“Sam, wake up!”

I must not have responded quickly enough because the next thing I knew my grandmother pried open one of my eye lids.

Nana Jo’s face was mere inches away. Unfortunately, the activity had also awakened Snickers, one of my two chocolate toy poodles. Snickers took the opportunity to hop up onto the bed. She used my body as a runway walked toward me, stopping on my chest.

“What the—”

As soon as I opened my mouth, I knew I’d made a fatal mistake. Snickers took that opportunity to insert her tongue.

“Blah.” I pulled up the covers and used them to wipe the inside of my mouth while flopping around in an effort to unbalance the poodle from my chest. I turned to glare at Nana Jo for waking me, but she was already heading toward the door.

“Wake up. I heard a noise downstairs.”

Nothing short of ice water could have gotten me awake sooner. I hurried out of bed and slipped on my houseshoes. I grabbed the baseball bat from my closet and slid the lock to release my other poodle, Oreo, from his crate. My poodles were small, but they’d proven in the past that they were fearless when it mattered. Besides, if this turned out to be nothing, which I prayed, dear God please let this be nothing, then I could always let them outside to take care of business and maybe buy myself a couple extra minutes of sleep before I had to get up for work.

Bat in hand, the poodles and I followed Nana Jo downstairs. I didn’t need lights to see her sillouette against the brick wall of the brownstone that was now my home and North Harbor’s only mystery bookstore. In her hand was a gun.

We crept silently through the hallway and around the corner to the main bookstore.

Nana Jo held up a hand and we stopped. Snickers and Oreo took the opportunity to stretch. I looked down at them and noticed they weren’t barking or growling or showing any of the signs of distress they did the last time someone had broken into the bookstore. I glanced at the light for the door alarm and noticed it was still armed.

I came out of my batting stance and loosened my grip on the bat. “Are you sure you—”

“Shhhush!” Nana Jo turned, fingers to her lips, head cocked to the side.

That’s when I heard it. A swishing, flapping sound came from behind the office door.

I gripped my bat tightly and returned to my stance.

Nana Jo slowly twisted the doorknob, waited a few seconds and then flung open the office door.

We lept from around the corner into the room and flipped the light switch. That’s when I saw the black wings flying around the room.

I screamed and ran out of the room into the hallway. I stood in the hallway, marching around and flinging my arms around my head.

“What the heck are you doing?” Nana Jo stepped out and stared at me.

“It’s a bat!”

“I know it’s a bat.” She stared at me marching around the hall floor. “Oh good grief.” She got a broom from a nearby closet and marched back into the office.

I peeked around the corner and saw her push the button to raise the large glass garage door that opened onto the back courtyard.

Snickers and Oreo took the opportunity to head outside and take care of their business, totally oblivous to the flying mammal.

I watched as Nana Jo shoo’d the bat outside. What a way to start the day.


You can read more about Samantha Washington in To Plot Is Murder, the first book in the NEW “Mystery Bookshop” mystery series, coming November 28, 2017.

The small town of North Harbor on the shores of Lake Michigan is about to have a new mystery bookstore. But before the first customer can browse its shelves, the store’s owner is suspected of her own murder plot . . .

Samantha Washington has dreamed of owning her own mystery bookstore for as long as she can remember. And as she prepares for the store’s grand opening, she’s also realizing another dream—penning a cozy mystery set in England between the wars. While Samantha hires employees and fills the shelves with the latest mysteries, quick-witted Lady Penelope Marsh, long-overshadowed by her beautiful sister Daphne, refuses to lose the besotted Victor Carlston to her sibling’s charms. When one of Daphne’s suitors is murdered in a maze, Penelope steps in to solve the labyrinthine puzzle and win Victor.

But as Samantha indulges her imagination, the unimaginable happens in real life. A shady realtor turns up dead in her backyard, and the police suspect her—after all, the owner of a mystery bookstore might know a thing or two about murder. Aided by her feisty grandmother and an enthusiastic ensemble of colorful retirees, Samantha is determined to close the case before she opens her store. But will she live to conclude her own story when the killer has a revised ending in mind for her?

Buy Link

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Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of The Plot Is Murder. U.S. entries only, please. The giveaway ends November 29, 2017. Good luck!

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Meet the author
Valerie Burns was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and a Master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Valerie is a training supervisor for an appliance manufacturer. She lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee with her two poodles.

Reach out to Valerie at vmburns.com and on Facebook.

All comments are welcomed.

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