Spotlight on Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin—and a Giveaway!

This year marks the 75th anniversary for D-Day and
the Battle of Normandy, an event that brings a massive
plot twist to Melanie Benjamin’s latest addition to the
WWII historical fiction subgenre: MISTRESS OF THE RITZ,
a fascinating look at a little-known historical figure and
her courageous fight against Nazi occupation in Paris.
Blanche Auzello’s world is turned upside down when the
Germans invade Paris and take over the impeccable
Ritz hotel as one of their headquarters. Blanche and
her husband Claude, the hotel’s manager, have enjoyed
a regal, albeit privileged lifestyle, and this new stress
has brought the struggles of their marriage to the
surface.  Despite the dangers present in her home,
Blanche Auzello is inspired to find whatever ways
she can to assist the Resistance, and Claude busies
himself with his own risky ventures. Tensions rise, and
Blanche is torn between her attempts to repair her
marriage and her newfound alliance with a key
figure of the Resistance—Lily, a mysterious woman
who shows Blanche what she’s truly capable of.



Title: Mistress of the Ritz
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction


Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound



Nothing bad can happen at the Ritz; inside its gilded walls
every woman looks beautiful, every man appears witty. Favored
guests like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel,
and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor walk through its famous
doors to be welcomed and pampered by Blanche Auzello and her
husband, Claude, the hotel’s director. The Auzellos are the mistress
and master of the Ritz, allowing the glamour and glitz to take
their minds off their troubled marriage, and off the secrets
that they keep from their guests—and each other.

Until June 1940, when the German army sweeps into Paris, setting
up headquarters at the Ritz. Suddenly, with the likes of Hermann
Goëring moving into suites once occupied by royalty, Blanche and
Claude must navigate a terrifying new reality. One that entails even
more secrets and lies. One that may destroy the tempestuous
marriage between this beautiful, reckless American and her very
proper Frenchman. For in order to survive—and strike a blow against
their Nazi “guests”—Blanche and Claude must spin a web of deceit
that ensnares everything and everyone they cherish.

But one secret is shared between Blanche and Claude alone—
the secret that, in the end, threatens to imperil both of
their lives, and to bring down the legendary Ritz itself.

Based on true events, Mistress of the Ritz is a taut tale of suspense
wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and
a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war.


This impeccably researched, lyrically told historical about a brash
American woman and her French husband during WWII is a
remarkable achievement….Even readers who aren’t big fans of historical
fiction might be swayed by this outstanding tale.—Publishers Weekly


About the Author

Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling historical novels The Swans of Fifth Avenue, about Truman Capote and his society swans, and The Aviator’s Wife, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Her historical novel, The Girls in the Picture, is about the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female legends—screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford. Her latest novel, Mistress of the Ritz, is a love story set in Nazi-occupied France about two key figures of the French Resistance. Her previous novels include Alice I Have Been and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb. Her novels have been translated in over fifteen languages, featured in national magazines such as Good Housekeeping, People, and Entertainment Weekly, and optioned for film. She lives in Chicago with her husband, near her two adult sons.

Website // Twitter



To enter the drawing for a hardcover copy
of Mistress of the Ritz, just leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn on
Thursday, May 23rd. Open to residents of the US.


Book Review: Idyll Hands by Stephanie Gayle—and a Giveaway!

Idyll Hands
A Thomas Lynch Novel #3
Stephanie Gayle
Seventh Street Books,
ISBN 978-1-63388-482-3
Trade Paperback

Not to mince words, this is an excellent novel. The story travels between 1972 in Charleston, Massachusetts, and 1999 in Idyll, Connecticut. In its emotional beginning, Susan, the sixteen-year-old sister of a new policeman, Michael Finnegan, is running away from home, at least for a few days. Why, we don’t know for sure.

Twenty-six years later, in a town not far from Charleston, the new chief of police in Idyll, Connecticut, named Thomas Lynch, is confronted with allergies and the preserved bone of an unknown woman or girl, the cops in that town have named Colleen. The bone is from a body unknown and unnamed found years earlier.

And so the story begins. As it unfolds, Michael Finnegan, now an experienced detective and his boss, Chief Lynch, working together and separately, among the small force of law enforcement people, confront questions of other missing young women. And throughout the novel, the hard loss of Finnegan’s still missing sister is always present.

In carefully measured chapters, the search for the woman found in the grave in Idyll is laid out and the detectives draw ever closer to the murderer. At the same time, detective Finnegan continues to pick away at random small clues to the enduring mystery of his sister’s disappearance.

Scenes are carefully and sometimes elaborately described; the pace of the novel is intense, and readers will be treated to a small cadre of police individuals whose emotional investments in their careers are carefully laid out, along with the civilian sides of life. Readers will also be treated to an interesting look at the process of crime detection in this town where the authorities are anything but idle.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2018.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.


To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Idyll Hands by Stephanie Gayle, just leave
comment below. The winning name will

be drawn on Thursday night, May 9th.
This drawing is open to the US and Canada.

Step Away from the Cliff

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:

Gnarly’s Facebook Page:
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:
Acorn Book Services Facebook Page:
Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

Warning: This post is a vent. Writers who can’t seem to stop
cliffhanging and Readers who love hanging from them, be forewarned!

It happened again.

Over several days, I listened to an audiobook, a mystery-suspense selected by our book club. It was intriguing. Interesting characters who I cared about. Plenty of suspense. By the last quarter of the book, I was glued to my cell phone, listening for how the story ended.

Finally, we reached it. There was the solution. The bad guys were captured. The hero got the girl.

But wait! There was still the epilogue. The main characters got married for their happily ever after. Ah!

But wait again. There was still more as the main character sat down to go over the case only to discover that the case really was not solved! There was still a dirty rotten scoundrel who had gotten away undetected and escaped justice.

The mystery was STILL afoot!


NO! I screamed so loud that Sterling ran from the room with his tail between his legs.

I had spent almost eight hours of my life listening to that book that didn’t have an ending. Rather, it had an end, as members of my book club argued. It just, after the ending, started the next book, which I have since learned hasn’t even been written! There isn’t going to be a sequel! The culprit will never get caught! There will never be justice!

I’d spent eight hours of my life on a book with a dangling plotline (the technical term is “open ending”) that I will never get back.

As a publisher, I have worked on books from two different authors who did the same thing. The first book I considered excellent—except for the cliffhanger. The young first-time writer insisted that it was a trilogy—the first book had to end in a cliffhanger.

Against my better judgement, I agreed to release the book, but told the writer that the second book had to be ready to go upon the release of the first one. He assured me that it would be. The first book was published in 2014. There’s no sign of the second book in his trilogy. Last time I checked his status on social media, he was hanging out with his buds watching Game of Thrones.

The second author was working on what he considered to be a series. The first book ended in a cliffhanger with the characters in a life and death struggle against evil. Last I heard, he gave up writing completely.

I can’t believe that I am the only reader in the world who hates to be left hanging at the end of a book. However, based on how many books our book club has recommended in recent months that have such endings, television shows that insist on having seasonal/series arches that don’t allow you to just watch one hour and then go to bed satisfied, and movies where you have to wait a year to get the solution (Star Wars: The Last Jedi/Avengers: Infinity War), I’m beginning to think that I may have to take up another hobby to feel complete and satisfied—like taste-tester at the Cheesecake Factory.

I confess. I am that one person in the whole world who has yet to see Avengers: Infinity War. My family was furious because I refused to see it until Avengers: End Game came out so that I could binge watch them both on the same day. I told them they could go without me, but they refused. It just wasn’t going to be as good without Dear Old Mom cursing the whole way home after being pushed over a cliff from which to hang.

Tell me that I am not the only reader who hurls a book across the room when the book ends with “Tune in next time to find out if the serial killer who crawled out of the woodwork on the last page is going to dismember the protagonist and his family.”

Look at it from my point of view: Life is short. You never know when the Angel of Death is going to jump out of nowhere to punch your ticket and take you to your final destination, which most likely will not have a library.

The last thing I want to do is spend over two hours of what I have left here on earth in a theater watching a movie that isn’t going to end until a year later, or spend eight hours listening to a book that ends in a life and death struggle that is never resolved because the writer decides to retire his laptop or I got hit by a train before its release.

As I have said, I have been assailed by these non-ending books through selections at my book club. After this last fiasco, I announced that from now on I will read the last chapter/epilogue first. As soon as I see a cliff on the horizon, I’m bailing.

I didn’t used to be that way. I used to think it was sacrilege to read the ending of a book before turning to page one. Equally, I thought it was a killjoy to go to the internet to checkout a synopsis of a movie or television series ahead of time to find out how it ended. But I’ve been burned so many times, that I’ll admit it’s now common practice.

Or is the author going to shove the reader hanging by a tree root off the edge of a cliff while waiting for the next installment, which may or may not come? Will there be justice in the end? Will all the good guys survive? Is this book the complete package—with every storyline tied up with a nice bow?

My declaration about reading the ending first caused quite a discussion between the cliffhanging enthusiasts and those who want their books to be the complete package.

“That’s life,” one fellow reader insisted. “Life is full of open endings. Doesn’t each day end with a cliffhanger? I mean, it isn’t like you go to bed at night with no dangling plotlines.”

I guess there in lies the crux of the situation.

I have been surprised to learn that different people read for different reasons. Some want an artistic representation of life. These are the people who prefer the paintings in the art gallery to look much like life—warts and all. Life does not offer us the complete package, so why should we expect authors to put it in their books? As I read in one blog post, when the boy gets the girl at the end, there are going to be fights, issues, adjustments. There is no such thing as a “happily ever after.”

These readers state that it is unrealistic for books to end without dangling plotlines or cliffhangers.

Yet, there is a whole reading audience, like me, who read to escape the reality of life. From the time I learned how to read, I read books to escape what I considered to be a boring life to go on an adventure into another world that was full of excitement, mystery, and suspense.

The author is my tour guide. I trust the writer to take me on a complete adventure that will bring me into the station called “The End” feeling completely satisfied that I haven’t missed anything – no dirty rotten scoundrels got away.

Nothing makes me cross a writer off my “To Be Read” list faster than for him or her to slow the train down as we approach “The End” station only to speed up again right before we come to the stop. Then to demand that we buy another ticket in order to complete the adventure.

If this ride is the first of many available, the author may suggest that I come along on the next—in the form of a synopsis after I leave the station. At that point, if the writer has earned my trust, odds of my buying their next book will be high.

Nothing breaks my trust in an author faster than ending the book by opening a can of worms and forcing me to buy the next book to get the solution. Odds are, I will scream, spend several days cursing, and not buy the next book.

I don’t consider dangling plotlines and cliffhangers to be intriguing literary tools. I consider them to be a cheap exercise in manipulation.

So there you have it. I warned you that this was a vent. I’d like to hear from you down below in the comments. As a reader, do you like cliffhangers or dangling plotlines which force you to buy the next book? As a writer, do you use cliffhangers or dangling plotlines? If so, feel free to voice your views in defense of them.

There’s nothing like a good debate.


To enter the drawing for an ebook copy
The Root of Murder by Lauren Carr,
just leave a comment telling us what you
think about cliffhangers/dangling
plotlines. The winning name will be
drawn on
Monday evening, May 6th.

Book Review: Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann—and a Giveaway!

Trial on Mount Koya
A Hiro Hattori Novel #6
A Shinobi Mystery
Susan Spann
Seventh Street Books, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-6338-8415-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

November, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo travel to a Buddhist temple at the summit of Mount Koya, carrying a secret message for an Iga spy posing as a priest on the sacred mountain. When a snowstorm strikes the peak, a killer begins murdering the temple’s priests and posing them as Buddhist judges of the afterlife–the Kings of Hell. Hiro and Father Mateo must unravel the mystery before the remaining priests–including Father Mateo–become unwilling members of the killer’s grisly council of the dead.

Anyone who is a fan of Agatha Christie will recognize the tip of the hat this book is to her And Then There Were None with the isolated setting and the killer who picks off the victims one at a time and that really adds an element of fun to the story. This unusual pair of sleuths—a Portuguese Jesuit priest and his shinobi companion/bodyguard—have come to this remote temple because Hiro has been ordered to deliver a message to an Iga spy but they soon find themselves looking for a murderer among the monks and a couple of visitors. Although each investigation these two have conducted has its own peculiarities, this time Hiro is off-center, partly because of a personal sorrow but also because he comes to believe his friend may be in real jeopardy.

Along with the investigation, we also learn a little about the Buddhist religion in the 16th century and why the killer might be posing his victims, one by one, as the judges of the afterlife. The juxtaposition of the Buddhist tenets with those of a Catholic priest is striking and sheds more light on the relationship between Hiro and Father Mateo, two men who are vastly different and yet so respectful of each other. Each brings a unique perspective to the investigation and they are made even more interesting by their positions in feudal Japanese society.

Ms. Spann, as I’ve come to expect, creates vivid settings—her ability to evoke a visual understanding of the surroundings is full of the small details that bring them to life—and her characters are so fully fleshed out as to make our sleuths seem like people we actually know. It’s not just the two investigators that draw the attention, though; others are just as memorable, such as their housekeeper, Ana (a favorite of mine from earlier books).

Wonderful use of atmospheric language, very appealing players and an intriguing plot make Trial on Mount Koya another brilliant entry in this series I’ve come to love. Hiro and Father Mateo are among my very favorite historical investigators and I can barely wait for their next adventure, Ghost of the Bamboo Road, due out later this year.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.


Re-issue/New Cover Reveal

Claws of the Cat
A Hiro Hattori Novel
A Shinobi Mystery, Book 1

A master ninja and a Portuguese priest investigate the murder of a samurai in medieval Kyoto. May 1564: When a samurai is brutally murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, master ninja Hiro has no desire to get involved. But the beautiful entertainer accused of the crime enlists the help of Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit Hiro is sworn to protect, leaving the master shinobi with just three days to find the killer in order to save the girl and the priest from execution. The investigation plunges Hiro and Father Mateo into the dangerous waters of Kyoto’s floating world, where they learn that everyone from the elusive teahouse owner to the dead man’s dishonored brother has a motive to keep the samurai’s death a mystery. A rare murder weapon favored by ninja assassins, a female samurai warrior, and a hidden affair leave Hiro with too many suspects and far too little time. Worse, the ninja’s investigation uncovers a host of secrets that threaten not only Father Mateo and the teahouse, but the very future of Japan.

Re-issued by Seventh Street Books, April 23, 2019.



To enter the drawing, just leave a comment
below. There will be two winners. One
winner will receive a trade paperback copy
of Trial on Mount Koya and the second
winner will receive a trade paperback copy
of the re-issued Claws of the Cat. The drawing
will be held on the evening of Thursday,
April 25th and is open to the US and Canada.

Book Review: A Knife in the Fog by Bradley Harper—and a Giveaway!

A Knife in the Fog
Bradley Harper
Seventh Street Books, October 2018
ISBN 978-1-63388-487-8
Trade Paperback

Jack the Ripper and Arthur Conan Doyle clash in this story and with the help of Dr. Joseph Bell, on whom Doyle supposedly based his fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, an investigative trio is created. More fun yet, is that the Dr. Watson of the story is not Doyle himself, but a woman, Margaret Harkness, a writer of extraordinary wit and intelligence, who lives in the East End.

History says the man who claimed the sobriquet “Jack the Ripper” was never discovered, although the gruesome murders he perpetrated upon the prostitutes of Whitechapel abruptly ceased. No one actually knows why. In this story, the author shows the reader why, and frankly, I can’t imagine a more fitting reason.

Although the quasi-romance aspects of the story seemed a bit half-hearted, I felt all the characters suited to the parts they played. The writing is good, the characters well fleshed out, and the action well depicted. The historical aspects of the setting and the attitudes of the people, both high and low, including politics and racial/class discrimination, are very well done.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2019.
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.


To enter the drawing for a print copy
of A Knife in the Fog, just leave a
comment below. The winning name will
be drawn on Sunday night, April 7th.
This drawing is open to the US and Canada.

Book Review: Wrong Light by Matt Coyle—and a Giveaway!

Wrong Light   
A Rick Cahill Novel #5
Matt Coyle
Oceanview Publishing, December 2018
ISBN 978-1-60809-329-8
Trade Paperback

Rick Cahill is a San Diego private eye. He comes out of the hard-bitten lonesome cowboy tradition, one who spends a lot of time second-guessing himself and even agonizing over missteps and mistakes. But he is wedded to Truth. When he takes on a client, most of the time that client is law-abiding and honest–mostly.

Cahill’s history is, however, checkered and as a result, his new client, a radio talk-show host, with a sultry, warm voice that promises much in the dark hours of the night, does not immediately receive the kind of intense attention one usually expects from a PI in these novels. He needs to respond to a former contact or client whose demands for attention are fraught with intense danger for Cahill from the very beginning and Cahill’s activities and plans to protect the talk-show host are frequently interrupted by this other, persistent, obligation.

The novel is well-paced although Cahill’s sarcasm and jaundice occasionally drag the reader away from the main narrative. There are probably too many verbal cracks, tongue-in-cheek observations and philosophical bon mots than needed to fill out our perceptions of the main character, but the persistent drive of the narrative will overcome that minor difficulty, as it will slice over the occasional repetitious language.

With those minor caveats, I recommend the novel for fans of the hardboiled, down at the heels, persistent and upright investigator, one who feels deeply his past mistakes and missteps.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2019.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.


To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Wrong Light by Matt Coyle, just leave a
comment below. The winning name will
be drawn on Monday night, April 1st.
This drawing is open to the US and Canada.

Book Review: This Story Is A Lie by Tom Pollock—and a Giveaway!

This Story Is A Lie
Tom Pollock
Soho Teen, August 2018
ISBN 978-1-61695-911-1

When a book begins with the protagonist having just dealt with a major panic attack by crushing a porcelain salt shaker with his teeth, you can expect what follows to be a bit strange. And what does ensue exceeds that description in spades. Peter Blankman, age seventeen, is a twin and a mad math genius. He’s also bullied unmercifully by three classmates at his English high school. His only protection is his older, by eight minutes, sister Bel who is no slouch in the brains department herself.

Peter has been dealing with irrational fears and panic attacks for as long as he can remember. His mother is a world famous scientist and his absent father a mystery. All Peter and Bel know is the tidbits their mother drops on occasion, but the overarching message has always been that Dad was utterly evil and the less they know, the better off they’ll be.

A few hours following his attack, he, Bel and Mom are off to the Natural History Museum where Mom’s to receive an award for her work. Peter does his best to hold it together, but as the moment approaches for things to start, he loses it and bolts, running recklessly down one corridor after another. When he runs out of gas, he tries to find his way back, only to stumble on a body leaking copious amounts of blood. It’s his mother and it’s all he can do to stay with her and try to stanch the bleeding.

In short order, Bel vanishes, Peter’s grabbed by Rita, who claims to be a friend of Mom and one of her co-workers. She rushes him out of the museum and into a strange car that follows the ambulance transporting Mom. Peter’s paranoia starts ramping up as the convoy heads away from the two closest hospitals. It spikes even more as he overhears snippets of code-like conversations and senses that something highly suspicious. Little does he know how right he is. He manages to escape, but with Bel missing, where can he go?

What follows is like going in and out of a series of Alice in Wonderland rabbit holes. Every time Peter thinks he has something figured out, reality, or what passes for it, pulls another rug out from him. He’s unsure who to trust, how much of what he’s learned about mathematics can be counted on, he’s unsure who’s real or telling the truth, and as pieces fall into place, he finds himself on ever more fragile ground. Many details are revealed in flashback chapters going back anywhere from five days to seven years prior to the current story line. By the end, Peter, Bel and the reader are all still trying to sort things out. That’s not to say the ending is bad or incomplete, just nicely twisted. If you like industrial strength creepy, this book is for you.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, February 2019.


To enter the drawing for a print copy
of This Story Is A Lie, just leave a
comment below.
The winning name will
be drawn on Friday
night, March 1st.

This drawing is open to the US and Canada.