Portent in the Pages
A heartwarming cozy mystery series about losing everything, taking a chance, and starting again.
After suffering a personal tragedy Abby Sullivan buys a huge old seaside mansion she has never even seen, packs up her life in San Francisco, and moves to Holiday Bay Maine, where she is adopted, quite against her will, by a huge Maine Coon Cat named Rufus, a drifter with her own tragic past named Georgia, and a giant dog with an inferiority complex named Ramos.
What Abby thought she needed was alone time to heal. What she ended up with was, an inn she never knew she wanted, a cat she couldn't seem to convince to leave, and a new family she'd never be able to live without.
In book 16 in the series, Abby is offered the chance to participate in an author event being held at Firehouse Books with one of her own favorite authors. When the guest author turns up dead, Abby realizes that clues to the author’s death could be found in the new novel the woman had yet to release. Using her own sleuthing skills, Abby jumps into the investigation after it becomes clear that it just might take an author to find the meaning in the pages.
Meanwhile it is weeks before Halloween and the inn is filled with guests looking for a spooky weekend retreat. Join Abby, Georgia, Jeremy, Nikki, and Mylie as they host a series of events designed to provide thrills and chills to all who dare to venture within
Release date: August 10, 2021
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Print pages: 189
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Portent in the Pages
“How does the sign look?” I asked Vanessa Blackstone, the owner of the small Holiday Bay, Maine bookstore, Firehouse Books, where the first annual Thrills and Chills Weekend book event was to take place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on the weekend before Halloween. Vanessa had asked me to participate as one of the five featured authors, and I was helping her get the bookstore ready for the kick-off event that would take place in just four days.
“It looks perfect,” Vanessa said, standing back to check the height. “When I first came up with the idea for a thriller weekend to coincide with the Halloween festival being held by the town for Thrillerfest, I had no clue what a huge response I’d get. Initially, I imagined the gathering would be a small one, but now I find myself preparing for the book celebration of the year.”
I made one final adjustment to the sign and then stepped down from the stool I’d been standing on. “Getting Chandra Levine as a keynote speaker for the opening night dinner with the authors is huge.” I knew the weekend consisted of dinner Friday with all five authors, including my alter ego, Abagail Sullivan, followed by a daylong opportunity on Saturday for guests who’d signed up in advance to participate in local Thrillerfest events with their favorite author. On Sunday, Firehouse Books planned to host a book signing, which would be open to the public and didn’t require one of the highly sought-after event tickets that had sold out within days of going on sale two months ago.
“I guess that’s true.” Vanessa smiled. “I still can’t believe she said yes to my invite. If you want to know the truth, I keep waiting for her to call and cancel.”
“She won’t cancel,” I assured Vanessa. “I agree with you that her consenting to come to tiny Holiday Bay in the first place is unexpected, but Chandra’s been promoting the event on her website, so I’m sure she plans to show up.”
Vanessa lifted a box onto the counter and began unpacking the bookmarks, postcards, and bookplates that Author Raven Woodstone had sent ahead for the weekend. Raven didn’t have quite the name recognition as Chandra Levine, but her last two books had topped the charts, and, in my opinion, she was quickly navigating her way to elite status amongst thriller writers. I was excited to meet both Chandra and Raven and still couldn’t believe that I’d been selected to sign books beside them. In addition to Chandra, Raven, and myself, two other authors who were currently dominating the thriller market planned to attend. The first being Alaina Hillerman, an author who had been steadily climbing in popularity for a few years and, again, in my opinion, might outsell all of us one day. The second was Jolie London, who was new to the scene with just one book published to date, had won several awards, and was well on her way to superstar status as well.
Vanessa lowered her voice despite the fact that we were the only two people in the store at the moment. “I probably shouldn’t say anything since I’m not usually one to gossip, but the women in my romance book club told me that they’d heard via one of the social media networks that Chandra and Raven had a falling out during the book fair in California.”
“Really? I hadn’t heard that, although I will admit that I‘m not the sort to follow my fellow authors on social media.”
Vanessa nodded. “I can’t say with any degree of certainty that the rumors are true. My reader group does love to gossip, but after the discussion at book club, I decided to take a peek at Raven’s most recent social media posts, and it does seem that something went down to cause a rift between the women. Of course, the event where the altercation occurred took place several months ago, so chances are that whatever sort of discord existed between the two might have been smoothed over by this point.”
I began straightening the cloth on the table where the books of the five featured authors would be displayed. “I really hope that the women have made up if a rift did occur. It will be awkward if they’re at odds with each other during the event.” I stood back to look at the table. “Is there anything else you need me to do?”
“You’ve already done so much, and I hate to ask you to stay longer, but before you go, I really need you to sign the stack of books I left for you on the counter.”
“Won’t we be signing books during the event?”
“You will be, but given the fact that the tickets sold out so fast, and not everyone who wants to attend will be able to do so, I thought I’d have signed copies from all the featured authors on hand.”
“Isn’t Sunday’s book signing open to the public?”
“It is, but I think I’ll have readers wandering in this week hoping to buy a last-minute ticket, and when I can’t sell them one, I’d like to be able to offer them a book signed by the author instead.”
I shrugged, walked over to the counter, and located the stack of books Vanessa had referred to. “Is this Chandra’s new book?” I asked, homing in on a single volume sitting next to the cash register.
She nodded. “The publisher sent me an advance reader copy.”
I picked the hardbound novel up. “In Conclusion. Interesting name for a novel.”
“I thought so too. I haven’t read it yet since one of my part-time employees was here when it arrived and asked to borrow it. She’s been dealing with the loss of a loved one, and I figured it would provide a distraction, so I agreed to lend it to her. She read it and brought it back this morning, so I plan to start reading it when I get home.”
“I’ve been curious about Chandra’s next release. I’ve looked at the book’s description, and it seems rather vague.” I began signing books as I continued the conversation. I signed a lot of books for Vanessa, which she somehow always managed to sell.
“I’ll lend you In Conclusion once I’ve finished reading it. I’m a fast reader, so I should have it read by the end of the day tomorrow. Swing by Wednesday, and I’ll give it to you.”
“That would be great. I really appreciate it.” Once I finished signing the books Vanessa had left out for me, I headed over to a table where she’d set up the name cards and placeholders for dinner. “Will you need help setting up for Friday’s dinner?” I asked as I slipped a name card into one of the cute bookend placeholders Vanessa had managed to find.
“Both my part-time employees, along with the women from my book clubs, have volunteered to set up the community center and help serve on Friday, so I think we’ll be fine. Besides, you’re one of the guests. You should have plenty of time to get ready and shouldn’t have to worry about ironing tablecloths or setting tables beforehand.”
I smiled. “I realize that you were nice enough to invite me to participate as a featured author, but I’m under no illusion that I’m the reason the event has been sold out for months. If you need help, just ask.
Vanessa smiled. “That’s one of the reasons why I love you so much. You’re not only modest, but you’re always so willing to pitch in and do whatever needs to be done.”
“I like to do what I can. Besides, this event is huge for my career. My agent is over the moon giddy with happiness, which, in my mind, is worth a lot since I’ve been late with my last two manuscripts and need to garner some goodwill.”
“I guess it’s hard to juggle owning the inn with your writing career.”
“It is.” I set the first stack of placeholders aside and started on the second stack. “Of course, the thing that seems to be messing up my timeline the most isn’t the inn but all the murders I’ve been pulled into helping solve since moving to Holiday Bay.”
“I guess you have become somewhat of an amateur sleuth since arriving in town, although I would think working on actual murders helps with the writing of fictional murders.”
“It does,” I agreed as I continued to work on the placeholders. “But it is time-consuming, and you weren’t wrong when you mentioned the time commitment demanded by the inn as well.”
Vanessa stood back and looked around the room as if gauging what still needed to be done. “Georgia mentioned that you have several events going on out at the inn this weekend.”
“We do, so it will be a busy weekend,” I agreed. “I’ll need to stay on top of things, but Georgia lined up extra help for the inn, so I should be able to devote the majority of my time to the book event.” I paused when I came to the name Blanche Wilson on one of the name cards I was placing in the placeholders. “We have a Blanche Wilson checking in at the inn Wednesday. I wonder if it’s the same Blanche Wilson who plans to attend the dinner Friday.”
“It is,” Vanessa said. “Blanche is an author stalker from way back.”
“Author stalker?” I asked.
“That’s my term for the men and women who seem to make a career out of attending these sorts of book signing and author events. Blanche and her three sidekicks, Pearl Betterman, Goldie Snyder, and Shirley Jackson, came to a luncheon I attended in Cincinnati this past spring. I happened to sit at their table, and while we were eating, they told me about all the events they’d attended during the past year. Their attendance history at these author gatherings is impressive.”
“Pearl, Goldie, and Shirley are staying at the inn for the weekend as well,” I confirmed. “Georgia went over the check-ins expected for the week over breakfast this morning, so the names are fresh in my mind.”
“You’ll enjoy the four women. The friends are between sixty-five and seventy-five years in age. They all love to read anything and everything. They all seem to be affluent; at least they’re affluent enough to travel around the country tracking down book signings and author weekends. And they are all articulate and knowledgeable about a variety of subjects. If they’re staying with you, be sure to take some time to sit down and talk with them.”
“I will. I make a point of visiting with all my guests, or at least as many as I have the opportunity to speak to, but I’ll make some extra time for these four women. Larry and Laverne Larson will be staying with us this weekend as well.”
Vanessa smiled. “I noticed that they’d purchased tickets for both the author dinner and Saturday’s author events.” Larry and Laverne Larson were a husband and wife writing team who’d stayed at the inn on a previous occasion for a writer’s retreat that had been sponsored by my agent, Kate. “Do you have any other event guests staying with you that you know of?” Vanessa asked.
I thought back to the list of guests Georgia had gone over with me that morning. “I don’t think so. There is a family with two children checking into suite one Friday and staying through the weekend, but I don’t think they planned to attend the author event. Blanche, Pearl, Goldie, and Shirley will be checking in Wednesday and staying in suites two and three. Larry and Laverne are checking in Thursday and staying in suite four. We have a visiting travel blogger who Georgia seems to be uncharacteristically nervous about staying with us, checking in Thursday and staying in suite five, but I think she’s in town to do a review and not attend the event.”
“And suite six?” Vanessa asked.
“A woman named Agatha Coven. She was hired by the town to read tea leaves, palms, tarot cards, and that sort of thing for Thrillerfest this weekend.”
“I’ve heard about her,” Vanessa said. “Apparently, Agatha Coven is a real witch.”
Vanessa shrugged. “That’s what I’ve heard. She actively practices the craft, and based on what I’ve been told, it seems she has many talents normally associated with those individuals we might refer to as a witch.”
I smiled. I wasn’t the sort who actually believed in witches, but it was fun to think we might have one staying with us over the holiday. “Have you met the woman?” I wondered.
“No. I’ve just heard the rumors like everyone else. It will be interesting to actually meet Agatha and see what she can do.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “It will be interesting indeed.”
After I’d placed all the name cards of those who’d purchased tickets for the Friday night dinner into the bookend placeholders, Vanessa asked me to make up placeholders for the authors as well. When I picked up the card with Chandra Levine’s name neatly penned across the front, an unexpected chill ran up my spine. “Did you feel that?”
“Feel what?” Vanessa asked.
“A cold breeze that seemed to come from out of nowhere.”
Vanessa looked around. “I didn’t feel anything, but maybe there’s a window open in the office. I’ll go check.”
Vanessa headed down the hallway where her office and storage room were located, and I looked down at my hand that still held the name card Vanessa had created for Chandra. It was an ordinary card and didn’t really stand out in any way, but I would look back on this moment and wonder about that chill days from now. Had it been a random occurrence, or had it been an omen of what was to lie ahead?
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