Perhaps we can’t travel overseas this fall, but there’s nothing to prevent us from taking an imaginary trip. Would you like to visit the Cotswolds? Perhaps take in a fall fete? Let this excerpt from my cozy mystery “Pumpkins, Paws & Murder” take you there.


Dickens, my dwarf Great Pyrenees, bounded out of the car and went in search of his pal Paddington, the Burmese cat who reigned supreme at the inn. I stood back and admired the colorful booths, some with flags flying from their tops, others with cobwebs and black cats decorating their awnings.

Phil Porter and Barb Peters, who worked at the Ploughman Pub, were planting the scarecrow garden in a circle around the tall rowan tree in the center of the courtyard. Its bright yellow leaves provided a picturesque backdrop for the colorful scarecrows, and a miniature white picket fence would be the finishing touch. The scarecrow creators had each paid a fee to enter the scarecrow contest to be judged by Gavin and Toby. The prize? Dinner for two at the Ploughman.

Barb waved me over. “Leta, what do you think? Can you believe the variety we have?”

“I think the selection is amazing. How will Gavin and Toby ever decide the winner?”

Barb laughed. “I wonder the same thing. Glad all I have to do is help stand ’em up.”

I waved at Beatrix, the owner of the local bookshop. “Shall I grab more boxes or set up your tables?”

“I’m almost done with the unloading, so if you can set up the tables and start arranging the books by genre, that would be great. I’ve got a sign and some spooky decorations too.”

“Okay. Do you have plenty of Halloween and autumn-themed books? They’re sure to be a hit.”

“Oh yes, I made a special trip to the Manchester flea market to stock up. And I snagged three copies of Agatha Christie’s ‘Hallowe’en Party’ with Hercule Poirot. I don’t care that the critics said it wasn’t one of her best. Anything by Dame Agatha is good by me.”

I chuckled. “Well, I know a black cat who would agree with that. Halloween is Christie’s season, you know.”

“And,” added Beatrix, “I have Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein,’ Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House,’ and Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula.’ Oh, you’ll love this! Have you read any of the laugh-out-loud reviews of ‘Dracula?’ The ones written by young adults who grew up with the ‘Twilight’ series? They complain that the book is boring and written in flowery language that’s difficult to understand. They have no idea Count Dracula was the beginning of vampire fiction. Imagine!”

“That’s hilarious. I never taught ‘Dracula,’ but I did assign ‘Frankenstein’ to my 10th graders, and they loved it. Of course, I only taught a few years, and that was over 30 years ago. Who knows what they’d think today?”

I spread black and orange cloths on the tables and went to work arranging books, but I was hard-pressed to accomplish much because I kept stopping to thumb through the merchandise. 

Dickens ran up with Paddington close behind. “Leta, we’re having great fun and now we’re going to see the scarecrows.”

Paddington took off, meowing, “Bet I can climb to the top of one before you can.”

Uh-oh, it was time to keep an eye on those two. The scarecrow garden wouldn’t last long if Paddington treated the crops as cat trees. I ran after them, yelling “Come back here, you two!”

I got to the garden in time to peel Paddington from the librarian scarecrow before the frisky feline could knock the poor lady’s glasses off.


Can you see the tents? Feel the cold, crisp air? Two years ago this month, I was lucky enough to be in the Cotswolds. How I’d love to visit again.

Award-winning author Kathy Manos Penn is a Sandy Springs resident. Find her cozy mysteries on Amazon and locally at the Enchanted Forest. Contact her at, and follow her on Facebook,

Kathy is a Sandy Springs resident. Find her books, “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch” and “The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday,” at the Enchanted Forest and on Amazon. Contact her at, follow her on Facebook,, and/or read her blogs at

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