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.

** Click the cover image to order online **

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

** Also available in Audiobook **

Wholesale customers, contact

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,

“[Lights Out Summer] contained a number of sympathetic and credible characters along with the well-paced suspense of the narrative. I’m glad I didn’t miss it.”  Read more….

—Shomeret, The Masked Reviewer Blog

“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

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.

** Click the cover image to order online **

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

“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
(chosen as BOOK OF THE MONTH)

“Em is a terrific character—outspoken, funny and fearless except in the affairs of the heart. I hope to read more of Mary Angela’s Professor Prather books.”  Read more….

—Map Your Mystery blog

“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.

** Click the cover image to order online **

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

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.

** Click the cover image to order online **

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

“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.

** Click the cover image to order online **

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

Wholesale customers, contact Epicenter Press/Aftershocks Media: orders@epicenter

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?

** Click the cover image to order online **

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

Wholesale customers, contact Epicenter Press/Aftershocks Media:

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

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.

Sapphire Pavilion, by David E. Grogan: an Old Crash Site in Vietnam Roils the Present

sapphireWhat is Sapphire Pavilion? Learning the answer may prove fatal.

Sapphire Pavilion ($15.95, 280 pages, 6×9 ISBN: 978-1-60381-603-8), by David E. Grogan, is book 2 in a series featuring retired Navy-JAG officer and Williamsburg, VA, attorney Steve Stilwell. Steve travels to Vietnam to free a fellow ex-Navy JAG from jail, only to stumble onto a deadly secret.

** Click the cover image to order online **

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

Book 1, The Siegel Dispositions, is being reprinted as part of the Harlequin Worldwide Mystery series.

“A roller coaster of a thriller whose heart is a devotion to the struggles of veterans, those waiting to come home and the families of those who never will. [….] Accented by the call to recognize soldiers’ sacrifice, the story’s many threads weave a compelling exploration of veterans’ struggles then and now, and how they are far more similar than different. Grogan succeeds in pushing readers to think more deeply about wartime truths that remain buried overseas.”  Read more….

—Jackie Mohan for the Virginian Pilot

4 Stars: “Sapphire Pavilion is a tense thriller that builds slowly into a highly compelling plot. It deals with some heavy themes in a deft manner, especially with Casey’s journey into the past. The descriptions of Vietnam paint a portrait of a locale that is both sensitive and fascinating. It is technically a sequel, but it isn’t necessary to have read the book before this one. Sapphire Pavilion is a page-turner that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat from start to finish and is well worth a read.”  Read more….

—Mary Bennings for RT Reviews

“This is not about gems or architecture, and prior Stilwell experience is unnecessary. All you need do is allow this suspense novel to entertain you. [….] The situation brings international, military and political intrigue, a secretary of state who is tight-lipped about a relationship that goes back to when the city was called Saigon, a female agent who’ll muster any mystique for money, an Iraq veteran starting what she thinks will be a no-stress job at a small law firm in colonial Williamsburg, and a Vietnamese taxi driver who wants to get his family to the U.S. And there’s Stilwell, whose billable hours do not help his marital life. Throw in elements of bribery, treachery and ethics, and you’re hooked by the former Navy JAG officer’s second novel.” Read more….

—Military Times

5 Stars: “I really enjoyed this story and was engrossed in it from the first page. The intricate, fascinating plot deftly uses ‘what if’ to look back at a mission that might have happened during the Vietnam War era and convincingly creates the story from this imaginary incident [….] The settings are very vivid and I felt the heat and chaos in Ho Chi Minh City, and soaked up the bureaucratic atmosphere of Washington, D.C. and the small town aura of Texas and Virginia [….] This is a fast-paced mystery and thriller gripped me from the beginning. I enjoyed every moment of it.”  Read more….

—Dianne Ascroft, author of historical and contemporary fiction

“I have recently completed three military/Tier One/Black Ops thrillers each of which will appeal to a big segment of the thriller audience. [….] Sapphire Pavilion by David E Grogan is perhaps my favorite of the three. [….] “Totally plausible, [….] this book is a page-turner and hard to put down until the very end.” Read more….

—Mystery Maven Blog

5 Stars: “A gripping story that had me on the edge of my seat. I shall certainly be adding David’s first book The Siegel Dispositions to my wish list.” Read more….

—Yet Another Blogging Mummy

“Grogan’s richly layered writing style brings you into the pages, like a virtual reality. It’s more than an excellent read. It’s an experience.”

—Carine McCandless, author of the New York Times best seller, The Wild Truth

“A thrilling, intriguing tale, Sapphire Pavilion leaves you hanging by the seat of your pants. The fast-paced action is continuous, climbing every step of the way. With every turn of the page, you find yourself digging deeper into Steve’s unexpected circumstances. While this book is a part of the series, the author has written it in such a way that it also acts as a standalone. Will definitely be catching up on book one. Thanks for a great read!”  Read more….

—Lissette Manning,

“David Grogan’s Sapphire Pavilion is a page turner with twists and turns on just about every page. From a sleepy law practice in Southern Virginia to the streets and back alleys of Ho Chi Min City to the corridors of the U.S. State Department Grogan’s protagonist/retired Navy JAG Captain Steve Stilwell manages to piece together a long-buried truth that threatens to destroy him and others.” —Gene Pell, host of the nationally syndicated radio program, Veterans Chronicles

“This book is set in Vietnam. The American author wrote it while in Vietnam. And that’s why I like it. It’s an authentic portrayal of an oft misunderstood place and it shows how it is right now, today. The author could’ve relied on his imagination, secondhand research, TV, movies, the Internet, etc. But he chose not to. Instead, he did the legwork and brought current day Vietnam to life from his own personal perspective. And let me tell you, it makes for a much more interesting read.”  Read more….

—City Girl Who Loves to Read

“Let me tell you, this is novel is so chock full of suspense that you won’t want to put down, as you follow their dangerous pursuits through the openly corrupt Vietnamese system and back again to the covertly crooked one, existing in America. If you like political thrillers with jaw-dropping plot twists at the end, then this one’s for you.”  Read more….

—Tribute Books Mama

“A nonstop thriller, this second addition to the ‘Steve Stilwell Thriller’ can be read in order or as a standalone work. With minimal romance, but tons of action and conspiracy to unravel, readers will find themselves fully entrenched in the story.”  Read more….

—Sarah E. Bradley for InD’Tale magazine

5 stars: “Sometimes a supporting character really steals the show, and in this one it’s an ex-Army fighter pilot, who just so happens to be a woman.”  Read more….

—Laura’s Reviews

“The case file for Sapphire Pavilion looks as though it will be one of Alfred Hitchcock’s McGuffins, but it works well enough to carry the book’s plot along until the exciting end. If you enjoyed the previous book in this series, you’ll love this one, too.  Read and enjoy.”  Read more…
—Veteran Voices of America Books in Review II

Steve Stilwell’s former Navy JAG Corps buddy Ric Stokes has been jailed for possession of heroin in Vietnam. He was found in the same room with his traveling companion Ryan Eversall, who died of an overdose in the company of a prostitute. Steve knows his friend is a straight arrow. Was he set up? If so, for what reason? Steve travels to Ho Chi Minh City in search of the truth.

In no time Steve is targeted by the people who framed his friend. A beautiful young American businesswoman insinuates her way into the case. Can she really help, or is she just a dangerous distraction? Ric and Ryan came to Vietnam in search of an Air Force transport plane that disappeared in 1968. The pilot was Ryan’s father. Before the heroin bust, they had located the wreckage. Ryan’s notebook, which Steve manages to obtain, spells out the exact location. Ryan’s widow has given Steve’s associate Casey another piece of valuable evidence, a file labeled “Sapphire Pavilion.” Someone is willing to go to any lengths to steal both the notebook and the file.

From Virginia and Texas to DC and Vietnam, powerful, all-seeing forces with unlimited resources are determined to bury the truth about Sapphire Pavilion. But they have grossly underestimated Steve Stilwell and his associate Casey, a former Army pilot who lost her leg in a helo accident. And the ability to inspire loyalty wherever you go can come in handy when danger lurks behind every corner.

Says Grogan, “I wanted to write something that would honor Vietnam veterans in a very real way, while still entertaining and engaging the reader. There was one significant impediment: I had never been to Vietnam. I remedied that problem by traveling to Vietnam in July of 2014. I should say, once I dove into the former Saigon and walked its streets, ate at its restaurants, visited its historical sites, and talked to its people, the story wrote itself. By the time I left Vietnam, I had a solid start on the manuscript, a camera overflowing with pictures to help inspire later chapters, and a host of memories from all the people I met while I was there. Sapphire Pavilion is the culmination of everything I experienced on that trip to Vietnam, but most of all, it’s my salute to the war’s lost heroes still waiting their turn to come home.”

David E. Grogan was born in Rome, New York, and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. A certified public accountant and an attorney with a master’s degree in International Law, Grogan served on active duty in the U.S. Navy for over 26 years as a Navy Judge Advocate. His experiences abroad and during the course of his career influence every aspect of his writing. Grogan currently resides with his wife in Illinois. They have three children. Click here to find Grogan online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

In the short period they had been sitting down, the sky to the east had grown ominous, with dark clouds jutting out from behind the tall buildings and heading their way. It didn’t look like a good time for a motorcycle ride, especially since he was carrying his planner with the notebook inside. Although it zipped closed, he didn’t want to risk getting the planner, or more importantly, the notebook wet.

“It looks like it’s going to rain,” Steve said. “Should we go someplace to wait out the storm?”

“No need,” Phan said, not looking at Steve, his head turned toward a man standing near a light post about twenty feet down from where Phan’s motorcycle was parked. “I give you raincoat.” Lightning flashed over the skyline as he finished speaking, with a gigantic boom of thunder reverberating through the air. As if on cue, all the motorcycles pulled off to the side of the road, their drivers and passengers donning plastic ponchos and raincoats before the storm hit. A few seconds later, the masses were all heading on their way again, their ponchos flapping in the wind behind them.

When they got to Phan’s bike, Phan lifted the seat and pulled two green plastic ponchos with hoods from the cargo compartment. He handed one to Steve and started to put the other on himself. “You put on,” he instructed. Then he drew close to Steve, his back to the man under the light post, and spoke quietly.

“That man under light post behind me was at hotel when I pick you up. I think he following us. You know him?”

Steve peered at the man out of the corner of his eye. He was now leaning up against the light post, nonchalantly smoking a cigarette and seemingly indifferent to the coming storm. After blowing a big puff of smoke over his head, he looked directly at Steve. Steve pulled the poncho over his head and pretended to show no interest. Phan was right; they were being followed.

“I don’t. Do you?”

“Me either. You get on bike and hold tight. Phan very good driver. I lose him.”

Another movie phrase, but this time Steve didn’t laugh. First someone tears up his hotel room; now some thug follows him. Although not exactly the way Phan would describe it, Steve knew it was his turn to be in for a world of trouble. The drug cartels or whoever else framed Ric were after Ryan’s notebook, but why? And once they got it, would they be content to take the notebook, or would they want to silence him as they had Ryan and Ric? The only way to avoid finding out was to keep them from getting the notebook. He straddled the bike as another bolt of lightning flashed across the sky and the rain started to blow in. He hoped Phan knew what he was doing.

Two Heads Are Deader Than One, by Elena Hartwell: An Old Friend Sends Eddie into a Tailspin

two_headsTwo Heads Are Deader Than One ($15.95, 286 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-313-6) is book 2 in Elena Hartwell’s Eddie Shoes Mystery series set in Bellingham, Washington. Soon after PI Eddie Shoes’ best friend from Spokane shows up in a Bellingham jail, two bodies are found bearing Eddie’s business cards.

** Click the cover image to order online **

** Buy the Audiobook **

** Or order it for your Kindle or Nook or from Kobo or iBooks **

The Audiobooks of One Dead, Two to Go and Two Heads Are Deader Than One are produced by

The 5×8 trade paperback is distributed by Epicenter Press/Aftershocks Media. Wholesale customers, contact

“Chava, the mother, is a hoot and Franklin is about as loyal and intelligent as a big dog can be. Chance, the now maybe lover, is attractive and the mystery is indeed mysterious pretty much up until the end. There are enough quirks in the characters and twists in the development of the story to keep things satisfyingly interesting all the way through. Elena Hartwell has conjured up a plausible protagonist and done a good job of plunking her into a setting and plot that nicely suit her.”  Read more….

—Diana Borse for Reviewing the Evidence

5 Stars: “The characters are likeable and believable and Chava, Eddie’s card-dealing mom, is especially charming. It’s impossible not to root for them all through the story. Author Elena Hartwell showcases a delightful heroine in a story that promises pleasant romance and a hint of danger with a twist of an ending. This will keep one from ever putting this book down!”  Read more….

—L. Kane for InD’Tale Magazine

“An engaging mystery that will keep you stumped to the very end. This novel had many twists and turns so that I was kept guessing all the way to the surprise ending. The characters are quite impressive and I enjoyed getting to know them. I could relate to Eddie and loved her quirky mother, Chava. However, Dakota’s character brought back unpleasant memories of high school and she made a great antagonist …. Although this novel is part of a series, it is a good standalone. For those who are fans of whodunits, this is a great read.”  Read more….

—Susan Sewell for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

“Two Heads are Deader Than One is the second title in author Elena Hartwell’s Eddie Shoes Mystery’ series and continues to demonstrate her genuine flair for writing carefully crafted, impressively entertaining, and original mysteries.” Read more….

—Helen Dumont for Midwest Library Review

“A great mystery from the get-go, packed full of interesting characters. Eddie and her mom make a great team and for once the first person narrative, usually a turn off for me, kept the story moving on a steady burn. What was most remarkable for me though was the interesting presentation of mental health issues. The author’s writing style gave me a modern Mikey Spillane vibe and was quite enjoyable from beginning to end.”  Read more….

—I Read What You Write blog

4 Stars: “The stories move quickly, there’s always danger, moments that make you laugh, and you worry about Eddie. She’s a good PI but she’s not real careful about her own safety. The author has her sticking her nose out a little further than necessary but it sure makes for a fun read.” Read more….

—Aloe for Long and Short Reviews

“Eddie Shoes is back in another page turner. Haven’t read book one yet? No problem. New readers to the series should be able to jump right into the story. Hartwell provides enough detail to get them up to speed without slowing down those who have read book one [….] Eddie’s witty no-nonsense personality and Hartwell’s well-paced writing style make the chapters fly by.”  Read more….


“The author does and great job of weaving details and people together making a whodunit that mystery lovers will want to read!”  Read more….

—My Journey Back Blog

“Private investigator Eddie Shoes needs to buy some sneakers. Danger is coming at her that fast in Two Heads Are Deader Than One, the excellent new installment in Elena Hartwell’s mystery series. A friend from her high school days shows up out of the blue, needing bail and trailing trouble. Nothing’s what it seems in this tense crime novel, though at least Eddie has the aid of her card shark mom and the company of her giant dog Franklin. Fascinating characters and a story that dares you to put the book down make this book a winner. One murder follows another, guns multiply and Eddie gets put in a frame. Mystery fans will be carried right to the end by this crackling tale.”

—Rich Zahradnik

“Boasting a wonderful cast of characters that included Eddie and her delightfully charming mother, this was a great read and I can’t wait to read the next book in this terrific series.”  Read more….

—Dru’s Book Musings

“In addition to convincing voices and accents for other characters, such as Shoes’s Latino father and an Indian landlord, Driscoll dons a gravelly tone for Shoes’s Jewish mother. Chava’s straight-shooting comments add humor and moments of tenderness to an enticing story that puts a unique spin on a classic detective genre.”  Read more….

—Review of Audiobook from Audiofile Magazine

Private Investigator Eddie Shoes is enjoying a rare period of calm. She’s less lonely now that Chava, her card-counting mom from Vegas, is sharing her home. She also has a new companion, Franklin, a giant dog of curious ancestry.

Hoping for a lucrative new case, Eddie instead finds herself taking on a less promising client: her best friend from her childhood in Spokane. Dakota has turned up in Bellingham in jail, where she is being held on a weapons charge. Eddie reluctantly agrees not only to lend her friend money for bail but to also investigate who is stalking her. Soon after Dakota is freed, she disappears again, leaving Eddie to answer to the local cops, including her ex-boyfriend Chance Parker. Has Dakota been kidnapped? If not, why did she jump bail? What are Eddie’s business cards doing on the bodies of two murder victims?

The key to these mysteries lies in Dakota and Eddie’s shared history, which ended when Eddie left home after high school. As a person of interest in both murder cases, Eddie is forced to go in search of the truth, digging into the past and facing her own demons.

Says Hartwell, “I’ve always been intrigued with how the past informs the present, so it felt right when an old friend of Eddie’s showed up in book two, bringing murder with her.”

Elena Hartwell’s writing career began in the theater, where she also worked as a director, designer, producer, and educator. Productions of her scripts have been performed around the U.S. and abroad, with some of her plays available through Indie Theater Now and New York Theatre Experience, Inc. She lives in North Bend, Washington, with her husband. For more information, visit Elena’s website or her blog.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Tuesday morning found Franklin and me driving back to my office. I came in every day, regardless of whether or not I had active cases. Checking mail and phone messages was important, of course, but I also liked having a routine, somewhere to go. My office was my safe haven now that Chava had moved in.

Pulling into the lot in back, I noticed a car I didn’t recognize in the spot where I usually parked my Subaru—against the building, closest to the door. Ordinarily the lot was empty this early in the morning, but maybe Dakota had borrowed a car and was waiting for me. I parked in the row facing the side street. Despite my private, internal assurances I didn’t care one way or another whether Dakota skipped out, I’d felt let down yesterday when she didn’t show, so I hoped it was her. Had someone asked a few days ago if it mattered if I ever saw her again, “no” would have been my answer. But, now that she had resurfaced, I wanted her to be the best friend I’d loved, not the best friend I’d come to resent.

This time I locked the back door behind me, hoping Dakota was already here. Franklin ambled ahead of me down the hall but came to an abrupt halt outside the office across from mine, lying down to face the door. My office building was essentially a duplex. From where we were standing, my office was on the right and the other office was on the left, with the hall down the middle.

“What’s up, buddy?” I asked him. He was such an attentive listener I sometimes expected answers in English.

He looked at me, making no sound—English or otherwise—before putting his attention back on the door. His body was on high alert, tail flat to the floor.

“Someone in there?” I asked, apparently still expecting an answer. He uttered a short, sharp bark, proving my expectations weren’t unreasonable, except for the English part.

Was Dakota parked out back and in there now? I pulled out my cellphone and called her number, but the call went straight to voicemail.

I leaned against the door and listened. Nothing but a buzzing sound. And I got the faint whiff of a smell like someone forgot to take the garbage out. No one responded to my knock. Putting my hand on the doorknob, I discovered it was unlocked. I could just poke my head in. But what if it wasn’t Dakota, and I walked in on some guy getting his “cards read” by one of the resident hookers? That was something I did not want to see.

Before anything else, I decided to park Franklin in my office. For whatever reason, my dog had not taken to Dakota and vice versa. I also didn’t bring Franklin into a business unless animals were allowed. I could usually count on him to settle right down with his chew toy, but not today. Once we stepped into my office, he danced around in front of me, as if to block me from getting back out the door. Considering his size, he did a pretty good job.

“Franklin, I will be right back. Honest. You don’t have to worry.”

The task of getting past him was arduous. I got halfway out the door and so did he, pushing his way into the hall. It took all my upper body strength to shove him back inside. I managed to get the door closed, but heard him woofing.

That was one unhappy dog.

Opening the door to the office across the hall, I was smacked in the face by two things: the stench, which was much worse than I’d thought, and the heat. The stench was so strong, it coated my throat. The heat was so high, I started to sweat.

The room smelled like a cross between rotten meat and bodily fluids.

Death in a hothouse.

What I wanted to know was whose.

My heart started to pound. I’d put on gloves that morning with the colder temps, and it crossed my mind to leave them on. I felt around on the wall for the switch, flooding the room with light. The office had been broken up into smaller rooms with temporary walls; they were composed of flimsy metal frames covered in padded fabric for soundproofing.

Sweat trickled down between my shoulder blades, but I wasn’t taking my coat off now. If some awful crime had taken place here, I didn’t want to shed DNA in the form of hair or skin cells. I could get in enough trouble just walking through the door.

I stepped farther into the room and looked around, coming face to face with a corpse.

My heart leapt a bit when I realized it wasn’t Dakota. Then the reality set in. It was still a life cut short.

The man was dead. No doubt about it. Deader than a doornail—an expression I’ve never really understood, because a doornail isn’t alive to begin with. But dead he was, nonetheless. And, considering the smell and his skin tone, probably for a few days. I wasn’t squeamish by nature, but I could have gone my entire life without seeing a corpse covered in blowflies. It was one thing to be aware we all return to this earth, another to see the evidence up close.

The hole in his forehead, which seemed to point to how he ended up in his current state of deadness, would most likely turn out to be a gunshot wound, not a third eye. But I’d leave it to the medical examiner to poke around in his skull and verify the breach had been made by a bullet, rather than just an explosive chakra.

A quick look around eliminated suicide, in my opinion. There was no gun in sight and the wound was free of stippling or marks of contact from a weapon. People don’t shoot themselves between the eyes. Even if they have arms that are long enough, it’s just too awkward.