★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“…characters you can’t help but fall in love with … an intriguing, many layered mystery with many twists and turns, and at least one surprising revelation…
I recommend this series and author to anyone who enjoys a good, cozy and fun mystery.”
She might be a country girl who loves short shorts and flip-flops, but her life is less defined by her countrified attire, and more by the way she hunts down a deadly killer.
Murder is sinking its hooks into the quiet countryside and dredging up ugly secrets. Deer Hollow is still a quiet little town steeped in Americana and known for its delicious country fare. But being named a top ten place to live just might have inspired an assassin to make the quaint country spot home.
As Joey searches for a killer, her past is dragged from the murky darkness where she’s hidden it. And secrets she never wanted to discover are rising like the stink of manure on a freshly fertilized field.
I’ve always been perfectly aware of my shortcomings as a person.
I consider myself generally a good person. With good instincts about people and a desire to be kind to others unless they’re unkind to me.
But I do have an aversion to pushy people. Which has put me on the wrong side of salesmen of all kinds more than once.
My second least favorite of these is Realtors. Not that being a Realtor is innately bad. It’s just that the act of buying or selling a house is way too much like dealing with used car salesmen for my taste.
Which brings me to my first least favorite type of salesmen.
Fortunately, it wasn’t a car salesman standing on my porch that sunny, cool-ish fall day in the rural area just outside of Deer Hollow, Indiana.
But it might as well have been.
The woman standing in front of Caphy and me had lipstick on her teeth and hair that looked as if squirrels might have built it on her head for nesting. Lucky for her my dog was much more tolerant than I was. Even when she was being none-too-subtly dissed by said lipstick-teethed intruder.
“Oh my! You should chain that beast up.”
The hand on Caphy’s collar tightened briefly as I fought to contain my instant rage. Cacophony, Caphy for short, was about the sweetest animal that ever lived. She was more than my best friend. I credited her with saving my life when I’d gone into the deepest depression imaginable after my parents were killed in a plane crash on our property.
She was also a Pitbull.
And that was all some people saw when they looked at her.
Caphy smiled at the woman, her muscular tail whipping painfully against my leg. She whined softly, quivering with friendly excitement.
“She’s fine,” I told the woman with the squirrel’s nest for hair. “She lives here. Whereas you…” I let my statement trail away, allowing my uninvited guest to gather my inference all by herself.
The woman frowned slightly, moving a purse the size of her extra-large backside in front of her like a shield. “Oh…um…okay. Well.” She extended her hand a few inches in front of her, a white rectangle stuck between two short fingers. “Here’s my card. My name is Penney Sellers. I was wondering if you’re interested in selling your house.”
I blinked several times. “Not in the least.”
As I responded I realized it was true. When I’d initially learned that I’d inherited the family home after my parents’ death, I’d thought I wanted to sell it. Too many painful memories lived within its familiar walls. I still thought I’d sell eventually. But I wasn’t quite ready to make that decision.
I glanced down at the card, grimacing at the obviousness of the woman’s name. “Is Penney Sellers really your name?”
In response she gave me a slightly snotty smile. “I can offer you a premium price. There aren’t many homes in this area of this quality.”
“Not interested. You do know there’s a huge subdivision going up on the south side of Deer Hollow, right?” Of course she knew that. But I was making a point.
“Those houses are fine. But they don’t have the…” She swung her arms toward the pond and the trees. “Ambiance. The setting here is truly spectacular.”
“Thank you. But I’m not interested in selling.” I backed into the house, tugging gently on Caphy’s collar. Her gaze locked onto the other woman who’d taken a step toward the door as if she was thinking about pushing her way inside. A low growl emerged from Caphy’s throat and the hair in front of her tail spiked.
Penney Sellers stopped dead in her tracks, her gaze shooting to the endlessly sweet creature who was giving her fair warning.
But Caphy’s warning didn’t stop the realtor’s mouth from moving. “Do you own all those woods over there?” The woman asked. Her expression was perfectly innocent. But there was a gleam in her eye that I didn’t like.
“Yes. All the way to the big stone marker on Goat’s Hollow Road. 100 acres.”
The gleam flared, making her look positively demonic. “A hundred acres! My goodness. I’d love to talk to you about subdividing the property. We could build a dozen homes and still have sizeable properties.”
“Not interested. Thanks for stopping by.”
I slammed the door in her face and locked it. Pressing my ear against the warm wood, I listened for her to climb into her car and drive away before I took a full breath. A soft whine drew my gaze to Caphy. “It’s all right, girl. She’s gone.”
The pibl’s tail snapped sideways once and then she nuzzled me, snorting softly. She was sensitive to my moods, and the alarm I was feeling was no doubt putting her on edge. I couldn’t have explained the panic tightening my chest if someone offered me a thousand dollars to do it.
It was an unreasonable fear. But undeniable.
Nobody could force me to sell my house. Nobody could make me give up my private little wonderland. It was all I had left of my parents.
It was also the place where Caphy and I had grown up. Where we’d run and played, where I’d climbed trees and learned to swim. But the new subdivision was affecting my life in ways I hadn’t expected. When I’d first learned it was coming it had seemed harmless. After all, the three hundred acre plot on the south side of Deer Hollow was miles away from me. The homes were supposed to be decent ones, built on quarter acre lots and not all exactly the same. I reasoned it would be nice to have some new blood in town.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t counted on the other stuff that came with those homes. The constant traffic through town from looky-loos. The noise, mess, and invasion of people who thought the town had been conjured up for their enjoyment.
And the realtors, builders and construction people who clogged the streets and turned the few restaurants Deer Hollowboasted into hotbeds of noise and inaccessibility at meal times.
Still, I could deal with all that.
It was the other thing that had my nerves thrumming like a banjo in the mountains of Kentucky.
The sense of impending doom.