Read The Corpse With the Golden Nose Online

Authors: Cathy Ace

Tags: #Mystery, #FICTION / Mystery & Detective / General, #FICTION / Mystery & Detective / Women Sleuths, #FICTION / Crime

The Corpse With the Golden Nose

A world-famous vintner is dead. And when a heartfelt plea to look into the matter is paired with an exclusive gourmet event in British Columbia's stunning wine country, overindulgent foodie and criminologist Cait Morgan cannot resist.

Cait is sure the owner of a family-run vineyard was murdered. Bud Anderson, Cait's companion for the weekend, is convinced the woman took her own life. That is, until death strikes once again, between the neat rows of grapevines on the banks of magnificent Lake Okanagan. Uncovering obsessions and murderous thoughts among the victim's wacky neighbors is a start. But Cait soon realizes that more lives are at stake. Can she think, and act, quickly enough to prevent another death?

The second book in the Cait Morgan Mysteries,
The Corpse with the Golden Nose
is a classic whodunit featuring the eccentric Professor Cait Morgan.

PRAISE FOR
The Corpse with the Silver Tongue

"For readers who enjoy a classic cozy puzzle, this is a truly delightful romp set on the Côte d'Azure. With lashings of good food and fine wines, plus a strong-minded, quirky main character, The Corpse with the Silver Tongue is an enjoyable introduction to what promises to be an intriguing new series."

—Crime Fiction Lover blog

"
The Corpse with the Silver Tongue
, the debut novel by British Columbia author Cathy Ace, is a sharply paced cozy with a French flair . . . If you enjoy a meticulously plotted whodunit in the traditional vein, then Ace's debut will be what you're looking for: a pleasant diversion with a dash of brain teaser."

—
The Hamilton Spectator

"In the finest tradition of Agatha Christie, debut author Ace brings us the closed-room drama, with a dollop of romantic suspense and historical intrigue."

—
Library Journal

"Lovers of puzzle plots should meet Professor Cait Morgan . . . [Cathy Ace is] a writer to watch."

—
The Globe and Mail

This book is dedicated to Ella, Evelyn, and Trevor

Champagne and Orange Juice

BUD SLAPPED THE PHOTOGRAPH ONTO
the table in front of me as though it were a gauntlet.

“This photo showed up in my email a few days ago. From someone I . . . know. What do you read in it, Cait?” He looked grim.

I held the photo at arm's length and squinted at the blurry image. I could make out two women, both with dark, curly hair. They were smiling.

I felt my multi-purpose right eyebrow shoot up as I asked, “Is just one of them dead, or both of them?”

“How'd you guess?” Bud asked, grinning.

“Oh, let me see, now . . . maybe it's something to do with me being a criminologist who specializes in victim profiling and you being an ex-homicide detective.
And
the hope, on my part, that you're unlikely to show me a photo of a woman, especially
two
women, in whom you have anything other than a
professional
interest. Those facts, when taken together with my amazing powers of deduction, have helped me reach the conclusion that I'm looking at either one or two victims, or, if not victims, then at least people who are now dead.” I hurled a bright smile toward Bud and waited for him to tell me off for my cheekiness.

Bud shrugged. “You know me too well, Cait.” His voice warmed, and he looked pleased about something. Then his smile faded. “The taller of the two died about a year ago. The other one's her older sister. But that's all you get.”

“So there's no point my asking if it was an accident, a suicide, or a homicide?” I asked.

Bud paused, refreshed our glasses, and took a sip from the champagne flute that looked almost too delicate in his large hand. “I can't tell you that, because I don't know, Cait, I can only be certain it wasn't an accident. The whole local community, the cops,
and
the coroner, all say suicide. The sister says no way. I have no idea. There
was
a note, and the sister says the cops won't look into it any further as there are no grounds to suspect anyone else was involved.”

Ah—so
that
was it. Bud had found a damsel in distress and he wanted to help her. Immediately, I wondered why he felt he owed this unknown woman anything. I mentally kicked myself for allowing a pang of jealousy to clutch at my satisfyingly full tummy. I swallowed deeply from my glass, and decided to play nice.

Bud and I had chattered happily through the delicious brunch I'd prepared in the small kitchen of my little house on Burnaby Mountain. We'd already managed to solve the world debt crisis
and
the problems in the Middle-East before I'd made the second pot of coffee.
We're good like that.
Throughout the meal of creamy scrambled eggs draped over golden, buttered toast, Marty, Bud's tubby black Lab, had waited patiently under the table, never taking his glorious amber eyes off us for a moment. Finally, his steadfastness had been rewarded, and I congratulated myself on saving at least a dozen calories by allowing him to lick my plate. It was then, when I was enjoying the memory of the food, and therefore at my most vulnerable, that Bud had produced the photograph.
He knows me too well.

“You know I don't like to assess individual photographs. They're unreliable sources of insight,” I snapped, possibly a bit too sharply.

“Well, you might not
like
to,” Bud spoke slowly, “but you're good at it. You were good at it when I hired you to consult for my integrated homicide team, and, even though I'm retired now, I reckon you're
still
good at it. So treat this as a challenge if you must, sweet Caitlin Morgan”—he was grinning wickedly, a sight that always makes my heart flutter and stutter—“and tell me what you can?” He phrased it as a question, but we both knew it was the sort of challenge I couldn't resist.

I scrabbled around under the copy of the
Globe and Mail
that lay on the table, hunting for my reading glasses. I don't need them all the time, you understand, but I do seem to be using them more often these days. Since I'm almost forty-eight, I guess it's to be expected. I believe they lend me an air of imperiousness when I glower over them. Frankly, if they help me to intimidate the students in my classes who need to be brought down a peg or two, then they're worth every cent I've spent on all ten or twelve pairs—
where do they disappear to?
—and the various cases, chains, and clips that are supposed to attach them to my body and prevent them from being lost.

I looked at the picture again: the frozen expressions, the way the women had been relating to each other at that point in time, and their setting. Both were around forty, and they bore a sisterly resemblance to each other; each was casually dressed in shirts, pants, and sandals; one had her arm around the other's shoulders. They were standing at the foot of a grass-covered, stony hill between rows of vines.

Bud petted Marty as I studied the photo. As I began to speak, he turned his attention to me.

“Okay. Sisters. The taller one, the dead one, is, or
was
, the more dominant. She's clearly the more confident person, and she knows how to present herself to the camera. She's better dressed, except her bra's too small for her. She has a better haircut, good makeup, and she's draping her arm around the shorter sister as though to push her forward. So, one confident and supportive, one less so, but loved. I'd say the tall one has, or
had
, some sort of public-facing role in life, the other some sort of backroom job. They're in wine country, among vines, early in the fruiting season, but are not wearing vacation clothes, so I suggest that's where they live, or at least spend a lot of time, and where they feel comfortable. In fact,” and as I thought it through it became clear, “the tall one looks proprietorial. Is this their land? Is this
their
vineyard?”

I glanced at the champagne bottle on the table.
MT DEWDNEY FAMILY ESTATE WINERY ANEN ANGEL SPARKLING N/V
. I wondered if I was looking at women who had some connection with the wine I was drinking: after all, Bud didn't usually bring alcohol for brunch.

Bud shook his head. “No more questions. Keep going.”

Sometimes Bud can be a bit of a devil! I love it.

I allowed my eyebrow to arch disdainfully in Bud's direction for a moment, but I think my smile lessened the effect somewhat. I returned my attention to the photograph.

“No rings on the left hand of either sister, so both single, though it wouldn't surprise me to find that the taller sister was divorced, or maybe even had several relationships behind her: she's worldly and she's comfortable in her own skin, something that only really develops when you've been in relationships where you get to know yourself in a positive way. To be honest, Bud, it's difficult to say more. I can't tell exactly where they are, geographically, though I would suggest they are North American, given the way they are dressed, so maybe the Okanagan or Niagara, or maybe Sonoma or Napa. I can't see the terrain, so I can't say more. Age? Close to each other and around forty, I'd say. But a photograph is difficult to analyze more than that. It captures just a tiny fraction of a second and people adopt unnatural expressions in front of a camera. They're both smiling at the photographer, but that could . . .” I paused, and held the photograph closer, peering through my specs. I'd spotted something in the women's expressions.

“What is it?” asked Bud. His tone suggested urgency, which surprised me. But I let it pass.

“I don't know who took this photograph, but I can tell you that the dead sister liked the photographer a great deal, and the shorter sister didn't like them at all. Yes, they're both smiling, right
at
the camera and hence the photographer—but the tall one has a very positive connection with whomever they are seeing behind the camera. Her expression is soft and warm. But the short one, well, she's smiling too, but there's hardness in her face. She's almost literally gritting her teeth. And there's defiance in her eyes. She really doesn't like what she's seeing.”

“Now that's interesting, Cait. And puzzling,” observed Bud.

“So—who took the photograph?”

“No one. The sister who sent it to me told me they took it themselves. They're looking at a camera on a tripod. Odd that you should infer such emotions regarding a tripod.” He smiled. It wasn't an unkind smile.

I had to agree that it sounded odd but I could
see
those feelings on their faces. I was in no doubt.

Bud petted Marty absentmindedly as he thought about his next words. Marty didn't care that Bud was thinking about something else, and reacted with licks and vigorous tail-wagging. I'm pretty sure he was smiling up at Bud, too.

As Bud wiped his Marty-dampened hand on his pants, he looked at me with a curious glint in his eyes. I knew that look. As a psychologist with a master's degree in criminal psychology, who then wrote a pretty controversial
PhD
thesis about victim profiling, I had been bravely retained by Bud in the past to work with his integrated homicide team on many cases. I'd had the chance to see that same expression on the faces of various suspects he'd interviewed, as they tried to decide how to balance truth with lies before they answered their interrogator. Bud was weighing how to proceed. I trusted the balance would be in favor of the truth.

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