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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Review - A Conspiracy in Belgravia

Happy Sir Arthur Conon Doyle's 159th birthday!

I was incredibly excited to read and review the first in this series, A Study in Scarlett (click here), which is a retelling of the famous Sherlock story featuring a woman as the actual detective with her false identity as Sherlock.  The concept was great, but more importantly the execution was superb.  The highly anticipated second book in the series arrived and it took a little longer for me to get to the book.  But I finally have a review.

Author: Sherry Thomas

Copyright: Sept 2017 (Berkley) 336 pgs

Series: 2nd in Lady Sherlock Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre:
Historical Detective Mystery

Main Character: Charlotte Holmes, disgraced upper class woman who creates the Sherlock Holmes identity

Setting: 1886, Devonshire and London England

Obtained Through: Personal purchase


"The game is afoot as Charlotte Holmes returns in USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas’s Victorian-set Lady Sherlock series.

Being shunned by Society gives Charlotte Holmes the time and freedom to put her extraordinary powers of deduction to good use. As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” aided by the capable Mrs. Watson, she’s had great success helping with all manner of inquiries, but she’s not prepared for the new client who arrives at her Upper Baker Street office.

Lady Ingram, wife of Charlotte’s dear friend and benefactor, wants Sherlock Holmes to find her first love, who failed to show up at their annual rendezvous. Matters of loyalty and discretion aside, the case becomes even more personal for Charlotte as the missing man is none other than Myron Finch, her illegitimate half brother.

In the meanwhile, Charlotte wrestles with a surprising proposal of marriage, a mysterious stranger woos her sister Livia, and an unidentified body surfaces where least expected. Charlotte’s investigative prowess is challenged as never before: Can she find her brother in time—or will he, too, end up as a nameless corpse somewhere in the belly of London"

Charlotte Holmes is blond, pretty, feminine, too fond of sweets, and far too intelligent for the time period. She is funny without intending to be as she considers her fondness for desserts and how many chins she has at the moment.  She is coldly logical, but when it comes to Lord Ingram she may have unwanted emotions.  Mrs. John Watson, a retired stage actress has become her sidekick. Lord Ingram Ashburton, a long time friend and first love, knows of Charlotte's secret identity and aids her.  In this outing Lord Ingram's unrequited love for Charlotte whitle in an unhappy marriage is displayed. Inspector Robert Treadles featured in the first book shows up again but has his prejudices against consulting Charlotte again that demonstrates the common man's attitude towards such a woman in that day and age.  Moriarity is developed further and is slowly developing into the mastermind and nemesis.  Mrs Watson's niece, Miss Redmayne, is visiting and assists in the investigation at times.

The plot definitely has several twists and has a level of intrigue that sneaks up on the reader.  The pacing, I felt, maintained a steady pace and kept me engaged.  I will give a caveat that it should be read when you can give your full attention, I read it in short bits here and there because of life circumstances, and found with the twists I could easily loose the thread and get lost.

The killer reveal was a final twist in the story I had not seen coming, well done!  The wrap up is nicely satisfying and even a little poignant. 

Not only was this a great mystery, but the characters are further developed and their personal dramas unfold and gain complication.  A shocking move on Charlotte's father's part shows how little voice women of the era had in their own lives.  I find this series so imaginative and refreshing, give it a try if you like historical mysteries.

Rating:   Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.



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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Review - Murder at Half Moon Gate

I loved Andrea Penrose's Lady Arianna Regency series and now she has started a new historical mystery series that I am excited to read and review.  The first in the series, Murder on Swan Lake I reviewed (click here) and now for the second in this new series.  Read on to find out how the second novel in this new historical mystery stacks up.

Author: Andrea Penrose

Copyright: Mar 2018 (Kensington) 368 pgs

Series: 2nd in Wrexford and Sloane Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Widowed Charlotte Sloane, a satirical cartoonist under the name A.J. Quill teams with Earl of Wrexford, former military man and amateur chemist

Setting: Regency era, London England

Obtained Through: Personal Purchase

From the book cover:  "When Lord Wrexford discovers the body of a gifted inventor in a dark London alley, he promptly alerts the watchman and lets the authorities handle the matter. But Wrexford soon finds himself drawn into the murder investigation when the inventor’s widow begs for his assistance, claiming the crime was not a random robbery. It seems her husband’s designs for a revolutionary steam-powered engine went missing the night of his death. The plans could be worth a fortune . . . and very dangerous in the wrong hands.

Joining Wrexford in his investigation is Charlotte Sloane, who uses the pseudonym A. J. Quill to publish her scathing political cartoons. Her extensive network of informants is critical for her work, but she doesn’t mind tapping that same web of spies to track down an elusive killer. Each suspect—from ambitious assistants to rich investors, and even the inventor’s widow—is entwined in a maze of secrets and lies that leads Wrexford and Sloane down London’s most perilous stews and darkest alleyways.

With danger lurking at every turn, the potent combination of Wrexford’s analytical mind and Sloane’s exacting intuition begins to unravel the twisted motivations behind the inventor’s death. But they are up against a cunning and deadly foe—a killer ready to strike again before they can recover the inventor’s priceless designs . . ."

Charlotte Sloane has been scraping by financially since her husband died and she took up the satirical cartoon drawings he had done under the name A. J. Quill. Because of her job, she can't shy away from finding the society's dirt to use in her cartoons that are her livelihood.  Earl of Wrexford, Wrex for short - never a first name, even with his friends - is a scientist in outlook which makes him different than other wealthy or titled peers. He fears Charlotte has rubbed off on him as he softens to the plight of her two charges and about justice in general. Sheffield is Wrex's good friend and comes through in a pinch. The two street urchins Charlotte has unofficially adopted, Raven and Hawk, are street wise, a touch jaded, and whip smart develop into stars in their own right.

London is presented as just as complex and layered as the characters.  You go from polite society visits in wealthy parlors to slums and warehouses teaming with the disreputable underbelly.  Each holds its unique perils.

The plot winds and weaves, since little about the people involved is honest or straightforward.  The pacing is steady and consistent producing a page turner that keeps you wanting more.  This series is producing some exciting killer confrontations that I particularly enjoy.  The wrap-up is particularly interesting regarding the relationship between Charlotte and Wrex.

I enjoy how the series allows Charlotte to go against the typical female role of this time, while still maintaining some adherence to the era.  The characters of Raven and Hawk are stellar additions to the cast and allow for Charlotte and Wrex to show their softer sides.  The mystery and suspense are top-notch and the slowly developing a relationship between Charlotte and Rex is believable and quite touching.  Overall this series, hits all of the right chords for a beautiful storytelling experience.  

Rating:  Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend.



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Monday, April 30, 2018

Author Guest Post-James Jackson

Please welcome James M. Jackson to the blog.  He authors the Seamus McCree series consisting of five novels and one novella. Jim splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Georgia’s Lowcountry. He claims the moves between locations are weather-related, but others suggest they may have more to do with not overstaying his welcome. He is the past president of the 700+ member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

REVIEWS FOR THE AUTHOR
Reviews are the balm and bane of writers these days. With so few newspapers providing reviews, many readers have come to rely on reader reviews on websites like Goodreads or Amazon. Best-selling authors can rely on enough of their fans to post reviews; the rest of us must rely on the kindness of strangers to post enough reviews to attract a new reader’s attention. (Thank you to all readers who do post reviews.)

Some authors claim not to read their reviews. I’m not so self-assured; I read them all. And I read them for books I’m considering as well. One thing I have noticed is that many of the “bad” reviews are from people who don’t like the kind of book the author writes.

It’s a shame for a reader to waste limited reading time on a book they are unlikely to enjoy. I’ve put together 10 Reasons Why You Should (or Shouldn’t) Read My Book

* If you like page-turners with plots that twist and turn, Empty

Promises is your kind of book.

* If you like hot romance on the page – not so much.

* If you like suspense and thriller novels, Empty Promises will suit your fancy.

* If you prefer cozy mysteries with food and crafts on the side – this is not that.

* If you like complex characters with strengths and weaknesses, Empty Promises has them.

* If you like your heroes to take names and pound the bad guys to dust, this may not be for you. Seamus prefers to use brain over brawn, although he’ll use force when he must.

* If you enjoy amateur sleuth stories set in real locations, Seamus turns amateur sleuth and Empty Promises is set in the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

* If dragons or zombies or other magical/mystical creatures are your preference, the closest this book comes is a granddaughter who likes fairies and stuffed animals.

* If you want a knee-slapping hoot – I don’t write them.

* But if you enjoy a bit of wry humor, touching scenes with the grandkid and her dog, Empty Promises has them, too.

The best way to know if you’ll enjoy a book is to read an excerpt. To check out Empty Promises, you can download and read the first four chapters of Empty Promises (click here), or if you prefer reading a series from the beginning, here are the first four chapters of Ant Farm (Seamus McCree #1) (click here).
***
 You can find information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and/or Amazon.

You can order paperback versions of his books from your favorite physical or online bookstore (or from his website if you’d like them autographed). You can find his Kindle books here


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
THANK You Mr. Jackson for the glimpse into your book, I'm sure there are readers who will be interested.



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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Review - A Brush with Shadows


This is one of the few series I have followed since the very first book:  The Anatomist's Wife (click here) .  I have also reviewed #2 Mortal Arts (click here) , #3 A Grave Matter (click here), #4 A Study in Death (click here), #5 As Death Draws Near (click here), and was honored to interview the author (click here), and have a guest post (click here).  Now for the next book in this riveting historical mystery series.


Author: Anna Lee Huber

Copyright: March 2018 (Berkley) 384 pgs

Series: 6th in Lady Darby Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Detective Mystery

Main Character:
Lady Kiera Darby, an accomplished artist, widow now re-married, and social outcast

Setting:
1831, Scottish Moors

Obtained Through: Publisher (Netgalley) for honest opinion

From the Cover:  "Sebastian Gage returns home to battle the ghosts of his past and prevent them from destroying his future with Kiera in the latest exciting installment in this national bestselling series.

July 1831. It's been fifteen years since Sebastian Gage has set foot in Langstone Manor. Though he has shared little with his wife, Lady Kiera Darby, about his past, she knows that he planned never to return to the place of so many unhappy childhood memories. But when an urgent letter from his grandfather reaches them in Dublin, Ireland, and begs Gage to visit, Kiera convinces him to go.

All is not well at Langstone Manor. Gage's grandfather, the Viscount Tavistock, is gravely ill, and Gage's cousin Alfred has suddenly vanished. He wandered out into the moors and never returned. The Viscount is convinced someone or something other than the natural hazards of the moors is to blame for Alfred's disappearance. And when Alfred's brother Rory goes missing, Kiera and Gage must concede he may be right. Now, they must face the ghosts of Gage's past, discover the truth behind the local superstitions, and see beyond the tricks being played by their very own eyes to expose what has happened to Gage's family before the moors claim yet another victim..."

Lady Kiera Darby finds a challenge when living with Gage's mother's family while investigating the heir's disappearance.  They are an unpleasant lot, privileged, condescending, judgmental and so on. She gets a good picture of how they tormented her husband during childhood.  


Sebastian Gage struggles with the baggage from his childhood from this cruel family plus questions regarding his mother's death years prior. 

Bree, Kiera's personal maid and Anderley, Gage's rough spoken valet are the only people they can trust.  Gage's Grandfather, Aunt, and cousins Alfred and Rory are all contentious and incredibly secretive. 

The setting of the Scottish Moors provided a gothic setting that created the best atmospheric stage I can remember in a novel (better than Hounds of Baskerville even). 

The plot quickly turns complicated with the secretive nature of the family and many developments and aspects to Alfred's disappearance.  The pacing kept me reading into the night.  The climax was edge-of-your-seat thrills - just how I love it.  The wrap-up provides satisfaction on many levels for Sebastion, Kiera, and the reader.

This case, with all of its personal issues, is the most emotionally straining for Kiera and Sebastian.  They are seriously challenged so early in their marriage and it shows what they are both made of.  I loved the depiction of the moors, highlighting the stark beauty and lethal hazards. There was love and hate, privilege and isolation, and bitter family dynamics.  This book would be excellent for a book club to discuss the layers of plot, characters, theme, and the use of gothic elements.  I believe this is my favorite of the Lady Darby mysteries thus far. 

Rating:
  Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 





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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Calling Bloggers & Reviewers


For all you book bloggers or reviewers in the audience, NAILED - the second novel in the Resort to Murder Mystery series, is available through Netgalley. 

Reviews from those who have read it so far:

"It will keep you hooked from beginning to end." Shelly H,

"A real page turner! It's a very well written book that keeps you hooked from the beginning till the last page.
Strongly recommended." Anna Maria G

"A very well plotted mystery set in a resort in Vail, Colorado. ...The book kept me engaged from the beginning right to the end and surprising reveal. There were no slow or boring times in this story. It kept flowing at a very good pace." Sabine F

Please check it out here: (click here).

I am happy to coordinate a giveaway &/or guest post as well.


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Monday, April 23, 2018

Author Guest Post - Paty Jager

Please welcome Paty Jager to the blog.  She is an award-winning author of 32 novels, 6 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”  
Dreams, Clues, and Murder
Avery, thank you for having me on your blog. 

For those who don’t know me, I’m Paty Jager. I write murder mysteries and western romance. I grew up in the NE corner of Oregon where the Chief Joseph band of the Nez Perce wintered and summered before they were driven to Montana, and ultimately, surrendered to the Army. Growing up in the area I was frustrated that the history of the county wasn’t taught in the schools. Especially, how the Nez Perce tried to hang onto the land they loved. And then to only see them in the county once a year during the Chief Joseph Day’s Rodeo and Parade, seemed insulting to me. I’m not sure how they felt.

Because the non-treaty Nez Perce (the ones who refused to go on the reservation and fled to Montana) were thought to be a bad influence on the treaty Nez Perce, they weren’t allowed to set foot in the Wallowa country. In fact, after their surrender, they were taken clear to Oklahoma where they became ill and many died. Those that survived the 7 years of incarceration in Oklahoma were allowed to return to the Pacific Northwest but not to the Lapwai Idaho Reservation where the treaty Nez Perce resided. They were sent to the Umatilla and Colville reservations to live with tribes they had battled with before and who had scouted for the army to find them. 

I’m happy to say these days, there is a powwow held every July in Wallowa and the Nez Perce have purchased land in the county where they have fish naturalizing ponds and hatcheries. 

The reason I write about the Nez Perce is because of the injustice I feel they endured. And the vision of a Nez Perce warrior I saw on the mountain behind my family’s home one summer day as I rode my horse through the trees. 

My main character in my mystery series is Shandra Higheagle. I made her half Nez Perce and half White. Her Nez Perce father died when she was four. Her mother remarried a man who didn’t care for Native Americans and forbid her to talk of her father’s family or visit them. While the stepfather didn’t adopt her, he made her use his last name in school. 
 
When Shandra went on to college, she used her legal name of Higheagle and studied art, becoming a potter. She hadn’t thought much about it being a part of her heritage until she is called to the reservation where her grandmother and the rest of her family lives for her grandmother’s funeral. During the funeral and the Seven Drums Ceremony, Shandra discovers her family is interested in bringing her back into their lives. 

After the funeral, when Shandra returns to Huckleberry, she becomes a suspect in a murder. Her grandmother begins showing up in Shandra’s dreams, giving her clues that could help her solve the murder. 

All amateur sleuths need a sidekick who is in law enforcement. That is where Weippe County Detective Ryan Greer comes in. In book one, Double Duplicity, he realizes she isn’t the murderer even though she is found with the body. And when he catches her where she shouldn’t
be, looking for a clue, she tells him about her dreams. To her surprise, he believes in them more than she does. 

Their relationship builds throughout the series with a wedding on the horizon. 

While most of the books are set in and around Huckleberry Ski Resort and Shandra’s ranch on Huckleberry Mountain, there are also trips to the Colville Reservation in Washington where Shandra helps her family discover the truth when there are murders there. 

Shandra not only has Detective Greer on her side, but she has a big, furry, cowardly lion of a dog, a cantankerous woman who came with the ranch like a stray cat, and a slew of unique and quirky friends who live in Huckleberry. 

I use Shandra’s grandmother coming to her in dreams as the mysticism in my series. Everyone knows of dream catchers. The are many different versions of how this web within a hoop works. Some say it catches the good dreams and they slide down the feathers to the person sleeping under it and lets the bad dreams escape through the hole in the middle. Others say it captures the good ideas that make a person or people stronger and allows the bad ideas to pass on through. I used this concept along with that of the visions or vision quests, which are important to all tribes as well, and the fact the Nez Perce have long believed in the Seven Drums and Dreamer religion. It is a following that Chief Joseph and many in his band believed in. 

Putting all this information I’d gathered about the Native American cultures, dreams, and visions, I came up with the premise of the deceased grandmother coming to my character in dreams to help her solve murders. You can get the first book of the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series, Double Duplicity, free as an ebook at all ebook vendors. Books 1-5 are available in ebook, print, and audio. My narrator is working on book 6. My current book, book 10, Artful Murder, is available in ebook and print. 

Artful Murder by Paty Jager

Book ten in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series 

Secrets… Scandal… Murder…
An autistic boy and his brother need potter Shandra Higheagle’s help when a teacher’s body is found after a confrontation with the older brother. Shandra knows the boy is innocent. Digging into the teacher’s life, she and Ryan turn up scandal. 

Detective Ryan Greer has believed in Shandra’s dreams in the past, but she can’t always be right.  When his investigation uncovers a principal on the take, females being harassed, and parents kept in the dark, he discovers more suspects than the brothers.  Shandra’s time at the school is coming to an end, and the killer has struck again. 

Universal book link (purchase here)
 blog / website / Facebook / Paty's Posse / Goodreads / Twitter / Pinterest / Bookbub

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

THANK You Ms Jager for the insight into your series.

 
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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Attention Book Bloggers


You can get the second book in my Resort to Murder mystery series, NAILED, on Netgalley (click here).  I would be delighted and honored if any book bloggers in the audience would read and review the book.  Please contact me as well if you would like to do a giveaway on your blog.  
 
NAILED:
 Julienne is snow bound in the middle of the Rocky Mountains with a killer striking at will.  This wasn't covered in Resort Management training.

Julienne LaMere gets to attend a Resort Management conference at a prestigious ski resort in the Colorado Mountains.  What should be an enjoyable getaway attending workshops by day and shopping and enjoying the resort by night comes to a screeching halt when a loud-mouthed guest is murdered plus the roads and town shut down for an epic blizzard.

In addition to attending the conference, dodging a smitten teen boy, and seeking clues among the gossiping - and increasingly tense - guests, her best friend’s heart has warmed to an unlikely man and may get broken.  As if her mind isn’t already fully occupied, Julienne and her new boyfriend Mason are skiing down troubled slopes in their relationship.  Will Julienne put the scant clues together and unveil the culprit before a murderer gets away?
 
 

 NAILED review in King's River Life!

I am so excited and grateful for the wonderful review of NAILED in King's River Life Magazine (click here.)  The article also contains a chance to win a copy of my book, so head on over there.  

Since I am so excited about the review, I am including a snippet here:  "The essence of a “page turner” with a plethora of rich characters to support her amateur investigation, not-so-smooth romantic entanglements, and some perilous moments. Julienne is proving to be a favorite cozy character: vulnerable, but strong..."

Thank you so much King's River Life and reviewer Kathleen Costa.
 
 





http://kingsriverlife.com/04/21/nailed-by-avery-daniels/
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Monday, April 16, 2018

Author Guest Post - Christina Hoag

Please welcome fellow author Christina Hoag.  She is a former journalist who has had her laptop searched by Colombian guerrillas, phone tapped in Venezuela, was suspected of drug trafficking in Guyana, hid under a car to evade Guatemalan soldiers, and posed as a nun to get inside a Caracas jail. She has interviewed gang members, bank robbers, thieves and thugs in prisons, shantytowns and slums, not to forget billionaires and presidents, some of whom fall into the previous categories. Now she writes about such characters in her fiction.

Christina’s noir crime novel Skin of Tattoos was a finalist for

the 2017 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award for suspense, while her YA thriller Girl on the Brink was named one of Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016 for young adults. She also co-authored Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence, which is being used in several universities.

She's a former staff writer for the Miami Herald and Associated Press, and wrote from Latin America for Time, Business Week, New York Times, Financial Times, Times of London, Houston Chronicle and other news outlets.



Why I Write Dark 
Yes, I write dark stuff and always have. It’s simply what
comes out when I sit down at the computer. Gangs and dating violence are the topics of my two novels. I’ve written short stories about homelessness, prostitutes and assorted other gritty topics.

People have occasionally asked me why I’m drawn to the seamy side of life. I think it’s mainly attributable to my career in journalism, which has exposed me to many things that middle-class people never get to witness or experience within the normal realms of their lives. My fiction is an attempt to process those things, to take them a step further than the facts to explore the whys behind them or to simply expose different realities than the one I am used to because I find them intensely interesting.

So while I’m not afraid of venturing beyond the confines of my comfort zone, I admit it can be at times dangerous territory. I have to push myself. Violence and inhumanity are ever easy to write, but they are an inherent part of human nature. And what are writers if not chroniclers and interpreters of the human condition? I think it helps having written about acts of violence for many years as a newspaper reporter. I’m just used to writing about such stuff. Still, at times it gets to me.


My YA novel “Girl on the Brink” is about a girl who gets involved with the wrong guy, and it’s loosely based on my own experience. I had to amp up the conflict by including overt, dramatic acts of abuse. I wrote that book fairly quickly, especially those sections. I just wanted to get through it. My novel “Skin of Tattoos,” about a gang member who attempts to go straight but gets wrapped up in a rival conflict with a fellow homie, I probably downplayed the amount of violence that is normally in that type of lifestyle because I wanted my protagonist to be somewhat sympathetic.

I may have limits though. Having lived in Latin America for ten years, I am interested in narcoviolence in Mexico and other countries. It’s a topic I’d like to tackle and I think it’s an important one, but I know I’m going to have to steel myself to write about it with the level of detail required in a novel. The nature of that world is exceptionally grisly. Do I really want to go there? I haven’t decided yet. It may be too dark, even for me.

 For more about Christina, check out www.christinahoag.com 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thank you Ms. Hoag for joining me today and sharing about your two novels.

 
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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Review-Of Books and Bagpipes


I'm making my way through my TBR pile.  From the author of multiple mystery series, Country Cooking School, Farmer's Market, Dangerous Type series comes the second in a new series comes The Scottish Bookshop Mystery Series.  I reviewed the debut book in the series, The Cracked Spine (click here).   Now let's look at the critical second book.


Author: Paige Shelton

Copyright: April 2017 (Minotaur) 317 pgs

Series: 2nd in Scottish Bookshop Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery

Main Character: Delaney Nichols, Expat and new employee at The Cracked Spine

Setting: Modern, Edinburgh Scotland

Obtained Through: Personal Purchase

Cover blurb:  "Delaney Nichols has settled so comfortably into her new life in Edinburgh that she truly feels it’s become more home than her once beloved Kansas. Her job at the Cracked Spine, a bookshop that specializes in rare manuscripts as well as other sundry valuable historical objects, is everything she had dreamed, with her new boss, Edwin MacAlister, entrusting her more and more with bigger jobs. Her latest task includes a trip to Castle Doune, a castle not far out of Edinburgh, to retrieve a hard-to-find edition of an old Scottish comic, an “Oor Wullie,” in a cloak and dagger transaction that Edwin has orchestrated.

While taking in the sights of the distant Highlands from the castle’s ramparts, Delaney is startled when she spots a sandal-clad foot at the other end of the roof. Unfortunately, the foot’s owner is very much dead and, based on the William Wallace costume he’s wearing, perfectly matches the description of the man who was supposed to bring the Oor Wullie. As Delaney rushes to call off some approaching tourists and find the police, she comes across the Oor Wullie, its pages torn and fluttering around a side wall of the castle. Instinct tells her to take the pages and hide them under her jacket. It’s not until she returns to the Cracked Spine that she realizes just how complicated this story is and endeavors to untangle the tricky plot of why someone wanted this man dead, all before getting herself booked for murder."

Delaney Nichols is a few months into her transatlantic relocation.  She has made new friends and settled into her job - feeling her co-workers are members of her new family including:  her boss, Edwin MacAlister, who is still just as secretive as before, Rosie and 19-year old Hamlet.  Tom is the bartender from across the street and the romantic interest.  Elias is a cab-driver who is also Delaney's landlord.

Castle Doune is a great atmospheric location to find a body.  All of the locations in and around Edinburgh are used to great effect.  The plot is murky throughout with no clear motive and thus suspects are pure guesswork which allows for twists as the reader is along for the ride.  The only semi-clear aspect is that it all has to do with Delaney's boss and his college days with two close friends.  The pacing was maintained with ongoing clues dribbled out.  The killer reveal was tense, my favorite.  The wrapup goes through the many twists and explains the nuances. 
 

I enjoy this series and its basic premise.  Delaney is a fun main character and this book had many twists.  The motive was a surprise for me.  This is probably not a mystery you can figure out ahead since the final pieces about the motive only surface at the killer reveal.  Elias and his over-protectiveness is getting a little too much since he and his wife are just friends and landlords.  The subplot of the romance with bartender Tom is so lukewarm and without chemistry that I barely remember their interactions.  Some may appreciate the romance taking such a backseat.  I appreciate how I feel so immersed in Scotland throughout the story.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 





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Monday, April 9, 2018

Author Guest Post - Marni Graff

Please welcome Marni Graff, the award-winning author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries and The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries. I always enjoy learning more about the settings and how they are used in the story and this one has a well known location.

Setting Inspiration

Although I’ve lived in rural North Carolina for the past 21 years, I’m a native New Yorker. The allure and glitz of Manhattan is never far from my memories of my favorite nursing position years ago as a medical consultant for a movie studio, which inspired my second series, The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries.

Trudy now has that job and the first book in the series, Death Unscripted, took place on the set of soap opera filmed for the internet in the studio where I worked with the cast and crew of One Life to Live. When I decided the next mystery would revolve around Trudy’s work on a television movie, I needed a gothic building for the setting that would evoke that sense of mystery just by its very presence.

What better building to choose for Death of an Heiress than

the famed Dakota, the late 19th-century Victorian-Gothic apartment building, rumored to have its own ghost, that was the brainchild of Singer Sewing Machine magnate Edward Clark. On West 72nd and Central Park West, most people think of the Upper West Side luxury apartment building as the place where John Lennon lived and died, and in fact, Yoko Ono still lives there. With its 15-foot ceilings, elaborately carved mahogany woodwork and mantels, parquet flooring, and iron and marble staircases, there is always a waiting list for tenants. A special storage room exists for storing the original doors and fireplaces if a modern tenant wants to renovate to a contemporary design.

The Dakota’s luxurious apartments have never been empty. Lauren Bacall lived there for 53 years until her death, and it has been the home to many of the rich and famous, who include Rudolf Nureyev, the Steinway family, Rosemary Clooney, Boris Karloff, Gilda Radner, Judy Garland and Carson McCullers. Its cooperative board is even more famous for those it would not allow to live at The Dakota, such as Billy Joel, Madonna, Carly Simon, Alex Rodriquez and Cher. No reasons are given, just a rejection on those applications.

Small wonder then, that when the floor plan of what used to be the home of Leonard Bernstein came into my possession, I decided this would be the perfect setting for where Trudy’s movie would be filmed. Trudy’s assignment is ostensibly first aid for the cast and crew, but the producers want her to watch over their star, in the early stages of a difficult pregnancy. When the actress disappears near the end of shooting and the male lead is found dead in the gorgeous paneled dining room, Trudy finds herself involved in the investigations.

The Dakota was used in the filming of Rosemary’s Baby, but only the exteriors were shot there in the large courtyard and coach entrance. A sound stage had to be built that mocked up the interior of the apartment where Rosemary lived, because in reality, The Dakota won’t allow any inside filming. Of course, in Trudy’s world, they will.

Ms. Graff also writes a crime review blog at www.auntiemwrites.com. Her books can be found at www.bridlepathpress.com and on Amazon, in trade paperback, Kindle and Audible.


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 THANK You Ms. Graff for that writeup about the famous Dakota featured in your novel.

 
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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Review - Flowers and Foul Play

Amanda Flower's is the bestselling author of the Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries, Living History Museum Mysteries, India Hayes Mysteries, Magical Bookshop Mysteries (Crime and Poetry-click here, second book Prose and Cons-click here), and the new Magic Garden Mysteries.  It is the debut book of the new Magic Garden Series I'm reviewing here.

Author: Amanda Flowers

Copyright: May 2018 (Crooked Lane Books) 320 pgs

Series: 1st in Magic Garden Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery with magical touches

Main Character: Fiona Knox, recently single and jobless American in Scotland.

Setting: Modern, Duncreigan Scotland

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest opinion - Netgalley

From the cover: "Florist Fiona Knox’s life isn’t smelling so sweet these days. Her fiancĂ© left her for their cake decorator. Then, her flower shop wilted after a chain florist opened next door. So when her godfather, Ian MacCallister, leaves her a cottage in Scotland, Fiona jumps on the next plane to Edinburgh. Ian, after all, is the one who taught her to love flowers. But when Ian’s elderly caretaker Hamish MacGregor shows her to the cottage upon her arrival, she finds the once resplendent grounds of Duncreigan in a dreadful shambles―with a dead body in the garden.

Minutes into her arrival, Fiona is already being questioned by the handsome Chief Inspector Neil Craig and getting her passport seized. But it’s Craig’s fixation on Uncle Ian’s loyal caretaker, Hamish, as a prime suspect, that really makes her worried. As Fiona strolls the town, she quickly realizes there are a whole bouquet of suspects much more likely to have killed Alastair Croft, the dead lawyer who seems to have had more enemies than friends.

Now it’s up to Fiona to clear Hamish’s name before it’s too late."

Fiona Knox, still hurting from her unfaithful fiance and the closing of her florist shop, is confused and trying to do right by the memory of her Uncle Ian's legacy.  To her credit, she doesn't run from the situation before her when so many things challenge and test her.  Hamish, the rustic and down-to-earth caretaker of the property is a great character I enjoyed getting to know.  Chief Inspector Neil Craig, is the standard police love interest - but neither he nor Fiona are quick trust one another.  I like Inspector Craig's character.  There are several townspeople to  fill out the cast.  There are a few charming animal characters including a mischievous blue-eyed fox, a cat who adopts Fiona named Ivanhoe, and Hamish's companion red squirrel, Duncan, who add delightful magical touches.

Duncreigan, the property Fiona inherited is a great setting and key to the story.  The magical garden reminded me of The Secret Garden in the classic novel. The closest town and its people plus with the imposing cliffs complete the half magical and half secretive atmosphere.

The plot is wonderfully layered and kept my interest.  The killer reveal is my favorite - nice and tense.  The wrapup was complete and leaves it open for the next adventure.  The story telling is smooth and light. I enjoyed Fiona, who comes across as genuine and vulnerable yet strong.  I love the magical touches.  I appreciate that the potential romance may be a slow burn from early indications. 
 
Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 

 
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Monday, April 2, 2018

Author Guest Post - Sandra Cody

Please welcome Sandra Cody, the author of Jennie Connors series.  The Peace Morrow books are set in a picture-perfect small town just north of Philadelphia. The town, Doylestown, is real, but the the stories are totally fictitious. Much of the action takes place in a museum of antique tools and folk art. The stories center around family and examine the ways in which destiny is shaped by secrets. Peace is a young woman searching for her identity - and a history she may be better off not knowing. 

The Birth Of A New Series?
It’s funny how books come to be written. An Uncertain Path took me by surprise. In a previous book, Love and Not Destroy, I introduced Peace Morrow, a young woman who had been abandoned as an infant. Her quest to learn her history was a subplot to the main mystery in that book. By the end of the book, she knows who her biological parents are. So ... that question was answered, that goal achieved. End of story. Not quite.

Deep into my next book (part of my Jennie Connors series and totally unrelated to Peace Morrow’s story), I found myself wondering how Peace was dealing with this information. Was she happy with her discovery? Disappointed? If I didn’t write a sequel, Peace would never get to know her newly-discovered family. I felt like I was abandoning her again. I couldn’t do that. Long story short, what I thought was the end was actually a beginning. Problem was, I had no idea what was coming next. So I began what was An Uncertain Path - for both me and my protagonist.

The book is set in a real town, the town where I’ve lived for more than half my life. Part of the fun of releasing the first book was the reaction of friends and neighbors who live here. They loved reading about a fictional character walking along their streets, stopping in their favorite bookstore, or having dinner in a restaurant they know well. More to the point, I discovered they were also curious about what happened next in Peace’s life. She was real to them! There aren’t many things that make a writer as happy as that.

I also discovered that people who’d never seen my town

loved it too. They wanted to know more about it. I kept that in mind as I wrote An Uncertain Path. In fact, the name was inspired by one of our landmarks. A few yards from our library, there’s a labyrinth with a story deserving of its own novel.  Its construction was inspired by a woman grieving the loss of her beloved adopted daughter. It’s not really like the story of Peace Morrow, but certain elements of the two resonate. Yes, the labyrinth and an abbreviated version of its origin are included in the book. 

And, again, the people who live here love seeing part of their real-life history portrayed in fiction and people who live elsewhere are curious about it. My setting had become a character - in this case, a setting/character that was ready-made for me. All I had to do was pay attention to the streets I walk every day, the stores where I shop, the restaurants where I eat. These things, while not part of the plot, give texture to a story and help a reader suspend disbelief so they believe in your plot.

In case you’re curious, I’m now deep into another Jennie Connors book and wonder what’s next in Peace Morrow’s life.  Has another series been born?  AN UNCERTAIN PATH - amzn.to/2vhDkz4  


Thank You Ms. Cody for that peek into Peace Morrow's creation and evolution.  It is a compliment that a character grabs the reader's interest so much.  

Sandra's links:

Website: http://www.sandracareycody.com   
Blog: http://www.birthofanovel.wordpress.com   
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/18bIfTI
Facebook: http://on.fb.me/xfU969  
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sandracody

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Author Guest Post - Leeann Betts


Welcome author Leeann Betts to the blog.  Leeann Betts writes contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. She has released seven titles in her cozy mystery series, By the Numbers. In addition, Leeann has written a devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk, Counting the Days, and, with her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, has published two books on writing, Nuggets of Writing Gold and More Nuggets of Writing Gold, a compilation of essays, articles, and exercises on the craft. She publishes a free quarterly newsletter that includes a book review and articles on writing and books of interest to readers and writers.


Why Forensic Accounting Makes for Good Mystery

When I sat down 15 years ago to see if I had one book in me, I had no clue where to start.

And now, all this time and more than 30 books later, every time I face the blank page, it’s the same. Where to start?

I’m an avid reader of mysteries, particularly what is now known as cozy mysteries, but at the time were simply called Agatha Christie-like mysteries. If you mentioned the name “Jessica Fletcher”, and said your books were like that TV show, everybody knew exactly what you meant. Amateur sleuth, small town settings that eventually expanded into New York City and major locations around the world, and a personal reason to solve the crime—usually a friend or relative was the victim or the suspect.

That was my basis. But I wanted a main character more like—well, like me. I didn’t have any idea how a teacher thought—Jessica. Or an older woman in a hamlet in England—Miss Marple. Or a retired detective from Belgium—Hercule Poirot.

I needed someone I could relate to. That hadn’t been done to death. No pun intended.

So I went to the library, and started strolling through the children’s section on occupation. And the word Forensic jumped out at me. CSI and NCIS were hot shows at the time, so I picked it up. And that’s where I learned about Forensic Accounting. In the days when I was in college and in the business workforce, we called those guys the Auditors or the Inspectors. They came in and went through all our work to make certain we were doing it correctly. To make certain nobody was embezzling funds. To ascertain clients’ trust funds were secure.

Which opened a whole new world of possibilities for me.

Situations involving money are all over the news. Hardly a day goes by but we hear of someone stealing from a church, a business, a Girl Scout troop. And if you’re anything like me, I wonder how they managed it. How did they go undetected for so many years? What did they use the money for? Was it a one-time thing, they put it back, and hoped nobody would notice? (No Accounting for Murder). Or was it an ongoing theft to line their pockets? (There Was A Crooked Man). Perhaps gambling or other bad choices were involved. (Unbalanced) Maybe organized crime is behind the problem? (Five and Twenty Blackbirds) Identity theft? (Broke, Busted, and Disgusted) Maybe a divorce? (Hidden Assets) Or even counterfeiting? (Petty Cash)

Being a forensic accountant requires specialized training, and involves ferreting out financial information, understanding its implications, and applying that understanding to the situation. It also means preparing reports, spilling the beans on somebody, and testifying in court.

And while a lot of people think accountants are boring, Carly Turnquist is out to prove them wrong.

Just in case you think forensic accounting can’t be an exciting or important job, just remember: Al Capone was imprisoned for tax evasion by the 1930’s equivalent of a forensic accountant.

Connect with Leeann:
Website: www.LeeannBetts.com Receive a free ebook just for signing up for our quarterly newsletter.
Blog: www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com
Facebook: http://bit.ly/1pQSOqV
Twitter: http://bit.ly/1qmqvB6
Books: Amazon http://amzn.to/2dHfgCE 

Smashwords: http://bit.ly/2z5ecP8 


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Monday, March 19, 2018

Author Guest Post - Helen Starbuck

Today we have a guest post from Helen Starbuck, a fellow Coloradan and author.  She recently published her first medical mystery novel, The Mad Hatter's Son, An Annie Collins Mystery.  Please welcome her to M&MM.

The Origins of The Mad Hatter’s Son 

Copyright © 2018 Helen Starbuck, All rights reserved

The Idea for The Mad Hatter’s Son came to me years ago when I worked in the OR. We sporadically cared for a teenage girl for things like inserting a gastrostomy tube to feed her with and a central line for IV fluids (back in the days when they did that in the OR).  Her neurological symptoms were very puzzling and had increased over time until she was comatose. The ICU docs and the anesthesiologists talked about it a lot and were puzzled as to what had caused them. She had no tumor, nothing physical that they could identify for quite some time.

If I tell you what they discovered, you’ll know the plot to the book, so no spoilers here.  Needless to say the diagnosis, when it came, shocked us all. I thought at the time that it was a great plot for a novel and actually wrote several chapters, then life got in the way and I shelved it. I found it again in 2015 and still liked it so I began writing the story.

I started with the central cause for the plot, Libby’s illness and its baffling presentation, the difficulty knowing whether her illness was real or an attempt to get attention from those around her. The idea for Annie’s friendship with Libby, their estrangement, and then Libby pulling Annie back into her life to help solve what was wrong seemed ideal for the story. They are no longer close, there are hard feelings on both sides, and Annie is a very reluctant participant in Libby’s drama. It seemed key to have Annie be an OR nurse, because she is off kilter with Libby both because of the friendship issue and because doing private duty nursing and investigating what Libby’s problem is isn’t something Annie is comfortable with or has any experience with. He’s an OR nurse, that’s what she knows.

What’s funny to me is how characters and plot lines change. Originally I had Angel as a peripheral character, a neighbor, a friend, someone to bounce things off of but not a major character. Ian is the love interest. Angel, however, morphed almost immediately into someone who was in love with Annie, but she had kept him at arms length because of his history with women. He has chosen to remain friends so he doesn’t lose her by pushing the issue of his feelings toward her. The tension between his concerns for Annie and Ian’s jealously about him helped fuel the plot. The villain turned out to be someone unexpected and Libby morphed into a less sympathetic character until her death.

In the next book, I explore Annie’s journey back to normality. One of my frustrations with literature, especially mysteries, is that the hero or heroine can get seriously injured and pop back up almost immediately to save the day. I wanted Annie to be human and experience the PTSD that would accompany an experience like she had. As the series progresses, her relationship with Angel changes and their attempts to adjust to these changes and deal with each other’s failings are part of the plot.

Bonus: Interview with Helen Starbuck the Mad Hatter’s Son

Why do you write? Do you love it or love having done it? What motivates you?
I love writing and have been writing since I was in junior high school. What happens around me is a motivator and the urge to tell a story. This particular story idea came as the result of helping to care for a teenage girl with very puzzling neurological symptoms that increased in severity and which took docs a long time to figure out. I thought it would make a great mystery story. It just took me a while to get it written, and I love having done that and gotten it published.

What is your routine when you're facing your next novel?  Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?
I have a general plot idea and I admit to just writing and seeing where it goes, which means I often have to go back and re-write stuff and sometimes if I’m stuck create a murder board to figure out where the story is going. It’s weird, as I’m writing the current story, scenes come to me, not sure from where, and I write them and file them and it’s surprising how they just fit with the book I’m writing at a later point in the story or in the next book or even the following one. I realized that The Mad Hatter’s Son wasn’t finished when the book ended, which I thought it would be. The characters of Annie and Angel had become very real for me and had more to say, so I have just continued to write their story.

Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc.) before sitting down and writing?
No I’m not an outliner, which my editor would probably say is my one failing as I sometimes get off in the weeds and she has to pull me back. The story sort of spins itself and then I have to go back and reconsider things. I am getting better at planning ahead.

What do you and your character have in common? How are you different? 
Many people who know me have said Annie is me and she is in many ways, like her being an OR nurse, her humor, cynicism, and bad luck with men. She’s just braver and more persistent and bullheaded.

What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character(s) tell you about him/herself as you write?  How do you handle minor characters?
I can see my characters in my imagination, sometimes photos help and sometimes not. It’s odd that I
cannot find a photo of Annie that looks like I see her. Names just come to me and they seem to fit. The basic personalities of the characters are right there from the start, but they grow and develop as time passes, and they do tell me about themselves often in the middle of the night for some reason.
Characters who I imagined to be minor have asserted themselves and become long-term ones, like Frost, for example. I thought he’d just be a homicide detective get the case solved then disappear, but he didn’t like that idea, so he will continue through the series.


Do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write?
I write in my office or at the kitchen table. I spend probably far too much time thinking about these characters and their story and when the urge hits I sit down and often write for hours. Some days I don’t write at all.  

I have found music inspires a lot for me. Whenever I hear Santana’s Samba Pa’ Ti, I think of Angel, it just fits him, smooth, seductive, and Latino. P!nk’s Try sort of describes Annie’s relationship with men.  And Enrique Iglesias’ I Wish I Was Your Lover hits Angel’s feelings for Annie on the head, she just refuses to acknowledge it. You and I Collide by the Time Keepers makes me think of Annie’s relationship with Ian.

In literature (not your own) who is your favorite mystery/suspense character?
Boy I can’t name just one. I love Tana French’s Rob Ryan in the book In The Woods, and the character of Rebus in Ian Rankin’s series and Jimmy Perez in Anne Cleves’ series, and I like Eve Dallas in JD Robb’s In Death Series.

Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?
Tana French and Daphne DuMaurier.  French’s series about the Dublin murder squad is brilliant. I’d give my right arm to write like she does.  DuMaurier’s Rebecca and Don’t Look Now are haunting and after all these years still amazing books.

What's the one thing a reader has said that you've never forgotten and perhaps found startling? 
She said she was touched on so many levels by the book and that parts of it made her cry. I was blown away. She also recently told me she’s reading it again.

If your mysteries were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your top character's roles?
Jay or Ivan Hernandez from the show Scandal. Both come close to how I see Angel. And Annie? Boy that’s a tough one because I haven’t found any photos of her yet. Maybe Stana Katic (Kate Becket on Castle) but she’d have to be less overtly sexy. Annie is sexy, but it’s pretty low key.  Katic has the right eye and hair color.

  


Tell us about your next book in the series - or next project? What is your biggest challenge with it?
It picks up Annie’s (and Angel’s) story post Ian. She’s struggling with what happened and trying to get back to some semblance of normal. He’s struggling with not knowing how to help her. The story line is her friend comes to her wanting to talk about a rash of patient deaths, not unexpected in the population of people he’s describing, but more than you’d expect. Then Frost asks her to review charts for him because the hospital has asked the police to see if there is reason to be concerned about the deaths. The investigation helps Annie in her recovery. The biggest challenge was trying not to bore the reader with the medical stuff and come up with a villain that wasn’t too obvious.

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Thank you Ms. Starbuck for the great post and bonus interview.  


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