Book Review: All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco—and a Giveaway!

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Title: All Signs Point to Murder
Series: A Zodiac Mystery #2
Author: Connie di Marco
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Cozy

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Purchase Links:

              

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All Signs Point to Murder
A Zodiac Mystery #2
Connie di Marco
Midnight Ink, August 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-5107-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Rob Ramer was the perfect husband until he committed the ultimate family faux pas — he shot his sister-in-law to death. Believing himself under attack by an intruder in his home, he fired back. But when evidence is discovered that Rob’s wife, Brooke, was plotting his murder, Brooke is charged with conspiracy in her sister’s death. Geneva, a third sister, is desperate for answers and seeks the help of her friend, San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. Geneva’s lost one sister and now it seems she’ll lose the other. Was this a murder plot or just a terrible accident? Julia vows to find the answer in the stars.

Generally speaking, I like cozies but I find some of them overly simplistic and too often one is just like the next—different occupation but the same romance, the same reasons for sleuthing when the police haven’t even had a chance to do their jobs. Still, they can be a nice change from the grittier, perhaps more violent crime fiction I usually choose.

All Signs Point to Murder is a good blend of types and I appreciate that. The initial crime is interesting because of the circumstances and the people involved and, while I’m not a true believer in astrology, I understand why it appeals to so many and why Geneva turns to Julia for help. Perhaps someone who reads the stars, and does it well, could see possibilities others might not. As it turns out, Julia does begin to discover things that lead to more questions and, eventually, to answers.

While I enjoyed this book, I do think the author missed a golden opportunity. Readers like me who don’t understand much about astrology are potential sponges for learning but there’s very little explanation here, mostly just statements. Because of that, I skimmed a fair amount and gave my attention to solving the puzzle which, by the way, was not all that easy; I figured out the simple who early on but not the broader who or the why so there was plenty for me to think about.

Besides crafting an intriguing cozy with an edge, Ms. di Marco also has a knack for characters and I found I especially liked Cheryl and Gale as well as Julia and won’t mind spending more time with them in the future.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

An Excerpt from All Signs Point to Murder

The building on Guerrero was a once proud Victorian with bow front windows. It had since been broken up into six small units and fallen into disrepair. I drove around the block several times before I managed to find a parking spot a few doors down. The shops on the main street were long closed and the streets deserted. I shivered and let the car heater run another minute to warm up before I left the comfort of my little metal box. There was something about this chore that made my stomach go into knots. Rummaging through a dead woman’s possessions was bad enough, but what if I found something that implicated Moira in a crime? Should I remove it and risk the police finding out?

I climbed out of the car, careful to lock it and approached the long stairway leading to the front door. The wind had died down and now fog danced around the streetlights. It was eerily quiet. No lights shone from any of the windows. I hoped all the residents were safely tucked up in their beds by now. I climbed the cracked granite stairs to the entrance. The weathered door stood ajar, listing slightly on its hinges. I grasped the handle and twisted it, but the lock mechanism was out of commission. Inside, a bare overhead light bulb hung from a chain. It cast a meager glow down the long corridor, cannibalized from a once grand entryway. The hallway smelled of dirty cat litter, moldy vegetables and cigarette smoke. I followed the corridor to the end, and stopped at the last door on the right.

I slipped the key into the lock. It offered no resistance. The door opened immediately. Had it not been locked? I caught a slight scuffling sound and cringed. I hoped no furry long-tailed creatures were waiting inside for me. I reached around the doorway and felt along the wall. My fingers hit the switch. A rusting chandelier with two bulbs missing illuminated the one large room that was both Moira’s living room and bedroom. I tested the key with the door open, locking and then unlocking it. Now I felt the resistance. The door had definitely been unlocked. I stepped inside and shut it behind me, making sure the lock was secure. Was it possible someone had been here before me and left without locking the door? Or had Moira simply been careless?

I had to make sure I was alone in the apartment. There were no hiding places in this sparsely furnished room. I checked under the bed just to be sure and opened the closet, terrified that someone or something might jump out at me. The closet was narrow, filled with a jumble of clothing, half on the floor. I walked into the kitchenette and spotted a doorway that led to the back stairs and the yard. I tested the handle on the door. Locked. I checked the space between the refrigerator and the wall, and then the shower stall in the bathroom. I was alone. I had been holding my breath and finally let it out in a great sigh.

I started with the drawers in the kitchen and checked the counter, looking for any notes with names or phone numbers. There was nothing. The kitchen was surprisingly clean, as if Moira had never used the room. Inside the refrigerator were a few condiments, a half-eaten unwrapped apple and a loaf of whole wheat bread. I quickly rummaged through the drawers and the freezer to make sure there were no bundles of cash disguised as frozen meat.

The main room housed a collection of hand-me-downs and broken furniture, ripped curtains and piles of clothing in various spots around the floor. Had she really lived like this? I heaved up the mattress, first on one side and then the other, making sure nothing was hidden between it and the box spring. Under the bed, I spotted only dust bunnies. I pulled open each of the bureau drawers, checked their contents and pulled them all the way out to make sure nothing was behind them. I opened a small drawer in the bedside stand. Amid a loose pile of clutter was a dark blue velvet box embossed with the letter “R” in cursive gold script. Could this be from Rochecault? I was fairly certain it was. Rochecault is an infamously expensive jeweler on Maiden Lane downtown. How could Moira have shopped there? Was this what Geneva had meant when she said her sister seemed to have a lot of money to spend?

I opened the box and gasped. An amazing bracelet heavy with blue stones in varying colors rested inside. The setting had the slightly matte industrial sheen of platinum. Moira couldn’t possibly have afforded this. Shoving the box into a side pocket of my purse, I decided I was definitely not leaving this for the police to find, and slid the drawer shut.

I scanned the room. Moira hadn’t been much of a housekeeper and it didn’t appear as if there were many hiding spots. I headed for the desk, a rickety affair with two drawers and a monitor on top. I clicked on the hard drive and waited a moment. The monitor came to life and asked for a password. It would take someone much more talented than I to unearth its secrets. Under a jumble of papers and unopened bills, my eye caught a small black notebook. This looked promising. Perhaps it was an address book that would give us all of Moira’s contacts. I dropped my purse on the floor and reached for the book. A searing pain shot through my skull. Blinded, I fell to the floor.

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Excerpt from All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco. Copyright © 2017 by Connie di Marco. Reproduced with permission from Connie di Marco. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink, featuring San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti. The first in the series, The Madness of Mercury, was released in June 2016 and the second, All Signs Point to Murder, was released on August 8, 2017.

Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the national bestselling author of the Soup Lover’s Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Some of her favorite recipes can be found in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

Catch Up With Connie di Marco:

              

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Follow the tour:

7/23 Guest Post @ CMash Reads
7/23 Review @ Lauras Interests
7/24 Interview @ BooksChatter – GIVEAWAY!
7/24 Showcase @ A Bookworms Journal
7/25 Review @ Booklove
7/25 Showcase @ A Bookworms Journal
7/26 Review @ Socrates Review Blog
7/27 Showcase @ A Bookaholic Swede
7/28 Interview @ Loris Reading Corner
7/28 Review @ Cozy Up With Kathy
7/29 Review @ Cafinated Reads
7/29 Showcase @ Bound 2 Escape
7/30 Guest post @ Cozy Up With Kathy
7/31 Review @ Hott Books
8/01 Showcase @ The Pulp and Mystery Shelf
8/02 Guest post @ Books Direct
8/02 Review @ Cheryls Book Nook
8/03 Review @ A Holland Reads
8/03 Review @ Jane Reads
8/04 Guest post @ Jane Reads
8/04 Interview @ Deal Sharing Aunt
8/05 Showcase @ Bookalicious Traveladdict
8/06 Showcase @ Books, Dreams, Life
8/07 Review @ the Blacksheep Reader
8/08 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
8/09 Review @ Book Babble
8/09 Review @ Hezzi-Ds Books and Cooks
8/10 Review @ Puddletown Reviews
8/11 Review @ Carols Notebook
8/12 Review @ Bookishly me
8/13 Showcase @ Suspense Magazine
8/14 Showcase @ Brooke Blogs
8/16 Review @ Buried Under Books – GIVEAWAY
8/17 Showcase @ Sleuth Cafe
8/18 Review @ JBronder Book Reviews
8/21 Review @ Melinas Book Blog
8/22 Review @ A Room Without Books is Empty
8/23 Blog Talk Radio w/Fran Lewis
8/23 Review @ Just Reviews

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To enter the drawing for an ebook
copy of All Signs Point to Murder,
leave a comment
below. The winning
name will be drawn
Saturday evening,
August 19th, and the
book will be
sent out after the tour ends.

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Beware! Author at Work!—and a Giveaway!

Lauren Carr is the best-selling author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. Killer in the Band is the third installment in the Lovers in Crime Mystery series.

In addition to her series set in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, Lauren Carr has also written the Mac Faraday Mysteries, set on Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland, and the Thorny Rose Mysteries, set in Washington DC. The second installment in the Thorny Rose Mysteries, which features Joshua Thornton’s son Murphy and Jessica Faraday, Mac’s daughter, A Fine Year for Murder, was released in January 2017. The next book, Twofer Murder, will be released at the end of the year.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.

She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV. Visit Lauren Carr’s website at http://www.mysterylady.net to learn more about Lauren and her upcoming mysteries.

Every writer dreams of being a character in a Neil Simon play. In case you haven’t noticed, most of Neil Simon’s plays were autobiographical. Therefore, the lead character would be a writer and the plot would involve the protagonist’s loveable friends and family who would invade his life—creating chaos and disrupting his writing.

Such has been my life while working on my latest work-in-progress. One day, I will be able to laugh about it. One day. In the future. Not now.

Since January—count it—eight months—I have been working on Twofer Murder, my most ambitious mystery novel yet.

Twofer Murder will be a treat for mystery lovers because it is two mysteries in one novel. This book will contain all of the characters from the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose mysteries. The guys go fishing and get embroiled in a murder mystery. Meanwhile, the ladies go off to a murder mystery writers conference and end up wrapped up in their own mystery when an up and coming mystery author ends up dead! Can’t beat that! Two mysteries for the price of one!

I knew going into this project that it would be a challenge. Every writer needs to challenge herself—otherwise the writing gets stale. However, the biggest challenge that I have encountered is not the writing.

It’s life!

This project started off with a bang during the first week of February when I came down with the flu. I had come down with a fever of 102 and went to the emergency room at three o’clock in the morning. Several years ago, I had had pneumonia and with this illness, I felt the same way. At the ER, when Doogie Howser was finally able to tear himself away from his computer game to tend to me, I told him that I needed a chest X-ray because I suspected I had pneumonia.

Doogie disagreed. He gave me a shot. Several minutes later, after he managed to make it to the next level in his computer game, he came in and told me that I looked great.

“I don’t feel great,” I replied. “I don’t feel any better. I think I have pneumonia.”

“Oh, you have the same virus that’s been going around,” Doogie said with a wave of his hand. “You’ll be better in a week.”

Three weeks later, I still had a fever and had written a total of 40 pages on Twofer Murder. Doogie had managed to make me feel so much like a drama queen that I was afraid of making a fuss over feeling so lousy and my silly little fever. When my fever reached a hundred and four, I went to my regular doctor who chewed me out for waiting so long.

I had had the real influenza and had been contagious the whole time! It was six weeks after that before I felt more or less like myself again.

Normally, by the end of spring I would have a book off to the editor. However, with Twofer Murder, which is realistically two books in one, I was really only getting started. The plotline for this double mystery requires strict attention to detail.

Attention that keeps getting interrupted!

“Type up your book and fix my computer,” my husband said just now while pouring a cup of coffee—coffee that I brewed before sitting down to finish a chapter I had started last night.

Seriously? Writers don’t just “type up” a three hundred page book!

Civilians (non-writers) have the mistaken impression that writers can calmly finish writing whatever paragraph they’re working on, tend to the interruption, and then sit back down at the laptop and pick up right where they had left off.

We writers wish it were that easy.

Until I became a full-time writer myself, I truly was not aware of how delicate a writer’s attention span can be when working on an intricate portion of a book. It is maddening to get back into the zone to finish writing a scene in which your hero is walking into a trap after being ripped out of it to do laundry because you’ve run out of clean underwear. I wanted to go commando until I was sure that Mac Faraday and Gnarly had escaped the shoot-out unharmed. But, my husband pointed out that if I got into a car accident and ended up being taken to the ER by ambulance that Doogie Howser would most certainly tell all his friends that Lauren Carr didn’t wear underwear.

When writing fiction, especially novels, authors have to get into the zone, the setting, characters’ minds—including each character’s agenda—and pay attention to all the details pertaining to the storyline. Once they get into all that (the zone) then the words flow easily from the mind, down through the fingertips and across the keyboard.

Interruptions at this point drive mystery writers to consider writing the interrupter into their book—as a victim. For me, I find that I have to start all over again at the beginning of the section—or sometimes even the beginning of the chapter—to get back into the zone to finish the scene. Recently, with Twofer Murder, it took two weeks for me to write a three-page fight scene –not due to writer’s block, but constant interruptions.

My husband had broken his foot in two places and was on crutches. Since it was his right foot, he couldn’t drive. That meant all the errands he would do (including the grocery shopping), suddenly landed in my lap. Man! Never had I realized how much my husband did around the house! Boy, did I marry well!

While I sympathized with the pain and inconvenience of his injury, I was very frustrated as a writer. Seemingly, every time I sat down to write, I would have to return to the beginning of the chapter. Then, just as I felt myself getting up to speed, getting into the zone as I closed in on where I had left off in the fight scene, a dog would bark, the phone would ring, or I would hear the garbage truck in the distance and realize that I had not taken the can to the curb.

So, the month of August has arrived. Friends and family who are accustomed to a new Lauren Carr release in June are asking, “Where’s the next book?”

My response, “I’m working on it.”

“But you’ve been working on this book since January,” my mother said this weekend. “Usually, you release three books a year. What’s wrong? Do you have writer’s block?”

“No, I keep getting interrupted.”

“By what?” she’ll ask.

“By phone calls from friends and family asking if I have writer’s block!”

(Sigh.)

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To enter the drawing for two ebooks
by Lauren Carr, Kill and Run and
A Fine Year for Murder,
just leave a
comment below about what interruption
drives you the most crazy, whatever
it is you might be doing. 
The winning
name will be drawn
on
Monday evening, August 14th.

       

The Power of Storytelling—and a Giveaway!

Seth Margolis lives with his wife in New York City and has two grown children. He received a BA in English from the University of Rochester and an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business Administration. When not writing fiction, he is a branding consultant for a wide range of companies, primarily in the financial services, technology and pharmaceutical industries. He has written articles for the New York Times and other publications on travel and entertainment.

Connect with Seth:
Website | Facebook | Twitter

I’m often asked what book inspired me to become a novelist. But I think the more interesting question is: What inspired me to become a reader of novels? With so many alternatives to reading available today – electronic games, on-demand movies, online videos, social media – the pull of a good novel, in any format, remains irresistible. Why?

I wish I could report that my inspiration was something weighty and “important.”  Anna Karenina, for example, or The Grapes of Wrath (two of my favorite novels, as it happens). But in fact, it was a children’s book that first showed me what great storytelling could do.

The book was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. It was published in 1963 and has been in print ever since, so clearly I’m not the only person inspired by this great novel. I was nine that year, and reading on my own. My parents gave me the book for my birthday, and each night that week I’d read a chapter or two, using a flashlight, on the top level of the bunkbed I shared with my younger brother. The next day I’d recount what I’d read to my mother, no doubt in the breathless, spare-no-detail way that children tend to adopt when describing what they’ve read to their patient, if half-listening, elders. I must not have bored my mother too terribly, because she began to read the book, on her own, the next day. Over the following nights we tore through the book, separately, and then talked about what we’d read the next morning.

We loved discussing Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. And especially the Happy Medium. I’m sure the wordplay sailed right over my head. Also unnoticed by me was the novel’s undercurrent of Christian themes. My mother didn’t point this out to me, but she was an astute reader and I’m sure she picked up on it. To me it was just a grand adventure, albeit one with profound lessons about life, conformity and truth.

But what I really learned from A Wrinkle in Time was far more significant to me than anything in the plot or even in the lessons it contained. The novel, or I should say the experience of reading the novel, taught me that reading, typically a solitary endeavor, can bring people together. It was a powerful lesson. Even today, when I think of A Wrinkle in Time, what I remember most isn’t the story itself, magical as it was, or the Happy Medium with her crystal ball. It’s a feeling of closeness to my mother, who died almost thirty years ago, and the experience of sharing a magical journey with her. And I think that’s when my life as an enthusiastic, committed, can’t-ever-be-without-a good-book reader really began.

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Purchase Links:

              

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Follow the tour here.

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To enter the drawing for a print
copy of Presidents’ Day by
Seth Margolis, just leave
a
comment below. The winning

name will be drawn on Friday
night, August 11th. This drawing is
open to residents of the US and Canada.

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Book Review: Lowcountry Bonfire by Susan M. Boyer—and a Giveaway!

Lowcountry Bonfire
A Liz Talbot Mystery #6
Susan M. Boyer
Henery Press, June 2017
ISBN 978-1-63511-227-6
Trade Paperback
Also available in hardcover

From the publisher—

Private Investigators Liz Talbot and Nate Andrews have worked their share of domestic cases. So when Tammy Sue Lyerly hires them to find out what her husband is hiding, they expect to find something looney but harmless. After all, this is the guy who claims to have been a DEA agent, a champion bull rider, and a NASCAR driver. But when he turns up dead the morning after Liz and Nate deliver the incriminating photos, Tammy is the prime suspect.

Questioning the truth of Zeke Lyerly’s tall-tales, Liz and Nate race to uncover small town scandals, long buried secrets, and the victim’s tumultuous past to keep Tammy Sue out of jail and the case from going up in flames.

Zeke Lyerly was a teller of tall tales, many involving Army Ranger-style exploits, race cars, hot women, guns and the like and no one really believed them although they were certainly entertaining. His latest adventure wasn’t so captivating but was he really killed because of something so mundane as cheating on his wife? Tammy Sue can’t help but be Suspect Number One when Zeke is found in the trunk of his car, the very car she had set on fire with such vim and vigor, but Liz and Nate have serious doubts. Fortunately for all concerned, the police chief, who happens to be Liz’s brother, Blake, has to let them in on the investigation because of a contractual arrangement. Otherwise, they’d have to skulk around to clear their client.

As a group, the recurring characters in this series are among my favorites but none surpass the delightful Colleen who just happens to be a ghost and can be seen and heard by only Liz and Nate. Colleen has been a real help in solving cases because she can go places and see or hear things that Liz can’t and her snarky attitude always adds an element of humor. Unfortunately, Colleen is not around quite as much this time and our two private eyes have to work a little harder because of it.

The mystery of who killed Zeke and stuffed him in his own car is only the beginning of what could be quite a convoluted story but, in the end, all comes together. Liz and Nate, with more than a little help from friends and family, have to answer a lot of questions and connect the dots in their efforts to clear Tammy Sue (who, by the way, is a pistol). Secrets come to light and the ugly face of revenge surprises most of the residents of this tiny island. It just goes to show that living in a small community doesn’t necessarily mean that your neighbors know everything about you 😉

All in all, I enjoyed this sixth entry in the series every bit as much as the earlier books and my affection for these people hasn’t cooled at all. Ms. Boyer is just going to have to get the next one out PDQ!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

An Excerpt from Lowcountry Bonfire

The dead are not much given to hysteria. The morning Tammy Sue Lyerly piled her husband’s clothes into his Raven Black 1969 Mustang convertible and lit a match, my friend Colleen stayed oddly nonchalant. She’d been dead eighteen years and had seen a thing or two.

For her part, Tammy Sue was pitching an F5 hissy fit. She dug all ten fingers into her 1980s pile of long red hair, clutched her head, and bellowed, “Let it burn.”

Four Stella Maris volunteer firemen cast her worried looks but went about the business of hooking up the hose to the fire hydrant.

We stood in a loose huddle a safe distance from the burning car in the Lyerly driveway.

“I asked you what you were doing here,” said Blake.

My brother, Blake, was the Stella Maris Police Chief. My husband, Nate, and I were private investigators, and Blake purely hated it when we meddled in his business.

“I called her,” said Daddy. “I overheard at the flea market that your sister’d done some work for Tammy Sue recently. Thought maybe she’d want to know.” Daddy shrugged, looked innocent.

Mamma and Daddy lived across the street from the Lyerlys, so naturally Daddy was first on the scene. Mamma had come with him. She raised an eyebrow to let him know she had his number. It wasn’t yet eight o’clock. Daddy sipped coffee from a large insulated stainless steel travel mug, all nonchalant like.

“For cryin’ out loud, Dad. We don’t need the whole town out here this morning.” Blake gave his head a shake. He scanned the neighborhood we’d grown up in. Folks gathered in clumps under the shade of massive live oaks in bordering yards. They’d all come out to see the show. The audience was growing fast. It was early on a Tuesday in the middle of June. Some of those folks were missing work. Blake lifted his Red Sox cap, ran a hand through his hair, and resettled the cap.

Tammy Sue grabbed my arm with one hand and clutched her chest dramatically with the other. “Well, I want her here, and you don’t have a single thing to say about it. This is my property.”

“Yours and Zeke’s.” Blake kept his tone easy, casual. “Where did you say Zeke was again?”

“He’s with that cheap hussy, Crystal Chapman.” Tammy’s eyes glowed with crazy. She leaned forward and hurled the words at Blake. “And he’d better by God not come home unless he wants me to light his ass on fire too.”

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To enter the drawing for a print
copy of Lowcountry Bonfire

by Susan M. Boyer, just leave
a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Wednesday
night, August 2nd. This drawing is
open
to residents of the US.

Book Review: Betrayal at IGA by Susan Spann—and a Giveaway!

Betrayal at IGA
A Hiri Hattori Novel #5
A Shinobi Mystery
Susan Spann
Seventh Street Books, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-6338-8277-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Autumn, 1565: After fleeing Kyoto, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo take refuge with Hiro’s ninja clan in the mountains of Iga province. But when an ambassador from the rival Koga clan is murdered during peace negotiations, Hiro and Father Mateo must find the killer in time to prevent a war between the ninja clans.

With every suspect a trained assassin, and the evidence incriminating not only Hiro’s commander, the infamous ninja Hattori Hanzō, but also Hiro’s mother and his former lover, the detectives must struggle to find the truth in a village where deceit is a cultivated art. As tensions rise, the killer strikes again, and Hiro finds himself forced to choose between his family and his honor.

One of the most delightful private eye duos is back! I know it’s only been a year since their last appearance but it seemed like eons because I love them so much.

Hiro and Father Mateo are a most unusual pair, this Japanese shinobi and Portuguese priest that are linked together by contract. Hiro was assigned the task of protecting the Jesuit from all the dangers that can befall a foreigner in the midst of feudal Japan and he has done so with honor and careful attention to the things that could get Father Mateo in trouble. A very large pitfall is the culture and societal demands of this world of shoguns and samurais and Hiro is particularly concerned that the priest understand how to behave as they approach Iga, Hiro’s home. It’s Father Mateo’s first visit and Hiro himself hasn’t been home in some time.

Adding to the potential problem is the enormous tension that’s palpable in the feasting room when they arrive slightly late. A group of delegates from the Koga clan has come, supposedly to seek common ground with the Hattori clan to prevent war but at least one in the visiting group is overtly hostile and suspicious. Fuyu’s attitude of extreme distrust seems warranted when another member of his clan falls over, clearly dying from poison moments after beginning the feast.

In what is essentially a locked room mystery, in this case a locked compound, Fuyu immediately accuses the Hattori clan of murder and hostilities escalate until this room full of trained assassins are all prepared to kill each other. Hattori Hanzo, host and commander, suggests that Hiro and Father Mateo be appointed to solve the crime and bring the killer to justice but they have only three days to do so. The prime suspect? Midori, the woman who prepared the feast, Hiro’s mother.

This entry in the series is my favorite so far for a lot of reasons. Emotions run high, the tension is at breaking point and the pressure on Father Mateo and Hiro has never been so intense but we also get a good look at Hiro’s background and family, the forces that made him who he is. Family and an old love are at the core of the story and the closed community of medieval Japan is immensely interesting but, as always with this pair, the investigation is enlightening in many ways, especially considering the lack of modern-day crime solving forensics. The intriguing 16th-century setting and Ms. Spann’s knowledge of the era and place are the icing on the cake for this addition to my list of best books read in 2017.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Books-A-Million
Amazon // Indiebound // Seventh Street Books

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About the Author

Susan Spann is a transactional publishing attorney and the author of the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. Her hobbies include cooking, traditional archery, martial arts, and horseback riding. She lives in northern California with her husband, son, two cats, and an aquarium full of seahorses.

Connect with Susan

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Follow the tour:

Monday, July 10th: Suzy Approved – author guest post
Tuesday, July 11th: In Bed With Books
Thursday, July 13th: Clues & Reviews
Monday, July 17th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, July 18th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, July 19th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, July 20thBuried Under Books
Monday, July 24thWrite Read Life
Tuesday, July 25thAll Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Wednesday, July 26thMama Vicky Says
Thursday, July 27thPatricia’s Wisdom
Friday, July 28thHoser’s Blook
Monday, July 31stBewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, August 1stA Dream Within a Dream
Wednesday, August 2ndJathan & Heather
Thursday, August 3rdOpen Book Society
Friday, August 4thBook Dilettante

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To enter the drawing for a
print copy of Betrayal at Iga
by Susan Spann, just leave

a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Monday
night, July 24th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US and Canada.

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Spotlight on Ten Dead Comedians by Fred Van Lente—and a Giveaway!

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Title: Ten Dead Comedians
Author: Fred Van Lente
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Genre: Mystery

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Synopsis

As the story opens, nine comedians of various acclaim are summoned
to the island retreat of legendary Hollywood funnyman Dustin Walker.
The group includes a former late-night TV host, a washed-up improv
instructor, a ridiculously wealthy “blue collar” comic, and a
past-her-prime Vegas icon. All nine arrive via boat to find that
every building on the island is completely deserted. Marooned without
cell phone service or wifi signals, they soon find themselves being
murdered one by one. But who is doing the killing, and why?

A darkly clever take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None
and other classics of the genre, Ten Dead Comedians is a marvel
of literary ventriloquism, with hilarious comic monologues in
the voice of every suspect. It’s also an ingeniously plotted
puzzler with a twist you’ll never see coming!

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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An Excerpt from Ten Dead Comedians

Chapter One

I

A bleep, a boop, a shudder, a swoosh, and there it was, on each of their phones:

Hey there Funny Person.

Steve Gordon didn’t see it at first.

He had a good excuse, though.

He was dying.

Steve had died before, of course. He knew how. At the Laugh Shack in Portland, Maine, in front of that bachelorette party. At that open mic in Des Moines, when he was first starting out. At his SNL audition, after his career was basically already over.

Dying on stage, in the middle of a set, was something every stand-up experienced. It was as inevitable and unavoidable as bad weather. The pros distinguished themselves from the wannabes by not buckling under the weight of the dead room, of the surly crowd, of their own (hopefully temporary) suckitude.

But tonight felt different.

Tonight Steve felt like he was running out of lives.

“Hey, thanks, everybody, for that great welcome. Are you ready to be the best Finance Department we can be?”

Bifocals, bad ties, and pantsuits peered at him from the audience of the Chicago Improv Underground. The theater used to be a strip club and still retained the vague air of being somewhat ashamed of itself, with its low ceiling and bad lighting and support beams blocking sight lines from a third of the seats. Like every other performer, Steve had to memorize the location of the ancient lump of blue putty covering the hole in the floor where the stripper pole had been sawed off to avoid tripping or stubbing his toe on it.

The tumbledown surroundings were part of the act—they helped draw herds of accountants from the Whatever Co. out of the glass tomb of their conference room, down the concrete staircase beneath the Aldi supermarket, for this quarter’s team-building seminar.

This ritualized descent into the underworld was all part of the initiation process. The staircase was flanked by black-and-white photos of the famous before they were famous, fresh-faced and poor, honing their skills on the Underground stage before their careers began to flourish on Saturday Night LiveMad TV, and The Daily Show.

By the time the audience arrived in the black box theater and took their broken-down seats, they understood they were ensconced in the loam of celebrity: the Improv Underground was the rich, dark soil from which impossible dreams were raised.

Or, in Steve’s case, the pure earth to which he had returned.

In the stairwell’s Before pictures, the audience had seen him twenty years younger. Now, as Steve faced them, one eye on the floor to avoid the ex-stripper-pole bump, they were looking at the After.

“All right, folks. For our first team-building exercise, I’m going to hunt you for sport, so if you could all line up against the far wall and get your panda costumes . . . What? No? C’mon, being hunted builds character! Man is the most dangerous game.

“No, you can tell I’m joshing. Tonight we’re gonna have fun improvising sketches, just like we used to do on What Just Happened? Teddy, could you come up here on stage? Teddy is the manager of Improv Underground. He’s a professional funnyman like me, which means he’s also an amateur degenerate.

“So we’ll make up a comedy scene right here in front of you. Now somebody give me a place. Any place. Doesn’t matter where. No wrong answers here. The one word you can’t use in improv is ‘no.’”

“Auschwitz!” blurted out a middle-aged CPA in the back row.

Steve blinked.

“Oooo . . . okay? Auschwitz. Sure! Now can somebody give me a profession?”

“Rodeo clown!” yelled the Executive Senior Vice President of Something in the front.

Steve swallowed. “No,” he said.

“You said that was the one thing you couldn’t say!” the ESVPoS exclaimed with a near-audible harumph.

“No, I said that was the one thing you couldn’t say,” Steve said. And looking at Teddy’s face when he said it, and the face of the executive’s assistant sitting next to him when he said it, he knew instantly he shouldn’t have said it, because this guy hadn’t been told no by anybody still with a job since 1998.

At that moment Steve thought maybe he really was dying. The spark that had animated his existence since he was a kid was sputtering out, that desire to make people laugh, to book that next gig, to not punch an audience member in the face. What was it all for, the bad food and canceled flights? He could go back to law school like his mother always wanted. At his age, it would be a sitcom waiting to happen. Or he could flip burgers.

Flipping burgers was sounding better and better by the second. His phone vibrated again. Steve ignored Teddy’s look, a look that said “Oh no you will not check your damn phone while you’re in the middle of a gig, you pitiful sketch-show has-been” and turned his back on the audience.

“Just a second,” Steve said. “I’ll be right back.”

He pulled out the phone out and read:

II

You don’t know who I am, but you MIGHT know who I work for.

*****
Excerpted from TEN DEAD COMEDIANS © Copyright 2017 by Fred Van Lente. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Fred Van Lente is the #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning writer of comics like Archer & Armstrong (Harvey Award nominee, Best Series), Action Philosophers! (American Library Association Best Graphic Novel for Teens), and Cowboys & Aliens (with Andrew Foley), the basis for the feature film.

His many other titles include Weird Detective, The Comic Book History of Comics, The Incredible Hercules (with Greg Pak), Taskmaster, Marvel Zombies and The Amazing Spider-Man.

He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, the playwright Crystal Skillman, and some mostly ungrateful cats.

Fred loves hearing from readers at fred.vanlente@gmail.com

Find Fred on his Website and Twitter.

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To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Ten Dead Comedians, leave a
comment below. The winning name will
be drawn Saturday evening, July 22nd.
Open to residents of the US.

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“[this] debut fiction could possibly become, in its own way, as
much of a classic as the novel it honors.”—New York Journal of Books

“Van Lente’s first foray into mystery is both a tribute to
Agatha Christie and a dark showbiz satire.”—Library Journal

Book Review: Another Man’s Ground by Claire Booth—and a Giveaway!

Another Man’s Ground
Sheriff Hank Worth Mysteries #2
Claire Booth
Minotaur Books, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-08441-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It starts out as an interesting little theft case. Branson, Missouri’s new Sheriff Hank Worth is called out to look at stands of trees that have been stripped of their bark, which the property owner had planned to harvest for the booming herbal supplement market. At first, Hank easily balances the demands of the investigation with his fledging political career. He was appointed several months earlier to the vacant sheriff position, but he needs to win the fast-approaching election in order to keep his job. He thinks the campaign will go well, as long as he’s able to keep secret the fact that a group of undocumented immigrants – hired to cut down the stripped trees – have fled into the forest and he’s deliberately not looking for them.

But then the discovery of a murder victim deep in the Ozark backwoods sets him in the middle of a generations-old feud that explodes into danger not only for him, but also for the immigrants, his deputies, and his family. He must rush to find a murderer before election day, and protect the vulnerable in Branson County, where politicking is hell and trespassing can get you killed.

When I discover a new—or, new to me—author and they knock my socks off, I’m always a little trepidatious that the next book will let me down, be a bit disappointing. That sad occurrence has happened more often than I like to think but, happily, I had no need to worry this time. The Branson Beauty was a wonderful book and it made my 2016 Favorite Books list; Another Man’s Ground is every bit as entertaining and Sheriff Hank Worth is still one of my best-loved smallish-town cops.

Hank is a man who loves what he does, protecting and defending others besides using his considerable intellect to solve crimes. He left the Kansas City police department in hopes of finding a more congenial place for his family and, indeed, he did but detective work is in his blood and he enjoys being Sheriff. Not so enjoyable is the campaigning he has to do for the upcoming election and looking into what he thinks is a fairly simple theft is a welcome distraction but, of course, it’s anything but simple.

Claire Booth brings the Ozarks to life and, in what I can only call a touch of love, she lets us come to know the people of this rural area as far more perceptive and quick-witted than stereotypes from the past persisting today would lead us to believe. The good folk of Branson and its environs are likeable and intelligent and its criminals have their own brand of cleverness. On the other hand, the notion of a decades-long feud is straight out of the hills and adds an element of curiosity and intrigue to what should have been, as I said, a simple theft.

With a little help from a deputy named Sheila Turley and not so much from the DEA and some US Marshals, Hank brings sanity back to Branson but it’s Guapo, a kind of ridiculous dog, who steals hearts on the campaign trail and all the townfolks together make me add this to my favorite books read in 2017. And now I’m really curious about what’s in store next time for Guapo and friends 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iTunes
Amazon // Indiebound // Books-A-Million

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About the Author

Claire Booth spent more than a decade as a daily newspaper reporter, much of it covering crimes so convoluted and strange they seemed more like fiction than reality. Eventually, she had enough of the real world and decided to write novels instead. Her Sheriff Hank Worth mystery series takes place in Branson, Missouri, where small-town Ozark politics and big-city country music tourism clash in, yes, strange and convoluted ways.

For more about Claire, her books, and some of the true crimes she’s covered, please visit www.clairebooth.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

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Follow the tour here.

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“The second in Booth’s regional crime series … is both an
excellent police procedural and a surprisingly humorous
look at politics and family feuds.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Booth’s affectionate treatment of the decent and shrewd
people of Branson and Worth makes this a series
worth following.” – Publishers Weekly

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To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Another Man’s Ground, leave a
comment below. The winning name will
be drawn Saturday evening, July 15th,
and the book will be sent after the tour ends.

Open to residents of the US and Canada.

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