A Lethal Lake Effect

COMING JUNE 6th 2024

Things go awry for Katie Bonner when her former mother-in-law, Margo, throws a housewarming party at her lakeside rental, and one of her guests ends up dead in the water. Maxwell Preston was a devoted husband—and a not-so-great dad. He was a beloved pharmacist who didn’t take care of his ramshackle property, destined to be a hot commodity on Victoria Square when his heir puts it up for sale. But most of all, Preston was a stranger to the guests at the party. So who killed him and why?

Meanwhile, Nona Fiske takes charge of the Victoria Square’s big summer extravaganza—a disaster in the making as what little power she’s seized has gone straight to her head. The Davenport sisters have their own agenda, and they’ve not only been poking around to find out more about the dead man but what other mischief has been going on around the Square.

So, who killed Maxwell Preston and why? That’s what Katie wants to know—and she’s willing to risk everything to find out.

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What BOOKBUB readers are saying about A Lethal Lake Effect.

“A cozy whodunit with a lot of activities and action make this a page-turner that made me feel good.”Pam P.

“The mystery is well-plotted with plenty of surprises. I am very happy with the outcome of the investigation.”Kim T.

“Plenty of action to keep you turning the pages. Another wonderful addition to the Victoria Square series.” Sonny’s Mom

excerpt the walled flower

The lights from the lamps that ringed Victoria Square cast stark shadows. Katie waited until Angelo’s Pizzeria closed and Andy’s truck left the lot before she ventured out of her apartment above Tealicious. She snagged the shovel she’d bought that afternoon and started walking close to the other buildings on the Square. There shouldn’t be anyone else around, and she was thankful that the Merchants Association had voted down the proposal to install cameras. The idea came up at least once a year, and the next time one of the businesses was broken into, she was sure it would get voted in. After all, she had been the latest member to propose the investment.

Katie stopped outside the abandoned building that had belonged to Maxwell Preston, studying the rotting lumber deck that sat before the abandoned store’s entrance. It should be pretty easy to pry up the deteriorated wood, although it would be evident to Phoebe that someone had tampered with the deck the next time she arrived on the Square. But then, if Katie found what she thought she might, Maxwell’s secret might be the top story on the following evening’s six o’clock news.

Katie had just stuck the tip of the shovel against the seam between two boards when a voice behind her called loudly, “Hey!”

Cringing, Katie whirled to face Ray Davenport.

“What are you doing here at this time of night?” she demanded.

“I might ask you the same question,” he said harshly.

Katie glowered at him. “You know darn well why I’m here.”

“You think you’re going to dig up Gary Jordan’s long-lost remains.”

“Yes!” she said defiantly.

“You’re trespassing.”

“Only if I find nothing.”

“And if you find something?” Ray almost yelled.

“Then it’ll prove a crime was committed, and I get to give a family closure.”

“And destroy Maxwell Preston’s reputation,” he retorted

“If he murdered the man, why would that matter?” Katie countered.

“But what if it wasn’t Maxwell who did the deed?” Ray asked.


“You heard me. What if it was Maxwell’s wife who killed her lover? And why would he or she bury the guy under the deck?”

“According to town records, this deck was replaced about the same time Jordan disappeared. Someone could have buried the body here, and the builders could have just built the deck over the dirt.”

“All very convenient.”

Katie’s expression remained sour. “I’m going to pull up a couple of boards. Unless you intend to call the Sheriff’s Office on me, you can either go home to your nice warm bed or give me a hand.”

“And be an accessory?” Ray asked, aghast.

“As you mentioned, if you don’t report me, you’re an accessory by default, right?”

Ray’s expression tightened into anger. “Damn you, Katie Bonner.”

“Now, are you going to just stand there, or are you going to help me?”

Ray lowered and shook his head like a bull about to charge. “Why I put up with—”

“You don’t put up with me at all,” Katie countered.

“No, I don’t. I—” But then Ray shut up, looking like he might explode.

Katie turned and lifted the shovel once again, placing the tip between the boards and using it like a crowbar to try to lift the splintering wood. Try as she might, she wasn’t successful at prying up the board. She shifted position several times, but the rusty nails weren’t budging under her efforts.

“Oh, give it to me!” Ray groused, snatching the shovel from Katie’s hands.

Ray was at least twenty years older than Katie, but he was stronger than she and soon lifted the first board, grabbing it around the middle and pulling it off the studs that had held it in place for decades, the rusty nails shrieking in protest as they were yanked from the wood.

“Will you be quiet!” Katie hissed.

“Tell that to the nails,” Ray countered.

He yanked up another two boards before there was enough room to comfortably start digging. “Where do you want to put the dirt?” he asked.

Katie blanched. “Uh…I guess I hadn’t thought that far ahead. Couldn’t we just put it on the deck itself, and then if we find nothing, kinda brush it back into the hole?”

“You really haven’t thought this whole thing through, have you?”

“Well, crime’s just not my thing,” she said defensively.

Ray glowered at her for a long moment before he thrust the shovel back in her direction.

“You want me to dig?” Katie asked, aghast.

“Wasn’t that why you came out here tonight?”

With reluctance, Katie nodded. She mounted the decking and looked into the darkened space that Ray had uncovered. She thrust the shovel into the dirt, hit the top hard with her left foot, and pulled up a satisfying load of dirt, dumping it on the boards in front of the crumbling building.

Shovel after shovelful of dirt bore no sign of a body having been buried in the space, but Katie dug on. She was breathing hard by the time she’d made a trench some four feet long, a foot wide, and six inches deep, and was sweating like she’d been in a sauna with nothing to show for her efforts when Ray spoke again.

“Had enough?”

“No,” she said, glaring at him. “Whatever is left of the body has to be buried deeper.”

“Likely so,” Ray agreed, yet he seemed content to let her do the digging. Was that so he could make a citizens arrest if she found nothing, or was he more worried about the effects of that kind of labor on his cardiovascular system? She dug a little slower at that thought. The last thing she wanted was to be responsible for Ray having a heart attack and dying on her.

Katie stopped digging for a moment, swallowing. Dying on her? What was she thinking?

She stomped on the top of the shovel, sending it deep into the crusty earth, yanked up the dirt, and deposited it onto the growing pile.

“Hold it!” Ray called out.

Katie straightened up, grateful for even a brief rest. Ray took out his phone, switched on its flashlight, and ran the beam of bright light over the pile. Then he bent down and retrieved a dirty piece of wood about six or seven inches in length.

“Tree root?” Katie asked.

Ray turned, his face deathly pale in the glare of the Square’s lampposts, and turned the object over and over in his hand. “Nah. I’d say it’s part of a femur.”

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