Deadly Dunes, by E. Michael Helms: Two Fatal “Accidents” Put a Florida PI on Alert

deadly_dunesDeadly Dunes ($14.95, 228 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-347-1) is the third book in a mystery/suspense series by E. Michael Helms set in the Florida Panhandle. Private eye Mac McClellan investigates the death of a young archaeologist whose recent discovery threatens to shut down a planned multi-million dollar Florida bayside community development.

“Helms has a good character in Mac…. A solid hardboiled series.” —Booklist

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Recent Interviews with E. Michael Helms:

Maggie Thom’s Blog

“This story is addictive and an easy one to get lost in as the reader continues to turn pages. The characters are well drawn, the even pace builds tension, and the ending satisfies. The author is adept at creating settings and has an eye for detail giving one the feeling they are a part of the landscape.” Read more….

—Edie Dykeman, BellaOnline mystery reviewer

Deadly Dunes is a fabulous whodunit, written in first person narrative—think Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe—a la classic hardboiled, detective movie style. The writing is nearly flawless, with a nice arc and plausible storylines …. A story that comes highly recommended!” Read more….

—Lori Leger for InD’Tale Magazine

“Another deftly crafted mystery/suspense masterpiece from author E. Michael Helms, Deadly Dunes is the third title in his outstanding Mac McClellan Mystery series. Very highly recommended reading action/adventure mystery buffs, Deadly Dunes is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections.” Read more….

—Carson’s Bookshelf, The Midwest Book Review Reviewer’s Bookwatch

“Helms returns to the world of Mac McClellan with the same solid writing and captivating mystery that I’ve come to expect from him, but with an added twist this time that made the tale even more captivating for me. I enjoyed the mix of history with the mystery. The aura that permeated the tale was both inviting and suspenseful. Helms has created a work of art, backed up by the beautiful scenery of the area in which he set this novel…. This was a good, clean mystery that had me on my toes from page 1 to the very end. The enjoyable writing style backed up the solid plot to create a novel that mystery lovers will have a ball with.”  Read more….

—Pure Jonel: Confessions of a bibliophile

“Michael Helms has done it again! In this engrossing, nonstop action adventure, Mac McClellan investigates treasure hunters, greedy developers, and even greedier heirs.”

—Connie di Marco, author of the Zodiac Mysteries and (as Connie Archer) author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries

Deadly Dunes, the new Mac McClellan mystery by ex-Marine E. Michael Helms, chews up the landscape in the Florida Panhandle—a phone call, a meeting, the sleuth’s first case, the first corpse, the heat build-up of the killer-quest—where suspects and victims play musical beds in the sticky heat of a Florida summer. The Florida panhandle is a terrific locale for a crime tale. The action is well-paced and the military interlude—where the sleuth shoots photos of a cheating ex-Army husband—is wrought with precision. With this addition to the series, a talented story-teller sings his song.”

—Robert J. Ray, author of the Matt Murdock Murder Mysteries

“E. Michael Helms has the perfect blend of action, suspense and mystery that is sure to grab anyone who like a semi-hard-boiled PI tale. Great dialogue, along with detailed scenes set the mood for every page.”

—Dianne Bylo, Tome Tender Reviews

“Third in the Mac McClellan Mystery series, Deadly Dunes pours across the page with all the heat of a Southern summer night. Determined to make it as a private investigator, E Michael Helms’s retired Marine uses sharp wits and a military background to solve a deadly crime. Balancing life and death on the edge of his KA-BAR combat blade, Mac confronts a colorful host of characters, all of whom lie, cheat, and steal their way onto his list of suspects. But who is setting up whom? And which version of the deceased is the one Mac should believe? Intent on untangling the complex web of relationships to uncover the truth about a mysterious death, Mac still finds time to track down a cheating husband and discover a little ancient treasure in the sand. Add in a sexy locale, exotic dancers, and more twists and turns than salt water taffy on a pulling machine, this clever whodunit is the perfect getaway, a great beach read that includes the actual beach.”

—Elena Hartwell, author of One Dead, Two to Go

“This is a great mystery. I didn’t know who did it until the end because there are a lot of potential killers for many different reasons. There is a lot of action and you can’t help but liking Mac. Mac is a true down home hero. I couldn’t put this book down until the wee hours of the morning. I f you are looking for a great mystery full of thrills and chills I recommend you check out Deadly Dunes.”  Read more….

—J. Bronder Book Review

5 Stars: “Deadly Dunes is a sleuth mystery with good action and suspense. The story is an interesting one that sees its main character and narrator, Mac, constantly forgetting his P.I. training and resorting to doing things in his own amateurish way. I think the dialogue is witty and I like Mac’s dry sense of humor that seemed to irk some characters…. E. Michael Helms writes well and I want to read other books from his Mac McClellan Mystery series, whose protagonist is compelling.”  Read more….

—Michelle Stanley for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

5 Stars: “Author E. Michael Helms knocks it out of the park with his latest addition to the Mac McClellan Mystery Series. Deadly Dunes is a fast-paced mystery with a colorful cast of characters and a well-developed plot that will keep you guessing. Full of witty dialogue and nail-biting suspense, readers will be captivated as they follow along with Mac, from sandy beaches to gritty nightclubs, as he investigates an intriguing trail of clues that will have you reading well into the night. Highly recommended for fans of crime, mystery, and suspense, Deadly Dunes is an entertaining read that is hard to put down.”  Read more….

—Epic Book Quest

“Like a complex stew, there are many layers to Deadly Dunes, the third installment in the highly-entertaining Mac McClellan series…[A] solid mystery with plenty of red herrings and double-crossings to keep the reader guessing until the end. Highly Recommended.”

—Max Everhart, author of the Eli Sharpe Mysteries

The first Mac McClellan mystery, Deadly Catch, was named Library Journal’s Mystery of the Month and received a starred review: “This debut will resonate with retired military, boomers, and crime fiction fans. Helms’s love of setting and engaging first-person narrative suggest a winning new series is underway.” The second book in the series, Deadly Ruse, won the 2015 RONE Award, sponsored by InD’tale Magazine, for Best Mystery.

Hours after hiring Mac McClellan to investigate the supposed suicide of her archaeologist brother, single-mom Jessie dies in a car accident. Jessie had just showed Mac artifacts and a copy of a map Jake found, items that indicate Hernando de Soto and his explorers might have camped on Five Mile Island during the winter of 1539-1540. Studying the map, Mac determines the site lies in the middle of a planned resort, The Dunes. Declaring the area an historic site could shut the project down. Suspicions aroused, he forges ahead, even though he no longer has a paying client.

Everywhere Mac turns, greed abounds, and no one he interviews seems innocent, even Jessie’s closest friends the Deckers, who have adopted her teenage daughter. Ron Decker’s construction company is building the Dunes, and he is heavily invested in its success. Then there is the oily son and ex-stripper wife of an old curmudgeon who won’t sell the one lot the project still needs to acquire. Jake’s estranged wife Laurel had plenty to gain from his death, and as Mac continues to dig, he begins to wonder if Jessie herself had more at stake than he was led to believe.

No one is happy about Mac’s persistence, and someone is unhappy enough to crash his truck and frame him for yet another murder. But Mac isn’t giving up, no matter what the cost.

Says Helms, “Several years ago my wife and I were enjoying a day at Seaside, Florida, on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. Seaside was a new and quaint iconic village featuring homes and cottages built around a bustling ‘downtown’ square offering fine and casual dining, food markets, and specialty shops. While enjoying the ambiance of the planned community, I asked myself a question common to all writers: ‘What if?’ What if something of historic significance had been discovered during the early phases of Seaside’s construction? Could it have brought the multi-million dollar project to a halt, potentially bringing ruin to investors who had staked their future on the success of the venture? What lengths might someone be willing to go to make sure the discovery never came to light? Murder, perhaps? I deposited that ‘What if?’ in my memory bank, where it simmered until Mac McClellan reminded me it would make an intriguing story line for his next case, Deadly Dunes.

E. Michael Helms grew up in Panama City, Florida. His memoir about serving in the Marines as a rifleman during some of the heaviest fighting of the Vietnam War, The Proud Bastards, remains in print after twenty-five years, and he recently published a fictional sequel, The Private War of Corporal Henson. A longtime Civil War buff, Helms is also the author of the historical saga, Of Blood and Brothers. Helms lives in South Carolina with his wife Karen. Click here to go to visit Michael online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“I’m gonna back her up about halfway out and tie off to a stump,” he said. “How long you reckon to be?”

“No longer than it takes,” I said, grabbing the Bounty Hunter in my right hand and using the left to grip the starboard gunnel as I stepped over the side into knee-deep water. I sloshed ashore as Jerry backed the boat into deeper water. After turning to give him a quick wave, I scrambled up the steep bank using handholds of coarse grass to pull against and trying my damndest to avoid a fistful of sandspurs.

By the time I crested the dunes, Jerry had already tied the boat off and was casting a stingray grub into the Stumps for flounder. I took a quick glance around. Nobody seemed to be stirring, so keeping a wary eye out for diamondback rattlers, I worked my way inland for about twenty yards.

During our meeting at Panama Joe’s, Jessie had mentioned that her brother found the artifacts near the bay overlooking what appeared to be a dead forest sticking out of the water. That had to be the Stumps, and most likely the location of the Spaniards’ winter fort, if it had existed. But there was no telling how far out into the bay the small forested peninsula had extended during de Soto’s time. My guess was the main part of the fort was now under several feet of water. From my front pocket, I pulled the map Jessie had given me of what during the 16th century was a seven-mile-long peninsula. I took it out of the protective Ziploc bag. After studying it a minute or so, I slipped it back in the bag and back in my shorts pocket.

My plan was to start inland and work my way in a crisscross pattern toward the bay. Not being familiar with the metal detector, and knowing I was looking for iron objects as well as coins, I turned the discrimination knob low and the sensitivity setting to about midrange and pressed the “All Metal” display. With those settings I’d probably come across a lot of trash, but it was my best shot at finding something worthwhile.

Sweeping the coil back and forth, I almost immediately picked up several beeps of different tones. I pinpointed the object as best I could, then dropped to one knee, pulled the garden trowel I’d borrowed from Kate from my back pocket, and dug into the sand. A few seconds later I flipped up the rim of an old drink can that predated all-aluminum cans.

The next ten or fifteen minutes produced nothing but pull tabs, rusted cans, and other junk. Finally the detector let out a beep different from the ones I’d been hearing. Digging down about four or five inches, I heard the trowel strike something solid and metallic. My adrenaline rushed as I lifted a coin with a trowel-full of sand. Brushing the coin clean, I saw it was an Indian Head penny in rough condition, dated either 1903 or 1908. It was no 16th-century Spanish coin, but what the hell, I figured it had to be worth at least a few cents. The trip wouldn’t be a total loss.

The wind was picking up, and the thunder was getting louder by the minute. Deciding my chances would probably be better closer to the bay, I hurried in that direction. Jerry and I had to motor back to St. George, and I damn sure didn’t want to do it while fighting a gale. About ten feet from the edge where the dunes began to slope downward to the bay the detector cut loose again. I dropped to both knees and began digging. I dug about a foot deep and came up empty, so I passed the coil over the pile of sand I’d excavated to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. Nothing.

I kept digging for another six or eight inches and then an object hit the pile and slid down a couple of inches. At first I thought it was an old bracelet someone had lost years ago. Closer inspection proved it to be several small rusted oblong or circular loops linked tightly together, forming a patch-like object a couple of inches long and maybe an inch and a half wide. I had no idea what it was, but I slipped it into my pocket. You never know.

A few feet away the Bounty Hunter beeped again. Down and digging, I soon turned up a similar object, although this one was a little smaller in length. I dropped it in my pocket with the other one as a voice called out, “Hey, you!”

Oops. I turned and saw a tall lanky man with bushy hair approaching from about fifty yards away. He wore a tan shirt and trousers and a brown ball cap. It wasn’t a county sheriff’s uniform, but I had no intentions of hanging around long enough to find out who the guy worked for.

I scrambled to my feet and trotted toward the ledge as a shot rang out. The SOB was shooting at me, at least in my general direction. I hit the deck, cradling the detector in both arms. Low crawling to the dune wall, I went over head first. I spit out a mouthful of sand and tried to let loose a warning whistle to Jerry, but I doubt you could’ve heard it five feet away.

Turning feet-first, I slid on down the slope and hit the beach running. Jerry had the boat waiting a few feet off the shoreline. I high-stepped through the swallows. Tossing the detector into the boat, I grabbed the bow and pushed for all I was worth. Jerry gunned the motor in reverse. I hung on until I managed to pull myself aboard and flop onto the deck.

“Turn this thing around and get the hell out of here!” I shouted, but Jerry was way ahead of the game. We were thirty or forty yards past the end of the Stumps when another shot rang out, barely discernable above the roar of the Merc 50. By then I was more pissed than scared, and if the Bounty Hunter was an M16 I would’ve had that chicken-shit wannabe cop hugging Mother Earth for all he was worth.

King’s Ransom, by Bestselling Author Mary Daheim: A Royalist Thief Woos a Rebellious Puritan

King's_RansomKing’s Ransom ($14.95, 234 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-367-9) is a reprint of an early historical romance by bestselling author Mary Daheim. Originally published in 1990, King’s Ransom opens in the year 1658, when Oliver Cromwell presided over England’s Commonwealth. A high-born Puritan girl falls for a dashing highwayman whose booty is helping to fund the restoration of the Stuarts to the throne of England.

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

Romantic Times

Camel Press has reprinted several of Mary’s other early historical romances: Reunion (formerly Pride’s Captive), The Royal Mile (Love’s Pirate), Gosford’s Daughter (Passion’s Triumph), and Destiny’s Dawn. The remaining titles, Improbable Eden and Gypsy Baron, will be released before the end of 2016.

As a ten-year-old girl, Honor Dale watched in horror as her Puritan parents were slaughtered by Royalists. Now nineteen, she is the ward of her uncle, Oliver Cromwell, who rules England as Protector of the Commonwealth. En route to visit her powerful uncle, Honor loses her family’s jewels to the notorious Captain Hood, who steals to fund Charles Stuart’s restoration to the throne. She despises the highwayman’s cause but can’t help responding to his ardent kiss.

Despite the loss of her inheritance, all goes well for Honor under her uncle’s Protectorate, including her betrothal to handsome Sir Tyler Vail. But after Cromwell’s death, the Protectorate founders in the inept hands of his son. Worse yet for Honor, she’s jilted by her fiancé and has become a ward of the sanctimonious Gouges at their towering ivy-covered manor house, Creepers. Honor bridles at their oppressive lifestyle, especially after again crossing paths with Captain Hood. It dawns on her that his vendetta against the Puritans is every bit as justified as hers against the Royalists. What’s more, her spirited nature is far better suited to the dashing highwayman than the bovine Uriah Gouge, who is being foisted upon her as a husband.

But what is Captain Hood’s true nature? Is he a charming, adventurous rake or a desperate nobleman fired by idealism? The Protectorate is toppling and the Royalists are prepared to do battle to put Charles Stuart on the throne. Honor can trust her heart to an outlaw lover, but she can’t prevent him from risking his life for the Royalist cause.

Says the author, “By my fifth historical romance, I felt I was in a 1500s rut. I needed to expand my writing horizons and my knowledge of history. I took the logical step and set what would become King’s Ransom in the middle of the seventeenth century. Of course that meant doing research. Lots of research, because I can’t write a book about a time or a place without feeling as if I’d be at home in that setting and that era. Does that sound fanciful? Maybe. But it works for me. I hope it works for you, too, when you meet Puritan Honor Dale and Royalist Captain Hood. They find themselves at odds when it comes to politics, but like-minded when it comes to love. That’s another thing I learned about the seventeenth century: The heart knows no time or place. And though I don’t know about you, I find that very reassuring.”

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

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“I intend to ask many things of you,” he said, the rugged face hovering over hers. “For now I beg but two. Were you Yorkshire born and bred?”

The question was so unexpected that Honor was caught off guard. “Yes,” she answered simply. “Near Ingleton. But,” she went on bitterly, “the house no longer stands.”

Hood’s grip tightened in her hair, causing her to wince. His features tensed and his skin darkened. “Irony,” he whispered bitterly, “all is not vanity but irony.”

She wanted to ask what he meant, but she held back. For some strange, elusive reason, she feared his answer. Or maybe it was that she knew he had some terrible tale to tell that would arouse her sympathy and blunt her determination to best him in the matter of her dowry. To her relief, he seemed to have regained his aplomb, though he still had his hand entwined in her hair. “The second favor should cause us both less pain,” he said, his mouth twisted into the hint of a smile.

She had forgotten about the other request and started to inquire as to what it might be when his kiss stole words—and breath—away. This was not like Tyler Vail’s bloodless, pristine kisses but a slow, measured assault on her senses that made Honor dizzy. She felt his other arm go round her, pressing her against his chest, while the hand that had stroked her hair now caressed the nape of her neck.

The proper thing to do, of course, was to struggle, to rain blows upon this importunate fraud, to kick and fight and surely to scream. But Captain Hood seemed to render her will useless. Instead of fending him off, she discovered that her arms had slipped around him, that her mouth was yielding to his probing tongue, that she was utterly helpless in his embrace. The revelation should have been humiliating, but was instead delicious.

He drew away, just far enough to see her face, the shimmering dark eyes under gold-tipped lashes, the flush across her cheekbones, the inviting mouth still slightly open.

“I want you,” he said simply in that low voice, which wasn’t quite as calm as usual. “But not now, not until you’re well.” His hand strayed to the opening of her collar, but at last Honor jerked back. Her brain was in chaos. She needed time to order her thoughts. The man was ten times as bold as he had any right to be.

Yet, she thought, as away from his touch the excitement in her blood cooled, his very conceit should play nicely into her hands. “You take advantage of my helplessness,” she accused him, but there was no bite in the words. “You also play upon my generous nature. Any other maid would have raised an alarm.”

“No, not really.” He spoke seriously but then broke into an engaging smile. “Most maids are very kindhearted. I always marvel at their bountiful natures.”

Honor’s eyes sparked and she had to look away; Captain Hood was on the brink of going too far. “You mock me, sir. You would toy with my affections yet make light of my feelings.” Having gotten her temper under control, she risked gazing at him head-on. “For shame, Captain! To think I dared defend you!”

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

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

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

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“A great cast of characters. Even though the book is set in a large section of Seattle, the people still feel, act and speak very much like they are in a small area surrounding a quaint local community church. From Father Robert to Lester the sexton to the organist and a slew of others, this is one ‘congregation’ that will work day and night to unveil the murderer. This series may be in its infancy stage, but thus far the plots have been perfect, leading readers to want more.”

—Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion for Suspense Magazine

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

—Vernita Naylor for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

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

—Missy S., Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

5 Stars: “Kathie Deviny has written an interesting mystery with red herrings galore…. The book is pretty engaging and a fun puzzle.”  Read more….

—Rosi Hollinbeck, The Manhattan Book Review

“I love this series as you meet various parishioners and watch various relationships while learning history of the characters and their connection to Nick…. Such a great story, and I was stumped on who the murderer was until the last page. Can’t wait to see what is next for Ms. Deviny.”  Read more….

—Paul Mitchell for the Community Bookstop

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Reading for an excerpt:

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

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

“What was the take?” she asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So long, Dom.”

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

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

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

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

Romantic Times

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

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

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

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

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

Keep reading for an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Mike Orenduff, Author of the Pot Thief series.

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

—Vic’s Media Room

“A great read, packed with vignettes of the food and landscape of the area.”  Read more….

—Cover Reads, A service of the New Mexico book community, Feb. 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Keep reading for an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You always did like being a cop.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Anita Lock for Feathered Quill Book Reviews

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

—Mary Ann Writes

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

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

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

—J. Bronder Book Reviews

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

—Vic’s Media Room

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

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

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

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

Keep reading for an excerpt:

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

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

“Is this for you?”

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

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

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

“I’m Helene Steinbeck.”

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

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

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

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

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

“He likes to stay busy.”

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

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

“Let’s talk about the contract.”

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

“They both fell, right?”

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

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

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

“Who’s Walter?” Helene said.

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

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

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

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

“The author fell in love,” Helene said.

“I love writers, the way they conjure.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Aloe, for Long and Short Reviews

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

—Matilda, Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance & More

“There are many threads to this mystery, many characters to keep track of (though the author does a good job of guiding us along), many clues and leads to follow, and many loose ends, all the way to an interesting conclusion. The end of the story is one that some clever and attentive readers may puzzle out well before the last page, but probably not…. Four Dog’s Sake is a good, easy read, of an evening or two, while sitting with your own favorite dog by your feet.”  Read more….

—Don Messerschmidt for Portland Book Review

4 ½ puppies: “Four Dog’s Sake was well written and no easy task. The authors clearly stated when another point of view was given. There was no trying to figure out whose head you were in. The storyline’s progression was paced appropriately, never slowing down. You could easily relate to the characters and were concerned about their well being and their abilities. You really didn’t know the guilty party until the very end.”  Read more….

—Denise Fleischer for Gotta Write Network

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

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

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

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

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

Keep reading for an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

“Nichols,” his sleepy voice said.

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

“Okay,” he yawned.

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

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

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

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

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

Winner, Mystery Category, 2016 National Indie Excellence Awards

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

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

—LuAnn Braley, Back Porchervations

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

—Lisa K’s Book Reviews

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

—Book Babble

“Whodunit At Its Best…. Author Colleen J. Shogan is a great writer, and Stabbing In The Senate held my interest…. It had me hooked right from the beginning.”  Read more….

—Sharon Salituro for Fresh Fiction

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

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

“[Stabbing in the Senate] features loads of inside scoop about the workings of Senate offices—complete with all the gossiping, back-stabbing, and procedural maneuvering—plus an appealing young sleuth, sprightly pacing, and an edge-of-your-seat showdown on the Hart-Dirksen underground train. Apart from joining Kit on one of her Hill happy hours, how much more fun could you want?”  Read more….

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

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

—Pamela James

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

—Escape with Dolly Cas into a Good Book

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

—Caro, Open Book Society

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

—Penny M., Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

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

—Wisconsin Bookwatch, Midwest Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

—Mary Marks, author of the Martha Rose quilting mysteries

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

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

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

—Purva Rawal, health care consultant and former Senate staffer

“The first book in the Washington Whodunit series, Colleen has put great deal of attention to the development of every character. Her first time writing in the every loved genre of mystery hasn’t failed her—in fact, far from it! Her fans are looking forward to reading the second book!”  Read more….

—Serious Reading Book Reviews

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

—Cathi Stoler, author of The Hard Way

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

—The Hill is Home Blog

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

—Brooke Blogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep reading for an excerpt:

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

“What’s your name?”

“Why did you murder Senator Langsford?”

“Are you having an affair with the senator?”

“How many years have you worked for him?”

“What weapon did you use?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

** Click the cover image to order online **

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

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

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

—Leslie Wright for Blogcritics

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

—Fic Gal

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

—J. Bronder Book Reviews

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

—The One True Faith Blog

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

—Lissette E. Manning,

“A fun, quick and hard-to-put-down Halloween story. I recommend it to all urban fantasy lovers who look for a plot that will hook you from the start, engaging characters, and a twist that will surprise the reader.”  Read more….

—Reader Views

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

—Celtic Lady’s Reading Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep reading for an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The necklace is the same,” I said.

“It was hers.”

“Your aunt was lovely.”

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

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

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

Coffeetime Romance & More has awarded EYEWITNESS the CTRR Award for titles that “are above and beyond a 5-cup rating.”

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

** Click the cover image to order online **

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

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

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

n_a5 Cups of coffee: “Eyewitness is surely a page turner. The author keeps you guessing the who, what, where and why at every turn until the final act. The dirty dealings behind the scenes of soap opera life makes a great backdrop for this mystery. I loved the eclectic cast of characters. Mystery lovers will love this one.”  Read more….

—Matilda, Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance & More

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

—Roberta, Sensuous Promotions Reviews Site

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep reading for an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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