Of Spice and Men

A Pancake House Mystery

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Lights. Camera. Murder? Wildwood Cove’s star turn is soured by a sneaky killer in this delicious cozy mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of The Crêpes of Wrath.

Bonus content: includes original recipes inspired by the Flip Side Pancake House menu!

With a Hollywood film crew in town to shoot a remake of the horror classic The Perishing, the residents of Wildwood Cove are all abuzz. Even Marley McKinney, owner of The Flip Side Pancake House, can overlook the fact that the lead actress, Alyssa Jayde, happens to be an old flame of her boyfriend. After all, the crew loves Marley’s crêpes—so much so that Christine, the head makeup artist, invites her onset for a behind-the-scenes tour. But when Marley arrives, the special-effects trailer is on fire . . . with Christine inside.

The cops quickly rule Christine’s death a murder, and Alyssa a suspect. Marley’s boyfriend insists that the actress is innocent, but when Marley sticks her nose into the complicated lives of The Perishing’s cast and crew, she discovers more questions than answers. It seems that everyone has a hidden agenda—and a plausible motive. And as the horror spills over from the silver screen, Marley gets a funny feeling that she may be the killer’s next victim.

Sarah Fox’s addictive Pancake House Mysteries can be enjoyed together or à la carte:
THE CRÊPES OF WRATH | FOR WHOM THE BREAD ROLLS | OF SPICE AND MEN

Under the Cover

An excerpt from Of Spice and Men

Chapter 1

A small flame flickered to life, dancing up from the pile of kindling in the large stone fireplace. I carefully added some larger pieces of wood, gently blowing on the flame, coaxing it to grow and spread. More flames erupted, consuming the kindling with greed before igniting the small logs I’d placed on top of the tinder. Soon, a full-fledged fire was roaring, radiating warmth and an orange glow into the dining area of The Flip Side Pancake House.

I stepped back to admire the effect. The crackling fire added to the cozy atmosphere of the pancake house, created in part by its rustic wood beams and dark flooring. I’d thoroughly enjoyed the recent summer months, spending my free time on Wildwood Beach and swimming in the ocean, but I didn’t mind that the weather had changed a couple of weeks back, steadily getting cooler as summer morphed into fall.

This morning had dawned even cooler than the previous ones, prompting me to put the stone fireplace to use. With drizzling rain adding to the chill of the air, I knew The Flip Side’s diners would appreciate the extra warmth.
After setting the protective screen back into place in front of the fire, I brushed my hands off on my jeans and surveyed the rest of the dining area. The time was creeping toward seven o’clock, opening time, and I now had everything ready to go. Turning as I heard the sound of the front door opening, I smiled when I saw Leigh Hunter, The Flip Side’s full-time waitress, coming in out of the morning drizzle, her jacket’s hood up to protect her bleached-blond hair from the rain.

“Morning, Marley,” she said as the door fell shut behind her. Before I had a chance to return the greeting, she took in the sight of the fire crackling merrily across the room. “First fire of the season. Nice!” She rubbed her hands together. “It’s a perfect day for it.”

“That’s what I thought,” I said.

She shrugged out of her rain jacket and headed for the break room. As she disappeared from sight, the front door opened again, this time admitting sixteen-year-old Sienna Murray. Sienna had worked full-time at The Flip Side during the summer and hadn’t wanted to give up the job completely when she returned to school, so she was now coming in on weekends. The teenager had grown out her hair over the past three months. She still had magenta streaks, but her dark hair now reached her shoulders, and it was currently damp from the rain.

“A fire!” she exclaimed happily after we’d said good morning. “So cozy.” She approached the stone hearth and held out her hands to warm them. “Did you see all the trailers? It’s so exciting that there’s going to be actual Hollywood actors in Wildwood Cove.”

“I didn’t see the trailers,” I said. “I came my usual way along the beach. Where are they?”

“Along Wildwood Road, near where Shady Lane branches off to the south.”

“Makes sense. I heard they’ll be doing a lot of filming at the Abbott house on Shady Lane.”

“Yep. The production company is paying for the Abbotts to stay at our place while the filming’s going on,” she said, referring to her family’s waterfront bed-and-breakfast, located three properties away from my own beachfront Victorian. “I wish they’d picked my house for the movie. It’s not spooky-looking like the Abbott house, though.” She glanced at the clock on the wall and rubbed her hands together one last time. “I’d better go get ready.”

As she hurried off down the hall to the break room, I headed for the front door to flip the closed sign to open. I had to agree with Sienna that it was exciting to have a Hollywood production here in our small seaside town on the Olympic Peninsula. I didn’t keep up with recent feature film releases and I didn’t make a point of following the lives of Hollywood stars, but it would be cool to have Wildwood Cove appear on the big screen.

Back when I lived in Seattle, I’d seen movies filmed now and then in various parts of the city, and I knew that watching a scene being filmed could get boring with the repeated takes, but the energy the upcoming production had injected into the town was infectious and I knew I’d probably check out the main shooting location at some point during the week.

The arrival of the production had another benefit—good business. While some of the cast and crew would be lodging in Port Townsend or Port Angeles, having them working in Wildwood Cove meant more business for The Flip Side and other eateries around town. The cast and crew would have access to some food on set, but already a few people attached to the production had ventured into the pancake house for a meal. Filming was scheduled to begin the next morning and several members of the crew were already here, getting ready for the shoot. Some of the actors had probably arrived by now, too.

Leaning in close to the glass door, I peered out at the dull morning. The Flip Side’s front door opened onto a paved promenade that ran along the top of Wildwood Beach, and at the moment both the promenade and the beach were deserted. No doubt the damp and chilly weather had kept many of the town’s early risers indoors.

Still, I knew I didn’t have to worry. Rain or shine, most of The Flip Side’s regulars would appear at some point, and hopefully others would join them.

With no one to serve yet, I followed Sienna as she passed through the swinging door into the kitchen while Leigh stayed behind, tying a red apron around her waist. Although I was only seconds behind Sienna, she was already chatting about the movie when I reached the kitchen.

“I’m hoping I’ll get to see Chase Lowman,” she was saying to Tommy Park, assistant to The Flip Side’s chef, Ivan Kaminski. “He’s pretty hot, even though he’s a bit on the old side.”

I nearly choked on the air I was breathing in. “He’s what? In his mid-thirties?”

Her eyes widened as she realized what she’d said. “Thirty-six. You’re younger than that, Marley.”

“By three years.”

“Um . . .” Sienna tried to backtrack. “I meant he’s hot and really young?”

I tried to look unimpressed, but Tommy was stifling a laugh and I was more amused than anything.

“It’s all right,” I assured her. “I get that thirty-six seems almost ancient when you’re sixteen.”

She smiled with relief. “I’d better get back out front.”

As she left the kitchen, Ivan muttered under his breath, “Ridiculous.”

I looked at the burly chef with surprise. He was in the midst of slicing up some bell peppers, thunk-thunking his knife against the cutting board with obvious irritation, his typical scowl surlier than usual.

“She didn’t mean anything by it,” I told him, thinking he was insulted by what Sienna had said about Chase Lowman, who was younger than the chef by nearly ten years.

“Not Sienna,” he said as he continued slicing the peppers. “The movie.”

“Not a horror fan?” Tommy guessed.

“Not a remake fan,” Ivan corrected. “Especially when it’s a remake of a classic.”

“The Perishing is a classic?” I said, once again surprised.

Ivan glared at me. “Haven’t you seen it?”

I tried not to shrink beneath his fierce gaze. “I wasn’t even born when it came out.” His scowl intensified and I realized maybe that wasn’t the best thing to have said. “Besides,” I went on quickly, “I don’t really watch horror movies. I fell asleep in the first ten minutes of Night of the Living Dead, and that was it for me and the horror genre.”

I flinched when Ivan pointed the tip of his knife at me.

“You’ve missed out.” He glowered at me for another second before going back to his food preparation.

“Are you going to watch this version of The Perishing when it comes out?” Tommy asked me.

“Sure. It’ll be cool to see all the familiar locations.”

“You should watch the original first,” Ivan muttered.

“Maybe I will. Maybe that’s what Lisa and I will watch for our next movie night,” I said, referring to one of my closest friends in Wildwood Cove.

Ivan still didn’t look pleased, but that wasn’t unusual for him. I could hear voices other than Leigh’s and Sienna’s coming from beyond the kitchen, so I headed for the door.

“I’d better get out there.”

Leaving Ivan and Tommy to their work, I joined Leigh and Sienna out in the dining area. Two tables had been claimed by early-morning diners, and I stopped to say hello to them before retreating to The Flip Side’s office, knowing the two waitresses could handle the front of the house on their own for the time being.

More than an hour passed before I finished up my last administrative task and returned to the dining area to see how things were going. The restaurant was fairly busy now, but Leigh and Sienna were managing well, so when I spotted a familiar face across the room, I decided to take a few minutes to chat.

“Morning,” I greeted Chloe Collins, my boyfriend’s younger sister. “How are things going?”

“Good,” she replied as I pulled out the chair across from her and settled into it. “How about you?”

“Same.”

Chloe leaned forward, her blue eyes bright with excitement. “Guess who I saw this morning.”

“Someone from the movie?” I figured that was a safe guess considering her enthusiasm.

“Yes. And not just any somebody. Chase Lowman!”

“So he’s arrived, then.”

“Definitely. And he brought his cute dog, an Australian shepherd, I think. He was heading for the beach to take a walk. He didn’t seem to mind about the rain. Some Hollywood stars probably wouldn’t be caught dead getting their hair wet.”

“Did you talk to him?”

Disappointment replaced some of the excitement in her eyes. “No, I didn’t have the nerve.”

“He’ll be around for a while. Maybe you’ll have another chance.”

“I hope so. He’s even better looking in person than he is on the screen. And I loved him in Forever Gone. He’s not just eye candy. He’s actually quite a good actor.”

“He was good in Forever Gone,” I agreed. “That’s one of the few movies I’ve seen in the theater over the last couple of years.”

Sienna delivered a plate of blueberry crumble pancakes to our table, and after tucking her blond hair behind her ear, Chloe started in on her breakfast.

“Whatever happened with the lead actress in The Perishing?” I asked, remembering some of the talk I’d overheard in the pancake house over the last couple of weeks. “Didn’t she have to pull out?”

Chloe nodded as she chewed and swallowed. “She was in a car accident and broke her leg. Had to have surgery.” She paused for a sip of coffee. “The production company had to rush to replace her.”

“I’m assuming they did find a replacement, seeing as they’re still going forward with things tomorrow.”

“They did, but I’m not sure who it is.” She dug her phone out of her purse as she chewed another bite of pancake.

 “I can probably find out online.”

A group of four entered The Flip Side then, so I pushed back my chair. “I’d better give Leigh and Sienna a hand. Talk to you again soon?”

“Definitely,” Chloe said as she opened the Internet browser on her phone.

I returned to the office to grab my red apron and was soon back at the front of the house, ready to take orders and serve meals. I delivered two plates of mushroom asparagus crêpes to one table and headed back to grab the coffeepot to offer refills. On my way, I passed Chloe’s table. She still had her phone out, but she was staring at it with stunned eyes, all the color gone from her face.

I put a hand on her back. “Chloe? What’s wrong?”

She shoved her phone into her purse and swallowed hard. “Nothing. I just . . . I’m not feeling too well.”

“Was it the food?” I asked with alarm, eyeing the remains of her pancakes.

“No,” she said quickly. “It’s my head. I think I might be getting a migraine.” She pulled some bills out of her wallet and put them on the table. “Can I leave this with you?”

“Of course.”

She pushed back her chair and grabbed her jacket.

“I hope you feel better soon.”

“Thanks, Marley,” she said, already on her way to the door.

I watched her go, puzzled and concerned. Whatever had sent her rushing out of the pancake house, it certainly wasn’t a migraine.

- About the author -

USA Today bestselling Sarah Fox was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she developed a love for mysteries at a young age. When not writing novels or working as a legal writer, she is often reading her way through a stack of books or spending time outdoors with her English Springer Spaniel.

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— Published by Alibi —