Praise for

A Killer Plot

“Ellery Adams’s debut novel, A Killer Plot, is not only a great read, but a visceral experience. Olivia Limoges’s investigation into a friend’s murder will have you hearing the waves crash on the North Carolina shore. You might even feel the ocean winds stinging your cheeks. Visit Oyster Bay and you’ll long to return again and again.”

—Lorna Barrett, New York Times bestselling

author of the Booktown Mysteries

“Adams’s plot is indeed killer, her writing would make her the star of any support group, and her characters —especially Olivia and her standard poodle, Captain Haviland—are a diverse, intelligent bunch. A Killer Plot is a perfect excuse to go coastal.”

Richmond Times-Dispatch

“A fantastic start to a new series . . . With new friendships, possible romance(s), and promises of great things to come, A Killer Plot is one book you don’t want to be caught dead missing.”

The Best Reviews

“[An] exciting new killer of a series . . . It’s one of those ‘don’t bug me, I’m reading’ books you’re going to savor from the first page to the last.”

Feathered Quill Book Reviews

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Ellery Adams

A KILLER PLOT

A DEADLY CLICHE

THE LAST WORD

This book is dedicated to teachers everywhere,

but especially to John Bowden, Gilbert Tippy, Jonathan

Stapleton, Jan Chock, Frank Brogan, and Roger Erickson.

These men inspired and challenged me from an early age.

I wouldn’t have had the courage to become an author

without their guidance. Thank you.

Chapter 1

Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.

—CHARLES DICKENS

“All houses have secrets.”

Olivia Limoges was surprised to hear such an enigmatic statement from her contractor, but there wasn’t a hint of humor on Clyde Butler’s weathered face. Perhaps the seasoned builder was merely trying to make a point to the eager first-time homebuyer who stood nearby, one arm wrapped possessively around the porch post.

Harris Williams gazed toward the front door of the aged bungalow with a look of pure devotion, and Olivia could tell he was already visualizing himself living there.

“Regardless of what you’ve discovered, Clyde, I don’t think you can talk Harris out of purchasing this place,” Olivia stated with amusement. “He’s clearly fallen in love.”

Captain Haviland, Olivia’s standard poodle, sniffed around the foundation of the 1930s home and then trotted around the corner, conducting a canine version of a house inspection.

Wearing a hopeful grin, Harris watched the poodle until Haviland disappeared from view, and then picked at a flake of peeling paint with his fingernail. “Everyone thinks I’m crazy, but I can feel that this place has history. That’s important to me. There’s more character in this rusty nail than in all the other places I’ve seen put together.”

Olivia surveyed the facade of the two-bedroom bungalow. It had whitewashed brick walls and rows of large windows with black shutters. Olivia’s favorite feature was the wide and welcoming front porch. Leaves had gathered in between the railings and there were rents and holes in the screen door, but the slate steps felt solid under her feet. She’d been inside with Harris a few days ago and had liked the house. Harris was right. The place had a warm personality. Its modest design spoke of simpler times, of family traditions, hard work, and perseverance. She believed Harris was making a good choice.

Harris continued to defend the bungalow even though no one had argued with him. “I’ve seen a dozen new houses in my price range and, yeah, sure, they all had pristine white walls and stainless steel appliances and shiny light fixtures to go along with the flat lawns and four little bushes and a pair of ornamental trees, but they had zero personality.” He puffed up his cheeks. “They were all like the straw house from the Three Little Pigs, but the wolf doesn’t stand a chance against this place. It’s a rock.”

Clyde nodded. On this, he and Harris agreed. He gestured toward the front door. “If you want strong bones and a solid foundation, you’ll find them here. Houses are like women. The new ones might seem attractive because no one’s touched them and you feel like they’ll treat you well without giving you an ounce of trouble.” A snort. “But they’re built out of cheap materials and will start falling down the second you move in. This old girl is sagging in places and, yes, she’s a bit wrinkled, but she can be made over until she looks like a June bride. She’ll be faithful to the end, but it’ll take lots of labor and expense on your part, my boy.”

Harris’s grin expanded. “Did you know that all the houses on this street were moved during the late sixties to make way for the highway’s expansion? Twelve houses were trucked right down Main Street and brought back to this stretch of empty land like horses being set free on an open pasture.”

Olivia rolled her eyes. “This is one of those times I’m thankful you write science fiction, Harris. If you had put a metaphor like that in your recent chapter, I would have sliced it out with a box cutter.”

Harris pushed a strand of unruly, ginger-colored hair away from his eyes. His looks were often compared to those of Peter Pan, and Harris was constantly striving to prove that he was a man, not a boy. Olivia knew her friend believed that being a homeowner would make him appear more of a bona fide adult, and he certainly behaved like

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