Life in McKinlay Mill is pretty predictable. Even more so in the little shopping district known as Victoria Square. That’s where I work. I own an arts and crafts arcade known as Artisans Alley. It’s filled with wonderful handcrafted items made (or refurbished) by the vendors who rent space from me. The Alley, as I like to call it, was once an old applesauce factory back in the early 20th century. It’s seen a lot of wear and tear, but this past year or so my vendors have done a wonderful job of making the old place look pleasing to the eye. I’ve even got a squad of volunteers who help me keep the landscaping up to snuff.
Victoria Square got its name from the old Victorian mansion that sits on the far end of the square. (Land that was once the front lawn of the house.) The poor thing is rather ramshackle, but I’ve had my eye on it for a long time, longing to turn it into an upscale bed and breakfast. Someone will eventually take that diamond in the rough and turn it into a tiara. And if I have my way, it’ll be me.
The Square also is home to a charming little tea shop, a bakery, a chocolatier, a jam maker, a gourmet basket shop, an angel shop, a quilt shop, a wine shop and, of all things, a not-so-Victoria pizza parlor. Still, it’s a lovely charming place, and I’m happy to call the other merchants my friends.
Since I love to bake, I often get up early to make a treat for my vendors. During a hot summer day, it might be something that doesn’t involve an oven—like marshmallow treats. But at least in the early morning my apartment over the pizza parlor isn’t quite so hot. I enjoy that quiet part of the day, because who knows what kind of mischief will befall me once I open Artisans Alley for the day.
And of course, all bets are off if I find someone dead. Not that it happens often, but I have found a body or two I my time.
The day is winding down. Peace has descended over Victoria Square. As I gaze out of the window, I see the last bits of sunlight on Wood U … the gift shop that sells wooden crafts and small furniture.
Wait a minute … that’s not sunlight. It’s fire!
ONE HOT MURDER: At the height of the heat wave, a tragic fire strikes Victoria Square. Wood U, a small store selling wooden gifts and small furniture, is destroyed. But the fire may just be a smokescreen—for murder. Because a body is found among the charred wreckage—and the victim didn’t die from smoke inhalation. He was shot. Now—despite making Detective Ray Davenport hot under the collar—Katie is determined to smoke out a cold-hearted killer…
Meet the author
The immensely popular Booktown Mystery series is what put Lorraine Bartlett’s pen name Lorna Barrett on the New York Times Bestseller list, but it’s her talent — whether writing as Lorna, or L.L. Bartlett, or Lorraine Bartlett — that keeps her there. This multi-published, Agatha-nominated author pens the exciting Jeff Resnick Mysteries, as well as the acclaimed Victoria Square Mystery series, and has many short stories and novellas to her name(s). Check out the links to all her works here: www.lorrainebartlett.com