Thursday, May 19, 2022

Book Review: SWEET SIERA GULCH (A Paige MacKenzie Mystery) by Deborah Garner

Synopsis (from Amazon) 

Paige MacKenzie isn’t convinced there’s anything “sweet” about the small Gold Rush town of Sweet Sierra Gulch when she arrives in California to write an article for the Manhattan Post. But there’s plenty of history surrounding the gold fever that drew prospectors from afar in the mid-1800s, as well as the anticipation of romance when her favorite cowboy, Jake Norris, joins her later. 


Everything seems to be falling into place until the owner of the local cafe goes missing, a gruff guest checks into the hotel, and an odd humming sound prevents a peaceful night’s sleep. Determined to get to the bottom of the mysterious events, Paige begins to follow clues. Will her search uncover a dangerous secret in the town’s old mining tunnels, or will her curiosity land her in over her head? 

Review 

Sweet Sierra Gulch was once a hub in the midst of the Gold Rush, and now is a small town with only a couple of hundred people. Even Paige is wondering why she selected this small town as she checks into the only 'hotel.' Her plan is to decide if there's a story to write, write it, and then enjoy the wine country nearby with her cowboy, Jake. Only she senses some friction and not everyone is as welcoming and friendly as Jangle. Then he goes missing and everyone is upset. The AAA ladies let Paige know they're sure she can figure it out.  

 Sweet Sierra Gulch is populated by the three A sisters, older residents, and a few younger ones. Red is a business man with the most touristy spot and great chili, only his behavior of late is suspicious. As Paige tries to figure out what happens, more surprises await her. The pace is good, the backdrop of the gold rush, and the characters of Sweet Sierra Gulch have depth where needed. Jangle was by far my favorite character.

This is the 6th in the Paige MacKenzie series. Each is a story of some historical note that interests Paige and a mystery unfolds. They can be read as stand alone mysteries, but it's always best to start at the beginning. This story is well-written with enough tension to keep it going, even between Paige and Jake. Cozy mystery lovers will enjoy this read.

Purchase Link 


About the Author

Deborah Garner is an accomplished travel writer with a passion for back roads and secret hideaways. Born and raised in California, she studied in France before returning to the U.S. to attend UCLA. After stints in graduate school and teaching, she attempted to clone herself for decades by founding and running a dance and performing arts center, designing and manufacturing clothing and accessories, and tackling both spreadsheets and display racks for corporate retail management. Her passions include photography, hiking and animal rescue. She speaks five languages, some substantially better than others. She now divides her time between California and Wyoming, dragging one human and two canines along whenever possible.

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Monday, May 16, 2022

Book Review: POISONED IN PROVENCE (A Nina Brown Paranormal Cozy Mystery) by Cat Green

Synopsis 

Provence: A magical start to bright new life… 

 …garnished with buttery croissants, café au lait, and a delectable French chef. 

But when murder is on the menu, will she be the next victim? 

Still reeling from a romantic betrayal, 22-year-old Nina travels to Provence, France to oversee her magazine’s chef competition. Kitchen heat sends her swooning into the arms of a scrumptious French contestant Jacques, a tasty Crème Brûlée of a chef she’d love to nibble. 

As Jacques gives Nina a tour of his family’s historic caves and magical gardens, secrets waft through the lilac-scented breeze. Secrets that come to light when the head judge shrieks “poison” during the competition’s climax. 

Can Jacques be the culprit? Will Nina prove her creamy cuisiner’s innocence and discover the real culprit before it’s too late? 

Poisoned in Provence is a fast-paced, laugh-out-loud funny cozy mystery, packed with quirky characters, mouth-watering cuisine, and the adorable fashionista French Bulldog, Jasper. You'll devour this delicious, cozy romance. Because in the warmth of French Country kitchens, love magic blazes bright.

Review

Nina and her good friend, Holly, travel to Provence for a chef competition. She's excited to replace her boss as a judge with hopes her article on the competition will move her career forward. Provence is a small town with a chef of its own - Jacque has the restaurant across from the hotel and attributes his success to the spices he collects from this grandmother's secret garden.

Nina immediately feels her life is going to change. Although she has suppressed her "gift," being in Provence she has visions once again. She has to keep her feelings under control, though, as one of the other two judges is poisoned, not once, but at each of the three events. Unfortunately, Jacques is the prime suspect.  

Nina, Holly, Jacque, and others all have unique personalities. Don't forget Jasper, the fashionista-driven dog. This was an enjoyable read. It is well paced. The paranormal aspect is subtle and fits when it appears. This is the first in the series, with the second, Silence in Salem, scheduled for an August 2022 release. 

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.

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Monday, May 9, 2022

Blog Tour and Book Review: BEAR WITNESS (An Alaska Untamed Mystery) by Lark O. Jensen

 

About the Book

Alaska tour boat guide Stacie Calder faces the deep freeze in this scenic cozy series debut perfect for fans of Paige Shelton.
 

No nine-to-five cubicle career will suit Stacie Calder—the naturalist much prefers working in the great outdoors. Specifically, the spacious and spectacular Alaskan wilderness, whose rugged charms she shares with sightseers on the top deck of the tour boat where she works. But one May afternoon, Stacie’s passengers see more than glittering glaciers, frolicking harbor seals, climbing bears and soaring seabirds…they also witness a man lying dead in the frigid Alaskan waters. And it seems likely that someone gave him a fatal push.

Stacie didn’t know the unfortunate victim, but he sure wanted to know a lot about her. He spent most of his final afternoon bombarding her with questions quite awkward to answer. And when he wasn’t in her hair, he was arguing incessantly with the boat’s beleaguered crew. Which makes for a suspect list about as long as the passenger manifest. Furthermore, as police helicopters relentlessly circle her boat in search of any clues, Stacie is shaken to find herself on that suspect list.

Before the tour boat reaches shore Stacie—accompanied by her beautiful blue-eyed husky, Sasha—must deduce just who sent the testy tourist tumbling into the turgid waters and have the authorities take custody. Because if she can’t, then the killer might aim a fatal ice-cold stare at Stacie.

Review

Stacie Calder is a naturalist whose passion is learning more about nature and sharing that knowledge as the tour guide for a prominent Alaska tour company. She and her dog, Sasha, work with the same crew and captain all the time, and Stacie is very loyal to the captain and the company. Needless to say, when a man is questioning her and the company, she becomes uncomfortable and suspicious that he may try to ruin the company and searches for him. Only he's disappeared and now she's a suspect. 

She insinuates herself into the investigation and the primary investigator, Liam, ultimately gives her permission to keep sleuthing with the promise that she'll share what she finds out. Not all her coworkers are enthused with her questions, nor is the dead man's 'friend' who continues to take the tour day after day. 

Throughout the story, Jensen provides descriptions of scenery and wildlife, ice floes and glaciers calving, the birds, and other animals they encounter. The descriptions are rich and the reader can appreciate the experience. Having taken tours like that one, it's also very accurate. These are interwoven with the growing relationship between Stacie and Liam, the animosity of some of the crew, her sleuthing, and increased concern when one man is acting strangely. 

This is a great start to a new series. The pace is good, Stacie is a likable protagonist, there are multiple suspects, and it's very well-written. There's something for everyone in this great story.

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

Lark O. Jensen is the pseudonym of Linda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer. Lark has written Bear Witness, the first Alaska Untamed mystery for Crooked Lane. Linda has written the Barkery & Biscuits Mystery series and the Superstition Mysteries for Midnight Ink and the Pet Rescue Mysteries and Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. Linda also writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, and her stories often involve dogs.

Author Links 


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Saturday, May 7, 2022

Blog Tour and Book Review: MARGARITAS, MAYHEM & MURDER (An Andi Anna Jones Mystery) by Mary Cunningham

 

Synopsis

Andi Anna Jones, so-so travel agent and amateur sleuth, puts aside her resentment of her father's widow and books a sixtieth birthday cruise to Cancun for Ruby and three friends. Never does Andi imagine the cruise will include the murder of a has-been lounge singer—or that Ruby might be the main suspect. 

Flirting with more than danger after arriving in Mexico, Andi connects with charming local sheriff, Manual Gonzales. An embarrassing night involving the sheriff, too many margaritas, and a Mariachi band, can't quell her determination to clear the name of her ex-stepmother.
 
While gathering clues and interviewing witnesses, however, she suspects dear old step-mom isn't the only one in jeopardy.

Review

Andi is not a fan of her step-mother, Ruby, or her sleezy lawyer, but she promised her dad she'd help Ruby. Now she sees Ruby as more than a bit dramatic and impulsive. When Ruby is arrested and held in a jail in Cancun, Andi flies down to straighten things out. The best thing she finds when she arrives is the local sheriff, Manuel Rodriquez. Ruby is another story, more concerned with the ugly orange jumpsuit than the murder charges.

Manuel takes her out for a bite to eat and Andi gets tipsy, but flirts past her embarrassment. Manuel shares the evidence against Ruby and arranges for Andi to board the cruise while it's in dock at its next stop. That in itself is an adventure with a series of twists and turns that necessitate Manuel coming on board and Andi having a harrowing time getting back to Cancun. 

With Ruby released to the hotel, but needing a babysitter, it's no surprise Andi decides her lawyer should be the one to remind Ruby she can't leave the hotel. Andi flies to Las Vegas to chase down a lead with a few more twists and turns. Murphy's Law seems to apply to everything Andi does.

This was a fun, light read and exactly what I needed after a stressful day. Mary Cunningham has created some quirky and interesting characters and uses humorous scenes to keep the story going. This is the first in this series, and I'm sure both Ruby and Manuel will return as Andi returns home. This is my first read by this author, but will not be my last. If you enjoy lighthearted cozy mysteries, you'll enjoy this one. 

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

Author, Mary Cunningham, grew up on the northern side of the Ohio River in Corydon, Indiana. Her first memories are of her dad's original bedtime stories that no doubt inspired her imagination and love of a well-spun "yarn."

Through the author's horrifying stint as a travel agent, Andi Anna Jones sprang to life. The adult/mystery series gives extra meaning to the phrase, "Write what you know." Cunningham has several books published, including Cynthia's Attic, a five-book middle-grade fantasy, women’s lifestyle/humor book, WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty, Ebooks, Christmas With Daisy and Ghost Light. A biography of an army brat, turned UConn and WNBA basketball player, will be published in the spring of 2022.

She is a member of Sisters In Crime, Sisters In Crime-Atlanta Chapter, International Thriller Writers, Inc., and the Carrollton Writers Guild.

When she gives her fingers a break from the keyboard, Mary enjoys golf, swimming, and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where she makes her home with her husband and adopted, four-legged, furry daughter, Lucy.

Author Links Purchase Links 

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Friday, April 29, 2022

Blog Tour and Review: KNIT OR DYE TRYING (A Riverbank Knitting Mystery) by Allie Pleiter


Synopsis


Business is booming for Libby Beckett and her fabulous Maryland shop, aptly named Y.A.R.N., but when a town festival brings a fatality with it, Libby gets all tangled up in murder.

As spring comes to Collinstown, the village launches a food festival to draw a new group of tourists. Libby, the proud owner of Y.A.R.N., has planned a yarn event to provide an alternative option to a foodie weekend. Artisan fiber dyer Julie Wilson—known for her work with animal-friendly, plant-based knitting fibers such as bamboo and hemp as well as her brilliant use of color—will hopefully draw a crowd with a special dyeing workshop.

The festival begins, but it draws more than crowds. First, a flock of sheep parades down the street, herded by farmers protesting Julie’s anti-wool stance. Then Julie’s celebrity chef sister appears, and the siblings resume a long-standing rivalry. Despite all this, Julie’s workshop has sold out. Libby is thrilled, and they’re preparing for a full house. But the night before the event, Julie is found alone in the warehouse event space—dead. The witty “Watch Julie Wilson Dye” workshop title now has a terrible new meaning—and it’s up to Libby to catch a crafty killer.


Review

The witty name of the workshop was the first hint of what was to come. The setting and the circumstances leading to the murder are innovative and provide distraction and a red herring or two. Pleiter's description of YARN and the feel and colors of Julie Wilson's version of yarn bring the store to life. The various characters, their personalities, small town politics, and shepherds add to the dynamics.

This is my first read by Pleiter, but it will not be my last. The pace was steady and there were numerous suspects. What I liked most was Libby's attitude and the relationship between Libby and Gavin, as well as with the others who came into YARN. That she is running to head the Chamber of Commerce and has to be coached for the debate, as well as the budding romance, give her depth. This is the second in the Riverbank Knitting Mystery series, and I'll be adding the first to my TBR.

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

An avid knitter, coffee junkie and firm believer that “pie makes everything better,” Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction working on as many as four novels at a time. The bestselling author of over fifty books, Allie has enjoyed a twenty-year career with over 1.5 million books sold. In addition to writing, Allie maintains an active writing productivity coaching practice and speaks regularly on the creative process, publishing, and her very favorite topic—The Chunky Method of time management for writers.

Author Links 

Monday, April 25, 2022

New Release: MUSIC AND MEMORIES, ANOTHER MURDER (A Sheridan Hendley Mystery #7) by Christa Nardi

 

Synopsis

A murdered art teacher, a piano bar, and danger for Sheridan Hendley, amateur sleuth.                                                                                                        
Sheridan Hendley, amateur sleuth, wants nothing more than a return to routine following their family vacation. The last thing she needs is to find herself involved in another murder investigation. But that's precisely what happens when the victim is one of Maddie’s favorite teachers at the high school. 

While Sheridan’s trying not to sleuth, the high school principal assures everyone Sheridan will find the killer. Now the killer, sure Sheridan knows more than she does, is after her. Join Sheridan, Brett, and their friends as they enjoy the piano man and uncover the killer.

Available in ebook and print, coming soon in audiobook on AMAZON.

This was a fun book to write as I am a fan of piano bars, where I can sing along and no one realizes I can't sing on tune. Here are some of the early reviews:

"Music and Memories, Another Murder is a complex, interesting murder mystery. I love Sheridan, Brett, Maddie, the dogs and the family dynamic. This well written book engaged my interest from the beginning. The murderer is clever and it will take everyone to identify him and bring him to justice. I could not put the book down." 

"Music and Memories, Another Murder is Book 7 of A Sheridan Hendley Mystery by Christa Nardi. I love this series and the characters are wonderful. Sheridan, Brett and Maddie are returning from Ireland. What they did not expect to find in the Stop and Go bathroom was a dead body belonging to her Art Teacher. A secondary storyline has Maddie's mother, Victoria, wanting a different custody ruling. I thought the mystery was well written and left me guessing until the end." 

"Sheridan, Brett, Maddie and their friends are wonderful characters. I haven’t read this series from the beginning so I don’t know how it started, but I like the relationship between Maddie and Sheridan. Maddie isn’t a bratty teen and Sheridan isn’t the wicked step-mother. The murder mystery was interesting and kept me guessing until the end."

A lucky commenter will be gifted an ecopy of Music and Memories, Another Murder.  Just for fun, here's a word search all about the book and characters.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Blog Tour Cover Reveal: MURDER IS NO PICNIC (A Cape Cod Foodie Mystery) by Amy Pershing

Murder Is No Picnic (A Cape Cod Foodie Mystery) by Amy Pershing

COMING JUNE 7, 2022

When a celebrity chef is found dead,

                     

Samantha Barnes, the "Cape Cod Foodie,"

           finds her search for the world's best blueberry buckle

               

turning into a search for a killer . . .

                           

READY!

                              

SET!!

                                 

REVEAL!!!

Murder Is No Picnic (A Cape Cod Foodie Mystery)

Cozy Mystery 3rd in Series Setting – Cape Cod, Massachusetts Publisher ‏ : ‎ Berkley (June 7, 2022) 

Mass Market Paperback ‏ : ‎ 336 pages 

ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0593199189 ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0593199183 Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09K66BGZF

The Fourth of July is coming, and for professional food lover Samantha Barnes, it’s all about the picnic. Okay, and the fireworks. And the parade. But mostly the picnic. What could be better than a DIY clambake followed by the best blueberry buckle in the world? Sam has finally found the perfect recipe in the kitchen of Clara Foster, famed cookbook author and retired restaurateur, and she’s thrilled when Clara agrees to a buckle baking lesson.

But when Clara dies in a house fire blamed on carelessness in the kitchen, Sam doesn’t believe it. Unfortunately, her doubts set in motion an investigation pointing to the new owner of Clara’s legendary restaurant—and a cousin of Sam’s harbormaster boyfriend. So, in between researching the Cape’s best lobster rolls and planning her clambake, Sam needs to find Clara's killer before the fireworks really start....

You can Pre-Order Your Copy Today!

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Amy Pershing, who spent every summer of her childhood on Cape Cod, was an editor, a restaurant reviewer and a journalist before leading employee communications at a global bank. A few years ago she waved goodbye to Wall Street to write full time. Murder Is No Picnic is the third of the Cape Cod Foodie mysteries featuring Samantha Barnes, a disgraced but resilient ex-chef who retreats home to Cape Cod where she finds herself juggling a new job as the local paper’s “Cape Cod Foodie,” a complicated love life, a posse of just-slightly-odd friends, a falling-down house, a ginormous dog and a propensity for falling over dead bodies. 

Elizabeth Gilbert called the first book in the series, A Side of Murder, “the freshest, funniest mystery I have ever read,” and Kirkus Reviews gave the second book, An Eggnog to Die For, a starred review, saying, “A delightful sleuth, a complex mystery, and lovingly described cuisine: a winner for both foodies and mystery mavens.”




Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Blog Tour, Book Review: GAMBLING WITH MURDER (A Southern California Mystery) by Lida Sideris

 

About the Book 

A late-night call is all it takes for rookie lawyer Corrie Locke to kiss her day job at the movie studio goodbye, and do what she does best: flex her sweet P.I. skills and go undercover to find a senior who’s missing from a posh retirement community. One small stumbling block: skirting past security to gain inside access to the exclusive Villa Sunset. 

Time to call in the heavy artillery. Besides former security guard turned legal assistant—now wannabe P.I.—Veera, Corrie relies on a secret weapon: her mother, a surprisingly eager addition to Corrie’s team. Armed with enough pepper spray to take down a band of Navy Seals, Mom impersonates a senior to infiltrate the Villa, Corrie and Veera in tow. Turns out the job’s not as easy as they’d thought. These seniors have tricks tucked up their sleeves and aren’t afraid of using them.

The action gets dicey when the missing senior case turns into attempted murder by a criminal mind who’s always one step ahead. Corrie’s hot on the trail, but finds more than she bargained for…when her mother becomes a target.

Review

Corrie Locke is an attorney in the entertainment field, but with her father's influence she also aspires to be a PI. Veera helps her out when there are props missing and Corrie tries to find them. Then she gets a call to help find someone missing from a senior community in Santa Barbara - a very exclusive community and a paid PI job. As would be expected there are complications, more than missing props, and many close calls. To get inside, Corrie's mother joins Corrie and Veera in their PI endeavor. That only adds additional tension. 

The story is well-written with snappy dialogue, tension, and humor. Corrie and Veera are likable characters, with Corrie the more adventurous. Then there's the geeky, tech-savvy boyfriend. The story is well-paced and Sideris adds twists and turns that kept me reading. 

This is the 5th in a series, and I always recommend readers start at the beginning of series. That said, I've only read one other in the Southern California Mystery series and this was easily read as a stand alone. This is an enjoyable cozy mystery series. The rest of the series will be on my TBR list. 

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

Lida Sideris' first stint after law school was a newbie lawyer's dream: working as an entertainment attorney for a movie studio...kind of like her heroine, Corrie Locke, except without the homicides. Lida was one of two national winners of the Helen McCloy Mystery Writers of America Scholarship Award and a Silver Falchion Award Finalist. She lives in the northern tip of Southern California with her family, rescue dogs and a flock of uppity chickens. To learn more, please visit: www.LidaSideris.com 

Author Links 

Twitter @lidasideris 
Instagram @lida_sideris 

Purchase Links - Amazon 




Friday, April 1, 2022

Blog Tour and Spotlight: THE ART OF THE DECOY (A Scandal Mountain Antiques Mystery) by Trish Esden

 

Perfect for fans of Jane K. Cleland and Connie Berry, Tricia Esden's series debut is sure to please. 

About the Book

After her mother is sent to prison for art forgery, Edie Brown returns to Northern Vermont to rebuild her family’s fine art and antiques business. She’s certain she can do it now that her mother is gone. After all, butting heads with her mom over bad business practices was what drove Edie away three years ago, including a screwup that landed Edie on probation for selling stolen property.

When Edie scores a job appraising a waterfowl decoy collection at a hoarder’s farmhouse, she’s determined to take advantage of the situation to rebuild the business’s tarnished reputation and dwindling coffers. In lieu of payment, Edie intends to cherry-pick an exceptional decoy carved by the client’s renowned Quebecoise folk artist ancestors. Only the tables turn when the collection vanishes. 

Accused of the theft, Edie’s terrified that the fallout will destroy the business and land her in prison next to her mom. Desperate, she digs into the underbelly of the local antiques and art world. When Edie uncovers a possible link between the decoy theft and a deadly robbery at a Quebec museum, she longs to ask her ex-probation officer, and ex-lover, for help. But she suspects his recent interest in rekindling their romance may hide a darker motive.

With the help of her eccentric uncle Tuck and Kala, their enigmatic new employee, Edie must risk all she holds dear to expose the thieves and recover the decoys before the FBI’s Art Crime Team or the ruthless thieves themselves catch up with her.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One 

The brrring of the phone bounced off the van’s metal walls. 

    Jolting from an adrenaline-fueled dream involving dumpster diving and a Fabergé egg, I fumbled under the pillow for the offending device.  “Hello?” 

    “It’s Tuck. You awake?” 

    Aaarggh. Of course, I was awake. Now. If it had been anyone other than my uncle, I’d have bitten their head off for calling at two in the morning. “Hang on a minute.” 

    Wriggling out of the sleeping bag, I squeezed toward the van’s sliding door, past suitcases and an early nineteeth-century blanket box from a rummage sale. Though nowhere near as life-altering as discovering a Fabergé egg in a dumpster, the blanket box was a quality piece and an easy sell. I had a knack for finding such things, even when they were hidden amid piles of fakes and other junk. Perhaps it came from growing up in the antiques and art trades, now a fine-tuned instinct after years of tagging along with my grandparents. Maybe it was heightened by my education and internships. Whatever, the neurons at the back of my brain jumped to life every time I crossed paths with a genuine, quality piece. 

     As I slid the van door open, the overhead light flashed on. The smell of smoldering campfires hung in the damp air. Frogs chimed in the distance. 

     “You still there?” Tuck asked. 

    “Yeah. What’s going on?” I settled down in the van’s open doorway. As a rule, Tuck didn’t keep normal hours. Still, this was late, even for him. 

     “I meant to call earlier. Kala and I were away at an auction.” 

     “Who’s Kala?” 

     “She’s not why I called.” His voice tensed. “It’s about your mom.” 

    I closed my eyes and prayed that the months of waiting and not knowing had come to an end. 

     “She took the plea agreement. Nine months. Federal prison. Art forgery.” 

    The air bottled up in my lungs released. Finally. “So she decided not to risk going to trial.” 

     “Didn’t have much choice. It could have been a lot worse.” 

     “You’re right about that.” Even the thought of jail terrified me. “I still don’t understand how Mom got herself into this situation. She knows what’s legal and what isn’t.” 

     Tuck was silent for a moment. “Edie, I need you to come home.” 

    “I’d love to see you, but I’m camped out in the Berkshires, doing a flea market this weekend.” 

     “Your internship at the auction house is over, right?” 

     “Yeah. Last week.” A sick feeling knotted in my chest. He was up to something. 

    “I didn’t mind helping your mom, but that doesn’t mean I can do everything on my own. Plus, I have the gardens and my African violets…” As he rambled on about retirement and his latest horticultural ventures, thoughts of the longtime family business seeped into my mind: Scandal Mountain Fine Arts and Antiques. For decades, collectors and dealers had flown in and driven up to northern Vermont to buy from us. Famous artists had held court in the shop and camped out in the spare bedrooms. I vividly remembered racing home from grade school to watch my grandparents unbox their latest finds: primitive paintings, folk art carvings, etched powder horns… so many stunning pieces created by master artisans, history and beauty melding together. I thought of the warmth and strength of Grandma’s hands, and the scent of Grandpa’s corduroy jacket, beeswax, lemon oil, and damp humus. 

     But along with success came rivals and trouble, and the plane crash that killed my grandparents. After that, Mom took over the business. She was hopelessly inept. It had been nearly three years since I’d lived at home and attempted to work for her. One of her lapses had culminated in my arrest for selling stolen property. Thank you very much, Mom. 

     Tuck cleared his throat, pulling me from my thoughts. “There’s this appraisal event coming up. An Antiques Roadshow sort of deal. The shop’s under contract to be there, but it’s going to be hard to pull off without your mom’s expertise. I really could use your help.” 

    “I can’t believe they’d want any of us there. Mom’s arrest has been in the news for months.” 

     “It’s here in Scandal Mountain. Will you do it? Please.” 

    I rubbed a hand over my face. I was good at saying no, but this was Tuck and he rarely asked for anything. 

    “All right. When is it?” 

    “Tomorrow. Actually, today—it is after midnight.” 

    “You’ve got to be kidding! I’m five hours away.” 

    “That’s why I called now. It’s on the village green. Ten o’clock sharp.” 

    He hung up. I stared at the phone, then laughed. Tuck, the slick bastard. He’d purposely called at the last minute so I wouldn’t have time to wiggle out of the deal, and I’d fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. And that definitely wasn’t normal for me.

Excerpt from The Art of the Decoy. Copyright © 2022 Trish Esden. All rights reserved.


About the Author

Trish Esden loves museums, gardens, wilderness, dogs, and birds, in various orders depending on the day. She lives in northern Vermont where she deals antiques with her husband, a profession she’s been involved with since her teens. Don’t ask what her favorite type of antique is. She loves hunting down old bottles and rusty barn junk as much as she enjoys fine art and furnishings.

Author Links 


Purchase Links 






Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Book Review: HERE TODAY, SCONE TOMORROW (Baker's Rise Mysteries Book One) by R. A. Hutchins

About the Book

When the self-titled Lord of the Manor, Harold Baker, meets an untimely end, the residents of Baker’s Rise believe that he has simply died from choking. It is fair to say that they are certainly not sad to see him go! 

Former city dweller Flora Miller, new to the quaint English village and in charge of the recently restored Tearoom on the Rise, is the unlucky recipient of the late man’s parrot. Her new feathered companion has no filter and a vibrant personality that cannot be ignored! Witness to Harold’s murder, the bird won’t let the matter lie, and it’s not long before Flora becomes suspicious. 

A quest to bake the perfect scone is put on hold whilst Flora helps the charming Detective Bramble to investigate Harold’s death. She has set her hopes on writing the next bestseller, not on becoming an amateur sleuth, but life sometimes has surprises in store! 

Will they find the killer before they strike again, and can Flora find the acceptance and friendship she seeks amongst her new neighbours? 

Packed with twists and turns, colourful characters and a sprinkle of romance, this is the first book in the series of Baker’s Rise Mysteries. It will certainly leave you hungry for more! (Includes a traditional scone recipe!) 

Review

Flora is trying to keep her real reason for being in Baker's Rise quiet and most of the village believe she's come to re-open the Tearoom on the Rise. She's excited for the opening, but all the vibes from her new neighbors are not warm. She gets comfort from the parrot she inherited though his personality is strong and he convinces her there's more to the Lord of the Manor's death.

The story is well-staged, with the "cozy" nature of the village (though not always positive) providing context. Flora, though concerned with the villager's hostility toward the Lord of the Manor, is a strong character. She is determined to clean up the mess in the Manor proper, though she is not staying there. What she discovers leads to the Lord of the Manor's death considered suspicious at best. Between the good Detective Bramble and the parrot, Flora is well protected. 

I liked Flora and the sense of community, the flow of the story, and the hints and cues to the killer. If you like cozy mystery with some humor and puns, you will enjoy this one. This is my first read by Hutchins, but won't be my last.

Baker's Rise Mysteries

About the Author

R. A. Hutchins is a keen writer of cozy mysteries, contemporary romance, and historical fiction (under the pen name Anne Hutchins). Rachel's love of mysteries and women sleuths started at an early age with a fascination for the works of Agatha Christie. Her first high school English project was a biography of this author's life! 

In Rachel's contemporary romance, you can normally find themes of hope and new beginnings, loss and mental health, though her characters are always guaranteed a happy ending and her stories have more than a splash of heady romance! 

Rachel's favourite hobbies are reading, walking along the beach with her family, visiting new places, watching detective shows and researching different periods in history. She also enjoys collecting sea glass from the various local beaches on her doorstep. Now living in northeast England, Rachel has fond memories of the nine years she spent in Scotland. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Blog Tour and Book Review: FRONT PAGE MURDER (A Homefront News Mystery) by Joyce St. Anthony

Synopsis: ‎

In this World War II-era historical mystery series debut by Joyce St. Anthony, small-town editor Irene Ingram has a nose for news and an eye for clues.

Irene Ingram has written for her father’s newspaper, the Progress Herald, ever since she could grasp a pencil. Now she’s editor in chief, which doesn’t sit well with the men in the newsroom. But proving her journalistic bona fides is the least of Irene’s worries when crime reporter Moe Bauer, on the heels of a hot tip, turns up dead at the foot of his cellar stairs.

An accident? That’s what Police Chief Walt Turner thinks, and Irene is inclined to agree until she finds the note Moe discreetly left on her desk. He was on to a big story, he wrote. The robbery she’d assigned him to cover at Markowicz Hardware turned out to be something far more devious. A Jewish store owner in a small, provincial town, Sam Markowicz received a terrifying message from a stranger. Moe suspected that Sam is being threatened not only for who he is…but for what he knows.
 

Tenacious Irene senses there’s more to the Markowicz story, which she is all but certain led to Moe’s murder. When she’s not filling up column inches with the usual small-town fare—locals in uniform, victory gardens, and scrap drives—she and her best friend, scrappy secretary Peggy Reardon, search for clues. If they can find the killer, it’ll be a scoop to stop the presses. But if they can’t, Irene and Peggy may face an all-too-literal deadline.

Review

The setting is World War II era, with limited supplies, women taking jobs in the work force as men are called to war, and German sympathizers. Irene Ingram's father goes off to the Pacific as a journalist and she takes over the local paper. Some are not to happy about it, especially her cousin, Donny, and even her mother. St. Anthony captured the tensions and conflicts that ultimately changed social norms for women. 

One part of Irene's job is keeping up with the local manufacturing plant producing bolts and other parts for the war effort. She also covers the Freedom Garden and metal scraps efforts. When anti-semitism rears its head, she sends Moe Bauer to meet with the victim. The next she sees Moe, he's dead. She doesn't believe it was an accident. 

Determined to prove it wasn't an accident, she goes after information, most leading to back to the plant. A boarder who works at the plant, Katherine, and Irene's best friend, Peggy, gather information. Headstrong and determined, Irene's actions place her in danger.

St. Anthony's research on the era is evident, even in the dialogue and attitudes of many. The plot is interesting and Moe's "big story" fits the time and place. Irene is a strong protagonist. Although the pace is slow, those who enjoy historical cozies will not be disappointed.

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

Joyce was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail. As Joyce St. Anthony, she is the author of the Homefront News Mysteries. 

The first in the series, Front Page Murder, was,  released on March 8, 2022. Under her own name--Joyce Tremel--she wrote the award winning Brewing Trouble cozy mystery series. She is a native Pittsburgher and lives in the beautiful Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania with her husband and two cats--Hops and Lager.

Author Links 



Sunday, March 13, 2022

Book Review: MURDER UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN (Rita Calabrese Book 5) by Maureen Klovers

Synopis 

An idyllic retreat in rural Tuscany seems like the least likely place for a murder…. 

Rita Calabrese is a lover of all things Italian—especially the food. So she is overjoyed when Sal, her normally oh-so-unromantic husband, proposes a second honeymoon at a villa in Tuscany. For two weeks, she’ll get a respite from her hectic life as a reporter, sleuth, and mother and be able to just lounge by the pool, traipse through vineyards and olive groves, and gorge on gelato and tiramisu. 

Then Rita meets a suave Italian art crimes detective convinced that the villa is the epicenter of an antiquities trafficking ring, and her romantic getaway becomes a working vacation. As she quaffs glorious vino and learns to roll pici pasta by hand, Rita sizes up the other guests. Ostensibly, they have gathered for the nuptials of Alessandro and Giovanna, the Romeo and Juliet of the Italian archaeology world. But is one of them also a criminal mastermind? 

When the villa’s owner is found dead in an ancient Etruscan tomb, Rita begins to wonder if something even more sinister is afoot. Plunging into an investigation filled with star-crossed lovers, bitter professional rivalries, long-buried secrets, and fabulous food, Rita finds that Italy never loses its ability to amaze. 

Featuring delectable, authentic Italian recipes for caponata, pear and almond tart, peaches with mascarpone, and more! 

Review

A second honeymoon in Italy doesn't quite pan out as Sal planned. From the time Rita gets drawn into trying to identify the antiquities trafficking ring, her inner sleuth is very busy. Then there's the murder of the villa's owner. With most of the other guests connect to the villa owner, the suspects and secrets are plenty. If that's not bad enough, the chef at the Villa tells Rita she can't cook. Those are fighting words.

The story is well-paced with the expected twists and turns as Rita unravels secrets and connections among the other guests, investigates possible antiquities trafficking when many of them are archeologists, and identify the killer, all the while keeping Sal in the dark that she's sleuthing. Admittedly, I found Rita somewhat irritating at the beginning, but she grew on me. If you like cozy mysteries with family tensions, set in Tuscany, you'll enjoy this book. Don't forget the recipes!

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.

Books in the Rita Calabrese series

The Secret Poison Garden 
A Secret in Thyme
Murder in the Moonshine
Of Masques and Murder
Murder Under the Tuscan Sun


About Maureen Klovers 

Maureen Klovers has held numerous positions in government, including a stint as a U.S. intelligence officer, and was a political commentator on DC 101’s talk radio show "Neighborhood Stuff." Ms. Klovers has traveled extensively in the United States, Europe, China, India, and Latin America. She’s hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, been escorted through a Bolivian prison by a German narco-trafficker, and fished for piranhas in Venezuela.

She received a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations (with a focus on Latin American politics) from the College of William and Mary in 1999 and a Master’s of Public Policy and Master’s of Business Administration from Georgetown University in 2006. She lives with her husband, Kevin, in Arlington, Virginia. 

For more information or to sign up for her newsletter, please visit www.maureenklovers.com.