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Dead-end Weekend (A Mallory Beck and Tabitha Chase Large Print Mystery) - Exclusive to Denise Jaden Book Shop! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5.0 (3 ratings)

Dead-end Weekend (A Mallory Beck and Tabitha Chase Large Print Mystery) - Exclusive to Denise Jaden Book Shop! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5.0 (3 ratings)

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A standalone mystery combining the sleuthing efforts of Mallory Beck and Tabitha Chase!


Main Tropes

  • A seaside town
  • Three amateur sleuths working together
  • A spectacled cat named Sherlock


Mallory and Amber have their minds set on eating good food and visiting prospective colleges during their travels down the Oregon Coast, but when they come across a clue to a murder and yet another extraordinary sleuthing cat, they can’t leave town without investigating.

Thankfully, Tabby has been getting to know the town of Crystal Cove and its many idiosyncrasies. She and her cat Sherlock are already on the case, and each of these amateur sleuths will use their own unique skillset to get to the bottom of it.

As long-held town secrets are brought to light, with a murderer willing to do whatever it takes to bury them again, will Tabby, Mallory, Amber, and Sherlock all be able to escape with their lives? Buy this novella now to find out!

Intro Into Chapter One

Chapter One - Mallory

Amber had an unmatched perseverance when it came to wearing down the adults in her life. This trip, for example, had not been her mother’s choice of spring break outings. Helen Montrose wanted to keep her daughter close to home in West Virginia for college. Yet, here we are, traveling down the Oregon Coast to investigate every West Coast college that has a half-decent Forensic Science program.

In truth, Amber had little desire to spend four years on the West Coast, but neither of us had been here, and when Amber’s favorite cooking show, “Hidden Nooks that Cook”, featured several Oregon eateries, she came up with an elaborate college exploration plan that her mother wouldn’t be able to refute.

She had the cooking show’s website loaded onto her phone. “We have time before we can visit the University in San Jose. Let’s detour to the coast and hit up this special café that was featured last month.”

I agreed and as I drove, Amber read from her screen. “The Heirloom Café makes specialty coffees, delectable baked goods, and even sandwiches.”

We decided to arrive hungry.

The Heirloom Café sat in the middle of the main street of Crystal Cove. As we got out of our rental car, I looked both ways at the plethora of mystical souvenir shops. Amber would likely want to visit one or two after we ate.

I caught the café door behind her as she rushed forward toward a short-legged gray cat, arms open, saying, “Aw! Look, Mallory!”

“I’d be careful if I were you,” a red-haired barista called from behind the counter. “Sherlock’s not always the friendliest.”

But Amber already had the cat snuggled into her arms, scratching him under his chin as she told me, “I miss Hunch.”

Hunch had been my husband’s cat. Through our grief, we’d warmed up to one another, but like this cat, Hunch much preferred Amber’s company.

The barista was halfway around the counter barrier when she saw Amber getting along famously with the cat. She stopped and cocked a confused eyebrow.

I chuckled. “She’s practically inherited my cat, too. She has a way with them.” That was when I noticed the cat was wearing child-size eyeglasses. They were held onto his head by a gray piece of elastic, almost indistinguishable from his fur.

“Apparently.” The pretty twenty-something barista nodded. “Where are you two visiting from?”

“West Virginia.” My accent came out thicker than usual.

Her eyebrows launched higher. “Long ways. Is there a magic festival on this weekend I’m not aware of?”

“Magic festival?”

“Why else travel all the way across the country to our little community of Crystal Cove?”

Her question sounded rhetorical, but I answered it anyway. “We didn’t come for any sort of festival.” I followed the barista to the counter. “Actually, Amber follows a cooking show called ‘Hidden Nooks that Cook’”.

Redheads were notorious for blushing, and this girl was no different. Her face went so pink, I stopped talking for fear I’d said something wrong.

She finally spoke. “You didn’t come all the way from West Virginia because you heard about us on TV.”

I wasn’t sure if it was a question. In truth, we’d come to visit several eateries along the West Coast, but I understood this girl’s blushing. I hadn’t said something wrong. I’d said something she needed to hear.

“We are not your average foodies.” I motioned over my shoulder to Amber. She let the cat down and he led her over toward a bookcase of old-looking books with a sign that read $20 EACH. “And this girl’s been talking about your Sugar and Spice Mochaccino for a month.”

“I—” The barista was at a loss for words. “Is that what I can get you, then?”

I shrugged. “I’m pretty sure that’s what Amber would like. I’ll take whatever you recommend. Plus, whatever you suggest for lunch.” The poor girl seemed so nervous, I figured I’d better not mention our catering business back home. Today we were simply traveling foodies.

The barista backed away and scoured her baking display. I told her to let us know when it was ready and turned to the row of bookshelves.

But Amber was gone. I scanned the rest of the café, and finally spotted her around the corner of the counter, bent over a small table. The cat sat at her feet, staring up at her, but she had lost interest in him. As I moved closer, I could see handwritten notes and newspaper clippings strewn over the table, and a book Amber was thumbing through, at its center.

“Amber!” I hissed. Ever since we’d been helping our detective friend with investigations back at home, she’d been getting nosy, often having few boundaries when it came to other people’s stuff.

She held up a newspaper clipping that was used as a bookmark. “Come and take a look at this.”

I glanced to the barista. Even though there were prepared sandwiches in the baking display, she was making us fresh ones on her back counter. “That looks like someone’s private stuff,” I whispered. But at the same time, I tilted my head to see what had her so interested.

The word OBITUARY caught my eye.

“Sherlock led me over.” Amber looked to the cat. “Maybe he’s like Hunch and he senses something important.”

Important or morbid? My cat had a nose for investigative work, but he also had a preoccupation with death.

Amber plunked herself onto the linoleum floor and had the cat sitting between her legs like a human, facing her. “What do you know, Sherlock?” She could get Hunch into strange positions, too, without a single complaint out of him. She was some kind of cat whisperer.

I started to read the obituary, while Amber prattled on.

“I saw this book on the history of magic and thought of Seth, because of how he loved Harry Potter when we were kids, and wouldn’t this make a great gift?”

Amber’s brother Seth was cat-sitting for me while we were in Oregon, and I’d mentioned wanting to bring something home for him.

It wasn’t a good enough reason to snoop, in my opinion. I motioned toward the bookshelves across the café. “We should choose a book that’s actually for sale—”

“But wait.” She stood and ran her forefinger along a line in the obituary that started with Circumstances of death are still under investigation…

I pointed up near the top of the clipping. “This is from over a year ago, Amber. I’m sure the investigation was closed ages ago.”

“That’s what I thought.” She pulled a piece of note paper from under the book. “But then I saw this.”

The paper contained several scrawled notes, in point form:

  • Case still open? Why won’t Jay talk about it?
  • Blue crystals, missing from Evening Treasures?
  • Stephen Saunders in love with Lizzie? Or another of Marigold’s rumors?
  • What did Aunt Lizzie know?

I skimmed the obituary for connections. Stephen Saunders was the name of the deceased. He’d owned a souvenir store called Evening Treasures. The obituary had also mentioned the town’s namesake, blue crystals.

“And look at this article.” Amber said. The heading read: “Foul play suspected in Saunders’ Drowning.”

However, when I skimmed the article, it was filled with journalistic rhetoric and no real information. Before my husband Cooper died, I used to do a lot of the research for his mystery novels. I was pretty quick at finding important details in large texts.

Amber pointed at another headline, convinced that we were going to find the breadcrumbs that would lead us to solving this long-cold crime, but by the third news clipping, I accepted that there wasn’t any factual basis for suspicion of foul play. At least none that was being shared in the local paper.

“This guy was a souvenir shop owner in town,” I said to Amber, “it seems like a sensationalized story to me, to stir up some excitement in this sleepy town.”

I had barely turned back to the book when the barista was suddenly there, on the other side of the small table, slapping the book closed, causing all the notes atop the table to flutter. Some fell to the floor and the barista scrambled to gather them up. “Oh, I’m sorry! I really shouldn’t have left these out!”

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