Lethal Letters (Books by the Bay Series #6)

Lethal Letters (Books by the Bay Series #6)

by Ellery Adams

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Overview

Restaurant owner and aspiring novelist Olivia Limoges is busy planning a delicious menu for Oyster Bay’s biggest soiree of the spring. But she’ll need to serve some justice as well after one resident gets eighty-sixed…
 
Everyone’s got their hands full in Oyster Bay, North Carolina. Aside from two upcoming weddings, there’s also the historical society’s annual fund-raiser: the Secret Garden Party and Candlelit Ball. Adding to the excitement, Olivia witnesses the discovery of a time capsule in the foundation of a local church. The historical society president hopes to display its contents at their party, but when the items are finally revealed to the public, Olivia notices one of them has vanished.
 
After a frightening find beneath the pier—the body of Ruthie Holcomb—Olivia is certain there’s a connection between the young woman’s death and the missing piece from the time capsule. With the help of her fellow Bayside Book Writers, Olivia sets out to uncover some clues and ensure a killer has no reason to celebrate…

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425270837
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/04/2014
Series: Books by the Bay Series , #6
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 89,906
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.50(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Ellery Adams grew up on a beach near the Long Island Sound. She is the author of the Books by the Bay Mysteries, the Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries, and the Book Retreat Mysteries. Having spent her adult life in a series of landlocked towns, she cherishes her memories of open water, violent storms, and the smell of the sea. Ms. Adams has held many jobs, including caterer, retail clerk, car salesperson, teacher, tutor, and tech writer, all the while penning poems, children’s books, and novels. She now writes full time from her home in Virginia.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Time will bring to light whatever is hidden; it will cover up and conceal whatever is now shining in splendor.

—HORACE

Olivia Limoges rolled the newest edition of Bride magazine into a tight cylinder and brought it down onto the counter with a resounding thwack!

“Enough! I don’t want to hear another detail about your upcoming nuptials. You’ve turned into a groomzilla, Michel. Your obsession over the venue and your tux and the guest list is driving everyone in this kitchen insane.” She pointed at a sous chef, who’d paused in the act of chopping onions to wipe his eyes with a dish towel. “That man is weeping, for heaven’s sake.”

“He always cries when he—” the head chef of The Boot Top Bistro began.

“It started with the tulips, right?” Olivia directed her remark at the sous chef. “Michel’s supposed to be creating the finest cuisine of coastal North Carolina, but his soufflés are falling and his sauces are burning while he frets over whether to have blush-colored tulips, hot pink tulips, or lavender tulips at his reception.” She turned back to Michel. “I will take a meat cleaver to the next tulip you bring into this restaurant, do you hear me?”

Michel opened his arms in a gesture of helplessness. “I want everything to be perfect!”

“Last summer you said that you wanted a simple, intimate affair. But your plans have grown grander and more absurd by the month. I wouldn’t be surprised if Shelley was ready to call off the whole thing.”

At the mention of his fiancée’s name, Michel’s petulant look instantly vanished, and he smiled widely. “She told me that I could have all the pomp and circumstance I wanted. Unlike you, she understands that I’ve waited my whole life for this day and I want—”

“White doves and stretch limos?” Olivia sighed. “This is about you and Shelley. It’s a joining of two lives. A chance for the people who love you to share in your happiness. You don’t need a chocolate fountain for a wedding to be beautiful. You only need you, the woman you want to spend the rest of your life with, and a few carefully chosen words.”

Michel swiveled to face the rest of the kitchen staff. “Have I gone off the deep end?”

They nodded in unison.

“Has my food suffered?”

The line cook exchanged a nervous glance with the sous chef. Michel had a fiery temper and it was clear that no one wanted to say that his cooking hadn’t been up to its usual standards. But Michel caught the furtive glance and instantly hid his face in his hands. “Mon Dieu! I have betrayed my art. And for what? Monogrammed napkins? Embossed invitations?”

“And tulips,” Olivia added. She put a hand on Michel’s forearm and gave it an affectionate squeeze. She was used to his theatrics, but this wasn’t a good time for one of his meltdowns. They needed to review the possible menus for the historical society benefit dinner before showing them to the president. “You can stop looking around for the perfect venue. The Boot Top is your kingdom, Michel. Its kitchen is your beating heart. Have the reception here. I’m sure your colleagues would be delighted to prepare the food for your wedding feast.”

Everyone wearing a chef’s jacket or apron murmured his or her agreement.

Michel looked at them and sniffed. “Really? You’d do that for me?”

“Of course we would,” Olivia answered on behalf of her staff. “That just leaves the cake.”

Michel brightened. “Shelley and I always planned on making our own cake. I’ll do the baking and she’ll do the decorating. After all, no one can hold a candle to her when it comes to sweet confections.”

Olivia thought of the Saint Patrick’s Day display she’d seen in the front window of Decadence, Shelley’s desserterie. Candy coins wrapped in gold foil spilled from a cauldron of solid chocolate. There was a forest of four-leaf-clover lollipops, marshmallow clouds, and a rainbow of candy fruit slices. Fondant leprechauns perched atop grasshopper cupcakes or cartwheeled across the frosted surfaces of crème de menthe brownies. “Shelley is truly gifted,” Olivia said. “And so are you. Can we talk about the menu for the benefit now?”

“Only if you promise to come with me to the First Presbyterian Church before I get started on the dinner service,” Michel said. “I promised to swing by with a copy of our program.”

“I thought you didn’t want a church wedding.”

Michel shrugged. “Maman does. And since I am her only son, I did what she asked.” Straightening, Michel barked out orders to the kitchen staff and they jumped to obey. Scooping the bridal magazine off the counter, he held it aloft as if it were a torch. “I am back, my friends. And I apologize for being so distracted. That’s over now. You have my word as a gentleman and a chef. Spring is upon us and we will be busier than ever. We must uphold the reputation of The Boot Top Bistro. We must dazzle every diner!”

Smiling, Olivia grabbed her head chef by the elbow. “Let’s talk in the bar and then we’ll stop by the church. Which Saturday did you book?”

“I chose a Monday,” Michel said. “The Boot Top is closed on Mondays. You won’t lose any business and neither will Shelley. She and I will take Tuesday off and be back in the kitchen on Wednesday.”

Olivia poked her head into her office and saw that her standard poodle, Captain Haviland, was fast asleep. She smiled indulgently and then led Michel through the dining room into the bar. “Why rush back to work?” Olivia asked. “What about your honeymoon?”

Michel sank into one of the leather club chairs. “We’ll go when the tourist season is over. Mid-October maybe. I want to bring Shelley to Paris. We can visit our old haunts from culinary school and then travel to the Riviera, visiting vineyards as we make our way south. It’s past time we updated The Boot Top’s wine list.” Michel gestured at the polished wood bar. “Not that Gabe isn’t the finest tender in town, but his palate isn’t sophisticated enough to be the restaurant’s sommelier.”

“Ah, the sacrifices you make for your job,” Olivia said teasingly and placed a folder on the small table dividing her chair from Michel’s.

Michel reached out and grabbed her hand. He tapped the platinum band embedded with dark sapphires on her ring finger, and said, “I’m not the only person in the room who should be making wedding plans. And yet I hear nothing of yours. Why not? What are you waiting for, ma chérie?”

Pulling her hand free, Olivia straightened the printed menus in the folder. “Mine will be a very quiet affair. Justice of the peace and a champagne toast. That’s all. There’s not much to organize.”

Michel fixed her with an intent stare. “Then why aren’t you already married? Are you cohabiting, or is the chief still living out of a drawer? I know how much you treasure your independence, Olivia. But when you said ‘yes,’ you gave up your old life.”

Olivia felt her cheeks grow warm. “It’s complicated. When he’s on duty, the chief needs to be close to town, so he stays at his place. My house is too far out. If there’s a police emergency . . .” She shrugged, letting Michel reach his own conclusions. “And I don’t like to spend the night in his house. His wife still has a presence there. She picked out the wallpaper and the towels, the dishes and the furniture. It’s her home. It’s a monument of their life together. Not to mention that it’s too far from the water.”

“We can’t have our resident mermaid living away from the beach. Your scales would dry out.” He gazed at her fondly.

Olivia shoved a printed menu under Michel’s nose. “Let’s focus on these menus now, shall we?”

An hour later, Olivia pulled her Range Rover into a private lot belonging to the First Presbyterian Church and opened the car door for Haviland. As he jumped out of the backseat and Michel alighted from the front, Olivia studied the Gothic Revival architecture, taking in its blocks of somber gray stone, pointed arches, and towering spire. It was one of the most imposing buildings in all of Oyster Bay.

A jarring mechanical noise erupted from inside the church. Michel winced and Haviland started barking.

“Is that a jackhammer?” Michel shouted.

“Maybe they’re tuning the organ,” Olivia yelled.

Haviland’s barking increased in volume, and he retreated several steps. Olivia laid her hand on the poodle’s head and tried to calm him, but he was clearly discomfited by the noise.

“I’m putting Haviland back in the car,” she told Michel. “Go on. I’ll catch up.”

As soon as Haviland was safely inside the Range Rover, he stopped barking and stretched across the backseat. Olivia gave him a chew stick, promised she wouldn’t be long, and crossed the parking lot. Drawing closer to the church, she noticed several commercial vans and a pickup parked near the building. A man in a hard hat came out of a door in the church’s west wall and began rummaging through an aluminum toolbox in the bed of the pickup. After retrieving a pair of safety goggles and a crowbar, he disappeared into the church again.

Olivia found Michel in the sanctuary, standing next to a man wearing khakis and a blue dress shirt. Mercifully, the hammering sound had stopped.

Michel introduced her to Pastor Jeffries.

“Please call me Jon,” the man said, offering Olivia his hand. His grip was warm and firm. Olivia liked both his handshake and his friendly brown eyes. They reminded her of Haviland’s. “I can’t believe we haven’t met before,” the pastor said. “Ours is a small town, but our paths have yet to cross.” He smiled. “I guess I’m surprised because you’re very active in community projects. Your name pops up all the time in the paper.”

Michel put an arm around Olivia’s shoulders. “My boss wrangles money from Oyster Bay’s upper crust. You work in the trenches, Pastor. You probably aren’t involved with the same charities.”

“I suspect you’re right,” the pastor said amiably. “Until now. Miss Limoges and I are both supporting the upcoming historical society benefit. Not only is the historical society our next-door neighbor, but the society’s founding family, the Drummonds, have been devoted patrons of this church for the past century.”

Olivia let her gaze wander up the center aisle to the altar, and then over the polished pews to the stained glass windows. The colored glass was cracked in places and coated with a film of grime, making it hard for the light to pass through. Watery yellows and dull oranges spotted the sanctuary’s red carpet, and Olivia wondered if the windows could withstand the force of the work being done in the room to the left of the vestibule.

Pastor Jeffries followed the direction of her gaze. “I was just telling Michel that we’re in the middle of a minor construction project. At least, it started out as a minor project. The plan was to turn the cloakroom into a comfortable space for prayer and counseling, but as often happens during a renovation, the contractor and his crew encountered problems. Water damage, rotted floorboards, issues with the wiring. They’ve dug right down to the foundation stone.” His eyes slid toward the large brass cross on the altar. “I spent half the morning praying that there wouldn’t be any more surprises.”

“Pastor Jeffries!” a man called from the doorway dividing the vestibule from the chapel. “You’d better come look at this. We found something buried in the wall.”

“And people think the Lord lacks a sense of humor.” The pastor winked, told his guests he’d return in a moment, and strode down the center aisle.

Michel sighed. “I hadn’t pictured drop cloths and plaster dust as part of my wedding day décor.”

“I’m sure the job will be completed by then.” Olivia ran her fingers along the back of a polished pew. The sanctuary smelled of beeswax and lilies. Overall, it was a pleasant space. The walls were a soft white, velvet cushions in a deep cranberry hue covered the pews, and the entire room was illuminated by rows of brass chandeliers suspended from the high ceiling. Olivia swiveled, taking in the second-floor balcony and the gleaming organ pipes. Everything was simple, elegant, and clean. Aside from the Easter lilies grouped around the altar, the only adornment in the entire sanctuary was the windows. “This is the oldest church in Oyster Bay,” she told Michel. “Think of all the couples that have walked up this aisle. All the music that’s been played. How many secret hopes and fears have been whispered into folded hands. This place is redolent with history.”

Sinking into a pew, Michel frowned. “I think it’s gloomy, but my mother will love it. It speaks of Old World Europe.”

“That’s not gloom. It’s patina.” Olivia wandered over to the windows on the east wall and studied the Biblical scenes. Though she’d attended only a handful of church services throughout her life, she recognized most of the scenes. She didn’t tarry long before Mary and Joseph, the nativity, or Christ cradling a lamb. After noting more cracked glass and sagging lead in the John the Baptist window, she moved to the west wall. She liked the Daniel in the lion’s den window and paused to take in the detailed faces of the slumbering felines. Again, she saw damage to the glass, lead, and putty.

“I’d think these would be more important than the cloakroom renovation,” she murmured to herself and walked by a window featuring a young boy holding a harp. In the next scene, she admired how the glass artist had used pieces of green, orange, and red glass to create a burning bush. But she didn’t linger, finding that she was inexplicably drawn to the last window.

This one, which was in the worst condition of all, portrayed a woman and child. The child, a girl with an ageless face, gazed forward. Her expression was both hopeful and serene. Most of her body was enfolded in the woman’s gown, and as Olivia edged closer, she realized that it wasn’t a gown but a feathered wing curving protectively around the girl. The angel was in profile, her eye closed and her cheek pressed against the girl’s cheek. Olivia could almost hear her whispering words of comfort into the child’s ear. The more she stood and stared, the more the angel looked like her mother.

Hesitantly, Olivia placed her fingers against the glass and traced one of the white flowers hanging near the angel’s outstretched hand. The girl’s small hand rested in the angel’s cupped palm, and Olivia had the urge to lay her own hand on top of theirs. She wanted to go where they were going, to see what lay beyond the curtain of dogwood blossoms.

“She’s a guiding angel,” Pastor Jeffries said from behind Olivia, causing her to start. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to creep up on you.” He flashed her a sheepish smile. “This is my favorite window.”

Olivia pointed at the angel. “Her face is completely two-dimensional, and yet she reminds me so much of my mother.”

The pastor nodded. “Everyone recognizes a special woman in her. A mother, sister, daughter, wife, nurse, teacher.”

“Can the windows be restored?”

“At great cost, yes. We’ll have to raise more funds, but I have faith that we’ll get the money. The capital campaign has been eaten up by all the problems we’ve run across with our current project, so it’s fortunate that we have a devoted benefactor.” Pastor Jeffries didn’t seem overly bothered by the setbacks. In fact, he looked quite cheerful. “It seems we were meant to dig deeper than we’d originally intended. The men have just discovered a large lead box buried above the foundation stone.”

Olivia was immediately intrigued. “How big is it?”

“About the length of my arm. Let’s just hope the first pastor didn’t bury his faithful hound inside.” With a boyish grin, he waved Michel over and explained what was happening. “The men have asked me to open the box. It could be empty, and I don’t want to interrupt the staff unless there’s something worth seeing, so I’ll grab the digital camera from my office and let them finish Sunday’s program. You two are welcome to watch if you’d like.”

Michel’s eyes were shining. “I’ll serve as your photojournalist, but if you unearth a cache of gold, I might have to charge a hefty fee for my services. Weddings are ridiculously expensive.”

Pastor Jeffries laughed and then gestured at the stained glass angel and child. “If there’s anything of value inside that box, I’ll use it to save our real treasures. I’m not supposed to put much stock in worldly goods, but I love these windows. I want to make sure the next generation can enjoy them as much as I do.” He rubbed his hands together, looking like a kid on Christmas morning. “Be right back.”

Too curious to wait for his return, Olivia and Michel headed for the vestibule. In the cloakroom, two workmen wearing hard hats and gloves stood, hands on hips, staring down at a battered lead box. A third was on his knees, scraping pieces of mortar from the surface of the box with his fingers. The men looked up when Olivia and Michel entered.

“Is it marked anywhere?” Olivia asked the man on the floor.

“I think there’s a date stamped into the lid.” He turned to one of his coworkers. “Hand me a flathead screwdriver, will you?”

With the tool in hand, he carefully worked its edge under the mortar. It gave way, coming off in large pieces. Brushing a chunk aside, the man maneuvered the screwdriver head until two numbers became clear.

“Looks like a one and a nine so far,” the man said. “And the next number looks like a seven. No, it’s another one.”

At that moment, Pastor Jeffries returned. He crouched down next to the man with the screwdriver and watched, fascinated, as the last digit was revealed. “Nineteen seventeen. Wow.”

“The beginning of World War One,” another workman said.

“But not the year the church was founded,” the pastor said, clearly perplexed. “This box was buried some sixty years after the original church was built.” He rubbed his chin, his gaze distant. “There was a fire about that time. A bad one. I wonder if this was placed inside the wall during the reconstruction. I’d have to check with the historical society, but if there are relics of our past inside this box, I’ll be calling Bellamy Drummond anyway. Let’s open it and find out.”

Olivia was thrilled that they wouldn’t have to postpone the event for Bellamy Drummond. While she certainly approved of the historical society’s president’s efforts to preserve Oyster Bay’s past, Olivia found Bellamy’s punctiliousness a bit overbearing. She was certain to ruin the excitement of the workmen’s discovery by lecturing them in her rich, languid drawl on the proper technique of opening an antique lead box.

“May I have the honors?” Pastor Jeffries asked the man with the screwdriver.

The man passed him the crowbar and backed away. “Sure thing. Hold this straight edge under the lid and I’ll hit the hooked end with a mallet. You want a pair of gloves? If that bar slips, you could get a nasty slice.”

The pastor shook his head with impatience. “I’ll be fine.” Handing Michel the digital camera, he lowered himself to his knees.

Olivia wondered if he felt less manly in his khakis and dress shirt than the workmen. With their tattooed forearms, dirt-encrusted jeans, and weathered faces, these men seemed a different breed than Pastor Jeffries. Next to them, he looked like a naïve and sheltered academic, though Olivia suspected that was far from the truth. Michel had told her that the pastor had led his flock for over twenty years, and Olivia could only imagine the things he’d seen and heard during that time.

Baptisms. Confirmations. Marriages, she thought as the workman struck the end of the crowbar with his mallet. Memorial services and funerals.

The sound of the mallet striking the metal curve of the crowbar reverberated around the empty room. Clang, clang, clang.

“Keep going,” Pastor Jeffries said, sounding a little winded. “It’s moving!”

The man hit the crowbar again. Without warning, the lid gave way and the crowbar shot sideways, causing the pastor to cry out in pain. Olivia could see a jagged line of red appear on his palm. He dropped the crowbar and stared at his hand as the blood flowed over his wrist and dripped onto the floor.

Michel pulled a blue bandanna from his pocket and offered it to the pastor. Having seen dozens of knife wounds over the years, he was unfazed by the injury. Pastor Jeffries fumbled with the cloth until Michel took it from him, wound it tightly around his palm, and tied it into a knot. “You’ll have to disinfect that and you may even need stitches. If not stitches, at least a few butterfly bandages.”

“I’ll take care of it later. After I see what’s inside.” Pastor Jeffries glanced up at the man with the mallet. “I should have used the gloves. Right, Kenny?”

Kenny gave a noncommittal shrug and picked up the crowbar again. He inserted the bloodied edge under the lid, pushed down on the opposite end, and gave a satisfied grunt when the box top separated from the base with a low groan.

No one spoke as the pastor raised the lid with his good hand. He reached in and pulled out a sheaf of paper. It had yellowed with age, but otherwise, looked to be in perfect shape.

“It’s a time capsule,” Pastor Jeffries whispered in awe. “This is an inventory of the contents as well as a list of the contributors.” He scanned the document. “Here’s the pastor—my grandfather, if you can believe it—and a deacon. Also a physician. The head of the local school. And—” Suddenly, he stopped. “I should get Bell—ah, Mrs. Drummond.” He hurriedly set the letter back into the box and then glanced at the bright drops of blood on the floor.

Olivia was confused by the pastor’s abrupt change of demeanor. He’d lost all traces of youthful anticipation. The pleasure and excitement had completely vanished from his face. It had been replaced by an emotion Olivia recognized all too well.

Pastor Jeffries’s eyes had gone glassy. His body was rigid. Olivia didn’t know why, but the pastor was suddenly, and very obviously, afraid.

And then he blinked. Pressing his injured hand to his chest, he forced his mouth into a tight smile, apologized to Michel for having to cut their visit short, and left the church.

Chapter 2

Where there is a sea, there are pirates.

—GREEK PROVERB

Kenny was unfazed by the pastor’s abrupt departure. Turning to his coworkers, he said, “We might as well grab a smoke.”

The men nodded and followed him outside.

The moment they were gone, Olivia took out her phone, retrieved the letter from the time capsule, and took several photos of it.

“What are you doing?” Michel whispered nervously.

Olivia photographed the letter in sections, not wanting to miss a single word. “Didn’t you see Pastor Jeffries’s face? He was scared, and I want to know why.” She glanced into the box, disappointed to find that the contents were covered by a folded piece of fabric. “I doubt he’s easily spooked. After witnessing two decades of sicknesses, hospital vigils, loss, and brokenness. All those confessions and last breaths. What’s in here that could shake a man who’s seen what he’s seen?”

Michel peered into the box and frowned. “I’m not sure I want to know.”

“Laurel would. This would make a great article. People love time capsules.” After darting a look over her shoulder, Olivia handed Michel the letter. “Take this,” she commanded and then reached into the box and carefully picked up the piece of fabric. She gently unfolded it and felt a surge of pride when she recognized the horizontal bands of red and discolored white and the vertical field of blue. Embroidered into the wide stripe of blue were a white star, two historic dates commemorating independence from British rule, and the letters N and C. Olivia was holding the state flag of North Carolina.

“There’s nothing frightening about that,” Michel said, admiring the flag. “I wonder if the person who added this to the box would be pleased by the fact that the same flag still flies all over town.”

Olivia considered the question. “I’m sure they would. After all, it’s a symbol of freedom, and our country had just entered a world war to defend that freedom.” With the flag gently draped over her left forearm, she leaned forward and gazed at the bundles packed tightly inside the box. “Why did they have to wrap everything in paper and secure it with twine? That’s no fun. Now I’m really glad I took a picture of the inventory list.”

The only object that hadn’t been wrapped in paper was another box. This one was made of copper and was big enough to hold a pair of men’s shoes. “A box within a box,” Olivia said. “It’s been sealed with wax too.” She pointed at the blob of green candlewax. “Where have I seen that symbol before?” She frowned, trying to remember, and then slowly pivoted the box so that the seal caught the light. “I think it’s some kind of plant.”

“Someone’s coming,” Michel hissed. “Put everything back!”

Hearing voices on the other side of the main doors, Olivia quickly set the cooper box where she’d found it, folded the flag, and returned both the flag and the letter to the time capsule. She quickly shut the heavy lid and retreated several steps.

As Pastor Jeffries entered the vestibule with Bellamy Drummond in tow, Olivia and Michel exchanged guilt-ridden glances.

“Hello, Olivia. Michel.” Bellamy smiled regally. “Pastor Jeffries has informed me that a treasure of historical significance has been unearthed.” She scanned the room. “Where have the workmen gone?”

“They took a cigarette break,” Olivia said.

Bellamy nodded in approval. “Tobacco is the backbone of our agricultural heritage. I wouldn’t be surprised if we find a pack of Camels in our time capsule.” She clasped her hands together. “This is very exciting, isn’t it?”

Olivia couldn’t detect a trace of concern on Bellamy’s face. She was as composed and self-assured as always and had wasted no time laying claim to the discovery. She’d called it “our” time capsule. Olivia studied Pastor Jeffries to see if he seemed bothered by Bellamy’s taking charge, but his face was a mask of calm. He was either hiding his true feelings or was no longer frightened.

“I’m sorry I rushed out before,” he said to Olivia and Michel. “I decided that we needed an expert on hand before we examined such important artifacts. It was self-centered of me to open the time capsule in the first place.” He smiled sheepishly. “Mrs. Drummond and I have agreed that we should gather a quorum of church and historical society trustees before we reveal the contents.”

“One of my volunteers is sending a group e-mail as we speak,” Bellamy chimed in. “I’ve asked people to congregate this evening. These items have waited long enough to see that light of day.” She studied the box with a proprietary air. “We could create a special display just in time for the Secret Garden Party. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” She directed her question at Olivia.

“It would,” Olivia agreed and couldn’t help but admire Bellamy Drummond’s shrewdness. The historical society president knew that the time capsule would have curiosity seekers lining up in droves, and if she could capitalize on their interest by making them buy pricey garden party tickets, then the annual fund-raiser would be a smashing success. “It fits right in with the party’s scavenger hunt theme. You could have the guests locate clues throughout the house and grounds relating to objects in the time capsule.”

“Precisely what I was thinking!” Bellamy beamed at Olivia. Suddenly, the front doors opened, flooding the threshold with afternoon sunshine. “Here comes the cavalry,” Bellamy said. “Tread carefully, ladies.”

A woman carrying a white tablecloth and a roll of duct tape picked her way over the construction debris, scowling as plaster dust coated her designer heels. A younger, heavyset woman wearing jeans and a loose T-shirt followed behind. She clumsily trod over chunks of mortar and kicked a bent nail aside with the toe of her sneaker. Watching her, Olivia realized that she bore a close resemblance to Bellamy.

“We’re going to secure the time capsule until this evening,” Bellamy informed the volunteers. “Whenever you’re ready, Melinda.”

The slim, well-dressed woman hesitated for a moment. She held out her manicured hands and stared at the dusty box in distaste, but finally managed to drape the tablecloth over the box. Stooping awkwardly, she affixed the end of the tape to the tablecloth and began to wind it around the box.

“Jon, could you and Stella lift up one end at a time? Melinda can’t get the tape under and over the box unless it’s off the ground.”

Olivia shot Michel a befuddled glance as the pastor and the younger woman struggled to raise the box high enough for Melinda to pass the duct tape under it three times.

“It looks like you’re preparing an Egyptian mummy for burial. Did gold bars or rare diamonds number among the items in the time capsule?” Olivia joked, her gaze fixed on the pastor.

Easing the box down, he flushed. “We’re not doing this to protect the contents but to make sure the unveiling is official. Everyone will see what’s inside at the same—”

“I’m sure the original trustees would have wanted us to follow proper protocol,” Bellamy interjected. “Where should we move it?” she asked Pastor Jeffries. “We need a clean place with a sturdy counter and good lighting.”

“The kitchen would be best,” the pastor said. “But let me have the workmen carry it. It’s too heavy for your daughter.”

Bellamy eyed Stella with ill-concealed disapproval. “Very well. Stella, you and Melinda can go back to your office work.” She turned to Olivia and Michel. “Since you’re here, may I have a look at the proposed garden party menus?”

“Would you like to sit in a pew?” Olivia asked. “We can talk while Michel and the pastor finish discussing wedding details.”

“Certainly,” Bellamy said, and the two women moved into the sanctuary.

Bellamy quickly became engrossed in the menus, so Olivia watched Pastor Jeffries lead Kenny and his crew slowly up the center aisle. She was hypnotized by the strange procession. Wrapped in its white shroud, the box looked like a small coffin, and the workmen carried it with mute solemnity, their gazes fixed straight ahead. Michel followed behind, his hands clasped like a penitent parishioner. The men passed through a doorway in the back of the chapel and the door closed with a whisper behind them.

Once again, Olivia’s eyes were drawn to the stained glass window of the girl being guided by the angel. For no logical reason, Olivia felt a shiver of dread creep up her spine. Annoyed with herself for being fanciful, she returned her attention to Bellamy Drummond. The men hadn’t distracted the older woman at all. She’d taken the pencil from the pew’s attendance pad and was using it to make notations in the margin of each menu.

“You’ve made this a difficult choice,” Bellamy said. “But I’ll pass on the menu with the lamb entrée. Even though Easter will have come and gone by the evening of garden party, I don’t want people thinking about church.” She waved a hand to indicate their surroundings. “On this particular night, I’d prefer our attendees to forget about being upright, responsible citizens. I want them to give in to more hedonistic whims.”

“In other words, while under the influence of champagne cocktails and glazed Cornish hens stuffed with wild rice and apricots, you’d like them to write generous checks to the historical society,” Olivia said.

Bellamy grinned. “Precisely.”

Olivia gestured at the menu in Bellamy’s right hand. “Is this your first choice?”

“Yes, but I have two concerns. The Asiago-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon sound messy.” Bellamy spoke the latter word as if it were a capital offense. “And yet men are fond of their bacon. Could we wrap bacon around something other than dates?”

“Shrimp?” Olivia suggested and Bellamy readily agreed.

“My other concern is the butter lettuce salad. It sounds unsophisticated.” She touched the menu with a rounded, petal-pink nail. “Especially when compared to these fingerling potatoes with crème fraîche and caviar.”

“The salad is refreshing and chic. With fresh slices of avocado and radish, it’s elegant in its simplicity.” Olivia smiled. She knew how to speak Bellamy’s language. “That’s why we’re finishing the meal with lemon angel food cupcakes. They’re light as air and yet bursting with a rich, complex flavor. Just a kiss of lemon and sugar to create a sense of contentment. You want the guests to feel as if they’ve just had the most incredible dining experience of their lives. Couple that with aperitifs and a scavenger hunt, and you’ll have given them a night to remember. The donations will roll in like waves at high tide.”

Bellamy’s eyes sparkled. “It’ll be both mysterious and romantic. Gardens at twilight, a sumptuous meal, and a candlelight dance beneath the stars. I can control every component but the weather.” She curled her fist into a tight ball and shook it. “But so help me, if one drop of rain falls the night of the party, God will have to answer to me.” She glanced at the altar and, having delivered her threat, dropped the menus on the pew. “Thank you, Olivia. Now I must be off. There’s much to do before tonight’s reveal.”

*   *   *

Olivia dropped Michel at The Boot Top and then headed to the park with Haviland. She felt restless. It was a sensation she experienced more and more as the months passed. Ever since she’d accepted Sawyer Rawlings’s marriage proposal, she’d been feeling uneasy. It wasn’t that he was pressuring her. He’d suggested only once or twice that they set a date, but with the onset of spring, Olivia knew that Rawlings would start to wonder why she kept avoiding the subject. After all, they’d already come to terms on what kind of ceremony to have and the fact that Olivia wouldn’t change her name. And though Olivia’s house would be their prime residence, Rawlings would hang on to his house in town for those times he needed to be close to the station. They’d been living like this for nearly a year, and Olivia was perfectly happy with the status quo.

He’s sure to ask me to pick a date. It won’t be long now, she thought glumly.

It wasn’t that Olivia didn’t want to marry him. She did. She was deeply in love with him. But because she loved him, she feared that he’d discover the secret she was keeping from him. Secrets had a way of destroying relationships, and Olivia feared she’d lose Rawlings should he discover hers.

“I won’t think about that today,” she told Haviland. He dropped a tennis ball at her feet and nudged it toward her with his left paw. She tossed the ball into a copse of pine trees and he dashed off after it, a blur of black racing over the brilliant green grass. Haviland scooped the ball into his mouth, juggled it a bit between his teeth to gain purchase, and then trotted back to her. He was several feet away, his tail wagging and his brown eyes smiling with pleasure, when Olivia’s phone rang.

“I can see you! You’re on a park bench,” whispered Laurel Hobbs theatrically.

“I’m sorry. Do I know you?” Olivia teased and scanned the park for her friend. Ever since Laurel had been promoted to assistant editor of the Oyster Bay Gazette, she’d been too busy to do much socializing.

“Come on, it hasn’t been that long,” Laurel protested. “Don’t you want to know where I am?”

Olivia looked around the crowded park again. Mothers with strollers gathered near the playground, old men read newspapers or dozed on the benches, couples stretched out on picnic blankets, and dog owners played catch with their companions.

“You’re not in the park,” Olivia said.

“Nope. I’m sipping coffee and eating a buttered croissant at Bagels ’n’ Beans.”

Olivia was surprised to hear this. It had been ages since any of the Bayside Book Writers had frequented the café. Ever since the owner, and a good friend of Olivia’s, was sent to jail, they’d all lost the taste for bagels. “Why?” Olivia asked.

“Research,” was Laurel’s cryptic answer. “Care to join me?”

Thinking of the time capsule, Olivia said she’d be right over and whistled for Haviland.

With the poodle at her heel, she crossed the street and strode over to where six patio tables with striped umbrellas were lined up on the sidewalk.

Laurel sat at the table closest to the front door. A magazine, a notebook, a cell phone, a coffee cup, an empty dessert plate, and crumpled napkins were spread across the metal surface.

“Is this your new office?” Olivia smiled and pulled out a chair.

Casting a furtive glance around, Laurel whispered, “I’m on a stakeout.”

Olivia emptied the contents of a water bottle into Haviland’s travel bowl and then reached for Laurel’s notebook. “Is this where the ring of bagel thieves will strike next?”

Laurel slid the magazine closer to Olivia. “Not exactly.”

The cover showed two seamen in royal blue uniforms standing in front of a military cutter named Diligence.“Why are you reading a publication written by members of the Coast Guard for members of the Coast Guard?”

“Look at page thirty-three. You’ll find a fascinating article on drug smuggling and the city of Wilmington.”

Complying, Olivia turned to the page. “Wilmington’s one of North Carolina’s major ports. Is there a connection between the port’s illegal drug trade and Oyster Bay?”

Laurel tapped on the magazine. “Just read it.”

Though she was eager to tell Laurel about the time capsule, Olivia did as her friend requested. The article focused on the increased smuggling activity along the coastline of North Carolina and outlined how the Coast Guard was partnering with other law enforcement agencies to apprehend the smugglers.

“That must be a major challenge,” Olivia mused aloud. “The vessels transporting the drugs range from fishing trawlers to pleasure yachts. It also says that many of the smuggling rings are comprised of young men in their mid to late twenties who—”

“Are college-educated,” Laurel interrupted. “We’re talking about kids from good Southern families here. These kids complete a four-year degree with expectations of landing a job with a six-figure salary. When that doesn’t happen, a select group of them will move to a small town on the Atlantic coast and go into the drug-trafficking business. North Carolina has over three hundred miles of coastline and hundreds of small towns with harbors and docks, Oyster Bay included.”

Olivia turned back to the magazine’s cover image. “Our little Coast Guard station could never keep track of all the boats coming in and out of our harbor.”

“That’s right.” Laurel nodded vigorously, her high ponytail bouncing as if to emphasize her excitement. “Tell me something else: What was this place like when Wheeler ran it? Describe his clientele.”

Perplexed, Olivia said, “For the most part, they were locals grabbing coffee and a bagel before heading to work. Later in the morning, there’d be some tourist traffic.”

Laurel leaned closer, still speaking in a hushed tone. “The locals were a diverse group too. A dockhand might be waiting in line behind a banker. The tourists usually had sunburns or kids in tow. And at this time of the year, spring breakers nursing hangovers would appear shortly after noon.”

“Are you here because Bagels ’n’ Beans is attracting a different sort of patron these days?” Olivia glanced at her watch. “When Wheeler ran this place, it closed at three every day. Even when the business passed to his son, Ray kept the same hours. It’s almost my cocktail time and the open sign is still lit.”

“One of several major changes,” Laurel said. “Ever since Ray Hatcher sold the place, the décor’s changed, the music’s gotten louder, and the bagels are shipped in frozen. All of this has happened over the past year.”

Olivia tried to remember who’d bought the eatery, but the sale had warranted only a few lines in the Gazette. “Go on.”

“Bagels ’n’ Beans is now open until ten at night. You can have a lackluster sub sandwich and a beer for supper. The manager, Grady, looks like he’s twelve and the majority of his customers don’t seem much older. Go in and order something. You’ll see what I mean. But don’t talk to Millay. She’s flirting with some of the regulars in hopes of gaining their trust.”

Intrigued, Olivia told Haviland to stay and then entered the bagel shop. She got in line behind a lanky kid carrying a skateboard who was in the middle of ordering an Italian sub. While he deliberated over whether to add Doritos or Sun Chips to his meal, Olivia scanned the room.

Everywhere she looked, she saw young men dressed in board shorts, faded T-shirts, and boat shoes. Their sun-kissed hair was pushed back off their foreheads with the help of mirrored aviator glasses. All of these men, who were little more than boys in Olivia’s eyes, were tanned and toned. Clean and polished. Theirs was the relaxed, self-assured air of the privileged, and Olivia only had to catch glimpses of their watches, shoes, and perfect dental work to know that these kids were accustomed to the good life. There were a few women in the café too, but for the most part, the men ignored them.

A real boys’ club, Olivia thought and then spotted Millay at a corner table. The blunt ends of her short black hair were dyed an electric blue and her fingernails were painted the same color. Her knee-high leather boots were propped on a chair, providing everyone with a clear view of her shapely legs, and her white Sons of Anarchy T-shirt was stretched tight over a black bra. Chewing on a straw, she flashed Olivia a nearly imperceptible grin and then turned back to her audience of three men and said something in a bored monotone. Though Olivia knew that Millay was playing a part, she wasn’t sure what that part was. But since Millay had spent her school years being bullied and belittled by the rich and preppy crowd, Olivia suspected she’d been given an opportunity to exact revenge on their kind and was enjoying every second of it.

“What can I get you?” the boy behind the counter asked, his eyes flicking over Olivia with disinterest.

Olivia tried not to grimace. She wouldn’t feed the deli meat that had gone into the previous customer’s Italian sub to a stray dog. The salami was brown, the ham was wilted, and the pepperoni was an odd pinkish hue. “Do you have any croissants?”

The young man shook his head and Olivia leaned forward to examine the remnants of the day’s bagels. “A sesame bagel with peanut butter,” she said and laid money on the counter. “No need to toast it. And it’s to go.”

Having slapped a thin layer of peanut butter on the bottom half of the sliced bagel, the young man dropped it into a bag and unceremoniously dumped it on the counter. He handed Olivia her change with a stiff “have a good one” and picked up his cell phone. After a few seconds of scrolling, he glanced up and caught the eye of a boy sitting near the front door. Pointing at his phone, he raised his eyebrows in question and a silent message passed between the two young men. Olivia paused by the condiment bar, but before she could scrutinize the second twentysomething more closely, he abruptly exited the café.

Olivia went outside to rejoin Laurel. Gesturing at the empty plate on the table, she said, “How could you possibly eat anything from this place?”

Laurel laughed. “I told you I was eating a warm, buttery croissant and that was true. I heated it in the microwave and slathered it with butter. I used twenty packets and it still tasted like tire rubber.” She nodded at the bag in Olivia’s hand. “What did you get?”

“A bagel for the birds.” Olivia stroked Haviland’s head. “I’m sorry, Captain, but there’s nothing edible in there. On the bright side, I’m likely to rid Oyster Bay of its pigeon problem using this single bagel.”

Laurel reached across the table and squeezed Olivia’s arm. “Oh, I’ve missed you. We haven’t seen nearly enough of each other since Harris left.”

“I know. I’m so glad that he’s returning home tomorrow. And even gladder that he’s coming back to stay.”

“Will you tell him what’s happened to the Bayside Book Writers since he relocated to Texas?”

Olivia frowned. “You mean, how we’ve only met two times, or that I haven’t added a single word to my horrid historical fiction? Or how Rawlings keeps saying that he needs to conduct more research before proceeding with his book or how you’re far too busy writing articles to pen your women’s fiction novel?”

“At least Millay makes us look good,” Laurel said brightly. “Imagine landing a three-book deal from Penguin Random House! By September, her first YA novel will be published. I wonder if she wakes up every morning and pinches herself.”

“That’s not her style,” Olivia said. “Actually, I think she’s a bit worried. She sent me a text a few weeks ago saying she was way behind deadline for the next book in the series.”

Laurel sighed. “We talked about that earlier today. She’s feeling completely uninspired and I know exactly how she feels. I’ve felt totally flat for the past few months. That is, until I came across this Coast Guard article. Something about this”—she waved at the café’s façade—“has my blood pulsing again. And having Millay involved . . . well, it’s like how things used to be when the Bayside Book Writers were together. When we were writing, socializing, and balancing the scales of justice.”

Though Olivia understood exactly what Laurel meant, a surge of inexplicable anger swept over her. “Hasn’t there been enough drama? Haven’t we lost enough? I hate sitting at this café. I hate the fact that the man I cared about isn’t behind the counter. I hate that when I visit Through the Wardrobe to buy books, Flynn isn’t offering me a cup of his horrible coffee. This whole damned town is haunted.”

Responding to Olivia’s agitation, Haviland nudged her leg with his nose. She scratched him behind the ears and whispered soothingly to him.

“I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories.” Laurel looked stricken. “I just want us to be like we used to be. We haven’t healed since Harris left. Instead, we drifted away from one another like boats cut loose from their moorings.” Her eyes grew moist. “I don’t want us to lose anything else. I really need you guys. I love my family and my job. But you, Millay, Rawlings, and Harris are my friends. I can be myself with all of you. Do you know how rare that is? How wonderful?”

Olivia immediately regretted her outburst. “I do,” she said softly. “And I miss the way we were too. I also think you could be on to something here. I don’t know if it’s drugs or another illegal activity, but the whole café is filled with Abercrombie poster boys. They have a smug, authoritative air about them, like Mafia men hanging out at their favorite Italian restaurant. You’ll have to let me know what Millay discovers.”

Laurel grinned. “They won’t be able to resist her. She’s like an exotic bird surrounded by sparrows.” Suddenly, her expression turned anxious. “Speaking of men becoming smitten with Millay, how do you think it’ll be between her and Harris when they meet again?”

“We’ll find out over dinner tomorrow night,” Olivia said. “It’s difficult to know how much the breakup affected Millay, but Harris Williams is the kind of guy who only falls in love once in his life.”

“For his sake, I hope that’s not true. In any event, I’m sure the reunion of the Bayside Book Writers will be a happy affair.” She checked her watch and frowned. “I need to run. Was there something you wanted to talk about?”

Olivia took out her phone and showed Laurel the photograph of the inventory and contributor list from the time capsule.

“What am I looking at?” Laurel asked.

“The beginning of an interesting article,” Olivia said and then recalled the look of fear on Pastor Jeffries’s face. “Though I have a strange feeling that it could be much more than that. Today, three workmen found an old box buried in the wall of the First Presbyterian Church. As you can see from the list, this time capsule contains fascinating objects from Oyster Bay’s past, but I think something else escaped when the box lid was removed. Something shameful. Or possibly dangerous.”

“Like what?”

Olivia stared out across the park to where the tip of the church steeple was just visible over the tree line. It looked like a black spear against the pale horizon, stretching up and up as if intending to pierce the clouds. Olivia glanced back at Laurel and said, “I think a secret got out.”

“A secret,” Laurel repeated breathlessly.

The women fell silent, and in the silence, the word hung between them like a spider dangling from a long, invisible thread.

Chapter 3

In the ancient recipe, the three antidotes for dullness or boredom are sleep, drink, and travel. It is rather feeble. From sleep you wake up, from drink you become sober, and from travel you come home again. And then where are you?

—D. H. LAWRENCE

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Lethal Letters"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Ellery Adams.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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 “Ellery Adams does not disappoint.”—MyShelf.com

“[A] great read.”—Lorna Barrett, New York Times bestselling author
 
“An intriguing heroine…[A] superior series.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch

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Lethal Letters 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
chefdt More than 1 year ago
Lethal Letters is the sixth book in the A Books By The Bay Mystery series. Another wonderful book form Ellery Adams. For those just learning of this series, I heartedly suggest that you begin with book 1, A Killer Plot, and read the series in order to get the full story on Olivia Limoges. Adams has done a wonderful job of bringing a somewhat aloof woman to a loving and caring woman she is in this book. With each book you learn more of her past and see her open up. It's a busy time at Olivia's restaurant, as everyone is busy getting ready for Michel, her chef. wedding. Next up is a trip to the church to see Pastor Jeffries to make sure that all is ready there, too. When they arrive, they hear the sounds of jackhammers. As they are talking with the pastor, workmen bring in a box that turns out to be a time capsule. When it is opened, Pastor Jeffries gets a shocked look, packs everything back up and calls the head of the historical society, Bellamy Drummond. A day or two later while Olivia is helping Bellamy get the time capsules unveiling at The Secret Garden Party, a fundraiser for the historical society, she notices that item is suspiciously missing from the time capsule. Soon, while walking Haviland along the beach with her niece, she discovers the lifeless body of Ruthie Holcomb. Once Olivia learns of Ruthie's unfortunate past, she wants even more to find out what happened to this young lady. It is now time for Olivia to assemble the book group and get started looking into just what was missing from the time capsule and why and if it had anything to due with the death of Ruthie. Most all the regular characters are back once again. Plus Harris has also returned to Oyster Bay. If you like weddings, then this book is right up you aisle, as you get two wedding. Definitely looking forward to the next book in this excellent series
Amy_M_Reade More than 1 year ago
Lethal Letters is the first Books by the Bay mystery I have read (in fact, it's the first book by Ellery Adams that I have read!) and I must say that I will be reading the rest of the series asap. The book is full of delightful characters that draw the reader in early and don't let go until the mystery is solved. Though the book is great as a stand-alone, I found myself wanting to go back and read about all the adventures that the characters shared in the first five books of the series. Perhaps what I loved best about the book is the palpable sense of place that Ms. Adams infuses into the book. I want to visit Oyster Bay. I almost want to live there. I could picture the beach, the streets, the Secret Garden Party, and everything else as I read. Without giving anything away, the plot is sophisticated and multi-layered, connecting Oyster Bay's history to its sinister present involving drug running and murder. I don't know if I can pick a favorite character, but I do love Haviland, the main character's dog. There's romance, too, that goes hand-in-hand with the mystery. I would recommend Lethal Letters to anyone who wants a great mystery that features delightful characters and a great setting. I received Lethal Letters from the author in exchange for an honest review.
vlmay More than 1 year ago
 have read several books in different series by this author and, enjoyed them all. Although I haven't read the complete series, I think the Books by the Bay swerves is on its way to being my favorite. I was drawn into Lethal Letters from the first page and didn't want my time with the townspeople to end. The characters are so well developed and written you feel they are or could be your friends. I would live in Oyster Bay if possible. The mystery was all the more compelling because you care about the people involved. I enjoyed Lethal letters immensely and will highly recommend it to all my reader friends
meanevilmom More than 1 year ago
Loved the book, a definate can not put down. The characters are as usual brought to life, and I feel like I am right there watching the story unfold right in front of me.All the characters seem to have become so lifelike and they will remind you a little bit of someone you may know. Can't wait to see what happens next to Olivia and the Bayside Book Writers
RobynKFLNJ More than 1 year ago
Another winner! Olivia Limoges owns a restaurant and wants to be a published author. She suffered heartache in the past and has a secret that she wants to tell her fiancé and friends, but isn't sure how they're going to react. She has her plate full of celebrations, so to take her mind off of everything for a while, she, her fiancé, niece, nephew and her precious poodle go to the beach. While at the beach she and her niece find a body. Olivia is determined to help the police solve the murder. This book kept me on the edge of my seat. Ms. Adams is a wonderful author and I can't wait for the next book in this series!
SheliaReed More than 1 year ago
Love everything she writes!  Another Winner!
CozyMysteryLover1 More than 1 year ago
Once again, Ellery Adams does not disappoint! I could not put down Lethal Letters, it had me from page one. A story of friendship, love, deceit & murder! Everything that any cozy mystery lover desires in a book! This is definitely a book I could read over & over again!
sarah2323 More than 1 year ago
**Full Disclosure** I received a copy of this book free from the author in exchange for reviews on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  I've been a huge Ellery Adams fan since I picked up one of her Supper Club mysteries for free on kindle a few years ago. Ever since then, I've read everything she's written that I can get my hands on. She's an excellent mystery writer. The writing is clear, concise and descriptive. There are so many other cozy series that I read book 1 and realize that the author has no idea how to actually write, even if the story and plot are decent.  Lethal Letters is book 6 in her Books by the Bay series. I think I have written this in a few of my Books by the Bay reviews but I wasn't a huge fan of Olivia at 1st. She seemed so cold and distant but what I think I really enjoy about this series is that Adams has developed the character so much and Olivia has grown a lot as a warm and caring person since book 1.  In Lethal Letters, Oyster Bay is preparing for 2 huge events, Michel's wedding (Olivia's chef at her restaurant) and the Secret Garden party held by the head of the historical association. The murder of Ruthie Holcomb prior to both events sets Olivia and the Bayside Book Writers into a search to find the killer before s/he strikes again.  What I really like about this series is that there aren't so many characters that it's difficult to remember who is who but not so few that the story is boring. With each book, I look forward to visiting with Haviland, Rawlings, Laurel, Millay and Harris each time I pick up one of her books. Each character brings their own special flavor to the story and helps advance the plotline along.  In addition, I love the North Carolina setting and Adams describes it so perfectly that you can see the ocean and smell the salt air around you. It definitely makes you want to plan a trip for down south!  I won't get into a lot of what happens in the story - you can read that for yourself, but know that this is an excellent series where each book gets better and better as the series progresses
SewWrite More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of the Books by the Bay series. The characters not only grow with each book, their friendships grow as well. All of the returning characters are full of surprises and even some secrets. Ellery Adams does a great job of making the reader feel like they live in Oyster Bay and not only know but also interact with all the people that populate it. The friendship formed between two young women is particularly engrossing. I had a hard time setting this book down until i read the very last page.
TessT More than 1 year ago
I am so glad that Olivia and her poodle, Haviland and her writing group are making another appearance. The trouble this time all begins with a time capsule that was found during a church renovation. Murder, betrayal, feelings that can never be repaired, shootings, jail sentences and a corrupt pastor, all hold a grip on Oyster Bay. But on the plus side, we have not one, but two weddings to celebrate, new friendships formed, and a reunion of a father and daughter. It always amazes me that Ellery can fit all of this in one book. Authors such as Ellery, who truly love their fans is a huge part of why I am so devoted to cozy mysteries. A copy of this book was sent to me by the author in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
chogue More than 1 year ago
Whenever I read a Books by the Bay Mystery I leave my world behind and join the diverse group of inhabitants of the small coastal town of Oyster Bay, North Carolina. Ellery Adams is a master storyteller with the ability to draw readers into a world of sandy beaches, fine dining, small town history and aspiring authors. Behind the tourist-attracting facade of Oyster Bay lies the true stories and old family secrets of the people who have lived there for generations. Olivia Limoges is one of them. After surviving a traumatic childhood Olivia  is now a successful businesswoman and restaurant owner with a desire to become a published author. In the past she and the other members of the Bayside Book Writers have found themselves involved in their fair share of mysteries. Olivia is intrigued when the  discovery of a time capsule in a local church causes strange reactions and then an item goes missing. But when she finds the body of a young woman under a pier and learns of a possible drug running operation in her beloved town she's determined to solve the murder and save the integrity and reputation of her community. Along with her fiance Chief of Police Sawyer Rawlings and the other members of the Bayside Book Writers, Olivia searches for answers only to reveal generations of heartbreak, mistrust and long-hidden secrets. All this while planning her own wedding makes Olivia ponder the big secret in her own life and if she can share it with the man she loves. Ellery Adams continues to write interesting and engaging mysteries and this newest Books by the Bay Mystery may be the best one yet. 
the-PageTurner More than 1 year ago
This wonderful book is number six in the Books by the Bay series. Ellery Adams has made each book in the series a loving and warm novel. And lot's goes on in the one. First off a time capsule is found setting us up for the deep secrets we love to investigate. And excitement builds during the town fund raiser. And when Olivia Limoges finds a dead body of the beach we are head long into the adventure. And as always there are warm and personal scenes involving Olivia and her friends. We have the return of favorite characters from the first five books. Captain Haviland the only poodle I can say I really like. Olivia's friends Laurel, Harris and the delightful Dixie and her husband Grumpy. And best of all our favorite love interest Sawyer Rawlings. And did I mention there are two weddings. I always cry at weddings in fact I always cry in a Books by the Bay story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story. Again. Love all her books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SleepDreamWrite More than 1 year ago
What can I say that I haven't already said about this wonderful and surprisingly good book series? I thought a certain arc was going to go in a predictable direction. But no, it made me go, oh thank you for surprising me book. Much appreciate it. As for the mystery, I kind of guessed one of the twists what with how much the characters learned as the story went along. Still made this and the other books from book 3 to this, a pretty good cozy series. That's what I like about the series, something is mentioned or foreshadowed and thus gets brought again, in the later books. Same with the characters moving forward but still going through their own arc as well. All the while trying to solve a mystery in their town. Oh and writing their book in their Bayside Writer's Club of course, can't forget that. And to think, the mystery in this, started off with the discovery of a time capsule. From there, events are thrown all over the place as Olivia and co figure how to solve this one. Oh can I say that Rawlings in this and well throughout, has been a pretty likable, understanding and well just an awesome character? Dude is charming and you can see why Olivia falls for him. Near the end, I couldn't stop smiling. It was just too cute and I liked that we got a happy moment, what with throughout this one, it got a little sad and you felt bad for one or two characters who had to do with the mystery. Anyway, fantastic series and now a little sad I'm caught up and now have to wait for the next one. Wonder what cozy series I should read next? At least until the next Books by the Bay book comes out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Lethal Letters" has a good, solid mystery going for it, but it also takes the characters to new places in their lives. It was a great read and fun to watch Adams' characters grow and develop. Can't wait to read another one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have not read the book but i did read all the reviews and they sll say the book is good, i can not wait to read this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good mystery
patsta719 More than 1 year ago
True to form, as all of the preceding books, this is an excellent book to read.  How do you come up with these stories?  I love the comparison to Olivia’s life. I’m afraid I’ll give too much away if I say much more and I sure wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone.  Thank you and keep the  stories coming for Olivia and The Book Club. I can’t wait for the next book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Justpeachy1 More than 1 year ago
Ellery Adams fans will be thrilled with the latest Books by the Bay novel, Lethal Letters. The fun and murder center around a 100 year old time capsule found in the walls of a church. This book is a great blend of history and mystery and Adams does a fantastic job with both attention to detail and character development. Readers looking for a story that bring with it a bit of nostalgia and a good whodunit will love this one. What I liked: This is one of those series' that has kind of been hit or miss for me. Olivia is a very good heroine but she has been a bit hard to get to know. I feel like Adams has done a great job of showing her changes and growth and has softened her somewhat from the onset of the series. In Lethal Letters she is preparing for her upcoming nuptials with Rawlings, as well as, helping Michel with his wedding. She has become a lot easier to relate to and has really come full circle in many ways. I like her much better now and we get to see a lot of her personal life in this one, which was nice. As always, Oyster Bay is such a wonderful setting. The coast of North Carolina has always fascinated me. There are so many small coastal towns that have a certain air about them, an atmosphere that is unmistakable and Adams is great about bringing that through in her writing. The people that live in this area are a different breed and the things they get involved in and the things that happen around them are not always predictable. I love that about this series. The time capsule was a great part of this book. I thought that was an ingenious idea for the theme of the book. I have always thought it would be a lot of fun to be involved in something like this. A way to leave a piece of the past behind for the next generation. Using the time capsule as a the catalyst for murder worked well in this book. The capsule contained a lot more than just memories from the past apparently and it ends up getting someone killed. Secrets, secrets and more secrets. The mystery was so much fun to unravel in this one. Bottom Line: There is a lot more than just a mystery to solve in this one, as everyday life in Oyster Bay is quite busy. With two weddings in the offing and the Historical Society fundraiser. It all added together to give this book a great blend of the past and the present and Adams did a fantastic job of bringing it all to life. Loved the time capsule idea and thought it really gave this book a nice theme.
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
Dollycas’s Thoughts Ellery Adams weaves a tangled web of mystery and secrets along with not one but two weddings and big fundraiser in this sixth installment to this wonderful series! Opening a time capsule starts a chain of events, including a murder that Olivia just has to solve. She was the one that found young Ruthie Holcomb’s body and is not going to stop until she finds out who killed Ruthie and why. She knows the time capsule is key and she also knows that something from that capsule disappeared between its original opening and the public unveiling. She just needs to find out what and it should lead her right to the killer. I love this series, the characters have grown so much since the first book, A Killer Plot, when I sit down to read each story it is like I am visiting old friends. Olivia was a little hard to warm up to a first but she has a huge heart and it took her awhile to really let it show, now it is shining. Her relationship with Rawlings has progressed at a perfect pace for both the readers and Olivia and she finally realizes it. Her constant companion is Captain Haviland, a black standard poodle, I just love their dedication to each other. I was also so happy that Harris has returned to Oyster Bay and all the Bayside Book Writers were together again. The story grabbed my attention from page one and the new characters had my emotions flowing. No spoilers here but there will be those characters that you just hate and one that broke my heart. I will leave it at that. Ellery is a spectacular storyteller. We vacationed for week in North Carolina several years ago and I absolutely fell in love with the place. Ellery takes me back there in each of the books. I can feel the sun on my face, the sand between the my toes and smell the ocean. The people there were open and welcoming just like most of the residents of Oyster Bay. The food was delicious and I can almost taste the food Chef Michel prepares at Olivia’s restaurant. This is a series you have to read from the beginning so if this is a new series to you please start with A Killer Plot and then continue on. They would be fantastic all read in a row.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
weluvdopey More than 1 year ago
Awesome Series! I LOVE this series; this is the sixth book in the A Books by the Bay Mystery Series. This book can be read as a standalone, however, once you read this one you will want to go back and read the others. The books have the same characters that I grew to love from the other books in this series. Olivia is busy planning two upcoming weddings and the historical society’s annual fundraiser in the town of Oyster Bay, North Carolina. She goes with her chef Michel to the church to discuss his wedding, while they are there the people working on the church find a time capsule in the foundation of the church. The pastor is excited about finding the time capsule that is until he opens it up, and then Olivia notices that he looks afraid and worried. When the church has an unveiling of the contents of the time capsule, she notices there is an item missing. One day while walking on the beach she finds the body of  Ruthie Holcomb. Olivia begins to wonder if the murder of Ruthie and the missing item are related.  This book kept me guessing until the end. I can’t wait until the next book comes out. A Review copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. The free book held no determination on my personal review.