Monday, July 16, 2018

Rituals of the Dead

Another excellent adventure for Zelda Richardson. In Rituals of the Dead by Jennifer S. Alderson, Zelda is working for Amsterdam's Tropenmuseum as an intern in the Ethnology department and is assisting in the preparation of a large Asmat bis pole exhibition.

The bis poles were discovered warehoused in the Wereldmuseum's building and had remained unopened since they were shipped from Dutch New Guinea in 1963. The Asmat region of Papua is also where a famous American anthropologist disappeared in 1962.

When Nicholas Mayfield's journal is found inside one of the bis poles, the museum is eager to transcribe it and discover what possibly happened to him. Museum director Albert Schenk is adamant that the journal cannot be included in the exhibit. He calls Mayfield a second-rate anthropologist.

Zelda wonders why there is such animosity toward Mayfield as Schenk worked as a translator with him during his time in New Guinea. More conflict arises as Victor Nalong, the official representative for the government of Papua, has been breathing down the necks of the staff at the museum for repatriation of the artifacts and bones also discovered mixed into the crates. 
The scene switches from current day to the 1960s when Nick Mayfield and his colleagues were working in New Guinea. Murder and intrigue make this an exciting peek into the world of museums and the artifacts they contain.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Custom Baked Murder

When a murder occurs at her mother’s engagement party, Kristan "Stan" Connor already has her hands full trying to open her organic pet bakery. In Custom Baked Murder by Liz Mugavero, Stan needs to figure out who killed an old work rival.

First, Stan is surprised to see so many of her former co-workers at the engagement party and second, her ex-boyfriend Richard and his new girlfriend are in attendance. When Stan's sister Caitlyn finds the body of her former co-worker Eleanor in the master bedroom, she is shocked to see her mother's gigantic engagement ring in her mouth. 

Caught in the midst of this emotional turmoil is Eleanor's young adult daughter Monica who appears to be either drunk or on drugs. 
The person who is not present is her mother’s fiancĂ©, the mayor of Frogs Ledge. When he does turn up, he isn’t very forthcoming and cannot explain why he was late to his own engagement party. 

Eleanor has been hired to be a PR coordinator for Mayor Tony Falco, but why would a newly-elected local mayor need a campaign coordinator? Stan has always felt there was something secretive about Tony, but now she needs to dig into his past. 

Stan's life is complicated enough with trying to open the bakery, but her mother wants her to investigate and micro manage the design of the bakery. Jake, her boyfriend, takes it all in stride and tries to keep thing sunder control on the home front. When Richard is arrested for the murder, Stan knows, even though they parted on acrimonious terms, he is not a killer. 

Through it all, Stan is trying to design her bakery and keep her mother from driving her crazy. The opening day is inching nearer and there are so many details to complete, but first she needs to clear Richard and find the killer.  

A fun mystery with some dog great recipes I might have to try for my buddy Beau.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Baking Dog Treats with Beau

Beau, his Mom and I baked dog treats from Custom Baked Murder by Liz Mugavero. As you can see Beau was a big help. Making the Parmesan cheese bones (left) and rolling the blueberry biscuits.

Enter to win Liz Mugavero's Custom Baked Murder and the cookie cutters you need to make the bones .


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Interview with V.M. Burns

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What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
I write three mystery series. There are two books out in the Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series. The Plot is Murder and Read Herring Hunt. The third book in this series, The Novel Art of Murder will release in November. On July 1st the first book in my RJ Franklin Mystery series, Travellin’ Shoes will release. I also have an eBook only Dog Club Mystery series. The first book in that series, In the Dog House, will release on August 21st.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
The character and the location for this series came from my own life. At the time that I started writing the Mystery Bookshop Mystery series I was living on the shores of Lake Michigan in Southwestern Michigan. The protagonist in this series, Samantha Washington, dreams of one day owning a mystery bookstore and writing British historic cozy mysteries. That is also my dream. I don’t own a mystery bookstore (yet), but I can live out both of those dreams through my characters.

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening?
I don’t know if my day is typical of most authors, because I still work a full-time job. Although I’ve heard most authors have a full-time job or a spouse to provide a steady income and insurance. I’m not a morning person so I don’t write in the mornings (even when I don’t have to go to work). My writing begins when I get home from work. I try to look at writing like a second job, because it is my second job. I set a weekly goal of writing 7,500-10,000 words per week. I’ve found looking at my word count from a weekly rather than daily view helps me not stress too much if I have a slow day or if I miss a day during the week. I know I can always make up missed days on the weekend. The weekly goal equates to 1,000-1,500 words per day so that’s the target. I write the first draft quickly and then go back and fix plot holes, add clues and red herrings during the revision process. When I write, I don’t worry about making it perfect. My goal is to get the words on the page. Everything can be fixed during edits and revisions, but you can’t edit a blank page. So I focus on getting the words onto the page and telling the story.

Do you belong to a writers group or are you in touch with other writers? How does that help your writing?
I got my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA. One of the best things about that program was the fantastic community of writers I had the pleasure to meet. Through the wonders of social media I can have as much or as little contact as I want or need. Whether it’s participating in daily writing sprints or critique groups, I can choose the level of interaction I need at the time. Most times, my interactions are limited to posting or responding to questions. There are doctors, lawyers, police officers, martial arts gurus as well as military and FBI agents in the program. It’s wonderful to have access to experts who can help answer questions and provide information as needed. One of the alums from the program lives nearby, and we often get together for writing sessions. I’ve also been fortunate to have connected with other writers that I chat with on a regular basis.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
My characters share a lot of my same dreams, fears and aspirations. Samantha Washington dreamed of owning a mystery bookstore and writing British historic cozies. That’s also my dream. She has one older sister and her sister has two children. We share all of those things in common. RJ Franklin from my RJ Franklin Mystery series was born and raised in the church in northwestern Indiana, which is the same as my own background. Both, Samantha Washington from the Mystery Bookshop series and the protagonist from my Dog Club Mystery series, Lillie Echosby, own dogs, poodles to be specific. I own two poodles. So, there’s a lot of me in all of my protagonists.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
I would love to see Tyler Perry or Will Smith as RJ Franklin. I would cast Halle Barry as Lillie Echosby because…well, its Halle Berry. Samantha Washington is harder for me to cast. I never describe her race because I want readers to imagine her however they want. However, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is the right age. Although, I’m guessing she’s a bit busy right now,

Who is your favorite author?
I have a lot of favorite authors, but if I had to limit to one, I’d say Agatha Christie. She is the reason that I fell in love with cozy mysteries in the first place and I have a great deal of respect for her books. If I can include more than one, I would include Rex Stout, Victoria Thompson, Patricia Wentworth, Dorothy Gilman and Jane Austen.

How do you keep track of character details from book to book so they are consistent?
One of the things my agent requires is a character list and a timeline. This has been invaluable and I keep a character list for each book which includes details about the characters.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
If I couldn’t be an author, my dream job would be to work at a bookstore so I could be surrounded by books and hopefully get a discount.

Watch for a review of Read Herring Hunt on Thursday, July 12 on

Monday, July 9, 2018

Death Over Easy

Whenever I read the Country Store Mysteries by Maddie Day (aka Edith Maxwell) I know I'd better have eaten breakfast. Robbie's country store and cafe, Pans ‘N Pancakes, in South Lick, Indiana, delivers mouthwatering meals. In Death Over Easy the annual Bill Monroe Bluegrass Festival in neighboring Beanblossom is always a hit for Robbie’s cafĂ©. (Death Over Easy will be published on July 31.)

This year Robbie has converted the three bedrooms above her store to B&B rooms hoping to add another revenue stream to her business. Little does she know how many problems that will create. Her first guests include some of the performers and her father Roberto and his wife Maria, visiting from Italy. 

Robbie's boyfriend, Abe, plays in a band with a woman named Pia who has stirred up trouble right from the start. She gets into a very visible argument with Abe as well as an altercation with Sue, the festival organizer. It seems Pia, although and excellent musician. is not that popular.

When Pia is found strangled in the small covered bridge in an unincorporated area outside town, the
sheriff's department handles the case. Although Robbie's police officer friend Buck has been asked to be part of the investigation, she isn't really included, but that doesn't necessarily stop her.

Robbine finds Pia was not that nice a person and she also discovers her stepmother knew Pia in Italy. That puts her father and his wife into the frame. Robbie diligently seeks to keep them safe and find the killer.

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The Corpse at the Crystal Palace

A day at the famed London Crystal Palace turns into a nightmare for Daisy Dalrymple and her children's nanny in The Corpse at the Crystal Palace by Carola Dunn. With teen cousins visiting, Daisy decides to take her step-daughter Belinda and her twins for an outing. Of course, Nanny Gilpin comes along to mind the twins.

When Nanny leaves the twins with her assistant and mysteriously starts following another Nanny, the teens follow along. They briefly lose sight of her as they track her on the grounds of the Crystal Palace. But when they spot her again, Nanny Gilpin is floating in a fountain and they pull her out to save her life.

In the meantime Daisy heads to the ladies room and stumbles across a body, also dressed as a Nanny. Fortunately for her, ex-detective sergeant Tom Tring is with them on the excursion and immediately notifies the police.

When the police discover the Nanny found dead was a man, Daisy
is determined to investigate, but is stymied by her husband Detective Inspector Alec Fletcher. To complicate matters, Nanny Gilpin doesn't remember anything about her wanderings or the dip into the fountain, and could possibly not ever remember what happened.

Frustrated Daisy enlists the aid of her friend Sakari Prasad to pursue their own investigation. Daisy has a vague feeling she knows the victim, but can't place how she knows him. Enlisting her aristocratic contacts she starts to track down an unsavory story about the victim.

Another excellent adventure for Daisy and friends.

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Friday, July 6, 2018

Shelved Under Murder

It's Heritage Festival time in Taylorsford, Virginia, and library director Amy Webber is in the swing of setting up the arts and crafts festival. In Shelved Under Murder by Victoria Gilbert, Amy, her boyfriend Richard and her assistant Sunny are trying to accommodate the demands of the Friends board president Melody Riley and include some fine art in the festival.

As much as she would like include paintings by her late uncle's artwork, but she knows her aunt Lydia would never part with any. Throughout his life her uncle struggled to sell his paintings and Lydia still holds an idealized vision of his ability.

Instead of her uncle's painting, they are able to acquire two paintings from an internationally-known local artist Rachel LeBlanc. Amy and Sunny head to her studio to pick up the donated paintings and discover Rachel stabbed to death with her own palette knife.

As the police are searching the studio they find a cache of paintings, some resembling well-known masterpieces, but obviously forged. When chief deputy Brad Tucker asks Amy to use her art history knowledge to investigate the painting. It's seems clear that Rachel would not need to forge paintings because she was highly successful, but as Amy investigates, she finds her uncle might have been involved. Amy knows this would devastate her aunt Lydia so she treads softly.

There are plenty of other suspects including an unscrupulous art dealer, the husband of the murdered artist, the Friends president and several others. A fun and fast-paced mystery.

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Souffle of Suspicion

It's Crush Week in Nouvelle Via in the Napa Valley and tourists are flocking in to Maison Rousseau and the Bistro. In A Souffle of Suspicion by Daryl Wood Gerber, the week-long Sweet Treats Festival is about to begin and the kitchen is busy.

Chef Camille or Chef C as she likes to be called, is hard at work  in the kitchen and her sister Renee is heavily involved in the festival. Two altercations first, with Renee and the former festival planner Allie and second, with Renee's husband Rusty occur before the festival begins. Both are angry with Renee about the festival and the tension rise.

When Chef C returns home and finds her sister dead on the floor of the chef's house, Mimi swoops in the try to solve the murder. With her fledgling business growing slowly, an incident like a murder could have a damaging impact on business. Trying to return Chef C to Maison Rousseau's kitchen and find the killer are vitally important.

Although Renee left her husband Rusty Wells, a local chicken and egg farmer, he insists he is still in love with Renee, even though she left him.
The other person looking like a suspect is Allie O'Malley, the former festival coordinator. Renee had big plans for the festival and her social media interactions were encouraging many more people to attend. Allie was angry and claims she had been cheated out of the event.

While Mimi investigates, Rusty slips into the role of festival organizer and appears to be doing a great job. Against her better judgment, Mimi hires Allie to help in the kitchen, still unsure who killed Renee and why.

Another entertaining mystery with loads of terrific recipes from Maison Rousseau. I made the Poulet Dijonaise and it was so wonderful, we forgot to take a picture until after we had eaten the entire meal (as you can see by the photo).

A Souffle of Suspicion will be released on July 10.

Purchase link 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy 4th of July

Happy Fourth of July and remember what one of the Founding Fathers said, "I'm just like my country, I'm young, scrappy and hungry and I am not throwing away my shot. . ." Oh wait that was Lin-Manuel Miranda as Hamilton.

Any way I had the opportunity to go back to my hometown New York last month and I meandered up to Harlem to visit The Grange, Hamilton's home, which is a National Historic Landmark. When I was in the building this cute little book entitled Where Was The Room Where It Happened by B.L. Barreras jumped out at me.

It is filled with points of interest historically relevant and mentioned in the musical. Of course the most famous is The Room Where It Happened. Jefferson claimed "He arranged the meeting, the venue, the seating" at his residence on 57 Maiden Lane in NYC. Hamilton wanted to convince Jefferson and James Madison to support his plan for the federal government to assume states debts in exchange for the relocation of the capital to the Potomac. He got what he wanted and he proceeded to form the beginnings of the Federal Reserve Bank.

The actual 57 Maiden Lane building doesn't exist any more, but you can see a plaque on 59 Maiden Lane commemorating Jefferson's residence.

There are lots of points of historical interest and some walking itineraries. Where Was the Room Where it Happened is a wonderful tie-in between Hamilton as the man and Hamilton, the musical.

Happy 4th of July to everyone.