Is it June? It must be, because this week we have a limited-edition collection of 25 wedding stories! Some of them are cozy mysteries and others are crime fiction, so something for everyone! I love these collections and have been a part of many anthologies. So let’s find our place in the church, pick your side, bride or groom, and let’s get going with Malice, Matrimony and Murder.
Everyone loves a good wedding–and a good mystery. Combine the two and what do you get? Malice, Matrimony, and Murder!
Over two dozen authors have teamed up to offer you this wedding-themed collection of brand-new cozy mystery and cozy crime fiction stories that will keep you wondering whodunit and what’s next from the first page to the last. Between bad bridesmaids, conniving caterers, greedy guests, ill-mannered in-laws, savvy sleuths, and vengeful villains, this anthology has it all! All of the stories are clean and fun, with a general feel-good tone. If you read to be entertained, surprised, and uplifted, then this collection is for you!
Plus, the anthology as a whole contains an overarching wedding whodunit woven throughout. As you’re reading, collect the clues, identify whodunit, and access a special ebook filled with bonuses and extras. Inside you’ll find recipes, character interviews, bonus stories, and more!
If you’re drawn to shorter mysteries that are light on gore and language, and high on humor, entertainment, and happy endings, then you don’t want to miss out on Malice, Matrimony, and Murder. But this collection is only available for a limited-time, so grab it now before it’s gone forever!
– “The Groom’s Club” by Joslyn Chase.
– “A Wedding Planner’s Nightmare: A Persimmon Worthing Mystery” by Charlotte Morganti.
– “Cinderella at Midnight” by P.M. Raymond.
– “Ring Robbery: A Cozy Cat Caper Mystery Short” by Paige Sleuth.
– “What’s a Little Murder Between Friends” by Teresa Inge.
– “Icing on the Cake” by Sally Milliken.
– “Love and Death in Madison, Georgia” by Rebecca Olmstead.
– “Second Chances Are…Murder: A Vermont Radio Mystery” by Nikki Knight.
– “Wedding Vows & Vipers” by Shari Held.
– “The Bride Wore Death” by Barbara Howard.
– “Chill: A Naomi Sinclair Short Story” by Ashley-Ruth M. Bernier.
– “A Bit of a Do” by KD Sherrinford.
– “Goes Around” by Stephen D. Rogers.
– “Jilted” by Elaine Togneri.
– “Sabotage and a Murder Mystery” by Lynn Hesse.
– “Til Death Do Us Part” by Margaret S. Hamilton.
– “A Wedding Most Bitter: A Lara’s Detective Agency Series” by Stella Oni.
– “Better Late Than Murdered” by Robert Petyo.
– “Charm City Wedding” by Pamela Kyel.
– “The Other Wedding Crasher” by Karen McCullough.
– “Marriage, Neighbors and Best Friends: A Wally and Ollie Series” by Wil A. Emerson.
– “The Wedding Dress in the Middle of the Road” by Jack Bates.
– “Death, the Unwanted Wedding Guest” by J. Aquino.
– “We Haven’t Had Cake” by Sharyn Kolberg.
– “To Have and To Scold” by Becky Clark.
Excerpts from The Wedding Dress in the Middle of the Road, and Till Death Do Us Part
The Wedding Dress in the Middle of the Road (Excerpt: 693 words)
by Jack Bates
Bix gunned the engine, taking the serpentine curves at a higher speed than I felt comfortable. I slapped my hands on the dash above the glove box to brace myself, squeezed my eyes shut, and demanded he slow down. Instead, he abruptly stopped. The inertia jerked me forward in my seat. My stretched-out arms locked in the same instant the safety belt locked over my chest.
“Bix! Who taught you how to drive like that?”
I clearly didn’t have whiplash as I could turn my head to face him.
“Is this about what I think it’s about because if it is this isn’t the time or the place—”
“No, Cori, you don’t understand. Get out and look at the front of the car.”
“Did we hit something?”
“I don’t think so. Let me back up a little.”
Bix dropped the gear shift into reverse, eased up on the brakes then gently stopped, putting the car in park.
“Okay. Now you can get out.”
“So help me, Bix. If this is some kind of prank—”
“Cori. Go look.”
I sat back and undid my safety belt. My lungs quickly responded to being freed from the tight restraint. I opened the door. Long, rutty, puddles of wet stone and mud loomed outside the car. An afternoon of showers left the washboard road a mucky mess.
“Are you getting out?” Bix asked.
I looked at my shoes. My ‘wonderfully perfect for the wedding’ shoes. For once my toes would not be pinched. My arches would not be punished. My dogs would not be barking at me on the dance floor.
“For a private detective, Cori, you calculate risk in a strange way. I’ve seen you get blood on your hands but now you’re backing away from a little mud.”
“You don’t understand. These are Nola Abernathy pumps.”
Bix capitulated. He sacrificed his own pair of nondescript, discount store loafers to retrieve the mysterious obstacle in front of the car. He bent down to pick up whatever he had stopped hard not to hit. When he stood straight, he held the item so I could see it.
He held the dress.
The dress designed by Christian Asaro exclusively for our client, Miriam Cavanaugh. The dress that had gone missing. The dress that connected the murder of Asaro’s assistant, Kelly Short, to an unfortunate incident from the past. There, in the glow of the headlights, Miriam Cavanaugh’s wedding dress drooped in Bix’s grasp, no longer able to bask in its celebrity.
“Behold the Miriam,” Bix said.
“Put it in the trunk and let’s go.”
“Oh, so now I can drive fast.” Bix flung the verbal jab at me as he bent inside the car to lift the rear door release. He straightened the dress over the recessed spare wheel and closed the hatch.
“Sorry about your shoes,” I said.
He shrugged. “I’m just glad the floormats are Rubber-Shields.”
“Taking the win where you can get it, as always.”
“It’s the little things.” He winked. “Buckle up.”
Rocks and mud ricocheted and spattered against the wheel well as the rear tires spun. The car fishtailed as it dug into the rain softened road. For an instant I feared we’d be stuck, and my lovely shoes would not be seen that afternoon. Bix’s skillful handling of the vehicle helped it find some traction. We were off to the Pine Shadow Country Club for the reception of the decade. Mr. Donald Bracken and Miss Miriam Cavanaugh had cordially invited friends, family, and giants in commerce and industry to celebrate their nuptials.
Bix and I were about to crash the festivities.
I’m certain more than one guest quietly shared the thought that Donald Bracken should have taken Miriam’s name seeing as how her side of the aisle accused him of marrying her simply to advance his career within her father’s automotive empire. Quite possibly Bracken’s side of the guest list thought the same.
And someone didn’t think they should be married at all.
Maybe that was the crack in the windshield, as my grandfather used to say, that shattered under the weight of so many secrets and lies.
* * *
Till Death Do Us Part
by Margaret S. Hamilton
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
In the early hours of Sunday morning, Poppy Mather’s cell phone chimed. She squinted at the screen—Lou Weller, her favorite wedding planner. Poppy growled a response. “This had better be a compliment about my fabulous wedding cake.”
Lou gabbled an incomprehensible reply.
“Get a grip.” Poppy yawned. “What happened?”
“Your wedding cake poisoned all but one of the two hundred guests at the reception.”
“What?” Poppy sat up, her head pounding, regretting the last round of shots with her friends a few hours earlier. “How do you know it was my cake and not something else—raw oysters or cantaloupe?”
“Flowers were stuck in all the layers, with remnants of a small bouquet inserted on top. Poison Control told the EMTs toxins from the plant stems probably poisoned all the guests. Everyone started to vomit, and some of the elderly guests experienced a drop in their heart rates. We called the EMS and a fleet of taxis to take everybody to the emergency room. Fortunately, all the guests will recover.”
“That’s a relief.” Poppy sank against the pillows. “Lou, I delivered what the bride ordered, a four-tier cake covered with fondant icing with a decorative trellis design, plus a sugar flower topper. No fresh flowers of any kind. Sounds like they served a toxic substitute.”
Lou sniffled. “The cake I found in the kitchen had buttercream icing decorated with little fresh flowers. Though it didn’t resemble one of your cakes, I assumed the bride had changed her mind at the last minute. A member of the catering staff removed the flowers before serving it.”
Poppy climbed out of bed. “Are you still at the reception venue?”
“The police have interviewed me, and I’m headed to the ER to do damage control.”
“Before you leave, tell the police I’ll drive over with the original contract and photos of my completed cake.”
Poppy pulled on jeans and a sweatshirt and grabbed the cake contract the venue manager had initialed as a completed order. On her way out the door, she zapped a mug of cold coffee in the microwave. Taking a cautious sip, she added milk and poured the mixture into a travel mug.
She made the five-minute drive to the gray cedar-shingled sea captain’s home converted into a wedding venue and parked next to the hydrangea hedge. After identifying herself as the wedding cake baker, Poppy entered the commercial kitchen.
Officer Jess Taylor sat on a stool questioning a member of the catering staff. Poppy waved and leaned against the wall sipping her coffee. Jess acknowledged her and mouthed “five minutes.”
Soon, it was Poppy’s turn to tell her story. She showed Jess, her lifelong friend, the original cake contract and her photos.
“What do you think happened?” Jess asked, taking rapid notes.
“Someone must have switched the cakes. May I see what was served?”
Jess pointed to the other end of the kitchen. “Hurry up, before we bag it as evidence. Look, don’t touch.”
Poppy made her way through the kitchen and sniffed what was left of the cake. “Buttercream icing.” She wrinkled her nose. “Not made with butter and cream.” She circled around the cake. “And remnants of fresh lilies of the valley.” Poppy rejoined Jess. “This isn’t the cake I provided. Lou Weller told me someone stuffed fresh flower stems into all the layers. Toxic lilies of the valley. No wonder everyone who ate the cake became ill.” Poppy sagged onto a stool. “Every baker has unique ways of baking and decorating a cake. I don’t recognize the signature of the baker who made this cake. In my opinion, she’s not a professional.”
“How so?” Jess flipped to a clean page.
“The buttercream icing is disgusting. It’s not safe to taste, but I can tell it was made with cheap ingredients, not unsalted butter and heavy cream. The crumb texture’s off, and the layers aren’t properly constructed.” Poppy took a final gulp of coffee. “The short version of fresh flowers on a wedding cake is to use only certified, edible, organic flowers, free of pesticides. Not toxic lilies of the valley from someone’s garden.” Drumming her fingers on the counter, she asked, “Mind if I snoop around?”