Life is hectic enough for suburban single mom Jane Jeffrey this Christmas season--what with her having to survive cutthroat church bazaar politics and finish knitting the afghan from Hell at the same time. The last thing the harried homemaker needs is an unwelcome visit from old acquaintance Phyllis Wagner and her ill-mannered brat of a teenage son. And the Wagner picture becomes even more complicated when a dead body is woven into the design. Solving a murder, however, is a lot more interesting than knitting, so Jane's determined to sew the whole thing up. But with a plethora of suspects and the appearance of a second corpse, this deadly tapestry is getting quite complex indeed. And Jane has to be very careful not to get strangled herself by the twisted threads shes attempting to unravel.
Looking to earn some extra money because her car is always having problems, widowed mom Jane takes on a job as wedding consultant to Livvy Thatcher, a young businesswoman. Jane then enlists her best friend and neighbor, Shelley Nowack, to help her. The wedding is to be held at an old family hunting lodge that was once a monastery, and it proves to be a somewhat spooky venue for the nuptials. After Jane and Shelley arrive at the lodge, the eccentric cast of characters (and eventual murder suspects) begins to gather: a mysterious, laconic caretaker whom Livvy calls "Uncle Joe"; Mrs. Crossthwait, a cranky, elderly seamstress; three bridesmaids; a caterer; and a florist named Larkspur, not to mention Livvy's elderly aunts. Add the bride and her father, an arrogant captain of industry, and the groom, his mother and brother, and the stage is well set for shenanigans. Larkspur tells Jane the story of a hidden family treasure, and later it is Larkspur who discovers Mrs. Crossthwait dead at the foot of the stairs. Did she fall, or was she pushed? To find out, Jane enlists the aid of her lover, Chicago cop Mel Van Dyne, who comes along to help the local police.
Suburban single mom Jane Jeffry is thrilled when an on-location movie sets up in her own backyard. But in no time she's regretting the intrusion with all its clamorous ego-clashing. There's trouble brewing with the film's fading sex goddess star, her shady leading man and her pseudo-continental director — both of whom have shared more than billing with the demanding diva in the past. But when a blackmailing prop man turns up dead, it appears that someone has miscast Jane as the killer — a scenario she's determined to rewrite by conducting her own private auditions to recast the culprit in the role of real-life murderer.
It's summer in the Chicago suburbs, and Jane Jeffry and her best friend, Shelley, are testing caterers on a local theater group, now ensconced in a building Shelley's husband donated to the community college. An enchanting and famous elderly actress is taking part, along with her far less pleasant actor husband. When one of the most irritating of the younger actors is found murdered, Jane, Shelley, and Jane's detective sweetie, Mel, are all swept up in the search for whodunit. What usually charms about this series is the genuine warmth between Jane and Shelley, Jane and Mel, and Jane's three adolescent children. This time there's a little too much teaching in the wobbly plot, however, as Churchill ladles on the details about local theater production and Jane's needlepoint classes.
With the kids packed off on their summer road trips, it's an ideal time for Jane Jeffry to pursue other interests, so the harried suburban mom enrolls in a writing course at the community college. But when an obnoxious aged classmate keels over dead after sampling a tasty treat from a pot luck student buffet, Jane realizes there's a culinary killer among the local would-be literati. The pen may be mightier than the sword. . .but poison beats them both. And before the both. And before the demise of a very disagreeable old biddy can be written off, amateur sleuth Jane intends to find out who's responsible -- and cook the culprit's goose in his or her own creative juices.
You can't judge a book by its cover. To look at her, one would never think suburbanite homemaker Jane Jeffry would be interested in murder and mayhem. But after all the corpses she's come across — and killers she's unmasked — she's practically an expert on the subject. Which is why, with best buddy Shelley Nowack in tow, Jane's booking down to a nearby mystery writers' convention to mingle with the brightest lights of literary crime. . and maybe drum up some interest in her own recently completed manuscript. However, what would a mystery convention be without a mystery? It seems fairly certain that at least one real-life murderer is stalking the proceedings. But who is he/she/them? The dirt-dishing, pseudonymous Internet gossip monger "Ms. Mystery," who's lurking around there somewhere? The local bookseller who dearly loves "Modern Golden Age" women writers? The avid reader who seems to know a bit too much about the personal lives of the famous attendees? Jane and Shelley are on the case, ready to snoop, eavesdrop, and gossip their way to a solution. But the killer they seek is no open book. . and may turn out to be harder — and deadlier — to read than they initially imagined.
Jane Jeffry and Shelly Nowack set off for some relaxation in the Wisconsin woods while scouting summer camp sites for suburban high-school students. Jane isn't exactly thrilled at the idea: any form of camping is an anathema at the best of times, and in damp midwinter it seems especially grim. Matters do not improve when this pair of amateur detectives discover one of their fellow campers smacked with a frying pan-seemingly with fatal consequences. But they suspect their own eyes (and everyone else suspects their sanity) when the body disappears along with any evidence of foul play. To make matters worse (or better) a surprisingly healthy victim resurfaces. With a mix of resentment at not being believed and amazement at the turn of events, the would-be campers are determined to discover what is really going on at their apparently secure haven in the wilderness.
Jane Jeffry, suburban sleuth extraordinare, and her friend, Detective Mel VanDyne, have braved a blizzard to join her friend Shelley at a Colorado ski resort. In spite of having all their kids along, Jane and Shelley imagine a few mindless days of relaxation. But their hopes are dashed on their first attempt to ski when Jane careens into a snowman that hides a very real — and every dead — body. The slopes are littered with suspects — a convention of genealogists led by a political fruitcake who thinks she's going to put her hand-picked Tsar on the Russian throne, a mysterious crimson-clad skier who's always on the horizon, and ex-stockbroker who's hiding from his investors, and an irate tribe of Native Americans. Jane has to take a census of the suspects and make some grave assumptions about who was vacationing with malicious intent.
Ramona wasn't much of a cleaning woman-some say she wouldn't know a dust bunny from a Doberman — but that's no reason to bump the old girl off, is it? Someone must think so: poor Ramona is found strangled to death with a vacuum chord. Jane Jeffry — mother of three, chairperson of more committees than you can shake a stick at, and part-time sleuth — sets out to find the killer and tie up the loose ends in this irresistible mystery. Grime and Punishment, winner of both Agatha and Macavity Awards for best first mystery book and nominated for an Anthony Award for the same honor, is the first in a series of seven books featuring Jane Jeffry.
When Jane and neighbor Shelley Nowack sign up for a gardening class at their local community center, they end up with a substitute, the pompous Dr. Stewart Eastman, after an unknown intruder sneaks into the home of the regular teacher, Julie Jackson, and knocks her out, leaving her in a coma. Suspects in the attack include everyone taking the gardening class: fastidious computer programmer Charles Jones, persnickety librarian Martha Winstead, lonely widower Arnie Waring and loony aging hippie Ursula Appledorn. But in this leisurely, talky tale, Jane is less concerned with crime solving than with visiting the gardens of her classmates, tending to her injured foot, worrying about her teenage son's unsuitable girlfriend and buying herself a new TV for her bedroom. Only near the end does a murder occur. Dr. Eastman is found strangled with green twine in a compost pile, after which Churchill brings the plot to a tidy conclusion, with the killer's motive turning on Dr. Eastman's patented pink marigolds.
When loathed attorney Robert Stonecipher is felled by a rack of hams at the opening of a neighborhood deli where Jane's son works, she and her friend, Shelley, begin snooping. With reluctant help from her boyfriend, homicide detective Mel VanDyne, Jane uncovers plenty of skeletons in closets, all the while trying to find time to restock her own pantry, chaperone the school's grand night party and make peace with her teenage daughter. Complicated by plenty of twists and seasoned with wit, the investigation of Stonecipher's death should build reader appeal for Churchill's first hardcover, War and Peas, scheduled for release in November.
Suburban supersleuth Jane Jeffry and her detective beau Mel VanDyne have finally decided to tie the knot. While Jane's planning the wedding of her dreams — with no overbearing mother-in-law to steamroll the entire event and tell her what to wear — Mel convinces her and her best friend Shelley to take a women's self-defense class. But before Jane and Shelley can learn the karate kicks and mean moves to fight off even the perfect purse-snatcher, their class is cut brutally short. . when two participants are murdered. Between her new writing project, an addition to the house, and battling mothers-in-law, she's got her hands full. But she'll have to make time to help Mel find the killer if she wants to walk happily — and safely — down the aisle.
What surprises can await a suburban housewife, going to a class reunion? Some get older, some get balder, some get… deader? A challenge for Jane Jeffry, who is a cross between Miss Marple and Erma Bombeck.
Homemaking is about to take on a whole new meaning for Jane Jeffry now that she's agreed to help restore and redecorate a decrepit old neighborhood mansion. The home's owner, the prosperously divorced Bitsy Burnside, considers herself to be a feminist to the max and wants an almost all-female crew to do the dirty work — prompting the quick-witted Shelley Nowack to dub the project "the House of Seven Mabels." With her best friend and decorating whiz Shelley on the estrogen-heavy team, Jane thinks this exhausting, plaster-dusty job may not be as unpleasant as it initially appeared to be.Until, of course, things start to get very messy. It begins with a series of mean-spirited "pranks" — strange odors, mysterious electrical shorts, a myriad of petty annoyances designed to impede the progress of the fixer-uppers. And then the pranks turn deadly, leaving one of the workers lying lifeless at the foot of a staircase.Tragic, yes, but an accident? Jane thinks not. And with the able assistance of Shelley, not to mention a little help from her best beau, Chicago detective Mel VanDyne, Jane's hoping she can construct a solid case and nail the assassin. Suspects are certainly in abundant supply.
Quintessential mom in tennis shoes Jane Jeffrey is once again thrust into a murder investigation, but this time the murderer is very close to home indeed. She finds herself in the midst of the Christmas rush and hosting two celebrations back-to-back: neighborhood caroling party one evening and a cookie exchange the following day. The two gatherings are meant to bring the community together, but when a TV reporter is found dead during the singing, it becomes obvious that at least one of the neighbors is harboring something besides goodwill towards men. As Jane and her coconspirator Shelly explore just who might have reason to shove someone off a roof, their sleepy suburb (Chicago is the ostensible nearby city, but the setting could be anywhere there is snow in December) suddenly steams with secrets.
Regina Palmer, director of the Snellen Museum (dedicated to the study of rural history and founded by pea king Auguste Snellen) near Chicago, has been shot with an antique derringer during the Civil War reenactment that is a highlight of the small town's annual pea festival. Jane Jeffry, who was one of the reenactors and who has her hands full as a single mother of three teenagers, utilizes her volunteer hours at the Snellen Museum to relentlessly pry beneath the surface of small-town respectability in hopes of finding Regina's killer. Was the murderer a rejected suitor? Was the insufferably arrogant Snellen family enraged that the museum took most of their inheritance? Was the killer (who strikes again in a particularly grisly fashion) seeking an heirloom pea? A slew of suspects?smarmy, lecherous, devious and greedy, but never dull?are queried by Jane and her equally nosy friend Shelley, with relevant information passed on to Mel.