Death in the Old Rectory, by Kathie Deviny: A Professional Killer Targets a Church Volunteer

death_rectoryGrace Church’s new thrift store is a hit… until a hit man comes calling.

Death in the Old Rectory ($13.95, 168 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-343-3) is the second book in Kathie Deviny’s clerical/cozy mystery series set in Grace Church, an Episcopalian parish. A charming young man is killed while volunteering at the church’s new thrift store, which leads his friends and colleagues to conduct their own investigation.

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“I found myself enjoying Death in the Old Rectory so much that at times I found myself laughing out loud because each character brought personality to the story. I visualized the scenes as if watching a live performance where each character played their part extremely well. As Detective Joyce and Officer Chen, along with Lester (an unofficial security and criminal expert), begin to uncover the clues of the murder, the fun and adventure begin.”  Read more….

—Vernita Naylor for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

“I specifically fell in love with Nick, you will see why when you read the book, but he seemed like the glue between the thrift store, the food pantry and the church plus all the people. I was devastated when he was murdered and even though I had to step away for a bit to collect myself, I went right back to the story. I was on a mission!! I was right alongside Father Robert, Terry, Mae, Mrs. Evans and the rest of them trying to figure out who the murderer was. I highly recommend this book to everyone, religious or otherwise. I also suggest picking up the first book, Death in the Memorial Garden, and put the third one on your ‘to read’ list. I know it’s on mine!!!”  Read more….

—Missy S., Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

For many years Father Robert has called the old rectory at Seattle’s Grace Church home. No longer. An enterprising volunteer has come up with a scheme to convert it into a thrift store. With great reluctance, the priest moves to a condo, realizing that the struggling Episcopal parish needs the revenue. As predicted, money is soon rolling in. That is, until disaster strikes: one of the employees, a charismatic young man named Nick, is killed execution-style. Though well loved, Nick had a criminal past. Did his past catch up with him, or was he simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Detective Joyce Hitchcock and Officer Raymond Chen are on the case, and once again their efforts are bolstered by the colorful staff and members of Grace Church—Father Robert himself, his fiancée Molly, Deacon Mary, manager of the food bank Terry, Lester the formerly homeless sexton, Daniel the organist, Arlis the church secretary, and senior volunteers Lucy and Mae.

Other incidents follow—an explosion, vandalism. The already dwindling congregation is being scared away, and Grace Church may soon be history. Meanwhile Nick’s friends and colleagues can’t help but wonder: will the killer strike again?

Says Deviny, “The urban setting of these mysteries allows me to bring together churchgoers, city dwellers who depend on the food bank and thrift shop for basic necessities, the volunteers who serve them, the residents of the high rise condos and retirement communities and the ex-cons living in the halfway house. I especially enjoyed creating meet-up opportunities for the pampered pets of the condo dwellers and the ‘strays’ who accompany the homeless.”

After retiring from a career as a “government bureaucrat” serving primarily in the criminal justice system, Kathie Deviny studied creative writing. Her essays have been published in the Seattle Times, Episcopal Life, Cure magazine, and Faith, Hope and Healing by Bernie Siegel. Kathie and her husband Paul divide their time between California and Western Washington. Click here to find Kathie online.

Keep Reading for an excerpt:

At 2:55, Adele Evans came down the stairs from her office, dressed in a denim pants suit and white sneakers. Her gray hair was in its usual French twist, and her stern aspect was somehow made more so by the scarlet frames of her glasses.

She scanned the shop. Everything was tidy, as she liked it. Mae was rehanging women’s clothes on their racks. Nick was bent over the counter tallying the day’s proceeds.

“What was the take?” she asked.

Nick jumped. “Ahhhhh! Don’t do that, Adele!”

“Nick, you know I don’t like being referred to by my first name.”

“If you don’t want to be called Adele, then don’t call me Nick. What was the take? What would you say if I told you a jewelry buyer spotted a diamond ring in the locked case. And that he offered two grand and I bargained him up to five?”

Mae called from the next room, “And that we had to call Officer Chen working food bank security to take the check to the bank.”

Mrs. Evans turned on a silent heel and marched out the front door, slamming it behind her.

“Oooh EEE!” said Mae. “You’re in big trouble now.”

“What’s she going to do, fire me? Actually, we did pretty well—about two hundred in vouchers and one hundred cash.” He looked at the front door. “I should treat her better, given the good she’s doing. I just don’t get why she has to be so smug about it.”

Mae patted down the last of the plastic bags she was folding. The shop received ten donated bags for one salable donation. “Well, this church is about all she’s got since her husband died. And her children don’t come around much; they probably don’t like her personality either.”

At 3 p.m. sharp, Nick and Mae shooed the last customers out of the shop—the ones who’d snuck back in after Lester and his shovel left. Mae brought in the sandwich board from out front and locked the door, while Nick tidied up the counter. Then she went into the kitchen to empty the coffee pot and use the adjacent facilities.

Nick was putting loose change into an envelope when a voice said, “Long time no see, Dom.”

Nick didn’t jump this time, just looked up and said, “That’s been fine with me.”

“So long, Dom.”

The last thing Nick saw was the gun pointed at his head and the familiar face behind it.

Destiny’s Pawn, by Bestselling Author Mary Daheim: Desire and Deception in the Court of Henry VIII

destinys_pawnDestiny’s Pawn ($16.95, 360 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-365-5), is a reprint of an early historical romance by bestselling author Mary Daheim. Originally published in 1984, Destiny’s Pawn follows the story of the niece of Thomas Cromwell as she fights for survival and yearns for true love during the reign of King Henry VIII of England.

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“Mary Daheim’s novels are a rare treat for the lovers of deeply detailed, highly historical love stories that bring history to vibrant life.”

Romantic Times

Topaz-eyed, tawny-haired Morgan Todd of Faux Hall is on the verge of glorious womanhood. Though sent to England’s King Henry VIII’s court as a lady-in-waiting on Queen Anne Boleyn, Morgan has one unwavering desire: to be reunited with the man she loves, Sean O’Connor. But Sean, a Catholic, is not in the good graces of the King, and by no fault of hers, Morgan is no longer the young virgin who first kissed him. Mistaken for a willing servant in a field near her family’s estate, she has been ravished by a passing nobleman.

Morgan’s powerful uncle, Sir Thomas Cromwell, arranges a marriage for his niece to further his own ambitions. The alliance with Sir James Sinclair sends a heartsick Morgan to a loveless union and a desolate castle on the North Sea. But the cruelest blow of all is when she discovers that James’s younger brother, Francis Sinclair, is the nobleman who deflowered her. Although pallid James proves to be an indifferent groom, Francis stirs Morgan in ways Sean never did.

Who will bow to King Henry’s defiance of the Pope and who will cling to their Catholic faith? The wrong choice can lead to torture, the Tower, and the executioner’s axe. Though strong-willed and courageous, Morgan is a helpless pawn in the games of the King, Cromwell, and their toadies. Motherhood, war, and intrigue will come between them, but through it all, Morgan never stops yearning for Francis. Despite his rough North Country ways, he is an honorable man in a land of schemers. And only Francis shares the passion for life and the instincts for survival that match her own.

Says the author, “Destiny’s Pawn was the first book I ever wrote. My Aunt Helen was into genealogy and had discovered we were descended from Thomas Cromwell. I decided to add a personal touch to the story by making the heroine, Morgan Todd, his niece. It’s the only one of my seven historical romances that bears its original title. I think you’ll like Morgan’s story. She, too, is an original.”

Mary Richardson Daheim, a Seattle native, began her publishing career with the first of seven historical romances before switching to mysteries in 1991. Since then she has published at least 55 books. Click here to find online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

The fox feels more lush,” Morgan declared, wrapping the cape around her and turning full circle in front of Francis.

“You look like a small bear,” Francis said.

“Nonsense. The tan and brown suits my hair and eyes.”

“It makes you look all of the same color. You need contrast, not camouflage.”

“I know what I need. I’ve always worn tan and brown!”

“And looked like a tabby cat most of the time, no doubt.”

Though Morgan’s shoes had begun to dry out, her feet hurt and she was very tired. Francis’s obstinacy was making her furious. “I want this one,” she asserted, clutching the tan cape close to her body.

“You shan’t have it. I’m paying for it!” Francis’s gray eyes were cold with anger. “You’re a spoiled chit, Morgan Todd, and you’ll take the blue or none at all!”

Morgan pulled the tan cape from her shoulders and flung it at Francis. “Then it’s none! I’ll freeze in your northern wasteland first!”

Francis loomed over her, both capes clutched in his hands. The furrier had kept his distance throughout this exchange and now had disappeared altogether. His only other customers, a Flemish burgher and his portly wife, had left as soon as Morgan and Francis had begun to quarrel.

Morgan was fumbling at her own gray cloak, unsteady hands trying to fasten the small silver clasp which held it together. Francis carefully laid the hotly disputed capes down on a table and then abruptly grabbed Morgan by the shoulders. She thought he was going to shake her but instead he kissed her, hard, almost violently, and she reeled against him, stunned and off-balance. Morgan tried to push him away but her efforts were as vain as they had been in the orchard. His mouth continued to plunder hers and her feet were actually off the floor. She felt dizzy in his embrace and knew if he let go of her without warning she would fall; her arms went around him—to prevent a nasty tumble, she told herself hazily—and she was further shocked to feel that odd sensation begin to burn in the pit of her stomach. She was even more stunned to discover that she was kissing Francis back, letting his tongue explore her mouth, allowing his hands to roam at will down the curve of her back and to her buttocks. At last he released her lips and set her on her feet, though his arms were still around her.

“Christ,” he growled, his sandy hair disheveled, the thick brows drawn together, “you make a man want to either strangle you or make love to you. Why couldn’t you have been—bland?”

His choice of words made Morgan laugh, a choked, shaken little sound that was almost a hiccough. “All I wanted was the fox-trimmed cape,” she said in a voice that shook.

“Mmmmmm.” He started to release her, then pulled her back against his chest. “You will cause me more problems than fox and sable, Morgan Todd,” he said in his gruffest voice over the top of her head. “Why don’t you run away with that Irishman?”

She wondered if he were serious. If only he were, he could help her and Sean …. Morgan looked up at him, attempting an innocent gaze through her tawny lashes. “It might be all for the best, you know. I don’t think your brother likes me.”

Francis broke away and stomped about the furrier’s shop, his riding cloak billowing behind him like a huge banner of war. “It’s not my brother I’m thinking of.”

The Mariachi Murder, by Marie Romero Cash: A Musician’s Death Leads the Santa Fe Police on a Not-So-Merry Chase

mariachi_murderThe Mariachi Murder ($15.95, 324 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-300-6) is Marie Romero Cash’s fourth murder mystery featuring forensic psychologist Jemimah Hodge. When Jemimah and her boyfriend Sheriff Rick Romero investigate the death of a popular mariachi, the clues lead them uncomfortably close to home.

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The Mariachi Murder, Marie Romero Cash’s new mystery, offers readers the pleasures we have come to expect from her Jemimah Hodge series: a vivid physical and cultural landscape populated with true-to-life characters in a fast-paced story. Set in New Mexico, in and around Santa Fe, the familiar—Cash’s family has lived here for generations—meets the mysterious when a mariachi musician turns up dead in the high desert. Forensic psychologist Jemimah Hodge and her sheriff’s detective amor Rick Romero need to solve a murder, and that requires their ability to sort through the Hispanic, Anglo, and Pueblo eccentricities of New Mexico. All the details—from the deceased macho mariachi in silver-tipped cowboy boots to the gaudy sunset horizons of the Southwest to the sometimes uneasy relations within or between cultures—are absolutely dead-on. Marie Romero Cash knows her material intimately and crafts an entertaining ride through the mystery of death and life in a fascinating world. Don’t miss it!”

—Michael Pettit, winner of the New Mexico Book Award for Riding for the Brand

“Marie Romero Cash has created a set of well-drawn characters for her Jemimah Hodge mystery series in this, her fourth installment. Her descriptions of the breathtaking scenery, familiar to all New Mexicans, paint vivid pictures for her readers to enjoy. I, for one, am anxious to try one of the several restaurants she uses to nourish her characters while they struggle to solve the murder of a popular mariachi from Santa Fe. Heart-stopping action threads its way through the story right up to the minute they catch their killer, just in time to save the next victim.”

—Patricia Smith Wood, author of The Easter Egg Murder and Murder on Sagebrush Lane

“Full disclosure—I’m a junkie when it comes to stories set in New Mexico. Give me a book by Rudolfo Anaya, Anne Hillerman, Michael McGarrity, Patricia Wood Smith…. Add to that list Marie Romero Cash. Her two key characters, Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Detective Rick Romero and his girlfriend, Dr. Jemimah Hodge, are protagonists I would love to have created. Marie’s series, which just gets better with each book, captures the food, the landscape and—particularly in this latest episode—the music of the land of enchantment. I’m already looking forward to the next one.”

—Mike Orenduff, Author of the Pot Thief series.

The Mariachi Murder offers readers the pleasures we have come to expect from her Jemimah Hodge series: a vivid physical and cultural landscape populated with true-to-life characters in a fast-paced story.”  Read more….

—Vic’s Media Room

A popular mariachi singer is found shot and buried south of Santa Fe near Cerrillos, putting him in the jurisdiction of Detective Rick Romero and Forensic Psychologist Jemimah Hodge. Eduardo Sanchez had a massive ego that could well have gotten him killed, considering his penchant for reckless womanizing. However, as the weeks pass, the trail grows cold, increasing the pressure on law enforcement. Was the mariachi killed by a spurned girlfriend or an angry husband? Why was he traveling back and forth between Santa Fe and Mexico?

Although Rick and Jemimah have been dating for two years, they have yet to commit. So when Rick’s beautiful ex-wife breezes into town and makes a play for him, she stirs up trouble all around. Meanwhile Jemimah receives her own unwelcome visitor: a friend of her FLDS family who’s tracked her down and wants to dredge up the past. To add to the drama, Detective Romero’s wayward ex-con brother Carlos lands in deep trouble when he hooks up with a woman hiding her checkered past.

When the clues come together, they intersect in volatile ways no one could have foreseen.

Says Marie, “Santa Fe is enriched by traditional mariachi music. Many locals have listened to it since childhood, as it was generally a part of celebrations such as fiestas, lounge entertainment, and funerals. I find it fascinating to watch these musicians perform, each dressed in a traditional embroidered black suit along with a crisp white shirt, bolero jacket and Mexican hat, cowboy boots with silver wing tips. Having observed how women reacted to the members of the band, I thought it would be interesting to feature a mariachi in a mystery. One of my good friends dated one for a number of years, and we spent a lot of time laughing about how into himself he was, and how hard he worked at keeping his toupee a secret. Rick introduced Jemimah to the music, and it turned out an entire investigation would revolve around this particular musician.”

Marie Romero Cash was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and has lived there most of her life. In her mid-thirties she discovered the traditional arts of northern New Mexico. After twenty years of creating award-winning art, she began to write about it. At fifty she enrolled in college and, five years later, graduated with a degree in Southwest Studies. In 1998, she received the prestigious Javits Fellowship to pursue her education. Since then Marie has written several books about the art and culture of the southwest, including a memoir about growing up in Santa Fe. Click here to find Marie on the Web.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

He pushed against the glass door. A sugar rush flooded his nasal passages as he walked past a counter laden with freshly baked pastries. It was a small establishment but apparently popular, as almost every table was occupied. The walls were decorated with colorful paintings of multi-layered cakes and frosted cupcakes. He couldn’t miss Julie. She was waving her arm and then stood as he walked toward her table. She reached out to embrace him. He noticed the recently showered scent he used to love about her. It appeared she hadn’t gained an ounce of weight over the years.

“You look great, Rick. We have so much to catch up on,” she tittered. “Life must be treating you well.”

They walked to the counter, where he ordered black coffee and Julie ordered a large vanilla latte with extra whipped cream. He took a seat across from her at a corner table. They sat in silence as he sugared his coffee and gave it a stir. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. She smiled at him. Her lips were full and moist, her eyes an intense green darker than jade. Her hair was a deep piñon brown, laced with golden highlights. Her skin was smooth and flawless. She looked younger than her age. But why had she returned to Santa Fe? They had lived together the entire five years of their marriage. She hated that he was a cop. Her figure was perfect.

In a whirl, his mind shifted from one thought to another. He recalled he had been drunk most of the time following their breakup and still hadn’t forgotten the day she left.

There was a faraway look in her eyes … or was he just imagining things? She was smartly dressed in tailored pants and a loose silk jacket over a contrasting shell. Conservative, yet she managed to pull off a certain effortless sexiness.

She broke the silence. “When I came back to Santa Fe a week ago, I wasn’t surprised to hear you were still on the force and that you had moved up the ladder.”

He looked up at her. “Probably be a lifer.”

“You always did like being a cop.”

He methodically stirred his coffee. “And you always hated it.”

“Yes, I have to admit I did. I could never see much of a future in it. You were gone most nights.” She reached over and put her hand on his. “You’re going to stir a hole at the bottom of that cup.”

Romero felt his temperature rising. “I guess you wanted to meet to discuss which one of us was to blame for the breakup of our marriage?”

Her lips curled into a crooked smile. “Sorry. Old habits die hard. I guess I’m still pretty good at pushing buttons.”

“I’ll say,” he said dryly. “So why are you here, Julie? Granted, I have no say about your being in Santa Fe, but why the urgent need for us to meet?”

She tilted her head and looked straight at him. “I’m going to be honest, Rick. After all these years and a number of relationships that went nowhere, I slowly began to realize in the back of my head that I might have made a mistake in leaving you … that there might still be hope for us.”

Murdock Rocks Sedona, by Robert J. Ray: The Mighty Are Falling

Murdock-Rocks-SedonaMurdock Rocks Sedona is the seventh episode (first time in print) in Robert J. Ray’s Matt Murdock Mystery series ($16.95, 366 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-337-2). The adventures of tough-guy detective Murdock began with Bloody Murdock. Camel Press reprinted the first five novels in the series and released book six, Murdock Tackles Taos, in 2013.

Murdock Rocks Sedona brings the detective and his new romantic and sleuthing partner Helene to Arizona, where they investigate a series of deaths by falling.

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“Murdock carries all the qualities of refined sleuth who always has a ‘hunch’ and a stick-to-itiveness when others doubt that his clues will amount to anything. And perfectly complementing his gruff traits, Ray has created his equal—Helene Steinbeck. Although centering on these featured characters, Ray incorporates a host of colorful characters, especially his villains who are not always readily identifiable. That said, Ray does a stellar job of throwing in red herrings just at the right time, which keeps his audience on their toes in their own sleuthing pursuits…. Ray deftly orchestrates all of these elements into one amazing performance to keep his audience absolutely captivated from beginning to end. Quill says: Murdock Rocks Sedona is bound to be both a best seller and an all-time classic!”  Read more….

—Anita Lock for Feathered Quill Book Reviews

“This was a well-done mystery with a large cast of characters. At first it was hard to keep some of the names and relationships straight, but as the story evolved, the connections became clear and the intrigue increased…. Murdock and Helene make a good investigative pair, and they also have a tumultuous relationship that makes for a good subplot to the story. This was a good read that kept me guessing throughout.”  Read more….

—Mary Ann Writes

“In the backdrop of beautiful Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona, Robert Ray weaves a complex and compelling story of lust, greed, ambition, and revenge. Billionaire investor Axel Ackerman’s business partners are dropping like rocks—literally—to their untimely deaths. Ackerman hires Matt Murdock and partner Helene Steinbeck for a twenty-four hour bodyguard gig which soon morphs into a full-fledged investigation to find who’s behind the freefalls. Murder and mayhem abound, pushing Matt and Helene to their limit, while fascinating and sordid characters keep the reader guessing. Tighten those belts for the surprising conclusion to this rollicking ride through the red rocks of Sedona. Matt Murdock at his finest!”

—E. Michael Helms, author of the Mac McClellan Mystery series

“This is my first book from author Robert J. Ray and I have to say that I’m very impressed. I got sucked into the story and couldn’t wait to see who the killer was and their motive. I also felt for Matt and Helene. There is something wrong in their relationship and it doesn’t look like either know how to go about fixing it so they just keep trudging along. There were lots of twists and turns to this story and I will admit that I didn’t know who the killer really was until the end. If you are looking for a great mystery story I recommend getting yourself a copy of this book. Now I’m off to start this series from the first book, Bloody Murdock.” Read more….

—J. Bronder Book Reviews

Murdock Rocks Sedona hits the ground running and actually begins to pick up speed, rocketing along against a vivid physical and cultural landscape populated with true-to-life characters.”  Read more….

—Vic’s Media Room

Wealthy investors in Sedona, Arizona, are dropping like flies—more accurately, lead weights. They are falling down staircases and off mountainsides, decks, and hiking trails. With so many similar “accidents,” the victims had to have been pushed. Other than their wealth and weakness for beautiful young women, what the falling men had in common was a financial interest in Sedona Landing, a historic hotel in Oak Creek Village. They also shared a long history with the chief investor, billionaire Axel Ackerman. Fearing that he too will plunge to his death, Ackerman hires Matt Murdock and Helene Steinbeck to investigate.

During his climb to the top of the heap, Ackerman crushed scores of rivals and broke many hearts. The culling of his “Crew” of investors is clearly personal. So who among this crowded field of enemies would orchestrate such a byzantine scheme of revenge? To keep their client safe, Matt and Helene will have to be on their best game. Too bad their last case in Taos took such a heavy toll, particularly on Helene, and caused a rift in their fragile bond.

Says Ray, “The idea for Murdock Rocks Sedona came when my wife and I visited Sedona, AZ. We stayed with friends in Oak Creek Village, a peaceful Desert Eden. From patio or kitchen or bedroom or curved red street, you look up and there’s a rock. Big, burly, beautiful, formidable, majestic, and red. The rocks have names—Bell Rock, Chimney Rock, Cathedral Rock. In the daytime, climbers swarm over the rocks. At night, they hit the bars and bistros. The writing took off when a character fell off a rock. The death by falling gave me the motif that would pull Murdock deep into back story—and here came the What-Ifs. What if the falling man got pushed? What if he’s not the first guy to die from falling? What if a tourist out for a moonlit jog shoots photos of the fall? What if the picture taker is Matt Murdock, private eye? What if Murdock and Helene are here in Sedona to heal after a harsh experience in Taos? But if Murdock is out here running in the moonlight and taking pictures of rocks in the dark, where is Helene? And who or what got that falling man onto Cathedral Rock in the moonlight?”

Robert J. Ray is the author of nine novels: Cage of Mirrors, The Heart of the Game, Bloody Murdock, Murdock for Hire, Dial “M” for Murdock, Merry Christmas, Murdock, Murdock Cracks Ice, Murdock Tackles Taos, and now, Murdock Rocks Sedona. Ray is also the author of a popular non-fiction series on writing, The Weekend Novelist. He shares techniques on writing at bobandjackswritingblog.com. A native of Texas, Ray holds a PhD from the University of Texas, Austin. Tuesdays and Fridays, he writes at Louisa’s Bakery and Café in Seattle. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Up close, Axel Ackerman did not look so old, or so bony. His eyes were alive, filled with fire. The bald head was tanned and smooth and powerful. A man born to be king.

He had a beak nose and a winning smile that said he could buy and sell you before you knew what was happening. His teeth were yellow, his lips sensual.

“Is this for you?”

“Yes. To Axel, from Helene. And the date.”

Helene signed his copy of her book. Her hand was jittery. This guy wanted her, this old person, bald and grinning, wanted to fuck her. She handed the book back. He read her words, nodded, held out his hand.

“Giselle was supposed to introduce us. I’m Axel Ackerman.”

“I’m Helene Steinbeck.”

His hand was big and warm, laced with power. He did not squeeze too hard. She was shaking hands with a billion dollars. She had met millionaires before, but Ackerman was her first billionaire. His hand let her go. She felt short of breath. He asked what she thought about the contract.

“Enough money to buy you for twenty-four hours?” he said.

“What about Murdock,” Helene said. “We’re a team. Where’s his name?”

A shadow crossed Ackerman’s eyes. He told Giselle to pencil Murdock in. She used a fancy fountain pen to add Murdock’s name to the contract. Ackerman scribbled, turned to Helene.

“I heard your man was moonlighting, helping out our beleaguered hotel security boys.”

“He likes to stay busy.”

“But you did the Taos killings, right—no help from him?”

“Murdock was right there, backing me up,” Helene said.

“Let’s talk about the contract.”

“Not much to discuss,” Ackerman said. “I’m buying your combined skills—detection and protection—for twenty-four hours. I expect you to go through the motions, digging up dirt on my dead friends, but there’s nothing there. Accidents happen.”

“They both fell, right?”

“Will Tyler fell at twilight—highball time. Milt Coolidge fell because he had a trick knee. You got one drunk and one cripple, case solved.”

Giselle Roux broke in, “Did you check with Walter?”

“I knocked on the goddamn door,” Ackerman said. “No answer. Probably got a floozie in there. Or maybe two.”

“Who’s Walter?” Helene said.

“One of our investors,” Giselle said. “In the money pool. He’s staying in 900, your floor, the suite at the other end.”

“His name is Walt Findlay,” Ackerman said. “Maybe you saw him around. He’s tanned, fit, looks like a Beach Boy. Always on the prowl. His motto is love ’em and leave ’em.”

“Walter thinks like a teenager,” Giselle said. “He has three ex-wives … that we know of.”

“Let’s have breakfast,” Ackerman said. “You, me, Walt Findlay if we can rouse him, your Mr. Detective man. Eight-ish. You can guard my ancient body while in the midst of detecting, to satisfy Giselle. I’m halfway through your true-crime tome. I started at midpoint … anything in the first half?”

“The author fell in love,” Helene said.

“I love writers, the way they conjure.”

Ackerman repeated his invitation to breakfast, eight o’clock, the Bell Rock Bistro, his personal table. The wait staff would know.

Helene watched him walk off, joined by Bruno, who carried a cellphone and a white sports bag with red markings.

Four Dog’s Sake, by Lia Farrell: A Suspicious Suicide Rattles Nerves during a July Heat Wave

4dogFour Dog’s Sake ($14.95, 262 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-246-7) is the fourth cozy mystery by Lia Farrell in a series featuring Mae December, the successful owner of a dog boarding business in Rosedale, Tennessee. When a dying man’s son is killed, Dr. Lucy Ingram, her friend Mae, Sheriff Ben Bradley and his staff look for answers in the father’s last will and testament.

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“There is a lot of action in this book, and the author gives a wonderful view of the motivation of a real killer. This is one fast-paced cozy that keeps you on your toes.”
—Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion for Suspense Magazine

4 Stars: “The author does an amazing job of character development. There are a lot of players in this story but they are all interesting and it takes all their skills to determine Chester was murdered and who the killer was. I found myself caring about them all. I even enjoyed Mae’s four dogs…. The author stayed ahead of me. I had one suspect, then another. It isn’t until the very end you get the motivation of the killer. This is a fast paced cozy that keeps your attention all the way through. I’ll be watching for more in this series.”  Read more….

—Aloe, for Long and Short Reviews

“This 4th book in the Mae December series is a delight to read. An eclectic cast of characters take a murder mystery on an interesting spin making for a humorous and adventurous mystery. The icing on the cake is the adorable dogs.”  Read more….

—Matilda, Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance & More

On a hot, humid July 4th evening in Rosedale, Tennessee, a young man is dead on arrival at the hospital where Dr. Lucy Ingram works. Lucy recalls the affable young man, Chester Willis, from an earlier visit. The death is pronounced a suicide from an overdose of the insulin used to treat his diabetes, but Lucy isn’t convinced. The man just wasn’t the suicidal type. She pushes for another autopsy, and they find an injection site proving that someone else administered the deadly dose. Later in the week his ailing father dies as well. Now there is the matter of the father’s will.

Who stood to benefit if Chester was taken out of the equation? The easy answer is Chester’s brother Rick, who is in debt and has an expensive fiancée. Then there’s Brooke, the struggling massage therapist the old man befriended. The will has made her a wealthy woman.

Sheriff Ben Bradley and Lucy’s boyfriend Chief Detective Wayne Nichols are on the case, along with newly appointed investigator Dory, Ben’s girlfriend Mae December, and the rest of Ben’s office staff. Soon they must accept that there will be no easy answers. The heat has tempers flaring, and Wayne, Ben, and Mae are distracted: Wayne by his changing relationship with Lucy and by having to cope with dark episodes from both their pasts, Ben and Mae by his reelection campaign and the couple’s upcoming wedding. Then there is Cupcake, the new basset hound puppy owned by Ben’s son Matthew, who becomes the fourth canine to take up permanent residence at Mae’s house.

Mother and daughter writing team Lyn Farquhar and Lisa Fitzsimmons live in Michigan and Tennessee respectively. Both are life-long readers who are also dog lovers. Lisa works as a Muralist and Interior Designer and her mother, Lyn, is a Professor of Medical Education. Click here to find them online. The series will continue in 2016.

Says Lisa, “Intrigued by the idea of laying old demons to rest, we brought Dr. Lucy Ingram’s character to the forefront in this, our fourth book. Using her medical knowledge and intuition, Lucy finds murder where none was suspected, as well as the strength to let go of her painful past.”

Keep reading for an excerpt:

On Lucy’s computer screen the message from Dr. Estes read, “Chester Willis, 41, Caucasian, DOA July 4th. Cause of death: drug or insulin overdose, probable suicide.”

“What the hell?” Lucy said aloud. She shared the office with other doctors, but there was no one else there in the wee hours to hear her outburst. Something about this wasn’t right. She checked her tablet computer for her notes on Chester Willis’ visit for the chainsaw injury. There it was: “Brittle diabetic, no known history of alcohol or drugs. Knowledgeable about his condition.” She had spent over twenty-five minutes stitching Chester up, during which he displayed no signs of depression. He was the last guy she would have suspected of being a suicide risk.

She quickly wrote an email to Dr. Estes saying she had some questions and would be stopping down to see him about Chester Willis. As her finger was about to hit “send,” she hesitated, knowing that the email might come across as challenging the ME’s declaration on nothing more than her intuition. She had no evidence, but her gut said that something was very wrong about Chester Willis’ cause of death.

She knew that patients lied to her, putting on a front to hide depression or saying they were not drinking or doing drugs when they were in fact using. But not Chester Willis. He had been looking forward to his remaining time with his father. She had seen insulin injection marks on his thighs when she stitched up his injury, but they were in a tight pattern—as diabetic injections should be. Chester had worn a short-sleeved shirt and shorts to the ER, and Lucy hadn’t noticed any needle marks on his arms, where recreational drug injection marks would typically show up. Baffled, she hit “send” on the email and then quickly called her boyfriend—Wayne Nichols, Chief Detective of Rose County.

“Nichols,” his sleepy voice said.

“Wayne, it’s Lucy. Sorry to wake you. Just getting off shift. Something’s come up and I want to talk to you about it.”

“Okay,” he yawned.

“I had this patient the other day; his name was Chester Willis, a diabetic with a deep leg laceration. He was fine when he left here and then came in DOA yesterday. I got Dr. Estes’ report on email. He listed the cause of death as a probable suicide, caused by drug or insulin overdose. It doesn’t fit. Chester was the primary caregiver for his ill father and knowledgeable about his diabetes. Plus, he didn’t use recreational drugs. I’ve got a bad feeling about it. Could you drop by my house this morning?”

“Sure thing,” Wayne said. “I’ll see you later.”

Stabbing in the Senate, by Colleen J. Shogan: A Staffer Turns Sleuth to Clear her Name

stabbing_senateKit’s boss is dead. She’s the prime suspect, and just about the only one without a motive.

Stabbing in the Senate ($13.95, 236 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-331-0), by Colleen J. Shogan, is the first book in the Washington Whodunit cozy mystery series, set in Washington, D.C., and featuring amateur sleuth Kit Marshall.

** Click the cover image to order online **

** Or buy it in Kindle, Nook, or from iBooks or Kobo **

Follow the Great Escapes Blog Tour–Jan. 4-17, 2016

“What do politics, Washington intrigue and an everyone-for-herself outlook on life have in common? They all come together in the suspenseful, thrilling debut novel by Colleen J. Shogan titled Stabbing in the Senate…. It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel…. Put [Shogan’s] book on your shelf or ereader, and her future on your radar.” Read more….

—LuAnn Braley, Back Porchervations

“From the discovery of the body, through pages and chapters of intrigue, to the action packed reveal and take down of the killer, I was totally engrossed in this stellar mystery.”  Read more….

—Lisa K’s Book Reviews

“A well-written debut novel. The author has been a part of the group of people she writes about, and her personal knowledge shows in her vivid descriptions of people and scenarios…. The story is filled with twists and turns. Just like the main character, the reader is never quite sure who to trust or who to believe. Kit and Meg, her best friend, are a very likable duo as they try to get to the bottom of things.”  Read more….

—Book Babble

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the messy political process of creating new policies. Shogan describes the intricacies of policy-making in a way that is related so closely to the mystery, I never felt I was reading a political science lecture. I believe readers who enjoy amateur sleuth mysteries written in the style of Agatha Christie will enjoy this promising debut mystery. It will be fun to watch the Washington Whodunit series grow and develop as Kit Marshall becomes embroiled in more murder and mayhem in future books.”  Read more….

—Dorothy St. James, author of the White House Gardener Mysteries, for Washington Independent Review of Books

“[Stabbing in the Senate] features 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. Apart from joining Kit on one of her Hill happy hours, how much more fun could you want?”  Read more….

Literary Hill, a Compendium of Readers, Writers, Books & Events

“I have to say it is one of the best whodunit I have read this year. Colleen writes with clarity, wit and she knows her subject matter. She has done her research, turned her talent into one of the best new books to be on the 2016 market. STABBING in the SENATE, is a look at Washington D.C. that is sure to be a memorable, page-turning, bestseller. I give this one ten stars.”  Read more….

—Pamela James

“An excellent whodunit…. I was really impressed with this very smart story. The author is a former Senate staffer so she is writing what she knows, less the murder, I hope.”  Read more….

—Escape with Dolly Cas into a Good Book

“Full of political intrigue, high stakes decision makers, twists and turns and red herrings, Stabbing in the Senate is a wonderful new cozy. The characters are entertaining and the writing is spot on for a great whodunit. I am not really a fan of politics or D.C. in particular, but the way Colleen J. Shogan presented this story drew me in and kept me excited about it. I am sure fans of politics will love this new cozy series, but those like me that don’t will not be put off. The author somehow writes about the political word in a fresh and exciting style. Anyone that enjoys a well written classic whodunit will love this book. It bodes well for a continuation of this series and I for one hope it does continue.”  Read more….

—Caro, Open Book Society

“There are a lot of twists and turns in this book. You never know who to trust at any given time. Will Kit and her friends find the killer or killers before they strike again? What does a company called Carter Power play in his murder? Could all of this be about the oldest motive in the book, Money? Or is it something else know one will see coming? I hope there will be many more books in this series. I am not a person who enjoys political novels but this was a pleasant surprise. The mystery, adventure, suspense, and intrigue are not to be missed.”  Read more….

—Penny M., Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

“Book 1 in the Washington Whodunnit series, Stabbing in the Senate is a fast-paced blend of murder mystery and political intrigue. D.C. staffer Kit Marshall’s life is turned upside-down when she finds her employer, Senator Langsford, impaled in his office. Kit is deemed the prime suspect (in part because she foolishly pulled the weapon out of his chest and got her fingerprints on it). The well-to-do family of Kit’s boyfriend is horrified by her notoriety, but even more disturbing is the possibility of why Senator Langsford was killed—he just recently had begun to vote his conscience, an act of rebellion that outraged the hardliners of his party. Kit and her strong-willed friend Meg search for the real killer, but the real killer just might be hunting them as well! Stabbing in the Senate is a page-turner that will keep the reader’s rapt attention to the very end.”

—Wisconsin Bookwatch, Midwest Book Review

“Amid perpetual rounds of gossip, back-scratching, blame games and cocktails, Colleen Shogan offers an inside look into DC politics. A Senator is murdered, and members of his staff are simultaneously suspicious, calculating and polite as they scramble for new jobs. Staff must also decide whether to collude on a revisionist history for the maverick’s opinions. Everyone is power hungry, but protocol demands that ambitions be kept hidden. Protagonist Kit Marshall is a breath of fresh air in a city of opportunists, and Stabbing in the Senate is a smart, snappy whodunit that kept me guessing until the end.”

—Susan Froetschel, award-winning author of Allure of Deceit

“An interesting snapshot into the world of Senate staffers from a Capitol Hill insider. Political intrigue, mystery, and a rescue beagle named Clarence. What more could you ask for?”

—Tracy Weber Award-winning author of the Downward Dog Mystery Series

“In this smart, fast-paced mystery, Colleen Shogan gives a fascinating look at Washington, D.C., politics through a Senate staffer’s eyes. She kept me turning pages until the surprising reveal at the very end.”

—Mary Marks, author of the Martha Rose quilting mysteries

“A taut mystery, set in the halls of the Senate, a backdrop Shogan knows well. It kept me guessing until the end!”

—Carlene O’Neil, author of Cypress Cove Mystery series

“Shogan captures the hilarity and pitfalls of life as a Capitol Hill staffer—all the while keeping the reader guessing in this whodunit. Stabbing in the Senate is filled with memorable characters and finds you rooting for Kit Marshall, an honest, smart and funny young woman, navigating a complicated city fueled by politics.”

—Purva Rawal, health care consultant and former Senate staffer

“A perfect whodunit from a Capitol Hill insider. Kit Marshall is a feisty protagonist I’m hoping to hear more from in the future.”

—Cathi Stoler, author of The Hard Way

“Shogan does a good job of describing the work of a staffer – unsurprising, since she herself was one in a former life. Also believable is Kit Marshall’s confusion in being thrust into the role of suspect…. Stabbing in the Senate is a quick read, perfect for those commutes on the Red Line.”  Read more….

—The Hill is Home Blog

“I enjoyed this cozy mystery. I’ve visited Washington DC and have always been fascinated by the inner workings of the city. I felt the author did a really nice job of describing the settings and developing characters. I was intrigued with the story and wrapped up in all the possible suspects that I wasn’t sure who the guilty party was until very late in the story. I liked Kit. She was a character who was easy to relate to and she made for a good amateur sleuth.”  Read more….

—Brooke Blogs

Life is good for Kit Marshall. She’s a staffer in D.C. for a popular senator, and she lives with an adoring beagle and a brainy boyfriend with a trust fund. Then, one morning, Kit arrives at the office early and finds her boss, Senator Langsford, impaled by a stainless steel replica of an Army attack helicopter. Panicked, she pulls the weapon out of his chest and instantly becomes the prime suspect in his murder.

Circumstances back Kit’s claim of innocence, but her photograph has gone viral, and the heat won’t be off until the killer is found. Well-loved though the senator was, suspects abound. Langsford had begun to vote with his conscience, which meant he was often at odds with his party. Not only had the senator decided to quash the ambitions of a major military contractor, but his likely successor is a congressman he trounced in the last election. Then there’s the suspiciously dry-eyed Widow Langsford.

Kit’s tabloid infamy horrifies her boyfriend’s upper-crust family, and it could destroy her career. However, she and her free-spirited friend Meg have a more pressing reason to play sleuth. The police are clueless in more ways than one, and Kit worries that the next task on the killer’s agenda will be to end her life.

Says Shogan, “One morning before work, I took a walk in my Washington, D.C. suburban neighborhood and came up with the plot for Stabbing in the Senate. It’s a classic whodunit set in the halls of Congress with colorful politicos as the main characters, sleuths and suspects alike. I plan to keep the tradition of Margaret Truman alive by telling entertaining stories of intrigue and mystery situated in our nation’s capital.”

Colleen J. Shogan is the deputy director of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) at the Library of Congress. She is a former Senate staffer who started reading mysteries at the age of six. A political scientist by training, Colleen has taught American government at George Mason University, Georgetown, and Penn. Stabbing in the Senate is her first novel.

Colleen is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She received her BA from Boston College and her doctorate from Yale. A member of Sisters in Crime, she lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband Rob Raffety and their rescue mutt, Conan. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

I had followed the police officer out of the bathroom and was headed toward the office when a swarm descended on me. Flashes of light blazed across the dimly lit hallway, and someone shoved a microphone close to my mouth. Frowning, I blinked to avoid the bright flickers. When my eyes adjusted, I found myself in the middle of an old-fashioned Washington, D.C., press assault. Questions flew in staccato rapid fire:

“What’s your name?”

“Why did you murder Senator Langsford?”

“Are you having an affair with the senator?”

“How many years have you worked for him?”

“What weapon did you use?”

How did the press learn so quickly a salacious story was brewing? I might have been delusional, because I thought I caught a glimpse of Matt Drudge in the crowd that assaulted me.

My police escort whisked me away quickly, but not before the damage had been done. Maybe if I could clear up what happened with the police, no one would run with the story. That hope was delusional, too.

Back in the safety of the office, Vivian, the senator’s wife—now his widow—had arrived. Her gray hair was perfectly styled and she was dressed in an impeccably tailored suit, matching handbag in tow. Vivian was a hard woman to understand. Always polite with the senator’s staff, she had given us no obvious reason to dislike her, but we still did. She wasn’t overtly interested in legislation or policy, but was invested, literally and figuratively, in her husband’s political career. For more than twenty years she had been the wife of a senator. Independently wealthy, she had funded Langsford’s initial run for elected office and had kept the money flowing ever since.

The rumor around the office was she wanted Langsford to finish his current term in office, retire, and then accept a lucrative job with a lobbying firm on K Street. Vivian had played her part well during the many years of public service. Now, she wanted a big payout.

Langsford had given no indication he was willing to grant Vivian her wish. All senators possessed a healthy ego, and Langsford was no exception. The prospect of growing the family fortune did not motivate him. In fact, he relished his new role as a political maverick. He also liked the attention it attracted. Sources within the office reported that if he thought he could win reelection, then he would run for office again, whether Vivian liked it or not.

I took a long look at Vivian. Never rumpled, she always looked as if she’d just stepped off the cover of Vogue. Now was no exception. It took a moment to register what was bothering me. Her face showed expected signs of strain; her brow was appropriately furrowed. Sniffling, she used a monogrammed “V” handkerchief to dab at her eyes and nose.

The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest, by Scott A. Lerner: A Small-Town Lawyer Faces a Coven Court

wiccan-188x300A sexy witch faces a fiery death on All Hallow’s Eve, and Sam has only two days to scare up a defense.

** Click the cover image to order online **

** Or buy it in Kindle, Nook, or from iBooks **

The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest ($13.95, 230 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-291-7) is the fourth work of Urban Fantasy in Scott A. Lerner’s Samuel Roberts Thriller series, which began with Cocaine Zombies and continued with Ruler of Demons and The Fraternity of the Soul Eater. In this adventure, Sam and Bob scramble to acquaint themselves with the laws and customs of a Wiccan community and expose the evil sorcerer who has been sacrificing children for the sake of power.

“If you enjoy mystery, humor, romance, and danger, you will find this book perfect for your library. Paranormal and magic thread throughout the telling and you will fall in love with the characters one more time. This would be a great book for the upcoming holidays. It is fun and enjoyable, one you will want to pass on to your friends.”  Read more….

—Leslie Wright for Blogcritics

“I am impressed with how Scott was able to tell such a great story in such a short amount of time. The book isn’t long so this would be ideal for people who want a great read that doesn’t require the time commitment that a longer book would. For me I’m cool with every day being Halloween but I think this would be a great book to add to the list if you’re a seasonal type of reader. This would make my list of books to read during Halloween. It had quite an interesting twist. I was hooked from the very first page. I will definitely be picking up more books in this series. It can be read as a standalone.”  Read more….

—Fic Gal

5 Stars: “I have not read any other books in the Samuel Roberts series, but after reading The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest, I have already added the other three books to my wish list on Amazon. This is a smaller book—think cozy mysteries—but there is a great, entertaining story. I would definitely recommend it for those that like their mysteries with a little paranormal twist.”  Read more….

—J. Bronder Book Reviews

“This is a good and thrilling plot. The pace is exciting and the plot kept me guessing.  The end isn’t what you think and the dead really do speak.  You will learn a little history besides the author’s opinion on our current justice system…. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest. The characterization is delineated expertly.  I especially like Sam and Bob. They play off each other humorously…. The pace of the action is just right. This story is a good read.”  Read more ….

—The One True Faith Blog

“Scott has honestly done it again. He’s given us another Samuel Roberts thriller full of intrigue, suspense, and so many unexpected twists and turns. I first came in contact with the series when I read book two, Ruler of Demons. That book mind-boggled me back then in such a way that it left me wanting to know more about the secrets that surrounded Samuel. This book delves deeper into that, and also poses a slew of new mysteries…. I couldn’t put the book down. Looking forward to what Scott has in store next for Samuel.”  Read more….

—Lissette E. Manning, Simplistik.org

“Equally suspenseful and humorous, The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest will delight the reader. I enjoyed the story. This is the first I have read by this author and I was pleasantly surprised.”  Read more….

—Celtic Lady’s Reading Room

Scott’s first novel, Cocaine Zombies, won a Bronze medal in the 2012 IPPY Awards, mystery category.

Samuel Roberts, a lawyer in Champaign, Illinois, has just moved to a new home to escape the memories of his old place—the stray body parts left by evil entities as well as traces of his relationship with Susan, who left him because he couldn’t stop risking both their lives trying to save the world. That leaves Sam free to fall in love again.

Sam falls hard, suspiciously hard, for Bridget Gillis, a beautiful fortune teller who also happens to be a witch and a member of a coven. The village that encompasses the coven was founded by Bridget’s great-great aunt, also named Bridget and a dead ringer for her descendant. The new relationship quickly gets complicated. It is two days before Halloween, and Bridget is about to be tried by her fellow witches for the crime of practicing dark magic involving the blood of children. The punishment is to be burned at the stake. Bridget needs an advocate, and Sam is the perfect man for the job.

Sam brings in Bob, who is suspicious of his best buddy’s sudden passion. The two of them have until the Witching Hour on Halloween to clear Bridget’s name and find out who is killing the local children. As they comb the area for clues, quiz the locals, and take a crash course in witchcraft and Wiccan customs, Sam and Bob can’t shake the question: is Bridget a good witch or a bad witch?

Says the author, “I love the fall, when nights grow longer and frost paints the pumpkins. I wanted this book to capture my love of the season but also to acknowledge the darker side of Halloween. Witchcraft and Wicca seem to focus on nature, and nature tends to be unpredictable. Like nature, I tried to include some unpredictable twists and turns. The idea of a community of witches living in Central Illinois, Amish country shows that dark magic can hide anywhere. I hope my readers find this book to be dark and spooky fun.”

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 cats Fern and Quinn. 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:

Her touch sent ripples of warmth through my body, and her scent grew stronger as we walked together. I took a deep whiff of sandalwood, anise, and cloves. I could actually feel the warmth emanating from her body.

We walked up the back stairs to the second level of the home. From there we walked down a hallway to the end, where a door opened up to reveal a smaller, narrower staircase. This led to a library. Oak bookshelves lined the walls, with an oil painting separating each shelf. The room smelled of old leather.

There was an antique tiger oak library table and four maroon leather club chairs around it. A wooden podium against one wall looked like it had come from a church. In addition there was a ladder on wheels that moved along a track. The ladder was necessary because books were shelved all the way to the top of the twelve-foot ceiling.

“Mr. Levi once offered me over a hundred thousand dollars for these books. Many have been in my family since the seventeenth century. They are beyond priceless. The collection includes the grimoire of my great-great aunt. Their pages reveal some of the greatest mysteries of magic. Mostly good magic.”

The paintings on the wall were all of stoic looking women in conservative attire. Although the pictures were well rendered, the models appeared lifeless. Only one image broke the mold. It was a picture of my hostess lying naked on her back, surrounded by lit candles. She was in the middle of a pentacle painted in red. The painting was erotic and out of place in this room. It reminded me of a heavy metal album cover. She wore the same silver necklace she was wearing this evening.

“I must say the painting of you is a lot different than the others,” I said. “I would have liked to see you model for it.” I blushed. I had spoken my thoughts aloud. She hadn’t invited me here to seduce me.

“That is not me,” she said. “Look at the date.”

I took a closer look at the canvas. The piece was signed by John William Waterhouse. The date was clearer than the signature: 1874. It was not possible, of course.

“That is my great-great aunt, Bridget Bishop. We do look alike.”

“The necklace is the same,” I said.

“It was hers.”

“Your aunt was lovely.”

Then Bridget did something totally unexpected. She kissed me gently on the lips. Passion rushed through me and I kissed her back. I was almost feverish with desire, and it scared me. It had been a long time since I had been with a woman romantically. Susan and I had broken up over a year ago. Yet what I felt now was more than desperation; it was a longing so intense that it completely overwhelmed me.

Eyewitness, by Carolann Camillo and Phyllis Humphrey: a Soap Star Struggles to Survive Both On and Off the Screen

eyewitnessWhat she saw at the murder scene might solve the case… if she can stay alive long enough to remember it.

Eyewitness ($14.95, 258 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-355-6) is a woman-in-jeopardy mystery by Carolann Camillo and Phyllis Humphrey. A daytime TV star finds her life in danger after the photographer is killed during a photo shoot she cannot recall.

** Click the cover image to order online **

** Or buy it in Kindle, Nook, or other eBook formats at Smashwords **

“After Toni Abbott, a TV soap actress, witnesses a murder, she falls and suffers temporary amnesia. But, finding a second dead body, she realizes she must unravel the mystery to save her own life. This glimpse into TV-land is an exciting read filled with intrigue and surprises.”

—Fern Field, Co-Executive Producer of three-time Emmy winner, Monk

5 Cups of coffee: “Eyewitness is surely a page turner. The author keeps you guessing the who, what, where and why at every turn until the final act. The dirty dealings behind the scenes of soap opera life makes a great backdrop for this mystery. I loved the eclectic cast of characters. Mystery lovers will love this one.”  Read more….

—Matilda, Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance & More

“From its vivid opening, ‘Eyewitness’ proceeds to grow as an intriguing mystery, with possible suspects turning up all over the place – and as far as the police are concerned, Toni is definitely one of them.  Also, because of the character she portrays on the show, a lot of viewers blame her, too.  A top criminal attorney, Michael Benedict, takes her case, and ends up protecting her physically as well as legally.  The puzzles weave back and forth, through incidents on the set, her character’s storyline, the interactions between many of the show’s performers – and their off-screen family and friends.  As the circumstances become more and more complicated, Michael and Toni predictably come closer together…. I liked getting to know Toni and Michael; the intrigue was nicely portrayed… and I enjoyed the final surprise. I recommend the book to most romantic murder mystery fans, and give it 4 stars.”  Read more….

—Roberta, Sensuous Promotions Reviews Site

The big break Toni Abbott longed for has finally arrived. She has been cast as the soap opera villainess everyone loves to hate, and because of her, ratings are soaring. Then her lucky streak runs out. During a late-night photo session, Craig, the photographer, is shot to death. In the confusion Toni hits her head and is knocked unconscious, and when she awakes, she can’t recall what happened. If she could regain her memory, could she identify the killer? Apparently the killer thinks so, because soon after the incident, Toni hears someone breaking in to her apartment and barely escapes. Too bad the police believe she is somehow responsible for Craig’s murder. It doesn’t help that her character on the show is so convincingly nasty and conniving.

Was the target really Craig, or did the killer aim for Toni and miss? Craig was an unscrupulous womanizer. Any number of people might have wanted him dead, including a career criminal he helped convict, his business partner, his wife, and his mistress. Despite her winning personality, Toni has her share of enemies, among them an older actress jealous of her success and the show’s director, whose animosity baffles her.

With the help of Michael Benedict, a handsome young criminal lawyer, Toni sets out to awaken her dormant memory and unmask the killer. Meanwhile the character she plays, Alexandra, is in a coma, fighting for her life. The writers will decide Alexandra’s fate, but Toni must save herself.

Says Carolann Camillo: “An acquaintance of mine once overheard a conversation between two men in a restaurant. The content was so sinister he notified the police. Then, with his life now in jeopardy, he was forced into hiding for several years. He chose to ‘do the right thing,’ but others do not, which is the reason for anonymous tip lines. The deadly consequences of being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time–like Toni Abbott–seemed ideal for a woman-in-jeopardy plot whereby a young actress must either fight for her life or surrender it.”

Carolann Camillo is an award winning romance and short story writer. A former New Yorker, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her college professor husband and cat, Peaches. Her romantic suspense novel Forever Mine was published in September 2014. Click here to find her online.

Phyllis Humphrey has sold 14 romance novels and several short stories. In 2002 she won the San Diego Book Award and was a finalist in St. Martin’s Press Malice Domestic Mystery Contest. Phyllis is a mother of four and lives with her husband in Southern California. Click here to find her online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

She came out of the entryway and hurried into the kitchen. With Oscar at her heels, clamoring for attention, she put away the groceries. Ever since the summer hiatus ended, Beekman Place occupied most of her time. Her days were filled with traveling back and forth to the television studio, learning lines, and waiting endlessly for scenes, and she had little inclination to cook meals from scratch. They usually came prepared by someone else. All she had to do was pluck them out of the freezer compartment at Gristedes or pull them off a shelf.

A pair of empty bowls sat on the floor. “You must be hungry.” She stroked Oscar’s sleek fur. “Thirsty, too. What do you do with all the food and water I leave for you?”

The cat turned his purr up to high speed. While she emptied a can of his favorite cat food into his bowl, he rubbed his head against her hand.

“Don’t gobble. It’s bad for your digestion.” As he began to eat with relish, she watched him, enjoying the normal routine. At least that one small part of her life hadn’t changed. Slowly she began to unwind.

Leaving Oscar to his supper, she went into the bedroom and pulled a floral-patterned cotton shift from the closet. She carried it and a change of underwear down the hallway to the bathroom. After removing her clothes, she turned on the shower and stepped under the spray. Warm water washed through her hair and cascaded down her face. Cleansing, soothing. She wouldn’t think. She’d let the nightmare fade: Craig, the show, the imminent demise of Alexandra Bradshaw that could send her back to making endless rounds of auditions.

She turned off the water and stepped out of the shower.

“Oscar?”

Where was that cat? Every night, after consuming his dinner, he took up a position on the blue throw rug outside the stall door of the shower. A long-standing ritual, never deviated from.

“Oscar, I’m getting lonely,” she said in a singsong voice.

After toweling dry, she slipped on her clothes and entered the hallway. The pale, filtered light no longer streamed onto the living room carpet. How odd. It lay dark and shadowed, as if night had fallen. When had she closed the shutters?

Then she heard the cat, purring steadily. He was somewhere in the living room, going through his song and dance for attention.

“I’m over here, Oscar, you fickle puss.” He was always under foot, unless someone else ….

She froze. The thought turned her as cold and still as an ice sculpture. Pleading silently for the cat to come to her, she waited for what seemed like two lifetimes, but Oscar, purring contentedly, had transferred his affection elsewhere.

Her heart slammed against her ribs, and her pulse thundered in her ears. She clamped a hand to her mouth to hold back the scream that built in her throat. Of all the horrors she might have imagined, this was the worst. Someone else was in her apartment.

Checked Out, by Sharon St. George: A Horse is Wrongly Accused of Murder

checked_outCamel Press will release Checked Out ($15.95, 328 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-225-2), the second book in a mystery series featuring forensic librarian Aimee Machado and set in Northern California. When a rodeo cowboy is killed, Aimee becomes enmeshed in his complicated family dynamics.

** Click the Cover Image to Order Online **

** Or order it in Kindle, Nook, or other eBook formats on Smashwords **

“The story is interesting, unique, and fun, and the puzzle is challenging to solve ahead of the heroine.”  Read more….

—Carolyn Haley for the New York Journal of Books

“Sharon St. George has created an absorbing mystery of family betrayal, medical intrigue, and three tightly interwoven mysteries. Whether she’s searching through morgues, dodging bullets, or hiking the Cascade Mountains with llamas, amateur sleuth Aimee Machado is a realistic character with surprising strength, relatable flaws, and a lot of heart. Checked Out is a sure winner!”

—Tracy Weber, Agatha Award nominated author of the Downward Dog Mysteries

“St. George’s latest ‘Aimee Machado’ book is filled with twists and cleverly plotted. Her obvious knowledge of the medical world and human relations provides a satisfying page turner.”

—Sasscer Hill, Agatha and Macavity Award nominated author

“An exceptionally engaging mystery thriller from beginning to end…. A deftly crafted novel that well prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections.”  Read more….

—Mary Cowper for Midwest Book Review

When rodeo cowboy Cody O’Brien is found dead in his horse trailer, it appears that his horse, Game Boy, is the culprit. Aimee Machado, health sciences librarian at Timbergate Medical Center, has no reason to doubt the preliminary finding—not at first. Cody had been in the hospital awaiting an operation the night he died, but he checked himself out. Had he reason to believe his surgeon, Dr. Phyllis Poole, was incompetent? Or is his death related to his complex relationship with his family? It turns out his father is dying, and four people other than Cody stood to inherit: his young trophy wife Echo, his son James, his daughter Keely, and her fiancé Tucker. How does Dr. Poole fit into all this? Her surgical outcomes have not been the best. Not to mention that Laurie Popejoy, TMC nurse and Poole’s rival in the hospital’s blues combo, disappeared the night of Cody’s death.

Aimee is highly motivated to investigate. She once had a crush on Cody’s brother James, who has now set his sights on her. The missing nurse, Laurie, left Aimee a desperate phone message the night she disappeared. Moreover, Aimee’s friend and co-worker Cleo has elicited her help to discredit Dr. Poole.

Aimee is already confused romantically. Although it pains her, she is trying to keep Nick, the pilot she loves but does not trust, at arm’s length. But his help proves too invaluable to refuse. Can Aimee ferret out the truth without losing her job and her life?

Says St. George, “When I was a child growing up in a ranching community, there were times when the only mode of transport to the county library was a three-mile ride while fixed firmly behind my mother’s back on her bay mare. So it will come as no surprise that the books I chose to read always featured horses. By the time I was given my own mare at age twelve, I was a die-hard fan of rodeos and cutting horse competitions. As an adult, I worked in several medical offices and eventually spent a number of years as coordinator of the medical staff organization of an acute care hospital, where I also served as the health sciences librarian. Eventually, my love of reading led me to write mystery novels. For the plot of Checked Out, I was able to combine four of my favorite subjects: cutting horses, rodeos, hospitals, and forensics. As with Due for Discard, there is also a sprinkling of romance.”

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. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“Hello, Aimee, remember me?” A deep voice, vaguely familiar, pulled my attention from the computer screen. A man who looked about forty walked in. He was dressed in faded jeans, scuffed cowboy boots, and a gray plaid Pendleton shirt. As he walked toward my desk, his broad smile told me he expected a warm welcome. His wavy hair was reddish-brown and his face was familiar, but the name wouldn’t come.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “You have the advantage.”

“Come on, Aimless, you’re breaking my heart.”

No one called me Aimless except Harry. How did this guy know that nickname? Then it struck me. James O’Brien. Cody and Keely’s older brother. He used to drive Keely to and from the dance studio where we took lessons when we were eight years old. He was eighteen then, and my infatuation with him was sweet misery. It didn’t help that he flirted with me shamelessly, telling me that when I was all grown up he was going to marry me. I stopped believing him when he moved to New York right after my thirteenth birthday. I cried every night for a week. Seeing him now, I felt a flush of pleasure warm my cheeks.

“James, I heard you were back. I’m so sorry about your brother.”

“Thank you. It was a shock for all of us.” He opened his arms. “Hey, don’t I rate a hug?”

“Of course.” I walked around my desk and tried for something tepid and platonic.

“You call that a hug?” He wrapped me in his arms with the warmth of a long lost lover, rocking my body back and forth. Then he kissed the top of my head. I felt myself melting, and when he released me, I stepped backward, unsteady on my feet. The man smelled like dessert. Lemon meringue pie.

“How long will you be in town?”

“As long as it takes,” he said. “This hit Dad pretty hard, and Echo’s no help. She’s acting like Cody’s death is no big deal, since he and Dad were estranged for the past few years. Keely’s no better.”

“Your father really needs you right now, doesn’t he?”

“It seems that way.” He cocked his head to one side. “Look at you. All grown up.”

Regency Christmas Gifts, by Carla Kelly: Three All-New Stories for the Holidays

Regency-Christmas-GiftsRegency Christmas Gifts: Three Stories ($14.95, 210 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-994-7) is an all-new collection of two novella-length regency romances and one short story by “the Grandmistress of the [Regency] genre” (The Romance Reader), Carla Kelly.

In the first of these stories set in early 19th-century England, The Lasting Gift, an impoverished war widow returns a misdelivered parcel and attracts the interest of a well-to-do retired sailing master and his sister. In Faithfully Yours, a self-made man returns to Scotland to marry the woman he has corresponded with ever since he left as a boy, little knowing the letters were written by another. In Lucy’s Bang-Up Christmas, a man visits the estate of his relatives to comfort his lovely second cousin, who is unhappy that Christmas has been usurped by her sister’s nuptials.

** Click the cover image to order online **

** Or buy it in Kindle, Nook, or from iTunes **

Carla Kelly is the recipient of two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America for Best Regency of the Year; two Spur Awards from Western Writers of America, three Whitney Awards, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times. Kelly’s Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand reprint was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the top 5 romances in 2012.

Last year at this time, Camel Press reprinted two of Carla’s Christmas novellas in the collection, Season’s Regency Greetings.

Other Camel Press reprints of Carla Kelly regencies include Miss Whittier Makes a List, Miss Chartley’s Guided Tour, Miss Billings Treads the Boards, Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind, Mrs. McVinnie’s London Season, and With This Ring. Camel has also published Books 1, 2, and 3 of Carla’s all-new Spanish Brand series, The Double Cross, Marco and the Devil’s Bargain, and Paloma and the Horse Traders. These stories feature life, love, and danger on America’s southwest border in the 1780s. Book 4 will appear in the fall of 2016.

According to Romantic Times, “Carla Kelly’s Regency Romances are always superb and a timeless delight.” Library Journal wrote, “one of the most respected Regency writers.”

“These are sweet romance stories, perhaps verging on inspirational, but what could be more fitting at Christmastime? Carla Kelly writes well, and effortlessly evokes the Regency era, and a host of beautifully portrayed characters in a variety of different circumstances engage the attention and hearts of readers. Regency lovers, and readers who enjoy gentle and uplifting stories, will find these three stories a gift indeed, as did I.”  Read more….

—Historical Novel Society

“I enjoyed reading all three of these stories. They are unashamedly sentimental and romantic, and even occasionally tear inducing. Regency Christmas Gifts is full of holiday cheer, warmth and love.”  Read more….

—Lady Blue, Romantic Historical Reviews

“These three romances, written in Kelly’s charming style, celebrate family values and the Christmas season.”  Read more….

—Rosemarie Howard for Deseret News

Read three reviews, one of each story, on Kathy’s Review Corner:

The Lasting Gift: “There was a gradual growth in feelings for Thomas and Mary Ann that was simply perfect.”  Read more…

Faithfully Yours: “A sweet, short regency romance. I always enjoy a romance where the hero has fallen hard for his heroine, and John has definitely fallen for the author of these letters.”  Read more….

Lucy’s Bang-Up Christmas: “A poignant romance between a young woman mourning her mother and feeling somewhat adrift, and a man who helps guide her in recognizing that the special traits that were in her mother are also in her.”  Read more….

“Three deftly crafted and entertaining stories by Carla Kelly with each one being cast in the yesteryear of Regency England…. Carla Kelly is a master of the Regency Romance genre and her short story collection, Regency Christmas Gifts, is highly recommended for community library Romance Fiction collections.”  Read more….

—Midwest Book Review/Wisconsin Bookwatch

“A trilogy of romantic, holiday-themed novellas set in Regency era England…. Regency Christmas Gifts is a cozy delight, especially recommended for connoisseurs of historical romance. Best savored on a snowy day, with a cup of hot cocoa nearby!”  Read more….

—MBR Bookwatch/Helen’s Bookshelf

The Lasting Gift: Christmas approaches, and Mary Ann Poole has little to anticipate. Her daughter Beth was born just after the death in battle of her father seven years earlier, and never knew Lt. Poole. Mary Ann has just lost her job. As a future in the poorhouse looms, she receives a package that was misdirected from the post office. Unable to afford return postage, the Pooles pay a visit to the sender, Thomas Jenkins, a retired sailing master in nearby Plymouth who is bored by life ashore. Thomas takes an immediate interest in the pretty widow and her bright daughter. He decides Mrs. Poole’s welfare is just the right charitable Christmas project to banish boredom while he searches for a way to return to sea. Soon he has a new dilemma: now that he has met Mary Ann Poole, does he really want to go sailing again?

Faithfully Yours: John McPherson left Dumfries, Scotland, as an impoverished, neglected boy, determined to make his fortune in North America. Make it he did, thanks to his facility with languages and business savvy. Now he is home after ten years for a visit. He hopes to marry Margaret Patterson, the lovely correspondent he left behind, and who has exchanged letters with him ever since. But Margaret, daughter of a prosperous merchant, is engaged to another. His faithful correspondent has really been Sally Wilson, pretending to be Margaret, who is not quite the person John thought she was. Just the daughter of a minister, Sally never judged John for his poverty and even saw him off on his adventures. But how could he possibly know that?

Lucy’s Bang-Up Christmas: Lucinda Danforth is downhearted this Christmas, her first since the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Her sister is getting married on Christmas Eve, and Papa Danforth has been trying to keep events on an even keel ever since the death of his dear wife. Overwhelmed by wedding preparations, he tells Lucy to forget about Christmas traditions this year. But Lucy wants Christmas, too. Enter Lucy’s second cousin Miles Bledsoe, Oxford scholar, who wangles an invitation to the Danforth’s home. He’s happy to help out, and even happier to see Lucy Danforth. Thoughts of Lucy have been distracting him from his studies of late. He might be in love, and he wants to test his theory. Along the way, Lucy and Miles seek to honor the memory of Lucy’s departed mother by helping others, in this case, a war widow and her children.

Says Kelly, “I like happy endings, and I’m also interested in the Napoleonic Wars. Two stories reflect that interest from the point of view of those who lost so much—widows and children—and those who fought. The third story is just for fun.”

A well-known veteran of the romance writing field, Carla Kelly is the author of thirty-four novels and four non-fiction works, as well as numerous short stories and articles for various publications. Carla’s interest in historical fiction is a byproduct of her lifelong study of history. She has a BA in Latin American History from Brigham Young University and an MA in Indian Wars History from University of Louisiana-Monroe. Click here to find Carla online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“There is a quite pretty lady and her daughter in the sitting room wishing to speak to you,” she said. “Is that interesting enough?”

“Anyone you know?” he asked, getting up. He put his hands up to straighten his neckcloth, them remembered not bothering to put one on this morning. I am going to rack and ruin, he thought. “I don’t look like much of a gentleman,” he said.

“You never were one, except by virtue of the Navy Board,” she replied cheerfully. “Who needs a gentleman anyway? Don’t let it go to your head, but I always thought you handsome enough for general purposes.”

“You flatter me, Sis,” he told her. “I think.”

“Only a little,” she teased back. “And now I believe I will see if Mrs. Williams has some tea and biscuits.”

“That kind of a visit?” he asked, as he started down the hall with her.

Outside the sitting room door, she said, “They look genteel, if a little shabby.” She gave him a push. “Go find out.”

His sister was quite right on both counts. A lovely lady rose gracefully to her feet when he opened the sitting room door. What hair he could see under her dark bonnet looked blond. He thought her eyes were brown. She wore a cloak as serviceable-looking as her hat. He smiled inwardly to see mismatched gloves, which made him feel slightly less self conscious about his neckcloth that was missing in action.

“I am Mrs. Poole,” she said, and dipped a curtsy. “This is my daughter Elizabeth.”

“Beth, sir,” said the child, and followed her pronouncement with a curtsy of her own. “I like your house.”

Who could resist that? He smiled back, noting that she had a tooth missing. “I’m still getting used to living on land,” a glance at her mother, “Beth.” Then, remembering his manners, he added, “Let me take your cloaks. “We do have a maid around here somewhere, except that she has scarpered off.”

Beth grinned at that, which told Thomas that she was a girl who herself liked to scarper on occasion.

Mrs. Poole was going to give him a hard time. “That isn’t really necessary,” she told him, and held out a package. “We won’t occupy much of your time. It’s this package.”

He took it from her and recognized the ivory hairbrush and comb set. Mrs. Poole came a little closer and he took an appreciative sniff of a familiar fragrance. Was it vanilla?

“I am Mrs. Poole, but not this one,” she said, pointing to the address. “We live at Carmoody Street and not Dinwoody. I think the posting house clerks are overly busy this time of year.”

By gadfreys, she had a pleasant voice. The almost-burr to her Rs placed her almost in Scotland but not quite.

“I shouldn’t have opened it,” Beth said, coming closer. “Mama wasn’t yet home from work and I hadn’t ever opened a package before.” She hung her head. “I couldn’t resist.”