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Book 3 - Murder at the Town Hall - A Mallory Beck Cozy Culinary Caper (Original Cover Paperback) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.5 (425 ratings)

Book 3 - Murder at the Town Hall - A Mallory Beck Cozy Culinary Caper (Original Cover Paperback) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.5 (425 ratings)

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An eye witness to a murder, a crush-worthy cop who needs her help, and a cat with a hunch. What could possibly go wrong? The third standalone mystery in the Mallory Beck series is perfect for fans of Joanne Fluke.

Main Tropes

  • A sleuthing chef
  • A sense of community
  • A smart and sneaky cat


Mallory Beck isn’t in the habit of involving herself in local politics, but when she supports a new friend at a meeting to save the local library and the main speaker is found dead on the steps of the town hall, she finds herself deep in the heart of another murder investigation. Her cat, Hunch, who loves a good mystery, is thrilled and, as usual, helps her discover a key clue.

Mallory’s clever friend and long-ago crush, Alex, is on the case. He was recently promoted to detective within the Honeysuckle Grove Police Department, but when he’s paired with a lackadaisical superior who continually botches investigations, Mallory and her famously delicious cooking come to the rescue.

After all, the easiest way to a suspect’s truth might just be through their stomach.

Intro Into Chapter One

Everything I knew about dating, I learned from my seventh-grade teacher.

Hang on, that was in the wrong grammatical tense. Everything I was about to know about dating, I was apparently going to learn from my seventh-grade teacher.

I looked at Ms. Sasha Mills with a head tilt as she spoke. I was trying hard to get used to calling my former teacher by her first name, but so far I’d only graduated to using her full name.

“He’s very attractive, and he obviously likes you if he asked you out again. Your date couldn’t have been that bad.” She leaned against the counter across from me as I pulled a batch of chocolate chip cookies from the oven. She wore a purple paisley dress, reminiscent of every day I’d spent in her seventh-grade English class. Her brown hair wisped gray around her face and was cropped to her shoulders rather than halfway down her back now, but otherwise, she looked the same. “Even if you did talk about your friend Alex nonstop.”

She was referring to what I couldn’t get past calling my “outing” with Detective Steve Reinhart. I’d only gone for dinner with him to discuss Alex’s promotion within the police department. I was sure he must have gotten that vibe from my rerouting the conversation back to Alex every three seconds. But Ms. Sasha Mills was right—he had asked me out again. Three times, in fact. My excuses hadn’t even been slightly believable—everything from walking my cat to a TV cooking show I simply couldn’t miss—and yet he persisted.

“I’m just not sure I’m ready to date,” I told my former teacher honestly, offering her a cookie from the rack that had cooled. It had been eleven months since my husband, Cooper, had died. Maybe I should’ve been ready to date again, but I squirmed like my sweater was made out of spiders every time I considered it. I had planned to spend my entire life with Cooper. How could I switch gears on a dime like that?

An eleven-month dime. But still.

Ms. Mills hummed in appreciation of the cookie while she nodded compassionately. When she finished chewing, she said, “Have you told him that? I’m sure he’d understand.”

I was going to have to learn to call her Sasha, at least out loud, if we planned to hang out together outside of children’s church. I’d been helping her with the kids on Sunday mornings for the last month. When I’d stayed true to my word and offered Pastor Jeff my help wherever it was needed, he directed me to the most understaffed area of the church and to an overworked Ms. Sasha Mills. She’s a sweet lady in her mid-fifties, and after four Sundays together, I was doing my best to treat her like an actual person I could talk to and not just one of my favorite teachers from years past.

I took a deep breath as I reminded myself of all this once again. “I have enough trouble talking to you about Cooper.”

I lifted my cooled cookies one by one from the cooling rack into a sealable container, glad they’d turned out nice and gooey, how I liked them. In truth, my fifteen-year-old friend, Amber, was the only person I felt somewhat comfortable reminiscing with about my late husband, perhaps because she was in a similar grieving place, having recently lost her dad.

Whatever the reason, I added, “It’s still so hard for me.” I choked on the last word, and Ms. Mills reached over to stroke my arm. Maybe I could think of her more like a mother figure than a friend. Then again, that wouldn’t help calling her by her first name, and besides, I’d never had much in the mother department, and so I wasn’t sure how to navigate that type of relationship either.

“Maybe I could talk to him for you,” Ms. Mills said with raised eyebrows, and I had to wonder if we were still in seventh grade.

Right. Of course. I could write him a note. Instead of writing “Do you like me?” with yes/no checkboxes, I could ask “Would you understand if I’m not ready to date yet?” and slip it to him sometime before recess.

“Or you could tell him you’re walking your cat again.” Ms. Mills chuckled under her breath. It always shocked me when she made jokes. I figured that was part of the transition from seeing her as a teacher to seeing her as a friend. To punctuate this thought, she bent and called, “Here, kitty, kitty.”

Hunch sat on his haunches across the kitchen near his food dish, licking his paws and not giving Ms. Mills the time of day. This was the second time she’d been in the house, and tonight was confirmation that he hadn’t taken to her the way he had to Alex or especially Amber. He’d barely spared Ms. Mills a glance the two times she’d been here, but he always lurked within hearing distance from us. After being injured by a murder suspect a couple of months ago, he’d finally had his cast removed and should have been enjoying his freedom, but he wasn’t about to miss anything if the topic ever changed from my dating inability to something more interesting.

Believe me, Hunch, I tried to tell him telepathically. I’m with you there.

As though my cat and I had conversed aloud, Ms. Mills looked at her watch. “We should probably get going. The meeting starts at seven, and I’m not planning on letting them cut funding to our library the way they did to the drug rehab clinics and our education programs.”

I’d offered to accompany her to a town hall meeting tonight. Along with running children’s church, Ms. Mills continued to teach seventh-grade English at the local middle school. Apparently, the mayor had proposed a library closure—or rather going to an online-only system—and Ms. Mills was vehemently opposed to the idea. She said many of her students from lower-income families had found a safe haven in getting lost in a good book at the library each day after school. She feared they could so easily fall in with the wrong crowd and get hooked on drugs, and she wanted to do everything she could to protect the sanctuary of the brick-and-mortar library for them. She’d even written to the county superintendent of schools to ask for help in the matter. I couldn’t help but offer my support, even if it was only to keep her company for the evening.

We headed for the front door, and no surprise, Hunch didn’t bother to follow us. He’d had enough of our boring conversation. Besides, he only liked to go for car rides if Amber was along or if there was some sort of mystery afoot.

Ms. Mills didn’t drive. In fact, she had never had her license. She’d made it to my house via bus, but now we got in on either side of my Prius. The smell of freshly baked cookies quickly enveloped the car.

“Are you sure it’s not Alex you like?” Ms. Mills asked casually as I backed out of the driveway.

My foot missed the brake pedal, and I nearly backed into a neighbor’s car parked along the curb. I found the pedal and slammed it. “Sorry,” I said, and as though I hadn’t heard her, I added, “What was that?”

Ms. Mills smirked and left the question alone. I wondered if teaching seventh grade had taught her to keep her mouth shut on hot topics and let the internal replay of her words do all the work.

I should have argued that Alex was my friend. I’d simply helped him in his fight against a pigheaded police captain in getting a promotion to detective. I’d even gone out with another detective to make sure it happened. Alex had finally achieved that goal, so who knew if he’d even have any time or need for me anymore, anyway. I hadn’t heard from him at all in the last couple of weeks.

I didn’t realize how quiet or lost in thought I’d become until I blinked and realized we were already at the town hall. I felt my cheeks flush, knowing how my lack of conversation after a single mention of Alex Martinez must look to Ms. Mills.

Again, she spoke as if she had heard my thoughts out loud. “All I’m saying is that if two of my favorite students found each other interesting, well, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.”

And as if the universe had made my discomfort its primary mission, my phone sang to life from its dash holster with “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back” by Shawn Mendes. I’d originally chosen the song because it had a catchy tune, but now when Alex’s name appeared on the screen, my cheeks and neck hit three hundred degrees.

Ms. Mills turned to me with a wink. “How about I meet you in there?”

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