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Morgana Best

The Prawn Identity (PAPERBACK)

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PAPERBACK. Book 4 in the USA Today Bestselling cozy mystery series, Australian Amateur Sleuth.

There’s something fishy in Little Tatterford. Can Sibyl solve the murder and make a snapper comeback?

There hasn’t been a murder in weeks, so Sibyl and her eccentric friends, Cressida Upthorpe and Mr. Buttons, are able to scale back their anxiety. Honeymooners, a famous businessman and his wife, book in to start their married life in bliss. After a breakfast of prawns, a tragic accident befalls one of them and they end up battered. The authorities, herring rumors, want to shut down the boarding house for safety reasons.  

The police believe the husband was the target but are all at sea and unable to catch a break. The protesters rally against the husband’s company, which is destroying the local wilderness land. Will he rise to the bait?

What with Blake’s ex-girlfriend coming back to town, and a rival boarding house opening up nearby, can Sibyl keep a cool head, reel in the suspects, and save the boarding house from the authorities?

PAPERBACK. 

 Paperback 218 pages
 Dimensions  5 x 0.5 x 8 inches (127 x 12.7 x 203 mm)
 ISBN  9781925674246
 Publication date  April 123, 2016
 Publisher  Best Cosy Books

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CHAPTER 1

“No, you can’t come back in,” I said, determined to stand my ground. “You’ll just eat everything. I’ll let you back in when they’ve gone.”
Sandy looked up at me, giving me her absolute best puppy eyes. She was making it quite clear that staying outside wasn’t her first choice.
“It’s not even raining out, so you’ll be fine!” I sighed. “I’ll go get you a treat. Stay there,” I said, hoping to appease Sandy until my friends had left. She was a good dog, if a little too friendly around people, but she was also very excitable, and... a Labrador. If I let her in, she’d try to eat absolutely anything that they brought. Possibly even the guests themselves, if I didn’t keep an eye on her.
I came back with her treat and was greeted with an excited little dance. Not to sound like I was profiling her, but Sandy was a typical Labrador in every imaginable way, including—but not limited to—complete obedience so long as she was brought food. I threw the treat out into the yard and closed the door, knowing she’d entertain herself until I could bring her back inside.
Right on cue, the doorbell rang. I rushed to open it and was greeted with a huge platter of sandwiches.
“Here you go, Sibyl,” Mr Buttons said as he handed them to me, smiling warmly. “I know you’re making lunch, but I thought it was best that I contribute.”
I looked at the platter. Sure enough, the sandwiches were missing their crusts. I noticed bits of green sticking out from the bread and immediately knew that they were cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off. I’d call them Mr Button’s specialty, but I was unsure if he really made anything else, other than tea, of course. Mr Buttons was the only permanent boarder at Cressida’s boarding house, and he was best described as a typical butler. He was an older English man with a penchant for dressing well and cleanliness. Actually, penchant doesn’t cover it. He was a neat freak, plain and simple. I was almost worried about how obsessive he was with ensuring that everything was clean. It was especially bad when I invited him over to my own house as I had today, which always meant spending the previous day cleaning furiously so as not to upset him.
“Thank you, Mr Buttons,” I said cheerily. “I always look forward to these sandwiches.”
“I’ve done something a bit different this time,” Mr Buttons said with a shy smile. “I do hope it’s not too drastic.”
“Hello, Sibyl!” Cressida stepped out from behind Mr Buttons and hugged me warmly. I nimbly moved the platter out of the way to avoid squashing it and hugged her back. Cressida was, in a word, eccentric. She was the owner of the boarding house, sporting bright red curly hair and entirely too much makeup. She also spoke to her cat, Lord Farringdon, which isn’t as strange as the fact that she thought he spoke back to her.
“I’ve brought you a present.” Cressida handed me a large platter with a cover. I thanked her, set the sandwich platter down and took the cover off, revealing a tiny canvas. I felt the colour flush to my face as I immediately recognised what it was. A painting. Cressida’s work was always unsettling, to say the very least. She was one of the kindest and nicest people I’d ever met, in spite of her hobby of painting incredibly gory and unsettling images. I swallowed hard and flipped the canvas over to see what it was, fighting back the onset of nausea. It was, as expected, one of the hardest things to look at that I could imagine.
“It’s, uh, beautiful. Thank you, Cressida.” I tried my best to smile. “I really like the, um... the colours you’ve used.”
“Oh, I’m glad you noticed.” Cressida beamed. “I used a yellow chiffon colour for the bits of fat, complemented by rosewood and rust for the blood.” She smiled as she spoke, though I spent more of my time trying not to pass out than I did listening. “I also made it small so you can hang it for your guests!”
Well, it would deter burglars, I thought grimly. And everybody else. “Come in. Make yourselves comfortable,” I said, beckoning them inside and closing the door. “I’ve made a lemon roast chicken with vegetables. Nothing too fancy, but I hope you enjoy it!”
“Well, it smells delicious,” Cressida said earnestly as Mr Buttons busied himself by dusting off my table. I sighed, but knew no matter how much I’d cleaned he would have done something like this anyway. I wasn’t even sure if he could help himself.
I dished up the sandwiches Mr Buttons had brought while Sandy watched hungrily from outside, trying her best to look cute in order to get some leftovers. I did my best to ignore her and served the sandwiches to my guests, and then we sat around and talked. Lunch proper was still a while away, so I thought it would be a good way to pass some time. I bit into the cucumber sandwich and recoiled, dropping it on the table.
“What was that?” I asked, realising that I might have offended Mr Buttons.
“Oh, like I mentioned, I decided to try something different. Instead of cucumber, I used watercress and coriander, but felt it was somewhat flavourless, so I put some garlic ketchup on them as well,” Mr Buttons explained, as though it was the most normal thought process in the world.
“It’s, uh, great. Thank you. But to be candid, I think I preferred the cucumber,” I admitted, hoping not to hurt his feelings. Mr Buttons smiled and nodded, apparently agreeing. Cressida seemed to be avoiding the sandwiches altogether. For a woman who spent most of her free time having conversations with her cat, she was showing a remarkable level of wisdom.
Cressida walked over to a window. “We need rain so desperately. The grass crackles under your feet when you walk on it.”
“Winter is coming,” Mr Buttons said.
I chuckled. “Have you been watching Game of Thrones?”
Mr Buttons looked startled. “Whatever do you mean, Sibyl?”
I shrugged. “Never mind.”
“I’ll check the weather app on my iPhone,” Cressida announced proudly. “That will tell us if it’s raining.”
“You can see for yourself that it’s not raining, Cressida,” Mr Buttons said patiently. He shot me a look. Mr Buttons had recently, and with some difficulty, talked Cressida into getting a smart phone, and I was surprised when he had succeeded, because Cressida was technologically challenged. However, Cressida had taken to the smart phone like a duck to water.
“But my weather app says there is ninety percent chance of rain in ten minutes,” she insisted, tapping her phone.
Mr Buttons sighed. “It’s clearly not raining, is it? There’s not a cloud in the sky.”
As Cressida continued to insist that it would rain in ten minutes, I excused myself to get lunch. The chicken had turned out perfectly, with the skin being browned but not burnt, and the lemon having infused the meat nicely. I dished it up to the happy pair.
“This is delicious, Sibyl!” Mr Buttons exclaimed between mouthfuls. “Much better than anything that Dorothy could cook, the daft cow.” He seethed. Cressida and I exchanged shocked glances. Dorothy was the newest cook at the boarding house, though she wasn’t all that new any more. It was no surprise that she didn’t get along with Mr Buttons or, well, anybody. Despite that, it was more than a small shock to hear Mr Buttons say something so blunt.
Dorothy spent less of her time cooking and more of her time complaining and being rude. On top of all that, she wasn’t even great at cooking, consistently providing average or flavourless meals. I suspected Cressida didn’t fire her simply because she was scared of what would happen if she did.
“You can’t say something like that, Mr Buttons,” Cressida said in the sternest tone she could muster.
“Quite right, quite right,” Mr Buttons said with a sigh. “I apologise. She just irks me more than anybody I’ve met,” he admitted.
“I understand, but maybe she’ll come around if we’re kind to her,” I suggested, not entirely convincing even myself. My suggestion was greeted with even less convinced stares, so I resigned myself to just eating my lunch and avoiding the topic entirely.
“I’m sorry to keep bringing it up, but why haven’t you fired her, Cressida? She can’t cook this well. Maybe Sibyl could be our new cook!” Mr Buttons proposed quite excitedly.
I narrowly avoided choking on a bit of chicken and cleared my throat. “I’m not sure that’s entirely where I want my career path to go, Mr Buttons,” I admitted. It’s not that I had anything against the idea of being a cook per se, but that I didn’t enjoy cooking enough to want to pursue it as a career. As a matter of fact, it was something I actively avoided unless I was cooking for guests.
“Oh, I don’t want to upset poor Dorothy,” Cressida said sadly. “She can be a handful, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings.” She continued to pick at her food. I considered that maybe Cressida should just hang some of her paintings in the kitchen as a sure-fire way to make Dorothy quit, but I realised it would also stop any new boarders.
“Well, that’s quite good of you, Cressida,” Mr Buttons said stoutly. “But I think Dorothy is a...”
“Stupid cow!” a voice screeched loudly. Cressida’s jaw fell open as she looked at Mr Buttons, who seemed to be equally shocked. My cockatoo, Max, had flown in from an open window and started screeching and swearing, as usual. At one point my ex husband had found it funny to teach Max to say all sorts of awful things. Unfortunately, it seemed impossible to get Max to learn anything else, or at least forget his insults.
“Max!” I yelled, jumping up and trying to grab him. He fluttered about calling me all sorts of things best left unsaid until I finally got a hold of him and took him into another room. I sat him on his perch and gave him a treat, which he ate happily while calling me every four-letter word I could think of. Well, I could only think of one, but Max could think of more. And then there were the adjectives.
I walked back to the table and apologised after I washed my hands and sat down.
“That’s quite all right, Sibyl,” Mr Buttons said. “We’re used to Max and his antics, or as used to them as one could possibly be. Have you considered taking him to a trainer?”
“Well, sort of,” I explained. “There’s not exactly an abundance of cockatoo trainers in a small country town like this, but I did find two in Tamworth. Both times I took him there he swore at them so severely they turned me down,” I admitted, sighing.
“Surely they’d be used to things like that?” Cressida asked.
“I don’t think anybody’s used to the things he was saying, Cressida. I won’t repeat them, but it’s safe to say that I don’t exactly blame the trainers for turning me down. I don’t have too many guests anyway, so I’m not all that worried about it, except for incidents like just now,” I said with a small laugh.
Mr Buttons nodded and spoke to Cressida. “Speaking of guests, has the boarding house been picking up in business since all the nastiness stopped?”
“Nastiness?” Cressida asked with one eyebrow raised. “Oh! You mean the murders.” Mr Buttons and I exchanged uncomfortable glances. “Yes, it has a little. I don’t suspect that will keep up,” she said sadly.
“Why not?” I asked. “It’s statistically impossible that we’ll have another murder here. I know I’ve said this sort of thing before, but I really think our town, or at least your boarding house, is all murdered out, so to speak.” We’d had more than our fair share of tragedy, but it truly seemed impossible that another murder could occur at the boarding house unless it was haunted or something.
“Well, I wouldn’t be so sure,” Cressida said. “I’ve heard that there is indeed another murder coming.”
Mr Buttons and I looked at Cressida wide-eyed. “Whatever do you mean?” Mr Buttons asked, shocked. “Who said that?”
“Why, Lord Farringdon, of course,” Cressida said simply.
I sighed out loud with a mixture of relief and dismay. On the one hand I was upset that Cressida was still taking her cat’s advice seriously, but on the other hand I was relieved that there wasn’t really anything wrong.
“I have to disagree with Lord Farringdon this time, Cressida,” I said with a smile. “There won’t be another murder at the boarding house. It’s just impossible.”

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