My alarm went off. I sat up and had a moment of complete disorientation. Where the heck was I? Nothing seemed right. The window was on the wrong side of the room. The bed was too darned small. Who still had a poster of the cat hanging on a tree branch on their walls?

Oh, that was right. I did. I was back in the room I’d left before the ink was even dry on my high school diploma. It was practically a time capsule. Everything was exactly the way I left it. Pink gingham and ruffles and all.

Except, of course, nothing was the same. Not since my father disappeared into the ocean and we had to face the fact that he was never coming back. Not since my sister lost the baby she was carrying. Not since I managed to offend everyone in the greater Los Angeles area with an on-air rant that went viral.

I threw off the sheets and faced the day. I supposed I should be grateful. We dealt every day with people who were no longer going to be facing theirs at Turner Family Funeral Home. Turners have been helping bury the people of Verbena, California since Great-Grandpa Harrison made his way here on a wagon train and set up shop. I’d been the black sheep, the one that got away, the ingrate who wanted nothing — and I do mean nothing — to do with the family business. Yet here I was. Back in Verbena wearing beige suits and neutral pantyhose and ushering the local population through final arrangements for their loved ones.

It was tougher than I’d expected. Yesterday I had been unable to stop a fistfight from breaking out at the funeral of Delia Burns. I’d had to call 911 for help. Miss Delia had done nothing to warrant such a send-off. After eighty-seven years, she’d slipped away in her sleep of what my grandfather used to call the blessed heart attack leaving behind two nephews who adored her and a recipe for pie crust no one could beat. No. This all had to do with a dead emu and feuding neighbors. With any luck, everyone would forget about it. Not that many people had been there to witness it, after all. It was going to be a case of least said, soonest mended.

I stumbled into the kitchen, grabbed a cup of coffee, retrieved the Verbena Free Press from the back porch, settled down at the table and opened the paper. There it was. All over the front page.

Female Fisticuffs at Funeral Home

Two Verbena women were arrested Friday afternoon on charges of disturbing the peace and assault and battery. Lola Hansen and Rosemarie Brewer were both attending the funeral of Miss Delia Burns (see obituary on page B4) when an argument began between the two women. The situation escalated quickly into a physical altercation. Witnesses say that while it was Ms. Brewer that made the first move by pushing Ms. Hansen backwards over a chair, Ms. Hansen held her own in the scuffle and landed several sound punches. Police arrived before a definitive victor could be called.

Desiree Turner, Assistant Funeral Director at Turner Family Home, declined to comment on the incident for this report. Ms. Turner returned to her family business recently to assume the position of Assistant Funeral Director, after leaving her position as an on-air reporter for KLVX-TV in Los Angeles. No other fistfights are on record as having occurred at the funeral home prior to her assumption of that position.

I put my head down and knocked it gently against the table.


You can read more about Desiree in A Grave Issue, the first book in the NEW “Funeral Parlor” mystery series.

After an on-air gaffe goes viral and jeopardizes her career, journalist Desiree Turner retreats home to Verbena, California for some peace and quiet. She begins working one of the quietest jobs around: presiding over funerals for her great-grandfather’s funeral parlor. But the action seems to follow her as a fistfight breaks out between neighbors Rosemarie Brewer and Lola Hansen at one of the first funerals she’s in charge of running. It exposes a nasty dispute and Rosemarie’s husband, Alan, is found murdered shortly after.

Lola’s husband, Kyle, is immediately arrested. Desiree, whose own father’s death was devastating, has always viewed Kyle as a second father. Determined to clear his name, Desiree jumps head first into the investigation and quickly discovers that Alan had several unsavory habits at his job and in his personal life, including putting assets into his mistress’s account to hide them from Rosemarie. People murder for money and love all the time, and there’s no telling who he offended just enough to push them over the edge.

Desiree is looking in all the right places, but she better catch the killer fast before they come for her next in A Grave Issue, the clever series debut by Lillian Bell.

Purchase Link
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About the author
Lillian Bell is the author of the Funeral Parlor Mysteries published by Crooked Lane Books. As Kristi Abbott, she is the author of the Popcorn Shop Mysteries published by Berkley Prime Crime. She also writes as Eileen Rendahl and Eileen Carr. Lillian lives and writes in northern California.

All comments are welcomed.

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