Cooking the Books: Death a Sketch by Cheryl Hollon

Miranda Trent is looking forward to hosting her very first corporate retreat at Paint & Shine, the hiking tour company she runs that combines outdoorsiness with art and a bit of her family moonshine. If the retreat goes well, it could be the start of a lucrative revenue stream for her fledgling enterprise. 

To this end, Miranda puts a ton of thought into designing the three-day program for BigSky, an outdoor clothing company that claims that the retreat is intended to identify and fast-track employees with management potential. She’s thus completely taken aback when she’s informed, just as the retreat is about to start, that there’s been a change of plans. The BigSky VP of Human Resources, Frank Tobin, tells her to instead split the 10 retreat participants into two teams who’ll compete to win the grand prize of not getting fired at the end of the program.

Miranda is understandably aghast at what sounds like a clear violation of labor laws, but since the BigSky employees themselves seem happy enough—or at least determined enough—to see it through, she decides to just go with it. Sweetening the deal is the fact that Rowena Gardner, an old friend of hers from high school, has been sent down to observe and record the proceedings as a representative from BigSky. Miranda and Rowena had once been close but lost touch after graduation, and the two women are thrilled to be able to catch up again.

Unfortunately, the other supervisor BigSky sends down is much less friendly. Terry Burns is the VP of Operations and, unlike Rowena, is totally on board with the divisive new nature of the programming. Miranda does her best to just grin and bear his presence, but someone else in their group has apparently had enough when Burns is found with his head smashed in by a rock on their very first day of hiking. Unfortunately, it looks like that someone is Rowena herself, as she’s discovered leaning over his body with the weapon in her hand.

Rowena claims that she has no memory of what happened, and Miranda is inclined to believe her. But who, then, was angry or desperate enough to want to kill Burns? With Tobin hurrying down to take over for his colleague further inflaming employee sentiments and a series of strange accidents starting to befall the rest of the group, Miranda must race to figure out who attacked Burns before anyone else gets hurt.

This was another fun installment of the Paint and Shine Mystery series, with further delightful developments in the romantic relationship between Miranda and Park Ranger Austin Morgan. I always love reading about Miranda’s artistic excursions, even if I was a little unclear as to who was responsible for all the sabotage in this novel. I do think that corporate retreats are a great idea for Miranda’s burgeoning business, despite the inaugural attempt getting off to a murderous start (or perhaps because of—I am a mystery novel fan after all!), and I hope to see more of them as the series progresses.

There were nine recipes included here, all for dishes described in the book, and I decided to depart from my usual choices and put my mixology skills to work with the following drinks, lightly edited here for format.

Lemon Shine


6 lemons

Mint leaves

½ cup turbinado sugar

1 cup clear moonshine

2 cups water



Peel skin off four lemons for curl.

Muddle mint in bottom of a 2-qt. pitcher.

Squeeze lemons, add juice to pitcher.

Fill mason jars halfway up with ice.

Stir and pour mixture into mason jars.

Garnish with mint and lemon curls.

RC Shine


1 fresh lemon

Mint leaves

½ cup turbinado sugar

1 cup clear moonshine

16-oz. bottles RC Cola (or any cola on hand)



Peel off four lemon skin curls.

Muddle mint in the bottom of a 2-qt. pitcher.

Squeeze lemon, add juice to pitcher.

Add sugar, stir until all the sugar dissolves.

Add moonshine and cola.

Fill mason jars halfway up with ice.

Stir mixture in pitcher and pour into mason jars.

Garnish with mint and lemon curls.

Each recipe serves four, but since I didn’t have quite that many imbibers in my household at the time of mixing, I decided to quarter each recipe for a more manageable serving. I’m a little unclear as to the point of using turbinado sugar instead of the more usual simple syrup, but that very minor quibble is likely a relic from my professional bartending days. I also went easy on the sugar in the RC Shine because the cola is already pretty sweet. Instead, I added that extra sugar to the Lemon Shine to make it a bit more lemonade-like. Since I didn’t have mason jars on hand, my sturdy glasses made for a fine, down-home substitute.

And wow, these drinks were way better than fine! They’re potent but also tasty, with the mint and lemon flavors really, ahem, shining through. They’re both very refreshing end-of-summer cocktails or, honestly, any-time-of-the-year cocktails. I’m glad I departed from my usual Cooking the Books practices to try these out instead.

Next week, we head to the Midwest to bake up a deliciously fruity bread while investigating a series of pranks that escalate fatally. Do join me!

See alsoCooking the Books: Death of an Ice Cream Scooper by Lee Hollis

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  1. mold removal bronx ny

    This was a great cook book. The instruction is very precise and easy to follow. Well recommended.

  2. lolbeans

    Drinks with lots of vitamin C and cool in summer.

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    Thank you for sharing a very meaningful article, I think it will be very helpful for me and everyone.

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