Review: BLACKBERRY BURIAL by Sharon Farrow

One of my most recent cozy mystery reads was Blackberry Burial, the second installment in the Berry Basket Mystery series by Sharon Farrow,  which was released earlier this month.

Note:  This book can be read as a standalone (I had not read the first book in the series).

Description

Blackberryburial

Between a booming art scene and elaborate Independence Day festivities, July in lakeshore Oriole Point, Michigan, is always a blast. Especially when an explosive murder case crashes the fun . . .

As owner of The Berry Basket, Marlee Jacob has learned a thing or two about surviving the summer tourist season in Oriole Point. So she gladly agrees to help run the annual road rally in honor of the local Blackberry Art School’s centenary celebration. While alumni arrive from around the country, Marlee hopes the expansive Sanderling farm will make an appropriate starting point for the race—despite rumors that the land is cursed . . .

But when Marlee surveys the property, she stumbles upon a long-dead body hidden in the bramble. It’s a horrifying mystery to everyone except her baker, who’s convinced the skeletal remains belong to a former student who had gone missing twenty years earlier. As the Fourth of July activities heat up, Marlee must rush to catch an elusive murderer—before the next ‘blackberry victim’ is ripe for the picking!

My Review

Marlee cares about the people who work for her; she shows a great deal of compassion toward Theo, her baker, who faces challenges in interaction with others in social situations.  His limitations make him susceptible to ridicule and suspicion.  I appreciated the way the author presented Theo’s vulnerabilities and how Marlee stood by him, determined to help the police solve the case.  For the most part, the plot moved along at a good pace, with a few red herrings, and a resolution that pulled things together nicely. 

Marlee loves berries and she clearly knows everything about them. For this non-berry crazy reader, I think some of the descriptions went into a bit more detail than necessary. I was more intrigued by the mystery. I especially enjoyed the antics of Marlee’s remarkable parrot, who was quick to pick up new vocabulary and spout phrases and songs at opportune (and inopportune) moments.

Lovers of cozy mysteries, and culinary cozies in particular, are likely to enjoy this light read.

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

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Guest Post & Spotlight: DRESSED TO KILL by Vicki Vass

DRESSED-TOI-KILL-large-banner640

As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, the spotlight today shines on Dressed to Kill, An Antique Hunters Mystery by Vicki Vass.  As part of the release celebration, the author is here to tell us a bit about her love of reading.


Guest Post – Vicki Vass

VickiVass2-206x300-206x300Thanks for letting me stop by. I always appreciate spending time with readers. I am often asked what I read and I have to admit that I have found myself in a reading frenzy lately. At the beginning of 2017, I set a goal in Goodreads to read 52 books
this year and finished this week. I am very excited by this accomplishment. This was done while working full time, writing the fifth book in the Antique Hunters mystery series and taking care of four pets – two Australian shepherd puppies and two cats.

When looking over the list of books I read throughout the year,  see it is quite varied. It truly transcends genres. I’ve read everything from biographies to mysteries to romance. It includes books by some of my favorite authors like Sophie Kinsella and John Grisham. And, books by new to me authors like Shari Lapena and Ruth Ware. It include biographies of the grandchildren of Commodore Vanderbilt and Alexander Hamilton. And then there is the re-imagining of my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice. I read several prize winners.

There is only one book I picked up and was not able to finish. I tried to read a fictionalized account of Thomas Cromwell and after slogging through 100 pages, I had to give it up. I may try it again or perhaps watch the series based on it. Reading for me is relaxation. I love to kick back with a book and while away the hours. And now that I am writing my own books I often rely on books for research. For Dressed to Kill, the fifth book in the Antique Hunters Mystery series, I read several books about Mary Todd Lincoln. The book involves a dress sewn by Elizabeth Keckley, Mary Todd’s dressmaker during the White House years.

Even though I’ve accomplished my reading goal for the year, I am still reading. There is nothing more pleasant on a cold winter’s night than to sit by the fire reading a book. I have several books on my shelf that I have put to the side so I can complete my goal. These include a history of the Romanovs and an accounting of the Attica prison riot in the 1970s. These heavyweight tomes had to take a backseat so I could accomplish my goal.

I still have stacks lining my closet walls and expect to continue to add to my reading collection. Books offer glimpses into a life of what if’s, what could be and what may happen. They really add to the fabric of our lives. I try to do that in my writing, taking readers on a journey of what if’s and what could happen. I also try to balance that with what is believable in the real world. Particularly with my two main characters, Anne Hillstrom and CC Muller. They traverse their antique hunting world, encountering situations and settings that can only be imagined.

What about you? Do you set reading goals? If so, what are you reading? What are your favorite types of books? I’d love to hear from you and I’m always looking to add to my reading list.


About Dressed to Kill

Dressed to killNew

In 1865, Elizabeth Keckley, Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker, conspired to change the course of the Civil War. Crossing lines between North and South, the band of conspirators wove a plan that remained undiscovered for more than 150 years until Antique Hunter Anne Hillstrom finds one of Keckley’s gowns. She and fellow Antique Hunter CC Muller unravel the mystery that has left a trail of dead bodies, leading to the doorstep of their antique store, Great-Aunt Sybil’s Attic.

Dressed to Kill is the fifth book in the Antique Hunters Mystery Series. Rooted in history, the series reimagines real-life events blurring the line between fact and fiction.

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter for a chance to win a complete set of the Antique Hunters Mysteries.

About the Author

With a passion for shopping and antiques, Vicki Vass turned in her reporter’s notebook to chronicle the adventures of Anne and CC, two antique hunters who use their skills to solve a murder case.

Vicki has written more than 1,400 stories for the Chicago Tribune as well as other commercial publications including Home & Away, the Lutheran and Woman’s World. Her science fiction novel, The Lexicon, draws on her experience in Sudan while writing about the ongoing civil war for World Relief.

She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, writer and musician Brian Tedeschi, son Tony, Australian shepherd Bandit, kittens Terra and Pixel, seven koi and Gary the turtle.

Author Links – Website – Blog – Facebook 

Purchase Link – Amazon

Review: MURDER OVER MOCHAS by Caroline Fardig

murder-over-mochas-large-banner640Today, as part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours,  I am happy to feature Murder Over Mochas: A Java Jive Mystery by Caroline Fardig.  The third in the series, it can easily be ready as a standalone mystery.

Description

MURDER-OVER-MOCHASA blast from the past gets Nashville PI and coffeehouse manager Juliet Langley in hot water in this explosive mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Death Before Decaf.

As a newly minted private eye, Juliet Langley has sworn to leave homicide to the authorities, limiting the scope of her investigations to cheating spouses and dirty business partners . . . like her ex-fiancé, Scott O’Malley. When Scott shows up unannounced at her coffeehouse, Java Jive, Juliet’s first instinct is to punch him in the nose. Her second is to turn down his desperate plea for help with a case that’s way too dangerous for her liking. But when Scott drops dead before her eyes, Juliet isn’t going to wait around for someone else to clear her name.

It’s only a matter of time before her tumultuous past with her ex-fiancé comes out, so Juliet teams up with her ex-boyfriend, police detective Ryder Hamilton, to figure out who poisoned Scott. They soon confirm that Scott was involved in an illegal scheme that’s definitely grounds for concern.

Just as romance is finally beginning to percolate for Juliet and her best friend, Pete Bennett, she has no choice but to head back to her hometown to seek out the truth. And she’ll need help from the locals to find the real killer—otherwise her happily ever after could easily end up including an actual ball and chain.

My Review

An enjoyable cozy  mystery with a nice balance between romantic suspense and crime-solving.  Maya is a likeable character. Her life is complicated, especially with regard to men.  You can’t help rooting for her as she works together with her ex-boyfriend (who happens to be a police detective)  to prove her innocence by figuring out who would want to kill her ex-fiancé and why.  And unravelling the motives and actions that led to Scott’s death isn’t an easy task.  You also can’t help rooting for Pete as he makes his interest in transitioning from  best friends to something more clear.  The story moved along at a lively pace with a satisfying resolution – on both the romantic and crime-solving levels.  Another book that I stayed up way too late to finish.

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

View More: http://photos.pass.us/2015-10-06About the Author

CAROLINE FARDIG is the USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR of the Java Jive Mysteries series and the Lizzie Hart Mysteries series. Fardig’s BAD MEDICINE was named one of the “Best Books of 2015” by Suspense Magazine. She worked as a schoolteacher, church organist, insurance agent, funeral parlor associate, and stay-at-home mom before she realized that she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Born and raised in a small town in Indiana, Fardig still lives in that same town with an understanding husband, two sweet kids, two energetic dogs, and one malevolent cat.

Connect with Caroline Fardig at:

Purchase Links:  Amazon  B&N  kobo Google Play

Review: A TIME TO KILN by Gilian Baker

This past year saw the debut of a new cozy mystery series by Gilian Baker – The Jade Blackwell Cozy Mystery Series.  The first book,  Blogging is Murder, was released in February; it was followed by A Time To Kiln on July 30th.

Description

510eseg4qelDisenchanted with life after solving her first real case, Jade Blackwell, successful blogger and amateur sleuth, throws herself into a new hobby…until murder rears its ugly head.

But when Jade attempts to ferret out the killer of local pottery teacher, Paula Hexby, she comes up short and suspicion begins to descend on her daughter’s former boyfriend. Evidence and bodies are stacking up, as Jade finds herself caught between an untrustworthy client and her beloved community.

Now at a personal and professional crossroads, Jade must once again jump into the breech, along with partner Gabrielle Langdon, to uncover the truth behind this string of horrific murders. Is she really cut out for this life of sleuthing and danger? Has Jade been defending the real murderer all along? Or is there something much more sinister afoot?

Settle in for another cozy mystery full of twists and turns in A Time to Kiln. Join Jade in the quiet mountainside town of Aspen Falls for another super-sleuthing adventure in this second installment of the Jade Blackwell Cozy Mystery Series by Gilian Baker.

My Review

Set in rural Wyoming, this was a nice cozy about a blogger and ghostwriter who finds herself teaming up with a lawyer friend to investigate yet another murder. The victim is not particularly well liked, a fact that quickly expands the pool of potential suspects.  I enjoyed getting to know Jade, her daughter and her friends. The mother-daughter dynamics were well developed and added depth to the narrative.  The plot moved along at a steady pace, with a few twists before reaching its resolution.  Overall, a pleasant read for cozy mystery fans.

Note:  Although the second in a series,  Time to Kiln can easily be read as a standalone.

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

About the Author

Gilian Baker is a former English professor who threw in the towel and decided to show ‘em how it’s done. She’s gone on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger, ghostwriter and cozy mystery author to her C.V. She currently uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain murder mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder for her Jade Blackwell cozy mystery series, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, knitting in front of the fire, snuggling with her husband watching British TV or discussing literary theory with her daughter.

Since childhood Gillian’s been told she was nosy, though she prefers to think of herself as inquisitive. It’s long been a secret dream of hers to be paid to snoop, but she’s given up on being a real live gumshoe and has happily settled on living vicariously through her protagonist. As a literature professor, Gilian considered her one and only vice to be reading cozy mysteries before bed instead of well-thumbed classics.

Gilian Baker lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines. In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. She’s the author of Blogging is Murder and A Time to Kiln.

Connect with Gilian:

Review: BONES TO PICK by Linda Lovely

As part of a blog tour organized by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours, I had the pleasure of reading a pre-release copy of  Bones to Pick, by Linda Lovely. This humorous cozy mystery is the first in the author’s new Brie Hooker series, set in South Carolina.

Synopsis

BonestopickLiving on a farm with four hundred goats and a cantankerous carnivore isn’t among vegan chef Brie Hooker’s list of lifetime ambitions. But she can’t walk away from her Aunt Eva, who needs help operating her dairy.
Once she calls her aunt’s goat farm home, grisly discoveries offer ample inducements for Brie to employ her entire vocabulary of cheese-and-meat curses. The troubles begin when the farm’s pot-bellied pig unearths the skull of Eva’s husband, who disappeared years back. The sheriff, kin to the deceased, sets out to pin the murder on Eva. He doesn’t reckon on Brie’s resolve to prove her aunt’s innocence. Death threats, ruinous pedicures, psychic shenanigans, and biker bar fisticuffs won’t stop Brie from unmasking the killer, even when romantic befuddlement throws her a curve.

My Review

From its quaint small town setting to Brie’s creative expletives and punny names (Udderly Kidding), this is very much a traditional cozy mystery.  Brie is resourceful and spunky, and she has her mind set on rooting out the truth and proving her aunt’s innocence.  As she becomes more acquainted with the townsfolk, age old family feuds and questionable business dealings come to her attention.  With a murder to  solve and two great guys competing for her attention, Brie has more than enough on her vegan plate.  A diverse cast of characters, sometimes comical situations, and an intriguing plot made this a delightful read.  I look forward to following Brie’s adventures in future books in this series.

FTC Disclosure:   I received a complimentary ARC of this book as part of this blog tour. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

Bones to Pick is available on Amazon.

About the Author

LindaLovely.pngOver the past five years, hundreds of mystery/thriller writers have met Linda Lovely at check-in for the annual Writers’ Police Academy, which she helps organize. Lovely finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and ad copy. She writes a blend of mystery and humor, chuckling as she plots to “disappear” the types of characters who most annoy her. Quite satisfying plus there’s no need to pester relatives for bail. Her newest series offers good-natured salutes to both her vegan family doctor and her cheese-addicted kin. She served as president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter for five years and belongs to International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America.

Catch Up With Linda Lovely On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

Read an excerpt from Bones to Pick by Linda Lovely:

ONE

Hello, I’m Brie, and I’m a vegan.

It sounds like I’m introducing myself at a Vegetarians Anonymous meeting. But, trust me, there aren’t enough vegetarians in Ardon County, South Carolina, to make a circle much less hold a meeting.

Give yourself ten points if you already know vegans are even pickier than vegetarians. We forgo meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. But we’re big on cashews, walnuts, and almonds. All nuts are good nuts. Appropriate with my family.

Family. That’s why I put my career as a vegan chef on hold to live and work in Ardon, a strong contender for the South’s carnivore-and- grease capital. My current job? I help tend four hundred goats, make verboten cheese, and gather eggs I’ll never poach. Most mornings when Aunt Eva rousts me before the roosters, I roll my eyes and mutter.

Still, I can’t complain. I had a choice. Sort of. Blame it on the pig—Tammy the Pig—for sticking her snout in our family business.

I’d consorted with vegans and vegetarians for too long. I seriously underestimated how much cholesterol meat eaters could snarf down at a good old-fashioned wake. Actually, I wasn’t sure this wake was “old fashioned,” but it was exactly how Aunt Lilly would have planned her own send-off—if she’d had the chance. Ten days ago, the feisty sixty- two-year-old had a toddler’s curiosity and a twenty-year-old’s appetite for adventure. Her death was a total shock.

I glanced at Aunt Lilly’s epitaph hanging behind the picnic buffet. She’d penned it years back. Her twin, Aunt Eva, found it in Lilly’s desk and reprinted it in eighty-point type.

“There once was a farmer named Lilly

Who never liked anything frilly,

She tended her goats,

Sowed a few wild oats,

And said grieving her death would be silly.”

In a nod to Lilly’s spirit, Aunt Eva planned today’s wake complete with fiddling, hooch, goo-gogs of goat cheese, and the whole panoply of Southern fixins—mounds of country ham, fried chicken, barbecue, and mac-and-cheese awash in butter. Every veggie dish came dressed with bacon crumbles, drippings, or cream of mushroom soup.

Not a morsel fit for a vegan. Eva’s revenge. I’d made the mistake of saying I didn’t want to lose her, too, and hinted she’d live longer if she cut back on cholesterol. Not my smartest move. The name of her farm? Udderly Kidding Dairy. Cheese and eggs had been Eva’s meal ticket for decades.

My innocent observation launched a war. Whenever I opened the refrigerator, I’d find a new message. This morning a Post-it on my dish of blueberries advised: The choline in eggs may enhance brain development and memory—as a vegan you probably forgot.

Smoke from the barbeque pit permeated the air as I replenished another platter of shredded pork on the buffet. My mouth watered and I teetered on the verge of drooling. While I was a dedicated vegan, my olfactory senses were still programmed “Genus Carnivorous.” My stomach growled—loudly. Time to thwart its betrayal with the veggies and hummus dip I’d stashed in self-defense.

I’d just stuck a juicy carrot in my mouth when a large hand squeezed my shoulder.

“Brie, honey, you’ve been working nonstop,” Dad said. “Take a break. Mom’s on her way. We can play caterers. The food’s prepared. No risks associated with our cooking.”

I choked on my carrot and sputtered. “Good thing. Do you even remember the last time Mom turned on an oven?”

Dad smiled. “Can’t recall. Maybe when you were a baby? But, hey, we’re wizards at takeout and microwaves.”

His smile faltered. I caught him staring at Aunt Lilly’s epitaph. “Still can’t believe Lilly’s gone.” He attempted a smile. “Knowing her sense of humor, we’re lucky she didn’t open that epitaph with ‘There once was a lass from Nantucket.’”

I’d never seen Dad so sad. Lilly’s unexpected death stunned him to his core. He adored his older sisters.

Mom appeared at his side and wrapped an arm around his waist. She loved her sisters-in-law, too, though she complained my childless aunts spoiled me beyond repair.

Of course, Lilly’s passing hit Eva the hardest. A fresh boatload of tears threatened as I thought about the aunt left behind. I figured my tear reservoir had dried up after days of crying. Wrong. The tragedy—a texting teenager smashing head-on into Lilly’s car—provoked a week- long family weep-a-thon. It ended when Eva ordered us to cease and desist.

“This isn’t what Lilly would want,” she declared. “We’re gonna throw a wake. One big, honking party.”

Which explained the fifty-plus crowd of friends and neighbors milling about the farm, tapping their feet to fiddlin’, and consuming enough calories to sustain the populace of a small principality for a week.

I hugged Dad. “Thanks. I could use a break. I’ll find Eva. See how she’s doing.”

I spotted her near a flower garden filled with cheery jonquils. It looked like a spring painting. Unfortunately, the cold March wind that billowed Eva’s scarlet poncho argued the blooms were false advertising. The weatherman predicted the thermometer would struggle to reach the mid-forties today.

My aunt’s build was what I’d call sturdy, yet Eva seemed to sway in the gusty breeze as she chatted with Billy Jackson, the good ol’ boy farrier who shod her mule. Though my parents pretended otherwise, we all knew Billy slept under Eva’s crazy quilt at least two nights a week.

I nodded at the couple. Well, actually, the foursome. Brenda, the farm’s spoiled pet goat, and Kai, Udderly’s lead Border collie, were competing with Billy for my aunt’s attention.

“Mom and Dad are watching the buffet,” I said. “Thought I’d see if you need me to do anything. Are you expecting more folks?”

“No.” Eva reached down and tickled the tiny black goat’s shaggy head. “Imagine everyone who’s coming is here by now. They’ll start clearing out soon. Chow down and run. Can’t blame ’em. Especially the idiot women who thought they ought to wear dresses. That biting wind’s gotta be whistling up their drawers.”

Billy grinned as he looked Eva up and down. Her choice of wake attire—poncho, black pants, and work boots—surprised no one, and would have delighted Lilly.

“Do you even own a dress?” Billy laughed. “You’re one to talk.” Eva gave his baggy plaid suit and clip-on bowtie the stink eye. “I suppose you claim that gristle on your chin is needed to steady your fiddle.”

He kissed Eva’s cheek. “Yep, that’s it. Time to rejoin my fellow fiddlers, but first I have a hankering to take a turn at the Magic Moonshine tent.”

“You do that. Maybe the ’shine will improve your playing. It’ll definitely make you sound better to your listening audience. After enough of that corn liquor even my singing could win applause.”

A dark-haired stranger usurped Billy’s place, bending low to plant a kiss on the white curls that sprang from my aunt’s head like wood shavings. Wow. They stacked handsome tall when they built him. Had to be at least six-four.

Even minus an introduction, I figured this tall glass of sweet tea had to be Paint, the legendary owner of Magic Moonshine. Sunlight glinted off hair the blue-black of expensive velvet. Deep dimples. Rakish smile.

I’d spent days sobbing, and my libido apparently was saying “enough”—time to rejoin the living. If this bad boy were any more alive, he’d be required to wear a “Danger High Voltage” sign. Of course, Aunt Lilly wouldn’t mind. She’d probably rent us a room.

I ventured a glance and found him smiling at me. My boots were suddenly fascinating. Never stare at shiny objects with the potential to hypnotize. I refused to fall under another playboy’s spell.

“How’s my best gal?” he asked, hugging Eva. “Best for this minute, right?” my aunt challenged. “I bet my niece will be your best gal before I finish the introductions.” Eva put a hand on my shoulder. “Paint, this young whippersnapper is Brie Hooker, my favorite niece. ’Course, she’s my only niece. Brie, it’s with great trepidation that I introduce you to David Paynter, better known as Paint, unrepentant moonshiner and heartbreaker.”

Eva subjected Paint to her pretend badass stare, a sure sign he was one of her favorite sparring partners. “Don’t you go messing with Brie, or I’ll bury you down yonder with Mark, once I nail his hide.”

Paint laughed, a deep, rumbling chuckle. He turned toward me and bowed like Rhett Butler reincarnated.

“Pleased to meet you, Brie. That puzzled look tells me you haven’t met Mark, the wily coyote that harasses Eva’s goats. She’s wasted at least six boxes of buckshot trying to scare him off. Me? I’ll gladly risk her shotgun to make your acquaintance. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Eva gave Paint a shove. “Well, if that’s the case, go on. Give Brie a shot of your peach moonshine. It’s pretty good.”

“Peach moonshine it is,” he said and took my arm. A second later, he tightened his grip and pulled me to the right. “Better watch your step. You almost messed up those pretty boots.”

He pointed at a fresh pile of fragrant poop, steaming in the brisk air inches from my suede boots. “Thanks,” I mumbled. Still holding my arm, he steered me over uneven ground to a clear path. “Eva says you’re staying with her. Hope you don’t have to leave for a while. Your aunt’s a fine lady, and it’s going to be mighty hard on her once this flock of well-wishers flies off.”

His baritone sent vibrations rippling through my body. My brain ordered me to ignore the tingling that remained in places it didn’t belong.

He smiled. “Eva and Lilly spoke about you so often I feel like we’re already friends. ’Course head-shaking accompanied some of their comments. They said you’d need to serve plenty of my moonshine if you ever opened a vegan B&B in Ardon County. Here abouts it’s considered unpatriotic to serve eats that haven’t been baptized in a vat of lard. Vegetables are optional; meat, mandatory.”

Uh, oh. I always gave relatives and friends a free pass on good- natured kidding. But a stranger? This man was poking fun at my profession, yet my hackles—smoothed by the hunk’s lopsided grin— managed only a faint bristle.

Back away. Pronto. Discovering my ex-fiancé, Jack, was boffing not one, but two co-workers the entire two years we were engaged made me highly allergic to lady-killers. Paint was most definitely a member of that tribe.

“What can I say? I’m a rebel,” I replied. “It’s my life’s ambition to convince finger-lickin’, fried-chicken lovers that life without meat, butter, eggs, and cheese does not involve a descent into the nine circles of hell.”

Paint released me, then raised his hand to brush a wayward curl from my forehead. His flirting seemed to be congenital.

“If you’re as feisty as your aunt claims, why don’t you take me on as a challenge? I do eat tomatoes—fried green ones, anyway—and I’m open to sampling other members of the vegetable kingdom. So long as they don’t get between me and my meat. Anyway, welcome to the Carolina foothills. Time to pour some white lightning. It’s smoother than you might expect.”

And so are you. Too smooth for me.

That’s when we heard the screams.

TWO

Paint zoomed off like a Clemson running back, hurtling toward the screams—human, not goat. I managed to stay within a few yards of him, slipping and sliding as my suede boots unwittingly smooshed a doggie deposit. Udderly’s guardian dogs, five Great Pyrenees, were large enough to saddle, and their poop piles rivaled cow paddies.

I reached the barn, panting, with a stitch in my right side. I stopped to catch my breath. Hallelujah. I braced my palm against the weathered barn siding.

Ouch. Harpooned by a jagged splinter. Blood oozed from the sensitive pad below my right thumb. I stared at the inch-plus spear. Paint had kept running. He was no longer in sight.

The screams stopped. An accident? A heart attack? I hustled around the corner of the barn. A little girl sobbed in the cleared area behind Udderly’s retail sales cabin. I recognized Jenny, a rambunctious five-year-old from a nearby farm. Her mother knelt beside her, stroking her hair.

No child had produced the operatic screams we’d heard. Maybe Jenny’s mother was the screamer. But the farm wife didn’t seem the hysterical type. On prior visits to Udderly, I’d stopped at the roadside stand where she sold her family’s produce. Right now the woman’s face looked redder than one of her Early Girl tomatoes. Was the flush brought on by some danger—a goat butting her daughter, a snake slithering near the little girl?

I walked closer. Then I saw it. A skull poked through the red clay. Soil had tinted the bone an absurd pink.

I gasped. The sizeable cranium looked human. I spotted the grave digger, or should I say re-digger. Udderly’s newest addition, a Vietnamese potbellied pig named Tammy, hunkered in a nearby puddle. Tiny cloven hoof marks led to and from the excavation. Tell-tale red mud dappled her dainty twitching snout. The pig’s hundred-pound body quivered as her porcine gaze roved the audience she’d attracted.

A man squatted beside Tammy, speaking to the swine in soothing, almost musical tones. Pigs were dang smart and sensitive. Aunt Eva told me it was easy to hurt their feelings. The fellow stroking Tammy’s grimy head must’ve been convinced she was one sensitive swine.

“It’s okay,” he repeated. “The lady wasn’t screaming at you, Tammy.”

Tammy snorted, lowered her head, and squeezed her eyes shut. The pig-whisperer gave the swine a final scratch and stood, freeing gangly limbs from his pretzel-like crouch. Mud caked the cuffs and knees of his khaki pants. Didn’t seem to bother him one iota.

The mother shepherded her little girl away from the disturbing scene, and Paint knelt to examine the skeletal remains. “Looks like piggy uncovered more than she bargained for.” He glanced at Muddy Cuffs. “Andy, you’re a vet. Animal or human?”

“Human.” Andy didn’t hesitate. “But all that’s left is bone. Had to have been buried a good while. Yet Tammy’s rooting scratched only inches below the surface. If a settler dug this grave, it was mighty shallow.”

“Probably didn’t start that way.” I pointed to a depression that began uphill near the retail cabin. “This wash has deepened a lot since my aunts built their store and the excavation diverted water away from the cabin. The runoff’s been nibbling away at the ground.”

Mom, Dad, and Aunt Eva joined the group eyeballing the skull. Eva looked peaked, almost ill. I felt a slight panic at the shift in her normally jolly appearance. I thought of my aunts as forces of nature. Unflappable. Indestructible. I’d lost one, and the other suddenly looked fragile. Finding a corpse on her property the same day she bid her twin goodbye had hit her hard.

Dad cocked his head. “Could be a Cherokee burial site. Or maybe a previous farmer buried a loved one and the grave marker got lost. Homestead burials have always been legal in South Carolina. Still are.”

For once, the idea of finding a corpse in an unexpected location didn’t prompt a gleeful chuckle from my dad, Dr. Howard Hooker. Though he was a professor of horticulture at Clemson University by day, he was an aspiring murder mystery author by night. Every time we went for a car ride, Dad made a game of searching the landscape for spots “just perfect” for disposing of bodies. So far, a dense patch of kudzu in a deep ravine topped his picks. “Kudzu grows so fast any flesh peeking through would disappear in a day.”

Good thing Dad confined his commentary to family outings. We knew the corpses in question weren’t real.

Mom whipped out her smartphone. “I’ll call Judge Glenn. It’s Sunday, but he always answers his cell. He’ll know who to call. I’m assuming the Ardon County Sheriff’s Department.”

Dad nodded. “Probably, but I bet SLED—the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division—will take over. The locals don’t have forensic specialists.”

Mom rolled her eyes. “You spend way too much time with your Sisters in Crime.”

It amused Mom that Dad’s enthusiasm for his literary genre earned him the presidency of the Upstate South Carolina Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Mom didn’t fool with fictional crime. Too busy with the real thing. As the City of Clemson’s attorney, she kept a bevy of lawyers, judges, and city and university cops on speed dial. However, Udderly Kidding wasn’t in the same county as Clemson so it sat outside her domain.

“Judge Glenn, this is Iris Hooker. I’m at the Udderly Kidding Dairy in Ardon. An animal here unearthed a skull. We think it’s human, but not recent. Should we call the sheriff?”

Mom nodded and made occasional I-get-it noises while she clamped the cell to her ear.

“Could you ask them to keep their arrival quiet? Better yet, could they wait until after four? About fifty folks are here for my sister-in- law’s wake. I don’t want to turn her farewell into a circus.”

A minute later, Mom murmured her thanks and pocketed her cell. “The judge agrees an old skull doesn’t warrant sirens or flashing lights. He’ll ask the Ardon County Sheriff, Robbie Jones, to come by after four. Since I’m an officer of the court, his honor just requested that I keep people and animals clear of the area until the sheriff arrives.”

Andy stood. “Paint, help me bring some hay bales from the barn. We can stack them to cordon off the area.”

“Good idea.” Paint stood, and the two men strode off. No needless chitchat. They appeared to be best buds.

I tugged Dad’s sleeve, nodded toward his sister, and whispered, “I think Aunt Eva should sit down. Let’s get her to one of the front porch rockers.”

Dad walked over and draped an arm around his sister’s shoulders. “Eva, let’s sit a while so folks can find you to pay their respects. This skeleton is old news. Not our worry.”

Eva’s lips trembled. “No, Brother. I feel it in my own bones. It’s that son-of-a-bitch Jed Watson come back to haunt me.”

THREE

Jed Watson? The man Eva married in college? The man who vanished a few years later?

Dad’s eyebrows shot up. “Eva, that’s nonsense. That dirtbag ran off forty years back. You’re letting your imagination run wild.”

Eva straightened. “Some crime novelist you are. You know darn well any skeleton unearthed on my property would have something to do with that nasty worm. Nobody wished that sorry excuse for a man dead more than me.”

“Calm down. Don’t spout off and give the sheriff some harebrained notion that pile of bones is Jed,” Dad said. “No profit in fueling gossip or dredging up ancient history. Authorities may have ruled Jed dead, but I always figured that no-good varmint was still alive five states over, most likely beating the stuffing out of some other poor woman.”

Wow. I knew Eva took her maiden name back after they declared her husband dead, but I’d never heard a speck of the unsavory backstory. Dad liked to tell family tales, including ones about long- dead scoundrels. Guess this history wasn’t ancient enough.

Curiosity made me eager to ask a whole passel of none-of-my- business questions, though I felt some justification about poking my nose here. I’d known Eva my entire life. So how come this was the first I’d heard of a mystery surrounding Jed’s disappearance? Was Dad truly worried the sheriff might suspect Eva?

I was dying to play twenty questions. Too bad it wasn’t the time or place.

I smiled at my aunt. “Why don’t I get some of Paint’s brew to settle our nerves? Eva, you like that apple pie flavor, right?”

“Yes, thanks, dear.”

“Good idea, Brie,” Dad added. “I’ll take a toot of Paint’s blackberry hooch. Eva’s not the only one who could use a belt. We’ll greet folks from those rockers. Better than standing like mannequins in a receiving line. And there’s a lot less risk of falling down if we get a little tipsy.”

Aunt Eva ignored Dad’s jest. She looked haunted, lost in memory. A very bad memory.

I hurried to the small tent where Magic Moonshine dispensed free libations. A buxom young lass smiled as she poured shine into miniature Mason jars lined up behind four flavor signs: Apple Pie, Blackberry, Peach, and White Lightnin’.

“What can I do you for, honey?” the busty server purred. I’m still an Iowa girl at heart, but, like my transplanted aunts and parents, I’ve learned not to take offense when strangers of both sexes and all ages call me honey, darlin’, and sweetie. My high school social studies teacher urged us to appreciate foreign customs and cultures. I may not be in Rome, but I’m definitely in Ardon County.

I smiled at Miss Sugarmouth. The top four buttons of her blouse were undone. The way her bosoms oozed over the top, I seriously doubted those buttons had ever met their respective buttonholes. No mystery why Paint hired her. Couldn’t blame him or her. Today’s male mourners would enjoy a dash of cleavage with their shine, and she’d rake in lots more tips.

“Sweetie, do you have a tray I can use to take drinks to the folks on the porch?”

The devil still made me add the “sweetie” when I addressed Miss Sugarmouth. She didn’t bat an eyelash. Probably too weighed down with mascara.

“Sure thing, honey.” I winced when the tray slid over the wood sliver firmly embedded in my palm. Suck it up. No time for minor surgery.

As I walked toward Eva’s cabin, crunching noises advertised some late arrivals ambling down the gravel road. On the porch, Dad and Eva had settled into a rhythm, shaking hands with friends and neighbors and accepting sympathy pats. Hard to hug someone in a rocker.

I handed miniature glass jars to Eva and Dad before offering drinks to the folks who’d already run the gauntlet of the sit-down receiving line. Then I tiptoed behind Dad’s rocker.

“I’ll see if Mom wants anything and check back later to see how you and Eva are doing.”

“Thanks, honey.” He kissed my cheek. I returned to Paint’s moonshine stand and picked up a second drink tray, gingerly hoisting it to avoid bumping my skewered palm. Balancing the drinks, I picked my way across the rutted ground to what I worried might be a crime scene.

Mom perched between Paint and Andy atop the double row of hay bales stacked to keep the grisly discovery out of sight. The five-foot-two height on Mom’s driver’s license was a stretch. At five-four, I had her by at least three, maybe four, inches. My mother’s build was tiny as well as short—a flat-chested size two. I couldn’t recall ever being able to squeeze into her doll-size clothes. My build came courtesy of the females on Dad’s side of the family. Compact but curvy. No possibility of going braless in polite society.

Mom’s delicate appearance often confounded the troublemakers she prosecuted for the city. Too often the accused took one look at Iris Hooker and figured they’d hire some hulking male lawyer to walk all over the little lady in court.

Big mistake. The bullies often reaped unexpected rewards—a costly mélange of jail time, fines, and community service.

Mom spotted my tray-wobbling approach. “Are these Paint’s concoctions?”

I nodded. “Well, Daughter, sip nice and slow. Someday I may file charges against Magic Moonshine. Paint’s shine is often an accomplice when Clemson tailgaters pull stunts that land them in front of a judge.”

Paint lifted his glass in a salute. “Can I help it if all our flavors go down easy?”

Mom turned back to me. “Have you met these, ahem, gentlemen?”

I suddenly felt shy as my gaze flicked between the two males. “I met Paint earlier. This is my first chance to say hi to Andy. I’m Brie Hooker. You must be the veterinarian Aunt Eva’s always talking about.”

Andy rose to his feet. “Andy Green. Pleased to meet you, ma’am. Your aunts were my very first customers when I opened my practice.”

He waved a hand at Tammy, the now demure pig, wallowing a goodly distance away. “I’m really sorry Tammy picked today to root up these bones. I feel partly to blame. Talked your aunts into adopting Miss Piggy. It aggravates me how folks can’t resist buying potbellied pigs as pets when they’re adorable babies, but have no qualms about abandoning them once they start to grow.”

Andy’s outstretched hand awaited my handshake. I held up my palm to display my injury. “Gotta take a rain check on a handshake. Unfortunately, I already shook hands with the barn.”

Andy gently turned up my palm. “I’ll fix you right up, if you don’t mind a vet doing surgery. Give me a minute to wash up and meet me at my truck. Can’t miss it. A double-cab GMC that kinda looks like aliens crash landed an aluminum spaceship in the truck bed. I’m parked by the milking barn.”

As Andy loped off toward the retail shop’s comfort station, Paint called after him. “Sneaky way to hold hands with a pretty lady.”

Andy glanced over his shoulder and grinned. “You’re just mad you didn’t think of it first.”

Paint chuckled and focused his hundred-watt grin on me. “Bet my white lightning could disinfect that sliver. Sure you don’t want me to do the honors?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Somehow I doubt honor has anything to do with it.”

The moonshiner faked an injured look. Mom rolled her eyes. “Heaven help me—and you, Brie. Not sure you’re safe with the wildlife that frequents this farm. Forget those coyotes that worry Eva, I’m talking wolves.” She looked toward the porch. “How’s Eva holding up?”

“Better.” I wanted to grill Mom about Jed Watson, but I needed to do so in private. “Guess I should steel myself for surgery.” I took a Mason jar from the tray I’d set on a hay bale. “Down the hatch.” My healthy swallow blazed a burning trail from throat to belly. Before I could stop myself, I sputtered.

“Shut your mouth,” Paint said. Yowzer. My eyes watered, and my throat spasmed. I coughed. “What?”

“Shut your mouth. Oxygen fuels the burn. You need to take a swallow then close your mouth. None of this sipping stuff.”

“Now you tell me.” I choked. Mom laughed. “That’s the best strategy I’ve heard yet to shut Brie up.”

I wiped at the tears running down my cheeks. “Your moonshine packs more punch than my five-alarm Thai stir fry.”

Paint’s eyebrows rose. “My shine is smooth, once you get used to it. You want a little fire in your gut. Keeps life interesting.”

A little too interesting. I’d been at Udderly Kidding Dairy just over a week, and I already felt like a spinning top with a dangerous wobble.

***
Excerpt from Bones To Pick by Linda Lovely.  Copyright © 2017 by Linda Lovely. Reproduced with permission from Linda Lovely. All rights reserved.

You can get your copy of Bones to Pick at : AmazonBarnes & Noble * Goodreads

Review & Giveaway: 16 MILLIMETERS by Larissa Reinhart

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I recently had the pleasure of reading 16 Millimeters: A Maizie Albright Humorous Mystery  by Larissa Reinhart.

Description

LarissaReinhart_16Millimeters_COVER#StillAWannabeDetective In continuing her career-makeover quest as a for-real detective, ex-teen and reality star Maizie Albright has a big learning curve to overcome. A sleuthing background starring in a TV show— Julia Pinkerton, Teen Detective—does not cut the real life mustard. It doesn’t even buy her lunch, let alone extra condiments. Her chosen mentor, Wyatt Nash of Nash Security Solutions, is not a willing teacher. He’d rather stick Maizie with a safe desk job and handle the security solution-ing himself. But Maizie’s got other plans to help Nash. First, win Nash’s trust. Second, his heart.

Wait, not his heart. His respect. His hearty respect.

So when a major movie producer needs a babysitter for his hot mess starlet, Maizie eagerly takes the job. But when her starlet appears dead, and then not dead, Maizie’s got more than an actress to watch and a missing corpse to find. Body doubles, dead bodies, and hot bodies abound when the big screen, small screen, and silent screams collide. Maizie’s on the job, on the skids, and on thin ice, hunting a killer who may be a celebrity stalker. And Maizie just might be the next celebrity who gets snuffed.

My Review

Maizie is a former child/teen star turned private detective-in-training.  An attractive young woman, she has all the exuberance of youth and the recklessness that often goes with it.  Nash is a great looking, seasoned detective,  and the underlying sexual attraction between them is no surprise. Maizie’s a fun character. I enjoyed getting to know her. As the job reminds her of her previous career,  she channels her Hollywood roles, sometimes quite humorously, to deal with difficult predicaments.  The combination of romance, humor, and mystery made for an enjoyable read.

FTC Disclosure:  I received an advance review copy of this book and have voluntarily chosen to share my honest review. 

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter for a chance to win an Amazon giftcard.

About the Author

LarissaRLarissa is a 2015 Georgia Author of the Year Best Mystery finalist, 2014 finalist for the Silver Falchion and Georgia Author of the Year, 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist, 2012 The Emily finalist, and 2011 Dixie Kane Memorial winner. Her family and Cairn Terrier, Biscuit, have been living in Nagoya, Japan, but once again call Georgia home. See them on HGTV’s House Hunters International “Living for the Weekend in Nagoya” episode. Visit her website, LarissaReinhart.com, find her chatting on FacebookInstagram, and Goodreads,  or join her Facebook street team, The Mystery Minions.

Purchase Links

Spotlight & Giveaway: ANOTHER MAN’S POISON by Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa

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As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, today’s post turns the spotlight on  Another Man’s Poison, the latest addition to the Jersey Girl Cozy Mystery series by  Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa.

Description

AnotherMansPoison-CoverCrime reporter Colleen Caruso’s appetite for romance with her hunky boss falls flatter than a ruined soufflé when he keels over after one bite of his trout almondine. With his food editor wife mysteriously poisoned three years before, Ken was and still remains the prime suspect. Clearly
someone wanted both Ken and Nadine Rhodes dead, and Colleen finds herself hot on the case of the poisoned plate. She whisks her way into the scrumptious world of the culinary arts, hoping her investigation isn’t a recipe for disaster. Colleen is determined to give those responsible their just desserts, but has this Jersey Girl bitten off more than she can chew?

Read an excerpt:

I never gave any serious thought about being married to Ken Rhodes. Somehow I didn’t think I could fall asleep every single night next to that luscious body and wake up each and every morning to see those washboard abs. All he’d see is a woman in such disarray that he’d think he married a psychotic. It would mess up everything and definitely destroy every speck of romance between us. And after seventeen long, long years of being Mrs. Neil Caruso, my master plan was to remain single for the rest of my days and lead a life that would make my mother cringe.
Excerpt from ANOTHER MAN’S POISON by Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa. Copyright © 2017

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter for a chance to win a copy of Another Man’s Poison.

About The Author

JOANN-LAMON-RECCOPPAJo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa is the creator of the Jersey Girl Cozy Mystery series, which includes New Math is Murder, Hide Nor Hair, and the latest installment, Another Man’s Poison, released
in August, 2017. Reccoppa has worked for many years as a newspaper stringer, writing everything from serious medical pieces to restaurant reviews. Her short stories have appeared in
several genre magazines, in addition to a mystery which  appeared in the Barnes & Noble Crafty Cat Crimes anthology.

Jo-Ann loves to hear from fans. Visit her website/blog at  https://joannlamonreccoppa.com/
or drop her an email at joannreccoppaauthor at gmail.com

Purchase Links:  Amazon

Other books in this series:
 

Book Blast: MURDER SHE FLOATS by Rachael Stapleton

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As part of a Blog Blast organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, today’s post turns the spotlight on  Murder She Floats, a new cozy mystery by  Rachael Stapleton.

Description

MurdersheFloat_finalIt’s the end of the summer and Journalist Penelope Trubble has returned home to help her father with the Private Eye business. With a contest prize of ten thousand dollars on the line, the town is full of summer vacationers on the hunt for the rare 1913 Liberty Head nickel that was lost to Bohemian Lake over fifty years ago. With the help of spitfire local, Eve Berns and Cody Lumos, the town’s handsome new detective, amateur sleuth Lucky Penny takes the bait and goes diving for the story behind the legend of the million dollar coin. Unfortunately, her dive turns up more bodies than missing treasure. The deeper she digs, the more secrets she finds hidden in the sand, but will she be buried along with them?

Giveaway

Click to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win an autographed copy of The Temple of Indra’s Witch.

About The Author

Concert-PicRachael Stapleton lives in a Second Empire Victorian home with her husband and two children in Ontario, Canada and enjoys writing in the comforts of aged wood and arched dormers.

Author Links:
Webpage     Blog    Facebook   @RaquelleJaxson 
Amazon     GoodReads 

Purchase Link:  Amazon

Review & Giveaway: THE DAY JOB IS MURDER by Carolyn Arnold

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours,  today’s post spotlights Carolyn Arnold’s McKinley Mysteries series and includes a review of the first book in the series, The Day Job Is Murder.

Description

51pr7xjlnel-_sy346_The bad guys aren’t the only ones on his radar…

For Albany PD homicide detective Sean McKinley, catching killers is the easy part of his job. Working next to his beautiful partner, Sara Cain, is what’s difficult. It might have something to do with the fact that he’s fallen in love with her, though. Fortunately, she feels the same way about him. But she’s convinced they should just be friends.

If only there was some way to change her mind…

(Check out the excerpt at the end of this post.)

My Review

An enjoyable read that sets the stage for the rest of the series, by acquainting the reader with the two main characters, Sean and Sara, and the relationship between them.  Because the narrative focused to a large extent on their repressed feelings for each other, it was more “romantic suspense” than mystery.  Although I also read romance novels, I’d liked to have seen more “mystery” in this one.  That said, I plan to check out additional books in the series – with their relationship established, I expect the pair to focus more on solving mysteries in the future.  If you are looking for a short light read, this book fits the bill.

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

The book is available on:  AmazonBarnes & NobleKoboApple, Google Play

Giveaway

Click to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win an Amazon gift card from the publisher.

About the Series 

Romance. Humor. Murder. Are you looking for a murder mystery without all the graphic violence and foul language? Something that you can enjoy in an afternoon and walk away feeling good about afterward? How about a dash of humor and romance? If so, meet former detectives Sean and Sara McKinley. When a billionaire leaves them all his money, they no longer have to work, but they find themselves sticking to what they’re good at—solving murders. Undercover, off the books, and around the world, they’ll get to the bottom of things…and romance it up along the way.

This is the perfect book series for fans of Hart to Hart, Castle, Colombo, Monk, Rockford Files, Psych, and Magnum PI.
Read in any order or follow the series from the beginning.

Books in the Series

  1. The Day Job is Murder (2014)
  2. Vacation is Murder (2014)
  3. Money is Murder (2014)
  4. Politics is Murder (2014)
  5. Family is Murder (2014)
  6. Shopping is Murder (2014)
  7. Christmas is Murder (2014)
  8. Valentine’s Day is Murder (2015)
  9. Coffee is Murder (2015)
  10. Skiing is Murder (2016)
  11. Halloween is Murder (2017)

About the Author

carolyn-arnold-author-photoCarolyn Arnold is an international bestselling and award-winning author, as well as a speaker, teacher, and inspirational mentor. She has four continuing fiction series—Detective Madison Knight, Brandon Fisher FBI, McKinley Mysteries, and Matthew Connor Adventures—and has written nearly thirty books. Her genre diversity offers her readers everything from cozy to hard-boiled mysteries, and thrillers to action adventures.

Both her female detective and FBI profiler series have been praised by those in law enforcement as being accurate and entertaining, leading her to adopt the trademark: POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™.

Carolyn was born in a small town and enjoys spending time outdoors, but she also loves the lights of a big city. Grounded by her roots and lifted by her dreams, her overactive imagination insists that she tell her stories. Her intention is to touch the hearts of millions with her books, to entertain, inspire, and empower.

She currently lives just west of Toronto with her husband and beagle and is a member of Crime Writers of Canada.

Connect with Carolyn Arnold online:

And don’t forget to sign up for her newsletter for up-to-date information on release and special offers at http://carolynarnold.net/newsletters.

Read an excerpt:

Excerpt from chapter 1 of The Day Job is Murder (McKinley Mysteries):

SARA WAS BENT OVER, inside the back of the department-issued sedan. “I can’t believe we’re still cleaning puke.”

“Some days are better than others.”

She smiled. “Leave it to you to always look at the bright side.”

“We’ve just exchanged drunks for nervous murder suspects.”

She laughed. He loved the way her eyes creased, and the way her nose wrinkled with the expression.

“Well, I consider that progress.”

“Easy to say when you’re not the one doing the cleaning.” She tossed the used towels in the garbage, returned the cleaner to the shelf, then picked up her coffee cup, taking a draw.

“You insisted. We could have gotten a uniformed officer to take care of it.”

“I know, but I don’t like to do that.”

“Yes, I know. Our car, our responsibility. You’re too good to be real, you know that?”

“There you go again.”

He shrugged and kept pace with her on the way to the interview room. Outside, she placed a hand on his forearm.

“Oh, I meant to tell you something.” She glanced in at Burton, and then back to Sean. “It’s probably poor timing now, but you still have time.”

She peered into his eyes and seemed to be studying them, assessing something. What, he wasn’t sure. So, while she probed his eyes, he appreciated the color of hers—brown with flecks of green and gold.

“I was reading the obits this morning and I came across the name Douglas Quinn. You knew him, didn’t you? I remember you mentioning him.”

His breathing paused. Old Man Quinn. It had been a long time since he’d heard that name, but he’d never forget him.

“His funeral is this afternoon at three o’clock. You have time to make it.”

“Nah, I have, we have—what happened?”

“The piece read ‘he died peacefully at home, at the age of eighty-three.’” She touched Sean’s arm. “It’s okay. Go. I can take care of this.”

Guilt weighed him down. It had been years—over a decade—since he’d last seen him. Sean was twenty-two when they first met and he’d be thirty-three this coming September. The sad part was he wouldn’t even have known about Quinn’s death if it wasn’t for Sara’s strange habit of reading the obituaries.

“Go on. I can tell you want to.” Concern laced her eyes. “Do you want me to go with you? You know, as a friend, for support?”

There was that word, again. Friend. It must have entered conversation twenty times a shift.

Sean leaned against the window and looked into the interview room. Burton was biting his fingernails. The bad habit made Sean shiver in disgust.

He looked back to Sara. “I should go.”

“Well then, go.”

He nodded slowly, saddened by Quinn’s death. They had been close for a time, but life got busy and their visits weaned off to non-existence—Sean’s fault, not Quinn’s. But he still remembered their first meeting like it was yesterday. It was around Christmas, and he was only a beat cop at the time.

Guest Post, Spotlight & Giveaway: TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST by Leslie Budewitz

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, Leslie Budewitz is my guest today. She’s here to tell us about her most recent release, Treble at the Jam Fest, and share a few insights into how she creates the characters and stories in her books.


On the Job Training 

Astute readers have noticed that though I’m a lawyer by day, my characters have far more interesting jobs. Why, they ask?

LeslieBBecause part of the fun of writing fiction is to explore lives I haven’t lived. That may mean living in a one-room log cabin, on a houseboat, or in a million-dollar lakeside dream home, none of which I’ve done. Yet. It may mean imagining a thirty-year career as a chef or a banker, a life on stage playing the guitar or singing opera, or the trials and tribulations of a police officer or sheriff’s deputy. Or it may mean being a 33-year-old woman running a specialty local foods grocery in her family’s hundred-year-old grocery, as Erin Murphy, the main character in my Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, does.

As a former teenage bookseller, I know just enough about retail to be dangerous. Or more accurately, to observe, and to get people to tell me their stories. Mr. Right and I live in a lakeside resort community in northwestern Montana on the road to Glacier National Park—oh, gosh, that could also describe Jewel Bay, the Food Lovers’ Village! It’s a tourist town, and we’re friends with the folks who run the restaurants and art galleries, the children’s shop, the kitchen store, the bar, even the Playhouse. The liquor store and jam shop owners are pals, and we quite enjoy the man who runs the community foundation, as well as the hoteliers. And the man who runs the gas station—well, you can’t like them all, can you?

Everywhere I go, I listen and learn—and some of those conversations and characters wriggle their way onto my pages.

It’s all about keeping your eyes and ears open. Thinking about what a gallery owner does all day. Watching the barista’s movements, and how she handles the customer who can’t make up her mind. Figuring out who does what in the restaurant, and what conflicts might arise. Picturing what might go wrong when you host a food lovers’ film festival, or run a summer arts fair that takes over the village streets. (Hint: those screens are fragile, and when the signs say no vehicle traffic after 7:30 a.m., yes, that means you, too, Mr. Beer Truck Driver!)

And imagining all the pressures on the board of directors of a music festival as the final details come together—and when the star performer dies.

For my characters who slave over hot stoves, I read a lot of “chef lit”—kitchen memoirs and exposes. I’ve pored over blogs and online magazines for the trendy new foods, and the newest business terminology—because Erin would know it. I’ve even dabbled in spreadsheets and timeline software, because she adores that sort of thing, and finds it most useful in investigating.

I’ve had the same fun with my Spice Shop series, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. I fell in love with the Market as a college student, and ate my way through it both then and a few years later, when I was a young downtown lawyer. And while the real spice shop was my entrée into flavors and big enticement to learn to cook, I’d never worked in one. So I went in and asked questions: What’s the best part of working here? The hardest part? Your favorite spice? And when I met Amanda Bevill, owner of World Spice Merchants on Western Ave, just below the Market, all my prayers and questions were answered!

But about those lawyers. They love mystery and crime fiction, and it wouldn’t be fair to leave them out entirely. In the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Bill Schmidt is a lawyer turned herbalist and acupuncturist and—well, no spoilers, right? But he always answers Erin’s questions, even when he doesn’t like what she does with the info!

Pepper Reece loved her job as staff HR manager for a massive Seattle law firm that imploded in scandal. When her job evaporated, she bought a spice shop in the Pike Place Market. (Wouldn’t you?) Traumatic as such things are, I knew the lawyers would land on their feet. But what about the staff? I was far more interested in the choices they might make. Pepper keeps in touch with them, and they often give her leads or critical information. One even runs a mystery bookshop.

Hmm, now there’s a career I might actually consider.


TREBlecoverAbout Treble at the Jam Fest

Erin Murphy, manager of Murphy’s Mercantile (aka the Merc), is tuning up for Jewel Bay’s annual Jazz Festival. Between keeping the Merc’s shelves stocked with Montana’s tastiest local fare and hosting the festival’s kick-off concert, Erin has her hands full.

Discord erupts when jazz guitarist Gerry Martin is found dead on the rocks above the Jewel River. The one-time international sensation had fallen out of sync with festival organizers, students, and performers. Was his death an accident—or did someone even the score?

Despite the warning signs to not get involved, Erin investigates. And when the killer attacks, she orchestrates her efforts into one last crescendo, hoping to avoid a deadly finale.

Purchase Links:   Amazon    B&N     Kobo

Giveaway

Click to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for chance to win a print copy of Treble at the Jam Fest.

About the Author

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Connect with her on her website, http://www.LeslieBudewitz.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter.