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The Author of His Demise: A Mackenzie Quinn Mystery (Mackenzie Quinn Book 1)

The Author of His Demise: A Mackenzie Quinn Mystery (Mackenzie Quinn Book 1)

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A fictional murder turns deadly...

Zee writes mysteries under a secret pen name. No one knows—except her best friend, Tara. (Aside from her two cats, that is.)

But the small town of Ashwood, Ontario has become home to more than one murderer in the months since Zee’s unplanned return. And while Zee has used the colourful characters of her childhood hometown as inspiration for her writing over the years, it seems a killer has become inspired by her books in turn...

Can she track down a murderer without exposing her secret?

Find out in this first full-length novel from the Mackenzie Quinn Canadian cozy mystery series. If you enjoy a fun mystery with a quirky heroine, grab this book.

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Ugh. Winter. My boots crunched beneath my feet as I trudged through the snow, my breath creating plumes in the air. My snow pants made a faint swishing sound with each step as the waterproof fabric rubbed together between my knees. At least I had been walking long enough to get relatively warm. In fact, I was already sweating a bit beneath all the layers I was wearing. (I despise being cold. It takes me forever to get warm again. I also tend to break out in hives on my legs when I’ve been out in the snow too long, which ends in me looking rather strange as I try to relieve the resulting itches. Hence, the snow pants.)

Sometimes I wondered whether I was really a proper Canadian at all, given my dislike for all things cold and wintery. I knew my mom loved my dad and everything, but wasn’t it remotely possible she’d had some kind of tryst with someone from the Caribbean before I was born? (Since my mother had never been on a plane before, the scenario seemed unlikely, but certainly not impossible.) I mean, winter is great when you get to enjoy it from inside, beside a roaring fireplace with the scent of wood smoke on the air. Christmas is all well and good, but once the sparkle and cheer of the season is over, all you have left is months of cold and darkness with freezing rain, and snow that turns into grey, gelatinous piles of slush.

Christmas had passed several weeks ago, and we were already well into January, so any passing fancy I might have had for winter had long since dissipated. Not that I was much of a fan of summer either (unless there was somewhere to swim nearby and lots of mango pineapple smoothies—minus the yogurt). Give me a crisp autumn day, or maybe a sunny spring morning. Still, I would even take a hot summer day with no swimming or smoothies over the bleak dead of winter. (At least if it were summer, the sun would have been up by now.)

I forced my thoughts away from my surroundings and attempted to distract myself with the scene I had been writing before I had come out for my walk. My latest Marie Clifford mystery novel was well underway, but I still wasn’t entirely sure where it was going…

A cheery voice called out to me, scattering my thoughts.

“Morning, Zee!” (Only my mother calls me ‘Mackenzie.’)

I blinked and peered through the surrounding darkness of the residential street. My route had taken me to the south end of Ashwood, near the lakefront. Large houses loomed over the sidewalk in dark silence. It seemed way too early for anyone to possibly be so chipper.

I spotted a familiar figure in the predawn gloom—Barb Myers. She was walking toward me on the sidewalk, which was hemmed on both sides by large snowbanks, thanks to the town plow. I’m not sure how I had managed to miss her. In addition to being a couple of inches taller than me, she was also roughly one and a half times my size. Still, she looked smart in a long, royal blue coat that fitted her perfectly, ending just above her knees. A pair of fluffy, white earmuffs sat atop the cloud of coppery hair that surrounded her friendly features. It took me a moment to notice the dog trotting on a leash beside her in the shadow of the snowbanks. The little black Scottie’s ears were pricked and his pointy tail wagged back and forth with each step.

“Morning, Barb,” I called back (in a much more reserved tone) as I walked toward her.

I adjusted the grey satchel that hung from my shoulder. Despite Barb’s size, I felt a bit self-conscious next to her with my pale cheeks flushed, wearing my puffy, emerald green parka and the matching knitted hat my mom had made for me. (My snow pants were charcoal. Even though it’s my favourite colour, there’s only so much green a person can wear without drawing comparisons to the Jolly Green Giant.) I ran a mittened hand around my face, shoving my unruly, strawberry blond curls out of the way. (They clustered back around my face almost immediately.)

“On your way to get Barry for his walk?” Barb asked as she slowed to a stop in front of me. She flashed me her trademark lopsided smile, which I found myself returning in spite of myself.

“Yup,” I said without elaborating. I eyed the mounds of snow on both sides of the sidewalk, wondering how I was going to navigate around Barb’s solid form to keep moving forward.

(Nothing against Barb, but it was too dark and cold to be standing around gabbing. If I stopped moving, I knew I would start to cool down, which would only lead to hives and awkward itches. Besides, I was supposed to be at Barry’s house by seven, and I hate being late.)

Barb beamed at me. Despite only being in her fifties—roughly ten years older than me—she exuded a maternal pride. “You’re such a sweetheart, taking care of him.” She reached down to stroke the head of the dog, who was now frolicking around her boots. “Isn’t she, Trevor?”

Trevor gave a short bark of what I assumed was agreement, but I suspected had more to do with getting a treat from Barb when they got home.

I waved off Barb’s compliment, muttering something about it being no big deal as I tried (unsuccessfully) not to blush. All I really wanted at this point was to get to Barry’s place, but it seemed I would be forced to endure small talk in the cold first. I did my best to casually move my legs back and forth while I stood on the spot in an effort to keep them warm.

“Now, don’t go being modest.” Barb wagged her gloved finger at me. “Who knows what might have happened if you hadn’t stepped up to take care of him after that mini-stroke? He’s practically got no family, with his wife long gone and that absent son of his. Didn’t even come to see him in the hospital!” She frowned. “I suppose he must have been busy, but you would think he would have at least come by for a little visit. It’s been almost three months since the stroke…”

I made another awkward attempt to brush the compliment aside, but Barb barely let me get a word out.

“Why, Barry was just telling me the other day how his diabetes has gotten so much better since you started taking him for walks and bringing him dinner,” she said. “The doctor even lowered his insulin, and said if he keeps going like this, he’ll be off it altogether soon!”

I shrugged. “It’s nothing, really.”

Barry may have started off as my boss at the Reader’s Respite (Ashwood’s local bookstore), but we’d become fast friends over our mutual love of books. (Still, like everyone else aside from my best friend Tara, Barry had no idea I was the author of the popular Marie Clifford mysteries.)

After a bit of a stressful time during the fall, I had noticed Barry exhibiting stroke-like symptoms one day at the bookstore and insisted on taking him to the hospital. Since Barry was both overweight and diabetic, the doctors told him he was at a greater risk of having a second episode if he didn’t make some changes. So I had started coming over to meet him every morning for a walk through the neighbourhood and bringing him home-cooked meals in the evening. (I mean, I needed to get my steps in anyway, and it was no trouble at all to make extra portions when you’re only cooking for one. I’m no Michelin-star chef, but I’m pretty handy with an Instant Pot.) Over the past three months, Barry was down almost thirty pounds, and had become like an uncle to me.

Barb snorted. “Nothing? Even Sherri thinks it’s impressive—not that she’ll ever say so.”

She turned instinctively toward the home she shared with her longtime partner, Sherri Dent, across the street. I saw the lacy curtains that obscured the front window twitch.

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