Turtle Soup introduces the reader to Annie, her family of cats, and the small resort town of Chelsea, nestled on the sunset coast of one of the Great Lakes.
Annie’s Café is in trouble. Several issues have marred otherwise pristine reviews from the Health Department. She can’t seem to figure out what is happening or why.
A not-so-very-good friend, Geraldine, has opened a diner that looks remarkably like Tiger Lily’s Café, and she seems to be benefiting from the problems the Café is having.
The Inn has a group of guests that appear to be typical “beautiful people.” They have booked an extended fishing cruise on The Escape. Spending a few days in town before the cruise, the group helps to introduce the town and its inhabitants to the readers of this mystery series.
But what else is in store? The companions – Tiger Lily and her siblings along with their friends Jock and Cyril – can’t seem to make their humans understand what is really happening.
The humans are in the soup; they just don’t know it.
Author: Kathleen Thompson
Excerpt from Turtle Soup:
“There’s a turtle in my soup! No, really! There’s a turtle!
Tiger Lily jumped down from the hostess stand and trotted over. She executed a graceful leap to the specially-fitted platform to peer into the bowl. She sniffed delicately and surmised that, yes, there was indeed a turtle in the soup.
Tiger Lily looked at her guest, slowly closed her eyes and lowered her head in apology. Sensing a presence, she looked around to see Annie. Tiger Lily turned back to give a soft apologetic “Meow” to her guest and jumped down. Annie removed the offending bowl with an apology and the promise of a replacement and a free meal.
Tiger Lily returned to the hostess stand murmuring to herself. As she passed guests, they could hear little mews. “How embarrassing! And Mommy had to be here to see it. She must think I’m an awful manager.” She was so upset that she sat with her back to the door, not daring to look at guests as they entered or departed.
Tiger Lily, a beautiful gray and brown tabby cat with soft green eyes, held court at the hostess stand at Tiger Lily’s Café during breakfast and lunch hours. As guests entered they received a slow blink in recognition. Special guests got a nod as well. Tiger Lily, a natural introvert, didn’t approach guests while she was at the stand, but she allowed guests to approach her and give a stroke or two. If the guest was a friend or appeared to be a special person, she favored the stroker with a low purr.
On occasion, she jumped down to mingle. If she had a feeling about a particular guest, she hopped to one of her table ledges to say hello. If she placed her paw on the menu, nine times out of ten, that item was purchased by the guest, who would often say, “This was recommended especially for me.”
Today, as Tiger Lily worried about the turtle, Annie stopped to nuzzle with her. “It’ll be okay, darlin’. Don’t worry.” Tiger Lily ducked her head away, working herself up to a major sulk.
Annie was Tiger Lily’s mommy and the owner of Tiger Lily’s Café, the main gathering place for the small lakeside resort community of Chelsea. Every day from breakfast through late afternoon the Café was filled with locals and tourists drawn to the eatery by its eclectic menu, the bright and cheery ambiance and, of course, its titular manager, Tiger Lily.
Tiger Lily and her six siblings were lucky to have the opportunity to manage their own businesses on Mommy’s behalf. Of course, there were human managers as well. Tiger Lily took her supervision of these humans seriously. Right now she was wondering what she would have to do to get things back into shape.
While Tiger Lily’s sulk was in process, Annie took the turtle soup back to the kitchen and picked up a replacement. When she returned to the table she saw the guests, a group of tourists, were taking the situation with humor. She matched their humor with her own dry wit. “Once again, I am sorry. Please enjoy your meal and make sure you try some dessert. Our special today is hot peach cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream. The turtle is picking up your tab.”
Annie’s straight dark hair was graying uniformly. The gray, matched with a lack of wrinkles, made guessing her age difficult. She tanned easily, although she tried to stay out of the sun. High cheekbones hinted at a touch of Native American in her background. Always sensible, she was dressed in her typical style of casual capris with a flowing, colorful top and sandals with an inch of wedge and good arch support.
As she walked away, Annie calculated the cost of this newest disaster. Two appetizers, four meals, four specialty drinks and probably four desserts. Add to that another hit on the reputation of the Café…. This was going to be an expensive day.
She returned to the kitchen to talk to the chef and manager. Felicity did not like having to put her hair up to work, so she kept it in a short style. She was young, sassy and naturally perky, no matter how many servers and cooks had walked out that month. At this moment, though, she stood at the end of a work table, elbows on the table and head in her hands.
“Felicity, what’s up with the turtle?”
Felicity’s voice was a bit muffled, as her mouth was firmly settled in the palms of her hands. “Apparently they make an excellent soup.” The turtle was on the table in front of Felicity in a to-go container with a little bit of water in the bottom. She had thoughtfully placed a bottle cap in the dish, so he could rest his head above water when necessary.
“What are you going to do with the little guy?”
“I think Laila needs another pet.” Felicity was talking about Annie’s best friend, whose three children had a menagerie.
“Good idea. All kidding aside, though, how could it have gotten into the soup?”
Maddie, the server who had delivered the turtle soup to the table, was a relative newcomer to the community and to the Café. She had followed Annie into the kitchen and now stood hesitantly at the work table. Nervously, she gushed, “I… I’m so sorry. I picked up the bowl and took it. I should have looked. I don’t know how it happened, but I didn’t look at it before taking it out.”
Jim, the cook, stormed around the corner. “Are you saying it was my fault? I didn’t put that thing in the soup!”
“Well, I didn’t put it there!”
“If you didn’t, who did? Where would I keep a turtle, anyway?”
“Where would I keep one? It’s not like we have an aquarium or anything at the server station!”
Felicity groaned, “Please, no one is being accused of anything. Maybe it dropped off a light fixture.”
Everyone looked up. Even Felicity.
Continuing to look up, Annie said, “Felicity’s right. No one is being accused of anything.” Slowing bringing her eyes down, she asked, “Do turtles really climb like that?”
Trudie, the barista, had taken over on the dining floor while the turtle discussion took place. As far as anyone knew, Trudie was the only Jamaican in all of Chelsea. Trudie and Felicity had been the best of friends since Felicity rescued her from a desperate situation and gave her a job. They counted on one another for almost everything, at work and in their personal lives.
She stopped at the service window and stuck her head in. “Annie, Pete wants to talk to you. Do you have a minute?”
“I’ll be right there.” To Felicity, Annie said, “This is the third incident, right?”
“Yes. First one was the ladybug-in-the-sandwich. Then last week we had those honey-coated glasses.”
“Is it always on the same day of the week?”
“No. At least I don’t think so. I’ll have to think about that.”
“Jim, Maddie, I’m not accusing you, but I have to ask Felicity this question. Have the same staff been on duty each time?”
“I don’t know about that, but for some reason, we haven’t lost either a cook or a server since this started. Maybe a little excitement like this will help us keep staff.” Felicity brightened. “Why didn’t I think of this before?”
Maddie, sounding scared and defensive, said, “Remember, I’m the one that fixed the glasses before more of them got into the dining room!”
Jim was also on the defensive. “I was off duty on the ladybug day. I didn’t touch that sandwich!”
Annie tried to calm everyone. “Jim, Maddie, don’t worry about it. Get back to work and everything will be fine.”
Jim and Maddie, looking at one another with what would kindly be called distrust, went back to their respective stations.