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Cozy Prizes Friday: The Body in the Casket

Happy Friday! Today we have none other than Agatha Award-winning Katherine Hall Page visiting us! Katherine answered some questions about her new book The Body in the Casket.  Don’t you just hate it when you have a birthday party and realize one of the guests wants to kill you? Me too! Max Dane is on the case and he’ll find the killer no matter how cold it gets outside!

Don’t forget to find the Prize guy for a chance at a print copy of The Body in the Wardrobe!

And now…here’s Katherine.

How did you come with an idea for your book? 

The Body in the Casket is the 24th book in the Faith Fairchild series that started with The Body in the Belfry in 1990. In order to keep the series fresh for readers—and for me to write—I alternate locales between Aleford, Massachusetts the town where Faith lives after moving from Manhattan as a new bride and the “someplace else” locales. These have ranged from France to Savannah, Georgia. Casket is an Aleford book, so I knew my idea would revolve around familiar territory for my character. She is catering a weekend long significant birthday party in a secluded mansion for Max Dane, a legendary Broadway producer who hasn’t done a show since a colossal flop twenty years earlier. All ten guests were involved in the show and all have good reasons to wish Max dead. The plot brings together my love of theater and country house murders!

What scene do you hope your readers enjoy the most?

I hope they will especially enjoy the birthday dinner, starting with the cocktail hour. Not only does the meal bring some startling revelations, but I selected dishes that referenced the title of Dane’s failed show: Heaven or Hell  The Musical. I included Pasta Fra Diavolo, a German dish Himmel und Erde (Heaven and Earth) that combines apples and potatoes, and others. The fun begins with Fallen Angel cocktails, created in the 1920s at London’s Savoy Hotel bar.

If you were going to cast an actor in the part of one or more of your characters, who would that be?

Michael Caine as Max Dane? Sounds good!

I would immediately cast Michael Caine as Max Dane. I happily watched three of his films again while writing the book since he had come to mind when I started thinking about the character. Well worth tracking down for his performances and the great plots! The Wrong Box (1966), Sleuth (1972 version), and Deathtrap (1982),

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

I have started writing #25 in the series, The Body in the Wake. It’s one of the books that takes place away from Aleford. In this case on Sanpere Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. I have never been able to write two books at once unfortunately, or even a short story while I am immersed in the current project. Once Wake is done I have an idea for what I hope will be a fun short story in which Faith’s friend and neighbor, Pix Miller, is the narrator—a version of Watson. Short stories, I find, are more difficult to write than full-length novels. I published Small Plates (Wm Morrow), a collection and explain how hard it is in the introduction. Great challenge, though, to compress thought, word, and deed into a small space!

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

I have written for younger readers, the Christie & Company series, also a YA, Club Meds. I also did a series cookbook, Have Faith in Your Kitchen (Orchises Press). I’d like to write another YA or middle grade book, but would love to try my hand at romantic suspense in the spirit of Mary Stewart.

Where can readers leave reviews of your book?

Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I always enjoy hearing from readers through my website www.katherine-hall-page.org.  Any and all opinions welcome!

Synopsis:

The inimitable Faith Fairchild returns in a chilling New England whodunit, inspired by the best Agatha Christie mysteries and with hints of the timeless board game Clue.

For most of her adult life, resourceful caterer Faith Fairchild has called the sleepy Massachusetts village of Aleford home. While the native New Yorker has come to know the region well, she isn’t familiar with Havencrest, a privileged enclave, until the owner of Rowan House, a secluded sprawling Arts and Crafts mansion, calls her about catering a weekend house partyThe Body in the Casket by Katherine Hall Page.

Producer/director of a string of hit musicals, Max Dane—a Broadway legend—is throwing a lavish party to celebrate his seventieth birthday. At the house as they discuss the event, Faith’s client makes a startling confession. “I didn’t hire you for your cooking skills, fine as they may be, but for your sleuthing ability. You see, one of the guests wants to kill me.”

Faith’s only clue is an ominous birthday gift the man received the week before—an empty casket sent anonymously containing a twenty-year-old Playbill from Max’s last, and only failed, production—Heaven or Hell. Consequently, Max has drawn his guest list for the party from the cast and crew. As the guests begin to arrive one by one, and an ice storm brews overhead, Faith must keep one eye on the menu and the other on her host to prevent his birthday bash from becoming his final curtain call.

Full of delectable recipes, brooding atmosphere, and Faith’s signature biting wit, The Body in the Casket is a delightful thriller that echoes the beloved mysteries of Agatha Christie and classic films such as Murder by Death and Deathtrap.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: December 5th 2017
Number of Pages: 238
ISBN: 0062439561 (ISBN13: 9780062439567)
Series: Faith Fairchild, 24
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

“Have Faith in Your Kitchen,” Faith Fairchild said, answering the phone at her catering firm. She’d been busy piping choux pastry for éclairs onto a baking sheet.

“Mrs. Fairchild?”

“Yes? This is Faith Fairchild. How may I help you?”

“Please hold for Max Dane.” The voice had a plummy, slightly British tone, reminiscent of Jeeves, or Downton Abbey’s Carson. The only Max Dane Faith had heard of had been a famous Broadway musical producer, but she was pretty sure he’d died years ago. This must be another Max Dane.

She was put through quickly and a new voice said, “Hi. I know this is short notice, but I am very much hoping you are available to handle a house party I’m throwing for about a dozen guests at the end of the month. A Friday to Sunday. Not just dinner, but all the meals.”

Faith had never catered anything like this. A Friday to Sunday sounded like something out of a British pre-World War II country house novel—kippers for breakfast, Fortnum & Mason type hampers for the shoot, tea and scones, drinks and nibbles, then saddle of lamb or some other large haunch of meat for dinner with vintage clarets followed by port and Stilton—for the men only. She was intrigued.

“The first thing I need to know is where you live, Mr. Dane. Also, is this a firm date? We’ve had a mild winter so far, but January may still deliver a wallop like last year.”

A Manhattan native, Faith’s marriage more than 20 years ago to the Reverend Thomas Fairchild meant a radical change of address— from the Big Apple to the orchards of Aleford, a small suburb west of Boston. Faith had never become used to boiled dinners, First Parish’s rock hard pews and most of all, New England weather. By the end of the previous February there had been 75 inches of snow on the ground and you couldn’t see through the historic parsonage’s ground floor windows or open the front door. Teenage son Ben struggled valiantly to keep the back door clear, daily hewing a path to the garage. The resulting tunnel resembled a clip from Nanook of the North.

“I’m afraid the date is firm. The thirtieth is my birthday. A milestone one, my seventieth.” Unlike his butler or whoever had called Faith to the phone, Max Dane’s voice indicated he’d started life in one of the five boroughs. Faith was guessing the Bronx. He sounded a bit sheepish when he said “ my birthday,” as if throwing a party for himself was out of character. “And I live in Havencrest. It’s not far from Aleford, but I’d want you to be available at the house the whole time. Live in.”

Leaving her family for three days was not something Faith did often, especially since Sunday was a workday for Tom and all too occasionally Saturday was as he “polished” his sermon. (His term, which she had noticed over the years, could mean writing the whole thing.)

Ben and Amy, two years younger, seemed old enough to be on their own, but Faith had found that contrary to expectations, kids needed parents around more in adolescence than when they were toddlers. Every day brought the equivalent of scraped knees and they weren’t the kind of hurts that could be soothed by Pat The Bunny and a chocolate chip cookie. She needed more time to think about taking the job. “I’m not sure I can leave my family…” was interrupted. “I quite understand that this would be difficult,” Dane said and then he named a figure so far above anything she had ever been offered that she actually covered her mouth to keep from gasping out loud.

“Look,” he continued. “Why don’t you come by and we’ll talk in person? You can see the place and decide then. I don’t use it myself, but the kitchen is well equipped—the rest of the house too. I’ll email directions and you can shoot me some times that work. This week if possible. I want to send out the invites right away.”

Well, it wouldn’t hurt to talk, Faith thought. And she did like seeing other people’s houses. She agreed, but before she hung up curiosity won out and she asked, “Are you related to the Max Dane who produced all those wonderful Broadway musicals?”

“Very closely. As in one and the same. See you soon.”

Faith put the phone down and turned to Pix Miller, her closest friend and part-time Have Faith employee.

“That was someone wanting Have Faith to cater a weekend long birthday celebration—for an astonishing amount of money.” She named the figure in a breathless whisper. “His name is Max Dane. Have you ever heard of him?”

“Even I know who Max Dane is. Sam took me to New York the December after we were married and we saw one of his shows. It was magical—the whole weekend was. No kids yet. We were kids ourselves. We skated at Rockefeller Center by the tree and…”

Her friend didn’t go in for sentimental journeys and tempted as she was to note Pix and Sam skated on Aleford Pond then and now, Faith didn’t want to stop the flow of memories. “Where did you stay? A suite at the Plaza?” Sam was a very successful lawyer.

Pix came down to earth. “We barely had money for the show and pre-theater dinner at Twenty-One. That was the big splurge. I honestly can’t remember where we stayed and I should, because that’s where—” She stopped abruptly and blushed, also unusual Pix behavior.

“Say no more. Nine months later along came Mark?”

“Something like that,” Pix mumbled and then in her usual more assertive voice, added “You have to do this. Not because of the money, although the man must be loaded! Think of who might be there. And the house must be amazing. We don’t have anything booked for then and I can keep an eye on the kids.”

The Millers lived next door to the parsonage and their three now grown children had been the Fairchilds’ babysitters. Pix played a more essential role: Faith’s tutor in the unforeseen intricacies of childrearing as well as Aleford’s often arcane mores. Faith’s first social faux pas as a new bride—inviting guests for dinner at eight o’clock— had happily been avoided when her first invite, Pix, gently told Faith the town’s inhabitants would be thinking bed soon at that hour, not a main course.

Faith had started her catering business in the city that never slept before she was married and was busy all year long. Here January was always a slow month for business. The holidays were over and things didn’t start to pick up until Valentine’s Day—and even then scheduling events was risky. It all came down to weather.

Pix was at the computer. Years ago she’d agreed to work at Have Faith keeping the books, the calendar, inventory—anything that did not involve any actual food preparation.

“We have a couple of receptions at the Ganley Museum and the MLK breakfast the standing clergy host.”

The first time Faith heard the term, “standing clergy”, which was the town’s men and women of any cloth, she pictured an upright somberly garbed group in rows like ninepins. And she hadn’t been far off.

“That’s pretty much it,” Pix added, “except for a few luncheons and Amelia’s baby shower—I think she baby sat for you a couple of times when she was in high school.”

“I remember she was very reliable,” Faith said.

“Hard to believe she’s the same age as Samantha and having her second!” Pix sounded wistful. She was the type of woman born to wear a “I Spoil My Grandchildren” tee shirt. Faith wouldn’t be surprised if there were a drawer somewhere in the Miller’s house filled with tiny sweaters and booties knit by Pix, “just to be ready.” Mark Miller, the oldest, was married, but he and his wife did not seem to be in a rush to start a family.

Samantha, the middle Miller, had a long-term beau, Caleb. They were living together in trendy Park Slope, Brooklyn and Sam, an old-fashioned pater familias, had to be restrained from asking Caleb his intentions each time the young couple came to Aleford. Pix was leaning that way herself, she’d told Faith recently, noting that young couples these days were so intent on careers they didn’t hear the clock ticking.

Faith had forgotten that Amelia—who apparently had paid attention to time— was Samantha’s age and quickly changed the subject to what was uppermost in her mind—the Dane job. “Where is Havencrest?” she asked. “I thought I knew all the neighboring towns.”

“It’s not really a town so much as an enclave between Weston and Dover. I don’t think it even has a zip code. I’ve never been there, but Mother has. You can ask her about it. The houses all date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I believe there’s a gatehouse at the entrance. It’s an early equivalent of the mid century modern planned communities like Moon Hill in Lexington. Havencrest wasn’t a bunch of architects like that one though. Just very rich Boston Brahmin families who wanted privacy and plenty of space. I wonder how Max Dane ended up there? From what Mother has said, the houses don’t change hands, just generations.”

“I think I’ll check my email and see if there’s anything from him yet,” Faith said. “And maybe drop by to see Ursula on my way home.” Stopping to visit with Ursula Lyman Rowe, Pix’s mother, was no chore. The octogenarian was one of Faith’s favorite people. She turned back to the éclairs, which were part of a special order, and added a few more to bring to her friend.

“I know you’ll take the job,” Pix said. “I’m predicting the weekend of a lifetime!”

***

Excerpt from The Body in the Casket by Katherine Hall Page. Copyright © 2017 by William Morrow. Reproduced with permission from William Morrow. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Katherine Hall Page

Katherine Hall Page is the author of twenty-three previous Faith Fairchild mysteries, the first of which received the Agatha Award for best first mystery. The Body in the Snowdrift was honored with the Agatha Award for best novel of 2006. Page also won an Agatha for her short story “The Would-Be Widower.” The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at Malice Domestic, she has been nominated for the Edgar Award, the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and the Macavity Award. She lives in Massachusetts, and Maine, with her husband.

Catch Up With Our Author On: Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

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Cozy Prizes Friday: Killer Holiday

How is that leftover turkey going? Well, drop that drumstick and get ready for Killer Holiday.   Amy Korman was kind of enough to answer some questions about her latest installment in the Killer Wasps Series.  You know, I think I had an Aunt Eula somewhere down the line. Great character name!

Be sure to look for the Prize Guy for your chance at an e-copy of Killer Punch, another great book in the Killer Wasp Series!

And now our visit with Amy Korman:

How did you come with an idea for your book?

Killer Holiday is the fourth book in the Killer Wasps series, which are lighthearted, modern mysteries in the Agatha Christie village murder genre—with antiques, a basset hound, a country club, and cocktails! The series is centered around antique dealer Kristin Clark, who’s got a group of friends including gossipy Bootsie, stylish Holly, and decorator Joe, and they’re soon joined by Jersey-born Sophie and her personal trainer, the stern Gerda, who’s rarely seen out of workout clothes and does not do makeup. Crime seems to crop up frequently in their quiet town outside Philadelphia.

My idea came from the timeless Miss Marple and Poirot books, my love for antiques stores, and a fondness for books in which small towns are filled with oddball characters both loveable and endearingly annoying. I think I secretly wish for a Gerda in my life who’d force me to lift weights and run 5Ks!

What scene do you hope your readers enjoy the most?

Kristin and her friends have a high-school nemesis, Eula Morris, who won a Powerball jackpot in the series’s third book, Killer Punch, and Eula’s that love-to-hate-her character that every mystery needs. One of my favorite scenes is when Eula comes back to town, looking fabulous after a long vacation and with a new boyfriend in tow—who turns out to be Scooter Simmons, a shady lawyer the group tangled with in Killer Getaway. When Joe and Bootsie insist on following Eula and Scooter on a date at the town’s fanciest restaurant, the group crashes Eula’s romantic dinner, drink too much, and offer Eula a lot of unsolicited advice on fashion and her love life.

If you were going to cast an actor in the part of one or more of your characters, who would that be?

Reese Witherspoon could be Eula!

I’d love to see Reese Witherspoon as Eula! The actress is so likeable that it’s always so much fun to see her playing someone mean.

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

The Killer Wasps series is now on its fourth book with Killer Holiday. I’m hard at work on my new mystery which is lighthearted and centered around a tiki bar in Florida.

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

I love books that delve into the history of a city, or even the story of how a significant piece of artwork a building, or a ship was created, and all that’s happened inside it, a la Dead Wake and Havana Nocturne, an intriguing history of how the Mafia ran Havana in the days before Fidel Castro.

Where can readers leave reviews of your book?

Amazon and Goodreads reviews are greatly appreciated.

 

Thank you! Amy Korman (amykorman.com)

https://www.facebook.com/killerWASPsseries/

Twitter: @killermysteries

Click Here to Enter Amy’s Giveaway and get another Killer Wasp Book: Killer Punch! 3 Ebooks means 3 WINNERS!

 

 

Killer Holiday

by Amy Korman

on Tour October 23 – November 30, 2017

Synopsis:

Killer Holiday by Amy Korman

Kristin Clark and her offbeat crew of Bryn Mawr socialites are ready for a fun and festive winter holiday—one that involves sipping martinis by a crackling yule log, hot guys beneath the mistletoe, and Gucci under the Christmas tree. But this year, Old Saint Nick has something more dangerous in store. A stranger dressed in a Santa suit has Kristin’s friends on his naughty list. First, Sophie’s favorite handbag is blasted by a bullet. Then, Father Christmas shatters her brother Chip’s car window with a golf club and leaves a threatening note demanding fifty grand. Both are convinced it has to be a mistake. But when Chip goes missing, the stakes become deadly. Eula Morris is also back in town for the holidays, more bossy and boastful than ever after winning a mega-jackpot in the lottery. She’s returned from a luxury cruise around the world with a handsome new boyfriend (who looks oddly familiar…) and a Samsonite suitcase filled with gold bars. When the suitcase is snatched, Eula implores Kristin and the team to track it down. Where is Chip? Why is a vengeful Santa targeting the gang? Who stole Eula’s suitcase? And how are these events linked? The WASPs and Kristen’s basset hound Waffles are on the case—before this white Christmas turns even darker…

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: October 24th 2017 by Witness Impulse
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 0062431366 (ISBN13: 9780062431363)
Series: A Killer WASPs Mystery, #4
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Bootsie McElvoy burst through the front door of The Striped Awning, a bag of ice in her right hand and the biggest bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon I’ve ever seen in her left. She dug into her L.L. Bean tote for a bottle of red wine, a shaker of nutmeg, and a bag of fun-size candy canes, all of which she deposited next to a display of 1940s barware near the front of my antiques store.

“Kristin, it’s December fifteenth, which means it’s time for you to start offering shoppers a specialty cocktail the minute they set foot inside your store,” Bootsie told me. “I’m going to mix up a batch of the Delaney family Christmas drink, the Bourbon Blitzen, which never fails to produce a White Christmas vibe. One sip and you’ll feel like you’re singing and dancing with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye at a snowy Vermont inn. This should double your sales totals for the month.”

“Thanks!” I said gratefully, since Bootsie’s family’s boozy drinks are known throughout our village of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, for their potency and tendency to produce unwise purchases.

“The drinks sound good, but you’re also going to need about four thousand more of these pinecones, triple the greenery, and eight hundred additional strands of lights,” Joe Delafield informed me; he’d arrived twenty minutes earlier to help me decorate my store for the Christmas rush.

To lure in passing foot traffic, I’d brought in armloads of holly and spruce branches from my backyard (cost: free, thankfully), spray-painted pinecones silver (the paint was only $5.28 at the hardware store), and added some cheerful-looking blinking white lights. This would probably bring tons of holiday shoppers through my front door!

Joe paused, eyeing the room with his signature critical stare. “The effect I’m going for is that a bunch of HGTV-crazed elves with subscriptions to Veranda magazine snuck in and decorated for four straight days. Gerda, we’re going to need the blinking lights to stop blinking, pronto. Pull the plug, please.”

Joe’s assistant for the day was the eponymous owner of Gerda’s Bust Your Ass Gym, which is housed inside the beauty salon across the street. Since Gerda stands a lofty six feet tall in flats (or sneakers, which is her usual footwear, since fancy shoes aren’t her style), she’d agreed to hang ornaments, bringing her signature grim attitude to the proceedings.

“Cute idea,” Bootsie observed, casting a dubious stare at my front window, which was filled with antique silver-plated candlesticks, flatware, and wineglasses. “Is that your holiday inventory?”

“Nobody going to want that stuff,” said Gerda, who moved here from her native Austria a few years back. Gerda, who’s incredibly muscular and brings in sell-out crowds at her Pilates classes, isn’t the most tactful person in the world. “People want, like, scarves and Fitbits and iPhones.”

I sighed, knowing Gerda was right. Those were the gifts on most holiday wish lists.

“Luckily, I’ve solved all your problems,” Bootsie told me. “I ran into Eddie from the Pub this morning, and he needs a place to hold some late-night poker tournaments this month, so I brokered a deal for The Striped Awning. You’ll be hosting twice-weekly games from 10 p.m. till 1 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays till Valentine’s Day.”

“What!” I erupted, alarmed by this idea. “First of all, that doesn’t sound legal.”

“It’s fine,” she told me, waving away my concerns. “I mean, it’s not like it will be a professional betting operation. Eddie’s limiting each night to ten players and three hours. Some cards, a few drinks, a few small wagers. What could go wrong?”

“A lot!” I said. “They’ll blow cigar smoke and drop Dorito crumbs everywhere. Not to mention get arrested for operating a casino without a license. A lot could go wrong!”

“You worry too much,” Bootsie informed me dismissively. “Plus, he’ll pay you two hundred dollars a night.”

I opened my mouth to respond, but no words came out. Bootsie knew she had me—there’s no way I can refuse an extra four hundred dollars a week, even if it puts me on the wrong side of the state gaming commission.

Just then, though, the front door was thrown open by one Sophie Shields, a tiny blonde who at the moment was looking slightly wild-eyed.

“Ya won’t believe what just happened!” shrieked Sophie. “The Colketts were helping me put up curtains in my new dining room, since Joe here never finished decorating my place—and the curtains are orange silk, by the way, they’re totally Elle Decor meets a J. Lo red-carpet gown. So Tim and Tom Colkett were talking paint colors when I heard a horn honking, so I opened the front door, thinking it was the delivery boy from the Hoagie House. I figured I’d go out and pay the driver, when boom!

“A guy dressed as Santa leaned out of the driver’s seat of a black SUV that had pulled right up in my driveway and aimed a gun at me and the Colketts!” The Colketts are the town’s leading landscape designers, who’ve lately turned their talents to party planning and interior design.

“Then the guy yelled, ‘Hey, Sophie, this one’s from your ex, Barclay!’ and shot my favorite handbag!” Sophie finished. “I was reaching into it to pay for the hoagies, thank goodness, so it acted as a protective shield. Also, I think maybe this Santa guy doesn’t have great aim.”

We all stared at her for a moment.

“Are you sure, Sophie?” said Bootsie finally. “Because this sounds like BS.”

“Yeah, Sophie, maybe you been hitting the wine bottle today,” seconded Gerda. “I know the Colketts are day drinkers. Maybe you been guzzling alcohol, too.”

“It’s true!” Sophie bleated. “Just look at this Ferragamo satchel! If it hadn’t had gold hardware to block the trajectory of the bullet, me and the Colketts would have been toast!”

***

Excerpt from Killer Holiday by Amy Korman. Copyright © 2017 by Amy Korman. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.

 

Amy Korman

Author Bio:

Amy Korman is a former senior editor and staff writer for Philadelphia Magazine, and author of Frommer’s Guide to Philadelphia. She has written for Town & Country, House Beautiful, Men’s Health, and Cosmopolitan. Killer WASPS is her first novel.

Catch Up With Ms. Korman On: amykorman.com 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

Cozy Prizes Friday: Bones to Pick

This week we’re taking a little mystery trip to a goat farm, with a nosy pot-bellied pig.  Linda Lovely’s new mystery Bones to Pick sounds like down-home fun! Linda was kind enough to answer some questions for us and I’m glad I’m not the only one addicted to cheese! Be sure to look for the Prize Guy. Today he holds the ticket to your chance at an Amazon gift card. With Christmas right around the corner, you can never have too many of those!

  1. How did you come with an idea for your book?
    My family doctor is a big advocate of a vegan (or mostly vegan) diet. My husband and I were trying to give it a whirl, but both of us are really addicted to cheese. Around this time I visited a nearby goat dairy, and I thought it would be really funny to have a vegan heroine thrown into a situation where she’s living with a cantankerous carnivore on a goat dairy farm. That gave me my heroine, Brie Hooker, an aspiring vegan chef, and her Aunt Eva, who needs help running the dairy after her twin sister dies. Once Aunt Eva becomes a murder suspect, Brie has no choice but to stay and try to prove her aunt’s innocence.

 

  1. What scene do you hope your readers enjoy the most?
    I don’t want to give this part of the plot away with too many details, but Brie and her best friend, Mollye, are in a life-or-death situation after they are captured by the villains. Brie’s quick thinking and bravery saves them. But I also had lots of fun writing a scene where Brie gets her first-ever pedicure in hopes of getting information from the woman she entrusts her feet to. I’ve never had a pedicure and two of my friends laughed like crazy discussing how a first-timer might react. One of them even mailed me throw-away flip-flops she’d been given by a pedicurist so I could walk around the house in them.

 

  1. If you were going to cast an actor in the part of one or more of your characters, who would that be?

Aunt Eva is probably the easiest one for me to cast. It would definitely be Shirley MacLaine. My husband and I recently watched an old movie, Rumor Has It, in which MacLaine plays the feisty grandmother of Jennifer Anniston, and I thought she’s Aunt Eva. MacLaine is older than Brie’s aunt but she definitely could play the role.

  1. What other things have you written or what projects might we see in the future?
    Bones To Pick is the first book in the Brie Hooker Mystery series. I’ve already sent a manuscript for the second book in the series to my editor at Henery Press. Brie’s friends and family will continue to be part of the mainstay cast, but I’ve also added some new characters (quite necessary since the villains in Bones To Pick have all been dispensed with one way or another). Two of the new characters are Carol Strong, a friend of Aunt Eva’s who is running for governor of South Carolina, and Carol’s son Zack, a pro-football quarterback who has returned to support his mother at a fund-raising event at Udderly Kidding Dairy.

 

I’ve written books in two other series—Marley Clark Mysteries and Smart Women, Dumb Luck. Marley Clark is a retired military intelligence officer who works part-time as a security guard on a private island in the South Carolina Lowcountry. The Smart Women, Dumb Luck romantic thriller series features three women friends. In each book, one of the women finds herself in a life-or-death situation, while the other two friends play supporting roles in helping her survive. Of course, since this is a romantic thriller series there is also a different hero in each novel. I’ve also written Lies: Secrets Can Kill, a romantic suspense set in 1938 in my hometown of Keokuk, Iowa. I wrote it as a tribute to my mother, who told me many stories about the difficulties unmarried women faced during the Depression.

 

  1. If you could write any other genre what would that be?
    I’ve already written historical romantic suspense, romantic thrillers, and traditional mysteries in addition to my new humorous mystery series. There are challenges and rewards in writing in all of these crime fiction sub-genres. For example, the romantic thrillers and the historical romantic suspense are written third-person point-of-view so I’m able to think what the heroes and villains are thinking as well as what my heroines are thinking and feeling. The challenge of writing third-person is making sure the voices of your heroes and villains are distinct and believable. The reward is it’s much easier to show the reader the big picture—for example, exactly what the villain is planning and how hard it may be for the heroine and/or hero to stop him. I can’t see myself writing outside the boundaries of mysteries/thrillers/suspense because they’re the genres I most enjoy reading. While I wrote my 1938 romantic suspense for my mother, I’d like to try another mystery or romantic suspense set in a different era because the historical research is so engrossing.
  2. Is there a giveaway or promotion with this book?
    A Goodreads giveaway just concluded. However, I’ll be participating in a November Henery Press promotion contest in November that will feature fellow cozy mystery authors. Details will be on my Facebook page. Partners in Crime is also hosting a giveaway of one $25 Amazon gift card and five $5 gift cards.

 

  1. Where can readers leave reviews of your book?
    You can leave reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble. Henery Press is publishing Bones To Pick in all e-book formats as well as in trade paperback and hard cover—the format most popular with libraries.

 

  1. Please share the link for readers to add your book on Goodreads!

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Synopsis:

Bones To Pick by Linda Lovely

Living on a farm with four hundred goats and a cantankerous carnivore isn’t among vegan chef Brie Hooker’s list of lifetime ambitions. But she can’t walk away from her Aunt Eva, who needs help operating her dairy.

Once she calls her aunt’s goat farm home, grisly discoveries offer ample inducements for Brie to employ her entire vocabulary of cheese-and-meat curses. The troubles begin when the farm’s pot-bellied pig unearths the skull of Eva’s husband, who disappeared years back. The sheriff, kin to the deceased, sets out to pin the murder on Eva. He doesn’t reckon on Brie’s resolve to prove her aunt’s innocence. Death threats, ruinous pedicures, psychic shenanigans, and biker bar fisticuffs won’t stop Brie from unmasking the killer, even when romantic befuddlement throws her a curve.

Book Details:

Genre: Humorous Cozy Mystery
Published by: Henery Press
Publication Date: Oct. 24, 2017
Number of Pages: 266
ISBN: 9781635112597
Series: Brie Hooker Mystery, #1
Get Your Copy of Bones To Pick by Linda Lovely at: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

ONE

Hello, I’m Brie, and I’m a vegan.

It sounds like I’m introducing myself at a Vegetarians Anonymous meeting. But, trust me, there aren’t enough vegetarians in Ardon County, South Carolina, to make a circle much less hold a meeting.

Give yourself ten points if you already know vegans are even pickier than vegetarians. We forgo meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. But we’re big on cashews, walnuts, and almonds. All nuts are good nuts. Appropriate with my family.

Family. That’s why I put my career as a vegan chef on hold to live and work in Ardon, a strong contender for the South’s carnivore-and- grease capital. My current job? I help tend four hundred goats, make verboten cheese, and gather eggs I’ll never poach. Most mornings when Aunt Eva rousts me before the roosters, I roll my eyes and mutter.

Still, I can’t complain. I had a choice. Sort of. Blame it on the pig—Tammy the Pig—for sticking her snout in our family business.

 

I’d consorted with vegans and vegetarians for too long. I seriously underestimated how much cholesterol meat eaters could snarf down at a good old-fashioned wake. Actually, I wasn’t sure this wake was “old fashioned,” but it was exactly how Aunt Lilly would have planned her own send-off—if she’d had the chance. Ten days ago, the feisty sixty- two-year-old had a toddler’s curiosity and a twenty-year-old’s appetite for adventure. Her death was a total shock.

I glanced at Aunt Lilly’s epitaph hanging behind the picnic buffet. She’d penned it years back. Her twin, Aunt Eva, found it in Lilly’s desk and reprinted it in eighty-point type.

 

“There once was a farmer named Lilly

Who never liked anything frilly,

She tended her goats,

Sowed a few wild oats,

And said grieving her death would be silly.”

 

In a nod to Lilly’s spirit, Aunt Eva planned today’s wake complete with fiddling, hooch, goo-gogs of goat cheese, and the whole panoply of Southern fixins—mounds of country ham, fried chicken, barbecue, and mac-and-cheese awash in butter. Every veggie dish came dressed with bacon crumbles, drippings, or cream of mushroom soup.

Not a morsel fit for a vegan. Eva’s revenge. I’d made the mistake of saying I didn’t want to lose her, too, and hinted she’d live longer if she cut back on cholesterol. Not my smartest move. The name of her farm? Udderly Kidding Dairy. Cheese and eggs had been Eva’s meal ticket for decades.

My innocent observation launched a war. Whenever I opened the refrigerator, I’d find a new message. This morning a Post-it on my dish of blueberries advised: The choline in eggs may enhance brain development and memory—as a vegan you probably forgot.

Smoke from the barbeque pit permeated the air as I replenished another platter of shredded pork on the buffet. My mouth watered and I teetered on the verge of drooling. While I was a dedicated vegan, my olfactory senses were still programmed “Genus Carnivorous.” My stomach growled—loudly. Time to thwart its betrayal with the veggies and hummus dip I’d stashed in self-defense.

I’d just stuck a juicy carrot in my mouth when a large hand squeezed my shoulder.

“Brie, honey, you’ve been working nonstop,” Dad said. “Take a break. Mom’s on her way. We can play caterers. The food’s prepared. No risks associated with our cooking.”

I choked on my carrot and sputtered. “Good thing. Do you even remember the last time Mom turned on an oven?”

Dad smiled. “Can’t recall. Maybe when you were a baby? But, hey, we’re wizards at takeout and microwaves.”

His smile faltered. I caught him staring at Aunt Lilly’s epitaph. “Still can’t believe Lilly’s gone.” He attempted a smile. “Knowing her sense of humor, we’re lucky she didn’t open that epitaph with ‘There once was a lass from Nantucket.’”

I’d never seen Dad so sad. Lilly’s unexpected death stunned him to his core. He adored his older sisters.

Mom appeared at his side and wrapped an arm around his waist. She loved her sisters-in-law, too, though she complained my childless aunts spoiled me beyond repair.

Of course, Lilly’s passing hit Eva the hardest. A fresh boatload of tears threatened as I thought about the aunt left behind. I figured my tear reservoir had dried up after days of crying. Wrong. The tragedy—a texting teenager smashing head-on into Lilly’s car—provoked a week- long family weep-a-thon. It ended when Eva ordered us to cease and desist.

“This isn’t what Lilly would want,” she declared. “We’re gonna throw a wake. One big, honking party.”

Which explained the fifty-plus crowd of friends and neighbors milling about the farm, tapping their feet to fiddlin’, and consuming enough calories to sustain the populace of a small principality for a week.

I hugged Dad. “Thanks. I could use a break. I’ll find Eva. See how she’s doing.”

I spotted her near a flower garden filled with cheery jonquils. It looked like a spring painting. Unfortunately, the cold March wind that billowed Eva’s scarlet poncho argued the blooms were false advertising. The weatherman predicted the thermometer would struggle to reach the mid-forties today.

My aunt’s build was what I’d call sturdy, yet Eva seemed to sway in the gusty breeze as she chatted with Billy Jackson, the good ol’ boy farrier who shod her mule. Though my parents pretended otherwise, we all knew Billy slept under Eva’s crazy quilt at least two nights a week.

I nodded at the couple. Well, actually, the foursome. Brenda, the farm’s spoiled pet goat, and Kai, Udderly’s lead Border collie, were competing with Billy for my aunt’s attention.

“Mom and Dad are watching the buffet,” I said. “Thought I’d see if you need me to do anything. Are you expecting more folks?”

“No.” Eva reached down and tickled the tiny black goat’s shaggy head. “Imagine everyone who’s coming is here by now. They’ll start clearing out soon. Chow down and run. Can’t blame ’em. Especially the idiot women who thought they ought to wear dresses. That biting wind’s gotta be whistling up their drawers.”

Billy grinned as he looked Eva up and down. Her choice of wake attire—poncho, black pants, and work boots—surprised no one, and would have delighted Lilly.

“Do you even own a dress?” Billy laughed. “You’re one to talk.” Eva gave his baggy plaid suit and clip-on bowtie the stink eye. “I suppose you claim that gristle on your chin is needed to steady your fiddle.”

He kissed Eva’s cheek. “Yep, that’s it. Time to rejoin my fellow fiddlers, but first I have a hankering to take a turn at the Magic Moonshine tent.”

“You do that. Maybe the ’shine will improve your playing. It’ll definitely make you sound better to your listening audience. After enough of that corn liquor even my singing could win applause.”

A dark-haired stranger usurped Billy’s place, bending low to plant a kiss on the white curls that sprang from my aunt’s head like wood shavings. Wow.

They stacked handsome tall when they built him. Had to be at least six-four.

Even minus an introduction, I figured this tall glass of sweet tea had to be Paint, the legendary owner of Magic Moonshine. Sunlight glinted off hair the blue-black of expensive velvet. Deep dimples. Rakish smile.

I’d spent days sobbing, and my libido apparently was saying “enough”—time to rejoin the living. If this bad boy were any more alive, he’d be required to wear a “Danger High Voltage” sign. Of course, Aunt Lilly wouldn’t mind. She’d probably rent us a room.

I ventured a glance and found him smiling at me. My boots were suddenly fascinating. Never stare at shiny objects with the potential to hypnotize. I refused to fall under another playboy’s spell.

“How’s my best gal?” he asked, hugging Eva. “Best for this minute, right?” my aunt challenged. “I bet my niece will be your best gal before I finish the introductions.” Eva put a hand on my shoulder. “Paint, this young whippersnapper is Brie Hooker, my favorite niece. ’Course, she’s my only niece. Brie, it’s with great trepidation that I introduce you to David Paynter, better known as Paint, unrepentant moonshiner and heartbreaker.”

Eva subjected Paint to her pretend badass stare, a sure sign he was one of her favorite sparring partners. “Don’t you go messing with Brie, or I’ll bury you down yonder with Mark, once I nail his hide.”

Paint laughed, a deep, rumbling chuckle. He turned toward me and bowed like Rhett Butler reincarnated.

“Pleased to meet you, Brie. That puzzled look tells me you haven’t met Mark, the wily coyote that harasses Eva’s goats. She’s wasted at least six boxes of buckshot trying to scare him off. Me? I’ll gladly risk her shotgun to make your acquaintance. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Eva gave Paint a shove. “Well, if that’s the case, go on. Give Brie a shot of your peach moonshine. It’s pretty good.”

“Peach moonshine it is,” he said and took my arm. A second later, he tightened his grip and pulled me to the right. “Better watch your step. You almost messed up those pretty boots.”

He pointed at a fresh pile of fragrant poop, steaming in the brisk air inches from my suede boots. “Thanks,” I mumbled. Still holding my arm, he steered me over uneven ground to a clear path. “Eva says you’re staying with her. Hope you don’t have to leave for a while. Your aunt’s a fine lady, and it’s going to be mighty hard on her once this flock of well-wishers flies off.”

His baritone sent vibrations rippling through my body. My brain ordered me to ignore the tingling that remained in places it didn’t belong.

He smiled. “Eva and Lilly spoke about you so often I feel like we’re already friends. ’Course head-shaking accompanied some of their comments. They said you’d need to serve plenty of my moonshine if you ever opened a vegan B&B in Ardon County. Here abouts it’s considered unpatriotic to serve eats that haven’t been baptized in a vat of lard. Vegetables are optional; meat, mandatory.”

Uh, oh. I always gave relatives and friends a free pass on good- natured kidding. But a stranger? This man was poking fun at my profession, yet my hackles—smoothed by the hunk’s lopsided grin— managed only a faint bristle.

Back away. Pronto.

Discovering my ex-fiancé, Jack, was boffing not one, but two co-workers the entire two years we were engaged made me highly allergic to lady-killers. Paint was most definitely a member of that tribe.

“What can I say? I’m a rebel,” I replied. “It’s my life’s ambition to convince finger-lickin’, fried-chicken lovers that life without meat, butter, eggs, and cheese does not involve a descent into the nine circles of hell.”

Paint released me, then raised his hand to brush a wayward curl from my forehead. His flirting seemed to be congenital.

“If you’re as feisty as your aunt claims, why don’t you take me on as a challenge? I do eat tomatoes—fried green ones, anyway—and I’m open to sampling other members of the vegetable kingdom. So long as they don’t get between me and my meat. Anyway, welcome to the Carolina foothills. Time to pour some white lightning. It’s smoother than you might expect.”

And so are you. Too smooth for me.

That’s when we heard the screams.

TWO

Paint zoomed off like a Clemson running back, hurtling toward the screams—human, not goat. I managed to stay within a few yards of him, slipping and sliding as my suede boots unwittingly smooshed a doggie deposit. Udderly’s guardian dogs, five Great Pyrenees, were large enough to saddle, and their poop piles rivaled cow paddies.

I reached the barn, panting, with a stitch in my right side. I stopped to catch my breath. Hallelujah. I braced my palm against the weathered barn siding.

Ouch. Harpooned by a jagged splinter. Blood oozed from the sensitive pad below my right thumb. I stared at the inch-plus spear. Paint had kept running. He was no longer in sight.

The screams stopped. An accident? A heart attack? I hustled around the corner of the barn. A little girl sobbed in the cleared area behind Udderly’s retail sales cabin. I recognized Jenny, a rambunctious five-year-old from a nearby farm. Her mother knelt beside her, stroking her hair.

No child had produced the operatic screams we’d heard. Maybe Jenny’s mother was the screamer. But the farm wife didn’t seem the hysterical type. On prior visits to Udderly, I’d stopped at the roadside stand where she sold her family’s produce. Right now the woman’s face looked redder than one of her Early Girl tomatoes. Was the flush brought on by some danger—a goat butting her daughter, a snake slithering near the little girl?

I walked closer. Then I saw it. A skull poked through the red clay. Soil had tinted the bone an absurd pink.

I gasped. The sizeable cranium looked human. I spotted the grave digger, or should I say re-digger. Udderly’s newest addition, a Vietnamese potbellied pig named Tammy, hunkered in a nearby puddle. Tiny cloven hoof marks led to and from the excavation. Tell-tale red mud dappled her dainty twitching snout. The pig’s hundred-pound body quivered as her porcine gaze roved the audience she’d attracted.

A man squatted beside Tammy, speaking to the swine in soothing, almost musical tones. Pigs were dang smart and sensitive. Aunt Eva told me it was easy to hurt their feelings. The fellow stroking Tammy’s grimy head must’ve been convinced she was one sensitive swine.

“It’s okay,” he repeated. “The lady wasn’t screaming at you, Tammy.”

Tammy snorted, lowered her head, and squeezed her eyes shut. The pig-whisperer gave the swine a final scratch and stood, freeing gangly limbs from his pretzel-like crouch. Mud caked the cuffs and knees of his khaki pants. Didn’t seem to bother him one iota.

The mother shepherded her little girl away from the disturbing scene, and Paint knelt to examine the skeletal remains. “Looks like piggy uncovered more than she bargained for.” He glanced at Muddy Cuffs. “Andy, you’re a vet. Animal or human?”

“Human.” Andy didn’t hesitate. “But all that’s left is bone. Had to have been buried a good while. Yet Tammy’s rooting scratched only inches below the surface. If a settler dug this grave, it was mighty shallow.”

“Probably didn’t start that way.” I pointed to a depression that began uphill near the retail cabin. “This wash has deepened a lot since my aunts built their store and the excavation diverted water away from the cabin. The runoff’s been nibbling away at the ground.”

Mom, Dad, and Aunt Eva joined the group eyeballing the skull. Eva looked peaked, almost ill. I felt a slight panic at the shift in her normally jolly appearance. I thought of my aunts as forces of nature. Unflappable. Indestructible. I’d lost one, and the other suddenly looked fragile. Finding a corpse on her property the same day she bid her twin goodbye had hit her hard.

Dad cocked his head. “Could be a Cherokee burial site. Or maybe a previous farmer buried a loved one and the grave marker got lost. Homestead burials have always been legal in South Carolina. Still are.”

For once, the idea of finding a corpse in an unexpected location didn’t prompt a gleeful chuckle from my dad, Dr. Howard Hooker. Though he was a professor of horticulture at Clemson University by day, he was an aspiring murder mystery author by night. Every time we went for a car ride, Dad made a game of searching the landscape for spots “just perfect” for disposing of bodies. So far, a dense patch of kudzu in a deep ravine topped his picks. “Kudzu grows so fast any flesh peeking through would disappear in a day.”

Good thing Dad confined his commentary to family outings. We knew the corpses in question weren’t real.

Mom whipped out her smartphone. “I’ll call Judge Glenn. It’s Sunday, but he always answers his cell. He’ll know who to call. I’m assuming the Ardon County Sheriff’s Department.”

Dad nodded. “Probably, but I bet SLED—the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division—will take over. The locals don’t have forensic specialists.”

Mom rolled her eyes. “You spend way too much time with your Sisters in Crime.”

It amused Mom that Dad’s enthusiasm for his literary genre earned him the presidency of the Upstate South Carolina Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Mom didn’t fool with fictional crime. Too busy with the real thing. As the City of Clemson’s attorney, she kept a bevy of lawyers, judges, and city and university cops on speed dial. However, Udderly Kidding wasn’t in the same county as Clemson so it sat outside her domain.

“Judge Glenn, this is Iris Hooker. I’m at the Udderly Kidding Dairy in Ardon. An animal here unearthed a skull. We think it’s human, but not recent. Should we call the sheriff?”

Mom nodded and made occasional I-get-it noises while she clamped the cell to her ear.

“Could you ask them to keep their arrival quiet? Better yet, could they wait until after four? About fifty folks are here for my sister-in- law’s wake. I don’t want to turn her farewell into a circus.”

A minute later, Mom murmured her thanks and pocketed her cell. “The judge agrees an old skull doesn’t warrant sirens or flashing lights. He’ll ask the Ardon County Sheriff, Robbie Jones, to come by after four. Since I’m an officer of the court, his honor just requested that I keep people and animals clear of the area until the sheriff arrives.”

Andy stood. “Paint, help me bring some hay bales from the barn. We can stack them to cordon off the area.”

“Good idea.” Paint stood, and the two men strode off. No needless chitchat. They appeared to be best buds.

I tugged Dad’s sleeve, nodded toward his sister, and whispered, “I think Aunt Eva should sit down. Let’s get her to one of the front porch rockers.”

Dad walked over and draped an arm around his sister’s shoulders. “Eva, let’s sit a while so folks can find you to pay their respects. This skeleton is old news. Not our worry.”

Eva’s lips trembled. “No, Brother. I feel it in my own bones. It’s that son-of-a-bitch Jed Watson come back to haunt me.”

THREE

Jed Watson? The man Eva married in college? The man who vanished a few years later?

Dad’s eyebrows shot up. “Eva, that’s nonsense. That dirtbag ran off forty years back. You’re letting your imagination run wild.”

Eva straightened. “Some crime novelist you are. You know darn well any skeleton unearthed on my property would have something to do with that nasty worm. Nobody wished that sorry excuse for a man dead more than me.”

“Calm down. Don’t spout off and give the sheriff some harebrained notion that pile of bones is Jed,” Dad said. “No profit in fueling gossip or dredging up ancient history. Authorities may have ruled Jed dead, but I always figured that no-good varmint was still alive five states over, most likely beating the stuffing out of some other poor woman.”

Wow. I knew Eva took her maiden name back after they declared her husband dead, but I’d never heard a speck of the unsavory backstory. Dad liked to tell family tales, including ones about long- dead scoundrels. Guess this history wasn’t ancient enough.

Curiosity made me eager to ask a whole passel of none-of-my- business questions, though I felt some justification about poking my nose here. I’d known Eva my entire life. So how come this was the first I’d heard of a mystery surrounding Jed’s disappearance? Was Dad truly worried the sheriff might suspect Eva?

I was dying to play twenty questions. Too bad it wasn’t the time or place.

I smiled at my aunt. “Why don’t I get some of Paint’s brew to settle our nerves? Eva, you like that apple pie flavor, right?”

“Yes, thanks, dear.”

“Good idea, Brie,” Dad added. “I’ll take a toot of Paint’s blackberry hooch. Eva’s not the only one who could use a belt. We’ll greet folks from those rockers. Better than standing like mannequins in a receiving line. And there’s a lot less risk of falling down if we get a little tipsy.”

Aunt Eva ignored Dad’s jest. She looked haunted, lost in memory. A very bad memory.

I hurried to the small tent where Magic Moonshine dispensed free libations. A buxom young lass smiled as she poured shine into miniature Mason jars lined up behind four flavor signs: Apple Pie, Blackberry, Peach, and White Lightnin’.

“What can I do you for, honey?” the busty server purred. I’m still an Iowa girl at heart, but, like my transplanted aunts and parents, I’ve learned not to take offense when strangers of both sexes and all ages call me honey, darlin’, and sweetie. My high school social studies teacher urged us to appreciate foreign customs and cultures. I may not be in Rome, but I’m definitely in Ardon County.

I smiled at Miss Sugarmouth. The top four buttons of her blouse were undone. The way her bosoms oozed over the top, I seriously doubted those buttons had ever met their respective buttonholes. No mystery why Paint hired her. Couldn’t blame him or her. Today’s male mourners would enjoy a dash of cleavage with their shine, and she’d rake in lots more tips.

“Sweetie, do you have a tray I can use to take drinks to the folks on the porch?”

The devil still made me add the “sweetie” when I addressed Miss Sugarmouth. She didn’t bat an eyelash. Probably too weighed down with mascara.

“Sure thing, honey.” I winced when the tray slid over the wood sliver firmly embedded in my palm. Suck it up. No time for minor surgery.

As I walked toward Eva’s cabin, crunching noises advertised some late arrivals ambling down the gravel road. On the porch, Dad and Eva had settled into a rhythm, shaking hands with friends and neighbors and accepting sympathy pats. Hard to hug someone in a rocker.

I handed miniature glass jars to Eva and Dad before offering drinks to the folks who’d already run the gauntlet of the sit-down receiving line. Then I tiptoed behind Dad’s rocker.

“I’ll see if Mom wants anything and check back later to see how you and Eva are doing.”

“Thanks, honey.” He kissed my cheek. I returned to Paint’s moonshine stand and picked up a second drink tray, gingerly hoisting it to avoid bumping my skewered palm. Balancing the drinks, I picked my way across the rutted ground to what I worried might be a crime scene.

Mom perched between Paint and Andy atop the double row of hay bales stacked to keep the grisly discovery out of sight. The five-foot-two height on Mom’s driver’s license was a stretch. At five-four, I had her by at least three, maybe four, inches. My mother’s build was tiny as well as short—a flat-chested size two. I couldn’t recall ever being able to squeeze into her doll-size clothes. My build came courtesy of the females on Dad’s side of the family. Compact but curvy. No possibility of going braless in polite society.

Mom’s delicate appearance often confounded the troublemakers she prosecuted for the city. Too often the accused took one look at Iris Hooker and figured they’d hire some hulking male lawyer to walk all over the little lady in court.

Big mistake. The bullies often reaped unexpected rewards—a costly mélange of jail time, fines, and community service.

Mom spotted my tray-wobbling approach. “Are these Paint’s concoctions?”

I nodded. “Well, Daughter, sip nice and slow. Someday I may file charges against Magic Moonshine. Paint’s shine is often an accomplice when Clemson tailgaters pull stunts that land them in front of a judge.”

Paint lifted his glass in a salute. “Can I help it if all our flavors go down easy?”

Mom turned back to me. “Have you met these, ahem, gentlemen?”

I suddenly felt shy as my gaze flicked between the two males. “I met Paint earlier. This is my first chance to say hi to Andy. I’m Brie Hooker. You must be the veterinarian Aunt Eva’s always talking about.”

Andy rose to his feet. “Andy Green. Pleased to meet you, ma’am. Your aunts were my very first customers when I opened my practice.”

He waved a hand at Tammy, the now demure pig, wallowing a goodly distance away. “I’m really sorry Tammy picked today to root up these bones. I feel partly to blame. Talked your aunts into adopting Miss Piggy. It aggravates me how folks can’t resist buying potbellied pigs as pets when they’re adorable babies, but have no qualms about abandoning them once they start to grow.”

Andy’s outstretched hand awaited my handshake. I held up my palm to display my injury. “Gotta take a rain check on a handshake. Unfortunately, I already shook hands with the barn.”

Andy gently turned up my palm. “I’ll fix you right up, if you don’t mind a vet doing surgery. Give me a minute to wash up and meet me at my truck. Can’t miss it. A double-cab GMC that kinda looks like aliens crash landed an aluminum spaceship in the truck bed. I’m parked by the milking barn.”

As Andy loped off toward the retail shop’s comfort station, Paint called after him. “Sneaky way to hold hands with a pretty lady.”

Andy glanced over his shoulder and grinned. “You’re just mad you didn’t think of it first.”

Paint chuckled and focused his hundred-watt grin on me. “Bet my white lightning could disinfect that sliver. Sure you don’t want me to do the honors?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Somehow I doubt honor has anything to do with it.”

The moonshiner faked an injured look. Mom rolled her eyes. “Heaven help me—and you, Brie. Not sure you’re safe with the wildlife that frequents this farm. Forget those coyotes that worry Eva, I’m talking wolves.” She looked toward the porch. “How’s Eva holding up?”

“Better.” I wanted to grill Mom about Jed Watson, but I needed to do so in private. “Guess I should steel myself for surgery.” I took a Mason jar from the tray I’d set on a hay bale. “Down the hatch.” My healthy swallow blazed a burning trail from throat to belly. Before I could stop myself, I sputtered.

“Shut your mouth,” Paint said. Yowzer. My eyes watered, and my throat spasmed. I coughed. “What?”

“Shut your mouth. Oxygen fuels the burn. You need to take a swallow then close your mouth. None of this sipping stuff.”

“Now you tell me.” I choked. Mom laughed. “That’s the best strategy I’ve heard yet to shut Brie up.”

I wiped at the tears running down my cheeks. “Your moonshine packs more punch than my five-alarm Thai stir fry.”

Paint’s eyebrows rose. “My shine is smooth, once you get used to it. You want a little fire in your gut. Keeps life interesting.”

A little too interesting. I’d been at Udderly Kidding Dairy just over a week, and I already felt like a spinning top with a dangerous wobble.

***

Excerpt from Bones To Pick by Linda Lovely. Copyright © 2017 by Linda Lovely. Reproduced with permission from Linda Lovely. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Linda Lovely

Over the past five years, hundreds of mystery/thriller 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 newest series offers good-natured salutes to both her vegan family doctor and her cheese-addicted kin. 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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Book Blast Tuesday: Murder in the Dog Days

Just as the heat begins to wane, we have the cozy mystery Murder in the Dog Days! 

Murder in the Dog Days

by P.M. Carlson

Synopsis:

Murder in the Dog Days by P.M. Carlson

On a sweltering Virginia day in 1975, reporter Olivia Kerr, her husband Jerry Ryan, his very pregnant sister Maggie and her family decide to have a beach picnic. Olivia invites her colleague Dale Colby and his family to join them. At the last minute, Dale decides to stay home to pursue an important story. But when the beach-goers return, they find Dale lifeless in a pool of blood inside his locked office.

Police detective Holly Schreiner leads the investigation, battling Maggie—and demons of her own.

Don’t Miss These Great Reviews:

“An ingeniously plotted, fair-play, locked-room mystery, one of the best we’ve encountered.” — Tom and Enid Schantz, The Denver Post

“A dandy locked room murder…The investigation is a dangerous one… [the] solution both surprising and satisfying” — A Suitable Job for a Woman

“A satisfying, fast-paced whodunit that also explores a range of social issues, especially the violence of war and its aftermath.” — Cynthia R. Benjamins, Fairfax Journal

“[Maggie Ryan] has been a role model for women since the beginning and I loved watching her merge marriage and children with her talent for solving mysteries!” — Margaret Maron

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: The Mystery Company / Crum Creek Press
Publication Date: April 2014
Number of Pages: 271
ISBN13: 978-1932325379
Series: Maggie Ryan and Nick O’Connor #6
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Smashwords 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

More: According to the author Murder in the Dog Days by P.M. Carlson does not include: Excessive Strong Language, Graphic Violence, Explicit Sexual Scenes, Rape, or other trigger situations. She does note that Murder in the Dog Days is about coping with post-traumatic stress. Vets use strong language, and have flashbacks; expect both.

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“I don’t understand!” Donna Colby cried out. Her self-control cracked. She reached toward Holly in appeal, tears starting. “It was bolted! How could anyone—even if Dale let them in, they couldn’t bolt it again after they—”

“Yes, Mrs. Colby.” Holly broke in, firm and reassuring, to deflect the outburst. “We’ll check into it. You can depend on it.”

‘Thank you,” said Donna with a little choking sound.

“Now, what did you do when you realized the door was bolted?”

“Well, he usually takes a nap. I thought maybe he was asleep.” Donna Colby was trying to revert to her numbed monotone again, but a tremor underlay her words. “Then Maggie went to look in the window and came running back in and said hurry up, we had to get the door open. So she did, and—” She stopped. The next part was the unspeakable, Holly knew. Donna Colby turned her face back to the pink flower on the back of the sofa, tracing the outline with a forefinger. “All that blood,” she murmured. “I just don’t… Why?”

“I know, Mrs. Colby.” Holly tried to keep her voice soothing in the face of the incomprehensible. A husband and father lay twisted in the den. Why? Tell me why. And the others, so many others. A flash of reds at the back of her eyes. A blue-green stench. A tiny whispered beat, ten, eleven. Twelve. No more. Hey, cut the bullshit, Schreiner. Just get the details. Ain’t no time to wonder why, whoopee we’re all gonna die. Holly flipped to a new page, keeping her voice colorless. “What did you do when you got the door open?”

“We all ran in—I don’t remember, it was so—I couldn’t—the blood. Maggie went to him. Sent Olivia to call an ambulance. Told me to keep the kids out, take them to the kitchen.”

Holly noted it down. This Maggie sounded like a real take-charge type. “Okay. And then what?”

“I don’t remember much. She made me leave, take care of the kids.”

“What was she doing?”

“I don’t know. There was so much…” The word escaped Donna and she stared at Holly in mute terror before finding it again, with an almost pitiful triumph. “Confusion. The men came back. Maggie will tell you,” she added hopefully, trying to be helpful. All her life, probably, being nice had kept her out of trouble. But now she’d hit the big trouble, and Holly knew that no weapons, even niceness, could help now.

* * *

Excerpt from Murder in the Dog Days by P.M. Carlson. Copyright © 2017 by P.M. Carlson. Reproduced with permission from P.M. Carlson. All rights reserved.

 

P.M. Carlson

Author Bio:

P.M. Carlson taught psychology and statistics at Cornell University before deciding that mystery writing was more fun. She has published twelve mystery novels and over a dozen short stories. Her novels have been nominated for an Edgar Award, a Macavity Award, and twice for Anthony Awards. Two short stories were finalists for Agatha Awards. She edited the Mystery Writers Annual for Mystery Writers of America for several years, and served as president of Sisters in Crime.

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