Ladle to the Grave (A Soup Lover's Mystery Book 4)

BOOK: Ladle to the Grave (A Soup Lover's Mystery Book 4)
7.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Praise for

A Roux of Revenge

“A good read from beginning to end. The mystery kept me glued to the pages and the writing style had an easy flow that made it hard to put down . . . I can’t wait to see what happens next in this delightfully charming series.”

—Dru’s Book Musings

“This book is rich in stories about relationships . . . I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves culinary cozies!”

—Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries & Meows

“The third Soup Lover’s Mystery builds nicely as clues and key characters fall into place.”

—RT Book Reviews

“A great series based on one of my favorite things: soup. Connie Archer gives readers a likable heroine and a great mystery in
A Roux of Revenge
that keep them guessing all the way to the end.”

—Debbie’s Book Bag

A Broth of Betrayal

“Murder in the past, murder in the present, and an assortment of interesting characters in a small town, rife with secrets mixed together to serve up a soup du jour of mystery that cozy lovers are sure to enjoy.”


“An action-packed page-turner with memorable characters I look forward to revisiting again and again!”

—Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries & Meows

“This book is full of wonderful mysteries, a skeleton discovered, a missing person, and a murder. The pages flew by. Archer has created such lively characters. Lucky is a strong protagonist who doesn’t mind finding herself ‘in the soup’ as she tries to save her friend or catch a killer.”

—Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book

A Spoonful of Murder

“Snow in Vermont, soup, and murder. What could be more cozy? . . . A charming new amateur-sleuth series.”

—Julie Hyzy,
New York Times
bestselling author of the White House Chef Mysteries

“An engaging amateur sleuth due to the troubled heroine and the delightful Vermont location.”

—Genre Go Round Reviews

“Plenty of small-town New England charm.”

—The Mystery Reader

“A ‘souper’ idea for a cozy mystery series! . . . [Archer] has set a great foundation for this series. We have met the star and recurring characters and they have been left with plenty of room to grow. The setting is ideal.”

—Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book

“The way cozies should be written. A small town with lovable characters and a plot that leaves you satisfied at the end.”

—Girl Lost in a Book

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Connie Archer






Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

A Penguin Random House Company


A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2015 by Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.

BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-14873-4


Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / March 2015

Cover illustration by Cathy Gendron.

Cover design by Diana Kolsky.

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.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.


For the girls—
You know who you are.


Many thanks to Paige Wheeler of Creative Media Agency, Inc., for her hard work, good advice and expertise, to my terrific editor, Faith Black, whose insights have made each book all the better, to Valle Hansen, thank you for catching all my errors, and to Danielle Dill for her enthusiasm and support of the Soup Lover’s Mysteries. Huge thanks go to everyone at Berkley Prime Crime who contributed their talent and energy in bringing this series to life.

Special thanks as well to the writers’ group—Cheryl Brughelli, Don Fedosiuk, Paula Freedman, R.B. Lodge and Marguerite Summers—for their criticism and encouragement. And a very special thank-you to Elise Varey who can take credit for inventing a last name for Meg! Meg thanks you and she is thrilled to know she’ll be playing a much larger role from now on.

Last, but certainly not least, thanks to my family and my wonderful husband for their tolerance in living with a woman who is constantly thinking about ways to kill people.

: @S


Praise for Titles by Connie Archer

Berkley Prime Crime Titles by Connie Archer

Title Page




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

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54


Chapter 1

slowly, shuffling into the clearing in the woods, careful not to trip on the long white robes they had been instructed to wear. A few stole surreptitious glances at one or another of their group as they formed a loose semicircle before the slab of stone in the clearing. A chill wind blew through the trees, and the sound of beating wings came from above.

Cordelia Rank took her place at the designated altar. Behind her, a brazier flamed on the ancient rock. She surveyed the gathering critically. “Sisters, please! You
do better. Form a
!” she ordered, indicating her wishes with a sweep of her arm. Each woman glanced to her left and right and, stepping carefully over the pine needles and damp earth, shifted position to form a more uniform shape.

Cecily Winters took a deep breath, wondering, not for the first time, whether joining the Snowflake Coven was such a good idea. Her sister, Marjorie, certainly hadn’t been happy about it. It had sounded just so wonderful when she had first heard of the plan. Beltane Eve, April 30, a night to celebrate the coming of spring and the first buds of May with a bonfire, feasting, candlelight and song. Their small iron container would have to do. A bonfire in the woods at midnight could be dangerous. Cecily shuddered involuntarily. The crackling flames formed eerie shadows in the night, flickering against the tree trunks.
If only Cordelia hadn’t appointed herself high priestess
, she thought,
insufferable woman, it might have been fun

At a nod from Cordelia, one of the group, holding a candle cupped in her hand, moved within the inner circumference of their small circle and lit the candles clutched in the hands of the other women. When all the candles were lit, Cordelia nodded.

“Now we begin,” she announced. She turned back to the stone altar and, raising her arms, spoke in ringing tones. “Mother Earth, we have gathered together here, in this wood, to honor you, to celebrate the light of coming spring. Beltane is a time for love and the union of souls, the union of minds and the union of bodies.”

Cecily looked up quickly. This was the first she had heard of the union of bodies. She glanced around the circle to see whether anyone else had noticed the phrase.

“We have been called to replenish the earth,” Cordelia continued. “Our fire and our candles will light the sacred union of fertility, as our pagan ancestors have done for centuries. We will assist in bringing the sun’s light to earth, so that the earth may awaken from its long winter sleep. Our bodies, our minds and our spirits will alight with joy. We are ready to cast away all the doubts and fears of the winter. Our dream will be of hope and harmony.”

Cecily’s nose was itching. The band of flowers in the headdress she wore was slipping down over her forehead. She needed to scratch, but holding the candle and her too-long robe together, she had no free hand. She moved her shoulder up and turned her head, rubbing her nose on her arm. Cordelia glared at her from the stone altar. Cecily dropped her arm but before she could stifle it, she erupted with a thunderous sneeze.

Cordelia sighed her disappointment. Addressing the women, she said, “We now dedicate our herbs to the glory of Mother Earth. Each of us shall drink of our May wine.” She turned to the woman on her left. “You, Sister, shall be the first to drink of our draught tonight.” Cordelia filled a shallow bowl from a cauldron that sat next to the fire. “With these herbs of sweet woodruff, strawberry and honey, you shall partake.”

One woman stepped forward and doused her candle on the stone altar. She grasped the bowl in both hands. Cordelia paused, about to speak, but before she could utter a word, the woman drank the brew in its entirety. Cordelia stared at her, then filled the bowl again as a second woman stepped forward.

A strangled sound came from the lips of the first woman to drink. She gasped, clutching her throat. Her eyes grew large in panic as she tried to speak. Her chest heaved with the effort to breathe. She dropped to the ground as her legs crumpled beneath her. The others watched helplessly as the woman lay before them, retching and gasping for air.

“Agnes!” Emily cried out.

“What’s wrong?” Cecily asked.

Someone replied in alarm. “She can’t breathe. Help her!”

“Let me through. I know CPR.” Emily Rathbone pushed the women aside. They stepped back and stared as Agnes continued to gasp. Emily struggled to lift Agnes’s head and open her jaw while Agnes writhed violently.

“Help me hold her,” Emily shouted. Two of the women knelt. One held Agnes’s arms and the other, her legs. Emily tilted Agnes’s head and checked her throat. “There’s nothing there. Nothing’s interfering with her breathing. Maybe it’s an allergic reaction.” She deftly rolled Agnes to her side. Agnes’s head fell forward, her movements still violent. She retched again and whispered, “Help me.” Then her body went limp.

Complete stillness filled the clearing. No one spoke. Someone finally whispered, “Is she breathing?”

Emily felt for a pulse while the women watched in silence. She looked up at their concerned faces. “Agnes is gone.”

BOOK: Ladle to the Grave (A Soup Lover's Mystery Book 4)
7.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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