Plum Deadly

Plum Deadly

by Ellie Grant


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In this cozy mystery, a young woman is framed by her boss for embezzlement and flees to her aunt’s pie shop—but when her ex-boss turns up dead on their doorstep she must start her own investigation to find the killer—before he finds her.


Who could resist such pies? Who would even want to resist the pie shop that makes them? Certainly not the residents of Durham, North Carolina, and the little bakery and café called Pie in the Sky is one of the most popular meet-up places in town.

Unjustly accused of cooking the books, Maggie Grady is forced to retreat from her high-flying New York financial career to the town where she grew up. Her aunt Clara greets her with open arms and a job at the family-owned business that has baked the best pies in the South for over forty years. Unfortunately, while Maggie is determined to return to banking, her reputation there seems permanently in the pits. That is, until her old boss, Lou, visits with news that he’s found the real crook. Before he can reveal the details, though, Maggie finds his body right behind the pie shop.

With only her own word that Lou planned to exonerate her, Maggie is in the spotlight. The police seem to suspect that Aunt Clara’s damson pie may not be just dangerously delectable, but downright deadly. Maggie doesn’t just have her own name to clear; she has to make sure that her aunt’s beloved business isn’t harmed, either. Yummy local reporter Ryan Summerour appears eager to help, and Maggie can’t help hoping that it’s not just the police who find her a person of interest—but Ryan, as well. She’d thought it challenging to make the perfect pie crust that Aunt Clara demands, but that turns out to be nothing compared with finding a murderer. . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451689556
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 09/03/2013
Edition description: Original
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.52(w) x 8.06(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

Ellie Grant gets help writing from her cat, Quincy, and her big puppy, Rudi, who she rescued in 2010. She loves writing mysteries but is at home with fantasy, romance, and nonfiction.

Read an Excerpt

Plum Deadly

  • Order up!”

    Maggie Grady checked her email one last time. There was still no response from her latest job query, but it had only been an hour since she’d sent it. She had a good feeling about this one.

    Unlike the hundreds of impersonal emails she’d sent to faceless hiring agents, she knew Claudia Liggette. Maggie had worked with her—partied with her—years before her life had been unceremoniously dumped in the trash.

    “Maggie,” her aunt called. “This piece of pie isn’t going to grow legs.”

    “Sorry.” Maggie left her laptop with a last, longing look at the screen.

    Come on! Come on!

    Professor Ira Simpson smiled as she brought the big slice of Lotsa Lemon Meringue pie to him. He was a kindly older man with sharp wings of white hair at his temples and a twinkle in his blue eyes. “Any luck today?”

    She sighed. Did everyone know she was looking for work? She supposed it was obvious since she was back in Durham, working at her aunt’s pie shop. She’d asked her aunt not to spread it around that she’d lost her job. There were too many questions to answer about the last six weeks of her life.

    “Not yet,” she responded. “But it won’t be long now.”

    “You remind me so much of your mother,” he said. “You have her nose and her chin, you know. And those same peculiar green eyes. Your mother was a good student. Of course, so were you!”

    Maggie filled his coffee cup. He always said that to her. She glanced at herself in the mirror behind the counter. She knew she favored her mother, but only from old pictures she’d seen of her parents. She couldn’t remember them. They’d died when she was very young.

    She checked on the other five people, most of them eating the special—Dangerously Damson pie—made from fresh damson plums.

    “Cheer up, honey,” her aunt said as she cut a Chocoholic Cream pie into four slices. “You’ve worked hard all your life. People will notice that. You’ll be out of here in no time.”

    Those little pep talks made Maggie feel guilty. She’d ended up on her aunt’s doorstep with one duffel bag when she’d lost her job at the bank. She’d barely been able to scrape together enough money for a bus ticket to get home.

    It had been twelve years since she’d left Aunt Clara and Uncle Fred in Durham, North Carolina, where she’d grown up. She’d only come home once during that time, and that was to attend Uncle Fred’s funeral. To make matters worse, she only called her family a few times each year.

    Maggie blamed it on work—flying around the world for the bank, throwing lavish parties at her loft in Manhattan, wining and dining important financial clients from sheiks to senators. It was the kind of busy, high-powered life she’d always wanted.

    Then one rainy Monday morning, she’d been accused of stealing money from an important client and had been escorted from the bank. Her boss, Louis Goldberg, showed her the documents proving her guilt and told her how lucky she was the bank wanted to keep it quiet. They weren’t pressing charges.

    Her bank accounts had been frozen. The bank officer had told her they’d take what they needed to pay back her debt. A policeman was standing outside her door at home to make sure she didn’t take anything valuable with her.

    By that afternoon, everything she’d had was gone. She had the clothes on her back and some money to go toward her bus ticket. The Salvation Army had helped her with the rest.

    Aunt Clara had smiled when Maggie showed up at her front door. She’d listened to her cry as she told her aunt what had happened. There were no recriminations, no “how the mighty had fallen” speeches. Just a simple, “I’m glad you made it home.”

    She didn’t deserve it. She’d been a poor excuse for a niece and was determined to make it up to Aunt Clara after she got a new job. She was a different person. Her life was going to be better, and so was Aunt Clara’s.

    Maggie shook herself out of the depression that constantly threatened to engulf her since she was fired. “I’m sorry to be so whiny all the time. And I appreciate you giving me a place to live and work. You’re the best, Aunt Clara.”

    As always, Clara’s wrinkled face grew pink with pleasure and embarrassment at her words. “You’re my only niece, you know. You’re more like my daughter. It’s not like I’d want you to be out on the street. I’m glad you came to me. It’s what your mother would have wanted you to do.”

    Aunt Clara and Uncle Fred had raised Maggie after her parents’ death in a car crash. They’d been there through high school and college when Maggie had worked right here at Pie in the Sky for spending money, dreaming her big dreams about the future.

    “I could use a little more tea,” an intense young man with spiky, green-tinged brown hair yelled out.

    “I’ll get it,” Maggie said. “How’s that mystery pie coming along? People are waiting for it. I think we’ve already had a hundred suggestions for names. It’s smart to introduce new pies that way. Good marketing.”

    Aunt Clara shrugged her shoulders. Her unnaturally red hair was a little frizzier than usual. It looked like an orange fringe around her still pretty face. She looked like Maggie’s mother with that red hair and green eyes. Maggie had inherited her father’s dark brown hair that she’d always worn short.

    “It’s what I’ve always done. The kids like it. I never guessed when your uncle and I opened this pie shop forty years ago that I’d be here making pies without him.” Aunt Clara sighed. “But then things don’t always go the way you plan.”

    You got that right.

    Maggie brought another small pot of hot water and a tea bag to the young man’s table.

    He looked like he was working on something important. He raked his hand through his hair again and spilled Amazing Apple pie on his worn black superhero T-shirt. The table was covered with diagrams and charts.

    “What are you working on?” She glanced at the papers, trying to be friendly. It wasn’t always easy. It had been different when she’d worked here and known most of the students. Now she felt a lot like their mother.

    “None of your business,” he barked, protectively covering the documents. “I have tea now. Go away.”

    “Didn’t anyone ever tell you that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?”

    He stared at her like she’d lost her mind.

    Obviously not.

    Maggie walked behind the counter to check her email again. Nothing.

    “I can’t find that chocolate cream pie,” Aunt Clara complained from the small kitchen area at the back of the shop.

    “Was that the pie you were just cutting?” Maggie smiled at her aunt’s forgetfulness. “I think you put it in the fridge.”

    Aunt Clara found the pie in the large old refrigerator. “Sometimes I think I’d lose my head if it wasn’t connected.”

    It was a slow afternoon. School had only been in session a few weeks at Duke University. It took a while for the new students to find Pie in the Sky and realize what a great hangout it was. It was the same way every year.

    Faculty and almost every fireman and police officer in town came in on a regular basis too. It was a popular place through the school year. Summers were a little slow, but the shop managed to stay open.

    “Hi, Maggie!” Handsome attorney Mark Beck sat down with his briefcase, like he did every few days around this time. “How’s it going?”

    “Okay.” She sighed. “What can I get for you?”

    “I’ll take some sweet tea and some Dangerously Damson pie.” He waggled his eyebrows. “Sounds exciting. What makes it dangerous?”

    “I think it might only be the intent behind it. And Aunt Clara loves alliteration.”

    “How can I resist?”

    She wrote down his order and came back with the pie and tea a few minutes later.

    “How’s the job search going?”

    “Still going.” She put down the plate and glass. “It’s not a good job market right now.”

    He smiled, even white teeth against tanned skin. “You’ll find something. You have banking experience and you’re good with numbers. Something will come along.”

    Yes, she thought darkly, everyone knows I’m out of work.

    At least they don’t know why.

    Maggie decided to clean up the pie case and stack some dishes in the dishwasher while her customers were busy eating and talking.

    She and her friends had loved to study there. That tradition hadn’t changed. They could usually count on a full house from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. on weekdays.

    Two young women came in the door together and Maggie took their orders. They went to sit down while she went back for two pieces of Popular Peach pie and two Diet Cokes.

    It was hard not to think about those carefree days when she’d been at Duke. She wouldn’t have been able to afford school there, but she was a third generation of Duke University graduates, including her mother and Aunt Clara. Maggie had been a special case, maybe a hard luck story, since she’d lost her parents early on in life.

    She’d never felt that way, though. She enjoyed her time at Duke and had moved to New York, full of confidence. She’d planned on taking the world by storm. And for a while, she felt like she had.

    “Could I get some milk over here?” the guy with the charts and diagrams said sharply.

    Maggie got a little pitcher of milk for him. “Would you like another piece of pie?”

    “Do I look like I want another piece of pie?” he snarled at her. “Leave me alone.”

    “Maggie!” Aunt Clara called from the kitchen. “Come quick! I think we’re having trouble with the dishwasher.”

    She looked down at the rude young man and snarled back at him, “You’d better be in a friendlier mood when I get back or this chair better be empty.”

    Maybe it wasn’t good business practice, but she could take only so much.

    Maggie went back to the kitchen and stared at all the soap bubbles that were spreading across the floor, bulging from the dishwasher. “What happened? I didn’t start it.”

    “No, honey, I did. I think that new soap might be bad. Get the mop, will you?”

    Maggie passed the box of soap that was still open on the cabinet. “Is this what you used? No wonder it’s foaming up. This is hand soap for the bathroom dispensers.”

    Aunt Clara had turned off the dishwasher by the time Maggie got back with the mop. Bubbles were still oozing from it. “Oh my stars, you’re right. What was I thinking?”

    The front door opened again, making a little chiming noise to let them know there were new customers.

    “I’ll clean this up,” Aunt Clara said. “You tend to the customers. They’re more important than this mess.”

    “Hi, Maggie.” Angela Hightower smiled and greeted her when she came back out of the kitchen. “Am I the first one here for the book club?”

    “It looks like it. I saved your tables in the corner. Would you like something to drink while you’re waiting?”

    “That’d be great. Maybe a little half and half—half sweet tea and half no-sugar tea.” Angela laughed, tossing her dark blond, shoulder-length hair. “My son is getting married in six weeks and I’m trying to lose a few pounds.”

    “No pie today?”

    “Don’t be silly. Why do you think I’m drinking half and half? I’m going to wait for pie until the other girls get here. We like to order different slices and share them around, you know?”

    “I do.” Maggie put her order pad in the pocket of her jeans. “I’ll get your tea. What book did you read this month?”

    “Something unusual for us—a murder mystery. Jean hardly had the stomach for it. But I thought it was good. Nice to read something besides family problems and books about women finding themselves. I don’t understand why all those women feel so lost in the first place.”

    Maggie shook her head and hid her smile as she went to fetch the tea. She liked Angela, who was plainspoken and always ready to try something new. Aunt Clara told her Angela sold real estate and was on her fourth marriage, this time to a man almost half her age.

    “The rest of the book club won’t be far behind,” Aunt Clara said as Maggie poured tea into an ice-packed glass. “I hope we have enough variety for them. I really need to teach you how to make piecrust. It’s the hardest part.”

    “I could never make crust like you do.” Maggie put a slice of lemon on the lip of the glass. “I think we should keep things the way they are. You know I have to find another job. Don’t change things that have worked for years on my account.”

    There would have to be changes, Maggie knew. She’d been surprised by both her aunt’s forgetfulness and the shabby condition of the pie shop. Aunt Clara wasn’t getting any younger. She might not be able to continue with the shop.

    “It’s not that hard once you know the secret,” Aunt Clara said. “The women of our family have passed it on for three generations now. If you don’t learn, it dies with me. You’re all I have, Maggie. We have to stick together.”

    Maggie smiled and kissed her aunt, a strong feeling of guilt clutching at her heart. She knew Aunt Clara needed her, but she couldn’t stay here tending the pie shop the rest of her life. She had her own dreams and ambitions.

    She’d been good at what she did for the bank, bringing in millions of dollars with new clients every year. If she got a second chance, she knew she could do it again. She could be that blazing star, living the high life and feeling the satisfaction that came with it.

    By the time Maggie took the iced tea to Angela, Jean and Barb were there. They’d already pushed some tables together in the corner and pulled up more chairs.

    Jean was a nursing instructor at the university. She was very thin and always wore scrubs. Barb, a counselor at the school, wore a perpetual frown, as though life had let her down. The three women had been friends since childhood. None of them had ever lived outside of North Carolina—or Durham, for that matter.

    They were examples of the women Maggie didn’t want to be.

    “So that’s another sweet tea and a coffee.” Maggie wrote in her order book.

    “Decaf,” Jean said. “I’ve already got the jitters from my new class. It scares me sometimes to think the people I teach might take care of me someday. I hope I die on the side of the road with the level of health care I see coming up.”

    “Got it.” Maggie joked with the women about Jean’s new hair color and Betty’s rubber mud boots. As she’d learned in college when she worked here, talking to her customers got her bigger tips.

    “Let’s wait for Liz and Sissy to order pie,” Angela said, clearly the leader of the group. “Have you heard anything about Mann Development lately, Maggie? Any new offers on the shop?”

    “Not as far as I know,” Maggie replied. “I don’t think they’ll be back again with another offer after Aunt Clara ran them off with her pepper spray.”

    All the ladies from the book club laughed at that image, except Angela. “They’ll be back. This piece of property is too important to that new medical office building. You know, your aunt should take advantage of the next offer. She could live in luxury the last few years of her life.”

    Maggie’s generous mouth tightened a little at her words. “I think Aunt Clara is doing fine. She doesn’t need Mann’s money to live a good life.”

    Angela smiled in a slightly devious way that made Maggie feel like she would never trust the other woman to buy or sell a piece of property for her.

    “You and I both know you won’t be here forever, sweetie. You’ve had a few hard breaks, but you’ll be gone again in no time, leaving Clara to sort this out alone. All I’m saying is, why not take advantage of a good thing? If you encourage her now, you won’t have to feel guilty when you climb on that plane.”

    Maggie didn’t know what to say. Angela’s words hit too close to the truth not to lodge in her chest. She was saying all the things Maggie had been thinking—and feeling guilty for.

    “I’ll let Aunt Clara know that you’re waiting for Liz and Sissy before you order pie. Thanks.”

    As Maggie walked away from the table in the corner, she heard Angela continue, “All I did was tell her the way it is. We all know Clara can’t fight progress.”

  • Customer Reviews

    Plum Deadly 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
    dibbylodd More than 1 year ago
    An entertaining mystery. A woman falsely accused of stealing mega dollars from the bank she worked for. Returns "home" to work with her grandmother at the family pie shop. Longs to return to her high life. But... Then her former boss appears and claims to know who actually stole the money, but he's killed before he can announce the culprit. Throw in potential romance, insurance challenges, an aggressive realtor who wants to buy the property, an uncertain police chief, and a possible. murder attempt. A lot happens with the ongoing temptation of the descriptions of their pies!
    Skinny21 More than 1 year ago
    I'm surprised by the many glowing reviews for this book as I struggled to get through it. The sentences are choppy and short - there's no rhythm or flow to draw the reader into the words. "This happened and then this and then that." I had no interest in the characters as the development only went as far as their physical descriptions. I found this book to be very boring and hastily put-together.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I enjoyed this book. I think the romance between Ryan and Maggie happened too quickly and I felt that everything happened quickly. Almost as if it was rushed. I might read the next book.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    kayek1 More than 1 year ago
    Maggie Grady is forced to give up her high-flying New York lifestyle and return to her home town after she's unjustly accused of cooking the books at the bank where she worked. Her Aunt Clara greets her with open arms and a job at the family-owned business that has baked the best pies for over forty years. When Maggie's boss shows up and declares he's found the real crook, she's elated, until he turns up dead in back of the pie shop. The police not only turn the spotlight on Maggie, but they suspect Aunt Clara's damson pie might be deadly. Now Maggie has to clear herself and her aunt. This was a fun read, I loved the characters, and when Aunt Clara was teaching Maggie how to make pie crust her way, I felt sorry for Maggie. Pie crust is hard. I'm looking forward to the next in this series.
    janesquires More than 1 year ago
    A mystery that puts you walking through the story with the characters. Aunt Clara is loveable, trusting and loves her pie shop. And she does not want to sell it. Her niece, Maggie, has returned to her. She was framed for embezzlement and fired from her job in New York City. The charges were all dropped but she still lost her job. Her ex-boss shows up at Pie Shop wanting to clear Maggie's name. But instead he is killed. I got all the way to the end not guessing the killer. So enjoy. Maggie falls for Ryan, Publisher of newspaper. Romance develops in midst of all the bad circumstances. Ryan works with Clara and Maggie trying to figure out who killed the ex-boss. Maggie finds herself almost run down after she is cleared as a suspect. Then Clara springs a new man at end which sure could make for the next mystery book. Crime followed Maggie from New York to North Carolina. Home life, fears and romance are all so real. And at the end an extra - pie recipes.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Need more like this! But pace is very slow, and needs more character detail and suspense tobe to notch!!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I REALLY ENJOYED THIS BOOK. AN ORIGINAL STORY LINE THAT IS BETTER THAN THE AVERAGE COZY. The last paragraph of the book makes you wonder if the next book is going to start from this point or is it just a real attention getter. So many of the cozy books have the female sleuth with the cop or detective boyfriend but this is a new twist. I love an author that can think up a story line that is different than the majority of cozy stories. I really look forward to the next in this series.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    The major fault of this book is I want to eat lots of pies. They sound so good. Flakey crusts. In the back of book does have some pie recipe but It should come with pie, don't you think? A lot of the setting is at the pie shop or talking about pie and having to make good sounding pies. Maggie is the main character. She is smart, selfish and now that her busy dream life has been taken away from her, She realizes how wrong she has been not to spend more time with her Aunt. Maggie was working for a bank until she was accused of taking millions from her bank. The bank froze her accounts, took all she had leaving her with not even enough money to go home. (I wonder how the bank could take her apartment and everything even her clothes) They don't even press charges against her. Her Aunt Clara and her Uncle Fred took Maggie in when she was four after her parents were killed. Since her husband's death Clara has not made a lot of good decisions. She has kept the Pie in the Sky open. She is glad that Maggie has come home. She loves her and plans to teach her the family's secret to making good pie crusts. Maggie's boss comes to her hometown and tells her that he found out who had really stolen the money and he has called a press conference for tomorrow where he will announce the real thief. Next time Maggie sees him he has died behind Pie in the Sky. Now things get even worse for Maggie as she as been a person of interest in the death of her boss. The mystery of who the thief and killer is good. There are a few good suspects for Maggie to look into. I was kept guessing till the killer let it out about something. There is good drama and action and even some romance as Maggie tries to clear her name. At the same time someone is trying to make Clara sell her land so he can build a office building for doctors. The ending is setting up for another book that sounds good I hope it is going to come out quickly. I will want to read it but first make sure I have some pie on hand to go with it. I was given this ebook to read and agreed to be part of its blog tour and give honest review of it.
    DrPepperDiva More than 1 year ago
    Plum Deadly is the newest addition to Jim and Joyce Lavene’s books. Although this is the first I have read of any of their works, when I was invited to participate in a tour, I couldn’t turn it down. I am starting to really get into these cozy mysteries because they are so lighthearted and fun. After being falsely accused of embezzlement Maggie Grady flees back home to her aunt Clara. While trying to rebuild her reputation, Maggie works at the family business, Pie in the Sky. When her ex-boss, Lou, confronts her with knowledge that can clear her name, she’s ecstatic. Unfortunately for both of them, Maggie finds his body behind the shop before he can release the information. Now, not only does she have to clear her name of theft, she has to prove to everyone she’s not a murderer either. Maggie is such a wonderful character. Even though she is down on her luck, she is very sweet and kindhearted, especially to aunt Clara. I really liked aunt Clara too. She had such a positive personality and always saw the good in everything. She also liked to play matchmaker, which led to Maggie’s relationship with Ryan Summerour, a local reporter. Although he and Maggie get off on the wrong foot, things soon get heated after a surprise kiss goodnight. What I liked the most about Ryan was that he never used Maggie. She wasn’t just another story to him. This author duo has definitely got it going on. Together they have built a pleasant little town with touching characters. I haven’t really grasped the concept of how this team might work but you would never know it was more than one voice. Everything flowed beautifully from beginning to end at just the right rate. I would recommend this lighthearted novel to anyone who enjoys curling up with a nice, cozy story. Did I mention that it also includes recipes? That’s right! You can make the same pies that Maggie and aunt Clara made in the shop. So gather up your baking supplies, get out your favorite blanket and enjoy the treat of both this loving story and the yummy pie. Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review.
    inspiremichelle More than 1 year ago
    Plum Deadly by Ellie Grant Maggie Grady goes back home to Durham, North Carolina for the first time in years with her tail tucked between her legs. She has been fired for her high powered job for embezzlement. She is has lost everything she owned, her bank accounts frozen, so she takes a job at her aunts pie shop. Maggie moves in with Aunt Clara who seems to be getting forgetful. She is determined to find a way to prove her innocent, get another job and leave town as fast as she can. He former friend and ex boss Louis walks into the Pie in the Sky, proclaiming he knows who set her up and promises to hold a press conference to reveal the identity of the thief. The problem with that is he is found murdered before he reveals their identity. Now she faces possible murder charges along with embezzlement. Her life is falling apart and she does not know who she can trust. Ryan the hunky town reporter befriends her, but does he have true feelings for her or is he after a story? This book is an outstanding read, full of action and a little romance. You will find this book to be a clean read, action packed mystery and humor.
    chefdt More than 1 year ago
    Plum Deadly is the first book in the Pie In The Sky series. I hope the first of many!! Maggie Grady has returned to her hometown, after unjustly being accused of embezzling bank funds. Maggie is busy helping her Aunt Clara run Pie In the Sky Pie shop, much needed, too. Then one day her former boss, Lou, walks through the door of the pie shop. He lets Maggie know that he knows she's not guilty and will explain everything at a news conference the next day. the next day never comes, as when Maggie is taking out the trash, she finds Lou slumped against the back door, dead. Quite naturally Maggie becomes a person of interest. Shortly after the discovery of body, Ryan Summerour, owner of a local newspaper wants to do a person interest story and help Maggie clear her name. A wonderful first book for this delicious new series with believable characters, all I would to call my friends. Aunt Clara whose wonderful baking skills keeps the customers coming back, but she could use a little help with the business side. Maggie who would still like to have that pie in the sky job at a bank, she does enjoy working in the pie shop and knows that her aunt needs her around the shop. Plus Ryan is there and could be a love interest that Maggie is also looking for. Definitely hungry for the second book in this series. Recipes also included, too. flag
    TessT More than 1 year ago
    Joyce and Jim Lavene, writing under the name Ellie Grant, have another hit on their hands! When I see their name or any of their pseudonyms I know that the book will be a joy from start to finish. Poor Maggie Grady, not only has she lost her high powered job and was forced to move back to her hometown in N.C., but her ex-boss ends up dead on the back doorstep of the pie shop she is helping her sweet aunt with. Maggie finds herself in the thick of things and must prove to the police and her hometown that she had nothing to do with his death. If you are a cozy mystery fan, I think you will enjoy this book. And make sure to check out the books in all of the series that the Lavenes write.