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Best Cosy Books

Murder Sweetly Served (PAPERBACK)

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PAPERBACK. Book 3 in the Cocoa Narel Chocolate Shop Mysteries, cozy mystery series.

The murderer used chocolate to kill. How dairy! 

When an advertising executive dies after taking a bite of chocolate at his retirement party, chocolates caterer Narel is at once the detectives’ main suspect. Though Narel is known for her killer baking, it’s usually the chocolatey goodness that has her guests coming back for more.

Can Mongrel, Narel’s cranky and eccentric rescue cat, save Narel from the clutches of the police? 

Or will she come to sticky end? 


 Paperback 260 pages
 Dimensions  5 x 0.539 x 8 inches (127 x 15.0 x 203mm)
 ISBN 9781925674026
 Publication date  August 25, 2018
 Publisher  Best Cosy Books

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“But Carl, it’s not my birthday.”
Carl leant across to me and put his finger to his lips. “Shush, he’ll hear you. Besides, I know it’s not your birthday. It’s just a figure of speech.”
I peeped around the kitchen door, but the man was not yet harmed. That in itself was a plus. I turned back to Carl. “I’m not sure I get your meaning.”
Carl smirked at me. “I mean, when I said birthday present, I just wanted to give you a gift.”
I held up my hands in exasperation. “But Catman?”
Carl made a snort of disgust. “His name isn’t Catman, Narel! His name is The Purr-suader. Peter Patterson is a Cat Whisperer, a very famous Cat Whisperer. He’s a five times USA Today Times bestselling author and he has that documentary series, The Purr-suader World.”
“Yes, he told me at least five times.” I peeped around the door once more. “Are you sure he won’t sue us, after, well you know…” My voice trailed away.
Carl gave me a playful slap on the arm. “Narel, have some confidence in the man. Haven’t you seen his show?” Without waiting for me to answer, he pushed on. “If anyone can solve Mongrel’s aggression problems, he can.”
“But the guy just turned up on my doorstep last week. Do famous Cat Whisperers go door to door, and in small country towns at that?”
Carl frowned. “This one obviously does! And if I hadn’t been here at the time, you would’ve turned him away. The Purr-suader will turn Mongrel into a sociable, well-behaved cat in no time at all.”
I thought it was too good to be true, but I also thought I should attempt a positive attitude. “Okay then. Should we offer him lunch first?” I opened my second fridge, the one in which I kept the commercial chocolates, and looked inside, but I heard a deep male voice behind me, and spun around.
“Mongrel and I have made firm friends already,” Peter The Purr-suader announced in a calm, assertive manner.
I eyed the man warily. Weren’t people supposed to look like their pets? He didn’t look anything like a cat—a goat, maybe. He had a short beard that was desperately in need of a beard trimmer, and his wild mane of grey-blond hair stuck out at all angles. His jeans were bright green, a fact I found rather strange, and his shirt was lime green. All in all, it was not a good look, unless you were a leprechaun. “But Mongrel hasn’t come out of his carrier basket yet,” I said, bewildered.
“I don’t encourage cats to leave their baskets before they’re ready,” he explained in an overly condescending tone, “and please keep your tone low and calm. Mongrel and I have made eye contact, and he now knows that I’m the Cat Leader. I can assure you that cat aggression problems are an even more common issue than litterbox problems. Now, there is no such thing as a born aggressive cat—it’s always the human who has caused the aggression in the cat.” He fixed me with an accusing glare.
“I got him like that,” I said defensively.
“They all say that.” He snorted rudely, but then smiled a thin-lipped smile. “May I ask why you have a refrigerator full of chocolates?”
I didn’t know what that had to do with anything, but answered nonetheless. “I own the Cocoa Narel Chocolate Shop, and tonight I’m providing special chocolates for an office retirement party.”
Peter clapped his hands in delight. “May I see?”
I opened the fridge door again. “Those are chocolate red Porsches, to match the client’s car,” I said, pointing to the contents, “and those are little chocolate road bikes. I’ve also done a variety of other chocolates, such as football shoes and boots, and animals, like the chocolate koalas, kangaroos, crocodiles, and snakes.” I gestured expansively, and then took out a little box. I placed it on the table and then shut the fridge door.
“Look, but don’t touch,” I cautioned him. “These are a special request for the client. These are…”
He interrupted me. “Toadstools.”
I held up the box so he could get a better look. “Fly agaric, to be precise. The toadstools of fairytales, red with white spots. The bases are meringue, and the tops are chocolate and marzipan. I handmade all these.”
“All of them?” Peter looked impressed.
“And the mushrooms are just for the client?”
I nodded. “Yes, they’re a special gift. The other chocolates are for all the guests.”
Peter appeared to have lost interest. “I have some wonderful essential oil flower essences out there that will help Mongrel become calm.”
I placed the chocolates back in the fridge, and Carl and I followed Peter back into the living room. Carl headed straight for an open box of little bottles on the coffee table. He at once had his hands in the box and selected a bottle. He opened it and dabbed some behind his ears. “Ylang Ylang, one of my favourites!”
The Purr-suader selected another bottle. “Lavender is often a suitable calming cat essential oil, but I’ll offer Mongrel a selection.”
I clutched Carl in fear as Peter approached Mongrel’s open basket. He held a bottle of essential oil at the door of the basket, and to my surprise, Mongrel stuck his head out and sniffed it. “Wow, that’s amazing!” I exclaimed. “I thought Mongrel would attack you.”
Peter turned to me. “I know what I’m doing, my dear. I’m an expert, after all. It’s usual for a cat to hunt and kill. That’s simply normal predatory aggression. It becomes a problem when people play rough with their cats, because this type of behaviour is then encouraged.”
“Trust me, I didn’t play rough with Mongrel,” I said.
Peter narrowed his eyes. “That is beside the point. From what you have told me, Mongrel’s behaviour is either redirected aggression or fear-induced aggression. It seems clear he has a bad association with rope.”
“Yes, Carl bought him from an animal shelter for me. The shelter people said that the farmer treated him cruelly and used to tie him up with rope. Now he goes crazy whenever he sees rope. Isn’t that right, Carl?”
Carl nodded furiously.
I would have said more, but Peter held up his hand to stop me speaking. “No matter, that’s all in the past. Animals don’t retain memories in the same way that people do. I’ll offer Mongrel some more essential oils, and when I find the one he likes, I will dab some on the outside of his basket. When he’s suitably calm, I will start extinction therapy.”
I certainly didn’t share his view that animals didn’t remember in the same way in which humans did, but now I was really worried. “Extinction therapy?” I squeaked. “Isn’t that like where you put someone who is terrified of spiders in a room with hundreds of spiders?” I clutched myself and shuddered.
Peter frowned. “Nothing quite so dramatic. I will start in a very small way. As Mongrel doesn’t like ropes, I need to make seeing a rope a pleasant experience for him. For example, I’ll talk in soothing tones and put the essential oil on his basket. Then I will place a small piece of rope in a bowl of cat food, and that will be enough for the first day.”
I wasn’t so sure.
Peter was still talking. “My aim is to get Mongrel to associate ropes with a pleasant experience, rather than the fears of his past.”
“It sounds good in theory, I suppose,” I said, and would have said more, but Peter was already busily dabbing essential oil on Mongrel’s basket. Mongrel still hadn’t left his basket, which showed me that he wasn’t too sure of Peter, but then again, he wasn’t usually good with strangers.
“Narel, would you get some of Mongrel’s cat food?”
I did as I was asked, and soon returned with Mongrel’s favourite dry cat food. Peter poured some into a little dish and then put a tiny piece of rope in the dish. I eyed it warily, but then decided it was too small to make Mongrel react. Nevertheless, Carl and I backed away to a corner of the room.
Peter looked at me. “May I fetch myself a glass of water first, to calm my aura?”
I nodded. “Sure. I’ll just get it for you.”
“I’ll do it.” Peter disappeared into the kitchen.
When he returned, apparently hydrated, he placed the bowl in front of Mongrel’s basket just far enough away that Mongrel had to leave his basket to get the food. At first, the basket shook violently, and then Mongrel ran out. He devoured every morsel of dry food greedily, turned around, and ran back into his basket, all in double quick time. I was relieved that he hadn’t seemed to notice, or even eaten, the tiny piece of rope, so I was surprised that Peter had gone white.
“What’s wrong, Peter?” I asked him. “I thought that went rather well, didn’t it?”
Carl agreed.
“Err, um, I’ve never seen a cat like that before,” Peter said. “What happened to his ear?”
I shrugged. “No idea. He came like that, with one ear crooked and bent over.”
Peter was still trembling. “He moves fast, doesn’t he! He seems a little, um, more aggressive than I thought.”
“But we explained how aggressive he was the other day,” Carl said, sounding rather put out.
Peter made a gesture of dismissal. “I thought you were exaggerating. People always exaggerate when they explain their cat’s behaviour.”
Carl and I exchanged glances. “Well, I can understand if you don’t want to work with Mongrel anymore,” I said.
Carl glowered at me. “But it’s my gift to you, Narel.”
Peter placed the bottles of essential oils in his bag. “It’s fine; it’s fine. There’s no cat I can’t handle. See, he didn’t even react to the rope. I’ll need to start this extinction therapy with a slightly bigger piece of rope.”
“If you’re sure that’s a good idea,” I said. “You saw what he was like just then, and that’s him in a good mood.”
“Look, I’m The Purr-suader,” Peter said firmly, fixing me with a withering look. “I’m the expert here.” Before Carl or I could stop him, he reached into his box and pulled out a small piece of rope.
* * *
After the ambulance had collected Peter, Carl and I sat down over a cup of hot chocolate and some strawberry soft-centred chocolates to recover from our ordeal.
I set down my cup. “That was probably what saved him—the fact that it was a tiny length of rope.”
Carl shook his head sadly. “I’m sorry it didn’t turn out to be such a good gift, after all.”
I shrugged. “It was a lovely thought, and Mongrel looks happy.”
Mongrel was watching us, sitting on the chair at the end of the kitchen table, his two ginger paws resting on the table. I didn’t particularly want cat paws on the table, but I certainly wasn’t brave enough to object.
“I’m sure he’s improving,” Carl said, although not very convincingly. He let out a long sigh. “Do you need me to help you get ready for the office retirement party tonight?”
I shook my head. “Everything’s under control, but thanks for the offer. I’m a bit shaken though, to be honest, after what happened to The Purr-suader. I don’t know how I’m going to pull myself together and serve all the chocolates tonight.”
Carl swallowed a chocolate before answering. “It will be a piece of cake. After all, I’ll be there to help you, and the day could hardly get any worse, now could it?”

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