It's June in Lake Eden, Minnesota, and for Hannah Swensen, that means bridal showers galore, plus a massive fundraising event in need of confections—not to mention a killer who never learned that charity begins at home...
Early summer brings plenty of work for Hannah, even before Mayor Bascomb's wife drops by The Cookie Jar to place an order ...for eleven-hundred cookies! Stephanie Bascomb is organizing an elaborate three-day event to support local charities, and though it's a worthy cause, Hannah almost flips when her business partner, Lisa, suggests setting up an apple turnover stand. Hannah's never made a turnover—but, pushover that she is, she places her faith in Lisa's mother-in-law's recipe and agrees to be a magician's assistant in the fundraiser's talent show...
Dozens of pastries and one hideous purple dress later, Hannah has to admit that stepping out of her comfort zone has been fun as well as profitable. The only snag is the show's host, community college professor Bradford Ramsey. Hannah and her younger sister Michelle each had unfortunate romantic relationships with Ramsey, and when the cad comes sniffing around between acts, Hannah tells him off. But when the curtain doesn't go up, she discovers Ramsey backstage—dead as a doornail with a turnover in his hand...
Now, to protect her reputation and Michelle's, Hannah must get to the bottom of the professor's bitter end. There are plenty of scorned suspects, including an ex-wife who feels cheated in more ways than one, and a prominent local who may have been using Ramsey to avenge her own randy spouse. But who was unstable enough to snuff out Professor Love? A killer who's flakier than puff pastry—and far more dangerous...
Includes Over Ten Cookie and Dessert Recipes!
“’Til death do us part.”
The words echoed in the hushed flower-scented air
and Hannah Swensen shivered in her bridal finery. The church
was filled to capacity on this Sunday afternoon in early June
and sunbeams streamed through the stained glass windows
that lined the nave, transforming the dust motes that floated
on lazy air currents into bits of vividly colored confetti.
’Til death do us part.
The words were simple, the sentiment was true, and Hannah
knew that marriage was supposed to last a lifetime. But
hearing such grave words on this joyous occasion always reminded
her of an opening line in a television murder mystery.
In the next shot, the groom would kiss the bride and the
whole congregation would mirror their happy smiles. Then
the camera would pull back, and the music would change to
a minor key. Something was about to happen, something ominous.
Someone was going to die before the first commercial
break, and you could almost bet that the victim would be one-
half of the bridal couple, most likely the actor or actress who
was lesser known and lesser paid.
But not today and not here in Lake Eden, Hannah told
herself, feeling a bit silly for her dark thoughts on this happy
occasion. She could probably blame her overactive imagination
on too much work and not enough sleep. Hannah and
her partner, Lisa, had put in long hours at The Cookie Jar,
their coffee shop and bakery, and their jam-packed schedule
was far from completed. They’d baked scores of cookies for
graduation celebrations, bridal and baby showers, engagement
parties, and school picnics. They’d even baked their
signature wedding cookies for this wedding, Old-Fashioned
Sugar Cookies topped with glittering crystals of granulated
sugar and decorated with the initials of the bride and the
groom in frosting, enclosed in a frosting heart. Once the reception
line had come to an end, everyone would mingle in
the church garden to enjoy iced lemonade and The Cookie
Jar’s wedding cookies.
Hannah was attempting to count the wedding celebrants
that filled the pews to make sure they’d brought enough cookies
when a warm hand reached out to clasp hers. The hand
belonged to Norman Rhodes, son of the bride, Carrie Rhodes,
and one of the men she was currently dating. Norman was
smiling and he’d told Hannah that he was pleased his mother
was marrying a man they all knew and liked, Earl Flensburg.
As Carrie and Earl turned and began their first walk down
the aisle together as man and wife, Hannah caught a glimpse
of her own mother’s face. Delores Swensen was a study in
contrasts, smiling and dabbing at her eyes with a lace handkerchief
at the same time. Weddings always made Delores cry.
She’d once admitted to Hannah that she’d cried at her own
wedding and, much to her embarrassment, smudged her mascara
in the process.
Hannah followed Norman out of the pew and down the
side aisle toward the front doors of the church. “Are you
going to stand in the reception line?”
“I’ll congratulate them later when I make the first toast.”
Norman waved and Hannah turned to see Mike Kingston,
the other man she occasionally dated, standing on the steps
that led up to the church doors. He was still wearing his Winnetka
County Sheriff’s Department uniform and that probably meant he was still on duty. Mike waved back at them and
Hannah and Norman went down the steps to greet him.
“Sorry I missed the wedding,” Mike said when they arrived
at his side. “I was supposed to be off work an hour and a half
ago, but there was a robbery. You’d think in heat like this, the
criminals would stay home and fan themselves.”
“What did they steal?” Norman asked.
“A couple of fans?” Hannah guessed, earning long-suffering
looks from both men.
“You’re close,” Mike told her. “They stole a truck loaded
with one of those above-ground swimming pools.”
“That’s a pretty big thing to steal,” Norman said. “Did
you catch them?”
“Sure. The pool was still in the bed of the truck and they
were trying to fill it up in the parking lot at the Eagle. You
know where that is, don’t you?”
Both Hannah and Norman nodded. They’d rescued Hannah’s
youngest sister, Michelle, from the country-western bar
last summer when she’d helped them substantiate a suspect’s
“They were trying to set up the pool at the Eagle?” Hannah
“Trying is the operative word. Since they didn’t have a
hose, they recruited everybody at the bar to carry out beer
mugs filled with water and dump them in the pool. Lonnie
and I figured it would have taken them at least four days to
fill it up enough for a swim.”
“So you caught them and arrested them?” Norman asked.
Mike shook his head. “It seems they were drinking buddies
with the owner of the truck. And once they agreed to
help him unload the pool at his house, and he agreed to let
them go for a swim, everybody went off happy. But I missed
the wedding and I’m sorry about that.” Mike turned to Norman.
“Give your mother and Earl my apologies, okay? And
tell them I’ll see them later.”
“Let’s head out to the Lake Eden Inn,” Norman suggested
after Mike had left.
Hannah glanced at her dress watch, squinting a bit to read
the tiny numbers. She was used to the big dial on the watch
she wore at work where time was of the essence and a minute
or two more could turn a boiled frosting into concrete. “If
we leave now, we’ll be an hour early for the reception.”
“Good. I want to check my video equipment to make sure
everything’s working right.” Norman stopped speaking and
frowned slightly. “Did I give you the bag of cat treats and
toys I bought?”
Hannah turned to smile at him. “Yes, you did. But there’s
enough in that bag for a month and you’re only going to be
gone for three nights.”
“I know. It’s just that I’ve never left Cuddles before and I
wanted to make sure she had everything she needed.”
“But how about the time Marguerite took her up north?”
Hannah asked, remembering the vacation Cuddles and her
former owner had taken last summer.
“That’s different. I didn’t leave Cuddles. Cuddles left me.”
Norman was silent for a moment and then he began to grin.
“That sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it?”
“Not a bit. I’d feel the same way.”
Hannah reviewed the plan in her mind as they walked to
Norman’s car. Once the reception was over, Norman would
be driving his mother and Earl to the international airport in
Minneapolis where they would catch a midnight flight to
Rome. They were touring Italy for their honeymoon, somewhere
Carrie had always wanted to go. Norman would see
them off and then he’d drive to the hotel where he’d be staying
for three nights. On Monday he’d meet up with some
friends from dental school who were opening a clinic in St. Paul,
tour the building they’d chosen for their clinic, and then they’d
all go out to dinner together. On Tuesday he’d attend the
grand opening, stay over that night, and drive back to Lake
Eden Wednesday morning in time for his first appointment.
He’d pick up Cuddles that night after work, and his cat would
have almost seventy-two hours to spend playing with her
best friend, Moishe.
“Do you think we should check on the cats before we
drive out to the reception?” Norman asked.
“We can stop at the condo if you’re worried about them,
but I’m sure they’re fine. I filled the Kitty Valet with food before
we left and Moishe’s always been a real gentleman about
letting Cuddles eat first. They’re probably snuggled up on the
couch together, watching the Animal Channel.”
“You’re right. No sense in disturbing them.” Norman
opened all four doors of his car to let the heat out before he
gestured for Hannah to get inside. “I’ll get the air conditioning
on right away,” he promised.
It was a hot afternoon and Hannah was glad that the air
conditioning in Norman’s sedan was better than the air conditioning
in her cookie truck. Even if she turned it on full
blast, someone blowing over the top of an ice cube would be
more effective. Riding in Norman’s well-maintained car was
a welcome treat, and by the time they pulled out of the church
parking lot, cool air was already beginning to pour out of the
vents. “I just love your car!” she said with a sigh, leaning back
against the headrest.
The moment the words were out of her mouth, she regretted
them. They’d just come from a wedding and that meant
both of them had weddings on the mind. It would be natural
for Norman, who really wanted her to accept the proposal he’d
tendered over a year ago, to say, Marry me and I’ll buy you
one just like it. Or, Just say yes and I’ll make everything easy
for you, Hannah. Or even, Did you see how happy Mother
was? I’d make you even happier if you’d marry me.
But Norman didn’t say any of those things. Instead, he just
laughed. “You don’t love my car. You love my air conditioning.”
“It’s true.” Hannah hung her head in pretended shame.
“I’m just a fool for a good-looking condenser and powerful
Norman chortled. There was no other word for it. It was a
sound that was midway between a chuckle and a gurgle and
it made Hannah smile to know she’d caused it. There was no
greater gift than making someone laugh. People who laughed
It was a huge party. Almost everyone they knew in town
was there, but the Swensen sisters had found each other and
snagged a table. Hannah, Andrea, and Michelle were seated at
a rectangular table at the edge of the dance floor. Their mother,
Delores, sat at one end, looking no more than a decade older
than her daughters.
“And you’re going to fill in at Granny’s Attic while Carrie’s
on her honeymoon?” Hannah asked Michelle.
“That’s right.” Michelle turned to smile at her mother. “I’ve
got a whole month before I have to be back at Macalester, and
Mother’s promised me a commission on any antiques I sell.”
“And an hourly wage on top of that,” Delores amended
her youngest daughter’s statement, and then she turned to
Hannah. “Michelle will be able to stay with you for a while,
won’t she, dear? I’m having the hardwood floors redone and
it could take several weeks.”
“Not a problem. Michelle can stay with me anytime she
Michelle turned to give Hannah a grin. “Thanks!”
“I should be the one to thank you. The last time you stayed
over, you made breakfast for me. And the day you left, you
stripped your bed and washed the sheets. Not only that, you
emptied the drier and folded all my clothes. I love it when
you stay with me.”
All four Swensens looked up as a man stopped by their
table. It was Lonnie Murphy, the deputy sheriff Michelle
dated when she was in town. “Hi, Shelly. Do you want to
dance?” he asked.
“I’d love to!” Michelle smiled, got up from her chair, and
took Lonnie’s arm. She looked genuinely delighted to be
asked as they stepped out onto the dance floor.
Hannah hid a grin. Michelle hated to be called Shelly. It
was the name her fourth grade class had given to the box turtle
they kept in their terrarium. She’d once told Hannah she
thought that Shelly was a great name for a turtle but not for
her, and she’d engaged in several hair-pulling fights on the
school playground with anyone who’d dared to call her by
that nickname. Obviously things had changed. When Lonnie
called her Shelly, Michelle just smiled at him. Hannah figured
that must be love, or at least a close facsimile.
“Delores. Just the person I wanted to see.” Bud Hauge approached
their table. He owned the welding shop in town
and Hannah knew he’d worked on several broken antiques
for her mother.
“Bud.” Delores acknowledged him with a nod. “Don’t tell
me you can’t weld the rocker on my treadle sewing machine.”
“Okay. I won’t tell you I can’t weld your sewing machine.”
“Bud!” There was a warning tone in their mother’s voice
and Hannah exchanged grins with Andrea. Delores had gone
to school with Bud and he loved to tease her.
“Just kidding. It’s all ready for you, good as new. I’ll drop
it by Granny’s Attic tomorrow morning.”
“Thank you, Bud. That’s perfect. I’d like you to take a
look at something else we bought. Have you ever done any
restoration on grave art?”
Bud gave a little shrug. “I don’t know. They bring it in, I
weld it. What’s grave art?”
“It’s a tribute for a grave, a statue or some kind of decoration
chosen by the family. Commonly they’re made of marble
or granite, but this one is metal.”
“What is it? An angel or something like that?”
“No, it’s a fish.”
“A fish?” Both Andrea and Hannah spoke at once since
Bud appeared to be rendered speechless.
“I believe it’s a walleye pike. It’s not so unusual if you
consider that families like to personalize the graves of their
Dearly departed? Hannah stared at her mother in shock.
She’d never heard anyone use that phrase outside the walls of
a church. “So some dead person inside, whoever he was,
liked to fish?”
“I assume so, dear. We have several examples of grave art
at the shop. They’re from the family mausoleum section of
Spring Brook Cemetery and they date back to the eighteen
“They’re tearing down part of that section, aren’t they,
Mother?” Andrea asked.
“They’re relocating it, dear. The city council feels that the
crypts are in such bad repair, they could be dangerous.”
“How could they be dangerous if everyone who’s in them
is dead?” Hannah asked.
Andrea and Bud burst into laughter, and Hannah noticed
that Delores did all she could do to keep a straight face.
“That’s not very nice, dear,” she chided her eldest daughter.
“But it’s funny,” Bud said, still chuckling.