Review: HETTA COFFEE BOXED SET (6-10) by Jinx Schwartz

In at least one of my prior posts, I mentioned my reading addiction and its role in helping me cope with the Covid-19 craziness.  As part of my escape from reality I have taken to binge reading, and recently read books 6-10 of the Hetta Coffee series by Jinx Schwartz.

About the Boxed Set*

51pfdsca7lHetta Coffey is a sassy Texan with a snazzy yacht, and she’s not afraid to use it!

She’s forty-ish, single and has adventure in her DNA. As an engineer who has globe-trotted for most of her career, she and her forty-five foot yacht are based in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, where she finds enough work to keep her in diesel fuel and refried beans. But it’s not all margaritas and mariachis, because her penchant to take on what some might call less-than-respectable projects keeps her up to her neck in hot Mexican water.

Never one to be accused of being faint of heart, Hetta tackles life-changing escapades that lend a whole new meaning to the phrase “sink or swim.”

*from Amazon

My Review

Hetta Coffey is not your typical female sleuth. She is a little rough around the edges with a unique outlook on life and sometimes outrageous behavior.  No one could possibly get into that much trouble without hardly trying.  But it makes for entertaining reading and a glimpse into a lifestyle nothing like my own. 

In this collection, Hetta, Jan (her best friend and human sidekick), and Po Thang (her canine sidekick) muddle their way into a variety of interesting, amusing, and dangerous situations. Absurdities abound.  

And there are animals. Lots of different animals – from Po Thang’s dolphin playmate in Just Different Devils to an exotic bird in Just for the Birds. I likehow the author weaves them into the plot of her stories as more than just window dressing.  They have personality.

I did find Just Needs Killing (book 6) to be a bit slow and more of a gruesome stretch than the previous books in the series. Nonetheless, I continued reading and found the other four books in the boxed set more to my liking.  Overall, with a touch of romance and a healthy dose of humor and suspense, this series makes for a fun escape.

BTW, feel free to check out my review of Just the Pitts (book 5 in this series).

The Hetta Coffey books are available on Amazon.

Review & Giveaway: SECRETS OF THE TREASURE KING by Terri Ambrose

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As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I recently read an ARC of Secrets of the Treasure King, the 4th book in Terry Abrose’s Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mystery series.

About the Book

SECRETS-OF-THE-TREASURE-KINGThe Seaside Cove rumor mill is buzzing about the captain of The Treasure King. He claims to know the location of the San Manuel, a four-hundred-year-old sunken Spanish galleon with a cargo worth millions. And now, he’s dead, the victim of a speargun attack.

When the police ask B&B owner Rick Atwood to consult in the investigation, he has mixed feelings. Consulting for the police is not the problem. He’s done it before. The problem is his eleven-year-old daughter, Alex.

Alex is fearless, precocious, and fueled by a strong sense of girl power. She’s also convinced the cops will never find the killer without her help, so she launches her own investigation—and quickly becomes a candidate for Seaside Cove’s youngest felon.

Now, unless Rick can solve the case with the clues Alex found illegally, his daughter might face charges of breaking-and-entering, the treasure of the San Manuel will be lost to pirates, and a killer could get away with murder.

My Review

Rick Atwood, a former investigative reporter,  has settled into his new life as owner of a B&B in a quaint seaside town.  Rick is a devoted father who only wants the best for his over-inquisitive daughter and that includes keeping her away from murder investigations.  Of course, that is too much to expect of Alex, a very determined and impulsive pre-teen.  The  narrative alternates between Rick and Alex’s points of view, including her journal entries, giving the book a younger feel.

The mystery itself focuses on local history and the search for a centuries old shipwreck. It is an interesting even-paced mystery, complete with a few surprises leading up to the discovery of the murderer.   An enjoyable light read for a day at the beach.

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

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card from the author.

Terry-Ambrose-400x560About the Author

Terry Ambrose has written and published fourteen mysteries. His Seaside Cove Mystery series new releases have risen to the Amazon genre Top 100. In 2014, Con Game, Terry’s second thriller in the License to Lie series received the San Diego Book Awards Best Mystery/Thriller award. Terry also writes the McKenna Trouble in Paradise mysteries and organized an anthology written by bestselling mystery writers to benefit a literacy nonprofit in Hawaii.

Author Links:

Purchase Link – Amazon

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Review & Giveaway: A CASE FOR THE WINEMAKER by Candace Havens

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As part of a blog tour organized by Silver Dagger Book Tours to celebrate today’s release of A Case for the Yarn Maker,  I recently enjoyed reading A Case for the Winemaker, the first book in the Ainsley McGregor mystery series by Candace Havens.

About A Case for the Winemaker (Ainsley McGregor Book 1)

A Case for the Winemaker ebook_394x600The closer she gets to the truth, the more she finds herself drowning in trouble.

It’s an exciting time in Sweet River, Texas, and the whole town’s talking. Maybe, a little too much. Former English professor Ainsley McGregor has gambled everything on her new business: Bless Your Art, an artisan market where local artists sell their wares and teach classes.

The bright, white space is filled to the brim with colorful art, yarn, jewelry, pet treats, antiques and even a few medieval weapons. Oh, and there are wine tastings. Everything’s better with wine. Ainsley is surprised by how well things are going–right up until the moment her Great Dane finds a dead body. With her friend accused of the murder, it’s up to Ainsley to find the real killer.

As the suspect list grows longer, Ainsley has her work cut out for her. The task is made more difficult by the fact her brother, the sheriff, doesn’t seem to want her help. If she doesn’t wrap up the case soon, she might be the next wine, um, one to die.

Add to Goodreads  Amazon * B&N * Kobo * Website

My Review

This book is very much a traditional cozy mystery, from the quaint small town setting to the relationships between the characters.  Ainsley is a likeable main character and George Clooney, her irresistible Great Dane, makes for a wonderful sidekick. The book was well written and engaging, even though I was able to guess the culprit midway through reading.

I liked that the setting in this first in series lays the stage for future stories to include all kinds of “cozy” professions – as reflected by the range of craftsmen/women who sell their goods in the Artisan’s Market. Great idea.

FTC disclosure: I received a review copy of this book as part of this blog tour.  This has not affected the content of my review.

About A Case for the Yarn Maker (Ainsley McGregor Book 2)

Spin a yarn…at your own risk.

The Case for the Yarn Maker ebook_394x600Everyone at Bless Your Art in Sweet River, Texas, is excited about the Yarn Goddess (yes, that’s her real name) coming to town. Ainsley McGregor has set up a special event at the local community center, but when old Mrs. Whedon doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the Goddess about using quality yarn, a fight breaks out. Who knew the octogenarian had ninja moves like that?

It’s all fun and games until George Clooney, Ainsley’s Great Dane, finds Ms. Yarn’s dead body in a booth at Bless Your Art. Now the prime suspect is Mrs. Whedon, and while she’s not the easiest woman to get along with, there’s no way she’s the killer. At least, Ainsley doesn’t think so. As this yarn unravels, Ainsley and her quirky friends learn some interesting things about the case and the Goddess’s checkered past. But there’s a killer on the loose, and George may be the only thing protecting Ainsley from certain death.

Add to Goodreads   Amazon * B&N * Kobo

Giveaway

Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card from this generous author.

About the Author

Candace Havens_400x389Bestselling author Candace Havens has published more than 25 books. Her novels have received nominations for the RITA’s, Holt Medallion, Write Touch Reader Awards and National Readers Choice Awards. She is a Barbara Wilson Award winner. She is the author of the biography “Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy” and a contributor to several anthologies. She is also one of the nation’s leading entertainment journalists and has interviewed countless celebrities from George Clooney to Chris Pratt. Candace also runs a free online writing workshop for more than 2000 writers, and teaches comprehensive writing classes. She does film reviews with Hawkeye in the Morning on 96.3 KSCS, and is a former President of the Television Critics Association.

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

Author Links

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Review & Giveaway: FLIGHT RISK by Cara Putnam

As part of a virtual tour organized by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours, I recently had the pleasure of reading a pre-release copy of  Flight Riskan engaging thriller by Cara Putnam.

About the Book

flight-risk-by-cara-putman-978-0785233275-coverSavannah Daniels has worked hard to build her law practice, to surround herself with good friends, and to be the loyal aunt her troubled niece can always count on. But since her ex-husband’s betrayal, she has trouble trusting anyone.

Jett Glover’s father committed suicide over a false newspaper report that ruined his reputation. Now a fierce champion of truth, Jett is writing the story of his journalism career—an international sex-trafficking exposé that will bring down a celebrity baseball player and the men closest to him, including Savannah’s ex-husband.

When Jett’s story breaks, tragedy ensues. Then a commercial airline crashes, and one of Savannah’s clients is implicated in the crash. Men connected to the scandal, including her ex, begin to die amid mysterious circumstances, and Savannah’s niece becomes an unwitting target.

Against their better instincts, Jett and Savannah join ranks to sort the facts from fiction. But can Savannah trust the reporter who threw her life into chaos? And can Jett face the possibility that he’s made the biggest mistake of his life?

My Review

This is a fast moving legal thriller that combines mystery, suspense, and romance while taking on difficult topics – journalistic integrity and human trafficking – and complex family relationships.

Savannah is a strong intelligent woman, whose family relationships are complex (and unusual). She relies on her faith to cope with difficult situations.  A successful patent lawyer, her latest case involves a technology related to the aircraft industry.  When a plane goes down with her ex-husband on it, Savannah (and this reader) can’t help wondering whether it is merely a coincidence.  And so the questions begin.

Jett, on the other hand, is a self-righteous journalist with very strong feelings about “fake news” – he is determined to report nothing but the truth.  Jett has published an expository piece on Savannah’s ex and his pals – making accusations that she has trouble accepting at face value.  Given their conflicting opinions, it is no surprise that these two main characters disagree, despite the strong undercurrent of sexual tension between the two.  Nonetheless, the two find they need to work together to discover the truth.

There is much more to this story than initially meets the eye.  Surprises abound as the story unravels – with enough suspense to keep the pages turning way past my bedtime.

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

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Cara Putman and Thomas Nelson. There will be 2 winners. Each winner will receive a set of three (3) print copies by Cara Putman.

About the Author

flight-risk-by-cara-putman-978-0785233275-Cara Putman is the author of more than twenty-five legal thrillers, historical romances, and romantic suspense novels. She has won or been a finalist for honors including the ACFW Book of the Year and the Christian Retailing’s BEST Award. Cara graduated high school at sixteen, college at twenty, completed her law degree at twenty-seven, and recently received her MBA. She is a practicing attorney, teaches undergraduate and graduate law courses at a Big Ten business school, and is a homeschooling mom of four. She lives with her husband and children in Indiana.

Visit her at:
CaraPutman.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter – @Cara_Putman, & Facebook – Cara.Putman!

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

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Review: ALL WASHED UP by Joanna Campbell Slan

With the Coronavirus  news prompting me or and more to escape into reading, I am devouring books.  At record speed.  Today’s post features one of the books I recently read.  All Washed Up is the third book in the Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series by Joanna Campbell Slan.

About the Book*

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Cara Mia thought she found a sculpture of a mermaid in the sand…and then it moved! Rescuing a half-drown immigrant was not what she wanted on her morning walk.

Stuart, Florida. Was it the right thing to do? Will the woman survive? And if she does, will she be okay? Or was she better off dead? And where are all the other immigrants who made the perilous ocean voyage with her?

Someone is behind all these beached landings of immigrants. Cara might have uncovered a human trafficking scheme. To trace these soggy deaths back to the source will take every bit of Cara’s courage, plus a lot of help from her cranky grandfather. And then her son gets involved.

Suddenly it’s Cara’s family that’s at risk as a run-in with deadly coyotes threatens to destroy everything and everyone Cara loves. How could one good deed go so badly wrong?

*from Amazon webpage

My Review

Cara has this bad habit of finding dead bodies. It’s not her fault. It just happens and it draws her into the role of amateur sleuth as a result. Young and making it on her own in her new home on an island in the Florida keys, she is aided in her detecting efforts by good friends and her grandfather, Poppy. Poppy is a quirky character – and a good guy with a secret past that becomes apparent as the story unfolds. The plot is an interesting one that touches on tough social issues while remaining a “cozy” read. All in all, an enjoyable, fast-paced read.

Enjoy!

Release Spotlight, Review & Giveaway: PAWS FOR MURDER by Scarlett English

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As part of a book tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual  Book Tours, I recently had the pleasure of reading Paws for Murder, the first book in the new Barking Mad cozy mystery series by Scarlett English.

About the Book

Welcome to Adlebury where village life can be downright deadly.

PawsForMurder - Scarlett EnglishVeterinarian Petronella Knight seems to have it all. A job she loves, good friends, and patients who adore her. But when she gets into an argument with dog breeder Gladys Harrington, and she finds the woman dead, she also finds herself accused of murder.

Ella will need all her friends, including the new and very handsome American policeman, and all her sharpest sleuthing skills to figure out who murdered the dog breeder before another dead body pops up.

Paws for Murder contains one enthusiastic amateur detective with a penchant for rescuing animals, a guard duck called George, a large amount of homemade gooseberry wine, and a very confused American who has never met an English village quite like this one.

You’d be Barking Mad to pass this one by.

My Review

Set in a quaint English village, this mystery has all of the elements of the typical cozy mystery – including a likable amateur sleuth, a charming detective, and a victim that is hard not to dislike.  And animals. Lots of animals.  Petronella is a vet and we are treated to a glimpse into all that goes with that job alongside her efforts to prove her innocence and identify the killer.  The main characters are well developed and the plot moved along at a nice pace, with interesting developments as the story unfolded. With a sprinkling of humor and a  healthy dose of romantic suspense, Paws for Murder makes a delightful start to a new cozy mystery series.

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

Giveaway

giveawayEnter the rafflecopter for your chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.

About the Author

Scarlett English is a crazy cat lady who likes solving mysteries. Or actually, make that a dog lady. Much to her chagrin, the police have never sought to consult her, which is why there seems to be so much unsolved crime. Especially—surprisingly enough—in the small English village where she lives. So, armed with curiosity, a penchant for taking in strays, a love of homemade wine and a good gossip, she puts her detecting talents to good use murdering her imaginary friends and neighbors and solving the cases one story at a time.

Purchase Link – Amazon

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Review & Excerpt: DANGEROUS GROUND by Susan Hunter

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As part of a book tour organized by Partners in Crime, I recently had the pleasure of reading Dangerous Ground by Susan Hunter, the sixth book in this talented author’s Leah Nash Mystery series.

About the Book

dangerous-ground-susan-hunter-NEWA Murder Among Friends …

Everyone is anxious to connect with actor Ryan Malloy when he returns to town for his 15-year high school reunion. Everyone except crime writer Leah Nash. She doesn’t have many fond memories of Himmel High’s golden boy. But it turns out she’s not the only one who isn’t a fan. Before the weekend is over, Ryan Malloy is murdered.

The hard-headed but soft-hearted Leah is unwillingly drawn into investigating his death by the pleading of Ryan’s terminally ill mother. She soon discovers that Ryan’s self-absorbed journey through life trampled on the dreams of a number of people. His old girlfriend, his best friend, his own brother, a local businessman—there’s no shortage of suspects—or secrets. But the solution eludes Leah, until the past and the present collide in a dangerous confrontation that threatens one life and ends another.

Scroll down to the bottom of this post to read an excerpt from Dangerous Grounds.

My Review

Leah Nash is a no-nonsense woman with a strong drive to make sure the actual culprit is charged with murder instead of the most obvious fall guy.  Her background in journalism makes her a skilled investigator and she’s not shy about asking questions. As she learns more about Ryan, a surprisingly wide range of persons with a motive for murder emerge.

Leah’s personality shines through in this first-person narrative – including her doubts about herself.    The plot twists kept me wondering, and the final resolution was pretty much a surprised.   A well-written, fast-paced, and enjoyable read.

FTC Disclosure:  I received an advance reader copy of this book as part of this blog tour. This has not affected the content of my review. 

About the Author

dangerous-ground-susan-hunter-authorSusan Hunter is a charter member of Introverts International (which meets the 12th of Never at an undisclosed location). She has worked as a reporter and managing editor, during which time she received a first place UPI award for investigative reporting and a Michigan Press Association first place award for enterprise/feature reporting.
Susan has also taught composition at the college level, written advertising copy, newsletters, press releases, speeches, web copy, academic papers, and memos. Lots and lots of memos. She lives in rural Michigan with her husband Gary, who is a man of action, not words.

During certain times of the day, she can be found wandering the mean streets of small-town Himmel, Wisconsin, looking for clues, stopping for a meal at the Elite Cafe, dropping off a story lead at the Himmel Times Weekly, or meeting friends for a drink at McClain’s Bar and Grill.

Catch Up With Susan Hunter On:

LeahNashMysteries.comGoodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

I parked my bike just inside the cemetery gates. It took only a few steps down the tree-lined path for the heat and humidity of a mid-summer Wisconsin day to slide away into the cool dark shade. Overhead, the soft murmur of thousands of leaves stirring in the light breeze accompanied me as I walked slowly toward my sister’s grave. Both of my sisters are buried in the cemetery just a few miles outside of Himmel, Wisconsin. My father is as well. But today it was Annie I’d come to visit.

My heart beat a little faster as I neared the gravesite. I’m not afraid of the dead. It’s the memories they leave behind that haunt me. Quiet Annie with her soft voice and big blue eyes, too shy to join the other laughing, shouting kindergarteners at recess—but the first to run over to comfort a little boy struggling not to cry on the first day. Imaginative Annie, commandeering our wide front porch as a sailing ship for her and her cat, Mr. Peoples, to travel around the world. Kind-hearted Annie, sharing her Halloween candy with me when I’m forced to surrender my own treats as penalty for talking back. Sweet, brave, compassionate, eight-year-old Annie, who ran into a burning house to save Mr. Peoples twenty-two years ago, and never came back.

Over all the years since, people—my mother, my aunt, my therapist (yes, I went that route once), my best friend—have reassured me that her death wasn’t my fault, that I was just a child. But, I was older. I should have been watching over her. I should have seen her slipping back to the house after we’d all escaped. In my deep heart’s core, I can’t ever forget that.

Now and then, and always on her birthday, I go to the cemetery to see her. I know that she isn’t really there. But her grave is an anchoring spot for me. I catch her up on the good, the bad, and the ugly happenings in my life. She knows what hurts me, and she knows what frightens me—secrets I don’t share with anyone else. I tell her what our mother is up to, and how others she knew in life are doing. I say all the things to her that I would if she were still here. I try to make up for the fact that I’m alive, and she isn’t. But, of course, I never can.

When I’m talking to her at the cemetery, it feels as though she can really hear me. And I know that she answers. Not right there, at the grave, but later, in unexpected ways. Sometimes, I hear Annie speak to me through a chance remark a stranger makes, or a phrase that leaps out at me from a book, or a sudden flash of insight on a problem I’m wrestling with. I don’t share that belief with very many people. If I did, I might be forced to resign my membership in the Doubting Thomas Society, to which all good journalists should belong. But I can’t accept that those occurrences are just coincidental. I really can’t.

So, on the anniversary of her birth, once again I sat down on the bench in front of her grave and told her how sorry I was that she had died. That I hadn’t saved her. That I still missed her. And then I told her what was really going on in the seemingly successful life of Leah Nash, former small-town reporter, current true crime author, and soon-to-be business failure.

***

When I say I talk to Annie, I mean that literally. I have a one-sided, out-loud conversation with her, though only when I’m sure I’m alone. Some people already think I’m crazy. No need to give them additional proof. On this particular day, I had a serious problem weighing on my mind.

Not long before, I had made what seemed, at the time, like a brilliant decision. The Himmel Times Weekly, the paper where I’d started out in journalism, and where I’d found a home again after a self-inflicted career injury, was closing. I decided to buy it. I asked a wealthy, community-minded, local attorney, Miller Caldwell, to invest with me. And then I asked a lot of other people—reporters, an editor, stringers, office and sales staff—to work very hard, for very little money, in the hope that together we could keep the Himmel Times alive.

It was exhilarating at first. But it had become an increasing source of anxiety for me. Just as we were getting off the ground, Grantland County Online, a digital-only news site (and I use the term “news” loosely), had gotten a major infusion of capital and a new publisher. Now GO News, as it’s more commonly known, was kicking our butt.
“The scariest thing, Annie,” I said, “is that we’re barely keeping our heads above water, while GO News keeps getting bigger. They don’t have the expenses we do—no print edition, no delivery costs, and they don’t spend a lot of staff time fact-checking. Plus, they started Tea to GO. Did you know that the cool kids say, ‘spill the tea,’ when they mean ‘what’s the gossip?’

“Tea to GO is full of ‘What married school official was seen in Milwaukee with a very attractive staff member last Thursday night? Did we say late, last Thursday night?’ That kind of garbage. It’s almost all blind items—the better to avoid lawsuits, my dear. But people are eating it up. Every time you go into the Elite Café, someone is trying to figure out who the latest gossip is about.”

I paused for a bit of a wallow in self-pity. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t tried to shake things up at the Times, to get us moving ahead, but so far nothing I’d done had made much difference.

“We have a good team. Miguel is much happier since he gave up the managing editor job. He really didn’t like bossing people. And Maggie McConnell is doing great in that spot. She’s got the instincts, the skills, and forty-five years in the news business behind her. If she could only spin straw out of gold, she’d be perfect. But since she can’t, we’re making do with a budget so lean it might as well be made out of turkey burger.

“I gave Allie Ross—you remember, I told you about her. She’s the high school kid we’ve been using as a stringer. Anyway, I gave her a part-time job for the summer in the office. She’s doing the routine stuff, obits and inside pages copy—weddings, anniversaries, club news. She’s got promise, but she’s only fifteen. Troy, the other reporter besides Miguel, is a little bit of a suck-up—and his news judgment isn’t quite there yet. Still, he’s a hard worker. The stringers are a pretty mixed bag.

“Now, here’s a twist I bet you didn’t see coming. I hired Mom to take April Nelson’s place as office manager. I know, I know, it’s a dicey move. But she’s smart, and efficient, and she gets the job done. Plus, she comes cheap. It’s been a little challenging, I admit. Remember when I used to get mad at her and say, ‘You’re not the boss of me!’ and she’d send me to my room?

“Well, now I’m the boss of her, only I don’t get to send her to her room. Yes, OK, I’m not supposed to be doing the day-to-day. That’s Maggie’s job. I understand that. But I can’t just hide away in my office and write my next book if the paper is falling apart two floors below me, can I?

“Everybody took a leap of faith when we reopened the Times, and everyone is putting everything they have into it. I can’t let them down. I have to find a way to keep us afloat. I just didn’t know it would be so hard, Annie.”

I paused for a breath before I wrapped things up.

“And then there’s Gabe. I don’t know. I like him as well—no, probably better than—anyone I’ve gone out with in a long time. He makes me laugh, and he’s really smart. And he likes strong women who speak their minds. In my experience, a lot of men don’t. So what’s the problem, right? Well, it’s not exactly a problem. It’s more that I’m afraid a problem might be coming. Lately, it feels like he’s pushing me a little, like for a commitment or something. Can’t we just enjoy each other? Can’t we just be without getting all serious, and defining things, and making plans? I don’t want to change things. That’s when things go bad, when you try to change them.”

I slumped back against the bench with a sigh. Usually, when I lay everything out to Annie, it makes the issues seem a little more manageable. This time it all still felt overwhelming.

Then, a voice spoke.

***

Fortunately for my mental health, it wasn’t Annie’s. I turned and looked behind me.

“Coop! How long have you been standing there?” I asked, trying to remember exactly what I’d said out loud. It’s not that Coop and I have major secrets. He’s my best friend, after all. Still, I don’t tell him everything I tell Annie.

“Long enough,” he said with a grin that didn’t offer me much comfort. I tried to move the conversation away from my chat with Annie, particularly the Gabe part.

“What are you doing here?”

“Your mom said you were here. I called your cell, but it didn’t go through.”

“Yeah. It’s a dead zone—pun totally intended—in the cemetery, except for the hill. What did you want?”

“Nothing. I brought something for Annie.”

I looked down at his right hand and saw that he carried a small pot of pink flowers. Pink was Annie’s favorite color. Tears sprang to my eyes. I quickly blinked them away.

“That’s so nice. Why?”

He shrugged. “I know what today is.”

I’m all about keeping my tough outer shell polished, but I was so touched, I couldn’t keep up the facade. “You’re a pretty great friend, you know that?”

He smiled, but he looked embarrassed, and tried to cover it by moving to put the flowers next to Annie’s headstone.

“Did you really come just to put flowers on Annie’s grave?”

“No, not just for Annie. I took some to Rebecca, too.” He was kneeling, positioning the flowers, with his back to me. I couldn’t see his expression.

“Oh.”

Rebecca had been Coop’s wife and my nemesis until she was killed last year. I wasn’t happy that Coop had lost someone he loved, but I couldn’t pretend I was sorry she was gone. She’d done everything she could to break up our twenty-year friendship and came close to succeeding. I couldn’t think of anything nice to say about her. So, I employed the Thumper rule, and didn’t say anything.

Coop apparently didn’t want to get into the subject of Rebecca either, because as he stood and turned to me, he said, “I’ll walk out with you. I’ve got my truck. We can throw your bike in the back and you can ride home with me.”

“Yes, please. I didn’t realize it was so hot. I just about sweated to death pedaling out here.”

“Yeah, I can see that,” he said, taking in my damp, bedraggled hair, slipping from its hair clip, and the beads of moisture coalescing into a river of sweat running down the side of my forehead. “You kind of look like you just took a shower.” He sniffed the air, “Except you don’t have that shower-fresh scent.”

“Shut up,” I said. “I’m a head-sweater from way back. Deal with it.” I smiled though, because there’s something very nice and very easy being with a person who really doesn’t care how you look—or in the present situation—smell.

We walked together in companionable silence, until I’d decided he hadn’t heard any of my one-sided conversation with Annie. That dream died in the next minute.

“So, what’s going on with you and Gabe? He’s a nice guy, Leah. You’re not getting ready to toss him overboard, too, are you?”

“No. Why would you say that? And what do you mean by ‘too’?”

“You really want to go there?” He cocked an eyebrow. It’s a not very funny running joke between Coop and my mother that I always find a reason to cut my romances short.

“No, I don’t. I thought you didn’t believe in illegal surveillance, and what do you call lurking around cemeteries where people are having a private conversation? It’s nothing. Really.”

He looked at me for a second, but all he said was, “OK.”

Our conversation was cut off as a tall woman in her fifties, her hair pulled back and hanging in a long, gray braid down her back, appeared and abruptly crossed the path in front of us.

“Hello, Marcy,” I said.

She looked up as though surprised we were there.

“Leah. Coop.” She nodded but didn’t stop to talk. We knew where she was going. To the top of the hill on which sat a small granite building that resembled an ancient Greek temple. The family mausoleum held Marcy’s grandparents, her own mother, and Marcy’s baby daughter, Robin. One day, it would hold Marcy, too.

We watched in silence as she reached the building, pulled a key out of her pocket, unlocked the door, and slipped inside, like a ghost gliding through a wall. It had been sixteen years since Marcy White’s baby had died, and she still came every week. People said she brought a different book each time and read it to Robin. They said it like it was something weird, or even crazy. Not me, though. I understood why she did it.

“You know what, Coop?” I asked, as we continued on down the path.

“What?”

“I’m calling bullshit on death.”

***
Excerpt from Dangerous Ground by Susan Hunter. Copyright 2019 by Susan Hunter. Reproduced with permission from Susan Hunter. All rights reserved..

 

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Review & Giveaway: BITTER ALPINE by Mary Daheim

BITTER-ALPINE-MURDER-2-184

As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I recently read Bitter Alpine, a new release by Mary Daheim.

About the Book

New year, new murder . . . Emma Lord is on the case when death finds its way back to the wintry mountain town of Alpine.

BITTER-ALPINEAfter a relatively calm and cozy holiday season, neither Emma Lord, editor and publisher of The Alpine Advocate, nor her husband, Sheriff Milo Dodge, are surprised when their new year gets off to a rocky start. A woman’s body has been found in a squalid motel. Her driver’s license shows that Dawn Purvis was in her late thirties and lived in Weaverville, California—and the only connection between that town and Alpine is their gold-mining and logging origins. When they discover that Dawn’s room reservation was open-ended, Emma, Milo, and the ever-inquisitive Advocate receptionist, Alison Lindahl, are more than mildly curious. And never mind that the youthful Alison is a bit distracted by the new county extension agent’s virile good looks. She can still sleuth while she stalks her newest crush.

But that’s not all the news that’s unfit to print. There’s something strange about the older couple who have moved into the cabin down the road that was once owned by a murder victim. The elderly wife seems anti-social. There’s got to be a reason, which Emma, Milo, and Alison intend to find out—even if it puts them in deadly danger.’

My Review

Emma Lord runs the local newspaper in a quaint resort town in Washington state, giving her a natural instinct for tracking down a story and rooting out the truth about the identity of the deceased and the reasons that led to her demise.  Emma is married to the Sheriff, who sometimes shares info and sometimes doesn’t.  This was the first time I read anything by this author, and perhaps I would have appreciated the characters more if I had read earlier books and they had been “old friends” of mine – despite the sprinkling of references to previous murders/cases in Emma’s past.  Although the pace of the narrative was steady, I’d have liked to see more tension/action. This is a read mostly likely to be enjoyed by fans of the Emma Lord mysteries who will enjoy the trip down memory lane.

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

Giveaway

Click to enter a rafflecopter giveaway for chance to win a digital copy of Bitter Alpine.

About the Author

MARY-DAHEIMMary Daheim is the author of the Alpine mystery series. A Seattle native with a degree in communication from the University of Washington, she realized at an early age that getting a book published might elude her for years, so she began her writing career working on daily newspapers. The mother of three daughters, she lives in a century-old house in her hometown.

Author Website – https://www.marydaheimauthor.com/
Purchase Links – Amazon  –   B&N   –   Kobo

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Review & Giveaway: THE NUTCRACKER CONSPIRACY by Lauren Carr

Nutcracker Conspiracy Tour Banner New Release

As part of a virtual tour organized by IREAD Book Tours, I was recently offered the opportunity to read and review a pre-release copy of The Nutcracker Conspiracy.  Having read and enjoyed previous books by Lauren Carr, I was happy to sign up for this tour.

Recently released, The Nutcracker Conspiracy is the fourth book  in the Thorny Rose Mystery Series.

About the Book

The-Nutcracker-Conspiracy-AmazonThree years ago, the nation gasped in horror when the President of the United States barely escaped an assassination attempt that left two dead—the vice president’s wife and assassin. Even after numerous investigations proving otherwise, conspiracy theorists still argue that the would-be assassin was acting on orders from the CIA, FBI, and every federal agency within a hundred miles of the capital and the government was involved in a massive cover-up.

An aspiring author, Dean Conway is the last person with whom Lieutenant Commander Murphy Thornton USN wanted to spend his Saturday afternoon when they end up at the same wedding reception table. While their wives tend to bridesmaid duties, Murphy is trapped listening to Dean’s latest unfinished work-in-project—completing the manuscript of an unknown investigative journalist who’d disappeared months earlier.

“She was number twelve you know,” Dean says.

“Twelve?” Murphy asks while looking for someone, anyone, to offer him an escape.

“Twelve witnesses connected to or investigating the assassination have died either in an accident or suicide.”

Two days later, Dean Conway dies suddenly, but not before sending a text message to Murphy. “13.”

About the Thorny Rose Mystery Series

The previous books in the Thorny Rose Series:

  • Kill and Run
    Kill and RunFive women with seemingly nothing in common are found brutally murdered in a townhome outside Washington, DC. Among the many questions surrounding the massacre is what had brought these apparent strangers together only to be killed.Taking on his first official murder case, Lieutenant Murphy Thornton, USN, believes that if he can uncover the thread connecting the victims, then he can find their murderer.The case takes an unexpected turn when Murphy discovers that one of the victims has a connection to his stepmother, Homicide Detective Cameron Gates. One wintry night, over a dozen years before, her first husband, a Pennsylvania State trooper, had been run down while working a night shift on the turnpike.In this first installment of the Thorny Rose Mysteries, the Lovers in Crime join newlyweds Murphy Thornton and Jessica Faraday to shift through a web of lies and cover-ups. Together, can the detectives of the Thorny Rose uncover the truth without falling victim to a cunning killer?
  • A Fine Year for Murder
    Fine Year for MurderAfter ten months of marital bliss, Jessica Faraday and Murphy Thornton are still discovering and adjusting to their life together. Settled in their new home, everything appears to be perfect … except in the middle of the night when, in the darkest shadows of her subconscious, a deep secret from Jessica’s past creeps to the surface to make her strike out at Murphy.When investigative journalist Dallas Walker tells the couple about her latest case, known as the Pine Bridge Massacre, they realize Jessica may have witnessed the murder of a family while visiting family at the winery near-by, and suppressed the memory.
    Determined to uncover the truth and find justice for the murder victims, Jessica and Murphy return to the scene of the crime with Dallas Walker, a spunky bull-headed Texan. Can this family reunion bring closure for a community touched by tragedy or will this prickly get-together bring an end to the Thorny Rose couple?
  • Murder by Perfection
    murderperfecBeware: Perfection has a dark side!
    Frustrated with their busy schedules, Murphy Thornton and Jessica Faraday attempt to find togetherness by scheduling a weekly date night. The last thing Jessica Faraday expected for her date night was to take a couple’s gourmet cooking course at the Stepford Kitchen Studio, owned by Chef Natalie Stepford―the model of perfection in looks, home, and business.When Natalie ends up dead and Murphy goes missing, the Thorny Rose detectives must peel back the layers of Natalie Stepford’s life to discover that the pursuit of perfection can be deadly.

All of the books in the series are available on Amazon.

My Review

Another well written cozy thriller featuring the Thorntons and the Faradays.  Why do I call it a cozy thriller? It has all the elements of page-turning thriller – an intricate plot, tension, action, and such – with the antics of several quirky canines, including a  kleptomaniac and a TV remote hog,  providing a light, humorous touch not typically found in thrillers or hard-boiled mysteries.

Of course, the plot wouldn’t be same without the two-legged characters. Jessica’s loyalty to her friends is admirable and is reflected in her determination to prove her friends’ innocence of wrong doing.  A naval officer,  Murphy is clearly devoted both to his wife and to his job.  He is skeptical about the conspiracy theory put forth by Dean, however as events unfold he realizes that something is up – not everything is what it seems to be.  He has ties within different branches of the intelligence community and leverages those ties in his search for the truth. Both Jessica and Murphy are good, likable people and it was nice to spend time with them again.

The author did a great job of creating an intricate story, with interesting twists and  subplots.  A very enjoyable read.

FTC Disclosure:  I received an Advance Review Copy of this book from the publisher.  This has not affected the content of this review. 

If you’d like to read my review of Kill and Run (the first book in the series), click here.

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card courtesy of Lauren Carr, author of THE NUTCRACKER CONSPIRACY.

About the Author

2018_lauren_carr_picLauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Chris Matheson Cold Case, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty-five titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

​A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram 

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Review: REST IN PIECES by Katie Graykowski

Browsing the endless list of titles on my Kindle that I had yet to read, I came across a book that I downloaded a long time ago.  It’s not a new release, but Rest in Pieces by Katie Graykowski made for a fun diversion.

Description

restinpiecesMustang Ridges isn’t a town, a stripper, or some old western movie. She’s a feisty, single mom living in the small town of Lakeside, Texas where money does buy happiness and keeping up appearances is much more important than the truth. Six months ago on her thirtieth birthday, her husband decided that married life, fatherhood, and his job as the Lakeside Chief of Police weren’t as exciting as a permanent vacation to Grand Cayman with his mistress and a million dollars in diamonds he stole from the police evidence lockup.

Mustang is a pariah in a Lakeside full of piranha. But she refuses to leave—this is her home, and she figures that if she can’t join them, then she’ll beat them at their own game. With a little luck, some intimidation, and the help of her good friends Monica and Haley, Mustang presides over her own little slice of Lakeside, the Bee Creek Elementary Parent Teacher Organization.

All is quiet in Lakeside until Molly Miars, the kindergarten teacher, is found dead. According to the new police chief, she overdosed on heroin. That doesn’t explain why her head was the only body part to make it to her funeral. Mustang and her fellow PTOers don’t buy the heroin overdose for a second.

Vowing to do right by Molly, the PTO decides to investigate.

Quickly they find that Lakeside isn’t the quiet, sleepy town it appears to be. There is a dark side—money laundering and drug trafficking. When Mustang’s name turns up on a contract killer’s hit list, things go from bad to worse. Can she and the PTO stay alive long enough to find out who killed Molly Miars?

My Review

Mustang, Monica, and Haley (dare I say, partners in crime)  make for a unique team of sleuths. The three women are great friends and fellow members of the local Parent-Teacher Organization, with all of the associated drama. And they all knew the victim. They manage to find their way into some pretty far-fetched, yet humorous situations as they try to discover what happened to Molly. The story moved along at a nice pace, with enough twists to keep you wondering what might happen next and, of course, who the killer might be. Although Mustang succeeded in uncovering Molly’s killer, some of the questions raised were left unanswered, presumably to be addressed in the next book in the series.  It was a lively, enjoyable read.

Content advisory:  Although it didn’t bother me, this book does include slightly more graphic content and stronger language than the average cozy mystery.