Deception in Strange Places by Judy Alter

Deception in Strange PlacesDeception in Strange Places by Judy Alter is the fifth book in the “Kelly O’Connell” mystery series. Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press, July 2014

A woman desperately seeking her biological mother, a televangelist determined to thwart that search, a hired hit man, and in the midst of it all, a reclusive diva. Kelly has gotten herself involved in a dangerous emotional tangle this time, and Mike doesn’t tell her to back off, even when events take them from Fort Worth to San Antonio.

I enjoyed the latest adventures with Kelly and her friends in this suspense-fully-driven and fast-paced drama that made me feel like I also part of the action. I liked how the mystery was not who did it, but how they catch the villain and bring him to justice. The build-up, with its intensifying moments, to the climatic conclusion was nicely done and I applaud the author in how it all turned out. With a comfortable tone, a small-town atmosphere, great dialogue and a wonderful cast, this was one of the best books in the series and I can’t wait to see what capers are in store Kelly and her friends.

A Day in the Life with Andy Buckland by Jennifer L. Hart

Murder Al DenteDo you remember that commercial, “Time to make the doughnuts?” Well, substitute pasta for doughnuts and that’s the refrain I hear, day in day out. My name is Andy Buckland and I’m a former celebrity chef. I had the shortest career of any celebrity chef in the history of Flavor TV. That’s right, less than one full episode. That’s what happens when the live studio audience gets food poisoning on your watch. Not my fault, but nobody wanted to hear it.

After that unfortunate debacle I kind of fell apart. The only food industry path left open to me was working at the Bowtie Angel. You wouldn’t think you could find traditional old world Italian pasta in N.C, especially not a Podunk town like Beaverton. We don’t even have a Starbucks, for the love of Pete! But that’s what makes my family’s pasta shop so special. And under the evil eye of my very Sicilian great aunt, I make the pasta. Even if I just made the pasta. Even if no one is eating our pasta, I still have to make the pasta.

Aunt Cecily doesn’t concern herself with things like inventory. In fact, ever since my grandmother passed on, the business has been steadily losing money. Bad enough that my career is DOA, but I can’t stand to watch three generations of my family’s hard work go up in smoke.

So. My plan is to swallow my pride and do whatever needs to be done to save the Bowtie Angel. Of course my (undeserved) reputation as “the Death Chef” has spread like wildfire. Everyone I know either witnessed my grand humiliation firsthand or has heard-tell about it. Everyone that is, except Malcolm Jones.

The absolute last thing I need at this juncture in my life is a romantic entanglement. Jones and his super sexy New Zealand accent are NOT on my to-do list, no matter how often he wanders into the Bowtie Angel and smolders at me. No sir, I’m a woman on a mission, 100% focused.

But Holy Macaroni, does that man smell good enough to eat!

You can read more about Andy in Murder Al Dente, the first book in the new “Southern Pasta Shop” mystery series, published by Gemma Halliday Publishing.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on September 2 for the chance to win a copy of MURDER AL DENTE. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

About the author
Jennifer L. Hart knows that surviving as military spouse takes persistence, comfort food and a stellar sense of humor. Her books often focus on people who’ve lived the military lifestyle and zany antics of neurotic heroines, who like to eat, drink and have fun. Her works include the Misadventures of the Laundry Hag mystery series, the Damaged Goods mystery series and Murder Al Dente, coming soon from Gemma Halliday Presents.

Visit Jennifer online at, on Twitter or on Facebook.

A Day in the Life of Austin Starr by Kay Kendall

Desolation RowThis year, 1968, looked so promising at first. I married my college boyfriend David. He’s kind, smart, handsome…and taller than me. That’s a real plus.

Unfortunately, today I can’t see him because he’s in jail. And if that’s not bad enough already, he’s in jail in a foreign country.

OK, OK, so we’ve only moved to Canada…but we Americans aren’t supposed to feel any culture shock up here in Canada. Ha! Not true. I’ve got news for you. Canada is not the 51st state.

Now, please, don’t get the wrong idea about me. Just because the man I married became a draft resister, don’t think I’m a hippie, or anything like that. Really, I’m just a good Texas girl from a small town who followed my mother’s advice—to get married and settle down, do what your husband tells you. Mother simply never dreamed I’d end up living in such a cold climate, in a strange place. Canada.

I’m so homesick. I miss my family and friends back in Texas. And I’m scared. So very scared. They say the Mounties always get their man…and the Mounties now have got my husband.

They’re sure David murdered another draft resister. But I know he didn’t do it. After all, we came to Canada because David was against killing—against all killing—even in the war in Vietnam.

Today I’m setting out to prove my husband isn’t the killer. I’m nosey, curious, and had some training from the CIA. My handler, “Mr. Smith,” was sorry to see me leave the program. He warned I might not be happy and said he’d keep the door open for me, in case I ever wanted to return. Smith says the Agency needs my Russian language skills.

Shhh, please don’t tell David. He doesn’t know about this part of my life. I don’t think he would approve.

Here’s the strangest thing about this murder case. I was the one who found the body—literally fell over it, in a church basement. Yes, me. And it turns out the corpse was the draft-resisting son of a United States Senator. That’s why the Mounties moved so fast to jail my poor David. The senator called the prime minister of Canada and demanded the killer be caught, fast.

Now everyone is satisfied the murderer is in jail—everyone but me, that is.

So now I’m on a mission…even though I’m alone, homesick, scared…and only 22 years old…I have to prove David’s innocence. I’m his only hope.

I’m Austin Starr, and I’m hunting for a brutal killer. Wish me luck.

Austin Starr appears in the mystery Desolation Row by Kay Kendall which is published by Stairway Press of Seattle.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on September 1 for the chance to win a copy of DESOLATION ROW. Two lucky winners will win either an e book or a trade paperback. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only.

Meet the author
Kay Kendall set her debut novel, Desolation RowAn Austin Starr Mystery, in 1968. The Vietnam War backdrop illuminates reluctant courage and desperate love when a world teeters on chaos. Kay’s next mystery, Rainy Day Women (2015) finds amateur sleuth Austin Starr trying to prove a friend didn’t murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. Kay is an award-winning international PR executive living in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too. Kay was a 2014 Silver Falchion Award Finalists for Attending Authors at this year Killer Nashville.

Visit Kay at her website or on Facebook.

A Day in the Life of Melanie Travis by Laurien Berenson

Death of a Dog WhispererHave you heard of the proverbial dog-and-pony show? That’s my life.

Unfortunately the pony only passed through briefly. The dogs? They’re a permanent fixture. The first thing I do every morning when I get out of bed is run downstairs and let the dogs outside. Not that they’re complaining. They’re Standard Poodles (all six of them) so they’re incredibly polite. But they’ve been inside all night so, you know…

Then I make coffee. Or if I’m lucky my husband, Sam, has already beaten me to the coffee maker. My sons Davey and Kevin are twelve and almost-three. (When you’re Kev’s age, every little bit counts.) I spend the next half hour making sure that Davey gets ready to go to school and that he doesn’t miss the bus. If he has his homework, his gym clothes, and his lunch with him, that’s a plus. Kev? Mostly I try to keep him from tipping over the dogs’ water bowl, a feat which he finds vastly entertaining. Not only that but he’s apt to tempt Tar (our only dumb Poodle) to splash around in the resulting mess with him.

Once I get things off and running for the day, I’m pretty much guaranteed to hear from my Aunt Peg. Margaret Turnbull is a force of nature. There’s just no other way to describe her. She’s been breeding Standard Poodles since before I was born and she knows everything there is to know about both her chosen breed and about dogs in general. Before Aunt Peg and I had bonded over a missing stud dog, the only pet I’d ever owned was a frog. Like the pony, it was a short relationship.

But now, thanks to Aunt Peg’s unrelenting (some might say heavy handed) guidance, I too am a Poodle breeder and dog show exhibitor. And I’ll tell you something I never realized before I got involved in that world. There’s a lot of potential for mayhem and misdeeds at dog shows. It’s not just about pretty puppies and frou frou hair do’s. When it comes to the judging—that ultimate decision of whose dog is better than all the others—those people are intensely serious. Oh they’ll tell you they’re having fun—and some of them actually are. But others, well, they’re there to win at any cost.

Which is how I ended up solving mysteries.

Believe me, it wasn’t the way I thought my life was going to turn out. When all this began, I was a single mother and a special education teacher in the Stamford, CT public school system. Davey and I led a calm and orderly existence. And then Aunt Peg got involved. As I’ve since discovered, that’s always an adventure.

Did I mention that Aunt Peg is a magnet for trouble? Well, she is. Although to tell the truth, she’s just as likely to be stirring up trouble as attracting it. Mostly I just try to stay out of the line of fire. But I suppose I must have inherited a smidge of Aunt Peg’s trouble-gene because somehow that never seems to work.

So now I have an expanded family, a new job, and a house filled with six Standard Poodles. Looking back, I don’t know how I ever thought my life was complete without canine companionship. Or Aunt Peg’s meddling. Or puzzles to solve that keep me guessing until the very end. It’s a messy, crazy, mosh pit of a life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

You can read more about Melanie in Death of a Dog Whisperer, the 17th book in the “Melanie Travis” mystery series, published by Kensington. The first book in the series is A Pedigree to Die For.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on August 29 for the chance to win a copy of DEATH OF A DOG WHISPERER. Two (2) lucky winners will be chosen at random. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

Meet the author
Laurien Berenson is the author of twenty-nine novels that have sold more than two million copies worldwide. Her cozy mystery series revolves around the world of dog shows, a milieu she knows well as her family has been involved in the sport of dogs for three generations. There are currently seventeen Melanie Travis canine mysteries, the latest of which, DEATH OF A DOG WHISPERER, came out in August.

Berenson is a four time winner of the Maxwell Award for Fiction from the Dog Writers Assoc. of America and a winner of the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award. She is also an Agatha and Macavity nominee. Her work has appeared in The New York Times as well as numerous magazines. She is a graduate of Vassar College, and she and her husband live on a farm in Kentucky, surrounded by horses and dogs.

Her website is and she loves making friends on Facebook.

A Day in the Life of Officer Ellie Rush by Naomi Hirahara

Murder on Bamboo Lane…according to Her BFF, Nay Pram

Okay, Ellie’s the one who should be writing this, but she’s apparently way too busy at work, so I told her, “Don’t stress out, girl. I have your back.” She’s my BFF, after all, ever since we met at a class at Pan Pacific West College, just a little south of downtown L.A.

Downtown is actually where Ellie works – as an LAPD cop, like her aunt, Deputy Chief Cheryl Toma. Yah, that Cheryl Toma, the highest-ranking Asian American officer in the department. Pretty big shoes to fill. Ellie patrols on a bicycle; she’s one of those bike cops who gives out jaywalking tickets (damn her). Actually, I shouldn’t diss my girl, because she does a lot more than that. Counsels kids at risk who are truant. Makes sure homeless women are safe. And right now, well, it’s actually pretty intense and sad. One of our former classmates was found dead in an alley, Bamboo Lane, in Chinatown.

Ellie’s ex, Benjamin, doesn’t trust the cops. Neither does the other person in our Fearsome Foursome, Rickie, Mr. Primadonna. I’m actually a little worried, too, but I’d never let Ellie know. She’s got enough pressure. Her mom doesn’t get what she does and her younger brother, Noah, in high school is probably a few steps from being in jail himself.

I’m waiting for Ellie now at our regular hangout, Osaka’s ramen shop in Little Tokyo. It’s right here on First Street, a few blocks east of City Hall. Hey, if you have the time, why don’t you sit down and wait with me? We can order you some miso ramen and an iced coffee. When Ellie shows up, we can find out the latest about the murder. You might be able to see things clearer than we can. And at the very least, you’ll have chowed down on some mighty good ramen. Oh, and I wish I could pay, but I’m a little tapped out now. Sorry.

You can read more about Character in Murder on Bamboo Lane, the first book in the new “Officer Ellie Rush” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The second installment of the Officer Ellie Rush series will be published in April 2015.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on August 28 for the chance to win a copy of MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

About the author
Naomi Hirahara, born and raised in Southern California, is the Edgar Award-winning author of the Mas Arai mystery NaomiHseries, which features a Japanese American gardener and atomic-bomb survivor who solves crimes (SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI, GASA-GASA GIRL, SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN, BLOOD HINA, and STRAWBERRY YELLOW). She also has penned a middle-grade novel, 1001 CRANES, which was chosen as an Honor Book for the Youth Literature of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in 2009.

A former editor of the largest Japanese American newspaper in the U.S., she also has released a number of nonfiction works. A number of her short stories have been included in various anthologies, including LOS ANGELES NOIR.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Designated Daughters by Margaret Maron

Designated DaughtersDesignated Daughters by Margaret Maron is the 19th book in the “Deborah Knott” mystery series. Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, August 2014

When Judge Deborah Knott is summoned to her ailing Aunt Rachel’s bedside, she assumes the worst. Thankfully when she arrives at the hospice center she learns that Rachel hasn’t passed; in fact, the dying woman is awake. Surrounded by her children, her extended family, and what seems like half of Colleton County, a semi-conscious Rachel breaks weeks of pained silence with snippets of stories as randomly pieced together as a well-worn patchwork quilt. But the Knott family’s joy quickly gives way to shock: less than an hour later, Aunt Rachel is found dead in her bed, smothered with a pillow.

Who would kill a woman on her deathbed? Was it an act of mercy, or murder? As Deborah and her husband, Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Bryant, investigate they cross paths with an unlikely set of suspects: Rachel’s longtime minister; her neighbor, the respected local doctor; the friendly single father who often sought her advice; and perhaps the most puzzling party of all, the Designated Daughters, a support group for caregivers that Rachel’s own daughter belongs to.

Soon Deborah and Dwight realize that the key to solving this case is hidden in Rachel’s mysterious final words. Her mixed-up memories harbored a dark secret-a secret that someone close to them is determined to bury forever.

Who murdered Aunt Rachel? What words did she speak that caused someone to kill her? How did her Uncle die? Is there a connection? That’s what Dwight and Deborah set out to find in this character-driven drama that I could not put down until it was over. I love the comfortable tone and the way the book pulls me into the storyline, as I’m right there with the Knott clan. The mystery was good with plenty of suspects, who could have done the deed, and it was fun watching it all play out with secrets exposed and especially with the revelation of the killer’s identity. Boasting a great cast ensemble with engaging dialogue and the feel of good old-southern hospitality, this well-written drama is one of the best yet in this terrific series and I look forward to spending more time with Deborah Knott and her family and friends in their next adventures.


Weekly Roundup* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This week’s guest post on dru’s book musings

August 25: Murder on Bamboo Lane by Naomi Hirahara
August 26: Death of a Dog Whisperer by Laurien Berenson
August 27: Desolation Row by Kay Kendall
August 28: Murder Al Dente by Jennifer L. Hart
August 29: Deadly Shuffle by Norma Lehr
August 30: Organized To Death by Jan Christensen
August 31: Author Showcase: Hit and Run by Sandra Balzo

Last week’s guest post on dru’s book musings

Recent contest winners

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  • To Helen Back by Susan McBride – Laurie I.
  • To Helen Back by Susan McBride – Linda R.
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  • Expedition Indigo by Stacy Allen – Debbie C.

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