Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Potawatomi Indians in Illinois

Cora Tozi and Frannie Berkowitz love nothing more than to be immersed in historical research in their home town of Lemont, Illinois. In Pat Camalliere's The Mystery at Black Partridge Woods they are right in their element, When they meet Potawatomi Indian and Argonne Lab scientist Nikan Pokagon, their quest begins.

Nick has discovered a diary of his ancestor Wawetseka and he wants to write a book about her life. Her diary contains her efforts to clear her son of murder in the early 1800s. Torn between writing a nonfiction account of the Potawatomi in llinois in those days or turning the diary into mystery fiction, he seeks out Cora and Frannie to help with the writing and research.

The journal is difficult to read but the story follows Wawetseka's discovery of a mutilated dead white man. Before long the evidence builds up against her son Nagmo. First he is missing from a hunt for several days, second his tomahawk is found with blood on it and lastly in his
medicine pouch, a gold ring from the dead man is found. What caused Nagmo to commit this crime? Did the dead man attack Nagmo's wife? Wawetseka does not believe her son is guilty and embarks are a dangerous journey to clear his name.

The journey is arduous and life threatening but Wawetseka perseveres because she needs to prove her son is innocent so he will not be subject to the white man's punishment. Back in the present day Cora and her husband are attacked. Could there be a connection between their research with the diary and the attack? Clare, Frannie and Nick eventually unravel the connection in a dangerous confrontation.

Pat Camalliere knows her history and has thoroughly researched this story. For local history lovers The Mystery at Black Partridge Woods is right up their alley.

Do you want to hold this book in your hands? Click here for that!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Chicago in the 30s

Henrietta Von Harmon is young and desperately trying to help her widowed mother raise nine children in the 1930s. A Girl Like You, written by Michelle Cox, captures the difficult times Americans faced after the Depression.

To earn money, 17 she works as a 26 Girl at Poor Pete's, then she decides she can make more money as a taxi dancer at the Promenade. Although she knows her mother would be angry about her job, she takes it anyway and pretends to be working the third shift at the electric factory.

Taxi dancers are pretty girls who dance with men who come to the ballroom. The matron, Mama Leone, runs a tight ship so there is no hanky panky unless she gets a cut. Henrietta doesn't have any desire to be involved with that so she just dances and flirts with the men, encouraging them to buy drinks. One evening Henrietta meets a handsome, aloof man who asks her many questions. She is sure he is a cop, but he just laughs.

The next night Henrietta learns Mama Leone has been stabbed to death and who should be
investigating, but her dancing partner. He is Inspector Clive Howard and he tells her the Promenade is closed. Panicked by this news Henrietta is determined to find another job, when Inspector Howard asks her to work undercover for the police at a more unsavory club, The Marlowe. Not sure she wants to be that adventuresome, Henrietta decides to audition as an usherette at the Club and gets the job.

Throughout the book there is a strong sense of foreboding and the reader fears for Henrietta, especially as she blindly decides she want to be a"white feather" girl without really know what the game is.

This is the first in the series by Michelle Cox and I hope the next book is as exciting.

Do you want to hold this book in your hands or in your e-reader?  Click here for that!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Advice Can be Murder

Roberta Isleib's Deadly Advice introduces Dr. Rebecca Butterman to a frightening and dangerous lifestyle. Dr. Butterman is a clinical psychologist, but somehow has been talked into writing an "Ask Dr. Aster" advice column for Bloom!, an online magazine.

When her next door neighbor is found dead, an apparent suicide, Rebecca feels she should have made more of an effort to get to know Madeline. After she meets Madeline's mother, Rebecca inherits a cat and a case. Isabel Stanton is not convinced her daughter killed herself, especially after finding a portion of her diary. She asks Rebecca to search through her daughter's apartment to find more clues to Madeline's true state of mind. Rebecca finds mentions in the diary of something called Fast Connections, a speed dating service.

In the meantime the online magazine editor decides to send Rebecca on a road test of the singles scene. Newly divorced and not sure what her next step to meeting eligible men is, she resists efforts by her mother, naturally. Now with the assignment to try speed dating, Rebecca has no choice but to take the plunge. She decides to use Fast Connections and combine her story research with her investigation of Madeline's death.

What she discovers is the dark, dangerous life of her seemingly quiet neighbor. Author Roberta Isleib, herself a clinical psychology, handles Rebecca's pursuit beautifully. Clue after clue piles up leading Rebecca into the frightening quest for the truth and putting herself in jeopardy. The terrifying ending will leave you chilled.

I enjoyed this book and look forward to others in the series. Many of you might know Roberta as Lucy Burdette, the author of the Key West mysteries. Check out my review of a Key West mystery here. The Dr. Butterman series has a totally different vibe to it, but it is as enjoyable as the Key West series.

Do you want to hold this book in your hands or in your e-reader?  Click here for that!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Murder on the Campus

At long last I have found a mystery set in South Dakota, Copper Bluff to be exact. An Act of Murder, written by Mary Angela, features college professor Emmeline Prather. When a Emmeline returns for the new semester, she is excited about her students and her English classes.

One evening Emmeline overhears a threatening conversation with a woman and a man, and she worries about the final comment, "I could make your life a living hell, and you know it." The next day she meets one of her new students, Austin Oliver, a young man from a nearby farm, and she recognizes his voice as one she heard the night before. Still unsure who the woman was, Emmeline decides to throw herself into the new semester and forget about the conversation.

A few days later Austin Oliver is found dead in the theater building. What could cause a seemingly healthy young man to die suddenly? The police begin to investigate and refuse to discuss whether Austin was murdered or died accidentally. Because Austin was one of her students, Em feels an overwhelming need to find out what happened to him.

She enlists the aid of her fellow English professor Lenny Jenkins and they comb the campus looking for clues. The campus abounds with suspects: the fraternity boys in her class, the young actress in the play, her jealous hot-headed boyfriend, the theater director and even some of the faculty.

When Em's apartment is broken into, Em thinks she is moving closer to finding the killer. With Lenny sticking closer to her side, Em continues her search with surprising results.

This is the first in a series and I look forward to the next in the series. Emmeline is a interesting character teaching English, but loving everything French. I feel there might be a relationship growing between Em and Lenny. Stay tuned.

Special thanks to Lori Rader-Day for pointing me in the direction of South Dakota.

Click here to get a hold of the book.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Corpse on the Front Porch

Francesca Amaro returns home to Cape Bay, Massachusett, after the death of her mother in Harper Lin's Cappuccinos, Cupcakes and a Corpse. Returning to Antonia's Italian Cafe was never in her plans while she lived in New York, but with the death of her mother, Francesca knows there is no one else to run the cafe that has been in her family for three generations.

On a shortcut to her home from her coffee shop, Francesca discovers Mr. Cardosi, a neighbor and the father of her school friend Matt, dead on his front porch. At first she and the police think he died of natural causes, but when the autopsy shows he died from poisoning, she and Matt are bewildered by the results.
Once it is clear he was murdered Francesca and Matt search for the killer sometimes in the wrong direction, but determined as ever.

Mr. Cardosi was the owner of the local barbershop, but he was always arguing with people and he would ban customers from his shop on a regular basis. Even with his grumpiness, there did not seem to be any reason to poison him. When Francesca and Matt discover he had a girlfriend, the light of suspicion falls on her.

 I enjoyed the relationship between Francesca and Matt. Helping each other solve the murder of his father, they renewed their friendship. The mystery is solved a little too quickly I felt. Almost as if a certain number of words had been written and it was time to wrap it up. Other than that, I enjoyed the book.

The next book in the series is Tea, Tiramisu and Tough Guys. You can find it by clicking here.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Dirty Jobs

Samantha Sweet has dreams of opening her own shop called Sweet's Sweets, but until she saves enough money, she is dedicated to be breaking into houses. Legally, that is, as she is a caretaker for the USDA. This means she cleans inside the empty foreclosed houses, tends to the gardens and mows the lawns. In Connie Shelton's Sweet Masterpiece, Samantha gets more than she for bargained for.

When she finds a old woman dying in one of the homes, the woman gives her a small wooden box and says the box has special powers. Rumor has it Bertha Martinez was a witch. Samantha calls 911, but the ambulance arrives after the woman dies.

At her next home as Samantha is mowing the lawn, she finds a fairly new grave in the middle of the lawn. Once again Samantha is in touch with 911 operators. The owner of record, Riley Anderson, had abandoned the house six months ago. Who could be buried in the grave?

With her second visit from the good looking Deputy Beau Caldwell, Samantha realizes her schedule
is shot. Not only isn't she able to finish cleaning the two properties, but she is behind in her baking. Beau asks her to go through the second house and try to find bank statements, bills, checks, anything that might let the police know more about Mr. Anderson and the other person who lived in his house.

As she is cleaning the closet she finds a box with brushes and paints, but the real surprise is the mural painted in the corner of the closet. At the lower right of the painting is the signature Pierre Cantone, the famous artist. Was Mr. Anderson copying Cantone's work? Samantha calls on her art expert friend Rupert to help solve the mystery.

When the mural turns out to be the real thing from Cantone, everyone is puzzled as to how that would happen. Between baking wedding cake layers and goodies for the local chapter of Chocoholics Unanimous, Sam tries to figure out what brought Cantone to Taos and where he might be now.

Missing paintings, a long-lost nephew and no will complicate the mystery. I enjoyed this book and would never in a million years want Samantha's USDA job. Looking forward to the next book in the series.

Find the next book in the series by clicking here

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Interview with Diane Vallere

Interview with Diane Vallere

How many books have you published?

Under what names do you publish? 
Diane Vallere

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go? 
I write as I go, very little (read: no) plotting!

How do you promote your books? 
Depending on the series, I do different things. I tend to do bookstore events to support my Costume Shop and Material Witness series and more online promotion for Madison Night and Samantha Kidd. I always try to attend conferences close to when I have a new book out, and I send newsletters 1-2 times a month to keep in touch with readers. I just did my first book club on Facebook and liked it, so I'm going to do that for future books. 

How do you keep continuity on backstory? For example I read a book recently where the lead character said she had three brothers, several books later, she was an only child. 
This is tricky. I usually rely on my memory, but if I'm in doubt, I do  pull up the manuscript and check the details. My editors have saved me a few times, though. 

Who is your favorite author?
I really don't think I can pick one favorite author, but I can say that Judy Blume's books had a very major impact on me, as did mysteries like Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew. Now I enjoy Janet Evanovich, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Brad Parks, and Lawrence Block. 

Do you write with pen and paper or a computer? 
90% on the computer and 10% on paper and pen. I tend to turn to paper and pen when I get stuck. Somehow it shakes something loose in my brain, plus I'm able to let go a little more when I write longhand because it doesn't feel so permanent. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

We Sisters Three

Three kooky sisters raised by hippie parents naturally have names like Rosemary, Sage and Thyme. Melissa F. Miller shares their separate stories although they do overlap a bit. In Rosemary's Gravy, Rosemary Field is a trained chef, but she finds herself preparing organic and vegan meals for Hollywood diva Amber Patrick and her family. When the actress dies of anaphylactic shock, all eyes turn to the meal Rosemary prepared.

When nuts are found in a trash can, the police think Rosemary poisoned the gravy, but there are plenty of suspects to go around - Amber's rich and belligerent husband, his playboy son, the handsome race car driver from next door and others. While Rosemary tries to untangle herself from the murder, she tangles herself up with the playboy son Felix. Enter Detective Dave Drummond who has his eye on Rosemary for more than suspicion of murder.
Book two in the series takes the reader to the East Coast and the adventures of Sage Field. She is an attachment parenting consultant, or nanny, to the children of a professional golfer Chip Moore on Hilton Head Island.

When another professional golfer named Fred Spears is found dead in the clubhouse locker room with Chip's eight iron nearby, Chip becomes a suspect. Trying to help clear his name before his golf endorsements dry up along with her job, Sage and caddy Roman Lyman set out to find the murderer.

When Sage discovers Fred's ledger book filled with dates and dollar figures, she thinks there's blackmail behind the murder. But she finds Chip's name in the book, and it appears that maybe he is guilty of murder.

Both of these books are quick reads and I enjoyed them. I look forward to reading the third in the series Thyme to Live.

Find these and other books by Melissa F. Miller by clicking here. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Good Hearted Criminal

I am new to this series by Tonya Kappes so I was anxious to read it. Checkered Crimes features a smart, sassy character with a checkered past for her short 22 years of life. Laurel London was raised in an orphanage in Walnut Grove, Kentucky. Her youth was spend hacking into bank accounts to purchase gifts for the other orphans and along with various and sundry other petty crimes. Needless to say she is not the first person anyone thinks of when there is a job available. 

Now she is back in Kentucky and hoping to prove to the citizens of Walnut Grove that she is a changed person. sales job at Porty Morty's port-a-let business, Laurel has taken to Lunch Date Dot Com to cadge free lunches from men looking for dates.

When Trigger Finger Tony Cardozza mistakes her yellow car for a cab, he hires Laurel to drive him from the airport hotel to Walnut Grove several times in a week. After he drops wads of cash on her front seat to pay her, Laurel figures she an be a taxi drier for a while. When another customer jumps in the back seat after Tony leaves the car, Laurel is stunned to discover her new passenger is an FBI
agent named Jax Jackson.

Before long Laurel has two jobs - driving a mobster around and  working undercover for the FBI. What could go wrong?

I'm happy to have stumbled on this series and I look forward to the other books. Laurel is a charming, wayward woman and she really does have a heart of gold. The resolution of this book leads to much speculation as to what the next books entail. Can't wait.  

To see what other books this prolific author has written, click here.  


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wisteria Tearoom Mysteries

Ellen Rosing has expended much hard work to open her Wisteria Tearoom in A Fatal Twist of Lemon by Patrice Greenwood, but a sudden death throws the Thank You tea party into turmoil. Ellen finds Sylvia Carruthers sprawled on the floor with a huge lemon agate necklace tightly wrapped around her throat.

It's obvious Sylvia is dead, but who could have killed her. Only Thank You guests and staff were in the tearoom. Enter Detective Antonio Aragon, a police officer with a chip on his shoulder and plenty of suspicion about the murder. Would his investigation disrupt her Grand Opening?

With concerns that the murder will put a damper on attendance at the Grand Opening and on other days, Ellen decides to do an interview with a local TV station. Naturally the publicity doesn't hurt her business, but it still doesn't answer the question of who killed Sylvia and why? Was her death related to her position as president of the Santa Fe Preservation Trust? Is someone selling historic property without the
approval of the Preservation Trust?

Ellen also wonders what the issue is with Detective Aragon, or "Detective Arrogant", as she has taken to calling him. Why is so hostile to Ellen? Adding to her worries, Ellen notices strange lights on in the tearoom and dancing crystal chandeliers. Is there any truth to the rumor that the house is haunted by Captain Dusenberry's ghost or is someone trying to prank her?  She knows no ghost killed Sylvia, but she is no closer to solving the case or the mystery of Tony Aragon's dislike for her.

When Ellen finds B&B owner Katie under the dining room table where the murder took place, she is concerned and worried that Katie might be guilty. Katie claims to be looking for her earring, but is she looking for something that might incriminate her in the murder?

Too many suspects and not enough evidence leaves Ellen frustrated and at odds with Aragon. When the finally put their heads together, they are able to discover a motive and solve the case.

I enjoyed this book as I am a huge fan of tearoom mysteries. I hope there are others planned for this series. There are in fact others. Click here to see them.