Spotlight, Recipe & Giveaway: ARTISTIC LICENSE TO KILL by Paula Darnell

As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I am happy to spotlight the recently released Fine Art Mystery – Artistic License to Kill and to share Paula Darnell’s recipe for Date Cake.

About Artistic License to Kill

Artist Amanda Trent, accompanied by her beloved golden retriever Laddie and her persnickety calico cat Mona Lisa, is determined to start a new life after her husband divorces her to marry a younger woman, but it isn’t easy.

After a disastrous interview at the prestigious Roadrunner Gallery in Lonesome Valley, Arizona, far away from her previous home in Kansas City, Amanda’s afraid that she’ll fail at her new career. But her prospects begin to improve when she’s accepted as the newest member of the cooperative gallery.

Then, on her very first day, she discovers Janice, the stern director, has been murdered right in the art gallery, and the Roadrunner’s members, including Amanda herself, become suspects. Which gallery member murdered the unpopular director? Or was the killer an outsider with an ax to grind?

Purchase Links: Amazon – Apple Books – Barnes & Noble – Kobo

Date Cake Recipe

Good with a dollop of whipped cream on top!

Cake Ingredients
1 cup pitted, chopped dates
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Topping Ingredients
1 cup pitted, chopped dates
¾ cup water
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup chopped walnuts

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Add boiling water to one cup chopped dates in a small bowl and set aside. Cream softened or melted butter together with egg and sugar. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Add date mixture and stir until well blended. Bake for 35 minutes in a buttered 9” x 9” baking pan. Remove from oven and test for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. If not, return the cake to the oven and bake a few minutes longer. Cool the cake in the pan before making the topping.
Add chopped dates, water, and sugar to a small pan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes or until thickened, stirring often. Do not overcook. When the mixture has thickened, remove from heat and cool for five minutes. Spread the topping evenly on the cake and sprinkle with the chopped walnuts.

Makes nine servings.

Giveaway

Click to enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win a digital copy of Artistic License to Kill.

About the Author

Award-winning author Paula Darnell is a former college instructor who has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Iowa in English and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Nevada, Reno in English with a Writing Emphasis. Artistic License to Kill is the first book in her Fine Art Mystery series. She’s also the author of the DIY Diva Mystery series and The Six-Week Solution, a historical mystery set in Nevada. She resides in Las Vegas with her husband Gary and their Pyrador Rocky.

Author Links: Website –  Twitter –  Goodreads

Visit other stops on the tour for reviews, guest posts and more.

Review: DAMAGING SECRETS by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

I was browsing the mystery offerings on NetGalley in search of something different (translation: not my usual cozy fare) and spotted Damaging Secrets, the first book in a new series from Carolyn Ridder Aspenson, featuring Detective Rachel Ryder. This interesting police procedural/thriller releases today!

Description

New to town and a little rough around the edges, Detective Rachel Ryder finds herself on the receiving end of a suspicious person’s call in Hamby, Georgia. When the call turns out to be a dead body, the medical examiner is quick to rule the death a suicide. But was it something more sinister?

Everyone in the small department believes the case is closed—except for Rachel. The sudden passing of a local politician during the mayor’s run for Congress strikes her as a little too coincidental, and Rachel is eager to follow her instincts. Her partner, Rob, a 30-year veteran, isn’t the type to disobey his boss or ruffle any feathers, but he can’t convince strong-willed Rachel to let it go.

Obsessed with finding out the truth, Rachel begins to examine the evidence and drags her reluctant partner along for the ride. But the clues are confusing. Nothing is adding up.

Puzzled and running out of time, Rachel and Rob rush to work every angle and bring the elusive killer to justice before someone else ends up dead.

*as appears on Amazon

My Review

Rachel Ryder is a strong, complex female character.  The seasoned Chicago detective is having a hard time adjusting to life in a small town in Georgia where the “old boys” club rules and male chauvinism runs rampant.  Her in-your-face, outspoken approach is at times annoying and it is easy to see how she manages to  alienate the chief of police, the mayor, and her fellow officers when she insists that the deceased, a prominent citizen, did not commit suicide. Of course, the fact that she’s a woman plays no small part in their reactions. Still, she is relentless in her determination to uncover the truth, despite orders to  leave it alone.  Her partner, Bishop, is a good guy, who is hesitant to defy orders, but she  gradually wins him over.  Their relationship grows as they establish mutual trust.  They make a good team.  No spoilers here, so suffice it to say that the plot had a good level of complexity and enough tension and twists to keep those pages turning.  A commendable start to a new series.

FTC disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this book. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

Release Blitz: HIGH TREASON AT THE GRAND HOTEL

 
As part of a Release Blitz organized by RABT Book Tours, today’s post spotlights a new release from Kelly Oliver – High Treason at the Grand Hotel (a Fiona Figgs mystery).
 

About the Book

Paris. 1917. Never underestimate the power of a good hat… or a sharp hatpin.

Sent by the War Office to follow the notorious Black Panther, file clerk turned secret agent Fiona Figg is under strict orders not to get too close and not to wear any of her usual “get-ups.” But what self-respecting British spy can resist a good disguise? Within hours of her arrival in Paris, Fiona is up to her fake eyebrows in missing maids, jewel thieves, double agents, and high treason. When Fiona is found dressed as a bellboy holding a bloody paperknife over the body of a dead countess, it’s not just her career that’s on the block.

Her next date might be with Madame Guillotine.

About the Author

Kelly Oliver is the award winning and bestselling author of three mystery series, including The Jessica James Mysteries, the Pet Detective Mysteries, and the Fiona Figg Mysteries. When she’s not writing mysteries, she is a philosophy professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.

Contact Links

Purchase Links

Showcase: THE MADNESS OF MERCURY by Connie di Marco

As part of a virtual book tour organized by Partners in Crime Tours, today’s spotlight shines on The Madness of Mercury by Connie di Marco.

About the Book

San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti’s life is turned upside down when she becomes a target of the Reverend Roy of the Prophet’s Tabernacle. The Reverend, a recently-arrived cult preacher, is determined to drive sin from the city, but his gospel of love and compassion doesn’t extend to those he considers an “abomination unto the Lord.” Julia’s outspoken advice in her newspaper column, AskZodia, has put her at the top of the Reverend’s list. While the powerful Mercury-ruled preacher woos local dignitaries, his Army of the Prophet will stop at nothing to silence not just Julia, but anyone who stands in his way.

Driven out of her apartment in the midst of a disastrous Mercury retrograde period, she takes shelter with a client who’s caring for two elderly aunts. One aunt appears stricken with dementia and the other has fallen under the spell of the Reverend Roy. To add to the confusion, a young man claiming to be a long-lost nephew arrives. The longer he stays, the more dangerous things become. One aunt slides deeper into psychosis while the other disappears. Is this young man truly a member of the family? Can astrology confirm that? Julia’s not sure, but one thing she does know is that Mercury wasn’t merely the messenger of the gods – he was a trickster and a liar as well.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Excerpt

“Thank God you’re there.” Gale sounded very shaky.
“What’s wrong?”
“I’m at the Mystic Eye. Something very strange just happened. I heard a knock at the back door. I thought it might be you.”
“Are you alone?”
“Yes. I closed up and sent Cheryl home. When I opened the door . . . oh God, Julia. Someone left a dead cat on the doorstep.”
I cringed. “I’ll be right there.”
“I’m sorry. You don’t need to come. I wrapped it up and put it in plastic in the dumpster. It looked like its neck had been broken.” 
Don’t argue. I’ll be there in twenty minutes. Less than that.”
I drove the length of California Street as fast as I could, slowing at each red light. Once I was sure no other cars were crossing I ran through several intersections. When I reached the Eye the shop was closed but the display lights were on in the front windows. I pulled down the alleyway and parked next to Gale’s car. I tapped on the door. “Gale, it’s me.” She opened the door immediately. The storeroom was dark. A stack of empty boxes and packing materials stood against the wall. Inside, the only light was a small desk lamp in the office.
Gale is tall and self-assured with a regal bearing. Tonight she was completely shaken. She hugged her arms, more from fright than from cold. “I feel bad now that I’ve called you. I was just so freaked out. I recognized the cat, it was the little gray one that hangs out behind the apartment building next door. I think it’s a stray. Everyone around here feeds it, even the restaurant people, and it’s such a friendly little thing. Some sick bastard probably gave it some food and then snapped its neck. God, I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Shouldn’t you call the cops?”
“And tell them what? I found a dead cat? Please. Like they’d listen. Even if they thought someone had killed it, what could they do?”
“It shows a pattern of harassment. Might be worth making a report.”
She sighed. “Yeah. You’re probably right. I just wasn’t thinking straight. I was so upset.” She collapsed in the chair behind her desk.
I shrugged out of my coat. “Why are you here so late?”
“We just got a huge shipment of books and supplies in. Cheryl’s been working late every night so I sent her home. I had just finished stacking the boxes in the storeroom.” Gale shivered involuntarily. “Look, let’s get out of here. Have you eaten? Why don’t we go up the block and grab some food? Actually a drink sounds even better.”
“Okay.”
“Get your coat. We can leave the cars here and walk. I’ll just get my purse.”
I headed to the front door and checked that the locks were all in place. The drapes separating the display windows from the shop were drawn for privacy. Gale left the desk lamp on in the office and walked out to the front counter. As she reached under the counter for her purse, we heard glass breaking. Then I saw a flash of flame through the doorway to the back storeroom. I screamed. The empty boxes and packing materials had caught fire in an explosive flash. The smoke alarm started to ring, filling the shop with earsplitting sound. Using my coat like a blanket, I dropped it over the center of the flaming pile. It wasn’t going to be enough, but I had to do something before the entire storeroom went up, if not the building.

Giveaway

Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win an Amazon gift card.

About the Author

Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. The Madness of Mercury, the first book in the series will be re-released in October 2020.

Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. You can find her excerpts and recipes in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.

Catch Up With Connie di Marco:
ConniediMarco.comGoodreadsBookBubTwitter, & Facebook!

Review: PAPER, SCISSORS, DEATH by Joanna Campbell Slan

Having enjoyed the Cara Mia Delgatto series by Joanna Campbell Slan, I decided to give her Kiki Lowenstein books a try.   And, yes, I’ll readily confess the gorgeous Great Dane on the cover is what reeled me in. 

Description*

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JUST BECAUSE HER HUSBAND’S NAKED, DEAD, AND IN A HOTEL BED…
… it might not be what it seems. But there’s that scarf in his mouth. Of course it is.

Given the situation, Kiki Lowenstein can’t help remembering that her (late) husband got her pregnant while cheating on his girlfriend.

True, he did the right thing at the time, and their much-loved daughter Anya is now eleven years old. But suddenly he’s dead, and Kiki’s financially embarrassed—that jerk disinherited his own family!

Time for the timid to toughen up. Passive Kiki transforms herself into a fighter, walking right out of her luxurious life and into a scrapbooking store, where she deftly turns a hobby into a moneymaker. Her new gig goes slightly awry when her late husband’s not-so-ex-girlfriend insults her in public, but that’s just the beginning. The hurts keep piling up. How much can one woman stand?

As her husband’s secret life explodes before her eyes, Kiki discovers that their daughter has a shocking secret of her own. Then the cops come for Kiki. And Family Services comes for Anya. No more Mrs. Nice Guy. Kiki has to fight for all she holds dear, and her quest must start with tracking down her late husband’s killer. Hope arrives for Kiki in the twin forms of a hot, homicide detective and her own newfound ability to cope.

*Description from Amazon

My Review

I liked Kiki and her relationship with her daughter and with her close friends. Her marriage worked, even if it was mostly based on co-parenting. The four-legged character is a charmer, as is the detective. The underlying mystery was interesting, and the culprit was not obvious (a plus). On the downside, the book tended to describe into the art of scrapbooking in far greater detail than this non-scrapbooker enjoyed. I found myself skipping over much of it.  A pleasant light read, likely to please fans of cozy crafts mysteries.

Book Blast & Giveaway: LATE FOR LOVE by M. K. Scott

As part of a book blast organized by Goddess Fish Promotions, today’s post features a new cozy mystery from M.K. Scott – Late for Love, a fourth book in the successful “The Way Over the Hill Gang” mystery series. (You can click here to see my review of the first book in the series, Late for Dinner.)

About the Book

The senior sleuths love a good laugh, but this conundrum is no laughing matter. A missing journalist, an African Grey parrot, and a possible mob connection sound like the beginning of a bad joke. Unfortunately, there is no punchline and no one, aside from the seniors, who would dare to take the case on.

Will their first chance to handle a case on their own prove to be way too much for them to handle, and more importantly, could this first be their last?: 

The book is available on Amazon and is currently on sale for just 99 cents.

Read an excerpt

“Bird inspector!” Gus blurted the words.

“What?” Half the time, Jake felt like he came in in the middle of a movie when talking to Gus.

“You know.” Gus bobbed his head. “You wanted to know how we could get into Lyre’s sister’s house. She has the parrot. We could pose as inspectors.”

“That’s…” The word ridiculous stuck in his mouth as he considered his current sum of possibilities. He had zero ways of getting his foot in the door. “Doable. Maybe they register parrots? We need a type of organization. Perhaps we can drop off some expensive parrot seed or something.”

Gus snorted. “Why does every idea involve spending money?”

He had a point. Every cold case they had solved did involve some money even if was just for gas. “It is what it is. Remember that Jim Rockford, television private eye, had a daily rate plus expenses.”

“Yeah,” Gus agreed. “All we have are expenses and no one footing our bill.”

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win a $40 Amazon or B&N gift card from the author.

About the Author

M. K. Scott is the husband and wife writing team behind The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries and The Talking Dog Detective Agency. Morgan K Wyatt is the general wordsmith, while her husband, Scott, is the grammar hammer and physics specialist. He uses his engineering skills to explain how fast a body falls when pushed over a cliff and various other felonious activities. The Internet and experts in the field provide forensic information, while the recipes and B and B details require a more hands-on approach.  Morgan’s daughter, who manages a hotel, provides guest horror stories to fuel the plot lines. The couple’s dog, Chance, is the inspiration behind Jasper, Donna’s dog. Overall, both are fun series to create and read.

Website * Blog * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads ​

Spotlight & Giveaway: A DEADLY EDITION by Victoria Gilbert

As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, today the spotlight light shines on a new release from Victoria Gilbert – A Deadly Edition (A Blue Ridge Library Mystery).

About the Book

‘Til death do us part” could be closer than the bride realizes in Victoria Gilbert’s tantalizing fifth Blue Ridge Library mystery.”

The pursuit to acquire a rare illustrated book turns deadly, and on the eve of her upcoming wedding, library director Amy Webber is drawn into a web of treachery and betrayal that could derail her happy day–and maybe just claim her life.

Planning a wedding can be murder–sometimes literally. At a party celebrating their upcoming nuptials, Taylorsford, Virginia library director Amy Webber and her fiancé Richard Muir discover the body of art dealer Oscar Selvaggio–a bitter rival of their host, Kurt Kendrick.

Both had been in a heated battle to purchase a rare illustrated volume created by William Morris’s Kelmscott Press, so suspicion immediately falls upon Kurt. Amy knows that Kurt has a closet-full of skeletons from his past–but she can’t believe he’s guilty of murder.

Amidst an avalanche of wedding preparations, Amy begins an investigation with the help of her aunt Lydia Talbot and the new mayor of Taylorsford, Sunshine “Sunny” Fields. Much to Lydia’s dismay, her boyfriend, art expert Hugh Chen, becomes convinced of Kurt’s guilt and launches an investigation of his own. As the case hits painfully close to home, the stakes become impossibly high–and the danger all too real.

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win a print copy of  A Deadly Edition: A Blue Ridge Library Mystery from the author.

About the Author

Raised in a historic small town near the Blue Ridge Mountains, Victoria Gilbert turned her early obsession with books into a dual career as an author and librarian.

Victoria writes the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series, the Booklover’s B&B series, and the upcoming Hunter and Clewe traditional mystery series for Crooked Lane Books. She has also published fantasy with Snowy Wings Publishing.

A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, Victoria is represented by Frances Black at Literary Counsel. She lives near Winston-Salem, NC with her husband, son, and some very spoiled cats.

Author Links

Blue Ridge Library Mystery series:

Booklover’s B&B series:

Review: THE FIRST TO LIE by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Having read one of Hank Phillippi Ryan’s previous books earlier this year, I jumped at the chance to read an ARC of her latest novel – The First to Lie – when I spotted it on NetGalley.

About the Book*

We all have our reasons for being who we are―but what if being someone else could get you what you want?

After a devastating betrayal, a young woman sets off on an obsessive path to justice, no matter what dark family secrets are revealed. What she doesn’t know―she isn’t the only one plotting revenge.

An affluent daughter of privilege. A glamorous manipulative wannabe. A determined reporter, in too deep. A grieving widow who has to choose her new reality. Who will be the first to lie? And when the stakes are life and death, do a few lies really matter?

Bestselling and award-winning author and investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan delivers another twisty, thrilling cat and mouse novel of suspense that will have you guessing, and second-guessing, and then gasping with surprise.

* from Amazon

My Review

The main characters are unlike those in any other book I’ve read. Sympathetic and dislikable at the same time. Complex and full of surprises. The story is told from multiple points of view, and jumps back and forth between viewpoints and past and present. Yes, it can be a bit confusing at first. But, hang in there. It gets easier as you read on. The plot is intricate, with multiple twists and turns unfolding as the tension builds and the stakes rise, keeping those pages turning until the end.

This well-written story also provides an interesting glimpse into the ethical issues related to the marketing of pharmaceutical products and our vulnerability in taking meds without truly considering their potential side effects. A suspenseful read, served with food for thought..

FTC disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this book via NetGalley. This has not affected the content of this review in any way.

Spotlight & Giveaway: OPEN FOR MURDER by Mary Angela

As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, today’s post features a new release from Mary Angela – Open for Murder (A Happy Camper Mystery), the first book in her new cozy mystery series.

About the Book

Deep in the heart of touristy small-town Spirit Canyon, South Dakota, former journalist Zo Jones runs the Happy Camper gift shop, where she sells everything from locally made souvenirs to memorabilia. She even rents out mountain bikes, and dabbles in the adventure industry—and sleuthing . . .

It’s Memorial Day weekend in Spirit Canyon, and for Zo that means the return of summer shoppers. It also means the return of her good friend Beth, who’s moved back to the area to reopen her family’s premier hotel, Spirit Canyon Lodge. Beth and Zo spent many childhood summers there and Zo can’t wait to reconnect and celebrate the Grand Opening. But the festivities go from bad to worse when a power outage knocks out the lights—and morning reveals a competitor’s dead body found on the premises . . .

Soon enough, Beth is the prime suspect in the suspicious death. Fortunately, Zo isn’t afraid to put her investigative skills to work and prove her friend’s innocence. To start digging for information, she appeals to Max Harrington, a local Forest Ranger and unlikely ally. Though they’ve argued about Happy Camper’s tours, in this case they agree on one thing: Beth isn’t a murderer. Stranger things have happened than their collaboration. After all, this is Spirit Canyon. But as the list of suspects grows, Zo will have to keep her guard up if she doesn’t want to be the next lodge guest to check out . . .

About the Author

Mary Angela is the author of the Professor Prather and Happy Camper cozy mystery series. When Mary isn’t penning heartwarming whodunits, she’s teaching, reading, traveling, or spending time with her family. She lives in South Dakota with her husband, daughters, and spoiled pets. You can find out more about her loves, including her writing, at MaryAngelaBooks.com.

Author Links 

Purchase Links  – Amazon – Apple – Google – Kobo – B&N

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card from the author.

Visit other stops on the tour for reviews, guest posts and more.

Review & Giveaway: THE LIGHT CATCHER MURDERS by Jo Cassie McRae

As part of a virtual tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, today’s post introduces a new mystery author – Jo Cassie McRae – and her debut novel, The Light Catcher Murders.

About the Book

Kate Atherton’s idyllic retirement is going well…if you don’t count the two murders, the mysterious drone, and her photographer friend who manages to poke a hornet’s nest of criminal activity, that is.

Nestled in the scenic Texas Hill Country, the cozy town of Wheaton Creek seemed to Kate Atherton an idyllic place to escape the world’s harsh realities. And then there was the first murder.

Kate once enjoyed a long, successful career with a specialized, highly secret federal intelligence agency. Crises in both her personal and professional life drove her to early retirement and, ultimately, to Wheaton Creek, the perfect place for her and her former-military husband to escape what had come to feel like a world made up of wars, hatred, fear, and untimely death. And, at first, the escape was all Kate had hoped for. Then murder came to Wheaton Creek—a crime that a corrupt county sheriff seems determined to pin on Kate’s photographer friend, Lucy Celek.

Lucy’s work has been chosen to appear at a prestigious photography festival, a festival that could take her from amateur to professional standing. All goes well until the gallery displaying her work is broken into, and one of Lucy’s photographs is vandalized. A week later, the man Lucy suspected of destroying her photograph—a fellow photographer who was angry that his own work was not chosen by the festival committee—is murdered. Faced with a sheriff who shows little interest in expanding his list of suspects beyond Lucy, Kate feels she must dust off her puzzle-solving skills to find the real killer. Murder is just the beginning, though, as Kate’s amateur sleuthing begins to reveal a tangled web of crimes that go beyond anything she could have imagined.

My Review

Set in a small Texas town, this mystery introduces Kate Atherton, a retiree, and her husband (also retired). It soon becomes obvious that both have military training, though the exact nature of Kate’s past position remains a mystery in itself. But she definitely has skills. And she is willing to use those skills to find out who is behind the vandalism in the art gallery and who killed Lucy’s rival. Kate makes for an interesting and likable protagonist.

Photography is central to the story and the mystery touches lightly on ethical and legal questions regarding the growing use of cameras and drones in today’s world. The author does a nice job of presenting an interesting story. Although the pace felt slow at first, it did pick up as the story progressed. Some aspects of the plot resolution were somewhat predictable, however the identify of the culprit and motive was not.
A promising debut for a new author.

FTC Disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card from the author.

About the Author

Jo Cassie McRae is a native Texan who has lived near Austin on the edge of the Texas Hill country for over 30 years.  In addition to writing, McRae loves to read, garden, and cook.  Like Kate Atherton (The Light Catcher Murders), McRae’s bookshelves overflow with history books, biographies, historical fiction, and mystery novels.  Unlike Kate, McRae does not have a mysterious, secret former career, having worked instead as a rather ordinary legal assistant at an Austin law firm.

Author Links:

Purchase Link – Amazon

Visit other stops on this tour for additional reviews and excerpts.