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Best Cosy Books

Live and Let Diet (PAPERBACK)

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Title

PAPERBACK. Book 1 in the USA Today Bestselling cozy mystery series, Australian Amateur Sleuth.

Sybil Potts moves to Little Tatterford, a small town in the middle of nowhere in Australia, seeking to find peace and quiet after the upheaval of her divorce.
Although the town is sleepy and nothing has ever happened, her arrival coincides with a murder in the boarding house adjacent to her cottage.

Sybil soon finds she is at odds with the attractive Blake Wessley, the exasperated police officer trying to solve the murder. 

After Sibyl narrowly misses becoming the next victim, she turns her attention to the suspects. Is it the posh English gentleman, Mr. Buttons, who serves everyone tea and cucumber sandwiches -- crusts off, of course -- or her quirky landlady, Cressida Upthorpe, who is convinced she knows what her spoiled cat, Lord Farringdon, is thinking? 

Or is it somebody else entirely?

PAPERBACK. 

A traditional cozy mystery.

 Paperback 218 pages
 Dimensions  5 x 0.5 x 8 inches (127 x 12.7 x 203 mm)
 ISBN  9781925674217
 Publication date  March 26, 2016
 Publisher  Best Cosy Books

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CHAPTER 1

I stopped at the ancient stone fence and took a deep breath, running my fingers over the feathery yellow moss running like cobwebs across the mottled surface.
The dry country landscape stretching before me was nothing like the bustling city of Sydney. For a start, there was no traffic noise, just the clanging of an ancient windmill and the racket of several kookaburras arguing over their prey. I hoped their prey was a simple mouse and not a venomous snake. And while the air here was definitely cleaner than city air, the curious cows staring at me over the fence had a pungent aroma all of their own. I swatted at a huge blowfly that had left them to buzz around my head. I wondered if I would be able to adjust to life in the country.
Still, I’d had no option but to leave Sydney. The divorce was fresh and painful, yet every day I got just a little bit happier. I wasn’t sure why I had been so upset about dumping a man who had cheated on me, but I figured it had something to do with the fact that we'd been married five years. Old habits die hard. At least the ache was now a dull thud and not a searing pain.
I was also on a tight budget, as my property settlement had not yet come through. My ex-husband’s family was extremely wealthy, and he was doing everything he could to stop me getting so much as a cent. That is, with one exception. He had offered to pay for six months’ rent and had even suggested the cottage in Little Tatterford to me. Apparently one of his colleagues had recommended it to him. I knew this would have been on the advice of his expensive lawyers, not out of any sense of kindness on his part.
I had filled my van with my belongings, such as they were, and had driven to the Australian country town of Little Tatterford, which, if what I had read online was correct, had a population of fewer than four thousand people—rather a change from the five million of Sydney.
I smiled as I thought of my new home, which would only be a short distance away from where I stood, hidden behind a stand of eucalyptus trees.
My home was to be a cosy one bedroom cottage. That was a good deal smaller than my previous home, and it didn’t have my ex-husband in it, but that was a plus. This style of house was known as a Victorian miner’s cottage, and they were generally quite pretty with lots of character. I had been told that mine had an open fireplace in the living room and was situated on the corner of a large tract of land owned by a woman named Cressida Upthorpe. One other building sat on the land, only a stone’s throw from my new cottage, a large, two story residence which Cressida Upthorpe operated as a boarding house.
It was afternoon, the sun hanging in the sky just over the mountains on the horizon, throwing thin shadows across the ground. I turned to my new van and admired the words I had airbrushed onto it, Sibyl’s Mobile Pet Grooming. I knew the name wasn’t at all clever or original in the least, but customers would be left in no doubt as to the nature of my business.
I made my way to the van, threw the door open, and took a look inside at everything I owned. I sighed, trying to forget the fact I was divorced at twenty-seven and had moved to the country just to get away from my ex-husband. I was farther from my mother, and didn’t even know how far away my sister, Phyto, was, as she was teaching in the city of Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates.
The air was cool and crisp, quite a difference from the humid coastal air I was used to, where jackets were more for looks than they were for function. The few leaves left on the trees ranged from red to gold: all the colours of an Aussie sunset on a dusty horizon. This was a new start, I reminded myself. A life of peace and quiet.
I was looking forward to moving everything into the cottage, despite the fact I knew it would be countless hours getting everything unpacked and putting it where I wanted. I had thought my belongings were few, but moving house always revealed just how many possessions one actually had.
I needed groceries too, but there was no time for that now. After the weekend, I planned to drive my van downtown and park on the main street running through the centre of Little Tatterford, and make a start building a customer base. I had been encouraged when I had driven through the main street earlier, as I counted no fewer than twelve people out and about, walking their dogs.
But first I wanted to walk down the gravel path towards the residence, and say hello to Cressida Upthorpe, since I hadn’t even met the woman yet. I needed to get my keys. I’d had a number of lively discussions with Cressida through email and had spoken to her on the phone. I wanted to know if my mental idea of Cressida’s appearance would match up with what she looked like in reality. I pictured her as short and plump, with white hair pulled back severely, kindly yet quite eccentric.
The sun was starting to fall further in the sky and the cold wind had picked up with a vengeance. Halfway to the boarding house, I found myself wishing I had thought to bring a far thicker coat. I’d been warned about the weather up here in the mountains, but I wasn’t prepared for the bite in the air. I picked up the pace, walking with my hands in my pockets, and my eyes on the trees above. Here and there a leaf detached from a brown stem, and fluttered slowly to the ground. It was the end of autumn and fast heading into winter.
There was the boarding house, sitting in the fields like something out of an old movie. I shuddered and pulled a face. “It’s more like the scary house, Manderley, from the old gothic film Rebecca, rather than one of the lovely mansions from Pride and Prejudice,” I muttered aloud to myself.
I hesitated by the pomegranate tree. Who knew these grew in the mountains and bore fruit at this time of year? I reached out my hand instinctively for one of the glossy red fruits, and then snatched it back. If I ate the fruit, would I, like Persephone, be trapped here forever, she in Hades, and me in Little Tatterford? A strange feeling washed over me.
I shook my head and continued down the path. I was being fanciful. I’d always had an affinity with Greek mythology, and sometimes that made my imagination run away on its own course.
The boarding house was imposing. Made of wood with grand masonry insets, it had delicate white iron lattice work on all the balconies. That was where the good ended. It also looked gloomy and had an uncared-for air about it. I would not have been the least bit surprised if it had been used as a haunted house on a movie set.
I climbed the creaky wooden steps to the front porch. I was about to knock on the front door when it was pulled open with some speed from the other side. I found myself staring at a woman—this had to be the boarding house’s owner, Cressida Upthorpe. She was short, for I had that much right, but she was stick thin and had bright red hair cut in a short bob that had probably been stylish in the sixties. She wore enormous red-framed glasses and had make-up caked impressively onto her face, ‘impressively’ in this case meaning it was impressive that the weight of all the make-up hadn't forced her head to fall off her shoulders.
And that was when she thrust a large crocodile skin handbag at me and said, “Take this! There’s been a murder.”