Search This Blog

Friday, December 15, 2017

Honey-Baked Homicide


Honey-Baked Homicide (A Down South Café Mystery)
by Gayle Leeson


Honey-Baked Homicide (A Down South Café Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Setting - Virginia
Berkley (December 5, 2017)
Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1101990827
E-Book ASIN: B06XJM6VGH

The owner of a delightful Southern café tastes the sharp sting of suspicion in this delectable comfort food mystery . . .

It’s fall in Winter Garden, Virginia, and business at Amy Flowers’ Down South Café has never been better. So when struggling beekeeper Stuart Landon asks Amy to sell some of his honey, she’s happy to help. The jars of honey are a sweet success, but their partnership is cut short when Amy discovers Landon’s body outside the café early one morning.

As Amy tries to figure out who could possibly have wanted to harm the unassuming beekeeper, she discovers an ever-expanding list of suspects—and they’re all buzzing mad. She’ll have to use all of her skills—and her Southern charm—to find her way out of this sticky situation...

What I Thought:

 This was another great installment in the Down South Café Mystery Series, and it was just as good and entertaining as the first tow in the series.  I really enjoy visiting Amy and her family and friends and the Down South Café in Winter Garden VA.  In this one, Amy agrees to let a local beekeeper display his honey in her café.  When he winds up dead in her parking lot, she, of course, has to find out who the killer is.  This was another well-written story from Gayle Leeson.  The plot was well thought out and believable.  This one kept me guessing and the ending is a total surprise.

I received a complimentary copy of this book.


About the Author

Gayle Leeson is a pseudonym for Gayle Trent. I also write as Amanda Lee. As Gayle Trent, I write the Daphne Martin Cake Mystery series and the Myrtle Crumb Mystery series. As Amanda Lee, I write the Embroidery Mystery series.
The cake decorating series features a heroine who is starting her life over in Southwest Virginia after a nasty divorce. The heroine, Daphne, has returned to her hometown of Brea Ridge to open a cake baking and decorating business and is wrestling with the question of whether or not one can go home again. She enjoys spending time with her sister, nephew, and niece, but she and her mother have a complicated relationship that isn’t always pleasant. Daphne has also reconnected with her high school sweetheart and is pursuing a rekindled romance while desperately trying to put her past behind her.
Kerry Vincent, Hall of Fame Sugar Artist, Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show Director, and Television Personality says the series is “a must read for cake bakers and anyone who has ever spent creative time in the kitchen!”
Says Dean Koontz, #1 New York Times bestselling author, “One day I found myself happily reading . . . mysteries by Gayle Trent. If she can win me over . . . she’s got a great future.”
The Embroidery Mystery series features a heroine who recently moved to the Oregon coast to open an embroidery specialty shop. Marcy Singer left her home in San Francisco, along with the humiliation of being left at the altar, in order to move to Tallulah Falls and realize her dream of owning her own shop. She takes along her faithful companion, a one-year-old Irish wolfhound named Angus O’Ruff. She makes many new friends in Tallulah Falls, but she also makes a few enemies. Thankfully, her best friend Sadie MacKenzie and her husband Blake run the coffeehouse right down the street from Marcy’s shop, the Seven-Year Stitch; and Detective Ted Nash always has her back.
Publishers Weekly says, “Fans of the genre will take kindly to Marcy, her Irish wolfhound, Angus O’Ruff, and Tallulah Falls. This is a fast, pleasant read with prose full of pop culture references and, of course, sharp needlework puns.”
Pat Cooper of RT Book Reviews says, “If her debut here is any indication, Lee’s new series is going to be fun, spunky and educational. She smoothly interweaves plot with her character’s personality and charm, while dropping tantalizing hints of stitching projects and their history. Marcy Singer is young, fun, sharp and likable. Readers will be looking forward to her future adventures.” (RT Book Reviews nominated The Quick and the Thread for a 2010 Book Reviewers’ Choice Award in the Amateur Sleuth category)
I live in Virginia with my family, which includes her own “Angus” who is not an Irish wolfhound but a Great Pyrenees who provides plenty of inspiration for the character of Mr. O’Ruff. I'm having a blast writing this new series!
Webpage: http://www.gayleleeson.com http://www.gayletrent.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GayleTrentandAmandaLee/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GayleTrent

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gayletrent/pins/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gayletrentleeson/

Purchase Links:

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Character Guest Post – Aunt Bess – Honey-Baked Homicide by Gayle Leeson



Why Don’t Young ‘Uns Trick-or-Treat Anymore?



Back when my daughter Jenna was a little girl, she used to go trick-or-treating with her friends. They'd all gather together--we didn't live here in Winter Garden then, we lived in Pocahontas, Virginia--and go around the neighborhood gathering treats. We all enjoyed the young 'uns showing off their costumes. We didn't care if they were homemade or store-bought outfits, as long as it made the children happy and they could see, hear, and move around all right in them.

The tradition continued a while when Amy was a little girl, but somewhere along the way, trunk-or-treats and going to stores to get treats became the things to do. Of course, you know why stores offer treats to kids--to get their parents through the door to buy something. Trunk-or-treats is a thing they started doing at churches so they could be sure the young 'uns would be safe. That's a sorry commentary on the world when a body can't trust her neighbors to be good to children.

Now when Halloween rolls around, I mostly see costumes on television or online. I don't even recognize most of the characters anymore. Back in my day, you had witches and ghosts, and that was about it. When Jenna was growing up, there was Barbie, Superman, princesses, Dracula.... Jenna got really creative with Amy's costumes. One year, Amy was dressed in purple with balloons taped all over her--she was a bunch of grapes. Another time, she was a sunflower. And she teamed up with three of her friends one year, and they all went as a different color crayon--Amy was pink.

So, tell me, do you still have trick-or-treaters come to your house? And, if so, could you send them my way next year? I miss seeing them.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Of Murder and Men


Of Murder and Men (A Cat Latimer Mystery)
by Lynn Cahoon


Of Murder and Men (A Cat Latimer Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Kensington (November 28, 2017)
Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1496704399
Digital ASIN: B06XFJCBTD
Audio ISBN-13: 978-1541460300

Love is in the air in Aspen Hills, and it’s making a terrible mess of Cat Latimer’s writers’ retreat—especially when blood stains the plot . . .

Ever since her business partner, Shauna, fell for a wealthy landowner in town, Cat has been working double time to keep her writers’ retreat running. And with the January session almost underway, that spells trouble. As if scheduling mishaps aren’t disastrous enough, Shauna skips out on kitchen duties one morning, forcing Cat to serve unsuspecting guests store-bought muffins . . .

But best laid plans really go awry when Shauna discovers her beau missing from their bed. When his body later turns up in the horse barn, they quickly find out the victim’s scandalous lifestyle left many dying for revenge. While balancing an eccentric group of aspiring writers and a suspect list for the record books, Cat soon finds herself on the heels of a killer—and authoring her most deadly conclusion yet . . .
What I Thought:

This was the first in the Cat Latimer Series that I have read, but not the first book by Ms. Cahoon.  She is an excellent writer who and this one was no exception.  This was a fast paced story that kept me turning pages.  It was well written with a well thought out plot.  In this one Cat has to help her friend whose new boyfriend is found dead in a horse barn.  Along with this, Cat is also juggling her aspiring writers group and her own writing.  I enjoyed the setting of this story and also the characters in this one.  There were many twists and turns in this story that kept me guessing.  I look forward to more in this series and will probably read go back and read the first two. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book.



About The Author

Lynn Cahoon is the author of the NYT and USA Today best-selling Tourist Trap cozy mystery series. Guidebook to Murder, book 1 of the series won the Reader’s Crown for Mystery Fiction in 2015. She’s also pens the recently released, Cat Latimer series. She lives in a small town like the ones she loves to write about with her husband and two fur babies. Sign up for her newsletter at www.lynncahoon.com

Author Links


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Altered to Death





Altered To Death (A Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery)

by Christina Freeburn




Altered To Death (A Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery)

Cozy Mystery

6th in Series

Henery Press (November 28, 2017)

Paperback: 276 pages

ISBN-13: 978-1635112795

E-Book ASIN: B0758DG23P





Looking for a craft cozy so memorable you’ll stay up late scrapping about it? Well, welcome to the town of Eden.

Faith Hunter, who is supposed to be planning her wedding, instead finds herself distracted by the town scrapbook she was commissioned to create. Eden’s oldest mystery, the founding family’s exodus nearly a hundred years ago, remains unsolved.

A search through the family’s abandoned mansion leads to the uncovering of bones on that very property. And then ex-boyfriend Steve Davis announces a surprise heir has staked a claim.

How can Faith not be distracted? Now she’s determined to dig up the truth left behind.

Because scrappers are multi-taskers extraordinaire, Faith can’t say no when family friend Wyatt Buford asks her to look into his deadbeat father’s disappearing act and his connection to the murder.

Her quest for answers unearths secrets past and present that some would prefer stay buried at any cost. Faith’s resolve to present the facts and nothing but about Eden’s history could lead to her own future being cut short.

See what I mean about memorable? Delve in to Eden and you’ll find a cozy you won’t soon forget.


 What I Thought:

I always enjoy reading this series as it is set in my home state, West Virginia.  I really like the characters Faith, she is very tenacious when she wants to find something out.  In this one, she is asked to create a town scrapbook.  While doing this, she starts investigating why the town's founding family hightailed it out of town all those years ago, and when doing research at their abandoned mansion, the remains of a dead body are found.  On top of these mysteries, Faith is also planning her wedding.  This was a well written book with a great plot that kept me turning pages.  This is a series that, to me, never gets old.  Can't wait for more in this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book.





About the Author

The Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery series brings together Christina Freeburn’s love of mysteries, scrapbooking, and West Virginia. When not writing or reading, she can be found in her scrapbook room or at a crop. Alas, none of the real-life crops have had a sexy male prosecutor or a handsome police officer attending.

Christina served in the JAG Corps of the US Army and also worked as a paralegal, librarian, and church secretary. She lives in West Virginia with her husband, children, a dog, and a rarely seen cat except by those who are afraid or allergic to felines.

Author Links:






Purchase Links



Amazon B&N kobo


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Black Arts, Tarts, and Gypsy Carts


Black Arts, Tarts & Gypsy Carts: A Cozy Witch Mystery (Spells & Caramels)
by Erin Johnson


Black Arts, Tarts & Gypsy Carts: A Cozy Witch Mystery (Spells & Caramels)
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Self Published (October 29, 2017)
Paperback: 300 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1976537110
E-Book - ASIN: B076GW21DK

With the Summer Sea Carnival visiting the enchanted island of Bijou Mer, Imogen jumps at the chance to help run the royal bakery booth. It’ll get her out of the palace and allow her to continue avoiding her feelings for a certain engaged prince.

Imogen’s plans to lay low are shattered when the world-famous necromancer, Madame Zerna, is found dead, sawed in half on the dark magician’s table and Imogen’s friend Rhonda is caught red-handed. With incriminating evidence piling up against Rhonda, Zerna’s rival, Imogen promises to help clear her name by finding the real murderer.

But between running the booth, encouraging Maple as she struggles to lead as head baker, and taking spell lessons from the friendly strong man, Imogen’s got her hands full. And it’s no easier getting information from the evasive dark magician or Madame Zerna’s secretive assistant. Even Rhonda’s hiding something.

With the Night of the Dead fast approaching, and Rhonda headed for a maximum security witch prison, Imogen races to unearth the real killer in time to save her friend. But in a mysterious carnival where nothing’s as it seems, will Imogen have the magical powers to keep from being on the chopping block herself?

What I Thought:

This is not the type of book that I normally read, but it was a good break from reality for me.  I usually do not like fantasy type books, but this was a refreshing read that kept me entertained from the beginning.  I enjoyed the interaction of the characters in the book, those human and those not human.  It was well written which made it flow well.  I enjoyed the mystery in this one and was left guessing until the very end.  I may not pick up the next on this series soon, but eventually I will when I need a break from my normal reads.

I received a complimentary copy of this book.




About the Author

A native of Tempe, Arizona, Erin spends her time crafting mysterious, magical, romance-filled stories that’ll hopefully make you laugh. In between, she’s traveling, napping with her dogs, eating with her friends and family, and teaching Pilates (to allow her to eat more).

Website: www.erinjohnsonwrites.com. Facebook: www.facebook.com/EJohnsonWrites. Twitter: @EJohnsonWrites

Purchase Link - Amazon

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bones to Pick

Bones To Pick

by Linda Lovely

on Tour October 16 - December 16, 2017



Synopsis:

Bones To Pick by Linda Lovely

Living 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.

Book Details:

Genre: Humorous Cozy Mystery

Published by: Henery Press

Publication Date: Oct. 24, 2017

Number of Pages: 266

ISBN: 9781635112597

Series: Brie Hooker Mystery, #1

Get Your Copy of Bones To Pick by Linda Lovely at: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads


Read an excerpt:

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.



What I Thought:

This was a hilarious story that also kept me on the edge of my seat.  What could be more unusual than a vegan chef inheriting a goat farm and being romantically pursued by a veterinarian and a moonshine maker.  Brie has inherited a goat farm from her aunt and she ends up trying to clear her aunts name of killing her wife beating uncle 40 years ago.  This one had laugh-out-loud moments and also left me on the edge of my seat.  I look forward to more in this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Author Bio:

Linda Lovely

Over 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 !





Tour Participants:

Stop by these awesome hosts to learn more about Linda Lovely & her amazing book, Bones To Pick. Plus, there are some great reviews, interviews, and giveaways!!





Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Linda Lovely. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on October 14 and runs through December 17, 2017.
a Rafflecopter giveaway



Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Death at the Midnight Dragonfly


Death at the Midnight Dragonfly
by Susan Boles


Death at the Midnight Dragonfly
Argent Ocean Publishing (November 10, 2017)
Paperback: 216 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0997909357
E-Book ASIN: B0771PXNYD

On the fourth day of Christmas,
In Mercy, Mississippi....
Four suspects lying,
Three sleuths a sleuthing
Two clues a hiding
And a very, very dead body.
It's the Christmas season in Mercy, Mississippi. But things are far from jolly.
For Vlad Templeton the sleepy little town where he spent his childhood provides the perfect place to conduct his state funded sleep study. But when the local bank manager, who was participating in the study, is found dead on his doorstep, is it a set up...or is Vlad somehow involved?
But, when someone makes an attempt on Lily Gayle's and Dixie's life, the two realize they better move fast....or they might end up sleeping forever.

What I Thought:

This is the third installment in the Lily Gale Lambert Mystery series, and the first in the series that I have gotten to read yet.  I kind of wish I would have read the other two first, but this was still and very entertaining read, especially if you like southern mysteries.  When the local bank manager winds up dead, a lot of Lilly's friends are suspects in his death.  With Christmas approaching, Lily has to help exonerate her friends before the holiday.  This was a well written book that flowed well and kept my attention.  The plot was intriguing and believable.  I will definitely read the other two in this series, and I look forward to more.

I received a complimentary copy of this book.


About the Author

Susan calls McNairy County, TN her home ground even though she has moved away. It was here, at Bethel Springs Junior High School that she began her writing career with two friends. They formed their own little writers group that was so secret they were the only ones who knew it existed. She still has some of the stories they wrote carefully preserved in a loose leaf binder and tucked away for safety.

She has worked in retail management, briefly for the Census Bureau and for many years in the investment/insurance industry in the regulatory compliance arena. All of which are left brain activities. So she exercises her right brain activity with reading and writing…just to keep both sides even.

Reading has been a passion since she was very young. As a toddler, her mother read to her from her 'baby books' and her Mother tells a story about her holding one of them upsidedown and 'reading' by repeating the story verbatim from memory.

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

Author Links:
Webpage Twitter – @SusanBAuthorBlogFacebook Linked In GoodReads

Previous Books in this Series


Purchase Links – Amazon B&N

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Guest Post:


HARLEY ANN

DEATH AT THE MIDNIGHT DRAGONFLY

I came to Mercy, Mississippi thinking I'd get a new start in a quiet, small town. And Mercy is small alright. But quiet? Nope. There's always something going on in this little town that my great-aunt Edna and her friends, Lily Gayle and Dixie, have to get themselves involved in. Much to the consternation of the county sheriff – who happens to be Lily Gayle's first cousin.

It seem that there's been quite a bit of dying around here lately.

It's honestly Lily Gayle who always gets the ball rolling on these murder investigations. She's curious as a cat about things that most people would stay far away from. And Aunt Edna, being the strong minded and open mouthed person she is, doesn’t hesitate to give her opinion on every little aspect. Poor Dixie ends up playing the peace keeper a bunch of the time from what I can tell.

I feel a bit responsible for some of the things that happened lately. I wanted to start up a food truck business but couldn't figure out how to get the money to get started. Bless, Aunt Edna. She went right on over to the bank to get a loan for me. She was so sure it would be easy that I think she went a little over board with her reaction to being turned down. She was mad as a hornet, for sure.

Then that poor bank manager turned up dead. Have mercy! as Dixie likes to say. That lit some fires under a few people. Lily Gayle most of all.

She jumped right in to the investigation. Sheriff Carter made some protests, but in the end Lily Gayle got her way about being involved. Personally, I wanted to stay as far away from it as possible. Murder investigation isn't my cup of tea.

Next thing you know, sweet Dixie's husband is under suspicion. I felt so terrible for her. And then, the doctor who came to town to conduct a sleep study started looking pretty suspicious too.  Lily Gayle was in her element asking a bunch of questions and generally sticking her nose into everybody's business.

I think that place up the hill should just be boarded up. The one they call the Midnight Dragonfly. It must have some really bad vibes around it. This is twice somebody went up there and ended up dead. And, I hear that the family that owned the house before had some pretty strange characteristics.

So much for peace and quiet in a small town!


A Fatal Collection


A Fatal Collection (A Keepsake Cove Mystery)
by Mary Ellen Hughes


A Fatal Collection (A Keepsake Cove Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting - Maryland
Midnight Ink (November 8, 2017)
Paperback: 264 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0738752198
E-Book ASIN: B01MR8L4IS

Callie Reed makes a long overdue visit to her aunt Melodie, who lives in a fairy-tale cottage in quaint Keepsake Cove, home to a bevy of unique collectible shops on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Just as they're beginning to reconnect, Callie discovers her aunt's body on the floor of her music box shop. Grief-stricken, Callie finds she can't accept Melodie's death being called accidental. How could her strong and healthy aunt take such a fatal fall? And why was she there in the middle of the night?
As Callie searches for the truth, signs seem to come from her late aunt through a favorite music box, urging Callie on. Or are they warnings? If Callie isn't careful, she could meet a similar deadly fate amid Melodie's collection.
What I Thought:

The description of this book really caught my attention and I just knew I had to read it, and I was not disappointed.  I really enjoyed the setting of this book and the characters, who were all intriguing and well developed.  Callie, the protagonist is a great character and I felt that I really knew her.  She goes to visit her aunt, whom she hasn't seen in over 10 years and finds her aunt dead.  She doesn't accept that it is accidental, so she pulls out all the stops to find out what really happened.  I enjoyed the plot of this story and it was very well written.  I found myself turning pages and sometimes I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. I look forward to more in this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book.





About The Author

Mary Ellen Hughes is the bestselling author of the Pickled and Preserved Mysteries (Penguin), the Craft Corner Mysteries, and the Maggie Olenski Mysteries, along with several short stories. A Fatal Collection is her debut with Midnight Ink. A Wisconsin native, she has lived most of her adult life in Maryland, where she’s set many of her stories. Visit her at www.MaryEllenHughes.com.

Author Links

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/MaryEllenHughesauthor

Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/mehughes13/

Twitter - https://twitter.com/mehughesauthor

a Rafflecopter giveaway