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Cozy Prizes Friday: Left Fur Dead

We will be having a Harvey moment this week. Left Fur Dead features a rabbit who finds bodies. I like it! We have a a little about the book, and the author, J.M. Griffin and don’t forget to scroll down and enter the giveaway for a chance at a print copy of this furry cozy mystery!

About the Book


Left Fur Dead (A Jules & Bun Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Kensington (June 25, 2019)

On Fur Bridge Farm, Jules cares for rescued rabbits. But when a killer strikes, she’ll need a rabbit to rescue her . . .

Juliette “Jules” Bridge prides herself on the tender rehabilitation she provides for injured or abused rabbits on her New Hampshire rescue farm, but she has a very special relationship with one bunny in particular. Bun is a black-and-white rabbit who happens to have the ability to communicate through mental telepathy. Once she got over the shock, Jules found her furry friend had a lot to say.

One frigid March morning on their walk together, Bun spots a body. The police identify the frozen stiff as Arthur Freeman, aka Arty the Mime. Jules and Arty knew each other on the children’s party circuit, where he’d perform magic tricks and she had an educational rabbit petting pen. With Bun egging her on, Jules decides it’s time they hop to it and put their heads together to discover who silenced the mime. But their investigation leads them down a rabbit hole of more suspects and lies, while a killer sets a trap for them . . .

You can find Left Fur Dead at these online retailers

AmazonB&NKoboGoogle Play IndieBound

About the Author

J. M. Griffin is the bestselling cozy mystery author of sixteen novels, including the Vinnie Esposito series. She lives in rural Rhode Island with her husband and two very mysterious cats. Visit her at jm-griffin.com.

Author Links

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If you haven’t already, you can also enter my summer giveaway. That’s right. Two giveaways to enter!

Summer Reading Giveaway 2019

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Book Review and Giveaway: A Face in the Crowd

Imagine this. You are at the end of a long frustrating day at work and worrying about money. Then, all of a sudden, you find an envelope full of money in your bag. What would you do with it? You really need that money. This is the premise of Kerry Wilkinson’s mystery A Face in the Crowd.

More about the book below. Leave a comment below and tell me what you would do with an unexpected windfall of cash.

If you haven’t entered my summer giveaway yet, scroll down and put your name in for a chance at a $20 gift card and a copy of my wedding mystery, Buzzkill!

Lucy gets the same bus every day. Today, her journey home will change her life.

Lucy can barely afford her weekly ticket for the grimy number 24, tries to avoid eye contact, and, if she’s really lucky, she gets a seat and reads a chapter of her book. But it’s a Friday – and the bus is always crammed at the end of the week. She keeps her elbows close and clings to a pole at every juddering stop. All she wants to do is get home to her dog, Billy, the only comfort she has right now. 

When she gets off, something feels different.

An envelope stuffed with thousands of pounds is in her bag.

Is it the answer to her prayers, or the beginning of a nightmare?

Because, in the end, everything has a price.

My Review:

A woman who works in a grocery store with no one in the world but a sweet little dog is struggling to pay back a substantial debt. She finds herself the recipient of an envelope full of money that shows up in her bag after riding on a crowded bus. Who does it belong to? Should she return it? Can she spend it and cover some of her debts? Kerry Wilkinson gives us a nicely woven mystery that will keep you guessing until the end. The author takes us down some paths that seem logical, but nothing is what it seems. A Face in the Crowd will have you looking over your shoulder!

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

Summer Reading Giveaway 2019

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Book Review: A Plain Vanilla Murder

Susan Wittig Albert is back with another mystery taking place in the world of plants. I learned a lot about that little brown bottle of vanilla I have in my kitchen cabinet and treacherous the acquisition of spices can be! This is the 27th book in the China Bayles Series. If you love learning about plants and their uses, I would also recommend her Book of Days.

Be sure to enter my summer giveaway below for your chance at a $20 gift card and a digital copy of my wedding mystery–Buzzkill.

China Bayles and Ruby Wilcox are offering their popular “Not Just Plain Vanilla” workshop when, across town on the campus of Central Texas State University, a botany professor (an expert on the vanilla orchid) is found dead in his greenhouse—an apparent suicide. Summoned to the scene, police chief Sheila Dawson (now in her last few months of pregnancy) wonders whether there’s something more to his death and opens an investigation into the many rivalries that have splintered CTSU’s plant sciences faculty.

But the dead professor is also the ex-husband of China’s friend Maggie, owner of the local garden center and manager of an orchid-sitting business. When suicide becomes murder, suspicion falls on Maggie. But China learns that there are many more suspects in this complex, vanilla-flavored affair. Does this story begin with a passionate desire for an exotic flower and its costly, delectable fruit? Does it start in a corrosive desire for revenge? Or is the professor’s death the result of a bizarre black-market orchid-smuggling scheme gone awry?

Once again, prize-winning author, herbalist, and amateur naturalist Susan Wittig Albert draws on history, legend, science, and the culinary arts to craft a botanical mystery that will entertain and enlighten mystery fans, gardeners, and nature lovers alike.

Special features: an author’s note on the history and uses of both natural and synthetic vanilla, and recipes and crafting instructions for “wonderful things to do with the ice cream orchid.”

My Review: Was it really suicide? China Bayles is back investigating a college professor’s death surrounded by the rich scent of vanilla. Like many of Albert’s books, you get a rich education on plant history. In A Plain Vanilla Murder, the story centers around the university community showing you professional jealousy between the professors and some curious ways to make extra cash. It was pretty cut-throat for a bunch of mild-mannered academic types! I enjoyed A Plain Vanilla Murder and would recommend it, especially if you love gardening or academic mysteries.

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

Summer Reading Giveaway 2019

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Cozy Prizes Friday: Whiskers in the Dark

We have some cozy royalty visiting us today! Rita Mae Brown is bringing us her 28th book in her Mrs. Murphy Mystery Series. Time to add some crime-solving cats and dogs and a ghost beagle to your summer reading list.  This looks like a good one! 

Don’t forget to enter Rita’s giveaway for your chance at a print copy of Whiskers in the Dark. 

About the Book

Whiskers in the Dark: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery
Cozy Mystery
28th in Series

Death stalks the Blue Ridge Mountains as a centuries-old mystery resurfaces and murder mars the lead-up to an annual beagle competition, in a thrilling new tale from Rita Mae Brown and her feline co-author Sneaky Pie Brown.

A massive nor’easter has hit northern Virginia, where Mary Minor “Harry” Harristeen joins groundskeeping efforts at the National Beagle Club at Aldie as the date for its springtime Hounds for Heroes veterans’ benefit approaches. Harry’s fellow volunteers, including her oldest friend, Susan Tucker, comprise a spirited group of hunting enthusiasts, some former service members themselves. But things take a sinister turn when, after a routine tree cleanup along the Club’s hunting trails, retired foreign services officer Jason Holzknect is found dead, throat slit from ear to ear. Soon enough, another murder in their midst jolts the preparations, convincing Harry that the killer is familiar with the Club—and must be close by, masked in plain sight.

The intrigue extends to the grounds of Harry’s beloved local church, where the identity of an eighteenth-century skeleton wearing precious pearls remains a mystery. The anonymous woman’s neck had been snapped, and marks on the grave where her body was secreted indicate that someone recently tried to remove it, leading Harry to question how well she really knows those around her.

As always, Harry’s crime-solving cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and Tee Tucker the Corgi share her determination to sniff out the foes among friends, even those long buried. Harry will need her four-legged companions’ help more than ever: a ghostly beagle only they can see may hold the key to the culprit.

You can find Whiskers in the Dark at these online retailers 

AmazonB&NKoboGoogle PlayIndieBound

About the Author

 

Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries; the Sister Jane series; the Runnymede novels, including Six of One and Cakewalk; A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed; Rubyfruit Jungle; and In Her Day; as well as many other books. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia, and is a Master of Foxhounds and the huntsman.

Sneaky Pie Brown, a tiger cat born somewhere in Albemarle County, Virginia, was discovered by Rita Mae Brown at her local SPCA. They have collaborated on numerous Mrs. Murphy mysteries—in addition to Sneaky Pie’s Cookbook for Mystery Lovers and Sneaky Pie for President.

 
Author Links
 
 
 
 

Cozying Up for Wedding Season

I can’t let May come to an end without saying thank you to V.M. Burns for including my book Buzzkill in her article “The Irrepressible Allure of the Wedding Cozy” on Crime Reads.

I loved writing the book and based some of the cozy craziness on my own wedding now almost thirty years ago. Are you invited to a wedding this summer or possibly planning one? It’s summer, there’s love in the air and you have the hall booked. What could possibly go wrong?

In Buzzkill, Betsy gets overwhelmed with the process until she enlists a wily wedding planner, Mr. Andre, to help her escape a white wedding catastrophe. It doesn’t help that she has endangered Pecan Bayou with a bad recipe for homemade calamine lotion.

Did you have a crazy wedding? Do you have a favorite wedding cozy mystery? Let me know in the comments!

And if you would like to check out the excellent books of V.M. Burns, Malice nominee, visit her at VMBURNS.COM.

Book Review: Murder She Wrote-Murder in Red

With the passing of Donald Bain, I worried there would be no more Murder She Wrote books. I am slowly making my way through the series but didn’t want them to come to an end. Well, Jessica has a new co-writer and this mystery brings us back to our beloved Cabot Cove.

My Review:

Jessica is back this time with a mystery in her own home town of Cabot Cove, Maine. John Land is Jessica Fletcher’s new co-author, and we are once again entertained with more adventures of the great crime-solving retired English teacher. This time her old friend George Sutherland shows up in Cabot Cove for a drug trial at a local private hospital. Jessica is of upset George is ill especially after the loss she suffered with her husband years ago. When her friend Mimi dies after seeking treatment to delay aging at the same private hospital, Jessica is on the case working with series regular, Mort the sheriff. I wish there had been more of one of my favorite characters, Seth Hazlitt, which meant there was a lack of Cabot Cove characters saying, “Ayah”. Murder in Red is standard JB Fletcher and a fun mystery to fill an afternoon.

Cozy Prizes Friday: Staging is Murder



Just to show you how on top of my blog schedule I am, I had lunch with this lovely lady at Malice Domestic and didn’t realize she was scheduled for an interview today! Senior cozy author moment. Don’t forget to scroll down and enter for a chance at a free copy of Staging is Murder!

Laura Bishop just nabbed her first decorating commission—staging for sale a 19th-century mansion that hasn’t been updated for decades. But when a body falls from a laundry chute and lands at Laura’s feet, replacing flowered wallpaper becomes the least of her duties.

To clear her young assistant of the murder and save her fledgling business, Laura’s determined to find the killer. Turns out it’s not as easy as renovating a manor home, especially with two handsome men complicating her mission: the police detective assigned to the case and the real estate agent trying to save the manse from foreclosure.

Worse still, the meddling of a horoscope-guided friend, a determined grandmother, and the local funeral director could get them all killed before Laura props the first pillow.

My Interview with Grace

  • How did you come with an idea for your book? 

There were two things I had to come up with for my book. One was the hook for my character, and the other one was the “what if” question.

In a cozy, the main character usually has a hook, which I learned is a profession or interest (baker, florist, garage sale expert, etc.) that becomes a major part of the story. I was advised that since I would be spending a lot of time writing about this hook that I should pick one that I like or know something about—or be willing to do a lot of research. After looking at all of the areas of my life, work, interests, hobbies, etc., I came to realize the one thing that I enjoyed was home staging. I had spent way too many hours watching HGTV home staging shows, and when I discovered that I had a knack for it, I helped friends stage their homes. So I decided that would be my hook, and that’s how STAGING IS MURDER came about.

The “What if” question is the basis for a story. For example, what if a young boy receives a scholarship to a school of wizardry? The basis of the Harry Potter books. What if a little girl and her home are blown away by a tornado? The basis for the “Wizard of Oz.” In my case, I wrote my mystery around the question: What if a fax went to the wrong number? What could be in that fax that might cause someone to commit murder?

  • What scene do you hope your readers enjoy the most?

When I started writing fiction, the one thing that surprised me was how humor kept creeping into my writing—either from situations I put my characters in or from the snarky remarks my main character, Laura Bishop, made. A scene that I hope readers enjoy, and I hope find a bit humorous, is the one where Laura and her BFF Nita go to a campground at night to investigate whether some men living there in a rickety camper could be the ones who committed the murder. First they had to cross a field to get there, which they discovered had been used to graze cows. You can imagine the stuff they ran (or stepped) into. Later Nita also drags Laura to the same campground searching for some members of Hell’s Angels who might have been involved with the murder. Laura frequently ends up playing Ethel to Nita’s Lucy.

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

I’m busy working on the second book in the Laura Bishop series (tentatively titled STAGING WARS). This one involves members of a local arts group. Laura gets to see Monica, her high school nemesis, behind bars and having to sleep on a cot without her usual silk sheets. Monica definitely needs Laura’s help. But would you be willing to help clear someone of murder when you suspect that person had an affair with your late husband?

I recently completed a short story about a woman who discovers her husband of twenty-five years plans to leave her for a very young woman who lives next door and what she plans to do about it. He may regret that he strayed.

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

I spent a career writing step-by-step procedural guidelines and computer user guides. Quite boring, which is why I turned to murder mysteries. But if I had to write in another area, I would probably draw on that experience and turn to writing nonfiction self-help books or articles. During my career, I helped guide a lot of people in writing their resumes and applying for work. I’m definitely not an expert in that area, but I know enough to help someone who doesn’t have a clue where to start.

  • Is there a giveaway or promotion with this book?

I will be happy to send one commenter a copy of the ARC for STAGING IS MURDER.

  • Where can readers leave reviews of your book?

I hope readers will enjoy STAGING IS MURDER, and if they are willing to leave a comment or review, I would greatly appreciate it. They can leave it at one of the following:

Amazon 

Goodreads

Grace’s Website: https://www.gracetopping.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gtoppingauthor

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44098504-staging-is-murder?from_search=true

Back Cover Copy

Laura Bishop just nabbed her first decorating commission—staging for sale a 19th-century mansion that hasn’t been updated for decades. But when a body falls from a laundry chute and lands at Laura’s feet, removing flowered wallpaper becomes the least of her duties. 

To clear her young assistant of the murder and save her fledgling business, Laura’s determined to find the killer. Turns out it’s not as easy as renovating a manor home, especially with two handsome men complicating her mission: the police detective assigned to the case and the real estate agent trying to save the manse from foreclosure.

Worse still, the meddling of a horoscope-guided friend, a determined grandmother, and the local funeral director could get them all killed before Laura props the first pillow.

Bio

More About the Author

Grace Topping is a recovering technical writer and IT project manager, accustomed to writing lean, boring documents. Let loose to write fiction, she is now creating murder mysteries and killing off characters who remind her of some of the people she dealt with during her career. Fictional revenge is sweet. She’s using her experience helping friends stage their homes as inspiration for her Laura Bishop mystery series. The first book in the series, Staging is Murder, is about a woman starting a new career midlife as a home stager. Grace is the current vice president of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and a member of the SINC Guppies and Mystery Writers of America. She lives with her husband in Northern Virginia.

Author Links

Website – https://www.gracetopping.com

Twitter – https://twitter.com/gtoppingauthor

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/GraceToppingAuthor

GoodReads – https://www.goodreads.com/goodreadscomgracetopping

Purchase Links – Amazon B&N Kobo

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Cozy Prizes Friday: Murder on Trinity Place

Okay, this one isn’t an Agatha Nominee…yet… but it is the latest by Victoria Thompson, nominated for Murder on Union Square this year. I didn’t get all of the Agatha Nominees read but really enjoyed the ones I did.

Don’t forget! Time is running out for my Amazon gift card giveaway. I’m at Malice Domestic in Maryland this weekend getting to see some favorite authors!

Here is my review:

This was a true historical murder mystery with gangsters, swill milk, and an ending that will keep you guessing. Murder on Trinity Place takes place around a dairy that endorses pure milk over a more common method of feeding the cows swill. Almost every character had a secret making it hard to figure just who the murderer was. There were also some sweeter moments that rounded out the book nicely. I loved the plot twists and deductive reasoning of the principal characters. Highly recommend it!

I received this book from NetGalley and have left an honest review.

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Cozy Prizes Friday: Trust Me Review

Today I’m reviewing another Agatha Award nominee–Hank Phillipi Ryan with Trust Me. Of all the books I’ve read on this list, this one was the most unique. If you haven’t entered my giveaway yet, scroll down add your name and email.

Malice Domestic, the mystery readers conference in Bethesda, Maryland is only a week or so away, and I’m getting so excited to meet other authors and readers. The panel I will be appearing in this year is “Putting the Fun in Murder” with Patricia Ruoccopa, Jenna Hart, V.M. Burns, Catriona McPherson, and Jeff Cohen.

My Review- 5 Stars

The first thing you need to know about Trust Me is that it may not be what you expect. Yes, it is a mystery, but instead of a dark and stormy night with the sleuth sorting out characters and motives, you have a troubled journalist sorting out the highly confusing and deceptive mind of a woman who was accused of killing her own child. It was so different that I loved it. The assumptions you make will change and then change again. This is a psychologically centered mystery that will mess with your head!

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Cozy Prizes Friday: Bad Pick Mystery Tour and an Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

Let’s talk about goat yoga. (Never thought I’d be saying that!) Not really sure if this means the goats are doing the yoga or people are acting like goats doing yoga? Well, some of the characters in Bad Pick think it’s downright evil.  This is the third book in the Brie Hooker Mystery Series. Don’t forget to scroll down and enter the giveaway for an Amazon gift card!

Synopsis:

Bad Pick by Linda Lovely

Vegan Brie Hooker lives and works with her feisty Aunt Eva at Udderly Kidding Dairy, a hop, skip, and jump away from South Carolina’s Clemson University. Brie’s fun farm outreach attempt backfires when religious extremists decide goat yoga is a form of devil worship. Believing one of the zealots might be persuaded to see reason, Brie’s free-wheeling friend Mollye convinces her they should call on the young woman. Big mistake.

Picketers at Udderly’s gates soon become the least of Brie’s troubles. Not only is she accused of murder, she worries the death might actually be her fault. Danger mounts when an old family friend’s visit ensnares Brie in a high-stakes feud between a U.S. Supreme Court nominee and the woman determined to expose his secrets. In her personal life, Brie’s still torn between the town’s two most eligible bachelors. While she’s edging toward a decision, she must first survive a cunning killer adept at crafting murders that look like tragic accidents. Will Brie be another “accident” victim? Pay a visit to Udderly Kidding Dairy and find out!

Praise for Bad Pick

“There’s such a lot to enjoy in Linda Lovely’s third Brie Hooker mystery Bad Pick. Of course, I came for the goat yoga and the religious extremists (I’m only human), but I stayed for the love triangle, the female friendships, the family members rubbing along so realistically, the sidelights on vegan cooking and the rich depiction of small-town life. And what kept me flicking the pages fast enough to cause a draft? The twisty, knotty, killer plot underneath all that charm. Bad Pick is a good un!”—Catriona McPherson, Multi-Award-Winning Author of the Last Ditch Mysteries.

“Wow! In Bad Pick, Lovely wrote an amazing novel only to see one part of the plot come to life in headlines all over the country. A fringe religious cult, a Supreme Court nominee, and goat yoga combine together in a tale that fans of mysteries won’t want to miss. –Sherry Harris, Agatha Award Nominee and Author of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries.

“The Brie Hooker mysteries from author Linda Lovely continue to entertain, this time with extremists who really don’t like the farm’s new goat yoga offering. You’ll find yourself muttering, “What the feta?” as you follow the action around not one but two murders from the edge of your seat. Fix yourself a chevre sandwich and sit down to enjoy a delightful – and suspense-filled – read.”—Edith Maxwell, Author of the Local Foods Mysteries and the Quaker Midwife Mysteries.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Henery Press
Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Number of Pages: 270
ISBN: 9781635114744
Series: Brie Hooker Mystery Series
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt:

ONE

“How many people did you con into trying this goat yoga?” Aunt Eva asked as she slapped two strips of cold bacon in a skillet.

“No conning needed,” I answered. “Everyone’s looking forward to the class.”

“You sure goat yoga’s a good idea?”

I laughed. “I’m sure. People love it. Admittedly, a sense of humor’s required, but it’s caught on all across the country. Why don’t you join the fun? Class starts at three. We don’t have many Sunday customers this time of year. We’ll probably have the farm to ourselves by then. You up for some downward-facing dog?”

“No.” Eva harrumphed. “Don’t go insulting our noble dogs. Bad enough you’ll expose our baby goats to human pretzels. It’s bound to confuse the poor kids. Won’t know which human end is supposed to be up. They’ll think all us two-legged beings are bonkers. So who’s coming?”

“Jayla, our yoga instructor, wanted to limit the trial class to four students so it’s just Mollye, Fara, Mimi, and me.”

I pulled out a bag of frozen blueberries I’d picked at the Happy Berry Farm last summer. While Udderly Kidding Dairy, my home for the past seven months, boasted dozens of blueberry bushes, our four-hundred goats called first dibs on the fruit.

“Oh, and Paint’s shooting video to promote the class,” I added.

Aunt Eva chuckled as she flipped her sizzling bacon strips. “Not a hardship for Paint, videoing young ladies in nothing but skivvies and tutus.”

I glanced heavenward. “We don’t wear tutus. Our workout clothes show less skin than you do on the Fourth of July.”

Eva cocked an eyebrow. “Could be you’re helping Paint select babes for the weeks he’s not your designated beau.”

I opened the cupboard and grabbed a microwave packet of steel-cut oatmeal. “Paint sees a variety of ladies when we’re not dating, and he knows everyone in this class. No behind-the-camera scouting required.”

“Maybe, but as far as I know, he hasn’t seen any of them with their ankles up around their ears.”

“And he won’t today.”

“If you say so, but I swear my old bones creak just looking at some of those yoga contortions.”

Eva cracked two eggs in the hot bacon grease, while I used our microwave—a new kitchen addition—to thaw my frozen berries and heat the oats. My usual February morning fare. At Udderly, we didn’t chow down until the morning chores were done. That meant I was starved and in dire need of a caffeine injection.

Eva glanced over. “So how’s that boyfriend-for-a-week plan working? Who’s ahead in the Brie Hooker heart throb race? Any close calls on the clothing discard clause?”

I smiled. “Paint and Andy try to outdo each other in dreaming up ways to initiate a striptease. Despite their enterprising efforts, the nude- default clause remains unchallenged.”

Last November, I’d agreed to this bizarre boyfriend pact with Andy Green, our veterinarian, and David “Paint” Paynter, an entrepreneurial moonshiner. Though strongly attracted to both thirty-four-year-old hunks, I’d sworn I’d date neither. Didn’t want to lose them as friends or come between them. They’d been best buds for thirty years, practically since they left diapers.

The boys came up with an alternative. I’d date Paint one week, Andy the next, until either I selected a fulltime beau, one of them opted out, or a ridiculous nudity clause kicked in. If I disrobed on any date, the magician who assisted in making my clothes disappear would win by default. Both men swore the arrangement would not affect their friendship.

Me? I felt like I’d been locked in a chastity belt. Foreplay’s a lot less fun when there’s no after.

“You know it can’t last, don’t you?” Aunt Eva asked, giving voice to my own misgivings.

“Yep, I do. But like today’s sunny warmth—way too early for mid- February—I’ll enjoy it while I can.”

TWO

Jayla Johnson, our tall, willowy teacher waved as she walked toward me. Had to admit Paint would get an eyeful watching her stretch every which way. He was male, and Jayla was a stunner. As a shorty—I’m five four—I’d always envied long-legged ladies like Jayla. Somehow those extra inches made them look cool and sophisticated.

Luckily, Jayla wasn’t in the running to join Paint’s off-week harem. She was happily married to one of Clemson University’s football coaches and had a darling three-year-old son.

“Do we have a plan B?” Jayla glanced up at the Carolina blue sky. “It’s really warm for February, but the ground’s too muddy to put our mats down in a pasture. After five minutes, we’d look like we’d been mud wrestling.”

“Agreed. It’d be a shame to get that outfit muddy.” Jayla looked like an Oreo cookie, her ebony skin a sharp contrast to her snowy outfit. “I did warn you baby goats aren’t potty-trained, didn’t I? Accidents can happen.” “Not to worry.” Jayla smiled. “My laundry room has one whole shelf devoted to stain removers for husband-son accidents. So where are we setting up?”

“The horse barn. Plenty of room and it will be easier to keep Curly, Moe, and Larry contained.”

“Who?”

“Curly, Moe, and Larry are the baby goats—five-day-old triplets. We named the kids after The Three Stooges. Full of energetic hijinks. They’re also super cuddly.”

We turned as Mollye Camp’s psychedelic van crunched down the gravel drive. Her van’s midnight blue paint job served as a backdrop for a galaxy of glittering stars, a super-sized harvest moon, and a broom-riding witch. Moll, my best friend since childhood, was a gifted potter who sold her creations along with an eclectic hodgepodge of homeopathic remedies, herbs, and astrological doodads in her Starry Skies shop.

Moll jangled as she hopped down from her ride. She adored jewelry and had more piercings than a rapper. A vibrant purple streak adorned her white-blonde hair. She chose a new neon hue every month.

Mollye hustled over. “Who we waiting for?”

“Mimi and Fara,” I answered. “We’re keeping the group small for the test run. Paint’s shooting video.”

Mollye checked the amount of cleavage revealed by her scoop-necked purple top and inspected the seams of her orange leggings as they meandered south of her shorts. “Glad I didn’t wear anything too revealing. Don’t want folks thinking I’d participate in some racy video.”

Mimi and Fara’s arrival cut short Jayla’s and my eye rolls. Racy might not be Mollye’s middle name, but outrageous could be. I loved Mollye and her adventurous spirit though it sometimes landed me in hot water. Okay, in one case, freezing water.

With rolled mats tucked under their arms, the class newcomers looked like an odd couple. Mimi, who’d emigrated from Vietnam at age two, stood four feet nine on tiptoe, while Fara, a busty blonde with long braids, topped out at five ten. Mimi was a pharmacist; Fara grew up in her family’s funeral parlor and was now the town’s youngest funeral director.

Hard for this class to be more diverse. Paint would enjoy himself. “Hey, Fara, you boxing anyone up today?” Mollye joked.

“Maybe you after class,” the funeral director quipped. “You want the deluxe mahogany coffin or a pine box? I’m thinking you and Brie have used up eight of your nine lives. Better not exert yourselves today.”

Jayla clapped her hands. “Now children. Snarky is not the proper frame of mind for yoga. Think serenity. We want to clear our minds, be one with nature.”

I chuckled at the good-natured kidding. “Follow me to our classroom. We have the horse barn to ourselves. The smell alone will remind you we’re one with nature. I evicted Rita and Hank. They’re grazing in the pasture. Figured Lilly’s mule and Eva’s horse were more inclined to nicker than meditate.”

“Where are the goats in this goat yoga?” Fara asked.

“Eva will bring Curly, Moe, and Larry in after we start. We need to leave the barn door open for the light. Jim, our Border collie, will keep the little goat Houdinis from escaping.”

The triplets’ antics drove Jim nuts. Yesterday Moe pranced on top of a picnic table for five minutes taunting the poor herd dog. Jim ran circles around the table, barking in protest, unable to figure out how to nudge Moe back to her pen. After we placed our mats, Jayla led us through a series of simple warm-up stretches and breathing exercises. I’d been an avid runner and swimmer for years, but yoga was a new pursuit. I was pleasantly surprised to find its emphasis on breathing and mindfulness and its practiced movements helped me shed stress and fall asleep faster.

Believe me, falling asleep quickly is a prized skill for anyone required to rise before the sun. At Udderly, one of my jobs appeared to be waking the roosters.

Jayla announced the cat pose. I knelt on my mat and set my arms to provide four-point support. Then I arched my back like cats do when threatened. I lowered my head, giving my neck muscles a pleasant stretch.

“Looking good, ladies.” With my head down I heard the man’s voice before I saw him.

“Don’t mind me,” the newcomer continued. “I’m gonna wander around and take photos.”

The sexy baritone belonged to Paint. It should be outlawed.

“Have fun, kids—human and goat.” Eva laughed as she let the baby goats loose in the barn. Moe immediately darted under my arched back, executed a one-eighty, and raced back again as if she were playing a game of London Bridge.

My concentration faltered as Curly discovered she had easy access to one of my earlobes and began to nibble with her lips. It tickled.

Fara broke out laughing as Larry scrambled up her arched back and danced a little jig on his newly discovered perch.

“I’ve got a miniature geisha doing a four-footed massage.” Fara giggled. “Actually feels kind of good, though very strange.”

“No talking,” Jayla admonished. “Concentrate on your breathing, your muscles. Be one with nature.”

Paint hooted. “Nature’s winning.”

Paint obviously felt he was exempt from Jayla’s no-talking reprimand. The instructor began laughing, too. Moe had curled her body around Jayla’s legs as she attempted to hold the Big Toe pose.

We were all bent in half, butts in the air, when a loud voice brayed, “Oh dear God, save us. They are bowing to the devil, mocking the Lord Jesus by thrusting their bottoms at heaven above.”

THREE

What the feta?

I snapped around to see who was calling us devil worshippers. Was this a joke?

Flipping out of downward dog, I body slammed the mat. A second after hitting the plastic, a furry comedian bounced against my side. Curly shook her head as she attempted an impressive four-legged hop. She’d taken my tumble to the ground as an invitation to play. The little goat butted my side again.

“Lord Jesus, help us keep these devil worshippers from claiming more souls!” the stranger bellowed.

I was flabbergasted. No other word for it. Then my shock morphed into anger. Who did this woman think she was, calling us devil worshippers? Who invited her to our private workout? How did she even find out about it?

The plump leader held a super-sized wooden cross before her as if she were fending off a clutch of vampires. I figured her for mid-fifties. Gray streaks wound through her mousy brown hair. Light glinting off oversized spectacles lent her the look of an alien with round yellow bug eyes.

Two cross-carrying acolytes hovered about a foot behind her.

Were these people serious? I felt the blood rush to my cheeks. My heartbeat raced. Angry? You betcha.

I almost yelled one of my old-time favorite curses. Years back, I cleaned up my salty language for dear old Mom. As a vegan, processed- meat-and-cheese exclamations had become my exclamatory substitutes. But Cruddy corndogs! didn’t quite express my outrage.

Mollye, closest to the barn door, marched toward the scowling leader. “Susan, what in blazes do you think you’re doing?” she growled. “I got a restraining order to keep you and your looney-tune zealots off my property. Now you’re following me?”

“I didn’t know you’d be here,” the intruder raged, “though I’m not surprised. Goat yoga! What blasphemy. At church this morning, one of our faithful told me you were planning this abomination. I prayed on it, and decided we had to stop the spread of this evil in Ardon County.”

She waved her cross at us. “In the name of the Father and the Son we demand—”

“You need to leave,” Paint spoke through gritted teeth. “The only evil here is you.”

Susan closed her eyes and rocked back and forth on her heels. “You are Satan’s handmaidens duping people into believing Baphomet goat worship is fun.”

Susan’s diatribe was accompanied by a murmur of “Amen, Sister, Amen” from her backups. The sidekicks still wore church-go-to-meeting dresses, nylons, and heels. They kept sneaking peeks at the ground. Worried their high heels might sink in goat doo-doo during their barnyard sortie?

One of the acolytes looked to be Susan’s age; the other much younger, about my age.

“Knights Templar worshipped Baphomet as a deity.” Susan’s tone changed. Her words flowed in a singsong chant. “These monsters with their snake eyes are his descendants.”

“Are you nuts?” Jayla broke in. “How can you think these adorable babies are evil?”

Susan’s rant hadn’t cowed my friends.

The harpy wasn’t deterred. “Open your eyes. The Satanic goat is a source of evil.” Her yellow bug eyes flashed at each of us in turn. “You worship the Devil. We won’t allow your sickness to infect the pious people of Ardon County.”

Aunt Eva appeared in the barn door carrying two pails of goat milk. “You’re trespassing and you’re scaring the baby goats.”

My aunt’s face flamed red.

“We’ll leave,” Susan said. “But this isn’t over. We will fight to the death for the soul of Ardon County. Goat yoga will not corrupt our world.”

Curly made a break for it. The tiny kid ran pell-mell toward the barn door, which happened to be a few feet beyond where the intruding trio stood. Susan screeched. Did she really believe the Devil inhabited the itty- bitty creature?

The woman raised her leg to kick Curly.

Eva flung both buckets of goat milk, drenching Susan. The white liquid plastered her beehive hairdo to her scalp and her puffy blouse to her chest.

Oh my, was she really wearing a flaming red teddy under her prim white cotton?

A laugh bubbled up. I laughed so hard I doubled over.

Susan shrieked like a storm-warning siren and ran. Though only a few drops of goat’s milk spattered her companions, they caterwauled like they’d been doused with acid as they scurried after their leader.

The entire Udderly Kidding Dairy crew exploded in laughter.

Eva halted her hee-haws long enough to imitate a cackling witch. “You’ve been baptized with the milk of Baaa-Phooey. Your souls belong to us!”

Susan spun when she reached a shiny Chevy van. “You’ll pay for this!” she yelled. “Laugh all you want. You’ll see Hell sooner than you thought.”

I quit laughing as abruptly as I’d started. It was Susan’s tone not her words that gave me the heebie-jeebies. We’d embarrassed the woman. Humiliated her. Perhaps she’d started this protest as some form of ecclesiastical theater, art for show, a way to rally the troops.

Now it was personal. Susan had been scorned.

***

Excerpt from Bad Pick by Linda Lovely. Copyright © 2019 by Linda Lovely. Reproduced with permission from Linda Lovely. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Linda Lovely

Hundreds of mystery writers have met Linda Lovely at check-in for the annual Writers’ Police Academy, which she helps organize. Lovely finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and ad copy. She writes a blend of mystery and humor, chuckling as she plots to “disappear” the types of characters who most annoy her. Quite satisfying plus there’s no need to pester relatives for bail. Her new Brie Hooker Mystery series offers good-natured salutes to both her vegan family doctor and her cheese-addicted kin. Bad Pick is her eighth published mystery novel. She served as president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter for five years and belongs to International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America.

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