Acts of Violets (Flower Shop Mysteries, No. 5)

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9780451220745: Acts of Violets (Flower Shop Mysteries, No. 5)
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OK, I'll admit it: I, Abby Knight, actually love my hometown's corny annual Pickle Fest - and I've also been hoping the event will drum up business for my flower shop, Bloomers. But when the hired clown is found dead, the festivities screech to a halt...

SWEET OR SOUR?

Abby has been dating Marco - ex-cop, bartender, and all-around hunk - for several months when the Pickle Fest starts. But he's still a mystery to her. And after he disappears for a day, she's stunned to read in the paper: EX-COP QUESTIONED IN MAN'S DEATH. It seems the authorities have found Snuggles the Clown pushing up water-spurting daisies - and Marco was the last person seen leaving Snuggles's house. 

Abby knows in her bones that he's innocent. But why, when his life is on the line, is Marco being so secretive with her? And who is the attractive woman he escorted to the Pickle Fest? To do the legwork, she'll have to delve into the eerie clown underworld, where the smiles are fake and everyone has a trick up his sleeve...

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About the Author:

Kate Collins is the New York Times bestselling author of the Flower Shop Mystery series. She grew up in a suburb of Hammond, Indiana, one block from the family home of author Jean Shepherd, whose humorous stories inspired Kate at an early age. After a stint as an elementary school teacher, Kate wrote children's short stories and historical romance novels before turning to her true passion, mystery. She lives in northwest Indiana and Key West, Florida.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Acknowledgements

 

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

The critics are throwing bouquets for the Flower Shop Mysteries

Snipped in the Bud

“Lighthearted and fast-paced, Collins’s new book is an entertaining read.”—Romantic Times

 

Dearly Depotted

“Abby is truly a hilarious heroine. . . . Don’t miss this fresh-as-a-daisy read.”—Rendezvous

 

“Exciting . . . original and charming with . . . many unexpected twists.”—Midwest Book Review

 

“Ms. Collins’s writing style is crisp, her characters fun . . . and her stories are well thought-out and engaging.”

—Fresh Fiction

 

Slay It with Flowers

“Upbeat, jocular . . . an uplifting, amusing and feel-good amateur sleuth tale.”—The Best Reviews

 

“What a delight! Ms. Collins has a flair for engaging characters and witty dialogue.”—Fresh Fiction

 

“You can’t help but laugh. . . . An enormously entertaining read.”—Rendezvous

Mum’s the Word

 

“Kate Collins plants all the right seeds to grow a fertile garden of mystery. . . . Abby Knight is an Indiana florist who cannot keep her nose out of other people’s business. She’s rash, brash, and audacious. Move over, Stephanie Plum. Abby Knight has come to town.”

—Denise Swanson, author of the Scumble River mysteries

 

“An engaging debut planted with a spirited sleuth, quirky sidekicks, and page-turning action . . . delightfully addictive . . . a charming addition to the cozy subgenre. Here’s hoping we see more of intrepid florist Abby Knight and sexy restauranteur Marco Salvare.”

—Nancy J. Cohen, author of the Bad Hair Day Mysteries

 

“A bountiful bouquet of clues, colorful characters, and tantalizing twists . . . Kate Collins carefully cultivates clues, plants surprising suspects, and harvests a killer in this fresh and frolicsome new Flower Shop mystery series.”

—Ellen Byerrum, author of the Crime of Fashion mysteries

 

“As fresh as a daisy, with a bouquet of irresistible characters.” —Elaine Viets, author of the Dead-End Job mysteries

 

“This engaging read has a list of crazy characters that step off the pages to the delight of the reader. Don’t miss this wannabe sleuth’s adventures.”—Rendezvous

 

“This story was cute and funny, had a good plot line which entwined a lot of interesting threads . . . an enjoyable read and a fine debut for this new mystery series.”

—Dangerously Curvy Novels

 

“A charming debut.”—The Best Reviews

Other Flower Shop Mysteries

Mum’s the Word
Slay It with Flowers
Dearly Depotted
Snipped in the Bud

SIGNET
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2,
Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
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Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,
New Delhi - 110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Mairangi Bay,
Auckland 1311, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

 

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

 

First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

 

First Printing, March 2007

 

Copyright © Linda Tsoutsouris, 2007

All rights reserved

REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA

 

 

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

 

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

 

 

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

eISBN : 978-1-101-00759-4

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Authors never write entirely alone; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There are always editors and agents and husbands and mothers and fathers and children standing silently (or not) in the background. Also those pesky little voices in our heads.

 

To that end I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my husband for providing a shoulder to whine on, as well as his legal expertise (the best lawyer in Indiana—not that I’m prejudiced or anything); my sister, Nancy, and best friend, Barb (more shoulders for whining; how do they stand me?); “My Kids: The Entire Collection”; my editor, Ellen Edwards; my agent, Karen Solem; the terrific artist who designed the Flower Shop Mystery covers (absolutely the coolest!); my step-mom, Bonnie (the American version of Grace); and of course the clowns Jocko and Bimbo, who were the true inspiration for this book, not to mention for Abby’s nightmares. The voices and I thank you all.

This book is dedicated to the memory of Joseph Eberhardt,
a man who endured unbelievable hardships yet never
lost his enthusiasm for life. His ready smile and
generous heart will always be an inspiration to those
of us who loved him. God bless you, Joe.

CHAPTER ONE

You think that was funny? You think I don’t know you did that on purpose? Well, I’ve got your number, shorty, so let me tell you something: Paybacks are murder.”

Paybacks? Murder? Shorty! Hugging my purse to my chest, I gaped at the bad-tempered buffoon as he gathered his cucumbers, climbed onto his unicycle, and rode off to join his troupe. You wouldn’t expect that kind of behavior from a clown named Snuggles.

Was it my fault he ran over my purse and fell off his tall perch? No, it was the bozo’s behind me—pardon the clown pun—who was too busy stuffing his face with a bratwurst to notice the short redhead with an even shorter fuse standing in front of him. This was a small parade. He was a big guy. Did he have to be in the front row? And who eats brats at ten o’clock in the morning?

I turned my attention back to Snuggles, who was once again juggling cukes from his seat-in-the-sky as he pedaled up the street. My policy was to stand up to bullies—and that snarled threat was certainly bullying behavior—but before I could give him a piece of my mind (I was thinking along the lines of recommending a place to store those cucumbers) I was yanked back onto the sidewalk by my best friend and roommate, Nikki Hiduke, an X-ray tech at the county hospital, who had shared many childhood adventures with me and lived to tell about it.

“Abby, are you all right? You look dazed.”

“Nikki, that clown threatened me! As if I elbowed myself off the sidewalk.” I cast a glare over my shoulder at Mr. Oblivious, who had finished his bratwurst and was slurping mustard off his fingers. I was amazed he wasn’t also talking on a mobile phone. Oh, wait. Yes, he was. He had on an earpiece.

“Snuggles the Clown threatened you?” Nikki stared after the troupe—three acrobats, two unicyclists, one stilt walker, and the last (my favorite because of the huge purple lily atop a long green stem waving from her bonnet), a baby-doll clown peddling a giant purple tricycle. “But he looks so harmless.”

“Don’t let that goofy smile fool you.” I scrubbed the black tread mark off the tan leather purse that I’d almost gone into hock for. “Beneath that greasepaint is a nasty temper and a voice that would make a polar bear shiver.”

“Abby, you have mustard on your shoulder.”

Wonderful. I took a tissue from my tire-engraved purse and blotted the yellow stain on my white shirt. Why had I even bothered to come? It was a sunny Saturday morning, and although my flower shop, Bloomers, was open on Saturdays, this was my one weekend a month to sleep in. But no. Attending the Annual Pickle Fest Parade was a family tradition, and to break that tradition was to incur the wrath of my mom, Maureen “Mad Mo” Knight.

Speaking of whom, where was she? I’d never known her to miss the start of the parade, when Peter Piper led his merry band of Pickled Peppers up Lincoln Avenue to the strains of a John Philip Sousa march.

I scanned the crowd lining both sides of the street. Today was the start of New Chapel, Indiana’s, fall Pickle Festival—a weeklong celebration of brine-soaked vegetables attended by thousands of people from all over the state, some from as far away as Chicago, giving the local newspaper, the New Chapel News, fodder for headlines such as VISITORS RELISH THE PICKLE FEST. I had a hunch it wasn’t so much the pickled produce as it was getting pickled that was the actual draw.

All four streets around the courthouse square had been blocked off to accommodate the huge crowds. Restaurant owners set up tables in front of their establishments to sell beer, hot dogs, bratwurst, dills, pickled beets, pickled tomatoes, pickled watermelon, and, yes, pickled peppers to the hungry visitors. For the truly desperate, pickled herring and pickled pig’s feet were also available. Shoe shops, gift boutiques, and clothing stores put out their wares, and even Bloomers had a display of mums, roses, asters, and greenery for sale.

Then there were the ever-popular arts and crafts booths that dotted the huge lawn around the big limestone courthouse in the middle of the square. Beneath the shady maples and elms, brightly colored canvas tents housed ceramics, watercolors, oils, clay sculpture, silver jewelry, quilts, pottery, toys, metal sculpture, and even marble birdbaths.

My mother would have her work on display somewhere in that mix. In addition to being a kindergarten teacher, Mom now fancied herself an artist, having received a pottery wheel for Christmas last year. Before she grew bored with clay, she had produced a variety of weird sculptures such as the infamous Dancing Male Monkeys Table and the Human Footstool. She had since moved on to mirrored tiles, with which she’d covered nearly every object in her house, making a washroom visit a truly frightening experience. I didn’t know what craft she was into this week. My father would only say, “It’s a tickler.”

“Do you see my family?” I asked Nikki. Being a head taller (even more if you added her spiky blonde hair), she had a sight advantage. She also had a body advantage—slender, long legged, and small breasted, something I had aspired to from the age of thirteen. My brothers, both doctors, insisted that people stopped growing when they reached puberty, but they were only half right; I hadn’t gone beyond my five-foot-two-inch frame since junior high, but I had gone way beyond my training bra.

“I don’t see any of them,” Nikki said, holding up her hand to shield her eyes.

Normally, they weren’t hard to pick out, since Jonathan and Jordan had the same flame red hair and freckled skin that my dad and I had. My mother’s hair was a soft brown, lucky woman, and my sisters-in-law—Portia and Kathy—had also escaped the curse of the red.

“There’s Marco,” Nikki shouted in my ear as the New Chapel High School marching band passed by. She pointed between green-coated band members to the opposite side of the street, but I had already spotted him. How could anyone miss a dark-haired, virile-bodied, extremely hot hunk like Marco Salvare, a former Army Ranger and ex-cop who now owned the Down the Hatch Bar and Grill—as well as my heart?

“Who’s that woman talking to him?” Nikki asked.

I eyed the attractive girl beside him. “I don’t know. She’s pretty, isn’t she?”

Pffft. No way. Ew. And would you look at those split ends?”

“Nikki, you can’t see split ends from here, and besides, it’s okay to agree with me. I don’t feel threatened by the woman. I’m not the jealous type.”

She burst out laughing.

Ignoring her, I narrowed my eyes at the pair, watching as Marco tilted his head toward the woman to catch something she said. She couldn’t have been a day over twenty-five, and had an oval face with delicate features framed by long, thick black hair topping off a perfectly proportioned body. She was talking animatedly and pointing to something or someone up the street. The Pickled Peppers? The clown troupe? Someone in the marching band?

“Abigail, there you are!” my mother called. I turned to find her parting the crowd so the humongous feathered hat on her head could fit through. Normally, she wasn’t one to wear hats, let alone feathers, but she did have a way of surprising me. “We’ve been looking all over for you. Why aren’t you in front of Bloomers?”

“Because we always meet here, by the Clothes Loft. Where are Dad and the gang?”

“By your shop, which is where I thought you’d be.”

“It’s hard to see the parade from Bloomers, Mom. You know it doesn’t go down Franklin. Besides, we always meet here. If you wanted to meet elsewhere, you should have told me.”

“I would have told you if I thought there was a need to tell you. But since you’re a shop owner now, I really didn’t see the need.”

I started to argue that my being a shop owner had nothing to do with it, but Nikki...

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