A Day in the Life of Robert “Don’t call me Bobby” Brixton by Donald Bain

Undiplomatic MurderRobert Brixton, private investigator here, sitting in my small office suite in Washington, D.C. next to the one occupied by my friend, the attorney Mackensie Smith. When Mac resigned his post as law professor at George Washington University to return to private practice he convinced me to return to D.C. to handle his investigations, along with assignments from others. Mac Smith is one of the good guys in my life since I came back to our nation’s capital. There aren’t many. As President Harry Truman once famously said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” He knew what he was talking about.

I’ve been accused of being a perpetual malcontent. But that’s just the way I am. I was once a cop in D.C. That lasted four long years, enough time for me to get married, have two daughters, and get divorced. I split and headed for that allegedly genteel southern city, Savannah, Georgia, where I put in twenty on its police force and retired with a paltry pension and a bad knee. From there, I went back home to Brooklyn where people don’t say “ya’ll” when you’re the only other person in the room. I intended to stay, but an old friend lured me back to the District. A big mistake. While working for a private security agency connected with the State Department I lost my youngest daughter, was accused of murdering the son of a prominent politician, and found myself knee-deep in lying politicians and international arms dealers. I’ve been the target of a crazy paid assassin, nailed a conniving congressman from Tampa whose pretty young intern was found murdered, and used my Savannah connections to make a first lady and D.C.’s leading social hostess sweat bullets. Not your run-of-the-mill way to make a living, but it could be worse, like being a member of Congress and having to sit through the never-ending drone of speeches that say nothing.

Fortunately I have Flo Combes, “mah honey”—notice my southern accent?—who puts up with me when she isn’t chastising me for acting like a jerk. She understands me because she’s from New York, too. My receptionist as well as my lover and constant companion, Flo never hesitates to hold a mirror up to me, although I don’t always like what I see.

While I may never win any Miss Congeniality awards, I do have attributes that are invaluable in my job. I easily spot phonies, blowhards, hypocrites, and other D.C. denizens who rise from the swamp this city is built on. I know how to run down a perp and gather evidence against him without tipping off the suspect. I can size up witnesses and figure out how best to approach them. I know the rules and when to break them.

I also know that I carry to extremes my jaundiced views of people and the stupid things they do. Men who wear baseball caps backwards annoy me. Don’t they know that the visor is designed to shield their eyes, not the nape of their necks? People who are oblivious to their fellow pedestrians and walk down the street peering into their cell phones ought to be locked up, along with morons who text while driving. I don’t like jellybean drinks with little umbrellas or martinis made with anything but gin. I don’t go to the movies because I’m not interested in how many explosions and car chases the special effects guys can come up. I want real stories with real characters, like in Casablanca or Brief Encounter.

Okay, so I’m a pain-in-the-neck sort of guy. But Flo Combes loves me so there must be something salvageable here. And Mac Smith puts up with me because he knows that I’m a damn good private investigator who doesn’t fudge the truth, and who will put his hide on the line when the cause is worth it.

Since settling back in Washington I’ve come to appreciate its positive points. It’s a pretty city, with its cherry blossoms, monuments, wide boulevards and low buildings. Summers are tough (but Savannah was no Garden of Eden either), when the heat and humidity (and odors) of July and August settle over the city like a soggy blanket.

All in all, things could be worse. At this moment I’m nibbling on shrimp toast that Flo whipped up and brought to the office, and sipping a perfectly shaken martini. A client just paid me, the humidity outside has dropped a few points, and we have a reservation at a chi-chi watering hole where we’ll meet up with Mac and Annabel Smith. So life is peachy—just as long as some clown at the next table doesn’t have his baseball cap on backwards.

Robert Brixton made his debut in Monument to Murder in the Margaret Truman Capital Crimes series, joining recurring characters Mac and Annabel Smith. Brixton has gone on to appear in Experiment in Murder, Undiplomatic Murder (published in July 2014 by Forge) and Internship in Murder (July 2015).

Meet the author
Donald Bain worked closely with Margaret Truman on all her Washington-based mystery/thriller novels, and has continued the series after her death. He’s the author/ghostwriter of more than 115 books, including 43 in the bestselling “Murder, She Wrote” series, on which he collaborates with his wife Renée Paley-Bain. His caper novel, Lights Out! was published in May.

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A Day in the Life of Casey Feldstein by Betty Hechtman

Silence of the Lambs WoolMy name is Casey Feldstein. Generally the next thing people mention is there profession. I’ve had a few, well, really that’s quite a few professions. You could say that none of them have stuck, or that I haven’t stuck with them.

As my mother, a successful Chicago cardiologist, likes to remind me, when she was my age (35), she was a doctor, a wife and a mother – and I’m a what?

When I relocated from Chicago to my aunt’s guest house in Cadbury by the Sea, California, I was hoping to make a fresh start. The atmospheric town on the Monterey Peninsula was certainly a change from Chicago. Aunt Joan was great and helped me turn my baking skills into a job as the dessert chef for the Blue Door restaurant. I also became a freelance muffin baker, providing the chewy treats for the assorted coffee spots around town. With all those clouds and fog, Cadbury is definitely a coffee town.

Who knows what would have happened if my aunt hadn’t been killed in a hit and run accident. It was certainly a surprise to inherit her Yarn Retreat business. To be honest, while I admired all of my aunt’s handiwork, I was clueless about yarn craft. Was there really a difference between crochet hooks and knitting needles?

Putting on the first Yarn Retreat at the moody hotel and conference center located on the edge of town changed all that. I now know a lot more about knitting and murder.

I’m glad to have my former boss Frank to turn to for advice, even if it is just over the phone and he always acts grumbly about giving it. Frank runs a detective agency in Chicago and working for him was my favorite temp job. And probably why I seem to keep investigating murders.

There is definitely some kind of spark between me and the cop who lives down the street. It’s so embarrassing, but even my mother noticed it. Should I do something about it, or leave things as they are? Then there is my ex, Dr. Sammy. It wasn’t my idea for him to relocate to Monterey. He insists it is just because he likes the area and there are places for him to perform his magic act and that it has nothing to do with trying to win me back. But that’s not how he acts. If only he wouldn’t wear his heart on his sleeve.

And now I’m up to my elbows in wool as I get ready to put on my second Retreat. It’s called “Sheep to Shawl” and just like the name implies means getting the fleece from a sheep, turning it into yarn and then knitting it into a shawl.

Some of my first time retreaters are coming back. My BFF Lucinda is going to be there, too. I have an expert helping with the technical aspects. What could possibly go wrong?

You can read more about Casey in Silence of the Lamb’s Wool, the second book in the “Yarn Retreat” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series is Yarn To Go.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on July 28 for the chance to win a copy of Silence of the Lamb’s Wool. (US entries only, please.)

Meet the author
Silence of the Lamb’s Wool is the second book in the national bestselling Yarn Retreat series that features dessert chef Casey Feldstein who puts on yarn retreats at a slightly sinister hotel and conference center on California’s Monterey peninsula. Betty Hechtman also writes the national bestselling Crochet mystery series. All books in both series include patterns and recipes. She says it is like a dream come true to be able mix her love of mystery with her love of making things. She grew up in Chicago and has a degree in Fine Art. In addition she has studied everything from improv comedy to magic. She has written newspaper and magazine pieces, short stories and scripts. She lives in Southern California and Chicago and has yarn stashes in both cities.

For more information check out BettyHechtman.com, Facebook and her Friday blog for Killerhobbies.blogspot.com

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A Day in the Life of Francesca Benini by Wendy Tyson

Deadly AssetsThere is an Italian proverb, Chi affoga s’attaccherrebbe alle funi del cielo. Loosely translated, it means “A drowning man plucks at a straw.” When I was a young girl back in Italy, my grandmother, dressed in her widow-black, eyes hard nuggets of Tuscan coal, would mutter this saying to my father at the slightest sign of weakness, effectively questioning his business judgment as he helped to grow the family’s fledgling company. To be fair to my father, those straws saved him on many occasions. Benini Enterprises would become a thriving business. But then, Grandmother never valued fairness.

I’m reminded of that proverb now as I get ready for my visitor, Allison Campbell. Image consultant, life coach…call her what you will. It strikes me that perhaps she is the straw, and I am the drowning woman, already doomed. The thought makes me tired. Do I have fight left in me? I glance outside and see Maria down by the barn, riding the chestnut mare. My niece’s dark hair is cascading down her back, and although I can’t see her features from the sunroom window, I know the expression on her face will be feral, wild. From here, she looks like a witch. Or a harlot. Thinking of Grandmother, I smile. How far our family has come.

Outside, distant clouds threaten the blue August sky. This summer, the Finger Lakes region of New York has been abnormally hot and rainy. I worry about the grapes. While we don’t sell our own wine, our vineyards supply the house, and perfecting our dry Riesling has become a tradition. We have so few traditions anymore…I don’t want to let go of this one.

Jackie, our chef, interrupts my thoughts when she enters the sunroom quietly, her plain features bunched into a worried frown. She reminds me of the woman in the iconic painting American Gothic and I admonish myself for the uncharitable association.

“Yes?” I say. “Is Allison here?”

Jackie shakes her head. “The hospital called.”

“About Paolo?” Although even as I say the words, I realize how ridiculous they sound. Of course it was about Paolo. My brother had a stroke and has been in and out of consciousness. His misfortune is the reason for my engagement with Allison Campbell. That, and…well, a story for another day. “What’s happened?”

Jackie looks around. In a low voice, she says, “You should go see him, Frannie.”

“Jackie, please.”

“You’ll regret it. You and I both know it’s true.”

Regret? Oh, I know regret. Another face flashes before me, and I push aside thoughts of Gina Benini, my brother’s first wife. I purse my lips and turn my head, looking away from Jackie and back toward the window. Maria is no longer in sight. The barn looms in the distance, its size a reminder of the wealth we once had. These days, this estate seems too big. Too grand. Then why do I feel so claustrophobic within its confines?

I rise, dismissing Jackie. She knows me well enough to understand the gesture, and she leaves the room. I am immediately regretful. She never did tell me why the hospital called.

A clock in one of the front parlors strikes three. Allison Campbell will be along soon. I head toward my private rooms feeling a sudden burst of energy. My head is oddly clear. I know what needs to be done, and with clarity comes purpose. Voices reach me as I climb the stairs. Jackie speaking to Alessandro. I pause to listen. Another proverb comes to mind: A mali estremi, estremi rimedi. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Perhaps I am not so unlike my grandmother, after all.

You can read more about Francesca in Deadly Assets, the second book in the “Allison Campbell” mystery series, published by Henery Press. The first book in the series is Killer Image.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on July 25 for the chance to win a copy of Deadly Assets. (US entries only, please.)

About the author
Wendy Tyson is a writer, lawyer and former therapist from Philadelphia. She’s authored Killer Image, an Allison Campbell mystery, Deadly Assets, the second Campbell novel, and The Seduction of Miriam Cross, a thriller set near Philadelphia. Wendy makes her home in Abington, Pennsylvania with her husband, three sons and two muses, dogs Molly and Driggs. She’s currently working on the third Campbell novel, Dying Brand.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

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Project Dogway by Sparkle Abbey

Here we Go againProject Dogway by Sparkle Abbey is part of the “Here We Go Again Short Story Anthology”. Publisher: The Story Vault, February 2014

It’s high fashion hijinks in Laguna Beach with designer togs, spa pampering, and jewels galore…and that’s just the dogs.

With canines on the catwalk at this fundraising haute dog fashion show, pet therapist, Caro, and cousin Mel, owner of the local Bow Wow Boutique, are mingling with the crowd, but still not speaking to each other.

But when one of Caro’s clients, Phil Tawny, the protective owner of Shadow, an award-winning beagle, drops dead at the event, the feuding cousins find themselves embroiled in much more than a fashion “faux paw.” There’s a rabid Shadow fan, a fame-hungry ex-wife, and a detective who doesn’t want them sniffing around his investigation.

But Caro and Mel refuse to sit/stay, and soon find themselves on the tail of a killer.

I enjoyed this short story where Caro and Mel are on the case in search of a missing dog and finding a murderer among the people at the fashion show. I love the comfortable tone and the pace of this light fare with its easy flowing chapters. A good read that fits perfectly in between the full-length novels.

A Day in the Life of Eve Appel by Lesley A Diehl

Dead in the WaterI’m Eve Appel, and with my partner and best friend, Madeleine Boudreaux, I own and operate a consignment shop in rural Florida. We’re well established in the area now after a few ups and downs. You can read about the rollicking ride in A Secondhand Murder and the second in the series, Dead in the Water, was released by Camel Press earlier in July.

I’m the kind of woman who often can’t control what comes out of my mouth while Madeleine is always socially appropriate, but seems to have no control over what her body does. I’m saying she’s clumsy. Take this typical day for us when I’d just moved to Florida.

“A rodeo??” I said to Madeleine when she mentioned it. A rodeo? Sure. That sounded area appropriate, and not as creepy as running across a gator while picnicking in the park by the lake.

The only catch was that I’d moved here a month ago, and we hadn’t yet opened our shop.

I looked around the shop. “Things look pretty disorganized.”

“Pooh. We’ll work tomorrow. Today is the last day for the annual rodeo, and I want you to see it. It’s real Florida.”

Madeleine had been showing me around “real” Florida in the last few weeks, so I was familiar with the gators and cowboys, the cowboys I met in the local bar, the gators in nearby canals and on the lake.

Cowboys? Up close and doing their roping, riding and bull riding thing? It was too tempting.

I must admit that I did love the excitement of the events, calf roping, barrel racing, and, the most thrilling, bull riding. I don’t know what I admired most, the skill of the cowboys or the energy of the animals. We sat in the lowest row of the stands and got a close up view of everything, including a good whiff of the cattle. Pick-up riders rode past us, their attention focused on insuring that the riders were safe once off the bulls. People cheered their favorite participant on from the stands. The noise of the steers, bellowing of bulls and neighing of horses added to the air of excitement.

“That was quite a show,” I said to Madeleine as we left the stands. “I’d like a chance to get a closer look at those bulls. They’re huge.”

Madeleine shot me a look filled with skepticism. “You want to get a closer look at those cowboys near the bull pens. Don’t lie to me.”

Well, yes, but the bulls were kind of intriguing too.

“And you’ve already rubbed elbows with cowboys in the Burnt Biscuit Restaurant and Bar on the dance floor.”

“Yeah, but these are sweaty, real cowboys with bulls to boot.”

“This is not a good idea, Eve.”

“Of course it is.”

I was wrong, as I usually am where Madeleine is concerned.

We wandered in the direction of the bull pens and caught the attention of several cowboys working with the stock and others I recognized as having participated in the events.

“Well, little ladies, did you enjoy the rodeo?” asked one of the riders.

Madeleine may be little, but at over six feet with my stiletto heels which I always wore, I am not.

We struck up a conversation with the men and talked of spurs, ropes, pickup riders, and prize money, all matters important to rodeo riders. Madeleine leaned back onto the fence surrounding the stock pens as we talked. I didn’t notice what she was doing, but one of the cowboys did.

“Careful there, Ma’am. You don’t want to lean into that lever or you’ll…”

Madeleine jumped away from the fence, but too late. She’d tripped the level, and the gate swung open. The bulls inside jockeyed for position as they sniffed freedom to the outside world.

The cowboy pushed us out of the way, as the bulls rushed for the open rodeo grounds.

“Oh, oh,” said Madeleine.

“Oh, crap,” I said.

“Bulls are out!” yelled a cowboy.

The chase to round them up began. Men on horses and on foot, the two clowns who worked the rodeo and spectators not afraid to back down a bull dashed out of the stadium to herd the animals back into the pen, but not before two of them jumped on the merry-go-round, scaring the riders already there. Others took off toward the barbeque stands and knocked over three booths, scattering pounds of ribs and chicken onto the ground. It took several hours before the bulls were back in their pen.

As for Madeleine, the lure of the rodeo has worn off, and I haven’t heard her mention attending the event for the past two years. She still agrees with me, however. Cowboys are really cute, but she prefers them on the dance floor rather than riding a bull.

You can read more about Eve in Dead in the Water, the second book in the “Eve Appel” mystery series, published by Camel Press. The first book in the series is A Secondhand Murder.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on July 24 for the chance to win a copy of Dead in the Water. (US entries only, please.)

Meet the author
Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her writing muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats, and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work.

She is author of several mystery series, all featuring country gals with attitude. Lesley has also authored a number of short stories and several standalone mystery novels. She invites readers to visit her on her website, on Twitter or on Facebook.

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Shenanigans in the Shadows by Kari Lee Townsend

Here we Go againShenanigans in the Shadows by Kari Lee Townsend is part of the “Here We Go Again Short Story Anthology”. Publisher: The Story Vault, February 2014

Psychic Sunshine Meadows is used to predicting trouble, but never sees mischief and mayhem coming her way. After Detective Mitch Stone moves in, her cat Morty refuses to accept him. Both resort to all sorts of shenanigans as they compete for her attention. When Morty sees his shadow, Sunny knows she can’t endure six more weeks of doom and threatens to put them each in the doghouse if they don’t quit misbehaving. When her best friend’s priceless heirloom wedding rings go missing and a break-in is discovered, they must put their differences aside and work together to figure out whodunit.

This was a great read and a long overdue visit with Sunny and her friends. In this light fare, a missing ring has Sunny and Mitch looking for a thief and it was very enjoyable watching them fit all the pieces together to solve this puzzling crime and boy was it fun when the thief was revealed. Now that I know there is a new book coming in this series, this was a nice interlude and I can’t wait for the next book in this delightfully charming series.

Power Play by Catherine Coulter

Power PlayPower Play by Catherine Coulter is the 18th book in the “FBI” thriller series. Publisher: Putnam, July 2014

#1 New York Times–bestselling author Catherine Coulter returns with the newest full-throttle adventure in the FBI series featuring Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock.

Natalie Black, the U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James, has returned to Washington, her job in jeopardy. Her fiancé, George McCallum, Viscount Lockenby, has died in a car accident, and mysterious rumors begin that she’s responsible begin to surface: she broke off the engagement and, heartbroken, he killed himself. Then someone tries to force her off the M-2 outside London. Again, rumors claim it was a sympathy ploy. When she returns to the United States, she’s nearly killed when a car tries to mow her down while she’s out for a run. No one believes her except FBI Special Agent Davis Sullivan.

Meanwhile someone is following Sherlock. A stalker? Then someone tries to shoot her from the back of a motorcycle, but the assailant gets away. Sherlock next gets a call from an Atlanta mental hospital warning her that Blessed Backman has escaped. This is not good news. Blessed is a talented psychopath out for revenge against the agents, primarily Sherlock, whom his dying mother begged him to kill since she and Savich brought down her cult.

How to find out who’s trying to kill the ambassador to the U.K.? How can they get their hands on Blessed Backman before he succeeds and kills Sherlock? The clock is ticking and the danger intensifies . . .

I love this series and the author once again delivers a fast-paced and thrilling drama that was hard to put down from the start to a conclusion worthy of Savitch and Sherlock investigative and sharp shooting skills. The mystery grabbed my attention and I love watching how it all plays out with some surprising twists that gave this story a bit of jolt that as to what was going on. A good read that I enjoyed immensely and I can’t wait for the next book in this terrific series.