Then a scandalous lie cost her husband a pastoral career. Now the two work side-by-side running a bakery, serving coffee, and baking fresh bread. But the hurt still pulls at Audrey.
Driving early one morning to the bakery, Audrey’s car strikes something—or someone—at a fog-shrouded intersection. She finds a motor scooter belonging to a local teacher. Blood is everywhere, but there’s no trace of a body.
Both the scooter and the blood belong to detective Jack Mansfield’s wife, and he’s certain that Audrey is behind Julie’s disappearance, but the case dead-ends and the detective spirals into madness. Audrey is left with a soul-damaged ex-con and a cynical teen to solve the mystery. And she’ll never manage that unless she taps into something she would rather leave behind—her excruciating ability to feel other’s pain.
Reviews from around the office:
“I loved this one! The mystery was intriguing and the people were real.”
“I could almost smell the bread from the bakery.”
A Note from Author Erin Healy
The Baker’s Wife is the story of a police officer who takes a family hostage in their bakery because he believes they’re responsible for the disappearance of his wife. It’s a supernaturally driven speculation of how life’s pain might be transformed by compassion, though we ultimately hope for justice. The heroine, Audrey, is a composite of women I have known and would like to be more like—women with an unusually large capacity for empathy, which I see as a spiritual gift. The idea was inspired by 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the … Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received” (NIV). I see Audrey as a woman who is able to love others the way Christ loves us, with so great a love that He was willing to take on our own suffering as His own.
The Mother-Lode Loaf
A dense and nutty family favorite that makes a fantastic breakfast-on-the-go.
Yields: 1 loaf, 12 standard muffins, or 6 extra-large muffins
Preheat oven to 375. Grease a standard loaf pan or muffin tins. We like to double the recipe and bake these in a large bakery-style muffin pan (3-1/4 inch cups).
Sift together and set aside
* 2/3 C flour
* 1-1/4 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp salt
In a separate bowl cream together
* 1/2 C butter
* 1/2 C sugar
Add 2 eggs, one at a time
* 2 C bran flakes
* 5 Tbsp cornmeal
Alternately add until blended the sifted dry ingredients
* 1 C milk
Finally, mix in 2 C of your favorite dried fruits and nuts, chopped
Our family likes to use prunes, figs, and walnuts, which combine with the bran and cornmeal to give the bread a really nice texture and sweetness.
Pour the batter into pans. (If using muffin tins, fill to top.)
Bake large muffins at 375 for about 45 minutes. A loaf will take slightly longer; regular muffins slightly less. Test for doneness with a wooden skewer or toothpick. This is a heavy bread that doesn’t rise a lot.
Read an excerpt from The Baker’s Wife
“I just sensed you could use a friend right now. My name’s Audrey and I go to Grace Springs Church. My husband’s the pastor there. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Doesn’t matter, I’m not trying to recruit anyone. Anyway, do you like fresh bread? Geoff and I bake bread as a hobby, to give it away. I’d like to give you a loaf. I have some with me in my car because I was visiting one of your neighbors before I heard you crying. I’m parked right down—”
A door slammed inside the house and the curtain rose, then sank.
Audrey waited for a minute while the juniper leaves tickled the legs of her jeans. Sometimes people came back. Sometimes they wanted relief so badly that they didn’t care if it was offered by a total stranger.
But not this time.
Audrey left the yard, returned to the sidewalk, and started walking back toward her car, thinking about the woman inside the house. She passed the mailbox on her left, and her thoughts were interrupted. Her feet took her backwar two steps, and she took another look at the side of the black metal receptacle. The name MANSFIELD was applied to the box with rectangular stickers, black block letters on a gold background.
Mansfield. As in Jack Mansfield, the church elder? She glanced at the house number. She’d have to check the church directory. Mrs. Mansfield, Jack’s wife, was a math teacher at her son’s high school. Ed had her for geometry his sophomore year.
Audrey resumed walking, trying to bring up the woman’s face. They’d met once, at a school event. Mrs. Mansfield refused to attend church with jack, and Audrey had understood this reality to be a tender bruise on the elder’s heart, maybe even on his ego.
Julie. Her name was Julie. And their daughter’s name was Miralee, which was easier for Audrey to remember because until last week, the start of spring break, her son had dated the girl for a brief time.
If that had been Miralee crying, her refusal to come out was completely understandable. And Audrey was a fool not to have realized where she was. She still wasn’t sure if the kids’ breakup had been Ed’s call or Miralee’s. Audrey’s nineteen-year-old had been so strangely tight-lipped that she assumed Miralee had broken things off. Secretly, Audrey wasn’t sad to see that relationship end, though she hated that Ed was in pain. Now, after being subjected to the sounds of the broken heart in that house, she wondered if her assumptions had been wrong.
The thought passed through her mind that she should go back, knock on the front door like a respectable friend, apologize, and get to the bottom of things. Fix what Ed had broken, if necessary, although Ed wasn’t prone to breaking very many things in life. He was a good boy. A careful boy. Man now.
Audrey looked back at the red brick house.
A flash of light, a phantom sensation of liquid fire tearing through her body, prevented her from returning to the Mansfields’ property. She had no desire to press Miralee for details of the heartbreak. Especially not after the girl had refused.
She had done what God asked of her. This excuse propelled her back toward her car, the sunny air rich with the scent of rosemary-potato bread pushing against her face.
Audrey didn’t second-guess this decision for three months. In June the Grace Springs Church Board, spurred to fury by none other than Jack Mansfield, fired her husband and barred him from seeking another post as pastor.
Excerpted from The Baker’s Wife. Copyright © 2011 by Erin Healy. Published by Thomas Nelson. Used with permission. All rights reserved.