The Garden Club Murder - A Visit from Tish Tarragon


Lucky, that’s how I’d describe myself.

Not everyone gets the opportunity to live out their lifelong dream, but that’s precisely what I’m doing after ditching my nearly eighteen year job as an investment banker, selling my house in Richmond, Virginia and settling a few miles north in the small town of Hobson Glen.

There, I’ve opened my own literary café and catering business called Cookin’ the Books. In addition to providing book-inspired breakfast, lunch, coffee and afternoon tea items, I’m available to cater events with a literary theme, such as my latest job providing a The Secret Garden-inspired luncheon for the Coleton Creek Sixty-Plus Community Garden Club Awards.

I’d always fiddled with cooking. I started out by helping my mother and grandparents in the kitchen and then watching cooking shows on television. When my parents split, and my mother went back to work, I used to start dinner for us, but she always finished preparing it.

My first honest attempt at cooking on my own was when I was sixteen.  At first, it was a necessity as my mother was diagnosed with a degenerative muscular disease shortly before my seventeenth birthday, but then, as I began to enjoy eating my creations, cooking became a sort of therapy for me.

There was a great deal of solace and comfort to be found in the kitchen. Comfort that the world sometimes doesn’t offer.

Fast forward to my mother’s death (which I worked through while fixing a giant pot of meatballs and sauce), marriage, a stressful job, disintegration of said marriage, and searching for a new life. During it all, one thing always rang true. Food and cooking.

As I also possessed a love of reading, I sought a way to marry my passions in my new profession. That’s when it occurred to me to open a literary café, complete with lending library for those who like to read while they eat, or for those who feel self-conscious dining alone.

My idea seems to have caught on. Not only is the café managing to draw a decent crowd on a daily basis, but my cooking skills have helped to solve a murder case.

Yes, you read that correctly. As I said earlier, food is comfort. When you feed someone good food, you’re putting them at ease. They feel as though they can trust you. Before you know it, they’re confiding all their secrets, which is quite useful when confronting reticent murder suspects.

There are, however, times when people confide in you whether you want to hear them or not! That’s the position I’m in right now. I’m catering the luncheon this weekend, but Sloane Shackleford, the five-time winner of the best garden award, has been found bludgeoned to death with a garden spade in his backyard.

Although I’d love to investigate as I did the Binnie Broderick case last month, there’s simply too much to do for the luncheon. My best friend and Channel Ten weatherman, Julian Jefferson Davis, is on hand to tend bar and help with the prep work, as is my baker and assistant, Celestin Rufus, and even my new boyfriend, Schuyler Thompson has been lending a hand, but there are certain things that can’t be delegated.

Moreover, my other friend, Mary Jo Okensholt, just found out that her husband of twenty years is leaving her for a much-younger woman. Mary Jo is so distraught, she can’t bear to stay in the house she shared with him, so she and her two teenage children are currently camped out in my two-bedroom apartment, along with Sloane Shackleford’s newly homeless dog, Biscuit.

In short, I’m desperately needed elsewhere. Yet, this still hasn’t stopped the Coleton Creek community from coming to me to gossip. About their hatred for Shackleford, their love lives, their gardens, their pasts. I keep turning the information they give me over to Sheriff Reade in hopes that they’ll stop talking, but so far it hasn’t worked.

And before you advise me to stop talking to them, understand that I can’t. I’m not just a cook, I’m like the friendly neighbourhood bartender who listens to their patrons’ woes. I’m also hoping that I the garden club will hire for next year’s luncheon—sans body, of course.

Will the luncheon be a success? Will I reluctantly unravel the mystery behind Shackleford’s murder? Will I navigate Mary jo and her family through their crisis? Will I find a home for Biscuit? And, equally important, will I ever again be able to use my own bathroom without waiting in line? I have no answers.

One can always trust the first fresh cherries of summer to be sweet and the flavour of butter on fresh baked bread to be warm and satisfying. People, however, are far less reliable.

The Garden Club Murder (A Tish Tarragon Mystery)
by Amy Patricia Meade

About The Garden Club Murder

The Garden Club Murder (A Tish Tarragon Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Severn House Publishers (September 1, 2019)
Hardcover: 208 pages
ISBN-10: 0727889443
ISBN-13: 978-0727889447
Literary caterer Letitia ‘Tish’ Tarragon is preparing her English Secret Garden-themed luncheon for Coleton Creek’s annual garden club awards, but when she is taken on a tour of some of the top contenders with the garden club’s president, Jim Ainsley, Tish is surprised at how seriously the residents take the awards – and how desperate they are to win.
Wealthy, retired businessman Sloane Shackleford has won the coveted best garden category five years in a row, but he and his Bichon Frise, Biscuit, are universally despised. When Sloane’s bludgeoned body is discovered in his pristine garden, Tish soon learns that he was disliked for reasons that go beyond his green fingers. Have the hotly contested awards brought out a competitive and murderous streak in one of the residents?

About Amy Patricia Meade

Author of the critically acclaimed Marjorie McClelland Mysteries, Amy Patricia Meade is a native of Long Island, NY where she cut her teeth on classic films and books featuring Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown.
After stints as an Operations Manager for a document imaging company and a freelance technical writer, Amy left the bright lights of New York City and headed north to pursue her creative writing career amidst the idyllic beauty of Vermont’s Green Mountains.
Now residing in Bristol, England, Amy spends her time writing mysteries with a humorous or historical bent.  When not writing, Amy enjoys traveling, testing out new recipes, classic films, and exploring her new home.
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