A Day in the Life of Mel Turner by Juliet Blackwell

Keeper of the CastleOccupation: Home Renovation Specialist and up-and-coming Ghostbuster

First things first: as soon as I get up (which is eeeaaaaarly, since I’m in construction), I make myself a really good cup of strong French Roast. Then I feed Dog, a perpetually hungry former stray lab mix who I kept meaning to find a home for…until he decided this home would do quite nicely, thank you very much, and that he didn’t care to leave. Meanwhile, I fight off increasingly strident offers of breakfast from my Dad, who believes my refusal to eat breakfast is some sort of unhealthy teenage rebellion (no use telling him that I haven’t been a teenager for a good couple of decades).

Then I check in with our office manager Stan Tomassi, at the home office of Turner Construction. Dad started Turner Construction long ago, and my sisters and I were quite literally raised on a series of building sites. So a couple of years ago, when I went through a difficult divorce, abandoned my PhD in anthropology, and my mom passed away suddenly, I found myself back home and running Turner Construction (“temporarily”) for my grief-stricken father. He never came back to work, and now I’m General Manager, whether I wanted the position or not.

I hit the road by 6:30, usually with Dog by my side (he used to be carsick, but we’ve been working on the problem so he can visit sites with me). As General, I’m in charge of several different sites in various states of repair (or disrepair): everything from exploratory meetings with clients, to signing contracts, to pushing papers through City Hall, to actual construction and historic renovation – which is the best part of my job. I also get to look through junk stores and antique shops for parts to restore old homes – what’s not fun about that?

Lately, I’m working on rebuilding a medieval monastery out of ancient stones brought over from a Scottish Isle. It seems Ellis Elrich, the mysterious, wealthy CEO of a motivational empire, wants to turn the complex of buildings into a state-of-the-art retreat center in beautiful Marin County.

Only trouble is…he may have accidentally imported a ghost (or two) along with the stones. So now, not only do I have to figure out how to drill and reinforce a stone building in earthquake-prone Northern California (lots of rebar) and how to update it with modern conveniences like plumbing and electricity and technology, but also how to make peace with a couple of extremely confused entities who don’t recognize where they are. International (and time) travel can be very disorienting….

The good (and bad?) news is that rather than commuting all the way from Oakland, Mr. Elrich has invited me to stay at his fabulous house, right up the hill from the building site. The house needs a little work, but it includes a pool and a sauna and a 24-hour snack bar chock-full of organic delicacies prepared by a famous French chef. And Dog is welcome, too – he especially likes loping around the big field between the house and the ruins.

If only the eerie sound of a ghost flute didn’t float up the hill every night, disturbing my sleep. And when a building inspector is killed and someone I care about is attacked, all bets are off. I’m going to figure out what’s going on in this ancient monastery, if it kills me.

Just another Day in the Life of Mel Turner, contractor and (sometimes) ghostbuster.


You can read more about Mel in Keeper of the Castle, the 5th book in the “Haunted Home Renovation” mystery series, published by Obsidian. The first book in the series is If Walls Could Talk.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on December 22 for the chance to win a copy of KEEPER OF THE CASTLE. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

About the author
Juliet Blackwell is the New York Times bestselling author of the Witchcraft Mystery series, featuring a powerful witch with a vintage clothes store in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. She also writes the Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series, about a failed anthropologist who reluctantly takes over her father’s high-end construction company…and finds ghosts behind the walls. As Hailey Lind, Blackwell wrote the Agatha-nominated Art Lover’s Mystery series, in which an ex-art forger attempts to go straight as a faux finisher. She is currently working on a novel about a woman who takes over her uncle’s locksmith shop in Paris, entitled The Paris Key. A former anthropologist and social worker, Juliet has worked in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France.

Visit her at www.julietblackwell.net, join her on Facebook (JulietBlackwellAuthor) and on Twitter @JulietBlackwell

Review ~ Spell Booked by Joyce and Jim Lavene

Spell Booked by Joyce and Jim Lavene is the first book in the new “Retired Witches” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, December 2014

Once upon a time in Wilmington, North Carolina, three witches ran a curio shop named Smuggler’s Arcane. But as the years passed, their magical powers started to fade—leaving them no choice but to conjure up a retirement package.

Before they could blink their eyes or twitch their noses, Molly, Elsie, and Olivia somehow became eligible for AARP. But they can’t fly off to Boca Raton just yet. First they must give up their magic, recruit and train three new witches, and pass on their cherished spellbook.

They’ve barely begun to consider potential practitioners when Olivia winds up dead and their spellbook is stolen. To honor their friend and reclaim their spells, Molly and Elsie are about to go wand-to-wand with a dangerous young witch more powerful than the trio was in their prime. And this time they’re going to need more than magic up their sleeves.

I like it. This was a fun read with a great cast of characters that includes Elsie, Molly and Olivia to name a few. The pacing and flow of this story made it easy to follow the mystery which had some twists that enhanced the storytelling. I enjoyed the interactions between the three witches, and at times a few of their capers had me chuckling a bit. I enjoyed this story that boasted great conversations, a small town magical feel and a supporting cast that envelopes our main protagonists.

previously posted on the Cozy Chicks blog

Review ~ Geared for the Grave by Duffy Brown

Geared for the GraveGeared for the Grave by Duffy Brown is the first book in the “Cycle Path” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, December 2014

Mackinac Island is a peaceful summer resort town where everyone coasts through the streets on bicycles. But after someone sends a prominent local on her final ride, it’s up to one resourceful visitor to get things running again.

Hoping to shift her chances of a promotion in her favor, Evie Bloomfield heads to Mackinac Island to assist her boss’s father. Rudy Randolph has broken his leg and operating his bike shop, Rudy’s Rides, is too much to handle by himself. But Evie’s good turn only leads to more trouble.

After Evie’s arrival, wealthy resident Bunny Harrington dies in what looks like a freak bike accident. Upon closer inspection, Bunny’s brakes were tampered with, and now the prime suspect in her murder is also Bunny’s number one enemy: Rudy. So if Evie hopes to stay on her boss’s good side, she’ll need to steer Rudy clear of jail. Now she must quickly solve this mystery so she can put the brakes on the real killer’s plan.

What a delicious read that tickled my funny bone. This evenly-paced drama was a refreshing mystery executed in a style that pulled me in immediately for a nice ride that I did not want to get off. I laughed and laughed at the antics that Evie and Irma got involved in, all to clear a friend’s name. And adding Mother, what a perfect touch.  I know whenever I read a Duffy Brown mystery, she is going to delight my senses with a quirky cast of characters that includes the heroine of this light mystery and an unexpected sidekick that is so lovable, I wish the best for her. The witty banter, the small-town atmosphere and again this likable cast will keep me coming back to Mackinac Island for years to come.  A great read and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next for Evie and her friends.

previously posted on the Cozy Chicks blog

Review ~ Meow If It’s Murder by T. C. LoTempio

Meow If It's MurderMeow If It’s Murder by T. C. LoTempio is the first book in the new “Nick and Nora” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, December 2014

Nora Charles doesn’t believe in fate, even if she is a crime reporter who shares a name with a character from The Thin Man. In fact, she’s moving back to Cruz, California, to have a quieter life. But after finding an online magazine eager for material, and a stray cat named Nick with a talent for detection, Nora’s not just reporting crimes again. She’s uncovering them.

Back in her hometown, Nora reconnects with old friends and makes some new ones, like Nick, the charming feline who seems determined to be her cat. But not everything about Cruz is friendly. Writing for a local online magazine, Nora investigates the curious death of socialite Lola Grainger. Though it was deemed an accident, Nora suspects foul play. And it seems that her cat does too.

Apparently, Nick used to belong to a P.I. who disappeared while investigating Lola Grainger’s death. The coincidence is spooky, but not as spooky as the clues Nick spells out for her with Scrabble letters—clues that lead her down an increasingly dangerous path. Whether fate put her on this case or not, solving it will take all of Nora’s wits, and maybe a few of Nick’s nine lives.

I’m a fan of Nick and Nora from the Thin Man, so when I heard about this series, I was eager to read it and I totally loved this light-hearted and engagingly entertaining whodunit featuring new amateur sleuth Nora and Nick her feline companion. The premise of the mystery sparked a memory and I liked how the author took care to bring this story to a satisfying ending, despite another mystery lurking in the winds which I suspect will be a continuum subplot. I enjoyed the interactions Nora has with her BFF Chantel and the tall, dark and handsome detective, as well as Ollie who I hope we get to see more of in future stories. This was a great read and I can’t wait to read the next book in this wonderfully terrific series.

previously posted on the Cozy Chicks blog

Review ~ Tagged for Death by Sherry Harris

Tagged for DeathTagged for Death by Sherry Harris is the first book in the new “Sarah Winston Garage Sale” mystery series. Publisher: Kensington, December 2014

Starting your life over at age thirty-eight isn’t easy, but that’s what Sarah Winston finds herself facing when her husband CJ runs off with a 19-year-old temptress named Tiffany. Sarah’s self-prescribed therapy happily involves hitting all the garage and tag sales in and around her small town of Ellington, Massachusetts. If only she could turn her love for bargain hunting into a full-time career.

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure
But after returning from a particularly successful day searching for yard sale treasures, Sarah finds a grisly surprise in one of her bags: a freshly bloodied shirt…that undoubtedly belongs to her ex, CJ, who now happens to be Ellington’s chief of police. If that’s not bad enough, it seems Tiffany has gone missing. Now it’s up to Sarah to prove that her cold-hearted ex is not a cold-blooded killer…

But finding that treasure can be murder.

This was a fun read that was both energetic and entertaining at the same time. I loved the plot setting and getting to know the main characters a bit better as the story moved forward. The author did a great job in keeping me tuned to the pages, especially that surprising twist that had me going “whoa” because I never saw that one coming. Well-played Sherry, well-played. With a friendly cast of characters, good conversations and a good story, this whodunit is a welcome addition to the cozy mystery genre and I look forward to reading The Longest Yard Sale, the next book in this pleasantly appealing series.

previously posted on the Cozy Chicks blog

WEEKLY ROUND-UP: No. 50

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

It’s been a busy week and a joyous event happened this week with my niece receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology, which by the way is the same degree I received many years ago.

Two winners were contacted about their prize and they will forfeit if I don’t hear from them by Monday (12/15/14). Please check your SPAM folders.

Other than that, I’m just enjoying the last couple of weeks in 2014 before I have to start writing 2015.

Enjoy your week.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This week on dru’s book musings
Dec 15: Mel Turner from Keeper of the Castle by Juliet Blackwell
Dec 16: Piper Prescott from Kill ‘Em with Cayenne by Gail Oust
Dec 17: Carol Childs from Shadow of Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman
Dec 18: Mojito Man from Aground on St.Thomas by Rebecca M. Hale
Dec 19: Cassie Baxter from Unbelievable by Cindy Blackburn
Dec 20: Rose Mancini from One Ghost & Blueberry Peach Jam by Jennifer Fischetto

Last week on dru’s book musings
Hayley Snow from Death With All the Trimmings by Lucy Burdette
Meredith Solaris from The Red Queen’s Run by Bourne Morris
Molly Renard from Spell Booked by Joyce and Jim Lavene
Clare Cosi from Once Upon a Grind by Cleo Coyle
James Mitchell from Murder, Served Simply by Isabella Alan
Macy Stoddard from Secrets of Hallstead House by Amy M. Reade

Recent contest winners
Scorched Eggs by Laura Childs – Joanne K.
Meow If It’s Murder by T.C. LoTempio – Stephanie K.
Tagged for Death by Sherry Harris – Laura F.
These Haunts Are Made For Walking by Rose Pressey – Nora-Adrienne D.
Tradition of Deceit by Kathleen Ernst – Linda R.


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Review ~ Murder, Served Simply by Isabella Alan

Murder Simply ServedMurder, Served Simply by Isabella Alan is the third book in the “Amish Quilt Shop” mystery series. Obsidian, December 2014

Amish quilt shop owner Angie Braddock has a lot on her plate this Christmas. But things only get worse after someone develops a taste for murder.

Angie’s parents are visiting Rolling Brook for Christmas—but unfortunately, her ex is joining them. Luckily, Angie has no time to dwell on her romantic troubles as she prepares her store, Running Stitch, for the town’s traditional progressive dinner, featuring a sleigh ride stopping at each shop for a different course of the meal.

The meal ends with an Amish-themed Christmas play at the Swiss Valley Hotel and Barn. But the performance is cut short when an actress falls from the scaffolding to her death. After the sheriff suspects foul play, tensions between the Amish and Englisch heat up, as do rivalries among the acting troupe. Now Angie and her quilting circle must stitch together clues before they’re the ones running for cover.

Isabella is a great storyteller and this one is the best in the series thus far, particularly with the arrival of Angie’s parents. Mixing holiday festivities, a matchmaking mother, an ex and current boyfriend and of course murder delivers a fast-paced and light drama that was a delight to read. I love that the author kept me in tuned with the story as I had to keep reading to know what happens next and boy did I enjoy all that featured in this charming tale. The mystery was well-executed and those involved created a balance story that didn’t want it to end. A great read and I look forward to more from Isabella.