she moved to the coastal California town of San Nicholas, expecting
to start a new life with her fiancé. Five months—and a broken
engagement—later, at least her dream of opening a pie shop has
become a reality. But when one of her regulars keels over at the
counter while eating a quiche, Val feels like she’s living a nightmare.
drops faster than a fallen crust. Convinced they’re both suspects,
Val’s flaky, seventy-something pie crust maker Charlene drags her
boss into some amateur sleuthing. At first Val dismisses Charlene’s
half-baked hypotheses, but before long the ladies uncover some shady
dealings hidden in fog-bound San Nicholas. Now Val must expose the
truth—before a crummy killer tries to shut her pie hole.
lean dancer’s muscles moving smoothly, and I had to crane my neck to look up at her. On her jacket, Heidi’s Health
and Fitness was emblazoned over her heart. She halted in front of the register.
Joe looked up from his bar stool, grinning, but his smile seemed a little pained.
“Hi.” Smiling, I laid a hand on the counter. “You must be from the new gym. I’m Val.”
“I’m looking for the owner.” The corners of her lips quirked, quick, professional, cool.
“That would be me. Welcome to the street. I was about to go to your grand opening.”
“I’m Heidi Gladstone.”
We shook hands, my knuckles grinding within her grip.
Dropping my hand to my side, I flexed my fingers, restoring the circulation. “Thanks for stopping by. I baked a
welcome gift for your grand opening,” I said, taking the quiche from beneath the counter.
“No thanks.” She shook her head. “I don’t do dairy.”
“I used almond milk.”
“Is there any cheese in it?”
“Only goat cheese.”
She reared away as if I’d suggested cyanide. “I don’t do dairy.”
Joe’s smile broadened.
I took a deep breath, inhaling the calming scents of baking fruits and sugar. “What can I do for you?”
“You can change your sign.” She pointed at the neon above me. “Turn your frown upside down? It encourages
emotional eating. Sugar kills, and though it does give a quick emotional high, the satisfaction is fleeting. My
customers are trying to rebuild their health. It’s not good for them to constantly see that negative reinforcement.”
I laughed. She was kidding. Of course. “Right. Good one!”
She frowned, a faint line appearing between her blond brows. “I’m quite serious.”
“But . . . it’s my slogan. It’s on everything—my sign outside, the menus, my business cards.” This had to be
“Exactly,” she said. “It’s a problem. Do you have any sugar-free pies?”
“My potpies are sugar free. And so is this quiche.”
“I advocate a vegan diet. I couldn’t eat a potpie or a quiche. Do you sell any sugar-free fruit pies?”
“Um, no.” Sugar free? I’d heard of such things, and this was California, where people could be more thoughtful
about eating. But a sugar-free pie? That was unnatural and possibly un-American. Besides, fruit was full of natural
“I’ll bring some recipes by tomorrow.” She whirled, her ponytail coming within inches of my face, and marched out
of the store. The bell over the entrance tinkled in her wake.
Joe wedged himself free of the bar stool and waddled to the counter, arms extended. “I’ll take that breakfast pie.
And a fork.”
Sighing, I handed him the quiche. “All right. You win.
Do you want a plate to go with that?”
“No. Why get a plate dirty? I’ll eat it from the tin.”
“How did you know she wouldn’t take it?”
Joe winked. “She kicked off her grand opening this morning with a lecture on the evils of gluten, lactose, and
anything that tastes good. I figured at least one of those things would be in that breakfast pie.”
I nodded. I had yet to meet a gluten-free piecrust that really sang.
He rubbed his stomach. “And the spread was awful, all twigs and health food.”
“It is a gym.”
Petronella stomped toward me in her black motorcycle boots, her brows lowered in a slash, a pie in each hand.
“Are you working the counter today or am I?”
“You are. Sorry. You can have it back.” I edged away.
“Because I need this job, and if you’ve decided you can do it for me—”
“Nope, you’re still chief pie wrangler. Have at it.” While I wasn’t exactly afraid of Petronella, both she and Charlene
were protective of their duties. And since Charlene made the best piecrust in five counties, and Petronella could
soothe the most ferocious customer, I’d learned to stay out of their way.
There was a choking sound, and we both snapped our heads toward the counter.
Joe’s fork clattered to the linoleum. Bowed over the quiche, he gripped his stomach.
I froze, brows squishing together, coldness piercing my core. Then Petronella and I raced around the counter,
bumping into each other as we fought our way through the narrow passage beside the cash register.
Joe fell to the floor, writhing.
I fumbled in my apron pocket for my phone and called 9-1-1.
Petronella clasped one of Joe’s hands. “Joe! I’m here.
Val’s calling an ambulance. What’s happening?”
Joe went limp, his eyes rolling back. He didn’t answer.
to sponsor a pie-eating contest than the Bar X, a fake ghost town
available for exclusive private events on the edge of Silicon Valley.
Valentine Harris is providing the pies, hoping to boost business for
her struggling Pie Town shop and become a regular supplier for the Bar X.
cherry pie in her hands. And the delicious dessert is not the only
victim. Val finds the Bar X bartender shot dead in an alley. Egged on
by her flaky friend and pie crust specialist, Charlene, Val aims to
draw out the shooter. But solving a real murder in a fake ghost town
won’t be easy as pie. And if Val doesn’t watch her back, her pies
won’t be the only thing filled full of lead . . .