Authors: Erika Chase
“Full of Southern charm, excellent reading suggestions, and an engaging amateur sleuth
named Lizzie Turner,
Read and Buried
will have readers clamoring for the next in the series even before they turn to the
New York Times
bestselling author of the Cat in the Stacks Mysteries
“Finally, a sleuth who loves to read mysteries! A nosy book club, cozy cats, and a
—Krista Davis, national bestselling author of the Domestic Diva Mysteries
A Killer Read
“[A] terrific debut! I want to join this book club, eat those cheese sticks, keep
an eye on those romances, and wander around Ashton Corners. But most of all, I’d love
to have Lizzie Turner as my friend.”
—Mary Jane Maffini, author of the Charlotte Adams Mysteries
“Who can’t love a debut novel filled with mystery references and a pair of cats named
Edam and Brie? And who can’t adore dedicated, saucy Lizzie Turner . . . Readers should
have high hopes for this series. And . . . just might find a delicious assortment
of new authors to browse.”
—Avery Aames, Agatha Award winner and national bestselling author of the Cheese Shop
“Book a date with
A Killer Read
. . . Will keep readers guessing.”
—Janet Bolin, author of the Threadville Mysteries
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Erika Chase
A KILLER READ
READ AND BURIED
Read and Buried
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume
any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
READ AND BURIED
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / December 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
by Erika Chase copyright © 2012 by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Cover illustration by Griesbach/Martucci.
Interior text design by Laura K. Corless.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or
electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy
of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-61335-1
Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
I could very easily just reprint the acknowledgment page from
A Killer Read
. But a year has passed and so much has happened, I feel these same people need a
new page to reinforce my indebtedness to them all.
I am truly blessed with a remarkable team at Berkley Prime Crime: Kate Seaver, editor;
Katherine Pelz, editorial assistant; Kayleigh Clark, publicist; Marianne Grace, copyeditor;
and the husband-wife team of Stanley Martucci and Cheryl Greisbach, who design the
amazing covers for the series. Many thanks also go to my agent, Kim Lionetti of Bookends,
Inc. Not only do these folks do such a great job . . . they’re also really nice!
Mary Jane Maffini remains on my list as go-to person for everything! Her advice and
humor have kept me on track throughout. Many, many thanks!
Lee McNeilly, my sister, will also be a permanent fixture on this list. Thanks for
being such a great support and keen mystery reader!
My thanks also to Sylvia Braithwaite, colleague and friend. I very much appreciate
your indulgence and thoughtful comments. Thanks also to mystery authors Avery Aames
and Miranda James for taking the time to read and send along cover quotes. And speaking
of which . . . it’s such fun to belong to the Killer Characters gang. Blog on!
I also remain grateful for being a member of the Ladies’ Killing Circle. Those deadly
dames are also great friends! I should also thank my book club—the SPA Book Club (ask
me what it stands for sometime), which is very different from the Ashton Corners Book
Club, but a source of ideas and friendship.
And, as always, thanks to the readers who embraced the folks of Ashton Corners and
continue on this journey with me.
There is nothing you can do about the past except keep it there.
THE BRASS VERDICT
izzie Turner, you’d like a signed copy of Derek Alton’s award-winning book, wouldn’t
Lizzie looked over at the cash register where Jensey Pollard, owner of the Book Bin,
stood waving a trade paperback with a moss green cover at her. The store was empty
except for a tall, dark-haired man at the back. Jensey took Lizzie’s delay in answering
to be a yes and called out to the man.
Lizzie watched him as he walked toward her. She didn’t recognize him but she was pretty
sure she’d heard of the book,
. If she remembered correctly, it had won a big award when it came out many years
ago. She smiled, hoping to cover any look of bewilderment.
“I’m Derek Alton,” he said, giving her the once-over as he held out his hand. He wasn’t
much taller than Lizzie, possibly around five-foot-eight. His eyes drew her attention—they
were such an odd shade of green, Lizzie was certain he wore contacts. His nose looked
slightly off-center but that gave him a bit of a bad-boy look, especially when paired
with his short dark brown hair, graying at the temples. His smile looked practiced
to her but she supposed that after years of book signings, he would be a bit jaded.
Jensey came around from behind her desk. “You know, Lizzie,
is a mystery of sorts. And since it won the Onyx, I think it would be grand if he
spoke to your book club. What do you say, Derek?” She had come up beside him and put
her hand on his arm.
He looked at Jensey’s hand and then at Lizzie. “I’d be delighted, although I’m only
in town for another week.”
Lizzie tried not to look cornered. She didn’t know how the rest of the Ashton Corners
Mystery Readers and Cheese Straws Society would feel about a guest. “I’m sure everyone
would be delighted,” she said carefully, fingers crossed. “We’re actually having a
meeting next Thursday, if that works for you.”
Alton leaned back against the desk and appeared to be deep in thought. Lizzie had
the distinct impression that he was giving her yet another once-over and maybe that’s
what he’d base his decision upon. It made her slightly uneasy.
“How about you tell me a bit about this book club and its members?” he asked.
“Well, besides me, there’s Molly Mathews. She’s involved in a lot of literacy projects
in town and is an Agatha Christie fan. We meet in her home.” She paused to try to
gauge just how much she should be saying about each member. “Then there’s Sally-Jo
Baker, a third grade teacher who’s fairly new to town; Bob Miller, the former police
chief now retired; Jacob Smith, a local attorney, also new to town; Stephanie Lowe,
she’s a bit younger, about to give birth at any minute so might not even be at the
meeting, and also new here. There seems to be a theme here,” she added with a chuckle.
“And, last but not least, Andie Mason, who’s in high school and just getting into
reading in a big way.”
“I’d be happy to do it,” Alton finally said. “I’m staying at the Jefferson Hotel.
If you’ll give me your phone number, I’ll call you for instructions.” He pulled a
pen and small notebook out of his jacket pocket and made some notations.
After signing the copy of
that Jensey handed to him, Alton excused himself and left the shop.
Lizzie stared at Jensey, not quite sure what had just happened. She felt like she’d
been railroaded not only into buying a book she’d not planned to purchase, but also
into revising the book club schedule.
“I didn’t realize you were having a signing here today, Jensey,” Lizzie finally said.
Jensey giggled. “It wasn’t really a signing. He just popped in and fortunately, I
had a few copies of his books on hand so he signed them. Your walking in at that moment
was opportune, don’t you think?”
Jensey looked pleased with herself. Lizzie sighed then smiled, paid for the book and
the two mysteries Jensey had put aside for her—the latest from Ellery Adams and Janet
The phone was ringing as Lizzie opened her front door. She picked it up just before
it went to the message.
“Derek Alton here. Lizzie Turner, I hope?”
She nodded, taken off guard, but quickly realized an answer was needed. “Yes.”
“I hope you won’t think I’m too forward, but I’d like to take you out to dinner tonight.
I’d like to know some more about your book club before I speak to them. It will give
me a better idea of how to tailor my talk. Are you free tonight?”
Lizzie knew she had no plans but she hesitated. It wasn’t really a date. But a part
of her felt guilty, thinking of Mark Dreyfus, the heartthrob police chief she’d been
dating for a few months. But Mark was working tonight. And it made sense that Derek
would want to know about the book club, she reasoned, so she accepted.
He picked her up at seven
and after a brief drive through town with Lizzie pointing out the main sights, drove
back to his hotel, where he’d reserved a table at the restaurant. Lizzie was glad
she’d worn her fairly recent purchase of a black pantsuit with a platinum satin shell.
The Shasta Room at the Jefferson Hotel was one of the classier spots in town. Ashton
Corners, Alabama, had a good variety of dining spots, along with plenty of activities
for all ages. But Lizzie didn’t make it out to places like the Shasta Room very often.
Alton made a big show of examining the wine list after they were seated at a table
for two. Although it was early evening and still light outside, the lighting was dim
in their corner, three candles were lit, and a single red rose lay across her plate.
. Lizzie politely inhaled its fragrance and then set the rose alongside her cutlery.
She adjusted the linen napkin the maître d’ had placed on her lap and looked around
The walls, ceiling, crown moldings and chair coverings were done in varying shades
of neutral. The linens were pure white with a discreet “S” embroidered at each corner.
The table and chair legs were dark oak. Shots of color came from the centerpieces
of red poinsettia, towering paperwhites and sprigs of holly that anchored each table.
String music wafted softly through the air.
Alton ordered a bottle of wine (without consulting her, Lizzie noted), then immediately
began talking about himself. All she had to do was nod and make the occasional exclamation
to show that she was suitably impressed.
“I’m still getting requests to read from
at many events and my publisher is thinking of doing yet another print run, so I
thought it would be a good time to write a sequel. What do you think?” he asked.
Lizzie reined in her wandering mind and replayed his question before answering. “That
sounds like a clever move.” It was all she could think of to say.
Alton poured himself another glass of the California Baco Noir and beamed. “Just what
I thought. Now, let’s order before we get too wrapped up in talking.”
Lizzie balked at his suggestion he order for both of them, instead choosing lemon
chicken with braised roots while Alton ordered steak, done rare, and lobster tail.
“So, what do you do when you’re not running the book club, Lizzie?” Alton asked after
another long sip of his wine.
“I’m a reading specialist with the local school board,” she replied. “And I do some
tutoring and teach a literacy course at night school.” She watched for a reaction.
Alton smiled pleasantly. “Interesting. I also taught, you know. Creative writing,
of course. In fact, I still dabble at giving the odd workshop, but my novel writing
is such a large part of my life, I hardly find time for other pursuits, even the more
pleasurable ones.” His smile slid into more of a leer and Lizzie cringed.
“Have you started your new book?” she quickly asked.
He stared at a point behind her right ear. “Early stages, my dear.”
She wondered what that meant but he had already launched into describing the award
ceremony where he received the Onyx for Best Fiction from the prestigious Hawthorne
Society, even though it was close to eighteen years ago. Lizzie couldn’t help but
feel a bit sorry for him, that he was still consumed with that win after all these
years. She wondered if he was a lonely man.
Their food arrived, saving her from further comment as Alton ate with gusto, stopping
only long enough to refill his glass. Lizzie was still working on her first glass
of wine by the end of the meal. She declined dessert, choosing a peppermint tea to
keep her occupied while he ate a piece of pumpkin pecan cake. She tried to introduce
the topic of the book club a couple of times, but Alton had slid into a silence punctuated
by smiles and winks at her.
“Oh, look at the time. I should be getting home,” she finally said, glancing over
at the flashy watch on his left wrist. She couldn’t read the dial but thought he’d
never notice. “It was a wonderful meal. Thank you so much,” she said as she gathered
her clutch purse and jacket.
Alton stood abruptly and swayed for a moment, then grabbed her elbow and walked with
her to the entrance. He stopped to sign the check at the desk then maneuvered her
behind a tall ficus plant next to the coatroom.
“I’ll see you home,” he said, his hot breath brushing her left ear.
She moved away from him. “No, that’s quite all right. I can take a cab. I really think
you should just head up to your room.”
He leered and grabbed her arm once again. “Good idea. Join me, won’t you?” He leaned
toward her to kiss her.
She turned away and removed his hand from her arm. “Thank you again for the dinner.
She rushed out the door and down the steps, asking the bell captain to get her a cab.
He blew his whistle and one pulled into the driveway from the main street. Lizzie
gave the cabbie her address then sank back and breathed a sigh of relief.
What a nightmare evening. What a letch
. And they hadn’t even talked about the book club. What an idiot she had been. Well,
she’d just have to get the book club members on board for his visit and then act as
if nothing had happened between them. Because of course, it hadn’t.