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KILLER IN THE KITCHEN
A Chesapeake Bay Mystery
BY JUDY L. MURRAY
KILLER IN THE KITCHEN – Book Two in the Award Winning Chesapeake Bay Mystery Series!
Murder is on the menu –
A celebrity chef poisoned
A bay town reeling
A sleuth pursued
Real estate rule #2: How to sell a house fast—offer a drop-dead kitchen.
When real estate pro Helen Morrisey’s bombshell daughter, Lizzie, a popular home shopping network host, invites her to meet an internationally famous chef, Helen jumps at the chance. What woman doesn’t want to shake hands with a celebrity and do a little shopping at the same time? Even more intriguing, this culinary superstar is about to sell his waterfront mansion and it’s her opportunity to talk business. After all, he couldn’t choose a sharper agent than Helen, could he? That’s a job that comes to a dead halt when she walks onto the TV kitchen of Cooking with Roberto to find his blood dripping bright red into his signature dish and her daughter collapsed beside him.
Detective Joe McAllister arrives to take charge and is none too pleased to find Helen asking his questions. Their on again, off again, romance might sour when she ignores his warnings. Undaunted, Helen calls on the personalities and special skills of her Detection Club of famous sleuths to stir this investigation pot. It doesn’t take long before the explosive ingredients of off-camera jealousy, competition, and nasty rumors create a recipe for disaster. Helen has to solve Roberto’s murder before more tempers boil over and they all get burned.
Another page-turner in Judy L. Murray’s Chesapeake Bay Mystery Series when murder is on the menu. Peril in the Pool House coming September 2023.
PRAISE FOR JUDY L. MURRAY and her Chesapeake Bay Mystery Series
“…plenty of romance, surprises, and a climax that’s quite the cliffhanger.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Engaging & Entertaining!” – Kings River Life Magazine
“A masterful job.” – Writers Who Kill Review
“A well-layered mystery…a little romance along with suspenseful storytelling.” – Books To The Ceiling Review
“A ‘couldn’t put it down’ mystery with an entertaining writing style, diverse characters, and a complex investigation to challenge my own inner Miss Marple.” – Kings River Life Magazine
“…if you are an avid reader of mysteries…you’ll want to get your hands on a copy of her first novel, Murder in the Master.” – APG Chesapeake Newspapers
The Chesapeake Bay Mystery Series Book One, Murder in the Master, introduced Helen Morrisey, a quick-tongued, gutsy, and mature woman long on loyalty and short on romance. A mystery story addict, Helen’s approach to solving problems was to call on the talents of her favorite, strong-minded female detectives within her own Detection Club, much like Agatha Christie formed in 1930.
Real estate rule #2—How to sell a house—Offer a drop-dead kitchen.
“Darn! Darn, darn, darn!” Helen stood up, pulled off her gardening gloves, and tossed them onto the driveway. She pushed her short swing of dark hair out of her green eyes and glared down at the nubs of leaves barely poking out of her flower bed. “Those darn deer! They eat everything!”
“Mom! Are you talking to yourself again?” Her daughter Lizzie poked her platinum head outside a window and looked down at her.
“I’m cursing at the deer. I’ve been trying to grow these Hostas ever since I moved out of Port Anne four years ago. I would think since I live in a state park, the deer could find plenty to eat other than my plants.”
“For heaven’s sake. Just because Dad’s gone doesn’t mean you’ve become the expert gardener. Since when did you grow a green thumb? It’s the end of August. Why don’t you just let them go? Besides, I’ve got a hot lead for you on a great house to sell. Come sit on the deck, and I’ll bring you a tall glass of iced tea. Interested?” Lizzie wiggled her dramatic eyebrows.
“Yes, to the iced tea. And maybe yes to the hot lead.” Helen dusted off the mulch stuck to her knees and picked up her trowel. She stepped back and squinted up at her daughter, her real estate agent antenna up and working. “Where’s the house? Remember the last goose chase you sent me on? I couldn’t decide which was worse, the pervy owner or his house that needed to be torched. He couldn’t understand why buyers didn’t want to see his tighty-whities drying on his oven handle.”
Her daughter laughed as she ducked her head back inside.
Helen walked around the house and onto her deck, the broad expanse of blue Chesapeake Bay and woods her back yard. She leaned against the rail that ran the length of her house and spotted an American eagle perusing the water for dinner. She could still hear her daughter chuckling from the kitchen. “Don’t be such a smarty pants. You knew a lead on a new client would suck me in. What’s the story?”
Lizzie handed her a glass before sprawling across the closest navy canvas chaise. “Do you remember Cooking with Roberto, the cooking show I host on ShopTV twice a week?”
Helen gave a cautious shrug. “I watch you as often as I can, but I really haven’t noticed your guest chef. Should I? You know I’m not into cooking shows.”
“Mom.” Lizzie gave her a condescending stare with her bright blue eyes.
“Everyone’s heard of Roberto Barto. He just got named Best Chef Mid- Atlantic by Gourmet Magazine. He has three of the hottest restaurants on the East Coast. One’s on the Rittenhouse in Philadelphia. One’s right on the Baltimore Inner Harbor. One’s here in Port Anne. People wait months for a reservation.”
“They must get awfully hungry.”
Lizzie let out an exasperated groan. “You don’t have to be a saucier to hear about Roberto. He’s the bay’s answer to Gordon Ramsay. He’s got everyone feasting on his ‘Taste the Chesapeake’ recipes. Blue crabs, oysters, and rockfish with Italian pastas.” Lizzie’s bright red fingernails made little quote marks in the air. “Three years ago, no one ever thought of Old Bay seasoned crab on top of angel hair pasta. He’s reinvented Chesapeake staples into five-star dining. His cookbooks are international bestsellers.”
Helen regarded her daughter’s frown. Lizzie was an expert in juggling famous guests to attract shopaholics at home. It made her a celebrity in her own right. “I realize being a Host on the biggest shopping channel means sell, sell, sell.”
“ShopTV has tripled its business since it bought out the BTB station.”
Helen took a sip of her iced tea and tilted her face toward the sun. “That still doesn’t mean I remember anything about him.”
“I never thought you would be so completely uninformed about a local restaurant. You may not like to cook, but you love to eat. He converted the old steakhouse right here in Port Anne to the Water Street Bistro ten months ago.”
“Okay, I admit I’ve heard his name. I never connected him to the bistro. That’s definitely the new hot spot,” Helen mused. “I treated Susan and Tammi there for their birthdays. We loved it.”
Lizzie gave another groan. “I even gave you one of Roberto’s custom Flying Pans we were selling last Christmas.”
“Was that his?” Helen furrowed her brows.
“It was my fruitless attempt at encouraging you to cook something for yourself besides Special K.”
Helen grinned. “I did like the color, eggplant.”
“Since when does Special K come in purple?”
“Very funny.” Helen sat down and kicked off her muddy orange Crocs.
“Laugh if you will, but his cookware is selling like hotcakes—pardon the pun. His partner, Adrian, invented a non-stick surface that’s threatening to put major brands out of business. Their coating is completely organic. No chemical compounds whatsoever, so all the foodies and health fanatics are crazy about their pans. I had a show with Roberto just this week. We sold 10,000 sets in less than thirty minutes. Right now, ShopTV thinks he’s a god.”
“Are you telling me this because he’s the one who wants to sell his house? I’m assuming there’s a connection. Now I’m interested.”
“Yup.” Lizzie followed her mother into the kitchen. Helen’s two cats, Trixie and Watson, trailed hopefully behind her. Her mother poked around in the refrigerator. She came out with a squished triangle of cheddar, a bruised apple, and a can of cat food. “Mom, his place is stunning. He bought it before he opened up the bistro. It’s right off Riding Cross, but you can’t see it from the road.”
Helen’s face brightened. “Riding Cross is a breathtaking spot. Horse farms on the water. I would think it’s pretty safe to assume that this famous chef has a kitchen to die for. Have you seen inside?”
“I did. He had a big party last night. I thought I told you I was going. His house is massive, totally renovated. A classic Southern colonial with gobs of extras. Not exactly Little House on the Prairie.” She waved her arms. “The kitchen has miles and miles of white marble, black soapstone, and Sub-Zero appliances. He’s got a huge Wolf range and every gadget you can imagine. There’s an outdoor kitchen off the patio near a gorgeous custom inground pool. It’s a fabulous place for a party.”
Helen scooped two dry food servings of cat food into blue bowls and placed them on the floor to silence the yowling at her feet. She pulled out a paring knife. “How’s the decorating?”
“No expense spared. A bit heavy on the black and silver, but beautiful.” Lizzie started to dig through Helen’s wine rack.
Helen gave a little chuckle. “Are you sure the house wasn’t financed by the Mob? They love the restaurant business.”
Lizzie pulled out a wine bottle. “You’re impossible. Not everyone who owns restaurants needs a loan shark. You read too many mysteries.”
“No one can read too many mysteries. That’s not possible. Why wasn’t I invited to this little get together?” She took a big slice of the questionable apple and offered the plate to Lizzie. She wrinkled her nose and opted for the mangled cheese.
“Sorry, only our studio muckety-mucks were invited. He mentioned that he wanted to sell. I told him you’re the best real estate agent in Kent County.”
“Only Kent County? Why not the entire state of Maryland?” Helen stretched her tanned arms around her taller daughter and gave her a squeeze. “I may hate to cook, but I sure know how to sell a kitchen and the house that comes with it. When do I get to meet the Chesapeake’s answer to Ramsay?”
“I told him you’d stop by the studio after our 10 am show tomorrow. I’ll introduce you. Does that work?” Lizzie’s pretty face beamed.
“Works for me. Who wouldn’t like to mix shopping with making money? Did I ever tell you how you light up when you’re trying to convince me of something?” Helen reached for a wine glass.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’m one of the reasons the network has eight million viewers.” Her daughter popped the last piece of cheese into her mouth. She twisted her fit band. “I’ve got to go. Jason swore he’d leave his office in time for dinner together. That’s an event I can’t miss.”
Helen wrinkled her brow. “How is Jason?”
Lizzie slung a huge dusty pink canvas bag over her shoulder and kissed her mother. “Another time, Mom. See you!”
“Doesn’t a mother have the right to ask?”
“Not unless you’re going to tell me what’s happening with Joe McAlister, your favorite detective.” She pointed to her dad’s wedding band hanging from a silver chain on her mother’s neck.
“Humph. Hey, what’s Barto’s home address? I want to do a little homework.”
“It’s on your To Do pad on the counter,” Lizzie called back as she headed out the front door.
Helen picked up the pad and squinted at her daughter’s messy scrawl.
Roberto Barto. Internationally known chef, creator of The Flying Pan. Yes, people actually buy cookware and use it! House is at 2 Riding Cross Lane, Port Anne. Be at the studio by 9:45 am Monday. I’ll meet you at security in the lobby.
Helen drew a circle around Roberto Barto and muttered aloud. “What is a saucier, anyway? And why’s he selling his house so soon after spending all that money on it?”
After years in the real estate business, she had a hunch there was more to this decision than what they knew. She gave another little shrug, rummaged through a kitchen cabinet, and spotted a lonely can of clam chowder. Maybe she should start watching some cooking shows so she could actually invite a man home for dinner. Even Joe brought his own pizza when he visited. She decided to upgrade her dinner tonight and pushed the soup aside.
“I swear I’ve got a box of granola somewhere,” she said to her cats. Two pairs of large eyes, one green, the other blue, blinked back with indifference. They knew her too well.
Judy L. Murray is an IPPY Independent Publisher Silver Medalist for Best Regional E-Fiction, a Silver Falchion Award Winner for Best Cozy, and an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel with Murder in the Master – A Chesapeake Bay Mystery. Killer in the Kitchen is second in the series.
A Philadelphia real estate broker and restoration addict, Judy has worked with enough delusional sellers, jittery buyers, testy contractors, and diva agents to fill her head with back-office insight and truth versus gossip. She began her professional writing career, after graduating in newspaper journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University. as a reporter and magazine columnist. She holds a Master’s in Business from Penn State University. She lives atop a cliff on the Chesapeake Bay with her husband. They’re buffeted by winds in winter and invaded by family and dogs in summer. Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime Chesapeake Chapter and Mystery Writers of America.
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