Cozy Happenings – November 2018

This month’s  “Cozy Happenings” post highlights some of the new releases and deals from my author friends. Hope it helps you find something great to read.

Recent or Upcoming Releases – Check’em Out!

Nov-New-freezer  Nov-new-ccc  NOv_pre+Cloud9  Nov-pre0rderNoel  Nov-preoder=yule  Nov-preorder=nc17Nov-FFs

Free or Discounted Books

Nov-sale-bestinshow  Nov-sale-KR  Nov-Sale=Town  Nov-sale-annetan

Happy reading! 

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Review & Giveaway: DEATH, DIAMONDS, AND FREEZER BURN by Tricia L. Sanders

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As part of a tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I recently had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Death, Diamonds, and Freezer Burn: A Grime Pays Mystery, by Tricia L. Sanders.

Description

An unwelcome visitor, an unrequited love, and a dead body create chaos in a middle-aged woman’s plan for a productive summer.

DeathDiamondsFreezerB2_850Despite a looming divorce, an empty checkbook, and a struggling cleaning business, Cece Cavanaugh is determined to land on her own two feet. Adamant about staying a safe distance from the handsome detective who has her fantasizing about violating the morals clause in her prenuptial agreement, Cece dives headlong into her work.

Even though she has no free time to spare, Cece finds herself guilted into cleaning a hoarder’s home. Her discoveries in the condemned house are too shocking to ignore. Diamond-laden pachyderms, a secret cache of money, and a dead body lure Cece into launching an investigation that places her in direct contact with the one person she’s desperate to avoid–hunky Detective Case Alder.

With clues in hand, Cece runs down leads and eliminates suspects one by one. Her conclusion and brave accusation put a friend’s life in peril forcing Cece to hatch a plan to outsmart the killer. A daring move could either save Cece and her friend or lead to their demise.

My Review

I really enjoyed meeting up with Cece again as she continues to assert her independence while attempting to solve another mystery. She is good hearted and quick to help others, even an obnoxious woman she doesn’t particularly like.  Cece and her cohorts are well-developed characters and it was interesting to see how their relationships developed over time.   The plot was fairly intricate with a mix of somewhat predictable and totally unpredictable revelations about the diamonds, the dead body, and more.   This  well-paced mystery is likely to please fans of cozy mysteries.

Although this is the second book in the Grime Pays Mystery series, it can be read as a standalone.  Nonetheless, you might also enjoy reading the first one – Murder is a Dirty Business, which I reviewed on this blog earlier this year.

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.

Purchase link:  Amazon

Giveaway

Click to enter a rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a Kindle copy of Murder is a Dirty Business.

About the Author

TriciaSandersTricia L. Sanders writes cozy mysteries and women’s fiction. She adds a dash of romance and a sprinkling of snark to raise the stakes. Her heroines are humorous women embarking on journeys of self-discovery all the while doing so with class, sass, and a touch of kickass.

Tricia is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan, so don’t get between her and the television when a game is on. Currently, she is working on a mystery series set in the fictional town of Wickford, Missouri. Another project in the works is a women’s fiction road trip adventure.

A former instructional designer and corporate trainer, she traded in curriculum writing for novel writing, because she hates bullet points and loves to make stuff up. And fiction is more fun than training guides and lesson plans.

Author Links

Guest Post & Giveaway: THE SPIRIT IN QUESTION by Cynthia Kuhn

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As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I am happy to host Cynthia Kuhn on my blog today.  She is here to tell us about her writing and her recent release, The Spirit in Question.


Surprise! I’m in Your Book by Cynthia Kuhn

Recently, the family went back to my grad school—which I haven’t visited in about 15 years — for a sporting event. When we arrived at the center of campus, I realized with a jolt that the beautiful building facing us, where I had happily attended many classes, may have (subconsciously) been the inspiration for Randsworth Hall in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series.

Building

In the books, Randsworth is described this way:

We headed out of Crandall Hall and kept to the outer perimeter sidewalk, passing Randsworth, the colossal building that housed the chancellor and other administrative VIPs. Crandall’s columns, while moderately impressive, were nothing compared to the embellishments of Randsworth, which could have been a cathedral with its lavish turrets, spires, and other ornamentations. Presiding over campus directly across the circle from the entry gates, Randsworth announced its own importance. – The Semester of Our Discontent

I passed the administration building, Randsworth Hall, which dominated the north side of campus. The gargoyles perched on the edge of the upper levels appealed to my Gothic sensibilities. Though many found their existence baffling and inexplicable, my humble opinion was that they added a certain whimsical charm to the campus. The designer had been a close friend of the university founder, Jeremiah Randsworth, and had been given carte blanche. He was also responsible for the pair of stone gryphons positioned at Stonedale’s main gates as well as the underground passageways linking many of the buildings together—though not everyone knew about those. – The Art of Vanishing

Obviously the building in the picture does not have numerous turrets, spires, or gargoyles. But I still feel as though the real building and the fictional building are related. It’s difficult to articulate, but it has something to do with aura. (Can a building have an aura? Let’s say yes and move on.)

To me, they both exude the same sort of presence: an undeniable embeddedness within the landscape. They clearly belong where they are. And since Lila—a new assistant professor in book one—is unsure whether she fits into the community, Randsworth serves as a visual counterpoint for her ongoing emotional journey in some ways. If you’d asked me before I went back to campus, I wouldn’t have even known that there was a connection.

Immediately second-guessing myself now. What does it mean that they “belong”? Doesn’t every building? They’re put there on purpose.

I know, I know. All I can say is that when I caught a glimpse of that building, I gasped and took a picture.

Yes, of its aura. If that’s a thing.

If not, we can just admire the blue skies…


About The Spirit in Question

EnglisSpirith professor Lila Maclean knew drama would be involved when she agreed to consult on Stonedale University’s production of Puzzled: The Musical.

But she didn’t expect to find herself cast into such chaos: the incomprehensible play is a disaster, the crumbling theater appears to be haunted, and, before long, murder takes center stage.

The show must go on—yet as they speed toward opening night, it becomes clear that other members of the company may be targeted as well. Lila searches for answers while contending with a tenacious historical society, an eccentric playwright, an unsettling psychic, an enigmatic apparition, and a paranormal search squad.

With all of this in play, will she be able to identify who killed her colleague…or will it soon be curtains for Lila too?

Giveaway

Click here to enter a rafflecopter for a chance to win any two Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries (ebook) and a $25 Amazon gift card.

About the Author

CynthiaKuhnCynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series: The Semester of Our Discontent, an Agatha Award recipient for Best First Novel; The Art of Vanishing, a Lefty Award nominee for Best Humorous Mystery; and The Spirit in Question. She teaches in Denver, serves as president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado, and blogs with Chicks on the Case. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.

Author Links

 Purchase Links

Amazon   B&N     Kobo  BookBub

Release Spotlight, Review & Giveaway: MURDER AT ARCHLY MANOR by Sara Rosett

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As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, today’s post spotlights Murder At Archly Manor, the first installment in a new historical cozy mystery series by USA Today bestselling author Sara Rosett.   As a fan of both cozies and historical fiction, I was glad for a chance to read it.

Description

A high-society murder. A spirited lady detective. Can she out-class the killer before an innocent person takes the fall?

HS-1-Archly-1London, 1923. Olive Belgrave needs a job. Despite her aristocratic upbringing, she’s penniless. Determined to support herself, she jumps at an unconventional job—looking into the background of her cousin’s fiancé, Alfred. He burst into the upper crust world of London’s high society, but his answers to questions about his past are decidedly vague.

Before Olive can gather more than the basics, a murder occurs at a posh party. Suddenly, every Bright Young Person in attendance is a suspect, and Olive must race to find the culprit because a sly murderer is determined to make sure Olive’s first case is her last.

Murder at Archly Manor is the first in the High Society Lady Detective series of charming historical cozy mysteries. If you like witty banter, glamorous settings, and delightful plot twists, you’ll love USA Today bestselling author Sara Rosett’s series for Anglophiles and mystery lovers alike. Travel back to the Golden Age of detective fiction with Murder at Archly Manor.

My Review

I really enjoyed this book, which transports the reader back almost a century to the era of flappers and vaudeville. The author did a fine job of creating a mystery set in British society in the 1920s.  The descriptions of the clothing and settings gave a good feel for the times without getting long-winded.

From the onset of the story, I found myself rooting for Olive as she struggles to support herself in a time when well-bred, independent working females – or should I say ladies – were not the norm.  Olive is sweet and spunky at the same time, and very loyal to her cousins, who are better situated in life.

Quirky and mysterious characters, secrets that must be kept at all costs, and an interesting,  somewhat unpredictable plot made for a very enjoyable read.  I look forward to reading more about Olive and her adventures in the future.FTC Disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this book without obligation and have voluntarily chosen to share my honest review.

Giveaway

Click to enter a rafflecopter for a chance to win a spectacular Prize Package, including a signed print copy of Murder at Archly Manor and more.

About the Author

SARA-ROSETTUSA Today bestselling author Sara Rosett writes light-hearted escapes for readers who enjoy puzzling mysteries, interesting settings, and quirky characters.

She is the author of the Murder on Location series, the Ellie Avery series, the On the Run series, and the High Society Lady Detective series. Sara also teaches an online course, How to Outline A Cozy Mystery.

Publishers Weekly called Sara’s books, “satisfying,” “well-executed,” and “sparkling.” Sara loves to get new stamps in her passport and considers dark chocolate a daily requirement. Find out more at SaraRosett.com.

Author Links:

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Release Spotlight, Review & Giveaway: THE PERFECT BODY by Frankie Bow

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As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, today’s post features a new cozy mystery release – The Perfect Body – the latest Professor Molly Mystery by Frankie Bow.

Perfect-Body-FrontDescription

When Professor Molly attends Mahina State University’s exclusive donor dinner, she doesn’t expect to have to share a table with the insufferable Stephen Park. Turns out it’s one thing to invite your toxic ex-boyfriend to drop dead…it’s quite another when he takes you up on it.

My Review

I like Molly. She is smart. Of course, she feels bad when Stephen Park is found dead but what really gets her going is the possibility that someone might try to pin his death on her husband, Donnie. In between juggling care for her infant daughter and catching up on paperwork, she is determined to root out the truth. And her wardrobe mishaps definitely added a touch of humor.

The characters are diverse and interesting, each with his/her own personalities, including Stephen and his date, Bee. Not to mention Molly’s best friend and partner-in-crime, Emma.

The plot moved along at a steady pace, with several plot twists on route to its final resolution. Overall, this is a pleasant and well written read for cozy mystery fans.

This is the eighth book in the Professor Molly  series, but it can definitely be read as a standalone.

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

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter for a chance to win a Professor Molly mystery.

About the Author

AuthorPhotoLike Professor Molly, Frankie Bow teaches at a public university. Unlike her protagonist, she is blessed with delightful students, sane colleagues, and a perfectly nice office chair. She believes if life isn’t fair, at least it can be entertaining. In addition to writing murder mysteries, she publishes in scholarly journals under her real name. Her experience with academic publishing has taught her to take nothing personally.

Author Links

Purchase Link:  books2read.com/PerfectBody

Review & Giveaway: FINDERS, NOT KEEPERS by D.E. Haggerty

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As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, today’s post spotlights Finders, Not Keepers (A Not So Reluctant Detective Mystery) by D. E. Haggerty.

Description

What do you do with a diamond no one wants? You can’t keep it. Or can you?

FNK4While cleaning her ex-husband’s effects out of the attic, Terri finds an exquisite diamond pendant necklace. She’s determined to return the necklace to its proper owner, but the owner was brutally killed, a murder which remains unsolved, and her heirs want nothing to do with the diamond. Terri embarks upon a journey researching charities to which she can donate the diamond. When her research becomes dangerous, Terri contemplates solving the murder herself. Her best friend, Melanie, jumps feet first into investigating the murder, but her neighbor, Ryder, doesn’t want Terri exposed to any danger. Ryder, to Terri’s surprise, also wants to be more than neighbors with Terri. Luckily, he’s prepared to take any measure necessary to keep her safe because someone is determined to stop her inquiries.

Join Terri on her quest to find a home for the diamond, which may result in the unveiling of a murderer – if she survives long enough.

My Review

I liked Terri and Melanie and the friendship between the two women. Terry is still recovering from her divorce and her friend is very supportive.   As implied by title of this new series, Terri is not particularly reluctant to take matters into her own hands when she finds out that  diamond’s owner was murdered.  She wants to do the “right” thing.  If only it was that simple.  She decides to find the killer herself. Melanie is all for it.  Ryder, her hunky neighbor, is vehement in his opposition. I wanted to like Ryder, however his macho and patronizing attitude annoyed me too much.  Having a guy like that tell me what I should or shouldn’t do would be enough to make me do the opposite. Of course, Terri doesn’t listen and finds herself in hot water.  The mystery took an interesting course and came to a satisfactory resolution.  A nice choice for cozy mystery lovers.

Giveaway

Click to enter a rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card from the author.

About the Author

DEHAggertyI grew up reading everything I could get my grubby hands on, from my mom’s Harlequin romances to Nancy Drew, to Little Women. When I wasn’t flipping pages in a library book, I was penning horrendous poems, writing songs no one should ever sing, or drafting stories which have thankfully been destroyed. College and a stint in the U.S. Army came along, robbing me of free time to write and read, although on the odd occasion I did manage to sneak a book into my rucksack between rolled up socks, MRIs, t-shirts, and cold weather gear. After surviving the army experience, I went back to school and got my law degree. I jumped ship and joined the hubby in the Netherlands before the graduation ceremony could even begin. A few years into my legal career, I was exhausted, fed up, and just plain done. I quit my job and sat down to write a manuscript, which I promptly hid in the attic after returning to the law. But practicing law really wasn’t my thing, so I quit (again!) and went off to Germany to start a B&B. Turns out running a B&B wasn’t my thing either. I polished off that manuscript languishing in the attic before following the husband to Istanbul where I decided to give the whole writer-thing a go. But ten years was too many to stay away from my adopted home. I packed up again and moved to The Hague where I’m currently working on my next book. I hope I’ll always be working on my next book.

Finders, Not Keepers is my thirteenth novel.

Author Links
Website  –  Blog  – Facebook – Twitter  – Instagram  – Goodreads
Amazon author page – Newsletter signup – Google+  – Pinterest – BookBub

Purchase Links
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Guest Post & Giveaway: DEATH SAID THE GYPSY QUEEN by Susan Boles

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As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I am thrilled to have mystery author, Susan Boles, as my guest.  She’s here to tell us about the power of rumors and about her recently released book, Death Said the Gypsy Queen (A Lily Gayle Lambert Mystery). Sounds like a spooky read in time for Halloween.


Rumor Has It by Susan Boles

The power of rumor has been known for a very long time. And the power of rumor in a small town is like a match to kindling. The flames jump high and fast and truth is often lost in the conflagration.

Being from a small town originally, where my family has lived for generations, gives me insight into how the rumor mill works up close. Here’s an example of one that doesn’t exist anymore, but was the bane of my teenage years.

When I was a growing up, most of the people in my area had party line telephones. For those of you scratching your head – these had nothing to do with a party and everything to do with fueling the local rumor mill.

A party line telephone was one where multiple households were on the same line and each home had a particular set of rings to let them know someone was calling them. The ring for my house was two shorts and a long. And, yes, it worked exactly like is sounds. Two short rings followed by one long ring.

Any other combination was for another home. And all of us knew what combination of rings went with which home. And, if you very quietly picked up the phone at your house, you could listen in to every word of every conversation taking place. Night or day. See how that rumor mill worked back then?

That particular rumor mill option no longer exists. But, I think Facebook may run a nice second. Have you noticed, something that can be taken as a personal insult or construed as being a cut against someone is posted and folks are off to the races on the rumor mill.

In Death said the Gypsy Queen, the fourth book in the Lily Gayle Lambert mystery series, I use the local rumor mill as a backdrop to create momentum in the story line. The prophecy of the fortune-teller combines with a secret that’s rumbling underground just waiting to explode into danger for all of our favorite characters.

About Death Said the Gypsy Queen

DeathGypsyQueencover“Beware the sign of the vampire blood,” said the fortune teller. “It brings madness and turmoil.”

Lily Gayle knows what that means, but, for the life of her, can’t figure out how the fortune teller does. A quick road trip with Dixie. An unplanned stop at a roadside park. And, an hour later a dead body. Lily Gayle, Dixie and Miss Edna find themselves knee deep in another homicide investigation when the local vet assistant turns up dead behind an outbuilding at the farmers market.

Lily Gayle believes the words of the fortune teller will have a major impact on the investigation but can’t bring herself to tell the other ladies. To reveal what she believes the words mean might bring trouble to another old friend. And would betray a trust. Only Ben knows and he, as usual, advises Lily Gayle to stay out of his investigation – which she isn’t about to do.

When the secret is revealed, the townspeople go mad and the fortune tellers words come true. Can Lily Gayle, Dixie and Miss Edna solve the murder before more people are harmed?

Purchase linkAmazon

Giveaway

Click to enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win a tote bag, an autographed paperback of Death of a Wolfman, a flour sack kitchen towel with the logo on it and four custom bookmarks with a charm featuring the cover of each of the four Lily Gayle Lambert books.

About the Author

Susan is the award-winning author of the Lily Gayle Lambert Mystery Series and a contributing author to the Brotherhood Protectors World.

Susan-Best-Head-ShotA lifelong long love of all things mysterious led Susan to write cozy mysteries. Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden were the first to show her that girls can be crime solvers. Agatha Christie showed her that even small towns have big secrets. And Phryne Fisher showed her lady detectives can be outrageously individual. She lives in Mississippi with her rescue mini dachshund, Lucy, and her rescue cat of no particular breed, Zimba. She currently writes the Lily Gayle Lambert mystery series set in the fictional town of Mercy, Mississippi featuring a multi-generational cast of female sleuths and romantic suspense in the Brotherhood Protectors Kindle World.

Susan writes mysteries and set in the big city of Memphis, TN and the fictional small town of Mercy, Mississippi.

Connect with Susan:
Susan loves to hear from readers and book lovers! Visit her website at http://www.susanbolesauthor.com  or drop her a line at susan@susanbolesauthor.com

Author Links: Website  Twitter – @SusanBAuthor – Blog – Facebook – Linked In – GoodReads Instagram – Pinterest – Bookbub

Review & Giveaway: K STREET KILLING by Colleen J. Shogan

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As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I recently read a new mystery set in one of my favorite places – Washington, D.C.  Released this past summer,  K Street Killing  is the fourth book in Colleen J. Shogan Washington Whodunit series.

Description

KStreetCoverIt’s the height of campaign season, and instead of relishing newlywed bliss with her husband Doug Hollingsworth, Capitol Hill staffer Kit Marshall is busy with a tough reelection fight for her boss, member of Congress Maeve Dixon. Before Maeve and her staff–Kit included–leave Washington, D.C. to campaign full time in North Carolina, they have one last fundraising engagement.

On the iconic rooftop of a restaurant overlooking the Capitol and the Washington monument, Kit and her best pal Meg do their best to woo wealthy lobbyists for sizable campaign donations. Everyone’s enjoying the evening soiree until a powerful K Street tycoon mysteriously tumbles off the rooftop. Even with claims the fall must be suicide, Detective Maggie Glass and Kit aren’t so easily convinced foul play isn’t at work. While balancing Doug’s mid-life career crisis, Kit must spring into action to discover who killed the notorious Van Parker before Dixon’s candidacy sputters, even if it means investigating Meg’s handsome new beau, the victim’s conniving widow, and a bicycle advocate hell-bent on settling a long-standing grudge. When threatening note is left on Kit’s car, warning her to back off the investigation, she knows she’s closing in on the true story of what happened.

My Review

This well written mystery provides an interesting glimpse into the world of congressional staffers and their interactions with lobbyists. Kit Marshall is single-minded in her determination to wrap up the murder investigation and get back to her boss’s campaign. She actively seeks to identify the killer, even though it should be the police’s job.  I found the detective’s acceptance of her meddling to be a bit unrealistic.   Nonetheless, the well-paced plot held my interest throughout.  I found the setup leading to the mystery’s resolution reminiscent of Agatha Christie and other traditional mystery writers. And, of course, I loved Clarence and his antics.

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.

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

About the Author

KShogan_authorpicColleen J. Shogan has been reading mysteries since the age of six. She conceived of the plot of her first mystery one morning while taking a walk in her suburban Washington, D.C. neighborhood. A political scientist, she previously worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate and as the Deputy Director of the Congressional Research Service. She is currently a senior executive at the Library of Congress who works on great initiatives such as the National Book Festival. Colleen lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Rob and their beagle mutt Conan. She is the recipient of the Next Generation Indie Prize for Best Mystery.

Author Links

Purchase Links:  Amazon  B&N

Click here to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour.

Release Spotlight & Excerpt: A NEW PLACE, ANOTHER MURDER by Christa Nardi

As a fan of Christa Nardi’s Cold Creek Mystery series, I was glad to hear that the main character,  Prof. Sheridan Hendley, is back in A New Place, Another Murder (A Sheridan Hendley Mystery Book 1), which was released last month.

Description

NewplaceSometimes you need to be careful what you wish for.
Pretty much settled into her new home in Appomattox with Brett and his daughter, Sheridan longs for something to keep her busy.  That is, until Maddie and her new friend are framed for theft and murder.  Not quite the distraction she had hoped for, but she’ll turn over every rock to prove their innocence.  In the process, she learns about the powerful Buchanan family and the history of the local community.  Will the truth come out before the person calling the shots takes Sheridan and Maddie out of the picture?

You can get your copy of A New Place, Another Murder on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DZDQWW4/

About the Author

Christa Nardi is an accomplished author of cozy mysteries. Christa’s background is in higher education and psychology, much as her protagonist, Sheridan Hendley in the Cold Creek mystery series.

012.jpgMurder at Cold Creek College is the first in this series set in a small, fictitious town in Virginia and Sheridan is an accidental sleuth called on to assist the detective in charge of a colleague’s murder. The fifth and last in the series, Murder and a Wedding, was released on August 10, 2017. Sheridan may be moving, but she still gets involved in mysteries.

The first book in her Stacie Maroni series, Prestige, Privilege and Murder, was released in January 2018, and feature a strong female at a crossroads in her life.  A second book is expected to release early this fall.

In addition, Christa collaborates with Cassidy Salem on a YA mystery series featuring teen sisters. The first book, The Mysterious Package – A Hannah and Tamar Mystery, was released in October 2016. The second, Mrs. Tedesco’s Missing Cookbook, was released in April 2017. The Misplaced Dog was added in August 2017. The fourth in the series, Malicious Mischief released in April 2018.

You can contact Christa via twitter @ChristaN7777 or via email: cccnardi@gmail.com or on her blog christanardi.blogspot.com.  Sign up for her monthly newsletter at http://smarturl.it/NardiNewsletter

Read an excerpt from A New Place, Another Murder:

My complaints to my close friend, Kim, about boredom were interrupted by the slamming of the front door and I ended my call. Probably something I’d have to get used to as step-mom to a teenager. In the kitchen, I found Maddie, her backpack thrown on the floor. She was stomping around the counter island, her face in a pout.

“What’s up Maddie?”

“You won’t believe what happened today. It’s unbelievable. I still can’t believe it and I was there.”

Her voice rose an octave as she vented and I had no clue what she was talking about. Maddie went to a variety of activities during the week. They were called “camps” but that seemed a misnomer to me. Robotics, theater, and computers were not quite what I thought of as a “camp.” I waited a few seconds and she ranted some more.

“Alex was accused of stealing money from the office. It was in his backpack, but he didn’t steal it. They didn’t even give him a chance to explain. They called his mom and took him away. He was mortified.”

“Calm down and help me understand. Can we back up please? Who’s Alex?”

“He’s one of the kids attending all these camps with me. Of all the kids, he’s been the nicest to me. I don’t understand why they don’t believe he had no idea how the money got in his backpack.”

She finally simmered down and plopped into a chair, a grimace on her face.

“You may be upset for nothing. Once they got him to the station with his parents and got more information, they may have figured out they made a mistake. But why would they think he stole the money and why are you so sure he didn’t do it?”

“I don’t understand why they picked on him. The officer walked in and asked for him. Then asked where his backpack was. Alex pointed to his pack and the officer went over, opened it and pulled out an envelope and money fell out. It wasn’t even hidden. Then they grabbed him. He looked around but nobody helped him. I didn’t know what to do to help him.”

“What makes you think he’s innocent? How else would it get in his backpack?”

“You don’t understand! Alex’s nice. He … He wouldn’t do that.”

“How do you think the money ended up in his backpack then?”

“I’m not sure and Dad says I shouldn’t accuse people without facts. When the police came and asked for Alex, two other boys snickered and fist-bumped. I think they set him up. All our backpacks stay in the main room while we go in and out. They could have stolen the money and stuck it in his pack. Then they must have called the police and made an anonymous report or something. We’ve got to help him.” She stomped around the kitchen some more and kicked her backpack.

“Maddie, is your backpack in the same place as Alex’s and the others’?”

She turned to me and nodded. “Yeah, why? They’re all together in the main room.”

“Humor me, okay? Can you dump everything out of your backpack and make sure that the only things in there really belong to you?”

I cleaned off the table and she emptied her back pack onto the table. Books, brush, hair ties, crumpled up papers, pens, pencils, stale cookie, and an envelope.

“What? Where did that come from?” Her eyes opened wide. She went to grab the envelope and I caught her hand.

“Don’t touch it. You don’t know where the envelope came from or what’s inside?”

She shook her head, eyes wide. “Am I going to get arrested now, too?”

“I don’t think it will come to that. Your dad will be home in a little while and we’ll show him what we found. He’ll decide what to do. But don’t touch the envelope in case there are fingerprints or something else that might help identify who handled that envelope, okay?”

She nodded and sat down, staring at the mess.

“Is that everything? What about the pockets? Everything out, even the crumbs.” I realized this was going to be the cleanest this backpack had been since she got it almost a year ago. Maddie emptied and gasped as she found another envelope in one of the outside pockets.

“Sheridan, there’s another one here. Oh, no, I touched the edge!”

“It’s okay. Let me see if I can find something…” I rummaged through the kitchen drawer and pulled out serving tongs. “I’ll use these tongs and pull it the rest of the way out.” It took a few tries, but I managed to get the envelope out and dropped it with the other one. Then I released the tongs and left them on top.

“Now what?”

“Why don’t you go through all the stuff you just dumped here and either throw it away or put it back in the backpack. Except the two envelopes. In the meantime, I’ll work on finishing up the meatloaf and potatoes for dinner. Later, after we talk to your Dad, you might wipe the whole thing down with a sanitizer.”

She made a face. “This cookie doesn’t look so good. Did you make any more today?”

I looked at the cookie she’d picked up out of the pile. “That one bit the dust. Yes, there are more cookies over on the counter – only one, please. We’ll be eating in an hour.”
Somehow, my boring day seemed preferable to the drama. The idea of the camps was giving Maddie something to do. A big benefit, the camps provided an opportunity for her to make friends before starting at her new middle school in the fall. As with most 13-year-olds, middle school was a big deal. It was convenient she attended the camps at Clover Leaf Middle School where she’d be a student. And it had been working until then.

***

Maddie and I finished the dinner preparation and set the table as Brett pulled in the driveway. He raked his hand through his dark curly hair. That was a sure sign that he was tired or stressed. This situation with Maddie would push him over the edge, likely add a few gray hairs. Meeting him at the door, we kissed and that at least brought a smile to his eyes.

“Hungry?”

He looked past me to Maddie. I followed his gaze. Shoulders dropped and mouth quivering, she’d lost her independent teen, “I can take on the world” attitude.

“What’s wrong?”

He’d barely got the words out and she was in his arms, sobbing. Her long brown hair fell over her shoulders.

“Maddie’s friend, Alex, is in trouble. He’s been accused of stealing money. Maddie thinks he’s been arrested. The police found an envelope with money in his backpack.”

“Do you want me to see if I can find out what happened with your friend?” He caught my expression and his jaw clenched. “That’s not all, is it?”

“Afraid not. Maddie is sure he was set up, that somebody put the envelope in his backpack. When she told me both their backpacks were unattended in the room, I had her empty out hers. We found two envelopes that aren’t hers.”

His jaw clenched, he mumbled. “We’ll figure this out. Let me call Chief Peabody and have him send someone over.”

“I’ll finish putting dinner on the table. I imagine they’ll be tied up for a while.”
Brett nodded and walked down the hall to our office. Maddie moved as if to follow him and I stopped her. “He’ll take care of it and you can help me in the kitchen.”

A few minutes later, he joined us. “There was a shooting. It’ll be a while. Envelopes under the tongs?”

“We used the tongs so we wouldn’t touch them.”

He nodded. It was a quiet dinner, the envelopes grabbing our attention and dampening our usual dinnertime banter. We cleaned up and waited.

A New Place, Another Murder. Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved.

Spotlight, Excerpt & Giveaway: TAIL OF THE DRAGON by Connie di Marco

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As part of a blog tour organized by Partners in Crime, today’s post turns the spotlight on a recent release – Tail of the Dragon (A Zodiac Mystery) by Connie di Marco.

Description

TailofDragonCover.pngSan Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never thought murder would be part of her practice, but now, Julia’s former boss and current client has asked for help. He has serious problems at his law firm. Two attorneys and a paralegal have received death threats and the only common denominator between all three is a case long settled — the highly publicized Bank of San Francisco fire. Julia’s convinced a woman is behind the threats, perhaps even the widow of the man who died in that same fire, but no one wants to listen — they can’t believe astrology could provide a clue. Before Julia can help her client, two lawyers are dead and her own life is threatened. Can she unmask the killer before he (or she) takes another life?

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Giveaway

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Read an Excerpt

The doorbell rang. I hurried down the stairs to the front door. I hesitated as I saw a woman’s figure through the glass. Maggie. It was Maggie. I threw the door open and we hugged. Michael’s sister and I got along famously from the first time we met. Maggie probably understands better than anyone how I feel and even though we don’t stay in touch as much as we used to, every time we meet it’s as though no time has elapsed at all. I stepped back and took a good look at her. She wasn’t smiling. “Maggie? What is it?”

“Can I come in?”

“Of course. Yes.” She was quiet as we climbed the stairs. She headed straight for the kitchen and sat down at the table. I joined her. “What’s wrong?”

“Something’s come up.”

“About …”

“Yes,” she didn’t have to say it. I knew she meant Michael.

“What’s happened?” Part of me hoped against hope that we might find an answer some day, another part of me just wanted the sadness and unknowingness to go away.

“Let me try to tell you in some kind of order.” She took a deep breath. “Do you remember the elderly man who used to live across the street from Michael’s old apartment?”

I nodded. I did remember. Michael’s apartment at 45th and Taraval was just a few blocks from my old place in the Sunset District. “Michael and I used to see him when he walked his dog. And then . . .” I shrugged, “there was a time when we didn’t see him as much.”

“Well, I think what happened was his son took the dog because it became too much for the old guy. But the dad didn’t want to leave his home so the family arranged some care and a companion for him.” I waited, not sure what Maggie’s story had to do with Michael. “Apparently, the old man was always taking pictures. He wasn’t any kind of a real photographer, but he liked to do that. He was always fooling around with his camera.”

“Yes, I remember now. He’d even take pictures of the flowers in his yard.”

“He died a couple of weeks ago. And his son and his daughter-in-law are putting the house up for sale. They’ve been there every day, moving stuff out and selling a few things to the neighbors. The thing is . . . they found a box of photos. The father didn’t like digital cameras, he had an old camera that he used and then he’d …

“Maggie …” I couldn’t imagine where she was going with this story.

“They found a photo of Michael. On the street. Just as that car hit him.”

I gasped and covered my mouth. My heart was racing wildly.

“He saw. He saw who hit Michael?”

“He must have. He must have tried to take a picture of what happened from his window.”

“Why didn’t he ever say anything?”

Maggie shook her head. “I don’t know. I really don’t. Maybe he didn’t want to get involved. Maybe he was afraid he’d have to testify.”

As much as I dreaded looking at anything Maggie had described, I still needed to see the photo. “Do you have it with you?”

“I don’t. The old man’s son and his wife knew what it was. They didn’t know Michael, but they knew there had been a hit and run in the neighborhood and that someone had died, so they turned it over to the police.”

“Have you seen it?”

“Yes, they showed it to me and my mother. She’s hysterical right now.” Celia, Michael’s mother had refused to speak to me since his death. She wasn’t on firm ground to begin with but after the accident, in her convoluted logic, she blamed me for her loss. If he hadn’t been in such a hurry to meet me, he would have been more careful. He wouldn’t have been killed.

“I can imagine.” I didn’t envy Maggie the emotional turmoil she must be dealing with.

“I told you before, Julia, she’s made a shrine of Michael’s room and I’m so worried about her. She never wants to go out or do anything. Once in a while I manage to drag her to a restaurant for brunch or something, but even her old friends have given up calling her.”

“What can they tell from the photo?”

“Not much, it’s not digital and it’s old. He had an old Nikon, I think, so they can’t see very much. Michael is lying on his side on the street and …” Maggie’s voice shook, “and you can just see the edge of the car. It’s dark or black and there’s a bit of a bumper and the corner of the right rear tire. The police think the driver must have panicked and took off. The old guy might have been looking out his window when it happened and snapped it really quick. They’re going to try to get as much information from it as they can, but they don’t really hold out much hope.”

“Who’s in charge of this?”

“Actually, a retired detective has volunteered to work on it. The case has never been closed, but this is the first thing they’ve had to go on at all. I can get you the name of the detective in charge, and maybe he’ll give you more information. I’ll find out and let him know you might want to talk to him.”

“Thanks, Maggie.” My heart sank. In all this time, no witnesses to the accident had come forward. One woman at the end of the block remembered a dark vehicle traveling fast, but couldn’t swear it had anything at all to do with the car that hit Michael. “We shouldn’t get our hopes up.”

“I want some answers, Julia!” Maggie’s voice had risen. “And I’m sure you do too. It’s not right. What this has done to our family, to me, to you. All our lives have been changed because of this. I want to see someone pay for what they did.”

I nodded. “I do too. It won’t change anything. It won’t bring him back. But you’re right. We’ve all gone through so much …”

“I have to go.” Maggie stood suddenly and I realized she hadn’t even taken her coat off. “I’m staying at my Mom’s for a little while. I’m so worried about her. I don’t like the thought of her being all alone in that big house.”

“Okay. Stay in touch and let me know what you find out?”

“I will.” Maggie leaned toward me and I put my arms around her, holding her tight. I felt her chest rise, a quiet sob. “I’m sorry to arrive on your doorstep like this, but I had to tell you face to face.”

“I’m glad you did, Maggie. I’m glad you did. And maybe we’ll learn more.”

Maggie pulled away. I could see tears forming in her eyes as she rushed down the stairs.

***

Excerpt from Tail of the Dragon by Connie di Marco. Copyright © 2018 by Connie di Marco. Reproduced with permission from Connie di Marco. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Connie dimarcoConnie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. Tail of the Dragon, third in the series, will be released on August 8, 2018.

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

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