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Book 6 - Murder during the Antique Auction - A Mallory Beck Cozy Culinary Caper (Original Cover Large Print Paperback) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.5 (225 ratings)

Book 6 - Murder during the Antique Auction - A Mallory Beck Cozy Culinary Caper (Original Cover Large Print Paperback) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.5 (225 ratings)

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Some people will kill for the perfect antique. The question is… who did? Readers are giving this cozy series five stars! Read this sixth standalone mystery in the Mallory Beck series now!

Main Tropes

  • Quirky suspects
  • Intuitive sleuthing cat
  • Clean read with a satisfying ending


Readers are giving this cozy series five stars! ★★★★★ Read this sixth standalone mystery in the Mallory Beck series now!

Some people will kill for the perfect antique. The question is… who did?

When Mallory and Amber try their hand at catering their first event—an antique auction held on New Year’s Eve—they have high hopes for helping the locals ring in the new year with a little culinary decadence. But when a highly anticipated collector fails to show up and bid on a piece he’d been prattling on about for most of a year, the antique dealer is sure something is wrong.

Has the collector gone missing? Or was someone willing to kill him to get their hands on a prized antique clock? Find out when you snuggle up with this new whodunit!

Intro Into Chapter One

Nothing said black tie like eight dozen chocolate cappuccino cupcakes that were dressed up in fondant tuxedos.

Amber had spent countless hours molding decorations for the sweets and carving black olive accents for the savory appetizers we had prepared for our first catering event. My sixteen-year-old best friend and business partner insisted we pick a theme for the event, and after much deliberation, I’d chosen black tie from her many, many suggestions. It suited an antique auction on New Year’s Eve, and I hoped it would elevate the evening.

Chad, the antique dealer in town who was putting on tonight’s auction, met us at the door to the community hall. Chad was a slim man in his seventies with a gray ponytail and an ever-present twinkle in his eyes.

“Can I help?” He held out his hands, but Amber and I were not about to ask a senior citizen to help us carry in our culinary treats. Besides, we only had one tray each for the moment. Once we scoped out the space, we’d go back for the rest.

“Not at all,” I said. “Just point us in the right direction, and we won’t bother you a bit.”

“Pshh. Bother.” He waved a hand. “You ladies are sure to be the hit of the evening.”

I hoped he was right, although my brief introduction to antique aficionados had taught me that many serious collectors had their eyes on little else.

“I was thinking I’d have you set up next to the clock.” Chad led the way across the community hall.

A dozen or so people were busy setting up everything from doilies and old doll dresses to table and chair sets, all behind ropes in an arc around the perimeter of the room. The center of the room held about twenty rows of chairs, I guessed for the bidders. Chad led us to an empty table next to a roped-off ornately carved reddish-brown grandfather clock.

“It’s my crowning triumph, and I’m sure every attendee will make their way by it multiple times this evening.” He arrived at the empty table and turned toward us, looking at the two platters in our hands. “Is this table suitable?”

I suspected what he was really asking was if we had more in the car. I chuckled under my breath because boy, oh boy did we have more. “Actually, if there are any more tables around, we might grab a second one.”

Chad’s twinkle erupted into a full-blown spark. “You bet!” He rushed off. I hoped he knew we weren’t expecting him to do the heavy lifting.

Amber placed her tray on the table. “We should probably get the bin with the tablecloths first, right?”

But she didn’t wait for an answer and strode toward the door. She’d had an all-business attitude all day. I wanted to tell her to relax, but at the same time, I was nervous, too, and I wanted us to both do our best.

“For sure.” I turned to follow her, but caught sight of Chad in the back corner of the large community hall trying to drag a fold-up table out of a storage room. “I’ll be right behind you.”

I rushed toward Chad, being careful to dodge all of the tables along the way. I glanced at silver candelabras and china teacups, wondering what kinds of prices each would garner. One lady worked her way around the room, carefully placing numbered bid cards in front of each item.

“Here, let me take that,” I said to Chad when I was still several feet away.

Gratefulness crossed his face. “Why don’t you just grab that other end, dear.”

When I picked up the one end, I realized the table was actually lighter than it looked but awkward for one person.

By the time we had it set up, Amber had returned with our Rubbermaid bin of tablecloths and décor and another platter of cupcakes stacked on top.

“It’s snowing again,” she said. Her hair and the Rubbermaid bin were dotted with snowflakes. The local weatherman had been predicting an unseasonably cold winter, but lately, it had felt more like the blizzardy winters I’d endured in Pennsylvania. “I hope it doesn’t affect your turnout.”

“Oh, it won’t.” Chad sounded self-assured. “Antique collectors are not put off by much, and with this baby here tonight…” He motioned to the grandfather clock. “We’re sure to draw a crowd all the way from New York.”

I raised an unbelieving eyebrow, but I decided not to challenge Chad on this. Whether or not he was simply a positive thinker, I didn’t know, but I was ignorant enough about the antique business that I wasn’t about to challenge him on it.

Chad reached into the front of his tweed suit jacket and pulled out an envelope. “Can I give you your payment now?”

“Oh. Um. Are you sure you don’t want to wait and see how we do?” I wasn’t used to getting paid for delivering culinary treats. Even though I had spent a good amount of my own money on the ingredients for tonight, I would have been perfectly willing to eat the expenses, so to speak, so we could get our feet wet in this new catering venture of ours.

But Chad laughed at my question. “After those little drops of heaven you brought me at the shop a couple of weeks ago, I have no doubt everyone here tonight will be simply blown away.”

While investigating a recent case, we’d delivered a container full of caramel rum tartlets to Chad at his antique shop. It was how we’d talked some information out of him about a suspect, but also how we’d gotten the gig for tonight.

I fought my blush and accepted the envelope from him. “Well, then at least let me start you off with a cupcake.”

I lifted the lid from the cupcake container Amber had just brought in, and Chad happily accepted an offering from the tray.

“Tuxedos!” he said. “I love it.”

“We thought we’d do a black tie theme for tonight’s event.” Amber’s words sounded like we did this all the time and this was simply one of our many themed events. I knew her well enough to hear the glow of pride behind her words.

“They’re almost too pretty to eat.” Despite his words, Chad took a large bite and then closed his eyes at the taste of coffee and chocolate. “I said almost.”

Amber headed back for the car. “You’ll have to come back once we’re all set up. Chocolate cappuccino is only the beginning.”

Chad’s eyes widened in excitement, but I chuckled to try and quell his anticipation. I was pretty sure our treats would be well received tonight, but at the same time, I wanted to make sure to under-promise and over-deliver.

By the time Amber and I had set up a dozen varieties of sweet treats and savory items like triangles of brie with Dijon and black olives on Ritz to balance them out, the antique collectors had begun to arrive.

I recognized a few people, like Marv and Donna Mayberry and even our pastor from the Honeysuckle Grove Community Church. I wondered if they were serious collectors or simply here for something to do on New Year’s Eve.

Chad had been correct, and there seemed to be a lot of out-of-towners I didn’t recognize as well. He brought an unfamiliar stocky man in a navy suit our way to introduce us. “Mallory, Amber, this is my auctioneer, Roland Conway.”

I reached out a hand to shake his, but Roland had his wide eyes on our refreshments and his hand already outstretched for a tangerine vanilla tea cake.

“You’ve outdone yourself this time, Chad.” Roland looked at us almost as an afterthought. I had expected his words to come out fast and jumbled, being an auctioneer, but he spoke in an even, mid-pitch tone.

“These ladies just happened into my shop a couple of weeks ago with a few of their treats, and I knew right then that I had to somehow make our little auction attractive enough for them to attend.” Chad winked at me in a way that might have made me feel disregarded by the other man, Roland, but from Chad, it was nothing but genuine.

Not that Amber and I had much to do with the bigger agenda tonight. We planned to keep the patrons happy as they strolled to view the wares, hopefully putting them in a more bid-friendly mood.

“No sign of Winston Blakely yet?” Roland scanned the room. Since I wasn’t familiar with the name, I had to assume the question was directed toward Chad.

“Ah, you know Blakely.” Chad sighed. “He’s only coming for the one item, so he won’t waste his time getting here early.”

Chad and Roland took a long beat to survey the ornately carved grandfather clock, roped off beside our tables. Since the crowd for tonight had started arriving, a uniformed security guard had also been placed on the far side of the high-priced antique item. He regularly put his hands out to approaching guests, as if warning them not to get too close. I had yet to see anyone try, so it seemed like overkill.

“We’re still starting the bidding at fifteen thousand?” Roland asked.

My eyes widened. I knew antiques were valuable, but fifteen thousand dollars for a starting bid? That seemed outrageous.

Chad scanned the room. “Yes. I don’t see many here that will actually bid on it, but the bank insisted they needed that price at a minimum.”

“The bank?” I asked.

Chad nodded. “This clock is from a foreclosure. Mayhew Bank delivered it this morning.”

My stomach hollowed at his words. A year ago, my husband, Cooper, had died in a fire in that very building. The bank had been completely restored since then, but the mention of it brought me back as though it had happened yesterday.

“A foreclosure?” Amber asked. “Like someone got kicked out of their mansion and lost all their expensive possessions?”

When she went on with more questions, I could tell she was only trying to deflect the conversation from me. I kept a pasted-on smile in place, but she knew me well enough that she could probably tell I was struggling to catch my breath.

“It’s from an estate,” Chad explained. “A local man had all sorts of expensive antiques from all over the world, but it turned out that he had spent money he didn’t really have. After he passed, his son, Ted, had to let the bank take most of it away to cover many years of back taxes.” Chad pointed across the room to a bald man in jeans and a black T-shirt that stretched tight over muscular arms. “That’s Ted there. I’ll bet he came to see who walks off with his dad’s clock.”

The man looked more like a nightclub bouncer than a man concerned with antiques, but perhaps the clock had a personal significance for him. The clock was a bit gaudy for my taste, with porcelain accents on each corner and every inch covered with detailed carving, but I still felt bad for the man who must have been grieving his father and yet had to deal with the loss of all of his possessions from a bank.

I looked around the large room again, which had filled considerably. The serious collectors were obvious. They studied items from different angles, bending down or leaning across ropes to get a better look. A couple of them even had magnifying glasses out, and I saw one man investigating what looked like a cake platter made from Vaseline glass. I’d learned about the uranium-infused glass during our last case, and I wondered what kind of price the platter would garner.

“Uncle Ben and Aunt Bertie are here,” Amber said. She didn’t make any move to go and say hello, and Ben and Bertie didn’t look terribly approachable, keeping their heads down and striding for some seats near the back section of chairs in the middle.

“Just awful what happened at their place.” Chad shook his head.

Word had finally gotten around town about the fatal tiger attack that had happened on their property a couple of weeks ago. Ben held a bid card on his lap, as Amber’s aunt and uncle were big collectors of antiques, but it looked as though they planned to get in and get out with zero chitchat tonight.

I didn’t recognize any of the other serious collectors from Honeysuckle Grove. “This Winston Blakely, is he local?” I asked, recalling the name of the man they expected to walk away with the grandfather clock tonight.

“I’d better go and get my notes ready.” Roland excused himself and headed for the podium on the stage, which left Chad to answer my question.

“Winston Blakely moved to Honeysuckle Grove in the summer to retire near his daughter. At least that’s the story he gave, but word has it, he still keeps a business office in a cabin behind his mansion, where he spends most of his time.”

“Does he deal in antiques?” I asked, surveying the expensive clock once again.

Chad chuckled. “Oh, no. That’s just a hobby. Mr. Blakely owns Juniper Mills.”

“The whole town?” I asked.

Chad shrugged. “Might as well. He owns the outlet mall there.”

I’d been shopping at Juniper Mills a couple of times. It was worth the hour-and-a-half drive for the two hundred stores it boasted.

Chad raised his eyebrows. “Word has it that he owns other properties around the area, too, although he’s pretty secretive as to which ones.”

This made me think again about the property I’d found under Cooper’s name on the Comptroller website. Cooper’s bigwig literary agent in New York had suggested I could just head down to the local title deeds office to find out more about the property and the ownership. I’d never bothered, as I figured it was probably just an error, but I wondered if a curious person couldn’t just do the same to find out more about this Winston Blakely’s business acquisitions.

“So you don’t think he’s actually retired?” I asked.

“Who knows.” Chad winked. “The way that man dresses and with his hard-as-nails personality, though? That makes me think he probably won’t retire before the day he dies.”

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