Family Scandals Never Sleep—and a Giveaway!

Martha Reed is an award-winning, independently published crime and mystery fiction author. Book one in her Nantucket Mystery series, The Choking Game, was a 2015 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion nominee for Best Traditional Mystery. Book two, The Nature of the Grave, won an Independent Publisher IPPY Honorable Mention for Mid-Atlantic Best Regional Fiction.

Martha recently completed a four-year term as the National Chapter Liaison for Sisters in Crime, Inc. She loves travel, big jewelry, and simply great coffee. She delights in the never-ending antics of her family, fans, and friends, who she lovingly calls The Mutinous Crew. You can follow her online at reedmenow.com or on Twitter @ReedMartha.

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do …

I was one of the lucky kids. My adorable grandfather Pop-Pop had a rambling family cottage on Lake Muskoka in Ontario, Canada. I spent my summers hanging out on a splintery wooden dock working my way through a hundred years’ worth of trashy paperback novels left to molder away in damp bookcases in one of the back rooms. It was pure heaven.

Pop had one brother and three sisters. After five o’clock, they’d all get comfortable on the porch, start sipping cocktails, and goof on each other. Because their generation grew up during the Great Depression, they knew how to entertain themselves, because basically that kind of entertainment was free. Besides criminally intense games of Gin Rummy, they would sass each other using conversations filled with jokes, double entendres, terrible puns, and true nimble wit. If I was very quiet, I was allowed to sit on the nearby steps, and listen.

I loved hearing about the world they grew up in. They were young when America partied through the Roaring Twenties, that insanely Gatsby-esque timeframe between the two great wars. I heard tales of grand weekend parties and big band swing dance contests, of car races, of dancing the Shimmy, the Black Bottom, and the Charleston. It sounded like marvelous fun. Then Pop would catch my eye, and he would sing:

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do
I’m half crazy, all for the love of you
It won’t be a stylish marriage
I can’t afford a carriage
But you’d look sweet, upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two.

–Harry Dacre, Daisy Bell, 1892

The funny thing is, that when I sat down to write No Rest for the Wicked, Book 3 in my Nantucket Mystery series, that little ditty kept playing in my head like an unstoppable earworm. When I finally paused long enough to wonder why, I realized that my new Nantucket Mystery needed to be set deeply in the past, in 1921, so that I could write about what I had learned from them.

In No Rest for the Wicked, state archaeologists uncover a suspicious steamer trunk buried in Nantucket’s landfill. The contents reactivate intense interest in the Baby Alice Spenser kidnapping of 1921. As Detective John Jarad pursues the Baby Alice investigation, myriad family scandals emerge from the Spenser’s privileged and gilded past. Modern day events flare white-hot when a copycat criminal snatches a second child.

No Rest for the Wicked is garnering 5-star reader reviews. Offering an array of colorful island characters and an intricate plot filled with surprising twists and reveals, No Rest for the Wicked promises to be a magical summer beach read. The Nantucket Mystery Series is available in trade paperback and e-book formats from Amazon and other retailers. Support your local bookstores!

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To enter the drawing for a signed
copy of No Rest for the Wicked,
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Monday evening, March 20th.
Open internationally.

Short Story Review: Wildcat by Sara Paretsky—and a Giveaway!

Wildcat
V. I. Warshawski’s First Case
Sara Paretsky
Witness Impulse, March 2017
ISBN 9780062689504
Ebook Single

From the publisher—

Sara Paretsky, one of the most legendary crime writers of all time, presents an exclusive and thrilling short story featuring beloved investigator V.I. Warshawski as a ten-year-old girl on her first investigation.


V.I. Warshawski developed her strength and sense of justice at a very early age. It’s 1966 and on the south side of Chicago racial tensions are at an all-time high. Dr. Martin Luther King is leading marches at Marquette Park and many in the neighborhood are very angry.

With nothing but a bicycle, eighty-two cents in her pocket, and her Brownie camera hanging from her wrist, Victoria sneaks off to Marquette Park alone to protect her father Tony, a police officer who is patrolling the crowds.

What begins as a small adventure and a quest to find her father and make sure he is safe turns into something far more dangerous. As the day goes on and the conflict at the park reaches a fever pitch Victoria realizes she must use her courage and ingenuity if she wants to keep herself and her family members out of harm’s way.

I don’t know if it’s actually true but, for years, I’ve thought that Sara Paretsky and V. I. Warshawski have one thing very much in common—they’re both total badasses. Now, I know that V. I. was that way even as a child and I couldn’t be more delighted.

I’m not going to say much about the plot of this story—it’s so short the description given above by the publisher is almost longer. Just kidding, of course, but this IS a very short short story. Still, Ms. Paretsky packs a lot into these few pages and it serves its purposes, to entertain and to give us a little insight into what makes V. I. Warshawski aka Victoria tick.

Chicago in 1966 was deep in the civil rights era and even a 10-year-old felt the tension so, when Victoria believes her dad is at risk, her first reaction is to rush off on her bicycle to his aid. As young as she is, Victoria has been raised by her Holocaust survivor mother to be aware of the evil that can begin with words of hatred. In fact, it’s this sense of right and wrong that’s at Victoria’s core, that will in later life lead her to work for justice whenever she can. Her venture this time is also her own personal introduction to police corruption, the Mafia, extreme prejudice and violence.

And a private investigator is born.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2017.

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Purchase Links:

               

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About the Author

Hailed by P.D. James as “the most remarkable” of modern crime writers, SARA PARETSKY is the New York Times-bestselling author of nineteen previous novels, including the renowned V.I. Warshawski series. She is one of only four living writers – alongside John Le Carré, Sue Grafton, and Lawrence Block – to have received both the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America and the Cartier Diamond Dagger from the Crime Writers’ Association of Great Britain. She lives in Chicago with her husband.

Before there was Lisbeth Salander, before there was Stephanie Plum, there was V.I. WARSHAWSKI. She took the mystery world by storm in 1982 with her first appearance in Indemnity Only. A gifted private eye with the grit and smarts to tackle the mean streets, V.I. transformed a genre in which women were typically either vamps or victims. As a “courageous, sexually liberated female investigator,” she “has a humility, a humanity, and a need for human relationships which the male hard-boilers lack” (P.D. James). She lives in Chicago with her dog.

Catch Up With Our Author On:

             

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To enter the drawing for an ebook
copy of Wildcat, leave a comment
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Thursday evening, March 16th and the
ebook will be sent out after the tour ends.
Open to residents of the US and Canada.

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Book Review: War Hawk by James Rollins and Grant Blackwood—and a Giveaway!

war-hawkWar Hawk
A Tucker Wayne Novel #2
James Rollins and Grant Blackwood
William Morrow, December 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-213529-2
Mass Market Paperback

From the publisher—

Tucker Wayne’s past and present collide when a former army colleague comes to him for help. She’s on the run from brutal assassins hunting her and her son. To keep them safe, Tucker must discover who killed a brilliant young idealist-a crime that leads back to the most powerful figures in the U.S. government.

From the haunted swamplands of the deep South to the beachheads of a savage civil war in Trinidad, Tucker and his beloved war dog, Kane, must work together to discover the truth behind a mystery that dates back to World War II, involving the genius of a young code-breaker, Alan Turing…

They will be forced to break the law, expose national secrets, and risk everything to stop a madman determined to control the future of modern warfare for his own diabolical ends. But can Tucker and Kane withstand a force so indomitable that it threatens our future?

I’ve loved practically everything I’ve read by James Rollins because he makes it all such an adventure but I have to admit that I don’t read all his books. Why? Because they’re massive and my zeal for really long books has diminished over the years. The other thing that makes me hesitate is that he sometimes collaborates with other writers, much like James Patterson does, and that can be dicey. On the other hand, I read a lot of reviews of the first book in this series and saw very little to alarm me so I decided to take the plunge with War Hawk, all 544 pages of it (which is a mere 372 pages in the epub edition, another reason I love ebooks).

Besides…there’s a cool dog 😉

It’s hard to think of a braver, more self-disciplined pair than a former Army Ranger and a war dog but Tucker’s goal at the beginning of this novel is to simply enjoy life on the road with Kane at his side. He still has money in the bank from a job he recently did so employment is not an issue but their trip to Yellowstone is aborted when a woman from their past shows up looking for help. A colleague is missing and others have died, leading her to flee with her young son. Jane Sabatello was important to Tucker in their Army days so he doesn’t hesitate but they certainly don’t anticipate the coming confrontation with a man determined to essentially control the world with secrets from World War II and the brilliant mind of cryptanalyst Alan Turing.

And thus begins a wild, tension-filled adventure that takes us into the world of drones and the wondrous albeit frightening things they can do. I imagine some of this is in Mr. Rollins’ and Mr. Grantwood’s imaginations but much has already come to pass in real life, giving this thriller a validity that’s more than a little unnerving. A bit of imagination (I think) comes into play with Kane’s abilities but I didn’t care about that because Kane is such an appealing dog and a great companion for Tucker. The two of them make a fine team and I think I might have to go back and read the first book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2017.

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About the Authors

james-rollinsJAMES ROLLINS is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of international thrillers, translated into more than forty languages. His Sigma series has been lauded as one of the “top crowd pleasers” (New York Times) and one of the “hottest summer reads” (People magazine). In each novel, acclaimed for its originality, Rollins unveils unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets–and he does it all at breakneck speed and with stunning insight.

Catch Up with James Rollins on his Website , Twitter , & Facebook 

grant-blackwoodIn addition to his New York Times bestselling collaborations with Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy, GRANT BLACKWOOD is the author of three novels featuring Briggs Tanner: The End of Enemies, The Wall of Night, and An Echo of War. A U. S. Navy veteran, Grant spent three years as an Operations Specialist and a Pilot Rescue Swimmer. He lives in Colorado.

Catch Up with Grant Blackwood on his Website , Twitter , & Facebook

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Follow the tour:

2/13 showcase @ The Way I See It
2/13 Review @ Buried Under Books
2/14 Showcase @ Mommabears Book Blog
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2/15 Review @ Mrs Mommy Booknerds Book Reviews
2/15 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
2/16 Showcase @ b00k r3vi3ws
2/16 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
2/17 Showcase @ Books Direct
2/17 Review @ fundinmental
2/18 Showcase @ Mythical Books
2/20 Review @ just reviews
2/21 showcase @ A Dream Within A Dream
2/23 Review @ Lazy Day Books
2/24 fuonlyknew
2/25 Review @ I am not a bookworm!
2/26 Review @ JBronder Book Reviews
2/27 Review @ Luxury Reading

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To enter the drawing for a print
copy of War Hawk, leave a comment
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be drawn
Thursday evening, February 16th.

Open to residents of the US.

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Book Review: Child’s Play by Merry Jones—and a Giveaway!

childs-playChild’s Play
The Elle Harrison Series #3
Merry Jones
Oceanview Publishing, January 2017
ISBN 978-1-60809-191-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Since her husband’s murder two years earlier, life hasn’t been easy for Elle Harrison. Now, at the start of a new school year, the second grade teacher is determined to move on. She’s selling her house and delving into new experiences―like learning trapeze.

Just before the first day of school, Elle learns that a former student, Ty Evans, has been released from juvenile detention where he served time for killing his abusive father. Within days of his release, Elle’s school principal, who’d tormented Ty as a child, is brutally murdered. So is a teacher at the school. And Ty’s former girlfriend. All the victims have links to Ty.

Ty’s younger brother, Seth, is in Elle’s class. When Seth shows up at school beaten and bruised, Elle reports the abuse, and authorities remove Seth and his older sister, Katie, from their home. Is Ty the abuser?

Ty seeks Elle out, confiding that she’s the only adult he’s ever trusted. She tries to be open-minded, even wonders if he’s been wrongly condemned. But when she’s assaulted in the night, she suspects that Ty is her attacker. Is he a serial killer? Is she his next intended victim?

Before Elle discovers the truth, she’s caught in a deadly trap that challenges her deepest convictions about guilt and innocence, childhood and family. Pushed to her limits, she’s forced to face her fears and apply new skills in a deadly fight to survive.

I first encountered the work of Merry Jones almost four years ago and, at the time, I thought there were flaws in The Trouble with Charlie but I still found the tale intriguing and looked forward to future books. Next for me came In the Woods (a different series) almost two years later and, while I didn’t care for that one as much, I didn’t give up on Ms. Jones. Something about her books kept drawing me back and, to my mind, that says a lot about an author’s ability to engage a reader.

Now comes Child’s Play, third entry in the first series and my interest in Ms. Jones has been paid off in spades. This book is the one I consider to be her breakthough novel and I’m truly glad I had the opportunity to read it.

Here we have a dark, disturbing study of the repercussions our actions can have years after the fact, tangled with the impact a troubled home life has on children, sometimes leading to dire events. Elementary school teacher Elle Harrison has to cope with a memory disorder but she remembers Ty Evans well enough, a young man recently released from detention after serving his time for killing his abusive father. When people connected to Ty’s past and present begin to die, Elle can’t help wanting to believe Ty when he insists he’s not the killer but she can’t forget his past nor completely trust him. With continually rising tension and plenty of twists and turns, Elle’s nerves go on high alert but certain truths that come to light are way beyond what she ever anticipated.

I have to say some readers will probably find Child’s Play a bit too violent and emotionally wrenching but I appreciated how Ms. Jones handled some very disturbing topics including the horrifying aspects of true psychosis. For anyone looking for a riveting book you won’t want to put down, this is a fine candidate.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2017.

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An Excerpt from Child’s Play

I was the first one there.

The parking lot was empty, except for Stan’s pickup truck. Stan was the custodian, tall, hair thinning, face pock-marked from long ago acne. He moved silently, popped out of closets and appeared in corners, prowled the halls armed with a mop or a broom. In fourteen years, I couldn’t remember a single time when he’d looked me in the eye.

Wait—fourteen years? I’d been there that long? Faces of kids I’d taught swirled through my head. The oldest of them would now be, what? Twenty-one? Oh man. Soon I’d be one of those old school marms teaching the kids of my former students, a permanent fixture of the school like the faded picture of George Washington mounted outside the principal’s office. Hell, in a few months, I’d be forty. A middle-aged childless widow who taught second grade over and over again, year after year, repeating the cycle like a hamster on its wheel. Which reminded me: I had to pick up new hamsters. Tragically, last year’s hadn’t made it through the summer.

I told myself to stop dawdling. I had a classroom to organize, cubbies to decorate. On Monday, just three days from now, twenty-three glowing faces would show up for the first day of school, and I had to be ready. I climbed out of the car, pulled a box of supplies from the trunk, started for the building. And stopped.

My heart did triple time, as if responding to danger. But there was no danger. What alarmed me, what sent my heart racing was the school itself. But why? Did it look different? Had the windows been replaced, or the doors? Nothing looked new, but something seemed altered. Off balance. The place didn’t look like an elementary school. It looked like a giant factory. A prison.

God, no. It didn’t look like any of those things. The school was the same as it had always been, just a big brick building. It seemed cold and stark simply because it was unadorned by throngs of children. Except for wifi, Logan Elementary hadn’t changed in fifty years, unless you counted several new layers of soot on the bricks.

I stood in the parking lot, observing the school, seeing it fresh. I’d never paid much attention to it before. When it was filled with students, the building itself became all but invisible, just a structure, a backdrop. But now, empty, it was unable to hide behind the children, the smells of sunshine and peanut butter sandwiches, the sounds of chatter and small shoes pounding Stanley’s waxed tiles. The building stood exposed. I watched it, felt it watching me back. Threatening.

Seriously, what was wrong with me? The school was neither watching nor threatening me. It was a benign pile of bricks and steel. I was wasting time, needed to go in and get to work. But I didn’t take a single step. Go on, I told myself. What was I afraid of? Empty halls, vacant rooms? Blank walls? For a long moment, I stood motionless, eyes fixed on the façade. The carved letters: Logan School. The heavy double doors. The dark windows. Maybe I’d wait a while before going inside. Becky would arrive soon, after she picked up her classroom aquarium.

Other teachers would show up, too. I could go in with them, blend safely into their commotion. I hefted the box, turned back to the car. But no, what was I doing? I didn’t want to wait. I’d come early so I could get work done without interruption or distraction before the others arrived. The school wasn’t daring me, nor was I sensing some impending tragedy. I was just jittery about starting a new year.

I turned around again, faced its faded brown bricks. I steeled my shoulders, took a breath and started across the parking lot. With a reverberating metallic clank, the main doors flew open. Reflexively, I stepped back, half expecting a burst of flames or gunfire. Instead, Stan emerged. For the first time in fourteen years, I was glad to see him. Stan surveyed the parking lot, hitched up his pants. Looked in my direction. He didn’t wave or nod a greeting, didn’t follow social conventions. Even so, his presence grounded me, felt familiar.

I took a breath, reminded myself that the school was just a school. That I was prone to mental wandering and embellishing. And that children would stream into my classroom in just three days, whether I was ready or not.

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About the Author

Merry JonesMerry Jones is the author of some twenty critically acclaimed books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has been translated into seven languages. Her previous Elle Harrison novels have been THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE and ELECTIVE PROCEDURES. Jones lives with her husband in Philadelphia.

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Follow the tour:

01/26 Blog Talk Radio w/Fran Lewis
01/26 Review @ Just Reviews
02/01 Review/showcase @ Books, Dreams, Life
02/02 Review @ Wall-to-wall books – Giveaway
02/03 Review/showcase @ CMash Reads
02/04 Showcase @ The Pen and Muse Book Reviews
02/05 Review @ Book Babble
02/06 Review @ Buried Under Books – Giveaway
02/07 Interview/showcase @ BooksChatter
02/08 Guest Post/Showcase @ The Book Divas Reads
02/09 Showcase @ Mythical Books
02/14 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
02/15 Review @ fuonlyknew
02/20 Guest post & Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews
02/21 Interview @ Writers and Authors
02/22 Interview @ Jean BookNerd – Giveaway
02/23 Review @ Books Direct
02/23 Review @ JBronder Book Reviews
02/24 Review & Guest post @ Blog Rockin Book Reviews – Giveaway

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To enter the drawing for an ebook
copy of Child’s Play, leave a comment
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Times Have Changed—and a Giveaway!

Dorothy H. HayesDorothy Hayes, a staff writer for local Connecticut newspapers for five years, received an honorary award for her in-depth series on Vietnam Veterans from the Society of Professional Journalists. Prior to that she was a Language Arts teacher. A staff writer for a national animal protection organization, for six years, she wrote her first novel, Animal Instinct, in 2006. Dorothy lives in Stamford, Connecticut with her husband, Arthur. She also raised four children, and is the mother-in-law to three, grandmother to fourteen and great-grandmother to Bella.

Her other books in the Carol Rossi Mystery Series are: Murder at the P&Z, 2013 and Broken Window, 2015. Her short story, “Back from the War”, was published by Mysterical-E, December 2016.

She is a member of Sisters-in-Crime-Tri-State Chapter, and Mystery Writers of American. Visit her at dorothyhayes.com.

When I was a kid, I had a dream, I wanted four children and to write books.

I’ve been blessed with both. A have a grown son and three daughters. With my latest book, Keys to Nowhere, I’ll have four published books.

Life seems normal with my children around me.

I was a stay at home mom and they were my life for twenty years. I think back on those years with my four babies as the blossoming spring of my life. I was twenty-seven. Family surrounded us; we were lucky for we had loving mothers, fathers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins on both sides.

Nobody moved away in those days.

It was my former husband and I that were the first of our family to move from the Northeast when we ventured to the Southwest. It was a corporate ladder move to Tucson, Arizona. We stayed for six and a half years. With the next corporate move, we returned to the Northeast, to Connecticut, but my son, then a college student, refused to leave. He had fallen in love with Arizona in those formative years and Arizona was home.

I hadn’t known, however, I often tell him, that people lose children along the corporate path, I would have said no to the original move. But my son still sings the praises of Arizona and we all love our visits to the desert paradise.

My children are wedded to wonderful mates.

Years ago, when they were just married, my three daughters lived in Connecticut. Their children, ten all together, were born here and I felt as if I had my babies back and more, I was blessed to be present at the hospital when they were born. Lots of family gatherings followed and we supported the new moms and dads and their newborns. So for years, we had ten grandchildren nearby. By then I was working as a writer for local newspapers; that was after the divorce and I was remarried to my husband, who is also a writer and supports me as a novelist.

My Ohio daughter visits often, thank heavens, and my daughter’s children in South Carolina come back home to visit grandma where, “nothing ever changes.” My daughter and family in Manhattan keep me happy year round on birthdays and holidays and until we’re all together again. We gathered together four times this year for various occasions. In the meantime, technology keeps me in touch with all of them, a text here and there exchanging expressions of love.

Did I mention that we have fourteen grandchildren in all?

We have a great granddaughter?

Did I mention that my kids and grandkids write book reviews and hold book-signing parties for me?

Two of my daughters are my beta readers?

Life is good.

Although, like a mama bear, I’d love to have all my children nearby, where I can sigh with contentment at the sight of them for life seems to make the most sense when I’m in their presence for they are the fruit of my life.

keys-to-nowhereBut times have changed.

On a day-to-day basis we all have to live our own lives and they are not here. So I had a choice, I could spend my days in longing for these precious beings, waiting to see them again, or I could have a full life in between our incredible visits.

I chose the latter.

When I was a kid, I had a dream—I was going to write books and I was going to have four children. I was blessed with both. Now my dream is to write my next book, sing my heart out in my church choir, all with the full knowledge that my sweet family members are in the midst of seeking their dreams and they will be with me again, maybe not everyday, but always in my heart and for our next visit.

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To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Keys to Nowhere by Dorothy Hayes
,
just leave a comment below. The
winning
name will be drawn on
Friday night, February 3rd. This
drawing
is open to residents of the US.

Book Review: Cold Heart by Karen Pullen—and a Giveaway!

cold-heartCold Heart
A Stella Lavender Mystery #2
Karen Pullen
Five Star, January 2017
ISBN 978-1-4328-3257-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Motivated by her mother’s long-ago unsolved abduction, Stella Lavender has joined the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation only to be severely challenged by her first assignment: undercover drug agent. Stella works nights, buying drugs from paranoid drug dealers, gathering evidence to send them to prison or turn them into informants. She’s great at the job because, as her boss says, “you don’t look like a cop.” But the physical danger and the necessary betrayals are getting to her. When she sees a chance to work homicide, she’ll always take it.

One afternoon Stella gives a hitchhiking teenager a ride to her babysitting job in a wealthy neighborhood. Horror awaits them–the father lies dead in a pool of blood, and his toddler is missing. Stella joins the murder investigation as the puzzle quickly grows. Most importantly, where is the toddler? A dizzying array of plausible suspects provides more questions than answers.

At the same time, Stella’s personal life offers plenty of distractions. Her grandmother Fern, a free-spirited artist with male admirers wrapped around every one of her paint-stained fingers, needs Stella’s help with expensive house repairs. And Stella’s attraction to three very different men means her romantic life is, well, complicated.

Cold Heart draws the reader into a darkly delightful page-turner as Stella rummages through every strata of society in her relentless and sometimes unconventional pursuit of a cold-hearted murderer who won’t stop at just one victim.

If you’re not careful, sometimes what you wish for turns out to be much more than you think it’s going to be. Stella Lavender is good at what she does, working Narcotics, but she really wants to get into the Homicide division. When she picks up a hitchhiker, she has no idea that she’s about to walk smack into a murder case but she’s more or less prepared for that. What surprises her are the connections she discovers she has to the case, kind of a six degrees of separation thing.

The fact that Stella made a drug buy just the night before from the man who’s now lying dead is just one of those links and she soon finds that her personal life isn’t as separated from work as she’d like it to be. For instance, could one of the many men who orbit around her charismatic grandmother be somehow involved and is Fern hiding things from Stella? Are other people being attacked because Stella herself is really the target and, if so, why? Most importantly, what has happened to the dead man’s toddler daughter, Paige?

There are a few too many coincidences in the plot but a plethora of leads and suspects kept me guessing for quite a while and the characters, particularly Stella, are interesting. I liked her very much and appreciated her determination and even her occasional rule-bending. Stella Lavender is a cop I could be friends with 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

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Just by leaving two comments,
you’ll have a chance to win a
print copy of the first book in
the series, Cold Feet. Leave
one comment today and one
on yesterday’s guest blog by
Karen Pullen. The winning name
will be drawn Thursday evening,
January 26th. This drawing is
open to residents of the US.

Three Ps and a C—and a Giveaway!

karen-pullen-2Karen Pullen’s dreams were realized when she escaped the cubicle and took up fiction writing. After earning an MFA from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine, she published two traditional mystery novels, Cold Feet and Cold Heart, both with Five Star Cengage, and numerous short stories. Restless Dreams, a collection of stories, will be published by GusGus Press in September.  Karen serves on the national board of Sisters in Crime, and works as an innkeeper, editor, and teacher of writing. She lives in Pittsboro, North Carolina, and blogs occasionally on her website, karenpullen.com.

What does it take to be a mystery writer?

I began writing when I worked for a systems engineering consulting company. It was a soul-sucking job doing work I can’t ever talk about, but when I arrived early and spent an hour or two working on a short story, the day was tolerable. My first stories were laughably bad. I wrote one about an adulterous duo who played a bridge game with their spouses. Channeling Raymond Chandler, the dialogue of the game (a grand slam, bid and made!) was fraught with subtext. In another story, the characters were babies. All babies, running the show. Oh, and they could fly.  No one should be surprised that these stories, and others similarly nonsensical, were soundly rejected. But I kept trying, entering contests, taking workshops, learning the craft. I loved everything about it.

It takes passion.

cold-feetI decided that I would try crime fiction. The great thing about crime fiction is that it’s inherently dramatic and fascinating: bad people doing evil things. My first publication, “Pen Pals,” was accepted by a now-defunct online magazine called Crime Scene Scotland.  “The Years of the Wicked”  featuring Stella Lavender, a Special Agent of State Bureau of Investigation, was published by Spinetingler.  I wrote “SASE” for the first Sisters in Crime-Guppy anthology, Fish Tales. “Brea’s Tale,” which Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine accepted, won a Derringer in 2012. Finally I buckled down and wrote a novel starring Stella, and eventually–years, actually–Cold Feet was published.

It takes persistence.

Last week, Cold Heart, my second Stella Lavender mystery novel, was released by Five Star Cengage, fifteen months after I signed the contract, and more than five years after I started writing it.

It takes patience.

There’s one more required element.

Cold Heart will be my last mystery published by Five Star as they’re exiting the mystery business. So even though I’m working on Cold Fury, the third in the series, its prospects are murky. But it’s okay. I have to write it, because there’s a loose end to Stella Lavender’s story–mainly, what happened to her mother, Grace, 22 years ago when Stella was five years old.  Grace was abducted during a gas station robbery, and disappeared without a trace. Stella and her grandmother Fern deserve answers.

cold-heart Another loose end is Stella’s love life. She doesn’t have one. Wary after dumping Hogan, an SBI researcher with a weakness for online romance, she has a starry-eyed crush on Anselmo, the married detective she frequently works with.  Will a few huggy-kissy dates with Sam, a high school friend back in her life as a contractor working on Fern’s dilapidated farmhouse, lead anywhere? I’m curious, and that’s the fourth element.

It takes passion, persistence, patience, and curiosity.

Notice that I didn’t mention a desire for fame and fortune. Two Fs. Someone else will have to write that post.

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Just by leaving two comments,
you’ll have a chance to win a
print copy of the first book in
the series, Cold Feet. Leave
one comment today and the
second tomorrow on my review
of Cold Heart. The winning name
will be drawn Thursday evening,
January 26th. This drawing is
open to residents of the US.