DEATH BY ARTS AND CRAFTS (Abby McCree Mystery Series Book 6)
by Alexis Morgan
Now Available for Pre-order!
ISBN-13 : 978-1496739681
ASIN : B09YKX39YM
When a killer's handiwork threatens the Snowberry Creek arts community, Abby McCree starts looking for glues in her own murder investigation . . .
As the newest member of the Snowberry Creek City Council, perpetually overextended Abby McCree is picked to liaise between the council and the new planning committee for the town's first ever arts and crafts fair. As far as gigs go, it's a fun one—Abby's spending the weekend tooling around Washington State, checking out similar fairs with her two besties, coffee shop owner Bridey Roker, and ceramic artisan Dayna Fisk.
As Abby spreads the word about Snowberry Creek's fair, recruiting the industry's biggest movers and makers, the trip feels like a glittering success. But then, someone is found murdered at one of the events and vendors begin disappearing amid suspicious circumstances. Abby's determined to keep her hands clean, until Dayna finds herself stuck at the top of the suspect list. Now, Abby must weave the clues together and clear her friend's name before the killer claims another victim—maybe even Abby herself . . .
"A complex mystery replete with characters worth caring about." --Kirkus
"Should we go see if Bridey needs help with her luggage?"
Abby McCree glanced at her companion and shook her head. "That's what I had planned to do, but she texted me specific instructions just before I left the house. I'm supposed to back into the driveway, make sure the passenger door is unlocked, and keep the engine running for a quick getaway. She promised she'd be right out."
Dayna frowned as she studied the house. "But didn't you say that she was really pregnant?"
"Yep, she's just over six months along."
If anything, Dayna looked even more confused. "Not that I've ever been pregnant myself, but should she be carrying anything heavy?"
Abby trusted that she would've said if she needed extra help. However, Dayna and Bridey hadn't yet met, while she and Dayna had been friends since college. In contrast, Abby and Bridey Kyser had only gotten to know each other after Abby moved to Snowberry Creek.
Today, the three of them were embarking on a mission on behalf of the town of Snowberry Creek. A short while ago, Abby had been coerced into becoming a member of the city council, and her first assignment was to act as liaison between the council and the committee organizing the town's very first arts and crafts fair.
The event was a week away, and all of the major pieces were in place. But in an unexpected move, the head of the committee and the mayor had approached Abby with a special request. They wanted her to spend a weekend visiting several other fairs to touch base with the artists scheduled to be part of the Snowberry Creek fair. She was to ask if they had any last- minute requests, hoping a little advance warning would help things go more smoothly.
Since several of the events were some distance from Snowberry Creek, the committee offered to foot the bill for a night in a hotel on Saturday night. Deciding it would be the perfect way to spend a summer weekend with friends, Abby had accepted the assignment but with a special demand of her own. She'd make her own reservation and submit receipts for reimbursement after agreeing on a reasonable price for the room charge. Anything that exceeded that amount would be her responsibility.
She had immediately upgraded the room to a suite and invited Dayna and Bridey to join her. The plan was to combine the work she needed to do for the committee with a fun getaway for the three of them. They'd visit two fairs on Saturday before checking into the hotel. Being pampered in the hotel's spa would be their reward for all their hard work. That would be followed by an expensive dinner and show at the casino next to the hotel.
A good time would be had by all. Well, if they ever actually got started.
Their schedule was pretty tight, and it was past time for them to hit the road with still no sign of the third member of their party. Abby was about to give up and go ring the doorbell when the front door opened. A very exasperated-looking Bridey stepped out on the porch with her husband, Seth, trailing right behind her. Bridey blocked his way and held out her hand. Seth reluctantly surrendered to the inevitable and handed over her suitcase. She grinned and gave him a quick kiss before hustling down the sidewalk to the car. After tossing her suitcase into the back seat, she dove in right behind it.
"Hit the gas, Abby, before he thinks of anything else I should've packed. The man means well, but I swear his hovering keeps getting worse. Despite the doctor assuring him that everything is fine, Seth keeps finding something new to worry about. He actually insisted I bring the baby monitor we bought. I'm supposed to set it up so that you can keep an eye on me all night long. Heck, I've had to limit his time online just to keep the hysteria to a minimum."
It was hard not to laugh. Just for grins, Abby revved the engine as if getting ready to tear off down the street. Then she waved at Seth and drove sedately out of the driveway. At least he was laughing as he disappeared back into the house.
"Ladies, we are finally on our way! Nothing but fun and excitement ahead for us."
Dayna and Bridey applauded wildly as she turned north toward their first stop. "Oh, I should introduce the two of you. Dayna Fisk, this is Bridey Kyser. Bridey owns Something's Brewing, the best coffee shop and bakery in the area. Dayna is a potter who does truly beautiful work. I have several of her pieces that I just love. In a way, you're both artists."
She left it to the two women to get further acquainted while she concentrated on driving through Tacoma and then Seattle. After a while, Bridey leaned forward to ask, "What's the plan for today? I bet Seth you'd have printed agendas for us to follow."
Giving her friend a guilty look in the rearview mirror, Abby nodded. "Yeah, I do, but that's mostly so that I don't miss touching base with any of the artists I'm supposed to talk to. We should still have plenty of time to take in the sights at each of the two fairs we're visiting today. Are you looking for anything in particular?"
"I'd love to find a cute lamp for the baby's room. Maybe some clothes for her, too."
As soon as Abby heard the pronoun Bridey used, she whooped, "So it's a girl?"
Bridey beamed with pride. "Yeah, she is. We'd planned to keep it secret, but Seth let it slip to his family a couple of days ago. Once we told my family, we figured we should just let everyone know."
Dayna twisted around to look back at Bridey. "I take it that this is your first?"
"Yeah, it is. And to be honest, I'm just as wound up about it as Seth is. We've had so much fun picking out baby furniture. My husband is an artist, so he's done some spectacular wood carvings for her room. He's also painting a mural of a woodland scene that will take up an entire wall. It's just lovely."
Abby smiled. "I can't wait to see it."
Then she asked Dayna, "Is there anything in particular you need to do this weekend or are you just browsing?"
"Tomorrow afternoon I plan to check in with my business partner at some point. It's Wendy's weekend to cover the booth that we share, and I want to see how things are going. Sales on my pottery have been falling, and I'm not sure why. If that trend continues, we both might need to start working every weekend again so we can cover more events."
Abby frowned. "I thought you cut back on your appearances at the fairs to concentrate on the classes you've been teaching and because it would give you more time at the wheel."
Her friend looked pretty frustrated. "That was the plan, and it worked pretty well when we first started doing it. I don't know what's changed, which is why I need to talk to Wendy."
Dayna drew a deep breath and let it out. "Sorry, I didn't mean to unload on the two of you. We're supposed to be having a good time, not whining about my problems. Are you shopping for anything in particular, Abby?"
"I might do some early browsing for Christmas presents."
"If you think of something specific, I can probably aim you in the right direction. I know a lot of the various vendors, not just the ones who do pottery."
"Thanks, I appreciate it. To keep on schedule, we can spend about three hours checking the place out. I would also suggest we grab lunch before heading on to the next stop."
Bridey lit up. "Just as long as we save time for dessert. I might regret it when I have to weigh in at my next doctor visit, but I plan to have an elephant ear with my lunch. I've been craving one ever since Abby invited me on this expedition."
Dayna laughed. "What's not to love about fried dough covered in cinnamon and sugar? How about you, Abby? What's your guilty pleasure?"
Drawing a deep breath, Abby let it out with a big smile on her face. "The sugary perfection known as the funnel cake. I probably shouldn't, but I won't be able to resist."
Bridey wasn't having it. "Hey, no guilt allowed. This should be a weekend where we can indulge ourselves. It's not like any of us do this sort of thing all the time."
Abby met Bridey's gaze in the rearview mirror again and grinned. "It's a deal. I'll take care of business as soon as we get there. After that, nothing but fun with no guilt."
With that settled, she drove the last few miles to the fair.
At their first destination, Abby and Bridey wandered past the booths together while Dayna stopped to visit with some artist friends. Bridey quickly found the perfect lamp for the baby's room while Abby picked up some small gifts for her mother and the ladies from the quilting guild. She also wanted to get something for Tripp, her tenant and almost boyfriend. After passing by several booths, she stopped to study some custom-made knives in a glass-fronted display case. While she admired the craftsmanship, she finally decided they just weren't what she was looking for. Hoping she'd have better luck at one of the other fairs, she hustled to catch up with Bridey, who was just paying for several little outfits at a nearby booth.
While the clerk bagged the baby clothes, Bridey sighed. "I don't know about you, but I think I'd better take a break if I'm going to last through the show tonight."
Abby held out her hands. "Why don't I take your bags and stash them in the car? While I do that, you can go stake out a table in the food court and rest. I have two more people to touch base with, and then we can have lunch. I'll text Dayna to let her know the plan."
"Sounds good. I'll get a cold drink and wait for you two to catch up."
The trip to the car and back didn't take long. When she returned to the fair, Abby studied the map that laid out where all the various vendors were located. Luckily, the two she still needed to speak to were located near each other. When she reached the first one, she browsed the artwork on display while the woman seated behind the table in the back finished ringing up the only customer in the tent.
Abby assumed she was looking at Bonnie Simon, a watercolor artist who specialized in painting flowers of all kinds. Abby was no expert, but the woman had a delicate touch with the details and a fine eye for colors. The flowers appeared so real that it wouldn't surprise her to catch the scents of roses and lilacs. She really admired a pair of the smaller paintings that would be perfect on her bedroom wall.
"Hi, are you looking for something in particular?"
Abby turned to smile at the woman. "I'm actually here to talk to you for another reason, but I'll definitely be taking two of your paintings with me when I go. They're lovely."
Her comment clearly pleased the other woman. As they shook hands, the woman said, "Please call me Bonnie. How can I help you?"
"I'm Abby McCree, a member of the city council in Snowberry Creek. You're scheduled to be part of our arts and crafts fair next week, and I'm here to thank you personally for agreeing to come. I also wanted to see if there's anything we can do to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possibly for you."
Bonnie gave it some thought. "Not that I can think of, although it would be nice to choose who I'm next to at the fair. It might come as a bit of a shock, but you know how people talk about artists being temperamental? Well, it's true in some cases."
Her smile faltered a bit as she paused to look around, as if making sure no one else was listening. "Luckily, they're in the minority. Besides, there's no way to let all of us cherry-pick who we're parked next to. You'd never get the fair up and running."
She was right about that not being practical, so Abby settled for saying, "I'll cross my fingers that you end up next to someone you like."
Bonnie grinned. "Thanks, I appreciate the thought. But now that I think about it, there is one thing that might make things go smoothly. A fair I was at last week was an hour late opening up because they were short on the help needed to get things set up. Most of us have the process down pat, but we can always use some extra muscle to help fetch and carry."
That made sense. "I know our committee reached out to the local veterans group. A lot of them have volunteered to help with the setup and teardown."
Abby held out her business card from the council. "This has my number on it if you think of anything else."
She spent the next few minutes studying the artwork Bonnie had on display. It was a difficult decision, but she finally settled on a pair for the wall above her bed. "I think I'll take the two of old roses. I inherited an old Victorian house a while back from my aunt, and both the roses and those rhododendrons look like they came straight from her garden."
Bonnie took the two paintings back to the table to wrap them in cardboard and brown paper to protect them. "Sounds like your aunt had a green thumb."
"She did. I'm doing my best to take care of everything, but it's definitely been a steep learning curve." Abby picked up her paintings. "I look forward to seeing you next weekend."
"Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy the paintings."
Abby's last stop didn't take long. The artist in question was doing a brisk business selling his stained-glass art and could only spare a minute. Abby gave him her card and promised to check in with him at some point during the fair in Snowberry Creek.
With her duties done, she followed the tempting scent of barbecue wafting in the air to the food court. She'd worked up quite an appetite, and there definitely was a pulled pork sandwich in her immediate future. It would feel good to catch her breath before the three of them headed down the highway to their next stop.
"This sixth in the series lures readers in with a charming cast of characters." -- Cynthia Chow, Kings River Life Magazine
"The characters are definitely engaging, the scenarios believable, the storyline cohesive, and I appreciate the fast pace. A few plot twists and several creative red herrings makes this a fun book." -- A Library Thing