Book Review: Miss Julia Stands Her Ground by Ann B. Ross @penguinusa

Miss Julia Stands her Ground
Miss Julia #7
Ann B. Ross
Penguin Books, April 2007
ISBN 978-0-143-03855-9
Trade Paperback

There’s something compelling about a protagonist that is unlikeable—you wouldn’t want them as a friend but you have to admit they can go places where more polite and meek heroines may hang back. Olive Kitteridge is one such character; the reader wonders why her husband stays with her and doesn’t fault her son for cutting ties with her. MC Beaton’s Agatha Raisin is another such character, a man-crazy busybody who insults her neighbors but is tolerated because she gives generously to village charities.

Miss Julia is a not-quite-genteel Southern widow. Her husband, Wesley Lloyd Springer, was a leading citizen and church member in their hometown, who died in the arms of his mistress, Hazel Marie. The young woman is a complete surprise to Miss Julia, who had been married for over forty years, as is Hazel Marie’s young son, who is the spitting image of Wesley Lloyd. The entire Springer estate was left to the boy, and Miss Julia had to fight to keep her house and an income.

How was Miss Julia to cope with the humiliation of her husband’s indiscretions coming to light? She invited Hazel Marie, a likable young woman with no fashion sense, and Little Lloyd to live with her. In this seventh book of the series, Hazel Marie’s ne’er do well uncle, Brother Vernon Puckett, announces that he is going to contest Little Lloyd’s inheritance, because Wesley Springer was not the boy’s father. Miss Julia is indignant, and plans to thwart Brother Vernon’s plans.

You wouldn’t want to have Miss Julia as a relative—she’d criticize your wardrobe, hairstyle, and manners. Ann B. Ross serves up a delightful story, one that promises an entertaining afternoon cozy read.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, January 2021.

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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Follow the tour here.

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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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Book Review: The Usual Santas, Foreword by Peter Lovesey

The Usual Santas
A Collection of Soho Crime Christmas Capers
Foreward by Peter Lovesey
Soho Crime, October 2017
ISBN 978-1-61695-775-9
Hardcover

Here’s a collection that is sometimes amusing, sometimes dark, sometimes teaches a lesson, and is always entertaining. Set in most time periods, the stories will take the Christmas season all around the world. Thieves, murderers, revenge seekers and even cranky old women take their turns in making a memorable holiday.

In an outstanding collection, to my personal taste (yours most certainly may differ), some stand out. In a book with three different sections, the first being “Joy to the World: various acts of kindness at Christmas,” the lead-off story is a hoot. Suffice it to say, “don’t mess with ninety-year-old ladies. In “An Elderly Lady Seek Peace at Christmastime” by Helene Tursten, Maud is sick of the man in the apartment upstairs abusing his wife. The blows, the cursing, the sobbing destroy every vestige of her peace. And so, she takes matters into her own hands.

All the stories in this section are surprising. With a cast of authors like Timothy Hallinan and Teresa Dovalpage, among others, it’s what you can expect.

The second section is “Silent Night: the darkest of holiday noir.”  My favorite—or perhaps I should say, most standout story, one that stays with me, is by James R. Benn titled “Red Christmas.” The tale involves a discharged soldier arriving in a small town to give details of his friend’s death in a North Korean POW camp to the parents. He just doesn’t quite know how to begin. As he remembers back to their time in the POW camp, the events are dark indeed. Colin Cotterill, one of my favorite authors, also has a story in this section, as do Henry Chang,   Ed Lin, Stuart Neville, and Tod Goldberg.

The final section, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and other Holiday Secrets,” will certainly give a fresh slant on cozy kisses, peace on earth and all the other tropes whether 1920s  Bombay with Sujata Massey or Niccolo Machiavelli and Cesarev Borgia, those fine sons of Italy, with Gary Corby.

The foreward by Peter Lovesey, along with the final story in the book, gives fair warning. Be prepared to see the season in a whole new light. Could it be the Christmas star? Because every story is a shining star.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, April 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Review: The Giggler Treatment by Roddy Doyle

This is an old review, slightly updated. Twenty years ago,
it made
me laugh…no, cackle out loud…and it’s every bit
as funny today.
Maybe more so since we can all probably
think of at least one person
these days who could
be a perfect target for The Giggler Treatment
🤣🤣🤣

 

The Giggler Treatment
Roddy Doyle
Arthur A. Levine Books, September 2000
ISBN 978-0-439-16299-9
Hardcover

From the publisher—

When grownups are mean to children, they get a visit from the mischievous Gigglers–elfin creatures who punish wayward adults–in a delightfully rude, laugh-out-loud adventure. Mr Mack’s dog Rover sells his own poo to the gigglers – small creatures who take revenge on any adult who treats children unfairly by making the unsuspecting adults step in poo. When the gigglers set out to exact punishment on Mr Mack, Rover knows he doesn’t deserve it, and the race is on to get to him before he takes that fatal step. A cheeky tale of revenge, dogs and poo by a seriously famous writer.

Laugh Alert!! Seldom do I actually laugh out loud when I’m reading but, not only did I do that with this book, I also had to keep interrupting myself to read a passage to someone else. Have you ever wished something yucky would happen to a grownup who is mean to a child? You know the type, the guy who tells a kid something tastes like chicken when it doesn’t. Well, here’s where you can find out all about the secret revenge of the Gigglers, small little furry critters who change colors like chameleons.

This is one of those books that are meant for children but appeal to all ages. Silliness runs rampant throughout the story — even the chapter headings are comical — and the illustrations by Brian Ajhar are wonderful. Please, run to your favorite bookstore and buy this book. Buy two so you can give one away! Better yet, buy all four books starring Rover!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2000.

Book Review: Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton @KiraJaneWrites @petkoff @HachetteAudio @GrandCentralPub

Hollow Kingdom
Kira Jane Buxton
Narrated by Robert Petkoff
Hachette Audio, August 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

S.T., a domesticated crow, is a bird of simple pleasures: hanging out with his owner Big Jim, trading insults with Seattle’s wild crows (i.e. “those idiots”), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos.

But when Big Jim’s eyeball falls out of his head, S.T. starts to think something’s not quite right. His most tried-and-true remedies – from beak-delivered beer to the slobbering affection of Big Jim’s loyal but dim-witted dog, Dennis – fail to cure Big Jim’s debilitating malady. S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and venture out into a wild and frightening new world with his trusty steed Dennis, where he suddenly discovers that the neighbors are devouring one another. Local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of dangerous new predators. Humanity’s extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a cowardly crow whose only knowledge of the world around him comes from TV.

What could possibly go wrong?

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton is unlike any other zombie book I’ve read and I’ve read quite a few in my time. The story is told by S.T., a very well-educated crow (educated via the tv, internet and his human), and he first realizes something is wrong when Big Jim’s eyeball falls out.

Yeah, I know, sounds gross but…

This is the tale of how S.T. and his bloodhound, Dennis, set off to save the domestics who’ve been left behind, trapped, when the virus swept through humanity. Along the way, they encounter many other animals, wild and domestic, and a lot of them join in the mission. Most of the commentary is from our trusty crow but there are interludes from such creatures as an octopus and a polar bear.

There’s a great deal of humor and a few sad scenes that really tapped into my emotions but very little time is spent on gory zombie details so you don’t have to be concerned about that. This is all about the animals and the author clearly has a point to make, several points, in fact. BTW, this is not a kid’s or middle grade book despite all the animals, birds and sea creatures because S.T. can occasionally be foulmouthed and there are a couple of scenes in which animals get hurt (but even those have redeeming qualities).

The narrator, Robert Petkoff, does a great job with S.T.’s voice as well as a few others (especially the octopus) and his sense of pacing and comedic/emotional tones are spot on. My daughter read the print edition and was just as entranced. I know, Hollow Kingdom sounds, er, strange but I was completely captured and this is going on my list of best books read in 2020. A sequel, Feral Creatures, is in the works and I can hardly wait.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2020.

Book Review: Lovestruck by Kate Watson @katew223 @fluxbooks

Lovestruck
Kate Watson
Flux, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-63583-030-9
Trade Paperback

Picture Cupid.

Now, destroy that image and any other preconceived notions that accompany it. Apparently, we are wrong and it is the Romans’ fault.

Of course, Kali does seem quick to blame the Romans for most misunderstandings of Greek gods and goddesses; but the image of a chubby cherub with an illogically-sized bow, well that one certainly chaps her ass. Then again, she is the crankiest Erote anyone could fathom. Traits that tend to be exhausting and annoying when exhibited by a mere human are like an adorable child venting frustration when this present-day deity pitches a fit. It should not be amusing and delightful, but it actually is.

Which is not to say that Kali should be dismissed or even taken lightly. Like all great goddesses, she is terrifying and revels in vengeance. Plus, she hasn’t always been a bitter anger-ball. At a time when she was happy in life and love, Kali took her matchmaking training very seriously. She stayed sharp and constantly competed with her cousin, Deya, to be the best student.

Until she abruptly ascertained that the Fates have already paved our paths and nothing she does truly matters. At that Kali, becomes the most cynical, careless matchmaker to ever come out of Olympus. And she just completed her fourth mismatch.

Not good for any student, it is entirely unacceptable for the very daughter of Eros to perform so poorly. Consequences for continuing in this fashion will be dire at best, so it is almost implausible that she should so royally ruin her last chance.

I love this modern-day myth and I believe Ms. Watson’s writing may have a bit of a goddesses’ blessing as she magnificently manages to share a fun story with some intriguing food-for-thought undertones. Yet another treasure that I am super-excited to take to “my” students.

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2019.

Book Review: Of Mutts and Men by Spencer Quinn @ChetTheDog @ForgeReads

Of Mutts and Men
A Chet & Bernie Mystery #10   
Spencer Quinn
Forge Books, July 2020
ISBN: 978-1-250-29769-3
Hardcover

The story opens with Chet and his partner, Bernie Little of the Little Detective Agency, in hot pursuit of an art thief. Across rooftops, no less, and when the thief jumps from one roof to another, he drops the painting. But Chet, superb partner that he is, catches the painting in mid-air. He saves the thief also, whose leap has fallen short, almost by himself. Except Bernie is there and hauls them both in. All in a day’s work, which lands them a new client.

Unfortunately, when the partners show up at the client’s place of business, they find him dead. Since Bernie—and Chet, that goes without saying—distrusts the inept sheriff in charge, they take on the job of finding the killer. It’s what they do best, and as you’ll see, though investigating is not without peril, they’re very good at it. Pay or no pay, something Chet always worries about, Bernie not so much. Just like Bernie always worries about the aquifer in the dry California desert country, but Chet not so much.

From this, if you haven’t read any of Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie novels, you might not realize that Chet (the jet) is a police-schooled dog who failed his final test, and Bernie is, indeed, a private eye. If you haven’t read the novels, why not? You’re missing out, especially as each novel just seems to get stronger. I think Of Mutts and Men is arguably the best one yet. The reader can always count on an excellent mystery/adventure, always the very best of characterizations with lots of action, and stories rife with humor. In other words, riveting page turners.

Chet is the narrator, and believe me, he’s a great one. Yes, Chet is the dog. But he’s not a humanized dog. Not at all. He thinks how a dog thinks and acts like a dog acts. Love, loyalty, and a healthy appetite all wrapped up into one package. The story gets my highest recommendation.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, May 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel