Book Review: Thief’s Mark by Carla Neggers—and a Giveaway!

Thief’s Mark
A Sharpe & Donovan Novel #8
Carla Neggers
MIRA, August 2017
ISBN 978-0-778-33031-8

From the publisher—

A murder in a quiet English village, long-buried secrets and a man’s search for answers about his traumatic past entangle FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan in the latest edge-of-your-seat Sharpe & Donovan novel 

As a young boy, Oliver York witnessed the murder of his wealthy parents in their London apartment. The killers kidnapped him and held him in an isolated Scottish ruin, but he escaped, thwarting their plans for ransom. Now, after thirty years on the run, one of the two men Oliver identified as his tormentors may have surfaced.  

Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan are enjoying the final day of their Irish honeymoon when a break-in at the home of Emma’s grandfather, private art detective Wendell Sharpe, points to Oliver. The Sharpes have a complicated relationship with the likable, reclusive Englishman, an expert in Celtic mythology and international art thief who taunted Wendell for years. Emma and Colin postpone meetings in London with their elite FBI team and head straight to Oliver. But when they arrive at York’s country home, a man is dead and Oliver has vanished. 

As the danger mounts, new questions arise about Oliver’s account of his boyhood trauma. Do Emma and Colin dare trust him? With the trail leading beyond Oliver’s small village to Ireland, Scotland and their own turf in the United States, the stakes are high, and Emma and Colin must unravel the decades-old tangle of secrets and lies before a killer strikes again.  

My favorite mystery setting, an English village, and a pair of FBI agents who are definitely out of their geographic element…what more could I want? Throw in an art thief (which I’ve always found fun and exciting, probably because these art thieves are daring and, well, sort of James Bond-ish, even the women) and a heinous crime from the past and the stage is set for an engrossing read.

Emma’s grandfather is an art detective in the private collector realm and has a strange tale for Emma and Colin. It seems that he’s had a break-in by someone apparently interested in items connected to one Oliver York. To add a little more mystique, Oliver used to be an accomplished art thief but then became an MI5 agent. Emma and Colin have years-long ties to Oliver through both of his professions but, when a dead man is found at his home, the case becomes ever-expanding and eventually involves multiple countries and law enforcement organizations.

While this is part of the Sharpe & Donovan series, it’s essentially a standalone and focuses largely on Oliver. He is a fascinating man and he makes it easy to understand why cops and robbers sometimes can’t help liking and even respecting each other. Emma and Colin are a delightful couple as well as being really good agents and Oliver’s colleague, Henrietta, is a force of nature but it’s Wendell, Emma’s grandfather, who really stole my heart. All in all, Thief’s Mark was a grand introduction, for me, to this series and the rest of the books are going on my wishlist right now.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.


Purchase Links:




About the Author

Carla Neggers is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 60 novels, including her popular Sharpe and Donovan and Swift River Valley series. Her books have been translated into 24 languages and sold in over 35 countries. A frequent traveler to Ireland, Carla lives with her family in New England. To learn more and to sign up for her newsletter, visit

Connect with Carla:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


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To enter the drawing for a print copy
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, just leave
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Cover Reveal: The Lovely Dark by K.A. Last


Title: The Lovely Dark
Author: K.A. Last
Designer: KILA Designs

Publication Date: October 2017
Genres: Dark Fantasy/Horror, Young Adult



Three teenagers.
One witch.
Twelve souls.

Harvey Anderson always knew the universe was against him, but
there’s a lot of stuff he never expected to happen, like having a crush
on the most popular girl at school, and then falling into a giant hole
in the middle of nowhere with her. And if that wasn’t enough,
somehow they managed to release a soul-sucking, ancient witch
as well. So yeah, there’s that. You’d think it’d be pretty hard to
beat, but knowing Harvey’s luck, it’s about to get a whole lot worse.


Pre-order Links

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBooks US
iBooks Aus // Amazon US // Amazon AU
(Amazon links to come)


An Excerpt from The Lovely Dark

I shine my torch beam across the floor, then up the walls and back to the floor. An uneasy feeling settles into the pit of my stomach. I don’t want to ask the question I’m about to ask, but I can’t help myself.

“Are those human bones?”

Lian tenses beside me. “I hope not.”

Toni takes a few steps into the cave, moving to the left and skirting around the wall. I follow, and Lian comes close behind. I feel her grab the back of my T-shirt. I don’t mind the contact. I’m creeped out and glad I’m not down here by myself.

As we move farther into the cave, it becomes clear that something terrible must have happened here. Toni stops, and the light from her head torch shines on a human skull. I jump and a funny noise comes out of my mouth. Black, gaping holes stare at us. A huge spider slowly crawls out of one of the eye sockets, and an invisible finger traces my spine. Bile rises into my throat, and I supress the urge to vomit.

Lian grips my arm and presses against me. We crowd in behind Toni, neither of us prepared to have any space between us. For some reason, I feel safer huddled together when it’s probably not the best idea if we need to run away screaming.

“Yep. Definitely human,” Toni says.

She runs her torch around again and more skulls shine white in the darkness. Some of them are still attached to skeletons, which are sitting on rocks with their backs against the wall, bits of clothing draped off them. Other skulls lie on the ground, detached and without bodies. I keep my torchlight on the spider. I do not want it creeping up on me in the dark.

“Who are they?” Lian asks.

“Something tells me we won’t find a driver’s licence in their pockets,” I say.

“Can anyone see the wand?” Toni takes another step forward.

Lian and I shuffle with her, and I grab her arm with my free hand. The three of us search the cave with our torches, and my stomach rolls again. Our lights bounce around, and then I catch something that glimmers.

“There!” I point and realise neither of the girls can see me because all our light is in front of us. “I think … oh God.” I train my light where I saw the shiny thing. “It’s … is that a hand?”

Finger bones curl around a stick with a stone at the end. The stone is black but shiny enough to reflect our torchlight. Twine binds the stone to the head of the wand in a twisted mass. It’s not very pretty.

“I don’t want it to be a hand,” Lian says. “Bags not getting it.”

Toni snorts. “Seriously?”

“What?” Lian says. “I said it first.”

“You can stay calm when a spider runs up your arm,” I say, “but you can’t pluck a stick from a dead person’s fingers?”

“You do it then. I have no trouble admitting I don’t want to touch dead people.”

Toni hasn’t offered to get it either, even after questioning Lian. She’s as scared as us, which makes this a whole lot worse. Up until now, Toni has been the level-headed one. The one with all the answers. Now, her arm shakes beneath my hand.

I take a breath. “Get ready to … I don’t know. Kill the dead people if they attack me.”

I let go of Toni and take a step around her. Lian lets go of my arm, and fear rushes through me as I lose physical contact with both the girls. I take a few measured steps towards the hand holding the wand, careful not to step on any bones along the way.

Until now, I haven’t considered that the hand might be attached to an arm, attached to a body. I shine my torch around and wish I hadn’t. It is attached to someone, or at least, a skeleton that used to be someone. Strips of fabric fall in tatters around the form. With every step, I get more scared.

“They’re all dead,” I mumble under my breath. “They can’t hurt me.”

Only we’re dealing with witches and magic here, and I don’t actually know that these bones will leave me alone. Especially since I’m about to take something from them. I edge forward and stretch out my free hand, clutching my torch tightly with the other. I stop and lean forward, not wanting to get any closer, and use the length of my arm to get the wand.

My fingers brush the bones as I grab the stick and I yelp, pulling my hand back.

“What?” Toni asks. “What is it?”

“Nothing,” I say.

I flex my fingers and try again, telling myself that it’s no big deal, they’re just bones. Finger bones, but just bones, nonetheless. I manage to grip the wand, and I pull to free it from the dead skeleton’s grasp. At first it doesn’t move, and then it comes away with a snap.

I jump back with the wand in my hand, the bony fingers still gripping to it.

“Oh my god!” Toni says. “You broke the hand off!”


About the Author

K. A. Last was born in Subiaco, Western Australia, and moved to Sydney when she was eight. Artistic and creative by nature, she studied Graphic Design and graduated with an Advanced Diploma. After marrying her high school sweetheart, she concentrated on her career before settling into family life. Blessed with a vivid imagination, she began writing to let off creative steam, and fell in love with it. K. A. Last is currently studying her Bachelor of Arts at Charles Sturt University, with a major in English, and minors in Children’s Literature, Art History, and Visual Culture. She now resides in the countryside on the mid-north coast of NSW.

Author Links:

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads
Pinterest // Instagram // Amazon



Book Review: Murder in the Dog Days by P.M. Carlson—and a Giveaway!

Title: Murder in the Dog Days
Series: Maggie Ryan Series #6
Author: P.M. Carlson
Publisher: The Mystery Company/
Crum Creek Press

Publication Date: May 15, 2014
Genres: Mystery


Purchase Links:

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


Murder in the Dog Days
Maggie Ryan #6
P.M. Carlson
The Mystery Company/Crum Creek Press, May 2014
ISBN 978-1-932325-37-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

On a sweltering Virginia day in 1975, reporter Olivia Kerr, her husband Jerry Ryan, his very pregnant sister Maggie and her family decide to have a beach picnic. Olivia invites her colleague Dale Colby and his family to join them. At the last minute, Dale decides to stay home to pursue an important story. But when the beach-goers return, they find Dale lifeless in a pool of blood inside his locked office.

Police detective Holly Schreiner leads the investigation, battling Maggie—and demons of her own.

A funny thing happened (to me) on the way to my reading this book. Originally published in January 1991 (but copyrighted in 1990), Murder in the Dog Days came into existence a scant 15 or so years after its setting in 1975 and would not have been considered historical in nature. Returned Vietnam vets were to be seen everywhere, PTSD was in evidence but didn’t really have a name quite yet in the public lexicon, overuse/abuse of prescribed medications was probably not especially common yet but, at the least, very well hidden, and people were still split on the validity of our having been at war in a tiny country so far away. In 1990 or 1991, we didn’t yet have any real perspective on those times but it was beginning to become clearer and any reader’s personal experience and/or knowledge would have affected how he or she felt about this story.

Today, enough years have passed to consider the setting of Ms. Carlson’s novel to be historical or very close to it. As so often happens, our sensibilities about that period have softened somewhat and, although we now feel strongly that vets need the respect and assistance they so valiantly earn, we also have largely put the war itself into the past, shunted aside, I suppose, by the conflicts that have arisen since then. I bring up all this because the violence and repercussions of that particular war affected me in very different ways then and now and thus affects my reaction to certain people and storylines. I also confess that I had a less enlightened attitude towards some social issues then than I do now.

Anyway, getting to the actual mystery, this one is a keeper. There’s nothing I like more than a locked room puzzle and the author crafts her story with finesse and nicely developed plot points and characterizations, especially Maggie, Detective Holly Schreiner and Josie, the young daughter of the murdered man, Dale. A reporter who’s driven, Dale has been digging into a particular story with political implications but there are also other reasons someone might have had for killing him. The immediate question, though, is how since his study door was bolted and there seemed to be no way the killer could have gotten out. That one piece of the puzzle kept me going hither and yon until a most surprising denouement. My introduction to Maggie Ryan was a great success and I’ll be looking for the other books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

An Excerpt from Murder in the Dog Days

“I don’t understand!” Donna Colby cried out. Her self-control cracked. She reached toward Holly in appeal, tears starting. “It was bolted! How could anyone—even if Dale let them in, they couldn’t bolt it again after they—”

“Yes, Mrs. Colby.” Holly broke in, firm and reassuring, to deflect the outburst. “We’ll check into it. You can depend on it.”

‘Thank you,” said Donna with a little choking sound.

“Now, what did you do when you realized the door was bolted?”

“Well, he usually takes a nap. I thought maybe he was asleep.” Donna Colby was trying to revert to her numbed monotone again, but a tremor underlay her words. “Then Maggie went to look in the window and came running back in and said hurry up, we had to get the door open. So she did, and—” She stopped. The next part was the unspeakable, Holly knew. Donna Colby turned her face back to the pink flower on the back of the sofa, tracing the outline with a forefinger. “All that blood,” she murmured. “I just don’t… Why?”

“I know, Mrs. Colby.” Holly tried to keep her voice soothing in the face of the incomprehensible. A husband and father lay twisted in the den. Why? Tell me why. And the others, so many others. A flash of reds at the back of her eyes. A blue-green stench. A tiny whispered beat, ten, eleven. Twelve. No more. Hey, cut the bullshit, Schreiner. Just get the details. Ain’t no time to wonder why, whoopee we’re all gonna die. Holly flipped to a new page, keeping her voice colorless. “What did you do when you got the door open?”

“We all ran in—I don’t remember, it was so—I couldn’t—the blood. Maggie went to him. Sent Olivia to call an ambulance. Told me to keep the kids out, take them to the kitchen.”

Holly noted it down. This Maggie sounded like a real take-charge type. “Okay. And then what?”

“I don’t remember much. She made me leave, take care of the kids.”

“What was she doing?”

“I don’t know. There was so much…” The word escaped Donna and she stared at Holly in mute terror before finding it again, with an almost pitiful triumph. “Confusion. The men came back. Maggie will tell you,” she added hopefully, trying to be helpful. All her life, probably, being nice had kept her out of trouble. But now she’d hit the big trouble, and Holly knew that no weapons, even niceness, could help now.

* * *

Excerpt from Murder in the Dog Days by P.M. Carlson. Copyright © 2017 by P.M. Carlson. Reproduced with permission from P.M. Carlson. All rights reserved.


About the Author

P.M. Carlson taught psychology and statistics at Cornell University before deciding that mystery writing was more fun. She has published twelve mystery novels and over a dozen short stories. Her novels have been nominated for an Edgar Award, a Macavity Award, and twice for Anthony Awards. Two short stories were finalists for Agatha Awards. She edited the Mystery Writers Annual for Mystery Writers of America for several years, and served as president of Sisters in Crime.

Catch Up With Our Author:

Website // Twitter // Smashwords // Goodreads


Follow the tour:

09/01 Interview @ BooksChatter
09/01 Review @ Rockin Book Reviews
09/02 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
09/03 Showcase @ A Bookworms Journal
09/04 Review @ Cabin Goddess
09/05 Interview/Showcase @ CMash Reads
09/06 Showcase @ Bound 2 Escape
09/07 Review @ Reviews From The Heart
09/11 Showcase @ The Bookworm Lodge
09/12 Interview @ Mythical Books
09/13 Showcase @ Suspense Magazine
09/15 Review @ Just Reviews
09/18 Review @ Buried Under Books – GIVEAWAY
09/19 Showcase @ Teresa Trent Author Blog
10/05 Review @ Cheryls Book Nook


To enter the drawing for an ebook
copy of Murder Is Academic, 2nd in the
leave a comment below. The
name will be drawn Thursday
September 21st, and the book
will be
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Book Review: Sacred Games by Gary Corby

Sacred Games
An Athenian Mystery #3
Gary Corby
Soho Crime, May 2013
ISBN 978-1-6195-369-0

This is the second novel by Corby I’ve read in this series. Set in ancient Greece, the main characters are royal investigator Nicolaos and his incredibly smart wife, the priestess Diotima. Nico’s brother, Socrates–yes, that Socrates–is featured as well, plus a good many other names I’m sure you’ll recognize from your ancient world history classes.

The story takes place at the 80th Olympiad, where competitors play for keeps, as in fight to the death. On the competitive field, if an opponent dies, no one can be tried for murder. The same does not hold true off the field, which draws Nico, under orders from Athen’s top politician and diplomat, Pericles, to find the killer of an elite Spartan pankration athlete named Arakos. The Athenian champion in pankration is the accused, and refuses to provide an alibi for himself. In order to prevent a war between the states of Athens and Sparta, Nico has to figure it all out before the end of the games.

Pankration? you may ask. I’m still not sure but it sounds like a mixture of various martial arts, kick boxing, and plain old street fighting, including kidney punches and the gouging of eyes.

The story contains plenty of suspects, although everyone has a hard time believing anyone but another pankration player could possibly beat a big man like Arakos, and there are so many twists and turns you’re apt to get dizzy. At the same time, it’s going to keep you involved. And what a good way to learn something about ancient history! Mr. Corby’s research is extensive, and is the best way I know of to teach the rest of us a bit of Greek history and culture. Meanwhile, the humor in the Nico and Diotima mysteries always brings a laugh, and Socrates is a hoot. I’m pleased to recommend this one.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 3

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two…


Deep Cover Jack
The Hunt for Reacher Series #7
Diane Capri
AugustBooks, August 2016
ISBN 978-1-940768-70-0
Trade Paperback

If you’ve never tried any of the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child, you need to read at least one before you tackle this series because this is all about the “other side” of the equation, the law enforcement folks who think they need to apprehend Reacher because he’s such a horrible person, a desperately wanted man. Well…our FBI Special Agents, Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar have learned a few things by the time we get to this seventh book and they’ve picked up a little help along the way from other interested parties but they haven’t yet caught the man. Will they this time when they head for Houston? Hmm…if you know Jack, you know their chances are on the slim side but will they at least get close?

This is an intriguing, entertaining companion to the Jack Reacher series and, yes, Lee Child himself speaks highly of it. Oh, and before you think these must be the most incompetent agents ever if they’ve been chasing him through seven books, think again. Try it, you’ll like it 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.


Stalking Jack the Ripper
Stalking Jack the Ripper Series #1
Kerri Maniscalco
jimmy patterson, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-316-27349-7

As you might surmise from the name of the publisher, this is “presented” by the megawatt author James Patterson himself and, if I do say so, this is a good ‘un. Audrey Rose Wadsworth loves to spend time in her uncle’s lab learning medical stuff but gets drawn into a serious criminal investigation, that of the gory deaths of some women of ill repute. With the assistance of Thomas Cresswell, apprentice to her uncle, Audrey Rose really wants to get justice for these poor women as well as bring a killer to justice but the stakes get even higher when the long arm of the law reaches out to someone close to her.

I like the Victorian era, young adult mysteries and the Jack the Ripper case (plus I love the cover) so trying this was a no brainer for me. Mounting clues and hair-raising theories lead to a horrifying discovery but, throughout it all, Audrey Rose maintains her intelligent, thoughtful focus even if she can’t be completely objective. The next case for this young lady and the charming if annoying Thomas, Hunting Prince Dracula, involves another string of killings while Audrey Rose studies forensic medicine in Romania and I can hardly wait to dive in.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.


March of Crime
A Murder-By-Month Mystery #11
Jess Lourey
Midnight Ink, September 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-5263-1
Trade Paperback

This cozy series has been fun and frothy since the beginning and I continue to like them a lot, especially because they never seem to get stale, if you know what I mean. They have plenty of humor along with tension and Mira Ross might as well be called the Jessica Fletcher of Battle Lake, Minnesota, since people seem to drop like flies in her vicinity. No wonder this mild-mannered librarian has aspirations of being a private eye!

One thing that intrigues me about cozies is the myriad ways authors find to present a dead body without offending sensibilities and I think Ms. Lourey has outdone herself and everyone else this time. Lifesize dolls are kind of creepy anyway (to me at least) but when one turns out to be an actual corpse sitting proudly right next to Mira, well I ask you, how could she NOT want to snoop? Mira and her assorted crew of cronies and nemeses are soon hot on one trail or another and I chortled all the way to the end.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.


The Enemy Within
Scott Burn
Scott Burn, August 2016
ISBN 978-0-9978429-1-3
Trade Paperback

There have been people throughout history who have had visions of the future, some believable, many more not so much, but I had to have a lot of sympathy for the 17-year-old Max who has been seeing hellfire and damnation at the apparent end of the world. In his situation, I’m not sure I wouldn’t at least consider his way of ending these horrific sights that just won’t stop but one thing that would prevent me from  doing such a drastic thing is my own suspicion that I’d bungle it. And he does, landing himself in an institution.

Three other boys have found each other but know that they’re missing one and can’t do what they’re supposed to do without him. Who are they? Suffice it to say, there’s a new unclaimed satellite in orbit and things are about to get very unsettling for us and for our survival on this planet.

This was such a fun story with aliens and other cool science fiction-y stuff. Technically speaking, this is Young Adult but I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good apocalyptic story full of adventure and mayhem, not to mention some pretty appealing characters. I hope we’ll see more of Max before too long.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.


Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
Matthew Sullivan
Scribner, June 2017
ISBN 978-1501116841
Narrated by Madeleine Maby
Simon & Schuster Audio, June 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

As a former bookstore owner, I naturally had to read this and, while I enjoyed it, I also had some reservations. The Bright Ideas Bookstore is a strange sort of place, attracting some rather odd people called the BookFrogs, some of whom seem to spend all their waking hours just hanging out, rarely buying anything. And, since Lydia Smith was Joey Molina’s favorite bookseller, you have to wonder why he would commit suicide in the bookstore, leaving his supposed favorite to find him.

But so he does and he leaves all his worldly goods to Lydia leading her to puzzle over certain things that pique her curiosity, not only because she thought Joey was a nice young man but also because she seems to have an odd connection to this mystery, a connection that takes her back to a most unpleasant murder-tainted past.

The ebook of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore grabbed my attention despite my initial reluctance and I decided I wanted to try listening to the tale. Narrator Madeleine Maby has a pleasing tone with identifiable vocalizations and I do think the audio edition helped evoke emotions a bit more easily than the written version. Bottomline, while the rampant dysfunction in these characters’ lives made me somewhat unsettled, the mystery itself was engaging.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

Getting There Is Half the Fun

A lifelong resident of Minnesota, S.L. Smith was born in Saint Cloud and attended Saint Catherine University in Saint Paul. During her thirty-two years with the state department of public safety, she worked with law enforcement and fire officials at the state, county and municipal levels. Those interactions assisted her with writing mysteries, but were just the starting point. Without the help of a friend who spent thirty-five years as a cop, she might never have ventured into writing police procedurals. He contributed to her understanding of the perspectives of her two protagonists, Pete Culnane and Martin Tierney. Thankfully, this friend is still a resource. He proofreads each manuscript and performs a reality check on the law enforcement aspects.

All three of her previous books include a social issue. In Blinded by the Sight, it’s homelessness. For book two, Running Scared, it’s the impacts of a failing marriage on the kids. Book three, Murder on a Stick, addresses a plight faced by many of the elderly. Smith is a member of Sisters in Crime (an organization that supports mystery writers). She divides her time between Minnesota and Florida, to care for her mother.

Website // Book trailer

Buy links for Mistletoe and MurderBarnes & Noble // Amazon

Research is a centerpiece of my novels. Three critical resources provided valuable information as I wrote and rewrote my first four books. They are: a retired police chief, a retired lead investigator with the medical examiner’s office, and an emergency medicine physician. The mission? Keep the stories realistic. Outcome? Several law enforcement officers buy my books, and the retired lead investigator is a loyal fan.

But that’s just the beginning. All four of my books are set in St. Paul, Minnesota. No, thirty years in St. Paul doesn’t make me an expert in all facets of this city. For that reason, each of my novels requires a lot of location-related research.

The crime in Mistletoe and Murder occurs in Saint Paul’s Union Depot. I’d heard about the depot, but never been inside. That was the starting point. It took three trips to get and verify the facts, as I worked my way through the first draft and the revisions. The fact Christos Greek restaurant is located in the depot and plays a part in the book worked in my favor. I was forced to eat dinner there… twice. How else could I work the menu into the book? In the process, I got to know the manager and a waitress. Both served as valuable resources. Both made their way into the book.

I wanted to know when construction of this landmark began and was completed. Then I had to know why it took so long. This led to a discovery of the World War II modifications to and utilization of the facility. That led to the insertion of the story about my main protagonist, Pete Culnane’s grandfather returning from World War II via the depot. And that led to more research, regarding the return of World War II veterans.

An Internet search provided a story about a soldier returning to St. Paul, after the war. It gave me a feel for the atmosphere greeting these soldiers upon their return, and the attitudes of the returning soldiers. Didn’t find a place for the latter in Mistletoe and Murder, but filed it away for future reference.

Since Pete’s grandmother retells the story of meeting his grandfather at the Union Depot, I wanted to describe what it would have been like—the look, the feel. In the mid-1940s, a woman would’ve dressed to the nine’s to meet her returning fiancé, right? You bet! Even so, I wanted to see photos. Once again, the Internet came through. I found not only pictures of families greeting returning veterans on train platforms, but also one of soldiers hanging out the windows as their train approached the station. Both made their way into the book.

I researched departure ports from the European theater. I’ll share a secret. I tried every way imaginable to have Pete’s grandfather’s journey mimic my dad’s. I knew Dad’s location at the end of the war and a month prior to his return to the states, as well as his departure and arrival dates back in the US. Unfortunately, that’s all I knew. The other details burned in a fire at the facility housing military records. Tried the county historical society, but their efforts, too, failed. Solution? A friend who is an historian provided viable options.

Carrying it several steps further, I visited the locations where characters lived and worked. Since I describe those locations, and since they are real, accuracy is important to me. That includes the route in getting from one place to another, and the location and appearance of the entrance, the existence and type of security system. You name it.

Heroin comes into play in Mistletoe and Murder. Fortunately, or in this case perhaps unfortunately, I’m ignorant when it comes to a firsthand knowledge of heroin. The good news is, a friend provided a connection. Once again, problem solved.

A homeless man, “Doc,” is introduced in book one, Blinded by the Sight. Because temperatures are predicted to be dangerously cold in Mistletoe and Murder, Pete Culnane is intent on reconnecting with Doc. You have to read Mistletoe and Murder to learn what Pete is considering, and why he must contact social services to get some answers before making the offer.

The materials used by highway departments to keep roads passable in winter are dictated by ambient air temperatures. Yet another detail that came into play and required accuracy.

Just a few of the other points requiring research while writing Mistletoe and Murder were:

* How does a gunshot sound in an enclosed, cement facility?

* What are optical affinity and auditory exclusion, and what part do they play in police confrontations?

* What pricey shoe would be rare, yet readily recognizable?

Each time I find an answer, it’s a victory, moving me toward the completion of my work in progress. It isn’t the storytelling part of the effort, but it adds depth. It helps the novel come alive.  For that reason, I love the research almost as much as the writing.

What do you think? Do I carry it from the sublime to the ridiculous? If you’re an author, I’d love to hear about the research you do. If you’re a reader, do you like to learn new things as you read a novel? If so, what types of things?

Cover Reveal: S’more to Lose by Beth Merlin


Title: S’more to Lose
Series: The Campfire Series #2
Author: Beth Merlin
Publisher: Ink Monster LLC
Publication Date: December 5, 2017
Genres: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction



Four years after her life-changing summer at Camp Chinooka, Gigi Goldstein has a second chance at her dream career. As her design house takes the fashion world by storm, it attracts the notice of Victoria Ellicott, the fashionable British socialite who just happens to be engaged to the future king of England. When Gigi is chosen to design the royal wedding dress, she’s forced to confront her ex-fiancé, Perry Gillman, now a successful composer with a hit show on the West End of London.

When Gigi learns Perry’s been dating Victoria’s sister—who rivals her in looks, style and sophistication—Gigi can’t help but feel inadequate. Her world crumbles as she develops a creative block so debilitating she fears a wedding dress of royal proportions is never going to happen. Not even her budding relationship with the handsome and wealthy Viscount of Satterley can make her forget Perry. While the world gears up for the wedding of the century, Gigi is on the brink of buckling under the immense pressure of the uncertainties of her future and the failures of her past.

Can Gigi overcome her creative paralysis and design the dress of Victoria’s dreams? Or will everything slip through her fingers now that she has even s’more to lose?


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About the Author

Beth Merlin has a BA from The George Washington University where she minored in Creative Writing and a JD from New York Law School. She’s a native New Yorker who loves anything Broadway, rom-coms, her daughter Hadley, and a good maxi dress. She was introduced to her husband through a friend she met at sleepaway camp and considers the eight summers she spent there to be some of the most formative of her life. One S’more Summer is Beth’s debut novel.


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