When I don’t want to concentrate or think too hard, when I’m ready to relax, I like to watch a cooking show. No plot. No character arc. No sound track. Enough information to hold my attention and entertain me. And that’s enough. HH is hooked on The Great British Baking Show, but we’ve watched them all. Then he liked Somebody Feed Phil, and we watched all of those, too. We sprinted through the Prime series My Greatest Dishes, but he’s only so-so on my weekend regulars of The Pioneer Woman, The Kitchen, and Delicious Miss Brown. I get a kick out of Midnight Diner, but it’s not really a cooking show. It focuses on the customers who come in late at night to eat and tells a different one of their stories each episode. I think it’s clever. HH gets tired of the subtitles.
My new mystery series is more like Midnight Diner. Karnie, who works in her family’s butcher shop, interacts with the customers who are mostly regulars. Her dad and brother carve and cut the meat. Karnie works the display case, and each week, when her dad lists the weekend specials, she makes recipe cards for each of them. She also records a cooking show once a week..
Karnie’s customers appreciate the fact that she not only sells them quality meat but takes the time to answer any of their questions about what to do with it. That’s what A Cut Above, their butcher shop, is known for–great customer service. And that’s why Donna Amick wants to steal Karnie away to work at her new butcher shop on the north side of Crossroads, Indiana. Besides, Donna’s desperate. She’s so moody and demanding, she’s fired every person she’ hired to manage the meat counter. Her shop’s only been open a short time, and she’s already made lots of enemies. But that’s no reason to leave Donna’s body propped against the back door of their shop with a meat cleaver embedded in the back of her head.
Finding Donna’s body is inconvenient, but Detective Carmichael doesn’t really think anyone from A Cut Above killed her. He does suspect Sam Lessman, though, the young trainee who worked in their shop before leaving to become a fulltime butcher Karnie, her dad and mom, and her brother Chuck all argue that Sam would never hurt anyone, but Karnie decides to dig deeper to make sure Sam isn’t blamed for something he didn’t do. From that time on, her Mondays are filled by visiting people involved with Donna’s shop… And with Matt Roeback, Chuck’s friend from high school, who supplies the grass-fed, black Angus meat they sell. Two years older than Karnie, he’s been divorced for six years now, raising his son and daughter on his own. As Chuck’s longtime friend, he takes it upon himself to tag along with her when she goes to question anyone. He’s determined Karnie shouldn’t interview people on her own, that it’s not safe. Even though she makes it clear she’d rather he left her alone, he makes it clear that he’ll show up whether she wants him there or not.
I only have a few more chapters before I finish the first draft of A Cut Above, and it’s been a fun book to write. I didn’t expect to get so attached to the shop’s customers, but they showed up often enough, they became real to me. I’m hoping to pass the manuscript to my critique partners soon, and then I can get serious about polishing my 7th Jazzi book. By now, I should be more objective when I read the feedback I got on it. And once I finish a slew of editing, I’ll be able to start work on another new book.