(A Timeless Celebration (Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries)
1st in Series
Self Published (October 25, 2018)
Print Length: 245 pages
A small town, a big party, a stolen gift. When an artefact from the Titanic is stolen before her town’s 150th anniversary celebration, it’s up to Lois Stone to catch the thief.
Middle-aged widow Lois has moved from bustling Toronto to tranquil Fenwater and is settling into her new life away from the dangers of the city. Then two events happen that shatter her serenity: her house is burgled and an antique watch belonging to a Titanic survivor is stolen from the local museum. Her best friend, Marge, was responsible for the watch’s safekeeping until its official presentation to the museum at the town’s 150th anniversary party, and its disappearance will jeopardise her job and the museum’s future. Lois won’t let her friend take the blame and the consequences for the theft. She’s determined to find the watch in time to save her best friend’s job, the museum’s future and the town’s 150th anniversary celebration.
And so begins a week of new friends, apple and cinnamon muffins, calico cats, midnight intruders, shadowy caprine companions and more than one person with a reason to steal the watch, set against the backdrop of century houses on leafy residential streets, the swirling melodies of bagpipes, a shimmering heat haze and the burble of cool water.
She was enjoying the afternoon. It had turned out to be fun to get out and meet people, but she really wasn’t ready for anything more than friendship with a man. James was always there in her mind. The pain was lessening but it was nowhere near gone yet. It wasn’t time to think about a new relationship yet, despite Marge’s attempts at matchmaking. But she did have to agree with her friend: it had been a good idea to get out today.
As she stood, staring off into space, a hand gripped her upper arm. She jumped and turned to find Marge leaning close to her ear.
“Lois, I don’t believe it!”
“I can’t find it.”
“What are you looking for?”
“No, the one from Isabella Morton,” Marge hissed.
“Isn’t it on the desk where you left it before the speeches?”
Marge shook her head.
“Did it fall off? Maybe it’s under the desk.”
“No, I’ve looked all around the office. There’s just the box where I left it on the desk.”
“Want me to help you have another look?”
The two women crossed the room and walked the short distance to the end of the hallway. In the office, they searched the top of the desk, all the drawers in it and every other surface and shelf, but half an hour later there was still no sign of the watch.
“Would one of the other staff have moved it somewhere for safekeeping?” Lois asked.
“Nah, I’m responsible for it. No one would’ve touched it.”
“Then what’s happened to it?” Lois frowned. She couldn’t remember Marge locking the office when they left earlier. “Was the room unlocked all afternoon?”
“Yeah. People are honest around here. I never even thought of locking it.” Marge raked her hand through her hair, messing up the carefully hairsprayed coif. “Man, I’m in for it now. I’ll probably get the sack.”
The sound of heavy footsteps approaching the office made both women look toward the doorway.
Dave Stewart poked his head through the door and grinned. “Everyone’s leaving and I’m locking up now. You ladies planning to stay here tonight?”
Marge stared at him speechlessly.
“Everything alright?” Dave asked.
When Marge still didn’t speak, Lois smiled at the man. “Yeah, we just lost track of time chatting here.”
Dave laughed. “Well, everyone knows what Marge’s like when she gets going.” He looked at Marge again. “I think this is the quietest I’ve ever seen her. You sure you’re alright, Marge?”
Marge gave Dave a weak smile. “Yeah, sure. We’ll get out of here. Don’t want to keep you from your supper. Are you barbecuing burgers tonight?”
“Yeah, every Saturday night during the summer. Nothing beats burgers in the back yard.”
The two women lifted their purses and silently followed Dave from the room. Marge stopped and locked the office door before they made their way to the front entrance where they left Dave. They still didn’t speak as they walked down the two flights of stairs and around to the parking lot behind the building.
“Oh dear, now what?” Marge looked dejected as she gazed at her friend. “If I can’t get that watch back, I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I really like it at the museum. I don’t want to lose this job. And I won’t get another archivist’s job around here. I don’t want to commute to TO every day.”
Lois gripped her friend’s forearm. “You’re not gonna lose this job. It has to turn up. It didn’t just walk out of there on its own.”
“I know but—”
“Can we get into the building tomorrow when no one will be around so we can have another look?”
“I don’t have a front door key. Just one for my office, which I’ve never used before today.”
“Well, come around to my house and we’ll go over everything and see what we can remember about this afternoon. Maybe we’ll be able to figure out what’s happened to it. I’ll meet you back at the house.”
“I can’t tonight. I’ve got to drive Mom over to her cousin’s in Georgetown for supper.”
“Well, come around to my place in the morning then, when your mom’s at church.”
“Okay, thanks. I’m so glad you’re here.”
Lois squeezed her friend’s arm again and gave her a determined smile. “Don’t worry. We’ll figure this out. Try to relax and enjoy the evening with your relatives. See you in the morning.”
Dianne Ascroft is a Torontonian who has settled in rural Northern Ireland. She and her husband live on a small farm with an assortment of strong-willed animals.
A Timeless Celebration is the first novel in the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series.
Her previous fiction works include The Yankee Years series of novels and short reads, set in Northern Ireland during the Second World War; An Unbidden Visitor (a tale inspired by Fermanagh’s famous Coonian ghost); Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves: A Collection of Short Stories (contemporary tales), and an historical novel, Hitler and Mars Bars, which explores Operation Shamrock, a little known Irish Red Cross humanitarian endeavour.
Dianne writes both fiction and non-fiction. Her articles and short stories have been printed in Canadian and Irish magazines and newspapers. When she’s not writing, she enjoys walks in the countryside, evenings in front of her open fireplace and folk and traditional music.
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/DianneAscroftwriter
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