Murder Half-Baked: Violent Death and Cherry Danish

Murder Half-Baked (290 pp, $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-60381-828-5), by Kathleen Delaney, is a cozy murder mystery set in a small town whose residents harbor far too many secrets.

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Also available in Kindle and other ebook editions on Smashwords.

5 Lips: “If you like cozy mysteries at all, you’ll love this story; I know I did.”
Rose, Two Lips Reviews

“At the center of Murder Half Baked, itself a delightful mix of humor (wedding plans going astray) and crime (murder and arson), are Ellen and Dan, two people who seem ideally suited for each other and really make this mystery so enjoyable. The Grace House women, who are all suspects in the fire that burned down their residence, are a diverse group of characters, and interesting in their own way. Despite all the diversions that are presented to Ellen and Dan (and, by extension, to the reader), the storyline is easy to follow making this overall a fast, entertaining read.”   Read more …

—Mysterious Reviews

Murder Half Baked is an exciting and fun mystery that will keep the pages turning.”

Small Press Bookwatch/Midwest Book Review

“A cracking good mystery!”

Manic Readers

“A fascinating mix of a harried woman trying to carry on with her business affairs, plan for a wedding with too much help from others, and assist her fiancé in solving a crime which may well involve someone Ellen knows. Delaney has a flair for turning mundane matters into intriguing background for a murder mystery.”    Read more…

–John A. Broussard, I Love a Mystery

Delaney’s earlier mysteries have earned generous praise from reviewers. According to Publisher’s Weekly, “Delaney’s choice of setting, gossipy milieu and colorful … suspects help … move the action right along.”

“Congenial characters make (Delaney) an enjoyable addition to the cozy scene,” writes Kirkus Reviews.

 

A dead man in the cemetery, another in the bakery. Ellen McKenzie has to find the killer soon … before another death puts a stop to her wedding. The groom is Dan Dunham, Santa Louisa’s Chief of Police. The guest list is growing and Ellen’s dreams of a small, intimate candlelight ceremony are rapidly disappearing. A major distraction is Ellen’s quest to find a new building for Grace House, a halfway house for needy women. Then she finds old Dr. Sadler dead in the cemetery, his head bashed in by the arm of a marble angel. Every suspect is connected to Grace House. After it goes up in flames, all the residents, including one new-born, move in with Ellen and Dan. Will Ellen and Dan ever solve the murders and get their lives back?

“Some time ago,” says Delaney, “a family member had a need for a place like Grace House, and I was amazed to discover how many people are dependent on such homes and the wonderful services they provide. I also liked the idea of a novel where I could use my knowledge of real estate and justify tours of local bakeries. Thanks to their generosity, I am now an expert on the art of the cherry Danish.”

Kathleen Delaney, a retired real estate broker, has authored three other Ellen McKenzie mystery novels, using her real estate experience to guide Ellen. The scenes in the bakery kitchen required extra research, including taste tests. Besides her novels, Kathleen has contributed to several anthologies, won a national award for short fiction, and published several articles. She lives in a century-old house in South Carolina, enjoying her two dogs and eight grandchildren. For more information, go to KathleenDelaney.net.

 

Murder Half-Baked is available in Kindle ($4.95) and print editions on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, and Amazon Japan. Bookstores and libraries can order by contacting info@camelpress.com or through Ingram or Baker and Taylor. Other electronic versions can be purchased on Smashwords or at any of the major online ebook stores.

Read on for an excerpt:

I was so deep in thought that I almost didn’t see her.

The old woman was at the cemetery gates, waving her arms, staggering to keep upright. I braked and backed up.

“What’s the matter?” I got to her just as she collapsed. Her face was gray, her breathing coming in labored gasps.

“I think he’s dead.”

I looked up the drive. What was she talking about? They were all dead. Weren’t they?

“Is it your husband?” I asked. “Where is he?”

“Up there.” She pointed toward a hill where the graves were littered with statues and granite monuments. “His grave is up there.” She paused and took a deep breath. This time her words came out stronger. “It isn’t him. It’s Doctor Sadler. He’s got blood all over him. Someone’s killed him. Do something!”

Doctor Sadler? Up there? Blood? Why would he be … no. This couldn’t be happening. I looked down at the frail little thing. Her breathing seemed a little better, but her color was still terrible. Shock. She was in shock. I couldn’t remember what you did for shock, but I knew there was something. Mouth to mouth? No. Lie her down flat? Elevate her feet?

“Aren’t you going to do something? Go up there?”

She was imagining it. She must be. Only, she’d seen something and it didn’t seem I had much choice but to find out what. First, though, I needed to get her to my car. I had a little trouble with that; she didn’t bend very well but finally made it. She leaned back against the seat. “Well? Get going.”

“I am. Just sit back and try to relax.” I wanted to sound soothing. Instead I sounded as unnerved as she. “Where did you say he is? If he’s hurt … I have my cell phone.” I wasn’t at all sure what this frail little woman had seen, but it was certainly possible Doctor Sadler, or someone, had had an accident and needed help. However, I wasn’t so unnerved that I was going to call anyone before I knew what I was calling about.

I followed her directions and drove into a parking area that contained only one very old, very large car. Its back passenger door was open, and a mat lay on the gravel.

“Up there.” She pointed up a path that wound peacefully between old monuments. A huge oak reigned sedately at the top of the rise. The dead slept here, but in peace and tranquility. Violence and blood seemed to have no place.

I started up the small hill, convincing myself with every step that there was nothing to find. I was wrong.

At least I knew enough not to go too close. In any event, it wasn’t necessary. Even at a distance, I could tell that the elderly man who lay across the grave would soon be in one of his own. I felt my knees give way and came to rest on a fat marble bench at the foot of a grave. I didn’t know whose it was but sent him or her a thank you anyway. It took a little fumbling before I was able to get my cell phone out of my pocket and another minute before my fingers would dial 911. My eyes never left the body. I don’t know if I thought I could will him to move, or what, but I couldn’t seem to see anything else.

“Ida.” I hardly recognized my own voice. “It’s Ellen. Listen—”

“Did you get that poor woman away safely?” she interrupted. “That kind of thing just makes me sick. Gary said he was so rude, I—”

“Ida, listen. I’ll tell you about her later. I have another problem.” She was silent for a few seconds after I finished telling her what I had found, then immediately went into dispatcher mode. “Did you touch him?”

“No.” Touch him? I shuddered. “I know better than that. I’m just sitting here, on someone’s bench, looking at him. Can you get … uh … you know, the right people out here?”

“Stay on the line, Ellen. I’m making the calls right now. Don’t move.”

As if I could. “Ida, there’s an old lady in my car. She was the one who found him. Make sure the ambulance people take a look at her.”

“Will do. Who is she?”

“I’ve no idea. But if she’s feeling like I am, she’s going to need a little help.”

“Oh oh. Are you going to be sick? Put your head between your legs.”

I thought that was for fainting but didn’t bother to say so. “I’m fine. Just get the troops here.”

I wasn’t fine. Not one bit. I’d seen dead people before, but this! My head was swimming, and Ida’s advice seemed pretty good. At least I wouldn’t have to look at what remained of what I supposed was Dr. Sadler.

Sirens. Screaming loudly and getting closer. Help was on the way. I couldn’t see the front gates from where I sat, but I could see the road. It filled up fast with police cars, fire trucks, and an ambulance. I rose to my feet, vowing I wouldn’t get sick on what might be crime scene grass, and walked down the trail toward the parking lot.

Two black and whites pulled into the lot, followed by an ambulance. My friend Gary was in the first car.

“You’ve had a busy day,” he observed. “Where’s this body?”

“Up there.” I pointed up the hill. “Right under that oak tree, on the grave by the fallen angel.”

The officer who unwound himself from behind the wheel of the second car was new to me. Young, tall, very serious, he looked appalled at my description. “You can’t have a fallen angel in this cemetery. It’s … sacrilegious.”

“It’s a statue. Of an angel. It’s fallen over,” I explained. “The … victim is right beside it.”

“I knew that.” He started up the hill right behind the paramedics. Gary watched him go. “He’s new,” he said, as if that explained everything. “You all right, Ellen? You look kind of white. I’ve got some coffee. Would that help?”

Before I answered him, I glanced over at my car. My old lady seemed to be leaning back against the seat, her mouth hanging open. Wonderful. She was probably having a stroke or something. No. Her color looked okay. But coffee might help. It would sure help me.

“Thanks. Coffee would be wonderful. Do you have two cups? Bring it over to my car. I think I’d better go sit with that lady. She’s the one who found him, and I’m not real sure how she’s doing.”

Gary looked at her curiously. “Who is she?”

“Haven’t got a clue.” But it was time to find out. “And, Gary, after the paramedics get through up there, could you have them check her out?”

I climbed into the driver’s seat and leaned over my passenger, prepared to do whatever was necessary to help this sweet, helpless old lady. I hoped that didn’t include a mad dash to the emergency room.

“You woke me up!” Her eyes opened, and her mouth snapped shut. “I sleep every day at this time. Pretty darned uncomfortable car you got. Couldn’t get the seat back. Police here yet? Took them long enough.”

My own mouth flapped open and closed a couple of times. Before I could say anything, Gary was at my window, a coffee flask in one hand, a slightly dented Styrofoam cup and a faded green plastic mug in the other. “I hope you both don’t mind black.”

Silently, I passed the Styrofoam cup to her and took the plastic mug. Luckily it was partway full, so I couldn’t see what probably resided on the bottom. My grumpy friend took a sip. “Dear God in heaven, what is this stuff? Tastes like dirty socks.”

I sniffed mine. She was right. “How long has this been in there?”

Gary’s face got red. “Don’t rightly remember. A couple of days?”

“More like a week,” the old lady grumbled. “You got any water?”

Gary took off, fast. I didn’t know if he went for water or just to get out of there. I could hardly blame him. I wondered if she was always like this, or if shock had made her irritable. I quit wondering.

“Was it Doctor Sadler? Roll this window down.”

I did as she asked, or rather commanded. “I don’t know. I didn’t get very close to it … the dead … him, and I don’t really know Doctor Sadler.”

“Humph. Lucky you. Meddlesome old fart. Thinks he knows everything, what’s best for everyone. Donates his time to the home and drives us all crazy. Calls us all old. What in tarnation does he think he is?” She paused to lean out the window and dumped her coffee on the gravel. “If that’s him up there, and I’d be willing to bet cash money it is, he won’t get any older.”

What a lovely day this was turning out to be. First my wedding cake was about to grow bright red poinsettias, then all the drama at Grace House, a corpse in the cemetery, and as an added extra bonus, I was sitting next to one of the most foul tempered old ladies I’d ever come up against.

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