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.


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


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.


“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.


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:
BookBub – @KatFlannery
Instagram – @katflannery_
Twitter – @KatFlannery1
Facebook – @kat.flannery.5




This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Kat Flannery. There will be 1 winner of one (1) 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


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.


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


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


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:


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:
Instagram – @marliepwasserman
Twitter – @MarlieWasserman
Facebook – @marlie.wasserman

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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) Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs from August 16th until September 12, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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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.

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Murder on Honky-Tonk Row

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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


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 or find her on Facebook at 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.


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:




“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,, on Facebook @MelissaBourbon/Winnie ArcherBooks, and on Instagram @bookishly_cozy.

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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)

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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

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Purchase Links – AmazonB&NKoboIndieBound 

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Overdue for Murder

Books to the Ceiling July Newsletter

The third book in my Pecan Bayou Series takes place during the Fourth of July! I loved writing this book because of the pint-sized beauty pageant. I was a beauty pageant judge once and let me tell you, there were moms and tap dancing middle schoolers around every corner.

A BIG CONGRATULATIONS TO THE FRENCH RIVER READING CLUB who won my book club giveaway! I can’t wait to Zoom with all of you. This giveaway was such a success that I plan to do more in the future.
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.


These are the the books I have so far, but check back on Fridays just in case I add more!

July 16/Review
Murder at the Lakeside Library
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.
See Giveaway on Day of Post
July 23/Review
Murder at Sea Captains Inn
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.
See Giveaway on Day of Post

The Happy Hinter
Betsy Livingston Fitzpatrick here, Happy Hinter and part-time crime solver. Spring has sprung here in Pecan Bayou cutting up onions to put on those juicy grilled hamburgers we’re all making. Instead of crying all over the place causing my family to question my mood, I cut out the root cluster of the onion. That’s the part that makes you cry. Now getting to the root cluster will still cause you eye discomfort, but then after that, you’re golden.

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The Begonia Killer

The Begonia Killer by Jeff Bond Banner

There are plenty of mysteries out there that are dark and somber, but seriously how many stories have you read about the endangered lives of begonias? The Begonia Killer is a hilarious mystery about that weird neighbor you’re just not sure of. You know the guy. Today we have an excerpt and a giveaway for The Begonia Killer.



The Begonia Killer by Jeff Bond

You know Molly McGill from her death-defying escapes in Anarchy of the Mice, book one of the Third Chance Enterprises series. Now ride along for her first standalone caper, The Begonia Killer.

When Martha Dodson hires McGill Investigators to look into an odd neighbor, Molly feels optimistic about the case — right up until Martha reveals her theory that Kent Kirkland, the neighbor, is holding two boys hostage in his papered-over upstairs bedroom.

Martha’s husband thinks she needs a hobby. Detective Art Judd, who Molly visits on her client’s behalf, sees no evidence worthy of devoting police resources.

But Molly feels a kinship with the Yancy Park housewife and bone-deep concern for the missing boys.

She forges ahead with the investigation, navigating her own headstrong kids, an unlikely romance with Detective Judd, and a suspect in Kent Kirkland every bit as terrifying as the supervillains she’s battled before alongside Quaid Rafferty and Durwood Oak Jones.

The Begonia Killer is not your grandparents’ cozy mystery.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery — Cozy/Romance
Published by: Jeff Bond Books

You can find The Begonia Killer at these websites: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:


By Jeff Bond

Chapter One

After twenty minutes on Martha Dodson’s couch, listening to her suspicions about the neighbor, I respected the woman. She was no idle snoop. She’d noticed his compulsive begonia care out the window while making lavender sachets from burlap scraps. She hadn’t even been aware of the papered-over bedroom above his garage until her postal carrier had commented.

I asked, “And the day he removed the begonias, how did you happen to see that?”

Martha set tea before me on a coaster, twisting the cup so its handle faced me. “Ziggy and I were out for a walk—he’d just done his business. I stood up to knot the bag…”

Her kindly face curdled, and I thought she might be remembering the product of Ziggy’s “business” until she finished, “Then we saw him start hacking, and scowling, and thrusting those clippers at his flowers.”

Her eyes, a pleasing hazel shade, darkened at the memory.

She added, “At his own flowers.”

I shifted my skirt, giving her a moment. “The begonias were in a mailbox planter?”

“Right by the street, yes. The whole incident happened just a few feet from passing cars, from the sidewalk where parents push babies in strollers.”

“Did he dispose of the mess afterward?”

“Immediately,” Martha said. “He looked at his clippers for a second—the blades were streaked with green from all those leaves and stems he’d destroyed—then he sort of recovered. He picked everything up and placed it in the yard-waste bin. Every last petal.”

“He sounds meticulous.”


I jotted Cleaned up begonia mess in my notebook.

Maybe because of my psychology background—I’m twelve credit-hours shy of a PhD—I like to start these introductory interviews by allowing clients time to just talk, open-ended. I want to know what they feel is important. Often this tells as much about them as it does about whatever they’re asking me to/ investigate.

Martha Dodson had talked about children first. Hers were in college. Did I have little ones? I’d waived my usual practice of withholding personal information and said yes, six and fourteen. She’d clapped and rubbed her hands. Wonderful! Where did they go to school?

Next we’d talked crafting. Martha liked to knit and make felt flowers for centerpieces, for vase arrangements, even to decorate shoes—that type of crafter whose creativity spills beyond the available mediums and fills a house, infusing every shelf and surface.

Only with this groundwork lain had she told me about the case itself, describing the various oddities of her neighbor three doors down, Kent Kirkland.

I was still waiting to hear the crux of her problem, the reason she wanted to hire McGill Investigators. (Full disclosure—although the name is plural, there’s only one investigator: Molly McGill. Me.)

“That sounds like an intense, visceral moment,” I said, squaring myself to Martha on the couch. “So has he done something to your flowers? Are you engaged in a dispute with him?”

Martha shook her head. Then, with perfect composure, she said, “I think he’s keeping a boy in the bedroom over his garage.”

I felt like somebody had blasted jets of freezing air into both my ears. The pen I’d been taking notes with tumbled from my hand to the carpet.

“Wait, keeping a boy?” I said.


“Against his will? As in, kidnapping?”

Martha nodded.

I was having trouble reconciling this woman in front of me—cardigan sweater, hair in a layered crop—with the accusation she’d just uttered. We were sitting in a nice New Jersey neighborhood. Nicer than mine. We were drinking tea.

She said, “There might be two.”

Now my notebook dropped to the carpet.

“Two?” I said. “You think this man is holding two boys hostage?”

“I don’t know for sure,” she said. “If I knew for sure, I’d be over there breaking down the door myself. But I suspect it.”

She explained that a ten-year-old boy from the next town over had gone missing six months ago. The parents had been quoted as saying they “lost track of” their son. They hadn’t reported his disappearance until the evening after they’d last seen him.

“The mother told reporters he wanted a scooter for Christmas, one of those cute kick scooters.” Martha sniffled at the memory. “Guess what I saw the UPS driver drop off on Kent Kirkland’s porch two weeks ago?”

“A scooter,” I said.

Her eyes flashed. “A very large box from a company that makes scooters.”

Having retrieved my notebook, I jotted, box delivery (scooter?) . We talked a bit about this scooter company—which also made bikes, dehumidifiers, and air fryers.

Scooter or not, there remained about a million dots to be connected from this boy’s case, which I vaguely remembered from news reports, to Kent Kirkland.

I left the dots aside for now. “How do you get to two boys?”

“There was another missing boy, about the same age. During the summer.” Martha’s mouth moved in place like she was counting up how many jars of tomatoes she’d canned yesterday. “He lived close, too. That case was complicated because the parents had just divorced, and the dad—who was a native Venezuelan—had just moved back. People suspected him of taking the boy with him.”

“To Venezuela?”

“Yes. Apparently the State Department couldn’t get any answers.”

I nodded, not because I accepted all that she was telling me, but because there was no other polite response available.

Neither of us spoke. Our eyes drifted together down the street to Kent Kirkland’s two-story saltbox home. Pale yellow vinyl siding. Tall privacy fence. Three separate posted notices to “Please pick up after your pet.” Neighborhood Watch sign at the corner.

Finally, I said, “Look, Mrs. Dodson. Martha. Most of the cases we handle at McGill Investigators are domestic in nature. Straying husbands. Teenagers mixed up with the wrong crowd. I’m a mother myself, and I’ve been a wife. Twice.” I softened this disclosure with a smirk. “I generally take cases where my own life experiences can be brought to bear.”

“But that’s why I chose you.” Martha worried her hands in her lap. “Your website says, ‘Every case will be treated with dignity and discretion.’ That’s all I ask.”

I looked into her eyes and said, “Okay.”

She seemed to sense my reluctance and started, rushing, “Those bedroom windows are papered-over twenty-four hours a day! And the begonias, you didn’t see him destroy those begonias! I saw how he severed their stalks and shredded their root systems. You don’t do that to flowers you’ve tended for an entire season. Not if you’re a person of sound mind.”

“Gardening is more challenging for some than others. I love rhododendrons, but I can’t keep them alive. I over-water, I under-water. I plant them in the wrong spot.”

“Have you ever massacred them in a fit of rage?”

“No.” I smiled. “But I’ve wanted to.”

Martha couldn’t help returning the smile. But her eyes stayed on Kent Kirkland’s house.

I said, “Some men aren’t blessed with impulse control. Maybe he was a lousy gardener, he’d tried fertilizing and everything else, and the plants just refused to—”

“But he wasn’t a lousy gardener. He was excellent. I think he grew those begonias from seed. He wanted them to be perennials, is my theory, but we’re in zone seven—they’re annuals here. He couldn’t accept them dying off.”

Again, I was at a loss. I liked Martha Dodson. She had seemed like a reasonable person, right up until she’d started talking about kidnappings and Venezuela.

She scooted closer on the couch. “You didn’t see the rage, Miss McGill. I saw it. I saw him that day. He walked out of the garage with hand pruners, but he took one look at those begonias—leaves browning at the edges, stems tangled like green worms—and flipped out. He turned right around, put away the hand pruners and came back with clippers.”

She mimed viciously snapping a pair of clippers closed.

“Rage is one thing,” I said. “Kidnapping is another.”

“Of course,” Martha said. “That’s why I’d like to hire you: to figure out what he might be capable of.”

Her pupils seemed to pulse in place.

“I want to help you out, honestly.” I took her hand. “I do.”

“Is it money? I—I could pay you more. A little.”

Saying this, she seemed to linger on my jacket. I’d recently swapped out my boiled wool standby for this slightly flashier one, red leather with zippers. I had no great ambitions about an image upgrade; it’d just felt like time for a change.

“The fee we discussed will be sufficient,” I said. Martha had mentioned she was paying out of her own pocket, not from her and her husband’s joint account. “My concern is more about the substance of the case. It feels a bit outside my expertise.”

She clasped her hands at her waist. “Is it a question of danger? Do you not handle dangerous jobs?”

I balked. In fact, I’d done extremely dangerous jobs before, but only as part of Third Chance Enterprises, the freelance small-force, private arms team led by Quaid Rafferty and Durwood Oak Jones. We’d stopped an art heist in Italy. We’d saved the world from anarchist-hackers. Sometimes I can hardly believe our missions happened. They feel like half dream, half blockbuster movies starring me. Every couple years, just about the time I start thinking they really might be dreams, Quaid shows up again on my front porch.

“I don’t mind facing danger on a client’s behalf,” I said. “But McGill Investigators isn’t meant to replace the proper authorities. If you believe Mr. Kirkland is involved in these disappearances, your first stop should be the police.”

“Mm.” Martha’s face wilted, reminding me of those unlucky begonias. “Actually, it was.”

“You spoke with the police?”

She nodded. “Yes. Well, more of a front desk person. I told him exactly what I’ve been telling you today.”

“How did he respond?”

There was a floor loom beside the couch. Martha threaded her fingers through its empty spindles, seeming to need its feel.

“He said the department would ‘give the tip its due attention.’ Then on my way out, he asked if I’d ever read anything by J.D. Robb.”

“The mystery writer?” I asked.

“Right. He told me J.D. Robb was really Nora Roberts, the romance novelist. He said I should try them. He had a hunch I’d like them.”

My teeth were grinding.

I said, “Some men are idiots.”

Martha’s face eased gratefully. “Oh, my husband thinks the same. I’m a Yancy Park housewife with too much time on her hands. He says Kirkland’s just an odd duck. When I told him about the begonias, he got this confused expression and said, ‘What’s a perennial?’”

I could relate. My first husband had once handed me baking soda when I asked for cornstarch to thicken up an Italian beef sauce. The dish came out tasting like soap. After I traced back the mistake, he grumbled, “Ah, relax. They’re both white powders.”

As much as I probably should have, I couldn’t refuse Martha. Not after this conversation.

“I suppose I can do some poking around,” I said. “See if he, I don’t know, buys suspicious items at the grocery store. Or puts something in his garbage that might have come from a child.”

Martha lurched forward and clutched my hands like I’d just solved the case of Jack the Ripper.

“That would be amazing!” she cried. “Thank you so much! I know this seems far-fetched, but my instincts tell me something’s wrong at that house. If I didn’t follow through, if it turned out I was right and those little boys…”

She didn’t finish. I was glad.


The state of New Jersey offers private investigator licenses, but I’ve never gotten one. It doesn’t entitle you to much, and you have to put up two hundred and fifty dollars, plus a three-thousand-dollar “surety bond.” Besides the money, you’re supposed to have served five years as an investigator or police officer. Which I haven’t.

For all these reasons, my first stop after taking any case involving possible crimes is the local police station. Sometimes the police are impressed enough by what I tell them to assign their own personnel, usually some rookie detective or beat cop.

Other times, not.

“Begonias, huh?” said Detective Art Judd, lacing his fingers behind a head of bushy brown hair. “The ones with the thick, fluffy flower heads?”

“You’re thinking of chrysanthemums,” I said.

“Nnnno, I feel like it was begonias.”

“Not begonias. Maybe peonies?”

“Don’t think so,” he said. “I’m pretty sure the gal in the garden center said begonias.”

I was annoyed—one, at his stubborn ignorance of flowers, and two, that he’d segued so breezily off the subject of Kent Kirkland.

“The only other possibility with a thick, fluffy flower-head would be roses,” I said. “But if you don’t know what a rose looks like, you’re in trouble.”

Art Judd’s lips curled up below a mustache. “You could be right.”

I waited for him to return to Kirkland, to stand and pace about his sparsely decorated office, to offer some comment on the bizarre behavior I’d been describing for the last twenty minutes.

But he just looked at me.

Oh, I didn’t mind terribly being looked at. He was handsome enough in a best-bowler-on-his-Tuesday-night-league-team way. Broad sloping shoulders, large hand gestures that made the physical distance between our chairs feel shorter than it was.

I’d come for Martha Dodson, though.

“Leaving aside what is or isn’t a begonia,” I said, “how would you feel about checking into Kent Kirkland? Maybe sending an officer over to his house.”

He finally gave up his stare, kicking back from his metal desk with a sigh. “The department barely has enough black-and-whites to service the parking meters downtown.”

“I’m talking about missing boys. Not parking meters.”

“Point taken,” he said. “Why didn’t Mrs. Dodson come herself with this information?”

“She did. Your front desk person brushed her off.”

The detective looked past me into the precinct lobby. “They see a lot of nut jobs. You can’t go calling in the calvary every time someone comes in saying their neighbor hung the wrong curtains.”

“They aren’t curtains,” I said. “The windows are papered-over. Completely opaque.”

He rubbed his jaw. I thought he might be struggling to keep a straight face.

I continued with conviction I wasn’t sure I actually felt, “I saw it. It isn’t normal how he obscures that window. Martha thinks it’s weird, and it is weird.”

“Weird,” he said flatly. “Two votes for weird.”

“You put those Neighborhood Watch signs up, right?” In response to his slouch, I stood. “You encourage citizens to report anything out of the ordinary. When a citizen does so, the proper response would seem to be gratitude—or, at the very least, respect.”

This, either the words or my standing up, finally pierced the detective’s blithe manner.

“Okay, I give. You win.” His barrel chest rose and fell in a concessionary breath. “It’s true, with police work you never know which detail matters until it matters. Please apologize to Mrs. Dodson on behalf of the department. And I’ll be sure to have a word with Jimmie.”

He gestured to the lobby. “Kid’s been getting too big for his britches for a while now.”

I thanked him, and he ducked his head in return.

Then he said, “I suppose she thinks one of those boys being held is Calvin Witt.”

The boy whose parents had lost track of him.

“Yes,” I said. “The timing does fit.”

I considered mentioning the scooter, Calvin’s Christmas wish, but decided not to. We didn’t need to go down the rabbit hole of box shapes and labeling, and whether grown men rode scooters.

Detective Judd looked ponderously at the ceiling. I didn’t expect him to divulge information about a live case, but I thought if he knew something exculpatory—that Calvin Witt had been spotted in Florida, say—he might pass it along and save me some trouble.

“I hate to say this, but I honestly doubt young Calvin is among the living.” Art Judd smeared a hand through his mustache. “The father gambled online. Mom wanted out of the marriage, bad. She told anybody in her old sorority who’d pick up her call. Both of them methheads.”

“That’s disheartening,” I said. “So you think the parents…”

He nodded, reluctance heavy on his brow. “It’ll be a park, under some tree. Downstream on the banks of the Millstone. Pray to God I’m wrong.”

I matched his glum expression, both a genuine reaction and a professional tactic to encourage more disclosure. “Does the department have staff psychologists, people who study these dysfunctional family dynamics? Who’re qualified to unpack the facts?”

“Eh.” Art Judd flung out his arm. “You do this job long enough, you start recognizing patterns.”

This was a common reaction to the field of psychology: that it was just everyday observation masquerading as science, than anyone with a little horse sense could practice it.

I said, “Antipathy between spouses doesn’t predict antipathy toward the offspring, generally.”

The detective’s face glazed over like I’d just recited Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

“Perhaps I could conduct an interview,” I said. “As a private citizen, just to hear more background on Calvin?”

He chuckled out of his stupor. “Good try. You’re free to call as you like, but I don’t think the Witts are real receptive to interview requests now—with the exception of the paying sort.”

I crossed my legs, causing my skirt to shift higher up my knee. “Is there any further background you’d be able to share? You personally?”

His gaze did tick down, and he seemed to lose his first word under his tongue.

“Urb, I—I guess it’s all more or less leaked in the press anyway,” he said, and proceeded to give me the story—as the police understood it—of Calvin Witt.

Calvin had a lot to overcome. His parents, besides their drug and money problems, were morbidly obese, and had passed this along to Calvin. A social worker’s report found inadequate supplies of fresh fruit and lean proteins at the home. They’d basically raised him on McDonald’s and ice cream sandwiches. Calvin had learning and attention disorders. He started fights in school. His parents couldn’t account for huge swaths of his day, of his week even.

“They let him run like the junkyard dog,” Detective Judd said. “All we know about the night he disappeared, we got off the kid’s bus pass. Thankfully it’d been registered. We know he boarded a bus downtown, late.”

I opened my mouth to ask a follow-up.

“Before you get ideas,” he said, “no, the route didn’t pass anywhere near Martha Dodson’s neighborhood. We always crosscheck Yancy Park in these cases. That’s where the Ferguson place is.”


“Yeah. Big rickety house, half falling over? Looks like the city dump. You shoulda passed it on the way.”

I shook my head.

“Well,” he continued, “that’s where the Fergusons live, crusty old married couple. Them and whatever riffraff needs a room. Plenty of crime there. Squalor. The neighbors keep trying to get it condemned.”

I definitely didn’t remember driving past a place like that. “Were there any witnesses who saw Calvin on the bus? Saw who he was with?”

“Nobody who’d talk.”

“Camera footage?”

The detective palmed his meaty elbow. “Have you seen the city’s transportation budget?”

I incorporated the new information, thinking about Kent Kirkland. He was single according to Martha. Mid-thirties. He worked from home—something to do with programming or web design, she thought.

Did he have a car? I’d noticed a two-car garage, but I hadn’t seen inside.

Did he go out socially? To bars? Or trivia nights?

Could he have ridden the bus downtown?

“Martha mentioned another case,” I said. “Last summer, I think it was. Another boy in the same vicinity?”

At first, Detective Judd only squinted.

I prompted, “There was some connection to Venezuela. The father was born there, maybe he—”

“Right, that Ramos kid!” Judd smacked his forehead. “How could I forget? Talk about red tape, my gosh. So he’s boy number two, is that it?”

I couldn’t very well answer “yes” to a question posed like that.

I simply repeated, “Martha mentioned the case.”

“Yep. That was a doozy.” As he remembered, he walked to a file cabinet and pulled open a drawer. “Real exercise in frustration.”

“There was trouble with the Venezuelan government?”

“And how.” He swelled his eyes, thumbing through manila folders, finally lifting out an overstuffed one. “I must’ve filled out fifty forms myself, no joke.”

He tossed the file on his desk. Documents slumped from the folder out across his computer keyboard.

I asked, “You never located the boy?”

“Not definitively. We had a witness put him with the paternal grandparents, the day before Dad put the whole crew on a plane.”

“Did you interview him?”


“The father.”

Detective Judd burbled his lips. “Nope. The Venezuelans stonewalled us—never could get him, not even on the horn. He told some website he had no clue where the kid was, but come on. They took him.”

I’d been following along with his account, understanding the logic and sequence—until this. I thought about Zach, my fourteen-year-old, and what lengths I would’ve gone to if he’d disappeared with his father.

“So you…stopped?” I said.

He stiffened. “We hit a brick wall, like I said.”

“Yes, but a boy had been taken from his mother. What did she say? Was she satisfied with the investigation?”

“No.” Judd’s mouth tightened under his mustache. His tone turned challenging. “Nobody’s satisfied when they don’t like the outcome.”

I tugged my skirt lower, covering my knee.

He continued, “I get fifty-some cases across my desk every week, Miss McGill. I don’t have the luxury of devoting my whole day to chasing crackpot theories just because somebody looks angry snipping their flowers.”

“Of course,” I said. “Which makes me the crackpot.”

He closed his eyes, as though summoning patience. “You seem like a nice lady. And look, I admit I’m a Neanderthal when it comes to matters—”

“‘Nice lady’ puts you dangerously close to pre-Neanderthal territory.”

He smiled. In the pause, two buttons began blinking on his phone.

“Pleasant as it’s been getting acquainted with you,” he said, “I can’t commit resources to this begonia guy. Just can’t. If you can pursue it without stepping over any legal boundaries, more power to you.”

I felt heat rising up my neck. I gathered my purse.

“I will pursue it. Two little boys’ welfare is on the line. Somebody needs to.”

He spread his arms wide, good-naturedly, stretching the collar of his shirt. “Hey, who better than you?”

The contents of the folder labeled Ramos were still strewn over his keyboard. “I don’t suppose I could borrow this file…”

“Official police documents?”

“Just for twenty minutes. Ten—I could flip through in the lobby, jot a few notes.”

He’d walked around his desk to show me out, and now he stopped, hands on hips, peering down at the file. The top paper had letterhead from the Venezuelan consulate.

I stepped closer to look with him, shoulder-to-shoulder. Our shoes bumped.

“Or even just this letter,” I said. “So I have the case number and contact information for the consulate. Surely there’s no harm in that?”

Detective Judd didn’t move his shoe. He smelled like bagels and coffee.

He placed his fingertip on the letter and pushed it my way.

“I can live with that.”

“Thanks,” I said, grinning, snatching the paper before he could reconsider.


I drove home through Yancy Park, thinking to get a second look at Kent Kirkland’s property. As I pulled into the subdivision, I noticed a dilapidated house up the hill, off to the west. It rose three stories and had bare-wood sides. Ragged blankets flapped over its attic windows.

The Ferguson place.

Somehow I’d missed it driving in from the other direction. Art Judd had been right: the place was an eyesore. Gutters dangled off the roof like spaghetti off a toddler’s abandoned plate. A refrigerator and TV were strewn about the dirt yard, both spilling their electronic guts.

I made a mental note to ask Martha Dodson about the property. I found it curious she suspected Kirkland instead of whoever lived in this rats’ den. Art Judd had mentioned crosschecking Yancy Park. Maybe the police had already been out and investigated to Martha’s satisfaction.

I kept driving to Martha and Kent Kirkland’s street. I slowed at the latter’s yard, peering over a rectangular yew hedge to a house that was the polar opposite of the Ferguson place. The paint job was immaculate. Gutters were not only fully affixed, but contained not a single leaf or twig. Trash bins were pulled around the side into a nook, out of sight.


Excerpt from The Begonia Killer by Jeff Bond. Copyright 2021 by Jeff Bond. Reproduced with permission from Jeff Bond. All rights reserved.

You can find The Begonia Killer at these websites: Amazon | Goodreads

My Review — 5 Stars

This was a funny and fun mystery to read. Molly McGill, investigator is called by a woman who is sure her quirky neighbor has two boys hidden at his house. How does she know this? Because she saw him get angry at his begonias and viciously slaughter them, hacking them to death. Of course Molly has to go meet this guy and gets into house under the ruse of a gardening expert. While she is trying to search she creates more and more incidents that cause her to stay while he is trying to get her out of the house. This was the funniest part and I found myself laughing out loud. This is the first book I’ve read by Jeff Bond, but will be searching out others by him.

Author Bio:

Jeff Bond

Jeff Bond is an American author of popular fiction. A Kansas native and Yale graduate, he now lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters. The Pinebox Vendetta received the gold medal in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards, and the first two entries in the Third Chance Enterprises series — Anarchy of the Mice, Dear Durwood — were named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best 100 Indie Books of 2020.

Catch Up With Jeff Bond:
BookBub – @jeff_bond
Instagram – @jeffabond
Twitter – @jeffABond
Facebook – @jeffabondbooks

Enter the Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jeff Bond. There will be one (1) winner of one (1) Gift Card. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2021 and runs through July 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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A Glimmer of a Clue

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I’m so excited I have Daryl Wood Gerber on the blog today telling us about featuring real places in her stories. Her latest mystery, A Glimmer of a Clue is set in Carmel, California. I’ll be honest, I’ve always made stuff up (my mother would agree on that one) so didn’t have to worry about getting street names right. If you were writing a book, would you write about a real town or would make up your own fictional world? 

Be sure to scroll down for the giveaway and after you read the blog click on “Giveaways” in the menu bar. There are more giveaways to enter out there!


Writing About a Real Place is a Challenge!

By Daryl Wood Gerber

For my new Fairy Garden Mystery series, I decided to write about Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, also known simply as Carmel. What a challenge for me. Granted, I have set my suspense novels in real places, but I have set all of my cozy mysteries in fictional places. The Cheese Shop Mysteries are set in Providence, Ohio (fictional town in Holmes County), the Cookbook Nook Mysteries are set in Crystal Cove, California (there’s a state park named Crystal Cove but not a pretty coastal town on the Central Coast), and the French Bistro Mysteries are set in Nouvelle Vie ( a fictional enclave between Yountville and St. Helena). For each of these series, I’ve created my own streets and my own shops. Heck, I even created a pier in Crystal Cove.

So why did I choose to set this series in Carmel? Because it’s one of the most delicious towns in the world, filled with fabulous art, exceptional food, eccentric people, and it’s located on one of the most gorgeous strips of the ocean you’ll ever find. [If you’ve ever watched golf tournaments, you would know that the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course is in Carmel.] Visiting the town fills my soul and feeds me spiritually.

Writing about a real place is a challenge. I have to get the streets right. Oh, sure, I can create a few fictional things, like my shop and the shops nearby and the courtyard where they are located, but I have to know the “rules of the town.” In Carmel, for example, there are no mailboxes. The original designers felt mailboxes ruined the charm, so the townsfolk go to the main post office to collect mail. Carmel is a pet-friendly town, so there are many restaurants and shops that allow dogs, on leash, to enter. In addition, there are particular rules one has to follow—visitors or locals. For example, many of the sidewalks are cobblestone, so a woman (or a man for that matter) is “not allowed” to wear high heels for fear of twisting an ankle. I always wear tennis shoes so I can do a lot of walking.

My challenge, as an author, is to incorporate all of this into the book without overloading it with “reality.” Which is why I have to visit Carmel to do research—in order to get it right. Poor me.

As I said above, because Carmel is a place that feeds my soul, I felt it was the perfect place to set a story about the supernatural—of the fairy kind. I love the adorable old cottages, packed with lots of history, the beautiful gardens which are perfect for fairy houses, and the courtyards featuring fountains and hidden doorways.

My love for Carmel is why I felt it was the perfect place to have my protagonist Courtney Kelly begin her life anew as a shop owner. She is from Carmel and she was working for her father in his landscaping business in the area, but that job wasn’t nourishing her. She felt stagnant. Uninspired. When her nana left her a small inheritance, it gave Courtney the courage to spread her wings and open her fairy garden shop.

When she opened it, she invited magic into her life. And with that, a new friend. Fiona . . .

More About A Glimmer of a Clue

A Glimmer of a Clue

A Glimmer of a Clue (A Fairy Garden Mystery)

Cozy Mystery      2nd in Series     Publisher: Kensington (June 29, 2021)

Courtney Kelly has a shop full of delights, a cat named Pixie, a green thumb—and a magical touch when it comes to garden design. But in Carmel-by-the-Sea, things aren’t all sweetness and fairy lights . . .

When Courtney’s friend Wanda gets into a ponytail-pulling wrestling match in public with a nasty local art critic, Courtney stops the fight with the help of a garden hose. But Lana Lamar has a talent for escalating things and creating tension, which she succeeds in doing by threatening a lawsuit, getting into yet another scuffle—in the midst of an elegant fundraiser, no less—and lobbing insults around like pickleballs.

Next thing Courtney knows, Lana is on the floor, stabbed with a decorative letter opener from one of Courtney’s fairy gardens, and Wanda is standing by asking “What have I done?” But the answer may not be as obvious as it seems, since Wanda is prone to sleepwalking and appears to be in a daze. Could she have risen from her nap and committed murder while unconscious? Or is the guilty party someone else Lana’s ticked off, like her long-suffering husband? To find out, Courtney will have to dig up some dirt . . .

You can find Glimmer of a Clue at these online retailers: 

Amazon   Barnes and Noble:    Kobo    Bookshop    Indiebound   Mysterious Galaxy   Murder by the Book    Target    Kensington Books

About Daryl Wood Gerber

Darly Wood Gerber, Author of A Glimmer of a Clue

Agatha Award-winning author Daryl Wood Gerber writes the nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries, the Fairy Garden Mysteries, and theFrench Bistro Mysteries. As Avery Aames, she pens the popular Cheese Shop Mysteries. In addition, Daryl writes the Aspen Adams novels of suspense as well as stand-alone suspense. Daryl loves to cook, fairy garden, and read, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle who keeps her in line!

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You can find Glimmer of a Clue at these online retailers: 

Amazon   Barnes and Noble:    Kobo    Bookshop    Indiebound   Mysterious Galaxy   Murder by the Book    Target    Kensington Books

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Strangled by a Simile

Finally, a mystery about an English teacher who solves crime! Believe or not, there aren’t that many of these series and I was excited to find Strangled by a Simile. I used to be an English teacher and I bet you can’t guess what my favorite thing to teach was?  It wasn’t grammar. I could teach kids to write! It was a beautiful thing to see, but I’m also pretty happy I’m not going home with a stack of senior research papers to grade.  But enough about me, we have an interview with Emma Lovett our teacher and her life of crime, or at least solving crime.  Be sure to scroll down for the giveaway!

About Strangled by Simile

Strangled by a Simile
Strangled by Simile (Chalkboard Outlines)
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series

Southern transplant Emma Lovett and best friend/colleague Leslie Parker can hardly believe it: it’s Emma’s third year at Thomas Jefferson High School, and in addition to an amazing year with boyfriend Hunter Wells and Leslie’s brand-new love interest, they’ve gotten all the way through Homecoming with no one dying.


At the end of October, Emma finds the strangled body of Charlie Foreman, one of Leslie’s favorite nemeses. And the first clue implicates Leslie in the crime! To make things worse, Emma’s feeling a little oogy: tired, dizzy, and something’s up with her eyes. What’s going on?

All Emma and Leslie are trying to do is find new methods for teaching the youth of America, hopefully using lessons from The Great Bard—their hero—William Shakespeare.

But someone has a different idea: more schooling in murder.

You can find Strangled by a Simile at these online retailers – AmazonKoboB&N

And now here’s an interview with our teacher Emma Lovett. Sit up straight now, and I’m watching you in the back row.

Please tell us about your latest adventure.

There’s this coach I met when I first started teachin school at Thomas Jefferson High—Charlie Foreman. He’s very mysogynistic and loudmouthed, and he and my closest Leslie prank and torment each other regularly. Whenever he’s inappropriate, everyone laughs it off because he’s the son of the school superintendent. But I guess Charlie’s not makin’ noise now, because he’s dead. Just when I thought I’d get through a year with no more murders, here we go again…

Do you have any friends/sidekicks helping you out?

Leslie Parkerand I decided three years ago we needed to get involved with an investigation of a murder at our school—a sweet old custodian named Melvin McManus. Because of the problematic law enforcement in our sweet little town—the chief of detectives is this old high school football player named Carl Niome who doesn’t know his rear end from his rear window, if you get my meanin’. Anyway, Melvin was a member of the school community, and I was a new member of that community. We just knew we had to help. 

Do you have any special skills to fight crime?

Leslie and I got together at the park one day when we first decided to solve a murder and collected stuff we thought we could use to solve it. From our whole personal collection of mystery novels to a blender, we felt like we’d need supplies. I think really we use our brains and our eyes, and that’s it. I did find out, during this particular inquiry, that some childhood skills perfected by me and my best friend Hannah and our summers at Target Swamp would be necessary. You’ll see. Turns out I’m kind of a Van Damme.

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

I teach high school English at Thomas Jefferson High School in Pinewood, Colorado. This year I was also lucky enough to get to teach a beginning acting class, and we worked on Shakespeare scenes. Worked out well for me, because my friend Leslie is so good atcallin’ up Shakespeare quotes right outta her . . .head, that go with any situation. I’m trying to get better at that, but Leslie’s the master.

What are you most frightened of in this story?

Turns out . . . mobsters. And chronic illness. Both can be deadly. Both are really, really scary. But that second one is turnin’ out to be easier to handle with the help of my friends. The first one too, I guess. If you’re willing to think back to me and Hannah at the swamp.

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

I think our friend and librarian, Edward Dixon, has funny things happenin’ to him all the time. Only he doesn’t think they’re funny, because he’s kinda high-stress like that. He says things all the time without realizing they’re funny.

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? I haveactually been thinking about this as a television series for years now! I think the perfect actress for me (although she’s blonde in her series now, but she used to be brunette like me, so I know she could go back) is Melissa Benoist. You know, she plays Supergirl right now on the show Supergirl. I think she’d be a great me. And Leslie should be played by Cate Blanchett, I think, although I think that actress is older than Leslie. So don’t tell Leslie until she sees herself in the series. 😊

Do you have other mysteries you would like to tell us about? Is this the first book in the series, or have you cracked a few other cases?

I have, unfortunately. Besides Melvin, I had a student who was killed named Kisten Hollis. It was a horrible tragedy, and Leslie told me the death of a student is the worst tragedy she’s ever suffered. I can believe it.

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

I reckon these investigations don’t amount to a hill of beans in comparison to my real job, which is teachin’ school. Kids need to learn and I wanna help them love it! 

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

Thomas Jefferson High School and Pinewood, physically, are a combination of both of my teaching jobs and schools, in Fruita, Colorado and South Lake Tahoe, California. Pinewood and its schools are a really fun invention, so I can utilize places I’ve been without worrying about that reader (and those readers are real, I guarantee it) who has also been to the actual places or ridden on the actual roads and is looking for the ways I can get it wrong. This way I get it right, every time… 😊) 

You can find Strangled by a Simile at these online retailers – AmazonKoboB&N

About Kelley Kaye

Kelley Kaye

“Kelley Kaye” taught High School English and Drama since 1992 in California, then Colorado and now Cali again, but her love for storytelling dates back to creating captions in her high school yearbook. Maybe back to the tales she created for her Barbie and Ken—whatever the case, the love’s been around a long time. She’s married to an amazing man who cooks for her, and they have two funny and wonderful sons.

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Murder She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond

Murder She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond


Murder, She Wrote fans! I have the latest Jessica on my blog today and even better an interview with the one and only Jessica Fletcher. I love, love, love this series and in Killing in a Koi Pond  Jessica even talks about Malice Domestic a wonderful conference for mystery writers and their readers that takes place every year in Bethseda, Maryland. I’ve been there many times, yet, I’ve never seen Jessica! Go figure. 

About Murder, She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond


Murder She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond

Murder, She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond

Cozy Mystery

53rd in Series

Publisher: Berkley (June 8, 2021)

When a friend’s husband dies while Jessica Fletcher is in town visiting, Jessica’s vacation turns into a murder investigation in this latest entry in the long-running USA Today bestselling series.


After traveling to Bethesda for a mystery writers’ conference, Jessica Fletcher decides she’s earned a vacation and takes a train to Columbia, South Carolina, to visit her old college friend Dolores, who has recently married her third husband, Willis Nickens, a wealthy and cutthroat businessman. They’ve moved into an opulent historic home with plenty of space for guests, and Jessica is ready for a week of shopping, gossiping, and relaxing at the grand estate.


But the morning after she arrives, Jessica discovers Willis facedown in the koi pond, and despite what the police think, she’s sure foul play is involved. She hadn’t known Willis long, but it’s clear to her that he didn’t concern himself with making friends. The question isn’t if her friend’s husband was murdered but by whom.

A Visit With the J.B. Fletcher

Jessica Fletcher is a bestselling mystery writer who has a knack for stumbling upon real-life mysteries in her various travels.


Please tell us about your latest adventure.

After spending an exhilarating four days at Malice Domestic, a fabulous mystery conference in Bethesda Maryland, I arranged to take a few days off and visit my old college friend Dolores Nickens who lives in Columbia, South Carolina. She had recently married and wanted me to meet her new husband. We planned a lot of quality time together: lunches, shopping, touring some of the many cultural sites, generally relaxing and catching up with each other’s lives. Tragically, Dolores’s husband was murdered shortly after I arrived, and Richland County Sheriff Halvorson thinks Dolores is the most likely suspect.

Do you have any friends/sidekicks helping you out?

With Dolores in such jeopardy, I called on my good friend Harry McGraw who is a private investigator in Boston. Harry has the savvy and the contacts to dig up information all over the globe. He was a huge help. I also relied on my best buddy Dr. Seth Hazlitt to keep me in touch with what was going on in my home town of Cabot Cove, Maine.

Do you have any special skills to fight crime?

I don’t consider what I do fighting crime as much as I consider it to be ensuring that justice is served.

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

A detective? Heavens no! I am a former school teacher, a profession I loved, and now I am a full time writer. Of course I do write mysteries…

What are you most frightened of in this story?

I am rarely frightened of anything. In this story I am, however, terribly concerned that my dear friend Dolores will be officially accused and perhaps even convicted of murdering her husband unless I can find a way to discover what actually happened.

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

Well, I don’t think it’s funny but most people find Seth Hazlitt’s parsimonious ways to be hilarious.

Do you have other mysteries you would like to tell us about? Is this the first book in the series, or have you cracked a few other cases?

I am almost embarrassed to admit that murder seems to follow me around. Murder, She Wrote Killing in a Koi Pond is book #53 of the series. Book number #54 Murder, She Wrote Debonair in Death will be released in November 2021.

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

I am overjoyed and thankful for the grand company of everyone who follows along on my adventures.

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

Hi Everyone, I am Terrie Farley Moran and all I can say is that it is a pleasure to work with Jessica Fletcher and share her exploits with all of you.

My Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Jessica is on the road visiting her old college friend Delores in Columbia, South Carolina. Delores has remarried and lives in a stately home that includes a Koi pond and plenty of people dependent on the actions of her new husband, Willis. Willis is a real piece of work displaying cutthroat business ways and rudeness to everyone, except Delores and his sweet granddaughter. The Murder She Wrote series loves to give us someone we love to hate and Willis fills the bill. Terrie Farley Moran is the new writer of this series and there were some things she did that I liked. Jessica wasn’t so dependent on Seth and Sheriff Metzger in this one although she did call up her old friend, the PI from Boston. I love these characters, but I also love it when Jessica doesn’t have to be rescued but confronts the crime with her abilities. Much like the character created for the series Jessica makes friends wherever she goes whether they work in the kitchen or own a multi-million dollar home. Her kindness to others opens many doors and I think that’s a lesson for all of us to take home. This was a fun, easy-to-read mystery, and the many suspects made figuring out whodunnit a challenge for me.

Terrie Farley Moran

Terrie Farley Moran is the author of Murder She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond, the latest in the long-running Jessica Fletcher series, to be followed in autumn 2021 by Murder She Wrote: Debonair in Death. She has also written the beachside Read ‘Em and Eat cozy mystery series and is co-author of Laura Childs’ New Orleans scrapbooking mysteries. Her short stories have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. Terrie is a recipient of both the Agatha and the Derringer awards.

Terrie’s Links

 Website: http://www.terriefarleymoran.comFacebook:

Purchase Links – AmazonB&NPenguin Random HouseKoboGoogle PlayIndieBound 

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Winter Witness

Well, it’s Friday which means you need to find a great book before you take that long drive or spend a lazy afternoon basking in the warmth of the sun. Let’s take a look at Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde. I’m particularly interested in the historian everyone loves to hate in this story. It sounds like she causes plenty of trouble!

One more thing! This book is on sale for $1.99

About the Book

Winter Witness

When a beloved nun is murdered in a sleepy Catskill Mountain town, a grieving young widow finds herself at the center of the turmoil. Bianca St. Denis is searching for a job and seeking acceptance in her new home of Batavia-on-Hudson. Agatha Miller, the nun’s closest friend and the ailing local historian everyone loves to hate, shares her painful personal history and long-buried village secrets with Bianca. Armed with this knowledge, Bianca unravels the mysteries surrounding the death while dealing with the suspicions of her eccentric neighbors.

However, Bianca’s meddling complicates the sheriff’s investigation as well as his marriage. Can Sheriff Mike Riley escape his painful past in a town where murder and infighting over a new casino vie for his attention?

Danger stalks Bianca as she gets closer to the truth. Can the sheriff solve the mystery before the killer strikes again? Can the town heal its wounds once the truth has been uncovered?

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About the Author

Tina deBellegarde, Author of Winter Witness

Tina deBellegarde is the Agatha nominated author of Winter Witness, the first book in the Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series. She lives in Catskill, New York with her husband Denis and their cat Shelby. Tina also writes short stories and flash fiction. When she isn’t writing, she is helping Denis tend their beehives, harvest shiitake mushrooms, and cultivate their vegetable garden. She travels to Japan regularly to visit her son Alessandro. Tina did her graduate studies in history. She is a former exporter, paralegal, teacher, and library clerk.

Visit her website at

Death by Donut

We have a new author to check out with her book Death by Donut. This is  her fifth book in the series and it sounds delicious! I just hope  when I go my obituary doesn’t read she died while stuffing her face with a donut. Scroll down for your chance to win one of three books in Rebecca’s giveaway  (also posted on my Giveaway Page) but first let’s take a minute and learn more about the book and its author. 


Death by Donut

Death By Donut (A Pismawallops PTA Mystery)

Cozy Mystery      5th In Series

About Death by Donut

Election day’s almost here, and the island’s new pool is on the line. JJ should be all in with the campaign, but when a prominent Island businessman drops dead at her feet in the Have-A-Bite Bakery, someone has a mystery to solve. JJ’s fiancé—police chief Ron Karlson—is out of town. Who else is there?

JJ is missing her sweetheart, tired of the winter rains, and distracted by everybody’s questions about when the wedding’s happening. Even more worrying, her foster-daughter’s father has failed to show up on schedule. No wonder JJ’s struggling to wrap this one up before someone else bites into the wrong donut. There’s no time to lose, because something truly essential is on the line: saving the bakery—and JJ’s favorite espresso brownies!

A Visit with Rebecca M. Douglass

How did you come with an idea for your book?

Since this is the 5th book in a series (6th if you count the novella), the cast and setting were there waiting for me. The mystery, of course, has to be invented new each time! I honestly don’t know how I got to the donut, but the cause of death was an outgrowth of an incident in my novella, “The Christmas Question.”

What scene do you hope your readers enjoy the most?

That’s a surprisingly hard question! I hope everyone is excited to read the final scenes, but maybe I most hope people will enjoy the opening—and keep on reading. I also always have some purely fun(ny) scenes in my books. I hope to give my readers a good chuckle, at least, at some of JJ’s struggles.

What other things have you written or what projects might we see in the future?

In addition to the Pismawallops PTA series, I have written 4 children’s novels. Three are in the Ninja Librarian series, and are a lot of fun for readers of all ages. I’m also in the process of putting out several collections of my flash fiction.

My next project, besides finishing the flash fiction collections, will be a new mystery series. It’s still in pretty early development, but I will say that the heroine is even less “traditional” than JJ. I hope to be able to start writing on that story this summer.

If you could write any other genre what would that be?

I enjoy writing fantasy and science fiction as well as mystery, and would very much like to someday finish a work of historical fiction I’ve been tinkering with for years, aimed at a middle-grade audience.

Is there a giveaway or promotion with this book?

Yes, I am giving away two copies of the ebook.

Where can readers leave reviews of your book?

Please feel free to leave reviews anywhere you like! Amazon reviews are especially helpful, but wherever you bought your copy is the best place in most cases.

Rebecca M. Douglass was raised in Washington State on an island only a little bigger than Pismawallops. Though she has lived most of her adult life in California, the salt waters of Puget Sound continue to call to her and she enjoys owning an island in the Salish Sea, even if she had to invent one to do so! Rebecca has written a number of children’s books as well as her Pismawallops PTA mysteries and has had short stories published in several anthologies. When she isn’t writing, she likes to spend her free time hiking and biking, and her vacations exploring the outdoor world by camping, hiking, and backpacking.

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Do it for Daisy

Do It for Daisy

Do you have a sibling you’d do just about anything for? As we get older, sometimes we find our siblings are the few people left on earth who really get us. They were there through the ups and downs of childhood so they know you. As an Army brat, I can tell you, every time we moved, for the first three weeks in a new posting my brothers were my best friends. Then we made other friends and all bets were off! In Do it for Daisy we have a brother who would do anything for his sister. I mean anything.

Description of Do It for Daisy

Tommy Lyle was desperate for love. Orphaned when police killed his criminal parents during a shoot-out, and twice divorced before he was forty, the only person left in his life who cared about him was his big sister, Daisy. And Daisy just pushed her wealthy husband to his death in the middle of Tommy’s dinner party.

Tommy’s desperate effort to keep his sister’s affection tests his already slippery hold on morality. She demands his help covering up her crime and navigating a revengeful mother-in-law, a crooked medical examiner, a cheating undertaker, and a steely-eyed trustee.

If that wasn’t enough trouble, Tommy has to keep Detective Nick Bongiovanni from turning a simple follow up visit to the husband’s apparent accidental fall, into the crime of the century.

Other Reviews

William Ade’s “Do it for Daisy” is that rare treat—an exquisitely crafted novel that lives comfortably in a range of genres, and sets the highest possible bar in any of them. Funny, sad, suspenseful, thrilling, reflective, maddening, and ultimately triumphant, with this impressive debut Ade proves himself a master storyteller and a powerful new voice in crime fiction. Kerry K. Cox, author of the Nick Tanner Crime Thriller Series.

More About William Ade

William Ade was born and raised in a small town in Indiana during the fifties and sixties. He earned college degrees in early childhood education and special education, working in both fields until 1980. That August, he and his wife of one year moved to the Washington DC area. They had freshly minted graduate degrees, a VW Super Beetle, and no jobs.

Ade’s career shifted from education to telecommunications, and he was eventually employed by MCI and then Verizon up until his retirement in 2014. During that same period of time, he and his wife, Cynthia raised two wonderful children into adulthood.

At his retirement, Ade announced to his wife, that he wanted to try his hand at writing. She said that if he was going to do that, he had to pursue it vigorously.

Ade’s work has appeared in the Mysteries Unimagined, the Rind Literary Magazine, The Broken Plate, Black Fox Literary, Mindscapes Unimagined, and the 2018, and 2019 Best New England Crime Stories. He writes both literary, humor, and crime stories.

His collection of short stories, No Time for His Nonsense was released in early 2020. His first novel, Art of Absolution, came out in July, 2020.

Visit William’s website at Connect with William on Goodreads

Enter the giveaway to get your hands on another great book by William Ade!

Art of Absolution

0m 0s
Art of Absolution Can a mother’s deceit save her child from the terrible truth? Can a virtuous man be forgiven for one horrible act? Bailey Robertson, still reeling from her husband’s death, is desperate to stop her college-aged child, Teddy, from knowing the circumstances of his birth. Five hundred miles away, Michael Werth, a prominent Midwestern businessman, is stunned that his fifteen-year-old daughter Susan is secretly digging into his past. Forced by their children into a meeting, Bailey confronts her history and fears, while Michael tests the limits of absolution. All to protect the child they created.

Enter below for your chance at a free digital copy of Art of Absolution!

This contest is no longer accepting entries.

The Ghost and Haunted Portrait

Don’t you just love looking at those old pulp covers? There’s always a sexy girl and sometimes a sketchy looking guy on them.  They make you want to take a stormy afternoon and read pure escapism. The Ghost and the Haunted Portrait let’s us take a visit into the world of the artists who created them and the models who posed for them!  I reviewed this one and don’t forget to enter the giveaway.

About The Ghost and the Haunted Portrait


The Ghost and the Haunted Portrait (Haunted Bookshop Mystery)

7th in Series  Publisher: Berkley (May 4, 2021)

Bookshop owner Penelope Thornton-McClure and her gumshoe ghost team up to solve the stunning mystery at the heart of a madwoman’s self-portrait in this all new installment from New York Times bestselling author Cleo Coyle.

While gathering a collection of vintage book cover paintings for a special event in her quaint Rhode Island bookshop, Penelope discovers a spooky portrait of a beautiful woman, one who supposedly went mad, according to town gossip. Seymour, the local mailman, falls in love with the haunting image and buys the picture, refusing to part with it, even as fatal accidents befall those around it. Is the canvas cursed? Or is something more sinister at work?

For answers, Pen turns to an otherworldly source: Jack Shepard, PI. Back in the 1940s, Jack cracked a case of a killer cover artist, and (to Pen’s relief) his spirit is willing to help her solve this mystery, even if he and his license did expire decades ago.

My Review

The Ghost and the Haunted Portrait
The Ghost and the Haunted Portrait by Cleo Coyle

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Penelope Thornton is about to have a book launch for a book on the history of pulp covers in her book store. In an effort to collect more classic book covers for the exhibit she visits her friend Walt, a collector. One of his covers draws her in and she finds there is a mystery attached to it. Along with her sidekick, Jack, a dead PI from the 40s she investigates the crime. I loved Jack and all of his sayings and the well-constructed mystery around the paintings of book covers and crazy Harriet. There were many suspects and the author team takes us back into the forties to see the real artists and models and the underworld around them.  There were plenty of suspects to choose from and I enjoyed the humor between Seymour and Brainert and the relationship between Jack and Penelope. 

About Cleo Coyle

Cleo Coyle – Alice Alfonsi – Marc Cerasini

CLEO COYLE is a pseudonym for Alice Alfonsi, writing in collaboration with her husband, Marc Cerasini. Both are New York Times bestselling authors of the long-running Coffeehouse Mysteries—now celebrating eighteen years in print. They are also authors of the nationally bestselling Haunted Bookshop Mysteries, previously written under the pseudonym Alice Kimberly. Alice has worked as a journalist in Washington, D.C., and New York, and has written popular fiction for adults and children. A former magazine editor, Marc has authored espionage thrillers and nonfiction for adults and children. Alice and Marc are also both bestselling media tie-in writers who have penned properties for Lucasfilm, NBC, Fox, Disney, Imagine, and MGM. They live and work in New York City, where they write independently and together.

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Till Dirt Do Us Part

A Giveaway for Book Clubs

Giveaway Page: Book Club Giveaway

Give your book club a complete set of Murder of a Good Man published by Harlequin! But wait, there’s more. Schedule a Zoom visit with the author Teresa Trent! Time is running out!  Your book club can be between 2 and 10 people and must reside in the United States.


Enter Below:

The Deadening Showcase and Giveaway

The Deadening

Today on Books to the Ceiling, we have some psychological suspense, The Deadening. Olivia doesn’t know who she really is–kind of like passing out after eating that entire plate of brownies. Seriously, though this is good one. Be sure to read the prologue and the excerpt–it will get you thinking. Don’t forget to scroll down for the giveaway😊💰

Synopsis of The Deadening:


OLIVIA CALLAHAN’S quiet, orderly life is shattered when she regains consciousness in a hospital and discovers she is paralyzed and cannot remember a thing. The fragmented voices she hears around her help her piece together that an apparent assault landed her in the hospital, but nobody knows who attacked her, or why.

Now, in spite of a brain injury that has rewired her personality, Olivia is on a mission to reclaim her life. As clarity surfaces, and she starts to understand who she was, she is shocked.

Could she really have been that person?

And if so, does she want her old life back?


“A gripping read populated by likable characters. Peresta draws us into a colorful detailed world and makes us care what happens to the people living in it. We root for Olivia as she struggles to regain her memory, her bearings, and the identity she lost long before her injury. Excellent!”
– Susan Crawford, Internationally bestselling author of The Pocket Wife and The Other Widow.

The Deadening is a captivating psychological suspense novel that will have you holding your breath with each turn of the page. Peresta has created a world chock-full of characters who are dynamic and unforgettable, for better or worse. Hold onto your seat.”
– Clay Stafford, bestselling author and founder of Killer Nashville Writers’ Conference

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Suspense
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: February 21, 2021
Number of Pages: 353
ISBN: 1953789358 (ISBN13:9781953789358) (ASIN:B08SVKLMZ8)
Series: Olivia Callahan Suspense, 1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt from The Deadening:


The Deadening


The stiff bristles of the brush grew coppery as he scrubbed back and forth, back and forth. Wrinkling his nose at the smell, he groped for the mask he’d bought, looped it over his head, and snugged it into place.

He dipped the brush in the red-tinged solution in a blue, plastic bowl beside him on the floor, and continued scrubbing. Fifteen minutes later, he emptied the bowl down the toilet and shoved everything he’d used into a trash bag. He fought to staunch the bile creeping up his windpipe, but his throat constricted and he gagged. After retching into the sink, he turned on the faucet and splashed water on his face. Paused to take deep breaths. He could do this. He had to do this. He gripped the edge of the counter and stared out the bathroom window.

She’d not told anyone. Thank God for that. No one could know. No one would ever know. He’d make sure.

He walked to his garage, opened his car trunk, tossed in the latest trash bag. His hands felt icy. He rubbed them together, wiggled his fingers, and slammed the trunk shut.

Admittedly, her terror had excited him. Confusion. Dawning realization in her expression. His lips curved upward into a smile, then disintegrated. Reliving it didn’t change anything. He needed to move forward.

He returned and studied the carpet. In spite of his efforts, the stain still needed work. He cursed, dropped to his knees, and pounded the dampness with a fist.

Through a veil of fatigue, he watched in horror as the kidney-shaped stain stood and pointed an accusatory finger at him. He blinked, hard. Was he hallucinating? How long had he been without sleep? He crabbed backwards, leaned against the wall, pulled his knees to his chest and squeezed his eyes shut. When he opened them some moments later, the blood-apparition had disappeared.

He groaned.

He stared at the ceiling until his brain spit out a solution.

The problem lay in the other room. That’s how he looked at her now.

A problem to solve.

He rose from the floor and walked out.

His eyes slid from her pale face, down her form, to her feet. He no longer thought of her as warm, soft, desirable. She had been so scared…eyes wide and unblinking as she fell. He shook his head and pushed the image away.

Nesting her in towels so her blood wouldn’t pool on the couch, her bronze-sandaled feet with their shiny, pink toenails hung over the edge. He looked away. “Get a grip, man. Just do it.”

The towels fell away when he picked her up. He wound them back around her, careful to tuck in the edges. His heartbeat slammed his ribs.

She was fragile, a little bit of a thing, like a bird. He drew his index finger across her lips. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “If you had just…if you had only…” His voice trailed away. Jaw clenched, he carried her to his car.

Chapter One

Nathan ambled along sidewalks that wound through the manicured hospital grounds, fishing in his pocket for a lighter. He lit the cigarette dangling from his lips and inhaled deeply, his smile saturated with nicotine’s unholy bliss.

“Thank God,” he mumbled around the cigarette, and withdrew it from his lips, stretching. He glanced over his shoulder at the brightly lit ER entrance to Mercy Hospital, rubbing his neck. He rolled his shoulders, inhaled several deep drags from the cigarette, dropped it, and ground it beneath his shoe. “These night shifts are killing me.” He groaned and gazed at the sky. Clouds hid a full moon. He’d been grateful to get the med tech job, but after two months of bodily fluid testing and storage, he was bored. He needed a challenge.

Nathan followed his typical route through the hedged lawn, almost on auto-pilot, so when he stumbled and sprawled onto the grass face-first, he was stunned. What had tripped him? Cursing softly, he explored his cheeks, nose, forehead. No damage done that he could tell. “Klutz,” he berated himself, pushing up to hands and knees.

Something soft and warm lay beneath his palms. His breathing sped up. He looked down, but it was too dark to see. Trembling, his fingers inched their way to lips, nose, eyes, stiff knots of hair. His mouth dropped in horror. The clouds obligingly slid off the moon and revealed a woman’s body, her hair blood-matted, her face ghostly white. The grass around her head was rusty with blood. He edged his head toward her lips to check her breathing. Shallow, but at least she was alive.

He scrambled to his feet, fighting nausea and staring at his palms, sticky with the woman’s blood. Shrieking for help, he raced into the hospital and skidded to a stop in front of the desk. The ER nurses behind the reception desk squinted at him like he was deranged.

“Possible head injury!” He flailed an arm at the entrance. “Someone, anyone, come quick!”

A male nurse and two aides followed him outside, shoes pounding the sidewalk at full gallop. The tech stopped, turned, and signaled them to tread carefully as they parted ways with the sidewalk and navigated the shrubbery in the dark. Single file, panting, they tiptoed through the shadows until the tech raised a palm for them to stop.

“Here,” he hissed at the nurse, and held a point like a bird dog.

The nurse dropped to the ground and clicked a flashlight on. “Ohmigosh,” he whispered. He lifted the woman’s thin, pale wrist and glanced at his watch. Satisfied that she had a pulse, he slapped the flashlight into Nathan’s bloodied palm. “Stay with her!” He rushed inside.

Within minutes, looky-loos poured from the ER and clustered around the limp form.

“Move back!” Nathan stretched out his arms like a cop directing traffic. “She’s barely breathing!” His glanced nervously at the ER entrance.

The crowd didn’t yield an inch. The ER doors whooshed open. A stretcher clattered down the sidewalk and onto the dew-damp grass. Chills shivered up the tech’s spine as the ashen pallor of death climbed from the woman’s neck to her face. He dropped to the ground and picked up her hand. The paramedic team drew closer, their flashlights piercing the darkness with slivers of light. The crowd eased apart to let them through.

Nathan bent closer to the woman, and whispered, “Hang in there. Help is on the way.”

The stretcher slid to a stop beside him. The paramedics dropped to their knees, stabilized the woman’s head with a brace, staunched the bleeding, and wrapped the wound. They eased her onto the stretcher and rumbled away. The aides shared nervous smiles of relief. They looked at Nathan, then followed the paramedic team back inside.

Nathan, his heartbeat finally slowing, called, “Thanks for the assist, guys!” as they walked away.

The crowd dispersed with curious glances at Nathan, who watched until the group disappeared behind the ER’s double glass doors. He heaved a sigh of relief and swiped perspiration off his forehead. He patted his scrubs pocket for a cigarette, reconsidered, and trotted toward the ER entrance.

After the automatic doors parted, he jogged past two closed-door exam rooms and paused at a third, wide open. He looked inside.

The paramedics shared their observations with the ER doctor on call as he deftly explored the woman’s wounds. When he finished, he nodded, barked instructions, and pointed at the bed. In seconds, the woman’s transfer from stretcher to bed was complete. One of the nurses whisked a blood pressure cuff around her arm. Another hooked an IV bag to a chrome stand, pierced the skin on the back of the woman’s hand, slid in a needle, and taped it down.

The tech stepped back from the door to allow the paramedics to exit. Holding his breath, he stole into the room and crept past a floor-to-ceiling supply cabinet. He planted both palms onto the smooth, white walls behind him and inched sideways, melting into the corner next to a shelf holding tongue depressors, a box of plastic gloves, and a sanitizer dispenser.

“Pulse one-fifteen.” The nurse studied the blood pressure cuff. “Blood pressure eight-five over fifty.”

“Need a trach,” the doctor barked. “She’s bleeding out. Get some O neg in here.”

A blur of motion, two nurses and the ER doctor huddled around the woman’s body. When they stepped back, a laryngoscope, an endotracheal tube, and four sticky electric nodes leading to a cardiac monitor had been secured.

The medical team stilled, their eyes riveted to the monitors. The nurses wore sage green scrubs. Both had pink stethoscopes around their necks. The ER doctor had on a crisp, white jacket with his name scripted in black on the pocket. Nathan fidgeted and stuck his head out from the corner a little to focus on the screens.

The readings sputtered, stalled, plummeted.

“Code Blue!” The doctor spun around. A nurse jumped to the wall and slapped a flat, white square on the wall.

“Code Blue!” echoed through the ER’s intercom system. Frantic footsteps in the hall. Shouted instructions. Clanging metal. Squealing wheels. Nathan squeezed farther into the corner as the cart bearing life-saving electronic shock equipment exploded through the door.

“Brain must be swelling,” the doctor mumbled. He grabbed two paddles and swiped them together. “Clear!”

The woman’s body jolted. The doctor’s head jerked to the cardiac monitor. Flat.

“Clear!” He placed the paddles on the woman’s chest.

Her frail torso arced. The machine blipped an erratic cadence, then droned a steady hum.

The doctor cursed. “Clear!”

Another jolt. The monitor surged, sagged, then settled into a reassuring metronome blip. Tense faces relaxed. Applause spattered around the room.

The doctor blew out a long breath. “Okay, people, good job.” He smiled.

Within minutes, more lines snaked from the woman’s form. An orogastric tube drooped from the corner of her mouth, behind the intubation tube. A lead to measure brain waves clung to her forehead. The doctor studied each monitor in turn. Nathan let out the breath he’d been holding, slid down the wall into a crouch, and balanced on the balls of his feet.

“Any additional instructions, Doctor Bradford?” Brows raised, the nurse waited.

He rubbed his head thoughtfully. “Think she’s stable for now. CAT scan already ordered?”

She nodded. “Of course.”

“Tell them to expedite.” He cocked his head at the woman. “May be a long night. Watch her closely.” The doctor strode to the door, paused, and turned. He glanced at the tech huddled in the corner. “Good job, son.”

Nathan grinned and rose from his crouch, his chest puffed out a little. He’d never saved a life before. After a sympathetic glance at Mercy Hospital’s latest Jane Doe, he returned to the lab.


Excerpt from The Deadening by Kerry Peresta. Copyright 2021 by Kerry Peresta. Reproduced with permission from Kerry Peresta. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Kerry’s publishing credits include a popular newspaper column, “The Lighter Side,” 2009-2011; and magazine articles in Local Life MagazineThe Bluffton BreezeLady Lowcountry, and Island Events Magazine. She is the author of two novels, The Hunting, women’s fiction, released by Pen-L Publishing in 2013, and The Deadening, released in February, 2021 by Level Best Books, the first in the Olivia Callahan Suspense series, She spent twenty-five years in advertising as an account manager, creative director, and copywriter. She is past chapter president of the Maryland Writers’ Association and a current member and presenter of Hilton Head Island Writers’ Network, and the Sisters in Crime organization. Recently, she worked as editor and contributor for Island Communications, a local publishing house. Kerry and her husband moved to Hilton Head six years ago. She is the mother of four adult children, and has a bunch of wonderful grandkids who keep life interesting and remind her what life is all about.




Catch Up With Kerry L Peresta:
Instagram – @kerryperesta
Twitter – @kerryperesta
Facebook – @klperesta



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Kerry Peresta. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Gift Card.
The giveaway begins on April 1, 2021 and runs through May 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Get your book club in by May 1!

Giveaway Page: Book Club Giveaway

The Venice Sketchbook

The Venice Sketchbook

Let’s take this weekend and head to Venice, Italy, a city of festivals, art, and romance. Rhys Bowen takes us there with her beautiful detail right before Italy enters World War II and then again in modern day in The Venice Sketchbook. If you’re feeling the loss of travel plans because of Covid, then this might be the book for you!

About the Book

Caroline Grant is struggling to accept the end of her marriage when she receives an unexpected bequest. Her beloved great-aunt Lettie leaves her a sketchbook, three keys, and a final whisper…Venice. Caroline’s quest: to scatter Juliet “Lettie” Browning’s ashes in the city she loved and to unlock the mysteries stored away for more than sixty years.

It’s 1938 when art teacher Juliet Browning arrives in romantic Venice. For her students, it’s a wealth of history, art, and beauty. For Juliet, it’s poignant memories and a chance to reconnect with Leonardo Da Rossi, the man she loves whose future is already determined by his noble family. However star-crossed, nothing can come between them. Until the threat of war closes in on Venice and they’re forced to fight, survive, and protect a secret that will bind them forever.

Key by key, Lettie’s life of impossible love, loss, and courage unfolds. It’s one that Caroline can now make right again as her own journey of self-discovery begins.

My Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Venice Sketchbook looks at the lives of two women. Juliette is in Venice pre-war where she meets the love of her life who is married. She’s studying art and as the magical world of Venice changes around her, finds herself stuck in Italy during WWII. Caroline is her niece who finds she has inherited a 99 year lease on a building sets out to understand a sketchbook her aunt left in her former apartment. As always, I love the pictures Rhys Bowen creates and this is a great mixture of romance and historical fiction. I found Juliette frustrating at times as she continually put off going back to England while the threat of Venice becoming involved grew each day. I also liked how Caroline grew as a character to stand up against her husband.

Other Reviews

“Rhys Bowen crafts a propulsive, unexpected plot with characters who come vibrantly alive on the page.” —Mark Sullivan, author of Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Love and secrets collide in Venice during WWII in an enthralling novel of brief encounters and lasting romance by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and Above the Bay of Angels.

Giveaway Page: Book Club Giveaway

The Drowning Kind

The Drowning Kind

Ever watch those miracle cures on tv or popping up on your Facebook feed and think–hmmm? I wonder if it works? In The Drowning Kind there is a magical pool of water that smells terrible but cures people of all their ills. This story is a mystery with a strong paranormal element including creepy little drowned girls and a hundred years of malevolence around this water. After reading this, you’ll think twice about swimming in a lake or pond!

About The Drowning Kind

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Invited and The Winter People comes a chilling new novel about a woman who returns to the old family home after her sister mysteriously drowns in its swimming pool…but she’s not the pool’s only victim.

Be careful what you wish for.

When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister, Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax arrives at the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching the history of their family and the property. And as she dives deeper into the research herself, she discovers that the land holds a far darker past than she could have ever imagined.

In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the Northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the water is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives.

A haunting, twisty, and compulsively readable thrill ride from the author who Chris Bohjalian has dubbed the “literary descendant of Shirley Jackson,” The Drowning Kind is a modern-day ghost story that illuminates how the past, though sometimes forgotten, is never really far behind us.

My Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a story told in two time periods about a pool of magic water that can heal people and make sick babies well. But, the miracles come with a price. In the modern day story we have Jax, a social worker and her sister Lexi, the creative sister, who suffers from mood swings and never quite makes it as a functioning adult. Lexi is found drowned in the pool, but she isn’t the only one. The author lets us in on a long history of drownings going back to the twenties when a hotel was built as a refuge for those seeking healing waters. I enjoyed both stories and getting into the head of Jax, a character who feels guilty for ignoring her sister in her final days. The supernatural element of the book is outstanding and the ending will get you!
I received this book from Net Galley and have left an honest review.

Are you in a bookclub? Here’s you chance to get everyone a free book!

Book Club Giveaway

Surviving Savannah

Surviving Savannah

Were you excited when they found the Titanic? What story did the artifacts reveal about the passengers? Surviving Savannah is about the retrieving clues from a sunken steamship and research into the passengers that were on it. This story has two layers, past and present.

Here’s a Description of Surviving Savannah

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she’s shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can’t resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly’s research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah’s society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving.

My Review:

Everly Winthrop is asked to curate a collection from the lost steamship Pulaski, which went down in 1838 after the boiler exploded. Much like the Titanic, they are excited by the artifacts 180 years later. Everly especially relates because of the loss of her friend Mora and the fact that she’s working with Oliver who was engaged to her when she died in an accident. The story is twofold as we travel back in time to the final voyage of the Pulaski and learn about two women- Lily an aristocrat with an abusive husband and Priscilla a woman in slavery. This is a story of survival whether it be an accident or suffering abuse in 1838. The author paints a beautiful picture of Savannah helping the reader to travel there without a plane ticket! I think I loved the story of the women on the Pulaski most and then the present-day story.

Other Reviews:

“An atmospheric, compelling story of survival, tragedy, the enduring power of myth and memory, and the moments that change one’s life.” 
–Kristin Hannah, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Four Winds

“[An] enthralling and emotional tale…A story about strength and fate.”–Woman’s World

An epic novel that explores the metal of human spirit in crisis. It is an expertly told, fascinating story that runs fathoms deep on multiple levels.”—New York Journal of Books 

It was called “The Titanic of the South.” The luxury steamship sank in 1838 with Savannah’s elite on board; through time, their fates were forgotten–until the wreck was found, and now their story is finally being told in this breathtaking novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis.

Giveaway Page: Book Club Giveaway

Every Last Fear

Every Last Fear

I love to watch true-crime television, but have you ever wondered what one of those shows does to friends and family members who had nothing to do with the crime, but are thrust into the spotlight anyway? Every Last Fear does a wonderful job of showing the impact this has on innocent people. The main character’s brother is in prison for murder and if that isn’t enough for the family to deal with, a documentary comes out that takes a side in the case. Good stuff. Read the full description below.

About the Book

They found the bodies on a Tuesday.” So begins this twisty and breathtaking novel that traces the fate of the Pine family, a thriller that will both leave you on the edge of your seat and move you to tears.

After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family—his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister—have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain—and they won’t tell Matt why.

The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny—currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte—was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.

When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison—putting his own life in peril—and forcing him to confront his every last fear.

Told through multiple points-of-view and alternating between past and present, Alex Finlay’s Every Last Fear is not only a page-turning thriller, it’s also a poignant story about a family managing heartbreak and tragedy, and living through a fame they never wanted.

My Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Every Last Fear is a riveting story of family found dead in Mexico but the details going into this day are rich. There’s a young man convicted of a murder he didn’t commit and a television documentary about the case that ruins the lives of a family and reputation of a small town. This is a great study of deep characters with plenty of secrets. A quick-paced thriller.

We have a new giveaway just for those book clubs. I’m still giving away those copies of Murder of a Good Man now out under Harlequin, so make sure to bring up this giveaway in this month’s meeting! Even if you don’t win, I’d love to know about your book club.

Book Club Giveaway

The Lost Village

The Lost Village

Feel like reading a bone-chilling, glued to your seat, creepy ghost-town kind of book? You do? Then it’s time to check out The Lost Village. I’ve reviewed it, and there are reviews coming out everywhere on this one. So good.

Book Description

Documentary filmmaker Alice Lindstedt has been obsessed with the vanishing residents of the old mining town, dubbed “The Lost Village,” since she was a little girl. In 1959, her grandmother’s entire family disappeared in this mysterious tragedy, and ever since, the unanswered questions surrounding the only two people who were left—a woman stoned to death in the town center and an abandoned newborn—have plagued her. She’s gathered a small crew of friends in the remote village to make a film about what really happened.

But there will be no turning back.

Not long after they’ve set up camp, mysterious things begin to happen. Equipment is destroyed. People go missing. As doubt breeds fear and their very minds begin to crack, one thing becomes startlingly clear to Alice:

They are not alone.

They’re looking for the truth…
But what if it finds them first?

Come find out.

“Come for the mounting horror and scares, but stay for a devastating examination of the nature of family secrets.” – New York Times book review

A Most Anticipated Book Goodreads * Publishers Weekly * Crime Reads * Popsugar * Bookish

An Indie Next pick!

A Library Reads Pick!

The Blair Witch Project
 meets Midsommar in this brilliantly disturbing thriller from Camilla Sten, an electrifying new voice in suspense.

My Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

When I read the description of the book it said it was a mix between The Blair Witch Project and Midssomar. I didn’t like Midssomar and The Blair Witch Project made me tired with all the shaky camera angles. What they should have said was this book is better than these movies. A pulled-together documentary crew goes to a tiny village where back in 1959 the people of the town vanished. No one knows what happened to them. The documentary maker, Alice has a connection to the town as well as one other member of the crew, but they still have no idea what happened and are excited to film the empty houses, school, and church and try to solve the mystery. When bad things start happening, the reader begins to wonder if there’s something in the air or something supernatural cursing anyone who visits. The writer weaves this story with the historical story and masterfully leaves clues as to the whereabouts of the missing townspeople. Well written story to read late into the night!


Die Die Blackbird

Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day

I love this day! Why? Because it’s 3-21! To explain this, let me quote something from the National Down Syndrome Society. Trisomy 21 is the clinical way of saying Down syndrome, which is the third copy on the 21st chromosome. In a person without Down syndrome, there are 46 chromosomes in the human body. Individuals with Down syndrome have an extra chromosome; we have 47. Trisomy 21= 3-21 or March 21st.

So, today I celebrate my son Andrew and the journey we’ve been on together for 28 years. I celebrate all of the wonderful Down syndrome children and adults I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life. Down syndrome people want to have friends, have love, be cool, be accepted and very often, hold down a job.

Isn’t that a wonderful video? Thank you STING!

I am also thankful every day for the joy my son brings us. It’s not complicated or sophisticated. It might be hug or a smile that I didn’t expect. That’s an enormous gift for this caregiver/writer/mother.

My son loves to go to the car wash! He’d rather be here than a movie. He has Down syndrome and autism so it’s something about the brushes and the rainbow bubbles. Contentment is finding happiness in little things.

Did you know my Pecan Bayou Series features a character with Down Syndrome? Danny is a composite of the many Down syndrome people I’ve known over the years. Writing a character like this around a murder mystery can be difficult at times because I feel it would be very upsetting for this character, but the love he brings to the other characters is one of my favorite parts.

So here’s to you boys and girls, men and women on 3-21!

The Incredible Winston Browne

The Incredible Winston Browne

In these turbulent times, the world needs more books like The Incredible Winston Browne. I didn’t just like this book–I loved it. Let’s head to a little town in Florida in the fifties where the Brooklynn Dodgers are king and a small-town sheriff starts seeing the best things in life. It isn’t exactly the idyllic Mayberry, but a Mayberry for this century’s readers. I hated to see this book end but even the ending was full-on wonderful.

About the Book

Beloved writer Sean Dietrich—also known as Sean of the South—will warm your heart with this rich and nostalgic tale about community, kindness, and the meaning of the everyday incredible.

In the small, sleepy town of Moab, Florida, folks live for ice cream socials, Jackie Robinson, and the local paper’s weekly gossip column. For decades, Sheriff Winston Browne has watched over Moab with a generous eye, and by now he’s used to handling the daily dramas that keep life interesting for Moab’s quirky residents. But just after Winston receives some terrible, life-altering news, a feisty little girl with mysterious origins shows up in his best friend’s henhouse. Suddenly Winston has a child in desperate need of protection—as well as a secret of his own to keep.

With the help of Moab’s goodhearted townsfolk, the humble and well-meaning Winston Browne still has some heroic things to do. He finds romance, family, and love in unexpected places. He stumbles upon adventure, searches his soul, and grapples with the past. In doing so, he just might discover what a life well-lived truly looks like.

“Sean Dietrich has written a home run of a novel with The Incredible Winston Browne. Every bit as wonderful as its title implies, it’s the story of Browne—a principled, baseball-loving sheriff—a precocious little girl in need of help, and the community that rallies around them. This warm, witty, tender novel celebrates the power of friendship and family to transform our lives. It left me nostalgic and hopeful, missing my grandfathers, and eager for baseball season to start again. I loved it.” —Ariel Lawhon, New York Times bestselling author of I Was Anastasia

“Make no mistake. [The Incredible Winston Browne] is a classic story, told by an expert storyteller.” —Shawn Smucker, author of Light from Distant Stars

My Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Incredible Winston Browne is a slice of life in Moab, Florida during the fifties. The Dodgers have a chance at the World Series and Sheriff Winston Browne, a man with chocolate coins in his pocket, and a love for Mark Twain is finding life anew. He has been given the ultimate diagnosis of lung cancer, one that doesn’t slow down his love for Lucky cigarettes and now he’s beginning to live life as it should be. He’s a town patriarch who coaches the little league team, helps the young man whose grandfather is an alcoholic and pays attention to the town spinster. It’s about old friendships and new and the value of living life to the fullest. I loved this story and the beautiful way Sean Dietrich told it. The reader feels the heat, the mugginess, sees the anxious faces of the little leaguers, and sees love in the eyes of a woman unloved. Beautiful and uplifting. I obtained this book from Net Galley and have left an honest review.

Read Teresa’s second book in the Piney Woods Series, A Sneeze to Die For.

Nora Alexander has sunk her inheritance into the Tunie Hotel, in Piney Woods, Texas. Now there is a chance that her first major booking, a national cat lovers’ conference called Meow Meet-Up, will help her bottom line. It also presents increasing risk for its financial demise. Pushy reporter Alan Shaw shows up the day before the event, making trouble for Nora and the conference. When Shaw is later found dead in the bottom of the hotel’s faulty elevator shaft, Nora depends upon boyfriend and police officer, Tuck Watson, to investigate and save the Tunie Hotel’s reputation.

A Sneeze to Die for is available on Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Barnes and Noble.

Murder by Page One is on Cozy Mystery Friday

Murder by Page One

Don’t you just love getting to see a real live author at a book signing? Well, that’s what’s happening in Murder by Page One. But wait, where’s the author? I can tell you all the editing gurus who’ve counseled me have told me I have to place the murder by Chapter Three, but this sounds much more interesting! Don’t miss the excerpt below–it’ll get you!

About Murder Page One

Murder by Page One
Murder by Page One: A Peach Coast Library Mystery
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Hallmark Publishing (March 23, 2021)

If you love Hallmark mystery movies,
you’ll love this cozy mystery
with humor, intrigue, and a librarian amateur sleuth.

Marvey, a librarian, has moved from Brooklyn to a quirky small town in Georgia. When she’s not at the library organizing events for readers, she’s handcrafting book-themed jewelry and looking after her cranky cat. At times, her new life in the South still feels strange…and that’s before the discovery of the dead body in the bookstore.

After one of her friends becomes a suspect, Marvey sets out to solve the murder mystery. She even convinces Spence, the wealthy and charming newspaper owner, to help. With his ties to the community, her talents for research, and her fellow librarians’ knowledge, Marvey pursues the truth. But as she gets closer to it, could she be facing a deadly plot twist?

This first in series cozy mystery includes a free Hallmark original recipe for Classic Peach Cobbler.

Read an Excerpt from Murder Page One

Excerpt: Murder by Page One: A Peach Coast Library Mystery
“It’s nice that you’ve all come to support Fiona.” I turned to Fiona’s friend. “Especially you, Mr. Pelt, coming from South Carolina.”
Willy glanced up from his wristwatch. He seemed surprised that I knew his name, then he noticed Nolan. Willy inclined his head in a silent greeting to Fiona’s business partner, the expression on his pale, square face pleasant but vague. He drove his fingers through his shock of thick auburn hair. “I’ve known Fiona’s family for years.”
“I wonder what Fiona will do now?” Nolan’s attention bounced from Jo to the rest of the group. “Will she give up her share of the business to write full-time?”
It was a good question, although I knew most authors continued to work full-time. Popular media’s depiction of fiction writing as a lucrative career was greatly exaggerated.
Betty snorted. “Well, she doesn’t need a job, now does she? Not like the rest of us. When Buddy died, he left her well provided for. The rest of us have to work for a living.”
The bitterness in her voice seemed to come from far more than envy of another person’s good fortune—literally and figuratively. Then I made the connection: Fiona Lyle-Hayes. Betty Rodgers-Hayes. There was a story there, one that could explain Betty’s hostile disposition.
“I was wondering the same thing.” Willy crossed his arms over his chest. His brown jersey and tan slacks were slightly wrinkled, as though he’d recently pulled both from a suitcase. Had he just driven into town from Beaufort? How long that had taken? “Her late uncle left her his vacation property. The house’s in good shape, and the land is pretty. It’s in a quiet area on the outskirts of town where she could write without being disturbed.”
Bobby shoved his broad hands into the front pockets of his navy blue cargo pants. “She’ll probably go on a lot of tours.” He sounded disappointed, as though he was going to miss Fiona’s company.
“This is ridiculous.” Jo’s words ended the discussion. Her eyes flashed with irritation as her gaze swung to the back of her store. Her ponytail arched behind her. “The signing has started, and Fiona still hasn’t brought out her books. Now, I’m going to have to hustle to help her set everything up.”
“I’ll help.” I hurried to follow Jo as she whirled toward a book aisle.
“So will I.” Spence’s voice came from behind me.
Jo stopped long enough to give us a grateful look. “Thank you, but I can’t ask you to work for me. You’re here as guests.”
Spence arched a thick black eyebrow. “We’re also your friends. Let us help.”
“Okay, since you’ve twisted my arm.” Jo turned to continue her agitated march down the aisle. Her ponytail swung back and forth in a tsking motion. “I wish she’d let me and my team handle her books from the beginning. Unloading them now will be disruptive to the other authors who got here early and actually set up.”
I struggled to both keep up with Jo and speed read the titles on the passing shelves. We were in the young adult section. I loved young adult fantasy novels. I hesitated in front of a newly released title. Spence nudged me along.
I caught up with Jo. “This won’t endear her to the other members of her group.” I remembered the way Zelda had acted, as though Fiona was She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
“I don’t think Fiona likes them, either.” Jo’s tone was dry.
“What makes you think that?” Spence asked.
Jo glanced at us over her shoulder. “It’s just a feeling I got from her when we were organizing this signing.”
Jo crossed into the storage room. Spence and I were right behind her. The room was dimly lit in comparison to the main part of the store. Empty boxes stood to the side, waiting to be flattened for recycling. Step ladders and carts were stored in a corner for easy access. Shelving affixed to the walls held office supplies such as paper, printer inks, packing tape, markers, and box cutters. In the center of the room, two matching dark wood tables balanced open boxes of books still to be shelved. On the far table, Fiona’s books had been unpacked, only needing a cart to carry them out. But who would operate the cart?
Was I the only one feeling uneasy? “Where’s Fiona?”
In front of me, Jo frowned as her store owner’s attention seemed to catalog the room’s contents. To my right, Spence appeared to be scanning the room, searching for the source of the disquiet. I stepped forward.
“Marvey, wait.” Spence’s voice stopped me.
But not before I saw the body, lying in a pool of blood on the far side of the rear table.
I must have rocketed a foot into the air before landing on semi-solid ground. Spence’s large, strong hands gripped my shoulders to steady me.
Jo gasped. “Oh, my God. Fiona.”


About Olivia Matthews

Olivia Matthews author of Murder by Page One

Olivia Matthews is the cozy mystery pseudonym for Patricia Sargeant, a national best-selling, award-winning author. Her work has been featured in national publications such as Publishers Weekly, USA Today, Kirkus Reviews, Suspense Magazine, Mystery Scene Magazine, Library Journal and RT Book Reviews. For more information about Patricia and her work, visit

Author Links





You can find Murder by Page One at these online retailers AmazonHallmark PublishingAppleBarnes & NobleBookshop Fantastic FictionKobo

Congratulations to Linda, Virginia, Andra, Jennifer and Karen! They were the winners of the Murder of a Good Man Giveaway! 

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Vera Book Review


The 1906 earthquake in San Francisco changed lives and leveled the city. The daughter of a bordello owner fights to survive through earthquake and then fire. I’ll admit I’ve seen every disaster movie out there probably because I’ve been through a couple myself.

About the Book

New York Times bestselling author Carol Edgarian delivers an astonishing feat of imagination, a grand adventure set in 1906 San Francisco—a city leveled by quake and fire—featuring an indomitable heroine coming of age in the aftermath of catastrophe and her quest for love and reinvention.

Meet Vera Johnson, the uncommonly resourceful fifteen-year-old illegitimate daughter of Rose, notorious proprietor of San Francisco’s most legendary bordello and ally to the city’s corrupt politicians. Vera has grown up straddling two worlds—the madam’s alluring sphere, replete with tickets to the opera, surly henchmen, and scant morality, and the violent, debt ridden domestic life of the family paid to raise her.

On the morning of the great quake, Vera’s worlds collide. As the shattered city burns and looters vie with the injured, orphaned, and starving, Vera and her guileless sister, Pie, are cast adrift. Vera disregards societal norms and prejudices and begins to imagine a new kind of life. She collaborates with Tan, her former rival, and forges an unlikely family of survivors. Together they navigate their way beyond disaster.

Buy this Book on

Amazon Barnes and Noble Indie Bookstore

My Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is the story of Vera Johnson, a resilient young woman who has just turned fifteen. We find out that she is the daughter of a notorious madam and that her mother has parked her with a Swedish woman and her daughter so that she doesn’t have to grow up in a brothel. The relationship between Vera and her mother, Rose, is complicated. Vera’s drive for survival even at such a young age is something she shares with her mother, and when the earthquake of 1906 hits, she has to find her. Even though her mother has never been friendly, Vera needs to care for her. The earthquake and the recovery story are fascinating as the reader sees Vera overcome struggle after struggle. There are crooked politicians, good people, and a little romance. Great book!
I obtained this book from Net Galley and have left an honest review.

Float Plan Book Review

If you had lost your groom-to-be would you still go on a trip the two of you had planned? Even if it is slightly dangerous for one person? That’s what Anna decides to do in Float Plan. This wonderful story shows us the strength of a woman deep in the throes of grief and the truths she finds sailing in the Caribbean.

About the Book

Heartbroken by the loss of her fiancé, adventurous Anna finds a second chance at love with an Irish sailor in this riveting, emotional romance.

After a reminder goes off for the Caribbean sailing trip Anna was supposed to take with her fiancé, she impulsively goes to sea in the sailboat he left her, intending to complete the voyage alone.

But after a treacherous night’s sail, she realizes she can’t do it by herself and hires Keane, a professional sailor, to help. Much like Anna, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned. As romance rises with the tide, they discover that it’s never too late to chart a new course.

In Trish Doller’s unforgettable Float Plan, starting over doesn’t mean letting go of your past, it means making room for your future.

“The perfect escape. Fresh, funny, and romantic. I wish I could sail away with this book.” – Meg Cabot, New York Times bestselling author of The Princess Diaries and Little Bridge series

Here’s where you can find your copy of Float Plan

Float Plan

My Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story of Anna as she finds her next steps in life after her fiancé commits suicide. After wallowing in grief for a year she packs his boat and attempts to take the route they had planned to do together ending in their wedding. She meets up with Keene, a lovable Irishman, who helps her guide the boat through the islands of the Caribbean. This is a romance that is built on two people who come to love each other even though they both have their obstacles. It is also wonderful to experience their carefree trip, the people they meet, and the love that develops between them. I highly recommend it!

I acquired this book through Net Galley and have left an honest review.

About the Author

TRISH DOLLER is the author of novels for teens and adults about love, life, and finding your place in the world. A former journalist and radio personality, Trish has written several YA novels, including the critically acclaimed Something Like Normal, as well as Float Plan, her adult women’s fiction debut. When she’s not writing, Trish loves sailing, traveling, and avoiding housework. She lives in southwest Florida with an opinionated herding dog and an ex-pirate.

Here’s where you can find your copy of Float Plan

Social Links: @TrishDoller on Instagram and Twitter

The Purple Nightgown Book Review

The Purple Nightgown

It’s a true crime Saturday! The Purple Nightgown comes from the awesome True Colors Series. If you’ve ever suffered from blinding migraines, you understand how desperate a sufferer can be for a cure.

About The Purple Nightgown

Marvel at true but forgotten history when patients check into Linda Hazzard’s Washington state spa in 1912 and soon become victim of her twisted greed.
Heiress Stella Burke is plagued by insincere suitors and nonstop headaches. Exhausting all other medical aides for her migraines, Stella reads Fasting for the Cure of Disease by Linda Hazzard and determines to go to the spa the author runs. Stella’s chauffer and long-time friend, Henry Clayton, is reluctant to leave her at the spa. Something doesn’t feel right to him, still Stella submits herself into Linda Hazzard’s care. Stella soon learns the spa has a dark side and Linda a mean streak. But when Stella has had enough, all ways to leave are suddenly blocked. Will Stella become a walking skeleton like many of the other patients or succumb to a worse fate?

You can find The Purple Nightgown here.

My Review

One thing I like about the True Colors Series is that the stories are built around true crimes. In The Purple Nightgown, Stella Burke, a well to do young lady suffers from migraine headaches. It is 1911 and she’s in search of a miracle cure, which leads her to Dr. Linda Hazzard who has written a book on fasting for better health. Even though Stella is discouraged from going to a fasting sanitorium, run by Hazzard by her lifelong friend, Henry, she tricks him into letting her go. The treatment she finds there is horrible and has to find a way to escape or die. The author explains in the end of the book that Linda Hazzard and this place of torture really did exist in Ollala, Washington. I enjoyed the pacing, the love story and A.D. Lawrence does an excellent job of showing the evilness of Linda Hazzard. She puts her main character right into the clutches of the villain and then shows how faith plays a vital role in survival.

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Gone Astray is on Cozy Prizes Friday!

Gone Astray Banner
Had enough of winter? Let’s go to Winterset, Nebraska, a cold midwestern town with a bit of a crime problem. You’ll meet a detective that you’ll come to love and the author’s attention to detail is excellent! Read my review below and don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

About Gone Astray

Gone Astray

Gone Astray
Publisher: Wild Rose Press (February 15, 2021)

Goodreads Button for Gone Astray

A heart attack sends detective Rory Naysmith reeling. Too young to retire, he accepts a position in small-town Winterset, Nebraska. Handed an unsolved truck hijacking case, with the assistance of a rookie, Rory sets out to prove he is still able to go toe-to-toe with younger men. When the body of a Vietnam veteran turns up, he dons his fedora and spit-shines his shoes. But before he can solve the murder, an older woman disappears, followed closely by a second hijacking. He doggedly works the cases, following a thread that ties the two crimes together. But can Rory find the mental and physical strength to up his game and bring the criminals to justice before disaster strikes and he loses his job?

My Review

I thoroughly enjoyed Gone Astray as it settled into a cold Nebraska winter with a seasoned detective taking a job in a small town. Rory Naysmith isn’t the man he used to be physically, but mentally he’s a top-notch detective who is finding the town of Winterset, Nebraska has its share of crime. I love the amount of detail Fischer uses in each and every scene making the reader feel like they’re hunching down with Rory noting that strange tarp at the construction company and making some flirting glances at a local bookkeeper whose mother is missing. The characters are well defined in such a way you want to know more about them. This story will keep you reading! 

You can find Gone Astray at these retailers – AmazonB&N

About Terry Korth Fischer

Terry Korth Fischer, Author of Gone Astray

Terry Korth Fischer writes mystery and memoir. Her memoir, Omaha to Ogallala, was released in 2019, S&H Publishing, Inc. Her short stories have appeared in The Write Place at the Write Time, Spies & Heroes, Voices from the Plains, and numerous anthologies. Transplanted from the Midwest, Terry lives in Houston with her husband and their two guard cats. She enjoys a good mystery, the heat and humidity, and long summer days.

Author Links




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You can find Gone Astray at these retailers – AmazonB&N

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Murder of a Good Man Giveaway

March Newsletter

Don’t subscribe to my newsletter? This is what you’re missing!

Books the the Ceiling Newsletter
Feed Me Seymour
Our “Feed Me, Seymour” Palm Tree Covered in Snow!Boy are we glad it’s March in Texas. Let’s just say February wasn’t our best month, and I have an urge to write about energy gurus who don’t have a clue. Have you ever been visited with a sudden calamity that takes days to resolve? Judd Kelsey, part of the Pecan Bayou Police Force tells us about all he encountered in the big Texas Freeze. Don’t forget to get your monthly helpful hint from The Happy Hinter. I have plenty of books on the review/showcase list this month, so mark your calendars and stop in any time.

Murder of a Good Man will be available through the Harlequin website on March 9th with a snazzy new cover!

Murder of a Good Man Giveaway

Find it at Harlequin Here

I will be giving away 5 paperback copies of Murder of a Good Man. Just a few more days to enter!

The Happy Hinter

This is Betsy Livingston Fitzpatrick, the Happy Hinter part-time crime solver. So I’m sure you’ve all heard of it-the Magic Eraser. This little white foamy rectangle you can use for a myriad of uses. Leave a corner of it in your toilet to get rid of your toilet bowl ring. Use it to take your preschooler’s artwork off the wall. Clean your grout, and you can even run it gently over your computer keyboard to get those nasty crumbs. I know Josiah Thatcher would sure love that little sponge to work on his anniversary blunder. His wife, Primrose, also known as Mrs. Thatcher the Dispatcher, requested a blue scarf for their anniversary. She had seen Grace Kelly wearing a beautiful silk scarf framing her classic features while watching an old movie. I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but we had a terrible freeze in February. Their anniversary happened during the freeze so when Josiah was out gathering firewood he ran into Glory McGiver and bemoaned the fact that all the stores were closed and he didn’t have the gift she had requested. She volunteered to make her a blue scarf and on the morning of the anniversary he showed up with a blue … muffler. Prim was polite and accepted the gift and then confessed her desire to look like Grace Kelly. Josiah realized he’d missed the mark, but Prim later told us he told her she didn’t need a blue scarf to look like Grace. She was even prettier. True love is an inspiration at 18 and 81, isn’t it? That’s all for now,
The Happy Hinter

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Pecan Bayou Post Card
Hello Neighbor!
This is Judd Kelsey, member of the Pecan Bayou Police Force and the father of our Happy Hinter. You may be aware that we had quite a winter storm last month and our people here in Pecan Bayou were trying not to freeze to death. Firewood came at a premium and that was how I discovered J.R. Ledbetter selling firewood on a sliding scale. J.R.’s scale was not based on a person’s salary but how good a joke they could tell. That’s J.R. for you. Libby Loper tried the classic chicken-crossed-the-road joke and got a pile of twigs. Earl from Earl’s Java made a joke asking what ERCOT, the energy gurus who got us into this mess- really means. The answer? Excluding Reliability when Cold OTemperate. That got him a cord of wood.
Stay safe, wear a mask, and take care.
~Judd Kelsey

Coming Up in March

March 5/Review/Giveaway

Gone Astray

A heart attack sends detective Rory Naysmith reeling. Too young to retire, he accepts a position in small-town Winterset, Nebraska. Handed an unsolved truck hijacking case, with the assistance of a rookie, Rory sets out to prove he is still able to go toe-to-toe with younger men.

March 6/Review

The Purple Nightgown
Marvel at true but forgotten history when patients check into Linda Hazzard’s Washington state spa in 1912 and soon become victim of her twisted greed.

March 12/Review

Float Plan

After a reminder goes off for the Caribbean sailing trip Anna was supposed to take with her fiancé, she impulsively goes to sea in the sailboat he left her, intending to complete the voyage alone. But after a treacherous night’s sail, she realizes she can’t do it by herself and hires Keane, a professional sailor, to help .

March 13/Review


New York Times bestselling author Carol Edgarian delivers an astonishing feat of imagination, a grand adventure set in 1906 San Francisco – a city leveled by quake and fire—featuring an indomitable heroine coming of age in the aftermath of catastrophe and her quest for love and reinvention.

March 19/Spotlight/Giveaway

Murder Page One

Marvey, a librarian, has moved from Brooklyn to a quirky small town in Georgia. When she’s not at the library organizing events for readers, she’s handcrafting book-themed jewelry and looking after her cranky cat. At times, her new life in the South still feels strange…and that’s before the discovery of the dead body in the bookstore.

March 20/Spotlight

The Incredible Winston Browne

In the small, sleepy town of Moab, Florida, folks live for ice cream socials, Jackie Robinson, and the local paper’s weekly gossip column. For decades, Sheriff Winston Browne has watched over Moab with a generous eye, and by now he’s used to handling the daily dramas that keep life interesting for Moab’s quirky residents. But just after Winston receives some terrible, life-altering news, a feisty little girl with mysterious origins shows up in his best friend’s henhouse. Suddenly Winston has a child in desperate need of protection—as well as a secret of his own to keep.

March 26/Review

The Lost Village

The Blair Witch Project meets Midsommar in this brilliantly disturbing thriller from Camilla Sten, an electrifying new voice in suspense. Documentary filmmaker Alice Lindstedt has been obsessed with the vanishing residents of the old mining town, dubbed “The Lost Village,” since she was a little girl. In 1959, her grandmother’s entire family disappeared in this mysterious tragedy, and ever since, the unanswered questions surrounding the only two people who were left—a woman stoned to death in the town center and an abandoned newborn—have plagued her. She’s gathered a small crew of friends in the remote village to make a film about what really happened.

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The Turncoat’s Widow Spotlight and Giveaway

The Turncoat's Widow by Mally Becker Banner

At the end of a dreary February, lets dig into a historical romance by Mally Becker.

Check out the description, the excerpt and wink wink– the giveaway!

Mally’s from Level Best Books, my new publishing family that I’m so happy to be a part of, and today I get to spotlight her new book for you. 


The Turncoat's Widow by Mally Becker

Recently widowed, Rebecca Parcell is too busy struggling to maintain her farm in Morristown to care who wins the War for Independence. But rumors are spreading in 1780 that she’s a Loyalist sympathizer who betrayed her husband to the British—quite a tidy way to end her disastrous marriage, the village gossips whisper.

Everyone knows that her husband was a Patriot, a hero who died aboard a British prison ship moored in New York Harbor. But “everyone” is wrong. Parcell was a British spy, and General Washington – who spent two winters in Morristown – can prove it. He swears he’ll safeguard Becca’s farm if she unravels her husband’s secrets. With a mob ready to exile her or worse in the winter of 1780, it’s an offer she can’t refuse.

Escaped British prisoner of war Daniel Alloway was the last person to see Becca’s husband alive, and Washington throws this unlikely couple together on an espionage mission to British-occupied New York City. Moving from glittering balls to an underworld of brothels and prisons, Becca and Daniel uncover a plot that threatens the new country’s future. But will they move quickly enough to warn General Washington? And can Becca, who’s lost almost everyone she loves, fight her growing attraction to Daniel, a man who always moves on?

Praise for The Turncoat’s Widow

The Turncoat’s Widow has it all. A sizzling romance, meticulous research, and an exhilarating adventure. Becca Parcell is too independent for both 18th-century Morristown and her feckless English husband. Her individual plight when she is pressed into service as an unwilling spy after her husband’s death reflects the larger situation of colonists during the American Revolution, whose lives were upended by a political fight they cared nothing about. Becker balances the ruthlessness of George Washington and the underhanded charm of Alexander Hamilton with the excesses of the British, as part of a detailed picture of how the colonies were governed during a war that was far from a simple fight between two opposing nations. But historical exactitude is balanced by dashing romance between Becca and Daniel Alloway, the escaped prisoner charged with protecting her, and plot full of bold escapes and twists. A great series debut. I can’t wait for the next installment.
– Erica Obey, author, Dazzle Paint (coming 02/2021), The Curse of the Braddock Brides, and The Horseman’s Word.

An exciting Revolutionary-era thriller with a twisty mystery, great characters, and historical accuracy to boot.
– Eleanor Kuhns,author of the Will Rees mysteries

The Turncoat’s Widow reminds readers that treachery from within and without to our republic were real, and those early days for American independence from the British were fragile, the patriot cause, unpopular. This is a rousing debut novel with insights into the hardships of colonial life, the precarious place of women in society, while giving fans of historical fiction a tale with suspense, surprises, and anoutspoken and admirable heroine in Becca Parcell. Mally Becker is an author to watch.
– Gabriel Valjan, Agatha and Anthony-nominated author of The Naming Game

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Suspense / Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: February 16, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-953789-27-3
Purchase Links: Amazon || Goodreads


Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Morristown – January 1780

There was a nervous rustling in the white-washed meeting house, a disturbance of air like the sound of sparrows taking wing.

Becca Parcell peered over the balcony’s rough, wood railing, blinking away the fog of half-sleep. She had been dreaming of the figures in her account book and wondering whether there would be enough money for seed this spring.

“I didn’t hear what ….” she whispered to Philip’s mother.

Lady Augusta Georgiana Stokes Parcell, known simply as Lady Augusta, covered Becca’s hand with her own. “Philip. They’re speaking of Philip.”

Becca couldn’t tell whether it was her hand or Augusta’s that trembled.

“The Bible says, if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee, does it not?” The preacher’s voice was soft, yet it carried to every corner of the congregation. “They’re here. Amongst us. Neighbors who toast the King behind closed doors. Neighbors with no love of liberty.”

Philip was a Patriot. He had died a hero. Everyone knew. Minister Townsend couldn’t be talking about him.

The minister raised his eyes to hers. With his long thin arms and legs and round belly, he reminded her of a spider. She twisted her lips into the semblance of a smile as if to say “you don’t scare me.” But he did.

“Which of your neighbors celebrates each time a Patriot dies?” Townsend’s voice rose like smoke to the rafters, took on strength and caught fire. “Their presence here is an abomination.” He rapped the podium with a flat palm, the sound bruising in the quiet church. “Then cast them out. Now.”

Men pounded the floor with their feet.

Becca flinched. It wouldn’t take much to tip the congregation into violence. Everyone had lost someone or something to this endless war. It had been going on for almost five years.

Townsend’s thin arm rose, pointing to her.

Becca’s breath caught.

“And what of widows like Mrs. Parcell? Left alone, no longer guided by the wise direction of their husbands.”

Guided? Becca pulled her hand from Augusta’s. She rubbed her thumb along the palm of her hand, feeling the rough calluses stamped there. She had learned the rhythm of the scythe at the end of the summer, how to twist and swing low until her hands were so stiff that she’d struggle to free them from the handle. She’d fallen into a dreamless sleep each night during the harvest too exhausted even to dream of Philip. She, Augusta and their servant Annie were doing just fine.

“He hardly slept at home, as I hear it,” a woman behind her sniffed to a neighbor.

Becca’s spine straightened.

“No wonder there were no babes,” the second woman murmured.

Becca twisted and nodded a smile to Mrs. Huber and Mrs. Harrington. Their mouths pursed into surprised tight circles. She’d heard them murmur, their mouths hidden by fluttering fans: About her lack of social graces; her friendship with servants; her awkward silence in company. “What else could you expect from her?” they would say, snapping shut their fans.

Relief washed through Becca, nonetheless. This was merely the old gossip, not the new rumors.

“Some of you thought Mr. Parcell was just another smuggler.” The pastor’s voice boomed.

A few in the congregation chuckled. It was illegal to sell food to the British in New York – the “London Trade” some called it — but most turned a blind eye. Even Patriots need hard currency to live, Becca recalled Philip saying.

“He only married her for the dowry,” Mrs. Huber hissed.

Becca’s hand curved into a fist.

Augusta cleared her throat, and Becca forced herself to relax.

“Perhaps some of you thought Mr. Parcell was still a Tory,” the minister said.

The chuckling died.

“He came to his senses, though. He was, after all, one of us,” Minister Townsend continued.

One of us. Invitations from the finer families had trickled away after Philip’s death.

“We all know his story,” Townsend continued. “He smuggled whiskey into New York City. And what a perfect disguise his aristocratic roots provided.” The minister lifted his nose in the air as if mimicking a dandy.
“The British thought he was one of them, at least until the end.” The minister’s voice swooped as if telling a story around a campfire. “He brought home information about the British troops in the City.”

Becca shifted on the bench. She hadn’t known about her husband’s bravery until after his death. It had baffled her. Philip never spoke of politics.

Townsend lifted one finger to his chin as if he had a new thought. “But who told the British where Mr. Parcell would be on the day he was captured? Who told the Redcoats that Mr. Parcell was a spy for independence?”

Becca forgot to breathe. He wouldn’t dare.

“It must have been someone who knew him well.” The minister’s gaze moved slowly through the congregation and came to rest on Becca. His eyes were the color of creosote, dark and burning. “Very, very well.”
Mrs. Coddington, who sat to Becca’s left, pulled the hem of her black silk gown close to avoid contact. Men in the front pews swiveled and stared.

“I would never. I didn’t.” Becca’s corset gouged her ribcage.

“Speak up, Mrs. Parcell. We can’t hear you,” the minister said in a singsong voice.

Townsend might as well strip her naked before the entire town. Respectable women didn’t speak in public. He means to humiliate me.

“Stand up, Mrs. Parcell.” His voice boomed. “We all want to hear.”

She didn’t remember standing. But there she was, the fingers of her right hand curled as it held the hunting bow she’d used since she was a child. Becca turned back to the minister. “Hogwash.” If they didn’t think she was a lady, she need not act like one. “Your independence is a wickedly unfair thing if it lets you accuse me without proof.”

Gasps cascaded throughout the darkening church.

From the balcony, where slaves and servants sat, she heard two coughs, explosive as gun fire. She twisted. Carl scowled down at her in warning. His white halo of hair, fine as duckling feathers, seemed to stand on end. He had worked for her father and helped to raise her. He had taught her numbers and mathematics. She couldn’t remember life without him.

“Accuse? Accuse you of what, Mrs. Parcell?” The minister opened his arms to the congregation. “What have we accused you of?”

Becca didn’t feel the chill now. “Of killing my husband. If this is what your new nation stands for – neighbors accusing neighbors, dividing us with lies – I’ll have none of it. “Five years into this endless war, is anyone better off for Congress’ Declaration of Independence? Independence won’t pay for food. It won’t bring my husband home.”

It was as if she’d burst into flames. “What has the war brought any of us? Heartache, is all. Curse your independence. Curse you for ….”

Augusta yanked on Becca’s gown with such force that she teetered, then rocked back onto the bench.

The church erupted in shouts, a crashing wave of sound meant to crush her.

Becca’s breath came in short puffs. What had she done?

“Now that’s just grief speaking, gentlemen. Mrs. Parcell is still mourning her husband. No need to get worked up.” The voice rose from the front row. She recognized Thomas Lockwood’s slow, confident drawl.
She craned her neck to watch Thomas, with his wheat-colored hair and wide shoulders. His broad stance reminded her of a captain at the wheel. He was a gentleman, a friend of General Washington. They’ll listen to him, she thought.

“Our minister doesn’t mean to accuse Mrs. Parcell of anything, now do you, sir?”

The two men stared at each other. A minister depended on the good will of gentlemen like Thomas Lockwood.
The pastor blinked first. He shook his head.

Becca’s breathing slowed.

“There now. As I said.” Lockwood’s voice calmed the room.

Then Mr. Baldwin stood slowly. Wrinkles crisscrossed his cheeks. He’d sent his three boys to fight with the Continental Army in ’75. Only one body came home to be buried. The other two were never found. He pointed at Becca with fingers twisted by arthritis. “Mrs. Parcell didn’t help when the women raised money for the soldiers last month.”

A woman at the end of Becca’s pew sobbed quietly. It was Mrs. Baldwin.

“You didn’t invite me.” Becca searched the closed faces for proof that someone believed her.

“Is she on our side or theirs?” another woman called.

The congregation quieted again. But it was the charged silence between two claps of thunder, and the Assembly waited for a fresh explosion in the dim light of the tired winter afternoon.

With that, Augusta’s imperious voice sliced through the silence: “Someone help my daughter-in-law. She’s not well. I believe she’s about to faint.”

Becca might be rash, but she wasn’t stupid, and she knew a command when she heard one. She shut her eyes and fell gracelessly into the aisle. Her head and shoulder thumped against the rough pine floorboards.

Mrs. Coddington gasped. So did Becca, from the sharp pain in her cheek and shoulder.

Women in the surrounding rows scooted back in surprise, their boots shuffling with a shh-shh sound.

“Lady Augusta,” Mrs. Coddington huffed.

Independence be damned. All of Morristown seemed to enjoy using Augusta’s family title, her former title, as often as possible.

“Lady Augusta,” she repeated. “I’ve had my suspicions about that girl since the day she married your son. I don’t know why you haven’t sent her back to her people.”

“She has no ‘people,’ Mrs. Coddington. She has me,” Augusta’s voice was as frosty as the air in the church. “And if I had doubts about Rebecca, do you think I’d live with her?”

Becca imagined Augusta’s raised eyebrows, her delicate lifted chin. She couldn’t have borne it if her mother-in-law believed the minister’s lies.

Augusta’s featherlight touch stroked her forehead. “Well done,” she murmured. “Now rise slowly. And don’t lean on me. I might just topple over.”

“We are eager to hear the rest of the service on this Sabbath day, Minister Townsend. Do continue,” Thomas Lockwood called.

Becca stood, her petite mother-in-law’s arm around her waist. The parishioners at the edges of the aisles averted their eyes as the two women passed.

As they stepped into the stark, brittle daylight, one last question shred the silence they left behind: “Do you think she turned her husband over to the British?”

Someone else answered. “It must be true. Everyone says so.


Excerpt from The Turncoat’s Widow by Mally Becker. Copyright 2021 by Mally Becker. Reproduced with permission from Mally Becker. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Mally Becker

Mally Becker is a writer whose historical suspense novel, The Turncoat’s Widow, will be published in February 2021 by Level Best Books. She was born in Brooklyn and began her professional career in New York City as a publicist and freelance magazine writer, then moved on, becoming an attorney and, later, an advocate for children in foster care.

As a volunteer, she used her legal background to create a digest of letters from US Supreme Court Justices owned by the Morristown National Park. That’s where she found a copy of an indictment for the Revolutionary War crime of traveling from New Jersey to New York City “without permission or passport.” It led her to the idea for her story.

​A winner of the Leon B. Burstein/MWA-NY Scholarship for Mystery Writing, Mally lives with her husband in the wilds of New Jersey where they hike, kayak, look forward to visits from their son, and poke around the region’s historical sites.

Catch Up With Mally Becker On:
Instagram – @mallybeckerwrites
Twitter – @mally_becker
Facebook – Mally Baumel Becker




Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Mally Becker. There will be Five (5) winners for this tour. One winner will receive a $20. Gift Card, Two (2) winners will each win a physical copy of The Turncoat’s Widow by Mally Becker (U.S. addresses only), and Two (2) winners will each win an eBook copy of The Turncoat’s Widow by Mally Becker. The giveaway begins on February 22, 2021 and runs through March 21, 2021.
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Dangerous Women Book Review

Dangerous Women

It’s been crazy in Texas this week and I almost didn’t get this posted. We’ve had power on for over 14 hours so I’m typing quickly! I think I’m going to have to write a book about energy brokers who don’t have a clue to life, but really, we’re fine and I’m on day 3 of my Netflix/Amazon Prime withdrawal.

Speaking a dangerous women, you can take your choice- today’s book is historical and a great mystery. This story is like a cruise ship for convicts and just when it’s getting interesting someone gets murdered. Dangerous Women is based on a true story and the quilt the women make is actually on display in Australia. Read my review under the description and don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a signed paperback copy of Murder of a Good Man coming out with Harlequin.

More about Dangerous Women

Nearly two hundred condemned women board a transport ship bound for Australia. One of them is a murderer. From debut author Hope Adams comes a thrilling novel based on the 1841 voyage of the convict ship Rajah, about confinement, hope, and the terrible things we do to survive.

London, 1841. One hundred eighty Englishwomen file aboard the Rajah, embarking on a three-month voyage to the other side of the world. 

They’re daughters, sisters, mothers—and convicts. 

Transported for petty crimes. 

Except one of them has a deadly secret, and will do anything to flee justice.

As the Rajah sails farther from land, the women forge a tenuous kinship. Until, in the middle of the cold and unforgiving sea, a young mother is mortally wounded, and the hunt is on for the assailant before he or she strikes again.

Each woman called in for question has something to fear: Will she be attacked next? Will she be believed? Because far from land, there is nowhere to flee, and how can you prove innocence when you’ve already been found guilty?

My Review

A group of women who have committed crimes like stealing are put on the ship Rajah and will be given a new life in Australia in the year 1841. In this debut novel, Hope Adams gives us a fascinating look at the prisoners and the reasons they committed their crimes and then takes it one step further when there is a murder onboard. At this point, Dangerous Women went from a historical novel to a heck of a whodunnit. There were plenty of suspects and reasons for the murder with a cryptic clue stitched into a quilt scrap. The matron of these women decides making a quilt while being aboard ship for over one hundred days would be a great way to give them a positive endeavor and get to know each woman. A member of the quilt group is murdered and suddenly the seven women involved became potential murderers. Excellent story! 5 Stars

Murder of a Good Man Giveaway

Mardi Gras Mysteries

I have another short story out, this time with Mystery and Horror, LLC. All the mysteries take place during Mardi Gras which with my husband being from New Orleans, I had an instant expert.

“Unfiltered” is about a woman who says what she says and she doesn’t care who hears it or who it might hurt. You know this woman, right? Proud of being rude? But the fun part of being a writer is you can turn the tables on a character like this!

Here’s where you can pick up Mardi Gras Mysteries.

Mardis Gras Mysteries


By popular demand, we present the sequel to Mardi Gras Murder. Mardi Gras Mysteries offers seventeen tales of crime, mayhem, and murder set during the celebration and licentiousness of Carnival. For a savory sample of New Orleans lore, take a sip of “A Prayer to Momus” by DJ Tyrer or “Carnival Carnage” by John Kiste. For a dish of redemption and revenge, returning author and Louisiana native Nathan Pettigrew serves up “The Steel Pelican.” Is a mystery with a literary flavor more to your taste? Try “The Brass Menagerie” by DG Critchley. If you prefer a racier seasoning, there’s “Unholy Beads” and “Gussy Saint and the Case of the Three-Boobed Woman.” For the deepest bowl of intrigue, we end with “Keep Your Head Up,” a thriller by Tom Andes. And don’t forget my story “Unfiltered” a Mardis Gras murder mystery with a twist!

Available on Amazon

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The Four Winds Book Review

The Four Winds

We are going historical today. Think Dust Bowl and people out of choices, desperate to survive. The Four Winds is amazing. Believe it or not, this was the first book I’ve read by Kristin Hannah, but it won’t be the last. Be sure to scroll down to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a paperback copy of Murder of a Good Man.

Book Description

From the number-one bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone comes a powerful American epic about love and heroism and hope, set during the Great Depression, a time when the country was in crisis and at war with itself, when millions were out of work and even the land seemed to have turned against them.

My land tells its story if you listen. The story of our family.”

Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the bounty of the land is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage is a woman’s only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: marriage to a man she barely knows.

By 1934, the world has changed; millions are out of work and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa’s tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive.

In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family.

The Four Winds is a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it—the harsh realities that divided us as a nation and the enduring battle between the haves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

My Review

Kristin Hannah is a tremendous storyteller. The Four Winds gives us the character of Elsa who is told she is too tall, too thin, and not overly attractive daily. Living in Texas during the dust bowl she flees to California with her children for a better life and finds herself under the thumb of large farms who use the company store to keep underpaid workers always in debt. This is a story of struggle, stubbornness, the triumph of women when they work together, and how the American dream does end up being the same for everyone. I treasured the tale of Elsa and hoped for her to have the life she deserved the whole way through the book. Excellent.

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Coming up in February at Books to the Ceiling

It’s hard to believe we’re coming upon a year of this pandemic. Spending more time at home has had us organizing, cooking, baking, and learning to cope with loving loved ones. Have you done something different this year? This blog post is my February newsletter. If you would like to subscribe click here or on the banner at the bottom of the page. We’ll make a visit to the fictional town of Pecan Bayou to see how Ruby Green, owner of The Best Little Hairhouse in Texas is making it through the pandemic.

Did you know that Murder of a Good Man has been picked up by Harlequin? It will be available through their website on March 9th with a snazzy new cover!

GIVEAWAY! I will be giving away 5 signed paperback copies of Murder of a Good Man.

February 5/Review

The Four Winds
“Through one woman’s survival during the harsh and haunting Dust Bowl,
master storyteller, Kristin Hannah, reminds us that the human heart and our Earth are as tough, yet as fragile, as a change in the wind.”
Delia Owens, author of Where the Crawdads Sing

February 19/Review

Dangerous Women
Nearly two hundred condemned women board a transport ship bound for Australia. One of them is a murderer. From debut author Hope Adams comes a thrilling novel based on the 1841 voyage of the convict ship Rajah, about confinement, hope, and the terrible things we do to survive.

February 26/Showcase

Dangerous Women
Recently widowed, Rebecca Parcell is too busy struggling to maintain her farm in Morristown to care who wins the War for Independence. But rumors are spreading in 1780 that she’s a Loyalist sympathizer who betrayed her husband to the British- quite a tidy way to end her disastrous marriage, the village gossips whisper.

Hello Residents of Pecan Bayou. This is Betsy Livingston Fitzpatrick, the Happy Hinter and part-time crime solver. If you have been revamping pieces of furniture with spray paints you might find that stray cans are all over your garage or work area. When you are ready to start that new project, where is that can of paint? Could it be in the mess you’ve created as you rushed to the finish of your last project? Here’s my helpful hint and it’s one to lessen the amount of trash you put to the curb every week. If you have cardboard six pack cases, whether from soft drinks or beer, you’ll find the six square pockets are a perfect fit for a can of spray paint. Not only do you have the paint all in one place, but now you have a handy handle to transport it! Now, just because you feel good about being on the road to organization with this helpful hint, you do not need to empty out a six pack right away!
This will lead me to my next column, “Cures for a Nasty Hangover”. That’s all for now,
The Happy Hinter

Hello Neighbor!
Ruby Green here to tell you how Pecan Bayou is doing in the pandemic. The Best Little Hair House in Texas had to close down for awhile. Betsy came up with the idea of wearing a green trash bag as my smock and one of those big clear plastic masks. That way I could cut hair and still be socially distant.
I looked like I belonged in the creature feature down at the Rialto. I wore that for a while, but Texas in the summer can be a devilish place and wearing a coating of Hefty was a big pain in the you-know-what. Other people in Pecan Bayou have learned to get along with all of the rules and regulations. Birdie’s Diner and Benny’s Barbecue went down two tables on the sidewalk. That seemed to work out until the hurricane season hit.
The Pecan Bayou Congregational Church is back to meeting in person. My brother, Pastor Green, tried going online but some of our older members had trouble with that YouTube thing. We’ve only had one case of Covid here, mostly because people who live here stay here no matter what’s going on. Why would they leave? This is Pecan Bayou. That’s all for now, and if you need those bangs trimmed, come on in.
You don’t need an appointment at The Best Little Hairhouse.


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A Tourist’s Guide to Murder is on Cozy Prizes Friday

V.M. Burns has her sixth installment out in the Mystery Bookshop series. Her characters go on a mystery tour in London, England. I want to go! Don’t you? Seeing as the only travel we’re doing is from our reading chairs, let’s check out A Tourist’s Guide to Murder. Be sure to scroll down for the giveaway!

About A Tourist’s Guide to Murder

A Tourist’s Guide to Murder (Mystery Bookshop)
Cozy Mystery
6th in Series
Publisher: Kensington (January 26, 2021)

While visiting the land of Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes, bookstore owner and amateur sleuth Samantha Washington finds herself on a tragical mystery tour . . .

Sam joins Nana Jo and her Shady Acres Retirement Village friends Irma, Dorothy, and Ruby Mae on a weeklong trip to London, England, to experience the Peabody Mystery Lovers Tour. The chance to see the sights and walk the streets that inspired Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle is a dream come true for Sam—and a perfect way to celebrate her new publishing contract as a mystery author.

But between visits to Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel district and 221B Baker Street, Major Horace Peabody is found dead, supposedly of natural causes. Despite his employer’s unfortunate demise, the tour guide insists on keeping calm and carrying on—until another tourist on their trip also dies under mysterious circumstances. Now it’s up to Sam and the Shady Acres ladies to mix and mingle among their fellow mystery lovers, find a motive, and turn up a murderer . . .

You can find A Tourist’s Guide to Murder at these retailers:

AppleAmazonGoogleKoboNookBAMBookshop.orgHudson BooksellersIndieBoundTarget

And now we spend a little time with Samantha Washington, a character from the Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series…

Welcome to the blog, Samantha! Please tell us about your latest adventure.

My grandmother, Nana Jo and the girls from the retirement village accompany me on Peabody Mystery Lovers Tour of England to research my next British historic cozy. When Major Peabody dies of apparently natural causes, we carry on. When a second tour member is murdered it becomes apparent that there’s nothing natural about either death. Suspicion falls on the members of the tour group and it’s up to us to find the real killer.

Do you have any friends/sidekicks helping you out?

My grandmother, Josephine Thomas (Nana Jo) and her friends from Shady Acres Retirement Village have helped me solve several mysteries. Nana Jo is a crack shot and she and Dorothy, are both aikido experts. Ruby Mae has a vast extended family network. She has the type of face that people trust and people tell her things. Irma is a major flirt and always manages to get men to tell her their secrets. I wouldn’t be able to get the information I need without Nana Jo and the girls.

Do you have any special skills to fight crime?

My biggest skill is solving puzzles. As the owner of a mystery bookshop and an avid mystery reader, I’ve read a lot of whodunits in my time. Hours spent immersed in mysteries has helped me to sift through evidence, filter out the red herrings and put the clues together to help get to the truth.

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

I am not a full-time detective. I used to be a high school English teacher, but when my husband died, I decided to follow my dream. We had always dreamed that one day, we’d quit our jobs and open a mystery bookshop. When Leon died, that’s what I did. So, I own a mystery bookshop and I also write British historic cozy mysteries in my spare time.

What are you most frightened of in this story?

Normally, when I’ve solved mysteries, it’s been in my hometown of North Harbor, Michigan. This is the first time that I’ve had to solve a mystery in another country, and I’m worried that I won’t be able to do it without access to friends and family members we’ve tapped in the past for information. Will solving a mystery in the U.K. be the same?

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

I certainly didn’t think it was funny at the time, but just getting onboard our plane was fraught with problems, from missing our shuttle to losing my passport. We had a number of embarrassing and humorous incidents. And, for the record, TSA doesn’t have a sense of humor.

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?

Personally, I’d love to see Halle Berry play me, but that’s just because I think she’s gorgeous. I’m actually a lot shorter and curvier than her, but then they say the camera adds fifteen pounds, right?

Do you have other mysteries you would like to tell us about? Is this the first book in the series, or have you cracked a few other cases?

A Tourist’s Guide to Murder is the sixth book in the Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series, so I have cracked a few cases before this one. However, this case is unique in that it happens while on vacation in England.

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

In addition to solving mysteries, I also write British historic mysteries which are set in between the two world wars. I’ve found that writing helps my subconscious work through the clues to help figure out whodunit.

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

Each book in the Mystery Bookshop mystery series includes two mysteries for the reader to solve. There’s a contemporary mystery along with the British historic cozy mystery that Sam is writing.

About V.M. Burns

V.M. Burns

V.M. (Valerie) Burns was born and raised in the Midwestern United States. She currently resides in the warmer region of the country in East Tennessee with her two poodles. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dog Writers of America, Crime Writers of Color, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Valerie is the author of the RJ Franklin Mysteries, the Dog Club Mysteries, and the Agatha Award-nominated Mystery Bookshop Mystery series.

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In the Garden of Spite Book Review

Belle Gunness was a prolific serial killer who could rethink everything she was doing making herself the victim. In the Garden of Spite is a fascinating book about her men, her crimes, and the loving family that protected her.

In the Garden of Spite

Book Description: In the Garden of Spite

An audacious novel of feminine rage about one of the most prolific female serial killers in American history–and the men who drove her to it.

They whisper about her in Chicago. Men come to her with their hopes, their dreams–their fortunes. But no one sees them leave. No one sees them at all after they come to call on the Widow of La Porte.

The good people of Indiana may have their suspicions, but if those fools knew what she’d given up, what was taken from her, how she’d suffered, surely they’d understand. Belle Gunness learned a long time ago that a woman has to make her own way in this world. That’s all it is. A bloody means to an end. A glorious enterprise meant to raise her from the bleak, colorless drudgery of her childhood to the life she deserves. After all, vermin always survive.

My Review

Camilla Bruce does an outstanding job of letting the readers get into the head of Belle Gunness. What does a murderer think before they kill? How does this person justify taking another life? Then we go a step further and get into the rationalizations of Bella’s protective sister. Men flock around Bella and then disappear but who could suspect a poor widow? I not only loved watching the crimes occur but Bella’s outlook change. She saw things as beautiful and food as fresh. Then things became moldy and rotten. The pacing is excellent, especially if you love true crime.

I obtained this book through Net Galley and have left an honest review.

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The Broken Spine is on Cozy Prizes Friday

The Broken Spine Tour Banner
Today we have The Broken Spine, a book about a rule-breaking librarian. Be still my heart! Let’s save all those discarded books because you are literally throwing away an adventure for somebody, somewhere.  Dorothy St. James was kind enough to answer some questions for us and brought a giveaway with her! 

About The Broken Spine

The Broken Spine
The Broken Spine (A Beloved Bookroom Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Berkley (January 19, 2021)

The first in an exciting new series featuring Trudell Becket, a spunky librarian who will stop at nothing to save her beloved books and catch a killer!

Trudell Becket, book-loving librarian, finds herself in a bind when the library where she works is turned into a state-of-the-art bookless library. In a rare move of rebellion, Trudell rescues hundreds of her library’s beloved books slated for the recycle center. She sets up a secret book room in the library’s basement and opens it to anyone who shares her love of the printed book.

When the town councilman, who was the vocal proponent of the library’s transformation into a “futuristic technological center,” is crushed under an overturned shelf of DVDs, Trudell becomes the police’s prime suspect for his murder. She was the only person in the library at the time of his death, or so the police believe. But that’s not true. For the past month, Trudell had been letting a few dozen residents into the building through the basement entrance so they could read and check out the printed books.

But if she tells the police about the backdoor patrons who were in the library at the time of the murder, she’d have to explain about the secret book room and risk losing the books. In order to protect herself from being arrested for a murder she didn’t commit, Trudell–with the help of a group of dedicated readers–decides to investigate. She quickly discovers you can’t always judge a book by its cover.


Read an Excerpt

The Broken Spine

No one in the moderately sized rural southern town of Cypress would ever suspect their stalwart assistant librarian of breaking into the library where she worked. Why would they? A bronze plaque hangs on my kitchen wall. It was personally presented to me by Mayor Goodvale. He declared me an asset to the town. I’d received the award because I always performed my job with the highest level of pride and professionalism. For the past thirteen years I put the town and library first, often to the detriment of my personal life.
An even bigger honor occurred a few years ago when Mrs. Lida Farnsworth, the town’s head librarian, whispered (she always whispered) while we busily returned books to their shelves: “Trudell Becket, I couldn’t be more pleased to be wrong about my first impression of you. I would have hired any other candidate for the position. But, alas, the only other person who’d applied was that drunkard Cooper Berry. I honestly didn’t think you had it in you, honey. But, bless your heart, you’ve become the model of a perfect librarian.”
And she was right. I was perfect. Until . . .
Well, let’s just say someone needed to do this.
As a general rule, librarians don’t speak in loud voices. Librarians don’t exceed the speed limit when driving to work. And librarians certainly don’t dress head-to-toe in black ninja-wear while attempting to pick the library’s backdoor lock.
Yet, librarians can always be counted on to get things done.
“Don’t look at me like that,” I muttered to a lanky brown cat with black tiger stripes. It had emerged from the darkened back alleyway to stand next to library’s cool pearly-pink granite wall and watch me. “Someone needs to protect those books before they all end up destroyed. They’re sending them to the landfill.” The small metal flashlight clenched between my teeth caused the words to come out garbled. Both of my hands were busy working the lock.
A textbook for locksmiths that I’d borrowed from the library’s reference section sat open to the page featuring a diagram of a lock. Since I didn’t own a lockpick kit—why would I?—I’d improvised with a few sturdy paperclips bent to resemble the tools depicted on the book’s previous page. Every little sound, every scrape and rumble in Cypress’s quaint downtown, boomed in my ears. I jumped at the soft cough of a car engine. And with that cat watching me, I felt an itchy need to scurry into the nearest mousehole to hide.
But I couldn’t run. I had to finish what I’d set my mind to finishing.
After what felt like a million thundering heartbeats while I fumbled with the paperclips, the lock clicked. The door opened. I rose on shaky legs, gathering up the reference book and the stack of flattened moving boxes I’d brought with me. My gaze darted to the darkest corners of the alleyway before I slipped inside.
Just as the door started to close, the cat that had been watching with such a judgmental glare shimmied between my legs and into the library before the heavy metal back door clanked closed.
“Hey!” I called in a harsh whisper because shouting in a library simply wasn’t done. Whispering seemed even more important in the middle of the night as I sneaked inside on my clandestine mission.
The brown cat ignored me. With a yeow loud enough to have me instinctively hissing, “Shhhh!” the little beast darted upstairs and disappeared into the shadows of the stacks.
“Tru, you’re in for it now,” I muttered before dropping the stack of boxes. I sprinted after that darn cat.
Mrs. Farnsworth would have a heart attack if she discovered a flea-bitten kitty wandering among her books in the morning. I needed to get him out. The head librarian was already on edge with having to deal with the changes coming to the library. If I didn’t know the tough older woman better, I would have suspected she was busy plotting a murder.

And now a word from Dorothy…

How did you come with an idea for your book?

I have always been intrigued by the story surrounding the Grand Library of Alexander. I love how the library attempted to collect all written knowledge and store it in one place. I grieved when reading how the library burned. This story has stuck with me and tugged at me for decades. I finally decided I wanted to write about it, but two things stopped me. First, I’m not an expert of ancient times. Second, I hate how the story ends, with the library’s burning. If I were writing about the famous library, I’d be temped to try and change history. So, I decided to take the story and modernize it. I picked a small town in South Carolina as the setting for the story, since that’s my backyard. And I gave my heroine—an assistant librarian for the town’s public library—the task of saving the books that were about to be destroyed thanks to a modernization scheme that the town leaders have all embraced. With this as my backdrop, I knew I had the makings of a novel I simply had to write. And that’s how the idea for The Broken Spine was born.

What scene do you hope your readers enjoy the most?

All the scenes! What? That’s not the best answer? I get it. The scene that really inspired me is the opening scene. It’s where Trudell Becket, my assistant librarian and consummate rule-follower, makes the decision to break into her beloved library and save the print books that are slated to be destroyed. She believes in her library and the work she’s been doing at the library so much that she steps far, far outside of her comfort zone. I love that about her. I love her conviction. I wish I possessed more of it in my own life sometimes. But, on the other hand, her actions did cause all sorts of trouble for herself.

What other things have you written or what projects might we see in the future?

The Broken Spine is the first book in the Beloved Bookroom Mystery series being published by Berkley Prime Crime. The second book in the series, A Perfect Bind, should be released in the Fall. And I’m writing the third book in the series now.

The Beloved Bookroom Mystery series is my third cozy mystery series. I also have written the White House Gardener Mystery series (also for Berkley Prime Crime) and the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series. All my series have their roots firmly based in South Carolina, my home state. I also have a couple of standalone mysteries available. There’s a little something for everyone!

If you could write any other genre what would that be?

As Dorothy McFalls, I’ve written romantic suspense, paranormal romance, and historical romance novels. I love writing in both the mystery and the romance genres. I am so glad that I have had the freedom to explore different ways to tell the stories playing out in my mind. I think I have one literary story within me, but I’m not ready to write it yet.

With that said, I do hope to be able to keep writing mystery novels for many, many years to come. I love the genre!

Is there a giveaway or promotion with this book?

Yes! There’s a giveaway associated with this blog tour. Also, I’ll be holding giveaways and contests on my Facebook page, so be sure to visit the page and hit “Like.” Occasionally, I’ll announce contests through my email list. You can sign up for that on my website. I don’t send out an email often, so don’t worry about my filling up your inbox.

Where can readers leave reviews of your book?

I love it when readers leave reviews! It helps other readers find my books. I think the best kind of reviews are word-of-mouth. Tell your friends and neighbors about my books if you enjoy them. Also, you can leave a review in several places. Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Bookbub are all places where readers look for books. You can also post reviews on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even make a TikTok video. You could literally sing my book’s praises. Wouldn’t that be fun?


About Dorothy St. James

Dorothy St. James

Mystery author Dorothy St. James was born in New York but raised in South Carolina. She makes her home on an artsy island community in South Carolina with her husband, a crazy dog, and fluffy cat. Though writing has always been a passion for her, she pursued an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology and a graduate degree in Public Administration and Urban Planning. She put her educational experience to use, having worked in all branches and all levels of government including local, regional, state, and federal. She even spent time during college working for a non-profit environmental watchdog organization.

Switching from government service and community planning to fiction writing wasn’t as big of a change as some might think. Her government work was all about the stories of the people and the places where they live. As an urban planner, Dorothy loved telling the stories of the people she met. And from that, her desire to tell the tales that were so alive in her heart grew until she could not ignore it any longer. In 2001, she took a leap of faith and pursued her dream of writing fiction full-time.

* Dorothy St. James is the alter-ego of award-winning multi-published author, Dorothy McFalls. She enjoys writing in several different genres. Her works have been nominated for many awards including: Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, Reviewers International Organization Award, National Reader’s Choice Award, CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Award, and The Romance Reviews Today Perfect 10! Award. Reviewers have called her work: “amazing”, “perfect”, “filled with emotion”, and “lined with danger.”

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Overdue for Murder

The Crime Scene Connection is on Cozy Prizes Friday

Time for that weekly crime story, but how about a little romance along the way? Crime Scene Connection is a fast paced, someone’s out to get her thriller and a handsome man who is sent to protect her! Read my review below and don’t forget to scroll down for the giveaway!

Crime Scene Connection

by Deena Alexander

About Crime Scene Connection

Crime Scene Connection (Love Inspired Suspense)
Inspirational Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Love Inspired Suspense (January 12, 2021)

Her writing was fiction,

until a killer made the danger very real…

A serial killer’s imitating crime scenes from Addison Keller’s bestselling novel, determined to make her the final victim. But with former police officer Jace Montana and his dog at her side, Addison might just be able to unmask the murderer. With time running out as the killer closes in, she must confront her past and unravel long-buried secrets…and hope they can all escape with their lives.

My Review

Addison is a crime writer and someone is out there imitating the murders in her first book. She feels incredible guilt for her unwitting part in the crimes and as the danger comes closer to her Jace, a former partner of her ex-husband’s becomes her bodyguard. He is also best friends with Connor, her brother-in-law. As Addison and Jace try to figure out the killer’s next move they are forced to run and hide only to be discovered. The pace of the story was good and there was an interesting twist at the end. This is an inspirational romance and both characters, when forced into dangerous situations turned to their faith to carry them through. 

Pick up your copy of Crime Scene Connection at any of these retailers:

AmazonBarnes & NobleKoboHarlequinBooks-a-MillionTarget

IndieboundWalmartApple BooksGoogle Play

About Deena Alexander

Deena Alexander

Deena grew up in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island, where she met and married her high school sweetheart. She recently relocated to Florida with her husband, three kids, son-in-law, and four dogs. Now she enjoys long walks in nature all year long, despite the occasional alligator or snake she sometimes encounters. Deena’s love for writing developed when her youngest son was born and didn’t sleep through the night, and she now works full time as a writer and a freelance editor.

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Time for that weekly crime story, but how about a little romance along the way? Crime Scene Connection is a fast paced, someone’s out to get her thriller and a handsome man who is sent to protect her! Read my review below and don’t forget to scroll down for the giveaway!


by Deena Alexander

About Crime Scene Connection

Crime Scene Connection (Love Inspired Suspense)""
Inspirational Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Love Inspired Suspense (January 12, 2021)


Her writing was fiction,

until a killer made the danger very real…

A serial killer’s imitating crime scenes from Addison Keller’s bestselling novel, determined to make her the final victim. But with former police officer Jace Montana and his dog at her side, Addison might just be able to unmask the murderer. With time running out as the killer closes in, she must confront her past and unravel long-buried secrets…and hope they can all escape with their lives.

My Review

Addison is a crime writer and someone is out there imitating the murders in her first book. She feels incredible guilt for her unwitting part in the crimes and as the danger comes closer to her Jace, a former partner of her ex-husband’s becomes her bodyguard. He is also best friends with Connor, her brother-in-law. As Addison and Jace try to figure out the killer’s next move they are forced to run and hide only to be discovered. The pace of the story was good and there was an interesting twist at the end. This is an inspirational romance and both characters, when forced into dangerous situations turned to their faith to carry them through. 

About Deena Alexander


Deena grew up in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island, where she met and married her high school sweetheart. She recently relocated to Florida with her husband, three kids, son-in-law, and four dogs. Now she enjoys long walks in nature all year long, despite the occasional alligator or snake she sometimes encounters. Deena’s love for writing developed when her youngest son was born and didn’t sleep through the night, and she now works full time as a writer and a freelance editor.

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A Sneeze to Die For/Woman's World

The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop

In these rocky days, it’s good to find a place in the fictional world to put up your feet, drink some sweet tea and eat some fried green tomatoes. Thank you Fannie Flagg for writing The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop. Like your character Evelyn, I didn’t grow up in Whistle Stop, Alabama, but I always feel refreshed when I visit.

The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop

Book Description

Bud Threadgoode grew up in the bustling little railroad town of Whistle Stop with his mother, Ruth, church-going and proper, and his Aunt Idgie, the fun-loving hell-raiser. Together they ran the town’s popular Whistle Stop Cafe, known far and wide for its fun and famous fried green tomatoes. And as Bud often said of his childhood to his daughter Ruthie, “How lucky can you get?”

But sadly, as the railroad yards shut down and Whistle Stop became a ghost town, nothing was left but boarded-up buildings and memories of a happier time.

Then one day, Bud decides to take one last trip, just to see what has become of his beloved Whistle Stop. In so doing, he discovers new friends, as well as surprises about Idgie’s life, about Ninny Threadgoode and other beloved Fannie Flagg characters, and about the town itself. He also sets off a series of events, both touching and inspiring, which change his life and the lives of his daughter and many others. Could these events all be just coincidences? Or something else? And can you really go home again?

My Review

Every time I finish a book by Fannie Flagg I say to myself was her best book ever, so here it is. This was her best book ever. In The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop she takes us back to the days of Fried Green Tomatoes and the legendary town of Whistle Stop, Alabama. Flagg successfully goes back and forth between the past and the present and we get to see how her characters have grown. Some have died and and all share a sense of loss because the little town of Whistle Stop no longer exists. We get to see Bud Threadgoode who was the child of Iggy and Ruth, owners of the Whistle Stop Café. Not only do we find out about Bud, we see what happened to Idgie, Dot Weems, Evelyn, who still has more insurance than I do, Opal Butts and all of the delightful characters created for this magical world. If you’ve read Fried Green Tomatoes or have seen the movie, you’ll want to read this book. I found myself left with the feeling of positive expectations, joy, and a chance to come home again.

Till Dirt Do Us Part

All the Book Posts of 2020- Part 2

As we look to the new year, I am looking at a lovely little 2020 ornament my son’s Down syndrome group gave him in a stocking. Is there anyone else out there who doesn’t want to save anything decorative with 2020 on it? I don’t even want to add anything in our yearly Christmas journal, but I will. Whether we like it or not, we will always remember 2020.

For my part, a remarkable thing happened to me. I was signed by Level Best Books for a new historical mystery series that will take place in 1962. That’s worth remembering and something I’m incredibly thankful for in 2020.

As we are remembering the year, here is Part 2 of the books that made a stop on the blog whether through a review or a blog tour feature.

Seeing Doggone Double

The Fourth of July is bursting out all over! Doggone Dead x2! Find out about Dane MacCaslin’s new book coming out in August that shares the name of my Fourth of July Mystery. #FourthofJuly #Kensington #cozymystery

Audiobook Review – The Giver of Stars

If you love a good audiobook, then The Giver of Stars is something you should check out. The book is beautifully narrated by Julia Whelan. It involves a group of women who went out on packhorses to deliver much-needed reading material to people in the hills of Kentucky.

Book Review – What You Wish For

Ever wish that person you were infatuated with years ago, came back into your life? That’s what happens in What You Wish For when a librarian in Galveston finds herself face to face with a man she had a crush on in a former job. What You Wish For is a sweet, funny romance.

The Book of Lost Names

There is a lot of fiction out there right now set in the time period of World War II, so standing out can be difficult. The Book of Lost Names is a sweet, brave story in a terrible time.  Continue Reading

A Ladies Guide to Mischief and Murder

 Let’s get together at the country house this weekend? What do you say? That’s what’s happening in the Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder. I love this series because Diane Freeman beautifully blends the best of regency and the best of cozy! Continue Reading

Book Review: The Last Mrs. Summers

When I chose to review Rhys Bowen’s latest installment of the Royal Spyness Series I was excited she wrote it in the likeness of Rebecca. If you like mystery in an old English house next to the cliffs (really scary, exceptionally sharp cliffs) I think you’re going to love The Last Mrs. Summers.

Book Review: The First to Lie

The First to Lie, a novel by Hank Phillipi Ryan focuses on the vulnerability of women who have had difficulty conceiving a child. If you desperately wanted a baby and couldn’t have one, what would you be willing to put up with from a doctor or clinic? What would you risk?  Continue Reading

All Done With It

Not only is it Cozy Prizes Friday but Maggie Toussaint, the author of All Done With it has brought along Mama Lacey, who is Baxley Powell’s (Dreamwalker) mother. Talk about a difficult parenting challenge. Do you let them wander around other worlds or make them do their homework first?  Continue Reading

Book Review: The Black Midnight

Have you ever heard about the many theories of who Jack the Ripper actually was? Some thought it was a member of the royal family but it was never proven. The True Colors Series which fictionalizes true crime with a Christian perspective visits this topic with a royal lady Pinkerton detective and Texan in The Black Midnight. Continue Reading

Master of Illusion

Ever get that sinking feeling? Something is about to happen but you have no idea why you feel this way. You might be a little bit psychic like Celine Skye in Master of Illusion! Continue Reading

Trick or Thief

Are you starting to think about Halloween? I’ll admit I was looking at some Halloween items in a catalog yesterday and wondering if there were be any trick or treaters this year.  2020 has leaned way too heavily on the trick side of this holiday. But, good news! D.E. Haggerty is here today to talk about how she came up with her clever title. Continue Reading

Mystery Follows Her

Cozy Mystery Friday has hit an all-time high with not one cozy author but 9!! Mystery Follows Her celebrates sleuths of all ages in a variety of locations with an international collection of talented authors. Continue Reading

Murder in the Bayou Boneyard

Maggie Crozat, proprietor of a historic Cajun Country B&B, prefers to let the good times roll. But hard times rock her hostelry when a new cell phone app makes it easy for locals to rent their spare rooms to tourists. With October–and Halloween–approaching, she conjures up a witch-crafty marketing scheme to draw visitors to Pelican, Louisiana. Continue Reading

A Circle of Dead Girls

In the spring of 1800, a traveling circus arrives in town. Rees is about to attend, but sees his nemesis, Magistrate Hanson in the crowd, and leaves. On the way home he meets a party of Shaker brothers searching for a missing girl. They quickly come across her lifeless body thrown into a farmer’s field. Continue Reading

Love and a Little White Lie Book Review

Can you be true to someone you love and still keep a little secret from them? That’s what happens in Love and a Little White Lie. This is a Christian romance from award-winning author Tammy L. Gray and it not only explores life in a megachurch, but the relationships and problems that happen between the employees. Continue Reading

Educated: An Audiobook Review

Set some time aside for Educated, a stirring memoir of a girl who was raised without ever attending school while growing up in Idaho with a bipolar father. This audiobook is over 12 hours and I couldn’t stop listening to it! I recognized the voice of the talented narrator, Julia Whelan, from her work on Giver of Stars. She’s excellent again. Continue Reading

One by One

See all that snow on the cover? Time to snuggle in with a good who-done-it and spend the day in French chalet. One by One is a gripping mystery about a group of young entrepreneurs who have created the latest “gotta have it” app. They’re the glamorous influencers that can change the world. They also have a few secrets and an avalanche warning or two. Continue Reading

Cozy Prizes Friday: Hollyberry Homicide

For all of us who have been sneaking off to watch those early Hallmark Christmas movies, Hollyberry Homicide is the book for you. Learn more about this yuletide mystery and don’t forget to scroll down and find the prize guy and enter the giveaway! About Hollyberry Homicide Hollyberry Homicide (A Berry Basket Mystery)Cozy Mystery5th in … Continue reading

In a Holidaze Book Review

Here’s another Christmas book to put on your TBR pile this fall. In a Holidaze is a time-travel romantic comedy featuring a group of old college friends and their grown children who visit a cabin in Utah every year. The main character Mae is in her late twenties and re-examining some of the choices she’s made in her life. At the end of the holiday, she suffers a bump on the head and finds herself back on the plane on her way to the cabin on the 20th of December. Continue Reading

Book Review: Christmas Charms

Time for another Christmas book and what a magical one Christmas Charms is! Isn’t that what a good Christmas story has? A little magic? This is the kind of book I like to pick in stressful times, say in the middle of a pandemic … Continue reading

Christmas at Holiday House Book Review

Christmas at Holiday House is a delightful romance about helping others and finding love in the holidays. Review Included! Continue Reading

Cozy Prizes Friday: Spawning Suspicion

Time for the wedding, but wait! The groom is missing and their’s murder afoot in River Holloway’s busy world. Maggie Toussaint is back with her second Seafood Caper mystery, Spawning Suspicion, and she shared an excerpt with us as well. Continue Reading

Cozy Friday: To Fetch a Villain

Cozy mystery readers find cats in their stories, cats on the covers, cats solving murders while coughing up fur balls, but today is DOG DAY FRIDAY! I have four wonderful authors here to talk about their latest installment in the Mutt Mysteries Series: To Fetch a Villain!. Continue Reading

Cozy Prizes Friday: A Christmas Carol Murder

Read an excerpt from A Christmas Carol Murder and enter the giveaway. Travel back in history with a young Charles Dickens. Continue Reading

Book Review: Murder She Wrote: Murder in Season

I love a snuggly Christmas mystery to read during the holiday season. What better friend to have come calling than Jessica Fletcher in her latest adventure, Murder in Season. She’s brought along Seth Hazlett and Mort Metzger and of course, somebody up and died. Continue Reading

40 Books in 2020!!!

All the Book Posts of 2020- Part 1

I always think to myself that I don’t read enough. Really. I look at these people on Goodreads who seem to be absorbing a book a day. How do they do that? I decided to compile a “Best of 2020” (Is this an oxymoron?) and list the books that I have either reviewed or featured on Books to the Ceiling this year.

Well, I’ll be. There’s forty of them. Use this as a directory, an appendix or somebody else’s list of reviews to find your next great read.

Book Review: Death Comes to the Nursery

This week we are traveling back in time Regency England where Lady Lucy has found she is expecting her second child. What to do? Hire a nursery attendant–who is drop-dead gorgeous. Here is my review- Death Comes to the Nursery is a part of the Kurland St. Mary Mystery Series. Lady Lucy and Sir Robert … Continue reading

Book Review: A View to a Kilt

Time to head to snowy Maine to the wee town of Moosetookalook. I say “wee” because the mystery centers around the Scottish Emporium where you can find kilts in all colors and sizes. This is the 13th book in the Liss MacCrimmon Scottish Mystery Series and full of cute little dogs, mysteries from the past … Continue reading

A Valentine and A Book Review: Field Guide to Homicide

Happy Valentine’s Day! I grew up in Loveland, Colorado, so you can bet Valentine’s Day was a pretty big deal. Hot air balloons, a Miss Valentine, and even a signature Valentine card each year that people all over the country ordered and sent through our post office to their loved ones. When I wrote my … Continue reading

Egg Drop Dead

Yum, doesn’t egg drop soup sound good?! This week I’m reviewing Egg Drop Dead, another mystery centering around the Ho-Lee Noodle House! Continue Reading

Book Review: Death with a Dark Red Rose

You have to know nothing good will come of a giant corporation named Plastisource in a little town, but that’s not all that’s going on in this cozy mystery. This week I’m reviewing one from the Writer’s Apprentice Series by Julia Buckley. Book Description: Lena is starting to feel like having it all may actually … Continue reading

Book Review: A Stroke of Malice

One thing about maintaining social distance is that you can get as close as you want with all of the wonderful characters the world of fiction offers. Today I’m reviewing a Regency mystery that takes place in 1832. Wouldn’t it be fun to go to a party, and everyone gets an assigned role and a … Continue reading

Staging Wars

If you are like me, you’ve been staring at those walls while social distancing and thinking. How can I make this place look better? Well, Grace Topping brings us the second book in her Laura Bishop Mystery Series: Staging Wars! Not only do you have a great mystery to solve, but she gives you tips on interior design. Continue Reading

Seas the Day

  Maggie Toussaint has a new series out and it’s all about seafood! Yum! And Murder! Yikes! Check out Seas the Day and don’t forget to scroll down and enter her giveaway.    About Seas the Day Caterer River Holloway cooks like a dream and is known on Shell Island as a “finder” of things. … Continue reading

Pumpkin Spice Peril

Ever had a friend start acting crazy for no reason? But there is a reason, isn’t there? That’s what happens in Pumpkin Spice Peril and the book I’m reviewing today. Continue Reading

Book Review: Mousse and Murder

Creative people have been known to be explosive and that includes chefs at diners. Think about that last argument you had which now seems harmless. It didn’t happen that way in Elizabeth Logan’s new mystery Mousse and Murder. Continue Reading

Audiobook Review: The Dutch House

The Dutch House is still on the New York Times Best Seller list, and after listening to the audiobook, I can see why. Have you ever had a house that had a personality of its own? The house I presently live in was formerly owned by a NASA engineer, and there are some unusual DIY methods as well as a lovely cookbook holder built into a cabinet. Sometimes I look at my house and think of the scene in Apollo 13 where they had to make an air filter out of a sock. Yeah. The Dutch House is a historic home filled with incredible details left by the first family. You would think most people would love to live in this house, but you’d be wrong. Continue Reading

Book Review: Murder She Wrote: The Murder of Twelve

You know I love my Jessica and she’s back with a wedding party stuck in a blizzard. Brrrr and just as it’s starting to heat up in South Texas. Seth and Mort Metzger are back but Jessica spends most of her time solving this one with Seamus the ex-constable from Ireland. This one definitely has the “And Then There Were None” vibe to it. Continue Reading

Book Review: The Wedding Dress

Here we are in June and there is nothing like a great story about a wedding, more specifically a wedding dress. Not just any wedding dress, but a couture creation made in 1929, all sewn and beaded by hand. This dress was so special that the bride traveled from San Francisco to Paris to have it made. I can’t imagine putting that much time, expense, and effort into acquiring a dress, but I’ve never lived in a mansion on Knob Hill in San Francisco. Continue Reading

Book Review: A Study in Murder

So, you dump your fiancé. What’s the worst that could happen? Lady Amy Lovell could answer that one for you! Today we have a historical mystery that centers around a mystery book club. I really enjoyed it, so scroll down and read my review! A mystery author is charged with murder–and the plot thickens faster … Continue reading

Book Review: The Green Dress

Read my review of The Green Dress, a true crime from the True Colors Series. Why are so many people from the same household dying?

Part 2 Tomorrow–Yes, there’s more!

Christmas- A Time of Hope

Merry Christmas 2020

It is so fitting that 2020 ends with a Christmas star on the winter solstice. This was a year like no other for all of us. With the vaccine coming into hospitals and other outlets, I have to have hope that next year will be better.

Things I’ve Missed

Seeing my friends and family face to face

Coffee Shops

Taking my son to his day center for people with disabilities. He’s been a trooper but I know he gets bored here at the house. He refuses to wear a mask, so we keep him home.

The Mall

Going to Writing Conferences

Things I’ve Found

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Peacock all have shows waiting for me to binge! Also, HBO has a favorite word. I want to buy these script writers a thesaurus.

My family will always find ways to be together.

I will never be able to go to church in person again because I’m addicted to crocheting during the service.

Looking at how the restaurant, hotel, entertainment, travel, and so many other industries have suffered, as for me and my house, I have no complaints and feel blessed. Hoping for better things in 2021.

Here’s looking forward to shopping, crowded coffee shops and restaurants, long chats with old friends, people working again, and everyone taking those quiet moments of 2020 to reflect on when our lives get crazy good again.

Oh, and eventually we’ll eat those ten loaves of banana bread in the freezer.

Christmas in Pecan Bayou Banner

Slightly Murderous Intent is on Cozy Prizes Friday

Slightly Murderous Intent Tour Banner

Happy Friday! Today we have Lida Sideris here with her latest, Slightly Murderous Intent. I highly recommend the excerpt she sent for us to read, posted below. Ever not get your meal delivered while the rest of your group is served? That makes me slightly murderous and I’m sure how they coined the word “hangry”.

Here’s some more about Slightly Murderous Intent and don’t forget to scroll down and find the prize guy! There are so many ways to enter and don’t YOU deserve a little something extra this Christmas?

There’s a shooter on the loose who keeps missing his target. But that doesn’t stop him from trying again…and again. It’s up to Corrie Locke, rookie lawyer and spunky sleuth, to find the gunman before he hits his mark, Assistant Deputy D.A. James Zachary, Corrie’s hunky and complicated frenemy.

When Corrie is stuck with more questions than answers, she enlists a team with various strengths, from weapons to cooking skills, to help her find the shooter. Her computer whiz boyfriend Michael is onboard. So is former security guard Veera. Toss in an over-the-hill informant and a couple of feuding celebrity chefs and Corrie’s got her very own A-Team. Okay, maybe it’s more like a B-Team.

Can Team Corrie hunt down the shooter before he scores a bulls-eye?

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery with some Humor
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: October 20th 2020
Series: A Southern California Mystery, #4 || Each can be read as a Stand-Alone book
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Slightly Murderous Intent

Read an excerpt:

The last of my patience dripped onto the concrete floor beneath my feet. My fists clenched, my jaw tightened and my stomach rumbled like the start of an avalanche. I’d officially reached the cracking point.

“Today was V-day for us. Victory with a big fat V.”

Los Angeles Senior Deputy District Attorney Bruce Beckman stood at the head of our table, arms raised high. The first two fingers of each hand formed a “V”. Meanwhile, everyone’s dinner sat in front of them. Everyone’s, that is, but mine. All I had was an empty plate and an empty stomach.

“Where’s our server?” I whispered. The beach side diner was packed. “Did they run out of food?”

Beckman dropped his pose and glared at me so fiercely, my cheeks glowed from the heat.

“Sorry,” I mumbled. What did he expect? His mac n’ cheese was half eaten. I licked my lips.

“The case came close to swinging in the opposite direction,” Beckman continued. “We couldn’t have won today’s trial without this guy.” Beckman gestured toward the deputy D.A. sitting next to him.

I half stood and peered past the other diners. No sign of our server. “Slacker,” I mumbled. I slammed my napkin down beside my plate.

“Have some of mine,” Michael whispered. “Please, Corrie.”

If anyone else had offered, I would’ve cleaned his plate in thirty seconds. But Michael was my oldest friend slash newest boyfriend, and I loved him dearly from his dark floppy hair to the Chuck Taylors on his feet. We sat in a crowded hipster restaurant in Santa Monica, a hop, skip and a jump from the sparkling Pacific Ocean. Michael had barely touched his burger, waiting on my dinner with me. His stomach growled right alongside mine.

“Obviously, I picked the right man for the job,” Beckman said. “And gave him a few tips. Quite a few, actually.” He chuckled.

Weak laughter trickled around the table, followed by a groan. Did that come from me? Beckman shot me his signature scowl. I managed a shadow of an apology, and his attention returned to the man on his left. My hunger pangs took a brief hike while I assessed the object of Beckman’s praise. Assistant Deputy D.A. James Zachary flashed a grin. He was a sight for sore eyes. Or any eyes, for that matter.

“Thanks to James,” Beckman continued, “defense counsel didn’t stand a chance.”

Cheers erupted. I clapped and wriggled around in my seat. My stomach rumblings grew even louder. That’s what happened when my last meal was breakfast.

“I’ll be back,” I whispered to Michael and shoved away my chair. We sat around a table of five. Three of us were members of the world’s oldest profession. The oldest after toolmakers, farmers, the military and doctors. We were lawyers. I was the only lawyer unaffiliated with the D.A.’s office.

“Wait.” Michael took my hand.

Michael Parris wasn’t a lawyer, but he was the associate dean of the computer science department of a private tech college near downtown L.A. Michael’s lips were moving but shouting voices, clanging dinner plates and background music swallowed up his next words.

“What?” I leaned in closer, sniffing a sweet combo of sandalwood and fresh laundry that made my empty insides tingle.

He wiped his mouth on a napkin and said, “Stay here. I’ll go to the kitchen. Help yourself to my burger while you wait. I promise I won’t return empty-handed.”

“No, you stay. I want to make sure they get my order right.” I touched his shoulder. “Be back soon.”

We locked stares and his hazel eyes softened. “Two minutes. If you’re not back, I’m coming after you.”

I’d insisted my table mates eat without me, figuring my meal was on its way…fifteen minutes ago. I aimed for the kitchen, wading sideways between packed tables when I bumped into our server. She tried to push past, but I blocked the way.

“I’m still waiting,” I told her.

“No, you’re not,” she said. “You got served.”

“Crispy chicken sandwich with spicy slaw and chili cheese fries, hold the onions. It’s not on our table.” I pointed my thumb over my shoulder.

“I brought all the orders out personally.”

“Not mine.”

“You wanna talk to the manager?”

“I demand to talk to the manager.”

She tipped her head and pitched it to one side. “Big Sam’s up front by the cashier.”

I moved out of her path, and she hustled past. I continued my sideways trek, filing between chairs and dodging scurrying servers. Nearly closing time and the place was still hopping. I slowed and looked back at the kitchen. Maybe I’d get somewhere if I talked to the cook. I was about to swivel around when I spotted a manager-type; a stocky guy with a shaved head and goatee, chatting up a group of wannabe diners near the bar.

I headed for him and waited behind the blonde hostess. The cash register drawer popped open with a ping. She plucked wads of bills from beneath the drawer and shoved them into a vinyl bank bag.

“Excuse me,” I said.

She jumped and turned to me, zipping up the bag and pushing it behind her. “Yeah?” Long bangs stabbed at her eyes.

I pitched my chin toward the stocky guy. “That the manager?”

“He owns the place. Big Sam Neely.” Her attention went back to the bag. She unzipped it and continued stuffing bills inside.

I navigated closer to Big Sam and leaned against a pillar, waiting for a chance to butt into the conversation. Meanwhile, a lanky dude in a dark gray hoodie and faded jeans edged his way inside. His clothes were baggy; his hood was up and over his head. Only his nose, mouth and tinted shades were visible. Sunglasses at night weren’t unusual in L.A. I stared out at the room. A couple of diners wore shades.The guy in the hoodie flitted past me. He threw out his anchor near the hostess. My heartbeat quickened. The cash drawer still gaped open. I elbowed my way back toward him, half-expecting the guy’s hand to dart out and grab the bank bag, but he ignored the money. Instead, he eased forward and stared out toward the back of the diner. My gaze dropped to the lower left side of his jacket. The bottom edge had latched onto the large violin shaped leaf of an ornamental ficus, exposing the top of his jeans. My heart hammered against my chest. The grip of a revolver stuck out of his pocket.


Excerpt from Slightly Murderous Intent by Lida Sideris. Copyright 2021 by Lida Sideris. Reproduced with permission from Lida Sideris. All rights reserved.

Lida Sideris, author of Slightly Murderous Intent

Author Bio:


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 Award for her first book. She lives in the northern tip of Southern California with her family, rescue dogs and a flock of uppity chickens.

To learn more about Lida, please visit her:, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

Prize GuyGiveaway!!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Lida Sideris. There will be three (3) winners. Two (2) winners will each receive one (1) Gift Card and One (1) winner will receive a copy of Slightly Murderous Intent by Lida Sideris (US only ~ choice of print or eBook). The giveaway begins on December 7, 2020 and runs through December 20, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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Pecan Bayou Christmas

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews and giveaways!

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours


Book Review: Murder She Wrote: Murder in Season

Happy December!

I love a snuggly Christmas mystery to read during the holiday season. What better friend to have come calling than Jessica Fletcher in her latest adventure, Murder in Season. She’s brought along Seth Hazlett and Mort Metzger and of course, somebody up and died.

About the Book

Christmas has come to Cabot Cove, but a peaceful holiday season is not in the cards after Jessica Fletcher is pulled into a centuries-old mystery in the latest entry in this USA Today bestselling series.

With work on the reconstruction of her beloved home almost complete, Jessica Fletcher is in high holiday spirits, spearheading the annual Christmas parade and preparing for her nephew Grady and his family to come to town. The only thing dampening the holiday cheer is the discovery of two sets of bones on Jessica’s property: one set ancient, the other only about a year old. It’s concluded that they were both placed there during the reconstruction, and Jessica suspects that, despite the centuries between them, the remains might be connected. 

Soon tabloid reporter Tad Hollenbeck arrives in Cabot Cove to write a story about what he calls “the murder capital of the country.” But when Tad himself is murdered, Jessica speculates that his arrival, his death, and the discovery of the bones are all somehow linked.

As Jessica digs deeper to find the connection between the bones and Tad’s murder, everything seems to come back to a mystery that has long plagued Cabot Cove. If she wants to solve the case, she’ll need to delve into her beloved town’s dark history, or else this holiday season may be her last…

My Review of Murder in Season

Jess has finally returned to her home after a marriage renovation and is enjoying getting to know the feel of the house again. There is a problem with the plumbing and when they start digging they find two bodies. There is also a tabloid reporter who shows up and begins to badger Jessica about the fact that she has investigated maybe 50 murders around this seemingly quaint little town in Maine. He has a point there! I love getting to visit Cabot Cove, especially at Christmas. Seth is the ghost of Christmas past in A Christmas Carol and Mort Metzger is on the case with Jessica to solve the murders and ancient town secrets found in a hidden box. Love the familiar town and characters!

Give a Pecan Bayou Ebook for Christmas

So What Have I Been Doing During the Pandemic? Writing of Course!


Martin Waiting for the Pandemic to Be Over

So what have I been doing during the pandemic? Writing, of course. With added people around the house, it’s been challenging at times. My husband and I “share” an office, which means I’m writing this blog post in another room. That’s okay, though, because I still like having him around. I am the kind of writer who needs as much quiet as possible. I can’t even listen to music with lyrics (I sing along).

What Have I Been Working On?

I am happy to announce I have a new three-book contract with Level Best Books. This time around I’m writing a historical mystery series called the Swinging Sixties. The books will take place in 1962, 1963 and 1964. I’ve been having so much fun researching everything in the sixties.

  • Coffee Maker = Percolator
  • Phones have dials and cords
  • You check the time- on your wrist or at the wall clock
  • The Beatles are new
  • The President is Kennedy
The First Ronald McDonald
  • There’s this new thing called fast food. Pictured above is the FIRST Ronald McDonald. Terrifying.
  • You watch the big game on a black and white tv with rabbit ears

I’ve actually written the first book and am in the drafting stage of the second, but before you start checking Amazon, these books won’t be out until the beginning of January 2022. These things take time.

If you want to keep up with the new releases you can subscribe to my newsletter here.

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Tis the Season Holiday Anthology

Cozy Prizes Friday: A Christmas Carol Murder

A Christmas Carol Murder Banner

Thanksgiving is over so it’s time to focus on Christmas! Let’s get going this weekend with A Christmas Carol Murder🎄 I’ve been caroling but have never discovered a body! There was a disagreeable Chow Chow at one house, but I’m proud to say that even though we were a group from four to seventy-five, we all ran pretty fast! 

A Christmas Carol Murder

by Heather Redmond

on Tour November 1 – December 31, 2020


A Christmas Carol Murder

A Christmas Carol Murder is the latest novel from Heather Redmond’s acclaimed mystery series finds young Charles Dickens suspecting a miser of pushing his partner out a window, but his fiancée Kate Hogarth takes a more charitable view of the old man’s innocence . . .

London, December 1835: Charles and Kate are out with friends and family for a chilly night of caroling and good cheer. But their blood truly runs cold when their singing is interrupted by a body plummeting from an upper window of a house. They soon learn the dead man at their feet, his neck strangely wrapped in chains, is Jacob Harley, the business partner of the resident of the house, an unpleasant codger who owns a counting house, one Emmanuel Screws.

Ever the journalist, Charles dedicates himself to discovering who’s behind the diabolical defenestration. But before he can investigate further, Harley’s corpse is stolen. Following that, Charles is visited in his quarters by what appears to be Harley’s ghost—or is it merely Charles’s overwrought imagination? He continues to suspect Emmanuel, the same penurious penny pincher who denied his father a loan years ago, but Kate insists the old man is too weak to heave a body out a window. Their mutual affection and admiration can accommodate a difference of opinion, but matters are complicated by the unexpected arrival of an infant orphan. Charles must find the child a home while solving a murder, to ensure that the next one in chains is the guilty party . . .

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Kensington Publishing
Publication Date: September 29th 2020
Number of Pages: 320
Series: A Dickens of a Crime #3 || A Stand Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Goodreads

Read an excerpt from A Christmas Carol Murder:

Chapter One

Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England, December 1, 1835

They hadn’t found the body yet. Old Sal was surely dead. Feathers had caught on candles, igniting the blaze. Maybe a yipping dog had some part in the fiery disaster. The marchioness’s advanced age had surely contributed to the fatal misadventure. The marquess, her son, had nearly killed himself in a futile attempt to rescue her.

Charles Dickens’s cough forced him to set down his pen. Ink dribbled from it, obscuring his last few words. He found it hard to stay seated, so he pushed his hands through his unruly dark hair, as if pressing on his sooty scalp would keep him on the pub bench. Only three hours of sleep before being dragged from his bed to make the twenty-three-mile journey from his rooms at Furnival’s Inn in London that morning. Nervous energy alone kept his pen moving.

He rubbed his eyes, gritty with grime and fumes from the fire, both the massive one that had destroyed the still-smoking ruins of Hatfield House’s west wing, and the much smaller one here in the taproom at Eight Bells Pub. Some light came in from out of doors, courtesy of a quarter-full moon, but the windows were small.

He called for a candle and kept working.

Putting the messy slip of paper aside, he dipped his pen in his inkwell. Starting again, he recalled the devastation of the scene, the remains of once noble apartments now reduced to rubble and ash. He filled one slip after another, describing the scene, the architecture, the theories.

When he ran out of words, he let his memories of massive oaken Tudor beams, half-burned; heaps of bricks; lumps of metal; buckets of water; black-faced people; and unending, catch-in- your-throat soot—all that remained of forty-five rooms of storied, aristocratic things—fade away.

The ringing of St. Ethelreda’s venerable church bells returned him to the moment. Had it gone eight p.m. already? Hooves and the wheels of a cart sounded in the narrow street outside. A couple of men passed by, discussing the fire. The door of the pub opened and closed,allowing the flash from a lantern to illuminate the dark room.

Charles noted the attempts to make the room festive. Greenery had been tacked to the blackened beams and draped around the mantelpiece. He thought he saw mistletoe mischievously strung up in that recess to the left of the great fireplace.

Next to it, a man slumped in a chair. He wore a tired, stained old surtout and plaid trousers with a mended tear in the knee. Next to him waited an empty stool, ready for an adoring wife or small child to sit there.

Charles stacked his completed slips of paper on the weathered table and took a fresh one from his pile, the pathos of that empty seat tugging at him. He began to write something new, imagining that last year at this time, a sweet little girl sat on the stool, looking up at the old, beaten man. How different his demeanor would have been then!

Charles drew a line between his musings and the lower blank part of the page. His pen flew again, as he made the note. Add a bit of melancholy to my Christmas festivities sketch.

Unbidden, the serving maid delivered another glass of hot rum and water. The maid, maybe fourteen, with wide, apple- colored cheeks and a weak chin, gave him a sideways glance full of suspicion.

He grinned at her and pointed to his face. “Soot from the fire. I’m sending a report back to London.” His hand brushed against his shoulder, puffing soot from his black tailcoat into his eyes.

She pressed her lips together and marched away, her little body taut with indignation. Well, she didn’t understand he had to send his report by the next mail coach. Not much time for sentiment or bathing just yet.

By the time he finished his notes, the drinks hadn’t done their job of settling his cough. He knew it would worsen if he lay down so he opened his writing desk to pull out a piece of notepaper.

Dearest Fanny, he wrote to his sister. Where to begin? I wrote to my betrothed this morning so I thought I should send my news to someone else. Was ever a man so busy? I am editing my upcoming book. Did I tell you it will be called Sketches by Boz? I have to turn in the revisions for volumes one and two by the end of the year, in advance of the first volume releasing February eighth. I am also working on an operetta, thanks to that conversation with your friend John Hullah, in my head, at least. I hope to actually commence writing it as soon as my revisions are done.

I remember all the happy Christmas memories of our earliest childhood, the games and songs and ghost stories when we lived in Portsmouth, and hope to re-create them in my own sweet home next year. How merry it will be to share Christmas with the Hogarths! To think that you, Leticia, and I will all be settled soon with our life’s companions. Soon we will know the sounds of happy children at our hearths and celebrate all the joys that the season should contain in our private chambers.

He set down his pen without signing the letter. It might be that he would have more to add before returning to London. He had no idea how long it would be before they recovered the Marchioness of Salisbury’s body, if indeed, anything was left. Restacking his papers, he considered the question of her jewels. Had they burned? At least the priceless volumes in the library all had survived, despite the walls being damaged.

His brain kept churning, so he pulled out his copy of Sketches by Boz. He would edit for a while before retiring to his room at the Salisbury Arms. No time for sleep when work had to be done.

Pounding on the chamber door woke him. Daylight scarcely streamed around the tattered edges of the inn’s curtain. Charles coughed. He still tasted acrid soot at the back of his throat. Indeed, it coated his tongue.

The pounding came again as he scratched his unshaven chin. Had the Morning Chronicle sent someone after him? He’d put his first dispatch from the fire on the mail coach. Pulling his frock coat over his stained shirt, he hopped across the floor while he tugged on his dirty trousers. Soot puffed into the air with each bounce.

“Coming, coming,” he called.

The hinges squeaked horribly when he opened the door. On the other side stood a white-capped maid. She wore a dark cloak over her dress. A bundle nestled between her joined arms. Had she been kicking the door?

“Can I help you?” Charles asked, politely enough for the hour. To his right, his boots were gone. He had left them to be polished.

The girl lifted her bundle. The lump of clothes moved.

He frowned, then leaned over the lump. A plump face topped by a thatch of black hair stared back. A baby. Was she hoping for alms? “What’s your name, girl?”

“Madge, sir. Madge Porter.”

“Well, Madge Porter, I can spare you a few coins for the babe if you’ll wait for a moment. Having hard times?”

She stared hard at him. He realized the cloaked figure was the tiny serving maid from the Eight Bells. “He’s my sister’s child.”

“I see. Is she at work?” He laugh-choked. “She’s not in here with me, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

Her mouth hung open for a moment. “No, sir, I don’t think that.”

“What, then?” He glanced around for his overcoat, which had a few coins in a pocket. “What is the babe’s name?”

“Timothy, sir.” She tightened her weak chin until her pale skin folded in on itself. “Timothy Dickens?” she warbled.

“Dickens?” He took another glance at the babe. Cherry red, pursed lips, and a squashed button of a nose. He didn’t see any resemblance to his relatives. His voice sharpened. “Goodness, Madge, what a coincidence.”

Her voice strengthened. “I don’t think so, sir.”

He frowned. The serving maid did not seem to understand his sarcasm. “I’ve never been to Hatfield before. My family is from Portsmouth. I don’t know if your Timothy Dickens is a distant relative of mine or not. Who is his father?”

“She died in the fire.”

He tilted his head at the non sequitur. “Who?”

“My sister. She died in the fire. She was in service to old Sarey.” Charles coughed, holding the doorjamb to keep himself upright. This was fresh news. “How tragic. I didn’t hear that a maid died.”

“They haven’t found the bodies.”

“That I know. I’m reporting on the fire, but then, I told you that. Thank you for the information. I’ll pay you for it if you wait a moment for me to find my purse.”

She thrust the bundle toward him. “Timothy is yer son, sir. You need to take him.”

Charles took a step back, waving his hands. “No he isn’t.”

“He’s four months old. It would have been last year, around All Hallow’s Eve. Do you remember the bonfire? She’s prettier than me, my Lizzie. Her hair is lighter, not like yers or mine.”

“Truly, I’ve never been in Hatfield before now,” he said gently. “I work mostly in London.”

She huffed out a little sob. He sensed she was coming to a crescendo, rather like a dramatic piece of music that seemed pastoral at first, then exploded. “I know yer his daddy, sir. I can’t take him. My parents are dead.”

He coughed again. Blasted soot. “I’m sorry. It’s a terrible tragedy. You’re young to be all alone with a baby.”

Her entire being seemed to shudder, then, like the strike of a cobra, she shoved the wriggling bundle into his arms and dashed down the passage.

His arms fluttered like jelly for a moment, as if his bones had fled with the horror of the orphaned child’s appearance, until the baby opened its tiny maw and Charles found his strength.

Then he realized the blankets were damp. Little fatherless, motherless Timothy whoever-he-was had soiled himself. The baby wailed indignantly but his aunt did not return.

Charles completed his reporting duties with one hand while cradling the infant, now dressed in Charles’s cleanest handkerchief and spare shirt, in the other arm. Infant swaddling dried in front of the fire. When Charles had had his body and soul together well enough to chase after little Madge Porter, the proprietor of the Eight Bells had told him she wasn’t due there until the evening.

He’d begged the man for names of any Porter relatives, but the proprietor had been unhelpful. Charles had tripped over to St. Ethelreda’s, still smelling smoke through a nose dripping from the cold. The canon had been of no use and in fact smelled of Hollands, rather than incense. He went to a barbershop, holding the baby while he was shaved, but the attendant refused to offer information.

When the babe began to cry again, he took him to a stable yard and inquired if they had a cow. A stoic stableman took pity on him and sent him to his quiet wife, a new mother herself. She agreed to nurse the child while Charles went to Hatfield House to see if the marchioness had been found yet.

He attempted to gain access to the marquess, still directing the recovery efforts. While waiting, he offered the opinion that they should pull down the remaining walls, which looked likely to kill the intended rescuers more assuredly than anything else in the vast acreage of destruction. Everyone coughed, exhausted, working by rote rather than by intelligence.

After a while, he gave up on the marquess. He interviewed those working in the ruins to get an update for the Chronicle, then went to the still-standing east wing of the house to see the housekeeper. She allowed him into her parlor for half a crown. The room’s walls were freshly painted, showing evidence of care taken even with the servant’s quarters. A large plain cross decorated the free space on the wall, in between storage cupboards.

The housekeeper had a tall tower of graying hair, stiffened by some sort of grease into a peak over her forehead. Her black gown and white apron looked untouched by the fire. When she spoke, however, he sensed the fatigue and the sadness.

“I have served this family for thirty-seven years,” she moaned. “Such a tragedy.”

He took some time with her recital of the many treasures of the house, storing up a collection of things he could report on, then let her share some of her favorite history of the house. But he knew he needed to return to gather the baby from the stableman’s wife soon.

“Do you have a Lizzie Porter employed here?”

“Yes, sir.” The housekeeper gave a little sob and covered her mouth. “In the west wing, sir. I haven’t seen her since the fire.”

His fingers tingled. “Do you think she died?”

“I don’t know, sir. Not a flighty girl. I doubt she’d have run off if she lived.”

“Not a flighty girl?” He frowned. “But she has a babe.” He was surprised to know she had kept her employment.

The housekeeper shook her head. “She’s an eater, sir, but there never was a babe in her belly.”

The story became steadily more curious. “Did she take any leave, about four months ago? In July or August?”

The housekeeper picked up her teacup and stared at the leaves remaining at the bottom. “An ague went around the staff in the summer. Some kind of sweating sickness. She had it like all the rest. Went to recuperate with her sister.”


She nodded absently. “Yes, that Madge. Just a slip of a girl. Hasn’t come to work here but stayed in the village.”

“I’ve met her. How long was Lizzie with her?”

“Oh, for weeks. She came back pale and thin, but so did a couple of other girls. It killed one of the cook’s helpers. Terrible.” The housekeeper fingered a thin chain around her neck.

It didn’t sound like a group of girls made up the illness to help Lizzie hide her expectations, but the ague had been timed perfectly for her to hide wee Timothy’s birth. Who had been the babe’s wet nurse?

“Do you know where Madge lives?”

“Above the Eight Bells, sir. Servants’ quarters.” The housekeeper set down her cup and rose, indicating the interview had ended.

Charles checked around the pub again when he returned to town, just a short walk from the grand, if sadly diminished, house. The quarters for servants were empty. Madge seemed to have gone into hiding. How she could abandon her nephew so carelessly, he did not know, but perhaps she was too devastated by her sister’s death to think clearly.

A day later, Charles and the baby were both sunk into exhaustion by the long journey to London. Charles’s carriage, the final step of the trip, pulled up in front of a stone building. Across from Mary-le-Bow Church in Cheapside, it had shop space, three floors of apartments, and a half attic on top. He’d had to hire a carriage from the posting inn where the coach had left them on the outskirts of town. While he had no trouble walking many miles, carrying both a valise and an infant was more than he could manage. At least they’d kept each other warm.

He made his awkward way out of the vehicle, coughing as the smoky city air hit his tortured lungs. In his arms, the babe slept peacefully, though he had cried with hunger for part of the long coach journey.

Charles’s friends, William and Julie Aga, had taken rooms here, above a chophouse. The building exuded the scent of roasting meats. His stomach grumbled as he went up the stairs to his friends’ chambers. William was a reporter, like Charles, though more focused on crime than government.

Charles doubled over, coughing, as he reached the top of the steps. He suspected if he’d had a hand free to apply his handkerchief, it would come away black again.

The door to the Agas’ rooms opened before he had the chance to knock.

“Charles!” William exploded. “Good God, man, what a sound to torture my ears.”

Charles unbent himself and managed a nod at his friend. William had the air of a successful, fashionable man-about-town, even at his rooms on a Thursday evening. He wore a paisley waistcoat under an old black tailcoat, which fit him like it had been sewn directly on his broad-shouldered body. They both prided themselves on dressing well. His summer-golden hair had darkened due to the lack of sun. He had the look of a great horseman, though Charles knew that William, like he, spent most of his time hunched over a paper and quill.

“I like that fabric,” Charles said. “Did Julie make you that waistcoat?”

“Charles.” William waved his arms. “Whatever are you carrying in your arms?”

Charles dropped his valise to the ground. It grazed his foot. He let out a yelp and hopped. “Blast it! My toe.”

William leaned forward and snatched the bundle from Charles’s arm. The cloth over little Timothy’s face slid away, exposing the sleeping child. “No room in the inn?”

“Very funny,” Charles snarled. He rubbed his foot against the back of his calf. “That smarted.”

“Whose baby?”

“A dead serving maid’s. I remember you said that a woman across the hall from you had a screaming infant. Do you think she might be persuaded to feed this one? He’s about four months old.”

William rubbed his tongue over his gums as he glanced from Timothy to Charles, then back again.

“He needs to eat. I don’t want to starve him. Also, I think he’s a little too warm.” Charles gave Timothy an anxious glance.

“Let’s hope he isn’t coming down with something.” William stepped into the passage and gave a long-suffering sigh. Then, he crossed to the other side and used his elbow to bang on the door across from his. “Mrs. Herring?”

Charles heard a loud cry in the room beyond, a muttered imprecation, and a child’s piping voice, then the door opened. A girl about the age of his youngest brother, Boz, opened the door.

“Wot?” she said indistinctly, as she was missing several teeth.

“I need your mother,” William said, smiling at the girl.

The girl turned her head partway and shrieked for her mother. A couple of minutes later the lady of the house arrived, a fat babe burping on her shoulder. She appeared as well fed as the infant, with rounded wrists tapering into fat fingers peering out from her cotton dress sleeves.

“Mr. Aga!” she said with a smile.

Charles instantly trusted Mrs. Herring’s sweet smile. Her hand had gone to the top of her daughter’s head for a caress, the sort of woman who genuinely enjoyed her children.

“Good lady,” Charles began. “I’ve been given the custody of this orphaned child due to a rather dramatic situation. Might you be able to take him in to nurse?”

Mrs. Herring stepped toward William. She took one look at the sleeping Timothy and exclaimed, “Lor bless me!” She handed her larger infant over to her daughter, then reached out her hands to William. He promptly placed the bundle into the mother’s arms.

Charles saw Timothy stir. He began to root around. “Hungry. Hasn’t been nourished since this morning.”

“Poor mite,” Mrs. Herring cooed. “How could you have let this happen? They must be fed regularly.”

“I don’t know how to care for a baby,” Charles admitted.

“But I remembered my friends had you as a neighbor. Can you help him?”

“We’ve no room for the tiny lad,” Mrs. Herring said sternly. She coaxed her daughter back inside.

“I can pay for his board,” Charles responded.

Mrs. Herring didn’t speak but her eyebrows lifted.

“Just for tonight at first,” William suggested with an easy smile. “You can see the situation is desperate.”

Charles reached into his pocket and pulled out a shilling. “I’m good for it. Truly. This would pay for days of his care if I hire a wet nurse. He has an aunt but she disappeared. I couldn’t find her before I had to return to London.”

“We’ll talk to you again in the morning,” William said. “I won’t leave the building until we’ve spoken.”

“Where am I to put him?” she asked, staring rather fixedly at the shilling. “The bed is full and we don’t have a cradle.”

William nodded wisely, as if he’d thought of this already. “Mr. Dickens and I will consult with my wife and bring something suitable. If you can feed him while we wait?”

Mrs. Herring reached out her free hand. Charles noted she had clean nails. She seemed a good choice for wet nurse. He placed the shilling in her palm and prayed they could make longer-term arrangements for a reasonable price.

Timothy let out a thin wail.

“He sounds weak,” Charles said, guilt coloring his words.

“I’ll do what I can.” Mrs. Herring glanced at the babe in her arms, then shut the door.


Excerpt from A Christmas Carol Murder by Heather Redmond. Copyright 2020 by Heather Redmond. Reproduced with permission from Heather Redmond. All rights reserved.


Heather Redmond, Author of A Christmas Carol Murder


Author Bio:


Heather Redmond is an author of commercial fiction and also writes as Heather Hiestand. First published in mystery, she took a long detour through romance before returning. Though her last British-born ancestor departed London in the 1920s, she is a committed anglophile, Dickens devotee, and lover of all things nineteenth century.

She has lived in Illinois, California, and Texas, and now resides in a small town in Washington State with her husband and son. The author of many novels, novellas, and short stories, she has achieved best-seller status at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Her 2018 Heather Redmond debut, A Tale of Two Murders, was a multi-week Barnes & Noble Hardcover Mystery Bestseller.

Her two current mystery series are “A Dickens of a Crime” and “the Journaling mysteries.” She writes for Kensington and Severn House.

She is the 2020-21 President of the Columbia River Chapter of Sisters in Crime (SinC).

Catch Up With Heather Redmond:, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!



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Oh Holy Fright

Cozy Friday: To Fetch a Villain

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🐶Ahhh-Ooooh! Cozy mystery readers find cats in their stories, cats on the covers, cats solving murders while coughing up fur balls, but today is DOG DAY FRIDAY! I have four wonderful authors here to talk about their latest installment in the Mutt Mysteries Series: To Fetch a Villain! They’ve agreed to answer a few questions so read on!

To Fetch a Villain
To Fetch a Villain – Four Fun “Tails” of Scandal and Murder A Mutt Mystery
Cozy Mysteries
3rd in Series

Old dogs and new tricks abound in TO FETCH A VILLAIN, the third installment in the Mutt Mysteries series. This collection of four novellas illustrates why dogs are our best friends and the perfect companions for digging up clues, solving crimes, and bringing villains to justice. Let sleeping dogs lie? Not when the MUTTS are on the case.

About the To Fetch a Villain:

Old dogs and new tricks abound in To Fetch a Villain, the third installment in the Mutt Mysteries series. This collection of four novellas illustrates why dogs are our best friends and the perfect companions for digging up clues, solving crimes, and bringing villains to justice. Let sleeping dogs lie? Not when the MUTTS are on the case!

RUFF DAY by Jayne Ormerod
Store owner Darby Moore suffers through a “ruff” day when a dead body is discovered in her custom dog house. With her best friend topping the suspect’s list, Darby knows the police are barking up the wrong tree. It’s up to Darby’s Great Dane Mr. Belvedere to channel his inner Scooby-Doo and save the day.

AT YOUR SERVICE by Maria Hudgins
Mystery writer Jessica Chastain is deaf and relies on her service dog Trey who acts as Jessica’s ears. Kim, a Bichon like Trey, is the latest addition to their family. But life is not a walk in the park when someone threatens all they hold dear. Together they take on an unethical breeder and dog-napper, whose bite is worse than his bark.

A SHOT IN THE BARK by Teresa Inge
Dog-loving Catt Ramsey hires an ex-con as her handyman to help with her dog-walking business at the same time a crime wave hits the neighborhood. But it’s Catt who is accused of murder. She enlists the help of family, friends, and her dogs Cagney and Lacey to prove man’s best friend can be crime’s worst enemy.

STRUT YOUR MUTT by Heather Weidner
Sassy PI Delanie Fitzgerald attends the Strut Your Mutt festival, where her business partner’s English bulldog is a finalist in a pampered doggie pageant. The dog’s new-found fame leads to a client with a missing poodle. Delanie and her team put paws to the pavement, sniff out clues, and show the villain that when you lie with the dogs, you wake up with fleas.

Where to Buy To Fetch a Villain  – Amazon

A Visit With the Mutt Mystery Author Team

I’ve never interviewed so many people at once. Hey honey, bring in more chairs.

How did you come with an idea for your book? The four writers have worked together through the years on a variety of anthologies. We met one afternoon in Williamsburg and talked about a new project (novellas instead of short stories). The authors in the first two books are Teresa Inge, Jayne Ormerod, Heather Weidner, and Rosemary Shomaker. Mystery author, Maria Hudgins, has joined Teresa, Jayne and Heather for book three, TO FETCH A VILLAIN.

Heather: Delanie Fitzgerald and her partner, Duncan Reynolds, star in my private investigator series. Margaret the English bulldog is Duncan’s constant companion and the perfect character for a Mutt Mystery.

Maria: I don’t know where ideas come from. For this story, I suppose I thought: Dog. Story about a dog. How about my own two Bichons, Holly and Hamilton, now gone five years, but they played together so well. How about a story featuring them and their adventures? Their owner? Let’s make her deaf so one dog could be her service dog and the other could be . . . now let’s see. . . somebody needs to have a terrible problem so there’s a reason for the story. Something like that, I imagine.

Jayne: My story, “Ruff Day” begins at a display of custom dog house. The idea of setting a story there came from visiting a Bark-itecture event at the Norfolk, Virginia Botanical Gardens. As I toured the display of Pooch Palaces—showing everything from campers to casas— my mind wandered (as it’s wont to do) to “where could I hide a dead body.” My husband is used to these musings, but I do have to be careful because when I say things like that out loud, other people become quite concerned. Until I explain that I am a mystery writer, at which point they laugh nervously, as if not sure I am joking or not. Once I established the setting, the rest of the story wrote itself.

Teresa: For the Mutt Mysteries series, the four authors met to discuss writing a series about our two favorite things, mysteries, and dogs! We then developed a theme for each book in the series and began writing our stories. It’s been a lot of fun!

What scene do you hope your readers enjoy the most?

Heather: The Mutt Mystery novellas are fun to write. I love having my furry four-legged characters front and center in these mysteries. The Strut Your Mutt scene with Margaret the Wonder dog was a lot of fun to write. The city and the mall are real, but I made up the dog-themed event.

Maria: The scene in which Trey and Kim (the dogs) burrow under the fence and take off across the community square after the bad guy. The dogs may be little and fluffy, but they are fearless.

Jayne: I hope readers can visualize and find the humor in the scenes where my main character, Darby Moore, is dragged through the streets of the small coastal town by Mr. Belvedere, her silver Great Dane. All based on real life experiences. Hard not to laugh…now (not so funny at the time.)

Teresa: In To Fetch a Villain, I hope readers enjoy how my protagonist Catt Ramsey’s dogs Cagney and Lacey help her solve the crime and murder. They jump in and alert Catt to dangerous situations.

What other things have you written or what projects might we see in the future?

Heather: I am the author of the Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries, and this is the first time that these characters have appeared in a Mutt Mystery story. To read more about Delanie, Duncan, and Margaret, check out the books in this series. I’m also the author of the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries. This is a cozy mystery series set near Charlottesville, VA, and it launches in October 2021.

Maria: I have written six Dotsy Lamb Travel Mysteries, each set in a different but exciting foreign country, and two Lacy Glass Archaeology Mysteries. All are available on Amazon, etc. I love to travel and I love archaeology, so that’s what I write about.

Jayne: I have a total of fourteen literary babies out there, ranging in size from short story to full-length novels. I focus on murders that take place in small coastal towns (I love the juxtaposition of violence with tranquility.) I’ve recently had two short stories accepted for publication, but no date as to when they will be released to the world. I’m currently working on another cozy novel and something that is a little more mainstream. Those are my goals for 2021, since the pandemic threw me off my writing game this year. Threw me off a lot of things this year, but aren’t we all adjusting to a new normal now?

Teresa: Murder by the Glass will be published in 2021 and Virginia is for Mysteries III will be published next year.

If you could write any other genre what would that be?

Heather: I have always loved mysteries (since Nancy Drew and Scooby-Doo). I think I may want to venture in the YA or middle grade genres one day.

Maria: I’m currently writing an historical thriller, set in war-torn Europe in 1948. Can I do it? We’ll see.

Jayne: Historical romance. I love the strict rules of courting back in the day, offering many opportunities to break said rules, consequences be damned! I did try my hand at romance when I first started writing. Trust me when I say it is very hard to keep two desperately in love people apart for 90,000 words. I found the introduction of a dead body (or three) really ups the conflict and makes for an easier write, and hopefully a more entertaining read.

Thanks for having us stop by Teresa! That was fun! Wishing all your readers good health and good spirits!

Teresa: Romance but with a mystery element. I sometimes add romance to my mysteries. It’s a genre I am learning more about and love to write.

Where can readers leave reviews of your book? Writers love when readers leave reviews. You can leave a review at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BookBub, and Goodreads.

About the Authors

Heather Weidner, co-author of To Fetch a VillainHeather Weidner

Heather Weidner writes the Delanie Fitzgerald mystery series (Secret Lives and Private Eyes, The Tulip Shirt Murders, and Glitter, Glam, and Contraband). Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, and Deadly Southern Charm. Her novellas appear in The Mutt Mysteries series (To Fetch a Thief, To Fetch a Scoundrel, and To Fetch a Villain). Her new cozy series, the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries, launches October 2021.

She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Sisters in Crime – Chessie, Guppies, International Thriller Writers, and James River Writers.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers. Through the years, she has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager.

Maria Hudgins, co-author of To Fetch a VillainMaria Hudgins

Maria Hudgins is a mystery writer and a former high school science teacher. She is the author of the Dotsy Lamb Travel Mysteries, the Lacy Glass Archaeology Mysteries and several published short stories. Her favorite things are traveling, reading, dogs, and cats. She lives in Hampton, Virginia with her cat, Lulu.

Jayne Omerod, co-author of To Fetch a VillainJayne Ormerod

Jayne Ormerod grew up in a small Ohio town and attended a small-town Ohio college. Upon earning her accountancy degree, she became a CIA (that’s not a sexy spy thing, but a Certified Internal Auditor). She married a naval officer, and off they sailed to see the world. After nineteen moves, they, along with their two rescue dogs Tiller and Scout, settled in a cottage by the Chesapeake Bay. Jayne writes cozy mysteries about small towns with beach settings. You can read more about Jayne and her many publications at

Teresa Inge, co-author of To Fetch a VillainTeresa Inge

Teresa Inge grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Today, she doesn’t carry a rod like her idol, but she hotrods. She is president of Sisters in Crime Mystery by the Sea Chapter and author of short mysteries in Virginia is for Mysteries, 50 Shades of Cabernet, Coastal Crimes: Mysteries by the Sea, and Murder by the Glass.

She resides in Southeastern Virginia with her husband and two dogs, Luke and Lena.


Where to Buy To Fetch a Villain  – Amazon

Cozy Prizes Friday: Spawning Suspicion

Spawning Suspicion Tour Banner
Time for the wedding, but wait! The groom is missing and their’s murder afoot in River Holloway’s busy world. Maggie Toussaint is back with her second Seafood Caper mystery, Spawning Suspicion, and she shared an excerpt with us as well as a chance to win in her giveaway! 


Spawning Suspicion

Spawning Suspicion (A Seafood Caper Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series

About Spawning Suspicion

The death of island playboy Curtis Marlin doesn’t register on busy caterer River Holloway’s radar…that is, until her brother and his girlfriend are arrested for the former athlete’s murder. Certain of the pair’s innocence, the amateur sleuth sets out to investigate. Suspicion on the island spreads like chocolate sauce when River questions the victim’s teammates. The suspects don’t appreciate her stirring up trouble, but she won’t let an election-hungry sheriff make her brother a sacrificial lamb.

But there’s more than murder on River’s to-do list. A missing groom, catered banquets, and River’s own wedding plans keep her hopping like a short order cook. And as the cherry on the sundae, she has a wild kitty to tame. Under mossy oaks and rustling palmettoes, fact and fiction blend in a mouthwatering romp of good eatin’ and yummy recipes. Spawning Suspicion is the second in Toussaint’s Seafood Capers Mystery Series.

Here’s where you can find Spawning Suspicion!


Excerpt from Spawning Suspicion

My mobile phone buzzed. I’d placed it on the console when we climbed into the van. Georgia law prevented drivers from using cell phones while driving so I used a button on the steering wheel to answer the call. “Holloway Catering. This is River Holloway. How may I help you?” My brother’s voice blasted through the car. “River, thank goodness you picked up. I’m in jail. The cops think I did something terrible, because of Viv.”

Jail? Oh, no. This couldn’t be happening. Doug’s career had traction and his girlfriend adored him. I’d known Viv Declan since we were in grade school together. “Slow down,” I said. “I don’t understand. Did they arrest you or Viv?”

“Both of us. This can’t be happening. I’ve got jobs scheduled. I can’t rot in jail. Get me out of here.”

My thoughts spun in all directions as I navigated one of Shell Island’s many traffic circles. “Do you have a lawyer?”

“I asked for a public defender, but he hasn’t arrived.”

“Should I call Mark Horton again?” We’d used that lawyer when Doug acted out after Mama died.

“No. I can’t afford him.”

“But if they have you under false pretenses, he’ll set them straight. Might be worth it to have a pro at the helm.”

From the passenger seat, Pete held up a note. I read it. Ask him what the charge is.

I nodded at Pete and stared ahead at the busy two-lane road. “What happened?

“Viv and I were there.”

I didn’t have to feign confusion. “Where?”

“Curtis Marlin’s house.”

Curtis died in his grandmother’s house a few days ago. A former high school basketball star turned playboy, Curtis hardly worked but he’d always played hard. People orbited him, as if they could be cool through association. His bad boy charm never worked on me. Who had time to be a teenage rebel when you had to go to school and be responsible for the household’s cooking and cleaning?

“He died of natural causes,” I said.

“No.” Doug’s breath hitched. “Now it’s murder.”

Icy sensations feathered the nape of my neck. Oh, no. “Since when do you and Curtis hang out?”

“I knew him by name only. We saw him at the marina recently, and he invited us to come out sometime.”

My fingers tightened on the steering wheel. “You visited his house the night he died.”

“Yeah. They say we killed him.”

Here’s where you can find Spawning Suspicion!- AmazonB&NKoboApple

About Maggie Toussaint

Maggie Toussaint, author of Spawning Suspicion

Southern author Maggie Toussaint writes cozy and paranormal mysteries, romantic suspense, and dystopian fiction, with twenty fiction novels published. A multi-year finalist for Georgia Author of the Year, she’s won Silver Falchions, the Readers’ Choice, and the EPIC Awards. She’s past president of Mystery Writers of America-Southeast chapter and an officer of LowCountry Sisters In Crime. She lives in coastal Georgia, where secrets, heritage, and ancient oaks cast long shadows. Visit her at

Author Links

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Here’s where you can find Spawning Suspicion!- AmazonB&NKoboApple

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'Tis the Season Holiday Anthology

Christmas at Holiday House Book Review

Christmas at Holiday House

How about a holiday romance to add to your TBR Christmas stack? Here’s a sweet one with a widowed nurse who comes to Holiday House in Silver Bells, Colorado. Could you get more of a Hallmarky feel? (Yes, Hallmarky is a word because I just invented it.)

And now, on to the Christmas at Holiday House…

About the Book

In the town of Silver Bells, there’s always a feeling of Christmas in the air… Let love—and RaeAnne Thayne—melt your heart this holiday season!

This New Year will bring widowed nurse Abigail Powell a fresh start in a different city. Excited about the chance to create an unforgettable Christmas for her young son in picturesque Silver Bells, Colorado, Abby has been hired to take care of her dear friend’s recuperating grandmother. But sprightly senior Winnie insists she doesn’t need looking after. What she does need is help decorating her historic mansion, Holiday House, for a seasonal town fundraiser. Abby warms to the festive task, but she’ll have to contend with her own personal Grinch: Winnie’s prickly grandson, Ethan Lancaster.

Ethan Lancaster is good at a lot of things. Relationships surely aren’t one of them. His ex-fiancée convinced Ethan he was incapable of love, and he believes her…up until the moment he impulsively kisses Abby. What is it about this vibrant woman and her sweet son that knocks his world off-kilter? He knows they’re leaving town after Christmas. He just didn’t expect they’d be taking a little of his heart with them. But as he and Abby work together on the magical Holiday House through the record cold weather, visions of a different future dance in his head…one filled with warmth, love and a new beginning for them both.

Available on and other retailers

My Review

Abby is headed to Silver Bells, Colorado to help out a friend’s grandmother, Winnie, who has had a bad fall. Winnie lives in a place called “Holiday House” and is preparing for a big Christmas event. The house is a mess but filled with rooms dedicated to nutcrackers and angels and everything Christmas. Abby tangles with Ethan, owner of several luxury hotels, and together they find the magic of Christmas. I also appreciated the character of Rodrigo, Jose’s brother with Down syndrome. When Rodrigo’s around you can’t help but feel happy. I enjoyed visiting Silver Bells and this Christmas love story. It has a beautiful ending and makes me want to live in this charming town!

Other Christmas Books Featured This Fall

In a Holidaze Hollyberry Homicide

A Dash of Murder Audiobook on Sale!

Tis’ the Season Christmas Anthology Party

If you’re missing Pecan Bayou, good news! Betsy’s back and she’s in trouble. I was honored to be included in the Tis’ the Season Christmas Anthology. There’s a lot to this post, but be sure to leave a comment if you want to answer this question: What was your favorite Christmas toy? Mine was Mrs. Gingerbread, a doll I couldn’t sleep without for years.

Here’s a little about my story, Hit-and-Run Santa.

Betsy finally gets a few hours to herself over a hectic holiday season. Just as she settles in, there is a thumping at her door and she receives a Christmas visitor, not the magical enchanted kind, but the deranged murderous variety. Now finding herself in the middle of a decades-old battle, she has to figure out how to outsmart a demented woman out for revenge.

Preorder ‘Tis the Season

Check Out The Trailer

But wait! There’s more! There are twelve authors in this anthology with stories from sweet to scary. Here’s a book trailer one of our authors put together.

Did you notice mention of p-a-r-t-y? That’s right! Join us on November 5th at 6pm Central time via Facebook. We’re having a party with games, prizes and yours truly!

'Tis the Season Holiday Anthology Book Launch Party
Click here to go to the party on November 5 at 6pm.

Want to know more about the other stories?

Enjoy the musings from this group of great authors, as they share an eclectic mix of short stories in ‘Tis the Season. There will be cookies, presents, puppies, skiing, St. Peter, Santa, and…Kaiju? Grab a cup of hot cocoa and curl up on the couch with these holiday treats: 

‘Tis The Teasing Season by Breakfield and Burkey

Jacob and Petra celebrate a month of blended European and American holiday traditions, along with fun teasing. Their unique rituals culminate on Christmas night giving each other the perfect gift. Petra is distraught because she has found nothing to give the love of her life. 

A Christmas Tail by Mackenzie Collins

Follow one puppy’s journey to a forever home in this one of a kind Christmas tale. Charlie dares to adopt a young pup for his mother as a Christmas gift. Our canine hero anxiously awaits his fate as Christmas grows closer.

A COVID Christmas by Julie Gianelloni Connor

COVID-19 stalks the land, disrupting everything—families, simple pleasures like eating out, the holidays. As autumn drifts into the winter, four characters—an older lady living alone, her cleaning lady, the cleaning lady’s daughter, and a kitten—combine to turn the worst of times, and what could perhaps be the worst Christmas ever, into something quite different and magical.

A Christmas Dream by DC Gomez

When his lifelong dreams were crushed, Brad lost all hope in himself and the people around him. His life takes an unexpected turn when he meets the snarky Saint Peter on Christmas Eve. Saint Peter refuses to play into Brad’s pity party, and gives him a taste of his own medicine. Fall in love with this sweet Christmas tale, and find the beauty in the simple things in life.

The Reluctant Shepherd by Kathryn Haueisen

Things aren’t always what they seem. What seems hopeless might not be. A reluctant little shepherd boy and a stray puppy come together to give two people their best Christmas ever. 

Twisted Christmas by James Hill

December 24th, 2020, North Pole. Approx. 2100 hours. Santa Claus is going over his list for his yearly trip around the world. The door bursts open and in walks the Devil. What could he want? 

You Better Believe It by Tassie Kalas

In her hopes to give her children the perfect Christmas experience all wrapped up in a bow, a single mother learns that the best gifts aren’t the ones under the tree—they’re the ones curled up under the covers upstairs.

A Kaiju Christmas by LM Mann

Normally one would not associate kaiju (strange beasts) with the holiday season, but when Santa’s reindeer come down with COVID-RD, some out of the box thinking is required.  This was the Christmas when kaiju, along with many other magical creatures, answered Santa’s call to save the day. 

Christmas Wish by C.J. Peterson

For six-year-old Robin Flynn and her family, this is a Christmas that will change everything. There will be treats, a wish for a healthy delivery of Robin’s new brother, and a mother’s wish for her son to move on from the past. A kindhearted Pastor is sent to help the family navigate through the turmoil that arose on this Christmas Eve night. Will their Christmas wishes come true?

It Takes A Village By Terrina Wilder

It Takes A Village is a story about a young man, Jon, who met the love of his life. What should have been a wonderful journey or the newlywed couple, became an experience of understanding the important roles people played in their lives. The gift of Jesus Christ would hold a significant meaning for Jon on Christmas Day.

Preorder ‘Tis the Season

Oh Holy Fright

Book Review: Christmas Charms

Time for another Christmas book and what a magical one Christmas Charms is! Isn’t that what a good Christmas story has? A little magic? This is the kind of book I like to pick in stressful times, say in the middle of a pandemic.😷 Scroll down for my review!

About the Book

*One of the BEST ROMANCE NOVELS OF 2020, Cosmopolitan Magazine*

“…literally a Hallmark movie in book form.

She never dreamed her holiday would include
her hometown, a dog, or a firefighter.
But a mysterious charm bracelet
predicted it all…

Ashley’s supposed to be having the Christmas of her dreams. After four years of working at an upscale jewelry store in Manhattan, she’s finally going to get a little velvet box of her own—from her boyfriend Jeremy, who’s taking her on a romantic trip to Paris. What could go wrong?

Well, everything.

Ashley heads home to Owl Lake instead, falling asleep on the train ride there…and waking up with a beautiful antique charm bracelet on her wrist. Soon, she realizes that each silver charm predicts an event that happens in real life. What does this mean for her and Jeremy…or her and Aidan, her former high school boyfriend, who’s now a local firefighter? Is there still a chance that she could have the perfect Christmas?

This small town Christmas romance includes a free Hallmark original recipe for Spiced Walnut Crust Cookies with Chocolate Ganache and Sea Salt.

My Review:

So you’re on a train and a lady who looks like Mrs. Santa Claus leaves you with a charm bracelet and then disappears. Not just any bracelet- a magic bracelet. Ashley, a frustrated jewelry designer working a sales clerk job in a jewelry store in New York City goes home for Christmas and jingle jingle things start happening. She runs into old heartthrob Aiden, a love she chose to leave for her career, and a beautiful Christmas romance has the chance to unfold. If you love Hallmark movies, Christmas Charms will delight you! 

Other Christmas Books Featured This Fall

In a Holidaze
Click Here for Review
Click Here to Learn More
A Dash of Murder Audiobook on Sale!

In a Holidaze Book Review

Here’s another Christmas book to put on your TBR pile this fall. In a Holidaze is a time-travel romantic comedy featuring a group of old college friends and their grown children who visit a cabin in Utah every year. The main character Mae is in her late twenties and re-examining some of the choices she’s made in her life. At the end of the holiday, she suffers a bump on the head and finds herself back on the plane on her way to the cabin on the 20th of December. This keeps repeating and as in the movie Groundhog Day she finds she can change things, take different roads, and shape her future.

Read my review below the description.