It’s autumn on the Sonoma Coast, and Claudia Simcoe is sure that the gourmet harvest dinner being held at her artisan marketplace will wipe away any memories of the unpleasantness last summer. But then the newly installed video surveillance system shows local lawyer Clark Gowan removing something from a hidden compartment in the marketplace walls… and Claudia’s visit to his office the next day reveals that he’s dead, shot with one of his own vintage guns.
The town’s new no-nonsense police chief wants to know about the compartment, but she’s more interested in the fact that Julie Muller, famed cheesemaker and one of Claudia’s tenants, broke in to Gowan’s office the night before he was killed. Concerned for her friend, and also about the revelation that Gowan, who was involved in the sale of the marketplace building, was not entirely on the up and up, Claudia is determined to learn more.
The building’s Prohibition-era history offers some clues, and the victim’s illegal legal work turns out to have affected a number of people in town, from Julie to the farm museum he cheated out of a significant amount of land. Meanwhile, Claudia still has a marketplace to run, and she is more confused than anyone when it comes to her relationship, or lack-thereof, with her craft-beer-making neighbor.
Still, Claudia thinks she’s getting a hand on this investigating thing, until another gruesome death, secrets from her building’s past, and a low-speed tractor chase make her wonder if she’s really ready to reap what she’s sown.
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Nominated for the Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery Novel!
“This foodie cozy is not too sweet, and not too sharp, but juuuust right. The setting—a farm-to-fork marketplace and cottage by the sea in California—pulls us in on page one and the day-dream is complete when we meet Claudia Simcoe, who’s a BFF waiting to happen. Of course, murder gets in the way but the plot is tight, the twists convincing, and the resolution nicely sprung. And did I say it’s laugh-out-loud funny?”
—Catriona McPherson, author of Mary Higgins Clark award finalist Strangers at the Gate
If you had asked computer programmer Claudia Simcoe what she expected to come of her leaving San Francisco for the California coast to open a farm-to-table marketplace, “assembles a mismatched team to investigate a murder” would not have been her first guess.
Lori Roth is one of the tenants of the market, or she had been until Claudia learned that the hands making her “hand-dyed” textiles belong to overseas factory workers. Claudia terminates Lori’s lease, but her hopes that this will be the last she sees of her problem tenant are dashed when she arrives at the marketplace the next morning to find Lori dead, hit over the head with a jar of pickles and strangled with a cheese wire.
The police chief thinks Claudia looks like an easy pick to be the killer, and he closes the marketplace to put the pressure on her. So, Claudia has no choice but to solve the mystery herself. Relying on the tech skills from her previous life and some help from her quirky new friends, Claudia races to save her business and herself before the killer adds her to the region’s local, artisanal murders.