So, as you can see, this isn't your typical everyday cozy. No folks sitting around drinking tea. No cats. (But there are two dogs, so I have redeemed myself slightly!) And there's a lovely organic garden, so all you folks who love healthy food will enjoy the gardening scenes.
This book is set in my favorite setting of coastal Georgia, and I know you'll enjoy all the scenery and shenanigans of the Campbells and Darters. Nothing like a little family strife to add seasoning to a mystery!
I'll post the blurb and a brief excerpt. This title will release in ebook format on March 9, so please put us on speed-dial!
MURDER IN THE BUFF BLURB:
Reporter Molly Darter must obtain the family-placed obituary of a dead nudist to keep her job at the weekly paper. With her husband’s infidelity stamped on her mind, she doesn’t want anything to do with naked people. But the dead woman is a friend, the nice lady from the Marshview organic produce stand.
The nudists insist Barbara Jean didn’t die of natural causes. Though their murder claim rattles Molly, she has no intention of looking into a law enforcement matter. She has enough trouble on her plate dealing with her cheating husband, taking care of her precocious son, and waging war on her trampy sister.
When revealing photos of her father and other community leaders consorting with Barbara Jean at the produce stand come her way, Molly must act. To protect her father, she delves into the dead woman’s past. Barbara Jean had former ties to the community and hidden wealth.
Things heat up when her estranged husband’s undercover drug ring investigation collides with her murder probe. While the sheriff eventually labels the death a homicide, Molly’s questions place her in jeopardy.
Who killed Barbara Jean? Was it the judge, the preacher, or the banker? Or was the killer someone she knew intimately? Only one thing’s for certain. The killer is watching every move Molly makes.
Want more? Here's an excerpt:
Mama Leon leaned forward. “Do you know why I asked Ted to send you out here?”
I leaned back in my chair. He requested me? Did he know me from somewhere? I was forever getting names and faces confused. No. That couldn’t be it. With his muscular physique and the aura of power he wielded, Mama Leon wasn’t someone easily overlooked.
I didn’t know where this was headed, but it didn’t feel like a short conversation. Mama Leon clearly had an agenda. “You should’ve requested Ted. He does the real news.”
Mama Leon’s nostrils flared wide. “Ted is a Johnny-come-lately. You’re old school Justice County and that’s what I need. Someone who knows the ins and outs of this place.”
Mama had done his homework. Ted Page had moved here from Macon five years ago when the then-ailing Gazette came up for sale. We wouldn’t have a paper if it wasn’t for him, and I wouldn’t have a job. Loyalty fueled my defense. “Ted knows his stuff. Plus he has a degree in journalism.” My degree in general studies hadn’t prepared me for much more than matrimony.
“Ted has a dick. I wanted a woman. And I like the features you write.”
I’d been brought up using euphemisms for body parts. His forthright speech made heat rise to my face, and I had a feeling he liked keeping me off guard. I needed to move this along. I tapped my pen on the slim notebook resting on my jeaned thighs. “In that case, let’s get started.”
With a twitch of her hips, Kim set down a tray containing two tall tumblers of amber colored liquid on the glass-topped table between us.
Mama gestured for me to take a glass.
My throat tightened. What was in that glass? Was he being hospitable or was I being set up for something bad? “No, thank you.”
He waggled a finger at me. “Mama doesn’t like it when you refuse his hospitality. It’s safe. I’ll show you.” He drank from both glasses. Like that was supposed to reassure me. How did I know he hadn’t spit in my glass? No way was I drinking after him.
I shifted in my seat. “I really need to get that obituary. Perhaps we could start on it now.”
“We’ll get to that. Important stuff comes first. I’m offering you my hospitality. You refusing it?”
My wants and needs kept getting trampled. I was tired of it. Like this Friday afternoon assignment. I didn’t want to come here today, but Ted had made it a condition of my continued employment. The entire universe of men thought they could push me around. Why did they think I was such a pushover? Was there a sign on my forehead?
I took a few breaths to calm myself. I shouldn’t lash out at Mama Leon because I was spitting mad at my soon-to-be ex-husband Hadley. Mama’s offer of hospitality was a business gesture, a prerequisite to us developing a professional relationship.
I squirmed under his scrutiny. Then something inside me snapped. Living in fear wasn’t the way to go. I sipped from the glass and sputtered immediately at the strong alcohol taste. “What is this?”
“It’s writin’ juice.” He nodded his approval of my action. “I want you to write down every word I say.”
I smacked the tumbler down on the glass-top table. The liquid burned from my throat to my empty stomach. I shuddered convulsively. Writin’ juice? That had to be the most rotgut whiskey I’d ever tasted. I wasn’t drinking another sip, no matter what. “We charge by the inch for family-placed obituaries.” As soon as the words left my mouth I blushed again. Inches. I was not thinking about inches of anything.
“It ain’t the obituary we’re gonna work on. It’s something else. Folks in this county needs to know the truth. That’s why you’re here.”
Alarm bells clanged in my head. “And what truth would that be?”
Mama Leon crushed out his cigarette in his empty glass. “What I’m about to tell you cannot be repeated.”
This oversexed lunatic must be hyped up on a conspiracy plot left over from the Nixon era. I didn’t care about his personal, religious, or political beliefs. “I’m leaving.” I started to rise.
He grabbed my wrist and tugged. “Sit.”
I glared at him. “Look, it’s been a long week and I need to get home to my son. If you don’t have information for the paper, you’re wasting my valuable time.”
Mama Leon released my arm. “What if I told you something so big, so gripping, that it could turn this county inside out? What if I told you it was a guaranteed best seller idea for a book?”
My heart sunk. Odds were, he was conning me. But what if, out of some bizarre stretch of imagination, he was telling the truth? I couldn’t afford to pass up the story of a lifetime. “Talk.”
“Me and the girls are sitting on a gold mine in real estate.” Mama Leon stroked his angular chin. “The powers that be want us o-u-t out, but we’re not taking our sorry asses anywhere.”
“Some new muckety-muck carpetbagger’s been coming around here, trying to take our land away. There’s a deluxe shopping complex going in out by the highway, and our land backs up to that. They want to knock down these beautiful trees and pave over the whole countryside. These live oaks are over two hundred years old.”
“No biggie. Don’t sell.”
“It’s not that easy. This guy has an insider working the system. Our property taxes have doubled every year for the last four years. Now they tell us we have to pay to hook up to city water and sewer, and we’re nowhere near the city.”
“Sounds like a cash-flow problem. Everyone in the county faces these same issues. Sell them a few acres near the shopping complex.”
“Not a chance in hell. That’s the most sacred acreage on our property. That’s where we’re gonna scatter Barbara Jean’s ashes.”
Enough of going in circles. “I don’t get it. You’re getting squeezed by the big money players, but that type of squeeze play isn’t front page news. Frankly, I don’t see a blockbuster idea in your misfortune. The world isn’t out to get you.”
“You’re wrong.” He glanced around the screened-in pool area and lowered his voice. “Because not only have they got my balls in a vise, they’ve taken their tactics to the next level.”
The next level?
This sounded like page one material, something that went above the fold. I wanted to cover it. A story like this would keep my job secure for weeks to come. I hung suspended in breathless silence.
When he didn’t continue, I leaned forward to prompt him. “And what level would that be?”
His chin quivered. “Murder. They murdered my Barbara Jean.”
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This ebook releases March 9. If you absolutely can't wait, I am in need of reviewers. Contact me for more information maggie AT maggietoussaint DOT com.
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mystery and romance author