Read The Path of the Crooked (Hope Street Church Mysteries Book 1) Online

Authors: Ellery Adams

Tags: #mystery, #Bible study, #cozy, #church, #romance, #murder

The Path of the Crooked (Hope Street Church Mysteries Book 1)

Dear Reader,


The Hope Street mysteries were originally published by St. Martin’s Press and written under the name Jennifer Stanley. The titles, in order, were
Stirring Up Strife
Path of the Wicked
, and
The Way of the Guilty


I have completely rewritten all three novels and am now publishing them under the name Ellery Adams as
The Path of the Crooked
The Way of the Wicked
, and
The Graves of the Guilty


If you’ve read the original books, you will find the basic plot of the above titles unchanged. My intention was to polish the writing in each installment and rerelease the novels as crisper, cleaner, more engaging books. Stay tuned for forthcoming novels in the Hope Street mystery series as well!


Thank you for supporting cozy mysteries.


Your friend,

Ellery Adams

The Path of the Crooked



Cooper Lee was at a crossroads. Her boyfriend of five years had just left her for another woman, she was living in an apartment above her parents’ garage, and her job as a copier repairperson was feeling a little, well, repetitious. Hoping for a fresh start and a new outlook on life, she joins the Bible study group at Hope Street Church. The last thing she expects while studying the Bible is a lesson in murder.


When Brooke Hughes, the woman who first invited Cooper to Hope Street, is found murdered in her home, all signs point to her husband as the culprit. But Wesley Hughes was an elder at Hope Street Church, and the members of the Bible study are filled with disbelief that such a kind and loving man could take a life, much less his wife’s. Unwilling to let an innocent man and friend be railroaded into prison, the Bible group decides to investigate on their own.


As Cooper and this humorously diverse group of people—including a blind folk artist, a meteorologist with a taste for younger women, and a soft-spoken web designer who might be out to catch Cooper’s eye—dig deeper into the clues, they’re about to discover that finding the truth sometimes takes a leap of faith.



Beyond the Page Books

are published by

Beyond the Page Publishing


This is a fully revised edition of a book that was originally published as
Stirring Up Strife
by Jennifer Stanley, copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Stanley. Revised edition copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Stanley.

Material excerpted from
The Way of the Wicked
The Graves of the Guilty
copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Stanley.

Cover design and illustration by Dar Albert, Wicked Smart Designs


ISBN: 978-1-940846-31-6


All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this book. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented without the express written permission of both the copyright holder and the publisher.


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.


The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.




Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Magnolia’s Marvels

Excerpt from
The Way of the Wicked

Excerpt from
The Graves of the Guilty

Books by Ellery Adams

About the Author




Hatred stirs up strife.

—Proverbs 10:12 (NKJV)




There should be no strife

with the vanquished or the dead.





Cooper Lee was more comfortable with machines than people. She drove all over the city of Richmond, Virginia, to fix them. By the time she got to these copiers, laminators, or fax machines as they waited in their offices, hospitals, or schools, they were broken. Broken and quiet. Cooper would kneel beside them and meticulously lay out her tools, and as she did so the machines didn’t raise their brows in surprise or barely concealed amusement that a woman worked as an office-machine repairman. A thirty-two-year-old woman dressed in a man’s uniform shirt didn’t seem odd at all.

Most importantly, they never stared at her eyes.

Her left eye wasn’t worth a second look. It was a flat, almost colorless blue. No one would have dreamed of comparing it to sapphires or deep seas or cloudless summer skies. But the other eye, the eye Cooper had received through ocular transplant surgery after she’d been smashed in the face with a field hockey stick in junior high, was a shimmering green. It was exotic—invoking images of lush jungles flecked with firefly light or the green shallows of tropical waters.

That single moment at field hockey practice, when a girl on Cooper’s own team had accidentally swung her stick too high as she prepared to hit the ball with incredible force, made Cooper more self-conscious than other teenagers. Still, she wanted what most people want. She wished for one close friend, to be loved by someone she could grow old with, and for her life to have purpose. Cooper thought she had found all of those in her boyfriend, Drew. Until he dumped her.

Shaking off her gloomy thoughts, Cooper cut a piece of crumb cake for breakfast, wrapped it in a paper towel, filled her twenty-eight-ounce travel cup to the brim with milky, unsweetened coffee, and tossed a banana onto the passenger seat of her truck. She drove east on I-64, the sun blinding her most of the way. According to Bryant Shelton’s weather report, there wouldn’t be a cloud in the sky this April Friday. For once it appeared as though Bryant might be right, though it didn’t matter much to Cooper. She’d be inside offices most of the day, but could enjoy brief moments of sunshine while driving the work van from one destination to another.

At ten minutes to nine, Cooper pulled into the parking lot belonging to one of a dozen corporate buildings resembling silver LEGO blocks. The Make It Work! headquarters was on the fringe of an area called Innsbrook, where hundreds of different companies, replete with an abundance of office equipment, depended upon Cooper and her coworkers to keep them operating smoothly.

“’Mornin’, Coop!” Angela called out a chipper greeting as Cooper approached the reception desk. Angela’s smile, combined with a vase filled with plump yellow roses, created a warm welcome. Few people visited the office as most of Make It Work!’s transactions were conducted via telephone, but Angela bought a dozen roses every Monday, claiming that a good workweek always began with fresh flowers. Angela was in charge of appointments and billing. She was at her desk every morning before anyone else, wearing one of her vintage sweaters, a pencil skirt (both of which were always too tight), and a pair of sexy heels. Angela’s platinum hair, powdered face, and fire-engine-red nails and lipstick were supposed to call to mind an image of Marilyn Monroe, but Angela was older and plumper than the late actress had ever been. Still, Angela was the heart and soul of their small operation. Filled with pluck and boundless optimism, Angela could thaw even the frostiest of customers.

“You’ve got an emergency waitin’ for you, sugar.” Angela examined her reflection in a small compact that was never out of reach. “Some poor lady has gotten her weddin’ ring jammed in the insides of a copier.” She held out a pink memo pad and ripped off the top sheet with a flourish.

“At Capital City?” Cooper asked, reading the message. “I have to go over there anyway. They ordered half a dozen Hewlett-Packard 7410 multifunction printers and I have to bring them to Building F and hook them up.” She grinned at Angela. “A wedding ring, you say? I wonder how she got it stuck inside.”

Angela shrugged. “You know folks like to try to fix things themselves. You’ve fished stranger things out of those machines. ’Member the bologna sandwich last year?”

“Do I?” Cooper laughed. “That mayo was
And that obnoxious executive tried to blame it on his administrative assistant. What a jerk.”

“That’s why I like workin’ for Mr. Farmer. He’s just as kind as he can be.” Angela’s eyes, beneath their curtain of long fake lashes, twinkled as they always did when she mentioned the boss’s name.

Cooper buttoned up her gray Make It Work! uniform jacket and grabbed the keys to one of the company’s two vans. Ben, the other repairman, was already off on his rounds. He came in an hour earlier than Cooper and was out the door by 4:00 p.m. He was obsessed with developing his naturally thin frame into a walking mass of muscle, so he spent two hours at the gym before heading home to his wife—a woman no one from Make It Work! had ever laid eyes on. Ben never spoke of her either.

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