In the beginning, there was Delphi.

Before I became intimately acquainted with its citizens, before I knew I had a mystery on my hands, before I had any notion of whether I should, much less could, write a novel, I knew Delphi.

Though the story that follows came to me in bits and pieces, as I struggled for the courage to face what seemed the impossible task of writing a murder mystery, the little town of Delphi, South Dakota, sprang, fully formed, into my head.

Delphi's streets and buildings, the heat and dust, the flat prairie and open sky, the joy and sadness, and the rhythms of small town life were presented to me intact- a gift that even as an aspiring writer, I knew enough to treasure.

Tory, Stu and Neil, Del and Presley, Rhonda, Ron Adler, and the rest all came later, some as I wrote this story. After finishing three novels set in Delphi, I now know these people as well as I know myself- they live and breathe. Their lives are their own, their stories belong to them.

But when I started the first draft of Funeral Food, all I knew for sure was the town, and that knowledge kept me going through the very difficult process of writing a first novel. Even after the manuscript was finished, various complications prevented this book from being released nationally until after two more Tory Bauer mysteries, Sex And Salmonella and The Hotel South Dakota had been published.

But I knew that the story really started earlier. And so did the folks in Delphi. Here, now, are the people and the town, as I first knew them.



Prologue



I'm not the first to observe that funerals are for the living, not the dead. Whether Uncle John is stuck forever in a pine box, on his way to a better world, or somewhere in between, is beyond our knowledge, and our control. And since the deceased is pretty well beyond caring about the ceremonies and rituals that commemorate the end of life as we know it, it's safe to assume that survivors are the ones who demand a proper send-off.

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