We Wish You A Murderous Christmas
What a treat we have right before Halloween from Vicki Delany! She has given a sneak peek of the first chapter of her November release of We Wish You A Murderous Christmas. Happy Holidays!
Special BTB Sneak Peak:
Did I want hearty traditional winter fare or something to remind me of summers at the lake?
Prime rib with roasted vegetables, or grilled salmon with rice pilaf?
“You have to make up your mind sometime, Merry.” Vicky handed the waitress her menu. “I’ll have the lamb shanks, please.”
“That sounds good,” I said. “Me too.”
“You always have what I have,” Vicky said.
“That’s because I can’t decide for myself.”
The waitress returned with a bottle of nice red wine and went through the ritual of opening and tasting. We were savoring the first sips when she came back, bearing an overflowing platter, and placed it on the table. Cartoucherie: a selection of cheeses and paper-thin slices of cured meats with an assortment of pickles and nuts served with hunks of freshly baked baguette.
“That looks delicious,” Vicky said, “but you have the wrong table. We didn’t order it.”
“Complements of the chef,” the waitress said with a grin.
“Nice.” I picked a tiny knife off the tray and sliced myself a sliver of creamy blue-veined cheese. “I heard they hired a new chef. My mom says the food’s improved dramatically. Is that why you wanted to try it? Wow, this is marvelous.” I let the deep sharp flavor linger in my mouth. My taste buds did a happy dance. Then I noticed the slight flush on my best friend’s face. “Oh,” I said. “I get it.”
Vicky Casey and I were at the Yuletide Inn for a special treat of a fancy dinner. It was a Tuesday night in mid-December, and both of us were rushed off our feet at work, but Vicky had convinced me (without much difficulty, I will confess) that we needed a break in the midst of the madness of the Christmas rush. I own a shop, Mrs. Claus’s Treasures, in Rudolph, New York, which we call America’s Christmas Town. Vicky’s the owner and chief baker of Victoria’s Bake Shoppe. It was her idea to have a special girls’ night out, to relieve some of the stress of the season. Judging by the high color of her cheeks, clashing dreadfully with the lock of purple hair falling across her forehead, Vicky had an ulterior motive.
“Evening ladies,” said the deep voice of the ulterior motive.
A man stood beside our table, dressed in a chef’s uniform of white jacket and gray striped pants. The logo of the Yuletide Inn was embroidered onto the jacket, with his name written in script beneath. Mark Grosse, Executive Chef.
Every woman in town was gossiping about this man. For once the gossip was understated. He was tall and lean, with dark hair cut short, enormous brown eyes specked with flakes of green, high cheekbones, and blindingly white teeth.
“Hi,” Vicky squeaked. “Thanks for this.”
“I hope you enjoy it.” He smiled at her.
“Very nice of you,” I said. I might as well not have bothered. Neither of them were paying the slightest bit of attention to me. Chef Mark was grinning at Vicky and she was grinning back.
“Oh, uh,” Vicky said, remembering her manners at last. “Mark, this is my friend Merry Wilkinson.”
He turned to me. His smile was dazzling. “So pleased to meet you, Merry. Are you a cook also?”
“I boil a mean pot of water,” I said.
“I’ve got to get back to the kitchen,” Mark said. “Nice meeting you, Merry. I hope you recognize the baguette, Vicky.”
“Sure do,” she said.
“Have a nice meal,” he said. “Don’t forget to save room for dessert. The gingerbread cake is fabulous.” He hurried away, back to the mysterious depths of a top-ranked restaurant kitchen.
I broke off a hunk of baguette and popped it into my mouth. Crunchy on the outside, soft and dense within. Delicious. “Yours?”
“Yup. As is the gingerbread cake.”
“Does he get all his desserts from you?”
“Just the bread mostly. As my gingerbread cake is a Rudolph specialty, he buys that from me too.”
I took a sip of wine. “Nice looking guy.”
“Is he?” she said, gulping down half a glass of her own. “I hadn’t noticed.”
I glanced around the dining room. It was full, and I knew Vicky only got a reservation because they had a cancellation for a table for two. Logs burned in the large open fireplace against one wall. Next to it a tall, fat, real Douglas fir was weighted down with decorations and trimmed with delicate white lights. The tables were covered in starched white linen tablecloths, and crystal and silver glimmered in the gentle light cast by a single votive candle. The glass candleholders were trimmed with a piece of freshly-cut holly. The room was full of light and laughter, warmth and wonderful scents, and that special something which was part of the season: Christmas magic. I settled back with a contented sigh.
“How’s business?” Vicky asked.
“Mad. Absolutely mad. As they say in show business, any publicity is good publicity. All the attention the town received when that journalist was killed has helped draw in the crowds. Once they found the killer and Rudolph’s reputation was cleared, anyway. I’m worried about running out of some of my stock before Christmas.”
“That’s a good worry,” Vicky said. “Better than being stuck with stuff you can’t move.”
We wiped the cartoucherie plate clean. When the waitress took away the empty platter she asked if we wanted another bottle. Vicky and I exchanged a question before saying, “Sure!” at the same time. The lamb shanks arrived and they were delicious, served with delicate potatoes, and grilled vegetables. We lingered over our meal for a long time, simply enjoying each other’s company and the welcome chance to relax.
I’ve had more of Vicky’s gingerbread cake than I can possibly remember, but I never get enough of it. I ordered that for dessert, and Vicky had the candy cane cheesecake. The gingerbread was served under a mountain of freshly whipped cream, and the cheesecake dotted with bits of crushed candy.
“My complements to the chef,” Vicky said as we rummaged for our credit cards.
The waitress was about fifty years old, but she giggled and blushed like a teenager talking about the captain of the football team. “Isn’t he wonderful? We’re so lucky to have him.”
Vicky pulled out her phone and called for a cab. Neither of us were in any state to drive.
Then, stuffed to the gills, more than a bit tipsy, my best friend and I staggered out the restaurant door into the hotel lobby.
The lobby of the Yuletide Inn was also beautifully decorated for the season. The huge tree was hung with an array of antique (or antique-looking) ornaments; wooden soldiers stood to attention in the deep stone windowsills; red stockings hung over the fireplace; terracotta pots overflowed with pink-flowered Christmas cactus and red and white poinsettia. Glass bowls of various sizes full of silver and gold balls sat on the large round table dominating the center of the room. A charming Christmas village, complete with snow on the roofs and lighted windows in the shops and houses, was arranged on a side table.
“Hey, look who’s here,” a baritone boomed.
“Hi Dad. Mom.” Even though I’d only seen them yesterday, we exchanged enthusiastic hugs and kisses. My parents greeted Vicky the same way, and we shook hands with the couple with my parents. Jack and Grace Olsen, owners of the Yuletide Inn.
“Are you going through for dinner?” I asked. “It’s late for you, isn’t it, Dad?”
“We’ve just finished,” he said, rubbing his round belly with a satisfied smile.
“I didn’t see you in the dining room.”
“We had a private room,” Mom said. “It pays to know the boss.” The two couples were close friends.
“Dinner was exceptional,” Vicky said, patting her own firm, flat stomach. “The new chef is simply fabulous.”
Grace and Jack beamed. “We’re hearing nothing but good reports,” Jack said. “And let me tell you that’s a relief, after the last guy.” The side of one lip twisted up in disapproval. Jack was, for his age, a good looking man with a strong square jaw and dancing blue eyes.
“We’re booked solid until New Year’s Day,” Grace added. “Some people have made next year’s reservations already.”
“Glad to hear it,” Dad said. “What’s good for the Yuletide is…”
“Good for Rudolph,” we chorused.
Dad said, “Ho, ho ho.” My dad was born on December 25th and named Noel. He has plump red cheeks, a round stomach, a long white beard, a mass of curly white hair, and bushy white eyebrows. Even when he’s not wearing the costume of red suit, black belt and boots, and pom-pom tipped hat Noel Wilkinson looks exactly like a storybook Santa Claus. And Santa he is, in our town at least. Tonight he was dressed in brown corduroy slacks (circa 1980) and a red sweater sporting a design of a reindeer with springs of holly entwined in his antlers and a big red woolen pom-pom for his nose. I noticed people walking through the lobby giving him sideways glances and their faces lighting up in smiles. It was late for small children to be around, but if they were Dad would always give them a wink and a hearty, “Ho, ho, ho.”
Vicky and I laughed and leaned against each other.
Always the more serious of the pair, my mother gave me a stern look. “You are not driving, I hope.”
“We’ve called a cab, Aline,” Vicky said.
“We can give you a lift,” Dad said. “We’re leaving now.”
“Thanks, Dad, but the cab’ll be here in a minute,” I said. “We’ll wait outside. Good night.”
We headed for the front doors as Jack Olsen said, “Did I ever tell you about the time I was in the navy, and Santa Claus visited the ship. We were in the Philippines, and he was the sorriest excuse…”
He broke off with a strangled cry. I heard a loud thump followed by a resounding crash. Grace screamed, my mom gasped, and Dad yelled, “Jack!
Berkley Prime Crime/Penguin Random House
Release date: November 1, 2016
About The Author:
Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers. She is the author of twenty-three published crime novels, including standalone Gothic thrillers, the Constable Molly Smith series, and the Year Round Christmas Mysteries. Under the pen name of Eva Gates she is the national bestselling author of the Lighthouse Library cozy series.
Vicki lives and writes in Prince Edward County, Ontario. She is the past president of the Crime Writers of Canada.
What’s next for Vicki:
Look for Elementary, She Read, the first in Vicki’s new Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series, coming March 14 from Crooked Lane.
A copy of We Wish You A Murderous Christmas, US only.
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