Monday, September 14, 2020

Release Day: HOLLY AND HOLIDAYS, ANOTHER MURDER : A Sheridan Hendley Holiday Mystery


Everyone’s dancin’ and prancin’ at the Pets & Paws Holiday Gala, that is, until chaos breaks out.

A festive fundraiser to help the dog rescue turns sinister when somebody salts the tempting spread with something toxic. Although Maddie and most of the other guests are quick to recover, Davis Elder is not so lucky. When it appears that the food poisoning was intended to mask his murder, Elder’s daughter, Rachel, asks Sheridan to help find his killer. As Sheridan and Rachel investigate the prominent accountant’s records, a possible motive emerges and the game is on – with a happy ending for all, except the killer.

Join Sheridan and her family and friends for this holiday cozy mystery novella with a dose of holiday cheer and a favorite biscotti recipe.

Read an excerpt:


“Hurry, Maddie. We need to help Mrs. Chantilly decorate for the party tomorrow and the adoptathon on Sunday. Then we get to go shopping.”
My step-daughter was not a morning person, at least not as a teenager. The occasional day off from school for teacher meetings was a grand opportunity to keep her busy with the reward of going shopping. Millicent College, where I taught part-time, was closed today as well, so we had plans to make a day of it.
In the past year, she had blossomed into a beautiful young woman. As a result, shopping was not as much a treat as a necessity. The plan had been to use the dress from her dad’s and my wedding, thinking we could just add something to make it more festive for the holiday gala. It didn’t fit.
All of Clover Hill and some surrounding communities would be at the first holiday gala, with the proceeds to support Clover Hill Pets & Paws. Maddie wanted to look perfect for Alex, her date for the gala. Her dad didn’t want her wearing anything snug or sexy. His preference would be a shapeless sack.
“Come on, Maddie. Let’s go. The day is wasting away.”
She stumbled into the kitchen in jeans, a sweater, and boots. I nudged her into a seat, handed her a plate of pancakes, and sat down.
In the kitchen, my husband, Brett, was on his tablet and shifted the screen to email as I walked by. Suspicious behavior and he’d been doing this a lot of late, with a twinkle in his hazel eyes when I asked about it.
Yesterday, his answer was “Nothing to worry about, a man has to have some secrets this time of the year.”
I couldn’t argue with that, though I had no clue what to get him for Christmas. I smiled at this handsome man, his dark curly hair with just enough silver for a distinguished touch, his contagious smile, and his dimples.
My Sheltie, Charlie, pawed me out of my thoughts. Bella, a lab mix, wagged her tail. As I let them out, I noticed the temperature had dropped. Growing up in Delaware, I almost missed the colder weather and more frequent snow storms. In Clover Hill, Virginia, we didn’t get too much below freezing as often and not as much snow, either. A dusting or a few inches was about it unless you were in the hills. There were the occasional snow storms and then everyone panicked.
“The holidays are right around the corner.” I commented as I shivered and closed the door.
“When are we going to decorate? The Hamiltons and the Brewers already have their lights up. Some other houses do too. Alex helped Mrs. Daniels get her decorations on the outside of her house yesterday.”
The Hamiltons and the Brewers were our neighbors. Younger couples, Maddie babysat for the Hamiltons about once a month, allowing them to at least get an hour of adult time together. Their baby girl wasn’t quite a year old yet. Babysitting also meant Maddie could earn a little money and learn responsibility. I shook my head at the difference in what babysitting paid years ago and the going rate now.
“Maybe this weekend. We can pull everything out of storage after dinner. Will that work?”
Maddie nodded. “I can see if Alex is available to help on Saturday?”
“I don’t think we need any help…”
Maddie’s face dropped and I cleared my throat.
“We can always use a little help, can’t we Brett?”
He took in Maddie’s upturned face, hopeful for the right answer before saying, “That’s an excellent idea. I’m not as young as I once was. And he has experience, right?”
Maddie sat up straighter, an enormous smile on her face. “Yes, he did the ones on their house, then Mrs. Daniels asked for help. He’s done both for years now.”
Brett and I both had to stop ourselves from laughing. Eyes twinkling, he responded, “That’s exceptional. See if he’s available, Maddie.”
That was all it took. She bolted from the table, her plate empty and forgotten. Brett shook his head and opened his mouth. I shook my head.
“Let it go. She’s already on the phone with him.”
He exhaled. “She’s 15.”
“She’s almost 16. Like it or not, your little girl is growing up. That’s why we need to go shopping after we help with the dogs.”
He nodded as his phone played the first few bars of Beethoven’s Fifth. Fabry. James Fabry was Brett’s partner when something big went down, with the State Police called in.
Brett answered and repeated single words. Par for the course. He shook his head as he hung up.
Sitting down again, I asked, “What happened?”
“The jewelry store in town? Broken into last night. I’m meeting Fabry there in twenty minutes. We have a few other leads on a pattern of break-ins across the state.”
He picked up his jacket as he spoke. With a quick kiss, he left. As I was about to search out Maddie, she joined me in the kitchen.
“Alex is available for this weekend. Just need to tell him when, so he can work it out with his mom. Okay if Karla comes, too? You know, in case his mom has to work.”
Angie, Alex’s mom, was a nurse. I looked around the room and nodded. “We need to make sure everything is accessible for her though, so she can move from room to room and use the bathroom with her walker.” Karla used a walker and fared well independently. We happily accommodated her.
“No problem. I’ll clean up and move my stuff.” She looked around the kitchen and shrugged. “I’m ready.”
I chuckled and waved her forward. Charlie and Bella tried to follow.
“Sorry, girls. We’ll get you a walk later on.”
“I guess that’s a hint, huh?”
“Yup. It is.”
       We chatted more on the road, Alex the focal point of her conversation mixed in with a bit of discussion on the winter performance of the chorus. Given that both she and Alex were in chorus and would do solos once again, the conversation flowed.

Excerpt from Holly and Holidays, Another Murder by Christa Nardi. Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.


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