By Cook or by CrookIf anyone had told me on my thirty-first birthday that a year later I’d be living with my grandfather in his ramshackle Victorian near the Chesapeake Bay, I’d have just laughed. Why would a woman with a drop-dead gorgeous fiancé and a dream job as a cookbook publicist leave Manhattan for a town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore? Impossible to imagine . . . until the fiancé and the job both went sour in a single weekend.

But I don’t want to talk about that. I have a new life in a historic town filled with tourists and retirees. They come here from Washington and Baltimore for boating, birding, fishing, antiquing, and hunting. They also come for the clean air with a salty tinge, the peaceful vistas over the water, and the local food—a fresh catch from the bay and the bounty from nearby farms.

Speaking of food . . . Besides catering to my crusty grandfather, I run the Cool Down Café at the Bayport Racket and Fitness Club. Stop by sometime. The café’s open for breakfast and lunch, serving homemade granola and biscotti, smoothies, salads, and sandwiches. I also make cookies and pies to replenish the calories that the exercise junkies have just worked off. The food is fresh and the conversation lively.

On a typical day, after I close the café, I work on my long-planned cookbook. My recipes use many fewer ingredients than celebrity chefs require for their gourmet creations. The average person can whip up any of my recipes in less time than it takes to watch a TV cooking show. But this wasn’t a typical day. I didn’t get to spend hours in the kitchen where my grandmother taught me to cook and where I feel closest to her in spirit.

When I first moved here, I figured Bayport would be deadly dull. Well, as of today, I’m half-right. Deadly, yes. Dull, no. This morning I found a body, a club member and café patron murdered with a bizarre and yet strangely apt weapon. I’d wager my second-best copper pan that no one else has ever been killed like that. Not even the writers of Castle have hit on this wacky way to dispose of someone. The murder method points clearly to a killer from the racket and fitness club, probably one of my café patrons.

Bethany, who helps me out in the café, told me I should solve the crime. She said, “The police here direct traffic and keep the tourists happy. What do they know about murder? Nobody ever gets murdered here. You lived in New York, and they have murders there all the time.” I hated to disillusion her, but during my ten years in the city, I never saw a dead body.

By nightfall, I was beginning to think Bethany was right. The police were focusing their investigation on the wrong person, a woman I’d go out on a limb to prove innocent. Also someone tried to kill me and make it look like an accident. Everyone told me I was paranoid, including the police. Then there’s the guy who showed up in town the day before the murder and came back today. I kinda like him even though my grandfather doesn’t trust him and says he looks like a hit man.

This wasn’t a typical day for Granddad either. Usually he watches old movies. Today he decided for the first time in 77 years to bake a cake and nearly collapsed from inhaling the smoke in the oven. His sudden urge to cook strikes me as suspicious. Maybe tomorrow I’ll solve that mystery and figure out who murdered someone with a . . . Sorry. Gotta go. The chief suspect is at my door.

You can read more about Val in By Cook or By Crook, the first book in the new Five-Ingredient Mystery Series, published by Kensington.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on November 11 for the chance to win a copy of BY COOK OR BY CROOK. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

Meet the author
Maya Corrigan lives near Washington, D.C., within easy driving distance of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the setting for MayaCher Five-Ingredient Mystery series. She has taught courses in writing, detective fiction, and American literature at Georgetown University and NOVA community college. A winner of the 2013 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in unpublished Mystery and Suspense, she has short stories published under her full name of Mary Ann Corrigan. Her website features trivia and quizzes on mysteries.

Visit Maya at her website or on Facebook

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