Praise for the first novel in the Scumble River

mystery series,

Murder of a Small-Town Honey

“Denise Swanson has created a likable new heroine reminiscent of some of our favorite childhood detectives—with a little bit of an edge. Swanson’s writing is clear and precise as she recreates the atmosphere of a small town that everyone who has ever lived in one will recognize. Murder of a Small-Town Honey is a fresh, delightful, and enjoyable first mystery.”

Charlotte Austin Review

“It’s a charming debut novel that rings with humor, buzzes with suspense, and engages with each page turned. . . . An impressive first novel worthy of praise.”

Kankakee Daily Journey (IL)

“This mystery contains everything I like in a cozy. . . . Murder of a Small-Town Honey is a super debut; you can’t get any better than this.”—

“The story clearly belongs to Skye, who makes this novel soar.”—Harriet Klausner, Under the Covers

“The start of a bright, new series.”—Romantic Times

“Swanson’s first effort, and a lovely one it is, too. With a light touch she’s crafted a likable heroine in a wackily realistic small-town community with wonderful series potential. I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more of Denise Swanson and Scumble River.”

—P.J. Nunn, Mystery Morgue

“Skye is smart, feisty, quick to action, and altogether lovable.”—I Love a Mystery


Published by New American Library, a division of

Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

First Printing, April 2001

Copyright © Denise Swanson Stybr, 2001

All rights reserved

To my grandparents,

who all died perfectly natural deaths.

Kathryn Votta 1906-1960

Albert Votta, Sr. 1902-1973

Laura Swanson 1902-1997

William Swanson 1900-1977


To Purrcie the Cat,

who inspired the character of Bingo.

1979 -1999

Scumble River is not a real town. The characters and events portrayed in these pages are entirely fictional and any resemblance to living persons is pure coincidence.


I would like to thank the following people: Joyce Fla herty for her continuing belief in my talent; Ellen Ed wards for extraordinary editorial expertise; my fellow Deadly Divas Susan McBride, Letha Albright, and Sherri Board for their efforts as promo group extraordinaire; Jane Isenberg, Aileen Schumacher, Laura Renken, and Mary Jane Meier, fellow writers who shared the ups and downs; Cindi Baker, Andrea Pantaleone, and Valerie Mc-Caffrey, friends who let me talk endlessly about my ideas and aspirations; the Windy City Chapter of RWA who are always supportive; Marie Swanson and the late Ernie Swanson, who understood my need for time to write; and, finally, my husband, Dave Stybr, who supports me through this new adventure.


Hey, Diddle, Diddle, the Cat and the Riddle

Skye Denison warily studied the hostile faces of Gus Yoder’s parents. As a school psychologist, she often attended uncomfortable meetings, but this one was murder.

Scumble River High School principal Homer Knapik was seated to her right, and every time she glanced his way, her attention was drawn to the hair growing out of his ears. The long, wiry strands quivered like the curb feelers on a car’s wheels. Skye had heard the students call him Mr. Knitpick behind his back, and she was beginning to understand why. The man could not make a decision to save his life . . . or hers.

Across the table Leroy Yoder raged, threatening the school with everything from a lawsuit to an atomic bomb. He and his wife, Charlene, had come in demanding that their son be allowed to graduate with his class, and nothing either the principal or Skye said seemed to penetrate their anger.

Homer and the parents had been posturing and snarling for more than an hour, with no sign that they would stop anytime soon.

Skye watched in hypnotized fascination as a drop of sweat danced on the tip of Leroy’s off-center nose. In Illinois, even the first day of June could have temperatures reaching into the nineties. The underarms of her own blouse were soaked and she squirmed uncomfortably in the plastic chair’s too-small seat. She thought longingly of

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