The Judas Line, by Mark Everett Stone, 2nd Edition: A Priest and a Former Assassin Team up Against Evil

judas_lineBorn to evil. Trying to be good.

The Judas Line ($15.95, 280 pp., 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-282-5, 2nd edition), by Mark Everett Stone, is a work of urban fantasy about a magician and former assassin who, with the help of a tough-guy priest, sets out to thwart his family’s evil plans.

This special second edition of The Judas Line is now book 1 in the Judas Line Chronicles. Book 2, The Judas Codex, will be released on January 1, 2018. The third and final book, The Judas Revelation, will be released later in 2018.

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“This delightful Catholicism-infused quest fantasy stars a likable and original duo. Fr. Michael Engle, a pragmatic Catholic priest, and Jude, who has a considerably more uncertain relationship with God, are unlikely friends, but when a blood-covered Jude runs into Mike’s church asking for help, Mike listens to him, believes him, and joins him on a quest to find the Holy Grail, which Jude hopes will help him destroy a legendary and dangerous family heirloom. Along the way they encounter Cain, the Norse gods (drinking and watching Bridge over the River Kwai), and a Valkyrie with the requisite ‘chainmail-covered pillowy breasts.’ When Mephistopheles shows up, Jude manages to label him an Arch-Fiend of Hell without irony and without irritating the reader. Stone’s depiction of magic is realistic and intelligent and his treatment of Catholicism refreshingly informed and three-dimensional. Even the obligatory near-apocalyptic ending is coherent, surprising, and exciting.”
Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“This evil mystery is a heavenly read! The Judas Line creates a believable mystery which links the ancient past to the present. By building on the ancient story of the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas, Market Everett Stone crafts a dark versus light drama which will keep readers hooked. I loved how Stone makes Jude an unwilling member of the darkest family threatening mankind. Simply brilliant!”  Read more ….
—Elizabeth Crowley, Fresh Fiction

“A fast-paced book which does not lack for history or adventure. The inclusion of death and destruction are a given and it is good that there is a lot of humour instilled throughout. I would say that if you’re a fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, you will enjoy Mark Everett Stone’s work. Recommended.”
—Michelle Herbert, Fantasy Book Review

“Evil does not die so easily. The Judas Line is a novel following Jude Oliver and the long family line that lies behind him, specializing in assassination, using the artifact known as the silver. Jude Oliver must find the origins and stories of his family to be able to end the Silver’s legacy for good, with only a single Catholic priest by his side. Blending paranormal and biblical ideas, The Judas Line is a riveting thriller that should prove hard to put down.”
Midwest Book Review

“I have come to expect a lot from this remarkably talented writer, but Mark manages to please yet again by bringing new elements to his latest work. The Judas Line is, as anticipated, a lightning-paced thriller that is equal parts non-stop action and intelligent musing. This is, in fact, a surprisingly introspective book that delves into many interesting questions about the nature of good, evil, and faith. It’s an enthralling read certain to delight and entertain, a well-crafted gem worthy of a place on any bookshelf.”
—Michelle Izmaylov, author of The Galacteran Legacy: Galaxy Watch

“Mark Everett Stone takes the classic good versus evil plot line and puts his own unique spin on it. He effortlessly merges bible canon with the world and people he’s created, adding off-the-wall humor to help break the tension. This book makes you laugh while making you think about the nature of evil and the power of faith.”
—Jamie White, author of The Life and Times of No One in Particular

(5 Stars) “I found myself chuckling at some of the insane twists and turns of the plot and other times I was worried by the sudden turn of events …. A fast-paced read, with nail-biting moments and some humor thrown in. The characters were compelling, I often find myself picturing them in my head …. I can’t recommend this book enough.”
—Lisa McCourt Hollar, Jezri’s Nightmares

“Once in a great while, a book comes along that challenges you to think outside the box. The Judas Line is one of those books. I was absolutely amazed at the way Mark Everett Stone has taken religious stories and beliefs and intertwined his own tale of power, evil, friendship, sacrifice and redemption. The action is nonstop and the characters will stay with you long after you finish the last page.”
—M.E. Franco, author Where Will You Run?

“The pacing is flawless in every respect …. Never before have I found a work of fiction to be so captivating. It picks you up, sits you down, and it does not let you even think about getting back up. A word of warning: Hide your pocketbooks, because once you read this, you will spend your next paycheck on every Mark Everett Stone book available. And clear your schedule once you start, because, all of a sudden, that doctor’s appointment doesn’t seem so important.”
—Grace Knight, author of Sun And Moon (2013)

Mark is also the author of the From the Files of the BSI (Bureau of Supernatural Investigation) series. The first book in that series, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Un-dead, won the second place Forward Literature Award for Humor and was a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s debut fiction award, ForeWord Firsts. The series also includes What Happens in Vegas Dies in Vegas, I Left My Haunt in San Francisco, Chicago, The Windigo City, Omaha Stakes, and The Spirit in St. Louis. The final book in the series, Talladega Nightmares, will be released in 2018.

Jude Oliver hails from a long line of assassins. Tired of his family’s treachery and wanting more from life than power, he escapes with their secret weapon, the Silver—an ancient artifact so potent, so evil, that it could plunge mankind into a permanent state of ruin and despair. After fifteen years on the run, Jude receives a surprise visit from a cousin who planned to murder him to obtain the family treasure. So begins Jude’s desperate quest to find another artifact powerful enough to destroy the Silver. His traveling companion is an unlikely friend, Mike Engle—a Catholic priest who found his calling on the brutal sands of Iraq. In the course of their journey, the two men clash with evil in many forms. Mike learns the details of Jude’s incredible history and the family secret that reaches back 2,000 years. Before their final, earth-shattering battle, the duo will find surprising allies and the strength to carry on against seemingly insurmountable odds. Will the lessons Jude has learned about love, friendship and sacrifice be enough to save him from his family and his destiny?

Says Stone, “I have always been interested in the battle between good and evil and the issue of free will. Add those to my desire to explore the nature of friendship, of camaraderie, and you have The Judas Line.  It is my examination of friendship, personal choices and the sacrifices we make for those we love wrapped up in a thriller, tied with a fantasy ribbon.”

Born in Helsinki, Finland, Mark Everett Stone arrived in the U.S. at a young age and promptly dove into the world of the fantastic. Starting at age seven with The Iliad and The Odyssey, he went on to consume every scrap of Norse Mythology he could get his grubby little paws on. At age thirteen he graduated to Tolkien and Heinlein, building up a book collection that soon rivaled the local public library’s. In college Mark majored in Journalism and minored in English. Mark lives in California with his amazingly patient wife, Brandie, and their two sons, Aeden and Gabriel. Click here to find Mark on the web.

Keep Reading for an excerpt:

Mike held up the silvery crucifix that had dispelled the demon, twisting it to and fro in the harsh light of the room. Sighing, he placed the chain around his neck and let the crucifix dangle to rest between his pecs.

“Where to now, Jude?”

I rubbed my chin. “We go to see Leslie Winchester.”

His icy blue eyes grew wide. “Leslie Winchester? The Leslie Winchester?”

“That would be her.”

Cinnamon Relic Leslie Winchester, one of the greatest rock bands of all time Leslie Winchester?”

“Yes, that Leslie Winchester.”

He sat down abruptly on the corner of his rock-hard bed. I hoped he didn’t have hemorrhoids. “I used to listen to Cinnamon Relic all the time. I had their Greatest Hits record. Nearly wore the vinyl down to nothing listening to it.”

“Well, you’re sounding like a broken record, so there’s some synchronicity there.”

“Har-de-har-har …. What’s she doing in Las Cruces?”

“She lives here, well actually in Mesilla, in a castle she had built special.”

“A castle?”

“She’s crazy about them, fancies herself a noblewoman of the middle ages and wants to live as one, or some such nonsense.”

Mike pondered the insanity of aging rock stars for a moment. “I’m keen to meet her, but why are we going?”

“I believe she has the Grail.” I licked my dry lips and repeated, “The Holy Grail.”

Mike shook his head ruefully. “Of course she does. How silly of me not to have known.” He blew a sigh through his nose. “Well, let’s go.”

“That’s it?”

“What?”

I scratched my head. “I thought you’d be more—”

“Flabbergasted?” he asked.

“As good a word as any, but yes.”

Mike fingered his crucifix and stared at the ceiling for a beat. “Listen Jude, I’ve seen you summon elemental beings, use Words that give you amazing abilities, and I’ve read about an amazing device called a molecular knife that you say exists.” Another sigh. “I am quickly running out of skepticism. It seems that my reservoir of disbelief is running dry.”

 

Habitat for Human Remains, by Scott A. Lerner: A Creepy Old Mansion with a Legacy of Murder

habitatMirror, mirror on the wall, who will be the next you maul?

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Habitat for Human Remains ($15.95, 256 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-627-4), by Scott A. Lerner, is the fifth work of urban fantasy in a series featuring Samuel Roberts, small-town attorney and part-time nemesis of the forces of evil, and his computer/weapons/horror movie-geek friend Bob. The series began with Cocaine Zombies and continued with Ruler of Demons, The Fraternity of the Soul Eater, and The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest. In an effort to clear Sam’s mentally ill client from a murder charge, Sam and Bob delve into the rich and gory history of a local haunted house.

5 Stars: “Filled with terror and horrifying details that jump off the page, this story is one this reader soon won’t forget. It’s filled with intrigue and even though you want to hide your eyes or look away, you don’t. Evil is around every corner, and the “Frost Home” is the perfect setting for this suspense-filled thriller.” Read more….

—Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews

5 Stars: “An urban fantasy tale that fits right in with The Dresden Files, the Eric Carter series, and the Iron Druid Chronicles. A locked room mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes, flavored with the spooky elements of Grimm and The X-Files. I love that Samuel and Bob are very nondescript characters rather than sexy, young (looking) characters. I like that too, mind, but it’s nice to see average-looking characters as the main ones. Between the two, they reminded me a lot of the Lone Gunmen conspiracy group from the The X-Files. There is great use of dialogue in the story, and each person has distinct accents and inflections, making them much easier to bring to life in the mind’s eye.” Read more….

— J. Aislynn d Merricksson for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

Cocaine Zombies won a Bronze medal in the 2012 IPPY Awards, mystery category.

This series has received enthusiastic praise from readers and critics:

The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest: “A fun, quick, and hard-to-put-down Halloween story. I recommend it to all urban fantasy lovers who look for a plot that will hook you from the start, engaging characters, and a twist that will surprise the reader.” —Reader Views

The Fraternity of the Soul Eater: “Not only is this an interesting plot full of twists and turns, but Lerner’s characters, Sam and Bob, are witty and endearing.”  —The News-Gazette

Ruler of Demons doesn’t feel like a horror story, but there’s strong tension and entertaining banter throughout the book. It’s the only novel about demons, mutilation, and the apocalypse that can potentially leave a smile on the reader’s face.” —The New York Journal of Books

Cocaine Zombies:  “Lerner has crafted a gripping tale, rife with colorful characters, to create a minor masterpiece of modern fiction.” —Don Gerard, Former Mayor of Champaign, Illinois

For the forces of evil, Sam Roberts is catnip. Even during periods of calm, Sam knows that evil is just biding its time before challenging him again. So when he is asked to defend a wealthy shut-in charged with murder, he is suspicious. Why is the largest and wealthiest law firm in town hiring an outside attorney who is a sole practitioner to represent Mr. Blake May?

Sam’s client resides in the sublimely creepy Frost Home, a “haunted” mansion given a wide berth by the residents of Champaign, Illinois. The house has been engulfed in rumors of death, missing children, and mystery since before the Civil War. Blake May is accused of not only murdering his girlfriend but decimating the remains until they look like marinara. But the agoraphobic middle-aged man rarely, if ever, left his rooms. If he indeed killed Heather, why can’t the police find a murder weapon? Everyone seems to want Blake declared insane rather than acquitted.

Sam and his buddy Bob Sizemore know that Heather’s grizzly fate can’t be blamed on something as mundane as murder. There is a force at work in the house, and it seems to emanate from the mirror hung in the room where the remains of the body were found. Can Sam and Bob end the Frost Home’s eerie legacy of evil?

Says the author, “I write books primarily to entertain my readers. At the same time I like to dig beneath the surface of society. Habitat for Human Remains brings in some of the history of Champaign County and the State of Illinois. Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War play a role in the origins of the mansion known as the Frost Home. So does the Native American Chief Black Hawk. Magic versus science, our treatment of the mentally ill, all these themes are woven in and add depth to the story for readers who are looking for it.”

Author and attorney Scott A. Lerner resides in Champaign, Illinois. He obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and went on to obtain his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. He is currently a sole practitioner in Champaign, Illinois. The majority of his law practice focuses on the fields of Criminal law and Family Law. Mr. Lerner lives with his wife, their two children, and their cat Fern. Lerner collects unusual antiques and enjoys gardening, traveling, reading fiction and going to the movies. Click here to find Scott online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Tiny versions of characters from Dr. Who, Star Trek, and Star Wars stared down at me. I guessed that the characters I could not recognize were from less popular movies, anime, and comic books.

There were props as well, hundreds of them. Some had tags from Hollywood prop houses; others were made for mass consumption. This was a collection that any science fiction geek would truly envy. “Geek” was probably an understatement. To say that Mr. May was a bit of a nerd would be like saying Fonzie is a bit cool. Mr. May was a nerd’s nerd. Perhaps the king of all nerds.

Bob interrupted my thoughts. “Do you have any idea what this shit is worth? There is not an action figure here that would sell for less than a hundred dollars. The movie props alone are worth twenty to fifty thousand. Not a one of them would go for less than a grand. Some of the toys from the fifties, the robots and ray guns—fucking priceless.”

“I have never seen you so excited.”

“Do you see that light saber and the cricket gun from Men in Black? The label says they were ‘screen used.’ How do you put a price on that? Dude, I am telling you, this is the holy grail of collectables.”

“Should I step out? Give you and the room some time alone?”

He did a little twirl, arms spread, as if he were a model presenting the contents at a trade show. “I’m just telling you, this is the big leagues.”

I was keeping an eye out for anything that might have been used as a murder weapon. Although, the police would have taken away anything obvious. There were loads of futuristic weapons: sonic screwdrivers, blasters, ray guns, phasers, and light sabers—none of which appeared to be functional.

There was a club from The Planet of the Apes, but it was made out of a harmless rubber. There was a Klingon bat’leth, but the blade was lightweight and unsharpened. There were also two curved knifes from one of the Riddick movies, but they were created for display rather than use.

When we left the room, I felt dizzy and disoriented. It was like going back in time. The transition from mid-nineteenth century home to science fiction room was jarring. This experience may not have helped me solve a murder mystery, but it told me quite a bit about my client.

Mr. May’s shut-in status might have had less to do with his agoraphobia and more to do with simply having no reason to leave the house. Bob had already indicated he would be glad to stay here. What was the point of leaving? He had everything he needed. In this space alone, he had a kitchen, a bathroom, and a laundry room, and more square footage than most houses. He was certainly strange, but nothing I saw seemed to peg him as the homicidal type—whatever that means.

Lights Out Summer, by Rich Zahradnik: City in the Dark

lights_out_summerIn the summer of 1977, New York City is cast into darkness. And Son of Sam isn’t the only killer in town.

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Lights Out Summer ($15.95, 296 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-213-9), by Rich Zahradnik, is book four of a mystery/thriller series featuring newsman Coleridge Taylor. The series is set on the mean streets of Manhattan and surrounding boroughs in the ’70s. While the rest of the media pursues the Son of Sam story in the spring and summer of ’77, Taylor investigates a murder that happened the same night as one of the serial killer’s attacks. The story will take him places he’s never gone before, including into Park Avenue society and onto the streets during a blackout when the city endures massive looting.

Read “Rich Zahradnik Reflects on Lights Out Summer” in the Mystery Tribune.

Book 1, Last Words, won Honorable Mention in the mystery category of ForeWord Magazine’s 2014 Book of the Year Contest, was a Bronze Medal winner in the mystery/thriller eBook division of the 2015 IPPY Awards, and a finalist in the mystery division of the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. ForeWord called it: “A fast-paced, deeply entertaining and engrossing novel.”

Book 2, Drop Dead Punk, was a finalist in ForeWord Magazine’s 2015 Book of the Year Contest, a Gold Medal winner in the mystery/thriller Ebook division of the 2016 IPPY Awards, and a finalist in the mystery division of the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. RT Reviews wrote, “Hours of engrossing entertainment [….] A thoroughly satisfying read.”

Book 3, A Black Sail, earned a starred review in Library Journal: “Fans of the late Barbara D’Amato and Bruce DeSilva will relish this gritty and powerful crime novel.” It is also a finalist in ForeWord’s 2016 Book of the Year Contest.

“Well-plotted [….] Zahradnik nails the period, with its pack journalism, racism overt and subtle, and the excess of the wealthy as places like Studio 54, as he shows how one dogged reporter can make a difference.” Read more….

—Publishers Weekly

“A descriptive, fast-paced story that is very well researched. Readers will fly through the pages in order to reach the climactic conclusion.” Read more….

—Keitha Hart for RT Reviews

“Taylor Coleridge is a protagonist who is well conceived and very, very well developed. Rich Zahradnik was himself a longtime and well-respected newsman and his knowledge, experience, and love of journalism pour through Taylor. It appears to me that this series is growing in focus and strength—the episodes are getting better and better. [….] Good reading.” Read more….

—Diana Borse for Reviewing the Evidence

“Lights Out Summer is a gripping multiple-murder mystery overlaid with tremendous atmosphere and action. Here’s hoping a fifth Coleridge Taylor adventure is in the works.” Read more….

—Rachel Jagareski for ForeWord Clarion Reviews

“The perfect visual and suspenseful mystery led by a believable and easy-to-like character.” Read more….

—Amy Lignor for Feathered Quill

“[Taylor’s] fight for justice creates a gripping murder mystery chock full of action and brimming with social consciousness.” Read more….

—Tribute Books Mama

“[Taylor’s] zest for doing what’s right while following such gory leads makes the reader root for him from end to finish. It’s wonderful to see Rich broaden the world he’s created around this determined character. […] The author has painted the emotions and situations these characters find themselves in so vividly that you can imagine yourself standing beside them as they dive deeper into the world around them. If you have yet to experience this series, I truly recommend it. More, please!” Read more….

—Lissette Manning, Simplistik.org

“The beauty of the story is that the author makes the reader care. The characters are delineated well. They are real people. [….] You just may get hooked on the Coleridge Taylor mysteries.” Read more….

—The One True Faith Blog

“Rich Zahradnik’s gritty writing allows the reader to feel he is with Taylor going into rough territory in New York, digging to get his story. [….] Be ready to sit on the edge of the seat as the mystery unravels!” Read more….

—Belinda Wilson for InD’Tale Magazine

Lights Out Summer is the fourth in this series by Rich Zahranik. I have not yet read the first three, but if they are as well-written as the fourth, they shall be high on my must-read book list [….] How all this is resolved would make your heart stop for a moment or two.” Read more….

—Mary Ann Smyth for BookLoons.com

In March 1977, ballistics link murders going back six months to the same Charter Arms Bulldog .44. A serial killer, Son of Sam, is on the loose. But Coleridge Taylor can’t compete with the armies of reporters fighting New York’s tabloid war—only rewrite what they get. Constantly on the lookout for victims who need their stories told, he uncovers other killings being ignored because of the media circus. He goes after one, the story of a young Black woman gunned down in her apartment building the same night Son of Sam struck elsewhere in Queens.

The story entangles Taylor with a wealthy Park Avenue family at war with itself. Just as he’s closing in on the killer and his scoop, the July 13-14 blackout sends New York into a 24-hour orgy of looting and destruction. Taylor and his PI girlfriend Samantha Callahan head out into the darkness, where a steamy night of mob violence awaits them.

In the midst of the chaos, a suspect in Taylor’s story goes missing. Desperate, he races to a confrontation that will either break the story—or Taylor.

Says Zahradnik, “As Taylor enters 1977, I knew there were two major crime stories I could not ignore—the serial killer Son of Sam and the looting and rioting during the mid-July blackout. Taylor, of course, can’t pursue the Son of Sam case as his story in the book. The detectives who broke that case are a matter of historical record. But I wanted Taylor to dance in and out of the tabloid frenzy that surrounded the forty-four caliber killer, particularly as it was the year Rupert Murdoch took over the New York Post. So Taylor does what he always does best, he finds a victim the rest of press are ignoring. a victim whose story needs to be told. The blackout was a bit easier to work in, as I could portray those terrible hours—the moment when New York really hit bottom—by reading the news stories and history books and having Taylor observe the destruction.”

Rich Zahradnik has been a journalist for 30-plus years, working as a reporter and editor in all major news media, including online, newspaper, broadcast, magazine, and wire services. He lives with his wife, Sheri, and son, Patrick, in Pelham, New York, where he teaches kids how to publish online and print newspapers. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“The killer lay in wait and came out of the stairwell after she returned from the chute. He must have been targeting her. That means a plan and a motive. Who would want to murder your sister?”

“No one.” Abigail began weeping. Her head tipped to one side like she couldn’t quite control her neck. Taylor looked for a box of tissues, but saw it was on a side table next to the couch. He waited.

After wiping her eyes, she said, “Makes no sense, someone doing that to her. She picked this neighborhood because it was safe. She worked hard to stay here.”

‘Makes no sense.’ The unending chorus of the families of the murdered.

Abigail went to a small black table crowded with pictures and handed him a portrait of a pretty black woman in a black graduation gown looking over her shoulder as people did in such shots. Her smile was on the edge of laughter, like she’d cracked up right after the shutter snapped. The eyes, a deep brown almost-black, were in on the joke, crinkled at their corners. Her hair was parted in the middle, wavy and thick, falling down around her shoulders.

“You don’t understand. Martha didn’t make enemies. She didn’t make mistakes. Her high principles wouldn’t allow her to stay at Manning. She moved on. She was going to get another office job. She was going to do whatever she wanted.” Abigail had probably been sitting here for two days, waiting for someone to tell this to. “I don’t have a job …. She was taking care of me.”

The phone rang. Abigail went to the kitchen to get it. The low mumbled conversation lasted a couple of minutes.

“That was her boss, Mr. DeVries. He wanted to know if I was okay. If I needed anything. I said I couldn’t think now. I’d let him know.”

Shows a lot of concern for the sister of a murdered maid. Is that normal?

Taylor didn’t know. He didn’t know much about big Park Avenue apartments and the maids working for the families inside them. The police beat rarely took him to such homes. Maybe this DeVries was being a good human being. Good people lived at all sorts of addresses in New York City. Still, he circled the name and address in his notebook. A visit to the victim’s workplace was always worthwhile.

He lifted his head from the pad, and as he did, Abigail, who was absently scratching her lower arm, yanked the sleeve of her thin red sweater all the way down, holding it in place with her fingertips. Before she could get her arm covered, Taylor caught sight of bruised blotches—the ruptures of needle tracks.

Drugs got you killed in New York City. Easy. All the time. Mess with the wrong pusher. Owe too much. Turn snitch or get accused of same. He observed Abigail with fresh eyes. He’d taken her for too thin and not thought much of it, but there were hollows in her cheeks and dark patches under her eyes. She’d been slumped on the couch and slow in her speech, which he’d thought was grief. Those were also signs of being high.

“You live here too, then?”

“When I’m not at my boyfriend’s.”

“When is that?”

“Here two or three nights a week. My boyfriend never comes over. Martha wouldn’t allow it.”

Without the thinning of the face and the dark areas under the eyes, she resembled Martha—as far as you could tell from a photo. Abigail’s hair was pulled back, so it was hard to guess at length.

“Do you think you two looked alike?”

“Some say. We didn’t think so.”

“Could a killer have been gunning for you?”

 

Passport to Murder, by Mary Angela: A Parisian Idyll is Preempted by Murder

passport_murderDeath never takes a holiday, but it certainly can take away one. Adieu, Paris!

Passport to Murder ($15.95, 272 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-653-3) is the second cozy mystery by Mary Angela in a series featuring amateur sleuth and English professor Emmeline Prather. The murder of a professor cuts short a spring break getaway to Paris, and the remaining twelve travelers are all suspects, including Emmeline and her friend André.

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“Enjoyable [….] Emmeline’s shrewd questioning of students and professors uncovers hidden motives and secrets in this clever academic mystery.” Read more….

Publishers Weekly

4 Stars: “A murderer uses two distinct methods for murder in Angela’s second enthralling Emmeline Prather mystery. They are as unusual as they are different, which makes for intriguing reading. The world of academia is exciting in the way it is approached in this clandestine tale. Unique personalities abound and include more than one red herring.” Read more….

—RT Book Reviews

5 Stars: “An engrossing story that will pull the reader in from the first page.” Read more….

—Stargazer for Long and Short Reviews

“The plotting is straightforward but has a nice (and believable) twist at the end, and the solution isn’t obvious, which makes it all a good puzzle. Overall, this is neither a character study nor a deeply plotted novel, but it is a fun, quick read filled with characters worth spending time with, just as a cozy should be, and both the setting and the relationships offer plenty of possibilities for future installments.” Read more….

Meredith Frazier, for Reviewing the Evidence

“Seeing the human side of the professors and faculty was an entertaining element of the book. They all had unique personalities and it was fun to see them shine outside of the classroom setting. [….] I can’t wait to see where these characters go next!” Read more….

—A Cozy Experience

4 Stars: “I enjoyed it. I liked the bookish heroine and her way of investigating that depends on her emotional intelligence.”  Read more….

—Danielle the Book Huntress for Affaire de Coeur Magazine

“I loved feeling the college experience again as we see Emmeline interacting with her English comp students and dealing with departmental and faculty politics. Her sleuthing is a delight. There are plenty of red herrings and clues for the armchair sleuth to consider along with Emmeline, and the grand unmasking of the killer hearkens beautifully to the familiar drawing-room exposes of classic mystery novels.” Read more….

—Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite

“This is a great mystery novel that has a strong female lead, good supporting characters that offer some funny interactions, and enough action to keep the reader turning the page while guessing what will happen next. I highly recommend it to fans of the genre.” Read more….

—Books a Plenty Book Reviews

“I loved the relationship between Em and Lenny [….] They have chemistry and they understand each other. Their scenes together were my favorites. Lenny makes Em brighter, funnier and sharper. [….] This is a quick read, with a curious mystery, quite a variety of suspects and a mystery peanut.” Read more….

—Varietats Blog

“I was intrigued by the South Dakota location. [….] The reader is kept guessing who dun it all the way to the end. Passport to Murder is a great read and part of an interesting series.” Read more….

—My Reading Journeys

“Although this book focuses on a university setting and the main characters are quite well educated, that does not make them stuffy or boring. There is not a dull section in this quick paced, intriguing mystery. The characters are very relatable and interesting.” Read more….

—Laura’s Interests

“Return to Copper Bluff in this delightful second book to a series that is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. [….] As my toddler says ‘brilliant, just brilliant!’” Read more….

—Bree Herron for Bibliophile Reviews

“Passport to Murder is an intelligent contemporary cosy which isn’t overly saccharine and should appeal to fans of the genre who like an amateur detective who approaches mysteries through the power of the intellect rather than through non-stop action.” Read more….

—Marina Sofia, for Crime Fiction Lover

“I connected with Emmeline instantly and I loved Lenny. The college setting was great as well. [….] I adored this book!”  Read more….

—A Chick Who Reads

“I liked how the author developed the characters and how they all play off of each other. Her descriptions of places were very detailed and you can feel a part of the story.” Read more….

—A Holland Reads

Start with an unlucky number. Throw in a romantic location. Include a dashing Frenchman and an uncompromising professor. And you have all the ingredients for a passport to murder.

This semester, it seems that Professor Prather’s dreams are about to come true. Ever since she was a young girl, she’s imagined going to France, and her French colleague, André Duman, has finally made that trip possible. Over spring break, she and André are to lead a group of students and faculty to Paris to explore the City of Light. But before she can utter her first bonjour, a professor dies, and they are stuck in Minneapolis. She returns to Copper Bluff with an unstamped passport and a mystery to solve.

When André becomes the prime suspect, Emmeline puts her research skills to good use, determined to find out who really killed the professor and spoiled their spring break plans. With thirteen travelers assembled, the possibilities are varied and villainous. Luckily, her dear friend and sidekick, Lenny Jenkins, is close by. Together, they will sort through the conflicting clues even if it costs them time, trouble, or tenure.

Says the author, “I’ve always been intrigued by superstition and myths, and I thought it would be thrilling to plot a book around a group of thirteen travelers. Plots are very important to me, and I’m disappointed when mysteries give me one or two suspects. So Passport to Murder was a way for me to entertain and challenge my readers (and myself!) while sorting through myriad possibilities.”

Mary Angela teaches English for the University of South Dakota and enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. She lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with her husband and two young daughters. An avid mystery fan, Mary is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“I’m fully prepared for a version of the city that doesn’t look like the cinematic Paris,” I said. “I’ve scanned articles about crime and corruption, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Paris can be not only heartless but also cruel.”

André laughed. “Good job. You just keep on reading your… what do you call it, whodunit? Maybe it will distract you from the flight.”

I smoothed the page and recalled the day I had purchased the book at Copper Bluff’s bookstore. Ensconced between the bar and jewelers, the tiny shop specialized in collectable books but sold used and new copies as well as all genres. The owner was from California, an exotic location to us, and incredibly wealthy. She was a terrific purveyor of literature, and I spent many afternoons poring over first editions she kept locked in a small bookcase. She was a friend to readers and writers in the area, not to mention jobless eccentrics, and although she didn’t host many events (Café Joe had more room), she supported local artists by carrying their work. There was no better friend to the arts.

Despite my book’s quick-moving plot, I was unable to concentrate on the words. I read and reread several pages, trying to immerse myself in the narrative. Yet all I could focus on were the bumps and drops of the plane and how the other passengers weathered them with such aplomb. It was as if they were not thirty thousand feet in the air but on a front porch swing.

I looked around. Molly and Nick were having a lively conversation to my left that was growing more heated. That entire side of the plane, in fact, had been a lot more animated and drawn my attention several times.

I soon realized I wasn’t the only one eavesdropping on Molly and Nick. The entire middle row was gawking in their direction as Molly’s gesticulations grew larger and more erratic. She seemed agitated, and now she tore at her seatbelt.

“What’s the matter, Mol? Molly? What is it?”

She was shaking her head back and forth, tearing at her throat.

He grabbed the backpack next to him, tugging at the zipper as it stuck halfway down. He retrieved what I assumed was an EpiPen, a little needle that looked like a child-size marker with a lid he had no trouble removing. The lid dropped to the floor as he stabbed the pen into her thigh with a force that made me jump. She slumped over, and he cried for help. Before the flight attendant could repeat the plea for a doctor, Dr. Judith Spade, our resident physician, was out of her seat examining Molly. The plane grew silent as we all watched in horror, waiting for Molly to regain consciousness.

She never did. Judith shook her head. The pretty Molly Jaspers was dead.

Murder on Pea Pike, by Jean Harrington: A Dead Body Spoils a Realtor’s Sweet Sale

murder_peaJean Harrington’s Murder on Pea Pike ($15.95, 264 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-647-2) is the first cozy mystery in the Listed and Lethal series, set in Eureka Falls, Arkansas, and featuring realtor Honey Ingersoll. A spunky Southern gal bent on bettering herself as a real estate agent turns amateur sleuth after stumbling across the bodies of two women.

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Harrington is the author of two well-received Irish historical romances and the critically acclaimed Murders by Design series, reprinted by Harlequin for its Worldwide Mystery series.

“Bitchy back-biting, and even greed and murder are here, but so are goodness and kindness, real girlfriends, and even true love. [….] In Murder On Pea Pike, with deft strokes, Harrington sketches Honey and Amelia’s thin lease on success in a town without boundless choices or resources. [….] Harrington’s pages are full of catty looks at rival’s clothing choices, drawled comments that are double-barreled, and everyone knows it but plays the game; the scent of perfume, a hidden bottle of bourbon, and always the knowledge that one must live by one’s wits, but in so doing, one tastes the delight of living.” Read more….

—Cathy Downs for Reviewing the Evidence

“Harrington does a splendid job of describing the absurdity of human nature and takes full advantage of her delightful characters in this quirky murder mystery. She uses their unique peculiarities to create a lively and thrilling story that is equal parts amusing, kindhearted, and engaging. [….] Murder on Pea Pike is bursting with southern charm and sultry atmosphere. A splendid series debut that won’t disappoint readers who love old school murder mysteries.”

—Michael Thomas Barry for New York Journal of Books

“[An] amusing series debut [with a] lively cast.” —Publishers Weekly

“The author Harrington has an eye for the ridiculous in human nature, and she takes advantage of her characters’ foibles to concoct a spirited, suspenseful tale with equal measures of comedy and compassion.”  Read more….

—Phil Jason, PhD, for Florida Weekly, Week of August 24-30, 2017

5 Stars: “Honey just stole my heart. She’s smart, plucky, and it was pure fun to walk in her shoes.[….] Loads of fun, strong writing that just flows right along and one of the most satisfying and surprising endings I’ve read in quite a while.” Read more….

—FU Only Knew Blog (Laura’s Ramblins and Reviews)

“Honey is an engaging, forthright amateur sleuth. If you like your mysteries with a Southern flavor and a dash of sass, try Murder on Pea Pike.” Read more….

—Lesa’s Reviews

Fresh off her ex-boyfriend’s Harley and determined to remake herself, Honey Ingersoll snags a job with handsome Sam Ridley, Eureka Falls’ biggest realtor. She’s thrilled, but her troubles are far from over.

During the sale of an abandoned farmhouse, she stumbles over the body of a young woman with big hair, silver stilettos and a bullet hole in her chest. A few days later, she discovers uncut diamonds on neighboring farmland. The owner turns up dead soon after—and once again Honey finds the body.

Sheriff Matt Rameros, who’s sweet on Honey, believes the two incidents are unrelated. Honey, now a person of interest in the murders, thinks otherwise. Why else would Sam Ridley, a big Fayetteville financial concern, and a U.S. senator all have an interest in these hardscrabble properties? Honey has to find out, or she may have fled a double-wide only to end up in a jail cell. Or worse.

Says the author, “After writing Florida-based mysteries, I wanted to set this latest series in middle America with a heroine whose struggles reflect the current scene. Having read and enjoyed J.D. Vance’s memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, I aimed to strike a similarly compelling chord, writing a story interlaced with humor and menace.”

Jean Harrington’s first job was writing advertising copy for Reed & Barton, Silversmiths. Then for 17 years, she taught English at Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she also directed a peer-taught writing center. After moving to Naples, Florida, she began to write murder mysteries. Jean is a member of Romance Writers of America, having served two terms as president of her local Southwest Florida chapter; International Thriller Writers; and Mystery Writers of America. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

An empty car parked by the side of the road caught my attention. I drove by too fast to catch the license plate number, but unless I was mistaken, it was that girl’s, Tallulah Whatsername’s, sapphire blue Caddy. Hmm. If that didn’t beat all. There wasn’t a house or a store within walking distance, not in a pair of silver stilettos. Maybe she’d had engine trouble, and some good ol’ boy had picked her up. Strange, though, she hadn’t used a cell phone to call for road service. Or maybe she’d changed her shoes and gone for a tramp in the woods, but I doubted it. She hadn’t looked like the type of gal who was into nature trails.

I nearly stopped and backed up to make sure she wasn’t in trouble, but I was already late and couldn’t afford to botch this deal. Besides, Tallulah had struck me as a girl who could take care of herself. But just to be sure, as soon as I got to the farm, I’d call 911.

Five minutes late, I turned off the pike onto the rutty lane that led up the rise to the Hermann place. The house, an unpainted chink-walled log cabin, had a saggy shake roof, its only bragging point a fireplace somebody had built by hand years ago, one stone at a time.

In the gravelly patch fronting the house, a rusted-out Ford pickup sat on four bald, flat tires. So, Mr. Ames hadn’t arrived yet. At least I didn’t think he had. He’d sounded too interested in the place to have driven off in a huff over a five-minute delay. Fairly sure he’d be by in a little while, I parked, made the 911 call, then strolled across the scruffy yard to the cabin door. The double wide I grew up in had been bad enough, but this was worse, far worse.

Hoping the splintery boards would hold a hundred and fifteen-pound woman—well, one eighteen—I ventured onto the porch and pushed open a squeaky door that had never known a key. Something small and furry scurried out of a moldy chair in the front room and disappeared into what passed for a kitchen. A mouse. I shuddered and told myself to toughen up. Selling houses in rural Arkansas wasn’t for sissies.

No one had shown an interest in the place for over a year, and that was easy to understand. It was damp and dirty, with cobwebs hanging in the corners and tattered rags at the windows. Worse, an outhouse odor rose above the dampness. A squirrel maybe. Or a ’possum.

I tiptoed across the creaky floor. How would I explain the odor to Mr. Ames? I hoped it wouldn’t matter. He might be planning to tear down the cabin and build a brand-new house. Or he could have an interest in history—it was my understanding some people were keen on it—and planned to take the warpy old place apart, board by board, and rebuild it as a tribute to the past. No matter. Whatever his interest might be, I’d base my sales pitch on the beauty of the scene, the acreage, the privacy.

Phew. That odor was mighty strong. I left the door open to the fresh air and, with my pulse revving up a bit, peered into the back room to see what critter might have died in there.

Omigod. No, no, no!

I couldn’t believe my eyes. They were lying to me. They had to be. But then I did believe, and a scream ripped from my throat.

Stretched out on her back, the silver stilettos still crisscrossed to her knees, Tallulah Bixby lay in a puddle of blood with a bullet hole in the middle of her chest.

Listening for Drums, by Robin Strachan: A Young Doctor Goes to Work Among the Blackfeet

listening_for_drumsOn the Blackfeet reservation near Glacier Park, a she-wolf awaits. Will Dr. Carrie Nelson answer its call?

Listening for Drums ($15.95, 264 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-611-3) is Robin Strachan’s third work of women’s fiction/contemporary romance. A doctor dedicated to helping the Blackfeet Indians must choose between her calling and her fiancé and family.

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“Reading Listening for Drums is a delight on all levels. Part travelogue, part romance, part Native American cultural lesson, part study in relationships, this novel is a deeply satisfying experience.” Read more….

—Lee Ambrose for Story Circle Book Reviews

4 Stars: “Strachan portrays Carrie as a strong character and readers will see exactly how resilient she can be when pushed to the limit. There are many obstacles to overcome and decisions to be made, and the author navigates them flawlessly. The landscape of Glacier National Park is breathtaking too!” Read more….

—Jaime A. Geraldi for RT Book Reviews

5 Stars: “An enthralling and fascinating look at the work the Blackfeet Volunteer Medical Corps accomplishes each year as seen through the eyes of a young osteopath who defies her overbearing father and controlling fiancé to determine her own future. [….] Dr. Carrie Nelson is a marvelous character whose story feels quite like a coming of age tale as the twenty-eight-year-old strikes out on her own, despite the vigorous disapproval of her father and the threats of her fiancé. Seeing Glacier National Park and north-western Montana through her eyes is marvelous, and the lives she interacts with as Dr. Golden Hair are unforgettable. Listening for Drums is most highly recommended.”  Read more….

—Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Carrie Nelson has a calling: to help the Blackfeet Indians by volunteering at the tiny federal hospital outside of Glacier National Park and studying native medicine. Now the prestigious Roosevelt Award will cover her expenses and fund her research for a year. To her dismay, her father and her fiancé believe she is squandering her future. Both doctors, they want her back in Philadelphia, working in her father’s comfortable practice.

Inspired by her beloved grandmother, a trail-blazing doctor who believes in holistic medicine, Carrie holds her ground. She resists her fiancé’s stealth campaign to bring her home and falls in love with the Blackfeet people, the local medicine woman, and the spectacular though harsh land itself. Then there is Nate, the gifted young surgeon drawn to this remote area in Montana by a mysterious past.

Watched over by a she-wolf, Dr. Golden Hair is determined to find her rightful place in the universe. But what if the price of her quest is too high? Will it destroy her family, drive away her fiancé, and upend her promising career?

Says Strachan, “This novel was inspired by the work of a dedicated group of volunteer physicians who go to the Blackfeet Indian reservation each July to provide care that otherwise wouldn’t be available in such a remote location. After visiting the reservation, experiencing the grandeur of Glacier National Park, and seeing the Blackfeet Medical Corps in action, I was certain readers would love the story of a young female physician who devotes her life to the Blackfeet people.”

Robin Strachan’s poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have been published in local, regional, and national publications for over thirty years. Her last novel with Camel Press was Designing Hearts. Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, she began her writing career as a reporter doing features. Since 1981, Ms. Strachan has served in executive and development roles in higher education, health care, and medical research. She holds a bachelor of arts degree with dual majors in English and philosophy. She is also a published poet and a professional artist. She makes her home in the Chicago area. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

On a gorgeous Friday evening in mid-July, with most of the medical corps volunteers and their families in town and Indian Days in full swing, Carrie accompanied Dr. Jim and Lois to the powwow grounds to watch competitive dancing. The sacred campground was the hub of Indian Days, featuring a small stadium and bleachers. Over the loudspeaker, the voice of the announcer could be heard, introducing each event.

They walked around the festival, stopping to look at booths selling trinkets, jewelry, leather garments, and other carnival fare. As they entered the stadium, Carrie saw Nate sitting on one of the bleachers. It was the first time she had seen him in anything other than scrubs and sporting two days’ growth of beard. Tonight he looked dashing in dark navy jeans and a white dress shirt open at the neck. Although she found Tom attractive and sexy, Carrie’s first thought upon seeing Nate was that he was the most handsome man she had ever seen. With his light-brown curls, show-stopping blue eyes, and muscular physique, he could have been an actor playing the part of a television surgeon.

“Carrie, over here!” Nate’s face lit up when he saw her. He beckoned her to join him on the bench. Dr. Jim and Lois stopped to talk with a group of volunteers, leaving Carrie and Nate alone.

“I’m not used to seeing you in anything other than scrubs,” she said. “I almost didn’t recognize you.”

“You clean up well, too,” he said with a grin. “Did your fiancé leave already?”

She grew quiet. “He was just here for the weekend.”

“So, is he okay with you staying here for a year?”

“No,” she said without hesitation. “But there’s a long line of people not happy with me over that decision. My father is mad that I didn’t start working in his practice like he expected me to. My mother is just now able to speak to me without crying. The truth is Tom came here to talk some sense into me. It just happened to sound more like an ultimatum.”

“That bad?” Nate looked at her. “They should be proud of you.” He smiled. “I am.”

“Thanks.” She smiled back. “My grandmother is proud of me, but that’s a story for another time. The bottom line is that I made a choice that may end up ruining my life—or so I’m told. My father may never speak to me again, and my fiancé is telling me I have a decision to make, and we know what that is.”

“Hmm. If it’s any comfort, my mother still cries on holidays when I see her. And my fiancée, Marisa, broke up with me over my coming here. Hindsight being twenty-twenty, I think it was probably for the best. She would’ve hated these long hours. I’m doing far more surgeries here than I ever did back home.”

“I bet. You probably see a lot of broken bones from falling off horses … or cliffs.”

“You’d be amazed how many gunshot and knife wounds I get.” He shook his head. “I also see my fair share of limbs that need to be removed—complications of diabetes, stuff like that. Tumors, bowel resections, bypasses, what have you. It keeps me on my toes and staying abreast of the newest techniques. If I were in a bigger hospital, I wouldn’t get to do as many different procedures. It’s great to be able to use everything I’ve been taught.”

“I think so, too.” Carrie and Nate exchanged smiles of understanding. “I hope you’ll call on me again some time to assist. I enjoyed my surgical rotations.”

“You bet. Hey, do you want to walk around a little?”

They strolled over to join Dr. Jim and Lois in an area where Blackfeet competitive dancers were lining up behind their chief and the governor of Montana. Dancers of all ages stood solemnly in line for their turn to proceed into the inner circle. Some of the men wore long-feathered headdresses. Everyone was decked out in brightly colored costumes, beads, and moccasins. As the drumming began, Carrie felt each beat in her chest, thumping in perfect rhythm with her heart. Members of the medical corps were thrilled by the invitation to walk with the tribal members.

“It all has a deeper meaning, doesn’t it?” she asked Dr. Jim in a low voice as she and Nate joined the volunteers in line to go into the inner circle. “What they wear, what they sing, the dance steps, even the number of feathers means something. I can’t get enough.”

“Sometimes I forget to breathe.”

Dadgummit, by Maggie Toussaint: A Psychic Sleuth Stalks an Energy Vampire

dadgummitThis vamp doesn’t want your blood. It wants to suck the life force out of you.

Dadgummit ($16.95, 248 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-593-2), is the latest paranormal cozy mystery by Maggie Toussaint. While on vacation in the Georgia mountains, amateur sleuth and psychic Baxley Powell joins forces with a local Native American detective to stop a voracious supernatural being on a killing spree.

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5 Stars: “The author draws from myth and legend and her boundless imagination to create a wonderful story. Dadgummit keeps the reader engrossed throughout each page with surprising plot twists and the author’s unique take on the paranormal genre. Highly recommended for both fans of paranormal and for those readers who just like a great story!”  Read more….

—Gwenellen Tarbet for InD’Tale Magazine

“Dadgummit is a solid and fascinatingly eerie mystery that tingled my spine and had me sleeping with the lights on. I didn’t want to put it down! While it’s a fantastic follow-up to the author’s outstanding previous releases, the backstory is so expertly woven into this new release that the book stands on its own as an exciting, enticing and thoroughly entertaining read.”  Read more….

—Linda Morelli, My Shelf

5 Stars: “From the very first page, I was drawn in by the powerful prose, the tight sentences, the images, and the way [Toussaint] blends the consciousness of the characters with plot and setting. The characters are unique and original, and their extraordinary gifts make them even more interesting. I loved Baxley and her dreamwalking gift and how this gift plays a central role in her investigation. The plot is tight, well developed, and well paced to keep the reader turning the pages. Dadgummit is a rare story that will have readers completely engrossed in the plot and in the characters.”  Read more….

—Ruffina Oserio for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

Dadgummit is such a wild, exhilarating, and thrilling ride! I was drawn into Baxley’s world from the first chapter, and there I stayed until the very last page. I’m impressed by the complexity of the mystery [….] Dadgummit is un-put-down-able! Not that I’m complaining—I’ve been eager to read it ever since I finished Doggone It. I just love Baxley Powell and the Dreamwalker Mysteries! I can’t wait for Book #5.”  Read more….

—Jane Reads

“Maggie Toussaint has an extraordinary imagination and I can’t help but follow her with mine right into this story [….] The way the author made these other worlds come to life is really unique. The dialogue was so well written. The plot has some surprising twists and very fearful moments. This story is sure to be a hit among paranormal/supernatural fans.” Read more….

—Escape with Dollycas

“Plenty of suspense and a surprise twist.” —RT Reviews

“Boasting a wonderful cast of characters, engaging dialogue and a supernatural atmosphere, this is one of the best books in the terrific series.”

—Dru’s Book Musings

Dadgummit is the fourth book in the Dreamwalker Mystery series, featuring Dreamwalker Baxley Powell and her “gifted” family. The series began with Gone and Done It and continued with Bubba Done It and Doggone It. Critics have raved about the Dreamwalker Mystery series:

Gone and Done It: “Wildly exciting” –RT Reviews

Bubba Done It: “A walk on the paranormal side with a gritty heroine and plenty of Bubbas” —Kirkus Reviews

Bubba Done It: “Toussaint will keep you guessing right up until the end” —RT Reviews

Bubba Done It: “Replete with Southern charm and colorful characters” —Library Journal

Doggone It: “Plenty of hair-raising action as the likable, gutsy lead battles forces of evil.” —Kirkus Reviews

Amateur sleuth Baxley Powell is on vacation at Stony Creek Lake in the north Georgia mountains. Her parents, best friend, and ten-year-old daughter are camping with her. Almost immediately, a young man’s body is found beside the lake. Strangely, there’s no apparent cause of death. The local police have heard about Baxley’s skill at closing unusual cases, and at their urging she agrees to help.

Her psychic sleuthing leads the police to a halfway house. There they encounter eight comatose victims and an odd man named Jonas, who also has supernatural abilities. Baxley senses Jonas cruelly drained their life force energy. Jonas escapes, taking the sheriff as a hostage. Deputy Sam Mayes, a Native American, leads the manhunt, and he keeps Baxley close, knowing she’s the key to capturing this powerful criminal.

Baxley’s paranormal talent of dreamwalking, which she uses to traverse the veil of life, draws the unwanted attention of beings believed to be Cherokee folklore. Jonas stole a treasured artifact from them, and they want it back. They hold Baxley’s best friend and two others because they know Baxley can help them. As the clock ticks, Jonas taunts this crime-fighting duo and proves to be a wily adversary.

With the body count rising, Baxley and Mayes realize they are up against an entity who appears to be invincible. Do they have the power to subdue an energy vampire, turn the tide of evil, and save the day?

Toussaint says some elements from this story are inspired by real life. “I’ve often noticed how I felt drained after spending time with difficult people. When I mentioned this exhaustion to a friend, she said I’d been attacked by an energy vampire. I was intrigued that this was a real thing, and after researching the topic, decided to write about this taken to the extreme.”

Maggie Toussaint has published seventeen books, fourteen as Maggie Toussaint and three as Rigel Carson. She is president of the Southeast Mystery Writers of America and has a seat on the national MWA Board. She is also a member of Sisters In Crime and Low Country Sisters In Crime. Toussaint won the Silver Falchion Award for Best Cozy/Traditional mystery in 2014. Additionally, she won a National Readers Choice Award and an EPIC award for Best Romantic Suspense. She lives in coastal Georgia, where secrets, heritage, and ancient oaks cast long shadows. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“I’m Sheriff Twilla Sue Blair. You’re the psychic?” the sheriff asked in a green-apple-tart voice.

“My name’s Baxley Powell. I’m a dreamwalker.”

“You see visions of dead people?”

“Sometimes.” And sometimes I talk with them, but that isn’t the norm.

She nodded curtly. “You’re a psychic. I need your help solving a man’s murder.”

My jaw clenched. If she expected me to perform a public séance, she’d gotten the wrong message from Wayne back home. Maybe if I pointed out her error, she’d let me off the hook.

“With all due respect, I’m not a traveling sideshow, ma’am,” I said. “I’m here on vacation with my family. And for the record, I fail to understand why you couldn’t have just asked politely, instead of dragging me away from my family with no explanation.”

“Sheriff Thompson told me all about you. I understand your reservations, but I need your expertise.” Sheriff Blair’s focus flitted to the tree line behind me before she lanced me with a needle-sharp gaze. “There’s something extra about this case, something that’s in your wheelhouse.”

“I doubt that.”

“Certain elements here appear ritualistic, but there are no footprints, no obvious means of death. My second-in-command is part Cherokee. He keeps muttering about the Little People. Claims the Nunne’hi did this.”

I didn’t want to be interested, but I was. My tattoos heated a bit. An entity from the Other Side named Rose had marked me with two inked images of her namesake flower, one for every favor she’d done for me. My debt to her was an hour of my life for each tattoo, which scared the bejeebers out of me. According to Rose, she was an angel working an undercover assignment in the netherworld. I’d witnessed her black wings and her unusual powers firsthand. Since she’d tagged me as hers, I hoped like anything she was telling the truth. Unfortunately, my lie-detecting ability didn’t work on Rose, so I had no choice but to do her bidding.

I glanced around, hoping this tattooed mentor and sometime nemesis wouldn’t draw me into a dreamwalk right now. Rose had rescued my father and saved my mother’s best friend, and now I owed her two hours of my life—a fact she liked to dangle over my head.

Thinking about Rose was just borrowing trouble; instead, I focused on what the female sheriff had said. “Are the Little People and the Nunne’hi the same thing?”

“According to Deputy Mayes, they are interchangeable in Native American folklore.” Sheriff Blair’s face reddened. “When I heard you were up here, I knew you were exactly what I needed.” She paused again. “I apologize for getting you here first and asking you second. You will do it, won’t you? I’ll pay your standard consulting fee.”

Calamity at the Continental Club, by Colleen J. Shogan: A Killer Strikes at an Exclusive Social Club

Continental_ClubA man is murdered at D.C.’s swanky Continental Club. Kit’s future father-in-law is the prime suspect. What better excuse does Kit need to put on her sleuthing cap?

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Calamity at the Continental Club ($15.95, 272 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-335-8), by Colleen J. Shogan, is the third Washington Whodunit: a cozy mystery series set in Washington D.C. featuring amateur sleuth Kit Marshall. Kit and Doug do their best to clear his father of murder and discover who is really responsible for killing the Continental Club’s darling, conservative multimedia tycoon Grayson Bancroft.

“Diverting [….] Interesting and informative trips to such historical sites as Mount Vernon, the National Archives, and the Smithsonian add spice to this appealing whodunit.”  Read more….

—Publishers Weekly

“Readers who enjoy American history will appreciate this light mystery, including tours of Mount Vernon, the National Archives, and the Smithsonian.” Read more….

—Lesa Holstine for Library Journal

5 Stars: “A spectacular addition to the series, the pace, plot, and characters all develop steadily over the course of the story. The mystery itself will keep the reader guessing until the end, while having a logical course to follow. The minor romance thread continues to move on from where it left off in the previous book with a happy conclusion in sight. Furthermore, the story also has some of the funny and ridiculous moments that made the first two books pop.”  Read more….

—Sarah E Bradley for InD’Tale Magazine

Calamity at the Continental Club is a fun read and moves fast. Shogan injects humor into the story, through the first-person thoughts of Kit Marshall. [….] Shogan, familiar with the Washington, DC, museums and restaurants, freely shares her knowledge, bringing the reader more closely into the settings. For those who enjoy a quick read with a satisfying ending, put this on your shelf!”  Read more….

—Judith Reveal for the New York Journal of Books

“The Society’s field trips give Kit an excellent opportunity to mingle with and interrogate its members—and provide Shogan with a great excuse to give readers inside tours of Mount Vernon, the National Archives, and other historical sites. Her knowledge of D.C. is prodigious–including all the bars with the best happy hours—and it’s always a pleasure to spend time with Kit and her cronies, as well as her fiancé Doug and her dog Clarence.”

HillRag Magazine

5 Stars: “A wonderful lazy afternoon read. It’s a well-constructed story steeped in interesting details about Washington D.C.—its buildings and monuments. The writing is breezy, humorous, and easy to follow. I enjoyed the banter between the characters.” Read more….

—Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews

5 Stars: “Entertaining from start to finish, and since Ms. Shogan was trained in political science she adds details that make the story seem even more real. If you’re a mystery fan you’ll like this one.” Read more….

—Hope, Dreams, Life… Love Blog

“This book was such a fun, exciting, and intriguing whodunit. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and solving the case alongside Kit.”  Read more….

—Fabulous and Brunette

Calamity at the Continental Club is a fun, quick read. [….] The protagonist, Kit Marshall, is well-written, believable, and easy to like. [….] The climax is great! Kit and her co-conspirator Meg solve the murder in a most clever and unusual manner.” Read more….

—Jane Reads

“This fun cozy mystery provides an entertaining armchair tour of several historically significant areas of D.C. while detailing the machinations of the jockeying for position and power in a historical society.” Read more….

—The Reading Addict

“The third novel in Colleen Shogan’s outstanding Whodunit series, Calamity at the Continental Club once again reveals her genuine mastery of the genre. A consistently compelling and entertaining read from cover to cover, Calamity at the Continental Club is unreservedly recommended to the attention of dedicated mystery buffs and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections.” Read more….

—Midwest Book Review, Wisconsin Bookwatch

“Mystery and history can go together like peanut butter and jelly in this suspenseful mystery. Calamity at the Continental Club was a mixture of mystery and a great reminder of the beauty in D.C. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and meeting Kit.” Read more….

—Bree Herron, Bibliophile Reviews

“Each story in this series tops the last, all 3 are great reads. As before Colleen Shogan’s knowledge of D.C. shines brightly in this story and again I didn’t want the story to end even though I loved the ending.” Read more….

—Escape with Dollycas

“With a mystery that doesn’t stop, enjoyable characters, and the perfect setting, Calamity at the Continental Club is just the book to get lost in for a few hours. Once you start reading it, you won’t want to put it down.”  Read more….

—Brooke Blogs

“I totally enjoyed Calamity at the Continental Club, a well-written whodunit. The author takes the reader on a fast ride through the streets of D.C. and visiting some of our nation’s most historical treasures. [….] If you’re a fan of good, clean cozy mysteries you’ll enjoy this series.” Read more….

—My Reading Journeys

“A brilliant mystery. Author Shogan knows how to hold her readers’ attention that’s for certain. Each chapter brought with it more questions, intrigue, and twists and turns. With protagonist Kit Marshall becoming braver with each book, she took some chances that had me holding my breath. This fast moving, from cover to cover read, leads to a great reveal and a very satisfying conclusion.” Read more….

—Lisa K’s Book Reviews

“The book truly began to pull me in when Kit found Grayson Bancroft’s corpse as that was the moment when the book became more mysterious and less dramatic. The murder and the subsequent investigation were kept mostly clean, which was a nice change from the over use of violence and gore in most murder mysteries. Overall, I enjoyed this book.” Read more….

—Sefina Hawke for Readers’ Favorite

“I enjoyed the fact that it was more of a puzzle than other mysteries I’ve read. It felt a lot like Agatha Christie’s mysteries. I’m looking forward to reading the others in the series.” Read more….

—Valerie’s Musings

Reviewers have loved books 1 and 2, Stabbing in the Senate and Homicide in the House:

Homicide in the House: “A solid choice for political junkies and readers of Maggie Sefton, Fred Hunter, and Mike Lawson.” —Library Journal

Homicide in the House: “Shogan does a good job depicting the creaky, squeaky wheels of government, and Marshall plays politics and sleuth with equal dexterity in this capital Capitol Hill mystery.” —Publishers Weekly

Stabbing the Senate: “Readers who enjoy amateur sleuth mysteries written in the style of Agatha Christie will enjoy this promising debut mystery.” —The Washington Independent Review of Books

Stabbing the Senate: “Loads of inside scoop about the workings of Senate offices—complete with all the gossiping, back-stabbing, and procedural maneuvering—plus an appealing young sleuth, sprightly pacing, and an edge-of-your-seat showdown on the Hart-Dirksen underground train.” —Literary Hill

The Mayflower Society is about to hold its annual meeting at Washington D.C.’s swanky gathering place for the elite, the Continental Club. That means Kit Marshall’s upper-crust future in-laws, Buffy and Winston Hollingsworth, are coming for a visit. Annoyed that Kit has not set a date to marry Doug, Buffy wants her to commit to a high society wedding at the club. Kit, though chief of staff for a congresswoman, feels uncomfortable with Buffy and Winston’s crowd.

Kit receives an unexpected reprieve in the form of murder. En route to her morning jog, she encounters the corpse of the leader of the Mayflower Society, conservative multimedia tycoon Grayson Bancroft. On the security cameras, no one was seen entering or leaving the club, which means the culprit had to be an overnight guest. Little love was lost on Bancroft, but the police have their prime suspect: Doug’s father.

Buffy and Winston, formerly disdainful of Kit’s sleuthing, urge her to investigate. With her future in-laws’ freedom and reputations at stake, Kit sets out once again to solve a murder mystery, this time aided by her fiancé Doug in addition to her friends Meg and Trevor and her dog Clarence. Her search for clues will take her from the club to the Smithsonian Museum, the National Archives, and Mount Vernon.

Says Shogan, “The best part about writing this installment of the Washington Whodunit series was visiting all the famous D.C. landmarks in the story. It turns out the study of history is as fraught with peril as politics, as far as Kit Marshall is concerned.”

Colleen J. Shogan is a senior executive at the Library of Congress. She is a former Senate staffer who started reading mysteries at the age of six. Previously the Deputy Director of the Congressional Research Service, Colleen also teaches government at Georgetown University. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Doug was conked out. I dressed quickly in my exercise clothes and grabbed the room key card before quietly closing the door. I skipped down two flights of stairs and arrived at the floor where we’d had dinner the night before. As I turned the corner past an antique grandfather clock, I spotted the portrait on the wall of Gertrude Harper, the granddaughter of the original mansion proprietors. I was no art historian, but I’d read that the Vermeer-influenced Frank Weston Benson had painted the comely twenty-four-year-old at the turn of the century. The National Gallery of Art owned the original oil painting, which had been on display in prominent places such as the vice-president’s residence and the National Portrait Gallery. With no chance of acquiring the masterpiece, the Continental Club had commissioned an impressive reproduction.

I’d planned to examine the portrait last night. Impressionism, even the American version, was my favorite period of art. We hadn’t lingered in the anteroom before or after dinner, so I’d given the painting no more than a passing glance.

Now I walked toward the mantelpiece to take a closer look. Gertrude really had been a beautiful young woman. The websites detailing the history of the building and the club hadn’t exaggerated her enchanting smile and the long strokes used to depict her flowing white dress. She was the Continental Club’s Mona Lisa.

My Fitbit buzzed, its annoying way of reminding me it was time to get moving. Somehow Gertrude Harper had managed to remain slim without jogging around Dupont Circle. I wasn’t so fortunate.

I turned away from her portrait to head back toward the main staircase. In the far corner of the room near the entrance to the club’s library, I spotted a man’s dress shoe. How odd. The Continental Club wasn’t the type of place where patrons had one too many glasses of wine and lost their footwear en route to bed. That went double for the Mayflower Society crowd who occupied the vast majority of suites inside the building.

Curiosity got the better of me. The library entrance was adjacent to another Continental Club treasure I’d wanted to check out, the bronze bust of Benjamin Franklin. During the Second World War, when the club met inside Dolley Madison’s former house, the Franklin statue adorned the room where key discussions about nuclear fission and the atomic bomb took place. Now it resided on a perfectly engineered pedestal in front of a prominent arched window, inviting photographers strolling along the nearby street to take advantage of the striking profile it provided when the light was just right.

I didn’t get much of a chance to admire Franklin or read the detailed inscription at the base of the statue. A guest who’d unwisely overindulged hadn’t abandoned his shoe the night before. Instead, the shoe belonged to a man whose body lay flat on the floor of the library.

The Bell Tolls by R. Franklin James: A Blackmailer’s Surprising Legacy

bell_tollsThe Bell Tolls ($15.95, 256 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-217-7) is book 5 in R. Franklin James’ mystery/suspense series featuring Hollis Morgan. The young probate attorney’s past as a pardoned white-collar ex-con makes her a magnet for trouble. In this story, she is processing her client’s will when she discovers he was a blackmailer whose last wish was to set his victims free. Did one of them kill him? If Hollis finds the answer, she might be next.

** Click the cover image to order online **

** Or buy it for you Kindle, Nook, or from iBooks or Kobo **

“Full of suspense, with an intelligent and richly rewarding plot. Hollis Morgan is an engaging character, whose struggles to overcome obstacles is relatable and real.” Read more….

—Gwenellen Tarbet for InD’Tale Magazine

The Bell Tolls is the fifth book in novelist Franklin James’ outstanding Hollis Morgan Mystery series and continues to document her genuine flair for originality and her complete master of the mystery genre.”  Read more….

—Cowper’s Bookshelf, The Midwest Book Review

“From the first page I liked [Hollis]. She was relatable as well as fierce and determined. I loved that she always went the extra step for her cases and clients, even when it meant putting herself on the line. Her interactions with her clients were some of my favorite parts of the book. [….]The mystery in The Bell Tolls constantly had me guessing and plotting my own theories regarding the Bell Tolls case.” Read more….

—Lauren’s Reviews

“A murder mystery that is really going to make you think and boy was I surprised at the ending.” Read more….

—Maureen Timmerman’s Reviews

To read “A Day in the Life of Hollis Morgan,” click here.

The Bell Tolls is the fifth mystery in the Hollis Morgan Mystery series, which began with The Fallen Angels Book Club and continued with Sticks & Stones, The Return of the Fallen Angels Book Club, and The Trade List.

The Trade List’s two story lines are strong, detailed, with plenty of twists to keep readers turning pages. The unique concept of the Fallen Angels Book Club provides continuity and shows growth in her characters as they look into real life mysteries. A strong use of details throughout the book gives readers a feeling they are a part of the story.” —Edie Dykeman, reader, writer, reviewer

The Return Of The Fallen Angels Book Club is well crafted, the writing is top-notch and you can see just far the author has come from her first book. The confidence in writing shows every step of the way.” —Mystery Sequels.com

Sticks & Stones: “Readers are sure to be captured by this plot-twisting, exciting mystery. It is a real page turner and I certainly am going to keep reading this series.” —Long and Short Reviews

The Fallen Angels Book Club: “This book allows the reader to take part in the investigation; I felt my suspicions sift as each new clue was revealed. This is a remarkable, well-rounded mystery and I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys crime fiction.” —Books, Books, and More Books

Hollis Morgan has survived imprisonment, received a pardon and persevered to finally become a probate attorney. Tough as she is, her newest case will further test her mettle. She discovers her client, Matthias Bell, is a deceased blackmailer whose last wish was to return the damaging documents letting his victims off the hook. It falls to Hollis to give them the good news. But it becomes apparent that Bell was murdered, and the victims of “Bell’s tolls” are now suspects. Hollis’ white-collar criminal past has left her with keen survival instincts. A gifted liar, she knows a liar when she sees one. A lot of people in this case are lying and one is a killer.

On top of that, she’s also representing a dying stripper, a wealthy widow whose estranged daughter spurns her attempts at reconciliation, but whose husband sees the potential inheritance as mending all wounds.

Clients aside, Hollis is defensive and wary. Her mother, who hasn’t spoken to her for years, needs a kidney, and Hollis is a match, but neither are ready to put away the past. With Hollis’ fiancé and emotional support off on an undercover mission for Homeland Security, she must count on her own survival instincts. She is swept along on an emotional roller coaster as her absent love and her family’s coldness take their own toll. Work is her salvation. The specter of a killer keeps her focused. Hollis has always had to rely on her wits, but now she finds that others who don’t have her well-being in mind are relying on them as well.

Says James, “In this story I take Hollis to a new place, where she must face issues of how she deals with adversity. The story not only centers around literal blackmail but the ways in which we are blackmailed within our relationships.”

Franklin James grew up in the San Francisco East Bay Area, graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, and flourished in a career of public policy and political advocacy. She and her husband currently live in Northern California. Click here to find R. Franklin on the Web.

Regarding her solemnly, John raised the remote to shut off the TV.

“Talk to me,” he said, patting the bed for her to come and sit next to him.

“I heard from my sister,” Hollis said. As she plumped up a pillow, she recounted Rita’s news about Joe.

John tilted her chin up. “But there’s something else.”

She snuggled next to his chest. “They want the prodigal daughter to come home for a visit.”

He gave her a squeeze of understanding.

“Look, I need to finish packing. Let’s have a fast meal out and get back home. You can help me finish getting ready and then we can talk.”

Hollis nodded.

They dined at a popular neighborhood café. They kept the talk easy, and soon John had Hollis laughing about some of the “characters” on his job.

“You don’t have the corner on characters,” she chuckled. “Try working at Triple D.” They finished dinner on a high note.

Later, when they were back home, Hollis lay on the bed folding John’s socks into efficient rolls that would fit neatly in his softcover suitcase. He was chatting away about “the team” and how they felt more like brothers.

“Do you have a team sister?” she teased.

John looked up toward the ceiling. “Now that you mention it—”

She tossed a sock at him. He caught it midair and sat down next to her.

“Okay, let’s talk. You’ve been um … preoccupied since you got home. It’s not just the call from your family, is it? There’s more to it.”

“How can you say that? I’ve been talking all evening. Besides, this thing with going to see Mother, well, I admit it has me on guard.” She sighed, then told him about Bell and the safe full of file folders. She added, “And then with you leaving, I—”

He placed a finger over her lips. “Don’t.”

Hollis nodded. “Sorry.” She patted his hand, and then brought it to her lips. “I’m used to you being here or at least knowing where you are. This time … this time, you’ll just be out there.”

“You’re not worried, are you?”

“Who me, worry?”

They exchanged long looks and then kissed deeply. After a moment, they pulled away and Hollis pointed to his suitcase.

“Come on, we need to finish this,” she said.

He stood and bowed then returned to his packing, placing a bulky sweater in the bag. “If I understand what you’ve been saying, thanks to Bell you have a new job assignment as a high-paid delivery girl. Is it true you’re giving out free pizzas?”

“Very funny.” Hollis shook her head in frustration. “I’m beginning to think that Matthias Bell deliberately set me up.”

She told him about her conversation with Cantone.

“It sounds like blackmail to me,” she said, tossing a folded t-shirt in his bag. “But when I briefed Gordon, he nonchalantly told me it wasn’t my concern if Bell was a blackmailer.”

John shrugged. “Let’s say he was a blackmailer. Could it be that you’re too sensitive to the fact that Bell was a crook, and now that he’s dead, can’t be punished? On the other hand, he wasn’t all bad; he decided to release his victims.”

“That’s just it, John.” She deftly squeezed his favorite pair of Dockers into the suitcase. “Bell was a jerk. I can’t see him fearing the afterlife enough to give his victims back their lives.”

Spine Damage, by Sharon St. George: A Desperate Search for a Missing Girl

spine_damageSpine Damage ($16.95, 328 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-581-9) is the fourth book in a mystery series featuring forensic librarian Aimee Machado and set in Northern California.

** Click the cover image to order online **

** Or buy it for your Kindle, Nook, or from iBooks or Kobo **

A young man with a bullet in his spine lies in a coma. His sister Liliana was whisked away from Portugal’s Azores Islands on a superyacht. If Paulo never awakes, can Aimee and Nick still find Liliana in time to rescue her?

4 Stars: “Although this mystery deals with familiar material, the presentation is fresh and entertaining. Aimee’s best friend Cleo adds a spark to the novel. Some characters are not quite as they seem, which makes for interesting reading. Snappy dialogue draws attention to the rest of the story and pulls it all together. Hopefully there will be another addition to the Aimee Machado line.”  Read more….

—RT Reviews

“Aimee is a delightful narrator, full of heart, and is driven not to simply solve the case, but to find answers and justice. The mystery is real, riveting and challenging as Aimee puts forth every effort not to give up. The action keeps you guessing until the very end. A compelling read for any mystery lover!” Read more….

—Liz Konkel for Readers’ Favorite

“In Spine Damage, author Sharon St. George once again demonstrates her mastery of the genre with this fourth title in her outstanding Aimee Machado Mystery series. Unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections.”  Read more….

—Midwest Book Review, Wisconsin Bookwatch

The series, which began with Due for Discard, has been well received by the critics:

Breach of Ethics: “An enthralling mystery with a fine attention to detail and delightful background on the main character’s family members. The mystery itself is a fascinating series of twists and turns.” —RT Reviews

Breach of Ethics: “Another riveting mystery from the pen of Sharon St. George, Breach of Ethics clearly demonstrates the author’s total mastery of the genre. Very highly recommended.” —The Midwest Book Review

Checked Out: “The story is interesting, unique, and fun, and the puzzle is challenging to solve ahead of the heroine.” —The New York Journal of Books

Due for Discard: “The multidimensional Aimee is a delightful character, full of spunk and grit.” —ForeWord Reviews

Paulo Ferrara, a young Portuguese man, lies comatose in the Emergency Department of Timbergate Hospital, shot in the spine. The neurosurgeon who would normally be in charge of his care has left town to attend to an injured daughter, and the only other neurosurgeon, the rude and egotistical Dr. Godfrey Carver, is about to be suspended for not completing his continuing education requirements.

The unpleasant duty of ensuring that the staff obey the rules lies with Aimee Machado, forensic librarian at Timbergate for over a year. Aimee and her pilot boyfriend Nick live together on her grandparents’ llama farm. While dealing with Dr. Carver, Aimee learns the circumstances of Paulo’s injury and enlists Nick’s help. Aimee is half Asian and half Portuguese, and her parents live on Faial, one of the Azores Islands off the coast of Portugal. Faial is the closest neighbor to Pico, home of Paulo and his family. Paulo came to rural Northern California in search of his fifteen-year-old sister Liliana, who vanished two weeks ago. Nick’s wealthy employer Buck Sawyer takes an interest in the girl’s plight as well, especially when they learn that she left the Azores on a super-yacht. Not only is Buck a yacht owner, but he is also on a crusade against drug trafficking, and Paulo and Liliana have clearly stumbled onto a criminal operation of some kind.

The trail leads Aimee and Nick from Timbergate, to the Azores, to San Francisco. Paulo’s condition is deteriorating, and he might never be able to explain what got him shot. Can Aimee, her brother Harry, and Nick unravel the mystery in time to save Liliana?

Says St. George, “Several years ago, I traveled with my brother on a pilgrimage to the Azores to find the home of our paternal grandparents, who emigrated to America early in the twentieth century. We were delighted to find our grandmother’s home and our roots, but that was only the beginning. We found an enchanting way of life and culture. Years later, when planning the Aimee Machado Mystery series, I knew that I wanted one to include a trip to the Azores, so I planted the seed by giving Aimee’s parents a home there. In Spine Damage, I was able to fulfill my desire to return to the islands, if only in the pages of this story.”

Sharon St. George’s writing credits include three plays, several years writing advertising copy, a book on NASA’s space food project, and feature stories too numerous to count. She holds dual degrees in English and Theatre Arts, and occasionally acts in, or directs, one of her local community theater productions. Sharon is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, and she serves as program director for Writers Forum, a nonprofit organization for writers in Northern California. Click here to find Sharon online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

I strolled along the walkway leading to the main dock, hoping to look as if I belonged. When the couple ahead of me went through the security gate, I followed along behind them with a quick “Thanks,” as if they’d saved me the trouble of using my own passkey. When they went one way, I went the other.

The harbor was large. It was going to take some time to walk all the docks, so I picked up my pace, passing the sailboats quickly and moving on toward the outer edges where the largest of the power cruisers were moored. Nothing I spotted fit Catia’s description, although some of the yachts were twice the size of Buck’s. I had stopped to admire one of them when I heard loud voices farther down the dock. Two men were shouting at each other in what sounded like a heated confrontation. They stood on a large power yacht moored at the far end of the dock.

I stepped away from the main walkway onto the narrower finger of dock that separated two adjacent boats. From there, I could listen without being seen. The voices rose. I could tell they were male, but I couldn’t make out their words. A gusting wind had come up, causing the riggings of every sailboat in the harbor to jiggle and clank. I was about to step out from my hiding place when I felt the floating dock sway and caught the rhythmic beat of footsteps running in my direction. I edged farther back, away from the main dock.

I heard a loud report like a gunshot and saw a running man suddenly trip on a coil of rope and fall hard on the dock, just across from where I stood. Lying flat on his stomach, he turned his head toward me and our eyes met briefly. He looked young and scared. Blood trickled from his forehead.

I quickly hoisted myself up onto the nearest yacht, praying no one was on board. I dropped down and crouched in the cockpit, listening, straining to hear over the gusting wind and clanking riggings. I waited a few moments, but heard nothing more. I risked rising up slowly to take a look. The man lay still, eyes closed. No one else was around. As soon as I was sure it was safe, I would call 911 for medical help.

I ducked back down and listened intently for another two minutes. With my phone at the ready, I rose again and peeked at the spot where the victim had fallen.

No one was there.