The Grim Steeper: A Teapot Collector Mystery

BOOK: The Grim Steeper: A Teapot Collector Mystery
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Praise for

Tempest in a Teapot

“An intriguing debut, brewed with a rich blend of tea and empathy.”

—Virginia Lowell, national bestselling author of
Dead Men Don’t Eat Cookies

“A well-written, charming novel with endless possibilities. Sophie is a smart, young protagonist . . . Cooper does a nice job of corralling the suspects and forcing a killer’s confession at the end.”


RT Book Reviews

“This mystery had me completely stumped until the end . . . Delightful.”

—Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries & Meows

“The mystery was complex and well-plotted, and I enjoyed trying to fit the clues together.”

—Book of Secrets

“In
Tempest in a Teapot
we are introduced to a charming and quirky cast of characters. This includes our feisty protagonist, Sophie Taylor . . . This lighthearted mystery becomes a page-turner of a read that I could not put down. It is well-plotted and kept me wanting to find out whodunit.”

—MyShelf.com

“Amanda Cooper writes an engaging mystery in her first book in this new series. With intriguing characters and a delightful setting, I can already tell this series is going to be a firm favorite. For tea drinkers all across the world I highly recommend this series.”

—Cozy Mystery Book Review

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Amanda Cooper

TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT

SHADOW OF A SPOUT

THE GRIM STEEPER

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

THE GRIM STEEPER

A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2016 by Penguin Group (USA), Inc.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME design are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

For more information, visit
penguin.com
.

eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-61049-7

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Berkley Prime Crime mass-market paperback edition / February 2016

Cover illustration by Griesbach Martucci.

Cover design by George Long.

Interior text design by Kelly Lipovich.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.

Version_1

For Karen Owen,
a sister in teapot and tea fancying, a dedicated blogger, fan of cozy mysteries and a wonderful collaborator.
Thank you, Karen!

Thank you to Samantha Hunter, who helped me understand the tangled and complex world of American higher education. You gave me invaluable information on college and university culture and politics. Also, thank you to author Susan Holmes. You graciously answered my
many
questions about being a college professor, and gave me fabulous insight into the technicalities of grading at the college level and the software used.

Any mistakes made are my own misunderstandings!

Prologue

S
ophie Taylor stomped down the beautiful, moonlit Hamptons beach, her sensible shoes scuffing up little spurts of sand with every step. Once in a while every person has a miserable day to end all miserable days, and she had just suffered through a wicked awful one. It was a long walk back to the Hamptons home owned by her parents, neither of whom was in residence, but she needed every inch of it to cool down.

Her father was in Shanghai working on a business deal (as usual), and her mother had taken off for a vacation-slash-shopping excursion to Italy, or France, or Tahiti, or
somewhere more fun
, in her own words, than the Hamptons after the summer season had ended. Most other Hamptonites in their circle of friends had gone back to the city or elsewhere to work, like her father, or jetted off to foreign locales, like her mother, to shop or go on holiday.

But Sophie was trying to make a go of the job at Bartleby’s
on Shinnecock, the seafood restaurant at which she had been offered a sous chef de cuisine position by none other than the new owner, Hendriques Van Sant, a lovely Dutch gentleman. Her mother had gone to great lengths to set it all up, and Sophie didn’t want to ruin their tentative truce by letting her down. It should have been a dream job, better than she had ever expected after the disaster of her own failed restaurant in Manhattan, In Fashion, which ultimately led her to retreat to her grandmother’s tearoom in Gracious Grove, New York.

Except . . . She stopped, took a deep breath and tried to focus on her lovely surroundings. This was the Hamptons seashore in October, even more beautiful (to her, anyway) than the Hamptons in summer! The tide was out, long stretches of wet sand gleaming in the moonlight, rocky outcroppings dark and mysterious, throwing shadows cast by the silvery light.

She growled at the moon, whirled and stomped on, unable to enjoy so much natural beauty when the brutal day she had suffered kept trudging through her memory, like an earworm song one couldn’t shake, the day’s lowlights streaming on a never-ending loop. Bartleby’s was a great restaurant with a lengthy, stellar history and reputation. Hendriques was a sweet, wonderful man, a rare entrepreneur and restaurant magnate who had not lost his human touch. He would be a dream to work for, except . . . except the
actual
restaurant owner was not Hendriques, who bought it, but his shiftless, difficult, and spoiled-rotten son Adrian, to whom he gave it as a gift. The chef de cuisine she had dreamed of working under and learning from had quit because he could no longer endure Adrian. The new chef, Monty, was a talentless egoist who thought being chef de cuisine entitled him to daily temper tantrums that featured thrown food, broken crockery and foul language. He was like Gordon Ramsay but without the talent.

The Taylor home loomed huge and dark against the night
sky, the glass facade reflecting back to the sea endless churning waves on the distant horizon overhung by the silvery gleaming moon. She scaled a sand hill, swishing through long dry beach grass, and circled to the side of the house where the door to the mudroom—or as they called it, the sand room—was located. She entered, shed her sturdy footwear and shook the sand out of her clothes. The housekeeper was on vacation, so she tried to be as tidy as possible in the woman’s absence.

She strode from the sand room though the pantry and to the kitchen, which was lit only by under-cupboard lighting. She didn’t bother with any other light, preferring it dim and quiet after the bright lights and constant din of the kitchen at Bartleby’s. She opened the almost empty fridge, an enormous double French door stainless steel beauty, and snagged a bottle of Perrier, then found a lime in the crisper, quartered it and popped a wedge into the bottle mouth. She took a long drink, and sighed, trying to erase the awfulness of the day. Perching on a stool by the marble countertop, she flipped through the mail she had set there before she left in the morning.

Invitations, ads, catalogs and not much else. She had been hoping for a card or letter from Nana back in Gracious Grove, but she and her friend Laverne, the onetime employee and now partner at Auntie Rose’s Victorian Tea House in upstate New York, were likely too busy, with Sophie gone. The yearning for her grandmother’s soothing presence was an ache in her heart. Or was that heartburn brought on by too much tension, no time to eat, and the frenetic pace, all with a heaping helping of one horrible day on top? Thirty was too young for heartburn.

The wall phone rang and when she looked up, she noticed that the message light was blinking, too. She crossed the room and grabbed the cordless receiver, returning to perch on the stool again. “Hello?”

“Sophie, I’m so glad I caught you! You’re not answering your cell.”

“Oh, hey, Dana,” Sophie said, leafing through the stack of mail and catalogs. It was Dana Saunders, a friend from Gracious Grove. “It’s so nice to hear a friendly voice!”

“Oh, Soph, I’m
so sorry
!”

Sophie smiled. Trust word to spread about her awful day. “It’s okay, I’ll get over it. It’s just one day, after all.”

“What?”

“It’s just one day. It has got to get better. Jason must have texted you, right? He’s the only one I’ve told how rotten it’s been lately.”

“The only one you’ve told? Sophie, I don’t think . . . haven’t you heard about your grandmother yet?”

Sophie’s heart thudded and she slipped from the stool, dropping the catalog she had been holding. “What about Nana?”

“Oh, lord, Soph, I thought you’d heard. Laverne called Bartleby’s and some guy said he’d get a message to you. Your grandmother is in the hospital. She’s had a heart attack!”

Two minutes later Sophie was punching numbers into the phone. “Chef Monty? I’m sorry to call you at home,” she said, her voice shaking, tears welling in her eyes. Nana was ill, Nana . . .
Nana
! She hopped from foot to foot.

“What do you want?”

“Chef, my grandmother is ill. She lives upstate, so I’ll have to take a couple of days off. Since you hired another sous chef, he can cover everything and I’ll be able to leave tonight.”

“Leave? I don’t understand.”

She explained, more slowly than she wanted, and repeated her request for a few days off.

“No. Absolutely not. You have to be here and show Craig the ropes.”

“Show Craig the ropes? You hired him to be sous chef
over
me three days ago; if he doesn’t know the ropes by now, he never will. Chef, you made me do gueridon!” Gueridon was a way of cooking at the table in front of the diner. Traditionally performed by wait staff, it was technical, requiring deft handling of the food and dishes, combined with an actor’s flair. Sophie could do it, but she was a little rusty, and tableside performance was not her forte. However, Monty had demanded she do bananas flambé that very night with no time to prepare, and it had gone terribly wrong.

Really
wrong; splattering flaming sugar and rum on the guest was not a great performance.

He wasn’t answering. “Monty, come
on
! Craig should be able to step in and work right away. If he’s half the sous chef you claim he is—better than me, apparently—then he should be fine. I have to go.”

That was when the chef started screaming unintelligible phrases that were jabbered so high, Sophie held the phone away from her ear. When he paused, she asked, “So, can I have time off?”

“No! I expect you in the kitchen tomorrow morning at eight for staff meeting and prep.”

He hung up. She paused and got out her cell phone. Well, no wonder no one had been able to get a hold of her; she had it on mute and hadn’t even put vibrate on. She scanned through her numbers and called Adrian. She explained what had happened at the restaurant, and then said, “But it’s okay. If Monty wants Craig as sous chef, then so be it. There’s no arguing with chef.” She then explained about her Nana’s illness, and that she had to take off for a few days.

“But it’s just your grandmother!” Adrian said. “I didn’t even go to my grandmother’s funeral.”

She held her breath for one long minute so she didn’t shriek at him, then said, “Adrian, I’m not playing. I
am
going.”

“Not if you want a job to come back to you aren’t.”

“I’m leaving tonight.”

“Figures. You only got the job because your mother bribed Papa anyway.”

“What?”

“Oh, you didn’t know? Here I thought you knew all along. It surprised me how you worked like a busy little beaver when Papa wouldn’t let me get rid of you. Said he’d promised your mom. She wanted you back here to snag some rich husband or another, so she
bribed
my dad to take you on as sous chef. That’s how we got the catering contract for your mother’s annual Hamptons June gala, you know.”

She was stunned into silence by an overwhelming sense of bitter betrayal.

“I’ll bet you don’t even know the full extent of her interference in your life. You really ought to talk to your mother more.”

“What do you mean?” she asked, finding her voice.

“Never mind. You can find out on your own. I told my father you’d prove to be unreliable. I knew I was right.”

“Adrian, you’re a pill, and Monty is a no-talent jerk. Good luck with him and with Craig, who doesn’t know broccoli from broccolini, because I quit.”

She was on the road in her mother’s cast-off Jetta in fifteen minutes. She drove all night, nonstop. As she entered downtown Gracious Grove, she was exhausted, but relieved.

BOOK: The Grim Steeper: A Teapot Collector Mystery
11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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