In a charming cozy mystery series debut, Leslie Nagel’s irrepressible small-town heroine finds that her fellow mystery bookclub members may be taking their Agatha Christie a bit too literally—and murder a bit too lightly.
Charley Carpenter has poured heart and soul into her clothing store, Old Hat Vintage Fashions. She’ll do anything to make it a success—even join the stuffy Agatha’s Book Club in order to cultivate customers among the wealthy elite of Oakwood, Ohio.
Although mixing with the most influential women in town has its advantages, Charley finds the endless gossip a high price to pay. But after two women with close ties to the Agatha’s are brutally murdered, everyone falls under threat—and suspicion. When key evidence indicates that both murders are the work of the same hand, Charley realizes that the killer has arranged each corpse in perfect imitation of crime scenes from the Club’s murder mystery reading list. She uses her membership in the Club to convince Detective Marcus Trenault to use her as an inside informant. Not that he could stop her anyway.
Intelligent, fearless, and every bit as stubborn as Marc is, Charley soon learns the Agatha’s aren’t the only ones with secrets to protect. Passions explode as she and Marc must race against time to prevent another murder. And if Charley’s not careful, she may find herself becoming the killer’s next plot twist.
Email Sent: April 21, 11:49 p.m.
To: Francesca Cartolano Bright <Brightgirl@hotfox.com>
From: Charlotte Elizabeth Carpenter <Charley@oldhat.com>
Subject: Agathas Update
Hey, Short Stuff!
When your husband first proposed extending your trip to Hawaii to include a visit to his grandparents in Vietnam, I was the first to champion the idea. You’ve been married almost five years, after all. Time to face the dragon. Seriously, I’m sure they’re going to love all curly headed, five foot nothing of you. Just don’t dump ketchup in your pho.
Sadly for me, I was too busy championing to realize you’d be missing an official meeting of the Agathas Murder Mystery Book Club (cue the creepy organ music). I was left to face the disapproval of Chairwoman Extraordinaire Midge single handedly. I know for a fact you told her you’d be out of town, but she acted as if John arranged the trip on purpose to inconvenience her. Or maybe she was peeved you didn’t send an engraved apology on monogrammed stationery. Who knows? We all endured plenty of thin lips and long suffering sighs about wasted food and inadequate critique of the book. And whose fault is it that membership in the Agathas is down from thirteen to eight? Physician, heal thyself.
Her Midge-ness worked through most of her ire by bossing the living daylights out of poor Wilson. That woman is a nervous wreck. I wonder what’s eating her? Jelly says Robert hardly lets Wilson go anywhere except Book Club and yoga classes at the Community Center, poor thing. Jelly’s the nosiest gossip in Oakwood, but this time I’m glad she said something. When you get home let’s try to coax Wilson out for a day with the girls, okay? I think she could use a friend before she does something desperate.
You missed a great presentation. We read the new Stephanie Plum mystery; it’s hilarious, but that’s not the best part. Kitty was presenting, and she has this unexpected flair for the dramatic. She showed up wearing about forty pounds of jewelry—okay, not that unusual. But then she dramatized a chapter from the book, playing all the characters. When she started in as Grandma Mazur, I nearly wet my pants! Picture our posh, sophisticated snobby fashionista waddling around with a huge purse over one arm, talking in a New Jersey rasp and swearing a blue streak. It was brilliant. Even Reggie stopped drinking long enough to pay attention for once. Lindy and I decided it was the best Agathas meeting ever. Sorry, girlfriend. Not trying to make you jealous (but you totally should be).
Although when Q&A turned to a discussion of murder by strangulation, I was ready to bail out. Seriously, a couple of people seemed way too into it. Are we weird for loving murder so much?
My dad’s recovering from his latest stroke, but it’s a slow process. Lawrence has officially moved into the small bedroom, because Daddy’s probably never going to get out of that wheelchair.
That was unbelievably difficult to write. It’s as if putting it into words makes it real. I don’t know what I’d do without Lawrence. The man is an absolute rock, and he loves his former Coach almost as much as I do. Poor Daddy. He struggles so hard to make himself understood. We’re starting with a new speech therapist next week, so hopefully that helps.
I miss you. Can’t believe you’re going to be gone another two weeks. L
Guess who I saw yesterday? I was working on my world famous display window which, as you know, has an excellent view of the Safety Building. Up pulls a squad car, lights but no sirens. First he gets out, followed by a uniformed officer escorting an extremely sketchy guy in handcuffs. Detective Marcus Trenault was in full cop mode, striding around like he owns the entire street, barking orders and generally fulfilling expectations. Not that this sleepy burg offers much in the way of crime for a former Chicago homicide hotshot.
No, he didn’t see me. And no, I’m not going to comment on his appearance, except to say that the man needs a haircut. Although it did strike me that he was working awfully hard at not glancing across the street. It was probably my imagination. STOP. If you just said “…or wishful thinking…” I’m going to punch your miniature Italian lights out when you get back. And then I’m going to make you treat me to lunch at Central Perc.
Speaking of my window, Heddy and I picked up some amazing finds for Old Hat at an estate sale in Springfield this weekend. I hit the mother lode on jewelry, and not a moment too soon. My vintage inventory definitely needed some fresh bling, especially with the big reunion this fall.
Holy crow, I forgot you missed the announcement at Book Club! You’ll never believe what Midge is up to now. She’s spearheading an Oakwood High School multiclass reunion, proceeds to benefit the Education Foundation. Talk about the devil and idle hands. But wait until you hear the theme. It’s Decades. Everyone’s supposed to dress in vintage wear to honor the school’s 100 year history. Can you believe it? I’m going to make a fortune.
What’s odd is that the party’s being held inside the school. Midge insisted, backed up by Wilson, of all people. They claim the nostalgia of walking the hallowed halls will loosen purse strings. Personally I think that old mausoleum is too spooky to be festive. It’s got more dead ends, shadowy hallways and staircases than Hogwarts. Hardly a gala setting. If you ask me, it looks more like a potential crime scene.
Crap, it’s nearly midnight. I’d better sign off. Some of us have to work for a living. Hugs and kisses to John, as well as to any eligible male cousins. Inability to speak English isn’t necessarily a deal breaker.
Love you for reals,
About The Author
Leslie Nagel is a writer and teacher of writing at a local community college. Her debut novel, “The BookClub Murders“, is the first in the Oakwood Mystery Series. Leslie lives in the all too real city of Oakwood, Ohio, where murders are rare but great stories lie thick on the ground. After the written word, her passions include her husband, her son and daughter, hiking, tennis and strong black coffee, not necessarily in that order.
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