I leaned against the counter, watching Toby start a fresh pot of decaf.
"Like what?" Toby pushed the button to brew and flipped a clean rag over his shoulder. He rocked the indie-barista look and knew it.
"With the teenagers. Josh Thomas said he'd had some run-ins." I was pretty sure Josh had overreacted.
"Kids are kids. They don't give me any guff. Probably afraid I'll arrest them if I see them later." Toby straightened the flyers for the next Mystery Book Club meeting on Friday. "I can talk to a few of them if you'd like. But as long as he keeps yelling because they walk by his shop, he's going to get crap back."
"Keep your ears open. Josh said some have been sneaking into The Castle grounds for after-closing swim parties." I glanced at the clock, my shift was done. I'd been hesitant to hire anyone before Aunt Jackie had started working with me; now I had two employees and a lot of spare time.
South Cove sat inland on the central California coastline. Summer weather meant highs in the seventies, a lot like the weather forecast in spring, fall, and, thankfully, winter. Fog tended to disappear by noon and the day turned to shirtsleeve weather. Today was glorious. The flower boxes lining the sidewalks bloomed with bright colors, the flowers' sweet smell filling the morning air.
Walking past Antiques by Thomas, I noticed Josh moving a walnut side table into his store display window. I waved, but he glared back. My lack of support during the meeting hadn't gone unnoticed. I'd stop by the shop later this week with a box of cookies in an attempt to mend fences.
Cookies could fix anything and good fences make good neighbors. Or at least I hoped the old wisdom held true. Maybe I'd send Aunt Jackie over. She could charm a cobra, which she'd actually done on one of her senior hostel trips to India.
Having Aunt Jackie helping with the business had been hard to accept at times. But I had to admit, her ideas paid off. The local author readings she'd started tripled business in both the book side and the coffee shop on what used to be Dead Wednesday. Lille's diner traffic increased, as well, with customers migrating there for a meal after the readings ended.
Next month, a famous mystery author was scheduled to speak at the bookstore. Partnering with Bill at South Cove Bed and Breakfast, our only cost so far amounted to half the author's plane fare. Though I signed the checks, my aunt still kept the mystery author's identity a secret.
This marketing tactic might be her first big failure. Who would come to hear someone they didn't know? When I complained, she shooed me off.
"That's part of the fun. It's a mystery."
"We do have an author scheduled, right?" My stomach turned at the thought.
"Of course. He or she's already agreed to come and read. Their new book is arriving that week and we are hosting the book's homecoming."
"You mean launch." Sometimes she scared me how much she didn't know about the bookselling business.
"Yeah, that's the word. I knew he said it had something to do with a cruise."
"But what if no one comes?" I tried one more time. The author was a man. She'd let that slip. My mind raced through the upcoming new releases I'd ordered last week. Had I overstocked one book?
"Pish. You worry too much." She'd walked away, the conversation over. The shadowed flyers told people the date, the time, and that they would love this author, but the rest remained as the sign said, "Cloaked in Mystery."
Diamond Lille's was a block down on Main Street and I was in front of it before I realized I'd arrived. I shook my head clear of the book launch worries and put on a receptionist smile before I entered the diner. Believe me, gossip travels fast in South Cove. If I'd walked in with a frown, people would be betting on hearing some bit of bad news within a day. I'd either be dying of cancer, had found Greg cheating with a stripper from Bakerstown, or my business was on the ropes. And even though none of those things were going to happen anytime soon, truth didn't stop tongues from wagging.
Amy sat in our favorite booth. She'd already ordered our drinks, and a large glass of iced tea waited for me while she sipped on a soda.
"What, no ice cream shake?" I slipped into the bench seat across from her. Today, the lunch special featured potato soup. Adding a dinner salad to go with the bowl of creamy goodness topped with shredded cheddar cheese and a generous dollop of sour cream, made the meal appear somewhat healthy and part of my ongoing diet.
Amy's face turned red. "Am I that predictable?"
"If it's Tuesday, it's strawberry shake day. If we meet on Friday, you order a fish sandwich and chocolate shake."
Grinning, Amy nodded. "Why mess with routine? Actually, they were backed up in the kitchen, somebody bailed on their shift. Carrie got me this while I waited."
"Who didn't show?"
"Sadie's kid, Nick." Amy's voice came from behind the menu she studied. Not like she hadn't read the same list of items three times a week for the last year. "I think I'll get the grilled pastrami on rye today."
"No club on wheat with a side of chicken noodle soup?" I recited Amy's usual Tuesday lunch order.
She swatted at me with the menu. "Hank and I found the best New York–style deli when we were in the city last weekend. I've been craving pastrami since Sunday."
Carrie showed up to take our orders. "I'm sure I could let the kitchen know you're both here. But let's go through the motions. What can I get for you?" She regarded me first.
"I'm having a house salad, bleu cheese dressing on the side, and a bowl of loaded potato soup. But Amy's going to surprise you."
"God, you'd think I shaved my head and become a Buddhist." Amy kicked me under the table. "I'll have the grilled pastrami on rye with a side salad. And a strawberry milkshake."
Excerpted from Mission to Murder by LYNN CAHOON. Copyright © 2014 Lynn Cahoon. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Mission to Murder is a darn good book! I'm now hooked on the series, happily so.
Nice little fast read. I liked the characters and the plot.
Good reading with not so surprising ending but it does have a twist.
Love this book and series - primarily because it's not obvious from the first chapter who will get killed and who will do it.
I enjoyed the book. I'm looking forward to getting the next one. It's an easy fast read great for vacation.
It was a quick read but a fun book but make sure you read #1 before #2 in the series.
Having read the first book in the tantalizing, A Tourist Trap Mystery (A GUIDEBOOK TO MURDER), which I recommend reading prior to #2 MISSION TO MURDER---was delighted to catch up with Jill and all the favorite characters in this quaint small town. Coffee, Books, and More on Main Street, is just one of the many tourist hot spots in the small coastal town of South Cove, California. From the first book, Jill Gardner (owner of Coffee, Books, and More), a former lawyer, inherited Miss Emily’s house (she befriended her years ago), and the city wanted her to tear down the house for a new condo real estate development. Presently, in MISSION TO MURDER, Jill, has discovered the old stone wall on her property might be a centuries-old mission, which she wants to declare as a historic landmark. However, again she faces many challenges and obstacles regarding the mission site; (one being a thorn in her side – Craig Thomas). Craig is the owner of The Castle, a popular tourist spot---he is a man who knows how to create enemies. However Jill had an argument with him and later her boyfriend and local detective, Greg (hunk, from Book 1), receives a call stating Craig was found murdered at The Castle. Then there is Fifi, his dog who was left tied at the beach, the ex-wife, the FBI, and other mysterious happenings going on at The Castle. Appears Josh Thomas, Owner of Antiques by Thomas, the antique shop next to her coffee shop, and Craig Morgan, The Castle were the two standing in her way of certifying the Spanish mission wall site. Currently Jill is not only fighting small town politics, the mayor, (which dislikes her), city council, historic committee, plus more in order to fight for the historical commission to certify the site, so she can ensure future generations know the history of this particular part of the California coastline. Now she is in the middle of a murder, she did not commit. Her top priority is to find the real killer, and the mystery begins. In the midst of all the murder, the first Annual Cloaked in Mystery was being planned (a new release and secret thriller author, whose name is kept hidden) to further build suspense and intrigue. If anyone guessed the author, the prize would be a set of author's signed backlist, current release, and a night at South Cove's B&B. A cozy, light murder mystery filled with an array of eccentric characters, and shop owners (most are nosy and always know everyone’s business), where flowers bloom, with good books and coffee, friends, and an adorable village out of a fairy tale (with murders), a lovable golden retriever, a yummy love relationship, with never a dull moment in a town full of mysteries and historic charm. Another winner by talented author, Lynn Cahoon! Readers will also get a peak at Jill Gardner's next adventure, coming Fall, 2014 as an excerpt is included at the end of the book. As South cove's council liaison, Jill volunteers her shop for meetings each month (and president of the I Hate Mayor Baylor Club)--more mischief and scheming. Appears Aunt Jackie, Darla, Sadie, Marie, and the rest of the crew will be returning for another action packed saga to keep the drama brewing. A special thank you to Kensington Books (eKensington) and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
enjoyed the story line
2nd book in the series and interesting to keep reading how the main character continues to find herself in trouble by being nosy
A fun mystery. Well-written and edited. A good cozy.
The second book in this new series does not disappoint. Starting to really enjoy the mainstay characters as she delves more into their personalities. Looking forward to the next installment.
look forward to reading a lot more from this writer.
While I enjoyed the 1st book in this series, #2 Mission to Murder takes it up a notch. Interesting plot twists and believable characters. Good read.
This us a nice easy read for relaxation. Story lune wss inreresting byt didn't require much thought. Great book for chilling out between mire serioys reading. Stephanie Clanahan
I have read the first two books in this series and am looking forward to reading the rest.
Add this to your vacation reading list! I am enjoying this series and looking forward to more cozy reads from this author. Good plots that keep you guessing until the end. Comfortable characters that make themselves at home. Highly entertaining.
Good characters, interesting plot just what you want from a cozy mystery. I'm doing a binge on this series.
Another series that is quickly moving to one of my top favorites. I loved this book. The characters are realistic, people that you feel like you run into everyday. The relationship between Jill and Greg is moving at a good pace, I like that they will bicker and get hurt feelings, feel insecure but talk about things and work it out like most couples will. I love the relationship between all the characters Aunt Jackie, quirky and fun, Jill's best friend Amy, Toby has me laughing, he reminds me of my older brothers by instigating Jill at times and Esmerelda who pops in to give warnings, to name a few of my favorites. The mystery of who killed Craig kept me guessing and Jill also as she tries to find answers to clear herself from being top of the suspect list which is long. The mystery will take you on twists and turns and had me on the edge of my seat at the end flipping pages to see what was going to happen. I am definitely continuing on with this series.
Title: Mission to Murder - Tourist Trap Mystery Book 2 Author: Lynn Cahoon Published: 7-3-14 Publisher: Kensington Books Pages: 238 Genre: Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense Sub Genre: Cozy Mystery, Women Sleuths, Women's Fiction, Amateur Detective ISBN: 9781601832399 ASIN: B00IOQR98 Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley . Jill Garner believes the old stone walls discovered by her contractor behind her home in Guidebook to Murder are part of an old mission. She is hoping the historical society will authenticate it and give it landmark status. Opposed to this is Craig Morgan, owner and operator of The Castle. Who according to Morgan is the only true tourist draw to South Cove. Following a very loud and heated argument outside The Castle between Jill and Morgan; Morgan is found dead. Jill tops the suspect list and she begins to investigate to find the killer and prove her innocence. Not surprisingly the killer doesn't want to be found and decides to remove Jill permanently. I love this series and have read all six books now out and look forward to reading the next book Tea Cups and Carnage coming out June 2016. The characters have become friends I look forward to visiting again and again. Jill, her neighboring business owners and friends and fellow townspeople are so personable and seem to be real enough that you feel you have met them before and are close friends. Stop on by and see Amy at City Hall or ask about upcoming community events.
Another enjoyable read. I love the series..
Couldn't put it down. I have become invested in the charters. Can't wait for the next one!
Moving on to book three