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Best Cosy Books


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PAPERBACK. Book 3 in the USA Today Bestselling cozy mystery series, Australian Amateur Sleuth.

Sibyl doesn’t barber a grudge despite the hair-raising murder. Will she brush herself off and get to the root of the matter?

Obnoxious ghost hunters descend on Cressida Upthorpe’s boarding house, convinced it must be a source of paranormal activity given that three murders have occurred there in a short space of time.

After one of the ghost hunters is murdered with poisoned hair dye, Sibyl does her best to keep well away from the investigation, that is, until Cressida almost falls victim.

With the bumbling detectives back in town and on the scene, Sibyl races to comb through the suspects before the body count rises. 

It’s all in a dye’s work.


 Paperback 230 pages
 Dimensions  5 x 0.52 x 8 inches (127 x 13.3 x 203 mm)
 ISBN  9781925674255
 Publication date  April 8, 2016
 Publisher  Best Cosy Books

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“It’s good to be able to relax, at long last,” Mr Buttons said, leaning back in his chair comfortably. It was hard to disagree, though with a mouthful of tea I couldn’t tell him so.
We had been sitting in the dining room for a few minutes. There were only the three of us. Firstly, there was Mr Buttons, the eccentric older English man with an unfortunate penchant for cleanliness. It doesn’t seem like such a flaw, but I was almost certain he had a form of obsessive compulsive disorder. I’d seen him wipe food from a stranger’s face and think nothing of it.
He wasn’t without his redeeming features, of course. He made a mean cucumber sandwich—a lot better than it sounds—as well as having a knack for brewing the perfect tea, yet I was sure it was partly due to how expensive the tea itself always was. I almost felt bad for drinking it, though Mr Buttons always selflessly offered some.
Essentially, he was everything one would expect from a stereotypical butler, and I often (and only half-jokingly) wondered if he’d harboured Batman at some point in his life. Of course, he wasn’t a butler at all, simply Cressida’s only permanent boarder.
“Yesh,” Cressida mumbled in agreement with a mouth full of cucumber sandwich. “Excuse me. Yes, I agree.” Cressida was, as always, wearing an unbearable amount of makeup. Her long, bright—and I do mean bright—red hair flowed over her face, and I couldn’t help but think she looked a little like a clown. It was as if somebody had told her to “make up her mind” and she’d taken their advice too literally.
I don’t mean to be rude, though. Cressida was a good friend, and she’d always been there to help me when I needed it.
“I’ve even had time to paint a new piece,” Cressida declared, interrupting my thoughts. She held up a large canvas to show us her new work, possibly in an attempt to stop us from sleeping comfortably ever again. Mr Buttons nearly choked on his tea, and for the briefest of moments I nearly passed out. It would have been a mercy.
I’d forgotten to mention—and had tried to forget completely—but Cressida had a bizarre habit of painting incredibly gory scenes. This time, she’d opted to paint a scene of a shipwreck, in which at least thirty sailors were being killed in increasingly awful ways. At least, I think it was about thirty sailors. It was hard to tell when their limbs were scattered all over the canvas.
“That’s uh...” I struggled to think of something that wasn’t a lie, but also wouldn’t hurt Cressida’s feelings. “Well, it sure is something. It’s so unique, and you’ve made it so vibrant. I love all the blues and dull tones contrasted against the, uh, different shades of the red blood.”
“Thank you, Sibyl!” Cressida beamed, putting the canvas away. Mr Buttons and I simultaneously sighed in relief. “I can’t hang it anywhere in the boarding house because it reminds people of the murders,” Cressida said, sadly. I refrained from suggesting that it probably shouldn’t be put anywhere but a furnace.
There had been a murder not too long ago. The gardener had poisoned some academics who were boarding. It was awful, and I wanted nothing more than to forget it completely.
“I’m not quite sure it fits the décor, if I’m honest, Cressida,” Mr Buttons suggested helpfully, although I disagreed. The boarding house was a large and grand Victorian mansion, every bit as cliché as one could imagine. I could scarcely believe it existed the first time I’d seen it.
Cressida had been using it as a boarding house, which is how we’d met. I still hadn’t become used to the dusty old antiques, though, and I thought that Cressida’s terrifying paintings would add a not-at-all needed haunted feel, if only to complete the stereotype.
“Perhaps, yes.” Cressida sighed again and sat the painting aside. “Either way, I suppose it isn’t going up anywhere.”
“Perhaps you could sell them?” I suggested in an attempt to get the paintings further away from me. I realised that anybody who’d want to buy something like this was somebody I wouldn’t really want to meet, but pushed that thought to the back of my mind.
“Oh, come now, Sibyl.” Cressida laughed. “They’re not good enough to sell.” For the first time I found myself agreeing with Cressida about the quality of her paintings, although it was the subject matter that I had a problem with. I decided not to argue with her, knowing that I could neither convince her otherwise nor handle thinking about the paintings for much longer.
I took another bite of my cucumber sandwich—crusts removed, as Mr Buttons always ensured—and swallowed it with some more expensive tea. It sounded a strange combination, and I supposed it was, but I’d become used to it at this point.
I’d thoroughly enjoyed my time since I’d moved here, horrible murders aside. I figured that so many murders in a row made it statistically impossible that more would occur, or even just incredibly unlikely. I didn’t think I had much to worry about.
I often found myself simply enjoying the atmosphere. As the boarding house was in the Australian countryside, I’d often hear cows mooing from the neighbouring fields, and wake up to the sound of magpies singing. Typical Australian countryside, perhaps, but it was certainly preferable to the police sirens and drunken slurs of the inner-city. Although I could do without the Tawny Frogmouth Owls and their horrendous screeching, they were uncommon enough that it didn’t bother me too often.
In all, it was an incredibly peaceful and overall enjoyable place to live. That was before the murders, of course. It was hard to settle back into daily life once Id been so close to such a crime, but everything was beginning to fall into place again. I was looking forward to returning to a life of normalcy.
“Yes, they’re coming to hunt ghosts,” Cressida said with a smile. I’d been too lost in thought to pay attention, but Cressida and Mr Buttons had been talking without me. I realised I needed to catch up, though I wasn’t sure I wanted to.
“Who’s coming to hunt what?” I asked, immediately realising I didn’t want to know the answer. Surely, I’d misheard her.
“Ghosts, dear. Some professionals are coming to hunt ghosts in town.” Cressida explained it like I was an idiot for not understanding immediately, and took a long sip of tea. I really had no idea how to react, and looked to Mr Buttons for guidance.
He, too, was drinking tea, seemingly unperturbed at the idea of ghost hunters coming to stay in the boarding house. “How long do you think they’ll be staying, Cressida?” he asked flatly.
“Oh, I can’t say for certain. Until their work is done, I suppose,” Cressida explained thoughtfully.
“I must admit to having some reservations at the idea,” Mr Buttons said, and I sighed with relief as he did. I thought I’d been going mad for thinking it was all a bit strange. “They perhaps might cause an awful mess,” Mr Buttons continued.
My jaw dropped open. “Hang on a second.” I took a deep breath and continued. “Do neither of you think it at least a little bit strange that ghost hunters are coming to stay? How can you both be so nonchalant about the whole thing?” I was exasperated.
“Well, I suspect they’re here because of the murders.” Cressida nodded.
I sighed. “Cressida, I realise that, but do you think it’s a good idea? Whether or not you believe in this kind of thing isn’t even my problem. What if they either find something or pretend they do? That can’t be good for business.” As I said it, I realised that maybe I was wrong. Business wasn’t exactly booming at the boarding house, but maybe a haunted house would bring more customers in. Cressida’s paintings would certainly fit the new décor.
“Oh, that’s a good point, dear,” Cressida said thoughtfully. “Still, I’m sure the place isn’t haunted. Probably. Hopefully. But they’ll put my mind at ease either way.” She smiled before taking another drink of her tea.
“Do you know exactly what they’ll be doing here?” Mr Buttons asked her. He was always the sensible one. Even though I was sure that he was simply worried about the mess that they could cause, I had to admit to being curious about it as well. There was something about the idea that really didn’t sit well with me. Possibly the ghost hunting part.
“Not exactly, no,” Cressida admitted. “Hunting ghosts, I suppose.”
Mr Buttons sighed. “How exactly does one go about doing so?”
Cressida seemed at a loss, but I thought maybe I could help. “I think they use electromagnetic wave readers, for one thing. I couldn’t tell you how they work, but they sense some kind of special energy that ghosts and spirits supposedly emit.” As I spoke, I noticed Cressida and Mr Buttons looking at me with their eyebrows raised. Undeterred, I pushed on. “They also call out and ask spirits to make a noise or answer in return, and record it all with night vision cameras. Haven’t you ever seen Most Haunted?”
“Night vision cameras?” Cressida asked. “Why on earth would they need those? It’s well lit in here.” It was hard to disagree when there was so much light reflecting from her over-applied bronzer, but I deigned to explain it anyway.
“Well, they do most of their ghost hunting in the dark, at night. They set up cameras in certain areas, but they also walk around and try to capture some footage with small teams.” I shrugged.
“Why would they do that?” Cressida asked. “Do ghosts even care about night and day?”
I realised that it was a reasonable question. “I suppose it’s just to make the footage more atmospheric,” I suggested, not really knowing for certain.
“And how do you know all of this, Sibyl? A left-behind career of which we’re not aware?” Mr Buttons asked, clearly taking an interest.
I laughed, and for a brief moment thought it would be fun to just let them keep thinking I’d been a ghost hunter. “No, nothing that exciting, unfortunately,” I explained. “I’ve just seen a lot of those kinds of shows. They’re quite popular. Like I said, I watched Most Haunted for years.”
“It’s a bunch of silly nonsense!” a voice declared from behind me, causing all present to nearly jump out of their seats. It was Dorothy, the new cook, storming in and spewing forth her opinion, as was the norm. “Ghosts and spirits aren’t real, and these people are just going to ruin the business.”
Mr Buttons looked less than impressed with this display, but remained quiet. I didn’t really know what to say in defence of Cressida, and felt a tinge of shame that I didn’t speak up. Luckily, she was more than capable of defending herself.
“Dorothy, the only threat to the business is a cook who spends more time complaining and stomping about than she does cooking. We have guests in need of sustenance, so please get back to work.”
Mr Buttons and I dropped our jaws in shock, and Dorothy was gone before I even had a chance to see her reaction.
Cressida was no stranger to bad staff—most employers never had to deal with murderers as she had—but it was rare she was so firm with somebody. Not that I wasn’t impressed, but knowing she had such a strong side certainly made her paintings all the more unsettling.

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