Crystal Blue Murder
Detective Parrott Mystery Series Book 3 by Saralyn Richard Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural
METH, MURDER, AND EXPLOSIONS OF THE HEART
In the heart of tranquil, lavish Brandywine Valley, Detective Parrott confronts a meth explosion, a dismembered corpse, and an intricate trail of deceitful secrets that shake up many lives -- including his own. When celebrity hostess Claire Whitman’s renovated barn explodes into flames, Parrott delves into the privileged lives of all who are affected. Tension from Parrott’s personal life crosses over into the case, and secrets, deceptions, and crimes create an even bigger explosion. Third in the Detective Parrott Mystery Series, Crystal Blue Murder explores the complexities of life in an entitled world where many of America’s wealthiest and most powerful elite have their own definitions of right and wrong.
Parrott was awakened by smells of pineapple chicken and warm Hawaiian rolls, one of his favorite meals. His mouth watered as if every cell were screaming to be fed. He hurried into the kitchen to confirm. “Mmm, I could eat ten plates full.”
“Here,” Tonya said, popping half a buttered roll into his mouth. “I knew you’d be hungry, so wash up and sit yourself down. I made enough for four, just in case.”
“Don’t have to ask twice.” Parrott did as instructed, patting Horace on the head through the birdcage on the way to the washroom. He called over his shoulder, “You’ve been a busy woman.”
When he returned and sat at the table, Tonya set a bowl of sauteed green beans and a casserole dish with aromatic pineapple chicken in front of him. “That’s what happens when I don’t have art class. I have to find another way to be creative.”
“You ask me, this is one luscious work of art, on its way to my stomach.” The first bite was heaven-on-earth delicious, with the sweet, tangy sauce cloaking the juicy chicken and soaking into the tender grains of rice beneath. Parrott shoveled bite after bite into his mouth.
Tonya’s lips curled. “I love watching you attack your food when you’re hungry. You might be named after a bird, but you eat like the king of the jungle.” She picked up her own fork and knife and began eating at a more leisurely pace. “When you come up for air, I’d love to hear how your afternoon went. If you can talk about it, that is.”
Still enjoying his food, Parrott said, “Why don’t you tell me about yours first?” He was stalling while he decided how much of his day he could share with his wife. He wasn’t overly concerned about confidentiality. Tonya, as a former Navy SEAL, knew how to keep information private, and at this point, he didn’t have much information to share, anyway. He was more concerned about which details might fire up her PTSD. She had made a lot of progress with counseling and therapy, but setbacks could happen at any time. He’d learned that the hard way.
Tonya’s eyes met his in a look that said, “I know why you’re delaying,” but she went ahead as if they were an ordinary couple having an ordinary conversation. “I washed your clothes, cooked the chicken, fed Horace, and read a couple of chapters in a historical novel. Oh, I googled Herman’s construction business. He’s got a neat website, lots of testimonials.”
Parrott raised his eyebrows. “Glad to hear it, but you can’t trust everything you learn from Google.”
“I know. I thought of asking Elle’s nephew Alexander if he’s ever heard of Herman or his company. Construction people talk about each other, and he may have an ear to the ground. There’s also Dunn and Bradstreet and the Better Business Bureau.”
“I admire your tenacity, but I’d stay away from asking people we know. We don’t want it getting back to Mama that we’re suspicious of her boyfriend.” Parrott pulled apart a roll and used a piece to sop up the pineapple sauce from his plate. “Bad manners, I know, but I can’t let a drop of this good sauce go to waste. Good thing I’m here at home and not at Claire Whitman’s house.”
“Claire Whitman, the party lady?” Tonya set her utensils on the side of her plate and took a long drink of water.
Parrott stared at his wife, amazed that Whitman’s fame had extended to someone like Tonya, who was raised in a totally different environment. “Long-ago party lady. She had a TV show.”
“I know. My grandmother watched it while she was ironing. Granny thought Mrs. Whitman was the perfect lady. She used her name as an example of good manners for us, growing up.” She began stacking the dishes at the table. “How do you know her?”
“That’s whose barn burned this morning. Where I was this afternoon—at her house in Brandywine Valley.” Parrott rose and patted his stomach. “Thank you for this outstanding meal. I feel like a new man. Let me clean up the dishes.”
“Really? America’s Miss Manners lives in Brandywine? My granny would be so excited.” Tonya jumped in, as Parrott took the dishes to the sink. “I’ll take over from here. You’ve had a long day. Besides, you’re going to need your strength in dealing with Claire Whitman. As Granny would say, ‘You’d better mind your p’s and q’s with her.’”
Parrott wrapped his arms around his wife and gave her a hug. “If you’re sure about cleaning up, there’s something else I want to do tonight.”
“I’m sure. Hardly any left-overs to put away, no big deal. What’re you going to do now?”
Parrott pulled back and wiggled his eyebrows at his wife. “Follow your lead, Mrs. Parrott. I’m going to make friends with Mr. Google.”
A Palette For Love and Murder Detective Parrott Mystery Series Book 2
THE SCENERY IS LUSH, THE MANSIONS ARE HUGE, AND THE SECRETS ARE DEEP.
Detective Oliver Parrott’s next case takes us to the ancestral home of Blake Allmond, a renowned artist, whose paintings have been stolen from his studio. Before Parrott can get a foothold on the case, Allmond is murdered in his second home in New York’s Gramercy Park. It’s out of Parrott’s jurisdiction, but he believes the two crimes are related, and he’s got the itch to work on both. Parrott comes to realize Blake Allmond’s life is full of mystery. The theft of the paintings turns into a treasure hunt and search for a killer—and then the investigation becomes personal.
Marriage had turned out to be more. More than taking vows and sipping champagne. More than a romantic cruise to exotic islands. More than sleeping in the warmth of your lover’s embrace. Tonight Detective Oliver Parrott had another two a.m. wake-up call, but not the kind from the West Brandywine Police Station. His first thought had been of the stolen paintings he was investigating, but the punch in the kidney had come from Parrott’s own true love.
“No-o-oh, oh, no,” Tonya yelled, as she thrashed about in the bed next to him.
Parrott jumped out of bed and twisted around, grabbing Tonya by both wrists. “Wake up, Baby. It’s just a dream. You’re right here with me. Nothing’s wrong.”
Tonya’s eyes fluttered open and closed, as she struggled against her husband’s strong, tall frame. She was breathing hard.
Still holding her wrists, he murmured, “C’mon now. C’mon, Tonya.”
After what seemed like an hour to Parrott, Tonya woke up and stopped resisting his efforts to calm her down. When she realized what she had done, she threw her hands over her face and doubled over at the waist. “Sorry, sorry. I don’t want to have these dreams, Ollie. They just won’t go away.” Tears streamed down her face and neck.
Parrott thought to turn on the lamp, but decided the reflected beam from the streetlight, piercing through the curtain, was enough. He scooted to sit up against the headboard. “Come sit up here with me,” he said, patting the sheet between them. “Let’s see if we can make them go away.”
Tonya shoved down the covers that were wound around her legs. Her white nightgown was spotted with patches of sweat. She climbed into her husband’s embrace and dropped her head on his shoulder.
“Now,” Parrott said, snuggling into his wife’s hair and smelling jasmine. “Maybe it will help if you tell me exactly what it is that has you yelling in your sleep.” Every time he’d asked before, Tonya had dissembled. She hated to talk about her experiences in Afghanistan, period.
“You know I can’t talk about it, Ollie. Even thinking about it scares me. Putting it into words seems excruciating.” More tears overflowed the banks of her eyelids, and she wiped them away with quick brushes of the back of her hand.
“Yes, I know,” Parrott said, “but maybe if you could say the words, finally, these night terrors would go away. That’s what I remember from that psych class I took junior year.” He remembered times as a cop when he’d used a similar strategy to help witnesses articulate horrible memories. “It lets the boogeyman out from under the bed.”
The corners of Tonya’s mouth twitched, but failed to make it to smile. She was shivering, though the room was warm. “I—I don’t know if I can, but I’ll try.” She pulled the sheet and blanket up around them both, and Parrott pressed her to him, knowing whatever he did would be inadequate.
A few minutes passed in silence, and finally Tonya glanced at the alarm clock, which said two-seventeen. She took a deep breath, and then the words began tumbling out. “Some very bad things happened when I was in Afghanistan, Ollie.” Her fingers drew a pattern onto his bare chest. “Some things I could never tell you about.”
Parrott’s eyebrows rose a half inch, though this was not a revelation. “Whenever we Skyped, you said things were fine.”
“I know. That was me not wanting you to worry, and, you know, all our missions were top secret. There was always the chance that our Skypes weren’t private. And, anyway, I thought if I didn’t talk about the bad things, I could make them disappear. I know now that was foolish.”
“Because now you are dreaming about them? Is that what you’re saying?”
Tonya nodded. “Something happened last September when we were on a mission. It changed the way I felt about everything. I witnessed something terrible, and I keep dreaming about it, over and over.”
Parrot’s mouth went dry. “What is it?”
“There were six of us in a helicopter, and I was co-pilot. Five guys and me. We landed about a mile from where a terror cell was supposed to be. It was pitch black. We moved as quickly and quietly as we could, and we surrounded the place. It was little more than a hut pushed up against the side of a mountain. It was supposed to be a peaceful grab—surprise the target, cuff him, and take him back for ‘treatment.’
It all went surprisingly well. No screaming, no fuss, the target looked scared, but resigned to being caught. The problem, though, happened before we took him away.” Tonya’s hand reached for Parrott’s, and she squeezed.
“What happened, Baby?”
“The guy had a family. Wife and daughters. Two pretty young girls, maybe twelve and thirteen. They were curled up on mats on the ground, two peas in a pod. They were just lying there—” A sob flew from Tonya’s lips like a speeding train from a tunnel, loud and long.
Parrott pressed his wife’s body into his own, trying to suppress a shudder of his own.
“--I c-can’t…I just can’t say anymore. It’s—it’s too horrible.” She pulled her knees into her chest and clutched tightly.
Parrott groaned, as he felt the millimeter of progress slipping away. He wrapped his arms around the human sphere that was his troubled wife, and held tight, all thoughts of sleep having vanished.
Tonya shook with emotion, her sobs finally quieting into soft hiccups.
Parrott patted his wife like a baby. His baritone voice murmured soothing syllables. When he found some words, he said, “Listen, Tonya. Whatever happened, you didn’t cause it. And you can’t solve it. You just need to let it go.”
Tonya stared at her husband, as if he had spoken in a foreign language. “I thought you would understand, Ollie. I see the way you are with your cases. You’re so focused on every detail. You’re a dog with a bone. And you don’t care to talk about them, either.”
“That’s different. Police work is, mostly, confidential. And I’m not losing sleep over my cases, either.”
“That’s not what you said when you were investigating the Phillips case, everyone breathing down your neck and making all kinds of threats. It don’t seem too different to me.”
“All right. Point taken. I do wish you’d get some help, though. Seems like we have a bit of PTSD going on.”
“I see your detecting skills are working, even at three a.m.” Tonya’s lips parted, showing the space between her front teeth.
In the dark, Parrott could see that Tonya’s expression had lost its terror, and her eyes glowed. Parrott kissed the top of her head, her eyes, and finally her lips. “We’ll get through this together, my love.”
Murder In the One Percent Detective Parrott Mystery Series Book 1
SOMEONE COMES TO THE PARTY WITH MURDER IN HIS HEART AND POISON IN HIS POCKET.
A lavish celebration. A rare poison. A clever plan. A milestone birthday party at a country mansion in Brandywine Valley brings old friends together, all glamorous, wealthy, and politically well-connected. Charismatic playboy, Preston Phillips, brings his trophy wife to the party, unaware that his first love, the woman he jilted at the altar, will be there, enchanting him with her timeless beauty. A snowstorm, an accident, and an illicit rendezvous later, the dynamics crackle with tension.
When Detective Oliver Parrott is charged with solving the untimely killing of one of America's leading financial wizards, he realizes this will be the case to make—or break—his career.
Ingenious and gripping, MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT opens up to readers the opulent world of the ultra-wealthy in Philadelphia and New York—and reveals a killer that only Detective Parrott can catch.
Saralyn Richard writes award-winning humor- and romance-tinged mysteries that pull back the curtain on people in settings as diverse as elite country manor houses and disadvantaged urban high schools. An active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing and literature, and continues to write mysteries. Her favorite thing about being an author is interacting with readers like you. Visit Saralyn on her Amazon page here, or on Facebook here.
A Steady Diet of Murder Mysteries
by Saralyn Richard
Did you know reading murder mysteries burns a lot of calories? It’s true. Studies conducted while readers were reading mysteries showed the nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat sitting, and heart-pounding scenes burned way more calories than those burned by reading books in any other genre. Well, at least we think so.
That gives mystery writers poetic license to include scenes filled with mouth-watering gastronomic delights, right?
Each of the books in the Detective Parrott Mystery series, taking place in Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania’s lush horse country, includes lots and lots of delectable food and drink—enough to make the reader salivate.
For example, the menu for the extravagant dinner party in Murder in the One Percent is fit for royalty, and the wine pairings impress even the savviest connoisseur.
In A Palette for Love and Murder, Parrott enjoys a Thanksgiving dinner that includes a delicious mushroom-barley soup meant to comfort.
When I was writing Crystal Blue Murder, I decided to let my fabulous newsletter followers help to decide what Parrott would eat. I invited them to contribute dishes and/or recipes for Detective Parrott’s next meals, and what I received worked perfectly within the context of the book.
Here’s a recipe for one of the entrees served in Murder in the One Percent. The osso buco fills the house with the aromas of garlic and spices. The meat just melts in our mouths, and the taste is decadent—or maybe that’s not a good word to use, since someone turns up dead. Anyway, here’s the recipe for all the gourmands among you. Happy eating, and happy reading, too.
Osso Buco Ingredients
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 dry bay leaf
2 whole cloves garlic
Kitchen twine, for bouquet garni and tying the veal shanks
3 whole veal shanks (about 1 pound per shank), trimmed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 small carrot, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 stalk celery, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Place the rosemary, thyme, bay leaf and cloves into cheesecloth and secure with twine. This will be your bouquet garni. For the veal shanks, pat dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture. Veal shanks will brown better when they are dry. Secure the meat to the bone with the kitchen twine. Season each shank with salt and freshly ground pepper. Dredge the shanks in flour, shaking off excess.
In a large Dutch oven pot, heat vegetable oil until smoking. Add tied veal shanks to the hot pan and brown all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove browned shanks and reserve.
In the same pot, add the onion, carrot and celery. Season with salt at this point to help draw out the moisture from the vegetables. Saute until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and mix well. Return browned shanks to the pan and add the white wine and reduce liquid by half, about 5 minutes. Add the bouquet garni and 2 cups of the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pan and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone. Check every 15 minutes, turning shanks and adding more chicken stock as necessary. The level of cooking liquid should always be about 3/4 the way up the shank.
Carefully remove the cooked shanks from the pot and place in decorative serving platter. Cut off the kitchen twine and discard.
Remove and discard bouquet garni from the pot.
Pour all the juices and sauce from the pot over the shanks. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon zest.
If you subscribe to my monthly newsletter at http://saralynrichard.com, I’ll send you a pdf copy of Epicurean Feasts, the menu and recipes from the gourmet dinner in Murder in the One Percent.