from Chapter One
Murder is fun.
At least, a lot of otherwise nice, normal people seemed to think so.
Having recently gone through the ghastly experience of finding a body in
his bookshop—oh, and of being suspected of murder—Ellery Page was
less thrilled by the notion of violent death. He couldn’t deny it was good
for business, though.
Something about the idea of murder in a mystery bookstore really
captured people’s imagination. True, a third of the tourists wandering into
the Crow’s Nest this beautiful sunny June morning were there specifically
to see Where It Happened. But because they felt a little guilty for their
ghoulishness, they almost always bought a couple of books before they
left. So while business wasn’t booming, it had certainly picked up.
Which was a good thing because Ellery’s screenwriting career was
going nowhere fast. He glanced down again at the latest rejection letter
from his agent.
The worst part was, while the rejection stung—rejection always
stings, even when you’re getting rejected by people you would reject—he
just couldn’t get too worked up about it. Not on such a beautiful day.
And it was a beautiful day. Like a painting by one of those 19th
century artists who went in for seaside postcards of gentlemen in straw
hats and striped one-piece bathing suits and ladies with—well, frankly,
Ellery was more interested in the gentlemen.
Anyway, really nice weather. The sky was a soft and languid blue,
swirled with clouds as filmy as smoke. The sand sparkled, the water
sparkled, the sunlight sparkled. Brightly colored boats bobbed in the
harbor, flags snapping in the sea breeze.
The only thing that could have made it better was if it had been
Saturday rather than Monday. The weekends meant more visitors to Buck
Island, and more visitors meant more business, and Ellery was going to
need more business—a lot more business—to keep the Crow’s Nest sailing
along. Seeing that Ronny had no interest in pitching Night Chess to
The scenes are void of meaningful or compelling conflict.
What did that even mean? Well, okay, Ellery knew what it meant, but
he didn’t like conflict. Not in his movies and not in real life.
Conflict arrives, is instantly resolved, and the narrative course
Ellery muttered, “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
The bells on the front door jingled merrily as Mrs. Nelson swept in.
Ellery’s heart sank.
Hermione Nelson was a heavyset woman in her late sixties with
startlingly blue eyes, hair as red as a rusty battleship, and a small,
pinched-looking mouth that gave the impression that the effort of keeping
her thoughts to herself was starting to give her heartburn. Except, she
never kept her thoughts to herself, so…
Mrs. Nelson was under the impression she was Ellery’s best customer,
and she would’ve been if she didn’t return three quarters of everything she
“Ellery, this book was a complete waste of my time. I can’t believe
you recommended it.” Mrs. Nelson reached the wooden counter, fished
around in her patchwork bag, and thrust a battered copy of The Better
Sister by Alafair Burke at him.
“I’m sorry. It made pretty much everyone’s Best Of lists for 2019.”
Ellery took the hardcover, wincing inwardly at the sight of folded page
“I don’t want to read about nasty people.”
“Well, we’re a mystery bookstore,” Ellery pointed out. “Safe to say, at
least one character in every book is going to be kind of nasty.”
Mrs. Nelson was not amused. “I like my murders to happen to nice
people. What about that new one from Joanne Fluke? I think I might like
“I’m not sure we have any copies le—”