(written as Olivia Matthews)
A St. Martin’s Press release
$8.99 U.S., mass market paperback
$22.99 U.S., audio CD
$8.99 U.S., ebook
Against the Currant: A Spice Isle Bakery Mystery, Book 1
Investigating a murder was never on the menu. . . but someone’s set the table for bakery owner Lyndsay Murray to take the fall
Little Caribbean, Brooklyn, New York: Lyndsay Murray is opening Spice Isle Bakery with her family, and it’s everything she’s ever wanted. The West Indian bakery is her way to give back to the community she loves, stay connected to her Grenadian roots, and work side-by-side with her family. The only thing getting a rise out of Lyndsay is Claudio Fabrizi, a disgruntled fellow bakery owner who does not want any competition. On opening day, he comes into the bakery threatening to shut them down. Fed up, Lyndsay takes him to task in front of what seems to be the whole neighborhood. So when Claudio turns up dead a day later—murdered—Lyndsay is unfortunately the prime suspect. To get the scent of suspicion off her and her bakery, Lyndsay has to prove she’s innocent—under the watchful eyes of her overprotective brother, anxious parents, and meddlesome extended family—what could go wrong?
“A delicious series starter . . . If you enjoy culinary cozies, buy this book immediately!”
—Mia P. Manansala, author of the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series
“The perfect recipe for sleuthing—good vibes, currant rolls, and a kickboxing main character.”
—Raquel V. Reyes, author of the Caribbean Kitchen Mystery series
“A delightful mystery. It will be a welcome addition to culinary cozy fans!”
—Amanda Flower, USA Today Best-selling Author of the Amish Candy Shop Mysteries
Against the Currant: Excerpt
“He’s back.” My maternal grandmother, Genevieve Bain, spoke as though she’d swallowed something distasteful. Like bad fish or lukewarm tea.
I knew right away who she meant. Claudio Fabrizi, the owner of Claudio’s Baked Goods.
Dropping my head between my shoulders, I fisted my hands to keep from ripping out my hair by its roots. I didn’t have time for this. It was early Friday morning. Still there was so much to do before tomorrow’s soft launch of our family-owned West Indian bakery in Little Caribbean, the heart of our adopted Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood. Spice Isle Bakery was the realization of my childhood dream. Claudio, the pesky pastry chef, was single-handedly sucking the joy from the experience. Seriously, how many times were we going to have the same conversation?
I lifted my head, squared my shoulders, and gritted my teeth. After taking a moment or eleven to mentally prepare for yet another exchange with the bothersome baker, I straightened to my feet. Raising my eyes to the left-side front picture window, I met Claudio’s glare. The stocky middle-aged man was of average height—perhaps five inches taller than me—and looked like a petulant rooster.
From the dining section on the other side of our customer service area, Granny kissed her teeth. She stood among the small, square tables, holding one of the dark yellow wall hangings she’d crocheted for the shop. The décor was coming together under her hands. My eyes swept the window valances and tablecloths that repeated the colors of the Grenadian flag, yellow, green, and red.
“Doesn’t he have anything better to do than to stand there, eyeing us?” Her Caribbean cadence released her words in waves.
Urgh! I hated conflicts. This would be our third. Oh, brother.
Stepping away from the baked goods display I’d been dusting, cleaning, and arranging, I circled the silver granite counter. “I’ll talk with him.” Again.
“That one there?” Granny harrumphed. “There’s no talking to him, oui.”
She wasn’t lying. During our second exchange, he’d been more annoying and pedantic than the first. No doubt this third time would be even less constructive than the other two. We kept repeating the same arguments in defense of our opposing sides. There wasn’t anything left to say.
“I have to try, Granny.” Didn’t I?
“Lynds.” The concern in her voice halted my steps. Her long silver hair was pulled back into a tidy bun that emphasized her wide, worried dark brown eyes. “Should you get your father?”
I won’t lie. A part of me wanted to take the out she’d offered me and run to Daddy. Have I mentioned I hate conflicts? I actively tried to avoid them. And my parents were just in the kitchen behind us, preparing the space for maximum efficiency. But if I wanted my parents to see me as their partner in this business venture—which I absolutely did—I had to stop hiding behind them. I had to project strength, confidence, and capability. I might as well start now.
I shook my head. “It’s my shop. I’m the majority shareholder. It’s my responsibility.”
Straightening my spine, I drew a deep breath. It filled my senses with the light, fruity smell of the lemon-scented all-purpose cleaner I’d used on the store, including the blue-tiled flooring, sand-toned checkout surface, and glass product displays.
As I stepped outside, a brisk late March breeze washed over me. It danced with my thin ebony braids before continuing on its way into the store. I pulled the door closed before facing Claudio. “Mr. Fabrizi, shouldn’t you be taking care of the customers at your bakery?”
Claudio had opened his store in our Brooklyn neighborhood around the time I’d graduated from college five years ago. Since then, the community had learned all about him, including that he didn’t live anywhere near us. In contrast, he’d shown little interest in the people who supported his business.
In my peripheral vision, I saw several pedestrians slow their steps and glance our way as they passed. Claudio was well-known and disliked in the area. I sensed their curiosity as though they were straining to catch even a few words of our conversation. I hated being the center of attention. It made me want to crawl into a hole.
Claudio waved a sheet of paper at me. “You’ve put these notices all over the place.” In his thick fist, I recognized a copy of the sand-toned circular I’d designed to announce our soft launch, which was taking place Saturday and Sunday.
I’d delivered copies of the flyer to neighborhood homes. Several nearby businesses had agreed to carry a quantity to notify their customers. I was grateful for the cross promotion.
Annoyance stirred in me, prickling my skin in the cool late-winter weather. “You keep coming back here, saying the same thing: You don’t want me to open my bakery. But I am opening it. Tomorrow. Nothing will change that.”
Beneath my thin braids, the hair on the back of my neck stirred. Was Granny watching from the store? Of course she was. Please don’t let her come out here. I didn’t want my grandmother to be subjected to Claudio’s hostility.
He shoved the flyer into his pocket and narrowed his eyes at me. “Open your bakery if you want, but don’t do it in my market.”
I frowned, searching his round, swarthy features. What was wrong with him? “Are you that concerned about competition? We aren’t offering the same products. Our menu offers traditional West Indian pastries and entrées. You’re offering cookies, cupcakes, and doughnuts.”
“Very little. Your cinnamon rolls and our currant rolls are very different pastries.”
“You’d better think twice before you open your place tomorrow.” Claudio nodded toward my family’s bakery. “My business suffers because of you, you’re going to wish you never had.”
Was that a threat? It sounded like a threat. I couldn’t let that pass. I owed it to my family and myself to defend our business. We’d worked too hard for too long to allow anyone to jeopardize our goal.
“Don’t threaten me.” I was furious with myself when my voice wobbled. Fisting my hands, I continued. “Our bakery opens tomorrow. On schedule. If you don’t like it, you move.”
I turned on my heels. Every muscle in my body from head to toe was stiff with anger. I forced my legs forward, yanked open the bakery door, and marched inside.
Granny caught me in her arms. “Lynds! I’m proud of you. I’m so proud of you for standing up for yourself and the family like that.”
I let her warm embrace soothe me. Several calming breaths drew in her scent, vanilla and wildflowers. “Thank you, Granny. But I’m not sure I can do anything like that again.”
“Lynds?” My mother, Cedella Bain Murray, joined us. She sounded worried.
I looked toward the kitchen as she and my father, Jacob Murray, walked through the swinging door that connected the kitchen in the back of the shop to the customer service area.
Daddy’s frown sharpened his spare, handsome features. “What happened?”
Keeping an arm around my waist, Granny turned to my parents with a proud grin. “Your daughter told Claudio Fabrizi that if he didn’t want competition, he should move his bakery.”
“Really?” Mommy’s eyebrows flew up her forehead. “How’d he take that?”
“Not well.” I walked past my elders, heading to the kitchen. I needed a cup of tea. “But, please God, I hope we’ve heard the last of him.”