Gambling With Murder

Ever think about becoming a private investigator? Gambling with Murder has a pretty funny P.I. team of Corrie and Veera and in today’s excerpt they’re looking for treasure in a Los Angeles warehouse. Let’s check out the latest Southern California mystery!

About Gambling With Murder

A late-night call is all it takes for rookie lawyer Corrie Locke to kiss her day job at the movie studio goodbye, and do what she does best: flex her sweet P.I. skills and go undercover to find a senior who’s missing from a posh retirement community. One small stumbling block: skirting past security to gain inside access to the exclusive Villa Sunset. Time to call in the heavy artillery.

Besides former security guard turned legal assistant—now wannabe P.I.—Veera, Corrie relies on a secret weapon: her mother, a surprisingly eager addition to Corrie’s team. Armed with enough pepper spray to take down a band of Navy Seals, Mom impersonates a senior to infiltrate the Villa, Corrie, and Veera in tow. Turns out the job’s not as easy as they’d thought. These seniors have tricks tucked up their sleeves and aren’t afraid of using them.

 

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One – Gambling with Murder by Lida Sideris
Luck be a Lady
I maneuvered around shattered glass, splintered picture frames, and fragments of bubble wrap strewn along the cracked cement floor. Something crunched or crackled beneath my every step. Empty spaces joined hands to form a footpath meandering through the old warehouse. The beam of my flashlight circled around stacks of crates, blankets, old tires—
“Ninja One, see anything yet?” Veera Bankhead’s voice sputtered through the walkie-talkie cinched onto my belt.
Dressing up like ninjas had been Veera’s idea. To help us blend into the night. We wore matching black tunics over black slacks. The hood hid my long hair. A facemask rendered me incognito. Only the slit across my eyes kept me from tripping. Veera was posted in the parking lot outside to discourage unwelcome visitors.
“Looks like a hoarder’s paradise.” I stepped over a pile of well-used sneakers.
“Any idea of what we’re looking for?” she asked.
“Oh, the usual hidden-in-a-warehouse items. A barrel labeled ‘TNT’. A nondescript briefcase filled with rolls of cash. Dorothy’s ruby slippers would be nice.”
By day, Veera and I worked in the legal department of Ameripictures Film Studios. Tonight’s side gig was connected to our day job…by a nearly invisible thread. Props had gone missing from a high-budget movie currently in production. A police investigation was underway, but Veera suspected an inside job. She’d convinced studio security into letting us take a look. An anonymous tip led to a Los Angeles warehouse hidden beneath the 405- freeway. I stepped gingerly over dented soda cans to stay on the path.
“We gotta find something,” Veera said. “Our reputation’s at stake.”
She didn’t mean our reputation in the legal department. She meant our reputation as quasi-professional, unlicensed private investigators. I had my father to thank for showing me the P.I. ropes. Investigating suspicious deaths was what I did best, with help from Veera. It had earned us a level of respect from the studio security crew. That’s how we got the nosing around for missing props gig.
“I still say that new intern is behind the thefts,” Veera said. “He’s been hangin’ out at the prop house every day.”
“Isn’t he inventorying the props?” I asked.
“So he says,” Veera replied.
I had low hopes of finding anything tonight but I had to admit, this was the perfect location to hide stolen goods. A baby elephant could get lost in here. “Did you find out who owns this place?” I asked.
“Working on it,” she replied.
It didn’t hurt matters that Veera had handled parking lot security before becoming my legal assistant. She had connections far and wide in the Southern California security guard world.
I pinned the beam of my light into a dark corner. “That’s strange.” Four large pieces of luggage lay side-by-side, atop a long folding table. Everything surrounding me was in stacks and piles. I quick-stepped closer. The luggage exteriors, aluminum handles, and zippers looked new. Why store unused luggage in a place with worn-out, broken-down stuff?
“Oh-oh,” Veera said.
“Hold on.” I grabbed a suitcase and slid it closer to me. I shone my light on a combination lock. Next to it sat a small keyhole. Pulling out a paperclip from my pants pocket, I shoved it into the keyhole and jiggled it around.
“Two unmarked vehicles drove up,” Veera whispered.
We’d parked my car behind the warehouse. I’d left Veera hiding behind a bottle brush shrub near the entry.
I popped open the lid of the suitcase. Folded bedsheets lay on top. Easing them aside, I gaped at the blood-red cape with a stylized golden “S” on the back. “It’s Superman.”
“The cars parked next to each other,” Veera said.
To the side of the cape lay a pillowcase. I ran my fingers over something odd-shaped and bulky inside. I unwrapped it to find a one-of-a-kind, golden gun.
“No way.” A cigarette case formed the handle. The trigger was a cufflink and a fountain pen served as the barrel. It was a prop gun from a James Bond film.
“Two muscular guys came out of a van,” Veera said. “There’s a third-person taking his sweet time exiting a Prius. Looks to be someone smaller, older by the way he moves. And he’s wearing a dress, which means he could be a female. Headed your way. If there’s a backdoor, I’d use it.”
“Can’t. I hit the jackpot.” I spun around. Where to hide?

 

 

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About the Author

Lida Sideris’ first stint after law school was a newbie lawyer’s dream: working as an entertainment attorney for a movie studio…kind of like her heroine, Corrie Locke, except without the homicides. Lida was one of two national winners of the Helen McCloy Mystery Writers of America Scholarship and a Killer Nashville, Silver Falchion Award Finalist. She lives in the northern tip of Southern California with her family, rescue dogs and a flock of uppity chickens.

www.lidasideris.com

https://www.facebook.com/lidasideris

Twitter: @lidasideris

Instagram: @lida_sideris

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The Killer Sermon

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We all seem to have different opinions these days, but what happens when people on different sides of an issue have to come together to find a killer? The issue? Pro-choice and pro-life. I love the idea of any story that promotes unity to achieve a common goal. It’s what the world needs now.

More About The Killer Sermon

An aging priest in rural Wisconsin gives an impassioned Christmas homily condemning abortion as murder and exhorting his parishioners to stop it.  A former mayor responds by starting a hunger strike in city hall, and the editor of the local weekly newspaper begins running a counter at the top of each edition that estimates the number of abortions performed since Roe v Wade.  A third member of the congregation takes a more lethal approach and begins to target reproductive rights physicians for murder.  Cole Huebsch is a pro-life leaning Milwaukee FBI agent. Michele Fields is a pro-choice leaning reporter. They need to set aside their differences to catch the killer before the country is torn apart. The Killer Sermon is a fast moving thriller that reminds us that our words matter, and that regardless of how big our differences on divisive issues, we can still find respect, and maybe more…

The Killer Sermon is Available on Amazon

Excerpt: THE KILLER SERMON
Chapter Twenty-Three
The Fast
“Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning…” — Joel 2:12
John Lawler sat in the lobby of the small, three-story painted-white brick building on Blackhawk Avenue that served as Prairie du Chien’s City Hall. He’d been there three days and the city employees worried about him. The former mayor was eighty-six. His thin, white hair was cropped so close to his scalp it mirrored the three-day stubble that covered his chin and sagging cheeks. His eyes were slate gray and had a depth to them that spoke of wisdom. His heavily lined face showed the wear and tear of hard battles with prostate cancer and a heart attack, combined with deep laugh lines carved by raising four children to adulthood in the best possible way.
The oldest of Lawler’s four children burst through the doors of City Hall just then. Matthew was at his father’s side in six long strides. “Dad! What the hell are you doing here in your pajamas?” he said, looking down at his father snuggled into a sleeping bag on the floor. “The mayor said you’ve been here haunting the place for days.”
“I’m on a hunger strike,” the old man said in a quiet, dignified voice. He wasn’t used to one of his kids towering over him with his voice raised. He felt somewhat intimidated, but wasn’t about to show it.
“Against what, for Pete’s sakes?” Matthew demanded loudly. All around them, in the rooms that faced the lobby, people could hear at least the son’s side of the conversation. Some of those people listening had worked for the old man and loved him greatly.
The father’s voice was steady and firm, but low. “I’m not eating again until people in this country stop killing their babies. I’m fasting until we outlaw abortions.”
“What? Does this have anything to do with that Christmas sermon Father Wagner gave?” The son was worried. When his father made up his mind about something, when he felt he was right on something important, he wasn’t easily deterred. If he was serious about this, then he’d just told his eldest son that he was going to kill himself, slowly, here in the lobby of City Hall. Matthew slid down the wall and slumped into a sitting position near his father’s head. His voice lost its bravado and came out soft and scared. “Please, Dad,” he whispered, “come home with me. You’ve got kids and a wife who need you and love you. Grandkids, too. If you won’t reconsider for me, then do it for Mom. Have you thought about how this will affect her?”
“It was her idea,” his father said, a broad smile lighting his face. “I told her I wanted to do something, to tilt at one more windmill before I die, and she suggested this. She said, ‘If it worked for men like Gandhi and Cesar Chavez, then why not me? And why not now?’ She’s wonderful. Almost seventy years I’ve been with her, and she still surprises me. Oh, how I love her, and you kids. You’ve been my greatest gifts.”
Matthew shook his head. “I appreciate your commitment, Dad. But I can’t let you go through with it. The mayor has called a special meeting of the common council tonight, and I’ll be there to tell them that your sons and daughters want you home, even if you have to be dragged out of here in handcuffs by Prairie’s finest.” He started to get to his feet, but his dad caught his shirt in surprisingly strong fingers and pulled his son back down to him.
He leaned in close. “Listen, son,” he began, tears pooling in his eyes, “I’ve tried to do the best I could for you. There’s no book that teaches a young man how to be a perfect dad, but I did my best. The one thing I always wanted you to know was that I would love you…come hell or high water…forever. Like with your mom, in good times and in bad. People with better educations than mine call it unconditional love. Well, that’s the only kind my parents taught me, and the only kind I ever wanted you to know.”
“But, Dad. I can’t walk out of here and come back in a few weeks to bury you. That’s not love.”
“I’m not asking you to turn your back on me, Matty. I want you to go to that meeting tonight and fight for me. You’re the best damn lawyer in La Crosse. Make sure they don’t forget that! Tell them your dad’s not crazy, and that his entire family stands behind him. Tell them there’s still something called free speech in this country and something else called civil disobedience. Tell them your old man’s willing to die trying to save the lives of kids who haven’t even been born yet. And get Grant Grae from the Courier Press there; make sure he gets it all down. We may not change any laws before I die, Matty, but we could sure raise some awareness on this issue. We need to move this sick business into the bright light of the truth. I don’t think it will survive that, not in the end.” His father held Matthew’s hand and spoke to him in a voice swirling with emotions. “All my life I’ve wanted to be there when you and the rest of my family needed me,” he said, squeezing the hand more tightly. “Now, I’m depending on you to be there for me.”
His son broke down and grabbed his dad, burying his face in his father’s pajama top, staining it with his tears.

The Killer Sermon is Available on Amazon

About the Author

Kevin earned both a BA in journalism and later an MBA from Marquette University. He has worked as the outdoor writer for a daily newspaper, taught marketing and management classes at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and served as an administrator of an urban safety net hospital. 

The Killer Sermon is Kevin Kluesner’s debut novel.  It introduces FBI agent Cole Huebsch and a thriller series set in Wisconsin and the Midwest. He might be the only person to claim membership in both the American College of Healthcare Executives and the International Thriller Writers. Kevin live in New Berlin, Wisconsin, with his soulmate and wife Janet. 

Catch Up with Kevin

 kevinkluesner.net

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Sanctuary

Sanctuary by C.L. Tolbert Banner

 

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We have another story in New Orleans this week, a city filled with haunting mysteries and interesting people. Sanctuary takes us to that underbelly with law professor Emma Thornton who tries to help a young woman accused of a crime she didn’t commit. Throw in a cult leader and the nearly impossible job of figuring out who to trust and you have today’s mystery. 

 

Synopsis:

Sanctuary by C.L. Tolbert

A Thornton Mystery

In SANCTUARY, the third book in the Thornton Mystery Series, Emma is back again. This time she’s agreed to represent a former client accused of killing the leader of a suspicious cult in New Orleans.

James Crosby, the charismatic leader of the Japaprajnas, is found dead one late afternoon, his body draped over an iron fence in the courtyard of the nineteenth-century house where he and several cult members work and live. Although police initially presumed his fall was an accident, they quickly discover that James received a lethal dose of a drug before he was pushed from his office balcony.

The next day the police discover a syringe and a substantial amount of the drug which killed James in Stacey Robert’s bedroom. The nineteen-year-old cult member is brought in for questioning, which leads to her arrest. Emma, who had represented Stacey when she was a sixteen-year-old runaway, agrees to take the case.

Convinced she is innocent Emma begins an investigation into the cult and its members. Emma’s questions uncover dangerous secrets, illicit activities, and the exploitation of innocent victims. Emma’s suspicions lead her to the killer’s trail and the case’s final resolution.

Praise for Sanctuary:

“Brace yourself. Deadly personalities, hidden agendas, and long-buried secrets threaten law professor Emma Thornton, after she agrees to defend a terrified young woman accused of murdering the charismatic leader of an oppressive cult. The dark heart of New Orleans has never felt so dangerous.”

Roger Johns, Author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Series: The Thornton Mystery Series, Book 3
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter Twelve

The French Quarter was home to Stacey. She could relax there. She loved the winding streets, the ancient buildings, the ironwork on the balconies, and the festival-like spirit of Jackson Square. Plus, it was easy to blend in. With at least as many tourists as native New Orleanians, no one stood out more than anyone else. The exceptions ˗ the homeless, the street performers, and artists ˗ were part of the scenery. They blended into the background in a multicolor splash.

She needed money and had been watching the tarot card readers in the square. They made thirty-five dollars a read, plus tips. She could do that. She’d been taught the Celtic spread years ago and still had her deck tucked away with the rest of her stuff. It had taken her a few days to get squared away. Yesterday, she’d found a discarded chair on the street in one of the residential areas of the Quarter. She knew someone who worked at a pizza place right off of Pirate’s Alley, a small street next to St. Louis Cathedral. She’d asked if she could stash the chair behind their dumpster, and he’d agreed to it. That was helpful since she could store her things close to the place where she’d be reading. Now she just needed a small table or a box and a second chair, and she’d be ready.

Even though the city required a license and permit for the artists who painted in Jackson Square, there were no such requirements for card readers. But, every once in a while, the Jackson Square artists proposed an ordinance to the City Council to remove the fortune-tellers. So far, they’d been unsuccessful, and recently the readers had come back in full force. They added an ambiance to the area, especially when they burned their incense. She liked the way it smelled.

Stacey glanced at her reflection as she walked by a shop with a large plate glass window. She still wasn’t accustomed to her new look. She’d used some of the money she’d saved to purchase hair color and had dyed her honey blonde hair a dark brown. She’d also cut it much shorter with a pair of cheap scissors in hopes of disguising her appearance. She’d done it herself, and not very well. She didn’t like the jagged ends. But overall, it worked. She had to admit she looked like a different person and thought it was possible to sit in full view in the middle of Jackson Square, conduct tarot card readings, and not be recognized. At least not by the likes of police officers or others who might be looking for her.

She crammed her hand in her pocket, making sure that the wad of dollar bills she’d neatly folded and covered with several rubber bands was still there. One of the problems of not having a place with a door to lock was that you had to carry your valuables with you. She still had some of the money she’d saved from working at the Temple. She was frugal, eating only one meal a day, and that was a cheap one. But she’d been on her own for four days, and her money would run out soon. She hoped her plan to make more money in Jackson Square was a good one.

Stacey avoided shelters. Emma knew everyone in the city who ran them and would look for her at women’s shelters before she’d look anywhere else. But Stacey had found the perfect place to stay about three miles away from the Quarter—a small chapel in the middle of a cemetery in the Bywater District. It was called St. Roch’s and was named after the patron saint of dogs, invalids, and the falsely accused. The cemetery, the street, and the surrounding community were all named after the saint. Locals mispronounced the chapel’s name, calling it St. Roach’s. Even though the structure was crumbling, it still provided the shelter Stacey needed.

St. Roch’s had been built in 1867 by a priest who had prayed to St. Roch during the yellow fever pandemic in New Orleans, asking the saint to spare his community. Ten years later, when no one from his parish had succumbed to yellow fever, he made good on his promise, built the shrine, and dedicated it to the saint. It was a small chapel comprised of only two tiny rooms. One room contained a statue of St. Roch and his loyal dog, and the other room was filled with human prostheses, braces, glass eyeballs, glasses, false teeth, and praying hands, rosaries, and religious figurines, all offered to St. Roch as thanks for healing. Bricks on the ground in that room were inscribed with the word thanks and littered with coins. Over the years, a dusty haze had settled over the various prostheses at the shrine. The walls were crumbling, and a statue of Mary had started to disintegrate. Most people considered the chapel creepy, so creepy, that they avoided it at night, although tourists occasionally visited during the day. Rumor had it that voodoo ceremonies were carried out in the cemetery after dark, although Stacey never saw anything like that. She slept in the tiny room with St. Roch and his dog.

It took between forty-five minutes and an hour to walk to the French Quarter from the chapel, depending on whether Stacey stopped for anything. She woke up early in the morning and left the chapel well before any tourists might arrive. She usually walked to Decatur Street, then down to the Riverwalk Mall, avoiding Esplanade Avenue entirely. She liked the restrooms at the mall. They were clean and usually unoccupied early in the morning. She washed up and brushed her teeth. Once, she’d even shampooed her hair. She carried her bag of dirty laundry with her and would occasionally rinse out her things in the sink. What little makeup and toiletries she needed were easily picked up from department store samples. She walked back to the chapel before dark. At night, the same laundry bag served as her pillow.

By Friday, Stacey had found the second chair, a wooden box tall enough to use as a table, and an interesting scarf someone had stuffed in a Goodwill box along the side of the road. She’d decided to throw it over the makeshift table to give her fortune-telling booth some panache. She was ready for business.

On Saturday morning, Stacey walked to the Quarter, freshened up, grabbed her table and chairs from behind the dumpster at the pizza place, and set up her tarot stand, all before ten o’clock. She was pleased with the location. Only five feet from the steps of the St. Louis Cathedral, it was a prime spot. Tourists swarmed to the cathedral at all hours of the day and were already beginning to mill about. Within fifteen minutes, a middle-aged woman wearing a baseball hat, a neon green bandana, and pink tennis shoes, approached Stacey.

“How much do you charge?”

Stacey stood, her hands behind her back, and smiled. “Thirty-five dollars.”

“How long’s the reading?”

“It’s for fifteen minutes.”

“Okay.” She looked around the square. “Looks like that’s the going rate. But you need a sign. Let’s go.”

She sat down across from Stacey, perched on the tiny seat, and waited for Stacey to shuffle the deck.

Stacey mixed the cards a couple of times, then set the stack in front of the woman.

“Cut the cards into three smaller decks.” She’d noticed a man staring at them from a distance. He was too far away to see clearly. Perhaps he was staring at someone else.

The woman cut the cards.

“Now pick one of the three decks.”

The woman chose one.

Stacey fanned the cards from the chosen deck out in front of the woman and removed the other cards. She thought the man looked familiar. He started to walk toward them. As he approached, she could tell who he was. Raphael. He stopped on the stairs of the cathedral to watch.

“Choose fourteen cards.” Stacey glanced up at Raphael. He hadn’t budged.

The woman carefully chose fourteen cards and handed them to Stacey, who began laying them out in the traditional Celtic cross. The woman had chosen the King of Pentacles as card one, crossed by the Tower. The King of Pentacles, which represented business acumen, was in the position of present influence. And the Tower, which was a card of catastrophic or shocking change, and chaos, crossed the King, indicating the nature of his obstacles. The third card, placed under the cross, was the Death card. Death also represented change, and even occasionally, but rarely, death. Stacey froze. Had the cards picked up on what had happened to James instead of the woman’s situation?

Stacey sensed movement and glanced up. She flinched when she saw Raphael walking toward their table. Raphael stopped about a foot away from where she was reading, stopped, then crossed his arms.

“This is a private reading.” Stacey stopped laying out cards. Her heart was pounding.

“Interesting that you got the death card, don’t you think?”

“Sir, please leave. This isn’t any of your concern.” She didn’t want him drawing attention to her. She just wanted him to go away.

“I’ll leave. Sorry I interrupted.” He nodded toward Stacey’s client. “Thousand pardons, ma’am.”

“If you haven’t cut into my fifteen minutes, I’m fine.”

“Of course not.” Stacey smiled at the woman. “You’ll get your full reading.” She stood and turned toward Raphael. “We have nothing further to discuss.”

Raphael shrugged. “I’ve been worried about you, and so are a couple of other people. And just in case you thought that new hair color was a disguise, let me just tell you it isn’t. If I know who you are, so will others. They’d be very interested in knowing where you are now and what you’re doing.” He nodded toward the cards in her hand. “Good luck with that.”

“You need to leave immediately.”

Raphael started backing away. “I’ll be back.” He put his hand to his forehead in a farewell salute. “You can count on that.”

Stacey didn’t know if Raphael was threatening or warning her. But she knew she didn’t want him to come back to the Quarter to see her anytime soon.

Stacey glanced back at her client. “I’m so sorry for the interruption. Where were we?” She sat back down. “Oh yes.” She examined the cards. “Has a man in your life undergone a significant change, the end of a relationship, or even a death?”

“No, not that I know of.”

“Alright, well, let’s proceed.” Stacey watched as Raphael retreated across the square and took a right at Pirate’s Alley.

She continued to lay out cards for the woman.

The fourth card, the card of past events, was the seven of swords, the card of deception. As far as she was concerned, that card certainly applied to James. He’d deceived her from the very beginning. She’d fallen for his tricks. She couldn’t see through his deception at first, but she caught on, finally. The fifth card, the card of the present, was the Chariot, the card of courage and movement. She smiled. She was hoping to do something about the mess she’d gotten herself in. At least she wasn’t sitting in jail like a scared rabbit. For the final card in the cross, the card of the near future, the woman had drawn Justice. She held the final card in her hand for a couple of seconds before laying it down in front of the woman. Even though she hadn’t drawn the cards, Stacey still believed they were telling her story, not the woman’s. Justice, the card of fair decisions, gave her comfort.

“The final outcome, Justice, relates to karmic justice. It refers to legal matters as well, but generally, it’s telling you that all actions have consequences. Have your own actions contributed in any way to any of the circumstances you find yourself in today?”

The woman nodded. “I can see that they have. I’m not sure that a man in my life has met any sort of catastrophic end, though. Maybe something’s coming up. I hope not.” She shook her head, reached into her pocket, and handed Stacey three tens and a five. “That was fun. I love getting tarot readings.”

Stacey watched the woman walk off and thought about the consequences of her recent actions. She’d been trying to avoid that for months. It was so easy to blame others. It was also easy to turn a blind eye to what was going on in front of you. She was young, but she wasn’t stupid.

That day she had four other readings, making a total of $175.00. She was stunned. She’d made money at the temple, but they held on to it for her rent and food. So, she’d never had much cash, even though the temple made seventy-five dollars per massage. She packed up for the night, brought her table and chairs back to the pizza restaurant, stashed them behind the dumpster again, and tipped the manager. She was glad she knew the guy. That was the thing about New Orleans. If you knew how to get around, you could make things work for you, even though it could be a dangerous place.

She was starved and decided to treat herself to a shrimp po’ boy from Felix’s on Bourbon. She hadn’t had one in forever, and she felt like celebrating. And now that she had enough cash to last a few days, she could afford it. Plus, she wanted to walk by ETC to talk to the girl who was working in the back of the shop. She didn’t know who it was, and she didn’t care. But she hoped she could work out a deal with her. Pay her a little cash and get her to leave the back door open so she could start sleeping there at night instead of St. Roch’s. The chapel floor wasn’t comfortable, and the cemetery wasn’t safe at night. An option would be nice. It was worth a try.

***

Excerpt from Sanctuary by C.L. Tolbert. Copyright 2022 by C.L. Tolbert. Reproduced with permission from C.L. Tolbert. All rights reserved.

My Review

Professor Emma Thornton comes to the rescue of a young woman and former client who works as a masseuse at the Japaprajna house located in New Orleans. The girl has a troubled history, and when the leader of the cult experiences a grisly death after being drugged, she is set up for the crime. Emma begins to investigate the shady doings at the house including a newly-formed religion and young women who are the victims of the leader. There are plenty of ins and outs to the investigation and the reader never quite knows who to trust. Tolbert shows us the scary side of New Orleans through the character of Emma who takes her share of chances to get to the bottom of the mystery. Nicely written, fast-paced mystery!

Author Bio:

C.L. Tolbert

After winning the Georgia State Bar Journal’s fiction contest in 2010, C.L. Tolbert developed the winning story into a full-scale novel. OUT FROM SILENCE was published in December of 2019, and is the first novel in the Thornton Mysteries series. Her second book, THE REDEMPTION, was published in February of 2021, and SANCTUARY, the third book in the series, was published in July of 2022.

Licensed in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia, C.L. practiced law for thirty-five years before retiring to pursue writing. During her legal career she spent several years teaching at Loyola Law School in New Orleans, where she was the Director of the Homeless Clinic. She also has a Masters of Special Education, and taught in a public school prior to enrolling in law school.

C.L. has two children and three grandchildren, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and schnauzer.

Catch Up With C.L. Tolbert:
www.CLTolbert.com
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Instagram – @cltolbertwrites
Twitter – @cltolbertwrites
Facebook – @cltolbertwriter

Giveaway:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for C.L. Tolbert. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.
 

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A Nice Place to Die

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Time for a mystery with a policeman at the center of the story! No amateur sleuths today as we joined the Belfast Police investigating a murder. A Nice Place to Die is a true Irish police procedural with rich characters and a fascinating mystery to solve.

More About A Nice Place to Die

The body of a young woman is found by a river outside Belfast and Detective Sergeant Ryan McBride makes a heart-wrenching discovery at the scene, a discovery he chooses to hide even though it could cost him the investigation – and his career.

The victim was a loner but well-liked. Why would someone want to harm her? And is her murder connected to a rapist who’s stalking the local pubs? As Ryan untangles a web of deception and lies, his suspects die one by one, leading him to a dangerous family secret and a murderer who will stop at nothing to keep it.

And still he harbors his secret …

Excerpt

Nice Place to Die
Chapter 1
Sunday, October 23
They reminded him of mourners at a funeral.
Down where the body lay, officers searched the undergrowth, their hands clasped behind their backs and their heads bowed.
Detective Sergeant Ryan McBride pulled on his gloves. He should really grab a Tyvek suit, or booties at least, but he’d run out of patience, couldn’t be arsed to hang around any longer. Now that he was here, he wanted to get to the scene. The CSIs were clustered near the river and had locked the vans. God forbid, in the middle of an area crawling with police, they should leave the doors open. In Portglenone Forest’s windswept car park, that scent of an Irish autumn, damp leaves and woodsmoke, hung in the air, while crows, black and boisterous, flapped and cawed in the dark trees.
Ryan’s partner stood by one of the cars interviewing the man who had found the body. Tall and thin, DS Billy Lamont shivered in the cool air, his boyish face blotched red and his shoulders tight. The witness, a stocky man with a thatch of ginger hair, slumped sideways inside the vehicle’s open back door, his feet touching the wet grass. A little black terrier jumped and yapped incessantly at his heels, aware perhaps of its owner’s distress.
Ryan headed over to the burly constable manning the entrance and signed the crime log.
“Here,” the officer said and, reaching behind him, produced a pair of booties.
“Cheers,” Ryan nodded his thanks as he passed around the tape. The crime-scene photographer, carrying a large bag and a couple of cameras, huffed up toward him. He was a strapping, florid-faced lad. “I already took shots of everything, boss, but if there’s anything extra you want, let me know. I needed to shoot the video before the FMO sees her, he should be here any minute. I’m going to grab a coffee—freezing my tits off here.”
Ryan flailed a little on the way down and cursed under his breath. Too much of a hurry—too keen. He glanced around, remembering. He’d walked along the banks of the River Bann years ago with a girl called Maggie. He’d told her that the river had its source on Slieve Muck in the Mournes, and they’d had a good laugh at that—trust the Irish to name a mountain after muck.
But there was nothing to laugh at now.
An early mist drifted in fragments around a young woman’s body. With her face twisted to the right and hidden by a tumble of copper hair, she looked like a careless sunbather. She wore a thick, cream-coloured sweater over black trousers. One of her red shoes had toppled away and lay abandoned by a mossy rock. It caught his eye, shiny leather. A shock of crimson in the weeds.
He crouched on a protective metal grid the crime scene techs had set by the body. For the first time he hesitated. Caught something about her, what was it? The shade of her hair? He took out his pen and gently lifted a glossy, reddish-brown ringlet from her cheek. His heart skipped a beat.
No, no.
He stood quickly and inhaled cold morning air. The sudden blood rush made him lightheaded.
He knew her.
Oh, Christ, he’d slept with her….
He glanced at the river—a pretty enough place, if a little gloomy when the sun went in. On the far bank, a willow tree’s bare branches skimmed the water’s surface like long pale fingers.
Further along to his left, two constables ran blue and white tape between the trees while scenes-of-crime officers searched the undergrowth. The little dog’s sharp barks echoed across the water as he exhaled, hunkered down again, and focused on her body.
He studied her, the skin as white and textured as eggshell. A few faint freckles dotted the side of her nose. Half open eyes. Thick brown eyelashes cast a soft shadow across her cheek. She had been pretty in life—beautiful. And more than that, he’d felt a connection to her, a vulnerability. The beginnings of a bruise crept around from the other side of her face. She hadn’t died right away, and that small detail bothered him. Someone had hit her hard, a brutal blow. Blood, viscous and matted, threaded her hair and had seeped into the ground at her head.
What was her name? Cathy? Catherine? It had been about six months ago. He’d had too much to drink, and as far as he remembered, she hadn’t told him much about herself. They had talked, connected right away. What should he do? Would they take him off the case? Because of a one-night stand? No way of knowing. They might. If they knew….
A tall, dense grove of trees, shuddering in a blustery wind, hid this section of the path. Alone there with her, in the damp early morning, with the smell of mud and stagnant water, the rustle of beaten grass above him and the cawing of the birds, he knew he couldn’t have this investigation go to anyone else. Didn’t even want to risk the possibility.

My Review

DS McBride has just broken a sacred rule. He has a connection to the murder victim, but has chosen not to tell anyone. Then he meets her identical twin. This is a fast-moving mystery that has you rooting for McBride, even though he’s doing all the wrong things and leading with his heart. The Belfast setting adds to the flavor of this mystery and I loved the many characters and plot twists that Joyce Woollcott created in McBride’s world. You won’t be able to put it down.

You can find A Nice Place to Die on Amazon

About The Author

J. Woollcott is a Canadian writer born in Northern Ireland. She is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers and BCAD, University of Ulster. Her first mystery, Abducted, was long-listed in the Canadian Arthur Ellis Awards in 2019. Her second book, A Nice Place to Die, won the RWA Unpublished Mystery/Suspense Daphne du Maurier Award in 2019 in New York. A Nice Place to Die was also long-listed in the Arthur Ellis Awards for 2020 and short-listed in the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence in 2021. She is working on part two of the Ryan McBride Belfast Murder Series, Blood Relations, due out in August 2023.

She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the Suncoast Writer’s Guild.

Catch Up with Joyce

https://www.jwoollcott.com

Twitter @JoyceWoollcott

Death at the Manor

Death at the Manor by Katharine Schellman Banner

Listen to this blog as a podcast.

Got your time traveling bags packed? This week we are heading to Regency England for a classic locked room mystery, Death at the Manor. Not only that, but there’s a ghost. That’s right. What a great way to start September.👻

Be sure to scroll down and enter the giveaway.

Synopsis:

Death at the Manor by Katharine Schellman

The tortured spirits of the dead haunt a Regency-era English manor—but the true danger lies in the land of the living in the third installment in the Lily Adler mysteries, perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn.

Regency widow Lily Adler is looking forward to spending the autumn away from the social whirl of London. When she arrives in Hampshire with her friends, the Carroways, she doesn’t expect much more than a quiet country visit and the chance to spend time with her charming new acquaintance, Matthew Spencer.

But something odd is afoot in the small country village. A ghost has taken up residence in the Belleford manor, a lady in grey who wanders the halls at night, weeping and wailing. Half the servants have left in terror, but the family seems delighted with the notoriety that their ghost provides. Intrigued by this spectral guest, Lily and her party immediately make plans to visit Belleford.

They arrive at the manor the next morning ready to be entertained—only to find that tragedy has struck. The matriarch of the family has just been found killed in her bed.

The dead woman’s family is convinced that the ghost is responsible. Lily is determined to learn the truth before another victim turns up—but could she be next in line for the Great Beyond?

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: August 9th 2022
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 1639100784 (ISBN13: 9781639100781)
Series: Lily Adler Mystery #3
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Read an excerpt:

As they walked, Mr. Wright fell in step next to Ofelia. “Have you ever seen a ghost before, Lady Carroway?”

“I have not,” she replied, as polite as ever in spite of the hint of skepticism in her voice. “Pray, what does it look like?”

“Like a lady in white and gray,” he said, and Lily was surprised to see how serious his expression was. His frivolous, unctuous manner had dropped away, and he shivered a little as he gestured toward the windows. “No one has seen her face. The first time I saw her she was standing right there, bathed in moonlight, when I was returning from a late night in the village. And my sister saw her in the early morning only two days ago. Some nights, we have heard her wails echoing through the halls, even when she is nowhere to be seen.”

Lily exchanged a look with her aunt, who seemed surprised by the detail in Thomas Wright’s story and the quaver in his voice. Either he believed wholeheartedly in his ghost, or he was putting on a very convincing performance for his audience.

“And what does she do?” Ofelia asked, sounding a little more somber now, as they drew

to a halt in front of the windows. The small party looked around the corner of the hall. It was unremarkable enough, with several large paintings, and a tall, handsome curio cabinet standing in an alcove. An old-fashioned tapestry hung across one wall, though it was worn and faded enough that it was hard to tell exactly what picture it had originally presented.

“Nothing, so far,” Mr. Wright said, a sort of forced theatricality in his voice that left Lily puzzled.

She had expected, based on what Mr. Spencer had said the night before, to find an eager showman in Thomas Wright, ready to bask in the attention of curious neighbors, not a true believer in the supernatural. Glancing at Mr. Spencer out of the corner of her eye, she thought he looked equally puzzled.

“She stands and weeps, or floats around the hall and wails. Usually, if someone tries to draw close, she vanishes. But last month—” Mr. Wright’s voice dropped a little. He still glanced

uneasily toward the other end of the hall, as if momentarily distracted or looking for someone, before quickly returning his attention to his audience. “Last month she became angry when one of our housemaids came upon her unexpectedly. The lady in gray pursued her down the hall, wailing. Poor Etta was so scared that she fell down the stairs in her haste to get away. That was when our servants started leaving.”

“I trust the housemaid has recovered?” Mr. Spencer asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

“She has,” Mr. Wright replied. “But no one has tried to approach the lady in gray again. We think she wishes to be left alone.”

“Well,” Lily said, attempting a return to lightness, “as far as ghosts go, that sounds reasonable enough. I confess I feel that way often enough myself, especially after too many busy nights in a row.”

Ofelia, who had been looking a little wide-eyed, giggled, and Mr. Spencer quickly covered a cough that might have been a chuckle.

Mr. Wright scowled, his expression halfway between unease and displeasure. “I take it you are not a woman who believes in ghosts, Mrs. Adler?”

“I have never had the opportunity to find out whether or not I am,” Lily replied. “The homes I have lived in have all been stubbornly unhaunted.”

“For your sake, madam, I hope they remain that way,” Mr. Wright said. There was an unexpected note of resignation in his voice as he added, “It is not a comfortable thing to live with.”

“I would have thought you to be fond of yours, sir,” Lily said. “If you dislike her so, why go to the trouble of showing visitors around and telling them the story?”

Mr. Wright smiled, some of the showman creeping back into his manner. “Because you are here, dear ladies. And how could I resist such a beautiful audience?”

“Tell me, has your family any idea who this lady in gray might be?” Lily’s aunt asked politely.

He nodded, his voice dropping even further, and they all reflexively drew closer to hear what he was saying. “We each have our own theory, of course,” he said. “I believe it is my father’s great-aunt, Tabitha, whose bedroom was just this way. If you would care to see the spot?” He held out his arm to Ofelia, who took it. Mr. Wright, engrossed in his story once more, turned to lead them down the closest passage. “Tabitha died there some fifty years ago, of a broken heart, they say, after news arrived of the death of her betrothed in the colonies—”

His story was suddenly cut off by screaming. Not a single shriek of surprise or dismay, but a cry that seemed to go on without ceasing. Thomas Wright froze, the genial smile dropping from his face in shock. “Selina?” he called.

The screaming continued, growing more hysterical. Dropping Ofelia’s arm, he ran toward the sound, which was coming from the far hallway, past the stairs. The others, stunned into stillness, stared at each other, unsure what to do.

“I think it’s Miss Wright,” Mr. Spencer said, all traces of merriment gone from his face. “Wait here—I shall see if they need any assistance.” He made to go after, but Thomas Wright was already returning, rushing down the hall next to another man, who was carrying the screaming woman.

“The parlor, just next to you, Spencer!” Mr. Wright called. “Open the door!”

Mr. Spencer, the closest to the door, flung it open, and the hysterical woman was carried in. She was laid on a chaise longue in the middle of the dim little room, Mr. Spencer stepping forward to help settle her as the man who had carried her stepped back. Lily, glancing around as she and the other ladies crowded through the door, thought it looked like a space reserved for the family’s private use, which made sense on an upper floor. Thomas Wright knelt next to the hysterical woman for a moment, clasping her hands.

“Selina?” he said loudly. But she kept screaming, her eyes wide and darting about the room without seeing anything. Judging by the round cheeks and dark hair they both shared, Lily thought she must be his sister. Whether they had other features in common was hard to tell when Selina Wright was in the middle of hysterics.

“Miss Wright?” Matthew Spencer tried giving her shoulders a shake. “You must stop this at once!”

But she clearly could not hear either of them. Thomas Wright took a deep breath and looked grim as, with a surprising degree of practicality, he slapped her across the face.

The screams stopped abruptly, her blank expression resolving into one of terror before her eyes latched on her brother. Her face crumpled in misery. “Oh, Thomas!” she sobbed, gasping for breath.

He gave her shoulders a little shake. “Selina, stop this—you must tell me what happened.” But she only shook her head, clutching at his coat with desperate fists and dropping her head against his shoulder, her weeping shaking them both. Mr. Wright turned to the servant who had carried his sister. “Isaiah, what happened to her?”

Isaiah was a young Black man with very short, curly hair and broad shoulders. His plain, dark clothing marked him clearly as a servant, though it was nothing so formal as the livery that would have been worn in a great house. His wide stance spoke of confidence, and the easy way that Thomas Wright addressed him indicated long service and familiarity.

But there was no confidence on the manservant’s face as he hesitated, gulping visibly and shaking his head. His eyes were wide, and he stumbled over his words as he tried to answer, either unsure how to respond or not wanting to. “It’s . . . it’s Mrs. Wright, sir. She didn’t open her door when we knocked, and Miss Wright . . . she asked me to open it, since no one has the key . . . and she was there, sir—Mrs. Wright. She was there but she wasn’t moving. There was nothing we could do, but there was no one else there what could have done it. She’s dead, sir,” he finished in a rush. “Mrs. Wright is dead. She was killed in the night.”

Beside her, Lily heard Ofelia gasp, though she didn’t turn to look at her friend. Mr. Spencer looked up, his dark eyes wide as he met Lily’s from across the room. She stared back at him, frozen in shock, unable to believe what she had just heard.

“Killed?” Thomas Wright demanded, his voice rising with his own disbelief and his arms tightening around his sister.

“It killed her, Thomas,” Selina Wright said, raising her head at last. Now that her hysterics had faded, her cheeks had gone ashen with fear. “There was no one else who could have entered that room. The lady in gray killed our mother.”

***

Excerpt from Death at the Manor by Katharine Schellman. Copyright 2022 by Katharine Schellman. Reproduced with permission from Katharine Schellman. All rights reserved.

My Review

I enjoyed this historical cozy mystery which takes place in the Regency Era. In this third book in the series, Lily Adler goes to visit her aunt in the country and hears about a ghost in a neighboring estate while attending a dinner party at Matthew Spencer’s home. Her friend, Lady Ofelia wants to see the ghost for fun, but when they visit the Belleford Manor, they find a family member is dead and the ghost, also known as the grey lady is blamed for it. Lily notices that although the family has money, the carpets are threadbare. This is the beginning of the mystery of Mrs. Wright’s death. The dead woman’s children immediately pop out as suspects, but as always in a good mystery, there’s so much more to learn in this locked room mystery. There’s a bit of a love triangle starting, and well, I’m always a fan of a “Captain Jack” in any story!

Author Bio:

Katharine Schellman

Katharine Schellman is a former actor, one-time political consultant, and now the author of the Lily Adler Mysteries and the Nightingale Mysteries. Her debut novel, The Body in the Garden, was one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Books of 2020 and led to her being named one of BookPage’s 16 Women to Watch in 2020. Her second novel, Silence in the Library, was praised as “worthy of Agatha Christie or Rex Stout.” (Library Journal, starred review) Katharine lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her husband, children, and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering.

Catch Up With Katharine Schellman:
KatharineSchellman.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @katharineschellman
Instagram – @katharinewrites
Twitter – @katharinewrites
Facebook – @katharineschellman

 

GIVEAWAY:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Katharine Schellman. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

 

Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder

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When life gets tough, time to run your aunt’s bakery. Actually, when life gets tough, time to visit any bakery, anywhere, anytime! Today we have Valerie Burns new book, Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder. This much anticipated book is available for pre-order and will be officially out on August 30. I would also recommend this cozy mystery for when your stress levels are out pacing your “meditation moments”. See more about the book below as well as an excerpt that will leave you giggling!

About the Book

When Maddy Montgomery’s groom is a no-show to their livestream wedding, it’s a disaster that no amount of filtering can fix. But a surprise inheritance offers a chance to regroup and rebrand—as long as Maddy is willing to live in her late, great-aunt Octavia’s house in New Bison, Michigan, for a year, running her bakery and caring for a 250-pound English mastiff named Baby.
 
Maddy doesn’t bake, and her Louboutins aren’t made for walking giant dogs around Lake Michigan, but the locals are friendly and the scenery is beautiful. With help from her aunt’s loyal friends, aka the Baker Street Irregulars, Maddy feels ready to tackle any challenge, including Octavia’s award-winning cake recipes. That is, until New Bison’s mayor is fatally stabbed, and Maddy’s fingerprints are found on the knife . . .
 
Something strange is going on in New Bison. It seems Aunt Octavia had her suspicions, too. But Maddy’s going to need a whole lot more than a trending hashtag to save her reputation—and her life.

You can pre-order Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder at these online retailers!

AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks-A-MillionBookshop.orgHudson Booksellers, IndieBoundTargetWalmart

Read an Excerpt

 Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder
Like a lemming, I followed the other condemned passengers through the door of our gate, down a flight of stairs, through a long corridor, and outside. A blast of arctic air hit me full in the face, and I stalled. You have got to be kidding. Surely, we aren’t going to be traveling during a snowstorm. However, the lemmings in front continued out onto the tarmac toward a small plane that looked like something out of a 1950s Doris Day movie. Those behind pushed and jostled around me, leaving me shivering in the doorway. I wrapped my pashmina more closely around my neck, braced myself against the wind, and made my way forward as fast as I could in my new Louboutin heels.
A set of rickety metal stairs had been pushed next to the aircraft, and I grabbed ahold of the handrail and hoisted myself up the steps. About halfway up, my heel slipped off the tread, and I nearly fell backward. The only thing that saved me from bashing my head on the ground was the person behind me, who blocked my fall.
“Whoa, are you okay?”
Am I okay? If I were okay, I wouldn’t be dangling ten feet in the air, hanging on to a steel pole for dear life in subzero temperatures in the middle of a blizzard. I prepared to deliver a sharp retort but was halted when I saw the black shirt and white collar of a priest. I wasn’t a religious person, but I felt confident cussing out a priest would send me straight to hell. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars. Even if God wasn’t finished torturing me yet, I wasn’t prepared to test my luck before getting on an airplane in the middle of a snownado. Instead, I swallowed the profanity. “Thank you, Father.”
He helped me get my feet back on the stairs and gave me a gentle nudge in the back to get me moving. “Brrr . . . it’ll be nice and warm inside the plane.”
I would have resented the nudge if it hadn’t been so cold. Instead, I carefully climbed the remainder of the way up and took a few steps inside to my first-class seat. I glanced around, looking for the spacious leather seats I’d grown to love and expect. When I didn’t see them, I stopped so quickly that the priest bumped into me.
“Stewardess, there must be some problem here.” I stared at the front of the plane, blocking the one and only aisle.
A stewardess who looked a bit long in the tooth for flying, but well preserved, stepped from the shadows. “Can I help you?”
“Where’s first class?” I stared to my left, but that was clearly the plane’s cockpit.
“This is a regional plane. We don’t have a first-class section. May I see your ticket?” She held out her hand.
I rummaged through my purse for several moments before I remembered I’d stuck it in my pocket. I pulled it out and handed it over.
“You’re right here in front.” She pointed to a seat in the first row.
I wanted to protest, but she’d obviously been trained by the military to brook no opposition. Considering my dad was an admiral in the Navy, I recognized authority when I saw it. She took one step and maneuvered her body in a way that forced me to step toward the seat. Then she took my bag on the pretense of finding a place for it in an overhead bin. Before I knew what was happening, I was strapped in.
“But what kind of plane doesn’t have a first-class section?” I asked as she turned to leave.
“There are only twenty-eight seats total.”
“But—”
“The flight time is thirty minutes. I’m sure you’ll be able to endure it for that short time frame.” She turned and walked away.
The priest sat in the seat next to mine. He fastened his seat belt, put his head back, reclined, and closed his eyes.
“Father, I need to confess.”
His eyes popped open. “Well, I don’t think this is the appropriate time or place.”
“But I need a priest.”
He gave me a hard stare. “Are you Catholic?”
“No. Do you only listen to confessions from Catholics?”
“Well, normally . . . yes. Other religions tend not to adhere to the same practices. Perhaps you’d be more comfortable talking to a minister from your own faith.” He smiled. “What faith are you?”
“I’m not very religious, but I feel like I need to change. I feel like I need a priest.”
He sighed and pulled his seat forward.
“Father, I need—”
He held up a hand to halt me.
The stewardess picked up a microphone and started her spiel about the airplane’s safety features, cabin pressure, and the instructions for using my seat as a flotation device in the unlikely event that we plummeted into Lake Michigan during our thirty-minute flight from Chicago to the airport in northwestern Indiana.
The priest wouldn’t allow me to speak until she finished and we made it into the air. Once the plane leveled out, he turned to me. “Now, what’s your name?”
“Madison Montgomery.”
“Pleased to meet you. I’m Father Calloway. How can I help you?”
“I need guidance.” I have a tendency to overshare when I’m nervous, and I must have been nervous because I shared how I was raised by my dad on military bases and how I was supposed to be going on my honeymoon but my fiancé had dumped me right before the wedding. I pulled up my cell phone and swiped a few images. “I had everything planned out. It was going to be live-streamed and now look.” I held up the phone so he could see. “That’s Brandy Denton.” I waited, but he just stared at me. “Brandy Denton? You know, she was friends with a friend of the Kardashians and almost got her own reality show, but the deal fell through at the last minute.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“I was, too, until I saw these pictures of her with Elliott, my former fiancé. She’s always been jealous of me, and now here she is making a move on the doctor that I was going to marry.” I heaved a sigh. “And he called me shallow. He said I was only marrying him because he was a doctor and didn’t really love him. Can you believe that? We were together for eight years.”
“Were you?”
“Was I what?”
“Only marrying him because he was a doctor?”
“Of course not. Maybe, but . . . is that wrong? I mean we were perfect for each other, and we’ve been together ever since freshman year in college. All I ever wanted my entire life was to marry someone . . . like him.”
“A doctor?”
“Nooo . . . well, maybe, but it’s not just because he was a doctor. I mean, it’s the lifestyle. I did my research.”
He looked skeptical.
“Have you ever seen the movie How to Marry a Millionaire?”
He shook his head.
“Well, Lauren Bacall makes a really good point in that movie. She said, ‘Most women use more brains picking a horse in the third at Belmont than they do picking a husband.’ And I think she’s right. I think most people just wait for a feeling and that’s it. Hundreds of years ago, marriages were arranged. Parents looked for men who would be able to provide for their daughters.”
His lips twitched and he raised an eyebrow. “Most women nowadays prefer to pick their own husbands . . . at least I think they do.” He tugged at his collar.

About the Author

Valerie (V. M.) Burns is an Agatha, Anthony, and Edgar Award finalist. As V. M. Burns, she is the author of the Mystery Book Mystery series, RJ Franklin Mystery series, and Dog Club Mystery series. Valerie is the author of the Baker Street Mystery series. She is also a mentor in the Writing Popular Fiction Program at Seton Hill University. 

Here’s Where You can Find Valerie Burns

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/v-m-burns

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vmburnsbooks/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vmburnsbooks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/vmburns

Website:  vmburns.com

The Finalist

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I love this one! It’s a mystery that involves authors in a competition. It sets up like 10 Little Indians as each author makes their way to Key Island. You know, no one ever invites me to get on a private plane for a competition. After reading The Finalist, I might be counting my blessings.

About the Book

Five authors, each with their own secrets, are chosen to complete a deceased novelist’s unfinished manuscript. For single mom Risa Marr, the competition is the opportunity of a lifetime. At stake is a million dollars and a contract to continue the famous novelist’s bestselling thrillers series.
Transported to the tropical paradise of Key Island, the finalists are cut off from the world and given seven days to draft their best ending for the book. But when one of them turns up dead, theories and accusations abound. Accident? Suicide? Or Murder? To what lengths will competitors go to win? And who, if anyone, will leave the island alive?

Excerpt: THE FINALIST
Prologue

Alex Hensley flinched when he heard his office door open. He was dreading this meeting. Talking to Trent Lambert on the phone was one thing. Seeing the intimidating man walk into his workplace was another. If this wasn’t so important, he would have refused to meet with him in person again.

“Come in,” Alex said, standing up. He searched for a bag or package in the man’s hands but saw none. “Did you bring it?”

Trent shut the door before patting his loose-fitting shirt. “Of course. That’s what I’m here for.”

Alex grimaced and lowered himself onto the edge of his leather swivel chair. “I know, I know. It’s just that guns make me nervous.”

Trent took a seat in front of the desk. His blue-gray eyes roamed the massive bookshelves that lined three of the office walls. “I’m not thrilled about this either. But you said I’ll be searched at the dock. If there’s another way, I’m happy to hear it.”

Alex shook his head. “No, there’s not. I’ll hide the gun in my messenger bag like I said. I fly out on the DeMays’ private plane tomorrow. Once Lily and I land in Florida, we’ll take a helicopter to the island.”

“No one checks you or your luggage for weapons? Must be nice.”

Alex tipped his head. “When I’m traveling with the DeMay party, I’m practically royalty.”

“How long have the DeMays owned Key Island?”

“About four years, I guess. Wyatt wanted a completely private getaway. Sandy beaches and tropical breezes, he used to say. He loved the casual feel of the place. But his wife, Lily? Not so much. I think she plans to sell it after the competition is over.”

“About this competition,” Trent said. “I asked you for info on the finalists.”

“Yes, I jotted down some notes.” Alex shifted the papers on his wide desk until he found a legal pad. “Here they are. One of the names might be familiar to you. Melanie Yates?”

“No. Never heard of her.”

“Really? She’s a celebrity. I have a picture of her.” He opened a folder and passed Melanie’s photo across his desk.

Trent picked up the headshot and nodded. “Very pretty.”

Alex agreed. “Melanie is currently between marriages. She’s had a few.”

Trent pushed the photo back across the desk. “Tell me about the others.”
“Sure. There’s Nick Perrin.”

“The football player?”

“One and the same. I have my doubts about including him, but Lily insisted on having five finalists. And she always gets what she wants.”

“Do you have a picture of her?”

“Who? Lily?” Alex shook his head. “No, but I have a photo of Wyatt. It was taken about a week before he died.” Alex rolled his chair to the bookcase behind his desk, then wheeled forward holding a five-by-seven-inch picture frame. He handed it to Trent.

“Him, I recognize,” Trent said, studying the photo.

Alex snickered. “Everyone recognizes Wyatt DeMay. Famous author, philanthropist, all around good guy.”

“I see you’re in the picture with him. And this woman is Charlene?”

“Yes, she was my assistant and Wyatt’s copy editor. Charlene was one of those rare people who was always happy. She made everyone else happy, too. Losing both her and Wyatt within months of each other? I don’t even have words.”

“I understand.” Trent set the frame on the desk. “You were telling me about the other finalists?”

“Right. There’s a Texan named Jackson Butterfield, and a young widow—Risa Marr.”

Trent twisted in his chair. “Did you say Risa Marr?”

“Yes. Do you know her?”

Trent frowned. “If it’s the person I’m thinking of. Do you have her picture in there, too?”

“Are you kidding? I have photos of all the finalists. They’re my life right now.” He looked through the folder. “Ah, here she is. Dark hair, nice smile.” Trent reached across the desk and seized the photo.

“Well?” Alex asked.

Trent stared at the headshot. “I do know her.”

“Will that be a problem for you?”

Trent hesitated. “No. Risa won’t suspect a thing.”

Excerpt from The Finalist by Joan Long. Copyright 2022 by Joan Long. Reproduced with permission from Level Best Books. All rights reserved.

The Finalist is Available at These Online Resources

Amazon 

Barnes and Noble

Kobo 

Indiebound

Books-a-Million

Bookshop

Apple Books

Walmart

About the Author

Joan Long is the author of the locked-room-style mystery The Finalist. She is a third-generation Floridian who earned a degree in English/Creative Writing from Florida State University and a graduate degree in Journalism and Communications from The University of Florida. She has written for universities, public television, healthcare corporations, a magazine and more, but most enjoys writing mysteries and suspense. Joan’s short story “The Extra Ingredient” is published in the Anthony Award-winning anthology Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible.

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Depths of Deceit

Depths of Deceit by Laura Oles Banner

Listen to this blog post as a podcast.

Depths of Deceit is full of secrets. From a missing sister to a rival PI Jamie Rush is on the job in her second book in the series.

You can read more about the book below and don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Female PI
Published by: Red Adept Publishing
Publication Date: May 31, 2022
Number of Pages: 292
Series: A Jamie Rush Mystery, #2
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Synopsis:

Depths of Deceit by Laura Oles

Two sisters.

One deadly secret.

No time to lose.

PI Jamie Rush has her hands full with small-time skip-tracing and surveillance jobs in Port Alene, Texas. The work is steady, though she still struggles to make ends meet. But when her partner, Cookie, brings in a low-paying and potentially time-consuming case, Jamie takes it on out of loyalty.

Cookie’s childhood friend, Renata, needs to find her younger sister, Leah. As Jamie digs into Leah’s past, it becomes clear that the missing woman’s life was shrouded in secrets, the kind that could jeopardize those involved in the case.

To complicate matters, PI Alastair Finn has returned, and he’s willing to reclaim his town by any means necessary. Jamie has never been one to retreat, and Alastair enjoys a good fight. Sparks will fly.

A missing woman. Felonies. Finn’s return. Every twist reminds Jamie that she’s still an outsider in this town. Jamie must prove herself all over again, and the stakes have never been higher.

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

The mermaid in the truck bed was what caught Jamie Rush’s attention. The cast-iron figure peeked over the hatch, her carved, flowing hair and demure smile in view. This was supposed to be a standard identify-and-repo job. Jamie was certain she hadn’t seen a mermaid on the itemized paperwork. Brody Rutger, in addition to hiding from creditors, had added theft of a local celebrity to his resume.

The day had started strong, with a lead on Rutger and an opportunity to catch him between fishing charters, using a boat he’d quit paying on months before. Suddenly, Marian the Mermaid was caught up in the mix.

And something was going on with the weather.

The month of November normally brought a steady stream of long-term vacationers from the north—affectionally called Winter Texans—who fled harsh winters for the promise of more tepid temperatures. Those who’d already set up residence in Port Alene were likely to be disappointed. Port A, usually quite predictable in her warmth, had suddenly changed her mind. That day, she was trading humidity for frigid air, and the wind, once laced with a warm, salty breeze, was offering only a cold shoulder. The palm trees lining Island Main bristled from side to side, and the town seemed to have turned inward in response. The icy wind whistled in the gap of her Tahoe’s window.

Jamie shuddered at the weather’s frigid downturn, while her partner, Cookie Hinojosa, all but cursed Mother Nature. He believed anything under seventy degrees was downright blasphemous. Jamie tilted her head toward the gray sky and welcomed the sting of air on her cheeks, her head briefly popping out the driver’s-side window. Cookie glanced over and shook his head.

”You’re very grumpy this morning,” Jamie said. She gave him a once-over, taking note of the large Dallas Cowboys logo on his chest, the silver star claiming almost all the space between his shoulders.

“I see you found your favorite winter hoodie. Probably more fun to wear when they’re winning.”

Cookie turned to her and scowled. “Et tu, Brute? You’re going to dump on our favorite team? Really?”

Jamie reached over and gave her partner’s meaty shoulder a squeeze. “They need to earn our love by playing better. And we’ve been damned patient.” She rubbed her hand up and down his sleeve, noting the fabric felt cold. “You should probably break down and buy a proper winter jacket.”

“This is South Texas. Only snowbirds wear ‘proper’ winter jackets.”

Cookie dismissed the idea of wearing anything that added additional bulk to his substantial frame. “My Hawaiian shirts are sad from neglect.”

She had to agree. A long-sleeved Hawaiian shirt would look ridiculous on anyone. She rubbed her hands together and hoped the cold snap would soon dissipate, returning the balmy temperatures Port Alene normally delivered.

“I’m going to pull back a bit,” Jamie said.

Their skip of the day, Brody Rutger, owed their client, AAA Repo Services, $15,027. Brody had ducked all attempts at collection, so Jamie and Cookie had been hired to locate him and return the boat. Jamie and Cookie specialized in skip tracing, which essentially meant finding people who didn’t want to be found. They worked skips but also some surveillance—which paid well but was boring beyond belief—and some divorce cases, which also paid well but renewed Jamie’s resolve to never get married. In Jamie’s experience, if a person disappeared, the reasons involved money, private information, or violence. And secrets—always a secret.

***

Excerpt from Depths of Deceit by Laura Oles. Copyright 2022 by Laura Oles. Reproduced with permission from Laura Oles. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Laura Oles

Laura Oles is the Agatha-nominated and award-winning author of the Jamie Rush mystery series, along with short stories and nonfiction. With two decades of experience in the digital photography industry, Laura’s work has appeared in trade and consumer magazines, crime-fiction anthologies, and she served as a business columnist. Laura loves road trips, bookstores and any outdoor activity that doesn’t involve running. She lives in the Texas Hill Country with her family.

Catch Up With Laura Oles:
LauraOles.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @LauraOles
Instagram – @lauraolesauthor
Twitter – @LauraOles
Facebook – @lauraolesauthor

Giveaway:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Laura Oles. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.
 

 

Corpse and Robbers

Listen to this blog post as a podcast.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, move over! We have Cam Reddick the owner of Peachy Kleen on the job and of all places, he’s cleaning a funeral home. Wonder if he’ll find any dead bodies? More about the book below and a fantastic giveaway of 10 paperback copies. 

About Corpse and Robbers

Corpse and Robbers: A Male Housekeeper Mystery

Cozy Mystery

2nd in Series

Setting – A small town in Michigan

Cozy Cat Press (April 16, 2022)

Paul Bearer & Sons has two memorial services on the schedule, but three dead bodies. When Rusted Bonnet’s funeral home becomes the site of a murder, Cam Reddick finds himself as a prime suspect. To distance himself from the allegations, Cam must untangle a host of clever cons and mini mysteries, from corpse robbing to a fine art scam to a modern-day treasure hunt. Cam soon discovers that Paul Bearer’s more closely resembles a con artists’ colony than a funeral home. With help from his ex-wife and mother, Cam ultimately unearths the most devious and deadly ploy of all.

Corpse and Robbers in the second installment of Stephen Kaminski’s Male Housekeeper Mystery series.

Excerpt: Corpse and Robbers
Sandpaper skin and puckered dimples soured Ronald Tremblay’s square jawline. Valerie and Cam found him tucking into a plate of peeled shrimp.“I didn’t see those, Ronnie,” Valerie remarked by way of introduction.

Ronald wiped cocktail sauce from his upper lip with a napkin. “They’re in the back, near the quartet.”

“I may have to try one,” she said. “Ronnie, this is Cam Reddick from Michigan. He knows Kamila Galax and her husband.”

Cam reached out a hand and Ronnie shook it with a rough grip. “How are the old whipsaws?”

“Very good,” Cam said. “They’re neighbors of mine.” He didn’t dare tell Ronnie that he ran a housekeeping business, afraid of the reaction that might engender from the board chair.

“Good folks,” Ronnie said. “I hated to see them go. Gannon was a professor in my department at the U.”

“Visual arts, right?”

“Yes, sir. The man had one heck of a keen eye.”

“Was he interested in paintings?” Cam asked.
.

Valerie, who had been ogling Ronnie’s plate of shrimp, touched Cam on the forearm and excused herself.

“Paintings?” Ronnie repeated and set his plate on the tray of a passing waiter. “Sure. He taught photography, but he never met a medium he didn’t like. Oils, clay, Gouache, you name it. Why do you ask?”

“I have a couple of originals by French painters,” Cam fibbed. “They caught Gannon’s attention.”

“I have no doubt. I imagine Kamila would’ve been captivated, too, if they’re any good. She was on the board here.”

“I know. She’s the one who told me about the function tonight,” Cam lied.

“So, she does get the flyers we send!” He coughed then slammed a fist against his chest. “Mind if I get a drink?”

“I’ll join you,” Cam said, not wanting to lose him. He took a step toward the bar.

“No need to go anywhere,” Ronnie said. He made eye contact with a model-thin woman standing near the front door of the gallery. She walked confidently toward the pair, her deep-set, raccoon eyes boring into Cam’s. When she reached them, Ronnie whispered something into her ear and she swiveled and strode to the back of room and through a closed door.

“I hope you like bourbon,” Ronnie said. “That’s one perk of being the chair here—I don’t wait in line for a drink. So, who do you have?”

Cam creased his eyebrows. “Who do I have?” he repeated.

“Which French painters?” Ronnie asked more sharply.

Before Cam could respond, the toothpick-framed woman returned and silently handed Ronnie and Cam tumblers filled to the brim. A bouquet of vanilla and toasted caramel assaulted his nostrils.

Ronnie lowered the lids on his washed-out eyes and breathed in heavily. “I never tire of this smell.” He knocked back half of his drink in a single swallow and peered at Cam.

Cam took a small sip. Bourbon flames licked the back of his throat. “Very nice,” he managed weakly.

“A man’s drink for sure.”

Cam nodded his head, then managed to squeak out, “Denys Rouland.”

“Your originals are Roulands?” Ronnie cast a less-than-surreptitious glance at Cam’s cheap duds.

“Yes,” Cam answered with more bravado than he felt. “Do you have any here?” He pictured the chair answering: ‘Not anymore; we had three go missing.’

Instead, he said, “Unfortunately not.” Ronnie polished off his drink. “As far as I know, Captain Sickleson and his wife have the only Roulands in Windsor.”

You can find Corpse and Robbers at Amazon 

My Review

This is the first book I’ve read by Stephen Kaminski and even though it was the second in the series, I had no trouble getting into the story. This is a pure who-dunnit with plenty of red herrings and con men. I liked the character of Cam Reddick and all of the worlds he’s balancing while solving crimes. This mystery was light and easy to read and very entertaining. I’ve always been fascinated by funeral home storylines and the family who runs Paul Bearer Funeral Home is a pretty fascinating group. This is a good one.

Kaminski also pens the Damon Lassard Dabbling Detective Mysteries. He is the recipient of the Murder & Mayhem Award for Best Classic Cozy, multiple Reader Views Literary Awards, and was a Chanticleer Media CLUE Award finalist.

About Stephen Kaminski

Stephen Kaminski is the author of two cozy mystery series: The Male Housekeeper Mysteries and the Damon Lassard Dabbling Detective series, both published by Cozy Cat Press.

“Corpse & Robbers” (2022) is the latest of Kaminski’s Male Housekeeper Mysteries. The first installment of the series, “An Au Pair to Remember,” was penned in 2019.

Each of Kaminski’s Damon Lassard books — “It Takes Two to Strangle” (2012), “Don’t Cry Over Killed Milk” (2013), and “Murder, She Floats” (2014) — was awarded the Reader Views Literary Award for the Mid-Atlantic Region, and Don’t Cry Over Killed Milk was named Best Classic Cozy in the 2014 Murder & Mayhem Awards and was a 2013 Chanticleer Media CLUE Award Finalist.

Stephen is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Law School and currently serves as the chief executive officer of a national energy association. He lives with his 120 lb Swissie, Siberian forest cat, rescue kitty, and a gaggle of occasionally tolerable but always loveable humans in Bethesda, MD.

You can find Corpse and Robbers at Amazon 

The Friday Night Mystery Club


Listen to this blog as a podcast

Wouldn’t you just love to be a part of a Friday Night Mystery Club? Good food, good wine, good company. This group would also be pretty handy when a real life mystery happens, too. Today we have a visit from Joanna Campbell Slan, a lady I’ve done a few anthologies with in the past!

About The Friday Night Mystery Club


The Friday Night Mystery Club (Friday Night Mystery Club Series)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Illinois

Decatur, Illinois/1986 – A nasty divorce leaves Cragan Collins with a mountain of bills and her grandmother to support. She takes a job as an ad salesperson for The Gazette. The market is tough, but Cragan finds a mentor in business reporter, Robert Smithson. One icy January day, Robert is found dead in a city park. His murder is dismissed as gay-on-gay crime. Cragan asks The Friday Night Mystery Club to find justice for Robert. Will Cragan’s quest for the truth land her on the obituary page?

And now let’s hear a little from Cragan Collins…

Food, Friends, and Books: A Winning Combination

By Joanna Campbell Slan

The year is 1986. My name is Cragan Collins, and I live at 512 Green Street, Decatur, Illinois, in an older Craftsman-style house that’s been divided into four units. My housemates are all keen mystery readers, so it was only natural that we got to discussing what we were reading. Eventually, it made sense for us to set aside Friday nights to discuss books. Thus, the Friday Night Mystery Club was born.

My co-worker, Winnie Roper, crashed our get-together. Since Winnie brought a scrumptious dessert, we let her stick around. Since then, she’s been the designated dessert-bringer. She also uses our meetings as opportunities to sell us whatever product she’s currently shilling. This week it’s Tupperware, but she’s hinted that she’s moving on to Shaklee Products soon.

With dessert taken care of, the rest of us take turns providing a main course, a salad, and a side. Originally, we took turns bringing wine, but Pru Davis, the exotic dancer ( aka “stripper”) who lives on right-hand side apartment on the second floor, has taken over as Booze Queen. She’s able to buy liquor at costs from the “gentleman’s club” where she works.

We all look forward to the nights when Rosie Sanchez cooks, as Rosie is Hispanic and she makes fabulous Mexican dishes. Rosie and her ten-year-old son, Julio, live on the second floor, right across the hall from Pru. Rosie owns a small café and gift shop. Zahara “Zee” Johnson’s apartment is on the first floor, opposite side of the building from mine. Zee works at First National Bank. She can cook, but she’s not thrilled by doing so. When she does, she usually brings fried chicken or fried pork chops.

As for me, I have a limited repertoire. Meatloaf, baked chicken, and soups are my specialties.

We’ve found that eating together makes our discussions more fun. Or maybe it’s the wine that makes things lively? Who knows? I mean, you can’t really get a better combination than the one we’ve got going: good food, good friends, and good mysteries.

You can find The Friday Night Mystery Club on – Amazon

About Joanna Campbell Slan

Joanna is a New York Times Bestselling, USA Today Bestselling, and Amazon Bestselling author as well as a woman prone to frequent bursts of crafting frenzy, leaving her with burns from her hot glue gun and paint on her clothes. And the mess? Let’s not even go there.

Otherwise, Joanna’s a productive author with more than 80 written projects to her credit. Her non-fiction work includes how to books, a college textbook for public speakers, and books of personal essays (think Chicken Soup for the Soul).

Currently, she writes six fiction series: The Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series (Agatha Award Finalist, contemporary, St. Louis setting, crafting), the Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series (contemporary, Florida setting, DIY, and recycling), the Jane Eyre Chronicles (Daphne du Maurier Award Winner, 1830s England, based on Charlotte Brontë’s classic), the Sherlock Holmes Fantasy Thrillers (late 1800s, based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s books), the Tai Chi Mystery Series (featuring a mature female amateur sleuth!) and the Friday Night Mystery Series (set in Decatur, IL in 1986 with a spunky female heroine.)

A former TV talk show host, college teacher, and public relations specialist, Joanna was one of the early Chicken Soup for the Soul contributors. She won a Silver Anvil for her work on the original FarmAid concert to benefit farmers.

In her ongoing quest never to see snow again, Joanna lives with her husband and their Havanese puppy, Jax, on an island off the coast of Florida. You can email her at jcslan@joannaslan.com or visit her website at https://linktr.ee/jcslan

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You can find The Friday Night Mystery Club on – Amazon

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None Without Sin…Again!

I’m reposting this post because None Without Sin is part of a blog tour right now, and I posted a month early! My mistake!

I’ve always been a big fan of shows like Father Brown and Father Dowling, but move over boys, because now we have Reverend Candace Miller teaming up with journalist Brian Wilder in Michael Bradley’s latest mystery, None Without Sin.  What is it about the mix of faith and trying to get the bad guy? Every time Detective Murdoch crosses himself when he finds a body, I find myself nodding at the tv. Read more about None Without Sin below, including a wonderful excerpt. Don’t forget to enter Michael’s giveaway!

 

About the Book

 

None Without Sin by Michael Bradley

 

Be sure your sin won’t find you out.

 

When a Delaware real estate mogul is murdered, newspaper journalist Brian Wilder wants the scoop on the killing, including the meaning behind the mysterious loaf of bread left with the corpse. Reverend Candice Miller, called to minister to the grieving family, quickly realizes that the killer has adopted the symbolism of sin eating, a Victorian-era religious ritual, as a calling card. Is it the work of a religious fanatic set to punish people for their missteps, or something even more sinister?

As more victims fall, Brian and Candice follow a trail of deceit and blackmail, hoping to discover the identity of the killer—and praying that their own sins won’t catch the killer’s attention.

“Loaded with twists, Bradley’s vibrant and gripping thriller will make readers eager for more.”
—August Norman, author of Sins of the Mother

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: August 2, 2022
Number of Pages: 400
ISBN: 0744305950 (ISBN13: 9780744305951)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | CamCat Books

Read an excerpt:

SATURDAY

CHAPTER 1

The loaf of brown bread looked distinctly out of place resting on the dead man’s chest, leaving Candice Miller to wonder if all crime scenes contained such incongruities. She expected blood. Yellow police tape? Definitely. But baked goods? This seemed outrageous even for the most imaginative of minds. Yet, there it was, reminding her of the artisan bread she would get at the steakhouse near the mall. Never going to eat there again, she thought.

The scene was not gory, at least not to the degree she had expected. What blood there was had pooled around the man’s sternum and left a crimson stain on the front of his white Oxford shirt. The round loaf of bread was split down the middle, and the bottom of each half soaked up enough plasma to darken the crust to almost pitch-black. The corpse of Robbie Reynolds was stretched out on a black leather sofa along the far wall. His face—which was turned toward the door—was pale and lifeless. His vacant eyes stared at her from across the room. A sensation like a cold finger touched the back of her neck for one brief second.

Everything else looked normal. The pool table in the center of the room showed signs of a game in progress, with balls scattered across the green felt. A cue lay nearby on the plush beige carpet, as if it had been dropped on the floor by the dead man. Otherwise, there was no sign of violence. If not for the blood, Candice might have thought Robbie was just napping.

Chief Lyle Jenkins nudged her away from the doorway. “Down here, Reverend.” The police chief moved between her and the door—presumably to block her view—and then gestured toward an archway a few steps down the hall.

Candice took one last glance at the dead man. She should have felt a sense of revulsion or been horrified by her first murder scene. But there was only a sense of curiosity, of wonder. Who killed him? Why leave behind a loaf of bread?

She stepped from the door and moved along the hall in the direction the police chief had indicated. “Such a shame.”

“That’s life,” Lyle said, his voice deep and brusque.

Her jaw tightened with his words. His callousness angered her, but she knew Lyle Jenkins had a reputation of being an unfeeling hard-ass. She refused to be goaded by his insensitivity and tried to ignore his remark.

She passed through the archway across the hall into the sprawling living room. The early afternoon sun blazed through high windows, bathing everything in a warm light. Detective Mick Flanagan stood beside a stone fireplace opposite the archway. His ginger hair was tussled, his clothing wrinkled, as if he had dressed haphazardly before rushing to the crime scene. A silver badge dangled on a thin chain from his neck. He smiled momentarily, then his lips sank back into grave frown. He crossed the room to greet Candice.

“How is Andrea?” she asked.

“Not good.” Mick ran his hand through his hair. “Thanks for coming.”

Chief Jenkins leaned in and asked, “Did she say anything yet?” “Nothing new,” Mick said. “Just what she told you earlier.”

Candice touched Mick’s shoulder. “Let me talk to her. She needs comfort, not questions.”

The police chief grunted. “That’s all fine and dandy, but we’ve got a crime scene to process. The sooner we can get the family out of here the better.” He turned abruptly and walked from the room.

Mick rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry about that.” Candice rolled her eyes and shook her head. “What happened?”

He shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine. She found the body when she came home an hour ago. That’s all she told us.”

“I can’t understand why anyone would want to kill him.” This seemed like the right thing to say about a murder victim, but Can- dice knew Robbie Reynolds well enough to know he wasn’t with- out his secrets. In a small city like Newark, rumors were always easy to find.

“He helped my wife and I buy our first home,” Mick said.

“Give me a few minutes with her.”

Candice moved to the long Chesterfield sofa facing the fire- place. Its tan leather was cracked and worn. Andrea Reynolds sat with her head bowed; her shoulders quaking with each sob. Long ash brown hair fell forward and obscured her face from view.

Andrea clutched a balled-up tissue in her hand. She didn’t seem to notice Candice’s arrival.

Seated at the opposite end of the sofa was Marissa, the Reynolds’ pre-teen daughter. Her hands were folded in her lap, and her eyes held a blank stare. The girl’s blonde hair looked shorter than it had on Sunday. Must have got a haircut this week. The Reynolds family always sat in the front row during Sunday service, and it was hard to miss the beaming smile on Marissa’s face. The ten-year-old girl had pushed herself as far into the corner of the sofa as possible, as if trying to escape the horror around her. Marissa glanced up at Candice, then dropped her eyes to the floor.

Candice approached the sofa and took a seat next to Andrea. She wrapped her arm around the shoulders of the grieving woman, who glanced up to give Candice a feeble smile. Bloodshot eyes bore witness to her anguish.

“Oh, Candice.” Andrea sniffed, then wiped her nose with the tissue. “Who would do this?” Her voice was broken and soft.

Candice stared at her for a long moment, searching for the right words. Despite her time at seminary and her short experience as an Episcopalian priest, she’d always struggled with providing comfort to grieving families in the wake of a loss. Her words seemed inadequate, even trite. There was nothing she could say that wouldn’t sound like a cliché, like some canned response to grief. “Time heals all wounds.” “He’s in a better place.” “God will get you through this.” That last one, in particular, had been a source of contention for her lately.

“Andrea, I know it may not seem like it right now, but this pain will pass,” Candice said, cringing within as she spoke.

Andrea broke into an uncontrolled sob and buried her face in Candice’s shoulder. As the woman cried, Candice glanced at Mick.

He rolled his eyes and folded his arms as a faint sigh slipped from his lips. She suppressed a semi-panicked urge to giggle. Five years on the force, and he gets more like Chief Jenkins every day. Then, after a further moment’s thought, she caught the irony and chastised herself for her own callousness.

The seemingly endless stream of Andrea’s tears dampened the collar of Candice’s blouse. When she lifted her head, the woman blotted at her swollen eyes with a tissue. Her face was red and blotchy, with a network of little purple veins on her nose.

“Mick needs to ask you some questions,” Candice said. “Do you feel up to talking?”

Andrea blew her nose on the tissue. “I think so.”

Candice took hold of Andrea’s hand and squeezed it. “I’ll be right here beside you.”

Mick mouthed a silent “thank you” to Candice, and then said, “Andrea, I know this is a difficult time for you, but the sooner you can tell me what happened—”

Andrea cut him off. “We’d gone up to New York City yester- day.” She gestured to her daughter at the other end of the sofa. “A girls’ night out.”

Andrea dabbed once again at her eyes with a tissue to wipe away fresh tears. “Marissa and I took the train up to see a Broadway show. We had dinner before the show and stayed the night at a hotel on Time Square.”

“When did you return home?” Mick asked.

“About an hour ago,” Andrea replied. “We’d planned to be home earlier, but the train was running late.”

Candice toyed with a hangnail on her right ring finger.

She felt a flutter of guilt for not saying or doing more. But, how to behave at a crime scene had not been part of the curriculum at seminary. First murder scene and I didn’t even pray with the widow. Way to go.

She looked toward Marissa. The young girl—wearing pale blue jeans with sequins in the shape of a flower on the right pant leg— hadn’t moved. She looked distant and afraid. Very different from the affable, high-spirited preteen Candice was used to seeing on Sundays. It seemed as if everyone had forgotten Marissa was even in the room. This was not the type of conversation the girl should hear.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Candice said. “What about Marissa? Does she need to be here?”

At the mention of her name, Marissa looked up at them. Her eyes were wide.

“Until we’ve cleared the crime scene, you won’t be able to stay in the house,” Mick said to Andrea. “Do you have someplace the two of you can go?”

Andrea toyed with the tissue in her hand. The flimsy material was creased and shredded. “We can stay at my mother’s house.” She gestured toward Candice. “I called her right after I called you. She can take care of Marissa while I . . .” Her words drifted off.

Candice rose from the sofa. “Why don’t I take Marissa upstairs and help her get a bag packed? You can stay here. Talk to Mick. Do what you need to do.”

Andrea stared at her for a moment. Her eyes welled with tears, and she reached out her hand. “Thank you.”

Candice smiled, took the woman’s hand, and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “Will you be okay?”

“Yeah.” There was some hesitation in Andrea’s voice.

Candice walked to the other side of the sofa and knelt before the young girl. “Marissa, how about you come with me? We’ll go up to your room and pack your suitcase. You’re going to spend a few days at Grandma’s house.”

Marissa didn’t move at first.

“Sweetie, go with Pastor Miller,” Andrea said.

After a brief glance at her mother, the young girl slipped from the sofa. Candice took the girl’s hand and led her from the room. As they moved down the hall toward the stairs, Candice glanced back at the doorway of the room where Robbie Reynolds lay dead. The blood-soaked loaf of bread resurfaced in her memory. That was downright odd. Why would someone leave a loaf of bread on a dead man’s chest? Yet, the concept seemed eerily familiar some- how. A distant memory she couldn’t quite reach.

***

The girl’s bedroom looked as if every Disney princess movie had detonated within it. Movie posters from Moana, Frozen, and Tangled hung on the walls. Images from Beauty and the Beast covered the comforter on the twin bed. Small statuettes of the seven dwarfs lined the top of the nearby bookshelf. Candice hadn’t been to Disney World, but she imagined this was what almost every gift shop in the park might look like.

Marissa crossed the room and sat on the bed; her head bowed, staring at her feet. She bit her bottom lip and said nothing. Can- dice reached over and put her arm around Marissa’s shoulders.

The young girl looked up at Candice. Her blue eyes were puffy and bloodshot. “Is Daddy okay?”

The question shocked Candice and left her reeling for an answer. How could Marissa not know her father was dead? Wasn’t she in the house when Andrea discovered the body? Candice struggled to find the right words. Talking with children had never been her strength. As an only child, she had never had a younger sibling to bond with. Never learned the art of relating to adolescents. Her jaw tightened at the idea of being the harbinger of tragic news. “Let’s not worry about that. Let’s pack a few things and get you outside. Your grandma will be here soon.”

Marissa didn’t move, just turned her gaze to the floor and stared. “I saw the blood. Mommy doesn’t think I saw it, but I did.” “You saw it?” Candice bit her bottom lip. She’s going to need years of therapy.

The girl nodded. “She told me not to look, but I did.” There was a pause. “Is Daddy dead?”

Candice pulled the girl closer, giving her a comforting squeeze. Marissa stared up at her. A young life untouched by tragedy . . . until now. As much as she wanted to, Candice knew she couldn’t shirk this responsibility. “Yes. Your father’s dead.”

She waited for the girl to break down. To burst into tears. To kick and scream. To run from the room. But nothing happened. Marissa was silent. Her big eyes filled with sadness; her mouth curled down in a frown. But her grief seemed subdued, almost con- trolled, as if the girl had already come to terms with her father’s death. Candice touched the girl’s arm. “Let’s pack up a few things. Do you have a bag?”

Marissa nodded, then climbed from the bed and drew a small Cinderella suitcase from beneath it. She set it on the bed and flipped open the top.

“Pick out some clothes for an overnight stay,” Candice said. “Make that a few days’ stay.”

Marissa wandered over to the nearby dresser and pulled open the top drawer. The young girl picked through her clothes as if having trouble deciding what to take. Candice allowed her gaze to drift to the end table. A paperback rested face down next to the Little Mermaid bedside lamp. She turned it over and read the title. It was a Nancy Drew mystery. She smiled. The Mystery at Lilac Inn. I remember that one, she thought. Ghostly apparitions. A stolen inheritance. No murder. Just one in a series of stories that always come with a happy ending. No one gets hurt and the world is perfect on the last page. When she set the book back down on the bedside table, a glint from the nearby bookshelf caught her eye. She spied a small crystal statuette of an angel sitting on the second shelf. Her pulse quickened for an instant.

With the suitcase packed, Candice led the girl from the bed- room and down the stairs. A uniformed police officer waited at the bottom. Two overlapping sheets of plastic had been hung over the doorway leading into the “death” room. The sheets were attached along the edges of the doorframe with yellow tape. Blurred shapes and figures were all that could be seen through the semi-trans- parent plastic. Candice was grateful Marissa would be spared any further horror. She nodded at the officer, then led Marissa out of the house and into the afternoon sun.

CHAPTER 2

Brian Wilder downshifted and halted for the traffic light at the bottom of the off-ramp. His two-hour drive along Delaware’s beach expressway from Rehoboth Beach had been a blur. The Friday night birthday party had gone into the early hours of the morning, forcing him to crash on the couch of Chris Carson, the birthday boy himself.

Amber Fox, morning host at WREB-FM, had thrown a surprise birthday party for her co-host, Chris. Brian had the dubious responsibility of getting him to the Mexican restaurant for the par- ty. He never realized how difficult it would be to keep a surprise from a blind man. They’d only just stepped across the restaurant’s threshold when Chris leaned toward Brian to ask how many people were waiting in the back room for them. It wasn’t until later in the evening that Chris explained how he knew.

“Did someone let slip about the party?” Brian had asked.

Chris shook his head. “Not at all. It was a perfectly planned surprise party.”

“But, how—”

“How did I know?” said Chris. “Do you remember the loud music playing when we entered the restaurant?”

“Yeah, but what’s—”

“What about the soccer game on the bar TV?” “No . . .”

Chris smiled. “And the woman at the bar nagging her husband about his drinking?”

Brian shook his head. “Nope.”

“Then, you probably didn’t hear Amber in the back room trying to shush everyone when we arrived.”

“No.” Brian sighed. “Can’t say I did.”

He had known Chris Carson for years before the accident that robbed the radio DJ of his sight. Chris was just as much a smart-ass now as he had been then. Perhaps more so.

When the light changed, Brian turned left, heading toward downtown Newark. The fifty-plus-year-old car roared up the street and brought a smile to his face. The candy apple–red Mustang was one of the few luxuries he allowed himself. Brian was meticulous in his care and maintenance of the Mustang. If only he’d put that level of care into his relationship with Allison, his daughter. A sense of guilt washed over him.

He glanced at his mobile phone on the passenger seat. He toyed with the idea of calling her, but their last call had ended in a fierce argument, just like so many others. No point in upsetting her weekend, he thought.

The car raced across an overpass. Northbound traffic on the interstate below was backed up, creeping along. Early beachgoers on their way to the Jersey shore. Although the morning was windy, the weekend was shaping up to be the first nice one of the month. Rain, cold temperatures, and the occasional snow flurry had made the first two weeks of March less than pleasant. This third week— with temps in the mid-sixties—seemed to be the trigger for every- one to emerge from a self-induced winter hibernation.

As he glided past a slow-moving U-Haul, his mobile phone rang. He slipped the hands-free earpiece into his ear and pressed the button to answer.

“Yo Brian, where are you?” Jessica O’Rourke asked. The part- time newspaper photographer spoke quickly; her young throaty voice full of excitement.

“Just got off the highway,” he said. “Maybe ten minutes out.

Why?”

“The police scanner’s blowing up. Something’s rotten in New- ark. Cops and paramedics have converged on Annabelle Street. Sounds serious,” she said, her words coming out in rapid fire.

Brian narrowed his eyes. Annabelle Street was in a select neighborhood on the north side of Newark. Half-million-dollar houses. Land Rovers and Mercedes in driveways. The mayor had a house in the neighborhood. So did the dean of Northern Delaware University. “Thanks for the tip.”

“Look,” said Jessica, a hint of hesitation in her voice. “I’ve got a wedding to shoot in three hours. I can’t meet you there.”

Brian smiled. “No worries. I’ve got my camera in the trunk.” His years as a journalist had taught him to be flexible, often taking photos for his own articles. A photographer by his side was a luxury he’d learned to do without. His pictures would never be as good as Jessica’s, but they’d be just fine for the newspaper. “You can criticize my picture-taking skills later.”

“How was the party?” she asked.

Heavy traffic slowed Brian’s approach into the city of Newark. He braked as the line of cars ahead came to a crawl. “You missed a good time.” He thought again about the previous night. “Chris was disappointed you weren’t there.”

She sighed. Chris Carson’s “crush” on Jessica was public knowledge—as was her unwillingness to be tied down in any relationship. “He’ll get over it,” she said.

Brian laughed. “Go to the wedding. Enjoy yourself.”

***

Three police cars were parked in front of a house on Annabelle Street, and an ambulance was backed into the driveway. Brian parked the Mustang along the curb a few houses up the block. Be- fore climbing from the car, he reached into the glovebox and dug out a spiral notebook and a pen. From the trunk, he grabbed a black camera bag and slung it over his shoulder.

As he walked along the sidewalk, he noticed a small crowd of onlookers across the street. The house at the center of everyone’s attention was a modern take on a classic Victorian. A police officer leaned on the white railing of the wraparound porch. A two-story turret rose high above the house, black shingles covering its peak. The white siding was bright in the afternoon sun. Brian recognized the house.

It belonged to Robbie Reynolds.

He sifted through a mental dossier of the man. Robbie Reynolds. Mid-forties. Married with one child. Wife’s name is Andrea. Born and raised in Delaware. Attended and dropped out of North- ern Delaware University. Local real estate agent. No, local real estate mogul. Self-proclaimed “king of Newark real estate.”

The facts came readily to mind, as did the rumors. Egotist.

Gambler. Womanizer.

As Brian approached a nearby police car, he was surprised to find Father Andrew Blake in conversation with Sergeant Stacy Devonport. The priest’s black hair was peppered with specks of gray; a few strands above his forehead waved with the afternoon breeze. He wore his customary black tab collar shirt and slacks. A black jacket hung awkwardly from Andrew’s gaunt frame, looking like it was a size too big. The priest’s presence was puzzling. As far as Brian knew, the Reynolds family wasn’t Catholic.

Stacy shook Brian’s hand and smiled. “I bet I can guess what brings you here.”

“Same reason that brought you.” He turned to Andrew. “I’m surprised. I don’t recall ever seeing the Reynolds at St. Matthews.”

“How would you know, Brian?” Andrew folded his arms and tilted his head to the side. “You’re not exactly a regular attendee at Sunday Mass.”

Stacy laughed at the priest’s rebuke. “He’s got you there.”

Brian shrugged off their remarks. “I’ve been busy.” It was easier to lie than try to explain why he’d not been to church in a while. He gestured toward the house. “What’s going on, Stacy? Why the heavy police presence?”

“I can’t tell you much.” She rested the roll of crime scene tape on the trunk of the police car. “I’ve been relegated to crowd control. Haven’t been inside.”

Brian glanced at the crowd across the street. Ten, maybe eleven people. “Yeah. I see you’ve got your work cut out for you.”

Stacy folded her arms. “Hey, if that throng gets out of hand—”

“That’s a throng?” Brian raised an eyebrow. He let the moment linger before straightening up and narrowing his eyes. “Seriously, what’s going on?”

“Suspicious death.” Stacy turned her gaze toward the house, then back at Brian. “Robbie.”

A slight heaviness pressed down on his shoulders. Brian’s dealings with the real estate agent were infrequent and always all business. Robbie ran a weekly half-page ad in the Monday edition in the newspaper, but often sent it, along with a check, in the mail. Brian’s only other dealings with the man had been when he first arrived in Newark.

Robbie was the real estate agent who helped Brian find the building that now served as the office of the Newark Observer. Since then, Brian rarely had to see the man face-to-face. But that only meant the pang of grief was momentary. A death was still a death after all. “How?”

“All I know is it’s suspicious.” She shrugged. “Nothing else.”

Brian gestured toward a black Dodge Charger parked up the street. “I see he’s here already.”

“The chief? Yeah, he’s in there now. Want me to tell him you’re here?”

Brian gave a nod, and Stacy spoke into the radio mic attached to her shoulder. He flipped open the notebook, made a couple notations, and closed it again.

“He’ll be right out,” she said. “Word of warning. He’s not in the best of moods. He’s missing his grandson’s Little League game for this.”

“Thanks for the heads-up. Where’s Flanagan? Couldn’t he handle this?”

Stacy gestured toward the house. “He’s here, too, but you know how the chief is. He’s got to stick his nose into every investigation.” She looked over at the crowd, which had now grown to twelve people. “If you’ll excuse me . . .”

As Stacy strode off, Brian turned back to Andrew. The priest stared across the lawn at the Reynolds’ family home, arms hanging limp at his sides, his eyes wet and dull.

Brian touched the priest’s shoulder. “Andrew?”

“Man’s propensity to commit violence against another never ceases to amaze me.” Andrew slipped his hands into his trouser pockets and sighed. “You’ve probably seen that more than most people. How do you get used to it?”

Brian mulled over the remark.

A twenty-two-year journalism career had certainly shown him the darkest sides of human brutality. He’d covered two wars in the Middle East. Been at ground zero on 9/11. Reported on the violence between the drug cartels in South America. Then there were more natural disasters than he could remember. All for Time, Newsweek, and a dozen other magazines and newspapers. He’d seen more death than one man probably should. “You don’t,” he finally said.

Brian watched the black van from the county medical examiner’s office drive past and pull into the driveway. “Why are you here?”

Andrew rocked on the balls of his feet. “I’m just a chauffeur. Do you know Candice Miller, pastor at Trinity Episcopal Church? No?” He paused for a second; his lips thinned to a downward arch. “Remind me to introduce you. Anyway, we were meeting at the rectory for our weekly chess game.”

Brian knew of the church on the corner of Haines Street and Delaware Avenue, but he couldn’t recall ever meeting the pastor. He made a mental note to take Andrew up on his offer of an intro- duction. “You found a sucker who doesn’t mind losing all the time?” Andrew snorted with amusement. “We’re pretty evenly matched, thank you very much. We were just settling down to play when Candice got the call about Robbie. His wife called. They go to Candice’s church. I offered to drive her.”

“So, driving Ms. Miller?”

Andrew turned to look at the house. “You could say that.”

A flurry of activity outside the house caught Brian’s eye. Police chief Lyle Jenkins stepped from the house, paused at the base of the porch steps, then moved across the lawn toward Brian and An- drew with purposeful strides. A moment later, two additional people emerged from the house. Brian recognized Marissa Reynolds, but the woman with her was a stranger. She was petite with dark hair and wore a lavender windbreaker. The woman carried a small, bright-colored suitcase. She guided Marissa to a porch swing, and they sat together.

Brian was still studying the pair when Lyle Jenkins approached. The stout police chief—dressed in faded blue jeans and a gray polo—wore his holster and gun belt low on his waist. A gold badge hung from his neck on a silver chain and bounced off his chest. The touch of gray in his black hair was highlighted by his dark complexion. “Wilder, how did I know you’d show up here?” He held out his hand.

Brian returned the hardy handshake. “You going to give me a scoop? Or do I have to wait for the press conference?”

Lyle cocked his head. “How exclusive can you really be with that rag of yours?”

Brian snorted, knowing the chief had a point. The Newark Observer was a twice-weekly newspaper. Even if he was the first to a story, the larger news outlets would have covered it ad nauseam before the next issue of the Observer hit the streets.

“I hear its murder,” Brian said.

Andrew shook his head and made a tsk-tsk sound. “I believe the words used were ‘suspicious death.’”

“That’s all you’re getting at the moment,” Lyle said. He then leaned toward Brian, conspiratorially. “Off the record, Flanagan’s got his hands full with this one.” He glanced around, then hitched his thumb into his belt. “Where’s your sidekick?”

“Shooting a wedding.” Brian tapped the camera slung over his shoulder. “I’m on my own.”

A gray Chevy Malibu slowly pulled up to the entrance of the driveway. The driver seemed confused as to where to park, first attempting to pull into the driveway behind the medical examiner’s van. Then, thinking better of it, the driver backed up and drove past the house to park along the curb. An elderly woman climbed from the car and headed for the house. She was stopped at the end of the driveway by two police officers. Their conversation started cordially enough. But when it was clear the officers weren’t going to let her pass, she became more animated. Her arms flew in wild gestures, pointing at the house. From where he stood, Brian heard the woman’s voice grow louder as she became more frustrated.

“. . . daughter needs me! Don’t you have any sympathy for what’s happened here?” The woman placed her hands on her hips, almost as if she were daring the officer to stand in her way. Obviously, she was a force to be reckoned with. Brian took pity on the officer. It was probably not going to be a battle he would win.

“Grandma!”

The cry came from the front porch. Marissa leapt from the porch swing and ran down the steps. The grandmother pushed past the police officers and met her granddaughter halfway. They embraced, and Marissa appeared to break down into tears.

Lyle let out a gruff sigh and shook his head. “I need to take care of this.”

“Chief, I’d like to check on Candice, if you don’t mind,” An- drew said.

Lyle’s eyes tightened and his lips curled down. He pointed at the house. “That is a crime scene, not a social club.”

Andrew folded his arms. “Even the comforter needs to be comforted sometimes.”

Lyle allowed a loud sigh to slip from his lips—a clear sign of reluctant capitulation. “Fine. Come with me,” Lyle finally said. “You can go as far as the porch. But, stay out of the house, understand?” The police chief turned and started toward the house, Andrew just steps behind. Brian shrugged his shoulders and took a step forward to follow.

“Not you, Wilder,” said Lyle, without looking back.

***

Excerpt from None Without Sin by Michael Bradley. Copyright 2022 by Michael Bradley. Reproduced with permission from CamCat Books. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Michael Bradley

Michael Bradley is an award-winning author from Delaware. He spent eight years as a radio DJ “on the air” before realizing he needed a real job and turned to IT. Never one to waste an experience, he used his familiarity with life on the radio for many of his suspense novels. His third novel, Dead Air (2020), won the Foreword INDIES Award as well as the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award.

Catch Up With Michael Bradley:
www.MBradleyOnline.com
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BookBub – @mjbradley88
Instagram – @mjbradley88
Twitter – @mjbradley88
Facebook – @mjbradley88

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GIVEAWAY:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for None Without Sin by Michael Bradley. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.
 

Doggone Dead

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Looking for a cozy mystery that takes place in the summertime? My third book in the Pecan Bayou Series, Doggone Dead, showcases a little town in Texas full of Fourth of July fun. There’s a beauty pageant, a pet parade, a fair, a runaway puppy, and a ghost who is Pecan Bayou PD’s person of interest in a murder.

I had a lot of fun writing this book, and found while researching I needed to watch You Tube videos of exploding port-a-potties. Pretty fascinating, if not disgusting. I also enjoyed writing Betsy as a beauty pageant judge, which I pulled from my own experience. Every time she turns a corner, she runs into tap dancing little girls with their hovering mothers. It wasn’t quite that bad for me, but wow, that’s a deep underbelly of glamour.

About the Book

Give me land lots of land….and a puppy on the loose. When Betsy Livingston’s puppy runs away, she has no idea it will lead her to a murder on a movie cowboy star’s estate. Not only has there been a murder, but the town reports sightings of the dead cowboy himself. He’s out to seek revenge on all who wronged his daughter who became the victim of her own money-loving butler. Enjoy a little time on the Fourth of July in the tiny town of Pecan Bayou, Texas where old cowboys never die...

I have to admit after my dear dog Hank died the year before I wrote this book and, I found myself watching Marley and Me over and over again.  The puppy in the book has all the great qualities Hank had except he never chewed the arm off of a leather couch. 

Excerpt: Doggone Dead
Zachary proudly took his new puppy’s leash out of the cabinet. I held our newest member of the family, Butch, a twelve-pound weimaraner. We opened the front door and stepped out into the smothering Texas heat of late June. Zach had received Butch for his tenth birthday after weeks of parental harassment. I had relented, finally, hoping that Zach was ready for the responsibility of a dog. He promised me on bended knee that he would feed him, bathe him and walk him.
“Zach, we need to be careful walking him. He’s so little, but he’s strong, so he can for sure wriggle out of that collar.” As if to illustrate my point, Butch started squirming as he felt the constraints of the collar and leash. He had used his entire weight to pull loose from the contraption.
“I know, mom. Don’t worry,” Zach reassured me, his voice reflecting the impatience he must have been feeling. He reached down and patted Butch on the head. “It’s okay, boy, we’re just going for a little walk.”
As we headed down the driveway, Butch immediately responded to the fresh air rushing around him, and he was spurred to freedom.
“Hold on tight, Zach.”
“I am. I am. He’s really pulling me hard. Slow down, boy!”
Zach, arm outstretched, reached the curb of our street. Butch, blissfully unaware of the dangers of cars, plowed out on to the road, pulling Zach along behind him.
I heard it before I saw it. The low rumble of an engine going at a high speed increased in volume as I spotted a shiny red Corvette coming around the corner. A young man, biceps bulging out of his black sleeveless T-shirt, was behind the wheel.
Zach was now in the middle of the street with Butch heading toward the other side. My heart exploded as I ran into the street directly into the path of the car, swooping up Zach and causing the two of us to fall into the grassy lawn of the neighborhood playground. As I felt my knees pound into the dirt, the horn blared from the car. Its owner had hit the power windows and yelled, “Keep your stupid kid out of the road!”
I jumped up ready to yell something back that wouldn’t be listed as an appropriate response by the parenting magazines when I heard Zach yell behind me.
“Mom! Butch got away!”
I turned back to Zach to see little Butch skittering through the sand under the swings and then hightailing it across the park to the other side.
There were two distinct sides to our little playground. Most of the homes on our side were three- or four-bedroom ranches, nice driveways, lawns cut by the owners and plenty of kids. The other side of the play area was a newer subdivision that had been built in the last ten years when Charlie Loper, a faded cowboy star, had sold off the land around his house in town. Even though he had acreage out in the country, the home in town became a storehouse for many of the props he used in the score of old-time Westerns he had starred in during the ’40s and ’50s.
Now that the subdivision had been built around the elegant structure, most of the houses on that side of the playground were two-story red brick, with short driveways and high mortgages. They were beautiful to walk through, and their manicured lawns, well-placed flowers and trees and fresh paint could be seen and envied from our side of the swing sets. Our newest family member was bound and determined to move up in the world and had headed for the shinier side of the street.
Zach and I ran after him, yelling out his name. I was amazed that anything with such short legs could move so darned fast. Butch zipped across the street on the other side of the park. I grabbed Zach by the shoulders, stopping him before he ran out into traffic for a second time.
“Look both ways!” I blurted.
Zach obediently jerked his head in both directions then up at me. I nodded back and we ran across the street together. Unfortunately, my bout of parenting gave the dog an even bigger head start on us. His little butt wiggled as his wagging tail seemed to propel him down the street. Butch looked all around, happy to be exploring. He came upon the biggest house in the neighborhood, the old Loper home, and shimmied under two giant wrought-iron gates that joined the large segments of gray brick walls surrounding the house.
“He went in the cowboy house!” shouted Zach.
“Butch!” I yelled out, now grasping the black curlicues of the gate.
“Butch! You get back over here. Bad dog. Bad dog!”
Butch, not feeling the guilt, went right on taking time to pee on the historic fountain, a bronze depiction of Charlie Loper on a bucking bronco with his six gun shooting into the air. Once he’d finished tagging the statue, he happily scampered around the back of the house.
I shook the gate, the sound of metal rattling in our ears. There was a black box with a speaker and a button near the bottom. I pushed the button.
“Hello?”
No answer.
I tried the latch on the gate. It was locked. God forbid someone from the other side of the park should get in to experience opulent cowboy luxury.
I hit the buzzer again. “Hello, is anyone in there? I’m sorry, but our dog just crawled under your fence.”
Again, no answer.
Zach now slid in front of me and pushed the speaker button. “Helllllllooooo …” He elongated his greeting as if yelling into an empty canyon. Feeling his approach might work, he repeated it.
The black box rustled. “May I help you?” a clipped British accent came over the airway. Not exactly the voice you would expect to hear while staring at a statue of a man on a bucking horse. Whoever this guy in the box was, he didn’t sound pleased we were pushing his button.
“Yes,” I answered. “Our puppy crawled under your front gate, and I’m afraid he’s running around on your grounds.”
Silence. I waited for around ten seconds until Zach pulled at my sleeve, urging me to push the button again.
“Are you there?” I asked. “Sir?”
More silence.
“Sir? Did you hear what I said? Our puppy has …”
“I heard you,” he cut me off.
“Have you seen him?”
“No. I have not. Please leave.”
I pushed the button, ignoring the black box’s command. “Are there any other ways out besides this gate?”
“I have not seen your puppy,” the increasingly perturbed voice said. “You are at the only entrance and exit of the estate. You must have been mistaken. Good day.”
We had been dismissed. Zach breathed in deep and exhaled with a cry. “Where’s Butch, Mom?”
“I don’t know, baby. Let’s walk down the block and call for him. Maybe he got out the other side somehow.”
“But the guy said …”
“I know what the guy said.” Upon looking at the grounds inside the fence a second time, I noticed overgrown foliage around the house. There was also a line of rust around the fountain. From the street all you could see was the fountain and paved area around it, but once you looked inside the gate, the façade of Hollywood elegance fell flat. The grass was too high, the shrubs looked like monsters from a second-rate horror movie, and there were no flowers. They might have an uptown butler, but the place was looking ragged.
“You know, there could be a hole in the fence somewhere,” I suggested. “We’ll check all through the neighborhood, okay, pal?”
“Okay.” Zach clutched the little blue leash with the empty collar to his chest. We called for Butch as we walked down the street. After a half hour with no luck, I knew we had to head home.
“What do you say we talk to Dr. Springer, the veterinarian? Maybe because Butch was a rescue he has a chip in him or something.”
“A rescue?”
“Uh … yep. That’s the case. A lot of little dogs need homes, and we were the ones for him.”
“Do you think he went back to his old home? Do you think he went to find his mom and dad?”
I was never sure if getting a dog was a good idea and had put Zach off for years. Now it was lost, and I would move heaven and earth to get it back. As we walked along, Zach talked about how the science of the microchips in dogs worked because obviously the older generation would know nothing of modern technology. As we crossed the street back toward the playground in front of the Loper estate, I heard something. Something faint.
It sounded like a tiny whimper.
I turned around as Zach ran to the swings to jump on. Could I have mistaken it for something else? I tried to isolate the sound. Zach called to me from across the park.
“Mom? Come push me.” Zach stopped pushing his toes into the ground and stood up in front of the swing. “Do you see Butch?”
“I don’t know. I thought I heard something.”
 “Was it Butch?”
My eyes scanned the estate and up and down the street. The whimper seemed to have faded. My neighbor’s dog barked on our side of the park. That must have been what I’d been hearing.
“No, I guess not. We’ll head over to Dr. Springer’s office.”
“Can we go right now?” he urged.
“Sure,” I said, glancing back. The cowboy on top of the fountain looked back at us blankly. Who lived in that house? Charlie Loper was long dead, and I wasn’t really sure who lived there now. He had been known as the best shot in the West and the best tenor in Texas. Did his widow still live there? She would have to be pretty old by now. I hadn’t really thought about it. I would have to ask Maggie. Whoever it was, they didn’t hit the town haunts like the beauty parlor or the barbecue joint. Why live in a town if you never left your own house? I also would have picked up on a guy with a British accent shopping at the grocery store or ordering at the counter of Earl’s Java.
That gray brick wall had effectively shut the rest of us out. Why did anyone need that much privacy? It wasn’t exactly as if the dead Charlie had any groupies.
“Mom? Let’s go.” Zach pulled at my arm. “We have to get Butch back.”

I looked back one last time to see an upstairs light come on in the Loper estate as the afternoon sun was fading.

Would you like to read this book? You can purchase Doggone Dead through my book page or you can click on the banner below and join my mailing list through this month’s Cozy Mystery Tribe Giveaway and get it for FREE.

Wolf Bog

Wolf Bog by Leslie Wheeler Banner

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Dry enough for you? In Wolf Bog, a lake dries up with a summer drought, and being a mystery, you know what they find! Leslie Wheeler brings us the third book in her Berkshire Hilltown Mystery Series, so let’s go on a hike with her main character Kathryn Stinson. Who knows what might turn up?

Be sure to enter the giveaway below!

 

Synopsis:

Wolf Bog by Leslie Wheeler

It’s August in the Berkshires, and the area is suffering from a terrible drought. As wetlands dry up, the perfectly preserved body of a local man, missing for forty years, is discovered in Wolf Bog by a group of hikers that includes Kathryn Stinson. Who was he and what was his relationship with close friend Charlotte Hinckley, also on the hike, that would make Charlotte become distraught and blame herself for his death? Kathryn’s search for answers leads her to the discovery of fabulous parties held at the mansion up the hill from her rental house, where local teenagers like the deceased mingled with the offspring of the wealthy. Other questions dog the arrival of a woman claiming to be the daughter Charlotte gave up for adoption long ago. But is she really Charlotte’s daughter, and if not, what’s her game? Once again, Kathryn’s quest for the truth puts her in grave danger.

Praise for Wolf Bog:

“Wheeler’s deep sense of place—the Berkshires—illuminates a deftly woven plot and a quirky cast of characters that will keep you glued to the pages until the last stunning revelation. It’s always a pleasure to be in the hands of a pro.”

Kate Flora, Edgar and Anthony nominated author

“When a long-lost teenager turns up dead, a cold case turns into hot murder. A deliciously intriguing Berkshire mystery.”

Sarah Smith, Agatha Award-winning author
of The Vanished Child and Crimes and Survivors

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Amateur Sleuth/Suspense
Published by: Encircle Publishing
Publication Date: July 6, 2022
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 164599385X (ISBN-13: 978-1645993858)
Series: A Berkshire Hilltown Mystery, #3
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Read an excerpt:

Charlotte’s brow furrowed as she stared at the bog. “There’s something down there. A dead animal or…?” She raised her binoculars to get a better look.

“Where?” Wally asked. She pointed to a spot on the peat at the edge of the water. Wally had barely lifted his binoculars when Charlotte cried, “Oh, my God, it’s a body!” And took off toward it.

“No, don’t go there!” Wally grabbed at her, but she eluded him. When Charlotte was almost to the body−−if that’s what it was−−she began to sink into the bog. She waved her arms and twisted her legs, trying desperately to get out, but her struggles only made her sink deeper.

Kathryn’s heart seized. They had to rescue Charlotte, but how without getting stuck themselves? Brushing past Wally, Steve started down the slope. Wally caught him, pulled him back, and handed him over to Hal Phelps. “You stay put. Everyone else, too. I’ve had experience hiking around this bog, and I think I can get her out. Stop struggling and try to keep calm,” he called down to Charlotte. “Help is on the way.”

Wally made his way carefully to where Charlotte stood, caught in the mire. He tested each step before putting his full weight on it, backtracking when he deemed the ground too soft. When he was a few yards away, he stopped.

“This is as far as I can safely come,” he told Charlotte. He extended his hiking pole and she grabbed it. Then, on his instructions, she slowly and with great effort lifted first one leg, then the other out of the muck and onto the ground behind her. Wally guided her back to the others, following the same zigzag pattern he’d made when descending. Charlotte went with him reluctantly. She kept glancing back over her shoulder at what she’d seen at the water’s edge.

Kathryn trained her binoculars on that spot. Gradually an image came into focus. A body was embedded in the peat. The skin was a dark, reddish brown, but otherwise, it was perfectly preserved. Bile rose in her throat.

Charlotte moved close to Kathryn. “You see him, don’t you?” Her face was white, her eyes wide and staring.

“See who?” Wally demanded.

“Denny,” Charlotte said. “You must’ve seen him, too.”

“I saw something that appears to be a body, but–” Wally said.

“So there really is a dead person down there?” Betty asked.

“It looks that way,” Wally said grimly. “But let’s not panic. I’m going to try to reach Chief Lapsley, though I doubt I’ll get reception here. We’ll probably have to leave the area before I can.”

“We can’t just leave Denny here to die,” Charlotte wailed.

“Charlotte,” Wally said with a pained expression, “whoever is down there is already dead.”

She flinched, as if he’d slapped her across the face. “No! I’m telling you Denny’s alive.” She glared at him, then her defiant expression changed to one of uncertainty. “Dead or alive, I’m to blame. I’m staying here with him.”

***

Excerpt from Wolf Bog by Leslie Wheeler. Copyright 2022 by Leslie Wheeler. Reproduced with permission from Leslie Wheeler. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Leslie Wheeler

An award-winning author of books about American history and biographies, Leslie Wheeler has written two mystery series. Her Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries launched with Rattlesnake Hill and continue with Shuntoll Road and Wolf Bog. Her Miranda Lewis Living History Mysteries debuted with Murder at Plimoth Plantation and continue with Murder at Gettysburg and Murder at Spouters Point. Her mystery short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. Leslie is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and a founding member of the New England Crime Bake Committee. She divides her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Berkshires, where she writes in a house overlooking a pond.

Catch Up With Leslie:
www.LeslieWheeler.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @lesliewheeler1
Twitter – @Leslie_Wheeler
Facebook – @LeslieWheelerAuthor

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Double Dipped

Listen to this blog post as a podcast.

Time to load up the car and head to a little town from your childhood. Retta has just packed up her classroom and can’t decide whether or not to sign a contract for the next year. What to do? Retta is at odds with life. She returns to Moon Lake, her summer haven, to find things have changed and not for the better. Double Dipped is a novella by Terry Korth Fischer in eBook and audiobook and a great vacation read!

Oh, and I’ll take a scoop of rocky road and another of French vanilla, Terry.

About Double Dipped

Accepting second best is good for her career, but first-grade teacher, Retta Curt, delays signing up for the disappointment. Given two weeks to consider her contract, she retreats to Gram’s cottage on Moon Lake, the last place she felt contentment. But the cottage is derelict; Cousin Julie, distant; childhood beaux, Dean, bitter; and Sweet Picks, the family ice cream stand, in danger of folding. A surly newcomer is buying and then running down properties until nothing remains of the idyllic lakeside community she remembers. When vandals target Sweet Picks, Retta’s dreams to recapture her happy childhood collapse, and the return to Moon Lake becomes a decision worse than accepting her teaching contract. Disheartened. Star-crossed. Can Retta save the family business and rediscover happiness, or is she destined for a second-best future?

Buy Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Apple

Listen to an Excerpt from the Audiobook

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My Review

Retta has returned to her childhood vacation spots at moon lake as she considers whether to sign a teaching contract. She finds things have changed and not for the better. Her grandmother’s cottage is in disrepair and her teenage crush is a man who life has kicked around. I loved this story because it took the returning home vibe you so often see in Hallmark movies, but showed the disillusionment of reality. Don’t worry, this is a positive tale of hope, friendship and family. Don’t miss the cute long-haired dachshund named Herman.

RIP my sweet Martin! I thought of you while I read this book!

About the Author

Terry Korth Fischer writes short stories, memoirs, and mysteries. Transplanted from the Midwest, Terry lives in Houston, Texas. When not writing, she loves reading, frolicking with the kittens, and basking in the sunshine. Yet, her heart often wanders to the country’s heartland, where she spent a memorable—ordinary but charmed—childhood. Learn more about Terry at her author website: https://terrykorthfischer.com

Author Links:

Website: https://terrykorthfischer.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/terryiswriting

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TerryIsWriting

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/terrykorthfischer

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14349440.Terry_Korth_Fischer

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/terry-korth-fischer

Newsletter: https://tinyletter.com/TerryKorthFischer

None Without Sin

I’ve always been a big fan of shows like Father Brown and Father Dowling, but move over boys, because now we have Reverend Candace Miller teaming up with journalist Brian Wilder in Michael Bradley’s latest mystery, None Without Sin.  What is it about the mix of faith and trying to get the bad guy? Every time Detective Murdoch crosses himself when he finds a body, I find myself nodding at the tv. Read more about None Without Sin below, including a wonderful excerpt. Don’t forget to enter Michael’s giveaway!

 

About the Book

 

None Without Sin by Michael Bradley

 

Be sure your sin won’t find you out.

 

When a Delaware real estate mogul is murdered, newspaper journalist Brian Wilder wants the scoop on the killing, including the meaning behind the mysterious loaf of bread left with the corpse. Reverend Candice Miller, called to minister to the grieving family, quickly realizes that the killer has adopted the symbolism of sin eating, a Victorian-era religious ritual, as a calling card. Is it the work of a religious fanatic set to punish people for their missteps, or something even more sinister?

As more victims fall, Brian and Candice follow a trail of deceit and blackmail, hoping to discover the identity of the killer—and praying that their own sins won’t catch the killer’s attention.

“Loaded with twists, Bradley’s vibrant and gripping thriller will make readers eager for more.”
—August Norman, author of Sins of the Mother

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: August 2, 2022
Number of Pages: 400
ISBN: 0744305950 (ISBN13: 9780744305951)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | CamCat Books

Read an excerpt:

SATURDAY

CHAPTER 1

The loaf of brown bread looked distinctly out of place resting on the dead man’s chest, leaving Candice Miller to wonder if all crime scenes contained such incongruities. She expected blood. Yellow police tape? Definitely. But baked goods? This seemed outrageous even for the most imaginative of minds. Yet, there it was, reminding her of the artisan bread she would get at the steakhouse near the mall. Never going to eat there again, she thought.

The scene was not gory, at least not to the degree she had expected. What blood there was had pooled around the man’s sternum and left a crimson stain on the front of his white Oxford shirt. The round loaf of bread was split down the middle, and the bottom of each half soaked up enough plasma to darken the crust to almost pitch-black. The corpse of Robbie Reynolds was stretched out on a black leather sofa along the far wall. His face—which was turned toward the door—was pale and lifeless. His vacant eyes stared at her from across the room. A sensation like a cold finger touched the back of her neck for one brief second.

Everything else looked normal. The pool table in the center of the room showed signs of a game in progress, with balls scattered across the green felt. A cue lay nearby on the plush beige carpet, as if it had been dropped on the floor by the dead man. Otherwise, there was no sign of violence. If not for the blood, Candice might have thought Robbie was just napping.

Chief Lyle Jenkins nudged her away from the doorway. “Down here, Reverend.” The police chief moved between her and the door—presumably to block her view—and then gestured toward an archway a few steps down the hall.

Candice took one last glance at the dead man. She should have felt a sense of revulsion or been horrified by her first murder scene. But there was only a sense of curiosity, of wonder. Who killed him? Why leave behind a loaf of bread?

She stepped from the door and moved along the hall in the direction the police chief had indicated. “Such a shame.”

“That’s life,” Lyle said, his voice deep and brusque.

Her jaw tightened with his words. His callousness angered her, but she knew Lyle Jenkins had a reputation of being an unfeeling hard-ass. She refused to be goaded by his insensitivity and tried to ignore his remark.

She passed through the archway across the hall into the sprawling living room. The early afternoon sun blazed through high windows, bathing everything in a warm light. Detective Mick Flanagan stood beside a stone fireplace opposite the archway. His ginger hair was tussled, his clothing wrinkled, as if he had dressed haphazardly before rushing to the crime scene. A silver badge dangled on a thin chain from his neck. He smiled momentarily, then his lips sank back into grave frown. He crossed the room to greet Candice.

“How is Andrea?” she asked.

“Not good.” Mick ran his hand through his hair. “Thanks for coming.”

Chief Jenkins leaned in and asked, “Did she say anything yet?” “Nothing new,” Mick said. “Just what she told you earlier.”

Candice touched Mick’s shoulder. “Let me talk to her. She needs comfort, not questions.”

The police chief grunted. “That’s all fine and dandy, but we’ve got a crime scene to process. The sooner we can get the family out of here the better.” He turned abruptly and walked from the room.

Mick rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry about that.” Candice rolled her eyes and shook her head. “What happened?”

He shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine. She found the body when she came home an hour ago. That’s all she told us.”

“I can’t understand why anyone would want to kill him.” This seemed like the right thing to say about a murder victim, but Can- dice knew Robbie Reynolds well enough to know he wasn’t with- out his secrets. In a small city like Newark, rumors were always easy to find.

“He helped my wife and I buy our first home,” Mick said.

“Give me a few minutes with her.”

Candice moved to the long Chesterfield sofa facing the fire- place. Its tan leather was cracked and worn. Andrea Reynolds sat with her head bowed; her shoulders quaking with each sob. Long ash brown hair fell forward and obscured her face from view.

Andrea clutched a balled-up tissue in her hand. She didn’t seem to notice Candice’s arrival.

Seated at the opposite end of the sofa was Marissa, the Reynolds’ pre-teen daughter. Her hands were folded in her lap, and her eyes held a blank stare. The girl’s blonde hair looked shorter than it had on Sunday. Must have got a haircut this week. The Reynolds family always sat in the front row during Sunday service, and it was hard to miss the beaming smile on Marissa’s face. The ten-year-old girl had pushed herself as far into the corner of the sofa as possible, as if trying to escape the horror around her. Marissa glanced up at Candice, then dropped her eyes to the floor.

Candice approached the sofa and took a seat next to Andrea. She wrapped her arm around the shoulders of the grieving woman, who glanced up to give Candice a feeble smile. Bloodshot eyes bore witness to her anguish.

“Oh, Candice.” Andrea sniffed, then wiped her nose with the tissue. “Who would do this?” Her voice was broken and soft.

Candice stared at her for a long moment, searching for the right words. Despite her time at seminary and her short experience as an Episcopalian priest, she’d always struggled with providing comfort to grieving families in the wake of a loss. Her words seemed inadequate, even trite. There was nothing she could say that wouldn’t sound like a cliché, like some canned response to grief. “Time heals all wounds.” “He’s in a better place.” “God will get you through this.” That last one, in particular, had been a source of contention for her lately.

“Andrea, I know it may not seem like it right now, but this pain will pass,” Candice said, cringing within as she spoke.

Andrea broke into an uncontrolled sob and buried her face in Candice’s shoulder. As the woman cried, Candice glanced at Mick.

He rolled his eyes and folded his arms as a faint sigh slipped from his lips. She suppressed a semi-panicked urge to giggle. Five years on the force, and he gets more like Chief Jenkins every day. Then, after a further moment’s thought, she caught the irony and chastised herself for her own callousness.

The seemingly endless stream of Andrea’s tears dampened the collar of Candice’s blouse. When she lifted her head, the woman blotted at her swollen eyes with a tissue. Her face was red and blotchy, with a network of little purple veins on her nose.

“Mick needs to ask you some questions,” Candice said. “Do you feel up to talking?”

Andrea blew her nose on the tissue. “I think so.”

Candice took hold of Andrea’s hand and squeezed it. “I’ll be right here beside you.”

Mick mouthed a silent “thank you” to Candice, and then said, “Andrea, I know this is a difficult time for you, but the sooner you can tell me what happened—”

Andrea cut him off. “We’d gone up to New York City yester- day.” She gestured to her daughter at the other end of the sofa. “A girls’ night out.”

Andrea dabbed once again at her eyes with a tissue to wipe away fresh tears. “Marissa and I took the train up to see a Broadway show. We had dinner before the show and stayed the night at a hotel on Time Square.”

“When did you return home?” Mick asked.

“About an hour ago,” Andrea replied. “We’d planned to be home earlier, but the train was running late.”

Candice toyed with a hangnail on her right ring finger.

She felt a flutter of guilt for not saying or doing more. But, how to behave at a crime scene had not been part of the curriculum at seminary. First murder scene and I didn’t even pray with the widow. Way to go.

She looked toward Marissa. The young girl—wearing pale blue jeans with sequins in the shape of a flower on the right pant leg— hadn’t moved. She looked distant and afraid. Very different from the affable, high-spirited preteen Candice was used to seeing on Sundays. It seemed as if everyone had forgotten Marissa was even in the room. This was not the type of conversation the girl should hear.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Candice said. “What about Marissa? Does she need to be here?”

At the mention of her name, Marissa looked up at them. Her eyes were wide.

“Until we’ve cleared the crime scene, you won’t be able to stay in the house,” Mick said to Andrea. “Do you have someplace the two of you can go?”

Andrea toyed with the tissue in her hand. The flimsy material was creased and shredded. “We can stay at my mother’s house.” She gestured toward Candice. “I called her right after I called you. She can take care of Marissa while I . . .” Her words drifted off.

Candice rose from the sofa. “Why don’t I take Marissa upstairs and help her get a bag packed? You can stay here. Talk to Mick. Do what you need to do.”

Andrea stared at her for a moment. Her eyes welled with tears, and she reached out her hand. “Thank you.”

Candice smiled, took the woman’s hand, and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “Will you be okay?”

“Yeah.” There was some hesitation in Andrea’s voice.

Candice walked to the other side of the sofa and knelt before the young girl. “Marissa, how about you come with me? We’ll go up to your room and pack your suitcase. You’re going to spend a few days at Grandma’s house.”

Marissa didn’t move at first.

“Sweetie, go with Pastor Miller,” Andrea said.

After a brief glance at her mother, the young girl slipped from the sofa. Candice took the girl’s hand and led her from the room. As they moved down the hall toward the stairs, Candice glanced back at the doorway of the room where Robbie Reynolds lay dead. The blood-soaked loaf of bread resurfaced in her memory. That was downright odd. Why would someone leave a loaf of bread on a dead man’s chest? Yet, the concept seemed eerily familiar some- how. A distant memory she couldn’t quite reach.

***

The girl’s bedroom looked as if every Disney princess movie had detonated within it. Movie posters from Moana, Frozen, and Tangled hung on the walls. Images from Beauty and the Beast covered the comforter on the twin bed. Small statuettes of the seven dwarfs lined the top of the nearby bookshelf. Candice hadn’t been to Disney World, but she imagined this was what almost every gift shop in the park might look like.

Marissa crossed the room and sat on the bed; her head bowed, staring at her feet. She bit her bottom lip and said nothing. Can- dice reached over and put her arm around Marissa’s shoulders.

The young girl looked up at Candice. Her blue eyes were puffy and bloodshot. “Is Daddy okay?”

The question shocked Candice and left her reeling for an answer. How could Marissa not know her father was dead? Wasn’t she in the house when Andrea discovered the body? Candice struggled to find the right words. Talking with children had never been her strength. As an only child, she had never had a younger sibling to bond with. Never learned the art of relating to adolescents. Her jaw tightened at the idea of being the harbinger of tragic news. “Let’s not worry about that. Let’s pack a few things and get you outside. Your grandma will be here soon.”

Marissa didn’t move, just turned her gaze to the floor and stared. “I saw the blood. Mommy doesn’t think I saw it, but I did.” “You saw it?” Candice bit her bottom lip. She’s going to need years of therapy.

The girl nodded. “She told me not to look, but I did.” There was a pause. “Is Daddy dead?”

Candice pulled the girl closer, giving her a comforting squeeze. Marissa stared up at her. A young life untouched by tragedy . . . until now. As much as she wanted to, Candice knew she couldn’t shirk this responsibility. “Yes. Your father’s dead.”

She waited for the girl to break down. To burst into tears. To kick and scream. To run from the room. But nothing happened. Marissa was silent. Her big eyes filled with sadness; her mouth curled down in a frown. But her grief seemed subdued, almost con- trolled, as if the girl had already come to terms with her father’s death. Candice touched the girl’s arm. “Let’s pack up a few things. Do you have a bag?”

Marissa nodded, then climbed from the bed and drew a small Cinderella suitcase from beneath it. She set it on the bed and flipped open the top.

“Pick out some clothes for an overnight stay,” Candice said. “Make that a few days’ stay.”

Marissa wandered over to the nearby dresser and pulled open the top drawer. The young girl picked through her clothes as if having trouble deciding what to take. Candice allowed her gaze to drift to the end table. A paperback rested face down next to the Little Mermaid bedside lamp. She turned it over and read the title. It was a Nancy Drew mystery. She smiled. The Mystery at Lilac Inn. I remember that one, she thought. Ghostly apparitions. A stolen inheritance. No murder. Just one in a series of stories that always come with a happy ending. No one gets hurt and the world is perfect on the last page. When she set the book back down on the bedside table, a glint from the nearby bookshelf caught her eye. She spied a small crystal statuette of an angel sitting on the second shelf. Her pulse quickened for an instant.

With the suitcase packed, Candice led the girl from the bed- room and down the stairs. A uniformed police officer waited at the bottom. Two overlapping sheets of plastic had been hung over the doorway leading into the “death” room. The sheets were attached along the edges of the doorframe with yellow tape. Blurred shapes and figures were all that could be seen through the semi-trans- parent plastic. Candice was grateful Marissa would be spared any further horror. She nodded at the officer, then led Marissa out of the house and into the afternoon sun.

CHAPTER 2

Brian Wilder downshifted and halted for the traffic light at the bottom of the off-ramp. His two-hour drive along Delaware’s beach expressway from Rehoboth Beach had been a blur. The Friday night birthday party had gone into the early hours of the morning, forcing him to crash on the couch of Chris Carson, the birthday boy himself.

Amber Fox, morning host at WREB-FM, had thrown a surprise birthday party for her co-host, Chris. Brian had the dubious responsibility of getting him to the Mexican restaurant for the par- ty. He never realized how difficult it would be to keep a surprise from a blind man. They’d only just stepped across the restaurant’s threshold when Chris leaned toward Brian to ask how many people were waiting in the back room for them. It wasn’t until later in the evening that Chris explained how he knew.

“Did someone let slip about the party?” Brian had asked.

Chris shook his head. “Not at all. It was a perfectly planned surprise party.”

“But, how—”

“How did I know?” said Chris. “Do you remember the loud music playing when we entered the restaurant?”

“Yeah, but what’s—”

“What about the soccer game on the bar TV?” “No . . .”

Chris smiled. “And the woman at the bar nagging her husband about his drinking?”

Brian shook his head. “Nope.”

“Then, you probably didn’t hear Amber in the back room trying to shush everyone when we arrived.”

“No.” Brian sighed. “Can’t say I did.”

He had known Chris Carson for years before the accident that robbed the radio DJ of his sight. Chris was just as much a smart-ass now as he had been then. Perhaps more so.

When the light changed, Brian turned left, heading toward downtown Newark. The fifty-plus-year-old car roared up the street and brought a smile to his face. The candy apple–red Mustang was one of the few luxuries he allowed himself. Brian was meticulous in his care and maintenance of the Mustang. If only he’d put that level of care into his relationship with Allison, his daughter. A sense of guilt washed over him.

He glanced at his mobile phone on the passenger seat. He toyed with the idea of calling her, but their last call had ended in a fierce argument, just like so many others. No point in upsetting her weekend, he thought.

The car raced across an overpass. Northbound traffic on the interstate below was backed up, creeping along. Early beachgoers on their way to the Jersey shore. Although the morning was windy, the weekend was shaping up to be the first nice one of the month. Rain, cold temperatures, and the occasional snow flurry had made the first two weeks of March less than pleasant. This third week— with temps in the mid-sixties—seemed to be the trigger for every- one to emerge from a self-induced winter hibernation.

As he glided past a slow-moving U-Haul, his mobile phone rang. He slipped the hands-free earpiece into his ear and pressed the button to answer.

“Yo Brian, where are you?” Jessica O’Rourke asked. The part- time newspaper photographer spoke quickly; her young throaty voice full of excitement.

“Just got off the highway,” he said. “Maybe ten minutes out.

Why?”

“The police scanner’s blowing up. Something’s rotten in New- ark. Cops and paramedics have converged on Annabelle Street. Sounds serious,” she said, her words coming out in rapid fire.

Brian narrowed his eyes. Annabelle Street was in a select neighborhood on the north side of Newark. Half-million-dollar houses. Land Rovers and Mercedes in driveways. The mayor had a house in the neighborhood. So did the dean of Northern Delaware University. “Thanks for the tip.”

“Look,” said Jessica, a hint of hesitation in her voice. “I’ve got a wedding to shoot in three hours. I can’t meet you there.”

Brian smiled. “No worries. I’ve got my camera in the trunk.” His years as a journalist had taught him to be flexible, often taking photos for his own articles. A photographer by his side was a luxury he’d learned to do without. His pictures would never be as good as Jessica’s, but they’d be just fine for the newspaper. “You can criticize my picture-taking skills later.”

“How was the party?” she asked.

Heavy traffic slowed Brian’s approach into the city of Newark. He braked as the line of cars ahead came to a crawl. “You missed a good time.” He thought again about the previous night. “Chris was disappointed you weren’t there.”

She sighed. Chris Carson’s “crush” on Jessica was public knowledge—as was her unwillingness to be tied down in any relationship. “He’ll get over it,” she said.

Brian laughed. “Go to the wedding. Enjoy yourself.”

***

Three police cars were parked in front of a house on Annabelle Street, and an ambulance was backed into the driveway. Brian parked the Mustang along the curb a few houses up the block. Be- fore climbing from the car, he reached into the glovebox and dug out a spiral notebook and a pen. From the trunk, he grabbed a black camera bag and slung it over his shoulder.

As he walked along the sidewalk, he noticed a small crowd of onlookers across the street. The house at the center of everyone’s attention was a modern take on a classic Victorian. A police officer leaned on the white railing of the wraparound porch. A two-story turret rose high above the house, black shingles covering its peak. The white siding was bright in the afternoon sun. Brian recognized the house.

It belonged to Robbie Reynolds.

He sifted through a mental dossier of the man. Robbie Reynolds. Mid-forties. Married with one child. Wife’s name is Andrea. Born and raised in Delaware. Attended and dropped out of North- ern Delaware University. Local real estate agent. No, local real estate mogul. Self-proclaimed “king of Newark real estate.”

The facts came readily to mind, as did the rumors. Egotist.

Gambler. Womanizer.

As Brian approached a nearby police car, he was surprised to find Father Andrew Blake in conversation with Sergeant Stacy Devonport. The priest’s black hair was peppered with specks of gray; a few strands above his forehead waved with the afternoon breeze. He wore his customary black tab collar shirt and slacks. A black jacket hung awkwardly from Andrew’s gaunt frame, looking like it was a size too big. The priest’s presence was puzzling. As far as Brian knew, the Reynolds family wasn’t Catholic.

Stacy shook Brian’s hand and smiled. “I bet I can guess what brings you here.”

“Same reason that brought you.” He turned to Andrew. “I’m surprised. I don’t recall ever seeing the Reynolds at St. Matthews.”

“How would you know, Brian?” Andrew folded his arms and tilted his head to the side. “You’re not exactly a regular attendee at Sunday Mass.”

Stacy laughed at the priest’s rebuke. “He’s got you there.”

Brian shrugged off their remarks. “I’ve been busy.” It was easier to lie than try to explain why he’d not been to church in a while. He gestured toward the house. “What’s going on, Stacy? Why the heavy police presence?”

“I can’t tell you much.” She rested the roll of crime scene tape on the trunk of the police car. “I’ve been relegated to crowd control. Haven’t been inside.”

Brian glanced at the crowd across the street. Ten, maybe eleven people. “Yeah. I see you’ve got your work cut out for you.”

Stacy folded her arms. “Hey, if that throng gets out of hand—”

“That’s a throng?” Brian raised an eyebrow. He let the moment linger before straightening up and narrowing his eyes. “Seriously, what’s going on?”

“Suspicious death.” Stacy turned her gaze toward the house, then back at Brian. “Robbie.”

A slight heaviness pressed down on his shoulders. Brian’s dealings with the real estate agent were infrequent and always all business. Robbie ran a weekly half-page ad in the Monday edition in the newspaper, but often sent it, along with a check, in the mail. Brian’s only other dealings with the man had been when he first arrived in Newark.

Robbie was the real estate agent who helped Brian find the building that now served as the office of the Newark Observer. Since then, Brian rarely had to see the man face-to-face. But that only meant the pang of grief was momentary. A death was still a death after all. “How?”

“All I know is it’s suspicious.” She shrugged. “Nothing else.”

Brian gestured toward a black Dodge Charger parked up the street. “I see he’s here already.”

“The chief? Yeah, he’s in there now. Want me to tell him you’re here?”

Brian gave a nod, and Stacy spoke into the radio mic attached to her shoulder. He flipped open the notebook, made a couple notations, and closed it again.

“He’ll be right out,” she said. “Word of warning. He’s not in the best of moods. He’s missing his grandson’s Little League game for this.”

“Thanks for the heads-up. Where’s Flanagan? Couldn’t he handle this?”

Stacy gestured toward the house. “He’s here, too, but you know how the chief is. He’s got to stick his nose into every investigation.” She looked over at the crowd, which had now grown to twelve people. “If you’ll excuse me . . .”

As Stacy strode off, Brian turned back to Andrew. The priest stared across the lawn at the Reynolds’ family home, arms hanging limp at his sides, his eyes wet and dull.

Brian touched the priest’s shoulder. “Andrew?”

“Man’s propensity to commit violence against another never ceases to amaze me.” Andrew slipped his hands into his trouser pockets and sighed. “You’ve probably seen that more than most people. How do you get used to it?”

Brian mulled over the remark.

A twenty-two-year journalism career had certainly shown him the darkest sides of human brutality. He’d covered two wars in the Middle East. Been at ground zero on 9/11. Reported on the violence between the drug cartels in South America. Then there were more natural disasters than he could remember. All for Time, Newsweek, and a dozen other magazines and newspapers. He’d seen more death than one man probably should. “You don’t,” he finally said.

Brian watched the black van from the county medical examiner’s office drive past and pull into the driveway. “Why are you here?”

Andrew rocked on the balls of his feet. “I’m just a chauffeur. Do you know Candice Miller, pastor at Trinity Episcopal Church? No?” He paused for a second; his lips thinned to a downward arch. “Remind me to introduce you. Anyway, we were meeting at the rectory for our weekly chess game.”

Brian knew of the church on the corner of Haines Street and Delaware Avenue, but he couldn’t recall ever meeting the pastor. He made a mental note to take Andrew up on his offer of an intro- duction. “You found a sucker who doesn’t mind losing all the time?” Andrew snorted with amusement. “We’re pretty evenly matched, thank you very much. We were just settling down to play when Candice got the call about Robbie. His wife called. They go to Candice’s church. I offered to drive her.”

“So, driving Ms. Miller?”

Andrew turned to look at the house. “You could say that.”

A flurry of activity outside the house caught Brian’s eye. Police chief Lyle Jenkins stepped from the house, paused at the base of the porch steps, then moved across the lawn toward Brian and An- drew with purposeful strides. A moment later, two additional people emerged from the house. Brian recognized Marissa Reynolds, but the woman with her was a stranger. She was petite with dark hair and wore a lavender windbreaker. The woman carried a small, bright-colored suitcase. She guided Marissa to a porch swing, and they sat together.

Brian was still studying the pair when Lyle Jenkins approached. The stout police chief—dressed in faded blue jeans and a gray polo—wore his holster and gun belt low on his waist. A gold badge hung from his neck on a silver chain and bounced off his chest. The touch of gray in his black hair was highlighted by his dark complexion. “Wilder, how did I know you’d show up here?” He held out his hand.

Brian returned the hardy handshake. “You going to give me a scoop? Or do I have to wait for the press conference?”

Lyle cocked his head. “How exclusive can you really be with that rag of yours?”

Brian snorted, knowing the chief had a point. The Newark Observer was a twice-weekly newspaper. Even if he was the first to a story, the larger news outlets would have covered it ad nauseam before the next issue of the Observer hit the streets.

“I hear its murder,” Brian said.

Andrew shook his head and made a tsk-tsk sound. “I believe the words used were ‘suspicious death.’”

“That’s all you’re getting at the moment,” Lyle said. He then leaned toward Brian, conspiratorially. “Off the record, Flanagan’s got his hands full with this one.” He glanced around, then hitched his thumb into his belt. “Where’s your sidekick?”

“Shooting a wedding.” Brian tapped the camera slung over his shoulder. “I’m on my own.”

A gray Chevy Malibu slowly pulled up to the entrance of the driveway. The driver seemed confused as to where to park, first attempting to pull into the driveway behind the medical examiner’s van. Then, thinking better of it, the driver backed up and drove past the house to park along the curb. An elderly woman climbed from the car and headed for the house. She was stopped at the end of the driveway by two police officers. Their conversation started cordially enough. But when it was clear the officers weren’t going to let her pass, she became more animated. Her arms flew in wild gestures, pointing at the house. From where he stood, Brian heard the woman’s voice grow louder as she became more frustrated.

“. . . daughter needs me! Don’t you have any sympathy for what’s happened here?” The woman placed her hands on her hips, almost as if she were daring the officer to stand in her way. Obviously, she was a force to be reckoned with. Brian took pity on the officer. It was probably not going to be a battle he would win.

“Grandma!”

The cry came from the front porch. Marissa leapt from the porch swing and ran down the steps. The grandmother pushed past the police officers and met her granddaughter halfway. They embraced, and Marissa appeared to break down into tears.

Lyle let out a gruff sigh and shook his head. “I need to take care of this.”

“Chief, I’d like to check on Candice, if you don’t mind,” An- drew said.

Lyle’s eyes tightened and his lips curled down. He pointed at the house. “That is a crime scene, not a social club.”

Andrew folded his arms. “Even the comforter needs to be comforted sometimes.”

Lyle allowed a loud sigh to slip from his lips—a clear sign of reluctant capitulation. “Fine. Come with me,” Lyle finally said. “You can go as far as the porch. But, stay out of the house, understand?” The police chief turned and started toward the house, Andrew just steps behind. Brian shrugged his shoulders and took a step forward to follow.

“Not you, Wilder,” said Lyle, without looking back.

***

Excerpt from None Without Sin by Michael Bradley. Copyright 2022 by Michael Bradley. Reproduced with permission from CamCat Books. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Michael Bradley

Michael Bradley is an award-winning author from Delaware. He spent eight years as a radio DJ “on the air” before realizing he needed a real job and turned to IT. Never one to waste an experience, he used his familiarity with life on the radio for many of his suspense novels. His third novel, Dead Air (2020), won the Foreword INDIES Award as well as the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award.

Catch Up With Michael Bradley:
www.MBradleyOnline.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @mjbradley88
Instagram – @mjbradley88
Twitter – @mjbradley88
Facebook – @mjbradley88

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GIVEAWAY:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for None Without Sin by Michael Bradley. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.
 

Murder is No Picnic

Listen to this blog as a podcast.

Time for a Fourth of July Mystery, so get those murderous sparklers out! Not only does the Fourth mean fireworks, but let’s throw in some delicious food with recipes included in the book. Murder is No Picnic features Sam, an unintentional You-Tube Star who is searching for a recipe for blueberry buckle. She is thrown into solving a mystery that hits very close to home. Scroll down to read more about Murder is No Picnic and to enter Amy’s giveaway.

About Murder is No Picnic 

Murder Is No Picnic (A Cape Cod Foodie Mystery)

Cozy Mystery

3rd in Series

Setting – Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Berkley (June 7, 2022)

Mass Market Paperback ‏ : ‎ 336 pages

The Fourth of July is coming, and for professional food lover Samantha Barnes, it’s all about the picnic. Okay, and the fireworks. And the parade. But mostly the picnic. What could be better than a DIY clambake followed by the best blueberry buckle in the world? Sam has finally found the perfect recipe in the kitchen of Clara Foster, famed cookbook author and retired restaurateur, and she’s thrilled when Clara agrees to a buckle baking lesson.

 

But when Clara dies in a house fire blamed on carelessness in the kitchen, Sam doesn’t believe it. Unfortunately, her doubts set in motion an investigation pointing to the new owner of Clara’s legendary restaurant—and a cousin of Sam’s harbormaster boyfriend. So, in between researching the Cape’s best lobster rolls and planning her clambake, Sam needs to find Clara’s killer before the fireworks really start….

Let’s Talk to Samantha Barnes from Murder is No Picnic

Please tell us about your latest adventure. 

MURDER IS NO PICNIC is the latest in the Cape Cod Foodie mysteries series featuring yours truly Samantha Barnes (Sam to my friends), disgraced ex-chef and the world’s most reluctant YouTube star.  

I never intended to live in books that had “murder” in the title.  I just wanted to go back home to Cape Cod and lie low for a bit while my YouTube notoriety died down (long story, two chefs, one of them me, one my ex-husband, both with chefs knives, you get the picture).  Next thing I know, I’m living in this Cape Cod Foodie series and falling over dead bodies right and left.  And then finding out whodunit.  That part’s kind of fun, I have to admit.  

But it’s not always easy trying to balance my job as the local paper’s “Cape Cod Foodie” with a complicated love life, a posse of just-slightly-odd friends, a falling-down house, a ginormous dog, and a propensity for falling over dead bodies.  

In MURDER IS NO PICNIC, the Fourth of July is coming, and for me, it’s all about the picnic. Okay, and the fireworks. And the parade. But mostly the picnic. What could be better than a DIY clambake followed by the best blueberry buckle in the world? I’ve finally found the perfect recipe in the kitchen of Clara Foster, famed cookbook author and retired restaurateur, and I’m thrilled when Clara agrees to a buckle baking lesson.  

But when Clara dies in a house fire blamed on carelessness in the kitchen, I don’t believe it. Unfortunately, my doubts set in motion an investigation pointing to the new owner of Clara’s legendary restaurant—and a cousin of my harbormaster boyfriend.  So, in between researching the Cape’s best lobster rolls and planning my clambake, I need to find Clara’s killer before the fireworks really start…. 

Do you have any friends/sidekicks helping you out? 

Oh, yeah! There’s that posse of just-slightly-odd friends that I mentioned above. Here’s how I describe them in MURDER IS NO PICNIC: 

I love my friends. I love my organic farmer friend Miles Tanner, who looks like a gay Paul Bunyan. I love my best friend from childhood, Jenny Snow Singleton, who has three rowdy boys and is married to a high-powered lawyer but is growing her own videography business like the tycoon she secretly is. I love Jillian Munsell, who manages the local nursing home with immense efficiency and warmth and who is the best baker I have ever known (and as a onetime chef, I have known a few). I love Helene Greenberg, my sixty-something next-door neighbor and the town librarian, who wears T-shirts that say things like “I do a thing called what I want.” I even kind of love my friend/boss, Krista Baker, the editor in chief of the Cape Cod Clarion, who, when I complain that she can be a bit overbearing, dismisses me with a quick “I’m not bossy. I have executive leadership skills.” A reply which, I might add, she got from a tote bag my mother gave her for Christmas. Thanks, Mom. 

So, yeah, I love them. Even Krista. Sometimes. But at that moment, I loved my blueberry buckle more. 

And then, of course, there’s that ginormous dog I mentioned, named Diogi (as in D-O-G, get it?). He’s is your typical Cape Cod mutt, part yellow Lab, part whatever (given his size, perhaps Great Dane). He is loyal and well-meaning, but he is not particularly intellectual. The only commands he responds to are “shut up” (on occasion), “sit” (on occasion), “stay” (almost never), and “go find Helene” (always). And, oh yes, “sic ’em.” Don’t ask. On the other hand, his emotional intelligence is impressive. If you are feeling blue, Diogi is exactly what you need. First, he will lay his big head in your lap until you smile just a little bit, and then he will take you out for a nice long walk to cheer you up.  It never fails. 

Do you have any special skills to fight crime? 

Absolutely not.  Unless you count completely ignoring Helene when she tells me to be “very, very careful.” And a pretty strong conviction that as a general rule I don’t think people should get away with killing other people.  

Are you a full-time detective or do you do something else? 

I am definitely not a full-time detective.  I’m just the Cape Cod Foodie. But it seems like I do have a knack for getting involved in murders. On my first assignment in A SIDE OF MURDER, I promptly found a dead body. (Sigh.) And then I did it again in AN EGGNOG TO DIE FOR, when I stumbled over a very dead Santa in a very hip restaurant. (Sigh again.) And now I have to convince everybody that Clara Foster did not set her own house on fire… 

What are you most frightened of in this story? 

I think this excerpt might give you an idea: 

I wasn’t particularly concerned when I didn’t see Diogi’s big yellow head hanging out of the truck window. He often took a snooze while I was running some errand or another. But my world changed forever when I opened the driver’s side door. The truck cab was empty, completely empty. As was the pavement outside the truck. No Diogi in the truck. No Diogi outside the truck… 

Is there anything funny that happens to you or another character in this story? 

If by funny you mean embarrassing, absolutely.  Wait until you see me make a fool of myself on Antiques in the Attic.  Another star turn by the world’s most reluctant YouTube star.  

If I were to choose an actor or actress to play your part in a movie, who would that be?

Well, if anyone can find an actress who meets this description, I wish they’d let me know:  

I stand six feet one and a half inches in my stocking feet, six two and a half in my chef’s clogs.  I’m not exactly beautiful, especially when I’m sweating over a hot stove, but, as my grandfather used to say, I clean up nice.  When I’m not wearing the standard black-and-white checked chef’s pants and double-breasted white jacket, I have a weakness for floaty dresses and dangly earrings.  

9. Do you have any final words you would like to leave with our readers? 

I would love it if you actually tried some of the to-die-for (sorry, please forgive the pun) recipes at the end of each of the Cape Cod Foodie books. Then invite your friends and family to sit down at your kitchen table, open a bottle of wine and enjoy! Because cooking for and/or sharing a meal with people you love is, in my opinion, one of life’s great gifts. 

10. Let’s give your author a chance to speak. Anything you would like to add? 

Well, what I’d actually like to add is a big old THANK YOU to my readers.  Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for buying my books and all your lovely reviews on Amazon and GoodReads! Thank you for patronizing local bookstores when you can! Thank you for loving Cape Cod! But most of all, thank you for taking Sam and the gang into your hearts. 

About Amy Pershing

Amy Pershing, who spent every summer of her childhood on Cape Cod, was an editor, a restaurant reviewer and a journalist before leading employee communications at a global bank. A few years ago she waved goodbye to Wall Street to write full time. Murder Is No Picnic is the third of the Cape Cod Foodie mysteries featuring Samantha Barnes, a disgraced but resilient ex-chef who retreats home to Cape Cod where she finds herself juggling a new job as the local paper’s “Cape Cod Foodie,” a complicated love life, a posse of just-slightly-odd friends, a falling-down house, a ginormous dog and a propensity for falling over dead bodies. Elizabeth Gilbert called the first book in the series, A Side of Murder, “the freshest, funniest mystery I have ever read,” and Kirkus Reviews gave the second book, An Eggnog to Die For, a starred review, saying, “A delightful sleuth, a complex mystery, and lovingly described cuisine: a winner for both foodies and mystery mavens.”

Author Links

Website: AmyPershingAuthor.com

Follow amypershingauthor on Facebook

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Sign up for News from the Cape Cod Foodie!

Purchase Links

Random House 

Amazon     B&N      Kobo     Google Books    IndieBound   Bookshop.org

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Bayou Book Thief


Listen to this blog post as a podcast.
Today’s book is Bayou Book Thief by Agatha Award winning author, Ellen Byron. First of all, I love vintage cookbooks and have collected them for years. I think it started when my mother-in-law, a resident of a New Orleans suburb, gave me the gigantic Times Picayune cookbook in the first year of my marriage. I had never eaten New Orleans cooking, but once I tasted it, I knew my life had just gained pure culinary pleasure (and I gained a few pounds).   Not only does Ellen write wonderful mysteries, but you should check out some of her short stories! Read more about Bayou Book Thief and enter the giveaway below.

About Bayou Book Thief 

Bayou Book Thief (A Vintage Cookbook Mystery)

Cozy Mystery

1st in Series

Setting – New Orleans Louisiana

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Berkley (June 7, 2022)

Mass Market Paperback ‏ : ‎ 304 pages

A fantastic new cozy mystery series with a vintage flair from USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award–winning author Ellen Byron.

Twenty-eight-year-old widow Ricki James leaves Los Angeles to start a new life in New Orleans after her showboating actor husband perishes doing a stupid internet stunt. The Big Easy is where she was born and adopted by the NICU nurse who cared for her after Ricki’s teen mother disappeared from the hospital.

Ricki’s dream comes true when she joins the quirky staff of Bon Vee Culinary House Museum, the spectacular former Garden District home of late bon vivant Genevieve “Vee” Charbonnet, the city’s legendary restauranteur. Ricki is excited about turning her avocation – collecting vintage cookbooks – into a vocation by launching the museum’s gift shop, Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbooks and Kitchenware. Then she discovers that a box of donated vintage cookbooks contains the body of a cantankerous Bon Vee employee who was fired after being exposed as a book thief.

The skills Ricki has developed ferreting out hidden vintage treasures come in handy for investigations. But both her business and Bon Vee could wind up as deadstock when Ricki’s past as curator of a billionaire’s first edition collection comes back to haunt her.

Will Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbooks and Kitchenware be a success … or a recipe for disaster?

You can find Bayou Book Thief at these online retailers:

AmazonB&NKoboGoogle BooksAlibrisIndieBoundPenguinRandomHouse

About Ellen Byron

Ellen’s Cajun Country Mysteries have won the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel and multiple Lefty Awards for Best Humorous Mystery. Bayou Book Thief will be the first book in her new Vintage Cookbook Mysteries. She also writes the Catering Hall Mystery series under the name Maria DiRico.

Ellen is an award-winning playwright, and non-award-winning TV writer of comedies like Wings, Just Shoot Me, and Fairly Odd Parents. She has written over two hundred articles for national magazines but considers her most impressive credit working as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart. An alum of New Orleans’ Tulane University, she blogs with Chicks on the Case, is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America and will be the 2023 Left Coast Crime Toastmaster. Please visit her at https://www.ellenbyron.com/

Author Links

Newsletter: https://www.ellenbyron.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ellenbyronauthor/

https://www.facebook.com/CateringHallMysteries/

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/ellenbyronmariadirico/

Bookbub:

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/ellen-byron

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/maria-dirico

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/23234.Ellen_Byron

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19130966.Maria_DiRico

You can find Bayou Book Thief at these online retailers:

AmazonB&NKoboGoogle BooksAlibrisIndieBoundPenguinRandomHouse
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The Collector


Listen to this blog post!

Hot enough for you? Today we’re off to the air-conditioned museum for a fictional visit to a globe-hopping mystery. Works of art are being destroyed and people are being killed! Who is behind this skullduggery? Find out more below and enjoy an excerpt from the first chapter of The Collector. Don’t forget to enter Lane’s giveaway for a $10 Starbucks gift card! Time for some iced coffee.

About the Book:

Art expert Emma Kelly arrives at the Metropolitan Museum to meet with disgraced philanthropist Boyle York only to learn he has been murdered. His body and a nearby masterpiece are splattered with blue paint. In the following days, works of art around the world are attacked with the same paint, which Emma believes has something to do with the Virgin Mary. Emma’s husband, Elliott Baldwin, the Assistant Director in charge of the FBI’s New York City field office, isn’t convinced but appreciates her expertise.

Following a lead, Emma travels to her other home in Bath, England, and continues her search for one of the most famous Nazi-looted paintings. When a diver hired to explore a sunken Nazi submarine is murdered with the same weapon used to kill Boyle York, Emma wonders if the art crimes on three different continents are actually an attempt to trip her up.

Emma races against the clock to countries with Virgin Mary apparition sites in an attempt to save the world’s most beloved artwork. Can she convince the Vatican to disavow the perpetrators and stop the attacks and bring justice to the mastermind behind them before it’s too late?

Read an Excerpt:

Chapter One

Monday in Manhattan
Everybody had a story and then another story. Even the police. I stood at the Metropolitan Museum entrance, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, relying on that philosophy to help me figure out how to get what I wanted. Left. I considered my predicament. My meeting with a potential client was to start in five minutes, but the yellow crime scene tape strung along the portico was uninterested. Right. I studied the NYPD officers lined up guarding the doors from people like me. I would plead my case to one of them. It was a matter of choosing the right one. One had a story that would make him or her more likely to let me in so I could be on time for my meeting.
I wasn’t the only person with a mission, standing outside the Met that day. A month ago, in mid-March, a hundred or so protestors had taken over the iconic steps. They came and they stayed. They were angry and united in their desire for the Met to cut all ties with the man I was there to meet. He was the president of the co-op board for a building, less than a quarter mile away, that became a death trap in one of the worst high-rise apartment fires in Manhattan’s history. According to their posters, many were relatives of the hundred plus people who had lost their life that day. Depending on which newspaper you read, the deaths were either due to the board’s misguided choices to keep homeowner fees low to help the senior citizens living at The Henckley Tower, or because for years the building’s managers had intentionally misled city inspectors. I hoped my theory about everyone having a story and then another story would hold fast, but neither view redeemed billionaire philanthropist Boyle York.
The people behind me in the April sun probably thought these famous steps had been there forever. Not so. The stairs were added to the building in 1975. A story and then another story. The steps were usually dotted with New Yorkers, side by side with tourists, eating, drawing, reading, flirting, texting, sunbathing all day long. Non-protesting locals no longer came to hang out here, either in sympathy for the deceased, or because they felt it was too much work to care about what happened to a bunch of rich people. For whatever reason, they no longer came, and this public space had been transformed. According to the New York Times, museum attendance was down significantly from the usual six million plus visitors a year.
One and then two people in the crowd caught me looking back at them. Whose side are you on? their looks demanded. A white van pulled up on Fifth Avenue and when members of a television crew got out, the chance to see someone famous diverted their attention. I turned my face from them and got back to deliberating, comparing, discarding one after another of the police officers. Today’s protest was peaceful, as they had been each day since the start. I had friends and acquaintances in most of the Met’s seventeen curatorial departments, and, according to them, the museum entrance had never been blocked; tourists hadn’t been harangued. I didn’t see anyone so much as littering. The protestors were asked to come no closer than the second landing from street level, and they hadn’t. So, what was the reason for today’s heightened police presence?
In less than a minute, a broad-shouldered African American man wearing a black polo and khakis, with a gold detective’s badge clipped to his belt, next to a real gun, came out the middle set of doors. The uniformed officers straightened to alert attention. He nodded to an one here and there, and spoke to a few, but mostly he scrutinized the demonstrators. Was he the one I should tell the tape didn’t apply to me? Of course, he was. If any of the others told me “Sure, go right ahead, what were we thinking making you wait here,” he could overrule them. I might as well save time and go straight to large and in charge. Here some people might make the mistake of confusing the job with the person, but I wasn’t one of them. I made eye contact and took a step toward him.
“Emma? Emma!”
Reactively, I turned to the high-pitched voice and instantly regretted it. Valerie, my former sister-in-law, and now part-time employer was climbing the stairs to join me. Her progress was hindered only slightly by a black pencil skirt and four-inch heels.
“What are you doing here?” Her gestures were bird-like jerky.
I had never seen her still or calm. I exhaled to keep from getting jumpy myself.
Had I imagined the emphasis on you? No, I hadn’t. In the two years since the death of my then husband, Valerie’s brother, the woman’s treatment had gone from superficial sympathy all the way down to its current suspicious contempt. Why she hadn’t fired me from my job as title underwriter for fine arts at SIRA Fine Arts Insurance Corporation when I remarried six months ago, I had yet to fathom. My best guess was the adage about keeping your enemies closer. She wanted me to stay. We compromised and, for the last three months, I’d worked with her international clients, working a day or two a week for SIRA and spending the rest of the time getting my new fine art recovery agency off the ground, and being an adjunct professor at NYU. The arrangement worked well for me, but my new husband, Elliott, wanted me to cut all ties with SIRA. He didn’t trust Valerie and he wasn’t wild about my weekly trips to Europe.
She looked me up and down with narrowed, darting eyes. I stood stock-still, allowing myself to be scrutinized because I didn’t care anymore.
“Well?” Valerie prompted.
I hadn’t answered. Was it happening again? The drift. No. I had been sharp and present, even serious, for months.
She pointed at the crime scene tape. “Is this because of the protestors?”
I shrugged. “I don’t think so. It’s new.”
“Then what happened?” She tapped the phone she held. “Hmm, nothing online yet.” Her head jerked back at me. “Did someone try to steal a piece of art? Or, God forbid, did someone really get out with something? Is that why you’re here? You did it!”
I raised my eyebrows and my mouth fell open.
“I didn’t mean you stole a piece of art! I mean, you started your own art recovery agency and…”
I shook my head. “I don’t know what happened in the museum. I’m here for a meeting.”
My contacts worked in museums and insurance companies, where they knew me as a title underwriter. I was having a hard time getting word out about my new agency and hoped a real case would come out of the meeting.
“Just think, if someone stole something, you might have your first case.” She was fishing for me to tell her who I was meeting and why. She had tried that maneuver on me one too many times. I didn’t know the purpose of the meeting, but why give her that satisfaction? Had something finally happened in the art world, especially in Manhattan, that Valerie Patterson didn’t know about?
She patted my arm. “Don’t overdo it. Too much stress might be, well, not good. How are you? Really.” She was letting me know she hadn’t forgotten about my year of crazy.
I had metaphorically skied without snow ploughing and biked without my hand hovering over the brake. In my head, I called it my year of being Banksy.

You Can Purchase the Collector By Clicking This Link to Go to Amazon

My Review

I have always loved mysteries involving the world of art because they involve situations that are totally different from other crime stories. First of all, art thieves need to have working knowledge of valuable art collectibles and then they also need to get past the high security museums employ to keep their masterpieces safe. But what about the average person, like me, who wouldn’t know a Degas from a swap meet special? That’s where Lane Stone’s new mystery The Collector comes to the rescue. Priceless pieces of art are being attacked and Emma, her main character is on the trail of international art saboteurs. Not only is it easy to understand the art world, but the reader grows to respect importance of the work being destroyed. You’ll find plenty of action, romance and intrigue in this fast paced story in A Big Picture Mystery Series.

About Lane Stone

Lane Stone lives in Alexandria, Virginia and Lewes, Delaware with her husband, Larry Korb, and their Standard Schnauzer, Cordy. She’s the author of THE COLLECTOR, an art thriller, which is the first book in The Big Picture trilogy. The first book in the Old Town Antiques Mystery series, DEAD MEN DON’T DECORATE, will be published in November 2022, and will be written as Cordy Abbott. She is the author of the Pet Palace Mysteries and the Tiara Investigation Mystery series.

When not writing she enjoys characteristic baby boomer pursuits: being a dog Mom, traveling and volunteering for good causes, like AAUW and the Delaware River & Bay Lighthouse Foundation. She serves on several boards.

She has a post-graduate certificate in Antiquities Theft and Art Crime. She is represented by Dawn Dowdle, Blue Ridge Literary Agency.

Stay in touch – Visit her at www.LaneStoneBooks.com, on Twitter @themenopausedog on Goodreads and on Facebook @LaneStoneWriter

June 2022 Books to the Ceiling Newsletter

Exciting News


You can listen to Books to the Ceiling as a Podcast!

Books to the Ceiling Podcast Link

First, welcome to my 700+ new subscribers! This is a monthly newsletter where I feature books and giveaways hosted by authors. There are a couple of them in this newsletter, so be on the lookout!
I have started reading my blog posts as a podcast and they are available on Spotify and Google. Not all of my blog posts have been converted, but here are a few!

The Venice Sketchbook

Surviving Savannah

Dead Man’s Leap

The Rising

Murder She Wrote: Killer on the Court

I’m having a lot of fun making the podcasts and if you enjoy them too, then please hit follow!
Pick up a copy of A Dash of Murder and check the other 99 Cent Cozies Available in this Offer!



Featured Books on Books to the Ceiling in June 2022


June 3
Art expert Emma Kelly arrives at the Metropolitan Museum to meet with disgraced philanthropist Boyle York only to learn he has been murdered. His body and a nearby masterpiece are splattered with blue paint. In the following days, works of art around the world are attacked with the same paint, which Emma believes has something to do with the Virgin Mary. Emma’s husband, Elliott Baldwin, the Assistant Director in charge of the FBI’s New York City field office, isn’t convinced but appreciates her expertise.

Following a lead, Emma travels to her other home in Bath, England, and continues her search for one of the most famous Nazi-looted paintings. When a diver hired to explore a sunken Nazi submarine is murdered with the same weapon used to kill Boyle York, Emma wonders if the art crimes on three different continents are actually an attempt to trip her up.

Emma races against the clock to countries with Virgin Mary apparition sites in an attempt to save the world’s most beloved artwork. Can she convince the Vatican to disavow the perpetrators and stop the attacks and bring justice to the mastermind behind them before it’s too late?


June 10/Print Copy Giveaway
Twenty-eight-year-old widow Ricki James leaves Los Angeles to start a new life in New Orleans after her showboating actor husband perishes doing a stupid internet stunt. The Big Easy is where she was born and adopted by the NICU nurse who cared for her after Ricki’s teen mother disappeared from the hospital.
The skills Ricki has developed ferreting out hidden vintage treasures come in handy for investigations. But both her business and Bon Vee could wind up as deadstock when Ricki’s past as curator of a billionaire’s first edition collection comes back to haunt her.


June 17/Print Copy Giveaway
The Fourth of July is coming, and for professional food lover Samantha Barnes, it’s all about the picnic. Okay, and the fireworks. And the parade. But mostly the picnic. What could be better than a DIY clambake followed by the best blueberry buckle in the world? Sam has finally found the perfect recipe in the kitchen of Clara Foster, famed cookbook author and retired restaurateur, and she’s thrilled when Clara agrees to a buckle baking lesson.
But when Clara dies in a house fire blamed on carelessness in the kitchen, Sam doesn’t believe it. Unfortunately, her doubts set in motion an investigation pointing to the new owner of Clara’s legendary restaurant–and a cousin of Sam’s harbormaster boyfriend. So, in between researching the Cape’s best lobster rolls and planning her clambake, Sam needs to find Clara’s killer before the fireworks really start…

The Twist and Shout Murder takes place in 1962 where Dot Morgan is told to learn to type. Instead, she learns how to catch a killer.
Pick Up Your Copy of The Twist and Shout Murder!

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Murder She Wrote: Killer on the Court

Murder, She Wrote: Killer on the Court

Listen to this Blog Post

Let’s go on vacation with Jessica Fletcher! That’s right, she’s heading to the beach, but of course, you and I both know there will be a mystery to solve. Believe it or not, this is number 55 in the Murder She Wrote Series! Have you read them all? Be sure to scroll down and enter the giveaway😎

About MSW: Killer on the Court

Murder, She Wrote: Killer on the Court

Cozy Mystery

55th in Series

Berkley (May 17, 2022)

Jessica Fletcher’s sunny beach vacation with her nephew’s family takes a dark turn in this new installment in the USA Today bestselling series.

Jessica is delighted when her nephew Grady invites her to spend a few days with his family in an oceanside New York bungalow. She packs her bags and heads down to the city, ready to spend some quality time with Grady, his wife, Donna, and their young son, Frank.

But the morning after Jessica’s arrival, Donna finds her boss dead on a tennis court, and Jessica’s dreams of a relaxing visit are quashed. Everyone in the small beachside community is a suspect, and the local authorities—headed by an old colleague of Cabot Cove sheriff Mort Metzger—have asked that no one leave town. Will Jessica be able find a killer and salvage the rest of her trip?

My Review

Jessica goes on vacation in the 55th installment of Murder She Wrote: Killer on the Court. One of the things I love about the Murder She Wrote Series is that the characters in Jessica’s world come back into her stories. As I read the book I clearly saw Grady from the 1990s television series and now I’ve taken a shine to little Frank. In this adventure, Jessica goes to the beach with Grady and family because his wife, Donna got a sweet job perk of a beach house for a month.  The murder takes place on a tennis court and Jessica is left to figure out the various entanglements of the Donna’s coworkers and family of the deceased. Mort Metzger helped out from the shadows and of course she has a new co-investigator on the local police force. If you love Murder She Wrote as much as I do, then you should check out Killer on the Court!

About the Authors

Along with Jessica Fletcher, Terrie Farley Moran co-writes the Murder She Wrote mystery series including  Murder, She Wrote: Killer on the Court. She is the author of the Read ‘Em and Eat cozy mystery series and also co-writes the Scrapbooking Mysteries with Laura Childs. Recipient of both the Agatha and the Derringer Awards, Moran has published numerous mystery short stories. The only thing Terrie enjoys more than wrangling mystery plots into submission is hanging out with any or all of her seven grandchildren.

Author Links – Webpage   Facebook 

Purchase Links – AmazonB&NKoboIndieBoundBookshop.orgPenguinRandomHouse - 

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The Rising

Ever have to depend on someone you weren’t sure you could trust? What if it involves matters of life and death? Kerry Peresta’s new book, The Rising, raises that very question.

Synopsis:

The Rising by Kerry L Peresta

After an assault that landed her in a hospital as a Jane Doe two years earlier, Olivia Callahan has regained her speech, movement, and much of the memory she lost due to a traumatic brain injury. The media hype about the incident has faded away, and Olivia is ready to rebuild her life, but her therapist insists she must continue to look back in order to move forward. The only person that can help her recall specifics is her abusive ex-husband, Monty, who is in prison for murder. The thought of talking to Monty makes her skin crawl, but for her daughters’ sake and her own sanity, she must learn more about who she was before the attack.

Just as the pieces of her life start falling into place, she stumbles across the still-warm body of an old friend who has been gruesomely murdered. Her dream of pursuing a peaceful existence is shattered when she learns the killer left evidence behind to implicate her in the murder. The only person that would want to sabotage her is Monty—but he’s in prison! Something sinister is going on, and Olivia is desperate to uncover the truth before another senseless murder is committed.

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Suspense, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Suspense, Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: March 29, 2022
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 168512092X (ISBN-13: 978-1685120924)
Series: Olivia Callahan Suspense, Book 2
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

“How low you fall points to how high you’ll rise.”
~Matshona Dhliwayo

The stark buildings and barbed-wire-topped walls surrounding the correctional facility reminded me of a Hitchcock movie.

My fingers tightened on the steering wheel. I found a parking spot, and waited in the car a minute, taking in the starkness and finality of a prison compound. My heart did a little lurch when I thought about Monty—my ex-husband and the father of my two daughters—inside. Incarcerated. I guess since I hadn’t seen him since his indictment, it didn’t seem real.

However, I’d learned that having sympathy for Monty was like having sympathy for a snake just before it sank its fangs. “It’s been eighteen months. You can keep it together with this psycho,” I hissed to myself. I hiked my purse onto my shoulder and walked out into the buttery sunshine toward the visitors’ entrance.

I presented my driver’s license, endured a frisk, offered my hand for the fingerprint process, and walked through the metal detector, which of course, went off. With stoic resignation, I endured another frisk, a few hard glances from the guards, and eventually pulled the culprit from the pocket of my pants, an aluminum foil candy bar wrapper.

While I waited for Monty at one of the small, circular tables in the visitors’ room, I scanned the list of do’s and don’ts. Hands must be visible at all times. Vulgar language not allowed. No passing anything to the prisoner. No jewelry other than a wedding band or religious necklace.

I stared at my hands, sticky with sweat. My heart beat in my throat.

I lifted my curls off my forehead and fanned my face with one hand. Three other visitors sat at tables. One woman with graying hair piled like a crown on her head stared at the floor. When she noticed that I was looking at her, she raised her head and threw me a sad smile. A younger woman at another table struggled to keep two young children under control, and an older couple with stress-lined faces whispered to each other as they waited. The room had tan, cinder block walls, a drop-in ceiling with grid tiles that probably hid video cameras, and a single door. No windows. A scrawny, fake plant in one corner made a half-hearted attempt at civility.

The metal door opened. My thoughts were mush, a blender on high. Could I do this? After two years of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and every other kind of therapy the docs could throw at me, shouldn’t I react better than this?

Remember, they’re only feelings.

I squared my shoulders. Wiped my palms on my pants.

As Monty offered his cuffed wrists to the corrections officer, he scanned the room under lowered eyelids. When he saw me, he gave me a scorched- earth glare. After the guard removed his handcuffs, he shook out his arms and rubbed his wrists. The raven-black hair was longer, and brushed his shoulders. He’d been working out. A lot. He wore a loose-fitting top and pants. Orange. As usual, he was larger than life, and in the bright white of the visiting space, surrounded by matching plastic tables and chairs, he was a raven-haired Schwarzenegger in a room full of Danny DeVito’s. I’d once had hope for reconciliation. The thought gave me the shakes now.

He dropped into the chair across from me and plopped his hands on the table. “What do you want?”

I spent a few seconds examining his face—this man I’d spent twenty, long years trying to please, and the reason I’d been assaulted and left for dead by Niles Peterson, a wreck of a man whose life Monty had destroyed as well.

The man responsible for my convoluted recovery from a brain injury that stole my past. Even after two years, I still had huge gaps in my memory, and staring at him felt like staring at a stranger instead of an ex-husband. “My therapist says I need to look back to move forward. I wanted to ask you a few questions, that’s all.”

“Okay,” he grumbled. “I’ll give you a few minutes. Oh, and you’ll love this. I have to attend counseling sessions about how to keep my ‘darker dispositions’ under control, and I have one of those in thirty minutes.”

Resisting a smile, I quipped, “Are they helping?” He rolled his eyes. “What are the questions?”

“I still have problems remembering stuff. There are things I need to… figure out about who I was before—”

“Before you hooked up with my ole’ buddy Niles?” he interrupted, with a smirk. “Before you threw away everything we had? Before you got yourself in a situation that could’ve gotten you killed? Before you started treating me like a piece of shit?”

I was careful not to react. I’d had enough therapy to understand how to treat a control freak that tried to make me the reason he ended up in prison. That part of my life—the part where Monty had been in charge and his spouse had to obey or else—was over. “Are you done?” I asked.

He clamped his lips together.

I folded my hands on the table and leaned in. “I’ll get right to the point. What drew you to me in the first place? What was I like before the accident, from your perspective?”

Monty tried to get comfortable in the plastic chair. Beneath his immense bulk, it seemed like a child’s chair. “Is that how you’re dealing with it?” His lips twisted in disgust. “It was an assault, Olivia. He tried to rape you, for God’s sake.”

I looked away. “It’s over, and he’s in the ground, thanks to you.”

He crossed his arms and glared. A corrections officer lifted his hand. With a grunt, Monty slapped both hands on the small table where the officer could see them.

After a few beats, he sneered, “You mean besides the obvious attraction of an older guy to a high school girl?” “Give me a break, Monty.”

He chuckled. “You were kind of…I don’t know…scared. I was drawn to you in a protective way. You were shy.”

I frowned. “What was I scared of?”

“Your crazy mom had married some jerk that kept you off balance all the time. Don’t you remember him?”

I thought for a few seconds. Nothing came.

“That coma still messes with you, doesn’t it? Well…might be good not to remember. Maybe he did things to you that he shouldn’t have.” Monty raised his eyebrows up and down.

I wanted to slap him, but I kept my expression neutral.

“A brain injury recovery is unpredictable. I still lose memories, even if someone has drilled them into me. I’m trying to use visualization. I have this feeling…that if I can see it, the rest will be like dominos.”

“So you may not ever remember? Even the good things about our marriage?”

I laughed. “We must have very different perspectives about the word ‘good’, Monty.”

Monty’s jaw muscles flexed. “Next?”

“Was I a capable mother? Was I available and…loving to the kids?”

Maybe it was my imagination, but his lower lip quivered. Did the guy have a heart after all? I’d always believed he loved our daughters. I hoped this was true.

“Olivia, you were a good mother. We had our problems, but you made a good home, and took excellent care of the kids. You were at every freakin’ event, every school fundraiser, everything.” He scowled. “I took a big back seat to the kids.”

“What problems did we have? When did they start?”

He leaned in. “You don’t remember our sex life? How terrible it was? Nothing I could do would get you to….” He shook his head. “You couldn’t even fix a decent meal. You should have been grateful you married someone like me so I could…teach you things.”

CHAPTER ONE

“Keep your voice down!” I insisted, embarrassed.

He cocked his head and grinned. “You always had this…desperate need for my approval or whatever. And when you conveniently avoided telling me you weren’t taking birth control it caused a lot of issues that could’ve been avoided.” He snorted. “Like being in here.”

I tried to rein in my disgust.

“So, let me get this straight. Your priority in our marriage was sex and good food and to pin all our issues on your child bride?” My tone hardened. “A young woman who came from a single-parent home? Who had no understanding what a good and normal guy was like?”

He gave me a look that could peel the skin off my face.

“How did you react when I didn’t do things the way you wanted?” I continued.

“Like any man who’d been disrespected. I corrected the issue.”

“How? By yelling? Physical force? Kicking your pregnant wife in the stomach?” This was a memory I had recovered.

A vein pulsed in his neck.

“How often, Monty? Were these reactions a…a lifestyle in our marriage?” “Look,” he snarled, “I don’t know that this is productive.”

“It is for me,” I said, brightly.

I glanced at the closest officer. He had his hands full with an issue at one of the other tables.

“Mom told me that Serena and Lilly floated out to sea one time, on a rubber raft. Do you remember that?”

His eyes found a spot on the wall.

“So you do remember. What happened?”

“Look, they were, I don’t know, four and six or so. I didn’t think it would be a problem for me to run grab a drink from our bag, and come back. I was gone less than five minutes. How could I know they’d lose control of the raft?”

An earthquake of anger shot through me. “You turned your back on a four-year-old and a six-year-old and expected them to have control of a raft? They were babies!”

“Yeah. Well.” He rose. “Looks like this question thing of yours isn’t working for me.” He pushed his chair in with a bang. The correctional officer gave him a look. Monty strode to the officer’s station and held out his wrists. Adrenaline made me a little shaky after he’d gone, but it wasn’t from fear of the man. My therapist would call this real progress.

I left the room and gathered my things from the visitors’ processing center. As I walked out of the prison facility, all I could think about was…why? Why had I married this guy? And stayed for twenty years? I couldn’t even remember myself as a person who could do that.

At least I’d dragged more information out of him. I was determined to piece together the puzzle of the past I’d lost.

***

Excerpt from The Rising by Kerry L Peresta. Copyright 2022 by Kerry L Peresta. Reproduced with permission from Kerry L Peresta. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Kerry L Peresta

Kerry’s publishing credits include a popular newspaper column, “The Lighter Side,” (2009—2011), and magazine articles in Local Life Magazine, The Bluffton Breeze, Lady Lowcountry, and Island Events Magazine. She is the author of three published novels, The Hunting, women’s fiction, The Deadening, Book One of the Olivia Callahan Suspense Series, and The Rising, Book Two. Book Three in this series releases in 2023 by Level Best Books. She spent twenty-five years in advertising as an account manager, creative director, editor, and copywriter. She is past chapter president of the Maryland Writers’ Association and a current member and presenter of Hilton Head Island Writers’ Network, South Carolina Writers Association, and the Sisters in Crime organization. Kerry and her husband moved to Hilton Head Island, SC, in 2015. She is the mother of four adult children, and has a bunch of wonderful grandkids who remind her what life is all about.

Catch Up With Kerry L Peresta:
www.KerryPeresta.net
Goodreads
BookBub – @kerryperesta
Instagram – @kerryperesta
Twitter – @kerryperesta
Facebook – @klperesta

 

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Dead Man’s Leap

This blog post is available as a podcast

Just what kind of secrets are being kept by the junk in your attic? An old sewing machine, a portrait of a woman you’ve never met, a menu from a restaurant you’ve never heard of? That’s some good mystery making material! Read more about Dead Man’s Leap below where secrets abound in what they found!

About Dead Man’s Leap:

Rushing waters…dead bodies…secrets…

As Bianca St. Denis and her neighbors scour their attics for donations to the charity rummage sale, they unearth secrets as well as prized possessions. Leonard Marshall’s historic inn hosts the sale each year, but it is his basement that houses the key to his past. When an enigmatic antiques dealer arrives in town, he upends Leonard’s carefully reconstructed life with an impossible choice that harkens back to the past.

Meanwhile, when a storm forces the villagers of Batavia-on-Hudson to seek shelter, the river rises and so do tempers. Close quarters fuel simmering disputes, and Sheriff Mike Riley has his work cut out for him. When the floods wash up a corpse, Bianca once again finds herself teaming up with Sheriff Riley to solve a mystery. Are they investigating an accidental drowning or something more nefarious?

Dead Man’s Leap explores the burden of secrets, the relief of renunciation, and the danger of believing we can outpace our past.

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
Series: A Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery, #2
You can find Dead Man’s Leap at Amazon

Excerpt from Dead Man’s Leap:

CHAPTER ONE

He inched toward the precipice, his toes gripping the stone ledge as if they had a will of their own. He lifted his head and squinted into the sunlight still streaming through the blackening clouds. He took in the expanse of rushing water below. In all his eighteen years, Trevor had never seen the creek roil so ferociously.

A clap of thunder startled him. His toes relaxed, and he felt as if the slightest wind could take him over the edge. Lightheaded for a second, he regained his footing and his purpose.

He had no choice if he wanted all this to stop.

He needed to do it.

And do it now.

The downpour would break again soon. But for now, all he could hear was the rushing of Horseshoe Falls beneath him, the roar drowning out the noise of his past.

Of his father.

Of his mother.

Yes, his mother. He had expected his father to be weak, and wasn’t surprised at all after he left. But his mother? A mother’s love is supposed to be unconditional. At least that’s what she had always said before she had turned their world upside down. It was bad enough when she had played at being the sexiest woman in town. At least when his friends teased him then, it was meant to be fun. But this was worse, far worse. Now they wanted nothing to do with him. Now they used him as a punching bag.

His gang no longer looked to him as their leader. They ridiculed him for what his mother had done. From the beginning, he knew those kids were bad news. What choice did he have? In grade school he’d been bullied. Well, he had put a stop to that in high school. Can’t be bullied if you’re the biggest bully.

His mother was gone. His father was gone. And now his posse. First, it was the cold shoulder, and a few snide remarks. Then he was cornered in the locker room after the game one day. That was the hardest. He hadn’t taken a beating like that since the fifth grade. But the tables had been turned on him so fast that he never saw it coming. Trevor realized now that they were never friends. They were just a group of trouble makers who hung out together. Good riddance to them. He didn’t need them anymore.

Another thunderclap reminded him where he was. On the edge. Right on the edge. He either had to do this properly or he would be going over anyway.

Trevor looked over his shoulder one last time and heard a faint commotion in the background. Once they rounded the path, he closed his eyes and jumped.

* * *

Bianca St. Denis stretched to grab the cord just out of reach above her head and yanked on it with all her force to bring down the attic staircase. She tilted her head to avoid being struck as it made its way down. She unfolded the retractable stairs and put one foot on the first rung. But there she stopped, not sure she could take the next few steps. At forty-two the issue wasn’t her physical ability to climb the steps, she was active, even fairly athletic. The old saying went “the mind was willing but the body was not.” Well, in her case “the body was willing but the mind was not.”

She had stayed out of the attic all these months since Richard’s death. She had made do without her ski parka this past winter, and used Richard’s barn jacket she’d found in the mudroom instead. She had made do without the spring curtains she would normally switch out in the living room each March. The winter ones still hung heavy and foreboding. And she made do without the patio cushions she had sewn two seasons ago. She simply sat on the raw wood when she wanted to read or eat in the backyard. She hadn’t realized the number of things she had been doing without by avoiding the attic, not until the town started buzzing about the rummage sale. She pretended it was because she hadn’t had time to search for the items, but she knew better.

She took her foot off the rung, bent and picked up the stairs again, refolded them, and let them float to the ceiling. The hatch closed with a neat click.

* * *

Once Trevor hit the water, his tension disappeared. He welcomed the release and let himself drop. Slowly he was pulled down into the chaos of the rushing water, but his mind had floated above it all. He didn’t feel a thing, he observed it instead. He watched as his body sank, as it swirled in the vortex of the overfull creek. He watched as his body escaped the current and floated peacefully in the murky water. And he watched as he gave in to full renunciation and allowed the water to decide what was to become of him.

His thoughts slowed, as muddy as the water surrounding him.

They slowed, but he could not make them disappear.

He had managed to avoid jumping off Dead Man’s Leap every summer, but this year he knew he couldn’t get away with it. They had already threatened to make sure he jumped this year. That was only part of what the summer had in store for him. Who could he turn to? His grandparents had no idea what he was going through. They always hid their heads in the sand anyway. There was nothing they could do for him. So, he had taken matters into his own hands.

He was shocked when his head broke the surface, and despite himself he gasped for air in enormous mouthfuls until he gagged. He bobbed there, undecided, until he finally attempted the few strides to reach the cove. It took him longer than he expected, like swimming in molasses. A cross between his fatigue, his indifference, and the strong current kept him from reaching the bank in the three strokes it would normally require. On his knees, he crawled out of the pull of rushing water and dropped on the shore.

* * *

Leonard Marshall picked up the package, the paper crinkling in his hand. He carefully unwrapped one layer, then another. Layer after layer until he held the smooth tiny statuette in his hand. He trembled, and smiled, attracted and repulsed at the same time. How could such a tiny thing hold so many emotions for him? So much power over him? It was so small he could cradle it in the palm of his hand. He closed his fingers around it. It disappeared. He opened them again, and there it was. With it came a flood of memories. Exhilarating. His heart raced with a quick pat, pat, pat.

The basement door creaked. He took in a breath.

Time slowed and his heart with it.

Thump……thump……thump.

The light clicked on.

Another creak. Above him a step, a pause, another step. The door ached on its hinges as it opened wider. The light flicked off. The door closed. The steps faded. He let out his breath.

* * *

Trevor had never experienced fatigue like this. He crawled onto shore in the shadow of the cliff and collapsed. He never expected to make it out of the water, and now that he had, he lay there drawing in large mouthfuls of air, as if his lungs would never get enough. He stayed there, staring up at the sky, watching the dark clouds shapeshift. The rain would be there any moment, and to his surprise, he welcomed it.

As his breathing relaxed, he realized that the pain he felt was a sharp object stabbing his back. He rolled over, removed it, and threw it off to the side. As he turned to lay back down, his blurry eyes focused on the object. It was a bone. A human bone? He scrambled onto his knees and slowly made his way over to it. He was repulsed and fascinated, but mostly he was frightened by the sight of a bone and what that could mean. What had happened here, right here in this cove?

In the distance, he heard their drunken voices again. He knelt and grabbed handfuls of dirt to cover the bone. He heard them approach the edge of the cliff.

“He came this way. I saw him jump.”

“He’s too chicken, he didn’t jump. But when I find him, he’ll jump alright. He’ll jump or I’ll send him flying.”

“He jumped, I tell ya. Leave him alone. You wanted him to jump, and he did. I saw him. Let it go, already.”

“Yeah, well if he jumped, where is he?”

“You think he’s still under? You think he hit his head like that kid a while back?”

“I’m telling you, he didn’t jump.”

“There’s nowhere else to go but down. Of course, he jumped.”

“I’m going in. If he did jump, we’ll find him down there. He’s probably hiding under the cliff.”

Trevor carefully picked his way out of the cove. Scraping up against the cliff as close as his body would allow, he followed the contours until he came out on the other side of the falls. With his last bit of strength, he climbed up the rocky trail alongside Horseshoe Falls.

***

Excerpt from Dead Man’s Leap by Tina deBellegarde. Copyright 2022 by Tina deBellegarde. Reproduced with permission from Tina deBellegarde. All rights reserved.

You can find Dead Man’s Leap on Amazon

Author Bio:

Tina deBellegarde

Tina deBellegarde has been called “the Louise Penny of the Catskills.” Winter Witness, the first book in her Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery series, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel, a Silver Falchion Award and a Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem Award. Her story “Tokyo Stranger” which appears in the Mystery Writers of America anthology When a Stranger Comes to Town edited by Michael Koryta has been nominated for a Derringer Award. Tina’s short fiction also appears in The Best New England Crime Stories anthologies. She is the vice-president of the Upper Hudson Chapter of Sisters in Crime, a member of Mystery Writers of America and Writers in Kyoto. She lives in Catskill, New York, with her husband Denis and their cat Shelby where they tend to their beehives, harvest shiitake mushrooms, and cultivate their vegetable garden. She winters in Florida and travels to Japan regularly to visit her son Alessandro.

Catch Up With Tina deBellegarde:
tinadebellegarde.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @tinadebellegarde
Instagram – @tdb_writes
Twitter – @tdbwrites
Facebook – @tinadebellegardeauthor

New Reviews for The Twist and Shout Murder!

The Twist and Shout Murder

The reviews are still coming in from Net Galley. Here are just a few.

A new review for The Twist and Shout Murder


Fun and Frothy!

The first in the Swinging Sixties Mysteries set in 1962. Feisty Dot Morgan gets thrown into a bizarre world when a death occurs. Nothing like he secretarial school ambience she was getting used to. With an eccentric cast of characters and a likeable, strong protagonist this is a fun and frothy cosy mystery with a good sense of time and place. ~Ruth G./Reviewer

Intriguing!

It’s 1962 and Dot Morgan, who shares a top floor, modest apartment with her cousin, Ellie, dreams of completing secretarial school. Dot’s dad, who is a clerk at the local courthouse in Camden, Texas, with twenty years of experience, hopes to run as a candidate in the elections following the death of Phil Boggs. Her mum is a librarian. Wanting to help with her dad’s election campaign, Dot joins the Camden Ladies Club, in place of her mum. Busy Dot, who is in the final semester of her course at Hudson Secretarial School, is asked to make thirty flower arrangements for the Founder’s Day Banquet which is just around the corner. The day before the Banquet Dot loads her once red car with the flower arrangements and ends up in a disagreement with Barb Manning, the president of the Ladies Club. The next day at the Banquet the brother-in-law of the club’s president is found dead.

The mystery is intriguing and I thoroughly enjoyed attempting to solve the puzzle of the murder alongside Dot. She’s a strong character, very likeable and she’s surrounded by a fun supporting cast. Roll on book two; I’ll certainly be in the queue! ~Bridget E./Reviewer

This Book Was So Good!

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the early copy
This book was so good!
I loved how this book captured my attention in the first chapter, the author went right in and she did not slow down til the last sentence. Michelle C./Reviewer

Murder, Sweet Murder

We have an historical mystery this week taking place in 1801.  Take a look at the excerpt below. You can just feel the tension coming out of this short passage! Be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the blog post.💰

 

Murder, Sweet Murder

by Eleanor Kuhns

April 11 – May 6, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Murder, Sweet Murder by Eleanor Kuhns

Will Rees accompanies his wife to Boston to help clear her estranged father’s name in this gripping mystery set in the early nineteenth century.

January, 1801. When Lydia’s estranged father is accused of murder, Will Rees escorts her to Boston to uncover the truth. Marcus Farrell is believed to have murdered one of his workers, a boy from Jamaica where he owns a plantation. Marcus swears he’s innocent. However, a scandal has been aroused by his refusal to answer questions and accusations he bribed officials.

As Will and Lydia investigate, Marcus’s brother, Julian, is shot and killed. This time, all fingers point towards James Farrell, Lydia’s brother. Is someone targeting the family? Were the family quarreling over the family businesses and someone lashed out? What’s Marcus hiding and why won’t he accept help?

With the Farrell family falling apart and their reputation in tatters, Will and Lydia must solve the murders soon. But will they succeed before the murderer strikes again?

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Severn House Publishers
Series: Will Rees Mysteries #11
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

After regarding Rees for several seconds, Mr Farrell extended his hand. Rees grasped it, painfully conscious of his rough hand, calloused by both farm work and weaving. ‘Please attend me in my office,’ Mr Farrell said. ‘We are expecting a few guests for dinner tonight so we will have little time to talk then.’ Turning, he strode away. Rees started to follow but, realizing that Lydia was not by his side, he turned back. She stood hesitantly by the table, her hands tightly clenched together. Rees glared at Mr Farrell’s back and then, reaching out, he pulled one of her hands through his elbow. Together they followed her father into his office.

As Farrell moved a stack of papers from the center of the desk to one side, Rees looked around. A large globe on a stand stood to the right of Farrell’s desk and one chair had been drawn up to the front. A seating area, with additional chairs, were arranged by the window that looked out upon the front garden. A table in the center held an intricately carved tray with a crystal decanter and several glasses. Shelves of books lined the wall behind and adjacent to the desk, on Rees’s right.

The room was chilly although the fire was burning. Newly laid, it had been lighted, no doubt by some anonymous servant.

Farrell looked up and his eyes rested on Lydia in surprise. Rees felt his wife shrink back, intimidated. He was not going to stand for that. He pulled a chair from the window grouping and placed it in front of the desk. She hesitated for a few seconds and then, lifting her chin defiantly, she sat down. Once she was seated, Rees lowered himself into the opposite chair. After one final dismissive glance at his daughter, Farrell looked at Rees.

‘So, you are a weaver.’

‘That is so,’ Rees said, adding politely, ‘I understand you are a merchant.’

Farrell smiled. ‘I see your wife has told you very little about me or my profession.’ Since responding in the affirmative seemed somehow disloyal to Lydia, Rees said nothing.

Farrell took a box from his desk drawer and opened it to extract a cigar. ‘Would you like a smoke?’

‘No thank you,’ Rees said.

‘Or a glass of rum? Or whiskey if that is your tipple.’ When Rees declined again, Farrell put away the cigars and walked to the fireplace to light a splint. The end of the cigar glowed red and the acrid scent of burning tobacco filled the room. Puffing, Farrell returned to his seat. ‘I suppose one could say I was a merchant. But I do so much more. I own a plantation as well as a fleet of ships that sail between Boston, the West Indies and Africa. In Jamaica they take on sugar and molasses which are returned to Boston. Some of it is transformed into rum in my distillery. I export the liquor overseas, both to England and to Africa where the proceeds are used to purchase slaves.’

Sick to his stomach, Rees glanced at Lydia. She was staring at her hands, her face flaming with shame. Although she had alluded to her father’s profession, she had not told him the half of it. She had not told him of her father’s pride in it. Rees understood why she hadn’t.

‘Most of the slaves are brought to the sugar plantation,’ Farrell continued, seemingly oblivious to his daughter’s distress, ‘but some are sold in the Southern states. And you needn’t look so shocked. Why that upstart Republican with his radical ideas, Mr Jefferson, owns slaves. And he may be the next President. I suppose you voted for him.’

Rees did not respond immediately. Although many of Mr Jefferson’s ideas were appealing, Rees had found in the end that he could not vote for a slave holder. Instead, he had voted for Mr Adams. But that gentleman had not placed; the election was a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Sent to the House for resolution, Jefferson had won by one vote.’ No,’ Rees said carefully, keeping his voice level with an effort, ‘I voted for his opponent.’

‘Well, that makes us kin then. Although you will meet a few slaves here in Boston, in this very house.’ He grinned and Rees thought of Morris and Bridget with their tinted skin. ‘But few, very few. Neither the Africans nor the Spanish Indians adapt well to this northern climate and they quickly die.’ This was said with indifference as though he spoke of a broken chair.

Farrell flicked a glance at his daughter and smiled. With a surge of anger, Rees realized that Farrell fully understood the effect his speech would have on her and was enjoying her misery. Rees gathered himself to rise from his chair. Lydia reached out and grasped his sleeve.

‘This is for Cordy,’ she whispered. Rees sat down again, his body stiff.

‘But you did not come to listen to me natter on about my profession,’ Farrell said, watching the byplay with interest. ‘Shall we discuss that ridiculous murder, the one of which I am accused?’

Rees looked into Lydia’s beseeching eyes and after a few seconds he relaxed into his seat. God forgive him, a part of him hoped Marcus Farrell was guilty.

‘Go on,’ Rees said coldly. Marcus smiled.

‘Permit me to save you both time and effort,’ he said. ‘I did not kill that boy.’

‘Then why do people think you did?’ Rees asked. Puffing furiously, and clearly unwilling to reply, Farrell took a turn around the room.

‘Did you know him?’ Lydia asked, her voice low and clear. ‘This Roark?’

Farrell stood up so abruptly his chair almost tipped over. ‘Yes, I knew him.’ He glanced at Rees. ‘We were seen, Roark and I, arguing down at Long Wharf.’

‘Arguing about what?’ Rees asked.

‘It is not important. He was a nobody.’ Farrell glared at Rees, daring him to persist. Rees waited, never removing his gaze from the other man. Sometimes silence made the best hammer. Finally, Farrell said angrily, ‘He wanted a rise in his wages. I said no. He disagreed. That was all there was to it.’

Rees glanced at Lydia and found her staring at him. He knew, and he suspected she did too, that her father had just lied to them.

***

Excerpt from Murder, Sweet Murder by Eleanor Kuhns. Copyright 2021 by Eleanor Kuhns. Reproduced with permission from Eleanor Kuhns. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Eleanor Kuhns

Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur first mystery novel. Murder, Sweet Murder is the eleventh mystery following the adventures of Rees and his wife. She transitioned to full time writing last year after a successful career spent in library service. Eleanor lives in upstate New York with her husband and dog.

Catch Up With Eleanor Kuhns:
www.Eleanor-Kuhns.com
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Twitter – @EleanorKuhns
Facebook – @writerkuhns

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Never Broken

Ready for a great mystery? I love mysteries that feature reporters and Lori Duffy Foster has created that world for us in the second book in the Lisa Jamison Mystery Series, Never Broken.

About the Book

The near corpse of a stranger had no idea where he’d been, how long he’d been there or who had kept him captive. But one thing intrigued journalist Lisa Jamison even more than his story: recent memories of a woman named Chandra Bower.

Seven years had passed since Chandra disappeared from Seneca Springs without a trace. Police investigators still compared DNA records whenever an unidentified body appeared, hoping to at least bring her family closure. Lisa still chased down leads from desperate family and friends, being careful to hide her investigations from an editor who thought she’d become obsessed with a woman who was clearly dead.

But this man had just seen her, sewing designer clothes in a dark, filthy basement with about twenty other men and women under horrifically inhumane conditions. And the sweatshop workers all had one thing in common: All were people of color.

A split-second decision to help the man takes Lisa on a race against time. His captors want him back, there is evidence someone on the police force might be involved and the man knows that if he were recaptured, they would torture him until he revealed the names of the two people who helped him escape: Lisa Jamison and Chandra Bower.

Lisa promised her teenage daughter she would stay away from the dangerous stories ever since her job had nearly gotten them both killed two years before. But she no longer has a choice. She must keep the stranger hidden while she gathers enough evidence to turn the case over to city police or the FBI. At least three lives—her own, the stranger’s and Chandra’s—depend on it.

Never Broken is available at these online retailers:

Amazon Barnes and Noble Joseph-Beth IndieBound Books A Million Kobo

My Review

This one is a page-turner. A reporter named Lisa happens upon a man who has been badly mistreated and is terrified. When he reveals he is a part of a group of slaves who are forced to work sewing clothing, she decides to hide him and go in search of the story. There is a young woman who disappeared years ago and this man is a connection to her. There were a couple of times when I would be reading and then did a face palm as Lisa drew a little too close to some very dangerous people, but that was actually the part I liked the best in the end. This is the second book in this series and now I need to back up and read the first.

About the Author

Lori Duffy Foster is a former crime reporter who writes from the hills of Northern Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and four children. She was born and raised in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, where a part of her heart remains. Her short fiction has appeared in the journal Aethlon, and in the anthologies Short Story America and Childhood Regained. Her nonfiction has appeared in Healthy Living, Running Times, Literary Mama, Crimespree and Mountain Home magazines. A Dead Man’s Eyes, the first in the Lisa Jamison mystery/suspense series, is her debut novel. Look for book two in the series, Never Broken, in April of 2022. She is also author of Raising Identical Twins: The Unique Challenges and Joys of the Early Years. Lori is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, The Historical Novel Society, International Thriller Writers and Pennwriters She also sits on the board of the Knoxville (PA) Public Library. Visit Lori online at http://www.loriduffyfoster.com or on Facebook @loriduffyfosterauthor, on Instagram @lori.duffy.foster or on Twitter @loriduffyfoster.

What is Happening at Books to the Ceiling in April

Oh Holy Fright is Free in April


Exciting News

The Next Book in the Swinging Sixties Series is in the Works!
If I Had a Hammer, due out in January 2023 has now entered the editing process and hopefully, if all goes well, it will be out next January. This continues the mystery-solving adventures of Dot Morgan who now has started her first job. Important things happened in 1963 including the assassination of John F. Kennedy. A traumatic event like this changes a person and it greatly effects Dot and her cousin Ellie, sometimes in a sad way and sometimes in funny way. That’s all I can say right now, accept, I found this hammer meme and had to laugh!

Oh Holy Fright is FREE during the month of April! I know, you’re thinking about the Easter Bunny not Santa, but pick it up and put it in your Christmas TBR pile!

Shelf Life Interview Banner
I was featured over at The Shelf Life Blog, hosted by C.J. Peterson! Click here to find out more about my writing process and the books I read growing up!

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FEATURED BOOKS FOR THIS MONTH

Never Broken
April 15
The near corpse of a stranger had no idea where he’d been, how long he’d been there or who had kept him captive. But one thing intrigued journalist Lisa Jamison even more than his story: recent memories of a woman named Chandra Bower.

Murder, Sweet Murder
March 11
January, 1801. When Lydia’s estranged father is accused of murder, Will Rees escorts her to Boston to uncover the truth. Marcus Farrell is believed to have murdered one of his workers, a boy from Jamaica where he owns a plantation. Marcus swears he’s innocent. However, a scandal has been aroused by his refusal to answer questions and accusations he bribed officials.

You can subscribe to the Books to the Ceiling Newsletter HERE!

Come Visit Me at Shelf Life Today!

I’m over at Shelf Life today, author blog of C.J. Peterson. I’ve had the pleasure of joining C.J. for her ‘Tis the Season Anthology of short Christmas stories for the past two years. She and her sister run Texas Sisters Press and have been a delight to work with on these anthologies. C.J. sent me a very thorough set of interview questions about my writing process and a few questions I’ve never been asked before.

Click Here to Read my Interview on Shelf Life!

Murder in the Master

Murder in the Master

One of the reasons I never wanted to be a real estate agent was having to go into empty houses. You would never be sure what awaited behind every door! In Murder in the Master Judy Murry has created a great mystery centered around a real estate agent and her fictional friends. So great, she’s been nominated for an Agatha!

About Murder in the Master

Real estate rule #1: A dead body creates buzz. A dead body in a house for sale is never the buzz you want.

It isn’t the first-time real estate agent Helen Morrisey has found someone naked in bed while showing a house to a potential buyer. But this one is different. One glance at the bluish cast around his lips and the vacant, staring eyes, and Helen knows big-time developer Al Capelli is never going to sign another sales agreement.

His death is big news for a small, top of the Chesapeake water town where a family empire is built around secrets and their brash money style is resented by locals. Within days, his lover, her old friend, begs Helen to find the killer before she’s arrested for murder. With her fight for the underdog style, Helen jumps in. She quickly realizes that solving a murder mystery in real life is a lot more dangerous than reading one. Helen decides to create her own Detection Club of expert sleuths—Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher, Nora Charles, Agatha Raisin, and, yes, Nancy Drew to help unearth the truth.
Detective Joe McAlister recognizes the value of Helen’s insight into back office real estate deals and local players. And for the first time since her husband’s death, Helen meets a man who might be able to return zingers as quick as she can toss them out. Mystery lovers hungry for a smart gutsy woman, a fast-moving plot, and an insider’s look into a business everyone talks about, but few understand, will devour this first in a series Murder in the Master.

Order at Amazon Order at Barnes and Noble Order at Independent Bookstores

My Review

Helen Morrisey is a real estate agent who loves to read mysteries. When she finds a dead body in the master bedroom while showing a house, she enlists the help of her fictional friends, including Miss Marple, Nancy Drew and Jessica Fletcher. Picking between the red herrings and the actual killer had me guessing. I enjoyed getting a look into the world Murray created in Chesapeake Bay. This is a well-layered mystery that includes a little romance along with suspenseful storytelling.

A Visit with Judy L. Murray

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve dreamed of working full-time as an author since I edited my high school newspaper a gazillion years ago. When I graduated with a newspaper journalism degree from the SI Newhouse School at Syracuse University, I became a newspaper reporter. Practicality and a meager, correct that – empty checkbook took hold quickly and I entered real estate sales. I kept my hand in writing with a monthly column on real estate for a national magazine. I put my MBA to use by creating tons of corporate marketing materials. Over the years in sales, management, coaching and training, as a Philadelphia real estate broker, I was also a restoration addict. I worked with enough delusional sellers, jittery buyers, testy contractors, and diva agents to fill my head with plenty of back-office insight. More than enough to get me started on this series.

I started this first mystery about ten years ago, then set it aside. About three years ago, I picked it up again and started writing every night, well after midnight. I decided time was of the essence, as we say in real estate. I wrote and rewrote. A literary agent devoted to representing mysteries offered me representation. Shortly after, I was fortunate to have a couple publishers offer me contracts. I signed a three-book series contract with Level Best Books and am thrilled to be with a publisher with such a great reputation. That caused me to take the plunge, leave real estate and write full-time. Some days I’m mentally hyperventilating over the next scene I’m writing, but never-the-less I’m grateful.

Since my girlhood obsession with Nancy Drew, I’ve always believed in the power of words. The idea that I can create a series that enables readers to step into a detective story with smart women and twists and turns is so rewarding.

What inspired the idea behind your book? Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences or purely all imagination?

Definitely a combination. I thought there seemed to be a dearth of mature women in today’s mysteries and I hoped readers would relate to Helen, my protagonist. Real estate is a world most people are interested in since it touches so many lives. But it’s also often misunderstood. Real estate is not HGTV. It’s a lot more complicated and a lot more stressful. Houses aren’t built in a day. Buyers and sellers are highly emotional. There are a lot of moving parts. My protagonist’s career gives her the opportunity to be involved with people in a very personal way. It’s a great segue to a mystery.

The setting on the Chesapeake gives me lots of interesting locations and introductions to people with different backgrounds. I do have twins like my protagonist. My husband complains that he was already dead before the first chapter. It’s a running joke among my friends and family. We really do live on a cliff that looks onto the bay. We batten down the hatches when a storm comes up.

Who is your favorite character to create scenes for in the book?

My protagonist, Helen Morrisey, will always be my favorite.

From the first paragraph, it was important that she be a mature woman who is smart and self-sufficient. She needs to go to work every day and make a living. As competent as she is, as a recent widow Helen’s not sure how to navigate through romance in her fifties. She doesn’t even know if she wants to. She’s a slow mover. She struggles to bite her tongue and not intrude on her children’s decisions. She’s bullheaded and tends to put her foot in her mouth. She loves to eat, hates to cook, and hides Twizzlers in her desk drawer and car. She also has a history of coming to other’s defense. Helen’s life is complicated, much like ours.

Helen’s Detection Club is a central character in the series. They are her squad of famous sleuths she creates in her mind to guide her through a maze of clues. Each of her Detection Club members brings different talents to crime solving. When I created this group, I wasn’t sure how they would be received. But their uniqueness seems to be one of the elements in my series readers really enjoy. They like seeing these favorites in action in current day. Ironically, as we get more and more familiar with Helen, we’ll see more and more of their individual traits reflected in her.

Here’s a partial scene that helps set up Helen’s relationship with the detective investigating:

            Tuesday afternoon, Joe pulled in beside Helen when she parked at Safe Harbor. He unfolded his legs as he climbed out of a black Ford Explorer.

            Helen deliberately took her time. She tucked her hair behind her ears and pasted on an overly bright smile. “What brings you back, Detective? Any news on Capelli’s possible murder?” Her tone was deliberately cheeky as she walked past him. Joe smirked.

            “News travels fast. Who told you?”

            “Well, no one picks up on the local happenings faster than real estate agents. We usually find out the dirt sooner than later.” She emphasized “sooner.” The fact he was rather hunky, and she guessed, mid-fifties, was a major plus in her book. But it wasn’t going to keep Helen from trying to steal his thunder. Most men couldn’t keep up with her banter. It was a good way to keep them on their toes and out of her personal space.

            “Since most agents are women, I’m not surprised to hear gossip fills your day.”

            She stopped dead in her tracks. His stock dropped. Or did it go up? “Did you really just say that?”

            Joe held his hands up. “Sorry. That was out of line.”

            Helen studied his face and decided a man who apologized was worth forgiving, at least the first time. Besides, she had egged him on. “What is it you forgot to ask me? We gossipy agents are always short on time, even if you’re not.” She took off toward the entrance, her heels clicking across the slate walk and up the front steps. She was enjoying their fencing conversation.

If an actor or actress were to play this part, who would it be?

That’s a really hard question. I’m not much of a follower of Hollywood. Probably a combination of Myrna Loy’s style and Patricia Heaton.

Is this book a part of a series?

Yes. The series is Chesapeake Bay Mysteries. I like the setting because it places my readers in a waterfront village and reflects part of our country’s history and the people who, even today, make their living on the water. My second book, Killer in the Kitchen, comes out this September. Helen becomes involved with a celebrity chef for a television shopping network. The third is likely to be called Peril in the Pool House.

Where can readers leave reviews?

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, wherever they’d like. I’m always grateful for my readers’ enthusiasm.

How can readers find your books and are there more coming in this series?

They can find my debut mystery everywhere online along with independent bookstores. I have more and more libraries stocking it. Since my favorite place to spend time is in a library, I’m delighted librarians are promoting it. Finding Murder in the Master on the bookshelf of new releases in my local library was such an incredible personal moment for me. To then be nominated for an Agatha Award as Best First Book, is beyond rewarding. The dream I had when I was in my teens is finally here.

Thanks so much to Books to the Ceiling for inviting me for this interview. I so appreciate the opportunity.

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Her Hidden Genius

Today we look at Marie Benedict’s latest book, Her Hidden Genius in honor of Women’s History Month! This is the fascinating story of a Rosalind Franklin, a wicked smart scientist in the middle of a boy’s club in 1952. It makes you wonder how many other breakthroughs came from the work of women but the credit went to men? Read more about Dr. Franklin and her story below as well as my review.

About Her Hidden Genius

She changed the world with her discovery. Three men took the credit.

Rosalind Franklin has always been an outsider—brilliant, but different. Whether working at the laboratory she adored in Paris or toiling at a university in London, she feels closest to the science, those unchanging laws of physics and chemistry that guide her experiments. When she is assigned to work on DNA, she believes she can unearth its secrets.

Rosalind knows if she just takes one more X-ray picture—one more after thousands—she can unlock the building blocks of life. Never again will she have to listen to her colleagues complain about her, especially Maurice Wilkins who’d rather conspire about genetics with James Watson and Francis Crick than work alongside her.

Then it finally happens—the double helix structure of DNA reveals itself to her with perfect clarity. But what unfolds next, Rosalind could have never predicted.

Marie Benedict’s powerful new novel shines a light on a woman who sacrificed her life to discover the nature of our very DNA, a woman whose world-changing contributions were hidden by the men around her but whose relentless drive advanced our understanding of humankind.

Available at Amazon

My Review

Rosalyn Franklin is a genius. She’s also a woman working in a man’s world in the 1950s in Paris and in London. This true story follows her as she out-thinks every man around her but never seems to get the recognition she deserves. A pure scientist, she doesn’t always know how to handle interpersonal relationships or read the clues of the people around her. When she is working in London this fault is particularly bad, causing her to have to re-evaluate her career goals as she works on the structure of DNA. I enjoyed learning about this woman and was cheering her on throughout the entire book. Great read.

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Murder at the CDC

MURDER AT THE CDC by Jon Land Banner

Murder at the CDC

This one fascinated me, not only because it is about a governmental agency on our minds a lot in the last two years, but it’s a Margaret Truman mystery written by Jon Land. His bio highlights his writing a movie that featured Milo Ventimiglia, but I liked his turn at writing the Murder She Wrote Books. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway! 

Synopsis:

Murder at the CDC by Jon Land

2017: A military transport on a secret run to dispose of its deadly contents vanishes without a trace.

The present: A mass shooting on the steps of the Capitol nearly claims the life of Robert Brixton’s grandson.

No stranger to high-stakes investigations, Brixton embarks on a trail to uncover the motive behind the shooting. On the way he finds himself probing the attempted murder of the daughter his best friend, who works at the Washington offices of the CDC. The connection between the mass shooting and Alexandra’s poisoning lies in that long-lost military transport that has been recovered by forces determined to change America forever. Those forces are led by radical separatist leader Deacon Frank Wilhyte, whose goal is nothing short of bringing on a second Civil War. Brixton joins forces with Kelly Lofton, a former Baltimore homicide detective. She has her own reasons for wanting to find the truth behind the shooting on the Capitol steps, and is the only person with the direct knowledge Brixton needs. But chasing the truth places them in the cross-hairs of both Wilhyte’s legions and his Washington enablers.

“A wonderful mystery novel, riveting until the last page.”
–Strand Magazine

“A terrific tale that never lets up.”
–Sandra Brown

Book Details:

Genre: Political Thriller
Published by: Forge
Series: Margaret Truman’s Capital Crimes, #32 | Each is a stand alone work.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt from Murder at the CDC:

PROLOGUE

December, 2016

The tanker lumbered through the night, headlights cutting a thin swath out of the storm raging around it.

“I can’t raise them, sir,” said Corporal Larry Kleinhurst, walkie-talkie still pressed tight against his ear.

“Try again,” Captain Frank Hall said from the wheel.

“Red Dog Two, this is Red Dog One, do you read me? Repeat, do you read me?”

No voice greeted him in response.

Kleinhurst pressed the walkie-talkie tighter. “Red Dog Three, this is Red Dog One, do you read me? Repeat, do you read me?”

Nothing again.

Kleinhurst lowered the walkie-talkie, as if to inspect it. “What’s the range on these things?”

“Couple miles, maybe a little less in this slop.”

“How’d we lose both our lead and follow teams?”

Hall remained silent in the driver’s seat, squeezing the steering wheel tighter. Procedure dictated that they rotate the driving duties in two-hour shifts, this one being the last before they reached their destination.

“We must be off the route, must have followed the wrong turn-off,” Kleinhurst said, squinting into the black void around them.

Hall snapped a look the corporal’s way. “Or the security teams did,” he said defensively.

“Both of them?” And when Hall failed to respond, he continued, “Unless somebody took them out.”

“Give it a rest, Corporal.”

“We could be headed straight for an ambush.”

“Or I fucked up and took the wrong turn-off. That’s what you’re saying.”

“I’m saying we could be lost, sir,” Kleinhurst told him, leaving it there.

He strained to see through the big truck’s windshield. They had left the Tooele Army Depot in Tooele County, Utah right on schedule at four o’clock pm for the twelve-hour journey to Umatilla, Oregon which housed the Umatilla Chemical Depot, destination of whatever they were hauling in the tanker. The actual final resting place of those contents, Kleinhurst knew, was actually the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility located on the depot’s grounds, about which rumors ran rampant. He’d never spoken to anyone who’d actually seen its inner workings, but the tales of what had already been disposed of there was enough to make his skin crawl, weapons that could wipe out the world’s population several times over.

Which told Kleinhurst all he needed to know about whatever it was they were hauling, now without any security escort.

“We’re following the map, Corporal,” Hall said from behind the wheel, as if needing to explain himself further, a nervous edge creeping into his voice.

He kept playing with the lights in search of a beam level that could better reveal what lay ahead. But the storm gave little back, continuing to intensify the further they drew into the night. Mapping out a route the old-fashioned way might have been primitive by today’s standards, but procedure dictated they avoid the likes of Waze and Google Maps out of fear anything web-based could be hacked to the point where they might be rerouted to where potential hijackers were lying in wait.

Another thump atop the ragged, unpaved road shook Hall and Kleinhurst in their seats. They had barely settled back down when a heftier jolt jarred the rig mightily to the left. Hall managed to right it with a hard twist of the wheel that squeezed the blood from his hands.

“Captain . . .”

“This is the route they gave us, Corporal.”

Kleinhurst laid the map between them. “Not if I’m reading this right. With all due respect, sir, I believe we should turn back.”

Hall cast him a condescending stare. “This your first Red Dog run, son?”

“Yes, sir, it is.”

“When you’re hauling a shipment like what we got, you don’t turn back, no matter what. When they call us, it’s because they never want to see whatever we’re carrying again.”

With good reason, Kleinhurst thought. Among the initial chemicals stored at Umatilla, and the first to be destroyed at the chemical agent disposal facility housed there, were containers of GB and VX nerve agents, along with HD blister agent. The Tooele Army Depot, where their drive had originated, meanwhile, served as a storage site for war reserve and training munitions, supposedly devoted to conventional ordnance. In point of fact, the military also stored nonconventional munitions there in secret, a kind of way station for chemical weapons deemed too dangerous to store anywhere else.

The normal route from Tooele to Umatilla would have taken just over ten hours via I-84 west. But a Red Dog run required a different route entirely off the main roads in order to avoid population centers. The point was to steer clear of anywhere people resided to avoid the kind of attention an accident or spill would have otherwise caused, necessitating a much more winding route Hall and Kleinhurst hadn’t been given until moments prior to their departure. A helicopter had accompanied them through the first stages of the drive, chased away when a mountain storm the forecasts had made no mention of whipped up out of nowhere and caught the convoy in its grasp. Now two-thirds of that convoy had dropped off the map, leaving the tanker alone, unsecured, and exposed, deadly contents and all.

Kleinhurst’s mouth was so dry, he could barely swallow. “What exactly are we carrying, sir?”

Hall smirked. “If I knew the answer to that, I wouldn’t be driving this rig.”

Kleinhurst’s eyes darted to the radio. “What about calling in?”

“We’re past the point of no return. That means radio silence, soldier. They don’t hear a peep from us until we get where we’re going.”

Kleinhurst watched the rig’s wipers slap at the pelting rain collecting on the windshield, only to have a fresh layer form the instant they had completed their sweep. “Even in an emergency? Even if we lost our escorts miles back in this slop?”

“Let me give it to you straight,” Hall snapped, a sharper edge entering his voice. “The stuff we’re hauling in this tanker doesn’t exist. That means we don’t exist. That means we talk to nobody. Got it?”

“Yes, sir,” Kleinhurst sighed.

“Good,” said Hall. “We get where we’re supposed to go and figure things out from there. But right now . . .” His voice drifted, as he stole a glance at the map.

Suddenly Kleinhurst lurched forward, straining the bonds of his shoulder harness to peer through the windshield. “Jesus Christ, up there straight ahead!”

“What?”

“Look!”

“At what?”

“Can’t you see it?”

“I can’t see shit through this muck, Corporal.”

“Slow down.”

Hall stubbornly held to his speed.

“Slow down, for God’s sake. Can’t you see it?”

“I can’t see a thing!”

“That’s it, like the world before us is gone. You need to stop!”

Hall hit the brakes and the rig’s tires locked up, sending the tanker into a vicious skid across the road. He tried to work the steering wheel, but it fought him every inch of the way, turning the skid into a spin through an empty wave of darkness.

“There!” Kleinhurst screamed.

“What in God’s name,” Hall rasped, still fighting to steer when a mouth opened out of the storm like a vast maw.

He desperately worked the brake and the clutch, trying to regain control. He’d been out in hurricanes, tornados, even earthquakes. None of those, though, compared to the sense of airlessness both he and Kleinhurst felt around them, almost as if they were floating over a massive vacuum that was sucking them downward. He’d done his share of parachute jumps for his airborne training and the sensation was eerily akin to those first few moments in freefall before the chute deployed. He remembered the sense of not so much being unable to breathe, as being trapped between breaths for an absurdly long moment.

The rig’s nose pitched downward, everything in the cab sent rattling. The dashboard lights flickered and died, the world beyond lost to darkness as the tanker dropped into oblivion.

And then there was nothing.

CHAPTER 1

“The hand of God is upon You! He is my shepherd and I shall not want!”

Those were the last words high school sophomore Ben McDonald heard before the shooting started. He and the other students clustered around him from the Gilman School in Maryland were on a school field trip to the Capitol Building from their Baltimore prep school, the first such trip taken since academic life returned to a degree of normalcy following the endless coronavirus nightmare. Everyone had shown up in their school uniforms, the buses had left on schedule, and the students felt like pioneers, explorers blazing a trail back into the world beyond shutdowns and social distancing.

The reduction in Capitol tour group size was still in force and had necessitated the two bus-loads of students to be divided into five groups of fifteen, give or take, three chaperones allotted to each. Ben and his twin brother Robbie’s group had gone first and they had found themselves lingering on the Capitol steps, taking pictures and chatting away with their local congressman and senator who’d come out to greet and mingle with the students on the steps at the building’s east front.

“Why are you still wearing a mask?” one of them had asked the congressman, but Ben had already forgotten the answer.

He remembered checking the time on his phone just before he heard the first shots. Ben thought they were firecrackers at first, realizing the truth a breath later when the screams began and bodies started flying.

“I am doing the Lord’s work! I am a sacrifice to his word!”

Somehow Ben gleaned those words through the screams and incessant hail of fire. The shots were coming so fast he wasn’t sure if the shooter was firing on semi or full auto. The boy never actually saw him as more than a shape amid the blur before him, enveloping his vision like a dull haze. The thin sheer curtain drawn over his eyes didn’t keep him from recording bodies crumpling, keeling over, tumbling down the steps. The force of a bullet’s momentum slammed a classmate into him, sparing Ben the ensuing fusillade that turned the other boy’s back into a pin cushion.

My brother!

The panic and shock of those initial seconds had stolen thought of Robbie from him. He wheeled about, covered in the blood of boy who had dropped off the scene.

“Robbie!”

Did he cry out his name or only think it? The steps around him looked blanketed in khaki and blue, pants and blazers that made up his Gilman uniform. The sound of gunfire continued to resound in his ears, but he wasn’t sure the shooter was still firing because no more bodies seemed to be falling. People were running in all directions, crying and screaming, Ben remaining frozen out of fear for his brother.

“Robbie!”

He saw his brother’s sandy blond hair draped down from one of the marble steps onto another. Nothing else at first, just the hair. Maybe he had dove atop a friend who’d been wounded to spare that kid more fire—that was Robbie. But there was no one beneath Him, and . . . And . . .

He wasn’t moving, his arms stretched to the sides on angles that looked all wrong. Ben dropped to his knees next to Robbie, his pants sinking into pooling patches of blood which merged and thickened beneath him. He felt something pinching him along right side of his ribcage and saw his blue shirt darkening with a spreading wave of red in the last moment before he collapsed next to his brother.

***

Excerpt from MURDER AT THE CDC by Jon Land. Copyright 2022 by Jon Land. Reproduced with permission from Jon Land. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Jon Land

JON LAND is the USA Today bestselling author of fifty-eight books, including eleven in the critically acclaimed Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong series, the most recent of which, Strong from the Heart, won the 2020 American Fiction Award for Best Thriller and the 2020 American Book Fest Award for Best Mystery/Suspense Novel. Additionally, he has teamed up with Heather Graham for a science fiction series that began with THE RISING (winner of the 2017 International Book Award for best Sci-fi Novel) and continues with BLOOD MOON, to be published in November of 2022. He has also written six books in the Murder, She Wrote series of mysteries and has more recently taken over Margaret Truman’s Capital Crimes series, with his second effort, MURDER AT THE CDC, to be published in February of 2022. Jon is known as well for writing the film DIRTY DEEDS, a teen comedy starring Milo Ventimiglia and Zoe Saldana, which was released in 2005. A graduate of Brown University, he received the 2019 Rhode Island Authors Legacy Award for his lifetime of literary achievements.

Catch Up With Our Author:
JonLandBooks.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @JonLand2
Twitter – @JonDLand
Facebook – @JonLandAuthor

 

 

Join In and Enter to Win:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Jon Land. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

 

 

 

Record Store Reckoning

Do you own a record player? I bought one for my daughter for Christmas and now she is collecting “classics” which are actually albums I had on my shelf in the 70s. I never knew I was listening to classical music at the time! I love the idea of a mystery series in a record store and J.C. Kenney has brought it to us with main character, Darcy Gaughan, who also stopped by to answer a few questions. Scroll down to read more about Record Store Reckoning, Darcy and J.C.

About Record Store Reckoning

When the manager of Marysburg Music, Darcy Gaughan, returns to work after a vacation, she expects to jump right back into work as the store gets ready for the upcoming Record Store Day celebrations. She’s also celebrating five years of sobriety and is confident that there are good things in her future. She doesn’t expect to find her boss in his office, dead from an apparent self-inflicted stab wound.

The police rule the death a suicide. Darcy, who knew her beloved boss better than anybody, knows better. She vows to get to the truth of the matter before the murderer can get away with the crime and the record store is closed forever. Along the way, she uncovers secrets and shady deals certain town residents would rather keep hidden. Secrets some would commit murder to keep under wraps. Can she assemble the clues and put them in just the right order so everything comes together like a classic jazz album? And how is she supposed to focus on finding a killer when she also needs to figure out a way to keep the record store open? Follow along as Darcy searches for the truth while learning the greatest gifts are truly those that money can’t buy.

You can find Record Store Reckoning on Amazon!

A Visit with Darcy Gaughan

Welcome! Tell us your name, your profession and what makes you such a great amateur sleuth?

Thanks a million for having me here today. My name is Darcy Gaughan. I’m the new owner of Marysburg Music, the most amazing record store in the Midwest. I never planned on becoming an amateur sleuth, you can take that to the bank. I used to be a drummer in a punk band that toured the world. During those years, I got pretty good at studying human behavior. Especially the kind that wasn’t exactly above board. I can pick up someone’s “tell” pretty quickly. Also, I’m no quitter. When I start out on something, I see it through to the finish.

Tell us about the crime you are working on in Record Store Reckoning.

Oh, dude, it’s a tough one. My boss, Eddie Maxwell, was stabbed to death. He was my rescuer, mentor, and friend. I found him when I reported to work at the record store. Based on the evidence at the scene, the cops think he took his own life. I don’t care what the evidence looks like. I knew Eddie. There was no way in the world he’d do that. Plus, the murder weapon found at the scene doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to go into detail here, but if suicide was involved, the weapon would have been made of something else.

What other character is the most helpful to you in solving the murder?

Wow. I never really thought about it. I had a lot of help from so many different people. Probably, the most help came from my two full-time employees, Hank and Charlotte. They gave me a lot of suggestions about who to talk to and wanted the case solved as much as I did. Char may have also placed a call to an unsung hero that helped me bring the case to a close. You’ll have to read the story to get the deets though.

What other character is the most frustrating?

Kaitlin Rosengarten, the Detective-Sergeant assigned to the case is a total pain in my backside. Just because she and I had a few run-ins back when I was drinking too much, she refuses to listen to practically anything I tell her. That was then. I’ve been sober for five years. If she wouldn’t take Eddie’s murder seriously, it was up to me to prove her wrong.

What has been your scariest moment in the pursuit of crime-solving?

That’s easy. Getting shot at! There were a few ultra-scary moments when I thought I’d reached the end of my own life. I’m happy to say those bullets came close but missed the mark. If I never get shot at again, I’ll totally be okay with that.

If an actor or actress were to play your part, who would that be?

Man, that’s a tough one. I think I’d go with Emmy Rossum, who played Fiona in Shameless. She’s pretty amazing and she’s a singer, too. As a retired musician, I gotta salute a fellow woman in the music biz.

If you could be in a buddy book with any other amateur sleuth, who would that be with?

Stephanie Plum would be way cool, but I like the vibe here in the Midwest. I’ve heard about this literary agent who lives is Southern Indiana, Allie Cobb. She’s bagged a bunch of murderers. I wouldn’t mind hanging out with her. We could swap stories while we keep the streets of the State of Indiana safe!

Can we expect to see more books in this series? Give us a hint.

Totally! I know for certain there will be two more adventures involving me and my crew from Marysburg Music. Fingers crossed there will be more after that. Appreciate the time to chat but gotta get back to the record store. Rock on, friends!

About the Author

J.C. Kenney is the Amazon and Kobo bestselling author of The Allie Cobb Mysteries and The Darcy Gaughan Mysteries. His debut, A Literal Mess, was a finalist for a Muse Medallion from the Cat Writers’ Association in mystery fiction. When he’s not writing, you can find him following IndyCar racing or listening to music. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife, two children, and a cat.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JCKenney1 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JCKenney1 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/j.c.kenney/  

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jckenney 

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/j-c-kenney

The Hidden Saint

Folklore is the root of many a modern story and this tradition of storytelling spans all cultures, ethnicities and religions. Today we are learning about Jewish folklore with a wonderful tale from Mark Levenson. We’ve got crushed bridegrooms, golems and a horrible demon named who has designs on all the things we treasure in this life. Scroll down to visit with author Mark Levenson and to learn about The Hidden Saint.

Description of The Hidden Saint

THIS NEW FANTASY NOVEL TAKES READERS TO A WORLD THEY’VE NEVER ENCOUNTERED BEFORE, IN WHICH THE VAST SWEEP OF JEWISH MYTH AND MAGIC IS COMPLETELY REAL.

The historical horrors of eighteenth-century Eastern Europe are interwoven with fantastic creatures drawn from 3,500 years of Jewish myth and magic. For the first time, THE HIDDEN SAINT conjures up a very human origin story for one of the greatest superheroes of Jewish folklore: Rabbi Adam, famous for battling wizards, witches, and demons.

The story opens on a long-awaited family wedding, which turns to horror as Rabbi Adam’s children are abducted by an ancient supernatural evil.

To save them, the rabbi is joined by a golem, a man of clay pained by the burden of living among, but always apart from, humans. He’s goaded and mentored by an elderly, wisecracking housekeeper who is secretly one of the thirty-six hidden saints, or Lamed-Vavniks, upon whom the fate of the world depends.

And he’s blessed and challenged by his wife, Sarah, who leads him to a garden named Eden.

As tidal waves and fires ravage the earth and the very stars above begin to disappear, can Rabbi Adam and his companions succeed in time?

The Hidden Saint is available on Amazon

My Review

Time for a trip into a fantasy world filled with golems, demons and magic based on Jewish folklore. Rabbi Adam is a man who has suffered and is searching for answers. When the rabbi’s children are taken from him, he goes on a journey with a wonderful golem and a strange but loving old woman named Shayna. The setting of the town filled with dead people was fascinating. I loved the bird express and the mystery of his first love as Levenson expertly weaves his story. I am not usually a fantasy reader, but that didn’t seem to matter. I enjoyed the adventure! 

A Visit with Mark Levenson, Author of The Hidden Saint

Tell us a little about yourself.

I once had a high school journalism teacher who said never start an autobiography with where you were born, unless it was someplace interesting, like jail.  So you won’t get that from me. Writing is all I’ve ever done, professionally, and in just about every way possible — as a newspaper and magazine reporter, PR director, playwright, short story writer and, now, novelist. My pay-the-bills job is PR writing for large corporations, anything that touches the media, their customers, etc. Good background for a novel sometime.

What inspired the idea behind your book?

 What inspired this book was my long-term immersion in Jewish folklore. I’ve adapted Ansky’s Yiddish-theater masterpiece, The Dybbuk, for actors and puppets, written versions of the golem and Chelm stories for the stage. I love the centuries-old eastern European Jewish folktales and conceived of a way to bring them to new audiences. The Hidden Saint is a classic hero’s journey story — with an untried hero, mentor, comic sidekick, villain, etc. — but through a world I’ve never seen depicted before in fiction: the world of Jewish myth and magic. When I encountered Rabbi Adam, a Jewish superhero of sorts from the 16th century, I knew I wanted to write an origin story for him, and this is it.

Who is your favorite character to create scenes for in the book?(You can also insert a paragraph or two showing this character doing what you love best about writing him/her along with your answer.) If an actor or actress were to play this part, who would it be?

We put a bit of our hearts into each character, so they’re all our children and we can’t have favorites. So I don’t. But my favorite is Shayna, the elderly housekeeper and member of a secret society that keeps the world in existence, and also the hero’s mentor.  She’s my favorite because she says exactly what’s on her mind, no varnish but plenty of piss and vinegar. And she’s also easy to underestimate; Rabbi Adam, the protagonist, certainly does so. And she quotes Shakespeare. What’s not to like? I was inspired to create her by the late English character actress Margaret Rutherford, who played Miss Marple in a series of 1960s films. But today, any English character actress could play her — Emma Thompson, Judi Densch, Maggie Smith. An excerpt:
They traveled several miles in the wagon. Shayna was eating a small pastry she must have secreted within her voluminous cloak. When she finished, she reached into a pocket and produced her handkerchief and wiped her lips with a single, straight stroke. The golem, meanwhile, was fascinated by a white sash he had acquired from one of the Cossacks who had no further need of it. He was tying and untying it into a series of intricate knots.
“How do you do it?” Adam asked Shayna.
“Do what?” she replied as she surveyed the fields around them.
“The idea that we’re going to a wedding, after what we’ve seen…” his mouth remained open but the rest of the thought remained unspoken.
Shayna gave him an appraising look, the corners of her thin little mouth twitching for an instant. “Oh,” she said. “You think I should be a sourpuss, like you?”
The golem put down the knotted sash and watched them.
“No, I don’t—” Adam began, then stopped. “I mean, I’m not a sourpuss.”
Shayna looked straight ahead, contemplating the road, which stretched to the horizon. “It must be the light then,” she said after a while. It appeared to Adam as though a hint of a grin was evident on the golem’s great, carved face.
“You know very well what I mean,” he continued. “All the dead of Miropol. All the dead and wounded of Okop. More dead than one should have to see in a lifetime. And now we go to a wedding… We should be mourning, not on our way to celebrate—shouldn’t we?”
Around them, the afternoon wind grew stronger, colder. The golem leaned forward, awaiting Shayna’s response.
“King Solomon says that everything has its season, everything has its time,” she reminded him. “A time to weep and a time to laugh. Who’s to say that this isn’t the time to laugh?”
“Then when is the time to weep?” he cried out.
“I suspect you’ll know it when you come to it,” Shayna said.

Is this book a part of a series?

It’s the start of a series. Don’t want to provide spoilers, but the arc of the protagonist raises the question: “what does he do next.” I have some ideas about that.

Where can readers leave reviews?

All the usual places: Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads — and if you do, thank you!

How can readers find your books and are there more coming in this series?

You can find The Hidden Saint wherever you buy books online. And yes, I’m planning the sequel now.

About Mark Levenson

Mark Levenson is an award-winning dramatist, screenwriter, and short story writer, as well as a longtime journalist.

His Jewish-themed fantasy writing has won honors from The National Foundation for Jewish Culture and the American Jewish University, as well as a Union Internationale de la Marionnette-USA Citation of Excellence, an award founded by Jim Henson.

Levenson’s novel, The Hidden Saint (Level Best Books, February 2022), is the culmination of his more than 20 years of engagement with Jewish folklore. Levenson wrote The Return of the Golem and The Wise Men of Chelm for the stage, and adapted S. Ansky’s The Dybbuk for actors and puppets. His Jewish-themed short fiction credits include Mystery Weekly Magazine, Kindle Kzine, and Ami Magazine. He blogs about Jewish fantasy for The Times of Israel.

Perhaps Levenson’s interests in fantasy and folklore are in his blood; his ancestors include a magician-grandmother, “Lightfingers Ida,” and a great-great-uncle who was a Russian circus strongman.

Levenson writes for and about puppet theatre, and performs an updated version of the classic Punch & Judy. He was graduated from Cornell University. He and his family live in Westchester County, New York.

Visit Mark’s Website

The Secret in the Wall


Oh boy, we’ve got a good one. Don’t  you love a mystery where something is hidden in the wall? What could it be? A letter? Money? A BODY? I love those house flipper shows where they find a document or an old shoe in the wall. Sometimes you should take things out and sometimes, it’s best to leave them there! Be sure to read my interview with Ann as she tells the fascinating inspiration for this story.  Don’t forget to scroll down and enter the giveaway!

About The Secret In The Wall


The Secret in the Wall: A Novel (Silver Rush Mysteries)
Historical Mystery
8th in Series
Poisoned Pen Press (February 15, 2022)

Sometimes you can’t keep your gown out of the gutter…

Inez Stannert has reinvented herself—again. Fleeing the comfort and wealth of her East Coast upbringing, she became a saloon owner and card sharp in the rough silver boomtown of Leadville, Colorado, always favoring the unconventional path—a difficult road for a woman in the late 1800s.

Then the teenaged daughter of a local prostitute is orphaned by her mother’s murder, and Inez steps up to raise the troubled girl as her own. Inez works hard to keep a respectable, loving home for Antonia, carefully crafting their new life in San Francisco. But risk is a seductive friend, difficult to resist. When a skeleton tumbles from the wall of her latest business investment, the police only seem interested in the bag of Civil War-era gold coins that fell out with it. With her trusty derringer tucked in the folds of her gown, Inez uses her street smarts and sheer will to unearth a secret that someone has already killed to keep buried. The more she digs, the muddier and more dangerous things become.

She enlists the help of Walter de Brujin, a local private investigator with whom she shares some history. Though she wants to trust him, she fears that his knowledge of her past, along with her growing attraction to him, may well blow her veneer of respectability to bits—that is, if her dogged pursuit of the truth doesn’t kill her first . . .

A Few Words with Ann Parker, Author of A Secret in the Wall

How did you come with an idea for your book?

The initial inspiration for The Secret in the Wall came from a newspaper article I read back in 2017, about the unearthing of an elaborate, Victorian-era casket beneath a San Francisco home. The well-preserved body of a little girl was visible through the glass upper portion of the airtight glass-and-bronze casket. She had long, blonde hair, was wearing a white christening dress, and was holding a flower in her hand. No one knew who she was, or how she came to be lying under this house in San Francisco’s Richmond district. The mystery was eventually solved (if you’re curious, you can read about it here https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/05/09/mystery-solved-19th-century-girl-in-casket-found-under-san-francisco-house-identified/ ). This situation piqued my imagination, and in late 2019 morphed into the idea of my 19th-century protagonist uncovering a desiccated body in the wall of house. The questions become: Who is he? When did he die? Why? And why is he in the wall to begin with? And the fact that he’s discovered with a bag of gold coins just “ups the ante,” so to speak.

What scene do you hope your readers enjoy the most?

I rather hope the readers enjoy the scene where the body falls out of the wall, much to the observers’ shock and surprise, and the final confrontation scene at the end of the story when “all is revealed.” (Of course, I hope readers enjoy the scene in between these two as well…)

What other things have you written or what projects might we see in the future?

This is the eighth book in the Silver Rush series, so if someone reads The Secret in the Wall and is curious to find out more about my protagonist and her earlier adventures in San Francisco and, before then, in the silver-rush boomtown of Leadville, Colorado, I hope they will take a look at them. I have also written a few short crime-fiction stories. The newest will be in Low Down Dirty Vote #3

 If you could write any other genre what would that be?

I’m pretty happy writing historical mysteries, as they combine two genres I truly enjoy reading: historical fiction and crime fiction. Other period I think would be fun to explore are the Roaring ’20s (the 1920s, that is!), and the Cold War era. As for completely different genres, I’ve often thought it would be fun to give steampunk a try. I imagine that, if I did, it would inevitably end up as a crime fiction novel, though!

Is there a giveaway or promotion with this book?

Yes. See the Rafflecopter Giveaway below.

Where can readers leave reviews of your book?

Anywhere they’d like! Here are a few possibilities:

· Goodreads

· LibraryThing

· Amazon

· Barnes & Noble 

About Ann Parker

Ann Parker is a science writer by day and fiction writer by night. Her award-winning Silver Rush Mysteries series, published by Poisoned Pen Press, a Sourcebooks imprint, is set primarily in 1880s Leadville, Colorado, and more recently in San Francisco, California, the “Paris of the West.” The series was named a Booksellers Favorite by the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association, and Ann is listed in the Colorado Authors’ Hall of Fame. The Secret in the Wall is the eighth and newest entry in the series.

Author Links

Website: https://annparker.net/

Blog: https://silverrushmysteries.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnParkerAuthor/

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2297.Ann_Parker

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/annparkerauthor/

Purchase Links – AmazonIndieBoundBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionNookKobo

Visit Towne Center Books Website for Signed/Personalized copies

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review Roundup for The Twist and Shout Murder

It was a great trip around the internet visiting some wonderful book blogs. I’m feeling blessed and grateful for these readers. I’ve been writing for many years, and this is by far the best round of reviews I’ve ever received. Thank you to Lori from Escape With a Good Book Tours for making this such an easy way to let people know about my book. Here are some of the reviews that have come in so far either from the tour or from Net Galley.

Book Bloggers

If you are looking for a trip back to the 1960s, you’ll be glad you picked up The Twist and Shout Murder. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to Dot and the rest of these characters next.
~Carstairs Considers

Who’s ready for a trip to the past? Let’s go to the 60s to follow along with Dot. I give it 4/5 stars.
~Books a Plenty Book Reviews

The Twist and Shout Murder has set this series off on a groovy start. Dot is just starting her real-world journey through the Swinging Sixties and I am excited to see where Ms. Trent takes her and the rest of the core characters next.
~Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book

It’s a fast-paced story that left me wanting more. I hope there is a sequel and soon!
~Socrates’ Book Reviews

Reviewers

A quick and easy read that I found myself picking up after a long day to unwind. The characters are beautifully written and I came to love them within the first few pages and was rooting for them all the way to the end. At times I wanted to stop reading because I just wanted the experience to go on for longer.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ~Nadine Rizvi (Reviewer)

The mystery is well written and intriguing. I enjoyed trying to untangle this investigation with Dot. She’s a wonderful, strong character. She’s surrounded by a fun, likeable supporting cast.

It’s a fast-paced story that left me wanting more. I hope there is a sequel and soon! ~Yvonne Hering (Reviewer)

A good start for a new mystery series: compelling, entertaining, and well written.
Dot is an interesting characters, the historical background and the setting are interesting, the solid mystery kept me guessing.
Can’t wait to read another one in this series.
Recommended. ~Anna Maria Giacamasso (Reviewer)

1962. A small town in Texas, Wait! I’ve lived this! A most fun, quick delightful read! Dot is an amazing character. Love her Texas sass! This book grabs your attention and keeps it! I definitely want more!!! 1962. A small town in Texas, Wait! I’ve lived this! A most fun, quick delightful read! Dot is an amazing character. Love her Texas sass! This book grabs your attention and keeps it! I definitely want more!!!  ~Renee Winter (Reviewer)

 I’m looking forward to following Dot on her journey through the “Swinging Sixties” and, hopefully, beyond. Fun read with bits of the history of the time scattered throughout and a growing stronger every day main character. What’s not to like? ~June Price (Reviewer)

The Twist and Shout Murder was a fun and fast-paced read. I was able to imagine how each character looked and how they were dressed from the author’s writing. Little touches of the 60’s era were scattered throughout the story which was nice since I was born in 1960, however I would’ve like to experience more of a small town feel in the story. … look forward to reading the second book in the series to see where Dot is in her life and other series Teresa Trent has written. ~Sharon Lewis (Reviewer)

Dot is spunky and smart as a whip. She’s got gumption and just the right amount of whimsy to be the perfect “small town junior detective”.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and didn’t see the twist coming at all. ~Jessica Rush (Reviewer)

The Twist and Shout Murder Giveaway and Book Tour!

Prizes! Interviews! Reviews!
Welcome new subscribers to my newsletter! My mailing list has almost doubled in the last month and I’m so glad you’re here. If you aren’t subscribed to my newsletter but would like to receive a monthly email from Books to the Ceiling then click on this link. I’m about to go on a multiblog tour with The Twist and Shout Murder. I would love it if you would stop by and leave a comment. Also, be sure to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a digital copy of The Twist and Shout Murder and
$25 Amazon Gift Card
Here is the tour schedule:
TWIST AND SHOUT MURDER TOUR PARTICIPANTS
February 2
FUONLYKNEW
February 2
I Read What You Write
February 3
Ascroft, eh?
February 3
Carstairs Considers
February 4
Brooke Blogs
February 4
Sapphyria’s Book Reviews
February 5
Maureen’s Musings
February 5
Books a Plenty Book Reviews
February 6
#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog
February 7
fundinmental
February 8
Literary Gold
February 8
Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book
February 9
Christy’s Cozy Corners
February 10
MJB Reviewers
February 10
Celticlady’s Reviews
February 11
BookishKelly2020
February 11
Socrates Book Reviews

Because I love to give away stuff–I’ve also made Buzzkill for free through this Bookfunnel Giveaway. This is a “Join My Mailing List” giveaway so if you are already on it, I won’t put you on again.

My Latest Review for The Twist and Shout Murder
The characters are beautifully written and I came to love them within the first few pages and was rooting for them all the way to the end. At times I wanted to stop reading because I just wanted the experience to go on for longer.
Net Galley Review

Pick Up Your Copy of The Twist and Shout Murder Here!


Gone Before

One of my favorite small-town detectives is back! Rory Naysmith has been chosen as the grand marshal in the Winterset Nebraska Fourth-of-July parade. Sounds great, right? Nobody mentions there’s a curse on the job until it’s too late. We’ll hear more about the whole situation from Esther Mullins, Rory’s almost girlfriend and one of my favorite characters.

A Few Words With Esther Mullins, a Character From Gone Before

  • Please tell us about your involvement with Rory Naysmith in this story.

Rory Naysmith and I are close friends, but I wouldn’t say we’re romantically involved. We enjoy each other’s company and have mutual respect for one another. Good heavens, we’re in our fifties, old enough to be sensible. Besides, he keeps his feelings under wraps and never allows them to overshadow his duties. I’m flattered to be included in his network of confidants.

  • What do you think of Rory?

When Rory first arrived in Winterset, I hoped he’d use his experience to complement our small-town police department. He did, plus he has proven to be a top-notch detective and a man of integrity. That Rory is a curmudgeon, single-minded, and occasionally stubborn doesn’t seem to interfere with him being big-hearted. And as my sister, Jesse, says, he’s cute for a middle-aged, bald guy.  

  • Do you have any specific skills to help or block Detective Rory Naysmith?

I run a bookkeeping business out of my home, which means I’m good with numbers, computers and have a flexible schedule. Also, I keep a level head and have lived in Winterset for my whole life. So you could name balance and organization among my strengths and common sense as my superpower.

  • Do you get along with others? Tell us about people you do or do not get along within the story.

Having harmony in my life is important, so I won’t say I have a conflict with anyone. Although, Marilyn Beauregard can be trying. She’s a family friend who knows everyone, has done everything and can get bossy. But, I keep in mind that she is well-intentioned, even when she’s pushy.

  • What are you most frightened of in this story?

Rory is injured early in the story. You know how men are. He doesn’t take care of himself, and I had to step back, swallowing the fear he’d do more damage. Luckily, Jesse managed to come up with a plan, but even then, I was afraid he’d lose his spot in the police department. He wouldn’t be able to accept that, and it would break my heart.

  • Is there anything funny that happens to you or another character in this story?

The whole town gets excited about genealogy. Marilyn’s cousin-in-law, Henry, comes to Winterset touting the virtues of Family Lost & Found, an ancestry site he claims led to discovering unknown family wealth. It’s comical how everyone hopes to find they are related to royalty or some nefarious character. So, naturally, there is wagering and a competition. I thought Henry’s claims were bogus and his motives suspect. But, of course, I have a family Bible that tells me everything I need to know about my ancestors.

  • If I were to choose an actor or actress to play your part in a movie, who would that be? Do you see any other characters in your story as actors or actresses that our readers might know?

If you mean anyone, then I pick Julianna Margulies. I loved the way she portrayed the character of Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife. Alicia’sintelligence and conflicted emotions shine, and I thought the character’s quiet reserve spoke volumes. Julianna would be perfect. Of course, I’m six feet tall, and she isn’t, and I’d never ever wear spiky heels, and maybe, I’m a bit sturdier.

  • Are you in other mysteries you would like to tell us about? Is this the first book in the series, or have you been in on a few other cases?

Gone Before is Rory Naysmith Mysteries, Book 2. In the first novel, Gone Astray, Rory becomes Winterset’s first police detective and has to win over the town and solve crimes. When my mother is missing after a snowstorm, he gets assigned to the case. There’s graft, hi-jacking, and a dead body. It was a miserable time for me; Rory made it easier. He truly is a gifted detective.

  • Do you have any final words you would like to leave with our readers?

I want to encourage everyone to drop in for a visit. Winterset, Nebraska, is a small town filled with brave and friendly people. There are some quirky folks here, like my neighbor, Axel Barrow, but all-in-all, a batch of lovable, memorable characters. And ignore the rumors that the crime rate is rising. Detective Naysmith has it under control.

  1. Let’s give your author a chance to speak. Anything you would like to add?

I think Esther has summed it up. Although, I’d say Winterset would be a wonderful place to live as well as visit.

Read more about Gone Before below.

Book Description

Small-town detective, Rory Naysmith, thought he’d seen it all, but a young woman’s brutal murder is especially hard to stomach. Doubly so, when he recognizes the murder’s MO is identical to that of Tobias Snearl, the killer he put behind bars a decade before. His frustration grows after a series of senseless accidents plague those dearest to him, and a second woman dies. Searching for answers, Rory races against time, plunging deep into the murder investigations, drawing ever closer to becoming a casualty of the dark, angry deeds himself, until he finds no one is who they pretend to be—and none are beyond evil’s reach.

Purchase Gone Before on Amazon;or Barnes & Noble
Excerpt: Gone Before
The recovery crew was still working when Rory swapped worry for anxiety.
He’d always loved summer—heat, humidity, long days cooled by the night breeze. He’d been younger then and in top condition. His damn foot put him in an awkward position. He wasn’t tip-top, that was for sure. The endless day of inaction taunted him and wouldn’t allow him to shake the doubts running through his mind. Was he in shape to conduct an investigation? How long could he hide his condition from the chief? Would Mansfield push him into administrative leave?
He knew one thing. He wasn’t giving up his shield—even temporarily.

Purchase Gone Before on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

 

My Review

There has been a brutal murder in the small town of Winterset, Nebraska. Middle-aged detective Rory Naysmith stumbles upon a woman buried beneath rock while at a Fourth-of -uly celebration. What bothers him is this murder reminds him of one he solved years ago. The murderer now sits in jail, so what can be happening? I loved this story, the characters and setting all the way through. Rory has to overcome an injury in order to investigate which causes others to come to his rescue setting his apartment up as a workstation. The clues to the mystery are everywhere and Fischer does a beautiful job of keeping the reader fascinated. From Esther Mullins, the unassuming bookkeeper, Thatcher, the rookie cop and Axle the rough-looking loveable man to call on in an emergency, you will love spending time in Winterset with these characters!

About Terry Korth Fischer

Terry Korth Fischer writes short stories, memoirs, and mysteries. Her memoir, Omaha to Ogallala, was published in 2019. Followed in 2021, by her debut mystery, Gone Astray, introducing Detective Rory Naysmith, a seasoned city cop relocated to small-town Winterset, Nebraska. The Rory Naysmith Mysteries continue with Gone Before, coming in January 2022. Transplanted from the Midwest, Terry lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two guard cats. When not writing, she loves reading, frolicking with the kittens, and basking in the sun. Yet, her heart often wanders to the country’s heartland, where she spent a memorable—ordinary but charmed—childhood. Learn more about Terry at her author website: https://terrykorthfischer.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/terryiswriting

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TerryIsWriting

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/terrykorthfischer

Goodreads Author: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14349440.Terry_Korth_Fischer

BookBub Author: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/terry-korth-fischer

BookGems Author: https://www.bookgems.com/profile/tkfischer/

BLOG Website: https://www.terryiswriting.com

Newsletter: https://tinyletter.com/TerryKorthFischer

The Last House on the Street

I could not put down The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain. We look at the places we live at today and have no idea of the history that occurred on the land. Once on a ghost tour of downtown Houston, I was admiring a large tree only to find out it was called the “hanging tree”. It went from beautiful to extremely sad in just a second. It is that kind of awareness Diane Chamberlain portrays in this well-written story.

More about The Last House on the Street

A community’s past sins rise to the surface in New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain’s The Last House on the Street when two women, a generation apart, find themselves bound by tragedy and an unsolved, decades-old mystery.

1965

Growing up in the well-to-do town of Round Hill, North Carolina, Ellie Hockley was raised to be a certain type of proper Southern lady. Enrolled in college and all but engaged to a bank manager, Ellie isn’t as committed to her expected future as her family believes. She’s chosen to spend her summer break as a volunteer helping to register black voters. But as Ellie follows her ideals fighting for the civil rights of the marginalized, her scandalized parents scorn her efforts, and her neighbors reveal their prejudices. And when she loses her heart to a fellow volunteer, Ellie discovers the frightening true nature of the people living in Round Hill.

2010

Architect Kayla Carter and her husband designed a beautiful house for themselves in Round Hill’s new development, Shadow Ridge Estates. It was supposed to be a home where they could raise their three-year-old daughter and grow old together. Instead, it’s the place where Kayla’s husband died in an accident—a fact known to a mysterious woman who warns Kayla against moving in. The woods and lake behind the property are reputed to be haunted, and the new home has been targeted by vandals leaving threatening notes. And Kayla’s neighbor Ellie Hockley is harboring long buried secrets about the dark history of the land where her house was built.

Two women. Two stories. Both on a collision course with the truth–no matter what that truth may bring to light–in Diane Chamberlain’s riveting, powerful novel about the search for justice.

Find this book at your favorite online retailer

My Review

This is a riveting story told in two timelines. 1965 and 2010. In 1965 we are in North Carolina with a group of civil rights workers. They want to help black people register to vote even though they face bigotry and violence. A young woman named Ellie wants to help, even though her white family does not support her. This part of the book is brutal in places and very well written. Then, we have Kayla in 2010 who has just moved into the house she and her deceased husband built, very near to where Ellie grew up. Something about her house is cursed, not only with her husband’s death but also involving the thick woods and kudzu around the house.
I loved this book and hated to see it end.

The Twist and Shout Murder is Out!

It’s launch day for The Twist and Shout Murder, the first book in my Swinging Sixties Mystery Series! Here are some of the early reviews that have come in through Net Galley.

Dot Morgan is perfect.

I need more from this series now! Dot Morgan is perfect. ~Heather/Net Galley

Dot is spunky and smart as a whip.

Set in the sixties, the story followed a young lady named Dot who is attending classes to become a secretary. Her father is running for city council and at an event for the people running, a despicable man named Anson Manning, brother to the local DA is murdered.
The story followed Dot’s suspicions about who killed Anson and the cast or characters that are all suspects.
Dot is spunky and smart as a whip. She’s got gumption and just the right amount of whimsy to be the perfect “small town junior detective”.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and didn’t see the twist coming at all. ~Jessica/Net Galley

I so appreciated the historic details of the time period…

This is a great cozy 60s mystery. I so appreciated the historic details of the time period interspersed throughout the novel. It made it so much fun to read. Dot is a great character and very likable. The mystery itself was well written and had some twists and turns that kept me interested. All in all a very enjoyable read and one I highly recommend!!! ~Kristie/Net Galley

The tense scenes really drive the story forward…

Dot Morgan, the ambitious young protagonist of The Twist and Shout Murders, finds herself caught in the crosshairs of small town sabotage, slander and even murder. Dot is a refreshing standout from the rest of the close-minded thinkers of 1962 Camden, Texas, using her morals and her wit to help usher the town out of the more restrictive 1950s.
When a hit-and-run leaves a single mother hospitalized and a suspicious death is swept under the rug, Dot decides to stir the pot instead of minding her own business like one of the good little Camden Ladies Club members. With the odds and powerful members of the town stacked against her, Dot challenges the society whose dated gelatin mold she refuses to conform to.
Teresa Trent keeps the reader guessing until the very end in this mystery littered with suspicious characters. Her attention to detail flushes out the time period’s changing styles, ideologies and the latest fads – hello, golden arches hamburgers!
While there were a few distracting errors that a bit of editing could fix, that’s not to say this book wasn’t an enjoyable read.
The tense scenes really drive the story forward while the heart of the story takes its time and allows us the opportunity to rub shoulders with the good, the misguided or the plain ugly people of Camden, Texas. Dot is a young woman with enough grit and determination to keep Texas on its toes. This won’t be the last we hear from her. ~Renaissance Reader Reviews/Net Galley

Links:
https://renaissancereaderreviews.wordpress.com/2022/01/01/review-of-the-twist-and-shout-murder-a-swinging-sixties-mystery-by-teresa-trent/

You can pick up either e-book or paperback today!

Merry Christmas and a Surprise!

I know they tell us that waiting is good, especially during the holiday season, but I’m excited to announce my wait is over! I was fortunate enough to have a terrific agent who landed my Swinging Sixties Series over at Level Best Books and I find myself feeling very grateful this Christmas.

The Twist and Shout Murder is Now Available for Pre-Order

Let’s all get in our homemade, socially-distanced time machines and rocket back to the year 1962 where we meet Dot Morgan, a secretarial student who is helping her father run for a city council seat in a little town north of Dallas. The town’s District Attorney has a good-for-nothing brother running against Dot’s dad, but that doesn’t seem to matter. He’s a shoe-in because of his family, not his behavior.

I researched this book by reading, watching you-tube videos, old movies and talking to friends and relatives. It was truly a labor of love. I’ve never written a historical mystery before and my apologize if I got anything wrong, but gee, what fun!

The Twist and Shout Murder’s publication date is January 4, 2022.

Merry Christmas to all of my readers and may you have a blessed and joy filled New Year.

~Teresa

The Prayer Box

The Prayer Box
An Oldie but a Goodie

I had to do one more oldie-but-goodie this week, because this is my favorite time of year to read novels that fill me with inspiration. The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate is a great book for those holiday blues that can transport you away to a lovely beach town with a character who seems to be at the end of her road, but is she?

Publisher’s Description:

ECPA 2014 Christian Book Award Finalist, Christy Award Finalist, Christianity Today Book Award Finalist, MAGGIE Award Finalist!

“THE PRAYER BOX is Masterpiece of story and skill.” — NYT #1 Bestselling Author Debbie Macomber

When Iola Anne Poole, an old-timer on Hatteras Island, passes away in her bed at ninety-one, the struggling young mother in her rental cottage, Tandi Jo Reese, finds herself charged with the task of cleaning out Iola’s rambling Victorian house.

Running from a messy, dangerous past, Tandi never expects to find more than a temporary hiding place within Iola’s walls, but everything changes with the discovery of eighty-one carefully decorated prayer boxes, one for each year, spanning from Iola’s youth to her last days. Hidden in the boxes is the story of a lifetime, written on random bits of paper–the hopes and wishes, fears and thoughts of an unassuming but complex woman passing through the seasons of an extraordinary, unsung life filled with journeys of faith, observations on love, and one final lesson that could change everything for Tandi.

My Review

Sometimes you find a miracle within a mess and that is what happens to Tandi, a single mom with a selfish boyfriend who is trying to restart her life. I loved this book from beginning to end as a voice from the past provided counsel and comfort to someone living in present day. This story features diversity, love of one’s neighbor and a family finding itself all over again. Wonderful book.

Oh Holy Fright is on sale for .99!

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard
An Oldie but a Goodie Book Recommendation

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard was recommended by a reading group I follow and when I found out it starts out at the set of Gone With the Wind, I couldn’t wait to read about the history of that troubled movie. There was so much more to it! I posted the description below and then my own review. Get ready to be transported to 1938…

Description:

In this novel from the acclaimed author of A Bridge Across the Ocean and The Last Year of the War, two women working in Hollywood during its Golden Age discover the joy and heartbreak of true friendship.

Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie….

Los Angeles, 1938. Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide.  

What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future. 

Here is the Amazon link for Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, but check your library first! I listened to the audiobook which was beautifully narrated.

My Review:

Years ago I read a book on the making of Gone With the Wind and loved that Susan Meisner included all the turmoil behind the scenes, but even better is the story of Audrey Duvall, an almost star, and Violet Mayfield, a southern girl running from a secret that shamed her. I really liked the unpredictability of these characters. Just when you thought you knew what she would do, she did something different, which makes it a fascinating story. Old Hollywood is beautifully created and I especially loved the drunken scene in the wardrobe room. This book is not about Rhett and Scarlett as much as it about three people who worked in the background and how it changed their lives.

Gifts Galore

Once Upon a Wardrobe

Get ready for a little bit of magic this Christmas season because Once Upon a Wardrobe is a very special book. I went through a box of tissues on this one I was crying so much, not because it’s overly sad, well, a little sad, but it was so heartwarming. You can read my review below, but first here’s more about Once Upon a Wardrobe.

Description

When college student Megs approaches author C. S. Lewis with her younger brother’s request to find out if Narnia is real, he instead takes her on a magical journey through the moments in his life that led to his greatest creation.

Megs Devonshire, on a scholarship at Oxford, is brilliant with numbers and equations. She prefers the dependability of facts—except for one: the brother she loves with all her heart doesn’t have long to live. When George becomes captivated by a brand-new book called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and begs her to find out where Narnia came from, there’s no way she can refuse.

Despite her timidity about approaching the famous author, who is a professor at her school, Megs soon finds herself taking tea with the Oxford don and his own brother, begging them for answers. What she receives instead are stories . . . little-known tales from different periods in Mr. Lewis’s life, which she takes home to George.

Why won’t Mr. Lewis just tell her plainly what George wants to know? The answer will reveal to Meg many truths that science and math cannot, and the gift she thought she was giving to her brother—the story behind Narnia—turns out to be his gift to her, instead: hope.

Praise for Once Upon a Wardrobe:

“I advise you to read this book, then wait for a while and then read it again, for while it may not be Narnia, there is magic in it.” —Douglas Gresham, C. S. Lewis’s stepson

“With a touch of fairy-tale magic, Once Upon a Wardrobe will take you behind the legend and deep into the English and Irish countryside, where you’ll encounter not only the inspirations for one of the 20th century’s most beloved works, but also a tale of heartache, hope, and discovery that will forever change the Narnia you thought you knew.” —Kristin HarmelNew York Times bestselling author

  • A marvelous blend of little-known true stories from C. S. Lewis’s life that Narnia fans will treasure
  • Includes discussion questions for book clubs as well as a note from Douglas Gresham, C. S. Lewis’s stepson
  • Also by New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan: Becoming Mrs. Lewis and Surviving Savannah

Once Upon a Wardrobe is $12.99 on Amazon, but check your library. I bet it’s there!

My Review

Once Upon a Wardrobe is an incredible story about a brother who is ill and a sister who would brave a lion for him. Megs is asked by her brother George to find out how C.S. Lewis got the idea for Narnia. She is a student at Oxford University where he is a professor, but the task is a big one. She gets an invitation to his home but the direct answer to her question is hard to pin down. All of these characters grow and learn in wonderful ways throughout the book. This is a beautiful story about love that will tug at your heart strings. I highly recommend Once Upon a Wardrobe, because like C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, it takes you into a glorious world. Loved it! 5 Stars

Oh Holy Fright is .99! See many more books–>

Straight Up

I’ll take mine straight up with a dash of murder! Cathi Stoler has a new Murder on The Rocks Mystery out. Straight Up is Cheers with a bit of FBI mixed into the story. It’s a great combination with a main character whose trying to keep it all together with a serial killer on the loose.

Book Description

Jude Dillane, owner of The Corner Lounge in Manhattan’s East Village, knows she will never be safe until The New Year’s Eve Serial Killer, Art Bevins, is behind bars. Still on the loose, he continues to taunt her. Blaming Jude for all his troubles, Bevins is determined to make her pay. With the FBI investigation at a stand-still Jude knows it’s up to her to bring him to justice. With all this swirling around her, Thomas “Sully” Sullivan, her friend and landlord, becomes enamored of his new tenant, Dolores Castel. Jude instantly distrusts Sully’s new love and believes Dolores is weaving a dangerous web. As she continues her pursuit of Bevins, Jude looks into Dolores’s past, uncovering a series of deadly coincidences. Can Jude stop Bevins from his deadly pursuit and protect her friend from ruin?

My Review

Straight Up takes place in a cozy little bar in Manhattan with residential apartments above it. This is the third book in the series, and the bar owner, Jude, is in recovery mode after being a target of the New Yea’s Eve Serial Killer. Having a killer on the loose has affected both her business and personal relationships, and with the killer uncaught, Jude is being watched over by the FBI. Her landlord and good friend, Sully, is there for her until he meets the beautiful Delores and her weird little assistant Diego. Delores is scheming with a whole pack full of secrets from her last home in California, but Sully is smitten. When Art Bevins, the serial killer that got away, shows back up, Jude is hard-pressed to find someone to help her through it. Straight Up was an enjoyable read with great pacing. I want to go back and read the other books in this series. 

About the Author

Cathi Stoler is an Amazon Best Selling author. Her new Urban Thriller, LAST CALL, the 2nd book in the Murder on the Rocks Mystery series, featuring The Corner Lounge bar owner, Jude Dillane, was published in November 2020 by Level Best Books. The third book in the series, STRAIGHT UP, will release in November 2021. Her series, with Blackjack player, Nick Donahue, includes the novel OUT OF TIME, and the novella, NICK OF TIME. She is also the author of the three-volume Laurel & Helen New York Mystery series, which includes TELLING LIES, KEEPING SECRETS, and THE HARD WAY, and a three-time finalist, and winner of the 2015 Derringer for Best Short Story, “The Kaluki Kings of Queens”. Very involved in the crime writing world, Cathi is a member of Sisters in Crime New York/Tri-State, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers.

Find out more about Cathi at: www.cathistoler.com

‘Tis the Season Anthology 2021

Texas Sisters Press is back with another Christmas anthology and I’m in it! ‘Tis the Season 2021! This year my story “Speed Dating” is a about a cop who participates in a speed dating experience because his partner won’t stop talking about it. He meets a woman who is ideal for him, but she seems so familiar. The last time he saw her? She had on fishnet stockings and short rabbit fur coat. Is she naughty or nice or just a giant Christmas puzzle?

I’m also happy to announce my friend Terry Korth Fischer has a heartwarming story, “Blessings Christmas”, centering around all the craziness of a Christmas celebration at church. If you have never read anything by Terry, she is the author of Gone Astray, a small town cozy mystery about an aging, but very smart detective in Nebraska.

There are eight more Christmas stories in genres for everyone’s taste including one by CJ Peterson, one of the Texas Sisters.

Pick up this ebook for .99 cents!

Murder, She Wrote: Debonair in Death

 Debonair in Death

There’s a little chill in the air in Cabot Cove and Jessica Fletcher is hot on the trail of another murderer. Don’t you just love it? If you’re missing America’s favorite small fictional town as well as Seth Hazlitt and Mort Metzger, stop in for a cup of clam chowder and read more about Debonair in Death. Be sure to scroll down and enter the giveaway!

About Debonair in Death

 Debonair in Death

Murder, She Wrote: Debonair in Death (Murder She Wrote)

Cozy Mystery

54th in Series

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Berkley (November 2, 2021)

When a local art shop owner is murdered, Jessica Fletcher is surprised to once again be working alongside her old friend MI-6 agent Michael Haggerty to solve the case in the newest mystery in this USA Today bestselling series.

When Nelson Penzell, co-owner of a local art and treasure store in Cabot Cove, is murdered, the nail tech from Jessica Fletcher’s favorite beauty parlor is the main suspect. After all, she’s the one who ran out of the store screaming, covered in blood, and holding the murder weapon. Jessica is positive that despite the circumstances, Coreen can’t possibly be guilty, and is determined to prove it.

When Michael Haggerty, handsome MI-6 agent and Jessica’s old friend, is caught snooping around the victim’s home, it’s quickly apparent to her that she was right. Nelson has always had a bit of a reputation for being a rake, but Haggerty is sure his sins go far beyond what anyone in town imagined. If she wants to clear Coreen’s name, Jessica will have to work alongside Michael to find out who killed Nelson—and maybe help bust a crime ring in the process.

Purchase Links   Amazon -  IndieBound Barnes and Noble 

My Review

 Fall is just beginning in Cabot Cove and a new resident, Nelson Penzell, art dealer, is pretty obnoxious. Any fan of Murder She Wrote knows what happens next. When Nelson is murdered, blame falls on Coreen, a manicurist who works for Loretta. Coreen is a sweet lady and doesn’t seem to be the murdering type, so Jessica uses her sleuthing skills to figure out who the murderer really is. We have an appearance from beloved character Michael Haggerty who pitches in with some clues and his share of trouble. Jessica, meanwhile is trying to get her synopsis into her publisher, but keeps getting pulled away. This was a great Murder She Wrote read that I thoroughly enjoyed and it’s so fun visiting Cabot Cove again!

About the Authors

Terrie Farley Moran is co-author, along with Jessica Fletcher, of the Murder, She Wrote series. Terrie is also the author of the beachside Read ‘Em and Eat cozy novels, and is co-author of Laura Childs’ scrapbooking mysteries. Her short mystery fiction has been published in numerous venues. Terrie is a recipient of both the Agatha and the Derringer awards.

Author Links – Webpage: https://terriefarleymoran.com/   Facebook https://www.facebook.com/terriefarleymoran/

Purchase Links   Amazon -  IndieBound Barnes and Noble 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We Have a Winner!

I am happy to announce Linda H. has won a free copy of The Con Man’s Daughter and a $25 Amazon gift card!

The Con Man’s Daughter had a wild weekend being on Kindle free book list with rankings in contemporary romance in the top 100. Thank you to everyone who downloaded it, and I hope you enjoy it. If you didn’t get a chance at a free copy, no worries.

❤It is still on Kindle Unlimited.❤

The Con Man's Daughter

The Con Man’s Daughter is FREE

From October 28 until November 1 you can pick up a copy of The Con Man’s Daughter FREE at Amazon! Click Here to go to Amazon NOW. I love getting to do this for my readers and appreciate every download. Here’s more about The Con Man’s Daughter, and don’t forget to scroll down and enter my giveaway for a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Book Description

When Anna Holcomb returns to her hometown in Redbird Creek, Texas she has a secret. She’s not the spoiled little rich girl she once was. She’s broke, looking for a job, and trying to start a new life. Caleb Armstrong thinks he knows her type from the years he spent with her in high school, but everything about Anna has changed, except for one little secret she dares not tell. Take a gamble on this wholesome romance and discover who’s really being conned.

Don’t Forget to Enter My Giveaway!

The Con Man’s Daughter $25 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

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The Con Man's Daughter It's my book birthday for The Con Man's Daughter and to celebrate I'm giving away a free digital copy and a $25 Amazon gift card! Please leave your full name and email address.

This contest is no longer accepting entries.

A New Short Story in Autumn Noir

My short story, “A Slice for Stanley” is now out in a great new anthology, Autumn Noir. Like many writers, I love to dabble in different genres, and this story is definitely on my Twilight Zone side. I grew up watching Night Gallery and Twilight Zone and have always loved the stories in Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen’s mystery magazines. My family owned a newsstand at one point, and even though I was around 10, I read all the stories I could.

“A Slice for Stanley” is about a former restaurant owner who is now forced to work out of a pizza food truck, only because he received a rotten review from a restaurant critic that put him out of business. Trust me, I can tell you a thing or two about reviews.

But, there is so much more to this anthology than my story.

Original tales about the other, moodier season of change

Some of the short stories and poems in Autumn Noir unfold as gently as a wisp of chimney smoke. Others bring the heart-thumping thrills of an end-of-summer storm. All feature characters as vibrant as fall foliage and dialogue as crisp as autumn air. Join the down (but maybe not quite out), the struggling, the wicked, the forlorn, and the broken-hearted as they stumble and sometimes fall all the way down. To paraphrase Bette Davis, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy read.”

★ Get your $0.99 copy of Autumn Noir now before it returns to regular price on

November 1st! ★

REVIEWS

“Some stories leave you hanging and gasping for more, some make you chuckle at the clever wickedness of seemingly innocent sneaky characters, some leave you shocked over twists at the end. All are worth reading. Autumn Noir: An Unsettling Reads Anthology is the perfect book for a cold night before a blazing fire.
— Kathleen Kaska, author of the award-winning Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series

Autumn Noir contains stories that get under your skin… an exciting collection of stories, some will make you smile, others will send a chill down your spine, and others will keep you guessing the outcome. I loved it!
— Kathryn Lane, award-winning author of the Nikki Garcia Thriller Series

••••••••••••••••••••

Find some of your favorite authors and discover some new ones. Includes tales by Bev Vincent, Bethany Maines, Teresa Trent, Brandon Barrows, Stephen D. Rogers, and many more from the crime, mystery, noir, suspense, and thriller genres. Includes the following stories & poems:

  • ‘A Slice for Stanley’ © 2021 Teresa Trent
  • ‘Abscission’ © 2021 Dustin Engstrom
  • ‘An Orchid to Die For’ © 2021 Wendy Harrison
  • ‘Anathema’ © 2021 Robin Knabel
  • ‘Autumn Heat’ © 2021 Oisin Breen
  • ‘Death & Flying Saucers’ © 2021 Matthew Kresal
  • ‘Escape Velocity’ © 2021 Bev Vincent
  • ‘Every Single Funeral’ © 2021 Bethany Maines
  • ‘Golden Silence’ © 2021 V.S. Kemanis
  • ‘Hand Shadows’ © 2021 Rikki Santer
  • ‘Hope Is an Opiate’ © 2021 Bob McNeil
  • ‘Killer in a Diner’ © 2021 Nathan Squiers
  • ‘Let It Go’ © 2021 Brandon Barrows
  • ‘Misunderstood’ © 2021 Elif Offner
  • ‘Nineteen Creaks’ © 2021 Peter DiChellis
  • ‘Perdita’s Shoes’ © 2021 Kat Devitt
  • ‘Poor Insect’ © 2021 D.P. Blanchard
  • ‘Sensing the Fall’ © 2021 Stephen D. Rogers
  • ‘Shadow Over the Hill’ © 2021 Matthew Chabin
  • ‘The Block’ © 2021 H. Dair Brown
  • ‘The Last Phone Booth’ © 2021 Lamont Turner
  • ‘The Warbler’s Song’ © 2021 Vashelle Nino
  • ‘The Weak Man’ © 2021 JM Connors
  • ‘Those Forgotten Places’ © 2021 Mary Rajotte
  • ‘To Bury Larry Little’ © 2021 W.E. Wertenberge

Death Rang the Bell

Time to get your Halloween on! Death Rang the Bell is a great new book in the Blackwell and Watson Time Travel Mystery Series. Read the description below to find out more and don’t forget to enter the giveaway.

 

Death Rang The Bell by Carol Pouliot

21st-century journalist Olivia Watson thinks traveling back in time to 1934 to attend a Halloween party with her friend Detective Steven Blackwell will be a lot of fun. And it is…until she witnesses the head of the Shipley Five-and-Dime empire murdered, and fears the killer saw her face.

The smart move is to return to the safety of the present, but Olivia possesses a secret and is about to defy the unwritten rules of time-travel. She convinces Steven to let her stay in his time and help unravel the motives behind the murder, even if it means risking her own life to save another.

When Steven delves into the investigation, he discovers how a bitter relationship, a chance encounter, and a fateful decision converged to set the stage for murder. In a maze full of unreliable clues and misdirection, dark secrets refuse to stay buried and forgotten ghosts won’t fade away. Steven is reminded that old sins cast long shadows.

Can Steven catch the killer before time runs out for Olivia?

Praise for Death Rang the Bell:

“This highly inventive series serves up a real treat–a perfect combination of mystery, time travel, and romance.”
~~ Deborah Crombie, New York Times Bestselling author of the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novels

“Pouliot has the period details mastered, adding realism and depth to this wholly satisfying read.”
~~ Marni Graff, author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries

“With engaging characters, a murder mystery, and a trip back in time, Carol Pouliot’s Death Rang the Bell will keep you turning the pages all night!”
~~ Nancy Allen, New York Times Bestselling Author

“A Halloween setting, a house where time folds back on itself, and a crime with deep roots in the past make Carol Pouliot’s Death Rang the Bell a joy for fans of crisp writing and twisty, character-driven plots.”
~~ Connie Berry, Agatha-nominated author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries

“A delightfully immersive story, filled with surprising twists and turns, a touch of romance — plus a heroine you will happily follow as she jumps between decades, Death Rang the Bell is a truly great escape.”
~~ Alison Gaylin, USA Today and international bestselling author

“This intriguing and beautifully written series will draw you in and make you feel right at home in a time period you’ll wish you could visit.”
~~ Grace Topping, USA Today bestselling author of the Laura Bishop Mystery Series.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery (Traditional Police Procedural with a Time-Travel Twist)
Published by: Level Best Books
Series: The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, #3 || Each is a Stand-Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | BN.com | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

NOVEMBER 1916 − SYRACUSE, NEW YORK

Chapter 1

Hot coffee spilled over the rim and burned her hand. Lillian wanted to cry. At nine in the morning, she’d been on her feet since six and had seven long hours to go. She didn’t know how much longer she’d be able to keep it up. She was constantly exhausted and the struggle to breathe was worsening; some days it was nearly unbearable. She knew the disease was going to overpower her, and that moment was coming soon.

Lillian slid around some tables and set a heaping plate of eggs and bacon, potatoes, and toast in front of Arnie McCormack, then topped off his cup from the pot in her other hand. McCormack lowered his newspaper and leered, pinching her behind as she stepped away. Rude bastard. She’d like to pour the scalding coffee over his head and dump his breakfast right in his lap.

The only thing that kept her going every day was the thought of her beautiful little boy. Well, not so little anymore. He was growing up fast, nine years old in January. She managed a smile and wiped away a tear before it became a flood. Best not to think too much about things. Especially money. Lillian knew if she didn’t get the money somehow, she’d never see her son grow into a man.

And what about her letter? It had been four weeks since she’d mailed it. Surely he should have written back by now. She hadn’t been unreasonable, hadn’t asked for much, only enough to pay for treatment at the Little Red Cottage in Saranac Lake.

Dr. Trudeau’s Little Red Cottage. It sounded like heaven. Lillian had heard wonderful things about people being cured there. Imagine, cured! The thought made her dizzy.

Lillian returned to the lunch counter, using the backs of chairs for support. When she arrived at the griddle, she was breathing hard.

Tomorrow, she thought, if I don’t get an answer tomorrow, I’ll send another letter.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 1934

Chapter 2

The Three Witches of Macbeth were doing a swell job. Annie, Molly, and Lilly led the parade of pirates, sailors, and fairy princesses through Knightsbridge, picking up ghosts, goblins, and a mummy along the way. Crowds of families followed the costumed children down Victoria Avenue to the entrance of The Elks Club, where, from the top of the staircase, The Three Witches hissed, “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and caldron bubble.”

Molly cried out, “Beware, all ye who enter here.” Then she thumped a tall gnarled staff on the stone step, and Annie and Lilly grasped the thick iron rings with both hands and heaved. As the massive oak doors creaked open, the masquerading children flew up the stairs and into the community room, awash with the scents of apples and cinnamon.

Carved pumpkins flickered in the semi-darkened room, revealing white cobweb-filled corners and big black spiders and bats hanging so low that adults had to duck. Seeing colorful bags piled on black-draped tables, one little boy jumped up and down, clapping his hands in glee. A girl grabbed her friend’s hand, and they did a little dance, and three teenagers slapped each other on the back. A Halloween treat awaited each of them. Eager to explore, the kids fanned out.

“Ooh! I feel like I’m ten again,” said Olivia, shaking the black-and-orange tin noise maker. “Why didn’t we wear costumes?”

Steven gave her a look. “What if I had to rush out for an emergency?” he asked.

“You could’ve dressed like a cop.” She smirked.

“Hi, Steven.” Decked out in an eye patch and pirate gear, Jimmy Bourgogne appeared from behind Olivia, swept off his hat, and gave a courtly bow, bending low to the floor. “Miss Watson.”

“Jimmy, you look fantastic,” exclaimed Olivia. “I didn’t recognize you with that mustache and goatee.”

“Congratulations, Jimmy. You fellas did a swell job,” Steven said.

“Thanks, but the credit really goes to Leon here.”

A slender young man with light brown hair joined them. He sported a plaid shirt with a tin sheriff’s badge pinned over his heart, red kerchief around his neck, and holster holding a toy gun attached to a leather belt.

“Hi, Leon.” Steven extended his hand. “This is my friend Olivia Watson. Olivia, Leon Quigg is my mailman.”

“Nice to meet you, Miss Watson.” Leon said, nodding as he doffed his cowboy hat.

“I’m glad to meet you, too. This is a wonderful party.”

Jean Bigelow sidled up to Olivia, yelling amidst the racket. “You made it!”

“Jean! Isn’t this swell?” Olivia chuckled to herself. Liz and Sophie would crack up hearing her talk like a real 1934 person.

After several months, acting like she belonged here had become second nature, but Olivia Watson didn’t belong here. She lived in 2014 and only visited 1934 from time to time.

This week Olivia was spending several days in Steven’s time. No passport, no suitcase, no plane ticket required. All it took was a simple step across the threshold of her bedroom door into Steven’s Depression-era house−simple but the key to her recently discovered ability to time travel.

“What are you reading tonight?” Olivia asked the librarian.

“Edgar Allan Poe. ‘The Cask of Amontillado.’”

“That’s the one where the guy gets walled up, isn’t it?”

Jean nodded. “I’ve been practicing creepy voices for days.”

“Well, you look the part. I love your cape, very 19th-century.” Olivia touched a fold of Jean’s costume. “Ooh, velvet. I wish I’d worn that.”

The organizers had packed the evening full of entertainment. Steven and Olivia watched a magician pull pennies out of children’s ears and a rabbit out of his top hat, and wondered how he made the mayor’s watch disappear. The kids bobbed for apples, the water sloshing out of the metal washtub soaking the floor. The younger children played Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey and Drop-the-Handkerchief, while the older ones played charades and told ghost stories.

At seven thirty, the kids crowded along the row of tables where members of the Elks handed out treats. Noses in their black-and-orange bags exploring the treasures within, they moved to the far end to select their favorite soda, handing the tall glass bottles of Hires Root Beer, Orange Crush, and Coca-Cola to Jimmy Bou and Leon Quigg, who were armed with metal bottle openers.

The evening culminated with story telling. The village librarian led the young children into a side room, spooky picture books in hand. The older ones gathered behind the curtain on the shadow-filled stage where Jean Bigelow waited in flickering candlelight. When they’d settled in a circle on the floor, Olivia among them, the librarian cleared her throat and began.

“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge….”

***

Excerpt from Death Rang the Bell by Carol Pouliot. Copyright 2021 by Carol Pouliot. Reproduced with permission from Carol Pouliot. All rights reserved.

 

My Review

This is the first book I’ve read by Carol Pouliot and there were plenty of things I liked about it. There were dual timelines between modern day and 1934. Imagine if you had an old house and when you walked through a doorway, you find yourself in the same house in a different year. That’s what happens to Olivia Watson who finds herself in the middle of a mystery at Halloween. The story is well plotted with plenty of suspects to ponder upon. The pacing is great and the descriptions of the little town in 1934 make you feel like you’re actually there. Great book to cuddle up with as the weather turns colder.

Author Bio:

Carol Pouliot

Carol Pouliot holds a BA in French and Spanish and an MA in French. She has taught French, Spanish, German, and English. She owned and operated a translating agency for 20 years. Her work has been published in Victoria magazine.

Carol is the author of The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, which includes Doorway to Murder (book 1), Threshold of Deceit (book 2), and Death Rang the Bell (book 3).

Carol is passionate about the world and other cultures. She has visited 5 continents thus far and always has her passport and suitcase at the ready.

Catch Up With Carol Pouliot:
www.CarolPouliot.com
SleuthsAndSidekicks.com
BookBub – @cpouliot13
Goodreads
Instagram – @carolpouliotmysterywriter
Facebook – @WriterCarolPouliot

 

Don’t Miss Out on This Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Carol Pouliot. There will be Four (4) winners for this tour. Two (2) winners will each receive a $15 Amazon.com gift card; Two (2) winners will each receive 1 print edition of Death Rang The Bell by Carol Pouliot (US Only). The giveaway begins on October 1 and ends November 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Autumn Noir
I had so much fun writing this story! Autumn Noir is now available on Amazon.

God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen

God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen

And because we’re reading Christmas books this weekend, here’s another one by a favorite author of mine, Rhys Bowen. Wouldn’t you just love to be in an English country house that backs right up to the royal family’s estate…at Christmas? Not only that, but you have the world’s most unloved royal, David, here with his American girlfriend, Wallis Simpson, and they’ve decided to stay with your house party? Did I mention this is a murder mystery? Grab a cup of tea because her Royal Spyness is on the case.

More about God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen

Georgie is back and hanging the stockings with care when a murder interrupts her Christmas cheer in this all-new installment in the New York Times bestselling Royal Spyness series from Rhys Bowen.

Georgie is excited for her first Christmas as a married woman in her lovely new home. She suggests to her dashing husband, Darcy, that they have a little house party, but when Darcy receives a letter from his aunt Ermintrude, there is an abrupt change in plans. She has moved to a house on the edge of the Sandringham estate, near the royal family, and wants to invite Darcy and his new bride for Christmas. Aunt Ermintrude hints that the queen would like Georgie nearby. Georgie had not known that Aunt Ermintrude was a former lady-in-waiting and close confidante of her royal highness. The letter is therefore almost a royal request, so Georgie, Darcy, and their Christmas guests: Mummy, Grandad, Fig, and Binky all head to Sandringham.

Georgie soon learns that the notorious Mrs. Simpson, mistress to the Prince of Wales, will also be in attendance. It is now crystal clear to Georgie that the Queen expects her to do a bit of spying. There is tension in the air from the get-go, and when Georgie pays a visit to the queen, she learns that there is more to her request than just some simple eavesdropping. There have been a couple of strange accidents at the estate recently. Two gentlemen of the royal household have died in mysterious circumstances and another has been shot by mistake during a hunt. Georgie begins to suspect that a member of the royal family is the real target but her investigation will put her new husband and love of her life, Darcy, in the crosshairs of a killer.

My Review

 It’s time for Georgie and her husband Darcy to go to his aunt’s country house for Christmas. Aunt Ermintrude’s home is right next to Sandringham where the royal family spends their yearly holiday and the king is not doing well. Unexpectedly they find out among the houseguests is the Prince of Wales and his American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Isn’t this a terrific setting for a good old fashioned English country house who-dunnit? I’ve read several books in this series and it is always so exciting to see what is going on with Georgie and Darcy and this book does a great job of keeping you interested. The murder mystery is well planned with a few surprises and well-planted clues. Better than a Christmas cracker!  

About the Author

Rhys was born in Bath, England and educated at London University but now divides her time between California and Arizona. Her books have been nominated for every major mystery award and she has won twenty of them to date, including four Agathas.

She currently writes two historical mystery series, each very different in tone. The Molly Murphy mysteries feature an Irish immigrant woman in turn-of-the-century New York City. These books are multi-layered, complex stories with a strong sense of time and place and have won many awards including Agatha and Anthony. There are 17 books so far in this series plus three Kindle stories, The Amersham Rubies, Through the Window and The Face in the Mirror–a great way to introduce new readers to Molly’s spunky personality.

Then there is Lady Georgie, Rhys’s latest,and very popular, heroine. She’s 35th in line to the throne of England, but she’s flat broke and struggling to survive in the Great Depression. These books are lighter and funnier than Molly’s adventures. They poke gentle fun at the British class system–about which Rhys knows a lot, having married into an upper class family rather like Georgie’s, with cousins with silly nicknames, family ghosts and stately homes. 

Find God Rest Ye Royal Gentlemen on Amazon

Mistletoe Cake Murder

 

Just when is it a good time to start reading Christmas mysteries? Now of course! Check out the Mistletoe Cake Murder (All-Day Breakfast Cafe Mystery). Not only is it Christmas but there’s a wedding! Read an excerpt below and don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

by Lena Gregory

About Mistletoe Cake Murder

Mistletoe Cake Murder (All-Day Breakfast Cafe Mystery)

Cozy Mystery

6th in Series

Setting – Florida

’Tis the season for celebrating when Gia Morelli’s holidays include both a wedding and yuletide festivities. Until someone naughty delivers a most unwanted Christmas gift—murder. . .

For a native New Yorker, palm trees and warm temperatures don’t equal winter, much less Christmastime. Nevertheless, Gia Morelli’s friends have decked the halls and trimmed the trees to truly welcome her into their “family” with an old-fashioned Boggy Creek, Florida holiday season. Even more joyous, Savannah Mills is getting married on Christmas Eve—the greatest gift Gia could ever wish for her best friend.

But when Gia and Savannah stop by the caterer for a final tasting a week before the wedding, they overhear another bride arguing with her son about her husband-to-be. Moments later, the woman is sampling a piece of wedding cake—gorgeously decorated with mistletoe frosting—then suddenly dies.

Now Gia’s caterer friends are the prime suspects in what appears to be murder by poisoning. To clear their names and ensure Savannah has a merry matrimony will require Gia to conjure up a Christmas miracle . . .

 

Includes recipes from the All-Day Breakfast Café!

Mistletoe Cake Murder
Savannah Mills drummed her glitter-tipped maroon nails against the gear shift of her blue Mustang convertible as she rounded one last curve on the way to Trevor Barnes’s mansion, where she and Leo Dumont would be married in a little more than a week.

 

Few streetlights lined the dark road, casting small pools of light against the slick pavement, compliments of an unusually rainy day in the small town of Boggy Creek, Florida. Gia Morelli would have preferred to head out to the mansion before dark, but they had to wait until after she closed the All-Day Breakfast Café for the day.

Savannah shook her head, tumbling her long blonde hair into her face. She sighed and tucked the strands behind her ear before returning to nail tapping her staccato rhythm.

Gia laid a hand over hers, stilling the steady rat-a-tat-tat. “Will you relax. Everything’s going to be perfect.”

“I know.” She glanced at Gia, her bottom lip caught between her teeth.

Gia just lifted a brow.

“All right, all right.” Laughing, Savannah returned her attention to the road ahead. She rolled her shoulders, tilted her head from side to side. “Maybe I’ve been a little stressed lately.”

Understatement of the year; better to keep that to herself. “Ya think?”

“Hey,” Savannah pointed at her. “A good friend once told me no one likes a smart aleck.”

Gia grinned. Nothing like having her own words thrown back at her.

As Savannah pulled into the cul-de-sac where Trevor’s mansion stood at the far end, she slowed. Her mouth dropped open. “Oh, wow.”

Long strands of evergreen garland, complete with pine cones and ivory bows, had been draped along the stone wall surrounding the grounds. The faux-snow covered garland twinkled with thousands of tiny clear Christmas lights, giving the impression of a winter wonderland, despite the ridiculously hot Florida weather of late. For just a moment, Gia could imagine the rain changing to fluffy white flakes that would bury the estate in rolling hills of snow.

Huge oak trees lined the inside of the wall, their moss draped limbs alight with lanterns that seemed to hover in mid-air, a welcoming invitation to crank up the air conditioning, grab a blanket, and snuggle up with a good book in front of one of the numerous fireplaces Trevor’s mansion boasted.

“Wow,” Gia repeated, not knowing what else to say.

Savannah stopped in front of the wrought iron gate and pushed a button on the remote Trevor had given her. As the gates slowly opened, she looked at Gia. “Trevor sure did go all-out.”

“No kidding.” Trevor’s mansion and grounds were gorgeous on an average day, which was part of the reason Gia had wanted to hold Savannah’s wedding there, but seeing it fully decorated for Christmas left Gia speechless.

“I feel like I’m at the North Pole, heading straight into Santa’s castle.” Savannah rolled through the gates and closed them behind her. “It’s incredible.”

“It sure is.” The palm trees lining both sides of the driveway were strung with lights. Piles of boxes wrapped in pale pink and ivory paper with silver bows were piled beneath them. The fact that they hadn’t turned to mush in the pounding rain told Gia they must be just decorative, made from some material that could withstand the elements, but they sure looked real.

“I can’t believe Trevor did all of this for us.” With her gaze darting everywhere, Savannah pulled into the circular courtyard and stopped in front of the house.

The gardens were transformed, glittering with lights and an abundance of poinsettias, evergreens, holly and other seasonal flowers that Trevor must have had added for the occasion. Icicle lights cascaded from the mansion’s every roofline, peak and window. Warm light spilled out into the darkness from a towering Christmas tree standing sentinel in the center front windows.

“Did you know?” Savannah whispered.

Gia shook her head. Nothing she’d ever seen could have prepared her for the sheer wonder of Trevor’s mansion ready to welcome guests for the holiday. Her own experience with Christmas was limited to a small tree she decorated in her room each year while she was growing up, then whatever business parties her ex-husband dragged her to so he could meet with his important clients, clients he’d later steal millions from. She shoved the thoughts away. No way would she allow anything to intrude on this moment. “I knew he was having the mansion decorated for Christmas, but I didn’t expect all of this. I thought maybe some lights on the house and a Christmas tree.”

Tears shimmered in Savannah’s eyes.

“Hey, you okay?” Gia lay a hand on Savannah’s shoulder.

She nodded. “I just can’t believe he’d do this. How am I ever supposed to repay him for this? I can’t even imagine what all of this must have cost.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Trevor had adamantly refused any kind of payment for the use of his mansion as a venue, threating to revoke his offer if they even tried to insult him with payment, and now it seemed he’d gone way over the top with decorating. “Trevor seemed so happy and excited about doing it, so I’d say just be happy and grateful and enjoy it.”

The front door opened, and Trevor ran toward them, umbrella held over his head.

Savannah wiped the tears that tipped over her lashes and spilled down her cheeks. She rolled the window down, and rain splashed into the car.

Trevor leaned in and blocked the window with his body and the umbrella.

Thor, Gia’s Bernese Mountain Dog, barked in greeting from his spot in the back seat between Klondike and Pepper’s carriers.

“Hey, Thor.” Trevor reached behind Savannah to give his head a pat, then pointed toward the far end of the cobblestone courtyard. “I put you guys in the same suite you shared last time, and I had the canopy pulled out. I wanted to bring you in the front, so you could behold everything the way your guests will when they arrive, but I figure it’s better to keep you dry. I hope that’s okay?”

“It’s perfect, Trevor, thank you,” Savannah said.

He grinned and patted the window frame, then hurried ahead of them to the far side of the courtyard where a canvas canopy covered the entryway and the potty pavilion Thor would use.

Savannah shook her head, a brilliant smile lighting her face as she rolled up the window and followed Trevor. “The man thinks of everything.”

“Hmm…” Gia had to admit, that thought was about as surprising as finding out her mild-mannered friend was a millionaire…at least. “Who’d have thought?”

“Not me,” Savannah grinned, “that’s for sure.”

Even the potty pavilion was decorated for the occasion, with festive colored lights strung from every pine tree in the area.

Savannah parked right in front of the now covered archway and hopped out of the car without waiting for Trevor to come around with the umbrella. She ducked underneath and hugged him hard.

Gia climbed out and lifted the seat forward for Thor, who scrambled out and bolted straight for Trevor.

Knowing he would be safe with him, and that the potty pavilion—complete with cabinets, grooming area, and exercise equipment—was surrounded by a low stone wall, Gia leaned into the car to grab Klondike’s carrier. “Hey there, sweetie. I’ll have you out of here in no time, and you and your buddy can run and get into all the trouble you want.”

The little black and white kitten abruptly turned around and flicked her tail against the mesh door of the carrier. Apparently, Gia would not be forgiven so easily for putting her in there.

She sighed and hauled her carrier and Pepper’s out of the back seat.

“Here, let me take them.” Trevor took one in each hand and gestured with his elbow toward the potty pavilion. “Thor went to take care of business.”

Gia peeked in to check on him and laughed. “If by take care of business you mean run straight to the obstacle course on the opposite side of the pavilion to play on the doggie playground, then you’re absolutely right.”

“What can I say? I like to spoil my dogs.” Trevor offered a sheepish smile and swung a lock of too-long-in-the-front brown hair out of his eyes, seemingly embarrassed at his wealth—typical for him. “And, hey, at least it’s covered so he won’t be soaked and full of mud.”

The thought of Thor barreling through the house leaving a trail of sloppy footprints in his wake made her shiver. “That’s definitely a plus.”

“And he’s having fun,” Savannah piped in as she popped open the trunk.

“An even bigger plus.” Gia started toward the trunk to help her grab their bags.

“Leave that for now.” Trevor nodded toward the house. “We’ll get it all after the rain stops. Come on; I can’t wait to show you your rooms.”

Savannah shrugged and slammed the trunk closed, then followed him down the hallway toward the two-bedroom suite she and Gia shared last time they stayed with Trevor, which had been for Savannah’s protection.

Gia planned to spend a whole lot more time exploring this time than they had then.

Trevor chatted at warp speed as he strode down the long hallway. “Okay, so, you have a meeting with the caterer for tasting and final approval of the menu promptly at ten tomorrow morning, this way you can both take advantage of Cole, Willow, Earl, and Skyla opening the café tomorrow.”

Gia could kiss his cheek. A day to sleep in with no problems nagging at her. Maybe she and Savannah would sit up late and watch an old movie together, share a bucket of popcorn. A small niggle of sadness crept in. Now that Savannah and Leo were getting married, she’d probably be moving out of Gia’s spare bedroom. Not that she’d made any effort to find a place yet, so Gia was just assuming. After Savannah was kidnapped last summer while showing a house, Gia didn’t want to be the one to bring up the subject. Savannah would talk about her decision when she felt ready.

Hmm…maybe Leo would move in with them? Still, even if he did, things between Savannah and Gia were sure to change. She shook off the thoughts. This was Savannah’s time, her moment of happiness. No way would Gia ruin even an instant of it feeling sorry for herself.

“I’ve already taken care of adding the servers, I hope that’s okay. And the florist will be here a little after three to coordinate where you want the flowers, at least the ones that go in the outer rooms and the reception area. You’re not allowed to see the actual spot where you’ll get married until you’re ready to walk down the aisle.” Trevor twisted to maneuver the cat carriers up the spiral staircase and onto the loft-style second floor.

Thor bounded after him.

Savannah and Gia followed on their heels.

“You’ve already spoken with the DJ, so he’s set to go.” When Trevor reached a set of French doors to their suite, he stopped and set the carriers down, then started ticking items off on his fingers. “You have a week and two days until the wedding, and you’re both working until the day before, so I want to make sure you have plenty of time to relax.”

Though Gia would have loved to close the café for the week, she just couldn’t afford to, so she settled on closing Friday for the wedding and Saturday for Christmas. Even though she was in Florida last Christmas, and was welcomed at Savannah’s house, everything had been too new for her to fully immerse herself in the celebration. This would be her first true Christmas with her new family, and Trevor graciously offered to host it since everyone they loved would already be there for the wedding.

Trevor’s voice dragged her back to the conversation. “That’s why I stacked most of your appointments tomorrow, so you’ll have time to rest afterward. Then, on Friday mid-morning, I have people coming to do mani-pedis and massages for the two of you and the bridesmaids.”

Savannah laughed out loud.

“What?” Bright red patches crept up Trevor’s cheeks. “Was that not right?”

“Are you kidding me?” Savannah flung her arms around his neck, hugged him tight, and planted a big kiss on his cheek. “It’s perfect.”

Trevor’s face reddened to the point of almost purple, and Gia wasn’t quite sure if it was from embarrassment or if Savannah was cutting off the circulation to his head. Thankfully, she released him before he passed out from either.

“Good, because the hair stylist will be here first thing Friday morning. Sorry I couldn’t get it later in the day, but with Friday being Christmas Eve and all, it was the latest I could get him to come. It doesn’t matter anyway, though, because the photographer will be here at eight a.m., so she can document every single minute of your special day.”

Gia’s mouth dropped open, and she quickly snapped it closed. No need to further embarrass Trevor after he’d not only taken care of every detail of the wedding, but also set up last minute appointments to go over everything and ensure it would all be perfect the day of.

Trevor finally stopped talking and took a breath, then glanced back and forth between them. “What? Did I forget something?”

Who’d have thought Trevor, her good-natured, easy-going, kind-of-goofy, totally clumsy friend would turn out to be an organizational genius? Then again, she’d never have expected the owner of Storm Scoopers, the ice cream parlor down the road from her All-Day Breakfast Café, would turn out to be the wealthy owner of a mansion and grounds the size of a city block back in Manhattan either. Seemed Mr. Barnes was full of surprises.

“It’s perfect, Trevor, thank you.” Gia hugged him, careful to do so a little less enthusiastically than Savannah had.

“Now that the details have all been discussed…” A smile spread across his face from ear to ear, and he shoved the French doors open and stepped back with a flourish. “Behold!”

A giant evergreen sat against the far wall between two windows, all aglitter in pink and silver, with a bride and groom locked in an embrace to top it off. A wreath hung above the fireplace, the mantle draped in garland and lights.

Gia’s breath shot from her lungs.

“What?” Trevor asked. “Too much?”

“Not at all. It couldn’t be more perfect.” Tears shimmered, deepening the blue of Savannah’s eyes.

Trevor squeezed her hand. “Good, because I went all out in the honeymoon suite too.”

“The honey…?”

“Yup. You said you guys didn’t want to leave on your honeymoon until the day after Christmas, so I set up a special suite for you and Leo to spend your wedding night and Christmas night.”

Savannah just stood, hand in his, staring at him, tears spilling over and down her cheeks. That was a first, not that Gia could blame her, but in all the years she’d known Savannah, she’d never seen her speechless.

Trevor rubbed a hand up and down her arm. “Thank you both for trusting me with this. I really enjoyed doing it, more than I can ever tell you, and I wanted to make it perfect.”

“You definitely did, Trevor.” Savannah sniffed. “I don’t know how I can ever thank you.”

“Are you kidding me? No thanks needed. I love planning events, but in case you haven’t noticed, even though I have a number of friends, I’m a little socially awkward and uncomfortable outside of my immediate friendship zone. This was like a dream come true. I got to plan not only one, but three events, and I don’t have to be the center of attention at any. You actually did me a favor.”

“What do you mean three?” Though Gia and Savannah helped plan the parts of the wedding that weren’t meant to be a surprise right along with Trevor, she wasn’t aware of any other events.

“The wedding, the rehearsal dinner, which is going to be awesome, and Christmas dinner. Thanks to you two, I will spend Christmas surrounded by my Boggy Creek family, something I’d never have done otherwise.”

Gia gripped his free hand. When they’d discussed making Savannah’s wedding as perfect as possible for her, especially when she was still somewhat fragile after everything she’d been through over the summer, Gia never expected anything like this. “Thank you so much, Trevor.”

“There’s really no need to thank me.” He turned to look her in the eye. “When I needed a friend, you were there for me. Now, it’s my turn to be there for you and Savannah. Savannah needs to be surrounded by family in a place she feels safe, and you need a proper Christmas with family, something you said you’ve never had before. Now, we all have what we need.”

Gia lay her head against his shoulder. If they could just get through the next week without anything going wrong, life would be just about perfect.

 

Here’s where you can pick up your copy of Mistletoe Cake Murder!

Amazon: - Barnes & Noble   Kobo   Kensington    Apple     Google Play    GoodReads Link

About Lena Gregory

Lena Gregory author of Mistletoe Cake Murder

Lena grew up in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island, but she recently traded in cold, damp, gray winters for the warmth and sunshine of central Florida, where she now lives with her husband, three kids, son-in-law, and four dogs. Her hobbies include spending time with family, reading, and walking. Her love for writing developed when her youngest son was born and didn’t sleep through the night. She works full-time as a writer and a freelance editor and is a member of Sisters in Crime.

Author Links

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Here’s where you can pick up your copy of Mistletoe Cake Murder!

Amazon: - Barnes & Noble   Kobo   Kensington    Apple     Google Play    GoodReads Link

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Stitch, Bake, Die!

Crafting is supposed to a way to relieve stress and relax, but not if you’re Anastasia Pollack. She’s off again, solving a murder and sharing crafting tips in her tenth book Stitch, Bake, Die! There’s a great description below to get your started on Anastasia’s latest mystery and don’t forget to scroll down for the giveaway.

About Stitch, Bake, Die!

Stitch, Bake, Die! (An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery)

Cozy Mystery

10th in Series

Book Description: Stitch, Bake, Die!

With massive debt, a communist mother-in-law, a Shakespeare-quoting parrot, and a photojournalist boyfriend who may or may not be a spy, crafts editor Anastasia Pollack already juggles too much in her life. So she’s not thrilled when her magazine volunteers her to present workshops and judge a needlework contest at the inaugural conference of the NJ chapter of the Stitch and Bake Society, a national organization of retired professional women. At least her best friend and cooking editor Cloris McWerther has also been roped into similar duties for the culinary side of the 3-day event taking place on the grounds of the exclusive Beckwith Chateau Country Club.

Marlene Beckwith, wife of the multi-millionaire pharmaceutical magnate and country club owner, is both the chapter president and conference chairperson. The only thing greater than her ego is her sense of entitlement. She hates to lose at anything and fully expects to win both the needlework and baking competitions.

When Anastasia and Cloris arrive at the conference, they discover cash bribes in their registration packets. The Society members, few of whom are fans of Marlene, stick up for the accused and instead suggest that Marlene orchestrated the bribes to eliminate her stiffest competition.

The next morning when Marlene is found dead, Anastasia questions whether she really died peacefully in her sleep. After Marlene’s husband immediately has her cremated, Anastasia once again finds herself back in reluctant amateur sleuth mode.

With the help of Cloris, Marlene’s personal assistant Rhetta, and a laptop someone will stop at nothing to find, Anastasia soon unravels evidence of insurance scams, medical fraud, an opioid ring, long-buried family secrets, and too many possible suspects. And that’s before she not only stumbles over the body of yet another member of the Stitch and Bake Society but also finds Rhetta unconscious.

Can Anastasia piece together the various clues before she becomes the killer’s next target?

Crafting tips included.

You can find Stitch, Bake, Die at these online retailers:

Kindle - Nook - Kobo  - Apple Books 

About Lois Winston

USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.

Author Links

Website: loiswinston.com

Newsletter sign-up: https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/z1z1u5

Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: anastasiapollack.blogspot.com

Pinterest: pinterest.com/anasleuth

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anasleuth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/722763.Lois_Winston

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lois-winston

You can find Stitch, Bake, Die at these online retailers:

Kindle - Nook - Kobo  - Apple Books 

Books to the Ceiling October 21 Newsletter


The Con Man's Daughter
It’s official. The Con Man’s Daughter comes out on October 8th! I’ve created a new town, new characters and this time instead of a murder mystery we get to fall in love, and out of it, and maybe back in it. (It wouldn’t be true love if there weren’t a few bumps along the way, right?) Anna Holcomb has returned to the only place she ever thought of as home, Redbird Creek. The residents of her hometown thought her family was successful and connected. In truth, Anna is trying to hide some major crimes by her father and wants to make it on her own as an honest event planner. She runs into members of her old “mean girl” group, as well as the girl they bullied, Gladys Ledbetter, aka Goopy Gladys. Anna finds she is working closely with Goopy and with handsome chef, Caleb Armstrong, a former boyfriend of the leader of the mean girls. What will Anna do? Continue bullying others to get ahead, or try to become a better person? You can pre-order The Con Man’s Daughter is available for pre-order right now, or you can wait for it to come out on Kindle at Amazon on October 8. Either way, thanks!

GIVEAWAY! A DIGITAL COPY OF THE CON MAN’S DAUGHTER AND A $25 AMAZON GIFT CARD. GO HERE TO ENTER NOW

FEATURED BOOKS AND GIVEAWAYS FOR THIS MONTH

October 8/Review
The Memory Bell
With massive debt, a communist mother-in-law, a Shakespeare-quoting parrot, and a photojournalist boyfriend who may or may not be a spy, crafts editor Anastasia Pollack already juggles too much in her life. So she’s not thrilled when her magazine volunteers her to present workshops and judge a needlework contest at the inaugural conference of the NJ chapter of the Stitch and Bake Society, a national organization of retired professional women. When Anastasia and Cloris arrive at the conference, they discover cash bribes in their registration packets. Little did they know this could lead to murder!
See Giveaway on Day of Post
October 15/Spotlight
Mistletoe Cake Murder
’Tis the season for celebrating when Gia Morelli’s holidays include both a wedding and yuletide festivities. Until someone naughty delivers a most unwanted Christmas gift—murder. . .
See Giveaway on Day of Post
October 16/Review
God Rest Ye Royal Gentlemen
Georgie is back and hanging the stockings with care when a murder interrupts her Christmas cheer in this all-new installment in the New York Times bestselling Royal Spyness series from Rhys Bowen.
October 22/Review
Death Rang the Bell
21st-century journalist Olivia Watson thinks traveling back in time to 1934 to attend a Halloween party with her friend Detective Steven Blackwell will be a lot of fun. And it is…until she witnesses the head of the Shipley Five-and-Dime empire murdered, and fears the killer saw her face.
See Giveaway on Day of Post

The Happy Hinter
Betsy Livingston Fitzpatrick here, Happy Hinter and part-time crime solver. Stuck bringing a treat for a Halloween party or school function? I had a friend show me this one and I’ve been doing it every year. It’s the white chocolate Halloween pretzel bone.
This is what you’ll need:
1 bag of mini-marshmallows
1 package of meltable white chocolate
1 bag of little pretzel sticks
Attach the mini-marshmallows to the ends of the pretzel sticks, making them look like bones. Then melt the white chocolate using your microwave according to the instructions on the package. Once melted, carefully dip the pretzel bones into the white chocolate and lay out on wax paper. They will dry and harden and then you can put them in a Halloween basket or bowl. Trust me, they’ll be the hit of the party.

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A Plague Among Us

Here we have it! A Covid-19 mystery, but it is oh so much more. With a wide variety of suspects, this is a new mystery by a proven author. Check out the excerpt below, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway.

 

Synopsis:

A Plague Among Us by Deb Pines

When Al Martin, the editor of a satiric newspaper in Chautauqua, N.Y., reportedly dies of COVID-19, the local consensus is: good riddance.

A sister suspects foul play. She wonders why Al was cremated in a hurry.

The police stay out of it.

So it takes reporter and relentless snoop Mimi Goldman to try to find which of Al’s haters— including an estranged wife, three bitter siblings, a secretive caregiver, old enemies and the many targets of Al’s poison-pen sarcasm—might be a ruthless killer.

The novel, No. 8 in a series called “an Agatha Christie for the text-message age,” once again offers page-turning suspense. Wit. And the unforgettable setting of Chautauqua, a quirky, churchy, lakeside, Victorian cottage-filled summer arts community that launched an adult-education movement Teddy Roosevelt called “the most American thing in America.”

Kirkus Reviews calls A Plague Among Us “an intriguing and engaging crime tale” and “enjoyable novel” with “captivating characters.”

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: KDP
Publication Date: July 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 280
ISBN: 979-8525017368
Series: Mimi Goldman Chautauqua Mysteries, Book 8 | Each book can be read as a Stand-Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Mimi and Sylvia were on the road again, heading to the Tissue Donor Center in Jamestown to chase Winston Suarez.

The center wasn’t far from the Loves’ funeral home. But this time Google Maps was directing them to take the highway, not back roads.

They started out the same way, heading west on 394, passing the same early landmarks: the Institution’s empty parking lots, busy golf course and We Wan Chu Cottages.

“So what’s new?” Sylvia asked.

“Too much,” Mimi said. “It’s crazy how I keep learning stuff without seeing how any of it means anything.”

“Because the medical examiner still hasn’t called?”

“Uh-huh.”

Sylvia sighed heavily. “Maybe he’s just as difficult as his dad.”

Tom Love Sr., in Mimi’s opinion, wasn’t difficult. All he had done was stand up for his son before Sylvia picked a fight with him. But Mimi let it go.

“Well, one thing I’ll grant the older one,” Sylvia said.

“What?”

“He’s above average in the looks department.”

Mimi chuckled.

“What?”

“I thought you’re done with all of that nonsense.”

“I am.”

Sylvia moved to the left lane to take the ramp onto Route 17/Interstate-86 East and floored it.

“Whoa, hey,” Mimi said. “Mario Andretti, slow down.”

Okay, okay,” Sylvia said. “Just had to get us on the highway.”

Sylvia slowed down to fit into the slow lane, sticking behind a FedEx truck going a steady 70 miles an hour.

Mimi filled Sylvia in on what she had heard from Shannon about Liam and Patrick. Their denials of knowing anything about the pranks. Their claims the decisions to have no autopsy and a quick cremation were just expedient—so Patrick could get home.

“So what time does Winston Suarez get off work?”

“I’m pretty sure it’s 5.”

Mimi had reached Winston once, described why she was calling. He got quiet, then hung up. After that, she called Winston and never reached him—leaving something like five or six messages.

They stayed on the highway about ten miles before taking the Jamestown airport exit, then winding around a maze of city streets until signs with a big “H” led them to the UPMC Hospital campus.

“Hopefully,” Sylvia said, “we’re more irresistible in person.”

The Tissue Donor Center was one of many outbuildings with medical-sounding names surrounding the redbrick main hospital.

Some were done in their own architectural style. Most, like the Tissue Donor Center, imitated the low-slung, redbrick design of the hospital, down to having a white number (for their address) and a primary-colored letter on their sides.

The letters were explained on campus signs. Building A was the main hospital. Building B, the signs said, was Outpatient Svcs. C was the Sherman Medical Bldg. D was Imaging & Medical Bldg. E was Physical Therapy, Pharmacies. F was the Tissue Donor Cntr.

Sylvia zipped past the early letters of the alphabet, slowing at F, the Tissue Donor Cntr. The main door had its name above it, an intercom to the right. Near the curb, another sign said, “No Standing any time. Ambulance Lane.”

They didn’t see any ambulances, but Sylvia decided to wait for Mimi anyway in a parking lot across the street.

“Break a leg,” Sylvia yelled as Mimi got out.

Mimi laughed.

If she did break a leg, no question, this was the place to do it. Her limb could be X-rayed at the Imaging Bldg.(D) and then set at Outpatient Svcs. (B).

At the door of the Tissue Donor Center, Mimi knocked.

“Who is it?”

The woman’s voice, through the intercom, was familiar.

“My name is Mimi Goldman,” Mimi said. “And—”

“Let me guess? You’re looking for Winston?”

Mimi laughed. “I guess I’m pretty predictable. Is he here?”

“He is. This is Hannah, by the way. We keep speaking on the phone. Why don’t I see if he’ll come out?”

Mimi had high hopes. How hard would it be for Winston to take a few steps to walk outside and see her?

On the other hand, blowing her off might be easier.

When she heard a ping, Mimi examined her phone. Sylvia, after coaching from her grandkids, texted like a teenager.

Wassup?

I asked for WS and someone said they’d get him. Just waiting.

kk

Standing there, Mimi went through her email. Then she switched to her latest word game addiction: Spelling Bee in The New York Times.

Players have to make the most words, four letters or longer, from seven given letters, including one letter that had to be used in every word. The words that day had to be made from BLWCHAE, with all using an E.

Mimi started with the obvious ones: BLEACH, BLECH, BEACH, EACH, LEACH, LECH. She was moving on to trickier words when the center’s door swung open.

Out stepped a tall, handsome, dark-featured young man in a white surgical mask and blue scrubs with the name SUAREZ above his shirt pocket.

“I don’t know who you are,” he said. “I don’t know why you keep asking me about this case, but . . . I’m pleading with you to drop it and just go.”

Mimi had expected an asshole, too lazy or too self-important to talk. Not a frightened young man.

“Can you say why?” she asked. “I have no idea why this case is at all sensitive.”

Winston shook his head.

“How about off the record? You have my word that I’d never tell anyone you ever spoke to me.”

“Sorry,” he said. “I can’t risk losing my job.”

***

Excerpt from A Plague Among Us by Deb Pines. Copyright 2021 by Deb Pines. Reproduced with permission from Deb Pines. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Deb Pines

Deb Pines, an award-winning headline writer for the New York Post, is the author of seven Mimi Goldman novels and one novelette all set in the Chautauqua Institution in southwestern New York where they are top sellers.
A former reporter, Deb is also a lover of puns, show tunes and indoor cycling. She lives in New York City with her husband Dave.

Catch Up With Deb Pines:
DebPines.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @debpines
Instagram – @pinesdebbie
Twitter – @pinesdeb
Facebook – @deborah.pines.9

 

 

ENTER TO WIN:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Deb Pines. There will be 2 winners who will each receive one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs September 1 through October 3, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Coming October 8 – The Con Man’s Daughter

I’ve written plenty of cozy mysteries, but this time I’m bringing you a romance, The Con Man’s Daughter. I guess what I really want to call this is a cozy romance, which isn’t actually a genre, but what the heck, let’s make it one! Some people would call this a clean romance and others a light romance. Just think cozy and you’ll have it.

One of the things I love to do as a writer is explore other genres and I find I can do this pretty easily through my short story writing. Believe it or not, I’ve written horror, science fiction, Twilight-Zone style fiction and right now I’m working on a fantasy piece. One thing I hadn’t ever tried was writing romance as a novel. I have always featured a romantic angle in all of my mysteries, but this time, I have a romance with nobody getting killed. I think I like this idea.

Description

When Anna Holcomb returns to her hometown in Redbird Creek, Texas she has a secret. She’s not the spoiled little rich girl she once was. She’s broke, looking for a job, and trying to start a new life. Caleb Armstrong thinks he knows her type from the years he spent with her in high school, but everything about Anna has changed, except for one little secret she dares not tell. Take a gamble on this wholesome romance and discover who’s really being conned.

The Con Man’s Daughter is available for pre-order at this time and hold on because you know there will be giveaways in any book launch I do.

Go Here to read an excerpt from The Con Man’s Daughter.

The Memory Bell

You’re given a precious family heirloom and then it breaks! Not good for when you have those holiday get-togethers. This is what happens to Grace Penner, and then, of course, we have a handsome detective and … murder. Read on to find out more about The Memory Bell. We have an excerpt and a giveaway of a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Gifted the memory bell, a family heirloom, from her grandfather’s will, Grace’s excitement is soon squashed when the bell gets broken right after she receives it. While gluing the pieces back in place, she discovers three are still missing.

Determined to find them, she is halted when the new detective, Bennet James, investigates her family. Grace is intent on showing the detective her family isn’t capable of murder, but as the investigation deepens, and pieces of the bell show up with ominous notes, Grace soon realizes the Penners are not what they seem. Amidst the tightly knit family; dark secrets, deception, and possibly even murder unfold.

Will Grace be able to save the family she loves more than anything without losing herself forever?

Praise for The Memory Bell:

“A naïve small-town girl and a disillusioned big-city cop, drawn together by an unsolved crime that is itself only the tip of the iceberg, The Memory Bell serves up the perfect steamy summer read.”
–Jenny Jaeckel, author of House of Rougeaux

“The story moves beyond a small town whodunit to probe the underlying bonds of history that connect a family.”
-Midwest Book Review

“Wonderful, engaging, and fast-paced! Flannery knows what she’s doing!”
-Jonas Saul, author of the Sarah Roberts series

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Published by: Black Rose Writing
Publication Date: July 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 1684337089 (ISBN-13:978-1684337088)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

“Family is supposed to be our safe haven. Very often, it’s the place where we find the deepest heartache.” ~ Iyanla Vanzant

CHAPTER ONE

Detective Bennet James stood over the remains of a hand dug grave. The morning air was brisk for July, and a foggy cloud permeated the air as he exhaled. He’d woken as the first rays of dawn crept through his hotel window casting sundogs along the planked floor.

Bones were found by the grain elevators at the mill in Oakville. The sleepy town was an hour’s drive from Chicago and where he’d been stationed for the last two weeks. It was hell, but anything was better than sitting at home waiting to hear his fate. He flexed his shoulders. The muscles ached from the mounting pressure.

He took a sip of the coffee he’d bought at the local gas station. The bitter blend was cold and old. Probably made the night before and just waiting for some poor soul to drain the last of the dregs from the decanter.

With no details other than the presence of human remains to work with, Ben made quick work of taping off the area and closing all access in and out of the mill. The trains were halted and all productivity near the tracks was at a standstill. He surveyed the grounds. Three metal silos stood in a row to his left with tracks laid in front of them. Directly behind were wooden buildings with peaked roofs, and a single track led to a dead end.

He gathered the mill was over fifty years old by the way the boards heaved and sagged. Out of commission for some time, he wondered why no one had torn the dilapidated buildings down. Being that the place was pretty much deserted it’d make things difficult in the investigation. He snorted. It wasn’t his investigation, and if things didn’t work out for him with the state, he’d never see another one again.

He rubbed his hand across his face. His heart quickened with the familiar feeling of piecing together a puzzle. It was the same feeling he got every time he was dealt a new case. Except this one was different. It wasn’t his, and even though the thought of having something to occupy his mind was appealing, he doubted Sheriff Rhoads would let him take the lead on it, much less be a part of it.

Ben glanced down at the body. Nothing left but bones and a few fragments of hair which signified the death happened years before. The grave was not shallow, but not deep either. Ben guessed it was four feet into the ground. A blue blanket caught his eye. He fingered the soft cotton with a gloved hand, a crocheted throw that was now pulled from the knots someone delicately placed there. Whoever had wrapped the victim in it did so with pristine care.

“Where is the witness?” he asked the young deputy standing to his left. He couldn’t remember the boy’s name, or was it he didn’t care? It didn’t really matter. He’d stopped caring about those around him a long time ago.

The deputy looked a bit flushed, and Ben figured the kid living in the small town had never seen anything like this before. Regret settled in his stomach at making the boy stay with him while he looked over the body and its surroundings. Ben remembered seeing his first body, a young girl, no more than six. Her image still haunted him on nights when sleep wouldn’t come.

He blinked, collected his thoughts, and faced the young man.

“You’re no longer needed here,” he said.

“The men who found the body are over there,” the kid stammered. His hand shook as he pointed to the two silhouettes standing twenty yards away.

“Thanks.” Ben dismissed him and walked toward the two men sipping coffee from their mugs. A part of him wanted to turn back to his car and leave now that Rhoads was here, but his pride and his duty wouldn’t allow it. He pulled out the small note pad and pen he kept in his pocket.

“Morning. I need to ask you a few questions.”

“Ain’t you the new fella?” one of the men asked.

“Yeah.”

“You’re that swanky detective from the city.”

Ben didn’t answer.

“Why in hell would you want to come out here?”

He remained silent. It was none of the old man’s business why he’d been placed in this shithole town.

“Talk is you got into hot water up there.”

“I need to ask you some questions,” Ben repeated, an edge creeping into his voice. He wasn’t about to discuss his shit with these guys. He shifted from one foot to the other, took a deep calming breath, cleared his throat, and waited.

“Not much to tell,” the man said. His thick white moustache spanned the whole of his upper lip and the bottoms of his cheeks.

“Your name?” he asked.

“Walter Smythe.” The man leaned in to read what Ben wrote and tapped his index finger onto the paper. “That’s Smythe with a Y not an I.”

Ben nodded.

“Can you tell me how you came upon the body?”

“Ol’ Russ was the one who found it.”

He turned to the other man.

“I ain’t Russ,” the farmer said.

“Who is—”

“That’s my dog.” Walter whistled. A large St. Bernard came loping up from the field behind the buildings.

“The dog found the body?”

“That’s right.”

“What were you doing out here?”

“I come out from time to time.”

“Why if the place is closed down?”

The man shrugged.

“Have you brought Russ out here before?” Ben asked, still trying to piece together how the remains were found.

“Sure. I bring him everywhere.”

“Why was he in the elevators?”

Walter’s wide shoulders lifted underneath the plaid jacket.

“Did the dog take anything from the grave, or disturb it in anyway?”

“Once I seen him diggin’, I called him over.” Walter guffawed. “But the damn mutt just kept on going back. So, I went over to see what the hell he was after.”

“At what point did you figure out it was a body?”

“Right away when I saw the bones.”

“Russ dug up most of the grave?”

“Nah, maybe a foot of it.” Walter nudged the farmer beside him. “I called Bill and we determined it was best to call the sheriff.”

“Why didn’t you call the sheriff first?”

Walter didn’t answer.

“Did you remove or touch anything?” Ben asked.

“Nope.”

As much as the farmer was rough around the edges, he could tell Walter Smythe spoke the truth.

“One more question. Has anyone gone missing in the last ten years?”

“Not around these parts. Most people who go missing leave for the city.”

“Why is that?”

“Small towns ain’t for everybody.” Walter’s eyes narrowed. “Stuff like this don’t happen around here.”

Ben nodded before he walked away and headed back to his car. He opened the door but didn’t get in. Tall silos, train cars and tracks were surrounded by a field. Waist-high stalks of yellow waved in the breeze and from what he knew of farming, it looked to be canola. Why wasn’t the body buried in the field? There must be over a hundred acres of land. Until he received the coroner’s report, he couldn’t begin to guess at anything yet. Before he left, he’d need to talk to Sheriff Rhoads and see about any missing persons reports in the area.

“Well, that is odd.” Rhoads sauntered toward him, brows furrowed.

“What is?” Ben asked.

“A body, here, at the elevators, in Oakville.” His forehead wrinkled, and a perplexed look crossed his face. “Nobody has been here in years.”

“These things can happen anywhere. There are no rules for death.”

Rhoads focused on him, but remained quiet for some time before he said, “Not here.”

“I’d like to take the lead on this,” Ben said. The words surprised him, but he couldn’t take them back now. Besides, he needed something to keep him busy. The minor misdemeanors at the old folk’s home, break-ins, and an occasional kid in trouble wasn’t enough to keep him from going crazy with boredom.

“Not sure that’s wise, with your probation and all.”

Ben nodded, figuring that would be the answer.

“But I don’t see it as more than an unfortunate accident, so go ahead.”

Ben wasn’t so sure.

***

Excerpt from The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery. Copyright 2021 by Kat Flannery. Reproduced with permission from Kat Flannery. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Kat Flannery

Kat Flannery’s love of history shows in her novels. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. A member of many writing Kat enjoys promoting other authors on her blog. When she’s not busy writing, or marketing Kat volunteers her time to other aspiring authors. She has been a keynote speaker, lecturer and guest author inspiring readers and writers at every event she attends. Kat’s been published in numerous periodicals throughout her career, and continues to write for blogs and online magazines. A bestselling author, Kat’s books are available all over the world. The BRANDED TRILOGY is Kat’s award-winning series. With seven books published, Kat continues to plot what story will be next. Creativity is in all aspects of Kat’s career. She does Social Media and Marketing for her own career and businesses, writing ads, and other content.

Catch Up With Kat Flannery:
www.KatFlannery.com/Books-1
Goodreads
BookBub – @KatFlannery
Instagram – @katflannery_
Twitter – @KatFlannery1
Facebook – @kat.flannery.5

 

 

ENTER TO WIN:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Kat Flannery. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs September 1 through October 3, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Books to the Ceiling September Newsletter

 

Reading
Where did the summer go? For me it was a blur of writing, editing, a few short story acceptances, a few rejections and staying out of the heat! I also discovered a wonderful Facebook group this summer called Friends of Fiction. First of all, it doesn’t list my books, but that’s okay with me. It’s a group of people talking about their favorite beach reads, books that moved them, and books that were hard to see come to an end. 
Did you have a favorite book in your summer reading? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below. Why did you like it? In August I read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain. Both wonderful!

 

If you want to enter more giveaways check out my GIVEAWAYS page on the blog. I update it weekly. Click Here to There Right Now. These are giveaways generated by visiting authors on blog tours.

FEATURED BOOKS AND GIVEAWAYS FOR THIS MONTH

Sept 18-October 16
A Dash of Murder Audio Book on Sale
A Dash of Murder the audiobook version will be 50% off at Apple this month.
Sept 10/Spotlight
The Memory Bell
Grace Penner’s safe haven crumbles when a body is found outside of town.
Gifted the memory bell, a family heirloom, from her grandfather’s will, Grace’s excitement is soon squashed when the bell gets broken right after she receives it. While gluing the pieces back in place, she discovers three are still missing..
See Giveaway on Day of Post

The Happy Hinter

The Happy Hinter Column- September 2021

Betsy Livingston Fitzpatrick here, Happy Hinter and part-time crime solver. Feeling creatively stifled in the kitchen? Wishing you could have a meal like Mom used to make? I’m not always known for my culinary skills but was
tickled pink when I found this site on the internet. It has all those great old casserole dishes, baked dishes, just everything. It’s called Just a Pinch. Now,
please know I don’t get paid anything for this, it’s just a helpful hint. Believe me, this is a coming-together of hometown cooks and the timeless, proven recipes that pass through generations. The old-fashioned recipe swap now extends to blue-ribbon cooks across the map… each bringing their own unique flavor to the table: from mom’s Georgia peach pie to that creamy Wisconsin cheese soup you look forward to every winter. I’m sure my aunt Maggie has been using this site on the sly!

 

 

Betsy Cooking
Sign Up for the Books to the Ceiling Newsletter

Railroaded 4 Murder

Railroaded 4 Murder

 

Chiweenie fans out there, good news! You’re dog breed has a new mystery♥ Okay the dog may not be the central focus of the story, but I just had to write the word Chiweenie. Too fun. The husband and wife team, J.C. Eaton, give us Railroaded 4 Murder, a mystery with model trains,  dancing girls and murder. Learn more about this fun cozy below and be sure to enter the giveaway!

About Railroaded 4 Murder

Railroaded 4 Murder

Railroaded 4 Murder (Sophie Kimball Mystery)

Cozy Mystery

8th in Series

While planning her wedding, Sophie “Phee” Kimball gets sidetracked by the murder of a model train enthusiast . . .

Phee’s marriage to Marshall Gregory promises to be the wedding of the year in Arizona’s Sun City West—that is, if you ask her mother Harriet. But before she can walk down the aisle, it looks like she has to solve one more murder. At a model train exhibit, Phee, Harriet, and their beloved Chiweenie, Streetman, discover the body of Sun City West’s railroad club president, with an incriminating tap shoe near his lifeless corpse.

Wilbur Maines may have loved model trains but apparently he was not a model husband. There are rumors of affairs with hot-to-trot hobbyists the Choo-Choo Chicks. The police suspect his wife—and Harriet’s friend—Roxanne, who dances with the Rhythm Tappers, but Phee’s mom is convinced they’re on the wrong track. Before the poor woman is railroaded into spending the rest of her life behind bars, Phee, Harriet, and the book club ladies will need to do some fancy footwork, infiltrate the dance group, and find the real culprit before the killer leaves the station . . .

About J.C. Eaton

J.C. Eaton is the wife and husband team of Ann I. Goldfarb and James E. Clapp. Ann spent most of her life in education, first as a classroom teacher and later as a middle school principal and professional staff developer. She has eight published YA time travel mysteries and over a decade of experience writing nonfiction for Jones Publishing and Madavor Media trade magazines. When James retired as the tasting room manager for a large upstate New York winery, he never imagined he’d be co-authoring cozy mysteries with his wife. Nonfiction in the form of informational brochures and workshop materials treating the winery industry were his forte, along with an extensive background and experience in construction that started with his service in the U.S. Navy.

Author Links

Website:www.jceatonauthor.com

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/JCEatonauthor/

Purchase Links – Amazon – B&N – Kobo – Google Play – IndieBound

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The Murderess Must Die

The Murderess Must Die by Marlie Wasserman Banner

The Murderess Must Die

Have you ever wondered about the first woman to die in the electric chair? The Murderess Must Die is a fascinating story with a fictional true-crime feeling to it. Martha Place is a murderess, but once you start reading, it’s difficult to decide if she is evil or a victim. It’ll have you scratching your head. Be sure to scroll down for the giveaway and if you haven’t done so already, check out my GIVEAWAYS page on the upper menu. If you missed any that are still going, you can still enter!  

August 16 – September 10, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

The Murderess Must Die by Marlie Wasserman

On a winter day in 1898, hundreds of spectators gather at a Brooklyn courthouse, scrambling for a view of the woman they label a murderess. Martha Place has been charged with throwing acid in her stepdaughter’s face, hitting her with an axe, suffocating her with a pillow, then trying to kill her husband with the same axe. The crowd will not know for another year that the alleged murderess becomes the first woman in the world to be executed in the electric chair. None of her eight lawyers can save her from a guilty verdict and the governor of New York, Theodore Roosevelt, refuses to grant her clemency.

Was Martha Place a wicked stepmother, an abused wife, or an insane killer? Was her stepdaughter a tragic victim? Why would a well-dressed woman, living with an upstanding husband, in a respectable neighborhood, turn violent? Since the crime made the headlines, we have heard only from those who abused and condemned Martha Place.

Speaking from the grave she tells her own story, in her own words. Her memory of the crime is incomplete, but one of her lawyers fills in the gaps. At the juncture of true crime and fiction, The Murderess Must Die is based on an actual crime. What was reported, though, was only half the story.

Praise for The Murderess Must Die:

A true crime story. But in this case, the crime resides in the punishment. Martha Place was the first woman to die in the electric chair: Sing Sing, March 20, 1899. In this gorgeously written narrative, told in the first-person by Martha and by those who played a part in her life, Marlie Parker Wasserman shows us the (appalling) facts of fin-de-siècle justice. More, she lets us into the mind of Martha Place, and finally, into the heart. Beautifully observed period detail and astute psychological acuity combine to tell us Martha’s story, at once dark and illuminating. The Murderess Must Die accomplishes that rare feat: it entertains, even as it haunts.
Howard A. Rodman, author of The Great Eastern

The first woman to be executed by electric chair in 1899, Martha Place, speaks to us in Wasserman’s poignant debut novel. The narrative travels the course of Place’s life describing her desperation in a time when there were few opportunities for women to make a living. Tracing events before and after the murder of her step-daughter Ida, in lean, straightforward prose, it delivers a compelling feminist message: could an entirely male justice system possibly realize the frightful trauma of this woman’s life? This true-crime novel does more–it transcends the painful retelling of Place’s life to expand our conception of the death penalty. Although convicted of a heinous crime, Place’s personal tragedies and pitiful end are inextricably intertwined.
Nev March, author of Edgar-nominated Murder in Old Bombay

The Murderess Must Die would be a fascinating read even without its central elements of crime and punishment. Marlie Parker Wasserman gets inside the heads of a wide cast of late nineteenth century Americans and lets them tell their stories in their own words. It’s another world, both alien and similar to ours. You can almost hear the bells of the streetcars.
Edward Zuckerman, author of Small Fortunes and The Day After World War Three, Emmy-winning writer-producer of Law & Order

This is by far the best book I have read in 2021! Based on a true story, I had never heard of Mattie Place prior to reading this book. I loved all of the varying voices telling in the exact same story. It was unique and fresh and so wonderfully deep. I had a very hard time putting the book down until I was finished!
It isn’t often that an author makes me feel for the murderess but I did. I connected deeply with all of the people in this book, and I do believe it will stay with me for a very long time.
This is a fictionalized version of the murder of Ida Place but it read as if the author Marlie Parker Wasserman was a bystander to the actual events. I very highly recommend this book.
Jill, InkyReviews

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: July 6, 2021
Number of Pages: 250
ISBN: 978-1953789877
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Mattie

Martha Garretson, that’s the name I was born with, but the district attorney called me Martha Place in the murder charge. I was foolish enough to marry Mr. William Place. And before that I was dumb enough to marry another man, Wesley Savacool. So, my name is Martha Garretson Savacool Place. Friends call me Mattie. No, I guess that’s not right. I don’t have many friends, but my family, the ones I have left, they call me Mattie. I’ll tell you more before we go on. The charge was not just murder. That D.A. charged me with murder in the first degree, and he threw in assault, and a third crime, a ridiculous one, attempted suicide. In the end he decided to aim at just murder in the first. That was enough for him.

I had no plans to tell you my story. I wasn’t one of those story tellers. That changed in February 1898, soon after my alleged crimes, when I met Miss Emilie Meury. The guards called her the prison angel. She’s a missionary from the Brooklyn Auxiliary Mission Society. Spends her days at the jail where the police locked me up for five months before Sing Sing. I never thought I’d talk to a missionary lady. I didn’t take kindly to religion. But Miss Meury, she turned into a good friend and a good listener. She never snickered at me. Just nodded or asked a question or two, not like those doctors I talked to later. They asked a hundred questions. No, Miss Meury just let me go wherever I wanted, with my recollections. Because of Miss Meury, now I know how to tell my story. I talked to her for thirteen months, until the day the state of New York set to electrocute me.

We talked about the farm, that damn farm. Don’t fret, I knew enough not to say damn to Emilie Meury. She never saw a farm. She didn’t know much about New Jersey, and nothing about my village, East Millstone. I told her how Pa ruined the farm. Sixty acres, only thirty in crop, one ramshackle house with two rooms down and two rooms up. And a smokehouse, a springhouse, a root cellar, a chicken coop, and a corn crib, all run down, falling down. The barn was the best of the lot, but it leaned over to the west.

They tell me I had three baby brothers who died before I was born, two on the same day. Ma and Pa hardly talked about that, but the neighbors remembered, and they talked. For years that left just my brother Garret, well, that left Garret for a while anyway, and my sister Ellen. Then I was born, then Matilda—family called her Tillie—then Peter, then Eliza, then Garret died in the

war, then Eliza died. By the time I moved to Brooklyn, only my brother Peter and my sister Ellen were alive. Peter is the only one the police talk to these days.

The farmers nearby and some of our kin reckoned that my Ma and Pa, Isaac and Penelope Garretson were their names, they bore the blame for my three little brothers dying in just two years. Isaac and Penelope were so mean, that’s what they deserved. I don’t reckon their meanness caused the little ones to die. I was a middle child with five before me and three after, and I saw meanness all around, every day. I never blamed anything on meanness. Not even what happened to me.

On the farm there was always work to be done, a lot of it by me. Maybe Ma and Pa spread out the work even, but I never thought so. By the time I was nine, that was in 1858, I knew what I had to do. In the spring I hiked up my skirt to plow. In the fall I sharpened the knives for butchering. In the winter I chopped firewood after Pa or Garret, he was the oldest, sawed the heaviest logs. Every morning I milked and hauled water from the well. On Thursdays I churned. On Mondays I scrubbed. Pa, and Ma too, they were busy with work, but they always had time to yell when I messed up. I was two years younger than Ellen, she’s my sister, still alive, I think. I was taller and stronger. Ellen had a bent for sewing and darning, so lots of time she sat in the parlor with handiwork. I didn’t think the parlor looked shabby. Now that I’ve seen fancy houses, I remember the scratched and frayed chairs in the farmhouse and the rough plank floor, no carpets. While Ellen sewed in the parlor, I plowed the fields, sweating behind the horses. I sewed too, but everyone knew Ellen was better. I took care with all my chores. Had to sew a straight seam. Had to plow a straight line. If I messed up, Pa’s wrath came down on me, or sometimes Ma’s. Fists or worse.

When I told that story for the first time to Miss Emilie Meury, she lowered her head, looked at the Bible she always held. And when I told it to others, they looked away too.

On the farm Ma needed me and Ellen to watch over our sisters, Tillie and Eliza, and over our brother Peter. They were born after me. Just another chore, that’s what Ellen thought about watching the young ones. For me, I liked watching them, and not just because I needed a rest from farm work. I loved Peter. He was four years younger. He’s not that sharp but he’s a good-natured, kind. I loved the girls too. Tillie, the level-headed and sweet one, and Eliza, the restless one, maybe wild even. The four of us played house. I was the ma and Peter, he stretched his

back and neck to be pa. I laughed at him, in a kindly way. He and me, we ordered Tillie and Eliza around. We played school and I pranced around as schoolmarm.

But Ma and Pa judged, they judged every move. They left the younger ones alone and paid no heed to Ellen. She looked so sour. We called her sourpuss. Garret and me, we made enough mistakes to keep Ma and Pa busy all year. I remember what I said once to Ma, when she saw the messy kitchen and started in on me.

“Why don’t you whup Ellen? She didn’t wash up either.”

“Don’t need to give a reason.”

“Why don’t you whup Garret. He made the mess.”

“You heard me. Don’t need to give a reason.”

Then she threw a dish. Hit my head. I had a bump, and more to clean.

With Pa the hurt lasted longer. Here’s what I remember. “Over there.” That’s what he said, pointing. He saw the uneven lines my plow made. When I told this story to Miss Meury, I pointed, with a mean finger, to give her the idea.

I spent that night locked in the smelly chicken coop.

When I tell about the coop, I usually tell about the cemetery next, because that’s a different kind of hurt. Every December, from the time I was little to the time I left the farm, us Garretsons took the wagon or the sleigh for our yearly visit to the cemetery, first to visit Stephen, Cornelius, and Abraham. They died long before. They were ghosts to me. I remembered the gloom of the cemetery, and the silence. The whole family stood around those graves, but I never heard a cry. Even Ma stayed quiet. I told the story, just like this, to Miss Meury. But I told it again, later, to those men who came to the prison to check my sanity.

Penelope Wykoff Garretson

I was born a Wyckoff, Penelope Wyckoff, and I felt that in my bones, even when the other farm folks called me Ma Garretson. As a Wyckoff, one of the prettiest of the Wyckoffs I’m not shy to say, I lived better than lots of the villagers in central New Jersey, certainly better than the Garretsons. I had five years of schooling and new dresses for the dances each year. I can’t remember what I saw in Isaac Garretson when we married on February 5, 1841. We slept together that night. I birthed Stephen nine months later. Then comes the sing-song litany. When I was still nursing Stephen, Garret was born. And while I was still nursing Garret, the twins were born. Then the twins died and I had only Stephen and Garret. Then Stephen died and I had no one but Garret until Ellen was born. Then Martha. Some call her Mattie. Then Peter. Then Matilda. Some call her Tillie. Then Eliza. Then Garret died. Then Eliza died. Were there more births than deaths or deaths than births?

During the worst of the birthing and the burying, Isaac got real bad. He always had a temper, I knew that, but it got worse. Maybe because the farm was failing, or almost failing. The banks in New Brunswick—that was the nearby town—wouldn’t lend him money. Those bankers knew him, knew he was a risk. Then the gambling started. Horse racing. It’s a miracle he didn’t lose the farm at the track. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my sisters, about the gambling, and I certainly didn’t tell them that the bed didn’t help any. No time for shagging. Isaac pulled me to him at the end of a day. The bed was always cold because he never cut enough firewood. I rolled away most days, not all. Knew it couldn’t be all. So tired. There were no strapping boys to

help with the farm, no girls either for a while.

As Garret grew tall and Ellen and Mattie grew some, I sent the children to the schoolhouse. It wasn’t much of a school, just a one-room unpainted cottage shared with the post office, with that awful Mr. Washburn in charge. It was what we had. Isaac thought school was no use and kept Garret and the girls back as much as he could, especially in the spring. He needed them for the farm and the truth was I could use them for housework and milking and such too. Garret didn’t mind skipping school. He was fine with farm work, but Ellen and Mattie fussed and attended more days than Garret did. I worried that Garret struggled to read and write, while the girls managed pretty well. Ellen and Mattie read when there was a need and Mattie was good with her numbers. At age nine she was already helping Isaac with his messy ledgers.

I was no fool—I knew what went on in that school. The few times I went to pull out Garret midday for plowing, that teacher, that Mr. Washburn, looked uneasy when I entered the room. He stood straight as a ramrod, looking at me, grimacing. His fingernails were clean and his collar was starched. I reckon he saw that my fingernails were filthy and my muslin dress was soiled. Washburn didn’t remember that my children, the Garretson children, were Wyckoffs just as much as they were Garretsons. He saw their threadbare clothes and treated them like dirt. Had Garret chop wood and the girls haul water, while those stuck-up Neilson girls, always with those silly smiles on their faces, sat around in their pretty dresses, snickering at the others. First, I didn’t think the snickering bothered anyone except me. Then I saw Ellen and Mattie fussing with their clothes before school, pulling the fabric around their frayed elbows to the inside, and I knew they felt bad.

I wanted to raise my children, at least my daughters, like Wyckoffs. With Isaac thinking he was in charge, that wasn’t going to happen. At least the girls knew the difference, knew there was something better than this miserable farm. But me, Ma Garretson they called me, I was stuck.

***

Excerpt from The Murderess Must Die by Marlie Wasserman. Copyright 2021 by Marlie Wasserman. Reproduced with permission from Marlie Wasserman. All rights reserved.

My Review

The Murderess Must Die is the story of the first woman to die in the electric chair and the haunting story of Martha Place, a woman you’re just not sure about throughout the book. Is she an evil, conniving woman who kills her stepdaughter and attempts to kill her husband, or is she a victim? She lets go of a child to another family and can never quite come to terms with the separation. She marries a man who is abusive toward her and a stepdaughter who does the same. Then again, she reveals all the evil thoughts she has about them as well, and unrealistically plans to get her son back. The story is told not only by Martha but by everyone involved with her case, so we get to explore the thoughts of the victims, the neighbors, the police, the lawyers, even the jailers. It is this method of storytelling that keeps the reader asking whether or not to believe in the guilt of Martha. If you are a historical fiction fan, you will enjoy The Murderess Must Die.

Author Bio:

Marlie Wasserman

Marlie Parker Wasserman writes historical crime fiction, after a career on the other side of the desk in publishing. The Murderess Must Die is her debut novel. She reviews regularly for The Historical Novel Review and is at work on a new novel about a mysterious and deadly 1899 fire in a luxury hotel in Manhattan.

Catch Up With Marlie Wasserman:
www.MarlieWasserman.com
Instagram – @marliepwasserman
Twitter – @MarlieWasserman
Facebook – @marlie.wasserman

Join In To Win!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Marlie Parker Wasserman. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs from August 16th until September 12, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Scone of Contention

Would you take the whole family on your honeymoon to Scotland? That’s what Haley and Nathan do in Scone of Contention. I love the idea of a cozy set in Scotland’s creepier settings. More about the book below, and be sure to scroll down and enter Lucy Burdette’s giveaway!

About A Scone of Contention

A Scone of Contention: A Key West Food Critic Mystery

Cozy Mystery

11th in the Series

A murderer’s out to spoil Hayley’s honeymoon in national bestselling author Lucy Burdette’s eleventh Key West Food Critic Mystery.

Key Zest food critic Hayley Snow and her groom, police detective Nathan Bransford, chose Scotland for their long-delayed honeymoon, hoping to sightsee and enjoy some prize-winning scones. But their romantic duo swells to a crowd when they’re joined by Nathan’s family as well as octogenarian Miss Gloria.

Nathan’s sister Vera takes the women on a whirlwind tour of some of Scotland’s iconic mystic places as research for a looming book project. But the trip takes a deadly tartan turn when a dinner party guest falls ill and claims she was poisoned. And then the group watches in horror as a mysterious tourist tumbles to his death from the famous Falkirk Wheel, high above the Forth & Clyde canal.

Vera and her friends deny knowing the dead man, but after observing their reactions to the fall, Hayley is not convinced. With one person dead, a second possibly poisoned, and the tension among Vera’s friends as thick as farmhouse cheese, Hayley fears her long-awaited honeymoon might end with another murder.

Far away from home, surrounded by unfamiliar faces, eccentric characters, and a forbiddingly gorgeous setting, Hayley must call on all her savvy to keep a killer from striking again and then escaping Scot free.

About Lucy Burdette

Courtesy Carol Tedesco

Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) is the author of 19 mysteries, including A SCONE OF CONTENTION, the eleventh book in the Key West series featuring food critic Hayley Snow. THE KEY LIME CRIME won the bronze medal for popular fiction in the Florida Book Awards. Lucy’s books and stories have also been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She’s a past president of Sisters in Crime, and currently serving as president of the Friends of the Key West Library.

Author Links

Instagram –instagram.com/LucyBurdette

Website – http://lucyburdette.com

Bookbub https://www.bookbub.com/profile/lucy-burdette

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lucyburdette

Twitter: www.twitter.com/lucyburdette

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/robertaisleib

Blogs: http://www.mysteryloverskitchen.com http://www.jungleredwriters.com

Purchase Links – AmazonB&NKobo - IndieBoundPenguinRandomHouse

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Murder on Honky-Tonk Row

Murder on Honky-Tonk Row Banner

      

Now that my husband and I are getting up in years, I have tried to convince him that we need to buy a camper and visit all those places we’ve been too busy to see. He hates the idea, so I was tickled pink to find a mystery that centers around a group of older people who visit cities and historical areas in their RVs. Murder on Honky-Tonk Row takes place in Nashville and if the “camping with friends” thing doesn’t get you, Rita Moreau throws in a crazy ghost named Irma who loves to dress for the occasion. Read more about Murder on Honky-Tonk Row below including my review. Don’t forget to enter Rita’s giveaway!

About Murder on Honky-Tonk Row

Murder on Honky-Tonk Row

Murder on Honky-Tonk Row: A Ghost & Camper Kooky Mystery

Paranormal Cozy Mystery

2nd in Series

Goodreads

Will camping in the country music capital have Mabel kicking up some saw dust… or line-dancing to her doom?

Despite their good deed in Savannah, Mabel Gold’s ghostly friend Irma remains stuck in Purgatory. So when the plucky sixty-something divorcée pulls her haunted vintage camper into a Nashville campground, she’s expecting Irma to accompany her on the tour of the Grand Ole Opry. But as they two-step into a honky-tonk for some live tunes, they’re shocked to encounter two lost spirits stranded there for the past twenty years after their double homicide.

Though St. Peter hints that solving the long-closed case could get Irma through the Pearly Gates, Mabel has little time to uncover the culprit before she’s due to boot-scoot off to the Badlands. But when shady financials surface and threaten to ruin the honky-tonk owner’s run for governor, trying to help the poor souls pass on could land the fearless sleuth in a whole heap o’ trouble.

Can Mabel collar the killer before she’s singing country-western with choirs of angels?

Murder on Honky-Tonk Row is the second book in the lighthearted Ghost & the Camper kooky mystery series. If you like wacky characters, quick-witted banter, and crooners with a twang, then you’ll love Rita Moreau’s clever caper.

 

My Review  4 Stars

Mabel is traveling around the country in a camper with a group of friends. She also has one uninvited guest along with her, Irma, the overdressed ghost who often takes on the persona of the outfit she’s wearing. Not only does Irma talk about her life but directs Mabel to other lingering ghosts in the area. In Murder on Honky-Tonk Row they are in Nashville where they come upon the ghosts of a man and woman who were murdered. Mabel and her friends need to find out who killed these people so that Irma can get in good with St Peter and out of purgatory. I enjoyed this story and loved the interesting characters the author created both in this world and the next.

Buy the book here – Amazon

 

About Rita Moreau

Rita Moreau is the author of the Mary Catherine Mahoney Mystery series and the Ghost & Camper Kooky Mystery series.

A workaholic by nature, upon retirement, Rita Moreau began work on her bucket list, writing a book. Traveling the national parks with her husband George in a vintage Bluebird motor home, (on George’s list), Rita completed her first novel Bribing Saint Anthony. Back home she completed Nuns! Psychics! & Gypsies! OH! NO, Feisty Nuns and The Russian & Aunt Sophia and The House on Xenia. Last year when we entered the Twilight Zone Rita wrote the first two new novels in the Ghost & the Camper series. Rita and her husband live in a postcard called Florida where he has fun telling everyone he is the author’s husband. When not writing she joins PatZi Gil on the Joy on Paper radio program with Book Buzz Mysteries, or you can find her teaching Silver Sneakers fitness classes and doing her best to keep busy. She loves connecting with readers. Visit her at http://www.RitaMoreau.com or find her on Facebook at facebook.com/RitaMoreauAuthor. She would love to hear from you.

Author Links

Website –Facebook –Twitter –Instagram –Radio –GoodReads –

Purchase Link – Amazon

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Books to the Ceiling August Newsletter

 

Books to the Ceiling August Newsletter

 

August is upon us, and I’m busy writing short stories and editing what will be my first book in the Swinging Sixties Series. The series starts in 1962 with a young secretarial student in a small town north of Dallas. She’s a smart one, a little too smart for her business school teacher, which will eventually get her in trouble. Being a big fan of The Help and Mad Men, I knew I wanted to set a mystery series in this time period. The first book, The Twist and Shout Murder will be coming out in January 2022.

If you want to enter more giveaways check out my GIVEAWAYS page on the blog. I update it weekly. Click Here to There Right Now. These are giveaways generated by visiting authors on blog tours.

FEATURED BOOKS AND GIVEAWAYS FOR THIS MONTH

August 6/Review
Will camping in the country music capital have Mabel kicking up some saw dust or line-dancing to her doom?
Despite their good deed in Savannah, Mabel Gold’s ghostly friend Irma remains stuck in Purgatory. So when the plucky sixty-something divorcee pulls her haunted vintage camper into a Nashville campground, she’s expecting Irma to accompany her on the tour of the Grand Ole Opry. But as they two-step into a honky-tonk for some live tunes, they’re shocked to encounter two lost spirits stranded there for the past twenty years after their double homicide..
See Giveaway on Day of Post
August 13/Spotlight
A murderer’s out to spoil Hayley’s honeymoon in national bestselling author Lucy Burdette’s eleventh Key West Food Critic Mystery.

 

Key Zest food critic Hayley Snow and her groom, police detective Nathan Bransford, chose Scotland for their long-delayed honeymoon, hoping to sightsee and enjoy some prize-winning scones. But their romantic duo swells to a crowd when they’re joined by Nathan’s family as well as octogenarian Miss Gloria.

Nathan’s sister Vera takes the women on a whirlwind tour of some of Scotland’s iconic mystic places as research for a looming book project. But the trip takes a deadly tartan turn when a dinner party guest falls ill and claims she was poisoned.
See Giveaway on Day of Post

August 20/Review
On a winter day in 1898, hundreds of spectators gather at a Brooklyn courthouse, scrambling for a view of the woman they label a murderess. Martha Place has been charged with throwing acid in her stepdaughter’s face, hitting her with an axe, suffocating her with a pillow, then trying to kill her husband with the same axe. The crowd will not know for another year that the alleged murderess becomes the first woman in the world to be executed in the electric chair.
See Giveaway on Day of Post
August 26/Spotlight
While planning her wedding, Sophie Kimball gets sidetracked by the murder of a model train enthusiast . . .

 

Phee’s marriage to Marshall Gregory promises to be the wedding of the year in Arizona’s Sun City West – that is, if you ask her mother Harriet. But before she can walk down the aisle, it looks like she has to solve one more murder. At a model train exhibit, Phee, Harriet, and their beloved Chiweenie, Streetman, discover the body of Sun City West’s railroad club president, with an incriminating tap shoe near his lifeless corpse.

See Giveaway on Day of Post

The Happy Hinter
Betsy Livingston Fitzpatrick here, Happy Hinter and part-time crime solver. Leo and I have just returned from a week in Galveston and I learned a little something about sand. It gets everywhere! Cars, clothes, cell phones, ereaders, toys. Here’s a little something I learned that will help you get sand off your feet when you’re piling into the car with the kids after a long day at the beach. If you have beach feet, put a towel down in the floorboard of the car, hold your feet over the towel, sprinkle some baby powder over your feet and then rub the area. The sand will come right off. Wad up the towel and shake outside the car.

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Oona Out of Order

Every once in a while, I run into a book that is totally different from anything I’ve ever read. When Oona Out of Order was recommended to me, I started listening to the audiobook and didn’t stop for three days. Wow, what a story. Just imagine if the years of your life were out of order. Say you just turned eighteen but wake up to find you are sixty-five with an eighteen-year-old’s brain, maturation level, and lack of judgement. That is the premise of Oona Out of Order.

Realistically, don’t we all feel a little younger than what the mirror shows us? I’m still that thirty-five-year-old inside, even though the rest of me is not cooperating.

If you glanced at the cover, look at it again. Check out the different shades of Oona’s hair, including the grey! This time-travel novel came out in 2020.

Book Description:

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK

AMAZON EDITORS’ 20 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR PICK

“With its countless epiphanies and surprises, Oona proves difficult to put down.” —USA Today

“By turns tragic and triumphant, heartbreakingly poignant and joyful, this is ultimately an uplifting and redemptive read.” —The Guardian

A remarkably inventive novel that explores what it means to live a life fully in the moment, even if those moments are out of order.

It’s New Year’s Eve 1982, and Oona Lockhart has her whole life before her. At the stroke of midnight she will turn nineteen, and the year ahead promises to be one of consequence. Should she go to London to study economics, or remain at home in Brooklyn to pursue her passion for music and be with her boyfriend? As the countdown to the New Year begins, Oona faints and awakens thirty-two years in the future in her fifty-one-year-old body. Greeted by a friendly stranger in a beautiful house she’s told is her own, Oona learns that with each passing year she will leap to another age at random. And so begins Oona Out of Order

Hopping through decades, pop culture fads, and much-needed stock tips, Oona is still a young woman on the inside but ever changing on the outside. Who will she be next year? Philanthropist? Club Kid? World traveler? Wife to a man she’s never met? Surprising, magical, and heart-wrenching, Margarita Montimore has crafted an unforgettable story about the burdens of time, the endurance of love, and the power of family.

My Review 5 Stars

I absolutely loved the idea of this story where Oona finds herself in a new year of her life on every New Year’s Day. She could be forty or twenty-one. Because she jumps around so much she tries to leave herself letters but it doesn’t always work out. She finds joy and hardship and learns to appreciate every moment of living even though it’s out of order. This is a terrific time-travel book full of surprises that will keep you reading late into the night.

Murder at the Sea Captain’s Inn

Wouldn’t you just love to inherit an old inn on the Outer Banks of North Carolina?  Murder at the Sea Captain’s Inn is full of psychic clues through books, the lifelong bond of twins, and of course, a murder. This isn’t just any inn, but one with a secret study and plenty of mystery. I don’t know if I’d be up for making those bed-and-breakfast muffins every morning, but I could get used to the view. 

Scroll down for the giveaway!

by Melissa Bourbon

About Murder at Sea Captain’s Inn

Murder at Sea Captain’s Inn (A Book Magic Mystery)

Cozy Mystery

3rd in Series

Generation after generation of Lane women die in childbirth, while the sea claims the men.

Pippin Lane Hawthorne’s grand opening of Sea Captain’s Inn is tainted when a scholar studying the Lost Colony of Roanoke is brutally murdered. Like the black crow that hangs around the old house, could the untimely death be a harbinger of dark things to come?

When her twin brother, Grey, begins bucking the curse by risking his life in the waters of the Outer Banks, Pippin lives in terror that he’ll be the next Lane male to be swallowed by the sea. Now she must use her gift of bibliomancy to save her brother, solve the murder, and end a two thousand year old pact.

My Review 4 Stars

Pippin and her twin brother Grey, are ready for the grand opening of The Sea Captain’s Inn. The inn is on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and has been in their family for decades. There is an archaeological dig on the island and one of Pippin’s first guests, a very hard to please customer, is concerned about security. There are several layers to this mystery and the magical power of bibliomancy became one of the best parts of the story. I also loved the relationship between Pippin and Grey living apart but always together as twins. This is the first book I’ve read in the series and really loved it!  

About Melissa Bourbon

Melissa Bourbon is the national bestselling author of more than twenty-five mystery books, including the Book Magic mysteries, the Lola Cruz Mysteries, A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series, and the Bread Shop Mysteries, written as Winnie Archer. She is a former middle school English teacher who gave up the classroom in order to live in her imagination full time. Melissa lives in North Carolina with her educator husband, Carlos. She is beyond fortunate to be living the life of her dreams. Learn more about Melissa at her website, www.melissabourbon.com, on Facebook @MelissaBourbon/Winnie ArcherBooks, and on Instagram @bookishly_cozy.

Author Links

Website: http://melissabourbon.com

Book Warriors Online Book Club: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BookWarriors

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bookishly_cozy/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5423119.Melissa_Bourbon

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmyAuh_IzHHYkzWzuZg9OVA

Purchase Link – Amazon 

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Murder at the Lakeside Library

Murder at the Lakeside Library Banner

It’s time to head to that fictional cabin on the lake we all have! Holly Danvers takes us there with Murder at the Lakeside Library. Doesn’t just the thought of spending your summer in an Adirondack chair deep into a good book, just fill you with peace? Relax, enjoy, listen to the loons. 

Be sure to scroll down for my review and to enter Holly’s giveaway!

About Murder at the Lakeside Library

Murder at

Murder at the Lakeside Library: A Lakeside Library Mystery

Cozy Mystery

1st in Series

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (July 13, 2021)

Goodreads Button

In this series debut perfect for fans of Jenn McKinlay and Miranda James, Rain Wilmot must discover the killer, before the book closes on her life.

Rain Wilmot has just returned to her family’s waterfront log cabin in Lofty Pines, Wisconsin after the untimely death of her husband. The cabin is peaceful compared to Rain’s corporate job and comes with an informal library that Rain’s mother, Willow, used to run. But as Rain prepares for the re-opening of the library, all hopes for a peaceful life are shattered when she discovers the body of Thornton Hughes, a real estate buyer, on the premises.

The community of Lofty Pines starts pointing fingers at Willow, since she has been unusually absent from the library this summer. A fishy rumor surfaces when Rain learns that Willow had been spending a lot of time with Thornton. The town even thought they were having an affair.

While theories swirl about Thornton’s death, Rain takes it upon herself to solve the case to exonerate her mother. As more clues surface, Rain will have to piece together the mystery. But if she isn’t careful, she may be the next to end up dead in the water in Murder at the Lakeside Library, the first in Holly Danvers’ new Lakeside Library mysteries.

My Review

Rain Wilmot goes to her family’s cabin/summer library over the summer to recover from the loss of her husband, but finds she will be responsible for running the library. She’s joined by her old friend Julia and her husband who live just down the path. A man her mother seems to have known intimately is found dead behind the outhouse holding one of Rain’s grandfather’s books. This is a story that makes you look twice at your parents! I loved the cozy setting and the whole idea of “Lakers” (not the basketball team) and running a summer library. It gave me that On Golden Pond feeling but with a delicious cozy mystery wrapped up in it! The mystery left me guessing and I enjoyed this first book of the series.

About Holly Danvers 

Holly Danvers grew up devouring every mystery novel on the shelf of her local library. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and 3 chickens, where she’s already plotting her next novel.

Author Links

Website – www.authorhollydanvers.com

GoodReads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20823355.Holly_Danvers

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/HollyDanversBooks/

Purchase Links – AmazonB&NKoboIndieBound 

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