Praise for Denise Swanson’s Scumble River mystery series

“It’s no mystery why the first Scumble River novel was nominated for the prestigious Agatha Award. Denise Swanson knows small-town America, its secrets, and its self-delusions, and she writes as if she might have been hiding behind a tree when some of the bodies were being buried. A delightful new series.”

—Margaret Maron

Murder of a Sweet Old Lady

“Skye is a quixotic blend of vulnerability and strength. . . . Denise Swanson is on her way to the top of the genre. . . . A magnificent tale written by a wonderful author.”

—Harriet Klausner

“Superbly written with emotion and everything a good mystery needs. . . . Shame on you if you miss anything by Denise Swanson.”

—The Bookshelf

“Swanson’s writing itself is fresh and snappy. The dialogue and descriptions pop like a July firecracker. . . . Skye Denison [is] one of the most likable protagonists in softer-boiled mystery fiction today. Murder of a Sweet Old Lady is more fun than the Whirl-A-Gig at the county fair and tastier than a corn dog. The price of admission is well worth the trip.”

—Susan McBride, The Charlotte Austin Review

Murder of a Small-Town Honey

“A charming, insightful debut mystery.”

—Carolyn Hart

“A delightful mystery that bounces along with gently wry humor and jaunty twists and turns.”

—Earlene Fowler, Edgar Award-winning author

Murder of a Small-Town Honey is the start of a bright new series. Swanson captures the essence of small-town life in Scumble River, and Skye is a likable heroine.”

—Romantic Times

“Denise Swanson has created a likable new heroine reminiscent of some of our favorite childhood detectives—with a little bit of an edge. . . . A fresh, delightful, and enjoyable first mystery.”

—The Charlotte Austin Review

“Skye is smart, feisty, quick to action, and altogether lovable.”

—I Love a Mystery

“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 Journal (IL)

“With a light touch, [Swanson’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.”

—Mystery Morgue

“A lighthearted, entertaining mystery.”

—The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel


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 2002

Copyright © Denise Swanson Stybr, 2002

All rights reserved

To my dad,

Ernest W. Swanson (1927-2000),

whose quiet goodness was

taken away from us much too soon.

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.


My sincere thanks to:

My aunt and uncle, Wilma and Al Votta, my cousins Darla and Ron Hutton, and the rest of my relatives and friends, who sustained my mother through her time of grief and helped ease her into widowhood.

My Windy City Chapter of RWA, a great group of writers.

My fellow Deadly Divas, especially Susan McBride, for all the companionship and advice. I could never have written this book while promoting my first one without you.

My Buds, for their unending support.

Luci Zahray, for her help with the pharmaceutical information.

My mother, Marie Swanson, who helped me continue despite our mutual grief.

And with love to my husband, Dave Stybr, whose devotion protects me from the slings and arrows.


From Bad to Hearse

As a school psychologist Skye Denison had dealt with many recalcitrant teens, but Justin Boward would be the death of her yet. He refused to talk. She was beginning to think his entire vocabulary consisted of yes, no, and the occasional grunt. Although she knew that adolescents tended to be like cats—neither react when you talk to them—his lack of response to her attempts to draw him out was starting to make her feel like a failure. A feeling she was way too familiar with already.

Two years ago, Skye had been forced to crawl back to Scumble River, Illinois, after finding herself fired, jilted,

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