A Trifling Murder By Jo A. Hiestand

The annual Robert Burns Birthday Dinner celebration is underway in the small Missouri town of Beaudin Trace. Guests gather to honor Scotland's national poet with bagpipes and haggis and a trifle for dessert. But everything isn't as smooth as Scotch whisky. The Society's president and vice-president have a very public haggle over the haggis. And less than an hour later, one of them is found dead.

And found by Kate Dunbar, owner of The Cookie Cutter Bakery. It wouldn't be too bad except the victim was murdered with her knife.

Gossip hints she is the killer. The majority of her customers must agree, for her bakery sales fall drastically. If she is to keep the business from crumbling, she needs to investigate.

But sleuthing is harder and more dangerous to Kate and those around her than she thought. Luckily, she gets help from the town's zany songwriter and his Scottie dog. Murder is no trifling matter.

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"It's a good turn-out for the birthday dinner this evening. " Scott Munro, a middle-aged man of average height and giving the impression of being encased in tartan cloth, sat at the head table and gazed around the community center's large dining room. The guests were lingering over their cocktails and conversations during the last minutes of the social hour. Everyone looked to be having a good time.

He rubbed his chin, as if deep in thought, and shifted his attention around the group. "In fact, I think this year's Robert Burns Night attendance must be some sort of record-breaker. Even Harold came."

"Harold always comes." Erin Joubert, seated next to Scott, smoothed a wrinkle from her white blouse without looking in Harold's direction. "He's usually here to sing one of his songs. Nice that he brought a Scottie dog this year. Adds to the occasion." She repositioned a lock of her brunette hair behind her ear as she murmured, "I wonder if Robert Burns had a Scottie."

"Is the dog still here?" Scott stood up, perhaps to get a better view of Harold, when he lurched sideways. He grabbed the edge of the table as if to steady himself. As he did, his left hand brushed against the tumbler of whisky at his place and knocked it over. The liquid arched upward and outward before it plopped onto Erin's empty plate. As the liquor gushed over the plate’s edge, she yelped and got to her feet.

“Watch what you’re doing!” The unfortunate victim grabbed her napkin and tried to blot the wet spots on her blouse.

Scott turned to face her, his face a picture of remorse. “Erin, dear, I’m so sorry. My ankle buckled and I lost my balance. I hope your clothing will be all right." He peered at her silk blouse. "Please, send me the dry cleaning bill.”

Erin glared at him, her dark eyes like black pools of liquid. “At least it didn’t splatter onto my kilt skirt. Just be careful, please.” She sat down and laid the napkin on the edge of the table. Across the room, the Scottie dog joined her in protest.

“Certainly. I’ve been having trouble with my leg lately and—” He broke off as he seemed to lose his balance again. As he clutched at anything to check his fall, his hand hit the spoon beside his plate and sent it flying. It smacked Erin’s chest before it fell onto her lap.

She shoved back her chair as she jumped up. Her stare shifted from her blouse to Scott's face, and her voice rose to match the angry flush surging up her neck. “Hurling the spoon at me is bad enough. What if it had been in your soup plate at the time?”

Scott winced and wiped his hand over his mouth. “Technically, I didn't hurl the spoon at you." He enunciated the verb, speaking slowly and distinctly and giving it more emphasis than the other words. "It accidently dislodged from its innocent placement and unfortunately your...chest...was in the path of the trajectory."

"Hurled. Flung. Heaved. Choose which clash you like. The outcome is the same. It hit me. "

About the Author 

Jo A. Hiestand grew up on regular doses of music, books, and Girl Scout camping. She gravitated toward writing in her post-high school years and finally did something sensible about it, graduating from Webster University with a BA degree in English and departmental honors. She writes a British mystery series (the McLaren Mysteries)—of which three books have garnered the prestigious N.N. Light’s Book Heaven ‘Best Mystery Novel’ three years straight. She also writes a Missouri-based cozy mystery series (The Cookies & Kilts Mysteries, of which "A Trifling Murder" is the second book) that is grounded in places associated with her camping haunts. The camping is a thing of the past, for the most part, but the music stayed with her in the form of playing guitar and harpsichord, and singing in a folk group. Jo carves jack o’ lanterns badly and sings loudly. She loves barbecue sauce and ice cream (separately, not together), kilts (especially if men wear them), clouds and stormy skies, and the music of G.F. Handel. You can usually find her pulling mystery plots out of scenery—whether from photographs or the real thing.

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