When my son Damon moved back to the States two years ago, I was thrilled that he decided to settle near me in Hollydale. Since relocating here with my second husband—rest his soul—I’ve just adored this charming little community. I used to use the word “quiet” to describe Hollydale, but I won’t do that again—not since the recent spate of murders. Thankfully, Damon’s been on hand to help tidy those up. Without further ado, here are my five favorite places in Hollydale.
The Cookery. It’s a gem of a cooking school in the heart of Hollydale. Fresh dough, apple-rhubarb pie, lamb cassoulet—the smells coming from The Cookery are to die for. The owner—Rebecca Leeds—is such a pretty and vibrant young thing. I wish that Damon would fall for her. Instead, he’s cast Rebecca in the role of his best friend as he wastes his time pining over Bethany Krims, the local weather girl.
Overheard in The Cookery. Rebecca: “I was going to buy a book on phobias … but I was afraid it wouldn’t help me.”
The Hollydale Branch Library. Damon volunteers at the library in town and it’s the coziest of cozy places. There’s nothing more comforting after a long day than snuggling up on a sofa surrounded by cluttered bookshelves in the company of fellow bibliophiles. The county tried to close down this branch a few years back, but the good people of Hollydale refused to let that happen.
Overheard at the Hollydale Branch Library. Damon, as he pours me dregs of coffee from behind the librarian’s desk: “Sorry the coffee looks like mud … it was ground just a minute ago.”
Cynthia’s Salon. Cynthia’s is Grand Central for the ladies in Hollydale. You can’t do a thing in town without the gossip mill at the salon churning. Cynthia Trumbell—Damon’s second-in-command in the Hollydale citizens association—owns the place but Mrs. Chenworth is the resident Grande Dame.
Overheard at Cynthia’s. Not much—my ears are still protesting after listening to Mrs. Chenworth prattle on incessantly.
The Fish Barrel. A local bar and grill with an open architecture and tables made from a charming variety of finished knotty woods. The walls are decked with a mix of antique farming equipment and photos of Hollydale from the 1930s. It’s neither pretentious nor tacky—a great place for dinner with friends.
Overheard in the Fish Barrel. Mrs Chenworth (who brought a dessert to her own surprise party): “Apple pie and meatloaf are my two best dishes.” Me (looking down at her flaky, lopsided pie crust): “Which is this?”
The front porch of Damon’s duplex. My son shares a duplex in town with David Einstaff. David’s going through some hard times these days, including a recent divorce and bouts of depression. He drinks on the porch almost every night (and sometimes during the day, too). So why is it one of my favorite places? Because it’s where I see my son’s compassion shine—Damon has been helping David by spending hours talking with him and replacing his whiskey tumblers with mugs of coffee and fruit smoothies.
Overheard on Damon’s front porch. Mostly conversation trying to lift David’s spirits. But a while back, Damon did see someone poking around on the porch with a pen-sized flashlight in the wee hours of the night.
Synopsis of the latest book in the Damon Lassard Dabbling Detective Series: Don’t Cry Over Killed Milk (published by Cozy Cat Press):
Jeremiah Milk lived a life filled with emotional extremes. Amniotic band syndrome—a congenital condition—left his fingers and toes malformed. Ridiculed as a child, he became an adolescent hermit. As an adult, Jeremiah’s wounds healed when he landed a position as a park ranger and married a woman who loved him despite his physical appearance. But fate ripped his life to shreds when his wife and infant son died on the same night in separate calamities. Shortly thereafter, the tides turned once more as an act of Jeremiah’s ostensible benevolence translates into a financial boon. The book on Jeremiah’s life closes without mercy when he’s found murdered at Tripping Falls State Park.
Damon Lassard—Hollydale’s loveable civic leader, amateur sleuth, and Jeremiah’s neighbor—springs into action. He’s obstructed by a prickly lieutenant, but wriggles information unknown to the police from a colorful bevy of suspects. Aided by his best friend Rebecca and his reluctant ally Detective Gerry Sloman, Damon engineers a deep dive into Jeremiah’s past to solve the crime. Along the way, Damon strengthens his relationship with the breathtaking Bethany Krims, cracks a local horticultural mystery, and tries in vain to tame his wickedly sarcastic mother.
Stephen Kaminski’s first book in the Damon Lassard series (It Takes Two to Strangle) won the 2012 Reader Views Literary Award for the Mid-Atlantic Region.