Who has fond memories of going to the county fair? Who remembers riding the rides on the midway, gorging themselves on every fried food imaginable from flashy food wagons? Who remembers oohing and aahing over the assortment of animal entries—big pigs, friendly cows and those cute little bunnies in the cages.
I’m really sorry, but I’m about to pour some vinegar on those memories with my latest novel, coming out in just over a week. Creampuff of the County takes a respected institution—the fair—and turns it into a site of chaos and intrigue after a murder takes place on those beloved grounds.
Yes, I’m a monster, but I like to think of myself as a fun-loving monster with a snaggle tooth who doesn’t know any better. For some reason, my mystery novels seem to have a common theme of ruining everyone’s good time. My first book in the Zachary Gagewood Mysteries brought an apple festival to a screeching halt after a pie contest judge drops dead in front of Zachary, my protagonist. The third book in the series turns a teddy bear picnic into a bloodbath after the star bear is found beheaded in the woods.
I think I should get some credit, though, for not having Santa Claus be a murder victim in my fifth novel, which took place around Christmas. Many of the folks in my writers group, the Shawano Area Writers, were convinced I was going to off the jolly old elf, but I proved them wrong.
Of course, nobody is safe in Creampuff of the County. The county fair is supposed to be a safe haven for all ages. How safe can you feel, though, when the Fairest of the Fair, the figurehead of a sacred institution, dies after eating a creampuff on live television? That’s right. I couldn’t go for simply using a lead pipe or a revolver. I had to use lethal pastries.
It’d be easy enough to just have another murder on another city street, but that’s commonplace. That’s like a thousand other books out there. The key to a juicy murder is to create a type of murder that doesn’t happen every day. It still needs to be believable, of course. However, the only way to draw people in to mysteries is to make the readers wonder “How did the author do that?”
Here’s a taste of Creampuff of the County to keep you full until the book comes out July 7 on Amazon:
Everyone turned their attention to the morning show, where Fletcher Burgess was saying, “I’ve been baking the creampuffs for the county fair for eighteen years now. It’s been an amazing honor knowing that the signature fair food that everyone wants comes from my own two hands.”
Sasha frowned. “I find it hard to believe that he bakes thousands of fresh creampuffs on his own. He’s got to have some help—assistants or something.”
Newell snorted. “I’m sure that’s the case. This is all marketing. A white lie to get more people out to his bakery.”
Victoria took the creampuff from Fletcher. “Here’s to hoping we break a record on the number of creampuffs sold this year. While I’m enjoying this one, I’m counting on my friends and neighbors to do their part. There are more than forty-two thousand residents in Shawano County. If everybody does their part and has one creampuff—just one little creampuff—that alone will shatter the record this year. Who’s with me?” She took a bite out of the creampuff and gingerly licked a bit of whipped cream from her upper lip, nodding to indicate that it tasted good.
“You’ve got to give her props,” Sasha said. “Most girls her age are too concerned about how they look to even enjoy a creampuff.” Her voice went up an octave as she said, “I can’t eat this. It’ll go straight to my hips.”
Zachary and Newell laughed at Sasha’s teeny-bopper impersonation, but they quickly composed themselves when they heard choking sounds. The choking was coming from Victoria, whose eyes were bugging out. Her face was turning red as she struggled to catch her breath.
Sasha’s jaw dropped. “Oh, my God. What is happening to her?”
Victoria fell to the ground as Karen, the reporter, cried out, “We need some help! Someone call nine-one-one!”
For more than a minute, the show focused on Victoria convulsing and gasping for breath. She even vomited a little. Then she got very still as the camera turned to Karen, who said, “Back to you in the studio. We’ll bring you more later.”
Zachary turned to Newell. “What on earth happened?”
Sasha stood up. “Something tells me I should head for the hospital. Either Victoria’s going to need a good doctor, or my services as medical examiner are going to be required.”
Zachary stared at the television in disbelief. The morning show had gone to a commercial break, but he could still see Victoria’s face twisting like someone was choking her. Had a creampuff caused Shawano County’s Fairest of the Fair to die?