The Lily Dale Mysteries

Books in the Series

About the Series

Widowed mom Bella Jordan and her little boy detour to return an oddly familiar pregnant stray cat to her owner, and unexpectedly make a fresh start in the real-life upstate New York village populated by psychic mediums. While the locals attempt to solve murders by channeling the victims’ spirits, skeptical Bella uses good old-fashioned logic. Can the dead really speak to the living? That’s up to the reader to decide in this cozy mystery series populated by lovably kooky characters some readers will recognize from the original Lily Dale series.

Nine Lives

Nine Lives

BOOK ONE

After the death of her husband, Bella Jordan and her son need a fresh start. But on their way to stay with family in Chicago, they stop in Lily Dale, New York and a storm forces them to spend the night.

Chock-full of kooky psychics and mediums, Lily Dale is just the kind of quirky little town Bella’s late husband always talked about settling down in. So when the local hotel’s owner, Leona, passes away, Bella agrees to step in and help temporarily. The longer she and Max stay there, the more Lily Dale starts to feel like home.

But for Bella, finding a home means finding danger, too. Leona was murdered, and it’s up to Bella to track down the killer before her sanctuary comes crashing down in bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub’s warm and witty series debut.

“This sweet, romantically melancholic first in a new paranormal series from bestseller Staub (Nightwatcher) introduces newly widowed Isabella Jordan, who embarks on a road trip with her young son, Max, from Bedford, N.Y., to visit her hated mother-in-law in Chicago. Car trouble strands Bella and Max in the spiritualist enclave of Lily Dale, N.Y., where they wind up attending to the needs of a very pregnant cat. In addition, the Victorian guesthouse where they’re staying suddenly needs tourist-season help due to the drowning of the caretaker, Leona Gatto. The locals’ attitude that contact with the dead is possible makes Bella wonder whether her beloved late husband could be watching over them, but she’s terrified by dreams that suggest Leona’s death was no accident. Staub doesn’t overplay the quirkiness of the guesthouse residents for color, nor does she rely on ghosts and psychics to solve the murder, opting instead to pull the heartstrings of readers soft on animals, young kids, and the idea of love beyond the grave.”
—Publishers Weekly

“As she grieves after the death of her husband, Bella Jordan realizes that she needs some positive change in her life. So she leaves the home she shared with her spouse and young son and embarks on a journey that turns out to be far more strange than she intended. While she and her son are on their way to Chicago to stay with her mother-in-law, Millicent (or Maleficent, as Bella calls her, after the evil antagonist in Sleeping Beauty), their car breaks down, they come across a mystifying cat which needs rescuing, and they find themselves in Lily Dale, a quaint little town unlike any other. Somehow they are enticed to stay and take charge of an old inn that has more than a few mysteries of its own. Best-selling author Staub (In the Blink of an Eye, 2002) takes readers back to the little New York resort favored by psychics in her newest Lily Dale mystery, luring readers on a spooky journey into the unknown while lightening the mood by weaving in sweet, heartfelt, hopeful moments.”
—Booklist

“Charming, witty, a cast of cats and characters that steal your heart—Nine Lives has everything, including a murder in a village full of mediums, whose “spirits” fail to foresee it. Wendy Corsi Staub has done it again. Nine Lives is marvelously entertaining reading!”
—Charles Todd, best-selling author of The Inspector Rutledge Series and The Bess Crawford Series

“Wendy Corsi Staub’s Nine Lives hooked me from page one. In fact I didn’t want to put it down: with warm characters, an intriguing setting and just a touch of the unexplainable it’s a thoroughly satisfying read.”
—Rhys Bowen, New York Times bestselling author of the Molly Murphy and Royal Spyness mysteries

“I loved visiting Corsi Staub’s magical world, cover to cover, and can’t wait for the next in the series.”
—Juliet Blackwell, New York Times bestselling author of Give Up the Ghost

“Wendy Corsi Staub weaves a spectacular tale of suspense … Lily Dale would definitely be on my must visit list. It’s an appropriately quirky town with an even quirkier cast of characters – and a cat, Chance, who’s adept at pulling Houdini acts. Who could ask for anything more? Definitely a must read.”
—T.C. LoTempio, national bestselling author of the Nick and Nora Mysteries

PROLOGUE
June 18 Lily Dale, New York

Less than two weeks from now, when Lily Dale’s official summer season is under way, Leona Gatto’s guesthouse will be teeming with overnight visitors. But on this cool and gusty June night, she and Chance the Cat have the place all to themselves.

The mackerel tabby is lounging on the bay window seat down­stairs in the front parlor, watching the world go by on Cottage Row. At this time of year, the world mainly consists of fireflies and the occasional flitting moth, though tonight, the breeze has sent all sorts of fascinating things–to a cat, anyway–skittering past the window.

Soon, however, the annual human parade will begin. Lily Dale might be the tiniest of tiny towns, but as the birthplace of the Spiritualist religion well over a century ago, it remains populated almost entirely by psychic mediums. A handful, including Leona, are in residence year-round. Most prefer to spend the rigorous west­ern New York winter elsewhere. They return just ahead of the throng of summer visitors who find their way to the Dale because they’re seeking something: a connection to a lost loved one, psychic counsel­ing, physical or spiritual healing . . .

No exception, Leona arrived fifteen years ago, middle-aged and newly widowed, paralyzed by grief and hoping somebody here could connect her to her late husband.

Inevitably, somebody did. Her husband’s message: that she should stay for a while instead of hurrying back home to Wyoming.

“Are you sure Edgar said that?” Leona asked the medium in sur­prise. They’d built a wonderful life together out west, and she couldn’t imagine that he’d want her to abandon it. “Maybe it’s not him.”

“He’s wearing a black cowboy hat and he’s very insistent,” Patsy Metcalf said with a smile. “He wants me to tell you that it’s about time you’ve come to your senses and put on a practical pair of shoes.”

“That’s Edgar! He was always yelling at me for wearing heels when I travel. But I can’t believe he wants me to stay out east. He was born and raised on a ranch, and so was I. Wyoming will always be home.”

“Remember, my dear, I’m not here to tell you what you expect or even want to hear. I’m here to relay what your loved one wants you to know.”

Truer words were never spoken. Little did Leona realize then that she herself would eventually be capable of parting the delicate veil that separates this world from the next. She knows now that Edgar did, indeed, want her to sell their dude ranch to the hotel chain that had been sniffing around it for years. He’d always said they’d get the place over his dead body. In the end, that was what had happened–but with his blessing.

Wyoming was her old home. Lily Dale is her forever one.

This house had a long history as an inn but had been turned into a private residence when she bought it. She reclaimed its roots and transformed it into a guesthouse very much like the one she’d left behind, only with a Victorian theme instead of a Western one.

She’s always enjoyed welcoming new people into her home, get­ting to know them, and making them feel comfortable.

But that isn’t the only reason the terrible loneliness is behind her.
After years of mediumship training, she remains in touch with her late husband, along with countless other folks. Some are old friends, and some are just plain old. Centuries old. She’s grown quite accustomed to having them around. Most of the time, the spirits coexist with her just as seamlessly as Chance the Cat does.

Tonight, however, one of her regular spirit guides is as twitchy as the weather. Typically a benign presence, Nadine has been wreaking havoc around the house. At first, Leona attributed the flickering lights and random creaks and thumps to the night wind.

And she attributed her missing laptop–which she hasn’t seen since this morning–to good old-fashioned old age. But now that it’s failed to turn up in any of the usual spots where she might have misplaced it, Leona isn’t so sure Nadine is to blame. This wouldn’t be the first time Nadine or the others have played hide-and-seek with her belongings, but it should have resurfaced by now.
Then the usual drip from the upstairs sink faucet turned into a gush that overflowed onto the floor. While Leona was wiping that up, the downstairs faucet mysteriously turned on and flooded the kitchen sink and then the floor.
“That’s enough!” Leona said sharply after slipping and nearly falling.
Harmless little pranks are one thing, but she could have been hurt. And water damage in an old house is no picnic.

This just isn’t like Nadine.

The last straw was when, minutes ago, a fuse blew with a pop­ping, sizzling sound, plunging the whole house into darkness.

“Oh, for the love of . . .” Leona stood with her hands on her hips. “What’s going on? Are you trying to get rid of me? You’ll have to try a whole lot harder than that.”

After a grueling trip to the ancient fuse box in the spidery cellar, she decided that a snack would settle her nerves. But when she opened the fridge and started rooting around, she discovered that the full carton of half-and-half she bought this afternoon was some­how empty.

Nadine again. Leona hasn’t touched a drop–the carton is still sealed–and cats can’t open refrigerator doors.

Some might argue the same about Spirit. Funny how even that particular word–Spirit, as the energy is called here in the Dale–had sounded awkward to Leona’s ears when she first arrived. Funnier still to think that she, like so many newcomers, was steeped in skepticism.

If you spend enough time here, the extraordinary becomes ordinary.

Now, thanks to Nadine’s antics, she stands in the bathroom mirror trying to make herself presentable for a late-night trip to the closest store a few miles down the road. She takes her morning cof­fee with plenty of cream, and Chance the Cat, unlike most felines, isn’t exactly lactose intolerant. She laps it up, especially in her current state, which–

Hearing a creaking sound downstairs, Leona frowns at her reflection.

“Oh, Nadine, now what are you up to?” she asks, and she is startled to see the spirit guide fleetingly take filmy female form in the room behind her.

That’s unusual. Nadine rarely materializes. Like the others, she is usually merely a presence Leona can feel but not see or hear, other than inside her own head.

Framed in the doorway, the apparition holds up a transparent hand, her palm facing Leona as if to stop her from leaving the room.

Leona scowls. “Make up your mind. I thought you wanted me out of the house, thanks to your Houdini act with my half-and-half. Now you want me to stay put? I don’t . . .”

She trails off, realizing that Nadine is no merry prankster. Nadine’s shaking her head, and her glittering eyes are wide with concern.

“What is it? What’s wrong? Are you trying to warn me about something?”
But the spirit has already faded, leaving Leona alone.

The silence in the bathroom is punctuated by wind chimes tin­kling below the window. That’s not unusual. Wind chimes are as common as porches in the Dale.

But to Leona’s ear, they’ve drastically multiplied: a tintinnabula­tion as ominous as the alarm down at the old firehouse. The clanging grows to a fever pitch and is abruptly curtailed.

Silence again.

Unsettled, Leona goes back to brushing her hair.

Her strokes slow as she hears another creaking sound, this time in the hallway outside the door.

She isn’t alone after all.

She uneasily attempts to tune into the energy, wondering if one of her other guides has come to pay her a visit. But the presence doesn’t feel familiar, and it certainly isn’t Edgar, whose proximity always fills her with light and warmth. This energy is dark and oppressive.

Maybe it’s not Spirit at all.

Maybe it’s a living person: a stranger, a prowler.

Wielding the hairbrush in one hand like a weapon, she uses the other to painstakingly turn the knob and pull.

She was right about one thing. She isn’t alone. But she doesn’t find a stranger on the other side of the door.

Her eyes widen in shock at the sight of a familiar face. “What are you doing here?”

CHAPTER ONE
June 29 Bedford, New York

“If one more thing goes wrong today . . .” Bella Jordan steps over the broken vase on the floor and grabs the broom propped in a corner of her tiny kitchen. She’s been tripping over it all morning, but there’s no other spot amid the clutter, and it doesn’t make sense to store it back where it belongs: jammed into the usually overcrowded pantry cupboard that triples as a linen and broom closet.

Her goal today is to empty that closet, transferring its contents to the cardboard moving boxes she also keeps tripping over, along with the big black trash bags stuffed with household items that are, like all their furniture, destined to be tossed or given away.

Most of it is perfectly useful. She’d keep it if she only knew where she and her son Max will wind up living. But she can’t fit much into her small car, she can’t afford a moving van or storage unit, and she refuses to bor­row money from her mother-in-law, to whom she’s plenty beholden as it is. So the Salvation Army will get the lamps, books, decorative glassware . . .
Minus one vase.

With a sigh, she begins sweeping the shards of crystal into the dustpan she’d tossed onto the already crowded countertop following a previous mishap with a glass–which was how she’d then knocked over the vase.

Maybe I should go around with a dustpan hanging from my belt like some klutzy handyman. Or rather, nonhandy nonman.

She’s never been the most graceful gal in town, but the move-out process has produced more mishaps than usual. Earlier, she’d chipped a plate and broken the handle off a coffee mug. Neither had value, sentimental or otherwise. But this latest casualty was an expensive one.

Not as expensive, by any stretch of the imagination, as the col­lection of vintage Carnival glass pieces she’d inherited from her god­mother and sold off over the past few desperate months to pay the rent and bills.

There may not be hordes of antique dealers lining up to buy a fancy vase like the one she’d just broken, but it had been a wedding present from . . .

Who was it? A friend? One of her coworkers? Sam’s late great-aunt Doris?

Funny how easy it is to forget things you probably should remem­ber and remember things you’d rather forget.

Oh, Sam . . .

Bella doesn’t want to forget him. Just the illness that had stolen him away late last year after long, dark months of suffering.

As if mustered by the mere thought of Sam, a breeze slips through the screen. It’s slightly cool, fragranced by the blooming mock orange shrubs her husband always loved and silvery with tin­kling wind chimes he gave her for her last birthday.

She was charmed by the strings of pretty stained-glass angels cascading from delicate chains, but he kept apologizing.

“I wanted to get you something more, but . . .” But he was sick, and money was growing tighter by the day.

“I don’t want anything more. I don’t need anything but these.” And you. I need you, Sam …

“Your Christmas present is going to be great,” he promised her. “I already know what I’m getting for you, so don’t worry.”

She did worry. Not about Christmas presents. About Sam.

She can hear his voice amid the swaying wind chimes, calling her his “Bella Angelo–my beautiful angel,” the literal translation of her name. His version of it, anyway.

Her ancestors were from Sicily, and her maiden name was Angelo. Her given name is Isabella, but Sam never called her that.

To him, she was Bella Angelo–that, or Bella Blue, she remem­bers, staring at the gently fluttering curtains he said exactly matched the cobalt color of her eyes. She’d made them from fabric remnants, using a sewing machine in the domestic arts classroom at the middle school where she taught science.

“Why are you so good at everything you do, Bella Blue?” Sam was so impressed, you’d have thought she’d just hand-stitched a designer gown.

“Oh, please. You’re the only one who thinks so.”

“Not true.” He ticked on his fingers the people he felt were equally enamored of her: their friends, her colleagues and students, and, of course, Frank Angelo, her own doting, widowed dad, still alive at the time.

Conspicuously missing from the list: Sam’s mother.

Millicent Jordan had made up her mind long before Bella even met her that no woman could ever be good enough for her son. The fact that she lives almost a thousand miles away in Chicago was a blessing throughout Bella and Sam’s marriage. Sam loved his mother, but Bella privately called her Maleficent–after the villainess in Sleeping Beauty.

Now, however, life would be easier if she were nearby. For all her faults, Millicent’s the only family they have left. She’s a lousy mother-in-law, but she was a good mom and would probably be a decent grandmother, given the opportunity.

Which I’m about to give to her.

Sam was young and brash enough not to have made life insur­ance a priority and had accidentally let his meager policy lapse. Even with health insurance coverage, expensive treatments for his illness had consumed the money they’d been saving to buy a home of their own one day. On the heels of losing him, Bella lost her teaching position to budget cuts. As she began a futile job hunt, the landlord decided to put the house on the market. A wealthy buyer snapped it up, planning to turn it into a majestic private home.

Her lease expires at the end of June. Which is tomorrow. With nowhere else to turn, she and Max are driving out to visit Millicent for the summer and figure out their next step.

If only she didn’t have to uproot Max after all he’s been through. This is the only home he’s ever known, the only home that’s ever mattered to her.
She’d grown up in rental apartments all over New York City. She was a new bride when she moved into the first-floor apartment of this Victorian triplex in Bedford, just eight short tree-lined suburban blocks from her first teaching job and three to the commuter railroad that carried Sam to his Manhattan office.

Even now, whenever she hears the rumble and whistle of an eve­ning train, her heart stirs with expectant joy: He’s coming home!

But he isn’t, ever again.

She and Max are alone now.

With a wistful sigh, Bella steps out the screen door to deposit the broken glass into the garbage pail–and trips over a lump of gray fur with black ticking. Somehow, she manages not to fall and even keeps the shards from flying through the air.

“Well, we meet again,” she tells the fat tabby cat perched in a patch of dappled doormat sunlight. He was here yesterday morning, too, but darted into the bushes as she stepped out the door, scar­ing the heck out of her. Later in the day, she glimpsed him stalking chipmunks in the yard, and last night around dusk, he was snoozing under a shrub.

“Are you lost?”

He seems quite certain that he isn’t, looking up at her as if he belongs here.
He doesn’t, of course. The landlord has a strict no-pets policy. That’s always been fine with Bella, whose last apartment came with a neighbor’s dog that barked twenty-four-seven. Besides, Sam is severely allergic to dander.

She expects the cat to bolt as she steps around him and dumps the broken glass into the metal garbage can, but he doesn’t even flinch at the clattering din. Impulsively bending to pet him, she’s rewarded with loud purring.

Hmm. He’s wearing a red collar, so he’s not a stray.

“Mommy?” Max calls from the kitchen.

“Out here.”

“Can I watch TV?”

“Nope. You know the rule.” Only an hour a day, and only in the early morning or before bed, unless it’s raining.

“Then can we play Candyland?” he asks.

She sighs. Playing the interminable game is questionable any­time. But now?

Sam would have dropped everything to play Candyland with Max.

“I was an only child, too. I get it,” he’d say.

Bella had been an only child as well, and of course, she got it, too. But she and Sam each had their forte when it came to occupying their son. Books and puzzles were her department; board games and anything involving wheels or a ball were Sam’s.

Now it’s all up to me, and how the heck am I supposed to squeeze playtime into this crazy day?

“Maybe we can play later,” she tells Max as he appears in the doorway with the Candyland box and a hopeful expression.

He’s still barefoot and wearing the pajamas she’d told him to change earlier this morning. A five-year-old version of his late father, he has the same sandy brown cowlick above his forehead and the same solemn brown eyes behind his glasses. Now they widen when he sees the cat.

“Where did he come from?”

“I’m not sure. You have to get dressed, Max. It’s almost noon.”

“I will.” He crouches beside the kitty. “Can we keep him?”

The timing of the question is so ludicrous, it’s a wonder Bella manages to keep from blurting, Are you nuts?

Instead, she counts to three before gently reminding her son, “We’re leaving tomorrow, and I’m sure he already has a home.” Lucky him.

Something Buried, Something Blue

Something Buried, Something Blue

BOOK TWO

New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub is back with the second in her critically-acclaimed cozy mystery series.

After agreeing to stay in Lily Dale through the winter as caretakers of the Valley View Guesthouse and its feline residents, widowed mom Bella Jordan and her son Max are looking forward to the peaceful off-season after a hectic summer. That is until the medium next door, Odelia Lauder, recruits Bella to host a destination wedding for the world’s most petulant bride, Johneen Maynard, a friend of Odelia’s granddaughter.

Things take an even more stressful turn as the wedding day looms amidst an October blizzard, when suddenly the Spirits start giving Odelia a major heads up that the bride might be fated for death. And when the prediction comes true just as the storm begins to break, Bella finds herself trapped in a house full of murder suspects.

It’s a race to figure out who killed Johneen–and what clever murder weapon made it appear to be natural causes–before the killer catches on in Something Buried, Something Blue.

Praise for the Lily Dale mystery series:

“[A] charming series launch…[Staub] introduces a host of warmly appealing characters and throws in a touch of the otherworldly. Recommend for readers who enjoy the TV show Charmed.”
Library Journal

“Best-selling author Staub takes readers…on a spooky journey into the unknown while lightening the mood by weaving in sweet, heartfelt, hopeful moments.”
Booklist

“Staub doesn’t overplay the quirkiness of the guesthouse residents for color, nor does she rely on ghosts and psychics to solve the murder, opting instead to pull the heartstrings of readers.”
Publishers Weekly

“Wendy Corsi Staub’s writing sparkles and the book fairly crackles with suspense. Her characterizations are spot on and you are sucked in from page one…If you’re looking for a different type of cozy, then this one’s for you!”
Night Owl Reviews, Top Pick

“A tantalizing tale mixed with small-town politics and secrets, while also capturing the authentic feel of a woman struggling through desperate times…This is a terrific start to what is hopefully going to be a series featuring Bella Jordan and her son.”
RT Book Reviews

Nine Lives has everything…Wendy Corsi Staub has done it again.”
New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd

“Wendy Corsi Staub’s Nine Lives hooked me from page one. In fact I didn’t want to put it down: with warm characters, an intriguing setting and just a touch of the unexplainable it’s a thoroughly satisfying read.
–Rhys Bowen, New York Times bestselling author of the Molly Murphy and Royal Spyness mysteries

“I loved visiting Corsi Staub’s magical world, cover to cover, and can’t wait for the next in the series.”
–Juliet Blackwell, New York Times bestselling author of Give Up the Ghost

“Wendy Corsi Staub weaves a spectacular tale of suspense … Lily Dale would definitely be on my must visit list. It’s an appropriately quirky town with an even quirkier cast of characters – and a cat, Chance, who’s adept at pulling Houdini acts. Who could ask for anything more? Definitely a must read.”
–T. C. LoTempio, national bestselling author of the Nick and Nora Mysteries

Praise for New York Times and USA Today bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub:

“If you like Mary Higgins Clark, you’ll love Wendy Corsi Staub.”
New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jackson

“Once Staub’s brilliant characterizations and top-notch narrative skills grab hold, they don’t let go.”
Publishers Weekly

“As always, Staub leaves us wanting more.”
RT Book Reviews

“When it comes to mysteries of the home and hearth, Wendy Corsi Staub is unrivaled. Just when you think you’ve figured her out…think again!”
–John Valeri, Hartford Book Examiner

Dead of Winter

Dead of Winter

BOOK THREE

Just as a murderer dumps his corpse into the lake across Valley View in Lily Dale, Bella Jordan happens to be at her window, not quite realizing what she’s seeing. Unbeknownst to her, the killer spots her silhouette and prowls straight to her door. That is, until he’s interrupted by a black cat. A superstitious gambler, he takes off, but Bella’s seen too much, and he vows to return.

Jiffy Arden, a neighborhood kid looking for the black cat and stumbling across the killer, begins to have premonitions of being kidnapped during the season’s first snowstorm. Sure enough, when it strikes, he vanishes, never arriving home from the bus stop. While her son, Max, believes Jiffy has been kidnapped, Bella is convinced he’s just wandered off as he typically does… until a body shows up in the lake.

Now everyone is pulling out all the stops to find the missing child, identify the victim, and collar the killer. And fast, because he’s coming for Bella next in Dead of Winter.

Entertaining…The endearing town, its quirky psychic medium residents, and a hint of romance…carry through to a suspenseful ending.”
Publishers Weekly

“This warm, small-town series will appeal to fans of the Hallmark Channel’s The Good Witch, starring Catherine Bell.”
Booklist

“A spectacular whodunit.”
New York Journal of Books

“With enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, the avid mystery reader who enjoys a strong element of the paranormal will be thrilled with this book. In fact, I recommend the whole series!”
―MyShelf.com