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Natural-born Grillers (PAPERBACK)

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PAPERBACK. Book 2 in the USA Today Bestselling cozy mystery series, Australian Amateur Sleuth.

A group of philosophers at a Socrates convention. Sound like fun? Maybe not . . . but there’s a body.

When one of the new boarders, an eminent professor of Socratic philosophy, is found poisoned by hemlock in a meal of quail, eccentric boarding house owner Cressida Upthorpe soon becomes the main suspect.

Sibyl Potts, with the help of Mr Buttons, launches herself into the investigation, much to the consternation of stressed police officer Blake Wessley who is busy grilling the other suspects.

As the body count mounts, will Sibyl be able to clear Cressida’s name and find the real killer?

Roast assured, it will all turn out well, for some. 

PAPERBACK. 

 Paperback 236 pages
 Dimensions  5 x 0.54 x 8 inches (127 x 13.7 x 203 mm)
 ISBN  9781925674224
 Publication date March 28, 2016
 Publisher  Best Cosy Books

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CHAPTER 1

I was sitting in the largest, mustiest room on the longest, most boring day of my life. Early afternoon sunlight was filtering through old and yellowing curtains and shining onto the enthusiastic faces of those sitting around me. I was at the monthly philosophy club meeting, no matter how much I wished I wasn’t.
Philosophy was never my strong suit, and I very much wanted to keep it that way. I found the whole thing immensely boring, but my landlady, Cressida, had insisted I come along, and eventually I had caved. I found myself sitting there, not knowing how much time had passed. It felt like hours, but I knew it had probably been minutes.
Everybody was discussing Immanuel Kant’s works on aesthetic interpretation. Up until now, I had always thought philosophy was the study of existence, reality, and life. It turns out it was more likely designed to kill people through boring monologs and abstract notions involving cats in boxes. I sighed and looked out one of the massive Victorian windows of the boarding house.
We were all sitting in one of the largest rooms of the boarding house into whose grounds I had moved in recent weeks. Through the window I could see the beginnings of a majestic garden, beautifully maintained by the new gardener who had taken over from Mr Buttons, a resident of the boarding house. Mr Buttons hadn’t actually been hired to be the gardener, but seemed to have some kind of obsessive tendency towards cleaning and maintenance, and thus had pulled out as many plants as he had weeds. The end result had resembled the Sahara Desert.
The boarding house itself was Victorian era, and of the Italianate style of architecture—so I’d been told. I was no more an architect than I was a philosopher. It reminded me of Phryne Fisher’s house in the TV series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, although nowhere near as grand. It probably had been, back in its day, but it was no longer in a good state of repair. The tessellated pavements were largely intact, as were the decorative patterns etched into the exterior render, but the intricate old Victorian cast iron lacework was damaged.
Since the arrival of the new gardener, the lawns had turned green, and newly planted flowers were blooming, transforming the boarding house from a wreck in a desert landscape into a wreck in a green oasis. Still, the garden would have fared better had Mr Buttons been banned from it in the first place. With my thoughts turning to Mr Buttons, it dawned on me that he had been in the meeting earlier, but now he was nowhere to be seen.
“Well, Sibyl? What do you think?” Cressida asked me earnestly. Cressida owned the boarding house, and even though we didn’t have too much in common, we had become friends since I’d moved to the small Australian town of Little Tatterford. I hadn’t been paying attention at all to their discussion, and that fact was becoming increasingly obvious.
“Oh, I, uh...” I stammered. “Could you repeat the question?”
Cressida shot me a disappointed look but repeated it anyway. “We were discussing whether objective morality can exist without a God. What are your thoughts?” She seemed quite eager to hear my answer.
Not only did I not know, but I couldn’t care less. “Yes,” I answered.
Cressida didn’t seem particularly excited by my answer or lack of an explanation, but at least she moved on and asked the man sitting next to me, Martin Bosworth.
Martin was a new boarder. He was the stereotypical academic in appearance: slightly eager-looking yet at the same time wearied, slim, and stooped, with worn clothes in shades of mustard brown and faded forest green.
An irritable man, Martin had moved here temporarily in order to have some peace and quiet away from his annoying university students and staff, as he put it, while organising a conference on the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates. So far, he had been polite enough in conversation, although he seemed to try to avoid socialising as much as possible. The philosophy club was one of very few exceptions. I attempted once more to pay attention to the discussion, before I realised that I still couldn’t care less.
I counted myself lucky that I had not been subjected to one of the monthly philosophy club meetings until now. Cressida was particularly excited about this meeting, as the leading lights of philosophy from the universities on the east coast of Australia had descended upon the nearby city of Pharmidale in readiness for a big philosophy conference on Socrates, a conference organised by Martin Bosworth.
As I listened to the conversation, I remembered why the ancient Athenians had ordered Socrates put to death. There is only so much philosophy one can take.
I looked around the room. If it weren’t for the shiny laptops scattered around, I would think I had fallen into an old English movie, set over one hundred years ago. The antique furniture was as imposing as it was gloomy, and there was far too much of it crammed into the room. It looked like an antique shop and smelt like one too. I was sitting next to an ancient pump organ, and the musty odour was all but overpowering me. The fading sunlight fell along one side of the organ, and had apparently done so for years, given the way in which the laminated wood veneer had peeled away.
I resisted the urge to check my phone for the time, and instead took another look out the window. The sun was hovering over the eucalyptus trees, which in turn were hovering over a herd of Hereford cattle happily grazing away in the neighbouring farm. It seemed to be roughly two or three in the afternoon, which meant that the meeting was hopefully coming to a close. The focus of the conversation had moved to Colin Palmer, one of the other new boarders at the house. I didn’t know much about him, as we had barely talked, but he seemed nice enough.
Other than some members of the club I didn’t recognise, the only other member present was Lord Farringdon, Cressida’s fat cat. He was sleeping soundly on a chair. If only I could be so lucky.
Mr Buttons returned, holding a tray of cucumber sandwiches and cups of tea for everybody. When he began to portion out the food and drinks, one of the men I didn’t know spoke up. “I must say, this is quite unusual. Do you not have a maid?” As he asked the question, he seemed genuinely bewildered.
“Oh, no,” I replied. “She was sent to jail for fatally poisoning the food of a boarder.” It only occurred to me that this explanation might upset some, when everyone stared at their food and simultaneously set it aside.
Cressida looked up at me and asked, “Are you okay, dear? You seem distracted.” I knew she was just trying to change the subject, but she was probably genuinely concerned with my well-being too, given the look on my face.
“I’m fine,” I answered, forcing a fake smile. “But to be honest, philosophy just isn’t really my forte. Lord Farringdon here seems to be into it more than I am.” I picked up Lord Farringdon as I said this, and he meowed angrily in response.