When a woman is grieving the loss of her husband at a young age, the last thing she needs is to find a dead body in the attic.
Della Fox’s husband never came home from his early morning run and never would. He’d been killed by a motorist. It’s been six months, and although Della has survived her tragic loss, it takes a supreme amount of effort for her just to get through each day.
But the morning she finds a dead body in the attic of an old Victorian home is the morning she begins to come alive again. Della discovers she’s a suspect in the case, because the victim was a business competitor of hers. They both owned antique and collective stores. She has to clear her name and find a suspect who has a far better motive for murder than the one attached to her.
Letting new interests back into her life is a huge step. A book club, a handsome sheriff, and a huge St. Bernard dog by the name of Moose, can certainly help a woman want to come alive again, and they do!
Join a reluctant amateur sleuth as she discovers a trait she never knew she had. She’s actually quite good at solving a murder mystery, and even the new sheriff agrees she has some sort of a special talent in this area!
Release date: March 15, 2023
Print pages: 180
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Murder in the Attic: The Ozarks Cozy Mystery Series
Clover, Missouri was a small town tucked in the valley of a few steep hills in the Ozarks. Although the town wasn’t very large, tourists from nearby Branson often found their way into the Clover city limits.
The sun was shining brightly outside, but you couldn’t tell from inside the house, because all of the curtains were drawn and had been for weeks. The air inside was stale and smelled faintly of dust and other things that got trapped in a closed-up house.
Della didn’t care about any of it, though. Well, that wasn’t exactly true, she did care, but just not right at that moment. She was curled up in bed dreading having to climb out and get dressed. She knew she would, but she also knew she’d hate every minute of the day until she could climb back in bed and curl in on herself until sleep found her again.
No matter how hard she tried each day, she found herself wanting nothing more than to get in bed and drift back into the oblivion of sleep. To her, it seemed far safer than living her life.
Della had been like this ever since she’d answered the door and saw the sheriff’s deputy standing on her doorstep. In a very polite and sympathetic way, he’d explained that her husband, Seth, had been taken to the hospital, but had been dead on arrival after being hit by a car while out on his early morning run. And just like that, her life had felt like it had ended right along with his.
There had been an endless supply of casseroles and condolences, but to her, it had all been just a blur. People from all over town had shown up to tell her that if she needed anything to just let them know. As if she would really reach out and tell someone that she could barely get herself to function and care for herself, let alone the small business she and her husband had so painstakingly built.
Somehow she’d managed to put one foot in front of the other. Day in and day out, she’d managed to trudge along, keeping everything afloat, even though sometimes she was really surprised she’d been able to do it. She was getting better at living life on her own, but that didn’t make her miss her husband any less.
Seth had grown up in the small town of Clover, Missouri where they lived, while she had grown up in Kansas City. She was a city girl who had fallen in love with a small-town boy. He’d won her heart over in no time with his gentle ways and charm. For a while, they’d lived in Kansas City, but she knew that Seth wanted to return to the town where he’d grown up.
They’d moved back to Clover a decade ago, but even so, she still felt somewhat like an outsider. Della had come to know people in town, but Seth had been the outspoken, friendly one, while she was the quiet, keep to herself, type. She’d made a few friends, but for the most part she didn’t know that many people in town. Not really.
Just thinking about it made her recall the feeling of excitement when they’d bought the storefront on the town square and opened “Fox’s Finds.” She and Seth had painstakingly restored the building and filled it with unique preowned treasures.
Just like their home, it was filled with things they’d found in various places that had once belonged to someone else. Interesting pieces that might have ended up in a landfill if they hadn’t saved them.
They’d refurbish an old dresser or headboard with a new coat of stain or a splash of color, but only in ways that improved the piece. Sometimes, they’d buy things that were a bargain and resell them at a higher, but still reasonable, price.
Inhaling deeply, Della knew she needed to stop procrastinating about getting out of bed. It wasn’t going to make the day any better if she lingered and lamented over something as simple at the start of the day. Tossing the blankets back, she knew she had to get dressed.
That was always the first step and sometimes the hardest. It had been six months since that fateful morning, and while she would have gladly had her life end with Seth’s, it hadn’t. Now she had no choice but to go through the motions of the living.
Walking barefoot across the hardwood floor, Della went into the bathroom and began to get ready for the day. She brushed her blonde hair and pulled it back in her signature ponytail. She applied moisturizer to her face, mentally lamenting the fine lines around her eyes and the deeper ones between her brows.
She stared at herself a moment before reaching for her makeup bag, wondering where the years had gone and who the sad woman was that was staring back at her. Hadn’t she been young and youthful just a little while ago?
Taking a long, deep breath, she forced herself to put on her makeup before heading back to the bedroom to find something to wear. She always got ready for the day by brushing her teeth and putting on her makeup before she got dressed, because otherwise, invariably, almost without fail, she’d get something on her clothing. This way, she didn’t have to change clothes right after she’d gotten dressed.
After finding a white tee shirt and a pair of light blue jeans, she slipped on her socks and shoes and made the bed. Even though she might be feeling dark and listless, she never allowed herself to not make the bed. It was the one constant thing that she felt kept her from slipping into a depression. Keeping things neat and orderly was the one way she had of staying grounded in a world in which she felt unmoored.
If she didn’t stick to her checklist every morning, she found that she’d start to let things go, like the house and herself. That’s when things would get really dark. Della knew she had to do whatever she could to keep from going there again.
The old farmhouse echoed with her footsteps as she headed down the stairs to the kitchen. They creaked and groaned in a familiar way, and she was certain even if she were blindfolded, she’d know which step she was on by the noise it made. At the bottom, she rounded the banister and headed for the kitchen.
Once there, Della pulled the fresh pot of coffee out of the coffee maker and poured herself a cup. As she took the first sip, she was grateful for programmable coffee pots. Otherwise, she would have had to wait for that feeling of warmth that spread through her as she took her first few swallows. Now she could taste it as soon as she got downstairs.
Della leaned against the counter with her hip and looked out at the expanse of green outside her kitchen window. The tree line in the distance kept the house hidden from the road and muffled the sound of the world passing by.
It was still early in spring, so the trees only had small buds on them, and the grass was starting to turn a brilliant shade of green. Maybe in another week or so the trees would begin to turn green as well. The thought was bittersweet, knowing that spring wasn’t far away, but also knowing the world wasn’t stopping just because she felt it should.
“Okay, Della. Time to get this day going,” she said aloud to herself. She took her phone off of charge and checked it for messages, almost afraid to find one. But thankfully, there were just the usual notifications like weather alerts, news alerts, and comments on social media. Nothing that she needed to worry about at the moment. She set it back down so she could finish with her morning chores.
Heading to the back porch, she took the lid off the chicken feed container and took out a scoop. When she pushed the back door open, her small flock of chickens came running toward her. The chickens were kept in a fenced enclosure to protect them from predators, but the gate for their area was just outside the back door. Della had planned it that way so when winter hit, she wouldn’t have far to walk. But no one had warned her how stinky chickens could be. Even so, she’d come to love her feathered friends.
“Hello, ladies,” she said sweetly to them as she scattered the feed around on the ground for them. They all eagerly began pecking at the mixture as she took the scoop back inside and retrieved the basket she used to collect eggs.
While the chickens were busy eating, she hurried over to the small chicken coop she and Seth had built inside the small fenced-in area and began collecting the bounty they’d left behind. After checking their water and cleaning it out before refilling it, she headed back inside with the eggs she’d gathered.
“Who would have thought I’d be a chicken mom?” she murmured as she placed them in their containers. Living and growing up in Kansas City, she’d never dreamed that when she was a little older she’d be living on a farm. Even though having chickens didn’t technically make it a farm, she still thought of it as one.
Her closest neighbor was a mile away on the edge of town, and she had a big red barn out in back with chickens running around in a fenced-in area. What else could it be called? She couldn’t think of any other word to describe it.
When she’d finished her morning chores, she washed her hands and grabbed an apple. Then, she transferred her coffee into her travel cup before collecting her things and getting ready to leave.
She and Seth had bought the two-story farmhouse when they first moved to Clover. The big selling point for her was the stone fireplace that looked as though it had been built with rocks pulled right from the property. It was cozy and warm on cold winter evenings and had a large ledge where a person could sit while they built the fire.
In the front of the house, there was a large porch with a wooden swing that creaked when she sat on it. She and Seth used to drink their coffee there on Sunday mornings when they didn’t need to go into town and open Fox’s Finds. That’s when they’d listen to the sounds of nature as the world woke up from its nightly slumber.
But she tried not to think about those things. Pushing the memories away made it easier to get through her day. For far too long she’d allowed herself to wrap those memories around her like a blanket, but all they brought her were pain and sadness. So, one day she’d pushed them away, rather than pull them closer. That had held its own kind of hurt, but she’d managed to do it.
And she coped every day by plastering a fake smile on her face so that everyone would think she was okay, because she’d learned that sadness and grief made people uncomfortable. They didn’t know how to handle a person who was grief-stricken.
Della knew they wanted to see her get back on her feet and on with her life, so that’s what she’d done. Day in and day out, until it had become second nature. It was only when she was alone at night or early in the morning that sometimes it felt as though her despair might just swallow her up.
Della walked to her truck, opened the door, and climbed inside. She would manage, she knew she would. Just like when babies learned to walk, she would keep putting one foot in front of the other. She might stumble from time to time, but she’d get there. Eventually.
As Della started the truck, she felt a tear prickle in her eyes. Looking in the rearview mirror at her green eyes, she swiped the tear away and took a deep breath. It was time to get going. There was no time for tears.
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