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Book 4 - Murder in the Vineyard - A Mallory Beck Cozy Culinary Caper (Original Cover Large Print Paperback) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.4 (228 ratings)

Book 4 - Murder in the Vineyard - A Mallory Beck Cozy Culinary Caper (Original Cover Large Print Paperback) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.4 (228 ratings)

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A heated religious argument. A murder that’s not as obvious as it seems. A first date gone very, very wrong. Reviewers are giving this fourth standalone mystery series in the Mallory Beck series five stars! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Main Tropes

  • Charming small town
  • Smart and savvy amateur sleuth
  • Clean and cozy reading


Mallory Beck didn’t expect to start dating her detective friend and childhood crush, Alex Martinez. At the very least, after her husband’s recent death, she didn’t expect to date someone she really likes so soon. But this isn’t a real date anyway. It’s a Bible study, and she has some questions about God, not to mention the pressing need to escape her recently freeloading father for an evening. Besides, how heated could things get at a Bible study?

The heat, it turns out, burns between two other attendees with opposing opinions on alcohol. When one storms out of the meeting early and then later turns up dead, Alex and Mallory find themselves at the heart of another murder investigation.

Can they uncover the secrets simmering through their cozy community town to get to the truth? Buy this mystery now to find out!

Intro Into Chapter One

There had to be a better way to purge one’s guilt than talking to your late husband’s judgmental cat. And yet here I was, babbling on and on to Hunch about how going out with Alex tonight didn’t mean I was forgetting about Cooper or that I was ready to date again.

“It’s not even a real date,” I told my furry accuser as I pulled a purple skirt from the closet and surveyed it. He was curled up on my bed—on Cooper’s side, as usual—and watched me with one eye open. “It’s a Bible study,” I explained. “And Alex only invited me because he knows I have some questions about God. He usually has to work Sundays, so this is kind of like his church.”

I laid the purple skirt on my side of the bed. You’d think after nearly a year of mourning Cooper, I’d stop thinking in terms of his side and mine. But it had only been in the last month that I’d let my clothes start to migrate to his empty side of our closet. I’d given an equally wordy explanation to Hunch then, too, justifying that the best way to avoid wrinkles was to space my clothing just a tad across the middle line.

Hunch lifted one paw out from under his chin and placed it a few inches away on my purple skirt. You’d have to know my cat to realize this move, in fact, wasn’t him trying to be a helpful and cooperative kitty, coming to my aid in choosing an outfit. This was his way of saying, “If it’s not a real date, why have you spent the last forty-five minutes debating what to wear, huh?”

The thing was…my cat was right.

I grabbed for my favorite jeans and orange wool sweater, leaving a mountain of skirts and dresses on my bed. It was too cold for bare legs, anyway.

However, the guilt didn’t end with Hunch’s side-eye and well-placed paw. I’d barely changed and made my way downstairs when Dad met me at the base of the stairs and whistled.

“Someone looks nice. Hot date tonight?”

My face warmed, which probably only highlighted the fact that I’d applied a little more than my usual lip balm in the way of makeup. “Not a date,” I told him. So far I’d only mentioned I had plans outside the house and that he should use the opportunity to make some phone calls about either other housing options or a job. “Actually, I’m going to a Bible study.”

Dad raised a thick eyebrow at me. I led the way to my kitchen, already knowing he’d follow and demand more of an explanation. I didn’t come from a religious family, and even when I’d attended church regularly with Cooper before he died, I had never mentioned it to my dad. My mother had been the most religious person in our family and used to encourage the rest of us to join her in church. She’d died without any warning when I was eight and Leslie was twelve, leaving us with an irresponsible and loafing dad. We’d written off church as easily as we’d written her off.

“It’s not a big deal,” I told Dad as I speared a sausage with a fork straight out of the pan and took a bite. “Don’t worry. This isn’t some big conversion.”

Dad leaned back against my counter. His salt-and-pepper hair needed a trim and hadn’t been brushed yet today, even though it was six at night. That, apparently, was how serious he was about getting a new job. “Oh, Mallory, believe me, I didn’t think you were serious about religion.” His words oozed with innuendo.

In truth, I did have questions about God. Big questions that had been plaguing me since Cooper’s death. Like why would He take away someone so good, someone who actually searched after all the good in this world, while someone bumbling through life and didn’t know what they believed like me got left behind? And why did God keep saving me from life-threatening situations every time I prayed?

I took another bite of my sausage, deciding this train of conversation would only lead to a lengthy debate with my father in which he would pretend to have boatloads of wisdom on such subjects. I likely wouldn’t know enough to battle his slick salesman-speak.

So I went with the dating topic. “My friend, Alex, just wants some company. He asked if I’d go. It’s a favor.” Not entirely true, but Dad didn’t need details. I motioned to the pan of sausage and peppers and took another bite. “Help yourself.”

Dad had been enjoying my cooking for almost two full weeks now—three meals a day, every day. He’d been promising to look for a job, probably in a bigger city, and at the same time look for another place to live, but I’d seen very little evidence of either.

He took a plate from the cupboard and moved toward the stove, then turned back before he’d served himself anything. “Is this the same Alex you had over the other day? The one you like?”

The day Dad arrived, Alex had been visiting for coffee, and to my humiliation, he had heard Dad and I talking about my middle school crush on him. I didn’t need a reminder of that. “No…I mean, yes, it’s the same person, but no, I don’t like him. Not in that way. Not anymore. Like I told you, we’re just friends.” I felt like I was twelve years old all over again.

Dad reached for the spatula and served himself three sausages and some pepper slices. I took my last bite, thanking my lucky stars he was finally going to let this conversation go and get something to eat. But just as I did, he motioned with the spatula and said, “So that’s why you’re all gussied up with your hair and your makeup?”

“I’m in jeans, Dad.” I tried to use my most convincing tone, but I didn’t address the hair and makeup comment, nor the way my turtleneck and favorite jeans hugged my body. While I usually wore a headband to keep my hair back for cooking, tonight I’d left it down to frame my face. I liked the look, I decided, but my face warmed again as I wondered if Alex would like it, too.

“It’s nothing more than two friends going out for an evening.” My words sounded less and less convincing by the minute.

“Mm-hmm.” Dad chuckled and headed for my small kitchen table with his plate. “But if this guy shows up with chocolates and flowers, I’m going to say, ‘I told you so.’”

Now I laughed, too, because Alex would not be showing up with anything but his Bible. The doorbell rang right as I helped myself to a slice of red pepper from the pan. I often snacked while cooking, so I’d had plenty to eat, but these honey-glazed sausages and charred peppers had a tangy, addictive quality that had me coming back for more.

I headed to the door to let Alex in and heard Dad’s chair jostle back on the tile kitchen floor as I did. Either he was already headed for seconds, or he planned to check Alex out.

I sighed, knowing exactly which option was true. Forcing a smile, I pulled the door open.

“Hi, Al—” My eyes went from his smiling face to a twelve-inch square gold box in his hands.

He outstretched it toward me. “Hey, Mallory.” When I didn’t immediately reach for the gift he’d brought me, he went on. “Remember how I told you my mom makes the best chocolates every year for Thanksgiving?” He had mentioned that one of the many times when I wouldn’t shut up about the foods I loved most. He outstretched the box an inch more toward me. “She just sent me a box, and of course I had to share them with my favorite foodie.”

I let out the breath I’d been unconsciously holding. Right. Good food, from one foodie to another. Nothing more. This wasn’t the flowers and chocolate date customs my father had been talking about only moments ago.

But I could hear Dad chuckling under his breath in the kitchen doorway behind me. All in one motion, I took the box from Alex and spun around to face my dad. “Alex brought some of his mom’s homemade chocolates to see what I thought of them. That’s all.” I wondered if Alex would find my phrasing strange. Dad’s smile had turned gleeful, and I felt the need to do anything to get him to calm down his overly romanticized thoughts.

So even though my first impulse was not to share my delicious chocolate, I popped open the lid to the box in hopes that him seeing and tasting them might help him back off.

But the second I had the lid open, I couldn’t avoid my warming cheeks or my dad’s louder chuckle.

Because the homemade chocolates? They had been formed into the shape of flowers.

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