It’s frigid in snow-covered Tinker’s Cove, and Lucy is fighting the winter blues—and her widening waistline. No one in their right mind would vacation in Maine this time of year, but to boost the economy, the town is launching a travel promotion for Valentine’s Day. As a reporter for the Pennysaver, Lucy is assigned a puff piece on upscale Chanticleer’s Chocolates, and its deliciously handsome owner, Trey Meacham.
Soon Lucy discovers there’s another tantalizing tart behind the counter. Sultry store manager Tamzin Graves is only too eager to serve her male customers. Leaving a throng of jealous women in her wake, it’s almost no surprise when Tamzin turns up dead, her body covered in chocolate…
Could a bitter ex-wife be behind the crimes? Or a candy shop competitor? There’s no sugar-coating the truth, and as Lucy closes in on the culprit, she may find herself locked in the clutches of a half-baked killer…
“I like Lucy Stone a lot, and so will readers.” —Carolyn Hart
“Fast-paced…intriguing.” —Publishers Weekly
“An enjoyable story.” —RT Book Reviews
If the cold didn’t kill her, the slippery ice on the sidewalk
surely would, thought Lucy Stone as she stepped out of
the overheated town hall basement meeting room into a
frigid Monday afternoon. January was always cold in the
little coastal town of Tinker’s Cove, Maine, and this year
was a record-breaker. The electronic sign on the bank
across the street informed her it was five forty-five and
nine, no, eight degrees. The temperature was falling fast
and was predicted to sink below zero during the night.
Lucy hurried across the frozen parking lot as fast as she
dared, mindful that a patch of ice could send her flying.
Reaching the car, she made sure the heater was on high,
and waited a few minutes for the engine to warm up.
While she waited, she thought about the meeting she had
just attended and how she would write it up for the local
paper, the Tinker’s Cove Pennysaver.
The topic under discussion was improving toilet facilities
at the town beach and quite a crowd had turned out
for the meeting. In her experience as a reporter, only dog
hearings excited more interest than wastewater issues and
this meeting had been no exception.
Of course, people had been complaining about the inadequate facilities for some time; a group of concerned citizens
had even entered a float in the Fourth of July parade
as a protest. The parade theme had been “From Sea to
Shining Sea” and the float depicted the town beach strewn
with sewage. The ensuing controversy had prompted the
selectmen to address the issue, but there was little agreement
on the solution. The budget-minded had favored
continuing the present Porta-Potties, the cheapest option.
Installing earth closets, the eco-friendly option, had brought
out the tree-huggers; the business community, which depended
on tourist dollars, had lobbied for conventional
toilets, which would require digging a well and putting in
an expensive septic system.
This was going to be fun to write up, she thought, as she
shifted into drive and proceeded cautiously across the icy
parking lot and onto the road. In addition to the cold, they
had recently had a big snowfall, so the road was lined with
high banks of plowed snow. It was hard to see around the
piles of snow, so Lucy inched out into the road, hoping
nothing was coming.
As she drove along Main Street, past the police station
and clustered stores, past the Community Church with its
tall steeple, she thought of possible opening sentences. She’d
driven this route so often that her mind was wandering
and she was halfway through her story when she cleared
town and the landscape opened with harvested cornfields
on both sides of the road. The winter sunset was fabulous,
the sky a blazing red that took her breath away. She couldn’t
take her eyes off the gorgeous color that filled the sky and
was barely paying attention to the road when a large buck
leaped over a snowdrift, landing right in front of her. She
slammed on the brakes and skidded, hanging onto the steering
wheel for dear life and praying she wouldn’t hit the animal, when the car fishtailed and slammed into the snowbank
on the opposite side of the road.
Heart pounding, she caught a glimpse of brown rump
and white tail bounding unhurt across the field, and sent
up a little prayer of thanks. Then she shifted into reverse,
intending to back out onto the road. Pressing the accelerator,
she heard the dismaying hum of spinning tires. Climbing
out of the car, she found the front end deeply imbedded
in the snow and the rear tires sunk up to the hubcaps in
soft slush and realized she wasn’t going to get out without
The sun was now falling below the horizon, the sky was
a deep purple, and the road was deserted. She got back in
the car and reached for her cell phone, remembering she
hadn’t charged it lately. Indeed, when she flipped it open,
the screen blinked BATTERY LOW and immediately went
dark. She was only a bit more than a mile from home, but
in this frigid weather she didn’t dare risk walking. Her
best option was to stay with the car and keep the engine
running. Unfortunately, she’d been running close to empty
for a day or two, too busy to stop and fill the tank.
It was just a matter of time, she told herself, before her
husband, Bill, would wonder why she wasn’t home and
would come out looking for her. Or not. He might figure
she was working late, covering an evening meeting, in
which case they’d probably find her frozen body the next
Perhaps she should write a note, letting her family know
how much she loved them. Then again, she thought, perhaps
not. What sort of family didn’t come out and look
for a missing member, especially on a night when the temperature
was predicted to go below zero? She thought of
Bill, who habitually watched the six o’clock news, and her
teenage daughters, Sara and Zoe, probably texting their
friends, all in the comfort of their cozy home on Red Top
Road. Didn’t they miss her? Weren’t they worried? They’d
be sorry, wouldn’t they, when she was on the news tomorrow
night. Local woman freezes to death. Family in shock.
“I should have known something was wrong,” says grieving
A tap at the window startled her and she turned to see a
smiling, bearded face she recognized as belonging to Max
Fraser. She lowered the window.
“Looks like you could use a tow,” he said.
“It was a deer,” she said. “He jumped in the road and I
swerved to avoid him.”
“Doesn’t look like the car’s damaged,” he said. “You
“I’m lucky you came along,” said Lucy. “I don’t have
much gas and my cell phone is dead.”
“I’ll have you out of here in no time,” he said, signaling
that she should close the window.
Max was as good as his word. In a matter of minutes,
he had fastened a tow line from his huge silver pickup to
her car. She felt a bump and heard a sudden groaning noise
and all of a sudden her car popped out of the snowdrift.
Max looked it over for damage and listened to make sure
the engine was running okay, and when she offered to pay
him for his trouble, he looked offended.
“Folks gotta help folks,” he said. “Someday maybe you
can help me, or pass it on. Help somebody else.”
“I will,” promised Lucy. “I certainly will.”
Next morning, Lucy was writing her account of the
meeting when Corney Clarke popped into the Pennysaver
office, like a glowing ember leaping out of a crackling fire
and onto the hearth. Her cheeks were red with the cold,
her ski parka was bright orange, and her stamping feet
sprayed bits of snow in all directions. “This is big, really
big,” she exclaimed, pulling off her shearling gloves.
Phyllis, the receptionist, peered over her harlequin reading
glasses and cast a baleful glance at the melting puddle
of snow. She drew her purple sweater across her ample
bust and shivered. “Mind shutting the door? There’s an
“Oh, sorry,” said Corney, pushing the door shut with
difficulty and setting the old-fashioned wooden blinds rattling.
“It’s just I’m so excited about my big news.” She
paused, making sure she had the attention of Ted Stillings,
the weekly paper’s publisher, editor, and chief reporter.
“I’m listening,” said Ted, leaning back in his swivel chair
and propping his feet on the half-open file drawer of the
sturdy oak roll-top desk he inherited from his grandfather,
a legendary New England journalist. Like practically every
man in town, he was dressed in a plaid shirt topped with a
thick sweater, flannel-lined khaki pants, and duck boots.
Lucy typed the final period and turned around to face
Corney. “This better be good,” she said. Corney, an interior
designer who wrote a monthly lifestyle column for
Maine House and Cottage magazine, was always pitching
stories, looking for free publicity.
“Oh, it is,” said Corney. She took a deep breath and
paused dramatically, then spoke. “Chanticleer Chocolate
was voted ‘Best Candy on the Coast.’ ”
It landed like a bombshell, and for a moment there was
stunned silence in the newspaper office.
“You mean . . . ?” began Phyllis.
“What about . . . ?” murmured Ted.
“Talk about an upset!” exclaimed Lucy.
“That’s right.” Corney gave a self-satisfied nod. “It’s the
first time since the magazine began the Best of Maine poll
that Fern’s Famous Fudge hasn’t won.”
“Fern’s Famous is an institution,” said Phyllis.
Lucy nodded, thinking of the quaint little shop with the
red-and-white striped awning that had stood on Main
Street in Tinker’s Cove since, well, forever. The business
was started by Fern Macdougal, who needed a source of
income after her husband was killed in the Korean War.
She started selling her homemade fudge through local
shops, eventually buying her own place as the little business
took off in the nineteen fifties when tourists began
flocking to the Maine coast. Fern’s Famous, with its big
copper kettle and marble counters, was a must-see and nobody
passed through town without picking up one of the
red-and-white-striped boxes of fudge or salt water taffy.
Nowadays, Fern was in her nineties, but she still kept a
sharp eye on the business, which was run by her daughter
Flora Riggs, who had added a catering service to the company,
and her granddaughter Dora Fraser, Max’s ex-wife.
“Now, Ted,” said Corney, turning to the reason for her
visit. “You have to admit this is a big story. And it just
happens to tie in very nicely with the Chamber of Commerce’s
Love Is Best on the Coast February travel promotion.”
Corney, as they all knew only too well, was chair of
the Chamber’s publicity committee.
“Whoa,” said Ted, raising his hand. “February travel
promotion? Are you crazy? This is Maine. I don’t know if
you’ve noticed, but there’s two feet of snow on the
ground, the temperature is fifteen degrees, and the forecast
is for, surprise, more snow.”
“Sleet,” said Lucy. “We’re supposed to have a warm
spell. Global warming.”
“Either way, snow or sleet,” said Ted, “it’s not exactly
“Maine is beautiful every time of year,” said Corney,
“but winter is my favorite time. The snow is so beautiful . . .”
“It’s treacherous,” said Lucy. “I barely made it home
alive last night. If Max Fraser hadn’t come along, I’d be
headline news this morning. I got stuck in a snowdrift
when a buck jumped in front of my car, out by those cornfields.”
“There’s a lot of deer out there,” said Phyllis. “They eat
the corn the harvester missed.”
“You’ve got to be careful in the snow,” said Corney,
“but the town does an excellent job with the plowing. And
you have to admit, on a day like today, when the sun
makes the snow sparkle and the air is crisp, it’s just a little
bit of heaven here in Tinker’s Cove.”
Corney had a point, thought Lucy, thinking of her antique
farmhouse on Red Top Road and how pretty it
looked covered with snow, especially at night when the
windows glowed with lamplight. Of course, the snow
made it impossible to keep the house clean inside. Her
daughters, Sara and Zoe, were constantly tracking in
snow and mud, as did her husband, Bill. Even the dog
added to the mess, rolling in the snow and shaking it off as
soon as she came through the door. The kitchen floor was
littered with boots and shoes; the coat rack was loaded
with jackets and scarves and ski pants. Hats and mittens
and gloves were spread on the old-fashioned radiators to
It wasn’t just the constant sweeping and tidying that got
her down in winter, it was the way the house seemed to
shrink in the bleak months after Christmas. The walls
seemed to move in and the furniture grew larger. Every
surface became cluttered with projects and busywork: the
fishing reel Bill was repairing, the scarf Sara was knitting
for the high school Good Neighbor Club, Zoe’s rock display
for eighth-grade science.
Going out for a meal or a movie, even a shopping trip,
was the obvious cure for cabin fever, but it wasn’t easy. It
took a lot of determination to get anywhere. First you had
to layer on all those clothes, then you had to shovel your
way to the car, which might or might not start. Once you
were on the road, you had to be constantly vigilant, watching
for slick spots and creeping slowly through intersections
made blind by enormous piles of snow, and you had
to remember to start braking well in advance of every stop
sign. Once you reached your destination, you had to hunt
for a plowed parking spot and then you had to watch your
step when you got out of the car because the sidewalks,
even when shoveled, soon became slick with ice.
None of that seemed to bother Corney, who was listing
the advantages of winter. “Sleigh rides in the snowy woods,”
she said, prompting a snort from Phyllis.
“Endless shoveling,” complained Ted. “Heart attacks—
did you see the obits last week? Three old guys, in one
Corney ignored him. “We have all these romantic B&Bs
with canopy beds and fireplaces. . . .”
“Fireplaces are awful messy. Wood chips, twigs, even
leaves, and then there’s the ashes. Filthy,” said Phyllis.
“And that stuff jams up the vacuum.”
“Hot toddies and cocoa with tiny marshmallows,” said
Corney, as if she were raising the stakes in a poker game.
“The stink of wet wool,” countered Lucy.
“Tree branches coated in ice, sparkling in the sun,” said
Corney, laying down a few more chips.
“Broken bones from falls on the icy sidewalks,” said
Ted. “The waiting time at the emergency room last week
was three hours.”
“We need to let the world know that Maine doesn’t shut
down in winter,” declared Corney, ready to show her
“It doesn’t?” Lucy was skeptical.
“We have so much to offer,” insisted Corney.
“Cabin fever. She’s been cooped up too long and now
she’s hallucinating,” said Ted.
“I’m sure that’s it,” said Lucy, laughing.
“Have your fun,” said Corney, slipping off her fur-
trimmed hood and giving her short, frosted blond hair a
shake. “Let’s face it: the economy sucks. Businesses are
going bankrupt, people are losing their jobs, even their
houses. Things are bad.”
It was true, thought Lucy. Bill, a restoration carpenter,
hadn’t had a big job in over a year. He was making do,
barely, with window replacements and repairs. Her oldest,
her son, Toby, who was married and the father of little
Patrick, now almost three, had become disillusioned with
his prospects as a lobsterman and had taken out student
loans to finish up the business degree he had abandoned.
Even her oldest daughter, Elizabeth, who had landed a
dream job with the Cavendish Hotel chain after graduating
from college, was worried about looming layoffs.
“We have to do whatever we can to attract customers
and get things rolling again,” said Corney, “and that’s
what the Love Is Best on the Coast Valentine’s Day promotion
is designed to do.” She smiled, as if explaining
basic arithmetic to first graders. “Who cares if it’s cold
outside? That’s better for business. The tourists will have
nothing to do except shop and eat and drink. They’ll have
to spend money.”
Ted was scratching his chin. “So what do you want? I
can’t write about Fern’s Famous losing, they’re one of my
“They didn’t lose,” said Corney, who always saw the
glass as half full. “They came in second, just a hair behind
Chanticleer. We have the two best candy shops in Maine
right here in Tinker’s Cove!”
“I suppose Lucy could do something with that,” speculated
Ted. “She can be pretty tactful, when she tries.”
Lucy gave Ted a look. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“I know Lucy will do a great job.” Corney turned her
big blue eyes on Lucy. “You’re going to love Trey Mea-
cham. He’s a fascinating guy, and a real visionary. Chanticleer
Chocolate typifies the kind of success an enterprising
entrepreneur can have in Maine. We’re becoming a lot more
sophisticated, it’s not about whirligigs and fudge anymore.
We have top-notch craftsmen and artists making beautiful
things—oil paintings and handwoven shawls and burl
bowls. And the local food movement is the next big thing:
fudge and lobster rolls are great, but there are small breweries,
artisanal bakeries, and farmers’ markets with hydroponically
grown vegetables, free-range chickens, grass-fed
beef, all raised locally. That’s the market that Trey has captured.
His chocolates are very sophisticated, very unusual.”
Phyllis raised one of the thin penciled lines that served
as eyebrows. “I like fudge myself. With walnuts.”
“I have absolutely nothing against fudge, especially
Fern’s Famous Fudge. This is a win-win situation. Two terrific
candy shops. The old and the new. Something for
everyone.” Corney paused. “And believe me, Lucy, you’re
going to love Trey.”
“I’m married,” said Lucy. “I have four kids. I’m a
grandma.” She paused. “A young grandma.”
“You’re not blind, are you?”
Lucy laughed. “Not yet.”