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Planning for Murder - North Dakota Prequel

Planning for Murder - North Dakota Prequel

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North Dakota Library Mysteries - Prequel Novella

If you like goofy humor, quirky characters, small town settings, and all things bookish, you'll love this cozy mystery.

Why You'll Love This Book!

  • Amateur Sleuth
  • Quirky Characters
  • North Dakota Setting
  • Library Theme
  • Way Too Many Stationery Supplies
  • Clean Read - No Swearing, Violence, or Sex on the Page


Planners are great for to-do lists, keeping track of appointments and . . . scheduling a murder.

When Thea Olson returned to her hometown of Why, North Dakota, for the Fourth of July, the last thing she expected was to add “investigate a murder” to her to-do list. But when her cousin is falsely accused of killing her business partner, Thea is drawn into solving the case. In between hunting down clues and interviewing suspects, Thea learns more than she wanted to know about creative planning, stickers, washi tape, and glitter pens.

Can Thea clear her cousin’s name or will she become the murderer’s next victim?

Chapter 1 Look Inside

Chapter 1 - Strawberry Shampoo

In my twenty-eight years on this planet, there’s one question I never thought I’d have to ask myself—“What do you do if a buffalo tries to lick you to death?”

I know what you’re thinking. “Thea, what in the world were you doing getting so close to a buffalo? Don’t you know how dangerous that is?”

Believe me, I know you’re supposed to keep your distance. My grandparents drilled that into my head on camping trips at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

“They’re dangerous animals. If one of them stops what it’s doing and starts paying attention to you, slowly back away,” Grandma would say to my brother and me. Then, being the librarian that she is, she’d recommend a few books about buffalo for us to read.

By the way, you can find books about buffalo cataloged under 599.64 at your local library. Quizzes on the Dewey Decimal system were Grandma’s idea of fun during road trips when I was a kid, so classifying books comes second nature to me.

“Why didn’t you take your grandmother’s advice and slowly back away from the buffalo?” some of you are probably wondering.

Well, that’s an excellent question. Trust me, if I had seen him coming, I would have gotten the heck out of there.

But that’s not what happened. This particular buffalo was very sneaky . . . actually, hang on a minute. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me rewind and tell you the story from the beginning. I promise we’ll get back to the buffalo attack.

It all started the previous night when I discovered someone who I trusted had betrayed me in the worst possible way. Instead of standing my ground and putting up a fight, I took the easy way out and ran away from home.

The last time I had done anything like that, I was eight years old. I shoved my teddy bear and a book into my backpack, left a note on the kitchen table, and then got on my bike and pedaled as fast as I could. I made it all the way to the ice cream parlor before anyone noticed I was missing.

When you’re twenty-eight, running away is different. I used a ballpoint pen instead of crayons to write a note. I got out of town in my fuel-efficient hatchback, not on a pink bike with tassels on the handlebars. And the home I left wasn’t a cozy farmhouse in North Dakota that I shared with my brother and grandparents. It was a sleek, modern condo in Minneapolis with spectacular river views.

After ten hours of non-stop driving from Minnesota to western North Dakota, I was exhausted mentally and physically.

Doubts crept in as I neared my destination. What kind of adult runs away from her problems straight back to her childhood home? I thought about heading back to Minneapolis, but then I saw a familiar sign—“Welcome to Why, North Dakota. Why Not Stay a While?” All the tension in my shoulders melted away. Maybe staying a while with family was exactly what I needed.

As I got closer to the sign, I laughed out loud. Someone had spray painted over Why’s population number at the bottom of the sign and written “None of Your Business” over it. My money was on Bobby Jorgenson being the culprit. Since leaving school, he had graduated from pulling hair and throwing spitballs to petty theft and vandalism.

I glanced at the clock on the dashboard. It was a little after eleven. My grandparents were creatures of habit—they had lunch at Swede’s Norwegian Diner every Monday. Since I hadn’t called them to let them know I was coming, I guess I’d surprise them there.

After turning onto the road which led into town, I slowed down right before the speed trap I knew was waiting around the bend. I gave the police officer a jaunty wave, then parked near the town square.

As I got out of the car, I breathed in the scent of freshly mowed grass, smiling at the Fourth of July banners strung around the bandstand. People came from all over for Why’s Fourth of July celebration. My timing couldn’t be better. I could lick my wounds during the week, then enjoy the parade, picnic, and fireworks on Saturday. After that, I’d head back to my real life in Minneapolis.

I was stretching my arms over my head when I felt something wet pressing against the back of my neck. I froze in place. Whoever it was behind me made low, rumbling noises, and their breath stank.

Thinking it was Bobby Jorgenson up to his old tricks again, I spun around, ready to give him what for. But when I saw what was really behind me, my heart started racing. I was standing face-to-face with a massive buffalo who easily weighed 2,000 pounds and had to have been at least six feet tall at his shoulders.

The buffalo stared at me for a moment, then he licked my face with his smooth tongue. That’s when I fainted. Maybe I should have screamed or fought back, but honestly, fainting seemed like a perfectly reasonable reaction. If you’re going to be licked to death by a buffalo, do you really want to be awake when it happens?

Eventually I came to, but things only got worse from there. Are you wondering if anything could possibly be worse than death? Believe me, there is.

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