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Perfect for Framing



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CSI wannabe, Jemma Chase, has carpentry skills that lead to fire, a peeping Tom, truck trouble and a body.  Jemma knows it wasn't an accident but tangles with Detective Tucker about the meaning of clues.

Perfect for Framing

Jemma Chase and Detective Tucker return for another suspense-filled escapade in Perfect for Framing, the latest addition to Maggie Bishop’s acclaimed Appalachian Adventure series. With the advent of winter, Jemma turns from helping run Chase’s Dude Ranch to utilizing her skills as photographer and wood worker.  Jemma is hired by Petula Windsor, president of a local property owners’ association, to build cabinets in her guest house, but before Jemma can collect her pay, Petula burns to death in the same house. Jemma, a CSI wannabe, would like nothing more than to be in on the investigation, and Tucker has a hard time trying to keep her interest at bay. But when Petula’s husband is found dead and Tucker’s life is jeopardized, Jemma won’t be stopped until she finds the murderer.

 

Once more, Maggie Bishop delivers a thrilling whodunit, peppered with lovable characters and set against the beautiful backdrop of the mountains of North Carolina. Packed with breath-taking action and nail-biting suspense, with a twisting plot that guarantees constant speculation, this is one book that will have readers quickly turning pages, eager to find out what happens next. Highly recommended.

 

Christy Tillery French

Midwest Book Review

NEWS RELEASE

Boone, North Carolina, June 18, 2009  -- Perfect for Framing, a novel by Maggie Bishop that features problems in Property Owners Associations, won the Book of the Year Award for Mystery from the High Country Writers, a prestigious writers organization that has been energizing writers since 1995.  This exciting novel is Bishop’s fourth in the Appalachian Adventure Series and the second of the mystery series featuring Jemma Chase and Detective Tucker. Maggie’s love for CSI, the Appalachian Mountains, and outdoor activities collectively influenced her latest series. Maggie has gained a wide readership among mystery lovers and was recently touted as one of the Appalachian’s Agatha Christies by Verve Women’s Magazine in Asheville, and was chosen one of “East Carolina University’s 100 Incredible Women” in 2007.  When presented the award during the June 11th ceremony attended by publishers, authors and fans, Maggie Bishop said, “Writing is more difficult that readers can imagine – and more fun.  My thanks to Ingalls Publishing Group for believing in my stories.”

Winning in the Memoir category is Marcia Cham’s You Mean I Have to Look at the Body? a book about living and dying.  Julia Taylor Ebel won in the Poetry category for Dresses, Dreams and Beadwood Leaves.  The award for the Family category went to Lila Hopkins for The Master Craftsman.  June Bare was awarded the Inspirational category for All Things.  Frank J. Thomas was presented the plaque in the History category for Melbourne Beach:  The First 125 Years.

Since 1998, High Country Writers annually acknowledges books by members published during the previous year.  Books are submitted in January and award winners are chosen by a committee of members. High Country Writers meets the second and fourth Thursday of most months at the Watauga County Public Library for informational programs and critiques supporting writers of the area. For more information, visit the website: http://highcountrywriters.tripod.com

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In Perfect for Framing, Maggie Bishop brings back Jemma Chase, the engaging heroine of Murder at Blue Falls, and Tucker (whose first name appears to be Detective), one of Bishop’s most romantic heroes—intelligent, sympathetic, and gorgeous—a refreshing change from the stereotypical police detectives in this genre of mystery).

This time, carpenter/photographer/dude-ranch trail-boss/CSI-hopeful Jemma becomes entangled in the murder of the power-abusive President of a nearby property owners’ association. Naturally, Jemma’s involvement is both a distraction and a delight for Detective Tucker.

As a victim, Petula Windsor is perfect for killing. As suspects, the subdivision’s resentful property owners would throw a barbecue celebrating Petula’s death if they dared. In the first paragraph, Jemma hears one property owner say her death "might be a relief to a lot of us."

Readers who know Bishop’s work, however, also know better than to jump to conclusions. Perfect for Framing turns and twists like ski tracks on Sugar Mountain. In a masterful stroke, Bishop tucks the key to the mystery into a one-page prologue. No—I’m not giving anything away. If you reach the end, find the connection, and don’t slap your forehead, it’s likely because you’re not the forehead-slapping sort.

Bishop’s delightful cast of reality-based local characters round out the dramatis personnae, including one first responder named Maggie.

Perfect for Framing is, in short, a delicious romance wrapped up in a brain-tickler of a mystery with a solution that can, in the end, be both frustrating and satisfying—frustrating because it’s hard to unravel; yet satisfying, because when the solution is revealed, it feels inevitable.

Find yourself a cat or two, a comfy couch, and some time alone, then settle in for a story that is as deftly crafted as Jemma’s cabinetry, and entertaining as Tucker’s bemusement when Jemma gets it right—again!

   -- schuyler kaufman, Carolina Southern Live review

 

Posted by Rob Neufeld of the Asheville Citizen-Times on September 26, 2008 in New WNC Books

"Perfect for Framing: An Appalachian Adventure Mystery by Maggie Bishop (High Country Publishers trade paperback, Nov. 2008, 176 pages, $12)

Maggie Bishop's fourth novel brings back the popular heroes of her third, Murder at Blue Falls: Jemma Chase and Detective Tucker. They run into some nasty politics involving the Property Owners' Association in a subdivision near Boone. Bishop is deliciously sharp on occasion, but generally moves her plot forward like a "Murder She Wrote" episode, gearing her interactions toward devising and solving a crime. Her plot is tight. The book is short and fun. Her characters don't have quite enough free rein.

In Perfect for Framing, the second mysery in the Appalachian Adventure Mystery series, Jemma Chase and Detective Tucker are together again.  December at a dude ranch in the North Carolina mountains draws more skiers than horseback riders so Jemma Chase turns from leading trail rides to her other two passions -- carpentry and photography.  Word of Jemma's skills with wood spreads to a development at the top of an Appalachian mountain where she hears complaints about the Property Owners' Association president.  When Jemma tries to save her from a fire, Jemma's CSI wannabe instincts clash with Detective Tucker's investigation.

Perfect for Framing

by Maggie Bishop

PROLOGUE

Petula rose from her lover’s bed, paraded naked to the vanity mirror, and finger combed her hair so it fell over one eye.

"Your bruises are almost gone," the man said.

She smiled at him then studied herself in the mirror. "The lipo doctor did a thorough job. He took six pounds and three inches off my mid-section. I wish these numb spots would go away."

"Give it time, Pet. Your face is almost healed." He propped himself up with her pillow and reached for his cigarettes.

"I hope I’ll look better than this soon," Pet said, still studying herself in the mirror. "I thought you gave up those things."

"After this one. I’m down to a couple a day. Besides, you said the same thing after your face lift – no more plastic surgery."

"A lady has a right to change her mind," she called as she stepped into the shower.

By the time she was dressed and had put on makeup, he had his jeans back on. "I’m still mad you let someone buy that lot I wanted to build on," he said as she emerged from the dressing area in her guest house. He pulled on a crumpled polo shirt.

"Don’t you worry. I’m in the perfect position to make their lives miserable. Didn’t I make it too tough for the last owners to build? I wasn’t President of the POA a couple of years ago when you wanted to put your modular on that lot. Now I have the other homeowners in my grip. If you can’t build there, no one can."

He dropped the butt into the beer can and hugged her, resting his chin on her head. He said, "Revenge can be so sweet. Maybe you can bankrupt the POA with a lawsuit." He let her go and sat down to tie his sneakers. then asked, "What are you doing with that situation with your husband? Any progress?"

"Don’t you worry about that either. I’ll end up with the house and a big alimony settlement. Then it’ll be just the two of us."

 

 

CHAPTER 1

DECEMBER, THURSDAY

"That’s outrageous even for Madam President," Karen said into the phone. "She’s going to get herself killed one of these days. Come to think of it, that might be a relief to a lot of us."

At the mention of a murder, Jemma’s measuring tape clattered to the floor as she stared at her customer. Jemma Chase wasn’t eavesdropping, exactly.

"She must be getting a kick out of playing god again, lording over your land, teasing you with delays. The power-hungry little demon. Murder by hanging would be too easy for her." Karen Harmon grinned into the telephone. After a moment she laughed, then said, "Maybe she could be in a horrible car accident, complete with head through the windshield, destroying the doctor’s latest work. Would serve her right for using a Florida plastic surgeon who gave her that uneven hair line." Karen glanced at Jemma who quickly closed her mouth. Karen winked before continuing her phone conversation. "She deserves a spike through her heart, if she had one. She has the sculpted look of a cemetery angel and the attitude of a pit bull. There’s not enough Botox and filler in the world to plump up her shrunken heart."

Karen snapped her gum as she hung up the phone. "Our illustrious POA President is at it again," she said to Jemma. "Honey, give a petty person a little power and they’ll abuse it every time."

Jemma nodded and retrieved the tape measure, her dream of playing CSI faded. Her fantasy of being a Crime Scene Investigator wouldn’t bring in money, only trouble, as Detective Tucker was so fond of pointing out. This energetic little lady wanted more cabinets and a breakfast bar in her kitchen and Jemma was eager to use her carpentry skills on something besides decks and porches.

"You don’t live in Hickory Hills so this doesn’t matter to you," Karen dropped her wrist and snapped her gum, "but Mrs. POA Windsor has started to make building a new home in our subdivision a nightmare. Just living near her sets my pulse racing like Junior Johnson with a load of moonshine, or like Ringo on steroids." She laughed at her own joke.

"Ringo Starr?" Jemma re-measured the space to re-direct attention to the work at hand. She chomped at the bit to get on with the task at hand. Carpentry and photography had been occupying her time during the ranch’s off season, but she still managed to ride her horse Brandy most evenings.

"They were before your time. Come to think of it, they were before mine."

"What’s a POA for anyway?"

"Property Owners Association. This one started at fifty dollars a year to plow the roads after snow storms and for re-graveling in the spring. We’d have a pot-luck lunch in the spring and a quick budget review in December. That was it."

"What changed?"

"When the original president died and the treasurer moved away three years ago, nobody wanted to do the little work that was involved, including me. We had a house plan review board but the only things we enforced were minimum square footage and no trailers. Later that was expanded to keep out modular homes. Petula agreed to be president and we were happy that someone cared enough to volunteer."

"And now? How did she get elected more than once if she’s so hard to deal with?"

"Petula charms the men and talks of increasing home values. They love being on her board and don’t miss a meeting. She’s the only woman on the board, a mistake we women hope to remedy at the meeting coming up. She turned our friendly mountain into her own soap opera, starring herself. Maybe she was never in charge of anything before and this makes her feel powerful. Honey, even her husband stays out of her way in POA matters. He’s never even attended a meeting since she took over. My guess is that things are calmer at home if he lets her loose on us. Of course I don’t let my husband attend the meetings, either – our home is certainly calmer if he stays away. Anyway, lately she’s been pushing for a special assessment of seven thousand dollars per owner to pave the road. That’s a shopping trip to her but a lot of cash to most of us."

About twice that of her own savings account, Jemma thought. "The road is fine to me even with the couple inches of snow we got yesterday."

"Right, honey. She claims safety issues, as if the fire department or the sheriff couldn’t travel almost as fast on the gravel we have. We have snow plowers on contract. Her latest focus is for houses in here to befit her image as mistress of the mountain." Karen emptied an ash tray with a single butt into the trash can. "My husband still has one after we cuddle, if you know what I mean."

Jemma nodded and tapped the paper with her pencil as a signal she wanted to get back to work. As she looked down at the tiny woman, she wondered if Karen knew her hair had a flat spot right on top.

"She’s turned down Ann’s plans again claiming they don’t meet the square footage – but they do. The plans are for twenty-six hundred square feet and the POA minimum is for twenty-two hundred. She can’t change the requirements until they are voted on at the meeting in two weeks." Karen opened the refrigerator and pulled out a diet soda. "Want one?"

Jemma shook her head. "The romance of living in these mountains includes live and let live, rugged individualism and all that. How does she get away with playing with people?" Jemma tugged on the flannel shirt she’d found in the men’s section of the thrift shop. Blouse sleeves were always too short, same with pant legs.

"You’ve never met Petula Windsor, have you?" Karen poured the soda in a glass and took a big swallow.

"No, the name’s not familiar." A development had to have a strong grapevine. Doing a good job for Karen could boost her reputation for carpentry work.

"Her husband is Ward Windsor, the Executive VP at Allgoode Bank. They moved to town fifteen or sixteen years ago. This’ll be her third year as POA President. She’s an agitator, likes to keep things stirred up. She treats us like we’re her hive and she’s queen bee. Honey, she’ll get stung one of these days." Karen’s eyes widened at her own pun, then she tittered. "Anyway, she complained about people dumping grass clippings and leaves in the woods behind their own houses, oh, and a man walking his dog on a leash before eight in the morning. Now she’s bugging an owner wanting to build on the lot across the street. That’s my friend, Ann. Come on, I’ll show you."

Jemma gave up on rushing her customer. Karen led Jemma to a picture window in the living room, which had a view of the neighboring snow covered ridge through the leafless trees. That view could disappear if a house were built directly across the road. If the house were set to the left, though, where there was already a clearing, Karen would still see for miles.

"See where they’ve cleared the trees? Madam President even complained about that. She ran off the contractor and slapped a law suit on the owner. That law suit could cost the POA tens of thousands of dollars if it goes to court."

"Can’t the other property owners do anything about her?"

"Short of murder?" Karen again snapped her gum. "I’ve been making good use of talking while shopping with some of the wives. Surprises may be coming Petula’s way at the meeting."

"Whose property is it?" Jemma looked across the road at the lot and the relatively level spot for a house, an usual occurrence in the mountains.

"Ann Dixon, she was behind me at Watauga High by uh, a couple of years. "She always was a feisty little girl." Karen told Jemma about the June meeting.

"She knocked her down? A grown woman?"

"Petula would have called the police, but enough of us saw her grab Ann’s arm – and the marks her nails left – that she didn’t dare. I called it self-defense."

"So, the trouble-maker has met her match?" Jemma grinned, enjoying the mental image the China Doll up against the Mountain Woman on one of Alma’s WWF TV shows.

"Not as a brawler. Ann owns Perfect for Framing, an art gallery in downtown Boone, she promotes local artists and photographers. One of her clients had a photo on the cover of Our State magazine."

"Photography." Jemma tapped the paper again. "I’ll have to visit the shop. I take a few pictures myself." Great idea. She hadn’t thought of putting her photographs up for sale anywhere besides the family guest ranch. Suppose her photos were seen by an influential person, a celebrity. Her reputation could grow, she could be asked to do photos for National Geographic or Atlantic magazines. She could be paid to travel...

"Yes, do visit the gallery. You’ll like Ann, I promise." Karen glanced around as if just realizing she had been holding up the project. "Thank you for agreeing to build these cabinets on such short notice." Karen walked back to the kitchen. "Your Aunt Alma said you worked in the cabinet business before moving here."

"It’s been a while since I’ve built anything requiring finesse but don’t worry, it’ll all come back to me." What was she thinking? Working with wood was her primary interest, or was it solving crimes? What happened to the application she’d submitted to the Watauga Sheriff’s Department last week? How long does it take to process an application? When would she be called for an interview? Would Tucker, some called him her detective, give a good recommendation? Ti-ti-tat went her heart when she thought of him, even after three months of long phone calls and weekend dates.

"Are you sure?" Karen asked with a touch on Jemma’s arm and Jemma realized she had been daydreaming. "Alma can be pretty persuasive."

"That she can be. But I can handle it, really. Alma said you wanted the new cabinets to match what you already have."

"That’s right. These cabinets were custom-made when we built the house, and I love them. But now I want an island separating the work space from the eating area and a matching corner cabinet in that wasted space by the door, and the craftsman who made them isn’t available."

"Are these antique glass for the corner cabinet?" Jemma knelt and examined two heavy panes of beveled glass leaning against the wall.

"Maybe not antique, but they are for the corner cabinet. Ann found them in the framing shop when she rented it. We were talking about what I’d like to do with this room and she gave them to me."

"She’s a good friend."

"She certainly is, so it just make me mad to see her treated this way by Ms Petula President." Karen snapped her gum and ran a hand down the door of one of the upper cabinets. "This is special heritage wood. Do you think you can get the same thing?"

Jemma pulled open one of the drawers and peeked underneath at the back of the drawer front. Oak with a clear finish was attractive and durable, but not hard to duplicate. The style was very plain, what some might call ‘Shaker’. "I’m sure I can. I recognize it. The style is something I can handle too." Jemma cleared her throat. "If you want to think about it, I can come back another time. There’s no obligation, just because you know Alma."

"No, no. I’m sure you’ll do fine," Karen said without hesitation.

"When do you want me to start?"

"Now. Honey, the sooner the better. I want to have a celebration on December 31st."

"To ring in the new year?"

"More than that. I’ve invited the whole subdivision, excepting one or two, if you know what I mean. I’ve something in the works to stop Petula Windsor. Keep your fingers crossed."

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Published by High Country Publishers, Ingalls Publishing Group

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