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A Catered St. Patrick's Day

Isis Crawford

ISBN 9780758247407
Publish Date 1/31/2012
Format Hardcover
Categories Kensington, Cozy
List Price: $24.00

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ePub Paperback

Gastronomical dream team Bernie and Libby Simmons wade into a Celtic knot of malice and mayhem when a St. Patrick’s celebration goes terribly wrong…

To most of the people of little Longely, New York, St. Paddy’s Day means good food, great music, and plenty of Guinness. But when the lifeless body of Mike Sweeney floats to the top of a vat of green beer, it looks like the luck o’ the Irish has just run out.

Unfortunately for the Simmons sisters, the number one suspect is related to one of their very best catering customers, the pampered and powerful Bree Nottingham. When Bree visits A Little Taste of Heaven to beseech them to clear her nephew’s name, they just can’t say no.

But the more information Bernie and Libby stir up, the more Duncan Nottingham looks like a killer. Known for his hot temper and love of the drink, Duncan and the deceased were both part of the Corned Beef and Cabbage Club, a group with more buried history than the Emerald Isle. And each member—especially Duncan—had a motive to sing Sweeney his last Irish lullaby. A motive they don’t want anyone revealing.

For Bernie and Libby, the situation is deadly and in danger of boiling over. And they can’t count on good old Saint Pat to drive out the snake in their midst…they’ll have to do it themselves, before a murderer strikes again.

Includes Original Recipes for You to Try!

Chapter One

It was a little after nine o’clock in the morning and Bernie and Libby Simmons were rolling out pie dough in the kitchen of their shop, A Little Taste of Heaven, when the call came in. Ironically, they had just been congratulating themselves on how peaceful everything had been in the last four months.

There’d been no crimes committed in Longely—at least none that they’d been called on to investigate—the shop was running smoothly, no strategic piece of equipment had broken, their staff was showing up on time and were not exhibiting the usual drama to which they were prone, and the shop’s sales figures were more than respectable. In fact, it looked as if they could get a new delivery vehicle soon.

“It’s almost boring,” Bernie had told her sister as she went over to the cooler and took another portion of dough out. Their dough had so much butter in it that it had to be refrigerated until it was ready to be rolled.

Libby sprinkled a little more flour on the counter and flipped the piece of dough she was working onto its other side. “As Mom would have said, ‘Bite your tongue.’”

Bernie rolled her eyes and brushed a speck of flour off the black silk shirt she was wearing. She made it a point of honor to cook in clothes that she would wear outside the kitchen, unlike her sister, who preferred jeans, sweats, and T-shirts.

“What’s wrong with saying that?” Libby demanded, noting her sister’s expression.

“I didn’t say anything was wrong with saying that,” Bernie protested with mock sincerity.

“You rolled your eyes. It’s the same thing.”

“I just think it’s a silly expression. I thought so when Mom used to say it and I think so now. It’s like believing that knocking on wood will bring you good luck and walking under a ladder will bring you bad luck.”

Libby gave the dough on the counter two more outward strokes with her rolling pin before slipping her rolling pin under the perfect circle she’d created and transferring the dough to the pie pan. She allowed herself a moment to admire her handiwork before speaking.

“You mean that’s not true?” she asked her sister as she crimped the pie’s edges.

Bernie closed the cooler door, put the dough she’d retrieved on the table, and gave it a couple of good whacks with her rolling pin to soften it up. “You’re kidding, right?”

“No, I’m not,” Libby said even though she had been. She was in a crabby mood and got a certain amount of satisfaction out of pushing her sister’s buttons.

“It’s a superstition.”

“Well, sometimes there are reasons for superstitions,” Libby pointed out. “Walking under a ladder isn’t the smartest thing to do—something could drop on your head. And that thing about breaking a mirror bringing seven years bad luck . . .” Libby’s voice trailed off. She’d lost her train of thought. Damn. She hated when that happened.

Bernie peeled the wax paper off the dough. “And why is that?”

“I forget,” Libby confessed. Then, as she moved the salt aside to make more room on the table, she remembered. “Because mirrors used to be very expensive. Like salt.”

For some reason, today’s shop feature, four-leaf-clovershaped sugar cookies with green icing in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, sprang into Bernie’s mind. “What about four-leaf clovers? Why are those good luck?”

“Because they’re rare and rare connotes valuable,” Libby said.

“They could just as easily be bad luck. Unusual is not necessarily good,” Bernie mused. “Now if that were true,” she said, thinking of all the cookies they’d baked and the cupcakes they’d decorated with four-leaf clovers, “we’d be out a fair chunk of change. No one would buy them.”

Libby put her rolling pin down and went to pour herself another cup of coffee. It was an organic Guatemalan light roast. When she’d told her dad that was what she was giving him this morning, he’d snorted and said, “What happened to a plain old cup of joe?” And maybe he was right. After all, Starbucks had switched to Pike Place. Maybe she and her sister should try and find a signature brand of coffee to sell in the shop.

“On the other hand,” Bernie continued when Libby got back, “we do touch the kitchen witch for luck every morning before we start working.”

“Is that habit or superstition?” Libby asked.

Bernie thought for a moment, then said, “Learned behavior. We saw Mom do it every morning so we do it too.”

“She did, didn’t she?” Libby said in a softer voice.

Bernie nodded her head. “Without fail.”

Their mom had gotten the kitchen witch at a local craft fair when she’d first opened the shop and it had been hanging over the kitchen window ever since. It hadn’t been particularly well made, so now the witch was tattered and shabby looking. Libby had resewn her seams and restuffed one of her arms and her hat several times, but both she and Bernie were loath to get a new one. She was irreplaceable in their eyes.

Funny how things go, Libby thought as she added a smidgen of heavy cream to her coffee and watched it swirl around in the cup, turning the liquid from an almost black brown to a pleasing shade of tan.

“Changing the topic . . .” she said after she’d raised the cup to her lips and taken a sip. “I have a question about the coffee.” But she never got a chance to ask it because Bernie’s cell went off.

“I wonder what Brandon wants,” Bernie said as she reached for it. “He should be asleep by now.”

“Maybe he forgot to tell you something,” Libby suggested.

“Maybe,” Bernie said. But she couldn’t think of what it could be that couldn’t wait.

She knew that Brandon had closed the bar last night, which meant that he hadn’t gotten home until after three in the morning, which meant he hadn’t fallen asleep until around five because it always took him a couple of hours to wind down. It was now a little after nine. He should be snoring up a storm at this moment, not calling her.

Especially since the day was going to be nuts at RJ’s, it being the day before Saint Patrick’s Day, which meant that they would be serving green beer this afternoon. Couple that with the fact that it was Friday and you got chaos. They couldn’t pay her enough to work behind the bar this weekend, Bernie decided. Not that anyone had asked her. In fact, she had absolutely no desire to go anywhere near RJ’s until Saint Pat’s Day was over. She could do without the puking and the fights and the crowds.

“Hi,” Bernie said to Brandon as questions swirled through her mind. “What’s going on? Is everything okay?”

“No,” Brandon told her. His voice was hoarse. “It’s not okay. It’s not okay at all. Come around to the back of RJ’s as soon as you can.” And he hung up.

“What’s going on?” Libby asked.

Bernie shook her head. “He wants us to meet him at the back of RJ’s.”

“Why?”

“He didn’t say.” Bernie hit speed dial.

Libby put down her coffee mug. “What are you doing?”

“Calling him back.” This time the call went straight to voice mail. Bernie looked up. “He shut off his phone.”

“He never does that,” Libby said.

“I know.” Bernie bit her lower lip. “Listen, can you take care of the pies? I’m going to see what’s up.”

The shop had a standing order for ten pies for Friday night for the after-theater event at the Longely playhouse.

“Don’t be silly. I’m coming too,” Libby told her sister. “Mrs. Saks isn’t picking up her order until five o’clock. We’ve got plenty of time to finish up before then.”

Bernie gave her sister a quick hug. Okay, they did bicker a lot, but Libby was always there when she needed her. “Maybe it’s not that bad,” she said as she rewrapped the dough ball in a fresh sheet of wax paper and plopped it back in the cooler. The crust would be a bit tougher from being overly handled, but there was nothing she could do about that now.

Libby dusted the flour off her hands. “You don’t really believe that, do you?”

“No,” she said softly. “I don’t.”

In the first place, Brandon had sounded really tense. In the second place, he never turned off his phone. And in the third place, Brandon was never one to ask her for help if there was any other possibility. He was a guy guy, and as such thought that he should be able to handle anything that came along by himself. They’d once been lost in the Adirondacks for a little under two hours and not only had Brandon refused to ask for directions, he wouldn’t let Bernie ask either.

“I don’t know what this is about, but whatever it is, it isn’t good,” Bernie conceded. “It isn’t good at all. “ She started to punch in Brandon’s number again and then stopped. What was the point? “I guess we’ll find out when we get there.”

“Guess so,” Libby said as she and Bernie slipped on their coats, walked out to the front of the shop, and told their counter people that they were leaving for a little while, and would, hopefully, be back shortly.

On the way out the door, they fielded comments from Mrs. Gupta and Mrs. O’Conner as to the spiciness of the ginger chicken and the type of apple used in the shop’s trout, apple, walnut, and frisée salad, fended off a Coca- Cola salesman and another salesman who wanted to sell them a new POS machine, and took delivery of a load of kale and beets from one of the local farmers. Ten minutes later they were finally underway.

Neither of the sisters spoke to each other as they drove through the streets of Longely. They were both too nervous for chitchat. It had been a relatively mild winter and patches of green grass were visible among the brown thatch on people’s lawns. And Libby thought she could spot a few of the willow trees starting to bud. Spring would be here very quickly, she realized, which made her think that she and Bernie had better start planning their spring menu.

They always changed things up for each season, although they were careful to keep some of the perennial favorites. Libby was about to tell Bernie they’d better get going on that, but looking at the expression on her face, Libby decided that this wasn’t the right time or place to bring the subject up, so she just sat back and watched the houses and the shops go by. Even with the economic downturn, Longely was still a prosperous community, something

Libby was unendingly grateful for, and the houses they passed were all freshly painted and neatly landscaped.

RJ’s was located about three miles away from A Little Taste of Heaven. Unlike the shop, which was situated on Longely’s main street, RJ’s was located on the edge of an old strip mall that contained a hardware store, a cleaner’s, a beauty salon, a Rite Aid, a small diner, and most recently a dog-grooming place. The bar was a community fixture. It had been in existence for twenty years and Bernie and Libby had hung out there when they were younger, eating chicken wings, drinking beer, shooting pool, and playing darts.

They still hung out there and enjoyed an occasional game of pool, but that was as much a function of Bernie’s boyfriend Brandon working behind the bar as anything else. It remained a very popular place however, especially on Saint Patrick’s Day. Longely might not have a parade like New York City did, but they did have green beer at RJ’s, and that was good enough for most people.

Bernie drove around to the back and parked the van. Earlier in the week, she’d broken out her new Marc Jacobs knee-length double-breasted navy spring coat, the one she’d gotten on sale at Barneys last fall, while Libby was still wearing her old beat-up winter parka, mostly because she’d been too lazy to go down to the basement and dig out her spring jacket, which actually wasn’t in much better condition than her winter one was.

“You should get rid of that thing,” Bernie told her as she reached out and touched it. “It’s so old the material is starting to fray.”

“It’s my good luck jacket,” Libby protested.

“It’s an offense to the eyes,” Bernie countered. She was about to add something to the effect that even the Salvation Army wouldn’t take it when she caught sight of Brandon.

“Over here,” he called, waving the sisters in his direction.

About Isis Crawford:

Isis Crawford was born in Egypt to parents who were in the diplomatic corps. When she was five, her family returned to the States, where her mother opened a restaurant in Upper Westchester County and her father became a university professor. Since then Isis has combined her parents’ love of food and travel by running a catering service as well as penning numerous travel-related articles about places ranging from Omsk to Paraguay. Married, with twin boys, she presently resides in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, where she is working on the next Bernie and Libby culinary mystery. Readers can visit her website at isiscrawford.com.

Photo Credit: Sherry Chayat


Average Customer Review

Based on 4 reviews


Customer Review

Good Beer! Good Story! The Good Old Irish! (Monday, March 26, 2012)
Reviewer: Amy Lignor

As this is my first attempt at an Isis Crawford book, this was my first meeting with Bernie and Libby Simmons. They’re sisters who run a shop called “A Little Taste of Heaven,” a catering business located in New York State.

The sisters are gearing up for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations when Bernie’s significant other, Brandon, calls her and wants the girls to meet him at the local tavern, R.J’s., where he’s employed as a bartender. Brandon had a wee bit of trouble with the members of the “Corned Beef and Cabbage Drinking Club” the night before, and when he opened up in the morning, Mike Sweeney - one of the noisiest members of the drinking club - was found upside down in a keg of green beer. Death by drowning.

Almost immediately, Duncan Nottingham, another member of the club, is accused of the crime and placed under arrest. Duncan’s Aunt Bree soon hires Bernie, Libby, and their father - a retired Police Chief - to investigate. It’s not an easy job, and Duncan is certainly not the most loved person by his other drinking buddies. To top it all off, Duncan’s girlfriend Liza comes up missing and the evidence shows that some of the drinking club members were involved.

Readers will think that they have this one all figured out many times over, but the author is definitely one for surprises. ‘Cozy’ readers will love this book and look for all her others - know I will. And just as a little extra ‘sweetener?‘ The author has included a couple of really great recipes in the back of the book.

Although this was my first experience with Isis, I can definitely tell you that it won’t be my last! Enjoy!

The Simmons Sisters are the Dynamic Duo of Longley (Wednesday, February 15, 2012)
Reviewer: NoraAdrienne

The Dynamic Duo of Bernie and Libby Simmons are well known in their hometown of Little Longley, New York. It was a little after 9 am one morning and Bernie and Libby were working in their shop kitchen rolling out pie dough for sale and special orders. They were thinking how quiet things had been lately with no crimes to get involved in and even things in the shop were running smoothly. Too bad this wasn’t going to last.
When Bernie’s cell phone rang and she looked at the caller ID she was surprised when the call was from her boyfriend Brandon. Brandon should have been in bed already after working the late shift at RJ’s a local bar. With no explanations he insists that the sisters come and meet him at the back of the bar. When they arrive he explains that he found a dead body in the barrel of green beer that had been ordered for the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration.
The body is identified as Mike Sweeney, a member of the Corned Beef and Cabbage Club. Brandon told them a story about the past evenings events featuring Mike Sweeney being forcibly removed from the premises after he attempted to crack the barrel and “taste” the beer.
Bree Nottingham, the local bigwig in the real estate business asks them to meet with her in their apartment. She needs to talk to them. Her nephew Duncan (a member of the Corned Beef and Cabbage Club) is arrested for the murder and she offers to pay for their help. All the evidence found points to Duncan being the guilty party and Bree says she just knows he’s innocent. She tells them that she wants to hire them to investigate the case and prove his innocence. They are shocked when she hands them a check for a five figure amount, and finally agree to help her.
It appears that at every turn the Dynamic Duo are going to be hitting their heads against a wall as they find nothing that will help Duncan’s case.
This mystery is well written, and the characters are all three dimensional. Even the peripheral people they run into appear to be there for specific reasons and the story just flows so smoothly you’ll be surprised to find yourself at the end of the book and the truth will out.
FTC Full Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book from the publishers who asked only for a fair and impartial review.

“Green Beer and Lots of Intrigue” (Monday, February 13, 2012)
Reviewer: Nancy Narma

This is the first of Ms. Crawford’s books I have read and it is also my introduction to the sleuthing world of Libby and Bernie Simmons. As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, Bernie and Libby are busy as bees in their shop, “A Little Taste Of Heaven”, when Bernie receives a distress call from her bartender-boyfriend; Brandon, asking them to meet him at R.J.”s, the local tavern in which he works. He had had problems with the unruly members of the “Corned Beef and Cabbage Drinking Club” the previous night, but nothing had prepared him for what he discovered when he opened the establishment the following morning. Big, burly ”Corned Beef and Cabbage “ member, Mike Sweeney is found head first and dead in a keg of green beer!! Was it an accident? Has Mike been murdered ? Who would and/or could do such a thing and why? In no time at all, another C.B. & C. member, Duncan Nottingham, is accused and under house arrest for the crime. His wealthy Aunt, Bree Nottingham, checkbook in hand, hires Bernie, Libby and their retired Police Chief Father, Sean, to investigate Sweeney’s demise and prove Duncan’s innocence. But is he?? Duncan was loathed by many as an associate of Sweeney’s with his unscrupulous dealings plus he was made into a laughing stock by some he thought were friends. When , as a cruel twist to the already confusing case, Duncan’s “Girlfriend”, Liza Sopranto, is missing—the evidence gets more damning. What part did C.B.& C. members, Connor, Patrick and Liam have to play in all of this?? They are husky enough to have done the deed. Or did Libby’s ex-flame, Orion have a hand in the crime? You’ll have sympathy for quiet, love-struck mortician, Marvin and think you have the mystery figured out more than once, only to be whisked down another dark avenue.
Ms. Crawford has even included a couple “Irish in Spirit” recipes for her readers to sample. You’ll enjoy this easy read and even though this is my first “who-dun-it” with the clever Simmons Sisters, I assure you, it will not be my last.

Nancy Narma

A Catered St. Patricks Day (Friday, December 16, 2011)
Reviewer: jbarr

A Catered St. Patrick's Day by Isis Crawford
Realzie the author has put out other books along the same lines, just different holidays and after reading 1/2 of
the first page I know I will be hunting down the rest of the books to read.
Being as I do bake just listening, reading about how they are handling the dough makes me think I can learn something
from them by reading this book. The luck is with them, besides the 4 leaf clovers they have the kitchen witch there.
I remember making them to sell at craft shows.
Libby and Bernie run the bakery shop and live upstairs with their Dad.
Brandon is the bar tender that covers for the morning guy cuz he's in the hospital. Til he finds Mike out back.
Mike is dead and now Duncan is arrested. His aunt comes to his rescue and wants the family to find out who really did murder Mike so Duncans' name can be cleared. The family (Libby, Bernie and their dad Sean) has done investigations before because they just know everybody in town and
how they are related to one another.
The girls start by visiting with Duncan and he tells them his story, several different ones. They then go visit with Brandon at the bar as he's on duty to maybe run a few things past him.
Their father also is following up a lead with the guy who drives the hearse. They all get leads to other sources and trace them out as well.
What each of them has to go through to get the answers is sometimes too funny.
The best part of this book for me was their daily routine of making and baking the bread, priceless!
Good mystery story also.


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