I’m so excited to once again reveal the cover for the next book in the “Cherry Tucker” mystery series.
Cherry Tucker’s sixth full novel, A Composition in Murder, launches November 15, 2016. With a short story in a Halloween anthology coming this fall, that will make eight Cherry Tucker stories (six books, 2 novellas) in four years. What an exciting ride it’s been and it’s all due to my readers. Thank you! I feel so privileged to share the cover with y’all, particularly on dru’s book musings. I feel like I’ve gotten to know so many of you over the last four years and I’m feeling sentimental doing this once again!
In A Composition in Murder, when Cherry Tucker volunteers to teach art at Halo’s poshest independent living home, Halo House, she’s trying her best to stay out of trouble. However, what can a nosy girl do when Halo House’s most famous resident Belvia Brakeman, the ninety-year-old CEO of Meemaw’s Tea, confides in Cherry that the family tea empire is in jeopardy and asks for help? Belvia suspects her daughter, the COO, has been murdered and she might be next. Cherry once again finds herself involved in a hometown whodunit, where the secret recipe for tea might just involve poison.
I chose a posh senior residency for the setting in Cherry’s sixth caper because growing up in a small town, I knew more elderly people than kids my own age. I grew up listening to small town stories at my Nana’s, my next door neighbor, and from other folks in my hometown. My Grandpa Bun was a master storyteller. But the best stories came from asking questions. You learn a lot about history, psychology, and storytelling when you ask your elders about their past.
Fair warning, A Composition in Murder is no story where the seniors are sick, feeble, and helpless. They’re not even that sweet. In fact, at Halo House, Cherry finds the friendly rapport of likeminded people she’s missed since college. She also finds that older doesn’t always mean wiser. Nor does it mean innocent.
Here’s a sneak peek from a scene at Halo House’s bar, the Last Call, to make my point.
The Last Call looked like a typical hotel bar. Adjoined to Halo House’s fine dining space, the bar and restaurant were open to the public, although neither were advertised in the local phone directory under “Eating Establishments.” Halo House also had a twenty-hour deli (open four a.m. to midnight), a pool bar, and room service.
“I am telling you,” I said, hopping on to a leather bar stool. “Halo House is something else. Always someone to talk to. Lots going on. Buses that take you anywhere you want to go. I just love it to death.”
“Don’t say that too loudly around here.” The bartender, a retirement-aged woman with frosted tips in her burgundy hair, had a surprisingly edgy north of the sweet tea line accent. She flashed a look around the walker and cane set, playing cards and chatting at the cocktail tables. “Or at least don’t shout it.”
She extended her hand. “I’m Rosie. You look familiar. Whose granddaughter are you?”
“I’m Cherry.” I shook her hand. “I’m Grandma Jo’s girl, but she isn’t here. Actually she passed ten years ago. Cancer.”
“So sorry. Had it myself and kicked its can in my fifties. I’m one of the lucky ones. What brings you to the Last Call?”
“Beer and company mostly. I’m teaching art here.”
“Right, you’re the painting lady. Heard that’s a popular class, although some are anxious to get to the good stuff.”
“Good stuff?” I considered the fundamentals I had covered. “We’ve done linear, one-point and two-point perspective. We’re working our way to line and plane variations using still life objects, but I thought they should master drapery to understand depth and shadow first. They’re probably anxious to get to the still lifes. Drawing cones and cubes can get tedious.”
“Sounds boring as hell, but I don’t do art.” Rosie pushed a beer toward me. “No, I’m talking about models.”
“Models? This is a fundamentals class, not a life drawing class.”
“Sweetheart, these ain’t the kind of folks who sign up for ‘Learn to Draw Tippy the Turtle’ in the back of a magazine. They like you well enough, but you’ve got to keep them interested.”
“They’re going to learn more than Tippy the Turtle in my class. Although if they are interested in illustration, I could adjust the course.” I floated a few pen and ink ideas around my brain as I sipped off my foam.
Rosie rolled her eyes. “There’s too much going on at Halo House. I heard there’s a hot yoga class starting. Those art students will drop you like a bad penny. They’ve got short attention spans when it comes to activities. Time’s precious here.”
My eyes widened. “I’ll lose my job. I can’t lose my job to something called hot yoga.”
“Don’t get all uppity with your art crap. I may be new to the area, but I’m a quick study. Just because these folks have money and a long history in the county, don’t mean they don’t want tacky titillation. They’ve lived a long time and they’re tired of minding their manners. They want a good time in their final years.”
“Making quality art is a good time.”
She poured a shot of bourbon in a wine glass and filled it with Diet Coke. “Let me show you something about quality in Halo House. People ’round here act snobbish at times, but money don’t buy good taste. Nor does it buy good sense.”
I leaned forward. I may draw the line between good and bad art, but I never drew a line when it came to hot gossip.
Rosie sipped on her cocktail and nodded toward a woman sitting in a corner by herself. She smiled and waved as people walked by, but seemed content to sit by herself and watch the scene. “That’s Eleanor.”
“She looks lonely.” I turned on my stool. “I should sit with her a bit.”
“She’s not lonely, she’s stoned out of her mind.”
“The poor thing. Is it her medication?”
Rosie chuckled. “Eleanor calls it medication. When I was growing up, we called it reefer.”
I swiveled around and almost knocked my beer over. “She’s high?”
“Not only does she roll her own, she grows her own.”
“The community garden.”
A waiter strolled through the bar from the restaurant and deposited a basket of chips and a side of guacamole in front of Eleanor. She high-fived the waiter and dug into the chips.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” I admitted. “Grandma Jo was a strict Southern Baptist. She wouldn’t even try her sister’s homemade muscadine wine. Now Grandpa Ed has been known to dip from time to time and will drink a beer at a ball game, but that’s as far as he got on the controlled substance list.”
“Poor kid.” Rosie snorted. “Do you think your generation was the first to shock their parents? Just because you’re old, doesn’t mean you’re as straight-laced as your Granny. Hell, there’s plenty of baby boomers in Halo House. That should tell you something.”
I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to tell me, but I would give Rosie the benefit.
“What else is going on at Halo House?” I swung around on my stool to observe the crowd.
A couple had put some money in an old fashioned jukebox and were dancing to Tom Jones. Next to the jukebox a line of women had formed, some pointing out songs to their friends, others tapping their toes while they waited.
“That’s Two Dollar Frank,” said Rosie. “He’s one of our bachelors.”
“Two Dollar Frank?”
“Two bucks a dance. He makes mad money that way. And exercise to boot. He charges more for horizontal dancing, if you get my picture.”
“Good Lord. Halo House is like a college dorm. Where’s the keg hidden?”
Rosie smiled. “Now you’re getting the picture.”
Thanks so much Dru Ann for celebrating my cover reveal with me! To catch you up on the series before A Composition in Murder’s November release, I’d like to offer a Cherry Tucker Kindle or Nook e-book to one lucky commenter. Who was the senior in your life who told you the best stories of their past?
About the author
A 2015 Georgia Author of the Year Best Mystery finalist, Larissa writes the Cherry Tucker Mystery series. The first in the series, Portrait of a Dead Guy (2012), is a 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist, 2012 The Emily finalist, and 2011 Dixie Kane Memorial winner. The sixth mystery, A Composition in Murder, is expected to release November 15, 2016. Her family and Cairn Terrier, Biscuit, now live in Nagoya, Japan, but still calls Georgia home. Visit her website, find her chatting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads, or join her Facebook street team, The Mystery Minions.
Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win. The giveaway will end July 25, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!