Berried Alive

Developer Hank Rosenberg is determined to build a Massive Mart in tiny Pine Grove, no matter how opposed or organized the citizenry. In fact, his own office, the Rosenberg Building, is slated to be demolished to erect the shopping emporium. But just hours before construction is scheduled to begin, Chelsea and Miss May find the conniving constructor dead in the site’s construction trailer, face down in one of the Every Berry pies Miss May handed out a few hours earlier at a tense public meeting.

Although a man like Rosenberg never lacked enemies, his most obvious one was mentally ill Wallace, who wandered the streets of Pine Grove after having been evicted from his New York City apartment. The subsidized housing had been torn down by the developer’s company to make way for — what else? — a Massive Mart. Wishing to question the homeless man, Chelsea, Miss May, and Teeny venture into the woods to the shack Wallace calls home. They find a cellar full of stolen goods and rotten produce, but no Wallace … until they slip-slide down a hill in the evening darkness and find themselves face-to-face with Wallace’s body, skewered through the chest by a stick, with Rosenberg’s briefcase beside him.

Among the assorted papers, the trio finds several interesting documents, such as a ledger with an entry for every politician the developer ever bribed, including $300,000 to Pine Grove mayor Linda Delgado, and divorce papers served by his wife, Susan, but never signed by Hank. The two led separate lives in a 19th-century restored monastery, and while Mrs. Rosenberg isn’t swanning about in widow’s weeds, she does feel her husband’s murder deserves investigation.

The ladies also unearth a trove of Rosenberg family photo albums in which a child’s face has been neatly excised from early photos and doesn’t appear in adult ones. Seems Hank was not only determined to cut his sibling out of everything, but to ensure their life was as hellish as possible by invading their privacy long after the estrangement in a most pernicious manner.

And while Detective Wayne has been in New York City for months testifying in a trial, he hasn’t bothered to call Chelsea until it’s nearly over, which renders her receptive to the nerdy charms of Germany Turtle, the only child of the recently-deceased Reginald and Linda Turtle. Unlike his parents, he’s a nebbishly charming young man, and Chelsea finds him refreshingly open and honest, unlike a certain police officer with whom she shared a slow dance a few months earlier.

Unlike the vast and endless aisles of a Massive Mart, Chelsea, Miss May, and Teeny discover that Hank’s murderer is close to home and hearth, hidden in plain sight where no one, not even the killer, expected to be disturbed. Berried Alive is another invigorating investigative adventure in the bright yellow VW bus delivering justice throughout Pine Grove, New York.

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