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Sue Hollowell

Treehouse Hotel Cozy Mysteries Books 1 - 3 (PAPERBACK)

Treehouse Hotel Cozy Mysteries Books 1 - 3 (PAPERBACK)

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A light, cozy mystery in a small town with a puzzle loving, amateur female sleuth, quirky characters (human and canine), and enough flowers and pastries to fill your garden and your belly.

Book 1 - Peonies and Peril

Chloe Carson has no clue what’s next. Starting life from scratch after her husband’s passing, the sixty-year-old is back in her hometown to ready the family’s treehouse hotel for sale. But her six-month commitment heads into the weeds when the ornery garden club president is found pushing up daisies in her prized peony patch.

With her aging mom and bff topping the list of suspects, Chloe rolls up her sleeves and works alongside her rescued cocker spaniel to clear their names. But between prickly gossip, her triplet sisters, and a puzzling case of blackmail, the strong-willed widow fears she may never leave this small town again.

Can Chloe dig everyone out of a precarious plot before the real killer flees to greener pastures?

Book 2 - Violets and Vengeance

Chloe and her mom are busy fixing up the adorable Buttercup Bungalow at the treehouse hotel when Chloe gets a disturbing call from her sister. It turns out Violet, the town environmentalist, has been found dead in the lobby of the local dog spa.

Violet’s staunch environmental stance shouldn’t have made her a target. But her constant protests and her questionable handling of the popular annual pet parade leaves Chloe with a seemingly endless number of suspects. A prominent town council member--and even Chloe’s sister--top the list.

The shocking clues Chloe and Max discover lead them down a path that jeopardizes the future of the hotel. With the help of some huckleberry scrub, dog walks in the park, and her slightly overbearing mother, can Chloe and Max tie up loose ends and outmaneuver the killer to keep their beloved, quaint town from becoming a concrete jungle?

Book 3 - Buttercups and Betrayal

Chloe’s newest project with the expansion of the hotel leaves her little time for a new love, let alone solving the mysterious death of the newly-hired, snooty museum curator, Bartholomew Higgons. Even so, she ends up smack dab in the middle of the murder and mayhem.

Partnered with her loveable cocker spaniel Max, they find themselves mired in a sticky situation. As Chloe and Max investigate, the clues lead to deeper secrets and complex relationships amongst the suspects. The plot gets thicker when a coveted museum treasure is stolen and the bingo scholarship money disappears.

Can the dynamic duo untangle the truth between disgruntled business partners, spurned romantic partners, and blackmailing bingo players before one of their beloved family members are arrested for murder?


 Paperback  298 pages
 Dimensions  5 x 0.5 x 8 inches (127 x 12.7 x 203 mm)
 Publication date  July 2, 2023
 Publisher  Free Heart Productions


Mom kept the books for the Cedarbrook Treehouse Hotel on a shelf along one wall. There were six bookcases with stacks of grid-lined paper journals. At least she had the sense to put a date on the front of each one. Trouble was, I had no idea what the date represented. But it was a start. Mom, Brittany, and I hunkered down in the office of the hotel, attempting to excavate any sense of order to the bookkeeping for the business.

“Mom, why didn’t you ever get with the twenty-first century and use a computer? These books are a mess. I can’t even discern the basics of income and expenses. For example, what’s ‘tomorrow’s baby’?”

“Chloe, you were always such a worrywart. Don’t stress. I’ve been doing fine since Marty died and we still sometimes have guests.”

“I’m not a worrywart, huh, boy?” My faithful companion looked up at me with big brown eyes.

“What was that, dear?” my mother questioned.

“Nothing, Mom. Just talking to Max.”

“You and that dog. You’d think you were best friends.” My gaze met Max’s in perfect understanding. He shrugged, and I sighed.

My head hurt and it was only 9:00 a.m. Unraveling the mess of books for this place would take a while. It was such a beautiful place. You felt like you’d gone back in time to your childhood. Who wouldn’t love staying in a treehouse? Most units had basic plumbing, some had heat. Each one was raised above the ground. You reached most places either through stairs or one even had a suspension bridge. No TVs. Each treehouse was on the edge of a central gathering area where you could have a campfire. If you closed your eyes when you were inside, you felt like you were the last person on the planet. Their names reflected local agricultural items: Crabapple Chalet, Buttercup Bungalow, Cherry Cottage, Morning Glory Manor, Snowberry Sanctuary, and Huckleberry Hut. The fact the place had deteriorated under Mom’s watch was not her fault. I just hoped I could help make it financially attractive to a buyer. I like a good number puzzle, but this was a doozy. Unlike any sudoku I’d ever mastered.

“Why didn’t you at least hire an accountant? I’m shocked the IRS hasn’t descended and confiscated every asset you have.”

“I did, Chloe. I hired Walter on Sandy’s recommendation. He did the accounting for the Garden Club for a while, but he turned out to be a loser, so Edna fired him too.”

I couldn’t tell if the place was salvageable or if I’d have to start over. That alone diverted my brain to a huckleberry vodka. But I’d wait until at least afternoon so I didn’t endure Mom’s wrath. Or maybe I wouldn’t. I’d get the wrath for something or other, might as well make it something I’d enjoy.

“Seriously, Mom. I don’t know if I can fix this. You might just have to sell the hotel so someone with experience in these things can come in and do it the right way.”

“Chloe, no! We can’t sell. I’m sure you can handle it. You are an accountant, right? So we’re good.”

Chloe the fixer. Always the one to get everyone out of a jam. Here’s an idea - don’t get into the jam in the first place. The weight of returning home pressed down on my chest. I missed my own space. The distance between me and my family. My own identity, separate from these crazy people. Taking care of others had always fallen to me. I was the oldest of four kids. But only by a few minutes. My sisters Zoe, Joey, and I were triplets. No doubt we were a massive handful for Mom. I never had kids, so I can’t even imagine one, let alone three at once. And if that weren’t enough, baby brother Harrison came along a year later. The fact we were all alive was probably a feat in itself for Mom.

Mom had her own drama. Seven husbands. Maybe she kept going until lucky number seven. It turned out to be true. Marty was a gem. Frankly, I don’t know what he saw in Mom. Four kids, six prior husbands, kind of a train wreck. But somehow they made it work. Marty seemed to get Mom. He brought out the best in her. For all of my life, her time with Marty made her the happiest. Not gonna lie, when they married I was skeptical. Mostly on Marty’s behalf. I sure missed him. When he passed with no kids, the hotel became Mom’s. I don’t know how she kept it going for all these years.

“Brittany, do you understand the system?” I asked.

“Aunt Chloe, I just do what your Mom asks. We have these enormous books here where I write when someone makes a reservation and the amount they will pay. Then when I get a bill, I write a check and write that amount down next to it.”

Heavens to mergatroyd, my head’s going to explode! I took a cleansing, deep breath. How am I ever going to get through this? And it’s no good arguing with Mom. She’s got her own revisionist history.

“OK, I think I’ll take the most recent book and start from the beginning. Mom, what time do you need to be at Caroline’s for the Garden Club meeting?”

“Eleven o’clock.”

I swear, an inch of dust covered the books. One spark and this whole place would explode in an inferno. I’d only been back a month, but it seemed like I’d never left. I loved my Mom. She had a hard life and did the best she could. I knew that. But I wanted to enjoy my retirement and keep my distance for the life I’d built.
If I could shape up this place to be more presentable, I’d only help my cause. I was a bit rusty at DIY projects, but maybe I’d have to break out my old tool belt. Frank and I had enjoyed remodeling in our spare time. I missed those times terribly with my husband. His passing was so sudden. The 1950s house we bought looked nothing like it did when we first moved in.

In the meantime, I cracked open the first book. Line one, Davenport family— $297.24. OK, that seems straightforward. Line two, Edges— $12.98. For all of my education and experience as an accountant, I’d never seen anything like this. And I’d worked for some doozies of a company. Maybe having all of this go up in flames wasn’t a bad idea after all.

“Mom or Brittany, what is Edges for $12.98?”

They looked at each other and shrugged.

“Is it a company?” I asked. “Is it a product? It can’t be a guest. It’s too small of an amount.”

“Sorry, Aunt Chloe. Doesn’t ring a bell.”

My phone buzzed. The sound rescued me from this accounting nightmare. Caroline was calling, saving me from the number jungle, for now.

“Hi Caroline, what’s up?” Caroline was a high school friend. Pretty much everyone in this town could claim that mantle. When you grew up in a town of about two thousand, everyone was more like extended family, and they all knew your business.

“Chloe, it’s Edna!” she yelled into the phone, causing me to extend it from my ear.

“What? Isn’t this Caroline?” I asked. Mom and Brittany were now engrossed from hearing my side of the conversation.

“Chloe, yes. This is me, Caroline. I’m at Edna’s.”

“Caroline. What’s happening? Are you OK?”

“I am. But Edna’s not. I came by to pick her up for the Garden Club meeting. You know we’re having elections today. I wanted to be nice to her because I’m sure nobody will vote to keep her president. I mean, she has that ridiculous platform to beautify the town by—”

“Caroline, what’s going on?”

The rivalry between those two ran deep. All the way back to school. Always competing any way they could, especially for boys. Edna won in that category. Her boyfriend previously dated Caroline. And Edna never let Caroline forget it. Max stood. His big droopy ears swayed as he meandered over to me. He stared, imparting empathy.

“When I got here and rang the bell, there was no answer. The front door was open and just the screen door was closed. I yelled for Edna. Because, you know, she’s so private I didn’t want to just barge in.”

“Caroline, spit it out. What’s going on?”

“Edna’s dead.” I looked at Mom, not wanting to repeat what I just heard.

“How do you know? Where is she?”

Mom, Brittany, and Max were all now on alert that something was not right at the other end of that phone line.

“Oh, Chloe.” Caroline blubbered so hard I couldn’t understand a word. I needed her to calm down without alarming everyone else and creating a panic I couldn’t control.

“Caroline. Breathe and tell me where she is.”

“Chloe, what’s happening?” Mom now joined the panic party. “Is Edna all right? Chloe!”

“Chloe, she’s facedown in her garden. It looks like she’s just sleeping. I yelled at her and shook her and no response. I touched her.” Caroline lost it and sobbed so hard I figured we were done. Plus, I got the gist.

“Caroline, is Ralph there?” Silence. “Caroline. Listen to me.” She mumbled something close enough to concurrence. “Go inside the house, drink some water, and sit down. We’ll be there soon. Can you do that?” More mumbling.

I disconnected the call. Mom and Brittany sprang up. Max sprinted toward the door. Road trip to Edna’s. And another opportunity to hang his head out the window where his long fur blew like he was Farrah Fawcett at a photo shoot. Well, this wasn’t the diversion I would have asked for from my accounting job of a lifetime. I had to admit, Spokane wasn’t dull, but it was my life, my choices. Somehow in Cedarbrook, drama swirled like tornadoes on a regular basis, sweeping up everyone in its path. No life untouched. It was barely 9:30 a.m. on a Monday. If deciphering the hotel books wasn’t enough of a puzzle to solve, now we had a death.

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