My days start early, at dawn or well before depending on the season. My husband, Barr, stirs awake beside me unless he’s already left for work or hasn’t even made it home yet. The hours of a police detective can get a little crazy even in a small town like Cadyville, Washington. Maybe especially because it’s a small town, since the force is so limited – and let’s face it: Cadyville does seem to have a disproportionate amount of murder and mayhem.
I ought to know. My propensity for stumbling across dead bodies and the like is becoming a bit of a joke among my family and friends.
Mind you, I’m not laughing. Sheesh.
Barr and I come down from our tiny newlywed apartment on the second floor of the house we share with my best friend Meghan Bly and her daughter, Erin, to have breakfast with them in the big kitchen. Brodie, Erin’s old Pembroke Welsh corgi, is there as well, of course. He wouldn’t miss the chance to beg for a scrap of bacon for the world. He usually gets it, too.
Then Erin’s off to middle school, Barr is off to work, and Meghan starts prepping for her first massage client. I head downstairs to the basement. It’s part kitchen, part office, part supply room, part mailing center, and the nexus of my business, Winding Road Bath Products. With the help of my teenage employees Cyan Waters and Kyla Farid, I manufacture and sell handmade soaps, bath salts, lip balms, foot scrubs and the like.
I absolutely love working for myself and working from home. That Meghan does as well – her massage room used to be the parlor in our old Victorian – adds an extra bonus. We may go all day without seeing each other, but our time is flexible so we can pop into the kitchen to put a newly risen loaf of bread in the oven, take a break to weed one of the raised garden beds in the backyard, check on the chickens, and be around when Erin comes home from school. It takes extra time to cook as much as we do from scratch, and it’s nice to be able to work together to keep our home rich with good smells, good food, and good fun.
When I first developed an interest in old-fashioned colonial skills – it began with the soap making – I never dreamed they could be so deadly. First someone died from drinking lye, then someone else kicked off from eating home canned food tainted with botulism, and then someone used my very first skein of homespun yarn to strangle their victim. It didn’t stop there, of course, and this latest case of murder was a doozy.
I mean, really: a body buried in the compost heap at our local Community Supported Agriculture farm? Really?
Yep. That’s what happened – only this time it was Meghan who found the body. Believe me, as sweet and gentle and all-zenlike as Meghan usually is, she was very unhappy with me about that.
Like it was my fault.
Anyway, by now the police department is kind of used to my involvement, however peripherally, in some of their cases. I’m not saying they like it, especially my dearly beloved, but it’s not exactly a shock. But this time I really wanted to stay out of things. Barr and I were trying to get pregnant, and just the process of that (well, not the process itself, if you know what I mean), but all the talking and thinking about having a child gave me pause. Things would change with a new addition.
But then I found out something about how the murder victim died, and I had to help if I could. Busy though my days typically are, I was able to find time to ask questions and track down information. As usual, Meghan stepped in more on the domestic front to free up even more of my time. In the end we brought a killer to justice between gardening, soap making, cooking, working for our vegetable share at the CSA farm and preserving the organic vegetable harvest for winter.
Am I a lucky woman or what? And by the way, it does look like there will be a new addition – or two – to the Bly/Ambrose household!
You can read more about Sophie Mae in Deadly Row to Hoe, the sixth book in the “Home Crafting” mystery series. The first book in the series is Lye in Wait.
** Thanks to the publisher, I have one (1) copy of DEADLY ROW TO HOE to give away. Contest open to US and Canadian residents only and ends November 18. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. The book will be shipped directly from the publisher. **
Meet the author
A former resident of the Pacific Northwest where her Home Crafting Mysteries are set, Cricket McRae has always dabbled in traditional colonial skills. The magical chemistry of making soap, the satisfaction of canning garden produce, and the sensuous side of fiber arts like spinning and knitting are just a few of the reasons these activities have fascinated her since childhood. As a girl she was as much a fan of Nancy Drew as of Laura Ingalls Wilder, so it’s no surprise that her contemporary cozy series features a soap maker with a nose for investigation.
Cricket also writes the Magical Bakery Mysteries as Bailey Cates. The second in that series, Bewitched, Bothered and Biscotti will release this December. For more information go to www.cricketmcrae.com.
Books are available at retail and online booksellers.