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Authors: Kate Kingsbury

The Clue is in the Pudding

BOOK: The Clue is in the Pudding
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Praise for

Herald of Death

“Another superb homicidal historical holiday cozy. The ‘upstairs, downstairs’ class difference just before WWI comes alive, as it always does in the Pennyfoot saga, in this exciting amateur sleuth.”


Midwest Book Review

“Kingsbury continues to delight fans with well-thought-out mysteries that will challenge and entertain for hours.”


Debbie’s Book Bag

Mistletoe and Mayhem

“Full of wonderful characters, a welcoming home setting, and many surprises, this one is a keeper! . . . These are characters you will want to visit time and time again!”


The Romance Readers Connection

Decked with Folly

“Kingsbury expertly strews red herrings to suggest plenty of others had reason to wish Ian dead . . . This makes the perfect stocking stuffer for the cozy fan in your life.”


Publishers Weekly

Ringing in Murder


Ringing in Murder
combines the feel of an Agatha Christie whodunit with a taste of
Upstairs, Downstairs
.”


Cozy Library

“Engaging . . . Cozy fans will be pleased to ring in the New Year with this cheerful Kingsbury trifle.”


Publishers Weekly

Shrouds of Holly

“Charming . . . Will provide warm holiday entertainment.”


Publishers Weekly

“Delightful . . . Starring an intrepid heroine.”


Midwest Book Review

“Well-crafted and surprising all the way to the last page,
Shrouds of Holly
is a pleasurable read that is sure to get you in the mood for the holidays!”


The Romance Readers Connection

“Likable characters, charming surroundings, and eclectic guests continue to make this an enjoyable series. Bravo, Kate Kingsbury . . . for making this a holiday tradition.”

—MyShelf.com

Slay Bells

“A pre–World War I whodunit in the classic style, furnished with amusing characters.”


Kirkus Reviews

“The author draws as much from
Fawlty Towers
as she does from Agatha Christie, crafting a charming . . . cozy delicately flavored with period details of pre–World War I rural England.”


Publishers Weekly

“A true holiday gem.”


Mystery Scene

Visit Kate Kingsbury’s website at www.doreenrobertshight.com

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Kate Kingsbury

Manor House Mysteries

A BICYCLE BUILT FOR MURDER

DEATH IS IN THE AIR

FOR WHOM DEATH TOLLS

DIG DEEP FOR MURDER

PAINT BY MURDER

BERRIED ALIVE

FIRE WHEN READY

WEDDING ROWS

AN UNMENTIONABLE MURDER

Pennyfoot Hotel Mysteries

ROOM WITH A CLUE

DO NOT DISTURB

SERVICE FOR TWO

EAT, DRINK, AND BE BURIED

CHECK-OUT TIME

GROUNDS FOR MURDER

PAY THE PIPER

CHIVALRY IS DEAD

RING FOR TOMB SERVICE

DEATH WITH RESERVATIONS

DYING ROOM ONLY

MAID TO MURDER

Holiday Pennyfoot Hotel Mysteries

NO CLUE AT THE INN

SLAY BELLS

SHROUDS OF HOLLY

RINGING IN MURDER

DECKED WITH FOLLY

MISTLETOE AND MAYHEM

HERALD OF DEATH

THE CLUE IS IN THE PUDDING

Titles by Kate Kingsbury writing as Rebecca Kent

HIGH MARKS FOR MURDER

FINISHED OFF

MURDER HAS NO CLASS

T
HE
C
LUE
IS
IN
THE
P
UDDING

KATE KINGSBURY

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL,
England • Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin
Books Ltd.) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) • Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community
Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive,
Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.

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.

Copyright © 2012 by Doreen Roberts Hight.

Cover art by Dan Craig.

Cover design by Judith Lagerman.

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 editions.

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

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Berkley trade paperback edition / November 2012

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Kingsbury, Kate.

The clue is in the pudding / Kate Kingsbury.

p. cm.—(A special Pennyfoot Hotel mystery)

ISBN 978-0-425-25327-4 (pbk.)

ISBN 978-1-101-61233-0 (eBook)

1. Baxter, Cecily Sinclair (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Actors—Crimes against—Fiction.
3. Pennyfoot Hotel (England : Imaginary place)—Fiction. 4. Christmas stories.
5. England—Fiction. I. Title.

PR9199.3.K44228C58 2012

813'.54—dc23

2012022750

To Bill, the love of my life
and the heart of my dreams.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Grateful thanks to my patient, efficient, hard-working editor, Faith Black, who went above and beyond to make sure this book is all it can be. Thanks for your good eye, your sharp mind, and your comprehension of what needed to be done.

My sincere thanks to the art department for a truly great cover. You are such a talented team, and I can always rely on you to do an outstanding job.

Many thanks to my agent, Paige Wheeler, for keeping a vigilant eye on my interests. I appreciate your efforts.

Research is a big part of writing historical mysteries, and I have my good friend, Ann Wraight, to thank for sending me interesting and informative articles from my homeland. Thanks for keeping me in touch with my heritage.

The Pennyfoot Hotel mysteries would not be successful without the dedication of my many fans. Thank you for keeping the Pennyfoot Country Club and its occupants alive and well, and for your most welcome e-mails that make my day. I am truly blessed.

CHAPTER

1

Pansy Watson lifted her long skirts as she crossed the courtyard on her way to the stables. Although weak sun rays peeked through the clouds, a sharp frost overnight had left patches of ice on the ground, and the housemaid deplored the feel of chilly, wet wool flapping around her ankles.

She’d been looking forward to this moment all morning. Samuel would be waiting for her, leaning against one of the stalls that housed the horses, a big grin on his face as he watched her walk toward him. She could just see him in her mind’s eye, and the anticipation of their meeting quickened her step.

This was her favorite time of the year. This was when the Pennyfoot Country Club looked its best, with the glowing Christmas trees in the lobby and the library, bright garlands of red and green ribbons adorning the stairs, and enormous wreaths of holly and mistletoe clinging to the walls.

From the boudoirs on the top floor to the narrow hallways below stairs, the fragrance of sweet spices from the kitchen and fresh pine from the woods filled the air. The smell of Christmas. It was everywhere, and how she loved it.

When the twentieth century had begun just a few years ago, she’d worried that all the drastic changes everyone was talking about would mean Christmas as she’d known it would never be the same. She’d worried for nothing. Christmas at the Pennyfoot was still as warm and exciting as it had ever been.

Bathed in contentment and an underlying excitement, she skipped across the hard ground. This could be the year that Samuel finally asked her to marry him. She had waited so long. This had to be the year.

She was almost at the stables when she heard a shout from across the lawns. Startled, she turned to face the wiry man racing toward her. She could tell long before Samuel reached her that something was wrong. For one thing, he wasn’t wearing his cap. Madam was very strict on that.

Samuel was not only the stable manager, he was madam’s personal carriage driver, and now that the guests sometimes brought a motorcar with them, Samuel was responsible for taking care of them, too. Madam expected him to wear his uniform at all times while he was on duty, and that included his cap.

Not only that, but Samuel never ran anywhere unless it was an emergency. She didn’t even know he could run that fast. Heart pumping, she waited for him to reach her.

When he did, he was panting so hard he could hardly get words out of his mouth. “Tess,” he said, between huge gasps. “She’s gone.”

Pansy stared at him, the full horror of what he was saying penetrating down to her bones. Tess was Samuel’s dog, rescued as a stray and the love of his life. Sometimes Pansy felt that Samuel loved that dog far more than he loved her. “Whatcha mean she’s gone?”

Samuel shook his head, as if he couldn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth. “I took h-her for a walk . . . this morning . . . and sh-she chased off . . . after a squirrel.” He paused and held his hand over his chest, which heaved so much his fingers rose and fell with alarming speed.

Pansy struggled to make sense of his distress. “She’ll come back. You know she always does.”

“Yeah. She comes back for her breakfast. I always save her a sausage or bacon. I’ve done that ever since I found her. She always comes back for that. She’s never missed.” He turned his head, staring wildly in every direction across the lawns. “Something’s happened to her. I know it.”

Worried again now, Pansy grasped his arm. “I’ll help you look for her. She can’t have gone far.”

Samuel shook his head. “I’ve looked everywhere. I can’t take any more time right now. I haven’t fed the horses or groomed them yet. They’ll be asking for carriages soon, and I don’t have any ready.”

Pansy hesitated. She was giving up her midday break to see Samuel. She had maybe ten minutes left before she had to be back in the kitchen. She so wanted to spend those precious minutes with the man she loved with all her heart. Looking into his eyes, though, she could see the pain and fear in them.

Gulping back her disappointment, she said firmly, “I’ll go and look for her. I’ll get Gertie to help me if I can’t find her. Mrs. Tucker will just have to understand.” She tried not to envision the snippety housekeeper, arms folded across her flat chest, her strident voice demanding to know why in blazes two of the housemaids had decided to take valuable time off to look for a dog.

Mrs. Tucker could be quite scary when her temper was aroused. Even Gertie had a healthy respect for the housekeeper, and Gertie was taller and a lot bulkier than Mrs. Tucker. Gertie got away with a lot of things, but in the busy Christmas season, taking extra time off wouldn’t be one of them. Even Mrs. Chubb, the permanent housekeeper, wouldn’t be happy about that, though she’d be a lot nicer about saying so.

But Mrs. Chubb was away at her daughter’s house, and now everyone had to put up with grumpy old Tucker the Terrible, as Gertie called her.

“Bless you, luv.” Samuel threw his arms around Pansy’s slight body and gave her a hug. “You know how much that means to me.”

All thoughts of an outraged Mrs. Tucker flew out of Pansy’s mind. Samuel was holding her in his arms, and that was all that mattered. He gave her a quick kiss on the mouth and let her go. “I have to run. Just keep calling Tess’s name. If she hears you, she’ll bark.” With a quick wave, he disappeared into the stables.

Frowning, Pansy picked up her skirts again. If she had to cross the lawns, the hem of her skirt and petticoat would be soaked. She decided instead to go through the rose garden, where a paved path would take her to the other side of the lawns and closer to the woods. Maybe she’d run into Clive Russell, the caretaker. He could help her search for Tess.

Remembering Samuel’s instructions, she started calling out the dog’s name as she trotted down the path. The bushes in the rose garden were nothing but sticks, and the white trellis was completely bare of the white roses that climbed it in the summer. No place for a dog to hide there.

Working her way around the front of the country club, she heard a faint barking in the distance. Relief and excitement quickened her pace, and she was running as she reached the end of the pathway.

Just a few yards away she saw a gentleman hurrying in the direction of the duck pond. Surprised, she chased after him. He had to be one of the guests, though why he was racing around the grounds in the cold she couldn’t imagine.

The man disappeared behind the shrubbery, and then she heard the barking again. Louder this time. She also heard a shout, and her anxiety intensified as she sped toward the duck pond. She reached it just in time to see the gentleman wading out of the pond carrying a very wet and bedraggled dog in his arms.

“Tess!” Pansy ran toward them and cradled the shivering dog’s head in her hands. She looked up at the gentleman, into the palest blue eyes she’d ever seen. They were almost silver and seemed to pierce right through her head. She recognized him then. She’d heard he was a famous actor, come down from London to spend Christmas at the Pennyfoot.

“Is this your dog?”

The actor’s voice was commanding and a little intimidating. Pansy nodded. “Actually, it’s Samuel’s dog. He’s the stable manager. He’s been looking for her for ages.”

“Well, tell him he should take better care of her. She went through the ice and couldn’t get out. She would have drowned if I hadn’t heard her barking.”

He put Tess on the ground and she immediately shook herself, sending a spray of cold water across Pansy’s hand. The gentleman’s trousers were soaked to the knee. She glanced up at him again and noticed his lips had turned blue.

“Thank you, sir. Samuel will be terribly grateful, I know.”

“He should be. Dogs are man’s best friend. Far more trustworthy and loyal than any human being.” The actor bent down to give Tess a final pat on the head, then strode off at a fast pace and disappeared around the corner.

Pansy frowned at Tess, who sat with her head down, as if she knew she’d done something wrong. “Come on,” Pansy said gruffly, “I’d better get you back to the stables so Sam can get you dry.” She set off with the dog at her heels, thinking about the man who had rescued Tess.
A proper gentleman and a hero
, she thought, as she once more crossed the courtyard. Then she forgot about him when she saw Samuel rushing toward her.

“You found her! Where was she? Look at her! She’s soaking wet.”

“She tried to go skating on the pond,” Pansy said, grinning at the sight of the wet dog leaping up to try and lick Samuel’s face. “A very nice gentleman rescued her. He got soaking wet, too, but it didn’t seem to bother him.”

“Who was he?” Samuel looked across the courtyard as if expecting to see the stranger. “I’d like to thank him.”

“He’s a guest here. I can’t remember his name, but I know he’s a famous actor from London. I did thank him before he rushed off, but if you want to thank him yourself, you’ll have plenty of time. He’ll be here over Christmas.”

“He’s famous?” Samuel leaned down to pat the dog’s head. “How about that, Tess? You got rescued by someone famous.”

Pansy shivered as a gust of wind wrapped her skirt around her ankles. “I’d better get back to the kitchen or I’ll be in trouble with Mrs. Tucker.”

“You let me know if she gives you any bother,” Samuel said, one hand holding onto Tess’s collar. “I’ll soon set her straight.”

Pansy gazed up at him, her cheeks warming. How she loved it when Samuel got all protective of her. “I’ll do that.” With a wave of her hand she dashed off, her feet flying across the courtyard as if she were skimming across an icy pond.

*   *   *

Cecily Sinclair Baxter was a firm believer in positive thinking. Expect the worst and it was bound to happen, she always maintained. So, in order not to tempt providence, she clung to the conviction that this season at the Pennyfoot Country Club would be disaster free, and the infamous Christmas curse would not materialize.

Since she was the manager of the club, it was her responsibility to see that her guests enjoyed a serene and entertaining holiday, and nothing must interfere with that scenario. The first indication that providence was determined to shake its fickle fist in her face was when Mrs. Chubb announced that her daughter had taken ill and her son-in-law needed her to help take care of the grandchildren.

“I know my going up north for Christmas will leave you in a bit of a mess, m’m,” the housekeeper had said, her hands working at twisting her apron into a knot. “But what can I do?”

What could she do, indeed, Cecily had agreed. She’d assured Mrs. Chubb that they would manage without her, and had then rung the agency to acquire a temporary housekeeper to see them through the holiday season.

Beatrice Tucker had arrived that same afternoon. That was two days ago, and already the woman had upset just about everyone in the kitchen and more than one guest.

“I wish there was something I could do about Beatrice Tucker,” Cecily said, as she handed Baxter the newspaper. “She seems to put everyone’s nerves on edge.”

“It’s perishing cold in here.” Baxter stretched his feet out closer to the fire. “I have to wonder why we chose to live down here on the southeast coast of England. That wind gets through every single crack on the building.”

He had just finished his midday meal and had settled down in their suite for an afternoon of quiet solitude. Cecily knew quite well that the last thing her husband wanted was to indulge in a conversation about problems with the staff. Nevertheless, she felt it prudent to warn him of impending trouble, since he would no doubt hear of it sooner or later. Baxter was not one to tolerate unpleasant surprises.

“Yes, dear. Now about Beatrice Tucker—”

“Who the devil is Beatrice Tucker?” He shook the newspaper out and held it in front of his face—a sure indication that he really didn’t want an answer.

“She’s the temporary housekeeper I hired. To take the place of Mrs. Chubb.”

Baxter lowered the newspaper, his face a mask of horror. “Mrs. Chubb has
left
?”

Cecily held back a sigh. “No, dear. She’s gone to Manchester to take care of her grandchildren. I told you that.”

“Oh, that’s right.” Baxter dived behind the newspaper again.

“The trouble is, Beatrice Tucker is alienating everyone, and we can’t have discord in the kitchen, especially at Christmastime. It’s supposed to be a season of happiness and good cheer. We must convey that to our guests at all times.”

“Mm-hm.”

“So, I was wondering if you’d have a word with her.”

The newspaper rustled loudly as Baxter thrust it down on his lap. “Me? You want
me
to talk to her? Why can’t you talk to her? After all, you hired her.”

“Yes, dear. I know. But a firm reprimand about her attitude would be so much more meaningful coming from you.”

“How so?”

Cecily smiled. “You have such an imposing voice, my love.”

Baxter grunted. “You just wish to avoid unpleasantness.”

“That, too.”

He gazed at her for a moment or two while she wondered if he would refuse, then he sighed. Shaking out the paper again, he muttered, “Oh, very well. I’ll take care of it later.”

“Thank you, dear. As it happens, I am terribly busy right now. I’m expecting Phoebe and Colonel Fortescue to visit this afternoon. Madeline should be here, too, to put the final touches on the decorating.”

She received another grunt for an answer. Phoebe and Madeline were her best friends, and she knew for that reason alone Baxter tolerated their presence. He made no secret of the fact that he considered Phoebe a vain, empty-headed dolt and Madeline a devious sorceress.

Cecily had to admit that Phoebe was a little preoccupied with appearances, and just about everyone in Badgers End believed that Madeline’s unusual powers with herbs and flowers was all the proof needed to proclaim her a witch.

As for Phoebe’s husband, Colonel Fortescue, Baxter was convinced that the gentleman was off his rocker, and Cecily could give him no argument there.

Leaning over the newspaper, she dropped a kiss on her husband’s forehead. “I’ll be in my office if you need me.”

BOOK: The Clue is in the Pudding
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