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Murder for Love (Molly Sutton Mysteries 4): Ebook

Murder for Love (Molly Sutton Mysteries 4): Ebook

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Immerse yourself in French village life

cozy mystery

Read a description of the series

Boston girl Molly Sutton moves to a village in France to heal after a divorce--but then a girl goes missing. Follow the intrepid expat as she uncovers secrets and chases down murderers in charming Castillac, eating a few pastries along the way.

Read chapter 1

July 2006

Molly woke up first, thanks to Bobo’s wet nose in her ear. The morning was warm and she had been sleeping without any covers, so it was easy enough to slip out of bed without waking Ben.

“Come, Bobo,” she whispered, to keep the speckled dog from leaping on the bed. Molly went straight for the coffee press and put the water on while Bobo danced around the kitchen hoping for something delicious to fall from the sky.

All things considered, it had been a blissful few months in Castillac. Order had been restored after the Valerie Boutillier abduction, and the village was its usual lively summer self, with fêtes and informal get-togethers and everyone in a generally sunny mood. Bookings at La Baraque were excellent.

And of course…there was Ben.

Molly had arrived in Castillac in part to recover from a divorce. It hadn’t been a dragged-out, mud-slinging, litigious kind of divorce, but still, it had been painful to have her dream of a cozy family shattered. Molly thought that a change of scenery—all the way from the suburbs of Boston to Castillac, France—would help her get over it. And it had, with the help of new friends and a lot of pastry.

She had most certainly not been looking for romance. She was nearly forty, after all, and already on the road to making peace with the fact that her love life (not to mention childbearing years) might well be behind her. Ben Dufort was a bit younger and the attractive former chief gendarme of the village. He had hardly swept her off her feet; instead, their friendship had deepened slowly, over time, almost without their realizing it. And now that they were together, with everyone in the village knowing about it—and mostly approving, villagers judging these matters freely—Molly was happier than she could remember being in a long, long time.

Just as she was pouring her first cup, she heard a quick rapping on the front door that she recognized as Constance, who helped clean the gîtes on Changeover Day. Quickly Molly slurped some coffee and drank it down, then again. It was wise to have a bit of fortification before facing Constance first thing in the morning.

“Molls!” Constance exclaimed, moving quickly into the foyer when Molly opened the front door. Her shoulder-length hair was pulled back into a ponytail, the hairstyle she wore when she was ready to get to work.

“Bonjour, Constance,” said Molly, drinking more coffee.

“Thérèse is out! Gone! Just like that!”

Molly blinked. “What are you talking about? Gone where?”

“Our gendarme, Thérèse Perrault!” said Constance impatiently. “Come on, Molly, wake up! I heard she got notice of a new posting but didn’t tell anyone. Didn’t want a fuss, I guess, though why anyone would pass up a going-away party is beyond me!”

“Are you saying she’s left the village already?”

“Yes, Molls, that’s exactly what I’m saying! Wake up, little cabbage!”

Molly frowned. Thérèse had said she wouldn’t be able to stay in Castillac much longer—the gendarmerie liked to move its officers around, in an attempt to keep them objective—but she hadn’t said a word about the move being imminent. Molly would sorely miss her. For one thing, Thérèse had respect for Molly’s sleuthing abilities and wasn’t shy about slipping her information in order to get Molly’s help on difficult cases. It was Thérèse who had told Molly about the note taped to the gendarmerie door saying that someone had seen Valerie Boutillier.

“Want some coffee?” she asked, a troubled expression on her still-sleepy face.

“No thanks. Any chance your guests have cleared out yet? I’d like to get going and finish cleaning early. Thomas wants to take me somewhere for a picnic,” she added, grinning.

“It’s not even nine, Constance.”

“Can’t we do something to pry them out of there?”

Molly laughed. “No, you goose. I want their last moments at La Baraque to be happy ones, so that they leave leave feeling wistful and want to come back! Not cursing the cleaner who was knocking on their bedroom window and playing loud music, or whatever it is you have in mind. And speaking of happy moments, I should zip into the village and get some pastry for their last breakfast. You have any other tidbits of news for me? Everything staying relatively harmonious in the village?”

Constance held her chin and looked up at the ceiling, thinking it over. “Yep! No divorces, no burglaries, and no dead bodies. Castillac is an ocean of calm!”

“It’s early yet,” said Molly, under her breath. Not because she was hoping for mayhem, but because she was learning that no place stayed free of it for long.

* * *

A Saturday night in July was more or less perfection in Castillac, thought Molly, for once taking a little care in how she dressed. The weather was exquisitely comfortable, the village blanketed in flowers, and the mood of the villagers buoyant. People were casting around for something to celebrate. One of Therese’s friends had decided to have a going-away party for her at Chez Papa even though the guest of honor had already left town, and the idea was so silly that almost everyone Molly knew was planning to go.

“I remember that little black dress you wore to the I’Institut Degas gala,” said Ben, who was lying on the bed reading the news on his tablet and glancing at Molly as she got ready.

“I remember dancing the Hustle with you,” laughed Molly, and came over to ruffle her hand through his brush-cut hair and give him a quick kiss. “So you’re coming tonight? Our being together is old news now, so people won’t tease us anymore, right?”

“Stop teasing? Never,” said Dufort, rolling his eyes. “Yes, of course I’m coming. No better place to find out what’s on people’s minds.”

“So…you think of yourself as on duty, in a way? Even though you’re a detective without a case?”

“Without a case or a job. But no, I don’t mean it that way, exactly—it’s not like I’m coldly trying to sniff out information or anything like that. I’m just used to keeping an eye on things is all. And people do seem to tell me their problems.”

“Castillac needs a psychiatrist, maybe that can be your next career!”

“Ha. I’m just hoping you’re going to wear that black dress again….”

“It’s too hot for that,” said Molly, blushing. “And come on, get ready—we should be leaving by now.”

Molly was standing next to the bed and Ben reached for her hand and pulled her over. “I don’t feel like sharing you at the moment,” he said softly, kissing her on the neck. And Molly thought again, closing her eyes, that she could not believe her luck. Like so many women, she could fall into the trap of seeing only the ways she did not match up to supermodels in magazines—her legs were short and she was hardly reed-thin—and it was a delight to see herself if only for moment through Ben’s appreciative eyes. 

She had never dreamed, back when she was selling off her furniture and saying goodbye to the house in the Boston suburbs where her marriage had ended, that she would ever feel this light again. 

Moving to Castillac was turning out to be the best thing she had ever done.

* * *

An hour later Molly and Ben drove their scooters down rue des Chênes to Chez Papa. People were spilling out of the bar, standing on the sidewalk, laughing and drinking. A couple of dogs were underfoot. Alphonse had strung multi-colored blinking lights in the scraggly tree nearby and the villagers’ faces kept changing colors.

Salut!” shouted Nico from behind the bar as they made their way inside. Frances was perched on a stool at the end of the bar, her black hair freshly cut in a Louise Brooks bob, her lipstick an arresting red. Molly put her arm around her old friend and they kissed cheeks. Ben wandered off to talk to a group in the corner, people Molly had met but didn’t know well.

“So how’s everything?” asked Frances, lighting a cigarette.

“You’re smoking again?”

Frances shrugged “No. In fact, anything you see that suggests such a thing is an illusion, a trick of the eye, simply—”

“Your sarcasm—”

“Oh, Molly, don’t you ever feel like just kicking up your heels and doing all the bad things for once? Not caring about tomorrow but just living for the moment as deeply and pleasurably as you can?”

Molly considered.

Bonsoir, Molly dear,” said Lawrence Weebly, appearing out the crowd. He was holding his usual bright red Negroni and dressed in a beautiful suit, probably vintage.

“Frances is suggesting we throw all caution to the winds and live for the moment,” said Molly. “I’m thinking it over.”

Lawrence shrugged. “I lived for the moment for quite some time, when I was young,” he said. “I have to say it was overrated.”

“What a bunch of fuddy-duddies,” said Frances, taking a long drag on her Galois. “Okay, I won’t offer either of you a cig, though I bet deep down you’re desperate to be cool like me. Smoking’s not the only way to live for the moment. What about romance? Or throwing your life up in the air and doing something completely new and different?”

“Done and done,” said Molly, “If we’d had this conversation back in Boston, before my marriage broke up and I quit my job and moved here? Then I’d be with you all the way.” She shrugged. “But I’m…I’m really happy now. Content, even. Not looking to shake anything up. What about you, Franny? I would have said you already live for the moment pretty well. It’s not like you let the usual conventions put a damper on, well, anything you get it in your head to do. Doesn’t your family think you’re practically a monster?” 

Frances laughed. “Oh, of course, but honestly, they don’t count. My family thinks if you wear linen in the wrong month you should be separated from polite society, perhaps permanently.”

“Her family is koo-koo,” Molly said to Nico, who grinned, then looked past Molly as more people were coming up to the bar.

“Au revoir, Thérèse!” someone outside shouted, lifting a glass.

Molly noticed that Nico was smiling broadly at someone behind her, and she turned to see whom he was looking at. A foot away stood a stunning woman, smiling back at Nico. She had long dark hair that tumbled past her shoulders in loose waves, and lovely—really lovely—features. But the most arresting thing about her was her eyes, which were tipped up on the outer corners, heavily made-up, and a mesmerizing color of blue-green. Molly realized she was staring but did not want to look away.

“Everything well with you, Iris?” Nico was saying to the woman.

Iris nodded and smiled, but Molly did not believe her. She did not know this woman, had never even seen her before, but she knew a fake smile when she saw one.

Molly gave Nico the “introduce me” stare, but Nico did not get the message.

“So how’s everything in Benny-Land?” Frances asked Molly.

“Must you talk to me like we’re still in sixth grade?”

“Aren’t we?” cackled Frances, taking a sip of her drink followed by a long pull on her cigarette. “I’ll tell you, I’ve been absolutely swamped with deadline after deadline for the last three months. I’ve hardly been outside, I’ve done nothing but work. So I’m proclaiming that from here on, this will be the Summer of Fun. Starting….now!

Molly turned away from Frances and saw that Nico had not heard his girlfriend rambling on, and that he was still looking dreamily into the eyes of the woman behind her, chatting as he slowly made her drink. He was going to be useless for an introduction, so Molly clumsily took matters into her own hands, moving back suddenly from the bar and nearly bumping into her.

“So sorry!” said Molly, turning to her.

“No problem,” said Iris.

Again Molly had the sensation of wanting to do nothing but look into Iris’s eyes and stare at her beautiful face. Her hair was streaked with gray but instead of making her look old, she looked wonderfully exotic, even wise. “Are you a friend of Therese’s?” Molly asked.

The woman looked confused. “Thérèse?”

“Thérèse Perrault, the gendarme? This is her going-away party. Even though she’s already gone.” Molly smiled. “Any excuse to celebrate, I guess, huh? My name’s Molly Sutton. I’m American, but moved to Castillac almost a year ago.”

“Hello, Molly Sutton,” said Iris politely. “Your French is not half bad.” She paused and thought for a moment. “I did know Thérèse, years ago, when she was a child. I cook for the school, at the cantine, so I end up getting to know almost everyone in Castillac that way. Let’s see,” she said, looking up at the ceiling, “I believe Thérèse was very fond of pâté and did not like mushrooms.”

“Heathen,” said Molly, and Iris laughed, though her beautiful blue-green eyes seemed sad.

“Iris! I told you I have to get up at dawn tomorrow, I’m starting the staircase at the Lafont’s. Why did you order another drink? We need to leave now.”

Bonsoir, Pierre,” Molly said, loud enough to be heard over the din.

“Oh, salut, Molly,” said Pierre Gault, his expression not softening much. “I see you’ve met my wife,” he added.

“I’ve been meaning to call you, actually,” said Molly. “Would you swing by La Baraque when you have a moment? There’s a crumbling barn I want to show you, see what you think. Your husband did some very good work at my place, rebuilding a pigeonnier. Guests love what you did with it,” she said, looking back and forth from Iris to Pierre.

“I’ve got a big job now at the Lafont’s, building an extension to their house. Don’t know when I’ll have time for anything else, but I’ll come have a look.”

“Thanks!” said Molly brightly.

“Out!” said Pierre under his breath to Iris, and she took a sip of her drink and nodded to Molly before following him through the crowd and into the summer night.

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A beautiful corpse. Zero clues. Peace in Castillac shattered once more.

When another native of the French village is found dead, Molly and the gendarmes are stumped. Complicating matters, Ben is hired to defend Molly’s prime suspect. Uh oh, mixing romance with detective work can be a dangerous business…or at least, it can lead to some unsteady conclusions.

Will Molly figure out where she’s gone wrong in time to nail the killer? Or will her scheme to unmask the murderer at Lawrence’s disco birthday party fall apart?

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