Life has been good lately for Willow McQuade. Her store is producing a good business and the community has fully embraced her medicinal herb garden. Her relationship with Jackson Spade is strong and her best friend Simon is thriving as a new vineyard owner. The best news, though, is that it has been about a year since Willow, Jackson, and Simon have needed to put their sleuthing skills to work. Unfortunately, all of that changes when Amy Lord – sister-in-law to Simon’s business partner, David, is found dead during a party at Pure (Simon’s vineyard). At first inclined to stay out of the investigation, Willow is pulled in when it appears that David was the intended target and not Amy. And whoever is behind the murder is not done killing yet.
Dandelion Dead is the fourth Natural Remedies mystery and is full of Christle Fiedler’s characteristic warmth and plenty of tips and recipes for those interested in herbs, essential oils, and natural living. The plot is cunning and clever, reminiscent of the TV classic, “Murder, She Wrote.” A great weekend read as we head into fall.
Dandelion Dead: A Natural Remedies Mystery
Pocket Books (September 27, 2016)
Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
E-Book ASIN: B00WRBQP22
In a cozy mystery filled with natural cures and edible plants that you will love, an organic winery becomes the backdrop for murder! Fortunately, solving crimes comes naturally to charmingly unconventional amateur sleuth and holistic doctor, Willow McQuade, as she looks for clues that will reveal a killer’s true vintage.
Business is blooming at Nature’s Way Market & Café, and shop owner, holistic doctor, and amateur sleuth, Willow McQuade has never been happier. Her new medicinal herb garden is a hit, so is her new book, she’s in love with ex-cop and animal rescuer Jackson Spade, and enjoying teaching seminars about edible plants and natural remedies.
But everything changes when Willow’s old boyfriend and TV producer, Simon Lewis, winemaker David Farmer, and his wife Ivy, ask her to cater a party at Pure, their new organic vineyard, to kick off North Fork’s Uncorked! week and the competition for Wine Lovers magazine’s $200,000 prize. Pure’s entry, Falling Leaves, is the favorite to win, and the wine flows freely until after Simon’s toast when smiles give way to looks of horror. Ivy’s twin sister, Amy has been murdered! Turns out, the poison that killed her was actually meant for David. But who wants him dead? A rival vintner? Or someone closer to home? This time the truth may be a bitter vintage to swallow.
Read an Excerpt
Inside of Pure, I found Simon in his well-appointed loft office with an expensive sofa, bookcase, and desk that overlooked the bar and lounge area. Its enormous picture window had a view of the vineyard, the sunflowers and the corn maze, and beyond that the trees, with peekaboo views of a pond and, farther north, the Long Island Sound.
Simon, thirty-five, and my ex-BF, wasn’t conventionally good-looking—he was slender and bookish—but something about him, his charm, that made him absolute catnip to women. Dressed in khakis and a black dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and white Jack Purcell sneakers, he sat on the edge of the desk, talking into his headset while his adorable dachshund, Zeke, chewed a bone at his feet. Zeke spotted me, left the bone, and scampered over to say hi, tail wagging.
“Cassie, I told you that you should have taken him with you,” Simon said into the phone, and rolled his eyes dramatically. “I just don’t have time to give him the attention he needs. I’m very busy right now.”
Cassie, his now ex-girlfriend, was a documentary filmmaker on location in London. Simon blew out a sigh, took his wire-rim glasses off, rubbed his eyes, and put them back on. “But you said that you wanted him there once you got settled, remember? He was going to stay in your trailer while you were working, and your assistant would walk him and play with him. Now you say you both don’t have time for him?”
I scratched the dog under the chin and put two and two together. Now that their relationship had ended, neither of them wanted the dog they’d acquired as a puppy six months ago.
This made me angry, first of all because Cassie had bought the dog at an NYC pet store that was known for selling animals from abusive puppy mills, and second because of their sudden change of heart once they broke up.
I’d seen this happen all too often at Jackson’s animal refuge. People were super-excited about getting a pet, but when they realized that it would require time, energy, attention, and effort, they wanted out.
“Fine, I’ll deal with it,” Simon said, hanging up and giving me a beseeching look.
I knew what that meant. “Let me guess, you want me to take the dog.” I picked up Zeke and gave him a kiss on the nose. Zeke was what is known as a red dachshund, with big brown eyes and a sweet disposition. He licked my face in return.
Simon nodded. “Would you? Cassie is too busy and so am I.”
“I told you to think it through before you got him, but you didn’t listen. Having a dog, a puppy especially, is a lot of work. It’s worth it, but you have to put the time and effort in to care for him, walk him, and play with him. You said you would, Simon.”
Simon shrugged. “I know I did. I meant to, but . . .”
What I wanted to say was But you’re selfish and only think of yourself. Still, we were friends now, not boyfriend and girlfriend, and I needed to act like a friend. So I tempered my reaction. “I know that you’ve got a lot on your plate, especially right now. It’s okay, we’ll take him.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Jackson won’t mind?”
I shook my head. “We’ve already talked about it. We both knew it was coming.”
“You are good friends. Better than I deserve.”
Instead of focusing on Simon’s flaws, I thought about all the times over the past few years that he’d been there for Jackson and me, with the murder investigations and incarcerations, and his help with lawyers and support. “It’s fine, Simon, really. I’m going over to Jackson’s now, so I can take him with me.”
Simon blew out a breath. “Good, thanks, Willow, really. That’s a relief.”
I put Zeke down on the area rug and pushed his bone toward him. He grabbed it and began to happily chew, his tail wagging. “So, are we all set for this afternoon?”
Simon nodded. “Ivy has the tasting-room setup handled, and the dining room, while Amy’s managing the B and B.” The bed-and-breakfast, behind the tasting room, was a quaint clapboard house painted sea-foam green with bright white shutters, containing four bedroom suites.
The B and B had been up and running when Simon and David had taken over the vineyard and was a good moneymaker, especially after a complete interior and exterior renovation. Wine lovers enjoyed staying on-site, with the wine, walks, and being in nature.
I told Simon about running into David and Ivy outside. “She’s a real piece of work, isn’t she? David seems miserable.”
“They’re always like that. The whole family has been fighting for years. He argues with her, and his family, and Ivy fights with him and Amy.” Simon pushed off the desk and came over to me. “Don’t worry, Willow, no one is going to kill anyone.”
“What are you talking about?”
He put his arm around me. Simon had always been demonstrative, and fortunately Jackson didn’t mind. “C’mon, friend, it’s been over a year since your last case. You haven’t been able to play detective since that murder in your medicinal herb garden. Are you sure that you don’t want something to investigate?”
I shook my head. “You are nuts. I was just reporting what happened.”
He smirked at me. “Whatever you say.”
“If that’s all, I’m going to go home and get ready.”
“Don’t forget your new little buddy.” Simon picked up Zeke and his bone, patted his little head, and handed him to me. “I put all of his stuff in that bag by the door—you know, his dog bed, his blanket, his special puppy food and treats, bones and toys, you know, the works.”
The duffel bag was big, and heavy, but I managed to hold Zeke and his bone and put it over my shoulder.
Simon waved to us as we went out the door. “Have fun you two.”
* * * * *
I decided to stop by to see Jackson and introduce him to Zeke, before I headed back to Nature’s Way. Less than five minutes later we arrived at his two-hundred-year-old house, on a generous two-and-half-acre lot, seven minutes east of Greenport.
I found him out back repairing the paddock for the horses, while volunteers buzzed around him, tending to rescued animals in the paddock and in the adjacent barn, including donkeys, goats, pigs, birds, opossums, raccoons, and two turkeys.
Rescue dogs and cats were placed in temporary foster homes with volunteers until they were adopted. Jackson put photos and bios of available animals on a website, and potential pet parents had to fill out an extensive application with information about themselves, their vet, and personal references. If the applicant looked promising, Jackson or one of his volunteers conducted a phone interview and a home visit before any adoption.
Unfortunately, animals had often been injured, abused, or abandoned, and when necessary, Jackson worked with the local vets to treat them and raised money from the community to care for them. Recently, he’d received a New York State grant that would fund his refuge through the end of next year and enable improvements to the paddock and the barn and the addition of more fencing out in the field for the larger animals.
I’d also been able to contribute quite a bit, and regularly, thanks to my profits from Aunt Claire’s Fresh Face herbal anti-aging cream. The money took the pressure off Jackson, but fund-raising was a fact of life. Tomorrow night, we were hosting a dinner at Nature’s Way where dishes would be paired with Simon’s wines to benefit the sanctuary.
Healthwise, Jackson was feeling good. The back injury he’d sustained on the job from a slip on black ice, which resulted in his retirement, was no longer an issue, and he credited me with his recovery. Really, it was a combination of my natural cures and therapies such as massage and acupuncture from my in-store practitioners and good friends Allie and Hector.
One problem for Jackson though was Simon’s new vineyard next door and the resulting noise from tour buses, limos, and visitors. Jackson also didn’t like Simon’s frequent pop-ins. While Jackson tolerated and even liked Simon, he could only take him in small doses. Simon could be charming and helpful but also selfish and self-centered. Often, he was oblivious of the effect his actions had on others, such as chatting up Jackson when he had work to do.
I waved to Jackson and pointed to Zeke. He shrugged, knowing what had happened. “Bring him over to meet the boys.” Qigong, and two dachshunds we’d rescued together named Columbo and Rockford, spotted me and scurried over to the bottom edge of the paddock that Jackson had reinforced with chicken wire so that they’d stay inside and safe. I met them there and patted their heads, while their little tails went back and forth like metronomes.
Jackson stepped out of the paddock and came over to us. He had on his usual working clothes—flannel shirt, jeans, and boots—and looked hunky and handsome with his short-cropped hair, scruffy beard, and piercing blue eyes.
“Hi, honey; hi, Zeke.” He gave me a kiss and scratched Zeke behind the ears, which he loved. “So, Simon couldn’t handle having a dog. Did you say, ‘I told you so’?”
I shook my head. “No, I was nice. He felt kind of bad about it, I think. Both he and Cassie are super busy right now.”
“Unfortunately, I hear that all the time. Best to put Zeke inside the paddock and introduce him to the boys. Neutral ground and all that.”
“Good idea.” I followed Jackson through the gate. Curious,of course, our dogs scampered over.I put Zeke down on the ground and he immediately rolled on this back submissively so they could examine him from nose to tail. “Qigong, Rockford, Columbo. Say hi to Zeke, guys.”
Dogs are pack animals, so I had no doubt that once they got used to each other Zeke would be happier here with all of us, rather than on his own, alone. His tail was already wagging back and forth.
Zeke stood up and the dogs sniffed him all over again. Finally, they decided he was A-OK, and all four of them began to explore the paddock together. After overhearing the fight between Ivy and David, I couldn’t help but think that it would be nice if people could be as accepting as dogs are.
For more information about how you can adopt your next best friend visit:
- All American Dachshund Rescue: www.allamericandachshundrescue.org
- North Shore Animal League America: www.animalleague.org
- Best Friends Animal Society: www.bestfriends.org
- All Breed Rescue, Vermont: www.allbreedrescue.vt.com/
- The Humane Society of the United States: www.humanesociety.org
- The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA): www.aspca.org
Rescue organizations usually help to arrange transport, so don’t let distance stand in the way of your new best friend!
About the Author
CHRYSTLE FIEDLER is a freelance journalist specializing in natural remedies, alternative medicine and holistic health and healing, and is the author of the Natural Remedies Mysteries series. Her many consumer magazine articles have appeared in USA Today’s Green Living,Natural Health, Remedy, Mother Earth Living, Spirituality & Health, and Prevention. She is also the author/co-author of seven non-fiction health titles including the Country Almanac of Home Remedies with herbalist Brigitte Mars, and The Compassionate Chick’s Guide to DIY Beauty with Vegan Beauty Review founder, Sunny Subramanian. Chrystle lives on the East End of Long Island, NY in a cozy cottage by the sea. Visit www.chrystlefiedlerwrites.com.
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