Never volunteer for anything: A shop owner learns the truth of that maxim when her own volunteerism involves her in two murders.
Callie Reed’s life changed for the better when her aunt left her House of Melody, a shop specializing in music boxes, along with a cozy cottage. She’s happy to pay back the kind reception she’s received from other shop owners in Keepsake Cove, Maryland, by agreeing to do the decorations for a fall festival. The organizers hope to attract a large crowd by having author Lyssa Hammond read from her books and do a signing, and Lyssa’s arrived early at the Foxwood Inn while her own home is being renovated. The inn is owned by Clifford Ashby, whose estranged wife, Dorothy, runs a shop in the Cove. Ashby is so solicitous that he’s a little creepy. Callie and Lyssa hit it off, but they go through some unusual setbacks preparing for the festival when someone calls and cancels the order for Lyssa’s books and a hay wagon loaned for the doings is set on fire. These are all minor annoyances compared to the murder of Ashby, who was stabbed with a pair of antique scissors from Dorothy’s shop. Even though Dorothy's cousin gives her an alibi, many people assume that she’s guilty. Forming a detective team with Lyssa, Callie starts looking for other suspects. It’s hard to pin down a motive because almost everyone is lying about their pasts and presents. When the body of Renata Moore is found stabbed with another pair of scissors, Dorothy is suspect No. 1. But Callie knows that Renata and her husband, Jerry, had a contentious relationship. Although Callie no longer trusts even Lyssa, her sense of fair play will not let her give up on Dorothy.
To her gallery of typical cozy characters and obligatory local color Hughes adds a much stronger mystery than in her series debut (A Fatal Collection, 2017).