A Question of Devotion (Mrs. B Mystery – 1) by Anita Kulina
Then she saw it – a sheet of paper in the mailbox, underneath the mail. It was white with large black letters and said LEAVE IT ALONE.
Mrs. B has a quiet life, and she likes it that way. Morning pinochle games at St. Mary’s Senior Center. Afternoon lunches with Myrtle, Anne and Rose. Peaceful evenings with a cup of coffee and the classic movie channel.
But one day she wakes to a phone call, which leads to consequences she could never have foreseen. Secrets snowball and threaten to change the neighborhood of Burchfield forever. Someone has to make things right. It’s up to Mrs. B.
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Like most people who love to write, Anita Kulina has been telling stories since she was old enough to hold a pen. Her first publication was in the letters-to-the-editor column of Adventure Comics #341. Nowadays, much of her work centers on the rich and colorful lives of Pittsburgh’s working poor. Since Anita spent much of her life in those ranks, it’s a subject dear to her heart.
Her book Millhunks and Renegades won her the Achievement in Literature award from the community of Hazelwood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is currently at work on the next two Mrs. B books.
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Mrs. B is your typical little old lady. She has her little events like pinochle at the Senior Center and lunches with her best friends. She also has a nice little relationship with the new little girl across the street. But when Mrs. B’s friend tells her about the trouble her son is in, Mrs. B decides to start investigating to see if she can prove he was innocent. Between her learning to use internet searches and many secrets that start coming to light Mrs. B start getting threatening notes and phone calls. She may be in over her head with her digging but she is not going to let that stop her from solving this mystery.
This is a wonderful cozy mystery. Mrs. B is a sweet little old lady that knows everyone and everyone knows her. Most people might not think of her as a detective but that is not going to stop her search for the truth. I loved reading about her bumbling around on the internet. But I loved the interaction between her and Kelly.
If you like cozy mysteries look no further. This one has a great story and some hair raising events. I will be looking forward to other books in this series.
I received A Question of Devotion from Premier Virtual Author Book Tours for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.
See the first part of this excerpt here.
It was three o’clock when Mrs. B left the Senior Center. The church fair would open in an hour or two. People were bustling around to get ready and little kids were already congregating around the bouncy castle. The very first booth at the end of the drive was the bake sale. Mrs. B walked toward it, stepping aside as someone hurried to drop off a pecan pie.
At the booth, she heard a curt “We’re not open yet,” and then the young woman looked up and apologized. “Oh, hi, Mrs. B. Sorry, we’re so busy! I didn’t realize it was you.”
Mrs. B said, “I don’t want to bother you, but I wonder if I can get a little something.”
“We don’t have the cash box out yet, but if you have exact change . . . .”
Mrs. B fumbled through her change purse. Four dollar bills, two quarters and seven pennies. She had more than enough. “Can I have that little loaf of banana bread?” she asked.
When she got home, she pulled the mail out of the mailbox and picked up the evening paper from the porch. As she walked through the front door, out of the corner of her eye she saw a flash of color. A child’s pink sweatshirt was lying across the seat of her glider.
She walked back outside, looked around, and then picked it up. Must have been a little girl on her way to the fair. She folded it gently, laid it back on the glider and went inside.
With a fresh pot of coffee brewing, Mrs. B cut herself a slice of banana bread, then cut the remainder of the loaf in two. She wrapped one half in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator and wrapped the other in aluminum foil and put it in the freezer. When the coffee was ready, she got out a cup and plate, spread some cream cheese on the banana bread, and sat down to read the paper.
On the second page, she saw why Myrtle had been crying.
Ron Monaghan, Myrtle’s son, had been arrested. Money was missing from St. Mary’s Church. A lot of money. More than Mrs. B would have thought the church had, until she remembered the large bequest from Dr. Harrigan last year. Or was that the year before?
Leo, Ron and Danny were friends all through grade school and even in high school, when Danny started to hang out with the athletes and Leo and Ron got in with a wilder crowd. From the day Danny’s football scholarship took him to college, success followed that boy like he was riding the tail of a lucky star. In a million years, she wouldn’t have guessed the kid with the muddy face, spilling milk at her kitchen table, would someday coach the Chicago Bears.
For Leo and Ron, though, things were different. They drifted from job to job, never caring if they were fired, or if they had a black eye, or if they woke up at a police station. Nothing seemed to interest the two of them except their nighttime carousing. Then one day—out of the blue, it seemed to Mrs. B—the two of them packed up Ron’s old station wagon and left for California.
Something bad happened there. Mrs. B never knew what and she wasn’t sure she wanted to know. Ron came back alone. The day he came home, Ron stopped at Mrs. B’s house. He said he hadn’t seen Leo for a while. He didn’t even know where Leo was.
Mrs. B still didn’t know.
But Ron, he’d been walking the straight and narrow for all these years now. At least that’s what everyone thought. He was even on the board at St. Mary’s Church. When they asked Ron to join, no one gave a lick about his past. Half the neighborhood boys were in trouble at some time or another. No, all the board cared about was the fact that Ron was a contractor. They were looking for someone to oversee work when the church needed repairs. For free, of course. Father Clancy asked Ron himself, and naturally Ron couldn’t say no.
At the time, Mrs. B took Ron’s position on the board as evidence of the turnaround in his life. Father Clancy once told Mrs. B that Ron had the second best attendance record at St. Mary’s board meetings.
Walter Earnest, their treasurer, was first. Even though he was starting to get dementia, the date of a board meeting was one thing Walt never forgot.
No one had the heart to ask Walt to step down, so eventually Father Clancy started paying the bills for the church. They took Walt’s name off the bank accounts and added Ron’s last year, mainly because they needed two names and no one else on the board would take on the responsibility.
Mrs. B read to the end of the article. Ron had been released on bond and the trial date was pending.
Well then, why was Myrtle so cheerful this afternoon?
Before Mrs. B went to bed that night, she walked out to her front porch to see if the sweatshirt was still on the glider. It was gone. She looked down to the bottom of her street for a few minutes, watching the lights twinkling all around the fair.
Praise for A Question of Devotion
“If you can picture Columbo when he’s retired, and spending more time in church and the kitchen, and Polish, and wearing a babushka, you have a sense of the down-home detective that Anita Kulina has created. I love Mrs. B!”-Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist and author of The Paris of Appalachia
“A Question of Devotion is a comforting snapshot of an aging population, where the way of life is still bound by churches, neighborhoods, and countries of origin. Its heroine, Mrs. B, is not just an old woman living out her twilight years at the senior center, but an able detective engaged in solving a mystery as cozy as cocoa and afghans on a cold Western Pennsylvania day.”-Kathryn Miller Haines, author of the Rosie Winter Mysteries and the Iris Anderson Mysteries
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