St. Augustin is one of my favorite spot close to home, and we stop there every time we go somewhere.
Hidden Gem: The Secret of St. Augustine by M.S. Spencer released a couple of weeks back in the Cozy mystery/Romantic suspense genre.
Barnaby is in St. Augustine, Florida, to teach a college seminar, and plans to use The Secret—a treasure hunt book—as a framework for his class. He enlists Philo Brice, owner of an antique map store, to aid him in seeking clues in the historic sites of the ancient city.
Together they face murderers, thieves, thugs, and fanatics, heightening their already strong attraction to each other. Can they solve the puzzle and unearth the treasure before the villains do? Philo and Barnaby pursue several twisting paths and false leads before arriving at a startling conclusion.
He blanched. “Agatha?”
The little girl, normally meek as a newborn fawn, had two bright red spots on her cheeks. Her murky eyes flashed. “You…You.” She gulped. “You are not my cousin!”
Diego, hardened roustabout that he was, blushed. “I’m sorry, Agatha. Mr. Zimmer”—he waggled a thumb in the direction of his boss—“he came up with the idea. It’s true that my mother’s side of the family is Minorcan. They’ve just never been back to the island.”
“Is your name really Diego?”
“Uh huh. It’s a common name in Minorca, and we assumed you’d have at least one relative called Diego. I didn’t figure on you asking so many personal questions.” He paused a second, then blurted, “Mullet on the beach!”
This was greeted by dead silence. Finally, a slight snuffle came from Agatha, which turned into a full-fledged crow of delight. “Aha! You do know!”
The girl lifted a hand, which Diego took. She gave him a curtsy, and he gave her a bow. They might have waltzed out of the room had Susie not called, “Er…Agatha? You probably shouldn’t leave. The police are on their way.”
“Oh? Oh!” The little girl prodded Diego. “We’d better stay here. You’re in awful trouble. You should confess.”
About the Author
Librarian, anthropologist, Congressional aide, speechwriter—M. S. Spencer has traveled the globe. She has published fifteen romantic suspense or murder mystery novels, with two more on the way. She has two fabulous grown children and an incredible granddaughter. She divides her time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.
St. Augustine boasts a large and thriving Minorcan community. Originally recruited to work on an indigo plantation in New Smyrna, the Minorcan immigrants were treated horribly and eventually made their way to St. Augustine, where the governor (who was feuding with the plantation owner) gave them land.
As Patricia Griffin in Mullet on the Beach tells it:
“In the St. Augustine years, the freedom to heed the cry, “mullet on the beach,” was symbolic of the regained right to manage their own lives [after their escape from the New Smyrna plantation].
The most prevalent story…goes something like this: A group of Minorcans is in a structured setting of some kind— church, school, or sporting event—and someone yells “Mullet on the beach!” and the place is forthwith emptied of all Minorcan men. One version has a priest remarking that in case of a fire during mass he could empty the church faster by yelling “Mullet on the beach” than by yelling ‘Fire!’”