Authors: Josie Belle
Praise for the Good Buy Girls Mysteries
Buried in Bargains
“A character-driven series, filled with people you’d like to meet . . . and stores in which you’d love to shop . . . I think you’ll want to read all three.”
Kings River Life Magazine
“[A] fun and fast read, well paced and plotted.”
“In this economy, who doesn’t need . . . a good bargain? Belle enchants readers with the cozy town of St. Stanley and the ladies of the Good Buy Girls group . . . A great addition to the series!”
Debbie’s Book Bag
“Another dynamite read.”
A Prairie Girl Reads
A Deal to Die For
“A great cozy with a wonderful balance of humor, tension and romance. Maggie and the rest of the Good Buy Girls create a wonderful core group of characters who are each interesting in their own way . . . A great book.”
“With her wry humor, Maggie and her friends return to entertain the reader with their shopping strategies, unwavering friendship and their deductive investigating skills . . . Josie Belle conducted some deft strategies of her own when she shaped this series into being.”
Once Upon a Romance
“The mystery was complex and the secrets are revealed in such a way that keeps the reader guessing right up to the very special moment where everything falls into place.”
Escape with Dollycas Into a Good Book
“An interesting and fun cozy mystery populated by a host of quirky and enjoyable characters.”
Curling Up by the Fire
“I absolutely couldn’t put this book down . . . The mystery will definitely keep you guessing ’til the end, and the characters will have you coming back for more!”
A Prairie Girl Reads
50% off Murder
“If you love to shop ’til you drop, watch out for Josie Belle’s first entry in a new mystery series—because murder’s no bargain.”
—Leann Sweeney, author of
The Cat, the Vagabond and the Victim
“An engaging mystery full of humor, a layered plot and even a little romance.”
—Amy Alessio, author of the Alana O’Neill Mysteries
50% off Murder
is a great deal: There’s mystery, romance and humor wrapped up in one entertaining package. As a bonus, there’s no extra charge for those laugh-out-loud moments. I look forward to many more adventures from Maggie and her friends . . . Meanwhile, bring on those money-saving tips!”
—Mary Jane Maffini, author of the Charlotte Adams Mysteries
“A fun, well-plotted mystery with the added bonus of some money-saving tips.”
The Mystery Reader
“Best friends, bargain hunting and murder! This new cozy mystery series has great promise, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the bargain-hunting babes of St. Stanley will be up to next.”
“Good, solid writing, well-formed characters, an enjoyable premise, a possible romance in the making and a mystery that slowly unfolds its secrets. A bargain read for sure!”
Once Upon a Romance
“What an enjoyable read! I loved the spunky Maggie.”
Two Lips Reviews
“The Good Buy Girls love a good deal—and a good murder . . . The debut of an all-new mystery series—and it’s worth every penny.”
I Dream Books
50% off Murder
successfully launches a new series filled with a terrific cast of characters. It’s a treat to see a mature group of women use their knowledge of the town and their business skills to look for a killer. And Maggie is a wonderful amateur sleuth . . . 100% captivating and enjoyable.”
Lesa’s Book Critiques
“An entertaining cozy starring interesting characters . . . Readers will admire [Maggie’s] risk-taking spunk and enjoy the sparks between her and the sheriff.”
The Mystery Gazette
“With some interesting characters and a unique theme, this series is sure to be a hit!”
Debbie’s Book Bag
“Readers who want a laugh-out-loud mystery should enjoy
50% off Murder
West Orlando News Online
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Josie Belle
50% OFF MURDER
A DEAL TO
BURIED IN B
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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MARKED DOWN FOR MURDER
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2014 by Penguin Group (USA) LLC.
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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-13927-5
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / September 2014
Cover illustration by Mary Ann Lasher. Cover design by Sarah Oberrender.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book is dedicated to three terrific book reviewers: Lesa Holstine, Dru Ann Love and Cathy Cole. You ladies have been tireless advocates for the traditional mystery genre, and my life has been enriched immeasurably by getting to know each of you. Thank you so much for all that you do. You’re amazing!
“More flowers?” Ginger Lancaster asked as she
walked into My Sister’s Closet, her best friend’s secondhand store, on the heels of Henry Dawson, the local florist. Joanne Claramotta and Claire Freemont followed right behind her.
The four women belonged to a self-titled group called the Good Buy Girls. They were friends who were all about bargain-hunting and thrifting, and since Maggie had opened her shop, it had become the hub of their operation and their unofficial meeting place.
“Yep, she’s got another one,” Henry said. “Looks like someone’s got quite the admirer.”
For the past three days, Henry had delivered a single red rose to Maggie Gerber with a card that had one word written on it. Maggie took the rose from Henry and felt her face grow warm. She was embarrassed but also a bit giddy from the attention.
“Thank you so much,” she said. She tried to offer him a tip, but he waved her away.
“You keep your money, Maggie,” he said. “I’ve been paid more than enough.”
Maggie gave him a chagrined look, and his wrinkled, old face split into a smile that showed off his dentures.
“Well, don’t hold back,” Joanne said. “What’s the word of the day?”
Maggie put the red rose in a vase with two others and opened the small card. The word
was scrawled in blocky script in a black felt-tip pen. She knew that handwriting. It belonged to her boyfriend, Sam Collins, who happened to be the police chief of their small Virginia town, St. Stanley. Of course, when she had questioned him the previous two days, he had denied all knowledge of any flowers or cards.
When put together in order, the cards read,
Maggie, Will You.
“Squee!” Joanne let out a squeal. Her long brown ponytail swung back and forth as she bounced up and down on her feet.
“That is just the most romantic gesture ever,” Claire sighed. She pushed her black, rectangular glasses up on her nose. “I wonder what will be on the next card.”
“I don’t know,” Henry said. “But I’m betting I’ll see you tomorrow, and every day right up until Valentine’s Day.”
Maggie and the others waved to him as he left the shop. Ginger turned back to face Maggie and rested her chin on her hand as she leaned on the counter and studied the cards.
“So, what do you think he’s going to ask you?” Her teeth flashed white against her brown skin and her dark eyes gleamed with delight.
“I don’t know,” Maggie said. “I keep asking him, but he denies knowing anything about it.”
Ginger’s eyebrows rose. “Do you think it’s someone else?”
“No,” Maggie said. “I recognize the handwriting.”
“Don’t freak out on me,” Claire said. “But do you think he’s going to propose?”
“No!” Maggie said. “No, no, no.”
“Well, don’t beat around the bush,” Ginger said. “Tell us how you feel.”
“We’ve only been dating for two months, not even, a proposal would be . . .”
“Romantic?” Joanne sighed, and the others did, too.
“I was thinking
,” Maggie said. She frowned at them. “Besides, logically speaking, it doesn’t work.”
“What do you mean?” Ginger asked.
Maggie leaned over the cards, and a hank of her auburn hair fell in front of her face. She tucked it behind her ear as she tapped the counter with her index finger.
“There are three more days to Valentine’s day,” she said. “So if he did have a rose and a card delivered every day, then a proposal really wouldn’t work because,
would only be two more days.”
“Unless he’s planning something even more spectacular for the next two days,” Joanne said. She started jumping up and down again, and Ginger put an arm around her.
“Settle down, girl,” she said. “You are going to jiggle that baby right out.”
Joanne instantly put her hands on her belly and her eyes grew wide. “You think so?”
“No,” Ginger said as she gave her a half hug. “I’m just teasing.”
“How long now?” Claire asked.
“I’m eight months, give or take a few days,” Joanne said. “My obstetrician says it could be anytime if baby decides to come early.”
“A baby,” Maggie sighed. “It seems like ages since I’ve held a wee one.”
“So, if this whole card and flower thing does turn out to be a proposal, and you and Sam do get married, will you have another baby?” Claire asked.
“I . . . uh . . . huh?” Maggie stammered. “I’m sorry, I think I just swallowed my tongue.”
Ginger hooted with laughter. “You could, you know. You’re only forty-one. Why, there are women having babies well into their fifties now.”
“But then I’d be in my sixties by the time it went to college,” Maggie said. “And given that I already have a daughter in college, I don’t really want to do that again. The financial aid forms alone are a solid case for birth control.”
“But you’re a very young forty-one. I mean, how many people think your grandnephew, Josh, is your son?”
“A fair few,” Maggie admitted.
Maggie watched her niece’s three-year-old often, and while she loved him dearly, he was another reason she knew she was done bearing children. After an afternoon spent with her Josh-by-gosh, she was exhausted.
“See? You’re still young enough,” Joanne said. “Just think, our babies could play together. We could have mommy-and-me time together, too.”
“Aw,” Claire said. “That would be so cute. You could put them in matching outfits and have teddy bear picnics and tea parties. Adorable!”
Maggie frowned at Claire. “Don’t you start. You’re younger than me. You and Pete could get married and have kids, too, you know.”
Claire shook her head. “No, that’s not in the cards for me. I realized long ago that I was not mother material. I never even babysat when I was a teen, because the sound of a baby crying gives me hives. There’s a reason I’m an adult services librarian and not a children’s librarian, you know. My cat, Mr. Tumnus, is all the dependent I can handle, thank you very much.”
“Is Pete okay with that?” Joanne asked. “I mean, doesn’t he want to have a family of his own?”
“Thankfully, no,” Claire said. “We had a long frank talk when we first started dating, and we both decided that parenting was not our calling, so it looks like it’s all on Maggie and you—unless, of course, Ginger wants to try again for a girl.”
“Lord-a-mercy, no,” Ginger said. “Four boys are all I can handle. Besides, after Dante came along, I had them take out all of my plumbing since it had begun to collapse. So it’s just Maggie then.”
Maggie put a hand to her forehead as a sudden attack of wooziness hit her like a freight train. Did Sam want kids? She had no idea. They’d never discussed it. What if he wanted to be a dad? What if he wanted more than one? Oh, man, how had this topic of conversation never come up?
The bells on the front door jangled and Maggie glanced up, willing someone, anyone, to arrive and save her from this discussion.
The woman who arrived was not her first or even her last pick, but times being desperate, she decided not to quibble.
“Summer Phillips,” Maggie cried. She came around the counter and greeted the woman who had been her lifelong nemesis with a wide, warm smile. “Come in. How are you, dear?”
Summer froze in mid-step. She looked at Maggie as if she was worried that she was ill with something that could be contagious or deadly or both.
“You look deranged,” Summer said in her usual abrasive tone. She tossed her long, bottle-bleached hair over her shoulder and held up a well-manicured hand to ward Maggie off. “You’re not going to hug me, are you?”
“No!” Maggie protested. Although she was grateful enough for the interruption that she might give her a half hug or an air kiss. The sour look on Summer’s face checked that impulse.
“What’s wrong with you?” Summer asked.
“Nothing,” Maggie lied.
“She’s panicking,” Ginger whispered to Claire in a voice loud enough to be heard by everyone. Maggie heard them all giggle.
“I’m just being neighborly. What can I do for you, Summer?” Maggie asked.
“Nothing,” Summer said. “Believe me, I don’t want anything from you.”
“Then why are you in my shop?” Maggie asked. “You have your own consignment store across the street. Why are you visiting mine?”
A woman nudged her way into the shop behind Summer. She had the same pretty face as Summer, with an upturned nose and prominent cheekbones, but she was obviously older, with very fine lines around her eyes and mouth. Her hair was cut in a black bob, and it swung about her face in graceful sweeps as she looked Maggie over, from head to toe.
“Mom, this is Maggie Gerber,” Summer said. She stood aside and crossed her arms over her chest. “Now that you’ve met her, can we please go? This shop gives me the heebie-jeebies.”
“Your mother?” Maggie asked. She blinked. It wasn’t like she thought Summer had been spawned from a pinecone; still, she hadn’t seen Summer’s mother in ages.
Maggie glanced at the woman still scrutinizing her. Yes, she vaguely remembered Summer’s mother, Blair Phillips, from their high school days, but she knew Blair had been married at least three times since then, and she had no idea what her surname was now.
Blair’s lips pursed to the side in a scowl, and her eyes narrowed. Then she shook her head. “No, no, I refuse to believe it. There is absolutely no way that Sam Collins threw you over for this.”