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Spirit Canyon’s annual Spirit Spooktacular weekend is on, and for local amateur sleuth Zo Jones, it’s boomtime for business at her Happy Camper gift shop . . . until a murderer drops in for a browse.
To celebrate Halloween at the Happy Camper, Zo schedules a talk by successful author and self-proclaimed witch Marianne Morgan. Although Marianne’s benign brand of witchcraft is more about feminine empowerment than black magic, her presence is still not welcomed by everyone. Then on a midnight stroll home, Zo spots what seems to be a new Halloween decoration propped up outside the Happy Camper. What she finds is not a mannequin but a dead Marianne, her lifeless body dressed in traditional witch’s garb. But why would someone send this good witch back to the spirit world permanently?
Soon Zo realizes that plenty of folks have motives for murdering Marianne. What’s worse, nosy TV newsman Justin Castle plans to broadcast a report associating Marianne’s murder with the Happy Camper. Zo calls on her partner in sleuthing, local forest ranger Max Harrington, to help her find the culprit before Justin’s report airs. Otherwise Zo’s business just might go bust. But to catch this killer, Zo will have to risk much more than just her reputation . . .
Character Guest Post
Hello there, friends. I’m Russell Cunningham, Zo’s neighbor, which means I get to enjoy all the comings and goings at the Happy Camper giftshop. Shoppers travel from far and wide to pursue Zo’s eclectic merchandise. (Zo says that’s overstating it, but I’m a literature professor. I can do that.) They also enjoy her casual events such as nature walks, scrapbooking workshops, and book signings. This month, she has a bona fide witch coming to the store to sign copies of a bestseller. Can you imagine the traffic she’ll bring in?
Halloween in Spirit Canyon is not for the faint of heart. Locals take the event seriously. They march down Main Street in all sorts of zany costumes, and participation is expected, if not required. This year, I’m dressing up as Sherlock Holmes. A teacher like myself has standards, after all, and although Zo likes to believe she’s the only sleuth in town, she’s certainly not the first. One only need open a classic mystery to remember that Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” featured the first amateur sleuth, C. Auguste Dupin. He was followed by Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes fifty-one years later. This led to many other gumshoes, never officially employed by a police department, taking up the mantle of detective work, right up to today’s popular cozy mystery.
But Zo is needling me, telling me a blog post is no time for a history lesson. I’m not sure why not. It seems as good of a time as any to talk about the history of the armchair detective. She wants me to return to the topic of Halloween, so I will tell you she’s having a Halloween party. I’ve decided to bring my famous hot toddy. Her guests will delight in the hint of cloves, which adds that extra something special. A monk in Istanbul shared the recipe with me years ago when I was traveling through the Turkish countryside. Contrary to popular belief, monks can and do drink. In fact, several monasteries are as well known for their wines as they are for their prayers. I have a nice Pinot Noir in my cupboard that was made at the ever-popular Chateau de la Tour. That is in France, of course, not Turkey.
But I regress. Zo says I must quit talking about alcohol and write something meaningful about her before I close this brief—too brief for my tastes—post. And so I shall. Zo is a dear friend to me. Having her as a next-door neighbor is like having a little ray of sunshine outside the window. By and large, I enjoy her company a good deal—and her cat’s company even better.
He’s much better at listening to my stories than she is.
About the Author
Mary Angela is the author of the Happy Camper cozy mystery series, the Professor Prather academic mystery series, and several short stories. When Mary isn’t penning heartwarming whodunits, she’s teaching, reading, traveling, or spending time with her family. She lives in South Dakota with her husband, daughters, and spoiled pets. You can find out more about her loves, including her writing, at MaryAngelaBooks.com.