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Best Cosy Books

Signs and Pawtents (PAPERBACK)

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PAPERBACK. Book 3 in the MenoPaws Mysteries, Paranormal Women's Fiction cozy mystery series.

There have been some fatal accidents in Wild Lime Mountain. The official police position is no suspicious circumstances, but all the victims were of the Summer Court.

With the killer playing cat and mouse, Nell and JenniFur decide to take matters in their own hands—and paws—with the help of Edison, Daphne, and Delilah.

Can they solve the murders? Only time will tail.

PAPERBACK.

 Paperback 278 pages
 Dimensions  5 x 0.63 x 8 inches (127 x 16 x 203 mm)
 ISBN  9781922595195
 Publication date  March 22, 2021
 Publisher  Best Cosy Books

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CHAPTER 1

I stared at the dip. It was French Onion. It was also green. Not a sweet, pale green that reminded me of the childhood fields I used to bike past on lazy summer afternoons with my friends. No, it was a radioactive, almost glowing green. A green that should not be witnessed by the unprotected human eye.
“The dip is green,” Daphne said.
I felt my skin burn. “Did you ever stop to think that the dip was supposed to be green?” I asked, trying to keep my voice level.
“Is the dip meant to be green?”
“No,” I confessed. “The one thing I needed to do with this book club meeting was to make the French Onion Dip. If I don’t serve this, Edison will be furious with me.”
“I rather think Edison will be furious with you if you do serve the dip,” Daphne said.
Delilah poked her head around the kitchen door. “I think it’s fun.”
“You would!” Daphne turned up her nose.
The three of us were standing in A Likely Story, my favourite place in the whole entire world. It was not my favourite place at the moment, as I wished I had sneaked store-bought dip into my home with the book club attendees being none the wiser.
I mentally listed everyone who was participating in tonight’s meeting, just to get a feel for their personalities—if they’d take offence to a French Onion Dip that was more toxic than French Onion. There was Viktor Borisyukin, a stately man who reminded me of a hawk or perhaps a falcon. He was tall, imposing, his brown hair streaked with silver. He would absolutely judge a woman who passed store-bought dip off as homemade.
Then there was Georgia Neale, a loud, overbearing woman. She was an heiress who loved horses. She went around town in her jodhpurs, hair falling out of her ponytail, leaving rude notes on the cars of people she thought had parked incorrectly.
“Georgia is going to make a huge song and dance about this dip,” Delilah said, as though she could read my mind.
I looked at Delilah, and then I looked at Daphne, and I sighed. The pair were twins, but they could not be less alike. Delilah was as mad as a cut snake, and that is why I loved her. Daphne was as uptight as her sister was free-spirited, and I liked her too—mostly because she scolded sexist mechanics for me when I was having car trouble.
“Oh, it’s only a dip for a book club,” I said to JenniFur, the bookstore cat. “I don’t care what anyone thinks.”
But I did care. After my husband left me, I was lost, insecure. Thankfully, I had stepped into my own power, but from time to time, and against my best efforts, I still worried about not being enough. I still worried that my husband had left me because I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t want the book club members to judge me and find me fundamentally lacking.
Delilah, not JenniFur, answered. “But Anthony will run out of the meeting. I believe he left his first wife because she served lumpy gravy at his grandmother’s hundredth birthday. It caused a big scandal in town, because she cut his brake lines, and he almost drove right off the mountain.”
Daphne narrowed her eyes at her sister. “Tsk, tsk, Delilah. That was never proven.”
I shuddered. Anthony Evans. A rather unusual man. On first impression, he appeared mild-mannered and, if not sweet, calm. He wore checked shirts with a notebook in the pocket. He kept a pencil tucked behind one ear, and I would always see him walking around town with a pair of gigantic binoculars hanging around his long, thin neck.
Any suspicion I had that he was calm had vanished when Anthony yelled at me. He had invited me bird watching, and I did not want to go, but I could not think of an excuse at the time. In the car, he had provided me with a field guide, which I’d pulled out on our walk to try to identify the bird. He didn’t say anything at the time, but afterwards he spread word around town that I should have made a note of the bird and checked my field guide later. After that incident, he had always treated me with startling passive-aggressiveness. In fact, one time I’d found a note on my parked car supposedly from Georgia Neale, but it was written in Anthony’s unmistakable handwriting.
“How is the dip, chaps?” Now it was Edmund Elliot’s turn to stick his head around the door. That dip! Why did everyone care so much about the dip? Daphne and Delilah had provided all manner of treats—like mini pizzas topped with mini pepperoni, and delicious cupcakes: strawberry cream cupcakes, triple chocolate cupcakes, lemon tea cupcakes. They had brought bread slathered in marinara and topped with shredded mozzarella and pepperoni.
“What about the mini pizzas?” I said. “Why is no one asking about the mini pizzas?”
“Pizza is great,” Edmund said, “but it is no French Onion Dip.”
Edmund read plays. Just plays. I had no idea why he’d joined a book club where we read everything but plays. Maybe he felt a little lonely? A lot of people on the mountain loved nature, going for walks, protecting the trees from chop-happy neighbours who wanted a better view of the valley below.
Not Edmund. He hated nature. He hated trees. He was one of those chop-happy neighbours who would have happily cut down every last tree if it meant increasing the value of his property, which was small and cramped and filled with Shakespeare, or so I’d been told.
“We want dip,” Audrey Alexander said. She followed Edmund into the kitchen. It was cramped now, with Daphne, Delilah, Edmund, and Audrey packed into the tiny space. Soon, we were joined by Viktor and Georgia.
Georgia and Audrey were best friends. Georgia liked to buy expensive horses, and Audrey liked to ride expensive horses, so they had bonded. Neither Georgia nor Audrey liked the rest of us. Edison had discovered the pair had created their own, secret book club of two. Their club met at Georgia’s sprawling, Spanish style mansion where she served salmon trout tartare with caviar.
Edison assumed they still attended our meetings to mock our opinions and laugh at our food. My skin burnt more when I thought about the dip. I placed myself in front of it so no one could see the colour.
Georgia shot me an accusing look. “I’d love some dip.”
“I think we’d all love some dip,” Viktor remarked. He glared down his nose at Georgia. Edison had told me Viktor didn’t like Georgia because she smelt like saddles.
Without warning, the guests chanted, “Dip! Dip! Dip!” Even Delilah joined in, despite knowing what the dip looked like. Only Daphne kept quiet. Bless Daphne. Sometimes her uptight nature really was a comfort.
“There is no dip,” I said hurriedly. “I forgot to make it.”
Everyone groaned. Now the kitchen party was joined by Edison, the kindest man I had ever met. He stepped into the kitchen just in time to hear my announcement.
“You had one job,” JenniFur said.
“What will Anthony say?” Georgia said as she shared a conspiratorial look with Audrey. “What will Anthony say indeed?”
Edmund glanced at his watch. “Where is Anthony? I abhor tardiness. The man is usually on time, and the meeting should have started five minutes ago.”
“Maybe he heard there was no dip,” Audrey said with a smirk.
Georgia smirked too. “Maybe he saw a bird he’d seen a million times before and died of excitement.”
I didn’t like Anthony, but I didn’t feel he deserved to be mocked. “Maybe he’s fetching some caviar for our salmon trout tartare. I hear that’s quite the thing to serve at book club meetings these days.” I allowed myself a small smile of satisfaction when Georgia and Audrey turned pink.
There was a knock on the door. Anthony, at last! We all left the kitchen and piled out into the bookstore’s reading room with its comfortable armchairs and its crackling fire.
Edison opened the door, but Anthony was not standing there. It was Detective Caspian Cole. He looked pale, his sturdy silhouette framed by flashes of lightning in the distance.
“I’m afraid there has been a terrible accident.”
“We already know about the dip,” Delilah said. Everyone but Daphne looked at her, confused.
“It’s about Anthony Evans, a member of your book club. His body was found at the bottom of a cliff an hour ago. We believe he fell while bird watching.”
“Poor Anthony. I feel so worried for him,” Georgia said, not sounding sorry in the least. “Is the pizza done, do you think? Has the cheese bubbled?”
“The cheese bubbled ages ago,” Delilah said. “I took the pizzas out of the oven to cool down. But Georgia, Anthony is dead!”
“I can’t hear about murder on an empty stomach,” Audrey said. “I say we eat.”
“How can you eat at a time like this?” Edmund snapped. “One of our very own is dead. Perished while doing what he loved.”
“He loved falling off cliffs?” Delilah asked, clearly confused.
Edmund snorted rudely. “No! He loved bird watching.”
“Maybe a rival bird watcher did him in?” Audrey said, excited.
“His death was an accident.” The detective’s tone was firm.
Georgia narrowed her eyes. “You can’t possibly know if it was murder or an accident, Detective. It’s far too soon.”
“The only murder that has taken place today,” Edmund said, “is what Nell did to the poor dip.”
My mouth fell open.
“Oh, please, Nell. We all saw the dip. You didn’t stand in front of it fast enough,” Audrey said. “This would never have happened at my—”
We all knew she was about to say book club, but she stopped herself just in time.
“Who would want to kill Anthony?” Georgia said quickly. No doubt she was covering for her best friend and partner in secret book club crime.
“He wasn’t murdered,” Detective Cole said again.
“I know so many people who’d want to kill Anthony,” Viktor said, smiling and nodding as he spoke. He was standing in the shadows, looking like a vampire. “He was obnoxious.”
Georgia nodded. “He dragged us all birdwatching and then got mad if we didn’t understand the stupid birdwatching etiquette.”
“Poor Nell,” Audrey said. “He practically destroyed her reputation around town for having the audacity to consult her field manual while in the field.”
“I didn’t mind so much,” I said. I didn’t like to speak poorly of the dead.
“He committed identity fraud, pretending to be me,” Georgia continued, “when he left that note on Nell’s car pretending to be me correcting her parking, which is something I do all the time to other people. Nell does park properly.”
Detective Cole appeared exasperated. “No one was murdered. I came by only as a courtesy because I didn’t want you all to wait for him.”
“Please go,” Edmund said. “Nobody likes you.”
Edison took off his glasses and sighed. “Detective Cole, thank you for alerting us to the passing of poor Anthony Evans.”
“So, Anthony is dead,” Viktor replied, “and that’s very sad and so on. But the real tragedy here is what happened to the French Onion Dip.”
Georgia, Audrey, and Edmund murmured in agreement.