Authors: Shawn Reilly Simmons
Tags: #amateur sleuth, #cozy mystery, #cozy mystery series, #culinary mystery, #cooking mystery, #murder mysteries, #murder mystery books, #murder mystery series, #mystery books, #women sleuths
Praise for the Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series
MURDER ON A DESIGNER DIET (#3)
“The Red Carpet Catering series delivers a buffet of appealing characters, irresistible movie-industry details, and tantalizing plot twists. As delicious as a gourmet mealâand leaves you hungry for more!”
â Susan O'Brien,
Agatha Award-Nominated Author of
“Movie lovers, this is your book! Engaging and high-spirited, Penelope Sutherland never expected that catering for the cast and crew of a top flight movie would lead toâ¦murder. Great fun.”
â Terrie Farley Moran,
Agatha Award-Winning Author of
MURDER ON THE HALF SHELL (#2)
“With a nice island flavor, a nice puzzling mystery and a great cast of characters, this was a very enjoyable read.”
â Dru's Book Musings
“A fast-paced cozy easily read and enjoyed in an afternoon...with Simmons' picturesque writing style you can almost taste the salt in the air. Take a vacation and join Penelope.”
â The Reading Room
“Such a fun book..The characters are very likable and the writing is very well-done. Think of it as a cozy behind the scenes.”
MURDER ON A SILVER PLATTER (#1)
“Delicious! A great read written by someone who knows the behind the scenes world of filmmaking...A winner!”
â Kathryn Leigh Scott,
Author of the Jinx Fogarty Mysteries
“Loved this book! The characters are well-drawn and it's cleverly plotted. Totally engrossingâ¦I felt as though I was actually on a movie set. The author is well-versed in her setting and she is able to keep the reader in suspense. I can't wait for the second book in the series.”
â Marianna Heusler,
“Much of what makes this such an enjoyable new mystery is the background information on both catering and movie-making. Equally compelling is just how seamlessly author Simmons works Penelope into the investigation...this is a fun new series for readers who enjoy their theatrical showbiz mysteries with a culinary twist.”
â Kings River Life Magazine
“With a likeable cast of characters and an inside look at the movie industry, this was an equally entertaining and engaging debut.”
â Dru's Book Musings
“Simmons has given us quite a good beginning to a new series; she manages to create characters that are both believable and likable, while weaving in small tidbits of movie-making and what is involved in catering food to a movie crew. I look forward to reading the next in the series. Highly recommended.”
â Any Good Book
Books in the Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series
by Shawn Reilly Simmons
MURDER ON A SILVER PLATTER (#1)
MURDER ON THE HALF SHELL (#2)
MURDER ON A DESIGNER DIET (#3)
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MURDER ON A DESIGNER DIET
A Red Carpet Catering Mystery
Part of the Henery Press Mystery Collection
First Edition | June 2016
Henery Press, LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including internet usage, without written permission from Henery Press, LLC, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Copyright Â© 2016 by Shawn Reilly Simmons
This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Trade Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-63511-033-3
Digital epub ISBN-13: 978-1-63511-034-0
Kindle ISBN-13: 978-1-63511-035-7
Hardcover Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-63511-036-4
Printed in the United States of America
First and foremost, I must thank everyone in my family for their constant love and support, and tolerance of my crazy work schedule. You allow me the time I need to write and plot, and otherwise spend a lot of time in my imaginary worlds.
Thanks to Stephanie Biasi for letting me crash on her couch while researching different locations in Manhattan for the book. And a special thanks for making those soft shell crabs for dinner I still think about today.
A huge thanks goes out to all of my readers and fans, and the incredibly supportive mystery-writing community. Your encouragement means the world to me and I can't thank you enough. Without you, none of this would be possible.
Thanks to one of my earliest supporters, Dru Ann Love. Her enthusiasm for the books has been a source of inspiration for me from the very beginning.
My undying gratitude and thanks go to Kendel Lynn, Art Molinares and everyone at Henery Press for their constant support and guidance. My editors, Rachel Jackson and Erin George, are two of the most insightful and positive people I've ever met, and I'm grateful beyond words for everything they do for me.
And I'd like to thank all of the chefs and caterers I've met and worked with over the years. They've come from all walks of life, with such varied backgrounds and personalities, all bringing their individuality to something we all understand. Food brings people together, helps us express our love for one another, sustains us and inspires us. I'm honored to have known each and every one of you.
And of course, to Matthew and Russell, my everything.
“We have to move if we're going to make time,” Penelope yelled over her shoulder to her crew as she swiped her forehead with the sleeve of her chef coat. She shifted her weight back and forth, bouncing slightly on the thick rubber floor mat of the kitchen as she worked, her blond ponytail damp and sticking to the back of her neck.
“What's going up first, Boss?” Francis called to her from behind, his back turned as he worked over the flames leaping up through the grill grate.
Penelope glanced at the ancient clock hung on the dingy white tiles of the old hotel's basement kitchen. “Let's take it all up at once. We can use their pan racks.” She eyed the tall carts against the wall, their multi-level slots full of empty sheet pans, and hoped they were relatively clean.
“Sure, Boss, no problem.” Francis flipped the steaks in front of him, turning them quickly to ensure they cooked evenly. The New York strips sizzled loudly on the grates.
Penelope bent back over her cauliflower au gratin on the large stainless steel prep table. She faced the service window where the wait staff would normally come to pick up finished plates and take them to the hotel's guests in the small restaurant upstairs. But today The Crawford was closed to the public, about to undergo a major renovation, and rented out beforehand to their film crew. It was Red Carpet Catering's first day on set and principal filming had just begun at the historic hotel near the High Line in Manhattan.
“Remember to keep those steaks under,” Penelope warned Francis. “They'll come the rest of the way up to temp while they're resting.”
Francis nodded, keeping his eyes on the grill. The bandana tied around his head had turned dark red in the hot basement. He began pulling the finished steaks from the flames.
“Open the oven for me, would you?” Penelope said, picking up the large sheet pan her individual ramekins of au gratin were resting on. She turned around carefully in the tight space between them, her forearms straining from the weight of the pan. She slid them into the oven, careful not to spill any over the sides.
Penelope closed the oven door and poked the steaks with her finger, checking for doneness. “These are perfect.” She glanced down the kitchen to the cold station where the rest of her team was working. They were putting the finishing touches on the salads, assembling a dessert display, and garnishing a carving station that held three roasted whole chickens with sprigs of fresh parsley.
Penelope shouted over the din of the industrial exhaust fans on the back wall, “Get those cakes in cold storage as soon as you can. It's way too hot in here to keep them out.”
“What?” her assistant chef yelled, cupping his hand to his ear.
Penelope sighed and walked closer to him, still raising her voice so he could hear her. “I said, it's hot in here. Get a move on and put those desserts away before they melt. We'll come back down for them when they're halfway through lunch.”
Penelope watched him plate the last few slices of cake and wished again there was a window in the stuffy room. She hoped whoever was renovating the hotel would remember to include a proper ventilation system for the chefs who normally worked in this kitchen. She gathered up the empty cake boxes and tossed them into the trash while her assistant placed their desserts in the walk-in refrigerator.
Penelope went back to the oven to check on her cauliflower dish. A wave of heat hit her in the face when she opened the door and saw the crocks of cheesy cauliflower were bubbling, but none of them were brown on top.
“This broiler is out,” she yelled to Francis, who was pulling the last two well-done steaks from the grill.
Francis cursed in response. They looked up at the clock on the wall at the same time and saw they only had five minutes until they were scheduled to serve lunch to the cast and crew.
“Okay, watch out,” Penelope said, grabbing two dish towels and pulling the hot sheet pan out of the oven. She placed it on top of the stove and eased the door shut with her steel-toed boot. There were several drawers tucked up underneath the service counter and she pulled one out, quickly ransacking through the kitchen tools.
“Help me find a torch, would you?”
Francis turned and pulled open the farthest drawer, which screeched loudly on its rollers. He picked through a few of the tools, then closed it and pulled open the next one. “Here you go, Boss.” He held up a butane kitchen torch.
Penelope took it from him. “Is the igniter in there?”
“Yep,” Francis said, handing her a round silver sparker.
“I hope it has fuel,” Penelope muttered. She twisted the valve on the side of the torch and clicked the igniter a few times. Finally a thin blue flame shot out of the spout. “Don't you love working in someone else's kitchen?” She turned back to her dish. She waved the torch in even strokes over the first crock, watching the cheese and breadcrumbs toast under the flame. “Only forty-nine to go,” she said under her breath as she moved to the next one.
The walkie-talkie inside the pocket of her chef coat crackled and she paused a moment to pull it out. A staticky voice buzzed, “Five...catering...go...lunch.”
Penelope looked at the radio for a second and then pushed the button on the side. “Say again, I didn't hear that.”
“Five...not...Stephens...lunch,” the voice said.
Penelope sighed. “I can barely make out what you're saying. You're breaking up and it's loud down here. Stephens wants lunch in five? Is that right?” Penelope said. She cut her eyes at Francis who stood next to her admiring his steak platter. He shook his head at her in response.
“Stephens...another...upstairs,” the voice said, fading out at the end.
“This radio is a piece of crap,” Penelope said, tossing it onto the counter and getting back to work with the torch.
“Why don't you call him?” Francis asked. “Who is it, the AD? What's his name?”
“I don't remember, actually,” Penelope said, glancing again at the radio. “I don't like to call the crew in case they're rolling and they haven't turned off their phones. Wouldn't want to ruin a shot and get someone in trouble. Plus I only get one bar down here.” She looked up at the clock again. “This is when we're supposed to roll setup upstairs and everything is almost ready. Let's stick to the schedule.”
“Okay, Boss. Hey, you guys,” Francis bellowed over the fans. “We're rolling in one minute.” He pulled the tall carts around to the front of the service station and they filled them up, careful not to jostle the food too much as they loaded everything.
Penelope watched them out of the corner of her eye while she worked. When she'd toasted her last gratin, she brought her sheet pan around and slid it onto one of the lower shelves. “That's still a little hot. Be careful when you wrap them.”
Francis began looping clear plastic wrap around one of the carts, passing the roll to another chef and back again until both racks were completely covered, the food protected inside.
Penelope retrieved the radio from the countertop. “This is catering. We're heading up.”
A click and static was the only response. She sighed and punched the button to call the service elevator to the basement. The rest of the crew was upstairs, with principal filming taking place in the penthouse suite.
This movie was a small independent production, and they'd be feeding about fifty crew members on any given day. Or at least that's what Penelope had been told when she'd signed on to the project. Experience had taught her that production schedules, crews, and even actors could change at any time during a movie, so she had learned to be flexible, even if doing so took her out of her comfort zone.
The elevator doors slowly rolled open, the musty moving blankets lining the walls swaying lazily as it came to a stop. Penelope reminded herself not to lean up against them.
“There's nothing creepier than an abandoned hotel,” Francis said under his breath.
“It's not abandoned, just empty. But you're right about it being creepy,” Penelope agreed.
After Penelope and her crew had all squeezed inside, the doors rumbled slowly closed and the elevator slowly groaned upward.