Friday, August 30, 2019

A Golden Grave

Rose Gallagher never dreamed a girl from the Five Points area of New York City would be learning to throw a man over her shoulder using jujitsu. In A Golden Grave by Erin Lindsey, Rose has joined a special branch of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency dealing with paranormal activities. Not everyone is thrilled to have her on board. (A Golden Grave will be released on September 17 by Minotaur Books.)

When young upstart Theodore Roosevelt is unexpectedly nominated for mayor of New York City at a Republican convention, Rose discovers six delegates were murdered at the convention. Worse yet, the police have no idea how they died. There was no trace of violence or illness on the bodies.

What worries Rose is that the next target could be Roosevelt himself. Not one to back down in a crisis, Roosevelt refuses to reduce his campaign events and makes it difficult for the Pinkertons to protect him.

Hunting down a killer with powers she and her partner Thomas Wilshire have never encountered before leads to the brownstones of the rich and powerful, into the Bowery saloons and to a gala campaign dinner. On the way, they seek help from Nikolai Tesla, the mad electrical genius; Samuel Clemens; and the Statue of Liberty.

Rose is struggling with her new role; not two years ago she was a maid in the Wilshire household,. Now she is attending formal dinners with the richest of the rich. Not comfortable in either the society world or the Five Points world, Rose also struggles with her growing feelings for Thomas. She's concerned they will interfere with the job she is growing to love.

If you want to know how Samuel Clemens, Nikolai Tesla and the new Statue of Liberty figure into the solution of the mystery, you'll have to read A Golden Grave. An excellent addition to the Rose Gallagher mysteries.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Judge Thee Not

Rose Carroll's marriage plans are moving at a glacial pace, but the midwife has several patients that can take her mind off her upcoming (she hopes) marriage. In Judge Thee Not by Edith Maxwell, among Rose's patients is the very young second wife of the local banker Irvin Barclay. (Judge Thee Not will be released by Beyond the Page Publishing on September 10.)

The trouble begins with one of Rose's close friends. This friends leads an unconventional lifestyle and there are some in the community who speak boldly about her in negative terms. Bertie Winslow, the postmistress, cohabitates with another woman and tongues are wagging, especially from the mean-spirited and very judgmental Mrs. Mayme Settle. With no room to judge others, rumor has it her son impregnated the gardener's daughter and abandoned her, She died in childbirth, but her child survived, and then there's her own unmarried daughter, who lives across the state far away from home  Mrs. Settle is especially rude to Jeanette Papka, who although blind, speaks several languages and works as a translater in the courts.

Despite having misgivings, Rose agrees to join the evening Ladies Circle being held at Mrs. Settle's home. The Circle was supposed to be knitting blankets for the Alms Farm, but when Rose arrives no one is knitting and everyone is enjoying tea and nibbling dainty sweets. There she watches Mrs. Settle humiliate her husband over a minor interruption in front of everyone.

The next day Mrs Settle is find dead in her bed under suspicious circumstances. While Rose's friend Detective Donovan is called in investigate, Mr. Barclay conveniently places Bertie near the home of Mrs. Settle the night she died.

Rose knows Bertie didn't kill Mrs. Settle and she hopes she can help Detective Donovan prove she didn't. There are plenty of other suspects, but Rose has too many pregnant women to deal with to do much investigating.

Another terrific Quaker Midwife Mystery. I am so happy Beyond the Page Publishing picked up this series and plans to continue it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Fall Gardening Tips

By Sally Handley

August is not too early to begin making a To-Do List of gardening chores for the Fall. Whether you have a small -raised bed, a large vegetable patch, or just a few flower beds, there’s lots you can do to either extend your gardening season or prepare your gardens for next year.

If you love a tidy garden, you may be tempted to deadhead or cut back all your dead or dying
Photo 1
flowers. Before you do that, you might want to consider leaving a few stalks standing for the birds to feast on, especially your monarda, zinnias and coneflowers. You really don’t need fancy bird feeders to attract hummingbirds, goldfinches and cardinals to your garden. If you didn’t include those flowers in your garden this year you might want to put them on your Spring To-Do list. And, oh yes, do clip a few dead heads and save them in paper envelopes or glass jars for your Spring plantings. My experience, especially with zinnias, is to just spread the dead heads, cover them with a bit of soil and then get out of the way.

Photo 2
Fall is the best time to start your compost pile. If you’ve been buying compost and you’ve never tried to compost yourself, I highly recommend you give it a try. If you think you don’t have the room, think again. I moved from New Jersey , where I had a big yard, to a condo in South Carolina, where I have only foundation flower beds, and I still compost. I use the Geobin (photo 1), which you can buy on-line. I love this composter because in the Summer, I reduce it to its smallest size and hide it behind a tomato plant. In the Fall after I clean up all the dead plants, I increase the bin to its largest size and include leaves I steal from the piles the landscapers make on their weekly rounds. All Winter I add coffee grounds, egg shells, vegetable peels, etc. and I sprinkle some lime on top occasionally to assist in the composting process. Compost is gardener’s gold. You’ll thank me next Spring.

Photo 3
While Fall signals an end to the growing season, it also is a great time for new beginnings. September and October are the perfect time to get a few crocuses, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths into your flower beds. I always regard planting bulbs as an act of faith. But again, I promise you, you’ll thank me next Spring.

But you don’t need to wait until then. Now is also the perfect time to start some of those cold-weather-loving plants like lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli. You can start them indoors now and put into the ground you clear next month for a lovely Thanksgiving harvest.

If you don’t feel up to Fall planting, you can instead start planning next year’s garden. Assess what worked and didn’t work this year and make some notes. And if you think you have to keep your flower beds and vegetable gardens separate, think again. Above you see my garden bed where marigolds are great companion plants that will keep the aphids away from your tomato plants (Photo 2). Dahlias and black-eyed Susans grow quite happily below a Butternut Squash Vine that has taken over my trellises (Photo 3)

Photo 4
I’ll be enjoying the squash all Winter, long after the flowers are gone. And some vegetables produce beautiful flowers, too. See those yellow flowers (Photo 4)? Those are the flowers of my okra plants!

My gardening sleuths, Holly and Ivy Donnelly, and I wish you a awesome Autumn and a bountiful Spring!

For a review of Full Bloom click here. 

About the Author

President of the Upstate South Carolina Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Sally Handley is author of the Holly and Ivy cozy mystery series. Sally’s sleuths are middle-aged, sisters who love to garden. A resident of Mauldin, SC, Sally devotes her time to writing cozy mysteries and gardening and also writes a blog “On Writing, Reading and Retirement” at

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Satapur Moonstone

Palace intrigue at its height in The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey. Parsi lawyer Perveen Mistry, the only female lawyer in Indian, is sent to the state of Satapur to try to settle a dispute between the dowager maharani and her daughter-in-law.

With the death of maharaja two years before and the death of the teenaged heir apparent, Satapur's next maharaja is a 10-year-old. His mother wants him educated in England; his grandmother wants him to stay at home. Perveen is sent because the women follow purdah and do not speak to men.

As Perveen sets off to the remote kingdom, she first arrives at the British circuit house of the Kolapur Agency, the overseer of the princely and feudal states in Western India. There she learns the British Colin Sandringham had tried to visit the palace, but had been unsuccessful and she learns something about the history of the royal family.

His Majesty Mahendra Rao died from cholera, but there is some
question about how his son died. Maharaja Pratap Rao was thirteen and on a hunting expedition with his uncle Prince Swaroop when he became lost in the woods and was mauled by a wild animal. Now the second son Jiva Rao is the target of a tug of war between his grandmother and his mother and possibly a murder plot.

Perveen hopes to reason with the women and come to a mutual agreement, but once she arrives at the palace, she realizes it will be more difficult to resolve the education situation than she had thought. The animosity between the women crackles with electricity and their respective "camps" are at suspicious of each other and will barely listen to what Perveen has to say.

The richness of Indian culture - warts and all - is splendidly described in this excellent novel.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Full Bloom

Holly and Ivy Donnelly travel to Catskills in New York to visit Kate Farmer when they find themselves involved in a murder. In Full Bloom (A Holly and Ivy Mystery) by Sally Handley, no sooner do they unpack their bags when they discover the body of Kate's next door neighbor Chuck.

It seems someone put an axe into his back and left him for dead. Kate's next door neighbor Chuck has been murdered and the sisters decide they will try to solve the case. But there is more to this murder then meets the eye.

There have been a rash of burglaries in town and the officious Sheriff Cyrus Bascom has his sights set on 17-year-old Tommy Cranston and his friends, not only for the burglaries, but now for the murder. Tommy's mother Raquelle appeals to the sisters for help in clearing her son.

There are other suspects including Boyd Leggett, the not so trustworthy son of Kate's next door neighbor. While his mother is rehabbing from a broken hip in a nursing home, Boyd and his lowlife friends have been drinking and blasting music, plus burning some toxic-smelling stuff in the back yard.

Another suspect is Chuck's ex-wife Flo, who seems inordinately happy that her ex is dead and gives Holly and Ivy an urn with his ashes.

While Holly tries to solve the murder, Ivy attempts to decipher what caused the break up between her sister and New Jersey detective Nick Manelli. With their investigating, they find themselves in the middle of something dangerous and scary.  An enjoyable mystery with two sisters who act just like sisters do in real life.

Friday, August 23, 2019

A Dangerous Engagement

Excited to be heading to New York for the wedding of her childhood friend, Amory Ames is looking forward to being a bridesmaid. Her husband Milo isn't as enamored with the idea because Prohibition is in full swing in the United States. In A Dangerous Engagement by Ashley Weaver the household is looking forward to the wedding although the bride's father has some questions about his future son-in-law. (A Dangerous Engagement will be released on September 3 by Minotaur Books.)

Tom Smith has some shady characters as friends, including groomsman Grant Palmer, but Tabitha seems happy with him, so the wedding is going forward as planned. Although there have been some concerns about Mr. Alden's business, he seems to be willing to spend money for his daughter's wedding.

As for Grant, he has an air of mystery and danger surrounding him, and everyone seems to think he is associated with gangsters, especially the notorious Leon De Lora. It's rumored he is involved with a speakeasy and with bootlegging operations. As much as Milo wants to stay clear of any involvement with gangsters or a mystery, Amory would love to "meet" a real gangster.

When Amory overhears a telephone conversation between Grant and Tabitha, she is worried that the concerns for the Alden fortune might be valid. She hears Tabitha say, "I've told you not to press him on this." Does she mean her father or her finance? Tabitha confides in Amory that she is thinks her father is in some type of trouble.

But Amory's concerns are doubled when Grant is gunned down on the front stairs of the Alden house in the middle of the night. The local police believe it was a mob hit by the local police, but Amory believes there might be a murderer among the bridal party. Amory decides to investigate and it takes her to the De Lora speakeasy and an actual meeting with the gangster.

A tantalizing look at the New York Underworld in the 1930s before Prohibition was repealed.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley. 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Relative Fortunes

Traveling to New York to finally claim her portion of her inheritance, Julia Kydd is surprised to learn she might not be receiving that inheritance after all. In Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn, Julie's half brother Phillip has decided to challenge the inheritance, three weeks before her 25th birthday, the day she is to receive it. Relative Fortunes is published by Lake Union Publishing.

Julia has lived in London for many years and has begun to make her way as a small independent publisher. She needs the inheritance money to make her dream come true. On the ship traveling to New York, Julie is reacquainted with an old friend named Glennis Rankin. Glennis practically adopts her and takes her on a whirlwind tour of New York including parties, a seance, a suffragette rally and dinner with her family.

During a dinner party, Madame Sosostris performs her seance and at the end she says she seems someone with "lovely eyes, orbs of sapphire" who cannot find her way. Suddenly Glennis leaps up and screams "Naomi." The room erupts into near panic sending glasses tumbling to the floor and a number of crashes and thuds in the dark. Glennis urges her brother to check on the welfare of their sister Naomi.

When Glennis receives the call that Naomi is dead, apparently by her own hand, she refuses to believe it and goes so far as to say her brother killed her. Julia has her own issues with which to deal, and she doesn't want to get involved in a family affair, but Glennis pleads with her and she relents. Naomi had been a leader in the suffragette movement, to the consternation and mortification of her family. Could this be what lead her to take or life or did someone kill her?

While she waits for her brother's attorneys to come to a judgment on the contested will, Julia decides to investigate. In a rash moment, provoked by her brother, she bets her inheritance on her ability to solve the crime.

This Jazz Era mystery portrays the struggles of women - married or unmarried - to overcome discrimination of all forms. It is an excellent look at life in the 1920s.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Interview with J.L.Doucette

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My new book, the second in the Dr. Pepper Hunt Mystery Series, is called "On A Quiet Street". 
J. L. Doucette

How did you develop your character and choose your location? 
My main character, Dr. Pepper Hunt, is a psychologist who works with a local detective to solve crimes. I am a psychologist and I was inspired by Jonathan Kellerman's psychological mysteries featuring the fictional Dr. Alex Delaware.

I decided to create a female psychologist protagonist. I've gotten a lot of feedback from reviewers and readers that suggest the other lead character. Detective Beau Antelope, should have equal billing because of his role in the books. I did have a hard time deciding if I wanted the main character to be male or female and I think the strength of Antelope's character development indicates that I never really resolve that issue. The two characters, Hunt and Antelope, and their differing gender perspectives, are equally important to the stories.

The location was easy because it was central to the story in the first book. I relocated with my husband and baby daughter to a small town in Wyoming right after we finished graduate school. It was an incredible culture shock after studying and living for years in Boston and Cambridge. Everything was so different, and not in a good way. I wanted to leave as soon as we arrived and that feeling of having landed on another planet stayed with me for a long time. But the place, in the sense of a physical place, got to me and though I moved away, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Partly it was because I made friends and found my place there and started to write there. But mostly it's the power of the landscape, it's windswept emptiness, the huge sky, the sanctuary and silence that seems such a perfect home for the kind of stories I write. It's a place where complicated humans can get themselves in all kinds of trouble.

What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy? 
I still have a full-time psychology practice so I can't say much about the author's lifestyle except that for me, writing happens in the time before I go to my day job. My life is very busy and I wish I had more time for each part of it. From the time I started writing my first book until it was released in 2017, the publishing world changed dramatically.

The writer's lifestyle includes more time devoted to the business of writing especially social media promotion. Talking with readers has been an unexpected joy.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know? 
Pepper Hunt is loosely modeled on me in that we share the same profession. There are many facets of the character as she is written that are very different from me.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? 
My younger writing self was pretty wise, I think, so I'm not sure what else I have to offer. I followed a career path recommended by the poet William Carlos William's, maintained a full-time career as a physician. I wanted to do work that would bring me into close proximity with human suffering. It felt important to me to do some direct good in the world through healing. But working as a psychologist also gave me access to the private lives of patients which has expanded and enhanced my own life experience hugely. And that's a good thing for a writer. If anything, I would advise watching the balance and tilting more in the direction of writing.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character? 
Definitely, Julianne Moore for Pepper Hunt. They have the same intelligence, wit and also hair color.

Who is your favorite author? 
Andre Dubus III, especially, "The House of Sand and Fog". He's a New Englander of French Canadian and Catholic origins, as am I. All of those weighty demographics have their say in his prose and stories

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be? 
I would invite my other favorite authors and enjoy hearing about their experience of writing - Willa Cather, Billy Collins, Junot Diaz, Tana French, and John Updike.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
If I couldn't be an author, some other careers I would enjoy, besides a psychologist, are being a journalist or a private detective. I've actually done both of those on a part time basis. I can't seem to get away from writing and people.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Under Currents

Zane Bigelow's family is living a lie. On the outside his parents, Dr. Graham Bigelow and his socially prominent wife Eliza, seem to be attentive to their children and pillars of the community. To their son and daughter they are abusive monsters. In Under Currents by Nora Roberts, the situation comes to a boil one night when Zane and his father face off.

Fortunately for Zane, he has been diligently documenting the abuse and the local police chief believes him. Graham and Eliza are sentenced to jail and Zane and Britt, his sister, move in with their aunt Emily and try to forget their brutal childhood.

Fast forward nearly 20 years when Zane is now an attorney, living in Raleigh. He decides it's time to return to his North Carolina roots and he moves back to Lakeview where his sister, aunt, uncle and many other relatives still live.

He meets an energetic whirlwind landscape artist named Darby McCray who has dazzled everyone she meets with her talents. But Darby also has a secret and she doesn't want to share it with anyone so she keeps relationships at arms length. Despite her better judgment, she begins to enjoy Zane's company.

Zane is beginning to build his life in Lakeview into something meaningful, but in the back of his mind, he knows his father is soon to be released from prison. It would be unthinkable for Graham or Eliza to return to Lakeview, but the shadow still haunts Zane.

An breathtakingly suspenseful novel that will leave you sitting on the edge of your chair by the time you finish it.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for a fair review. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Tide and Punishment

It's Christmastime in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Everly Swan is hoping her home town of Charm will live up to its name. In Tide and Punishment by Bree Baker, it's not long before trouble breaks out. (Tide and Punishment will be released by Poisoned Pen Press on September 24.)

Unfortunately Mother Nature has a surprise for the Charmers - snow and ice. That doesn't dampen Everly's spirits at her Sun, Sand and Tea Cafe, until her Great-Aunt Fran makes her mayoral bid announcement. No one is really surprised by it, but as she is making her announcement, Mayor Dunfree preempts her announcement by making his own.

He has decided to run again and with a co-mayor Mary Grace Chatsworth, Everly's hated enemy. Everyone is aghast at Mayor Dunfree's announcement and his lack of manners in his timing, but no one expects much from him.

A little while later, he is dead in the snow behind the shop with Great-Aunt Fran standing over him with a bloody gnome in her hands. Everly is positive her Great-Aunt didn't kill the mayor, but the mayor's wife wants Detective Grady Hays to arrest Fran. As much as Hays warns Everly to stay out of the investigation, she cannot let her Great Aunt wind up in jail at Christmas.

Everly's investigation leads her to a long-ago hiking death, many more shattered gnomes and someone with huge anger issues.

Another terrific addition to this charming series.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Murder List

Almost lawyer Rachel North is married to superstar defense attorney Jack Kirkland and she dreams of being his partner in their own law firm, finding justice for the accused. First though she needs to complete an internship and she has chosen Jack's most hated rival, Assistant District Attorney Martha Gardiner as her new mentor.

In The Murder List by Hank Phillippi Ryan this internship creates strife in the family. Rachel knows how much Jack hates to lose cases, so she decides to go "undercover" and work as an intern with Gardiner to find her weaknesses and relay them back to Jack. Such a smart idea, she thinks, guaranteed to lead to success in the future. (The Murder List will be released by Tom Doherty Associates on August 20.)

The story is told in two time periods. The first is when Rachel worked as Chief of Staff for Senate President Tom Rafferty including her experience on a murder case jury in which Jack was the defense attorney and the second portion covers her time as an intern with Gardiner.

Of course Gardiner knows who Rachel is and pointedly makes comments about Jack, just to keep Rachel on her toes. She drags her to the site of a murder on the first day of Rachel's internship and uses every opportunity to keep her unbalanced.

Finally after several weeks, Rachel feels she is making strides with Gardiner and she relaxes into her own scheme of finding weaknesses. But there's a cat and mouse game going on with Rachel thinking she is outsmarting Gardiner. But who is the cat and who is the mouse?

A twisting, turning, spin you on your head plot that then freaks you out with the shocking ending. Don't miss this book. It is Hank Phillippi Ryan at her most devious.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Death by the Bay

Being at the right place at the right time sets Door County Sheriff Dave Cubiak on the path to solving a suspicious death. When the ninety-three year old founder of the prestigious Institute for Progressive Medicine, Dr. Melk, falls dead at a conference, it appears to be from a heart attack. In Death by the Bay by Patricia Skalka, Dave questions those in attendance including Dr, Harlan Sage, director of the institute, and a writer named Linda Kiel.

Linda Kiel is writing an approved book on the Institute highlighting the positive achievements. She has spent many hours with Dr. Melk discussing the Institute and Dave wants to hear what she has to say. As he leads her to a separate conference room, he hears someone crying "Mi hermano. Mi hermano gemelo." He discovers one of the housekeepers looking with shocked awe at a photograph on the wall that is part of the doctor's presentation.

The housekeeper believes the photo is of her younger brother who had Down's Syndrome and has been missing for many years. He was taken away from his family in Mexico by a doctor who said he could cure him and would bring him back. That never happened.

As Dave continues to dig, the trail leads him to a family in Door County who is also missing a sibling. Because she is elderly and may not be remembering details correctly, most people think Florence Fadim is fantasizing about her missing sister Margaret. Through repeated conversations with her, Dave learns the sister also may have been taken by doctors hoping to cure her polio.

When another death occurs, Dave doubles down on his investigation and learns many disturbing secrets about Dr. Melk's past and his present activities at the Institute for Progressive Medicine. Long buried secrets and the Institute's dark past lead Dave on a search or the truth. A shocking tale of medical abuse and how the quest for notoriety and fame distorts the moral compass.

Disclosure: I received this book from the author for a fair review. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Interview with Diane Kelly

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My newest book is Paw of the Jungle, which releases the Tuesday just before Thanksgiving. I have
Diane Kelly and Reggie
published 26 novels and novellas to date. It’s been a busy and fun few years!

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
My two primary characters, Police Officer Megan Luz and her K-9 partner Brigit, came to me while I was attending the Citizens Police Academy in my then hometown of Mansfield, Texas. At the Academy, officers taught us the ins and outs of police work. At one of the classes, a K-9 handler performed a demonstration with his dog, Rocket. Much to the surprise of the class, Rocket spun around a few times and deposited some droppings at our feet before bounding off to do a building search. I knew right then that I had to write about these amazing handlers and their skilled, and sometimes amusing, dogs.

I lived near Fort Worth, Texas, at the time I started writing the series, and I decided to set the book there because the city has a fun western flavor. Fort Worth’s nickname is “Cowtown” because it was a major stop on the old Chisholm Trail back in the cattle drive days. It’s hung on to its cowboy identity, and the Stockyards area north of the city is a popular tourist attraction. The Will Rogers Center hosts lots of horse shows each year, too.

What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy?
What I enjoy most about the author’s lifestyle is that every day is take-your-pet-to-work day! I love working from home, surrounded by my dogs and cats. I often work outside in a comfy lawn chair on my deck, and I dress in casual T-shirts and cozy yoga pants (shoes and bra optional). The hardest thing about working from home is the lack of human camaraderie, but I make up for it through my involvement in local writing groups.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
My characters are their own unique selves, though I do borrow personality traits and quirks from real-life people sometimes. They often reflect some of my values and opinions, but not always. It wouldn’t be much fun to be myself in my stories, too. Part of the excitement of writing is getting to play at being someone else who does something entirely different for a living, looks at the world differently, and has fun, sometimes dangerous, adventures.

How do you get yourself out of a writing rut?
I rarely have major ruts, thought there are days when the words flow much more easily than others. When I need to think a scene through, I do something mindless, like walking my dogs or dishes or laundry. My muse often visits me on long road trips, too, and whispers ideas in my ear when I’m in the shower or on my exercise bike. Getting away from the computer is the key to getting out of a rut!

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
If my Paw Enforcement series was made into a movie, America Ferrera (from Ugly Betty and Superstore) would be the perfect person to play Megan Luz. She’s just the right blend of strong, smart, and sexy, but with some vulnerabilities, too.

Who is your favorite author?
I have so many favorite contemporary authors, but I’d have to say my favorite author of all time is Erma Bombeck. Her humor columns taught me so much—how to laugh at life’s irritations, people’s quirks, and even my own imperfections. I read her columns in the newspaper growing up, and I consider her to be one of my early influences and inspirations.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
The five people I would invite to a dinner party would be:
Leonard da Vinci – He was so smart and talented in many different ways, and so forward-thinking. He’d be interesting to talk to!
Carol Burnett – I loved her sketch comedy show when I was young, and I consider her to be one of my comedic influences. She wasn’t afraid to make a fool of herself for a laugh. Neither am I!
Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley – She was a former slave and skilled seamstress who supported her “master’s” extended family through her hard work and talents, and eventually bought her freedom and that of her son. She overcame so much—forced separation from her family, beatings, rape and resulting pregnancy—to become a sought-after dressmaker in Washington, D.C. and confidante to Mary Todd Lincoln. She spent some time in the town where I now live, Hillsborough, North Carolina. She wrote a great book about her experiences called Behind the Scenes, Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. I’m so intrigued by a woman who was so intelligent and determined, and who made so much of herself from such difficult beginnings.
Laura Ingalls Wilder – I loved her books as a young girl, and enjoyed the TV show as well. I’d love to talk writing with her!
My husband – If I left him out of a party with these other four fascinating people, he might file for divorce!

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
I love animals and nature, so probably something in habitat conversation, or maybe I’d be a park ranger, dog trainer, or wildlife rehabilitator.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Lowcountry Boomerang

It's not just another day at the beach for Liz Talbot and her husband Nate Andrews when they learn TV star Darius DeAndre Baker is leaving Main Street USA and returning to Stella Maris. In Lowcountry Boomerang, by Susan M. Boyer, this should be cause for celebration. (Lowcountry Boomerang will be released by Henery Press on September 3.)

But before Darius settles in his high school sweetheart Trina Lynn Causby is found dead, and the police think he is the murderer. Liz had been friends with Darius in high school and she knows he's no killer so she and Nate set out to find the real killer. Colleen, Liz's ghost friend, has bonded herself to Darius because she is afraid for his life.

With so-called eyewitnesses seeing Darius shove a white bag into the trash near the scene of the crime, the police are in a rush to close the case. Liz and Nate take it upon themselves to causally interview the eyewitnesses and clarify their stories.

The case gets complicated as Darius' three -wives turn up, positive he still loves each of them. Also adding to the drama is that fact that Trina Lynn, a well know TV news personality, allegedly had a child with Darius when she was in high school. No one, not even Darius had heard a whisper of this story until now, when Trina Lynn is dead.

Trina Lynn lead a complicated life and was involved with two men; one married and the other a co-worker. There was, in fact, a very public scene with the wife of her married suitor, and Liz and Nate believe there could be other suspects besides Darius.

Another stellar mystery from our friends on Stella Maris. Dripping with Southern charm, but plenty of sass.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for a fair review. 

Monday, August 12, 2019

Fatal Cajun Festival

Now that Maggie Crozat and Bo Durand are officially engaged, everyone in Pelican wants to know when they will set the date. In Fatal Cajun Festival by Ellen Byron, Maggie and her family are too busy with festival season to think about planning a wedding. (Fatal Cajun Festival will be released on September 10 by Crooked Lane Books.)

When Grandmere decides Pelican needs a festival to precede the New Orlean's Jazz & Heritage Festival, she ropes Maggie into helping her organize Cajun Country Live! The featured artist is none other than hometown-girl-makes good Tammy Barker. Tammy has hit the bigtime as the winner of a TV singing competition, but to many in Pelican, she is still the diva she always thought she was. This includes Maggie's best friend Gaynell Bourgeois, who went to high school with Tammy.

Tammy's band is a collection of offbeat, weirdos who seem to have been randomly selected at the last minute to make the event. When a member of this motley crew is found murdered, Gaynell is suspected and Tammy seems to want to make it a permanent "vacation." There's always been bad blood between Tammy and Gaynell and it comes to a boil when Tammy sabotages Gaynell and the Gator Girls' audition for Jazz Fest.

Maggie decides the best way to discover information is to go undercover as a "newly-unengaged" woman and flirt with the band members. When another band member is seriously injured, Bo thinks it's about time for Maggie to become his fiancee again and stay out of trouble.

The flavor of this book is so Louisiana Cajun and you can almost smell the delicious food simmering on the stove and hear the foot-stomping music in the background. I love these books; they always make me miss New Orleans and everything Cajun.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for a fair review. 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Murder's No Votive Confidence

Nantucket Island and candlemaking seem to go together. In Murder's No Votive Confidence by Christin Brecher, candlemaker Stella Wright is excited to be part of Jessica Sterling's candle-themed wedding. Using candles as the main theme would do wonders for Stella's small business, Wick & Flame.

Among the specially planned candles is a two-foot tall Unity Candle decorated to resemble the bride's gown. Everyone is excited about the wedding, but there is one small sad note, Jessica's father had died recently and she was hoping her long-estranged uncle would walk her down the aisle.

For some reason, Jessica's mother is highly opposed to the idea, but she want everything to be perfect for her daughter's wedding, so she relents. The animosity between them is electric and not in a good way. Jessica's mother is not that enamored with her future son-in-law either, but Jessica has been wildly optimistic and happy.

The day before the wedding, Stella drops in to look over her candle decorations and discovers the body of Uncle Simon. Someone has put out his lights with Stella's exquisite Unity Candle, but the wedding is to go on as planned. Stella has her work cut out for her because she needs to create another gorgeous Unity Candle and hope superstitious brides-to-be clients don't start canceling orders.

When the bartender at the hotel is arrested, Stella is sure he is innocent and the police have rushed to make an arrest. She decides to join forces with a charming reporter and a local detective in hopes of solving the crime before her business folds.

A charming setting and an intrepid shop owner brings her delightfully-scented candles to life in this new series.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for a fair review. 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Escape Room

Elevators have never been a favorite of mine, but after reading The Escape Room by Megan Goldin  I may never get in one again. Four high roller Wall St. financiers are sent to participate in an escape room exercise in an elevator on a Saturday night. They begin complaining as soon as they enter the elevator, but the worst is yet to come.

Sylvie, Sam and Jules are part of Vincent's team at the prestigious and soul-crushing company Stanhope and Sons. They have worked as a team for four years and Vincent wonders if he has every liked any of them in that span of time. He's hoping the escape room exercise will only take one hour and he will be rid of them for the rest of the weekend.

The moment the elevator doors close, the lights turn off, leaving them in suffocating darkness. The only light is the weak glow of the small display. As they press the control panel buttons in a frenzy to turn the lights on, the elevator begins to move up.

As the elevator approaches the 70th floor, it comes to a stop, but the doors do not open. Over the control panel, a small television monitor blinks to life with this message: Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.

As they bicker about the best way to handle their predicament, another message flicks to life on the screen: Dead but not forgotten. ASLHARLA

Before long they are fighting for their lives and reliving their past abuses of other people. A terrifying study of avarice, greed and treachery beyond belief and what that leads people to do.

A spectacular debut novel from Megan Goldin.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for a fair review. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Interview with Margaret Dumas

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My newest book is titled Murder in the Balcony. It’s the second in the Movie Palace Mysteries
series. The first was Murder at the Palace.
Prior to the Movie Palace Mysteries I’d published two other mysteries and one non-mystery.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
I usually start out with thinking about something that I’d like to do with my life, but that for one reason or another (meaning: I’m a great big chicken) I haven’t. My first mystery series was set in a small theatrical company and for the Movie Palace series I set it in a classic movie theater.

I’m a huge classic movie fan, so creating a character who thinks in terms of Bette Davis quotes seemed like a good fit. And I’ve set all my books in San Francisco. It’s my adopted city and I think it’s a great background for just about anything to happen.

For a review of Murder at the Palace, click here

What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy?
I think I’d love hanging out with classic movie people and programming a theater with the kinds of movies I love. I think I would not enjoy my character’s personal life — she was very publicly dumped by her movie-star husband and had to endure way too much attention from the press and social media. On the upside, there’s this new guy she’s just met in San Francisco...

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
I model my character on who I wish I could be. I write in the first person, so some of my voice comes through, but my character is gutsier, more confident, and definitely thinner than I am.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Persist! Think of the process, not of the goal, and write regularly. The muse has an easier time finding you if you’re parked in front of your keyboard.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
Sandra Bullock. No question. Sandy…call me!

Who is your favorite author?
Yikes, do we have that kind of time? I read widely, in all kinds of genres, so I’m going to go with my all time favorites, which are probably everyone’s favorites — Jane Austin and Louisa May Alcott. I know! So predictable! If we’re talking about people who are still writing, I always look forward to something new from Elinor Lipman or Cathleen Schine.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Okay, I’ve been thinking about classic movies even more than usual lately, so I’m thinking movie stars. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, even though they’d probably spend the night sniping at each other. Rosalind Russell for sure. And then I'd round it out with Katharine Hepburn and Barbara Stanwyck. Now that I’m planning it I have no idea what to serve, beyond martinis. Lots and lots of martinis.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
It seems pretty clear that I’d like to run a classic movie theater. Let me know if you hear of one that has an opening!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Long Call

Ann Cleeves introduces a new series featuring Detective Inspector Matthew Venn. In The Long Call, Matthew Venn was raised in strict Evangelical family. When he turns his back on the Brethren and he leaves his family behind as well. (The Long Call will be released on September 3 by Minotaur Books.

On the day of his father's funeral as he is standing outside the church, he still has feelings of inadequacy brought on my his memories of family life. Now married to Jonathan Church, director of  Woodyard Centre, he still has moments of doubt. When receives a call telling him he still has  a body has been found on the beach at Crow Point. The victim had no identification on him, but he had a tattoo of an albatross around his neck. There's also a shopping list scrawled on the back of a piece of junk mail with an address on Hope Street.

When his detectives arrive at Hope Street, they find the victim was living with two young women; one the artist-in-residence at and the other a social worker at a mental health facility attached to a church. Gaby, the artist identifies the victim as their roommate, Simon Walden. Walden appeared one day at Caroline's church, drunk and claiming to have no where to go and being the type of person she was, she took him in.

As Matthew delves deeper into Simon's life, he learns he has ties to some of the disabled women who attend programs at Woodyard including a woman named Lucie. The deeper he goes into the victim's life and death, the closer it brings him to his own past.

In The Long Call, the death of the stranger leads Matthew on a tangled trail of secrets, lies, abuse and power. An excellent beginning to a new series.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for a fair review. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Tilling the Truth

When Lilly Jayne's friend Harmon Dane dies suddenly, Lilly learns she has been named executor of his estate. In Tilling the Truth by Julia Henry, Lilly believes there will be unpleasantness with his relatives and she is correct. (Tilling the Truth will be released by Kensington Publishers on August 27.)

Braden and Miranda are only anxious to know what Harmon left for them in his will. When they learn the bulk of his estate is to be left to a bird sanctuary on his property, they are haranguing her for some of the money earmarked for the sanctuary.

Since Harmon's death there have been a series of explainable events in Goosebush, Massachusetts. Harmon's house was one of three built on a small cliff overlooking the beach and the water. An agreement made when the houses were built required that nothing could be done to one that wasn't done to all three and that they would all stay the same size. Harmon's neighbors Alex Marston and Gladys Preston were both exploring ways to break the agreement.

For her part, real estate agent Tamara O'Connor has been trying to hold open houses to sell Harmon's but they all have been sabotaged through various methods - garbage strewn around the house, dead fish hidden in places and other awful pranks. She thinks it might be Gertrude or the new go-getter realtor in town, Regan Holland.

When one of them winds up dead and Tamara is found standing over her, Lilly and her Garden Squad leap into action to solve the crime and restore peace to lovely Goosebush.

The energy and community spirit shown by the characters in the Garden Squad Mysteries is a marvel and I wish there were more people throwing themselves into community beautification. We'd all benefit from it.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley

Friday, August 2, 2019

On a Quiet Street

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Who would want to kill Stacey Hart? She was an advocate for victims of domestic violence, she was smart, beautiful, engaged to be married to the District Attorney and she had no enemies or so everyone thought. Someone did kill her though, right in front of the gorgeous mansion she was renovating before her wedding. In On a Quiet Street by J.L. Doucette, Sweetwater County, Wyoming Detective Beau Antelope joins forces with psychologist Dr. Pepper Hunt. (Published by She Writes Press.)

There are plenty of suspects including the handy man Jack Swailes who has his eye on Stacey and now seems to have vanished. There's also her very jealous fiance District Attorney Connor Collins. Also joining the ranks is her own brother Max Hart. Max, Connor and a third friend Paul Ryan were on a climbing trip when they were when and the ropes broke plunging Tim to his death and dramatically injuring Max. His brain injury has made him prone to wild outbursts of rage.

As Antelope and Hunt did deeper into the backgrounds of the
victim and the various suspects, they begin to piece together a very different picture of Stacey Hart and those surrounding her. Long dead secrets begin to be revealed and Antelope and Hunt think they may have found the motive behind Stacey's death.

They are hampered in their investigations by patient confidentiality for Dr. Hunt and by the various stories and disappearances of vital witnesses. A tangled web takes much time and patience to unwind, but On A Quiet Street is worth reading. A little like peeling an onion, one layer at a time. It will definitely make you think your life is uncomplicated and simple compared to the characters in the book.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for a fair review.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Carpet Diem

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Oh Tallulah how do you get yourself into such messes? Oh did I give away your secret real name. Who names their daughter Tallulah Graver - sounds like a B actress. In Carpet Diem by Misty Simon, Tallie is competing for a mansion cleaning job with the newly arrived Audra McNeal. Audra is not your typical cleaner. She is glamorous and has a fancy manicure. How does she clean houses? (Carpet Diem will be released by Kensington Publishers on September 24). 

Tallie had hoped she an Audra could be friends even though they were competitors for the cleaning jobs. Audra seemed like a friendly person and she was newly engaged, but Preston Prescott liked to pit them against each other, especially in front of his aunt.

Preston, Mrs. Petrovski's entitled nephew, had been a classmate of Tallie's in high school. They never got along then, and it was worse now. For some reason the owner of the mansion, Mrs. Petrovski, had set up this competition for the job. Preston had become a thorn in Tallie's side. He is enamored with Audra and even takes to sabotaging the room Tallie is cleaning, so Audra can win the contract.

Not one to leave until she manages to clean up his mess, Tallie discovers a carpet in the dumpster and wrapped in the carpet is the lovely Audra, who is very dead. Fortunately Tallie is able to reach the police before a big truck from the trash collecting service rolls into the driveway. She persuades them not to take the dumpster and waits for her cousin Matt to show up.

As Tallie digs deeper into Audra's life she finds some unsavory facts and wonders who could have killed her. Another entertaining book from Misty Simon.