Book Review: Eden Lost by Andrew Cunningham @arcnovels @GH_Narrator @AnAudiobookworm

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Author: Andrew Cunningham

Narrator: Greg Hernandez

Length: 6 hours 31 minutes

Series: Eden Rising, Book 2

Publisher: Andrew Cunningham

Released: Jan. 15, 2021

Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller

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Book Review: The Stills by Jess Montgomery @JessM_Author @MinotaurBooks @TLCBookTours

The Stills
The Kinship Series, Book 3
Jess Montgomery
Minotaur Books, March 2021
ISBN 978-1-250-62340-9
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Ohio, 1927: Moonshining is a way of life in rural Bronwyn County, and even the otherwise upstanding Sheriff Lily Ross has been known to turn a blind eye when it comes to stills in the area. But when thirteen-year-old Zebediah Harkins almost dies after drinking tainted moonshine, Lily knows that someone has gone too far, and―with the help of organizer and moonshiner Marvena Whitcomb―is determined to find out who.

But then, Lily’s nemesis, the businessman George Vogel, reappears in town with his new wife, Fiona. Along with them is also her former brother-in-law Luther Ross, now an agent for the newly formed Bureau of Prohibition. To Lily, it seems too much of a coincidence that they should arrive now.

As fall turns to winter, a blizzard closes in. Lily starts to peel back the layers of deception shrouding the town of Kinship, but soon she discovers that many around her seem to be betraying those they hold dear―and that Fiona too may have an agenda of her own.

The Prohibition Era is a fascinating time in US history, one  that today makes us wonder what on earth “they” really thought about this bound-to-fail experiment in controlling people or, rather, in denying people something they want. As  we know, it became a lesson in man’s ability to find a way around the rules but also caused a great deal of crime and economic pain.

Moonshining had been around, particularly in the Appalachians, for many years but came into its own during Prohibition, kind of a cottage industry, and Lily Ross was well aware that even some of her friends were involved. Being a woman of some wisdom, she looked the other way when she could, knowing that moonshining was a way to earn some much needed money in her poverty-driven county, but has to pay attention when a young boy falls ill from a bad batch. Besides looking into the source, she also becomes aware that a criminal from her past has come back to town. George Vogel almost certainly has some sort of illicit plan in mind but his wife, Fiona, is no shrinking violet either. These two each demand the sheriff’s attention and, before all is said and done, a man is murdered.

Ms. Montgomery always comes up with a complex plot that demands the reader’s attention but it’s the strength of her characters, especially the women, that keeps bringing me back. This time, we don’t get as much time with Lily’s circle of friends as I would have liked but Lily and Fiona, two very different people, are a pair worth watching. It’s easy to like and admire Lily; Fiona, not so much, but she’s every bit as intriguing as the sheriff and I was spellbound by them both. These women and their surroundings, their time in history, make this a compelling story.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2021.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Macmillan
Books-A-Million // Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

JESS MONTGOMERY is the Literary Life columnist for the Dayton Daily News and former Executive Director of the renowned Antioch Writers’ Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Based on early chapters of her novel The Widows, Jess was awarded an Ohio Arts Council individual artist’s grant for literary arts and the John E. Nance Writer-in-Residence at Thurber House in Columbus. She lives in her native state of Ohio.

Connect with Jess
Website // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

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Book Review: A Quiet Apocalypse by Dave Jeffery @davebjeffery @SDSXXTours

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Title: A Quiet Apocalypse
A Quiet Apocalypse Book 1
by Dave Jeffery
Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon

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A Quiet Apocalypse
A Quiet Apocalypse Book 1

Dave Jeffery
Demain Publishing, January 2020
ISBN 979-8602850222
Trade Paperback

From the author—

The end is hear…

A mutant strain of meningitis has wiped out most of mankind. The few who have survived the fever are now deaf.

Bitter with loss and terrified to leave the city known as Cathedral, the inhabitants rely on The Samaritans, search teams sent out into the surrounding countryside. Their purpose, to hunt down and enslave the greatest commodity on Earth, an even smaller group of people immune to the virus, people who can still hear.

People like me.

My name is Chris.

This is my story.


“A Quiet Apocalypse is told from the perspective of ex-schoolteacher Chris, a hearing survivor. He has lost everything, including his freedom, and through his eyes we learn of what it is like to live as a slave in this terrible new world of fear and loss. I was keen to write a piece that preyed upon people’s traditional misconceptions of deafness as an illness, and the imposition of ‘hearing’ norms. It is a story that has poignancy in any understanding of the struggles of minority groups.” – Author, Dave Jeffery

With an unusual premise, A Quiet Apocalypse takes us on a post-apocalyptic journey thrust on mankind by a pandemic that leaves most survivors with a complete loss of hearing. Mr. Jeffery uses this concept to shine a light on disabilities in general and on the peculiar kind of slavery that comes about when the few who can still hear become a target for the government. Are the hearing now considered disabled in a twist on human reaction to being “different” or do certain factions see them as less worthy than the deaf?

Chris is a very sympathetic character while his vicious captor, Crowley, decidedly is not and here again the author makes much of the opportunity to focus our attention on humanity’s ability to build hatred and intolerance towards those who don’t fit a preconceived mold. Yes, the story is dark and, in its way, horrific but certainly reflects much of what is going on in our world today and is well worth everyone’s attention.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2021.

About the Author

Dave Jeffery is author of 15 novels, two collections, and numerous short stories. His Necropolis Rising series and yeti adventure Frostbite have both featured on the Amazon #1 bestseller list. His YA work features critically acclaimed Beatrice Beecham supernatural mystery series and Finding Jericho, a contemporary mental health novel that was featured on the BBC Health and the Independent Schools Entrance Examination Board’s recommended reading lists. A third edition of this book will be released by Demain Publishing in 2020.

Jeffery is a member of the Society of Authors, British Fantasy Society (where he is a regular book reviewer), and the Horror Writers Association. He is also a registered mental health professional with a BSc (Hons) in Mental Health Studies and a Master of Science Degree in Health Studies.

Jeffery is married with two children and lives in Worcestershire, UK.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Amazon * Goodreads

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Giveaway

$20 Amazon

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

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a-quiet-apocalypse-book-tour-and-giveaway

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Book Review: Will Rise from Ashes by Jean M. Grant @JeanGrant05 @AnAudiobookworm

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Author: Jean M. Grant

Narrators: Caroline Hewitt, Andrew Perkins

Length: 10 hours 32 minutes

Publisher: Jean M. Grant

Released: Mar. 16, 2020

Genre: Women’s Fiction

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Book Review: The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper @TeaCooper1 @ThomasNelson @TLCBookTours

The Girl in the Painting
Tea Cooper
Thomas Nelson, March 2021
ISBN 978-0-7852-4033-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A young prodigy in need of family.

A painting that shatters a woman’s peace.

And a decades-old mystery demanding to be solved.

Australia, 1906

Orphan Jane Piper is nine years old when philanthropist siblings Michael and Elizabeth Quinn take her into their home to further her schooling. The Quinns are no strangers to hardship. Having arrived in Australia as penniless immigrants, they now care for others as lost as they once were.

Despite Jane’s mysterious past, her remarkable aptitude for mathematics takes her far over the next seven years, and her relationship with Elizabeth and Michael flourishes as she plays an increasingly prominent part in their business.

But when Elizabeth reacts in terror to an exhibition at the local gallery, Jane realizes no one knows Elizabeth after all—not even Elizabeth herself. As the past and present converge and Elizabeth’s grasp on reality loosens, Jane sets out to unravel her story before it’s too late.

From the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, this compelling novel presents a mystery that spans continents and decades as both women finally discover a place to call home.

Immigration is a heavily-weighted word these days and has always held significant meaning in America’s history and it is no less so in Australia. That country’s beginnings are rooted in the creation and development of a penal colony and its early, mostly white, settlers frequently either had a prison-based past or had run to this remote land to escape secrets. Once again, Ms. Cooper makes use of multiple timelines, bringing divergent yet connected stories together, and does so to good effect.

In 1906, the Quinn siblings are successful business leaders who are generous in sharing their good fortune and plucking Jane Piper from an orphanage is exactly the sort of thing they like to do to help someone else make the most of their own abilities and strengths. Jane’s prodigious mathematical talents position her to become useful to the kind brother and sister but it’s something from Elizabeth’s past that triggers Jane to learn more about the Quinns and the secrets Michael has been keeping to himself for decades. By now a trusted partner, Jane is driven to look for the hidden truths that lie in the Quinns’ own emigration as children from England to Australia all those years ago and the mysteries she unearths are compelling history in themselves.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2021.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Thomas Nelson // Amazon

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About the Author

Tea Cooper is an Australian author of historical and contemporary fiction. In a past life she was a teacher, a journalist and a farmer. These days she haunts museums and indulges her passion for storytelling.

Connect with Tea:

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

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Book Review: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner @sl_penner @parkrowbooks

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Title: The Lost Apothecary
Author: Sarah Penner
Publication Date: March 2, 2021
Genres: Mystery, Historical

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Purchase Links:
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Google Play // Indiebound // Bookshop.org
Books-A-Million // Audible // Target // Libro.fm

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The Lost Apothecary
Sarah Penner
Park Row Books, March 2021
ISBN 978-0-7783-1101-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

In this addictive and spectacularly imagined debut, a female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course. Pitched as Kate Morton meets The Miniaturist, The Lost Apothecary is a bold work of historical fiction with a rebellious twist that heralds the coming of an explosive new talent.

A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge. Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.

Just imagine if a woman could go to her local pharmacist and ask for a “special” medication to give to a particular man in her life, a man who has done her wrong in some way. Then take it a step further and imagine that this woman lives in a time when there were very few protections for women who were controlled in every meaningful way by a husband, a father, a suitor, a banker, a lawyer, essentially any male figure. Such is the the premise of this wonderfully creative story and it’s made even better by having the perspective of a modern-day woman as well as those from the 18th century.

This is a tale of three women—Nella, the apothecary in 1791, the young maid, Eliza, and Caroline, a modern woman who is at an important crossroads in her life—and all three come to vivid life in the author’s talented hands. Most intriguing to me was delving into how Nella turned to the dark side of what had been a respected profession and the visibly damaging effect her actions had on her physically as well as psychologically with each succeeding client.

Mystery fans will find much to chew on here and one suspenseful thread after another certainly kept me engaged till deep in the night. Well done, Ms. Penner!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2021.

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An Excerpt from The Lost Apothecary

Nella

February 3, 1791

She would come at daybreak—the woman whose letter I held in my hands, the woman whose name I did not yet know.

I knew neither her age nor where she lived. I did not know her rank in society nor the dark things of which she dreamed when night fell. She could be a victim or a transgressor. A new wife or a vengeful widow. A nursemaid or a courtesan.

But despite all that I did not know, I understood this: the woman knew exactly who she wanted dead.

I lifted the blush-colored paper, illuminated by the dying flame of a single rush wick candle. I ran my fingers over the ink of her words, imagining what despair brought the woman to seek out someone like me. Not just an apothecary, but a murderer. A master of disguise.

Her request was simple and straightforward. For my mistress’s husband, with his breakfast. Daybreak, 4 Feb. At once, I drew to mind a middle-aged housemaid, called to do the bidding of her mistress. And with an instinct perfected over the last two decades, I knew immediately the remedy most suited to this request: a chicken egg laced with nux vomica.

The preparation would take mere minutes; the poison was within reach. But for a reason yet unknown to me, something about the letter left me unsettled. It was not the subtle, woodsy odor of the parchment or the way the lower left corner curled forward slightly, as though once damp with tears. Instead, the disquiet brewed inside of me. An intuitive understanding that something must be avoided.

But what unwritten warning could reside on a single sheet of parchment, shrouded beneath pen strokes? None at all, I assured myself; this letter was no omen. My troubling thoughts were merely the result of my fatigue—the hour was late—and the persistent discomfort in my joints.

I drew my attention to my calfskin register on the table in front of me. My precious register was a record of life and death; an inventory of the many women who sought potions from here, the darkest of apothecary shops.

In the front pages of my register, the ink was soft, written with a lighter hand, void of grief and resistance. These faded, worn entries belonged to my mother. This apothecary shop for women’s maladies, situated at 3 Back Alley, was hers long before it was mine.

On occasion I read her entries—23 Mar 1767, Mrs. R. Ranford, Yarrow Milfoil 15 dr. 3x—and the words evoked memories of her: the way her hair fell against the back of her neck as she ground the yarrow stem with the pestle, or the taut, papery skin of her hand as she plucked seeds from the flower’s head. But my mother had not disguised her shop behind a false wall, and she had not slipped her remedies into vessels of dark red wine. She’d had no need to hide. The tinctures she dispensed were meant only for good: soothing the raw, tender parts of a new mother, or bringing menses upon a barren wife. Thus, she filled her register pages with the most benign of herbal remedies. They would raise no suspicion.

On my register pages, I wrote things such as nettle and hyssop and amaranth, yes, but also remedies more sinister: nightshade and hellebore and arsenic. Beneath the ink strokes of my register hid betrayal, anguish…and dark secrets.

Secrets about the vigorous young man who suffered an ailing heart on the eve of his wedding, or how it came to pass that a healthy new father fell victim to a sudden fever. My register laid it all bare: these were not weak hearts and fevers at all, but thorn apple juice and nightshade slipped into wines and pies by cunning women whose names now stained my register.

Oh, but if only the register told my own secret, the truth about how this all began. For I had documented every victim in these pages, all but one: Frederick. The sharp, black lines of his name defaced only my sullen heart, my scarred womb.

I gently closed the register, for I had no use of it tonight, and returned my attention to the letter. What worried me so? The edge of the parchment continued to catch my eye, as though something crawled beneath it. And the longer I remained at my table, the more my belly ached and my fingers trembled. In the distance, beyond the walls of the shop, the bells on a carriage sounded frighteningly similar to the chains on a constable’s belt. But I assured myself that the bailiffs would not come tonight, just as they had not come for the last two decades. My shop, like my poisons, was too cleverly disguised. No man would find this place; it was buried deep behind a cupboard wall at the base of a twisted alleyway in the darkest depths of London.

I drew my eyes to the soot-stained wall that I had not the heart, nor the strength, to scrub clean. An empty bottle on a shelf caught my reflection. My eyes, once bright green like my mother’s, now held little life within them. My cheeks, too, once flushed with vitality, were sallow and sunken. I had the appearance of a ghost, much older than my forty-one years of age.

Tenderly, I began to rub the round bone in my left wrist, swollen with heat like a stone left in the fire and forgotten. The discomfort in my joints had crawled through my body for years; it had grown so severe, I lived not a waking hour without pain. Every poison I dispensed brought a new wave of it upon me; some evenings, my fingers were so distended and stiff, I felt sure the skin would split open and expose what lay underneath.

Killing and secret-keeping had done this to me. It had begun to rot me from the inside out, and something inside meant to tear me open.

At once, the air grew stagnant, and smoke began to curl into the low stone ceiling of my hidden room. The candle was nearly spent, and soon the laudanum drops would wrap me in their heavy warmth. Night had long ago fallen, and she would arrive in just a few hours: the woman whose name I would add to my register and whose mystery I would begin to unravel, no matter the unease it brewed inside of me.

Excerpted from The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner, Copyright © 2021 by Sarah Penner. Published by Park Row Books.

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About the Author

Credit Laura Foote

Sarah Penner is the debut author of The Lost Apothecary, to be translated in eleven languages worldwide. She works full-time in finance and is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida, with their miniature dachshund, Zoe. To learn more, visit slpenner.com

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.sarahpenner.com/

Facebook: @SarahPennerAuthor

Instagram: @sarah_penner_author

Twitter: @sl_penner

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**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher
via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Book Review: Death in Tranquility by Sharon Linnéa @SharonLinnea @ArundelBooks @partnersincr1me

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Death In Tranquility

by Sharon Linnéa

February 1-28, 2021 Tour

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon // The Bookstore Plus
 
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Death in Tranquility
The Bartender’s Guide to Murder #1
Sharon Linnéa
Arundel Publishing, September 2020
ISBN 978-1-933608-15-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—


No one talks to the cops. Everyone talks to the bartender. And Avalon Nash is one hell of a bartender.

Avalon is on the run from her life in Los Angeles. Having a drink while waiting to change trains in the former Olympic town of Tranquility, New York, she discovers the freshly murdered bartender at MacTavish’s. A bartender herself, she’s offered the position with the warning he wasn’t the first MacTavish’s bartender to meet a violent end.

Avalon’s superpower is collecting people’s stories, and she’s soon embroiled in the lives of artists, politicians, ghost hunters and descendants of Old Hollywood.

Can Avalon outrun the ghosts of her past, catch the ghosts of Tranquility’s past and outsmart a murderer?

The first book in the Bartender’s Guide to Murder series offers chills, laughs, and 30 of the best drink recipes ever imbibed.

Bartenders are known to be good listeners, able to keep customers’ secret flaws and foibles to themselves, but they don’t typically find dead bodies. When Avalon Nash finds one that just happens to be the tender of the particular bar she drifted into, it’s natural that she would step into his position, being a bartender herself. Her new, if temporary, position puts her in the perfect spot to do a little investigating through what she hears, helping the police dontchaknow, and it soon becomes obvious to her that secrets abound in this former Olympic town, not least of which are her own.

Besides secrets, we find that there are a myriad of personality types in Tranquility, not to mention motives, and the twists and turns abound, making this a very entertaining way to while away a few hours in the doldrums of February.  Ms. Linnéa has a humorous, clever way of writing and she pulled me right into the story; I love this little town and its eccentric citizens and, oh, an added benefit is the plethora of enticing drink recipes I’m going to have to try 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2021.

An Excerpt from Death in Tranquility

Chapter 1

Death in the Afternoon
“Whenever you see the bartender, I’d like another drink,” I said, lifting my empty martini glass and tipping it to Marta, the waitress with teal hair. “Everyone wants another drink,” she said, “but Joseph’s missing. I can’t find him. Anywhere.” “How long has he been gone?” I asked. “About ten minutes. It’s not like him. Joseph would never just go off without telling me.” That’s when I should have done it. I should have put down forty bucks to cover my drink and my meal and left that magical, moody, dark-wood paneled Scottish bar and sauntered back across the street to the train station to continue on my way. If I had, everything would be different. Instead I nodded, grateful for a reason to stand up. A glance at my watch told me over half an hour remained until my connecting train chugged in across the street. I could do Marta a solid by finding the bartender and telling him drink orders were stacking up. Travelling from Los Angeles to New York City by rail, I had taken the northern route, which required me to change trains in the storied village of Tranquility, New York. Once detrained, the posted schedule had informed me should I decide to bolt and head north for Montreal, I could leave within the hour. The train heading south for New York City, however, would not be along until 4 p.m. Sometimes in life you think it’s about where you’re going, but it turns out to be about where you change trains. It was an April afternoon; the colors on the trees and bushes were still painting from the watery palate of spring. Here and there, forsythia unfurled in insistent bursts of golden glory. I needed a drink. Tranquility has been famous for a long time. Best known for hosting the Winter Olympics back in 19-whatever, it was an eclectic blend of small village, arts community, ski mecca, gigantic hotels and Olympic facilities. Certainly there was somewhere a person could get lunch. Perched on a hill across the street from the station sat a shiny, modern hotel of the upscale chain variety. Just down the road, father south, was a large, meandering, one-of-a-kind establishment called MacTavish’s Seaside Cottage. It looked nothing like a cottage, and, as we were inland, there were no seas. I doubted the existence of a MacTavish. I headed over at once. The place evoked a lost inn in Brigadoon. A square main building of a single story sent wings jutting off at various angles into the rolling hills beyond. Floor-to-ceiling windows made the lobby bright and airy. A full suit of armor stood guard over the check-in counter, while a sculpture of two downhill skiers whooshed under a skylight in the middle of the room. Behind the statue was the Breezy, a sleek restaurant overlooking Lake Serenity (Lake Tranquility was in the next town over, go figure). The restaurant’s outdoor deck was packed with tourists on this balmy day, eating and holding tight to their napkins, lest they be lost to the murky depths. Off to the right—huddled in the vast common area’s only dark corner—was a small door with a carved, hand-painted wooden sign which featured a large seagoing vessel plowing through tumultuous waves. That Ship Has Sailed, it read. A tavern name if I ever heard one. Beyond the heavy door, down a short dark-wood hallway, in a tall room lined with chestnut paneling, I paused to let my eyes adjust to the change in light, atmosphere, and, possibly, century. The bar was at a right angle as you entered, running the length of the wall. It was hand-carved and matched the back bar, which held 200 bottles, easily. A bartender’s dream, or her undoing. Two of the booths against the far wall were occupied, as were two of the center tables. I sat at the bar. Only one other person claimed a seat there during this low time between meal services. He was a tall gentleman with a square face, weathered skin, and dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. I felt his cold stare as I perused the menu trying to keep to myself. I finally gave up and stared back. “Flying Crow,” he said. “Mohawk Clan.” “Avalon,” I said. “Train changer.” I went back to my menu, surprised to find oysters were a featured dish. “Avalon?” he finally said. “That’s—” “An odd name,” I answered. “I know. Flying Crow? You’re in a Scottish pub.” “Ask him what Oswego means.” This was from the bartender, a lanky man with salt-and-pepper hair. “Oh, but place your order first.” “Are the oysters good?” I asked. “Oddly, yes. One of the best things on the menu. Us being seaside, and all.” “All right, then. Oysters it is. And a really dry vodka martini, olives.” “Pimento, jalapeño, or bleu cheese?” “Ooh, bleu cheese, please.” I turned to Flying Crow. “So what does Oswego mean?” “It means, ‘Nothing Here, Give It to the Crazy White Folks.’ Owego, on the other hand means, ‘Nothing Here Either.’” “How about Otego? And Otsego and Otisco?” His eyebrow raised. He was impressed by my knowledge of obscure town names in New York State. “They all mean, ‘We’re Just Messing with You Now.’” “Hey,” I said, raising my newly delivered martini. “Thanks for coming clean.” He raised his own glass of firewater in return. “Coming clean?” asked the bartender, and he chuckled, then dropped his voice. “If he’s coming clean, his name is Lesley.” “And you are?” I asked. He wasn’t wearing a name tag. “Joseph.” “Skål,” I said, raising my glass. “Glad I found That Ship Has Sailed.” “That’s too much of a mouthful,” he said, flipping over the menu. “Everyone calls it the Battened Hatch.” “But the Battened Hatch isn’t shorter. Still four syllables.” “Troublemaker,” muttered Lesley good-naturedly. “I warned you.” “Fewer words,” said Joseph with a smile that included crinkles by his eyes. “Fewer capital letters over which to trip.” As he spoke, the leaded door banged open and two men in chinos and shirtsleeves arrived, talking loudly to each other. The door swung again, just behind them, admitting a stream of ten more folks—both women and men, all clad in business casual. Some were more casual than others. One man with silvering hair actually wore a suit and tie; another, a white artist’s shirt, his blonde hair shoulder-length. The women’s garments, too, ran the gamut from tailored to flowing. One, of medium height, even wore a white blouse, navy blue skirt and jacket, finished with hose and pumps. And a priest’s collar. “Conventioneers?” I asked Joseph. Even as I asked, I knew it didn’t make sense. No specific corporate culture was in evidence. He laughed. “Nah. Conference people eat at the Blowy. Er, Breezy. Tranquility’s Chamber of Commerce meeting just let out.” His grey eyes danced. “They can never agree on anything, but their entertainment quotient is fairly high. And they drive each other to drink.” Flying Crow Lesley shook his head. Most of the new arrivals found tables in the center of the room. Seven of them scooted smaller tables together, others continued their conversations or arguments in pairs. “Marta!” Joseph called, leaning through a door in the back wall beside the bar. The curvy girl with the teal hair, nose and eyebrow rings and mega eye shadow clumped through. Her eyes widened when she saw the influx of patrons. Joseph slid the grilled oysters with fennel butter in front of me. “Want anything else before the rush?” He indicated the well-stocked back bar. “I’d better hold off. Just in case there’s a disaster and I end up having to drive the train.” He nodded knowingly. “Good luck with that.” I took out my phone, then re-pocketed it. I wanted a few more uncomplicated hours before re-entering the real world. Turning to my right, I found that Flying Crow had vanished. In his stead, several barstools down, sat a Scotsman in full regalia: kilt, Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket and a fly plaid. It was predominantly red with blue stripes. Wow. Mohawk clan members, Scotsmen, and women priests in pantyhose. This was quite a town. Joseph was looking at an order screen, and five drinks in different glasses were already lined up ready for Marta to deliver. My phone buzzed. I checked caller i.d. Fought with myself. Answered. Was grabbed by tentacles of the past. When I looked up, filled with emotions I didn’t care to have, I decided I did need another drink; forget driving the train. The line of waiting drink glasses was gone, as were Marta and Joseph. I checked the time. I’d been in Underland for fifteen minutes, twenty at the most. It was just past three. I had maybe forty-five minutes before I should move on. That was when Marta swung through the kitchen door, her head down to stave off the multiple calls from the center tables. She stood in front of me, punching information into the point of sale station, employing the NECTM—No Eye Contact Tactical Maneuver. That’s when she told me Joseph was missing. “Could he be in the restroom?” “I asked Arthur when he came out, but he said there was nobody else.” I nodded at Marta and started by going out through the front hall, to see if perhaps he’d met someone in the lobby. As I did a lap, I overheard a man at check-in ask, “Is it true the inn is haunted?” “Do you want it to be?” asked the clerk, nonplussed. But no sign of the bartender. I swung back through into the woodsy-smelling darkness of the Battened Hatch, shook my head at the troubled waitress, then walked to the circular window in the door. The industrial kitchen was white and well-lit, and as large as it was, I could see straight through the shared kitchen to the Breezy. No sign of Joseph. I turned my attention back to the bar. Beyond the bar, there was a hallway to the restrooms, and another wooden door that led outside. I looked back at Marta and nodded to the door. “It doesn’t go anywhere,” she said. “It’s only a little smoker’s deck.” I wondered if Joseph smoked, tobacco or otherwise. Certainly the arrival of most of a Chamber of Commerce would suggest it to me. I pushed on the wooden door. It seemed locked. I gave it one more try, and, though it didn’t open, it did budge a little bit. This time I went at it with my full shoulder. There was a thud, and it wedged open enough that I could slip through. It could hardly be called a deck. You couldn’t put a table—or even a lounge chair—out there. Especially with the body taking up so much of the space. It was Joseph. I knelt quickly and felt for a pulse at his neck, but it was clear he was inanimate. He was sitting up, although my pushing the door open had made him lean at an angle. I couldn’t tell if the look on his face was one of pain or surprise. There was some vomit beside him on the deck, and a rivulet down his chin. I felt embarrassed to be seeing him this way. Crap. He was always nice to me. Well, during the half an hour I’d known him, he had been nice to me. What was it with me discovering corpses? It was certainly a habit of which I had to break myself. Meanwhile, what to do? Should I call in the priest? But she was within a group, and it would certainly start a panic. Call 911? Yes, that would be good. That way they could decide to call the hospital or the police or both. My phone was back in my purse. And, you know what? I didn’t want the call to come from me. I was just passing through. I pulled the door back open and walked to Marta behind the bar. “Call 911,” I said softly. “I found Joseph.” It took the ambulance and the police five minutes to arrive. The paramedics went through first, then brought a gurney around outside so as to not freak out everyone in the hotel. They loaded Joseph on and sped off, in case there was anything to be done. I knew there wasn’t. The police, on the other hand, worked at securing the place which might become a crime scene. They blocked all the doorways and announced no one could leave. I was still behind the bar with Marta. She was shaking. “Give me another Scotch,” said the Scotsman seated there. I looked at the bottles and was pleasantly surprised by the selection. “I think this calls for Black Maple Hill,” I said, only mildly surprised at my reflexive tendency to upsell. The Hill was a rich pour but not the absolute priciest. He nodded. I poured. I’m not sure if it was Marta’s tears, or the fact we weren’t allowed to leave, but local bigwigs had realized something was amiss. “Excuse me,” the man in the suit came to the bar. “Someone said Joseph is dead.” “Yes,” I said. “He does seem to be.” Marta swung out of the kitchen, her eyeliner half down her face. “Art, these are your oysters,” she said to the man. He took them. “So,” he continued, and I wondered what meaningful words he’d have to utter. “You’re pouring drinks?” It took only a moment to realize that, were I the owner of this establishment, I’d find this a great opportunity. “Seems so,” I said. “What goes with oysters?” he asked. That was a no-brainer. I’d spied the green bottle of absinthe while having my own meal. I poured about three tablespoons into the glass. I then opened a bottle of Prosecco, poured it, and waited for the milky cloud to form. He took a sip, looked at me, and raised the glass. “If I want another of these, what do I ask for?” As he asked, I realized I’d dispensed one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite libations. “Death in the Afternoon,” I replied. He nodded and went back to his table. It was then I realized I wasn’t going to make my train. * *

Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon

Ingredients

• 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) absinthe • ½ to ¾ cup (4 to 6 ounces) cold Champagne or sparkling wine

Method

Hemmingway’s advice, circa 1935: “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”

Chapter 2

No Known Address
Since I found the body, I got to talk to the lead investigator. He was in his mid-thirties, just under six feet, walnut skin, black hair cut short. He would have benefitted from a beard. He looked ripped; the king of ripped you got from taking out your frustrations in the gym. His demeanor was no-nonsense. “Investigator Spaulding,” he said, and he pulled out a notebook. “State Police.” “State Police? Isn’t that the same as State Troopers? Don’t you manage highways?” He stopped writing in his small, leather-covered notebook and looked up. “Common misconception. The local P.D. is small—only 9 on staff. When something big happens, they ask for assistance.” “They ask?” “It’s a dance.” I wasn’t a suspect (yet), so he didn’t need to write down my stats, but I could read upside down as he made notes. He asked my name, and began guessing at the rest. Nash, Avalon. Female. Caucasian. Blonde hair. 5’7 was his guess at my height. The next thing he wrote down could go seriously south, so I said, “healthy weight.” He looked up. “5’7” and at a healthy weight,” I supplied. “If I’m charged with something, we’ll get more specific.” “Age?” Did he really need to know all of this? “Twenties,” I said, waiting to see if he’d have the gall to object. He didn’t. “Best way to reach you?” I gave him my cell number. “Permanent address?” “I don’t have one.” He looked up. “I’m in the process of moving from California to New York. I’m only in town to change trains. I don’t have a New York address yet.” “A relative’s address?” I held up my phone. “This is your golden ticket,” I said. “If you want to reach me, this is it.” I saw him write ‘no known address.’ Yep, that pretty much summed it up. I glanced at my watch. Seven minutes until my train pulled into—and, soon after, departed from—the station. “Um, Detective,” I started. “Investigator Spaulding,” he corrected. “Investigator Spaulding, my train is about to arrive. I don’t know anything except what I’ve told you. I came in for a drink and helped Marta find the bartender, whom I hope died of a massive heart attack—well, of natural causes. You know what I mean.” At that point, his phone buzzed and he gave me a just-a-minute finger. He answered, listened for a while, and started to write. Then he hung up, flipped his notebook shut and said, “I can’t let you leave. He was murdered.” “Great,” I said, the tone somewhere between rueful and intrigued, as I headed back toward Marta, then I turned back toward Investigator Spaulding. “Can I continue to pour drinks?” He considered less than a moment. “By all means, serve truth serum to anyone who will imbibe.” Then he turned and walked toward the other officers. I went to stand with Marta behind the bar. In my imagination, I heard the train chug in across the street. Investigator Spaulding cleared his throat, and the room went silent. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “This is now a homicide investigation.” He had to pause as everyone shuffled or gasped, or cried out. “Please do not leave until we have taken your statement.” A woman in her fifties came and sat down in front of me at the bar. Her hair was in a no-fuss bob, she wore a free-flowing skirt with a linen jacket, both of which were in style twenty years ago, but they worked on her. “Got anything stronger than those Death things?” she asked. “I’m not big on Champagne.” “Sure.” I said. I sized her up. “Layers in a martini glass work for you?” “Honey, it’s the strength, not the glass.” She looked shaken and sad. I went for the rums and found Malibu Black, the stronger brother of the original. What a bartender Joseph must have been! I decided to try something new. Malibu Black, mango pineapple vodka, and pineapple juice. I mixed it over ice, shook, and poured. I sank some Chambord and topped it with Jägermeister Spice. “See if this does it,” I said. Her hand shook slightly as she held up the glass, appreciated the layers, and then took a sip. The jury was out. She took another. She nodded and smiled. It occurred to me that everyone in the room knew Joseph. They’d lost one of their own. Another woman in skinny white pants and a white shell with a fancy pink sports jacket came and sat next to her. They were about the same age, if I had to guess, but the new woman was thin as a rail, muscular, and with her blonde hair in a ponytail. I was guessing she colored her hair not from a darker shade, but to cover the white. The two women embraced. “Suzanne,” said the new arrival. “Gillian,” said no-fuss-bob Suzanne. Then, “Can’t believe it.” “I can’t, either,” replied hard-bodied Gillian. She had the remains of an Eastern European accent. They sat a respectful moment. “What are you drinking?” Suzanne looked at me. “No Known Address,” I said. “Okay,” Gillian said. “I’ll have one.” She then turned and I was dismissed to my task. “I can’t believe it. One of the only straight, available guys between forty and crotchety, and he’s gone!” said Suzanne. “There’s Mike,” Gillian said, tilting her head toward the state police investigator. “And I’m not sure Joseph was available.” “First, really? Maybe if he worked out. Second, you or I crook our little fingers and get a guy away from Sophie.” They both looked back, shooting daggers toward one of the three women in the center wall booth. I knew which must be Sophie, as one of them was crying copiously while the other two petted her solicitously. “And do we have a suspect?” asked pink jacket Gillian. This time, they looked at a younger woman who sat at a table with two newly arrived Chamber men. She was gorgeous—skin the color of chai latte and hair as dark as a sky at new moon. She was staring off into space. I almost said, “You know I can hear you.” But maids, taxi drivers, and bartenders… well, we’re invisible, which is partly how we get the good gossip. They stopped talking abruptly as two men approached. “Can we get some food?” asked the first. He was in a polo and navy blue slacks. I heard snuffling and saw that Marta was in the shadows, leaning back against the wall. “Hey,” I said, “would you ask the chef if we can continue to order food?” She nodded and swung through the kitchen door. Arthur, the man in the suit who had ordered earlier, accompanied the newcomer in the polo. Arthur addressed his companion in an audible hiss. “I’m telling you… we can’t let word of this get out. Tranquility has to be considered a safe haven. For everyone. For…the festival folks. It’s part of what lures them here. Change of pace.” “How do we not let the word get out? It’s a matter of record! And everyone in town knows about it—or will, within minutes.” From the furious pace of thumbs texting throughout the room, it was clear he was correct. “I mean, don’t print this as front-page news.” “It is front page news, Art. And, the film festival folks are already committed. They’ve submitted their films. They’ll come.” Marta returned with a positive nod. I slapped down two menus. “Marta will be out to take your order,” I said. As they turned, I added. “And if it’s a film festival, you don’t need to worry. Film people eat news like this for breakfast.” Arthur looked at me in surprise, but gave a raised-eyebrows look that inferred I could have a point. They left with the menus and I turned back to Marta, trying to help get her mind on something other than her boss’s death. “Can you help me add these drinks to people’s tabs?” I nodded toward the POS. For the record, I hate point of sale machines. Each one hates humans in its own unique way. I pointed at people and she pulled up their tabs and showed me how to input the drinks I’d served. I only had the Scotsman’s tab left undone when the man in the artist’s shirt stopped right before me. He was likely late 40s and had a face that was long but not unattractive. His shoulders were unusually broad, and he exuded self-confidence and a self-trained impishness. His shirt had one too many buttons left undone. “Okay,” he said, “I wasn’t going to drink, but Joe…” “You weren’t going to drink because it’s late afternoon, or because you’ve been sober for seven months?” I had no interest in tipping someone off the wagon. He laughed. “I haven’t been drinking because this isn’t my favorite crowd,” he said. “And I don’t usually drink. But murder seems an excuse, if there ever was one.” He extended his hand. “Michael Michel,” he said, and smiled, waggling his eyebrows as if this should mean something to me. I took his hand and shook. It was apparent I didn’t recognize him. “The Painter Who Brings You Home,” he said, and the trademark practically bled from the words. “Right,” I said, trying to sound impressed. “Nice to meet you. I’m Avalon. What’ll ya have?” “Vodka tonic lime.” “Care which vodka?” He shook his head while saying, “Whatever you’ve got. Grey Goose.” Ah, a fellow who pretended not to drink, who knew exactly what he wanted. I poured and went for the garnish tray. The limes were gone. I looked at the back bar and found lemons and oranges. No limes, though clearly there had been some. I walked along the front bar and found, below patron eye level, a small cutting board with a lime on it. The lime was half-cut, some of them in rounds, a few in quarters. Some juice was dripping down onto the floor. I reached for a wedge, and then I stopped short. Joseph never would have left this on purpose. It was obviously what he’d been doing when he was interrupted by death—or someone who led him to his death. Or by symptoms that eventually spelled death. I leaned down and sniffed. It was lime-y. But there was something else, also. I backed away. I walked over to Marta and said, quietly, “Don’t let anyone near that end of the bar.” Then I walked over to Investigator Spaulding, where he sat at a booth interviewing someone. “Investigator?” I said. “Sorry to interrupt, but this is important.” He looked at me, squinting, then seemed surprised, since I’d made such a point of being Ms. Just-Passing-Through. He stood up and stepped away from the booth. “I believe I’ve found the murder weapon,” I said. As we walked together, I realized that the door to the smoker’s porch sat open. It was crawling with half a dozen or so more crime scene people. Together we walked to the limes. I said, “Don’t touch them. If this is what Joseph was doing when he died, if they are poisoned, my guess is that the poison can be absorbed through the skin.” Investigator Spaulding looked at me like, Of course I knew that, but he stepped back. As another officer and two crime scene investigators came over, I backed away, removing myself as far as possible from the action. I returned to the Artist Shirt. “I think today we’re going with a lemon and a cherry,” I said. I smelled them before putting them in the drink. It struck me then that perhaps Joseph hadn’t been the intended target. Maybe there was someone who consistently ordered a drink garnished with lime, and the murderer had injected the poison into the lime, not realizing it could be absorbed as well as ingested. Like, for instance, the man before me, Mr. Vodka Tonic Lime. Still, this was a pretty non-specific way of poison delivery. The limes could have been served to half a dozen people before anyone realized they were toxic. Who would do something like that? The police were letting people go once they had been interviewed. I asked Investigator Spaulding if I could go. He nodded, adding, “Please stay in town until tomorrow morning, in case we have any further questions.” As if I had a choice. All the trains had gone, except the 11 p.m. to Montreal. The bar had been sealed off with crime-scene tape, a welcome relief as I didn’t relish closing a dead man’s station on the night of his murder. Why would I even think that? I didn’t work here. But my need to leave a bar in pristine condition ran down to bone and marrow. As I headed for my bag, which I’d left on my original stool, I saw I wouldn’t even be allowed to access the POS machine. The only patron whose drink I hadn’t input was the man in the kilt. I looked around the emptying room to find he’d moved to a pub table over to the side. “Sorry, sir,” I said. “I wasn’t able to enter your drinks into the machine. I guess you’re on the honor system to pay up another day.” He gave a small smile. “Lass,” he said, “I’m Glenn MacTavish. Owner of this place. Seems I’m out a bartender and will be needing another. You have any interest?” he asked. I stopped and stared. “There’s really a MacTavish?” I asked. “Aye, and you’re looking at him.” “But… you don’t know anything about me.” “You keep a clear head and you know what you’re doin’. That’s all I really need to know. Besides, you don’t know anything about me, either.” “I, well—thank you for the offer. It’s a beautiful bar. Can I think on it overnight? I’ve been told not to leave town.” “Aye,” he said. “You can tell me in the mornin’ if you might be stayin.’ And while you’re decidin’, I could pay you for your services tonight with a room here at the hotel.” That seemed fair. The Hotel Tonight app was offering me a room at a local chain. Staying at MacTavish’s Seaside Cottage for free seemed infinitely more attractive. “All right,” I said. “I should probably let you know they’re expecting me in New York City.” “All right,” he said. “I should probably let you know Joseph isn’t the first bartender to work here who’s been murdered.” * *

No Known Address

Ingredients

• ½ oz. Malibu black • 2 dashes Chambord • ½ oz. mango pineapple vodka • 2 dashes Jägermeister Spice • 1 oz. pineapple juice

Method

Shake pineapple vodka, Malibu Black and pineapple juice over ice and strain evenly into martini glasses. Sink a dash of Chambord into each flute by running it down the side of the glass. Layer a dash of Jägermeister Spice in each glass. *** Excerpt from Death in Tranquility by Sharon Linnéa. Copyright 2020 by Sharon Linnéa. Reproduced with permission from Sharon Linnéa. All rights reserved.

 

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About the Author

 

Sharon Linnéa wrote the bestselling Eden Series (Chasing Eden, Beyond Eden, Treasure of Eden and Plagues of Eden) with B.K. Sherer, as well as the standalone These Violent Delights, a movie murder series. She enjoyed working with Axel Avian on Colt Shore: Domino 29, a middle-grade spy thriller. She is also the author of Princess Ka’iulani: Hope of a Nation, Heart of a People about the last crown princess of Hawaii which won the prestigious Carter Woodson Award, and Raoul Wallenberg: the Man Who Stopped Death. She was a staff writer for five national magazines, a book editor at three publishers, and a celebrity ghost. She lives outside New York City with her family. In Orange County, she teaches The Book Inside You workshops with Thomas Mattingly.

Catch Up With Sharon On: www.SharonLinnea.com BartendersGuidetoMurder.com Goodreads BookBub Instagram Twitter Facebook

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Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual
Book Tours for Sharon Linnéa. There will be SIX (6) winners: ONE (1)
winner will receive one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card and FIVE (5) winners
will each receive one (1) copy of Death In Tranquility by Sharon Linnéa.
(These five (5) winners will have their choice of eBook or Print
edition however print editions will only be shipped to U.S. addresses).
The giveaway begins on February 1, 2021 and runs through
March 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

Enter here.

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