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Deadly Start

Charlotte Dean Mysteries Book 1

Phillipa Nefri Clark


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41


Dear Reader

Books By Phillipa Nefri Clark

Author Bio

Copyright (C) 2019 Phillipa Nefri Clark

Layout design and Copyright (C) 2021 by Next Chapter

Published 2021 by Next Chapter

Edited by Nas Dean

Cover art by CoverMint

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the author’s permission.

To Nas, Jade, Helen, my family and family-of-friends… this one is for you. Mysteries abound

Chapter One

A long, low rumble of thunder woke Charlotte Dean. She pulled the sheet up to her chin, her sleepy eyes seeking the window beside the bed. For a moment, she’d thought she was in her room at Palmerston House, back in River’s End where summer storms often swept in from the Great Southern Ocean. But the view here was over the main street of the small town she now called home.

Kingfisher Falls.

Despite the humid night, Charlotte shivered. She reached for the dressing gown on the end of the bed and threw it on as her toes fumbled around bare floorboards for slippers. Light flickered with the loud crash as thunder rolled again and the windows shook. She hurried out of the bedroom.

In the old kitchen, she filled the kettle. Tea was her go-to response during a storm, or any other stressful situation. The clock said it was almost four. Sleep time was over.

With her cup of tea warming her hands, Charlotte wandered around the house. Or was it an apartment? Whatever its designation, it sprawled over the top of the bookshop she’d moved here to work at. Three bedrooms, a large living room with a balcony over the street, two bathrooms—although one doubled as a laundry, and a small dining room through an archway. It was far too big for one person, but nobody had lived here in a long time and as Rosie Sibbritt, her new employer had insisted, it was time someone did.

How strange to live alone again after almost a year in a guest house with its revolving door of visitors.

She stared through the sliding door out to the balcony as rain began. The locals would rejoice. All she’d heard for the past few days was how dry the region was. Weeks ago, she’d visited Kingfisher Falls with Rosie’s son, Trev, driving up from River’s End for the day. Even then, the difference between the green coast of Victoria and inland landscape was noticeable, but now, with Christmas days away, long stretches of dry, hot weather had turned any sparse greenness to brown.

More thunder, and now, a flash of lightning forked into the trees at the top of the valley. Charlotte turned her back on the storm. After flicking on the one lamp in the place, she settled into an armchair with a book. Time to disappear into a world without storms and half-sad memories of her previous life.

The storm was replaced by sunshine by the time Charlotte ran down the stairs and unlocked the back door of the bookshop. One week in and she was opening the shop without Rosie’s guidance for the first time.

Lights on. Float for the day from the safe in the kitchen. She counted the money quickly as she filled the register drawer. Start the computers. She checked the time. Half past eight—half an hour until opening.

Charlotte swept the polished floorboards, then vacuumed the large, dark red carpet in the centre of the shop that housed a reading island. At one end, two small sofas faced each other over a coffee table. Then, an eclectic mix of armchairs dotted the rest of the area, some with small tables at their side, others with reading lamps.

The bookshelves hugged the walls, and in a bright children’s area, more chairs and tables but colourful and small for the little visitors. A box of picture books, well loved, was placed among them.

Charlotte collected a heavy-duty broom from the kitchen and unlocked the front door to sweep the pavement. When she caught her reflection in one of the windows, she paused.

Both hands on the broom, the woman smiling back at her was a surprise. Who smiles when they’re sweeping? Dressed in a white blouse and dark blue pants, blonde hair neat behind a hairband, she’d have fitted in at an office except for the sensible black shoes. No heels when you’re on your feet all day.

The outside of the bookshop was every bit as appealing as the inside. Windows on either side of the door each had four panes, separated by timber painted the same dark green as the rest of the façade. A curved canopy proclaimed Kingfisher Falls Book Shop.

“Are you open?”

A young woman with a pram had come along the pavement from behind her. With a smile, Charlotte went to the front door. “We are. Please, come on in.”

By the time Rosie was expected in, Charlotte had served what felt like an endless procession of customers, gift wrapped five books, and introduced herself to several curious customers. During a brief lull, she latched the door open to let the cooler air from the earlier storm flow in.

“There you are, Mr Chen. Two beautiful gifts for your wife and daughter and all you need to do is add a card to each and put them under

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