A Sprinkling of Murder
A Fairy Garden Mystery Book 1
by Daryl Wood Gerber
Genre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Featured on Buzzfeed Books!
Fairy garden store owner Courtney Kelly believes in inviting magic into your life. But when uninvited trouble enters her shop, she’ll need more than a sprinkling of her imagination to solve a murder . . .
Since childhood, Courtney has loved fairies. After her mother died when Courtney was ten, she lost touch with that feeling of magic. A year ago, at age twenty-nine, she rediscovered it when she left her father’s landscaping business to spread her wings and start a fairy garden business and teashop in beautiful Carmel, California. At Open Your Imagination, she teaches garden design and sells everything from fairy figurines to tinkling wind chimes. Now she’s starting a book club tea.
But the light of the magical world she’s created inside her shop is darkened one night when she discovers neighboring dog-grooming business owner Mick Watkins dead beside her patio fountain. To make matters worse, the police suspect Courtney of the crime. To clear her name and find the real killer, Courtney will have to wing it. But she’s about to get a little help from an unexpected source . . .
“Do you see her? Is she down there?” I tried not to let my five-year-old customer hear the panic in my voice. Of course Fiona was down there. She wouldn’t have flown the coop. Okay, she was mad at me for telling her to make herself scarce, but honestly! “Look hard,” I said.
After a breathless moment, the curly-haired girl—Lauren—who was peering into a huge strawberry terra-cotta planter, popped upright, and spun in a circle. “Yes, I do, Miss Kelly. I see her.”
Once upon a time, when I was five, I’d danced among the flowers and twirled to my heart’s content, too.
“Call me Courtney,” I reminded her. Children who came into Open Your Imagination, my fairy garden and tea shop, didn’t have to be formal. The more familiar, the more fun. “And keep your voice soft. You don’t want to scare her.”
“Courtney,” she said. “I do see her. I really do.”
“What does she look like?”
“She’s . . . she’s . . .” Lauren wiggled nervously as if I’d really put her on the spot.
I’d felt the same when I saw my first fairy. A week after my mother planted a fanciful garden filled with yarrow, lilac, and a host of herbs to attract butterflies, I met her. I had been dressed in something similar to what I was wearing now, denim overalls, a lacy shirt, and a gardening apron. She had been as pretty as the sunrise.
Lauren waved her arms. “She’s green and silver and blue and . . . and . . .”
“Go on,” I encouraged. I hadn’t wanted to trust my eyes, either, but my mother had told me to believe. Meadows, rivers, and mountains, she said, were alive with spiritual beings who would give a helping hand to those who asked nicely. I stroked the silver locket that held my mother’s portrait. She’d given me the locket that Christmas. An image of a fairy was etched into the lid. The word Believe was engraved on the underside.
“Mommy,” Lauren called.
She and I were standing on the slate patio, a roofed outdoor garden space,. Her mother was sitting at one of the many wrought-iron tables. She smiled indulgently and whisked her hand, encouraging her daughter to speak. Muted sunlight filtered through the skylight in the pyramid-shaped roof. The ornate fountain carved with fairies and gnomes burbled in the background. A number of customers browsed fairy figurines on the verdigris bakers’ racks and spoke in hushed tones. A few others chatted about how pretty they thought the twinkling lights were that we’d woven through the vines and the potted ficus trees. A cluster of women was checking out the miniature Pink Splash hypoestes plants and golden Monterey cypress we had in stock.
“Tell me about her wings,” I prompted.
“They’re teensy,” Lauren chimed.
I noticed a lot of activity inside the main showroom, the French doors and beveled casement windows of the L-shaped space providing a full view from where we stood. One woman was scrawling her name on the sign-up sheet for the upcoming tea. We didn’t serve tea every day, only on Saturdays. So far, the response for this week’s tea had been tremendous because we’d decided to pair it with a book club event. We were going to discuss The Secret, Book and Scone Society. Scones and tea . . . a perfect fit.
“And her dress?” I asked.
Lauren twirled in place, her tresses fanning out. “It’s silver and looks like my ballet dress.” She grabbed the seams of her pink tutu.
“So her dress is lacy?” I asked.
Lauren bobbed her head. “And she has blue hair and sparkly silver shoes, and she glows.”
“That’s Fiona,” I said. Her hair was actually gossamer and caught the light, much like a prism or the lens of a camera. At certain angles, her hair could become a variety of other colors.
Lauren stopped moving and splayed her arms. “Why are her wings so small? She can’t fly with those.”
“She’s able to fly but not long distances. She has to earn three sets of adult wings first, in addition to her current pair.”
“How will she earn them?”
“By . . .” I tapped my chin. How could I explain it?
Fiona, for all intents and purposes, was a fairy-in-training. She should have been a full-fledged fairy by now, but imp that she was, she’d done one too many pranks in fairy school, so the queen fairy had booted her out and subjected her to probation, during which time Fiona had to get serious. By helping a human, she could earn her way back into the ranks.
“Courtney, yoo-hoo.” Lauren touched my arm. “How will she do it?”
“By doing good deeds,” I replied.
“Everyone should do good deeds,” Lauren said matter-of-factly.
“Yes, they should.” And not pranks like putting syrup in my tea as Fiona had done earlier. I’d warned her that the queen fairy would frown on her antics.
Months ago, when I’d pressed Fiona for details of her banishment, she had been vague. One major restriction was that she could not have fairy friends. Though more fairies existed in Carmel, she wasn’t to socialize with them. Yet.
“How did you meet her?” Lauren asked.
“She came to me the day after I opened this shop.”
“Yes, like magic.”
After Fiona had told me about her predicament, I’d asked her if the queen fairy was a horrible, wicked fairy, and she’d blushed. No, she’d said. The queen was the most wonderful fairy in the whole world. When I grilled her for more information—like were other fairies on probation?—Fiona had dodged the question and instead educated me about her kind. In addition to types of fairies, like air fairies and water fairies, there were four classes of fairies: intuitive, righteous, guardian, and nurturer. Fiona was a righteous fairy, which meant she needed to bring resolution to embattled souls. Of course, there were rules in the fairy world. A righteous fairy couldn’t intentionally put herself in harm’s way.
“Have you always seen fairies?” Lauren asked.
At the tender age of ten, when my mother died, I had lost my ability to see them. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I rubbed the locket my mother had given me, I couldn’t see another. In the ensuing years, I grew serious. In high school, I studied hard to make my father proud. In college, I turned my attention to chemistry and earth sciences. After graduation, I joined my father’s thriving landscaping outfit in Carmel-by-the-Sea and dedicated myself to working the land: dig, plant, don’t have fun, repeat.
Until a year ago when Fiona appeared. At first I saw a sparkle and heard a tinkle and a ping. And then delightful laughter. She had flitted from behind a pot and introduced herself with a curtsy. When I found my wits, I asked why she would reveal herself to me. She explained that although the sorrow over the loss of my mother had squelched my ability as a girl to see fairies, it was my nose-to-the-grindstone attitude toward life that had continued to suppress me. When I made the decision at the ripe old age of twenty-nine to spread my wings and start a fairy garden business, voilà. My heart opened, and Fiona swooped in. She hoped she could save me so I could save her.
A Glimmer of a Clue
A Fairy Garden Mystery Book 2
Courtney Kelly has a shop full of delights, a cat named Pixie, a green thumb—and a magical touch when it comes to garden design. But in Carmel-by-the-Sea, things aren’t all sweetness and fairy lights . . .
When Courtney’s friend Wanda gets into a ponytail-pulling wrestling match in public with a nasty local art critic, Courtney stops the fight with the help of a garden hose. But Lana Lamar has a talent for escalating things and creating tension, which she succeeds in doing by threatening a lawsuit, getting into yet another scuffle—in the midst of an elegant fundraiser, no less—and lobbing insults around like pickleballs.
Next thing Courtney knows, Lana is on the floor, stabbed with a decorative letter opener from one of Courtney’s fairy gardens, and Wanda is standing by asking “What have I done?” But the answer may not be as obvious as it seems, since Wanda is prone to sleepwalking and appears to be in a daze. Could she have risen from her nap and committed murder while unconscious? Or is the guilty party someone else Lana’s ticked off, like her long-suffering husband? To find out, Courtney will have to dig up some dirt . . .
Praise for Daryl Wood Gerber’s A Sprinkling of Murder
“Enchanting series launch from Agatha Award winner Gerber . . . Cozy fans will wish upon a star for more.”
“A winner. . . . Fans of Laura Childs’ work will enjoy.”
Come, fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame! –William Butler Yeats
“That woman is going to be the death of me, Courtney.” Didi Dubois bustled from Open Your Imagination’s main showroom onto the slate patio.
I was standing at the far end, beside the rectangular table in the learning-the-craft corner, creating a fairy garden using a three-foot tall, wide-mouthed blue glazed pot. I loved spending time on the patio, an outdoor garden space with a skylight in its pyramid-shaped roof. Good vibes radiated everywhere.
“I swear her tongue is a dagger and her fingernails are talons,” Didi carried on.
With long strides, she made a beeline past the wrought-iron tables and ornate fountain carved with fairies and gnomes to the verdigris bakers’ racks. Recently, I’d doubled the stock of fairy figurines and fairy equipment and accessories we carried at Open Your Imagination. Customers had been thrilled.
“If she morphed into the tigress that she is,” Didi said, “she would eat me for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” Didi could be quite dramatic. When not working out or playing pickleball, like she obviously had today, judging by her outfit of spandex shorts and tank top, she dressed as dramatically as she came across, in colorful dresses and lacy shawls. “I need to make something that will calm my nerves,” she said loudly.
A few of the customers who were communing near the vines and Ficus trees that adorned the patio were glancing in Didi’s direction. She was oblivious.
“Any fairies about?” she asked.
The scuttlebutt in Carmel-by-the-Sea was that a number of fairies resided at my fairy garden and tea shop. In fact, there was only one—Fiona, a fairy-in-training. I’d come to meet her a little over a year ago when I’d quit my job as a landscaper for my father’s company and dared to open my own business. I’d lost my ability to see fairies after my mother died twenty years ago. Fiona said it was the leap of faith to start something new that had opened my heart to the unimaginable again.
Fiona should have been a full-fledged fairy by now, with three full sets of adult wings, but she’d messed up in fairy school, so the queen fairy had subjected her to probation. Fiona was working her way to earning her wings. As part of the probation, Fiona was not allowed to socialize with other fairies, although she could attend one-on-one classes with a mentor the queen fairy had assigned to her. Because Fiona was classified as a righteous fairy, which meant she needed to bring resolution to embattled souls, she could earn her way back into the queen fairy’s good graces by helping a human. Only last year did I learn that there were classifications of fairies in addition to varieties of fairy types. Classifications included intuitive, guardian, nurturer, and righteous. Types were what most people understood about fairies; there were air fairies, water fairies, and woodland fairies.
“Help, Courtney,” Didi wailed. “I need to rid my mind of these negative thoughts.”
“Sure thing. Pick a pot first,” I suggested.
The size of the planter determined the number of plants and figurines a fairy garden maker would need.
Didi wandered among the many selections the shop offered and stopped beside a hanging pot dressed with moss. “I like this one.”
“Terrific. That’s one of my favorites,” I said. “Next, pick some plants. I like the Pink Splash hypoestes and baby tears, but if you’re going to hang that in hot sun, you might want to consider succulents.”
“What’s that you’re planting?” she asked, circling my work in progress.
“This is a bonsai. To be specific, a dwarf jade.” It was one of the easiest to grow and recommended for beginners.
“I heard you’re making a pot for the Beauty of Art Spectacular,” Didi said
“Yep. This is it.”
The Spectacular, an annual fundraiser to raise money for community outreach programs in the arts, took place the first Saturday in September—two days from now. Wanda Brownie, the event chairwoman and mother of my best friend, had commissioned the garden that I was making. Because she desperately wanted to meet a fairy, I’d encouraged her to help me. I’d reminded her that working on a garden might open her spiritual portals, but she’d pooh-poohed me. Her loss.
“It’s quite pretty,” Didi said.
“Thank you.” For the theme, I’d decided to create an antique-style cityscape. As a focal point, I’d planted the twelve-inch bonsai at the rear of the pot and was currently creating a walkway to it using glass mirror chips. How they sparkled. “It’s taking a bit—”
Didi was no longer listening. She had moved away and was swaying in a bell-like motion, her beaded salt-and-pepper cornrows swinging as she gathered items: a dancing fairy, a reading fairy, and a miniature pig in a pink tutu. She appeared to be humming. That pleased me. I wanted those who came into my shop to find a sense of peace and well-being. Making a fairy garden was an imaginative adventure.
She returned to me. “Okay, now what?”
“You’re not very focused,” I joked. To date, Didi had made four gardens. Not once had she needed me to hold her hand.
“Tell me about it.”
“So, who has you wrapped around the axle?” Once a week, Didi and I played pickleball in a league. She was eons better than I was, but then she had been playing ten years longer than I had and worked out constantly at Sport Zone, the athletic club she’d inherited and managed since her husband passed away.
“Who do you think?” She smirked.
“Bingo.” Didi rolled her eyes. “That woman thinks she is God’s gift to mankind. Honestly, she has no sense of anyone else. She’s a total narcissist. If only she were happily married like you, maybe she’d settle down.”
“Actually, I’m not married.”
“You’re not? Where did I get that notion?”
“I almost was. Years ago.” The day after our co-ed bridal shower, my fiancé announced he never wanted to get married. Ever. And, yet, he did get married, just not to me. He and his wife had three kids, last I heard.
“I’m sorry. My bad. I should have remembered that.”
“Well, Lana is married, but not happily. She’ll mess it up like every other relationship she’s had.”
Lana Lamar was a forty-something antique and art critic who wrote a column for a number of syndicated newspapers. She’d been married once before, prior to marrying Elton. Lana believed she was beautiful beyond words. She wasn’t. Nor was she objective and fair-minded, as she liked to claim. In truth, she was hypercritical of everything. Nothing cut the mustard. How did I know her so well? Whenever she wasn’t working, she was at the athletic club using the StairMaster, which happened to be my machine of choice. Side by side, we would step for an hour. Lana was more than happy to talk about herself. The last time I’d run into her, she’d recited her latest review to me: Without a doubt, Betsy Brahn’s work adds up to a big ego trip. The last time I saw a painting as deluded as Miss Brahn’s witless work, I was ten. Seriously, Miss Brahn, have you no one who will say this to you? Stop. Now. Quit painting. Spare us all. Find another career. The harshness of her words had nearly knocked me off my machine. True to form, Lana had found my stumble amusing.
“What did Lana do this time?” I asked, offering a darling set of miniature fairy signs to Didi. One read: Fairies love to read.
“Ooh, I adore this.” She set it in her basket.
“Lana,” I pressed.
“She bought a third home. In Lake Tahoe.”
“Okay.” I wasn’t following why that upset Didi. The more Lana traveled to her other homes, the less we would all see of her. Good riddance.
“Uh-uh, not okay. She thinks that because she won’t be here as often, she deserves an exemption when it comes to the pickleball championship.”
For fourteen years, Lana had been the reigning champion. Years ago, she’d trained for the Olympics as a long-distance runner, but a bout of mononucleosis had benched her. Ever since, she had striven harder. At tennis. At racquetball. At weight lifting.
“What kind of exemption?” I asked.
“Sport Zone has rules and regulations about how many rounds one has to play in order to compete in any competitive sport.”
“Yes.” I might have been a newbie, but I understood the rules. Even though I never wanted to compete, if I were to do so, I would have to wait an entire year before I’d qualify, and in any given season I would need to compete a minimum of six times to maintain my competitive status.
“Well, she doesn’t want to comply with the rules. She believes she should be able to compete no matter what. No minimums. No qualifications. End of story. ‘Once a champion, always a champion,’” Didi said, mimicking Lana’s strident voice. “No strings attached.”
“Give me a break.”
“I know, right? The name Lana means ‘child.’ That about sums it up.” Didi picked up a ten-inch-tall Schleich Griffin knight. He was clad in white-and-blue robes and holding an ice bolt and awesome spear. “I love this guy.”
“He’s pretty incredible but too big in scale for what you’re planning.”
“I could just buy him and put him on my bookshelf, couldn’t I? Next to my voodoo doll.”
“Let me guess. The voodoo doll is for Lana?”
She let rip with a rollicking laugh. “I made it on my trip to New Orleans. We went to a graveyard. . . .”
As Didi reminisced, Fiona flew to me. “Psst. Courtney.” She hovered nearby, her green wings working hard, blue hair shimmering, her silver tutu and silver shoes sparkling in the sunlight that filtered through the overhead skylight. She whispered, “Didi is really negative. She needs something to lighten her up.”
Didi stopped talking and tilted her head. She was looking in Fiona’s direction, but I was certain she couldn’t see her. Negativity made it difficult for anyone without innate ability to perceive other beings.
“So what are you going to do about Lana?” I asked Didi.
“Block her at every turn, which means she’ll lash out.”
“She wouldn’t hit you—”
“There’s no telling what she might do. I’ve seen her attack other women. It’s not pretty. Don’t worry. I’m prepared. I’ve got my weapons.”
“The voodoo doll?”
“And other tools of the trade.”
That sounded ominous.
“The pen is mightier than the sword.” Didi raised a finger in the air to make her point.
“Oh, I see. A poem.” In addition to running the athletic club, Didi did live readings of her poetry at Harrison Memorial Library. “Will you read it aloud?”
“Perhaps I might.” Didi cackled. “Plus, I have a few more tricks up my sleeve.” She kissed my cheek and hustled into the main showroom to buy her purchases. “Thanks for the help.”
I wasn’t sure I’d given her much. On the other hand, sometimes a receptive ear was all anyone needed to erase negativity.
Fiona plopped onto my shoulder and fluffed her first set of adult wings, which she’d acquired after helping me solve a crime. She was quite proud of them. They were striated with filaments of blue and green. “Didi needs a potion or a spell to lighten her spirit.”
“Can you do that?”
“My mentor is teaching me how.”
“I mean, are you allowed to?”
“I’m allowed to practice.” She mumbled a phrase that sounded like, “By dee prood mahaw.”
I’d heard her utter words in her native language before, but I could never determine what she was saying. Back in college, I’d read The Canterbury Tales in Old English, which our professor said sounded like Erse and Gaelic. Fiona’s language reminded me of that class. I’d figured out a few terms she used, like ta meaning “thanks,” littlies meaning “babies,” and furries, meaning all small creatures like dogs and cats, but the rest sounded like gobbledygook. I did know that By dee meant “May God.”
“Courtney!” Meaghan Brownie, my best friend since college, beckoned me from inside the French doors leading to the main showroom. “I’m so glad you’re here.” Her curly brown tresses bounced the more she waved. She, like Didi, loved wearing bohemian-style clothing. Her white crocheted dress draped her lithe form nicely.
I joined her. “What’s up?”
“My mother needs two fairy gardens, not one.”
Meaghan and I had met in our sophomore year in college. When she visited me one summer in Carmel, she fell in love with the place, gave up her pursuit of becoming a professor, and decided to move here and devote herself to art and beauty. After Meaghan graduated, her mother, Wanda, moved to Carmel, too, and was now one of the premier artists’ representatives.
“Can you make another fairy garden in time?” Meaghan asked as she toyed with the sleeve of her dress.
“Sure I can. No problem. Does your mother have a theme in mind?” I asked. “She wanted the first to be relevant to antiques, so I decided time should be the theme.”
“Time. She’ll love that. And how apropos for her.”
In addition to managing the Beauty of Art Spectacular and representing artists, Wanda brokered antique deals, played a mean game of pickleball, and offered assistance at Sport Zone to help Didi Dubois. In addition, she’d even taken on the position of president of the women’s association at the club. Meaghan worried that her mother’s chakras were out of whack because she never slowed down. Wanda didn’t give a hoot about chakras. After she’d kicked her abusive husband out of her life—Meaghan had been five at the time—Wanda had been determined to live life to the fullest.
“Let me see what you’ve done so far,” Meaghan said.
“It’s about time gone by.”
“No, silly, dragons.” I led her to the project. “I found a miniature castle called the Dragon’s Keep.”
“It’s so big.”
“Not every fairy garden has to be made with teensy fairies,” I said. “This one is oversized. I started with this ornate purple warrior dragon with a tooled letter opener as his sword.” I lifted him from the setting. “Hold him.”
“Oof. He’s heavy. And ominous.”
I replaced the dragon and said, “To combat him, I’ve added Eyela.” She was a radiant Schleich fairy dressed in a turquoise gown and sitting atop a white unicorn.
“Awesome. I love the sign.”
I’d set the stone-carved sign Warning: Dragon training site this way prominently in the front of the design and had created a primordial ooze behind and around the castle using a glue gun, a plastic bag, and lots of pebbles. In addition, I’d added a fiddlehead fairy—not the prettiest of fairies, closer in likeness to a gnome with huge pointed ears and hooked nose—at the top of the keep. Who would mess with him?
“As a contrast to the first garden, why don’t you make the second theme beauty?” Meaghan said.
“Beauty it is. Pick out the fairies I’ll need.”
“Me? Shouldn’t Mom have a say?”
“She gave me carte blanche.”
Over the past few years, Wanda had become like a second mother to me.
“This will be fun,” my pal said as she browsed the figurines.
Meaghan was the reason I’d risked investing in Open Your Imagination. She’d known how unfulfilled I was when I’d worked as a landscaper.
“Select a few accessories, too,” I added, “like some twinkling lights and a lantern or two.”
“Is she here?” Meaghan peered past me into the patio. Though she’d chanced upon Fiona a while back—she had felt her presence and seen a glimmering—she had yet to have a face-to-face with her. Up until then, Meaghan hadn’t believed in fairies. The near encounter had changed her mind. Now she wished Fiona would land on her shoulder and reveal every last wing of herself.
“She’s by the fountain.” I wiggled my fingers. “Playing with Pixie.”
My creamy white Ragdoll cat was on her hind legs batting the air, the flame markings over her eyes squinting with focus.
Meaghan squinted like the cat and shook her head. No luck.
“I’ll be right back,” I said. “I’ve got to check on Joss. She looks swamped.”
From the patio, I could see everything that went on in the main showroom. The French doors and beveled casement windows of the L-shaped space provided a full view. My assistant, Joss Timberlake, who was in charge of all financial dealings for the store as well as making sure we had enough change on a daily basis for cash transactions and guaranteeing that monies were deposited in the bank account, was a whiz when it came to dealing with customers. At least four of our regulars were waiting in line at the register and yet none appeared to be put out.
I moved into the shop and felt the lovely breeze floating through the open portion of the Dutch door. Carmel-by-the-Sea was blessed with Mediterranean-style temperatures. The Cape Cod feel of the Cypress and Ivy Courtyard, of which we were a part, had set the standard for the interior décor: white display tables and white shelving, with a stylish splash of blue and slate gray for color.
“Hey, Joss, need help?” I said, towering over her the way Meaghan towered over me.
“I’m good to go.” She finished wrapping a set of fairy-themed wind chimes in silver tissue paper and then packed up a teapot and a pair of matching cups and saucers in Bubble Wrap.
From the outset, we’d stocked the shop with an assortment of tea sets, garden knickknacks, wind chimes, and bells—fairies, Fiona informed me, loved anything that made an angelic sound. We also carried miniature plants, pots, tool sets, and aprons.
After Joss packed the items into a tote bag and thanked the customer for her patronage, I said, “We’ve dressed alike again.”
Joss was twenty years older than me, but we had similar taste in clothes. I didn’t think either of us needed to dress up for work. We were gardeners. Today, we were each wearing a T-shirt with overalls. Hers was green; mine was red. I loved how powerful I felt whenever I wore the color. “You look elfin,” I said.
Joss swept her pixie-style bangs to the right and rubbed her pointy ear. “What can I say? I’m partial to green. I’m surprised you’re not, Miss Kelly, seeing as you’re the one with Irish blood.”
“My skin tone doesn’t go with green.”
“Good morning!” a lean man in a serge suit—our book rep—called as he entered rolling a dolly filled with boxes. A month ago, Joss had suggested that we start selling books about fairies, both children’s literature as well as adult literature. We displayed them on a swivel stand by the Dutch door. I’d fallen in love with The O’Brien Book of Irish Fairy Tales and Legends and Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato, a beautifully illustrated Tomie dePaola folktale.
“I’ll handle him,” Joss said, and hitched her chin. “I think those ladies could use some of your expert advice. Why don’t you cozy up to them?”
Across the shop, by the antique white oak hutch that held a host of cups and saucers, stood a gaggle of ladies. As I drew near, I realized they were admiring a teacup fairy garden I’d set out last night. Although fairy gardens came in all sizes, from large pots to Radio Flyer wagons to four-, six-, and eight-inch pots that were perfect for a tight corner, teacup fairy gardens were the ideal fit for someone who didn’t have much space or a green thumb. I had adorned the pink-themed cup they were admiring with a moss base, silk plants, and a crouching pink and-purple fairy inspecting a snail.
“This is so cute, Courtney,” one of the women said. “Promise me that you’ll have a class so we can make one of our own.”
“I offer classes already. Pick up a schedule sheet at the register and check out the dates I’ve set for workshops for the remainder of the year. Don’t miss the holiday one. We’ll be making—”
Crash! Outside the shop, pottery hit the ground. Followed by raucous shouting.
A Hint of Mischief
A Fairy Garden Mystery Book 3
The proprietor of a fairy garden and tea shop in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Courtney Kelly has an occasional side gig as a sleuth—with a sprinkling of magical assistance. . . .
Courtney has thrown a few fairy garden parties—for kids. But if a local socialite is willing to dip into her trust fund for an old sorority sister’s fortieth birthday bash, Courtney will be there with bells on. To make the job even more appealing, a famous actress, Farrah Lawson, is flying in for the occasion, and there’s nothing like a celebrity cameo to raise a business’s profile.
Now Courtney has less than two weeks to paint a mural, hang up tinkling windchimes, plan party games, and conjure up all the details. While she works her magic, the hostess and her girlfriends head off for an indulgent spa day—which leads to a fateful facial for Farrah, followed by her mysterious death. Could the kindhearted eyebrow waxer who Farrah berated in public really be the killer, as the police suspect? Courtney thinks otherwise, and with the help of her imaginative sleuth fairy, sets out to dig up the truth behind this puzzling murder . . .
Praise for Daryl Wood Gerber’s A Sprinkling of Murder
“Enchanting series launch from Agatha Award winner Gerber. . . . Cozy fans will wish upon a star for more.”
“A winner. . . . Fans of Laura Childs’ work will enjoy.”
’Tis merry, ’tis merry in Fairy-land,
When fairy birds are singing,
When the court doth ride by their monarch’s side,
With bit and bridle ringing.
—Walter Scott, “Alice Brand”
“Thief!” a woman cried outside of Open Your Imagination, my fairy garden and tea shop. I recognized the voice. Yvanna Acebo.
I hurried from the covered patio through our main showroom, grabbed an umbrella from the stand by the Dutch door, and headed outside, quickly opening the umbrella so it protected me from the rain. “Yvanna, what’s going on?”
Yvanna, a baker at Sweet Treats, a neighboring shop in the courtyard, was dressed in her pink uniform and standing at the top of the stairs that led through the courtyard, hands on hips—no umbrella. She was getting drenched.
“Yvanna!” I shouted again. “Were you robbed? Are you okay?”
She pivoted. Rain streamed down her pretty face. She swiped a hair that had come loose from her scrunchie off her cheek. “I’m fine,” she said with a sigh. “A customer set her bag down on one of the tables so she could fish in her purse for loose change. Before we knew it, someone in a brown hoodie slipped in, grabbed the bag, and darted out.”
“Man? Woman? Teen?”
“I’m not sure.” Her chest heaved. “That’s the second theft in this area in the past twenty-four hours, Courtney.”
“Second?” I gasped. Carmel-by-the-Sea was not known as a high-crime town. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. We had suffered two murders in the past year. Flukes, the police had dubbed them. “Where did the other theft occur?”
“There.” She pointed to the Village Shops, the courtyard across the street from ours. “At Say Cheese.”
“The thief must be hungry,” I said. Say Cheese had a vast array of cheeses, crackers, and condiments. “Were you scared?”
“No. I’m miffed.” A striking Latina, Yvanna was one of the most resilient women I knew. She rarely took a day off because she had a family of six to feed—two cousins, her grandparents, her sister, and herself.
“Call the police,” I suggested.
“You can bet on it.”
We didn’t have CCTV in Cypress and Ivy’s courtyard yet. Maybe I should mention it to our landlord. I returned to Open Your Imagination, stopped outside to flick the water off the umbrella, and then moved inside, slotted the umbrella into the stand, and weaved through the shop’s display tables while saying hello to the handful of customers. Before heading to the patio, I signaled my stalwart assistant Joss Timberlake that all was under control.
“Do not argue with me!” Misty Dawn exclaimed. “Do you hear me? I want tea. Not coffee. Tea!” Misty, a customer, was standing by the verdigris baker’s racks on the patio, wiggling two female fairy figurines. When she spotted me, she uttered a full-throated laugh. “You’re back, Courtney. Is everything okay outside? Did I hear the word thief?”
“Hopefully nothing too dear was stolen.”
In addition to my business, the courtyard boasted a high-end jewelry store, a collectibles shop, an art gallery, and a pet-grooming enterprise.
“Bakery goods,” I said.
“And no one got hurt?”
“Phew.” Misty gazed at the figurines she was holding. “I swear, I can’t get over how young I feel whenever I visit your shop. It takes me back to my childhood, when I used to play with dolls. I’d make up stories and put on plays. At one point, maybe seventh grade, I thought I was so clever and gifted with dialogue that I’d become a playwright, but that didn’t come to pass.”
Misty, a trust fund baby who had never worked a day in her life even though she had graduated Phi Beta Kappa and had whizzed through business school, had blazed into the shop twenty minutes ago, hoping to hire me to throw a fairy garden birthday party for her sorority sister. In the less than two years that the shop had been open, I’d only thrown three such parties, each for children.
“Let’s get serious.” Misty returned the figurines to the verdigris baker’s rack, strode across the covered slate patio to the wrought-iron table closest to the gnome-adorned fountain, and patted the tabletop. “Sit with me. Let’s chat. I have lists upon lists of ideas.” She opened her Prada tote and removed a floral notepad and pen.
Fiona, a fairy-in-training who, when not staying at my house, resided in the Ficus trees fitted with twinkling lights that surrounded the patio, flew to my shoulder and whispered in my ear. “She sure is bossy.”
I bit back a smile and said, “The customer’s always right.”
“How true,” Misty said, oblivious to Fiona’s presence.
To be fair, Misty was a force. She was tall and buxom with dark auburn hair, sturdy shoulders, a broad face, and bold features; I doubted she had ever been a wallflower. Every time I’d seen her at this or that event, always dressed in stunning jewel tones as she was now, her red silk blouse looking tailor-made, I’d been drawn to her like a moth to a flame.
Pixie, my adorable Ragdoll cat, abandoned the mother and child customers she’d been following for the past three minutes and leaped into Misty’s lap. Misty instantly started stroking the cat’s luscious fur. Pixie didn’t hold back with her contented purring.
“Sweet kitty,” Misty cooed.
“Pixie doesn’t like just anyone,” I said.
“Of course not. She knows a cat lover when she sees one, don’t you, Pixie?” Misty tipped up the cat’s chin. “Yes, you do. You know you do. I have three handsome friends for you to play with, Pixie. A calico, a tuxedo, and a domestic shorthair that I rescued. I love them all.” She returned her gaze to me. “Now, Courtney, where were we?”
“You want to throw a party.”
“For my good friend Odine.” She stressed the O in her friend’s name. I’d met Odine a few times and was pretty certain she pronounced her name with the accent on the second syllable. “She’s a descendant of one of the first families of Texas. She moved here when she was fourteen, and we became fast friends.”
“And she’s the first of us to turn forty,” Misty continued. “I’m the last.” That fact seemed to tickle her. “She has always loved fairies. She displays fairy art everywhere in her house. Have you visited Fantasy Awaits in the Doud Arcade? That’s Odine’s shop.”
Odine Oates owned a jewelry and exotica art shop located in a nearby courtyard. Carmel-by-the-Sea was known for its unique courtyards. Much of the shop’s jewelry featured fairies, sorcerers, or mythical creatures. The art included distinctive pieces that she’d found around the world, including kimonos, vases, swords, statues, and so much more. For her wall décor, she had commissioned a local artist to recreate well-known fantasy artwork, including dragons and gnomes and the famous Cicely Mary Barker fairies, all depicted on four-by-six-foot canvases.
“I remember that place,” Fiona whispered. “You bought that necklace for Joss.”
A dragon pendant with an emerald eye. Joss adored dragon paraphernalia.
“It was scary there,” Fiona added.
To a fairy Fiona’s size, I imagined seeing giant-sized fairies, gnomes, and dragons would be frightening. She wasn’t more than a few inches tall with two sets of beautiful green adult wings, one set of smaller junior wings, and shimmering blue hair. Her silver tutu and silver shoes sparkled in any light. By now, she should have grown three full sets of adult wings and lost her junior wings, but she’d messed up in fairy school, so the queen fairy had booted her from the fairy realm and subjected her to probation.
“I want to have the party in my backyard,” Misty went on.
At one time Misty’s family had owned a grand Spanish estate on the iconic 17-Mile Drive, the road popular because it led to Pebble Beach Golf Link, beaches, viewpoints, and more, but she had downsized recently, wishing to live in Carmel proper so she could walk to restaurants and art galleries at a moment’s notice. She had purchased a two-story gray-and-white home on 4th Avenue with the charming name of Gardener’s Delight—many homes in Carmel had names—and had hired my father’s landscaping company to revamp both the front and rear yards. Her gardens were the envy of all her neighbors.
“Here we go.” Joss placed a tray set with two Lenox Butterfly Meadow-pattern teacups, a plate of lemon bars, and the fixings for chamomile tea on the table. “May I pour?”
“Please,” I said.
“Boss, we have a ton of things to do,” she said, filling Misty’s cup first. “A shipment is coming in and a busload of tourists is about to disembark. They’ll be swarming the courtyard in less than an hour.”
“She won’t be long,” Misty said on my behalf. “I’m very organized. This will only take a few minutes.” She held up her notepad.
Joss pursed her lips, trying not to smile, which made her look even more elfin than normal.
“I like your shirt, by the way,” Misty said to Joss.
“This old thing?” Joss plucked at the buttons of the parrot-themed shirt she’d bought in Tijuana. “It’s fun. I like color.”
“So do I.” Misty opened her notepad, silently dismissing Joss.
Over fifty and seasoned in the picking-up-clues department, Joss winked at me and returned to the main showroom. Through the windows, I watched as she moved from display to display, straightening teacup handles, garden knickknacks, and strings of bells—fairies enjoyed the sound of bells.
Misty took a lemon bar, bit into it, set it on her saucer, and started reading the bullet-pointed list she’d created. “I want to have wind chimes everywhere.”
Something breakable inside the shop went clack . . . shatter. Joss eeked, and then Fiona shrieked, and my stomach snagged. Fairies hated breakage of any kind. Joss waved to me that she was all right and held up a multicolored wind chime. Was the accident a freak moment of timing, or was it fate?
Fiona zipped off to check on Joss. She couldn’t help pick up the broken pieces, of course, but she could offer Joss a whisper of encouragement. Joss, like me, could see Fiona.
Misty hadn’t seemed to notice the fracas, too intent on her list. “I want the guests to make fairy gardens. You’ll instruct them, of course.”
In addition to selling fairy gardens and items for fairy gardens, I taught a weekly class and gave private lessons about how to construct them. I experienced a childlike joy whenever I completed a project. So did my customers.
“I want party games and favors,” Misty went on, “like you would for a children’s fairy party, but more adult.”
That would take a bit of thinking on my part. Children relished games like the lily pad relay and a fairy tale obstacle course. What would adults enjoy?
“And I’ll want you to paint a mural on the wall facing the backyard.”
“Me? Paint?” I snorted. My talent was purely in the gardening department. My mother had been the painter. A painting that she’d titled Starry Night, like the van Gogh painting, hung on the bedroom wall in my cottage. My father hadn’t been able to part with any of the others.
“Hire someone.” Misty flourished the pen. “I want the mural to feature lots of flowers and vines with fairies frolicking throughout. I saw one on the DIY Garden Channel and it was stunning. I’ll download some pictures and email them to you.”
Fiona circled Misty’s head, waving an imaginary wand, I’d thought, until I realized she was mimicking Misty’s gestures with the pen. I couldn’t very well say Cut it out, so I frowned. Fiona stopped and soared to a Ficus branch so she could hold her belly while laughing.
Later, I would have to have a chat with my sassy fairy. Because she was classified as a righteous fairy, which meant she needed to bring resolution to embattled souls, she could earn her way into the queen fairy’s good graces by helping humans such as myself. But she had to toe the line. She couldn’t act like an imp all the time.
Only last year did I learn that there were classifications of fairies. Four, to be exact. Intuitive, guardian, nurturer, and righteous. Up until then, I’d always thought fairies were merely types, like air fairies, water fairies, and woodland fairies—Fiona being the latter. Also, up until then, I’d forgotten about fairies. As a girl, I’d seen one, but I’d lost the ability when my mother passed away. That is, until Fiona came into my life.
“All righty then,” Misty said, standing. “Come up with a plan.”
“Would you mind leaving me your list?”
“I’ll text it to you.” She took a picture of her list, requested my cell phone number, and sent me a copy of it. “There you go. Oh, and I’d like to have the party Saturday.”’
“In three days?” I gulped.
“No, silly, next Saturday. Ample time. Eons before you get hit with Valentine’s Day traffic.”
Ten days! Ha! The last fairy party I’d thrown had taken me a month to prepare. On the other hand, because it had taken a month, the birthday girl’s mother had thought she could make numerous changes to the menu, favors, and events. A tighter timeline might make this party, for adults, easier to manage.
“Can do?” Misty asked in shorthand. “There will be twelve of us.”
“Can do,” I chimed.
As Misty left the store, Fiona followed me to the modest kitchen behind my office. I set the tray fitted with tea goodies on the counter, filled the sink with soapy water, and started by washing the teacups.
“Something feels off to me,” Fiona said, perching on the teapot’s handle. “That’s the right word, isn’t it? Off?”
“Yes, that’s the correct word. What feels off?”
“She’s in too much of a hurry.”
“Or she’s not as organized as she claims,” I countered. “I’m sure everything will go as steady as—”
A teacup slipped from my hand and plunged into the water. When I lifted it, I realized it had cracked in two.
“Oh my.” Fiona clutched her head with her hands. “This is not good. Not good at all.”
“What isn’t good?”
“Misty. Her excitement for this party.”
Suddenly, my insides felt jittery, probably because I’d recently grasped that I should trust my fairy’s instincts. According to Fiona’s mentor, Merryweather Rose of Song, the more mature Fiona became, the more her intuitive instincts would kick in. In addition, Merryweather had been teaching Fiona how to cast spells—good spells, not evil ones—making certain that whatever new ability she learned wouldn’t go haywire.
“Go on,” I urged.
“She’s too eager.” Fiona fluffed her wings.
“She seemed fine to me.”
“What about the way she said her friend’s name?”
“I’m not following.”
“She said, ‘O-dine.’” Fiona stressed the O as Misty had. “But that’s not how you say her name. When we were at her shop, Odine told us how to pronounce it,” Fiona went on. “She chanted, ‘Odine. Odine. Odine.’”
My fairy was right. Odine had repeated her name, sounding much like a witch preparing for an incantation.
Fiona swatted my hair. “I’m telling you. Something’s off.”
And then lightning lit the sky, thunder rumbled overhead, and Fiona nearly swooned.
A Flicker of a Doubt
A Fairy Garden Mystery Book 4
From Agatha Award-winning author Daryl Wood Gerber, the fourth in an enchantingly whimsical series featuring Courtney Kelly, the owner of a fairy-gardening and tea shop in Carmel, California. It’s a special place brimming with good vibes and the kind of magical assistance its proprietor will need to investigate a shocking murder at a prestigious art show!
Making fairy gardens, and teaching crafters how to do the same, keeps Carmel-by-the-Sea shop owner Courtney Kelly busy—but sometimes she has to make time for a wee bit of detective work . . .
With a theater foundation tea and an art show planned at Violet Vickers’s estate, Courtney is hired to create charming fairy gardens for the event. It’s not so charming, however, when her best friend Meaghan’s ex-boyfriend turns out to be Violet’s latest artistic protégé. Even worse, not long after Meaghan locks horns with him, his body is found in her yard, bludgeoned with an objet d’murder.
There’s a gallery of suspects, from an unstable former flame to an arts and crafts teacher with a sketchy past. But when the cops focus on Meaghan’s business partner, who’s like a protective older brother to her, and discover he also has a secret financial motive, Courtney decides to draw her own conclusions. Fearing they’re missing the forest for the trees, and with some help from Fiona the sleuthing fairy, she hopes to make them see the light . . .
**Coming Soon on March 28, 2023 – PreOrder Now!**
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Agatha Award-winning author Daryl Wood Gerber is best known for her nationally bestselling Fairy Garden Mysteries, Cookbook Nook Mysteries, and French Bistro Mysteries. As Avery Aames, she penned the popular Cheese Shop Mysteries. In addition, Daryl writes the Aspen Adams Novels of Suspense as well as stand-alone suspense. Daryl loves to cook, fairy garden, and read. She has a frisky Goldendoodle who keeps her in line. And she has been known to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and hitch-hike around Ireland alone. You can learn more on her website: https://darylwoodgerber.com