Mix together a cocktail for murder, add a few salty suspects, toss in a dollop of sweet humor, and you have the recipe for Trimmed to Death, #15 in the Bad Hair Day cozy mystery series.
Savvy hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a charity bake-off contest at a fall festival sponsored by a local farm. While she waits to see if her coconut fudge pie is a winner, Marla joins a scavenger hunt where people playing character roles are the targets. Instead of scoring points with a live person, she finds a dead body planted face-down in the strawberry field. Who would want to cut short the life of food magazine publisher and fellow bake-off contestant Francine Dodger? As she investigates, Marla learns there’s no shortage of suspects. A celebrity TV chef, food critic, olive oil importer, food truck owner, pastry chef, and cookbook author may be stirring up more than their next recipe. Can Marla unmask the killer before someone else gets trimmed from life?
Tree of Life by Nancy J. Cohen
“Lots of cultures have a tree of life,” hairstylist Marla Vail tells her husband in Trimmed to Death, the latest title in the Bad Hair Day mystery series. Marla has read a note from a suspect telling the victim to meet him that night at the tree of life. But what is it and where is it located? Marla’s detective husband, Dalton, researches the role of certain trees in mythology. Here’s what he learns:
In Asia, the banyan tree features in their creation stories, folklore and fertility rites. The banyan is the national tree of India, where it plays a sacred role in ancient myths. We know it as the strangler fig, because it wraps its branches around other tree trunks and strangles them. Normally, banyans grow from seeds dropped onto tree canopies by birds and mammals. The seedlings send down aerial roots. These woody vines encase and smother their host trees. In the United States, Thomas Edison planted the first banyan tree in Fort Myers in 1925. This specimen, grown from a seedling, now covers over one acre of the estate.
As for the fruit, birds and bats eat the figs and spread the seeds through their droppings. The banyan tree is pollinated by its own species of wasps that breed inside the figs. The trees must produce figs year-round to ensure these pollinator wasps survive. As a source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, figs support many species of wildlife.
Compounds in fig bark, leaves, roots, and latex may be effective against bacteria, parasites, and tumors. A famous example of the healing power of figs is in the Bible. Hezekiah, King of Judah, was sick with a plague of boils, but he recovered after his servants applied a paste of crushed figs to his skin.
Since the suspect in our story is an Egyptologist, Dalton looks to see if banyan trees were important to ancient Egyptians. He learns the acacia tree was their Tree of Life. According to legend, Osiris was born from an Acacia Nilotica tree, and he’s believed to live inside the spirit of these trees. It’s also called the gum arabic tree. Supposedly, the tree that God set on fire in front of Moses was an acacia tree. The famous Ark of the Covenant may have been made from this wood. Acacia trees grow along the Nile River and are the source of a chemical compound called Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT. Amazonians use it in a drink with shamanic rituals to produce a mind-altering experience.
Without acacia trees nearby, it’s more likely the meeting place in the story is a hollowed-out banyan tree at a nearby park. Here’s what Marla and Dalton plan to do with this information:
Dalton put aside his laptop, stood, and stretched. “If people are gathering at the park tonight, I should talk to them. They might have known Francine.”
“You’re not going alone. I’ll come as your cover story in case you run into trouble. Who would question a couple out for a romantic stroll in the moonlight?”
“No way. It could be dangerous.”
“Exactly. You need me as backup. No arguments, Dalton. We’re a team, remember?”
He glanced heavenward, as though seeking guidance. “I doubt I’ll dissuade you, so you can join me, but you’ll head back to the car immediately if the situation goes south.”
As a writer, I like to learn something new and different with each story. That’s what makes the mystery unique for me. And I figure if this information interests me, hopefully my readers will enjoy the topic as well.
Readers – Do you like learning something new in each story?
About The Author
Nancy J. Cohen writes the humorous Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring hairdresser Marla Vail, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Several titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list. Nancy is also the author of Writing the Cozy Mystery, a valuable instructional guide on how to write a winning whodunit. Her imaginative romances, including the Drift Lords series, have proven popular with fans as well. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, she enjoys fine dining, theme parks, cruising, and outlet shopping.
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