Friday, July 3, 2020

COVER REVEAL: HOLIDAYS, HIJINKS & MURDER A Stacie Maroni Mystery by Christa Nardi


It's Christmas in July and time to reveal the cover for the next Stacie Maroni mystery, Holidays, Hijinks & Murder! Release is planned for mid-August as I work on the finishing touches and get feedback from beta readers. Don't want to wait? If you'd like an Advance Reader Copy (ARC), contact me!

Deck the halls until the shots rang out. The attempt
to get Stacie in the holiday spirit falls flat when someone shoots Santa’s elf. As Stacie and friends help the elf and deal with the potential witnesses, one man stands out, in an old wool coat, the lapels blocking his face. Ignoring police demands, he disappears into the crowd only to reappear at strategic times. When the elf recovers and Santa is killed, the initial motives go up in smoke and the search is on for the true motive. With upheaval in her relationship and a killer on the loose, Stacie embraces her "bah humbug" perspective as she considers the mall Santa set up and his murder. Enjoy this cozy holiday mystery with Stacie and her friends to get you in the holiday spirit.

Here's an excerpt (though some edits are still to be made):

Read an excerpt:

By choice, I avoid shopping at the mall, or anywhere else, the weekend after Thanksgiving. In high school and college, I worked retail at the holidays, so I know. People are outright nasty and aggressive about getting their Black Friday bargains. I’d spent the morning, like most Saturdays at Cornerstone Community Women’s Shelter providing trauma counseling as a volunteer. That probably didn’t help my mood.
To be honest, I was feeling pretty “bah humbug.” With my dad’s remarriage last winter, he and his wife were spending the holidays on a cruise ship and my brother, Vince, was deployed. It didn’t help, being from New England, I associated the holidays with cold weather and snow. We’d only had one frost and mostly mild weather. It didn’t feel like Christmas. To top it off, the man in my life, Kevin? We were in limbo.
My two cheery friends, Jillian and Trina, dragged me to the Beckman Springs Mall with hopes of putting me in the holiday mood and making a dent in holiday shopping. Friends for a long time, and knowing me well, they had started in before Thanksgiving and kept needling me when they picked me up. Trina was the worse of the two.
“Where’s your holiday spirit, Stacie?”
“Hey, I have a wreath and some decorations at my house.” Too busy to search out last year’s decorations, I’d gone to Target the day before Thanksgiving after they nagged me last weekend.
“You need to get in the spirit, Stacie. This could be the best Christmas ever.”
Trina bounced as she delivered her pep talk. Always dressed colorfully, Trina had on red leggings, an oversized green tunic with red swirls, and a black belt and boots. Coordinated with her outfit, she had streaks of red and green in her reddish brown hair.
“Besides, shopping is fun. Think of all the great things we could find.” Jillian added. I did like to shop, just not in crowds.
The Beckman Springs Mall wasn’t the largest around. It was the closest though, with Macy’s, Dillards, the usual mall chains, and a boutique store or two. Unlike other times of the year, the parking lot was packed. As we approached the mall, the Salvation Army person with the big red kettle rang his bell.
Inside the mall entrance, I was surprised to hear voices in song. A group of eight in Dickens era clothes were singing carols. We joined in and applauded when Jingle Bells was over. Live music was much better than the constant piped in carols in many stores since mid-October. The mall was more crowded than usual, yet not packed. Not as bad as I expected.
“Look.” I pointed to a placard indicating a special holiday event at each of the three entrances and the times. The blue entrance hosted the Dickens era singers, the yellow entrance was the place for a high school string ensemble, and the red entrance featured an elementary school chorale group. The different legs of the mall were color coded to help people remember where they parked their car.
“That’s one way to entice people to check out every store in the mall.” Jillian nodded her approval of the ploy. “Okay, let’s go to Dillards men. I know what I want to get Wade for Christmas.” Wade was Jillian’s husband. Like Jillian, he was tall with an athletic build. He worked for Global Security.
As we walked in that direction, I glanced at the stores we passed. Not unlike many other malls, one store reminded me of a chameleon, changing with the season.
“Look. Last week the displays were all Thanksgiving. They must have worked all night changing to Christmas so quickly.”
“We’ll stop there on the way out. They have cute stuff. I want to get something for Bill’s place. He has almost as much holiday spirit as you and Scrooge,” Trina groused.
“Do you have ideas for what to get Bill?” Jillian turned to me and added, “Kevin?”
“I don’t have any idea what to get Kevin or if we are even exchanging gifts. From what he told me last week, he’s not sure he will get home for Christmas.”
“Don’t stress over this, Stacie. You’re invited to dinner at Bill’s on Christmas Eve. Along with half the Beckman Springs police, of course. Everyone is bringing something. You can be in charge of making sure there’s plenty of rocky road ice cream. If Kevin’s around, he’s invited.”
Bill and Trina were an unlikely couple. He was very quiet, reserved, and a policeman in Beckman Springs. In contrast, she was wild, impulsive, exuberant, and full of energy. He wasn’t the most social and I figured the party was more Trina than him.
“Oh, Trina, that’s so nice of you and Bill.”
I gave her a hug, which she barely tolerated.
“His place is boring, all grays. That’s why we have to find some stuff to spruce up Bill’s place.”
“He’s not into the decoration thing?” Jillian asked.
Trina snorted. “He says I am all the decoration he needs.”
We laughed. “That is very sweet. And you do dress the part.”
“I want to get Bill something wild. Do they make ugly holiday sweaters for men?” Trina smiled and emitted a wicked laugh.
Jillian and I chuckled.
“I’m going to check out the housewares section. I have an idea for my dad and Deanna.”
“We’ll find you there, then. Wade needs some new shirts and a sweater. Check out the decorations over there, too, Stacie.”
We all went in separate directions. After an hour of shopping, Dillards got a chunk of our change. Trina didn’t find an ugly sweater, but did find the mixer her mother wanted. I picked up a holiday platter for my dad. Jillian had two bags, all shirts, and Wade had the start of a new wardrobe.
“What’s with all the shirts, Jillian?” Trina asked.
“The security company is expanding and he needs to do the ‘meet and greet’ with new customers, something he didn’t usually do before. He needs to look the part, whether he likes it or not.”
“No pants? Only shirts?” It seemed odd to me unless the ‘meet and greet’ was virtual.
“The look will be pressed jeans with more formal shirts. A compromise.” She shrugged and we headed in the direction of Macy’s, the anchor on the red leg. We spotted the sign for Santa up ahead in the mall center.
“Think we can get our picture with Santa? Maybe all three of us. Really make his day.” Trina joked.
“And, Trina what would you ask Santa for?”
Jillian laughed as Trina turned away, not answering her question. We were joking and laughing when a shot rang out and people started screaming and running for the exit. Then another shot.

Excerpt from Holidays, Hijinks & Murder by Christa Nardi. Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

SHAKE DOWN An Elliott Lisbon Mystery #5 by Kendel Lynn


Ballantyne Foundation Director and PI-in-training, Elliott Lisbon, is enjoying her idyllically slow life on Sea Pine Island, South Carolina. It’s the week before the annual Beach Ball and she’s sipping Bellinis on the sidelines. Her committee involvement is limited to securing the centerpieces: scrumptious two-tiered masterpieces from the Cake & Shake. But when the head baker (and owner’s maid of honor) goes missing, Elli’s calm life gets a major shakeup. She takes the case and soon learns that missing is a relative term. These two bffs were once rivals on a local dating show. Perhaps the free spirit had reason to wander off on her own. Or perhaps she wasn’t the only woman scorned. As Elli walks the delicate line between a woman finding herself and a woman needing to be found, the days speed up and she knows something’s about to go down. From drug runners to whistleblowers to sea turtle sabotage, Elli stirs up secrets and inadvertently whips a desperate killer into a frenzy. If she doesn’t find a way out of the heat, she’s going to get burned.


Elli has back to back events - the Ballatyne Beach Ball and her friend's wedding, all using the same venue with a single set up. Only the week before the wedding, the maid of honor disappears and someone tears up the beach area to be used, and Ellie has two problems - find a new location and find Daphne. Add in the shared history of a version of the Bachelor/Reality TV director and just about everything that could go wrong does, and Elli needs to step up her investigative skills while still pulling off the event of the year. Her relationship with Ransom (detective) doesn't help her as it's a different jurisdiction. 

The story has many twists and turns and complications. Tucker and Juliette's ideal wedding, the turtles, chasing down leads, and traveling to Atlanta and Charlotte. The ending is not expected.  The Elliott Lisbon Mystery series is a fun series and Elli is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Although the 5th in the series, it is easily read as a stand-alone mystery. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Book Review: MIST AT THE BEACH HOUSE : A Beach House Mystery by Victoria L K Williams

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Murder, Mermaids Legends, & a Kitten from the Mist.

Morgan Seaver returns to her family home on Pearl Island, expecting a warm welcome. Instead, she finds her aunt has been murdered, and accusing fingers are pointing her way.

Soon she finds more than a murder needs to be solved. Her family has a history with the island, one that she is finding brings the legends of mermaids and her ancestors to the present.
She must solve the murder to clear herself and come to terms with a past that has a hold of her future.


Life took an unexpected turn for Morgan Seaver and she returns to her aunt's home on Pearl Island to recover. She only gets to see her aunt briefly before the body is found in the dunes, murdered. While the officer in charge, Jenny White, is on her side, the other officer, Stanley Newman and a wild woman, Sirena Storm, plant seeds that Morgan killed her aunt. Aunt Meredith and the mist visit Morgan as she studies the history of the island that is now threatening her. Gary is also a function of that history, along with a not-quite-stray cat, and pearls. 

Morgan is amazed at all she never knew about Pearl Island and is more than a little unbelieving of her new role in the future of the island or the mermaid history. Stanley and Sirena do their part to divert attention to her as the killer and do her harm, while Jenny and Gary, and many others in the island historical society are on her side. And the mist appears to protect her as well. Mermaids and pearls on an island paradise.

The story is well-written and the characters of Morgan and Gary, and even Aunt Meredith, are likable and have depth. Morgan hasn't yet resolved the issues she left behind at the book's end, though. This is the first of six and a strong start for the series.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Blog Tour Spotlight: CATCHING THE COWBOY by Shanna Hatfield

A change of pace here, with a light western romance...


She’s fresh out of jail . . .

He’s fresh out of luck.

Spoiled billionaire heiress Emery Brighton indulges in one mimosa too many, attempts to steal a horse, and winds up in jail. A sentence of community service leaves her at the mercy of strangers on a remote ranch near a small town in Oregon. Adjusting to country life is hard enough, but she has no idea how to handle her growing affection for a surly cowboy and his adorable daughter.

Steady and dependable as the day is long, rancher Hudson Cole just wants to raise his little girl and be left alone. When his grandmother invites a lawbreaker dressed in Louis Vuitton to Summer Creek Ranch, Hud is convinced Grammy has lost her ever-loving mind. Determined to detest Emery, he instead finds himself doing the one thing he vowed would never happen again: falling in love.

With one foot out the door, will love be enough to convince Emery to stay?

This sweet romance offers a funny, delightful happily ever after adventure in a quirky small town. Don’t miss out on a meandering goat named Ethel, meddling matchmakers, and a community that feels like home in a story filled with heart, humor, and hope.

Book Links:

Read an excerpt:
    For a moment, Hud studied the men his grandmother spoke with, noting the resemblance between them. He assumed they were brothers. Suddenly, the name jolted something loose in his memory. Henry Brighton had been a good friend to his grandfather and used to come hunting every autumn. But Henry hadn’t been to the ranch in years, not since before Grandpa passed away.
    Curious what brought the judge and his brother to Summer Creek Ranch, Hud stowed his gloves in his back pocket and walked over to offer a word of welcome.
    “Hud, honey, you remember Judge Henry Brighton, don’t you?” Nell said, tugging on his arm to pull him closer to where she stood with the men and young woman.
    “Welcome, sir. It’s been a while, but I’m pleased to see you again.” Hud shook Henry’s hand then turned to his brother.    
    “You must be Henry’s brother. I’m Hudson Cole.”
    “That’s right. James Brighton. Last time I saw you, you were about this big,” the man said, holding his hand about two feet off the ground. He smirked and his eyes twinkled with mirth. “You’ve grown a bit since then.”
    Hud grinned, aware his size could be intimidating to some. “Yes, sir, I suppose I have.” Slowly, his gaze drifted over the young woman, taking in her delicate beauty, perfectly styled hair, and makeup that appeared to have been applied by a professional. Intriguing blue eyes held a guarded look behind unnaturally long eyelashes. Rosy cheeks could have been from the slight wind or too much blush, he couldn’t tell.
    Her oval face was flawless, gorgeous, and therefore of no interest to Hud.
    From the top of her head to the toes of her designer shoes, she reeked of money. No doubt her diapers had been made of hundred-dollar bills. Most likely, she’d spent her entire life spoiled and pampered, indulged and coddled.
Years ago, a pretty little rich girl had turned his head, entangled his heart, and caused him enough pain to last ten lifetimes. He certainly wasn’t stupid enough to make that mistake twice.
    “This is my daughter, Emery,” James said, nudging the woman forward. “We can’t thank you enough for taking her in like this. If there is ever anything I can do to repay your kindness, I hope you’ll let us know.”
     Hud’s right eyebrow hiked upward so high, it disappeared beneath the brim of his dusty cowboy hat. He swiveled his head around until his gaze clashed with his grandmother’s. She looked only slightly guilty as she smiled pleasantly and clenched his arm with both hands, as though she intended to restrain him from saying anything about James’ announcement that took him completely by surprise.
    His grandmother’s elbow connected with his ribs. “We’re more than happy to have Emery stay with us for as long as she needs to. Isn’t that right, Hud?”
    Rather than answer, he offered a noncommittal grunt and gave the woman another once-over. He’d be surprised if she lasted a day on the ranch before she hightailed it back to Portland or wherever it was she’d come from. From experience, he figured the first nail she broke or the first waft of manure blowing around her face would send her running for civilization.

Excerpt from Catching the Cowboy. Copyright © 2020 All rights reserved.

About the Author

USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield writes character-driven romances with relatable heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”

Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, this hopeless romantic is out to make it happen, one story at a time. When she isn’t writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.

Shanna is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America.

Contact Information


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Saturday, June 13, 2020

Blog Tour and Book Review: SNOWED UNDER A Maggie McDonald Mystery #6 by Mary Feliz


When professional organizer Maggie McDonald finds a body in a snowdrift outside her friend’s ski cabin, she must plow through the clues to find a cold-blooded killer . . .

Lake Tahoe in February is beautiful, but Maggie can’t see a thing as she drives through a blinding blizzard with her friend Tess Olmos and their dogs, golden retriever Belle and German shepherd Mozart.Maggie has offered her professional decluttering skills to help Tess tidy up her late husband’s cabin in preparation to sell. She also plans to get in some skiing when her husband Max and their boys join them later in the week.

What she doesn’t plan on is finding a boot in a snowdrift attached to a corpse. The frozen stiff turns out to be Tess’s neighbor, Dev Bailey, who disappeared two months ago. His widow Leslie expresses grief, but Maggie can’t help but wonder if it’s a snow job. As more suspects start to pile up, things go downhill fast, and Maggie must keep her cool to solve the murder before the killer takes a powder . . .


Maggie McDonald is back, this time helping her good friend,Tess, clean out a house that has many memories. The motivation is the recent death of Tess's husband, whose family has had the house for years. The plan is to get it cleaned out and ready for sale quickly so that Maggie's husband and son and Tess's son can come up for some weekend skiing. Only a blizzard or two and the dead body Maggie finds when she tries to park her car provide lots of distraction. The small neighborhood includes an elderly woman and a dog, along with some other neighbors. They all know each other and the discovery begins a tail spin about the same time as the next snow and power failure. Pies are abundant and Belle and Mozart have a great time. 

This is well-written and well-paced. There are interesting characters, as well as human emotion and grieving. I like Maggie and Tess and their interaction, and of course the dogs. The women engage in sleuthing and Maggie uses her organizational skills in the process. If you like cozy mystery, you can chill out with the snow and skiing easily with this one. It is the 6th in the series, but easily read as a stand alone mystery.

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in the hopes that I would post an honest review. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

About the Author
Mary Feliz writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She’s worked for Fortune 500 firms and mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her in the dust.

Author Links

Website  Blog  Facebook  Twitter


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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Book Review: A KINK IN THE ROAD : A Deadline Cozy Mystery #7 by Sonia Parin

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Humorous Cozy Mystery. Clean read: no graphic violence, sex, or strong language but lots of fun characters and quirky dialogue.

Eve’s new inn is about to open, with or without a name. As a new local business owner, Eve thinks it would be a splendid idea to attend a local town meeting. Little does she know she’s been excluded from them for a good reason. She’s been labeled a troublemaker. Now there is a new resident in Rock-Maine Island and she’s been warned to stay away from him.

One look at William Hunter the Third is enough to convince Eve she wants nothing to do with the man. Despite everyone’s efforts to keep Eve away from him, the inevitable happens and he lands on her doorstep.

To make matters worse, the billionaire brings along an entourage which includes his ex-wives, his friends and… a killer.

There have already been two deaths at the house she’s turned into an inn. Another death makes it three. Thinking disasters come in threes, she hopes this will complete the cycle. But what if she’s on a treadmill and doomed to play host to murder and mayhem? The town will surely rise up against her…


As advertised this cozy mystery has quirky characters and humor. Eve is convinced that something will go wrong and her best friend, Jill, is there to keep watch and be sure Eve is accused of the murder that hasn't happened yet, and then once the billionaire's assistant is murdered, to keep her out of trouble. Both women are dating police officers, and Jack and Josh do their part to keep a lid on the situation. Only the entourage comes with it's own quirky characters, the billionaire included, not to mention Mira and her editor, and Elsie who eventually vows not to publish anything she and her side kick have witnessed. A

The story is fast paced with twists, turns, and false leads galore. No one liked the victim and he seemed to have something on everyone associated with William Hunter III. Although this is the 7th in the series, it can be easily read as a stand alone. If you like cozy mysteries with a humorous side to murder and quirky characters, you'll enjoy this one, and probably the rest of the series as well.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Blog Tour & Review: SPRINKLES OF SUSPICION A Cupcake Catering Mystery by Kim Davis


One glass of cheap California chardonnay cost Emory Gosser Martinez her husband, her job, and her best friend. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of her troubles.

Distraught after discovering the betrayal by her husband and best friend, Tori, cupcake caterer Emory Martinez allows her temper to flare. Several people witness her very public altercation with her ex-friend. To make matters worse, Tori exacts her revenge by posting a fake photo of Emory in a compromising situation, which goes viral on social media. When Tori is found murdered, all signs point to Emory being the prime suspect.

With the police investigation focused on gathering evidence to convict her, Emory must prove her innocence while whipping up batches of cupcakes and buttercream. Delving into the past of her murdered ex-friend, she finds other people had reasons to want Tori dead, including Emory’s own husband. Can she find the killer, or will the clues sprinkled around the investigation point the police back to her?

Includes recipes!


Emory has a talent and passion for creating cupcakes in very original flavors, including some that are adult only. She goes out with her friend, Tori, for an early birthday celebration. Only it isn't what it seems and Emory can't remember anything. Then a picture shows up on facebook and she walks in on a situation, and soon enough Tori is murdered. Right after Emory threatens her in a cat fight. 

Emory soon discovers that she's being framed, and whoever it is does a very good job. In the meantime, Emory continues to bake cupcakes and cater events, loses her job, and attempts to fend off her mother's criticism and attempts to get her back with her husband. There are some redirections and more than once, other characters comment on how clueless she is. Her trusting nature definitely gets her into sticky situations and makes her an easy mark. The pace is steady and her cluelessness adds a touch of humor. An enjoyable read. 

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in the hopes that I would post an honest review. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

bout Kim Davis

Kim Davis lives in Southern California with her husband. When she's not spending time with her granddaughters she can be found either writing stories or working on her blog, Cinnamon, Sugar, and a Little Bit of Murder or in the kitchen baking up yummy treats. She has published the suspense novel, A GAME OF DECEIT, and has had several children’s articles published in Cricket, Nature Friend, Skipping Stones, and the Seed of Truth magazines. Kim Davis is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

Author Links:


Purchase Links: Amazon

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Blog Tour Review STUDY OF SECRETS A Lila Maclean Academic Mystery by Cynthia Kuhn


There could be nowhere more fitting for English professor Lila Maclean to spend her sabbatical than in a proper Victorian mansion. The whimsical Callahan House seems to have materialized from the pages of the mystery novels she is researching, with its enchanting towers, cozy nooks, and charming library. Unfortunately, it also features a body in the study.

Residents of Larkston have long believed that the Callahan family is cursed—the murder on the estate sets the town buzzing. Wild rumors are fueled by a gossipy blogger who delights in speculation, and further crimes only intensify the whispers and suspicions. A newly discovered manuscript, however, appears to expose startling facts beneath the fictions. When Lila steps in to sort the truth from the lies, it may cost her everything, as someone wants to make dead certain that their secrets stay hidden.


Larkston isn't Lila's home but she's been living there with Bibi, working on two books. The Victorian mansion is ideal for her writing goals. She's excited about her project on Bibi's writings (under a pseudonym) as she has loved these books and is surprised to find one additional book, never published. The literary analysis of the published books and Lila's own mystery will hopefully get her the needed tenure at Stonedale where she teaches.

Her visit is coming to an end and there is to be a great party, but first, one of Bibi's good friends, Margot, is killed and then the woman writing a gossip column. Bibi's friends, collectively called the Larks, are beside themselves and Bibi asks Lila to look into the murders and hopefully find the killer. Then Bibi's long missing sister, Ilse, reappears, and the chancellors of Callahan College and Stonedale are fighting over the Callahan house. 

This is a touching story of a group of friends who have weathered years and tragedy together, with many secrets, not the least of which involve the missing Ilse. There are class differences that come into play as well as competition and the need to preserve appearances. Lila has difficulty sorting it all out, even after reading Everwell, the book never published, with the secrets it holds. This is the 5th in the Lila Maclean series, but easily read as a stand alone book. A cozy mystery with friends that hamper the process, as well as a cousin and friend who aid Lila in her sleuthing in the end. Relationships and personalities are key and keep the story moving.

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in the hopes that I would post an honest review. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

About Cynthia Kuhn

Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries: The Semester of Our Discontent, The Art of Vanishing, The Spirit in Question, The Subject of Malice, and The Study of Secrets. Honors for the series include an Agatha Award for best first novel and Lefty Award nominations for best humorous mystery. For more information, please visit

Author Links

Twitter: @cynthiakuhn

Purchase Links 

Amazon  Nook  B&N Paperback 

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

New Release: CONNECTIONS, CONFLICT & MURDER A Stacie Maroni Mystery #4 by Christa Nardi

I'm excited for the release of Connections, Conflict & Murder...


A walk in the park, online connections, and dangerous discoveries.

When the cybersecurity expert who checked out Stacie’s computer turns up dead, Stacie and her good friend and IT whiz, Trina, find themselves entangled in the ensuing murder investigation. Who killed Sam and why? Was the motive personal or was Sam silenced because he discovered potentially illegal activity as part of a client’s routine security audit? With Stacie at her side, Trina reaches out to other tech people who knew Sam in an effort to connect the dots and, in the process, places both women in the sights of a killer.

Read an excerpt:

abundance of people out and enjoying the pleasant spring weather made it hard to find a parking space at Beckman Park. Jasper bounced around, excited and eager to get out of the car. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a dog park here. There were a variety of paths and only some led to picnic areas or play areas for children. I locked up the car and hooked Jasper’s leash as I watched which paths the masses selected.
We came to the park often with Kevin and his dog, Shaq. And sometimes with my friend, Ronnie, and her little girl, Elle. Choosing to avoid the masses, I headed for the less trodden path, used most often for longer walks rather than to find a picnic area. The path was clear with only a few branches down after a recent storm. I tossed them into the woods as we walked. As dogs will do, Jasper had to stop every few yards and sniff and mark his territory. A squirrel scampered by and Jasper tried to take chase, surprising me as he pulled at the leash.
Overall, it was peaceful and nature at its best. Wild flowers added color and music piped into my ear buds. Walking and thinking go together in my mind. I had some decisions to make. With money I’d inherited when my husband was killed, my longtime dream of getting a graduate degree and more training in trauma care was within my reach. But I enjoyed my job as a human resource specialist at Foster’s Insurance group and it provided me with stability. More and more, I’d considered getting the additional training and not necessarily a degree.
A man and woman jogged past me with a “Great weather” and a smile for Jasper. A few other runners passed us. We walked some more and met up with a woman with a Labrador. We each kept to our own side of the path.
“Have a good day.” I shouted as we passed them.
She answered with a smile. “You, too.”
A few minutes later, what sounded like a gun shot shattered the peacefulness. Loud shrieks ensued. The path curved up ahead and I couldn’t see anything. I pulled Jasper to the side and dialed 9-1-1 as people ran by us, some screaming.
“Hi, this is Stacie Maroni. I’m at Beckman Park and there’s been a shooting. At least I heard a shot and people are running and screaming.”
“Is anyone injured?”
“I don’t know. Not that I can tell.”
“Stay back. Help is on the way.”
Jasper growled as people moved too fast, one of them colliding with me and knocking the phone out of my hand. I picked it up, however the call had disconnected. A few more stragglers passed by with furtive glances behind them. Then all was quiet. I took a few steps and Jasper pulled at his leash. We moved slowly, further down the path, almost to where it curved. As what started out as faint sirens grew louder, I assumed help was on the way.
I approached the curve and wished there was some way to let the police know my location in the park. My phone pinged but the message made no sense to me. Some app asking to track my location. Another ping and a text message from Rick Murdock, a Beckman Springs police officer.
“Near the shooting? Allow location on the app and we can find you.”
I activated the app and continued to walk forward, following Jasper’s lead. I spotted someone on the ground and took another step. Then I heard someone coming and, picking up a hissing Jasper, ducked behind a tree, glad I was wearing dark, boring clothes. Jasper shook and I tensed when a twig snapped nearby. Hidden, I whispered to Jasper to be quiet. More sirens and I heard another step, away from me this time. A minute or two later, someone called out my name.
“Stacie! Stacie!”
I recognized Rick’s voice and stepped out cautiously. I moved to the far side of the path opposite the body. Jasper stopped shaking and wanted down. He ran in circles and barked when he spotted Rick and Officer Lahomes coming toward us. They were partners. Officer Marina Napoli, Officer Reardon, and Bill came from the other direction. Marina and Reardon were partners. I wasn’t sure why Bill responded alone.
Turning to face Rick, I asked, “Did someone go past you just now?”
“A man ran by and yelled ‘Shooter. Shooter.’ Then he kept going.”
“I think he was coming in this direction until the second set of sirens. Jasper didn’t like him. And by now the shooter would be long gone.”
Bill nodded and took charge. To Rick and Lahomes he said, “Each of you write down what he looked like. He may be the shooter, doubling back to be sure this guy is dead.”
Turning to me, Bill asked, “Did you get close to the victim? Touch anything?”
I shook my head. “I called when I heard the shot. People were running past me and I waited to walk in this direction. I’d gotten this far, spotted the body ahead of me, and then heard someone coming. I ducked behind some trees and waited for you.”
Marina walked to the body, leaned over, and then came back to us. She shook her head. “He didn’t make it.”
Reardon put his hand to his ear. “Paramedics are here. I’ll walk out and bring them in.” Bill nodded and Reardon left.
“Lahomes, can you go back to the next intersection with the other paths and stop anyone coming this way? We need to get as many pictures as possible before we do anything else. Probably won’t be helpful, but eyes on the ground and the greenery for anything that doesn’t belong. Long shot, but maybe the killer left a calling card.”
Bill snorted and everyone grumbled. Lahomes nodded and walked back down the path.
“Stacie, I need you to tell me everything you can remember.”
“Afraid I can’t tell you much. Jasper and I were walking just like any other walk in the park. I like this path because it’s not as popular as some of the others. No picnic areas or benches until you get to the main part up ahead. Some people passed us before the shot. Runners. Then the shot rang out and ten, maybe fifteen, people barreled down the path. One woman picked up her baby and left the stroller. Everyone kept looking behind them and stuck to the tree line in case they needed to hide.”
“Saw the stroller. No one looked out of place? Jasper?”
It may seem silly for a police officer to ask about my dog, but Jasper’s reputation for sensing danger was well known. He had proved more than once he was a better judge of character than me.
I groaned inwardly as Rick picked up Jasper. “He gave a steady low growl from the time of the shot. Then he was a shaking, hissing mess when it sounded like someone was coming toward us.”
In Rick’s arms, Jasper curled up under his chin. Rick had bonded with Jasper when he investigated my husband’s murder. We’d dated for a while and then we broke up. Calling the police for anything was sometimes awkward as a result.

Excerpt from Connections, Conflict & Murder. Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

The Stacie Maroni Mysteries 
Prestige, Privilege & Murder
Foundations, Funny Business & Murder
Deception, Denial & Murder
Connections, Conflict & Murder 

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Blog Tour & Review: A DEADLY INSIDE SCOOP An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery by Abby Collette


This book kicks off a charming cozy mystery series set in an ice cream shop—with a fabulous cast of quirky characters.

Recent MBA grad Bronwyn Crewse has just taken over her family’s ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and she’s going back to basics. Win is renovating Crewse Creamery to restore its former glory, and filling the menu with delicious, homemade ice cream flavors—many from her grandmother’s original recipes. But unexpected construction delays mean she misses the summer season, and the shop has a literal cold opening: the day she opens her doors an early first snow descends on the village and keeps the customers away.

To make matters worse, that evening, Win finds a body in the snow, and it turns out the dead man was a grifter with an old feud with the Crewse family. Soon, Win’s father is implicated in his death. It’s not easy to juggle a new-to-her business while solving a crime, but Win is determined to do it. With the help of her quirky best friends and her tight-knit family, she’ll catch the ice cold killer before she has a meltdown…


Win (aka Bronwyn) is excited to be recreating her memories of the family creamery from when she was young. She has her MBA, a love of her grandmother's unique ice cream flavors, and dreams of her own flavors. And a dead body. One that somehow could involve a member of her family. 

It's hard not to root for Win as she pursues her dreams and the good memories. And if proving her father or mother didn't kill the man who took advantage, then she and her friends will do so. This was a fun read. I for one never had any trouble eating ice cream in the winter, though I tend to stick to the basic flavors. If you like cozy mystery, family owned businesses, and a bit of humor and romance, you'll enjoy this book.

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in the hopes that I would post an honest review. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

About Abby Collette

Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author Abby Collette loves a good mystery. Born and raised in Cleveland, it’s even a mystery to her why she has yet to move to a warmer place. Author of the two Southern cozy mystery series Logan Dickerson Mysteries featuring a second-generation archaeologist and a nonagenarian who is always digging up trouble, and the Romaine Wilder Mysteries, set in East Texas, it pairs a medical examiner and her feisty auntie who owns a funeral home and is always ready to solve a whodunnit. Abby spends her time writing, facilitating writing workshops at local libraries and spending time with her grandchildren, each of which are her favorite.

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