ABOUT THE BOOK: With a new art teaching gig at Halo House—Halo, Georgia’s posh independent living home—and Halo society scrutinizing her family and her love life, Cherry Tucker needs to stay out of trouble. However, her sleuthing skills are sought by Halo House’s most famous resident: Belvia Brakeman, the ninety-year-old, blind CEO and founder of Meemaw’s Tea. Belvia confides in Cherry that the family tea empire is in jeopardy. The CEO suspects her daughter, the COO, has been murdered and she might be next. Her offer is hard to refuse, but will have Cherry treading on Forks County Sheriff toes, namely her personal Deputy Heartache, Luke Harper.
Amid her town troubles, can Cherry put her reputation, romance, and life on the line for the final request of a sweet tea tycoon? While she juggles senior citizen shenanigans, small town politics, and corporate family scandals, Cherry finds the sweet tea business cutthroat in more ways than one.
EXCERPT: In a small town, someone invariably has an eye on your back. Also your front, middle, and every other body part. You just don’t always know whose eye is doing the watching. That sort of scrutiny should make you more careful. Emphasis on should. I’d never taken much to “should’ves,” having been more of a “get ’er done” type of gal. Although now I was paying for it.
That piper called an hour before “Art with Miss Cherry”—a name that made me wonder if Miss Krenzer knew I was teaching seniors and not kindergartners. Krenzer caught me in front of Halo House’s lobby fountain. Not that I was doing anything wrong. Lately, I’m often found sitting on the cushioned bench of that particular fountain with my friends. Chatting and sipping our drink of choice. Back when I attended SCAD, I did the same thing with my art school peeps on one of Savannah’s many fountains. Except we weren’t drinking weak coffee.
I’d rather not say what we were drinking, but it was Savannah after all.
From the reception desk, Miss Krenzer leaned forward, spied me, and waved me over. After a quick round of elbow nudges, winks, and “now you’ve done it” from the seniors, I strolled to the front desk.
“Cherry, I got a call from Belvia Brakeman. Do you know her?”
“She’s not one of my students, but of course, I know who she is. I love Meemaw’s Tea. Grandma Jo always made her own sweet tea, but I think buying a jug is handy. Particularly for those of us who tend to forget the stove’s on while we’re painting.”
“We’re very fortunate to have such an astute businesswoman as Mrs. Brakeman living at Halo House.” Miss Krenzer’s smile shrank. “However, Mrs. Brakeman needs something of a more personal nature. Her daughter, Della Brakeman, recently passed.”
“Hit and run while jogging. Terrible, terrible way to go. I don’t condone jogging—not partial to it—but I was truly sorry to hear jogging took her life. Sixty is way too young, and that’s speaking as a twenty-six-year-old.” I shook my head. “My intel says Della Brakeman even wore the appropriate reflector tape accessories as she ran down Highway 34.”
“My…” I considered an appropriate description for Luke. “My friend, Luke Harper, is a deputy working on the investigation. Not that he’s told me anything I didn’t read in the paper. My friends at Halo House have told me more. With Della Brakeman in charge of operations and soon to take over as CEO of Meemaw’s Tea, it’s made a splash in the local news. And my buddies sure love local news. Particularly the one that’s on before Jeopardy.”
Krenzer glanced at the fountain where my friends waited, craning their necks and trying to hear our conversation. They couldn’t. Among their age bracket, hearing doesn’t tend to be a strength.
However, gossip was. More like a superpower than strength.
“Mrs. Brakeman specifically said to send you and another staff member. Someone discreet. I’m entrusting Jose from maintenance. You’re not who I’d choose for the job…” She shot another look at my cohorts. Krenzer knew their superpowers and considered me guilty through their association. Couldn’t argue that logic, as I did enjoy their superpowers.
“But it’s Belvia Brakeman,” she continued. “You don’t question her.”
“Job?” I toned down the excitement in my voice. “I’ll keep my mouth shut. And I won’t say a thing about jogging to Mrs. Brakeman. I only said it to you, because I thought you’d agree about the perils of jogging.”
She cast a look at her midsection.
I scrambled to cover my gaffe. “I understand privacy and sensitivity. I may only be a part-time drawing teacher, but I have come to feel Halo House is more than a speed bump in my portrait painting career. Premiere independent living is something I’ve grown to admire and respect. Halo House has become my home away from home.”
“You do spend a considerable amount of time here. I worried we’d become an escape from your personal problems. But I’m glad to hear you’re supportive of our mission.”
Unsure of Halo House’s mission, I held up a paint-stained hand. “Don’t say another word. Let me help you on your other mission. The one for Belvia Brakeman.”
“It’s simple. She’s written a new will and needs two witnesses to watch her sign it. It’s all perfectly legal. But you can see why it’s a delicate situation.”
“A will? Shouldn’t she wait for her lawyer?”
“Belvia Brakeman is…” Krenzer cut her eyes toward my friends and lowered her voice. “At ninety, she’s still a whip-smart and savvy CEO who happens to run a corporation from her apartment suite in my facility. She’s also endowed us with special funds for programs such as yours. Let’s just do what she wants.”
“Her daughter, Coralee, is with her now. She’ll assist you. I need to stay at the desk.”
“I didn’t realize there was more than one child. That must be a comfort to Miss Belvia. Does Coralee work for the family company too?”
Krenzer’s lips thinned. “No. Coralee just arrived this morning with her family. They live in the Midwest. You better get going.”
“Yes, ma’am. You can count on me.”
“Just sign and get out. It’s important that Belvia not feels hassled.”
“The last thing I’d ever want to do is hassle someone who’s just lost a loved one. Especially a sweet little ninety-year-old blind woman.”
“Belvia Brakeman may be ninety and blind, but never call her sweet or little. Particularly to her face.”
This diplomacy thing would be trickier than I thought.
This was what I got for unraveling my scruples for Belvia. Embroiled in another death. It didn’t seem to matter what I did. Lately, it felt like God had sent me a personal pestilence of dead bodies. I must be paying wrong.
REVIEW: If you were good at doing something, would you stop doing it just because someone else told you not to? In this case, Cherry Tucker is the person who is good at snooping around and revealing the secrets, but the police have already told her not to get involved. So, what’s a girl to do? Obviously, she gets right up in there and personal with the case at Halo House. Reinhart has a really interesting way of conning her characters into falling into the mix upon their better judgement. In A Composition in Murder, can Cherry step back after being warned, or will be sucked into the mystery of what happened to the famous family being Meemaw’s Tea?
Cherry Tucker has settled into her new job as an art teacher at Halo House. She is comfortable because now…she is making a decent wage pretty regularly. That is the only thing that she can really count on right now in her life. With her ex-husband living in the same house, her boyfriend who is a police officer…and part of the enemy family known as the Bransons, Cherry has to keep her best behavior or she could be kicked out of town. When Belvia Brakeman, a ninety year old blind woman, specifically calls upon Cherry as a witness to sign her will, Cherry has a bad feeling about it. Primarily, the daughter who rushes her through the entire process from start to finish, but Belvia actually has another favor for Cherry…one that could cause Cherry to get into a bunch of trouble. Belvia has asked Cherry to look into who really murdered her daughter, fearing that they may be after her next so that they can take over her profitable business of tea making. Can Cherry find out what happens before they come after Belvia or will trouble come looking for her first?
Reinhart has a superb plot and terrific character development with this entire series. Cherry Tucker is an outstanding character of fiction who readers may grow to adore and at times, say “here we go again”. This story is very fast-paced which means that it does not focus on anything for too long. It is very entertaining and does not have to be read in order, with this book being the sixth installment in A Cherry Tucker Mystery series. The reader will understand the story regardless of the other novels in the series being read previously. There are hardly any grammatical or spelling errors, making this a clean and easy read from start to finish. If you are a reader of cozy mysteries, this may be your cup of tea!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A 2015 Georgia Author of the Year Best Mystery finalist, Larissa writes the Cherry Tucker Mystery series. The first in the series, PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY (2012), is a 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist, 2012 The Emily finalist, and 2011 Dixie Kane Memorial winner. The sixth mystery, A COMPOSITION IN MURDER, is expected to release November 15, 2016. Her family and Cairn Terrier, Biscuit, now live in Nagoya, Japan, but still calls Georgia home. Visit her website, LarissaReinhart.com, find her chatting on Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads, or join her Facebook street team, The Mystery Minions.
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