Book Review: My Heart Is A Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones @SGJ72 @SagaSFF

My Heart is a Chainsaw
Stephen Graham Jones
Gallery/Saga Press, August 2021
ISBN 978-1-9821-3763-2
Hardcover

Jade Daniels is an angry adolescent with a slasher-movie addiction. Constantly clad in her janitorial coveralls, complete with combat boots and often topped by hair as brightly colored as Indian hair can be, she exudes the air of an inexplicably embittered being.

May be typical teen angst. Could be, she’s truly had it tough. Either way, the look-plus-attitude tends to keep other students at bay.

History teacher extraordinaire, Mr. Holmes, makes generous allowances for Jade’s assignments. He accepts her SLASHER 101 thesis. Holmes even reads it. But for all of his best intentions, he misses the big picture Jade is trying to paint.

Sheriff Hardy has, very unfortunately, gotten to know the poor excuse that serves as Jade’s father pretty well. Tab Daniels is not a fine, upstanding man. So, it’s little wonder that Hardy cuts Jade some slack as she acts out against the world.

When Jade meets Letha, the beautiful, confident new-girl-on-the-block; her frustrations find focus. The Final Girl has arrived. Jade suspects that her hell-on-Earth, otherwise known as Terra Nova, is cursed. There’ve always been stories and scary legends, but Jade feels the evil. Which is why she so generously shared portions of her SLASHER study-guide with Letha.

Letha sees what the well-meaning history teacher missed and being a genuinely good girl, reaches out to the sheriff with the hopes of helping her new friend. But things in the tiny town take a violent and deadly turn. Certain it’s the moment she’s been waiting for, Jade joyfully flings herself into the danger and mayhem. As the remains of savaged animals and humans pile up, the person (or thing) behind the murderous rampage remains a mystery.

I’ve just visited “my” high-school students for the first time this school year. When I asked what they wanted to read, hands-down Thriller and Horror topped the list. And then I went home and picked up My Heart is a Chainsaw. Pretty sure that Mr. Jones wrote this to their deepest, darkest desires and I cannot wait to take this treasure to them.

This review was written by jv poore for Buried Under Books,
with huge thanks for the Advance Review Copy
to donate to my favorite classroom library.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2021.

Book Review: The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery @KatFlannery1 @brwpublisher @partnersincr1me

The Memory Bell
Kat Flannery
Black Rose Writing, June 2021
ISBN 978-1-68433-708-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Grace Penner’s safe haven crumbles when a body is found outside of town.

Gifted the memory bell, a family heirloom, from her grandfather’s will, Grace’s excitement is soon squashed when the bell gets broken right after she receives it. While gluing the pieces back in place, she discovers three are still missing.

Determined to find them, she is halted when the new detective, Bennet James, investigates her family. Grace is intent on showing the detective her family isn’t capable of murder, but as the investigation deepens, and pieces of the bell show up with ominous notes, Grace soon realizes the Penners are not what they seem. Amidst the tightly knit family; dark secrets, deception, and possibly even murder unfold.

Will Grace be able to save the family she loves more than anything without losing herself forever?

A small midwestern town is the perfect setting for the secrets and hidden behavior that begins to come to light after a body is discovered at the old abandoned mill on the edge of canola fields. This body is skeletonized so has some age to it and Detective Bennet James, on suspension from the state police, wants to take the lead on the case before boredom gets the best of him, and Sheriff Rhoads agrees.

Meanwhile, the granddaughter of the town’s leading family is angsting over an inherited family heirloom that’s broken with pieces missing. Setting out to find those pieces, Grace begins to unearth much more than she bargained for and learns some truths about her family that are unsavory, even shocking, and she may well wish she’d left well enough alone.

This story sets off at a leisurely pace, almost too slow, and it takes a while to gather momentum but, as we begin to learn what has gone on in this town, the tension mounts and the family saga versus the murder investigation comes to a satisfying head.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2021.

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

The story moves beyond a small town whodunit to probe the
underlying bonds of history that connect a family.”

-Midwest Book Review

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An Excerpt from The Memory Bell

“Family is supposed to be our safe haven. Very often, it’s the place where we find

the deepest heartache.”   ~ Iyanla Vanzant

CHAPTER ONE

Detective Bennet James stood over the remains of a hand dug grave. The morning air was brisk for July, and a foggy cloud permeated the air as he exhaled. He’d woken as the first rays of dawn crept through his hotel window casting sundogs along the planked floor.

Bones were found by the grain elevators at the mill in Oakville. The sleepy town was an hour’s drive from Chicago and where he’d been stationed for the last two weeks. It was hell, but anything was better than sitting at home waiting to hear his fate. He flexed his shoulders. The muscles ached from the mounting pressure.

He took a sip of the coffee he’d bought at the local gas station. The bitter blend was cold and old. Probably made the night before and just waiting for some poor soul to drain the last of the dregs from the decanter.

With no details other than the presence of human remains to work with, Ben made quick work of taping off the area and closing all access in and out of the mill. The trains were halted and all productivity near the tracks was at a standstill. He surveyed the grounds. Three metal silos stood in a row to his left with tracks laid in front of them. Directly behind were wooden buildings with peaked roofs, and a single track led to a dead end.

He gathered the mill was over fifty years old by the way the boards heaved and sagged. Out of commission for some time, he wondered why no one had torn the dilapidated buildings down. Being that the place was pretty much deserted it’d make things difficult in the investigation. He snorted. It wasn’t his investigation, and if things didn’t work out for him with the state, he’d never see another one again.

He rubbed his hand across his face. His heart quickened with the familiar feeling of piecing together a puzzle. It was the same feeling he got every time he was dealt a new case. Except this one was different. It wasn’t his, and even though the thought of having something to occupy his mind was appealing, he doubted Sheriff Rhoads would let him take the lead on it, much less be a part of it.

Ben glanced down at the body. Nothing left but bones and a few fragments of hair which signified the death happened years before. The grave was not shallow, but not deep either. Ben guessed it was four feet into the ground. A blue blanket caught his eye. He fingered the soft cotton with a gloved hand, a crocheted throw that was now pulled from the knots someone delicately placed there. Whoever had wrapped the victim in it did so with pristine care.

 “Where is the witness?” he asked the young deputy standing to his left. He couldn’t remember the boy’s name, or was it he didn’t care? It didn’t really matter. He’d stopped caring about those around him a long time ago.

The deputy looked a bit flushed, and Ben figured the kid living in the small town had never seen anything like this before. Regret settled in his stomach at making the boy stay with him while he looked over the body and its surroundings. Ben remembered seeing his first body, a young girl, no more than six. Her image still haunted him on nights when sleep wouldn’t come.

He blinked, collected his thoughts, and faced the young man.

“You’re no longer needed here,” he said.

“The men who found the body are over there,” the kid stammered. His hand shook as he pointed to the two silhouettes standing twenty yards away.

“Thanks.” Ben dismissed him and walked toward the two men sipping coffee from their mugs. A part of him wanted to turn back to his car and leave now that Rhoads was here, but his pride and his duty wouldn’t allow it. He pulled out the small note pad and pen he kept in his pocket.

“Morning. I need to ask you a few questions.”

“Ain’t you the new fella?” one of the men asked.

“Yeah.”

“You’re that swanky detective from the city.”

Ben didn’t answer.

“Why in hell would you want to come out here?”

He remained silent. It was none of the old man’s business why he’d been placed in this shithole town.

“Talk is you got into hot water up there.”

“I need to ask you some questions,” Ben repeated, an edge creeping into his voice. He wasn’t about to discuss his shit with these guys. He shifted from one foot to the other, took a deep calming breath, cleared his throat, and waited.

“Not much to tell,” the man said. His thick white moustache spanned the whole of his upper lip and the bottoms of his cheeks.

“Your name?” he asked.

“Walter Smythe.” The man leaned in to read what Ben wrote and tapped his index finger onto the paper. “That’s Smythe with a Y not an I.”

Ben nodded.

“Can you tell me how you came upon the body?”

“Ol’ Russ was the one who found it.”

He turned to the other man.

“I ain’t Russ,” the farmer said.

“Who is—”

“That’s my dog.” Walter whistled. A large St. Bernard came loping up from the field behind the buildings.

“The dog found the body?”

“That’s right.”

“What were you doing out here?”

“I come out from time to time.”

“Why if the place is closed down?”

The man shrugged.

“Have you brought Russ out here before?” Ben asked, still trying to piece together how the remains were found.

“Sure. I bring him everywhere.”

“Why was he in the elevators?”

Walter’s wide shoulders lifted underneath the plaid jacket.

“Did the dog take anything from the grave, or disturb it in anyway?”

“Once I seen him diggin’, I called him over.” Walter guffawed. “But the damn mutt just kept on going back. So, I went over to see what the hell he was after.”

“At what point did you figure out it was a body?”

“Right away when I saw the bones.”

“Russ dug up most of the grave?”

“Nah, maybe a foot of it.” Walter nudged the farmer beside him. “I called Bill and we determined it was best to call the sheriff.”

“Why didn’t you call the sheriff first?”

Walter didn’t answer.

“Did you remove or touch anything?” Ben asked.

“Nope.”

As much as the farmer was rough around the edges, he could tell Walter Smythe spoke the truth.

“One more question. Has anyone gone missing in the last ten years?”

“Not around these parts. Most people who go missing leave for the city.”

“Why is that?”

“Small towns ain’t for everybody.” Walter’s eyes narrowed. “Stuff like this don’t happen around here.”

Ben nodded before he walked away and headed back to his car. He opened the door but didn’t get in. Tall silos, train cars and tracks were surrounded by a field. Waist-high stalks of yellow waved in the breeze and from what he knew of farming, it looked to be canola. Why wasn’t the body buried in the field? There must be over a hundred acres of land. Until he received the coroner’s report, he couldn’t begin to guess at anything yet. Before he left, he’d need to talk to Sheriff Rhoads and see about any missing persons reports in the area.

“Well, that is odd.” Rhoads sauntered toward him, brows furrowed.

“What is?” Ben asked.

“A body, here, at the elevators, in Oakville.” His forehead wrinkled, and a perplexed look crossed his face. “Nobody has been here in years.”

“These things can happen anywhere. There are no rules for death.”

Rhoads focused on him, but remained quiet for some time before he said, “Not here.”

“I’d like to take the lead on this,” Ben said. The words surprised him, but he couldn’t take them back now. Besides, he needed something to keep him busy. The minor misdemeanors at the old folk’s home, break-ins, and an occasional kid in trouble wasn’t enough to keep him from going crazy with boredom.

“Not sure that’s wise, with your probation and all.”

Ben nodded, figuring that would be the answer.

“But I don’t see it as more than an unfortunate accident, so go ahead.”

Ben wasn’t so sure.

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About the Author

Kat Flannery’s love of history shows in her novels. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. A member of many writing Kat enjoys promoting other authors on her blog. When she’s not busy writing, or marketing Kat volunteers her time to other aspiring authors. She has been a keynote speaker, lecturer and guest author inspiring readers and writers at every event she attends. Kat’s been published in numerous periodicals throughout her career, and continues to write for blogs and online magazines. A bestselling author, Kat’s books are available all over the world. The BRANDED TRILOGY is Kat’s award-winning series. With seven books published, Kat continues to plot what story will be next. Creativity is in all aspects of Kat’s career. She does Social Media and Marketing for her own career and businesses, writing ads, and other content.

Catch Up With Kat Flannery:
www.KatFlannery.com/Books-1
Goodreads
BookBub – @KatFlannery
Instagram – @katflannery_
Twitter – @KatFlannery1
Facebook – @kat.flannery.5

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Follow the tour here.

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“A naïve small-town girl and a disillusioned big-city cop, drawn
together by an unsolved crime that is itself only the tip of
the iceberg, The Memory Bell serves up the perfect steamy summer read.”

–Jenny Jaeckel, author of House of Rougeaux

“Wonderful, engaging, and fast-paced! Flannery knows what she’s doing!”
-Jonas Saul, author of the Sarah Roberts series

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GIVEAWAY:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners
in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Kat Flannery. There
will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card
(U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs September 1 through
October 3, 2021. Void where prohibited.

Enter here.

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Book Review: The Girl from Silent Lake by Leslie Wolfe @LWNovels @bookouture @SDSXXTours

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The Girl From Silent Lake
Detective Kay Sharp Book 1
by Leslie Wolfe
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
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Wow!!!! It simply took my breath away so much that I
finished this book in one go! Literally took my breath away!
I simply couldn’t put the book down. Unputdownable.”
Tropical Girl Reads Books, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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The Girl from Silent Lake
Detective Kay Sharp Book 1
Leslie Wolfe
Bookouture, February 2021
ISBN 978-1-83888-985-2
Trade Paperback
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From the publisher—
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Her daughter, with emerald eyes and the sweetest smile, is everything to her. Her whole world. “Mommy,” the little girl says, touching her mother’s face with trembling fingers before she’s torn away. “Don’t cry.” Will she ever see her again?
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When single mother Alison Nolan sets off with her six-year-old daughter, Hazel, she can’t wait to spend precious time with her girl. A vacation in Silent Lake, where snow-topped mountains are surrounded by the colors of fall, is just what they need. But hours later, Alison and Hazel vanish into thin air.
*
Detective Kay Sharp rushes to the scene. The only evidence that they were ever there is an abandoned rental car with a suitcase in the back, gummy bears in the open glove compartment and a teddy bear on the floor.
*
Kay’s mind spins. A week before, the body of another woman from out of town was found wrapped in a blanket, her hair braided and tied with feathers. Instinct tells her that the cases are connected––and it won’t be long until more innocent lives are lost.
*
As Kay leads a frenzied search, time is against her, but she vows that Alison and little Hazel will be found alive. She works around the clock, even though the small town is up in arms, saying she’s asking too many questions. Then she uncovers a vital clue – a photograph of the blanket that the first victim was buried in.
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Just when Kay thinks she’s found the missing piece, she realises she’s being watched. Is she getting too close, or is her own past catching up with her?
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With a little girl’s life on the line, Kay will stop at nothing. But will it be enough to get inside the mind of the most twisted killer she has ever encountered, or will another blameless child be taken?
*
A totally gripping and utterly pulse-pounding crime thriller series for readers who love Lisa Regan, Robert Dugoni and Kendra Elliot. This twist-packed page-turner gives “unputdownable” a whole new meaning!
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There’s a certain predictability in The Girl from Silent Lake because the essential elements are much like so many police procedurals—unattached woman detective returns to the place where she has a troubled past, small town atmosphere, a dead body, missing women and children, has an expertise that can help the local police, kickass attitude, covering a secret, etc., etc. This sense of familiarity is not necessarily a bad thing, though, because there’s comfort to be found in that very familiarity and deep surprises are not always needed or wanted by the reader. In this case, I appreciated knowing pretty much how things were going to play out because it’s the story I was looking for at this time.
*
One thing I never could get a handle on was why an accomplished forensic FBI agent would leave her job, even temporarily, to housesit for her incarcerated brother. He’s onlly in for six months, for heaven’s sake, and it would/should be easy to find someone local to occasionally check on the house. In fact, I imagine the local cops would be willing to help out a fellow law officer so that reason for Kay’s return to the place she swore never to return to doesn’t hold water. Still, once I put that aside, the tale became quite enjoyable with an engaging troop of characters and a tension-filled investigation. This is a promising beginning to what will probably be a very good series.
*
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2021.
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Goodreads * Barnes & Noble * Amazon

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About the Author

Leslie Wolfe is a bestselling author whose novels break the mold of traditional thrillers. She creates unforgettable, brilliant, strong women heroes who deliver fast-paced, satisfying suspense, backed up by extensive background research in technology and psychology.
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Leslie released the first novel, Executive, in October 2011. It was very well received, including inquiries from Hollywood. Since then, Leslie published numerous novels and enjoyed growing success and recognition in the marketplace. Among Leslie’s most notable works, The Watson Girl (2017) was recognized for offering a unique insight into the mind of a serial killer and a rarely seen first person account of his actions, in a dramatic and intense procedural thriller.
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A complete list of Leslie’s titles is available at https://lesliewolfe.com/books/.
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Leslie enjoys engaging with readers every day and would love to hear from you.
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Giveaway

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

$50 Amazon

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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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: The Sentinel by Lee Child and Andrew Child @LeeChildReacher @Andrew_Grant @DelacortePress

The Sentinel
A Jack Reacher Novel #25
Lee Child and Andrew Child
Delacorte Press, October 2020
ISBN 978-1-9848-1846-1
Hardcover

Jack Reacher is back.  This time the novel is written by Lee Child and his brother Andrew Child, who will be taking over writing Jack Reacher novels.  Andrew Child is a successful author in his own right having written nine mystery thrillers.

I was eager as always to catch up with Reacher, and more than a little curious to find out how this joint effort would fare.  I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed.

Reacher, on the road after helping out a group of four struggling musicians in Nashville, hitches a ride out of town with a young man who is heading to a small town of Pleasantville.

On arriving in Pleasantville, Reacher thanks his companion for the ride, and heads to the nearest diner.  As he crosses the street, he quickly senses that something criminal is about to go down.  His antenna is telling him that a man, who has just left the diner, is about to be kidnapped.

Reacher stops the potential kidnapping, but the local police aren’t impressed with his efforts.  As a result, Reacher and the potential victim are taken to the local precinct.  After some questioning, both men are released.  Rusty Rutherford, the man he helped, thanks Reacher and together they head to the diner.

Reacher asks Rusty why someone would want to kidnap him.  Rusty explains that the town is under a Ransomware attack.  A malicious computer program has been used to lock up the entire network in town and everyone blames him for the ongoing disruption.  Rusty was in charge of the system but was fired from his job and the whole town blame him for the current situation.

The perpetrators are demanding a huge ransom which is meantime being negotiated, but that doesn’t explain Rusty’s attempted abduction. Reacher believes there has to be more happening here. And of course there is.

There are good guys and bad guys and Reacher, in his inimitable fashion, creates as much chaos and upheaval as he can as he unravels the  truth. Suffice it to say there’s lots of action and intrigue along the way.

Check it out….

Respectfully submitted,

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, November 2020.

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: Hanging Falls by Margaret Mizushima @margmizu @crookedlanebks

Hanging Falls
A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #6
Margaret Mizushima
Crooked Lane Books, September 2020
ISBN 978-1-64385-445-8
Hardcover

While hiking in the mountains, Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo discover a man’s body floating in a lake. They soon find the body, once buried, has washed downhill due to the heavy rains plaguing the Colorado high country. While searching for clues to the man’s identity, they spot someone watching them and take him in as a suspect. Forced to let him go, as there doesn’t seem to be a connection between him and the dead man, in a matter of hours the suspect also ends up dead, hanging from a tall woodland tree. Investigation leads Mattie, Robo, and the police department to a group of religious adherents of what appears to be plural marriage.

This is the first of Mizushima’s Timber Creek mysteries that I’ve read, and it’s certainly not the last. This is the sixth book in the series, and I intend to go back for the earlier stories and catch up with Mattie’s previous adventures. Besides, I want to learn how she and Robo became partners. Then there’s her love life with veterinarian Cole Walker, and her interaction with the other LEO’s at their station. All are interesting and play important parts in the story arc.

As a plus, a great deal of the action happens in the mountains of Colorado, and we interact with wildlife, and the great outdoors.

Plus, Mattie was kidnapped, then abandoned by her mother when she was only two years old. She’s recently had a DNA test done and found some possible close relatives. What’s going to happen with that? It all adds to a well-rounded story with a good mystery, one sure to stir your blood. Besides, I’m a sucker for stories where dogs play a part. Definitely recommended reading.

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