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!
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
“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
“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,
“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
“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,”
“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.”
“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
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
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.