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The Luckiest Woman Ever (Molly Sutton Mysteries 2): ebook

The Luckiest Woman Ever (Molly Sutton Mysteries 2): 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

2005

In the grand old mansion on rue Simenon, in the center of Castillac, sitting in a deep armchair covered in a fabric so expensive it could have paid for a small car, Josephine Desrosiers was watching a game show. She was wearing a nightgown her husband, long dead, had bought for her in Paris thirty years earlier. She blinked as the host talked rapidly in his forced jolly tone, lights on the set flashing as a contestant managed to mumble out the correct answer.

Madame Desrosiers was seventy-one, and her hearing was as sharp as ever. She heard the door to the kitchen close three floors down even though Sabrina, the housekeeper who came each morning, was a quiet girl and not remotely a door-slammer. Josephine got to her feet and snapped off the television set, then smoothed the cushion of the armchair so it looked fresh and unsat-in. And then she nimbly climbed into her vast bed with its ornate posts and carved headboard, and squeezed her eyes closed.

Sabrina could not clean the entire four-story house in one day, even as young and hardworking as she was. That day she did all of the first floor and most of the second, but never came up to Madame Desrosiers’s bedroom. Madame Desrosiers had told her that she was very ill and did not have the wherewithal to see visitors, including Sabrina, so she was left alone. She had a box of crackers under her bed and a bit of Brie that was past its prime—quite enough sustenance thank you—so she never rang the servant’s bell.

When Madame Desrosiers heard the door softly shut at the end of the day, she slid out of bed and turned the television back on. Then she did her exercises in front of an enormous gilt-framed mirror, counting her movements, bending to the right and then the left, breathing heavily from the work of reaching for her toes. She was preparing for the best part of the day, when she sat at her desk and wrote letters. Each one was a harassing and maligning and instructing sort of letter, every single one of which, when opened, was greeted with the same feeling of deflation and even shame in its recipient, just as Josephine intended.

Josephine Desrosiers had been a lucky woman, in material respects. Her family had not been wealthy, but her husband had invented something that made him millions. (She couldn’t say what exactly—something electrical, she believed?) And now she was able to play the significant role of Rich Widow, complete with younger members of the family gathered at her feet, hoping for the odd crumb to fall their way.

Well, there was one family member who did that, anyway: Michel, her nephew. He would likely come around tonight as he usually did late in the week, trying to butter her up. Very occasionally she wrote him a small check. She liked sometimes to think of herself as bountiful, and with impressive self-control, she denied any connection in her mind between Michel’s attentiveness and the money she gave him. As she thought of Michel, the doorbell sounded and she heard him let himself in. She was not quite dressed and she enjoyed making him wait. Josephine liked the idea of the young man sitting in her salon, twiddling his thumbs, with nothing to do but look forward to the moment when she appeared at the top of the wide, curving staircase.

A vanity table stood in a corner of the expansive bathroom off her bedroom, covered with crystal bottles of perfume and old tins of eyeliner and foundation. She sat gazing at herself in the mirror, brushing her wisps of white hair straight up. She dabbed her fingertips into a pot of rouge and reddened up her wrinkled cheeks. She applied lipstick and blotted it with special blotting papers. It occurred to her, not for the first time, that some music might be pleasant to listen to while she made her preparations, but the record player had broken decades ago and she had no wish for anything ugly and modern in the house.

Finally, with a spritz of perfume, Josephine Desrosiers was ready to greet her nephew. She was spry for her age and she had no trouble with the stairs. She nearly hummed to herself as she descended, but stopped herself because she thought humming was a low-class pursuit. Her nephew, chewing on a fingernail, was sitting on the very edge of the sofa cushion, his brown hair falling down over one eye.

“Ah, Michel, comment vas-tu?”

Michel jumped up from the sofa and kissed his aunt on both cheeks, murmuring the most polite murmurs he could come up with.

He loathed his aunt.

He thought her mean and narcissistic, which did not take an abundance of perception. 

“What would you like to do this evening, my dear?” he asked her, so solicitous he almost believed himself. “How about a bit of television? I hear there’s a new—”

“Television is vulgar,” said Madame Desrosiers.

“Ah. Well, shall I take you out to dinner then? Are you hungry?”

She considered. She did like to enter a restaurant and see the people she knew jump up to come say hello. But on the other hand, the tiresome service! The expense! She had lost her appetite for food years ago, and she didn’t see the point in spending that much time and money on something she wasn’t especially interested in. “If you would make me my usual,” she said.

Michel sighed inwardly and went to a sideboard. He took a dangerously fragile cordial glass from inside the cabinet and placed it on a silver tray. Then he poured some Dubonnet from a crystal decanter and took the glass to his aunt. The stuff smelled musty like the rest of the house and he did not breathe until she took it from him.

He would have welcomed a drink himself, but had learned that helping himself, or even asking politely if he might join her, was a mistake. And with Aunt Josephine Desrosiers, you did not want to make mistakes. Not if you wanted to escape without a cruel dressing-down.

And definitely not if you wanted to inherit her money.


* * *


Molly Sutton rubbed her sleeve on the window trying to wipe away the condensation blocking her view of the meadow, but it was not fog on the window, it was ice. On the inside. Her first winter in France, and oh it was a cold one. Lowest temperatures in decades, and La Baraque—her beautiful, odd, old house—was not insulated.

She had moved to the village of Castillac at the end of the summer. A fresh start in a beautiful place: a life of gardening, eating fabulous food, running a gîte business, and talking to goat farmers—that was what she had imagined. Instead, she had discovered a corpse in the woods and gotten involved in a murder investigation, not exactly the peace and serenity she was going for.

But on the whole, Castillac was even better than she had dreamed: she had made friends, even good friends; the beauty of the village and the surrounding area never failed to take her breath away; and the pastry was sublime.

Molly was willing to pronounce any day that began with an almond croissant from Pâtisserie Bujold at least a partial success. Now of course, they were at their peak when utterly fresh, so that meant walking the kilometer and a half into the village to buy one first thing in the morning, still warm from the oven. And Café de la Place was only two steps away from the pâtisserie, after all—why not stop in for a café crème and say bonjour to that blindingly handsome server, Pascal?

She wasn’t flirting with him, not really. She was too old for him anyway. Nevertheless, they showed their appreciation for each other as he took her order with a twinkle in his eye, as if to say: in a parallel universe I’d have a romp with you, oh yes.

Molly allowed herself a twinkle back.

But that was a summer sort of exchange, all that twinkling, when sitting outside with the sun on your back felt so good, and the days were so long it was sometimes hard to fill them up. Winter was a whole other matter. Restaurants closed their terraces, and everyone wrapped themselves up in heavy coats and sweaters. It didn’t feel very sexy. Instead of warm, loose, and easygoing, life felt stiff and closed in.

Molly’s best friend in Castillac was Lawrence Weebly, but he had taken off for a month in Morocco, and December had begun to drag a little. She was lonely.

Instead of going into the village she booted up her computer and checked her email. No inquiries about booking the cottage. Make that lonely and anxious about money. But at least the first problem was easy enough to solve. She emailed Frances, her best pal from the U.S., and invited her to come for a long visit. The cottage was empty anyway and Molly would love the company.

Frances must have been sitting at her computer at the same time, because in three seconds she emailed back: PACKING.

Molly grinned but had a pang of regret at her impulsiveness. Yes, Frances was an old friend and gobs of fun, and Molly loved her. But Frances was also, well, the sort of person trouble seemed to follow. Houses burned down, cars were stolen, epic misunderstandings—this was Frances’s daily life. Molly could only hope that her black cloud would stay on the other side of the Atlantic, or that perhaps by now Frances had outgrown it. They weren’t far from forty, after all.

Someone banged on the front door.

“Coming!” yelled Molly, wishing again for a dog. She always felt a spark of worry, opening the door when she had no idea who was on the other side. Was she too suspicious? Overly anxious? She made a mental note to ask Frances if she felt the same.

Constance, the young woman who occasionally came to clean, stood on the front step with a toothy grin. She had her hair scraped back into a high ponytail that Molly knew was her ready-to-work hairstyle. They exchanged greetings and Constance came in and stood in front of the woodstove.

“It’s really cold in here, Molls,” she said. “Are you sure you don’t want Thomas to put in some electric heaters so you don’t freeze to death? I’d hate to come over and find you all stiff and iced over!”

“Nah, it’s not that bad. Spring’s right around the corner anyway.”

“It’s December.”

Molly shrugged. “I’m sorry I don’t have anything for you to do today. I knew bookings would fall off once the weather turned, but it’s worse than I expected. I guess anticipating something isn’t the same thing as going through it. No one’s set foot in the cottage since you cleaned it last.”

Constance looked crushed. “Well, but—how about I clean your house instead of the cottage?” She looked around the living room and raised her eyebrows at the line of bark and twigs that had trailed over the floor when Molly brought in armloads of wood.

“Sorry, Constance. Without bookings, I don’t have the money to pay you. Want a cup of coffee? How about you sit down and tell me all the news. I know you have news.” Molly smiled and gestured toward the living room.

Constance smoothed a stray lock of hair behind one ear. “Well,” she said, “have you heard about Madame Luthier? You know her, she lives in that decrepit house over on rue Saterne?”

Molly shook her head while getting another coffee cup. Constance was a terrible cleaner, no getting around that, but she did always have news, and she wasn’t stingy with it either—qualities Molly esteemed quite highly. At least as high as being adept with a vacuum cleaner, luckily for Constance.

“I think I met her at the market one day. Dresses all in black, with really thick hose?”

“Yeah,” laughed Constance. “And black shoes that, I don’t know, look like she’d like to kick someone?”

“Did she do something scandalous?” Molly handed Constance the coffee and sat on the sofa, leaning forward and hoping for a juicy tidbit.

“Depends on if you think cutting her daughter out of her will is scandalous.”

“Ooo, maybe not. But mean. Did the daughter do something horrible? Or is Madame Luthier just a controlling battle-axe?”

Constance tittered. “Well, maybe I shouldn’t say cut her daughter out, because in France you can’t do that. But she’s leaving only the portion required by law, which I think anyone would agree that if the daughter had to put up with Madame Luthier all these years she deserves more than that!”

“You mean there are laws about what you do in your will?”

“Oh, yes,” said Constance. “Your children automatically get half or something? Oh, I’m not good with the details,” said Constance. “Math was so not my thing, and it’s not like my parents are going to leave me anything but debts. But so anyway, I heard the daughter—her name is Prudence and everyone used to call us Pru and Con, although I don’t personally see what’s so funny about that—so Prudence is supposedly furious. But she better not kill her mother unless she changes her will!” And Constance slammed back against the sofa laughing hysterically at her former schoolmate’s predicament.

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A widow in a mansion. Dark secrets. And poison, deadly poison. 

After amateur detective Molly Sutton stumbles on a dead body, she wastes no time before eavesdropping and elbowing her way into conversations all over the French village of Castillac.

But when Chief Dufort is about to clap handcuffs on the wrong man, she’s got to do more than chat to save him. Will she have the stuff—and the skill—to pull it off? 

 

A widow in a mansion. Dark secrets. And poison, deadly poison.

After amateur detective Molly Sutton stumbles on a dead body, she wastes no time before eavesdropping and elbowing her way into conversations all over the French village of Castillac. But when Chief Dufort is about to clap handcuffs on the wrong man, she’s got to do more than chat to save him. Will she have the stuff—and the skill—to pull it off?

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