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Juanita the Taxidermied Weasel, Courtesy of the Bloggess

Juanita the Taxidermied Weasel, Courtesy of the Bloggess


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Book Reviews: Shadowkiller by Wendy Corsi Staub and Proof of Guilt by Charles Todd

Wendy Corsi Staub
Harper, February 2013
ISBN No. 978-0-06-207032-6
Mass Market Paperback

Shadowkiller ends the trilogy involving the family of Allison Taylor, now Allison MacKenna.  Allison met her husband Mack when she lived in Manhattan and her apartment was across the hall from Mack and his wife.  Mack’s wife was killed in the 9-11 tragedy and Allison’s friend was murdered in their apartment building.

Allison and Mack eventually married and moved to the suburbs but they found that life was not to be smooth for the couple and their family.   Someone is stalking the family and at times even Allison suspects the person causing the problems might be Mack.  Eventually the truth is found out but not before even the children have a very close call.

Life has gone back to normal for the family and Allison has even agreed to make a trip to the Midwest to visit her brother and his wife.  Allison’s father left when she was young and her mother killed herself with liquor and drugs.  It is a very large step for Allison to agree to travel back to the Midwest.

But the MacKenna family aren’t alone on the trip.  Mack’s wife, who was thought to have died in the 9-11 tragedy, is alive and determined to have a show-down with Allison.  The connection between the two women is finally revealed in this exciting conclusion.  With the intervention of Detective Rocko Manzillo, who has knowledge of the MacKenna’s background, Allison might just get out alive.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, February 2013.


Proof of GuiltProof of Guilt
(An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery)
Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2013
ISBN No. 978-0-06-201568-6

When Ian Rutledge is assigned to head up an investigation involving an unidentified body, Rutledge has a difficult job.  First, he must identify the body and that does not prove to be an easy task.  Second, he must decide if the victim is a murder victim or if he died accidentally.   Then once he has reached the conclusion that the victim was murdered Rutledge must discover where he was murdered.  Rutledge feels that the victim met his death at a different location and the body was later moved.

Rutledge turns up a clue that leads him to suspect that the victim might have a connection to the firm of House of French, French and Traynor.  The firm produces a world famous Madeira wine.  Lewis French, the head of the London office, is missing.  Rutledge is unable to locate French in London and his sister has no idea where her brother might be.

Matthew Traynor, head of the Portugal side of the wine operation, is expected to arrive in England but the French family has not received any word from Traynor and his office only knows he left Portugal to travel to London.

Three women connected to French are interviewed by Rutledge.  French’s sister, his former fiancée and his current fiancée and none can offer a clue as to French’s whereabouts or what may have happened to him.

When Rutledge discovers a link to an incident in the French’s family’s past he feels that the man involved warrants further investigation.  Rutledge’s superintendent is not interested and insists that Rutledge arrest one of the women from French’s past and her father who is employed in the company business.  In spite of his supervisor’s instructions Rutledge proceeds to look into the incident from the past and becomes more and more convinced that he is on the right path to find out the truth about the victim, who he now is sure is Lewis French.

This latest addition to the Rutledge series is a complicated and confusing read and not as enjoyable as the previous novels in this series. I would still recommend the series to a reader who enjoys British mysteries.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, February 2013.

Book Review: Bitter Angel by Megan Hand

Bitter Angel Tour Button


Title: Bitter Angel

Author: Megan Hand

Release date: April 1, 2013

Age Group: Mature Young Adult

Genre: Contemporary/Thriller

Tour organized by: AToMR Tours


Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble                    Amazon


Young attractive lady lying down and reflected in the waterBitter Angel
Megan Hand
M Hand Publications, April 2013
ISBN 978-0-578-12207-6

From the author—

Torn between two realities.
A choice that will mean life or death.
But she won’t know anything… until she wakes up.

College sophomore, Lila Spencer lived Friday night twice. She doesn’t know how or why, just that she did. As if she split in half and went in two different directions.

Out clubbing with her friends, Heather and Nilah, the girls rock it out and party hard. What begins as an innocent night will lead to a deadly fight for their lives, and Lila might be their only chance for survival.

In bed with her boyfriend, Jay, Lila is safe and warm as she drifts to sleep in the arms of the man she loves. Until she is sucked into a horrifying nightmare of her friends’ deaths.

As the sunlight warms her face on Saturday morning, the two scenarios collide. But there can be only one outcome. Will she wake up in her warm bed with Jay by her side, devastated and grieving for her friends? Or was she there to save them?

The answer is just the beginning.

I’ve dithered over writing this review because, to be quite honest, I have had a difficult time defining my feelings about it and I needed time to let those feelings percolate, so to speak. Essentially, this reviewer’s reaction and Bitter Angel both have a bit of a split personality.

I love the idea of parallel existence and Ms. Hand’s concept of having Lila “live” two sides of a horrendous event is really appealing. The plot itself, revolving around behavior that really does happen, is very well done and the author clearly has a talent for creating almost unbearable tension and suspense. It’s plain almost from the beginning of the girls’ outing what is going to happen and I barely suppressed the urge to yell at them to stop what they were doing, pay attention, get smart and run like hell—very much like those movies where you can’t believe the girl is going into the dark basement and you just want to scream, “No! Don’t do it!”.

Unfortunately, I found the character development to be rather uneven in several ways. The triumvirate is appealing on its surface but, the truth is, I didn’t care much about Heather and Nilah. I cared what might happen to them but the girls themselves were not appealing to me and I thought they were too shallowly drawn. I came very close to heartily disliking Nilah just because she is so very narcissistic and I also thought both these girls were really inconsiderate for demanding that Lila immediately give up her plans when they could clearly have discussed it long in advance.

I did like Jay other than his being a bit of a pushover and was glad to see him “man up” when he needed to. He’s a young man any parent would be happy to see with their daughter. As for the bad guys, I felt they were the most well-drawn in their despicableness and, while I certainly didn’t have any empathy for them (with one exception), they were the most real to me.

Then there’s Lila. Hmm. This girl just yanked me left and right and I’m still not sure what I think. First, she accepts with far too much ease that her parallel experience is real when 99% of us would think it was all one hell of a bad dream. Then she apparently turns into Superwoman and, from that point on, reality takes a hike. I like a strong female character but I just found it hard to believe that she would charge right in the way she does and some of her behavior is downright stupid.

Having said all that, Ms. Hand has created a story about an all too real crime that does happen and I think some of the behavior she attributes to certain characters has a point, that whether it’s a feminist ideal or not, girls DO need to take more care and that perhaps having a designated driver can also serve the purpose of one person being alert enough to spot trouble. In the end, while I had some difficulties with Bitter Angel, I still enjoyed it and will look for more from Megan Hand.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2013.

About the Author

Megan HandAt twelve, Megan decided to write a novel. A month later, she quit. A reading junkie by nature, she started writing again in her twenties as a way to get the voices out, because who wouldn’t want to create a Real Living Person out of thin air? Megan also plays the piano and sings. She teaches little kids and takes pictures of pretty butterflies. She eats way too much chocolate, is sort of a mad scientist with her blender, and spends an unhealthy amount of time LOLing on Facebook and Twitter. She lives in Ohio with her husband and very smiley son. Bitter Angel is her first published novel.

Social Media links:

Twitter  /  Website  /  Facebook  /  Goodreads


Follow the tour here.


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What’s Community-Supported Agriculture? And a Giveaway!

Edith Maxwell 2Locavore Edith Maxwell‘s Local Foods mysteries let her relive her days as an organic farmer in Massachusetts, although murder in the greenhouse is new. A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die releases May 28 from Kensington Publishing. A fourth-generation Californian, she has also published short stories of murderous revenge.

Edith Maxwell’s pseudonym Tace Baker authored Speaking of Murder featuring Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau and campus intrigue after her sexy star student is killed. Edith is a long-time Quaker and holds a long-unused doctorate in linguistics.

Edith lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and three cats. She can be found at www.edithmaxwell.com.


Thanks so much for having me over, Lelia!

My new book, A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die opens on the first pick up day for the subscribers to the CSA at Cam Flaherty’s organic farm. The CS-what? CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It got its start in Europe and in Japan in the 1960s and in the US right here in New England in the mid-eighties. The movement has really taken off in the last few years, and most farms that offer CSAs also use organic growing methods.

A Tine To Live...When I had my small certified-organic farm in the early nineties in Essex County, Massachusetts, starting a CSA seemed like a natural choice, even though mine was one of only a few in the state. In the CSA model, subscribers sign up in the winter and pay ahead for a season’s worth of produce. Customers get a guaranteed portion of whatever the farm is harvesting every week. The farmer gets the money up front when she needs it for seeds, soil amendments, and other costs of running a farm, and doesn’t have to worry about watching the lettuce wilt and not sell at the farmers’ market.

CSAs vary widely. I had about twenty subscribers, but some large farms have hundreds or even thousands of shareholders. I offered half bags at the beginning and end of the season when the harvest was lighter, and customers picked up their bags in my garage at the same time every week. I packed the bags so I could apportion equally what went into them. Some farms bring the bags or boxes into urban areas for pickup or even deliver to their customers.

One CSA I belonged to a few years ago, and others I have seen outside the city, lay out bins of crops in their farm stand and post notices about how much to take. For example, “One bunch” above the bundled leeks, “Three pounds” above the Edith Maxwell Farmingpotatoes, “Two” at the squash bin. In addition, subscribers are expected to pick or cut their own shares of certain crops like fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, and cut flowers.

Part of the CSA model is to connect the customer closely with the farm. As with a shareholder in a company, the customer participates in the farm’s fortunes. If the tomato crop gets washed out by torrential rains or the peach blossoms frozen by a late frost, the shareholders don’t get tomatoes or peaches. And if a crop like strawberries succeeds beyond all expectations, the bags might include extra baskets of berries or the sign out front might read, “Pick all you want in the strawberry field.” When we belonged to the Green Meadows Farm CSA, I loved going on Thursday afternoons to load my basket with produce and pick my own of the designated crops. It really felt like my farm, except now I didn’t have to do most of the work!

And of course belonging to a CSA is a natural for people who believe in eating locally. My Local Foods Mystery series features some colorful members of a Locavore Club who belong to Cam’s CSA and are involved not only in her farm but in her hunt for the murderer.

What about you? Do you belong to a CSA or get a box delivered every week? Does the system work for you or do you end up getting more kale than you ever dreamed of wanting? Or do you prefer shopping at the farm stand or farmers’ market? Or are you a farmer? (If so, let’s talk shop!)

To enter the drawing to win a print copy of A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die

by Edith Maxwell, leave a comment below. The winning name

will be drawn on the evening of Thursday, May  30th.


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Book Review: Cold Killing by Luke Delaney—and a Giveaway!

Cold Killing Tour Banner


Genre: Fiction/Thriller

Published by: HarperCollins/William Morrow Paperbacks

Publication Date: 05/21/2013

Number of Pages: 448

ISBN: 9780062219466

Series: 1st in the D.I. Sean Corrigan Series


Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble            Amazon            Kobo


Cold KillingCold Killing
Luke Delaney
HarperCollins Publishers, May 2013
ISBN 978-0-06-221946-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Detective Inspector Sean Corrigan is not like other detectives. An unthinkable childhood left him with a fierce determination to protect the innocent. But it also marked him with an ability to identify the darkness in others—a darkness he recognizes still exists deep within himself.

When a young man is found brutally murdered, Corrigan, responsible for South London’s Murder Investigation Team, takes the case. But what first appears to be a straightforward domestic murder very quickly leads Corrigan to several other victims and the most dangerous killer he’s ever encountered. The perpetrator changes his modus operandi with each crime and leaves behind not a shred of usable forensic evidence. Still, Corrigan knows beyond a doubt that the same man is behind each of these deaths, and he soon finds himself in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer who strikes far too close to home.

Those of us who read and love mysteries, no matter what the subgenre, are something of a strange breed because we’re so picky. We’re a close-knit bunch, recognizing kindred spirits wherever we go, but we’re also rather unforgiving at times, particularly when it comes to details. We want “our” authors to get it right so, for instance, we’ll jump all over the six-shooter that is fired 10 times without reloading or the medical examiner who can pinpoint time of death within 15 minutes upon first glancing at the body’s lividity. Mistakes like these are most noticeable in a police procedural so finding one that seems to get it right is a real pleasure.

Cold Killing is such a book and that’s not surprising considering Luke Delaney’s background. This author clearly knows what he’s doing and he has crafted a tale that’s a real nailbiter. Serial killer stories have become something of a trend but I really appreciated this one, especially in the way we’re allowed into the minds of both the killer and the detective. The switching back and forth from one POV to the other as well as the occasional change of tense is done so smoothly that I barely noticed and I was really pulled into the psychology behind their behavior. I’ve often thought there is a very fine line between hardcore criminals and *some* (certainly not all) of the people who make a living by pursuing them. Mr. Delaney expounds on that notion beautifully.

DI Corrigan is a man I’d like to have on my side and his use of his own past history to catch the bad guys makes him not only good at his job but also intensely interesting as a person. His pursuit of this particular killer is full of twists and a few red herrings and I was truly surprised by the outcome. If I have any fault to find, it’s in the unquestioning acceptance of a tactic used to help make the case. I’m not surprised that this happens, only that no one on the force seemed to lift an eyebrow. Perhaps it occurs in real life more often than I think and, while it’s wrong, it’s easy to understand why it might happen.

To say that Cold Killing is, at times, gutwrenching is putting it mildly and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. If you are put off by cruelty, a lot of blood, an unremitting coldness of heart, the long-term consequences of abuse, the complete lack of empathy, this book is not for you. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a police procedural that pulls no punches and tells the story in all its gritty truth, I highly recommend Cold Killing and I’ll be looking forward to Sean Corrigan’s next case. In the meantime, this will be going on my list of favorite books read in 2013.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2013.


One of the strangest things about the city was the sudden way it disappeared around the edges. One minute you were down on Sunset Boulevard surrounded by glass and concrete, and the next thing you knew you were up on Mulholland Drive, alone in the rough country. From a high window or a rooftop almost anywhere in Los Angeles you could see the mountains, and there was always something ravenous up there looking down.

I was up among the hungry creatures, standing at the edge of a cliff, with Hollywood and Santa Monica far below me in the distance. One step forward and I would be in midair. I was looking down and wondering if Haley had considered how suddenly you could go from city to wilderness. Then I wondered if it was a distinction without a difference, if the city might be the wilderness and the wilderness the city, and maybe Los Angeles’s edges seemed to disappear so suddenly because there really was no separation between sidewalks and mountain paths, buildings and boulders. Up in the mountains or down in the city, either way the carnivores were in control.

I imagined Haley, out of her mind, running full speed off the cliff. I wondered what it had been like, that final second or two before she hit. Had she realized what was happening? Did she recognize the city lights below for what they were, or did she really think she was flying toward the stars? And did she think of me?

Stepping closer to the edge, I slid the toes of my shoes into the air. I looked down two hundred feet, toward the spot where she had broken on the rocks. I stood one inch from eternity and tried to imagine life without her. I could not summon up a single reason why I shouldn’t take that final step, except for one. I thought about the kind of animal who would drive someone to do what my wife had done. Predators like that were everywhere. I should know. I had trained for half my life to be one of them. I was hungry, looking down on the city. If I was going to live, the hunger would have to be enough, for now. But I would sink my teeth into him, sooner or later. I would do that for Haley, and for myself, and then maybe it would be my turn to see if I could fly.

I stepped back from the edge.


About the Author

Luke Delaney joined the Metropolitan Police Service in the late 1980s and his first posting was to an inner city area of South East London notorious for high levels of crime and extreme violence. He later joined CID where he investigated murders ranging from those committed by fledgling serial killers to gangland assassinations.

To enter the drawing to win a print copy of Cold Killing

by Luke Delaney, leave a comment below. The winning name

will be drawn on the evening of Monday, June 3rd.

This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada and

the book will be sent out in late June.

Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Infinity by Rachel Ward

Num8ers #3
Rachel Ward
Chicken House, May 2012
ISBN 978-0-545-35092-1

We all have a number.  That number is what Adam sees whenever he looks someone in the eye.  It is the person’s date of death.  Along with this unwanted information, Adam receives a strong feeling, a sense, of how each person will meet his demise.  Will it be drawn out and painful?  Calm and peaceful?  Agonizing and humiliating?  Everyone in futuristic England (after the world as we know it has ended) knows this about Adam.  They recognize him on sight.  Many want to thank him, some want to be privy to his secrets and others wish him harm.  This is a lot of pressure for a 17 year old boy; particularly the boy who predicted the Chaos and saved thousands of lives with his warning.

With no way to tell what people want from him, Adam has been on the run for two years.  He has a huge responsibility, traveling with his unique family: his pregnant girlfriend, her younger brothers and her two year old daughter, Mia.  She calls him “Daddy”.   While his girlfriend doesn’t share his gift, she does harbor a secret.  Her daughter’s number has changed.  Did little Mia take someone’s number, or was it given to her?

In one camp, Adam meets two men.  Both seem determined to protect and serve him, in gratitude, as well as with the hope that Adam will be an intricate part of making things right in society.  One is them is lying.  He is evil.  Originally pursuing Adam for personal gain, he quickly sets his sights much higher when he learns of Adam’s “daughter” and his baby on the way.  Believing their powers must far surpass Adams’, he becomes a threat to Adam’s family.   Will Adam’s fans stand behind him, or will all be lost?

Infinity is an engaging book.  The story moves very quickly.  The characters truly come alive, leading the reader through varying emotions along the way.  I should note, Infinity is the third book (the conclusion) to the Num8ers trilogy.  I did not notice this until after I read the book.  I thought it worked well as a stand-alone; however, now that I know there are two more, I will be reading them as well.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2013.

Diplomatic Writings

William S. ShepardNow residents of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Shepards enjoy visits from their daughters and granddaughters, fine and moderate weather, ocean swims at Assateague, Chesapeake Bay crabs, and the company of Rajah and Rani, their two rescued cats.

Prize winning mystery writer William S. Shepard is the creator of a new genre, the diplomatic mystery, whose plots are set in American Embassies overseas. That mirrors Shepard’s own career in the Foreign Service of the United States, during which he served in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest, Athens and Bordeaux, in addition to five Washington tours of duty.

His diplomatic mystery books explore this rich, insider background into the world of high stakes diplomacy and government. His main character is a young career diplomat, Robbie Cutler. The first four books in the series are available as Ebooks. Shepard evokes his last Foreign Service post, Consul General in Bordeaux, in Vintage Murder, the first of the series of four “diplomatic mysteries.” The second, Murder On The Danube, mines his knowledge of Hungary and the 1956 Revolution. In Murder In Dordogne Robbie Cutler and his bride Sylvie are just married, but their honeymoon in the scenic southwest of France is interrupted by murders.

The most recent of the series, The Saladin Affair, has been released as an Ebook. Robbie Cutler has been transferred to work for the Secretary of State. Like the author once did, Cutler arranges trips on Air Force Two – now enlivened by serial Al Qaeda attempts to assassinate the Secretary of State, as they travel to Dublin, London, Paris, Vienna, Riga and Moscow!



Sunsets in SingaporeMy series of diplomatic mysteries is based on my career in the Foreign Service. Writing about experiences at five embassies overseas was a natural pleasure, and my memoir, Sunsets In Singapore: A Foreign Service Memoir takes the reader into those true experiences, ranging from Budapest when that grand Eastern European capital was behind the Iron Curtain, to Singapore itself, where we saw the island become an independent nation, and made friends that we keep to this day.

Readers have said that this memoir is the perfect preparation for the dreaded Foreign Service Examination, for I set forth a number of incidents, and show how how they were actually handled. And along the way we meet a number of fascinating persons, from Jozsef Cardinal Mindszenty in Budapest, to General Omar Bradley in Saigon, and Bill Bailey – yes, the original Bill Bailey – in Singapore.

But it became clear to me that many of the things I wanted to say about the diplomatic career were best said as fiction. Therefore Embassy Tales, a collection of nineteen stories about life in an embassy, was written. It takes the reader from the General Services Embassy TalesOffices, which keeps the books and makes sure the lawns are clipped, to the Ambassador’s office.

Along the way, there are a number of crimes, ranging from felony theft to murder. The story “Little Brown Jug” was awarded a mystery national short story prize by Mary Higgins Clark. And for those who have followed the career of Robbie Cutler in the diplomatic mystery series, “Who Stole The Treaty of Paris Desk?” will be a treat – Cutler’s first appearance, as he solves the mystery of the theft of a national treasure, the desk on which American Independence was signed.

These are already bestselling Foreign Service books. To make the bargain even better, I’ve combined Sunsets In Singapore and Embassy Tales into one Ebook, Diplomatic Tales, at a savings (just $4.95, instead of $2.99 per book).

In the latest diplomatic mystery, The Saladin Affair, my protagonist, Robbie Cutler has survived the terrorist ETA, the The Saladin AffairRussian Mafia, and a particularly unsavory former Nazi collaborator. Now he has been reassigned to the office of the Secretary of State, where he is responsible for helping to plan trips overseas (a job I once held for Secretaries Dean Rusk and William Rogers). The story contains a mystery within a mystery… what rare documents from the era of Shakespeare are hidden within an Elizabethan desk? They form a motive for murder that Robbie must solve – as though keeping the new Secretary of State safe during a trip to six European capitals was not enough to keep Cutler on his toes.

The Secretary travels to Dublin, London, Paris, Vienna, Moscow and Riga, as Al Qaeda tracks every move, and makes plans for several assassination attempts. The plot after the 9/11 Benghazi murders cuts perilously close to real diplomatic life, and the reader will enjoy every twist and turn as the final truths of The Saladin Affair are revealed by the Secretary of State during an address at the Royal Gallery at Parliament.

Amazon.com: Diplomatic Tales: William S. Shepard: Amazon.com: Kindle Store

Amazon.com: The Saladin Affair (Robbie Cutler Diplomatic Mysteries) eBook: William S. Shepard: Kindle Store

Amazon.com: Sunsets In Singapore: A Foreign Service Memoir eBook: William S. Shepard: Kindle Store

Amazon.com: Embassy Tales: Stories of the Foreign Service eBook: William S. Shepard: Kindle Store

Diplomatic Tales