Today I’d like to introduce you to S.L. Smith, the author of several mysteries in the Pete Culnane Mysteries series. I just love her photo with the Calabash pipe, ala Sherlock Holmes. When I did a Google search for the correct name of the pipe, I discovered that the that particular pipe choice for Holmes was made for the stage. I can see why. It does have a dramatic flair to it.
Mistletoe and Murder is the fourth book in her mystery series, and she is sharing an excerpt with us today. Read on and enjoy…
Auld Lang Syne with a Twist
BLURB – As Collette Hammond orchestrates an elaborate New Year’s Eve wedding reception for her brother in St. Paul’s historic Union Depot, she never anticipates the evening might end in her own mysterious death. She collapses just before midnight. A fresh needle mark suggests narcotics. St. Paul police detectives Pete Culnane and Martin Tierney are called away from their holiday celebrations to investigate, launching a trip through a labyrinth of intrigue and deception.
“Like its title, Mistletoe and Murder is a story that combines elements which might, at first, seem at odds. But S.L. Smith delivers a tale that interweaves both the bright promise of this iconic season and the dark reality of what it can deliver, especially where police work is involved. Smith understands the territory and mines it to good effect. For those who know the Twin Cities, there’s extra delight in tracking the action across familiar terrain. Don’t wait until Christmas to open this one.” William Kent Krueger, New York Times bestselling author.
EXCERPT – Tonight, Colette rang in the New Year like there was no tomorrow. Little did she know that, for her, that was indeed the case. Had she known, she would not have spent her final hours this way. She loved her brother, and she loved to party. Just the same, she had a long list of things she intended to see and do before exiting this life for the something … or nothing … that lay beyond. She had her heart set on traveling to Australia and New Zealand to bask in the lingo and marvel at the scenery. She intended to walk at least a mile on the Great Wall. She planned to learn to play the violin.
She knew not the day, and she’d never have pegged these as her final hours. Confident she’d be on this earth for at least a few more decades, she spent little time thinking about, fretting over, or preparing for an afterlife. Some time down the road, perhaps. For now, she needn’t worry—or so she thought.
Momentarily, the consequences of her procrastination would be between her and her maker. She’d planned this party. Did that mean, in some perverse way, she’d planned her demise?
. . .
Beverages flowed freely before, during, and after the meal. Colette kept up with the best of them.
. . .
In addition to celebrating Demetrius’s wedding, guests spent tonight preparing to ring in the New Year. Some used this as an opportunity to drown regrets about a year of failed attempts to better themselves, while preparing for another shot at the golden ring.
This was Demetrius’s second time around. Colette believed he’d regret this marriage as much as the last one. Just the same, she knew sharing that opinion wouldn’t change his mind. It would, however, change their relationship—at least in the near term. For that reason, she set aside her feelings and helped with the arrangements. She always did that. Nothing, not even a gold digger, could come between her and Demetrius.
During the final seconds before midnight, Colette took center stage. Ordinarily, she reveled in the attention. Not tonight and not this type of attention.
For the last few hours, Colette danced and drank, but not in that order. Shortly before the crowd commenced singing “Auld Lang Syne,” she began slurring her words. Soon her words became unintelligible.
Most of the guests pretended not to notice. Many observed that Colette seemed unusually thirsty tonight, so this didn’t shock them. Unfortunately, what followed raised greater concern, but failed to set off any alarms.
Colette began nodding off. Repeatedly, her chin sank and rested briefly on her chest. That would have been surprising if she was seated at the time. She wasn’t. She did it while standing and talking with several people. Suddenly, without warning, she teetered and slumped to the marble floor.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – A lifelong resident of Minnesota, S.L. Smith was born in Saint Cloud and attended Saint Catherine University in Saint Paul. During her thirty-two years with the state department of public safety, she worked with law enforcement and fire officials at the state, county and municipal levels.
All three of her previous books include a social issue. In Blinded by the Sight, it’s homelessness. For book two, Running Scared, it’s the impacts of a failing marriage on the kids. Book three, Murder on a Stick, addresses a plight faced by many of the elderly. Smith is a member of Sisters in Crime. You can find out more about her and her books on her WEBSITE, and you can see the BOOK TRAILER on YouTube.