Xmas Marks the Spot

On sale now - read it FREE on Kindle Unlimited

OMG! Who hid a quarter of a cow in the trunk of my brother’s beloved Mercedes? And what’s with that spooky big X marking the spot on the beach where a man lies dead? Can my quarter-cow and the corpse possibly be connected?

Detective Bruce Carver doesn’t think the body is any of my business, but someone’s up to no good amid the twinkling Christmas decorations in drowsy Drizzle Bay.

I’m sure I can help, but maybe I’m too curious for my own good. Who’s going to rescue me now a smelly rustler has roped me up far too close to that big white X? Not my brother and his two goofy spaniels. Not old Margaret and little Pierre the poodle. Not my ex-husband, the unfaithful Duncan Skene. I need a super-resourceful man with … umm…muscles.

From Susan on Goodreads

Merry is back in X Marks the Spot the second in the Merry Summerfield Cozy mysteries, I cannot believe what Merry gets herself into without even trying. It is a charming lighthearted and very easy to read book which I found hard to put down, gets you guessing right to the end and oh my what an ending, it leaves you wanting and needing more, please bring on book number three I can't wait, will Merry get together with John or Paul or will there be a twist, all you can be sure is she will walk straight into trouble without any effort absolutely brilliant.

From Chapter 1

You never know what’s lurking where you least expect it.

I finished the last bite of my toast and marmalade, slotted the plate into the dishwasher, and grabbed the spare smart-key to my brother’s Mercedes because I needed to remove his golf clubs from the trunk. All good so far.

The dogs bounded into the garage with me, barking and sniffing. Goodness – maybe there was a dead rat, because something was definitely whiffy. Dust motes whirled around in the air as I operated the car’s auto-open function and the lid rose. Both spaniels whirled around too, dancing on their hind legs and craning their necks for a better view.

“Down, boys!” I yelled. They get away with murder sometimes. Why isn’t Graham firmer with them?

And phew – the smell once it was open. I clutched my throat, trying not to throw up. Not a dead rat in the corner of the garage. A dead….? Ummmm? Leg of beef? In the car. All my hair stood on end. Hair was standing up on end all over the leg of beef, too, which was laid thoughtfully on a sheet of heavy plastic, so at least the carpet hadn’t got soaked through. But OMG, the stink! On top was a somewhat bloody piece of cardboard with a message in bold black marker pen. BEEFY HALDANE BETTER WATCH OUT.

Who the heck was Beefy Haldane? What did he need to watch out for? Who’d put this in Graham’s car? And why?

This was no way to start a beautiful summer’s day in Drizzle Bay, New Zealand!

Graham is a lawyer, and was currently at a legal conference in Melbourne, Australia, which is why I could nick his Merc. I surmised Beefy Haldane was a client of his who was into something criminal. That seemed reasonable. To me, anyway. But how had anyone got an entire leg of beef into a locked car inside a locked garage on a property guarded by two uber-nosy dogs? How had they even carried it? It was enormous.

“Good dogs, good dogs,” I crooned as I hauled on Manny and Dan’s collars to stop them trying to eat the evidence. Eventually I got them back onto the chains attached to their kennels. They weren’t keen to leave a prize like that, and continued to whine and bark and dance about with such fervor I thought they might drag the kennels behind them over the yard. In desperation I tore into the kitchen and brought out duplicate breakfasts. They fell to eating but continued to give me the evil eye for stealing such a treat.

Poor darlings – they’d been acting rather strangely for the weekend Graham had been away – sniffing around the garage as though they suspected me of locking him in there. Given the walks I’d taken them on, and the generous meals I’d provided, this seemed less than grateful, but now I knew why.

So much for looking forward to having our rather yummy vicar, Paul McCreagh, beside me while we drove to the airport in Wellington to collect his sister. She was flying in from England for a Kiwi Christmas. Would the police let me have the car back in time? And how much of that stench could I get rid of, if so?

I’d better explain that I’m Merry Summerfield, a divorced freelance book editor, and I share the family home with Graham after our darling parents left it to us. Arnold and Sally Summerfield. They died many years too early in a nasty car crash. I try not to think about that, but of course it turns up in my brain all the time. Graham is six years older than my forty-four, and conservative beyond belief – hence his choice of a nice safe car like the Mercedes, and in the same shade of silver-gray everyone else seems to choose.

His is much more suitable than my nifty little Ford Focus for collecting a passenger who’s travelled halfway around the world. She might have heaps of luggage. Her brother, Vicar Paul, certainly expected so, and as his car was temporarily out of action I’d offered to fill the gap.

Plainly I needed to contact Detective Sergeant Bruce Carver again. He of the severely bitten fingernails and over-applied cologne. Oddly, the latter might be a benefit this time because boy, that meat really ponged.

I paced to and fro outside the garage a couple of times, psyching myself up. Then, holding my breath and my cell phone, I approached the car, trying to persuade myself there was no need to be sick on the floor. I did my best to take a reasonable photo and beat a hasty retreat out into the fresh air again so I could start re-breathing. I sat on the timber garden seat for a minute or two, feeling a bit faint and shaky.

Cut it out, Merry! You weren’t this bad when you found old Isobel Crombie’s body a couple of months ago. And she was a human being, not a leg of beef.

But Paul was there.

And Isobel didn’t smell.

Yes, having someone else for company and only the sweet scent of flowers was way preferable, but that wasn’t how the cookie had crumbled for me today.

DS Carver’s card was pinned up on the corkboard in the kitchen. I sent him the photo of the beef in the trunk and then rang.

And wouldn’t you know it – he was instantly available instead of roaming the coast interrogating crims and leaving his phone to take messages.

“Ms Summerfield,” he said in his nasal Kiwi twang. “I was just thinking about you.”

I really hoped he wasn’t, unless it was because of the photo.

Dismissing any other thoughts why he could be, I rushed ahead. “Did you get that shot I sent? That’s why I’m ringing. I’ve found a quarter of a cow in Graham’s car. It still has its fur on… ummm, hide on. It’s black, so maybe it’s an Angus.”

DS Carver cleared his throat very noisily. “Slow down, slow down, Ms Summerfield. I’m going to record this conversation if that’s okay with you?”

I clutched at my long hair with my free hand, imagining him plugging things in or twiddling dials. “Yes, fine.” I could hardly turn him down.

“Soooo…” he drawled. “Not to give too much away, because we’ve been trying to keep a lid on it, but Jim Drizzle’s farm has been the subject of a couple of rustling raids. If the beast still has its hide on, that could be very helpful.”

“Yes, definitely still has its hide on. Could you read that notice in my photo?”

“Loud and clear, Ms Summerfield.”

I rushed on. “The thing is, I don’t think it’s aimed at Graham. Whoever did this laid a sheet of plastic under it to protect the car’s carpet. What kind of crook bothers to do that?”

DS Carver cleared his throat again. “Have you touched anything?”

“Euw – you must be joking!”