Book Review: Gambling with Murder by Lida Sideris @LidaSideris @levelbestbooks @partnersincr1me

Gambling With Murder

by Lida Sideris

February 28 – March 11, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Purchase Link:
Amazon
Coming soon to other retailers
 
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Gambling with Murder
A Southern California Mystery #5
Lida Sideris
Level Best Books, March 2022
ISBN 978-1-68512-086-3
Trade Paperback

A late-night call is all it takes for rookie lawyer Corrie Locke to kiss her day job at the movie studio goodbye, and do what she does best: flex her sweet P.I. skills and go undercover to find a senior who’s missing from a posh retirement community. One small stumbling block: skirting past security to gain inside access to the exclusive Villa Sunset. Time to call in the heavy artillery. Besides former security guard turned legal assistant—now wannabe P.I. –Veera, Corrie relies on a secret weapon: her mother, a surprisingly eager addition to Corrie’s team. Armed with enough attitude and pepper spray to take down a band of Navy Seals, Mom impersonates a senior to infiltrate the Villa, Corrie and Veera in tow. Turns out the job’s not as easy as they’d thought. These seniors have tricks tucked up their sleeves and aren’t afraid of using them.

The action gets dicey as the missing senior case turns into attempted murder by a criminal mind who’s always one step ahead. Corrie’s hot on the trail, but finds more than she bargained for…especially when her mother becomes a target.

When I first started reading this book, something kept niggling at me, sounding familiar. After rummaging around a bit, I discovered that I wasn’t imagining things and had actually read and reviewed the first book in the series back in 2015. I had really enjoyed it so why haven’t I kept up with the series in the past few days years? The only excuse I can come up with is that I just lost track of it.

At any rate, here I am with book #5 and I’m so glad to be back in the fold with Corrie’s small posse of wannabe private eyes. Mom is a new addition because of her ability to con their way into the retirement village and she brings her own wacky determination and zeal to the task at hand. Along with Corrie and Veera, Corrie’s very noticeable assistant and best friend, this is a formidable trio who will dig up the truth and have a high old time doing it.
 
Throw in the shenanigans of a bunch of entitled retirees bent on making the most of their golden years and you have the recipe for a rollicking good time as well as a good puzzle to be solved. I loved the story here just as much as the highly entertaining characters and am only sorry I finished it so quickly. I guess I’ll have to feed my desire for more by catching up with the books I’ve missed—oh, woe us me, more fun books to read!
 
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2022.

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An Excerpt from Gambling with Murder

Chapter One

Luck be a Lady
I maneuvered around shattered glass, splintered picture frames, and fragments of bubble wrap strewn along the cracked cement floor. Something crunched or crackled beneath my every step. Empty spaces joined hands to form a footpath meandering through the old warehouse. The beam of my flashlight circled around stacks of crates, blankets, old tires— “Ninja One, see anything yet?” Veera Bankhead’s voice sputtered through the walkie-talkie cinched onto my belt. Dressing up like ninjas had been Veera’s idea. To help us blend into the night. We wore matching black tunics over black slacks. The hood hid my long hair. A facemask rendered me incognito. Only the slit across my eyes kept me from tripping. Veera was posted in the parking lot outside to discourage unwelcome visitors. “Looks like a hoarder’s paradise.” I stepped over a pile of well-used sneakers. “Any idea of what we’re looking for?” she asked. “Oh, the usual hidden-in-a-warehouse items. A barrel labeled ‘TNT’. A nondescript briefcase filled with rolls of cash. Dorothy’s ruby slippers would be nice.” By day, Veera and I worked in the legal department of Ameripictures Film Studios. Tonight’s side gig was connected to our day job…by a nearly invisible thread. Props had gone missing from a high-budget movie currently in production. A police investigation was underway, but Veera suspected an inside job. She’d convinced studio security into letting us take a look. An anonymous tip led to a Los Angeles warehouse hidden beneath the 405- freeway. I stepped gingerly over dented soda cans to stay on the path. “We gotta find something,” Veera said. “Our reputation’s at stake.” She didn’t mean our reputation in the legal department. She meant our reputation as quasi-professional, unlicensed private investigators. I had my father to thank for showing me the P.I. ropes. Investigating suspicious deaths was what I did best, with help from Veera. It had earned us a level of respect from the studio security crew. That’s how we got the nosing around for missing props gig. “I still say that new intern is behind the thefts,” Veera said. “He’s been hangin’ out at the prop house every day.” “Isn’t he inventorying the props?” I asked. “So he says,” Veera replied. I had low hopes of finding anything tonight but I had to admit, this was the perfect location to hide stolen goods. A baby elephant could get lost in here. “Did you find out who owns this place?” I asked. “Working on it,” she replied. It didn’t hurt matters that Veera had handled parking lot security before becoming my legal assistant. She had connections far and wide in the Southern California security guard world. I pinned the beam of my light into a dark corner. “That’s strange.” Four large pieces of luggage lay side-by-side, atop a long folding table. Everything surrounding me was in stacks and piles. I quick-stepped closer. The luggage exteriors, aluminum handles, and zippers looked new. Why store unused luggage in a place with worn-out, broken-down stuff? “Oh-oh,” Veera said. “Hold on.” I grabbed a suitcase and slid it closer to me. I shone my light on a combination lock. Next to it sat a small keyhole. Pulling out a paperclip from my pants pocket, I shoved it into the keyhole and jiggled it around. “Two unmarked vehicles drove up,” Veera whispered. We’d parked my car behind the warehouse. I’d left Veera hiding behind a bottle brush shrub near the entry. I popped open the lid of the suitcase. Folded bedsheets lay on top. Easing them aside, I gaped at the blood-red cape with a stylized golden “S” on the back. “It’s Superman.” “The cars parked next to each other,” Veera said. To the side of the cape lay a pillowcase. I ran my fingers over something odd-shaped and bulky inside. I unwrapped it to find a one-of-a-kind, golden gun. “No way.” A cigarette case formed the handle. The trigger was a cufflink and a fountain pen served as the barrel. It was a prop gun from a James Bond film. “Two muscular guys came out of a van,” Veera said. “There’s a third-person taking his sweet time exiting a Prius. Looks to be someone smaller, older by the way he moves. And he’s wearing a dress, which means he could be a female. Headed your way. If there’s a backdoor, I’d use it.” “Can’t. I hit the jackpot.” I spun around. Where to hide? # *** Excerpt from Gambling With Murder by Lida Sideris. Copyright 2022 by Lida Sideris. Reproduced with permission from Lida Sideris. All rights reserved.

 

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About the Author

Lida Sideris’ first stint after law school was a newbie lawyer’s dream: working as an entertainment attorney for a movie studio…kind of like her heroine, Corrie Locke, except without the homicides. Lida was one of two national winners of the Helen McCloy Mystery Writers of America Scholarship Award and a Silver Falchion Award Finalist. She lives in the northern tip of Southern California with her family, rescue dogs and a flock of uppity chickens.

To learn more about Lida, please visit:

www.LidaSideris.com  // Goodreads  // BookBub – @LidaSideris  
 Instagram – @lida_sideris  // Twitter – @LidaSideris  //
Facebook – @lidasideris


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Book Review: Vice and Virtue by Justin M. Kiska @JustinKiska @levelbestbooks @partnersincr1me

Vice & Virtue

by Justin M. Kiska

February 14 – March 11, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

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Vice & Virtue
A Parker City Mystery #2
Justin M. Kiska
Level Best Books, February 2022
ISBN 978-1-68512-069-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Parker City, 1984…

Three years after the Spring Strangler case rocked the historic Western Maryland city nestled at the foot of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, life has returned to normal for Detective Ben Winters and his partner, Tommy Mason. With a new chief now leading the department and the city slowly crawling out of its economic distress, everything seems to be moving in the right direction.

Until one sweltering summer day, a killer begins targeting police officers. Ben and Tommy find themselves once again leading an investigation the likes of which Parker City has never seen. The detectives quickly come to realize that until the shooter is found, everyone wearing a badge is in danger. To complicate matters even further, when a recently unearthed skeleton mysteriously connects to the string of police homicides, Ben and Tommy begin to think their current case may be tied to events twenty years earlier.

But how could a skeleton buried two decades ago hold the key to solving their current case?

Not long ago, I was thinking about all the subgenres of crime fiction and that my tastes really hadn’t changed in a very long time. I read lots of traditionals, cozies, private investigators, true crime, thrillers, etc., but not much in the way of noirs, hardboiled, romantic suspense. One subgenre that has always appealed to me is police procedural and I’m forever looking for the next good one, either standalone or series and, in Vice & Virtue, I think I’ve “discovered” another.

Ben Winters and Tommy Mason have a partnership I really enjoyed getting to know and, as the novel moved along, they grew on me as just people, people I wouldn’t mind hanging around with in real life. These detectives are driven to solve crimes and this cop killer case has taken on a life of its own, not surprising since the targets are their own colleagues.

As Ben and Tommy delve deeper into this case as well as the unearthed skeleton from years ago, I appreciated the author not indulging in the overused trope of cops with baggage. That has become tiresome, in my opinion, partly because we all have baggage of some sort and, too often, it feels like the author is just padding the word count, drifting away from the core story. So, my thanks to Mr. Kiska.

Bottomline, this second book was my introduction to a series I think I’m going to enjoy and now I’m going to go hunt down the first book, Now & Then.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2022.

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

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An Excerpt from Vice & Virtue

Tall and athletic, Tommy Mason always reminded Ben of Tom Selleck’s Magnum P.I. character from television. Tommy always had that whole ruggedly handsome thing going for him. Mixed with a little bit of a “bad boy” vibe and he drove the women wild. Next to Ben’s clean-cut, buttoned-down appearance, their pairing caused many to do a doubletake. At first glance, they appeared to be complete opposites. But as one got to know them, they were very much alike. Each brought out the best in the other and at the end of the day, it was all about getting the job done. Sure, each had his own style, but that’s what made them such a formidable team. Tommy’s apparent willingness to skirt the rules was always offset by Ben’s ability to find ways to use the rules to their benefit. Just as Ben’s refusal to play the internal politics game allowed Tommy to use his charm to keep too many feathers from getting ruffled amongst the powers-that-be. They each knew the other’s strengths and weaknesses and how to adapt them to their own, which is why they’d been so impressive in getting the PCPD’s Detective Squad off the ground. “What are you doing here?” Ben asked, more than a little surprised to see his partner. “Shirley from Dispatch called me. She thought I’d be interested,” Tommy explained. “And before you say anything about what I’m wearing, I just want to remind you, it is our day off, so I didn’t think I needed to get dressed up to come to a potential crime scene. Especially when we don’t actually know this is a crime scene yet.” He was referring to the fact he had on a T-shirt and comfortable pair of jeans, as opposed to the full suit and tie Ben was wearing. “Besides, now you don’t have to worry about getting your fancy suit muddy. I have no problems getting down there in the dirt,” Tommy smiled, pointing at the fresh mud stains on his knees. With that, he knelt back down to take another look at the exposed skeletal remains under the floorboards. “So, tell me. What do we have?” Ben asked, crouching next to Tommy so he could get a better look. “You can see there’s a pretty big cavity here under this part of the floor,” Tommy pointed out. “It’s got to be a good ten by ten area where the ground has been eaten away, even though it’s not too deep, less than a foot in some places. It’s definitely because of water…there’s a lot of mud down there. As the earth under the floor eroded, it uncovered the skeleton. Partway, at least. Of course, no one could see what was happening under here until our friend Mr. Haggarty had the unfortunate experience of stepping on a board that was rotted through and it snapped, sending him falling through the floor. You can see where he landed in the mud. “And right there,” Tommy pointed, “you see the skull and top portion of the skeleton sticking out of the ground.” “You came face-to-face with that thing, man?” Tommy looked over at the construction worker who was leaning against the wall. “Not a good way to start the day.” “Yeah. You’re telling me,” Haggarty answered. Turning back to the skeleton, Tommy said, “I’m no expert, but that hole in the skull right there…see it, it looks like it could be a GSW from a pretty heavy caliber gun.” Leaning down and twisting his head so he could try and get a better look at the skull, Ben saw the hole and wondered if his partner was right. Finding a skeleton buried under the floor was one thing. Finding a skeleton buried under the floor with a bullet hole in its skull was something else. It took everything to a different level. Standing and stretching their legs, Tommy said, “When Shirley first called me, I thought this was going to have been some kind of prank. Some kids snuck into the site on a dare and left a skeleton for the crew to find.” “You thought kids somehow buried a skeleton under this building in the hopes someone would fall through the floor and find it?” Ben asked, raising an eyebrow. “Not to mention having to figure out how to bury the thing under the floor?” “In my defense,” Tommy started, raising a finger and shaking it at his partner, “I didn’t know the skeleton was buried under the warehouse. I just knew they’d found a skeleton at the warehouse.” The first thing that needed to happen was to get the skeleton out of the ground. That would be up to the crime scene techs. Even though he could easily reach in and pull the skull out to get a better look, Ben didn’t want to disturb anything more than it already had been when Lance Haggarty crashed through the floor. Thankfully, he hadn’t actually landed on the skull itself. “So much for our day off,” Ben said, looking at his watch, wondering where the crime scene guys were. *** Excerpt from Vice & Virtue by Justin M. Kiska. Copyright 2022 by Justin M. Kiska. Reproduced with permission from Justin M. Kiska. All rights reserved.

 

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About the Author

When not sitting in his library devising new and clever ways to kill people (for his mysteries), Justin can usually be found at The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre, outside of Washington, DC, where he is one of the owners and producers. In addition to writing the Parker City Mysteries Series, he is also the mastermind behind Marquee Mysteries, a series of interactive mystery events he has been writing and producing for over fifteen years. Justin and his wife, Jessica, live along Lake Linganore outside of Frederick, Maryland.

Catch Up With Our Author:

JustinKiska.com
Goodreads

BookBub – @JMKiska
Twitter – @JustinKiska
Facebook – @JMKiska

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Book Review: Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde @tdbwrites @levelbestbooks @partnersincr1me

Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde Banner

 

Winter Witness

by Tina deBellegarde

on Tour November 1-30, 2020

Synopsis:

Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde

When a beloved nun is murdered in a sleepy Catskill Mountain town, a grieving young widow finds herself at the center of the turmoil. Bianca St. Denis is searching for a job and seeking acceptance in her new home of Batavia-on-Hudson. Agatha Miller, the nun’s closest friend and the ailing local historian everyone loves to hate, shares her painful personal history and long-buried village secrets with Bianca. Armed with this knowledge, Bianca unravels the mysteries surrounding the death while dealing with the suspicions of her eccentric neighbors.

 

However, Bianca’s meddling complicates the sheriff’s investigation as well as his marriage. Can Sheriff Mike Riley escape his painful past in a town where murder and infighting over a new casino vie for his attention?

 

Danger stalks Bianca as she gets closer to the truth. Can the sheriff solve the mystery before the killer strikes again? Can the town heal its wounds once the truth has been uncovered?

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery Published by: Level Best Books Publication Date: September 29, 2020 Number of Pages: 282 ISBN: 978-1-947915-76-3 Series: Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery, #1 Purchase Links: Amazon | Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads | Oblong Books and Music

My Review

A bone-chilling mountain winter takes the front seat in deBellegarde’s debut that’s full of vivid characterizations that evoke not only the charm of a small town but also its unique atmosphere and secrets. Bianca is new to town but is drawn into the investigation, along with Sheriff Mike Riley, at least partly because of her journalistic background but it’s also an escape from the grief that surrounds the young widow. Her story is a compelling one but so is Mike’s with his troubled marriage and his PTSD-driven flight from the big city to this seemingly peaceful village. No less interesting is Sister Elaine; why on earth would anyone want her dead?

Batavia-on-Hudson is a town I’d like very much to visit, to get to know its townsfolk with all their failings and endearing idiosyncrasies. Villages like this one can seem like a fishbowl where everyone knows every detail about your life but, in fact, one can never truly know one’s neighbor or the shopkeeper on the village square or the librarian. The author’s deft touch with the underlying murder investigation is intriguing but its her characters who really come to life and I already want to know what will happen with them in the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2020.

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE
Thursday, December 15 She could have been sleeping, were it not for the gaping gash in the back of her head and the bloody stone next to her limp body. Sheriff Mike Riley stood alone on the shore of the near-frozen lake. At his feet, Sister Elaine Fisher lay face down, ice crystals forming around her body where it met the shoreline. The murmuring water of the nearby stream imparted a peacefulness at odds with the scene. In the waning winter light, he paused ankle deep in the snow illuminated by the beat of red strobe lights. Murder seemed so extreme. The villagers would be baffled. Murder didn’t happen in sleepy Batavia-on-Hudson. An occasional stolen bicycle, some were paid off the books, but that was hardly worth mentioning. Lately, there had been a handful of amateur burglaries. Murder was another story altogether. But there was no denying it. Elaine’s body was there before him, lifeless on a cushion of snow at the edge of the lake. Sheriff Riley ran his chapped hands through his salt and pepper hair. A knowing person might have noticed that he used this motion to disguise a quick brush at his cheek, to eliminate the one tear that slipped through. He feared this day, the day his lazy job would bring him face to face once again with the ugly underbelly he knew existed even in a quiet place like Batavia-on-Hudson. Mike Riley wasn’t afraid of death. He was afraid of the transformation a village like this was bound to go through after an act of murder. He cried for Elaine; though he barely knew her. But also, he cried for the village that died with her that morning. A place where children still wandered freely. A village that didn’t lock doors, and trusted everyone, even the ones they gossiped about. Now, inevitably, the villagers would be guarded around each other, never quite sure anymore if someone could be trusted. He thought he could already hear the locks snapping shut in cars and homes as word of the murder got out. Mothers yanking children indoors, hand-in-hand lovers escaping the once-romantic shadows of the wooded pathways, and old ladies turning into shut-ins instead of walking their dogs across the windy bluff. Sheriff Riley steeled himself not just to confront the damaged body of the first murder victim of Batavia in over seventy years, but to confront the worried faces of mothers, the defeated faces of fathers and the vulnerable faces of the elderly. He squatted in the slush, wincing as his bad knee rebelled, and laid his hands on Elaine’s rough canvas jacket, two-sizes too big—one of her thrift shop purchases, no doubt. As reverently as was possible in the muddy snow, Mike Riley turned over her body to examine the face of a changing village. Sister Elaine had no one left, she had no known siblings and of course, no spouse or children. Only Agatha Miller, her childhood companion, could have been considered next of kin. How Elaine had tolerated her grumpy old friend was a mystery to everyone. The sheriff knew that Elaine’s death would rock the community. Even a relative outsider like Mike understood that Elaine had been an anchor in Batavia. Her kindness had given the village heart, and her compassion had given it soul. No one would be prepared for this. Mike knew from experience that preparation for death eases the grief. You start getting ready emotionally and psychologically. You make arrangements. You imagine your life without someone. But Mike also knew that when the time comes it still slaps you in the face, cold and bracing. And you realize you were only fooling yourself. Then somehow, in short order, work becomes demanding, bills need to be paid and something on the radio steals a chuckle right out of your throat. For a brief second you realize that there are moments of respite from your grief and perhaps someday those moments will expand and you may be able to experience joy once again. But for now, Elaine’s death will be a shock. No one had prepared for her death, let alone her murder. *** Excerpt from Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde. Copyright 2020 by Tina deBellegarde. Reproduced with permission from Tina deBellegarde. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Tina deBellegarde

Tina deBellegarde lives in Catskill, New York with her husband Denis and their cat Shelby. Winter Witness is the first book in the Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series. Tina also writes short stories and flash fiction. When she isn’t writing, she is helping Denis tend their beehives, harvest shiitake mushrooms, and cultivate their vegetable garden. She travels to Japan regularly to visit her son, Alessandro. Tina did her graduate studies in history. She is a former exporter, paralegal, teacher, and library clerk.

Catch Up With Tina deBellegarde: tinadebellegarde.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

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Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Tina deBellegarde. There will be 6 winners. Two (2) winners will each win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card; two (2) winners will each win one (1) physical copy of Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde (U.S. addresses only); and two (2) winners will each win one (1) eBook copy of Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde The giveaway begins on November 1, 2020 and runs through December 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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