Jenn McKinlay

New York Times Bestselling Author

DUE OR DIE debuted at #20 on the New York Times Mass Market Best Seller's list. Yay!


"What a great read! McKinlay has been a librarian, and her snappy storyline, fun characters, and young library director with backbone make for a winning formula."

Library Journal, March 1, 2012 (Review of DUE or DIE)

"McKinlay’s appealing new mystery series features an endearing protagonist, delightful characters, a lovely New England setting, and a fascinating murder. Don’t miss this charming new addition to the world of traditional mysteries."
--Kate Carlisle, New York Times Bestselling author of the Bibliophile mysteries

DUE OR DIE

Chapter One

“I could not believe that Lucy agreed to marry Cecil when she was so obviously in love with George,” Violet La Rue declared.
Lindsey Norris glanced up from the lace scarf she was attempting to crochet. What had she been thinking when she thought she could do anything with this cobweb like yarn? It was maddening.
Violet’s crochet hook was swooping away row after row on a lace pillow cover that she was making for her niece who was getting married in the spring. Violet was using a perle cotton thread that gave the star pattern a subtle luster when it caught the light just right. It was to be the ring bearer’s pillow, and it was sure to be lovely.
“She was expected to marry within her station,” Nancy Peyton said.
Nancy was Lindsey’s landlord and had been teaching her a variety of needlecrafts for almost nine months now. Currently, their crafternoon club was working on crochet projects. It wasn’t going well for Lindsey.
As if sensing her annoyance, Nancy put aside the hand bag she was working on and took Lindsey’s mangled sea foam green mohair out of her hands and began to fix it. For that alone, Lindsey was pretty sure Nancy was setting herself up for sainthood.
Both women had about twenty years on Lindsey and she tried not to take it personally that they could manage to have an in depth discussion about E.M. Forster’s A ROOM WITH A VIEW and crochet at the same time.
“Don’t tell me you’ve started already,” Charlene said as she entered the room. “You always do that.”
“That’s because you’re always late,” Violet said.
“No, I’m not,” Charlene argued. She took off her coat and hat and hung them on the rack. She glanced at the three women looking at her. “Am I?”
“Uh, yeah, you are,” Lindsey said.
Charlene huffed out a breath. She was wearing a stunning red turtleneck sweater that complimented the rich brown hue of her skin, over tailored black corduroys and black boots.
“Well, as Oscar Wilde said, ‘He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality was the thief of time’,” Charlene said as she took the cushy seat beside Lindsey.
“Very clever, but you might want to go for ‘Better never than late,’” Violet said. “George Bernard Shaw.”
Lindsey and Nancy glanced between the mother and daughter. Charlene was the image of her mother Violet, in other words, she was gorgeous, but even more than that she shared her mother’s formidable intelligence and love of literature.
Violet had been a stage actress in New York in her youth, while Charlene was currently a local newscaster in New Haven, but both women had the ability to command the attention of any room they entered. Lindsey figured it must be in their genetic code.
“Nicely played, Mom.” Charlene laughed and Violet bowed her head in acknowledgment. “But I thought we were discussing E.M. Forrester today. What have I missed?”
“Not much,” Nancy said. Her blue eyes twinkled as she added, “Just Violet being testy because Lucy didn’t go off with George right away.”
“Not much of a book if Lucy picked the right man at the start,” Charlene said. She pulled the ripple afghan she was working on out of her project bag. It was the perfect weather to work on a blanket and hers was coming together nicely in rows of black, gray and country blue.
The small room boasted cushy chairs and a toasty fire in the gas fireplace. Recently, Lindsey had added a couple of short bookshelves where she kept extra copies of crafting books for the club to peruse during meetings.
The lone large window in the room looked out over the town park and offered a picturesque view of the bay beyond. Today the sea was a deep gray, reflecting the steely cold January skies that loomed above.
The crafternoon club met every Thursday in this small room in the Briar Creek Public Library, of which Lindsey was the director, to work on a craft, discuss their latest book and eat. This week it had been Lindsey’s turn to provide the food, so she had baked apple cinnamon muffins, brought a large block of Brie with wheat crackers and made both coffee and tea.
“Who picked the right man at the start?” Beth Stanley asked from the doorway. She was dressed as a giant spider and the other women watched as she turned sideways to fit her eight legs, four of which were add-ons suspended by fishing wire from her arms, through the doorway.
“Here let me help you,” Mary Murphy offered as she followed Beth into the room and held the back of Beth’s story time costume so she could wiggle out of it.
“Thanks. I have a new respect for spiders,” Beth said. “I had a heck of a time getting all my legs to go in the right direction while I read MRS. SPIDER’S TEA PARTY to the kids. I whacked poor Lily Dawson on the bum with one of them.”
Lindsey exchanged a smile with Charlene. Beth was the children’s librarian and the kids adored her. Mostly, because she was a big kid herself. When she did the Hokey Pokey, her enthusiasm made everyone in the library feel the need to put their left foot in, as it were.
Beth hung her spider outfit on the coat rack by the door, which was already straining under the weight of all their winter coats and hats, and plopped into one of the available seats.
Mary hung up her coat as well, sat beside Beth and pulled out the tea cozy she was working on for her mother. It was white with retro aqua starbursts on it. She thought it would match her mother’s vintage 1950’s kitchen perfectly.
Mary was a native of Briar Creek and had grown up on one of the Thumb Islands out in the bay. Currently, she ran the Blue Anchor Café with her husband Ian and was known for making the best clam chowder in the state.
Her parents still lived out on Bell Island and Lindsey wished she could see what their vintage kitchen looked like. As she watched the cozy take shape in Mary’s skilled hands, Lindsey couldn’t help but feel the teensiest bit jealous. She had a feeling if she attempted a tea cozy it would turn out looking like a muffler for an elephant.
“How far have you gotten in the discussion?” Mary asked.
“Not very. We were talking about how short A ROOM WITH A VIEW would have been if Lucy had picked the right man from the start,” Lindsey said. She glanced at her watch. It was only fifteen minutes past the hour, which gave them plenty of time to finish their discussion. Being employees of the library, both Lindsey and Beth had to confine their crafternoon club time to their lunch hours.
Beth glanced around the group. “Well, I for one am relieved that she picked the clunker first and stayed with him. It made me feel like less of an idiot.”
Violet reached over and patted Beth’s knee in sympathy. “It happens to all of us, hon.”
“Which is why sometimes it is easier to fall in love within the safety of a book,” Nancy agreed.
“I hear that,” Charlene said.
This was one of the many reasons Lindsey loved her crafternoon friends. They were made up of all different ages, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds, but the one thing they had in common was a deep and abiding love of books. Yeah, basically, they were all nerds.
“Well, the only man I plan to date for a while is Austen’s Mr. Darcy,” Beth said. “He always makes such a nice transitional man between boyfriends. Honestly, neither Cecil nor George is really doing it for me.”
Beth had recently gotten out of an unfortunate relationship and Lindsey was sure it had clouded her reading of the novel.
She knew her own recent break up had changed her take on the story. Her former fiancé, John, had taken up with one of his graduate students while she was in the midst of being downsized from her archivist job. John was a law professor at Yale and he had never seemed the type to be interested in chasing the cute, young coed, but obviously a good education was no buffer against the male mid-life crisis.
Lindsey knew she was better off without him, but still it chafed to be tossed aside after five years of thinking she had found the one, especially when her career had been on the skids as well. She shook her head, refusing to dwell in the past. She had a good job in a nice town where she was surrounded by friends. Where was the down?
“Here you are, dear.” Nancy handed back Lindsey’s scarf and it was all perfectly tidy with the extra mohair rolled into a neat little ball. How very kind and annoying.
There was a sharp knock on the door frame and Lindsey turned expecting to see Ms. Cole, one of her crankier library employees, standing there with her usual scowl of disapproval, but no, it was Carrie Rushton.
Carrie was a nurse at the local hospital and an uber volunteer in the community of Briar Creek. She was on several boards and committees and always seemed to busy doing something for someone.
“Hi, Lindsey, I hate to interrupt,” she said. “But could I talk to you?”
“Absolutely.” Happy to put her crochet aside so as to not risk tangling what Nancy had untangled, Lindsey carefully tucked it into her canvas tote bag.
She rose to her feet and crossed the room in a few strides. “What can I do for you?”
“Well,” Carrie paused and bit her lip. It looked as if she was trying to decide what to say. “Could you come to our Friends of the Library meeting tonight?”
Carrie was wearing her hospital scrubs on under her winter coat, so she was either on her way to or from work. Her long, dark brown hair was knotted at the nape of her neck and fastened into place by a large plastic hair clip. Streaks of gray were just beginning to show at her temples, while a hint of wrinkles had begun to form in the corners of her eyes.
Carrie was on the short side of medium in height and her figure was gently rounded as if she had been built specifically for giving hugs. She had a maternal softness about her that Lindsey felt sure was one of the reasons she was such a popular nurse.
“Yes, I can make it,” Lindsey said. “Any particular reason?”
Carrie let out a worried sigh. “We’re having the vote tonight.”
"And you expect it to get ugly?"
"With a capital U."
Lindsey nodded. It was all coming into focus. The outgoing president of the Friends was not happy that Carrie was running against him.
"I'll be there," she promised.