What if you discovered your lively new friend wasn't really...alive?

“As a sucker for a fun ghost story, I can say Gayle Leeson’s DESIGNS ON MURDER scores on many levels including a spunky entrepreneur and a charming setting. Now that I’ve read the first one, I’ll be counting the days until the next in the series arrives.” --Lorna Barrett, author of the New York Times Bestselling Booktown Mysteries 

When Amanda decides to lease a space in historic Abingdon, Virginia's Shops On Main, she's surprised to learn that she has a resident ghost. But soon Maxine "Max", a young woman who died in 1930, isn't the only dead person at the retail complex. Mark, a web designer who rented space at Shops On Main, is shot in his office.


Amanda is afraid that one of her new "friends" is a killer, and Max is encouraging her to solve Mark's murder a la Nancy Drew. Easy for Max to want to investigate--she can't end up the killer's next victim!


In DESIGNS ON MURDER, Gayle Leeson sketches a stylish plot accessorized with a spectral fashionista sidekick. This series debut is a delight!" -Diane Vallere, national bestselling author

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Gayle Leeson loves writing cozy mysteries and has also written as Amanda Lee (embroidery mystery series) and as Gayle Trent (Myrtle Crumb, cake decorating mysteries). She also currently writes the Kinsey Falls chick-lit series. Visit Gayle at or at any of the social media links above.

Read Excerpt Below


We took Grandpa Dave’s blue pickup truck back to Shops on Main. When we walked inside, Connie’s door was ajar. She was with a customer, but she waved to us. We waved back before unlocking the door and stepping into my shop.

Max was sitting on the windowsill where I’d left her.  “Good to see you’re back. I was afraid I might’ve scared you off.”

I glanced over at Grandpa because I was about to tell him that Max was here and that she’d just spoken to me, but I could tell by his wide eyes and slack jaw that he could see and hear her too.

Max winked at him. “Who’s the silver fox? Got that expression from the old jewelry gal upstairs. It suits, though. You’re a looker, mister.”

Grandpa blinked a few times and extended his hand. “I’m Dave Tucker. You must be Max.”

Max gave a tinkling laugh. “Darling, I wish I could shake your hand. I wanted to hug Amanda earlier, but I couldn’t do that either.”

“Grandpa, how can you see her?” I asked.

“The same way you can, I suppose.”

“But you said you’d never seen a—” I glanced at the door to make sure we weren’t being overheard. “—a ghost in your life.”

“Max is my first.”

Max placed a hand over her heart. “You make me blush, Dave. I haven’t been anyone’s first in ages.” She laughed again, and he laughed with her.

I merely looked back and forth between them bewildered.

“Why are you surprised that I can see and talk with her?” Grandpa asked me. “You can.”

“But no one else here can.”

“That’s true,” Max said. “Maybe I’m special to the Tuckers. We’ll have to look into it.” She tilted her chin. “The love of my life was a Channing. Are there any Channings in your family?”

“My grandfather on my mother’s side,” said Grandpa Dave.

“Wasn’t George, was it?”

“Yes.” Grandpa’s normally robust voice sounded very small and quiet.

Max got tears in her eyes. “I was running late to meet him the night I fell down the stairs...and died.”

“I’m so sorry,” Grandpa whispered.

Okay, this whole ghost thing was getting weirder by the second. Was it actually possible that Max had dated my great-great-grandfather?

I hated to ruin a strange but sappy moment. All right, no, I didn’t hate to ruin this uncomfortable moment at all.

“So, hey, what do you think about having a small table in front of this window with chairs on either side?” I asked.

They both took the hint, and we started talking about decorating.





Grandpa and I had gone all over Abingdon, Bristol, and even Lebanon, but we’d managed to find some beautiful furniture and accessories for Designs on You. We had also talked on and off all afternoon about how strange it was that both he and I could see Max.

I hurried to the shop the next morning to await the delivery of the round table and upholstered chairs we’d bought to go in the sitting and fitting room.

I noticed there was some commotion on the street. There were police cars in front of Shops on Main, and one officer was directing traffic around an ambulance. I thought there must’ve been a car accident. I took the road leading to the back of the shop, so I couldn’t see exactly what had happened. I parked in the lot and went inside through the back door.

An officer was there, and Frank and Ella were too.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“It’s Mark,” said Ella. “He’s dead.”

“Mark…” I echoed.

“He’s the web designer,” Frank supplied.

“Of course. I met him yesterday. What happened to him? Was it a car accident?”

“Someone shot him,” said Ella, “right in his office.”

“It was actually right in his chest,” said Max.