Death at Fair Havens
by Maria Mankin & Maren C. Tirabassi
About Death at Fair Havens
Death at Fair Havens
1st in Series
Setting – Massachusetts
Brain Mill Press (April 26, 2022)
Paperback : 318 pages
ISBN-10 : 194855965X
ISBN-13 : 978-1948559652
Digital ASIN : B09NCJDRCS
Wanda Duff is an unconventional New England clergywoman, addicted to chicken wings, high-octane ice cream, and saying yes to anyone in need of a prayer, even the folks her town might think don’t deserve one.
When parishioner Niels Pond dies unexpectedly at the Fair Havens assisted living facility, Wanda’s duty to minister to his family is beset by her suspicions about the circumstances of his abrupt passing. Wanda finds an unexpected co-detective in high school vice principal Prudence Rye, who fled town on graduation night a decade ago and returned only recently.
Rye puts her job on the line to investigate the mourning Ponds with the surprisingly edgy Wanda. As they expose difficult family truths and uncover a dangerous conspiracy operating out of Fair Havens, Rye and Wanda discover curiosity has an unanticipated cost.
Comfortably gossipy, with a fresh take on the characters and ethos cozy mystery fans will love, Maria Mankin and Maren C. Tirabassi’s Death at Fair Havens launches a series that celebrates intergenerational women’s friendship and the power of inclusion, curiosity, and love.
“Here’s small town life portrayed with humor and affection, peopled with quirky characters you’ll care about.”
—James Patrick Kelly, winner of the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards
She heard it, at least. Obviously, he did not. Could not. Wanda had never meant to be in his arms. She was just there. He held her for just a moment, puzzlement across his face, and then he sensed there was danger and pushed her down beside the bench.
“What?” Both hands and mouth.
“Gunshot.” She knew her face was a mask of shock. “Stay here.”
“You can’t go…”
“I can’t hear, but I can go. Call the police.”
She did, and they came admirably quickly. Pieter walked into the brush and looked. He was gone for ten minutes, which was enough time for her to have blurted out more, perhaps, than the police could take in. They were sure it must be a hunter, although the conservation land posted “No Hunting” signs all year long.
“People don’t always abide by the law,” the patrolman said. Wanda thought he looked about twelve years old. Officer Spagnolo. What did he know about breaking the law? His partner ranged down the path where Pieter had gone. She explained the dilemma of having a man who was quite willing to scout out the situation but who wouldn’t hear either the shooter or the police.
“John! That guy can’t hear anything. He’s deaf.” Officer Elementary School shouted as the older officer came up the path with Pieter.
“Yup. Got that,” said his partner, whose name Wanda hadn’t caught, but who at least looked old enough to have a driver’s license. “Ma’am, we couldn’t find anyone down that path. Did you have the sense that a bullet was coming this way, or was it in the distance?”
Pieter paused, sniffed, and went into the scrub that Wink had been investigating so thoroughly.
“I don’t know,” Wanda said. “I don’t know much about guns in general, and it startled me. It seemed very loud. Very close.”
“You sure it wasn’t a car backfiring?”
“It was not a car. It could have been a hunter, I suppose, but I am sure it was a gun.”
“Do you know of any reason why someone would be shooting at you?”
She stared at him like a rabbit on the edge of a cliff might stare at a hound. In either direction, there was danger.
“No disagreements? No domestic disputes?”
“None.” She was frosty. “Besides—”
“Sorry. I was going to say that my dog wouldn’t be so scared if it wasn’t a gun. I know that isn’t really anything.” In fact, both the men were country enough that they looked at the Jack Russell, who was still glued to her leg and shaking.
“Well, there is that.”
“Here is this.” Pieter had come up behind them. He had a shell casing in his hand.
The older officer took a bag out and let the casing fall into it. “You have mighty good eyesight to search that out when you didn’t even hear the shot.”
Pieter just shrugged. “Followed de hond. Also, it smells like shot.”
“Want to show me where you found this?” At least the older patrolman knew enough to talk straight into Pieter’s face without raising his voice. Pieter pointed, and they both went into the scrub and birches. Wanda was left with the younger man. “I’d like to go home, if that would be all right? Can I give you my contact information?”
“You don’t want to wait for that gentleman?”
“I suppose so. I only met him yesterday.”
She’d met him yesterday. His niece had attempted suicide today. His brother’s funeral was two days ago. Wanda had the terrible feeling that time was constricting around her like a noose. She shook her head slightly. At least Pieter Pond had been with her when she heard the gun. Not that it meant he was above suspicion. Right now, everyone was suspicious except for Rye, who was simply incommunicado.
“I’ll wait,” she said. The officer would detain her if she wasn’t careful. All of a sudden, she decided that careful was a thing she now wanted to be. “Mr. Pond is visiting from the Netherlands. I was just taking him for a walk and telling him about our town.”
She wasn’t sure that Officer Spagnolo understood the ‘telling him’ part, but at this point she didn’t care about his diversity training.
Pieter and the other officer returned a few awkward minutes later, and everyone exchanged contact information. They turned down the offered ride back to the parsonage, and Pieter and Wanda walked back with Wink. The argument, the accusations, the sense of doom, and the authorities all weighed on the side of parting at the door and never, ever seeing each other again. On the other hand, there was that moment in his arms—how lovely and safe it had felt.
When they got to the door, she offered him coffee, and he declined.
“I have never known a Dutch person to turn down a cup of coffee.”
He smiled at that but stood at the door. Wink wanted to go into the house, so she bent over and released his leash. He was gone, and she knew that he was instantly deep down in his favorite chair, the one that had once been off-limits. She smiled a little. “Pieter, I apologize for sounding so…” She drifted. Sorry for what? For everything—the disaster date and for still wishing he would come in despite the complications.
“We are both tired, frightened, confused.” He reached over and hugged her, and she let herself be hugged, just letting it be. A kiss, maybe there would be a kiss. No, a kiss would be too much. A kiss would be lovely.
He didn’t kiss her, but he waved from the car. She went reluctantly into the house. Her cell dinged. It was a text. Rye? No. It was Pieter from the driveway. I will see you again before I leave.
She laughed. Like teenagers, texting before they even got home. I hope so.
And then she tried Rye again.
About the Authors
After teaching and working in early education for a decade, Maria Mankin has published six books with Pilgrim Press and has contributed to several anthologies. She is also a co-author of Circ, a mystery set in Skegness England, published by Pigeon Park Press, and Pitching Our Tents: Poetry of Hospitality. She is a regular contributor to Living Psalms, a collection in which the Psalms are reinterpreted in poetry and art as a reflection of God’s work of justice and compassion. She is currently working on a book of poetry and the third novel in the Rev and Rye Cozy Mysteries.
After trouping the country in the 70s as assistant manager of theatrical tours for choreographer Agnes de Mille, The National Theatre of Great Britain, The Royal Shakespeare Company and the Black Broadway production of ‘Guys and Dolls,’ Maren Tirabassi changed careers, to the surprise of everyone, to study at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and later Harvard Divinity School. Ordained in the United Church of Christ, she served as a bi-vocational pastor to seven churches in Massachusetts and New Hampshire while developing her writing career. Maren is the author of twenty-two books, fiction, non-fiction and poetry, the majority published by The Pilgrim Press.
A former Poet Laureate of Portsmouth, NH, and LAMDA Prize nominee for Transgendering Faith, Identity, Sexuality and Spirituality she currently facilitates programs for the NH Humanities Council with New Americans and people with cognitive difference and leads poetry and memoir workshops in prisons, recovery groups, churches and synagogues, hospice and survivor groups. She blogs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With frequent writing collaborator, Maria Mankin, she is currently editing Death in the Woods, the sequel to Death at Fair Havens, as well as plotting the third novel.
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