It’s a little after 5 a.m. and the kitchen is already filled with the rich scent of dark chocolate brownies mingling with the yeasty aroma of whole wheat bread. I’m Sophie and I own Riverbend Café in Kellerton, Michigan. I’m a pastry chef and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how well my business is doing. What started out as a small coffee shop a year ago has expanded to a large, full-fledged café with a brand new catering division. All of my employees are wonderful, especially my friend Amy.
Amy is a bit of a star in our small town. She loves to compete in cooking competitions. There is a trophy case in her living room that is a testament to how well she does. When I decided to expand the café’s menu, to go along with the added dining space, Amy was my menu consultant. Then she signed on to be my early morning prep partner.
Every morning I look forward to chatting with her while I make bread dough. Amy is usually in charge of baking brownies and quick breads, like the beer bread we customize with things like cheese, olives or even roasted vegetables. After all of those things are in the ovens the baked doughnuts are next on the daily agenda. They have become the café’s most popular treat, selling out every day. In fact, Amy’s best friend, Carla, has requested those instead of a wedding cake.
Usually our pre-dawn chats are light and cheerful, but the conversations have turned darker lately. There was a murder across the street from the café at the menswear shop my boyfriend owns. Of course he’s upset over losing his business partner, but there are many more downtown businesses having problems. The summer shopping season, which is usually filled with happy customers strolling along the sidewalks in the sunshine, is off to a frightening start. Everybody is stressed out, even the police officer who is investigating the murder. He happens to be the fiancé of Amy’s friend. While Amy is helping plan the wedding, he’s trying to solve the murder before his honeymoon. I’m hoping the added incentive to solve the case quickly will lead him to catch the killer soon. Every morning it gets more difficult for me to pretend everything is okay.
You can read more about Sophie in Doughnuts & Deadly Schemes, the third book in the “Culinary Competition” mystery series, published by Gemma Halliday Publishing. The first two books in the series are Pies & Peril and Chicken Soup & Homicide.
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About the Author:
Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications. You can stop by her website at: www.janelgradowski.com.