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Sue Hollowell

Violets and Vengeance (PAPERBACK)

Violets and Vengeance (PAPERBACK)

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A puppy parade, quirky garden gnomes, and a mysterious death mean puzzle lovin’ Chloe and her faithful companion Max are on the case again...

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?


 Paperback  96 pages
 Dimensions  5 x 0.5 x 8 inches (127 x 12.7 x 203 mm)
 Publication date  October 15, 2020
 Publisher  Free Heart Productions


Buttercup Bungalow began to look like my vision of what the Cedarbrook Treehouse Hotel could be. Guests should expect staying in a treehouse would be an adventure with fun and whimsy sprinkled in. When I arrived to help Mom untangle the books so we could list the hotel for sale, I never expected to stay this long. My dutiful companion Max and I originally stayed at Mom’s when I returned to town. But I needed my space. And staying in a room at the hotel would give me a better chance to renovate it the way it deserved.

The hotel in its prime was a destination for many. Rooms were booked a year in advance. The place was a hub for many functions in this small town. If only I could get it even partially returned to that glory, I’d consider myself successful. I was handy with a toolbelt and not afraid to get my hands dirty. Plus, fixing up the rooms was kind of like solving a puzzle—replacing what’s missing, fixing problems—and I’d always been good at puzzles.

Today, I was decorating the interior of this place. I’d gone to the stores in Emerald Hills to find yellow-themed items to go along with buttercups. I purchased material with yellow flowers to hang up as curtains and some paint to cover the nightstand in a matching golden hue. The place had already brightened with those two changes. The wooden walls of the treehouses darkened the interior and required creativity to style and lighten it up. I wanted the feel of happiness, joy, and relaxation for all of the units. Spending time with Mom while fixing the place up had become enjoyable. The times we worked together, I appreciated her sense of whimsy. Although she insisted we display some of those garden gnomes she collected. I just couldn’t go there.

My phone chimed and I saw Pearl’s Pooch Pampering on the caller ID. I’d taken Max and Trixie to get groomed earlier this morning, and it looked like they were calling to let me know they were ready to be picked up. My sister, Joey, one of us triplets, was a part-time cashier there when she wasn’t waitressing at Smokehouse Restaurant. She had several family members living with her, so she held down multiple jobs to try and make ends meet.

“Hi, Joey. Are the pooches ready to be picked up?”

Silence on the other end. I thought maybe the connection was bad. Out here at the hotel, sometimes reception was spotty, at best.

“Joey? Can you hear me?” I heard sniffles. “Joey, is that you?”

“Chloe, you won’t believe it,” she said and sniffled.

At least we had a connection now. And yes, I probably would believe it. My time in Cedarbrook had been more than eventful. Edna’s murder had thrown this place into a tizzy. And with that resolved, the excitement began to disappear. Plus, out of all my siblings, Joey had the most drama. She had quite a few kids and grandkids, and someone or another was always in trouble. Bless her heart, though, she always retained a positive outlook, no matter how many times she had to bail someone out of jail.

“What’s going on? Are the pups ready to be picked up?” My faithful companion, Max, had fur that went on for days. His buff-colored cocker spaniel coat needed constant care or we’d be in for a rat’s nest like no other. Sticks and leaves adhered to him like Velcro. Sometimes when I peeled them off I had a pile of debris the size of a small shrub. Trixie was new to our family. When Mom’s friend Edna died, her boyfriend didn’t want to keep the little dog. She was a bit of a handful, but her companionship was unparalleled. I’d taken her for a bit while we sorted things out with Edna, and by the end of that time, Trixie and Mom had become fast friends. To say I was shocked was an understatement. That Trixie could soften Mom’s demeanor was truly amazing. Now Mom rarely went anywhere without her.

“No,” Joey said. This was like pulling teeth.

“Is it Mom?” I asked. Mom was in her eighties. She retained great health for that age, just had the usual aches and pains of an older body.

“No. It’s Violet,” she said. Violet and Joey had no love lost between them. But really, anyone in town could say that about themselves and Violet.

“Did you guys get into it again?” I asked. Silence. I was sure I’d lost the connection now. I looked at my phone and saw surprisingly we were still getting a pretty strong signal. It was about time to head to Pearl’s anyway to get the dogs. It was a good time for a break from all of the buttercup yellow, as cheery as that was. “Joey, I’ll be there soon.” I listened for a few seconds and didn’t hear a disconnect.

“Chloe.” Joey started crying even more. “I don’t know what happened.”

I beelined out the door to my car. Pearl was owner of the dog spa and had a pretty level head. “Is Pearl there?”

“I don’t know where she is. She went on an errand but wouldn’t say what it was.”

Clearly I wasn’t going to get any more information from Joey on the call. I threw my purse onto the passenger seat and started the car. “I’m on my way.”


Pearl’s Pooch Pampering was located on the main street of this small town. Rows of quaint little shops lined both sides of the road. Pearl’s was pretty much smack dab in the center. Most stores didn’t have lots of parking, but you didn’t need much in a town with a population of two thousand. Pearl’s was no exception. With the amount of business she did, she had tried to expand, but it infringed on the neighboring businesses and was a no-go. Her shop was packed every day. Pet pampering must be a billion-dollar industry, based on how well Pearl did. I found a spot a few blocks away and speed-walked to Pearl’s, preparing myself for the unexpected. I heard raised voices before I even got to the front door. The scene through the glass door did not look right. I slowly opened the door. Joey sat in a chair along the wall in the waiting room, her head down, sobbing into a handful of tissues. On the opposite side of the room, Judy, Violet’s sister-in-law, was on the phone. She posed business-like in her standard matching pantsuit. We made eye contact and she told the person on the other end of the line she had to go. I wondered what business Judy had here. She was proudly a cat person and let everyone know it. Mom had said the last time her friend Caroline was at Judy’s for dinner, her felines even sat at the table and ate off of plates.

“Chloe, Violet’s dead,” Judy proclaimed. She gestured to the other side of the large display of pet supplies.

My hand flew to my mouth. “Oh my God! What happened?” I asked the room. I’d take an explanation from anyone right now. Violet’s body was situated on her left side, facing the wall, her head covered by stuffed plushy dog toys.

“Were you calling an ambulance?” I asked Judy, and navigated to the chair next to Joey.

“What good would that do?” Judy replied as she paced. Judy glanced at Joey, paused, then said, “I found her like that when I came in.”

Joey looked up, obviously distraught. “I heard the bell ring and thought it was Violet coming to get Sasha. You know she griped every time about how we trimmed her poodle. And she thought the prices were outrageous for what she was getting. I just couldn’t take it anymore.” Joey dipped her head again. She extended her left arm toward Violet. “I came into the room and found Judy standing over Violet.”

My heart sank. I’d never known Joey to be violent. But I guess we never truly knew what people could do under pressure.

I sat next to Joey and grabbed her hand. “Joey,” I said, locking into her gaze. My shoulders slumped.

She shook her head no. I would have to take her word for it until I knew the truth. “Where’s Sasha now?”

She pointed to the back through a swinging door.

“Judy, would you call Buzz and let him know what happened? He’ll want to know someone died in his wife’s place of business,” I said, taking charge of the mayhem. Buzz was our retired town cop. He would get the investigative ball rolling.

Without a word, she pulled her phone out and dialed.

I headed to the back room to locate Sasha, Trixie, and Max, and make sure the place was still standing. They were all chillin’ post-grooming from a day at the spa. Max and Trixie sprinted toward me and Sasha continued to lounge. That was good. We’d have to figure out a home for her now. I grabbed the leashes and led my two dogs back to the lobby, skirting the crime scene.

Judy remained on the phone, but it didn’t sound like a call to Buzz. She was a busy person, given her position on the town council.

Max sat and refused to budge. “Max, let’s go.” His soulful brown eyes looked at me with empathy. “I know, boy. We have quite the puzzle on our hands again.” Following Max’s lead, Trixie lined up right next to him and plopped down.

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