A Day in the Life With Utah O’Brien by Jonni Good

A Lonley Way To DieMy name is Utah O’Brien. I’m a sculptor and the mayor of West Elmer, Minnesota. I get up every morning at exactly 4:32 a.m., but not on purpose. Jocko, my Border collie, is my four-legged alarm clock. He’s also my best friend, and I hardly ever go anywhere without him. In our small town he’s welcome almost everywhere.

Jocko is a very well-behaved dog and he almost always follows the rules – but when he makes up his own mind about things, the results can be rather dramatic.

One time, I told him to stay. Fortunately, he had other plans, and he saved Mort Schwaab’s life. Another time, he took off after a skunk, got sprayed, and while he was wallowing around in the snow to rub off the stink he found a dead body. The sheriff couldn’t find any signs of foul play, so Mort Schwaab and I had to do some investigating on our own to find out what really happened to the woman. She had two children who spent the next few days with us at the museum, and our little family became very attached to them.

I live in a small apartment at the back of a private museum, across the street from Angie’s diner. The museum is in a big old Quonset hut that used to be a feed and seed store. Now it’s filled with giant sculptures of extinct North American animals.

I built all those sculptures myself with the help of my neighbors here in West Elmer, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. My apartment gets a little crowded, though, because so many people hang out there. My friend Sam Two Hawk moved in last year, along with Molly, his retired search and rescue bloodhound. My mother, Josie O’Brien, sold the diner to Angie and now lives out back of my place in a little vintage trailer. Her friend Mort Schwaab, a retired sheriff, keeps his chickens on my lot, too. Josie and Mort eat their meals at my place, and she almost always cooks, which is nice.

My museum closed several years ago because it couldn’t compete with fancier tourist destinations. After the museum closed, I needed a new source of income, so I started selling hand-made masks of wild animals on my website. That business was going very well until someone stole my owl mask and used it to frame me for murder.

By pure coincidence, on that very same day, computer hackers temporarily shut down the international banking system, and that started the recession that put my online store out of business. If it wasn’t for my part-time job as mayor, I’d be unemployed.

And believe me—being mayor of this little town isn’t nearly as much fun as you might think. People know I can’t do anything about the recession, but they call me to complain about it anyway. I’m proud of our town, though. No matter what happens, we find a way to work together and muddle through. We’re going to be OK.

A Lonely Way To Die is the sedond book in the Utah O’Brien Minnesota mystery series, published by Wet Cat Books, April 2016.

When a stranger dies, secrets come to life . . .

When she was still in high school, Sonje McCrae left this small Minnesota town, changed her name, and never came back—until now.

Less than twenty-four hours after her return, Utah O’Brien finds the woman’s body under six inches of new snow. The sheriff calls it death by misadventure—a fancy way of saying it’s not his problem.

Utah thinks the sheriff is wrong. For the sake of the two children Sonje left behind, she’s compelled to find out what really happened.

As she and her friends dig into the unlikely details of the woman’s life and death, they uncover some of the town’s most closely guarded secrets—and the most shocking secret of all involves Utah’s own family. Now that she knows, her life will never be the same—but does this discovery have anything to do with the death of Sonje McCrae?

You’ll like this book if you enjoy character-driven mysteries that include dogs who take an active, realistic role in the plot. It’s filled with likable small-town characters and plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing.

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About the author
Jonni Good is a paper mache sculptor, a blogger, and the author of four popular non-fiction books for artists. I grew up in a small town in the state of Washington. I now live in Minnesota with my two dogs and a demanding cat who insists on helping me when I make my YouTube videos.

Jocko, the Border collie in my Utah O’Brien Minnesota Mysteries, is based on several rescue dogs I’ve lived with over the years. One of them is sleeping under my desk as I write this note.

You can find me almost every day on my blog at UltimatePaperMache.com

All comments are welcomed.

The Perils of Texting after Midnight by Elizabeth Perona

Murdered Under the Covered Bridge“So, should I be worried?”

Francine stared at her friend Joy McQueen who’d lobbed the question at her over breakfast. The two septuagenarians sat at Joy’s black counter-height kitchen table that looked straight out of Pottery Barn’s current catalog. The welcoming smell of baked biscuits was in the air, and the sound of a morning television news program could be heard in the background.

Francine held Joy’s cell phone in her hand, its red leather wrap soft against her fingers. She reread the text Joy had seen when she’d retrieved the phone from its overnight charge. It had been sent just after midnight this morning, February 13. The message was short: “Sorry I can’t be with you tonight especially will miss the heat sugar.” The sender was Joy’s boyfriend, Roy Stockton, former sheriff of Parke County, now a detective.

“And you haven’t heard from him since?” she asked.

Joy shook her head. “I’ve called and called, but he doesn’t answer. We didn’t have a date for tonight. And we haven’t—you know—done it yet. So it’s not like I’m generating any heat he’ll miss. And he never calls me ‘sugar.’” Her voice cracked with emotion on the last word. “This was sent to me, but he meant it for someone else.”

Francine had to admit, it looked bad. “Has he said anything to you that would make you think he’s trying to break up?”

“No, but the alternative is just as bad. Rockville’s an hour from Brownsburg. He could be two-timing me and I’d never find out. I’ve made him wait too long, and now he’s moved on.”

Francine looked into her face for a moment. Joy’s worry lines always seemed more pronounced when she wasn’t smiling. Today she was definitely not smiling.

Joy’s ex-husband Bruno had left her for another man a long time ago. Joy had never quite gotten over it. She’d sworn off men and dating, and for a long time kept to that. But Roy Stockton had changed her mind. Francine grimaced to think how it would affect her if this relationship ended badly, too.

“Maybe he’s been called to a crime scene. He could be too busy to answer the phone.” Francine knew from experience if Roy were in a rural part of Parke County, he might not have cell reception.

“I thought of that. I checked with their dispatch center. He’s not on assignment and not on patrol.”

Francine halved the biscuit on her plate and bit into the top half. She savored the delicious buttery flavor. It had a nice salty touch, but it needed something else. She added a dollop of honey to the bottom half and handed it across the table. “Eat. Honey makes everything better.”

Joy took a bite and seemed surprised. She looked at the unlabeled squeeze bottle Francine had used. “This isn’t honey,” she said. “It’s maple syrup. I got out the wrong bottle.” She took another bite. “Still, it tastes pretty good on the biscuit. Nice and sweet.” Her mouth turned down. “It may be the last present I’ll get from Roy.”

Francine squeezed a little of the syrup on her fingertip and licked it off. “Sweet like sugar.” A thought formed in her mind. “When did he give you this?”

“Two days ago.”

“Doesn’t he have a maple syrup camp set up in his woods?”

Joy nodded.

“And isn’t the Maple Syrup Fair coming up?”

“I suppose,” she said, hands upraised in exasperation, “but what does that have to do with anything?”

“Work with me for a minute. Does he punctuate sentences correctly?”

“What?” she asked, still puzzled.

“I mean, when he texts you.”

“No,” Joy said, thinking. “He’s terrible at it. Lots of run-ons.”

The doorbell rang. Joy jumped up to get it, but then the door opened and someone walked in. The women looked at each other in alarm. They lived in a good neighborhood, but few people would walk in a house unannounced.

“Are you in there, darlin’?” Roy asked. He strode into the kitchen, black Stetson hat in his hand.

Francine wasn’t sure if Joy’s reaction was one of pleasure or terror.

“What are you doing here?” Joy asked.

“Didn’t you get my text?”

There was a pause. “Yes,” she said testily. “I got your text. And I’m not sure what it means.”

Roy seemed surprised by her negative reaction. He shrugged. “I thought I was pretty clear.”

“It wasn’t clear at all,” Joy continued. “Who is this ‘sugar’ whose date you had to cancel?” She thrust the phone in his face.

He backed the cell phone away so he could read it. His forehead wrinkled with confusion. “This isn’t what I texted you. I knew you had today off, so I said I was coming with early Valentine sweets for my sweetheart.” He held out a gift bag with white and red tissue paper coming out of the top.

Joy took the bag. She hunted through it and pulled out a box of homemade maple sugar candies and a see-though container of maple sugar.

“I made them for you,” Roy said sheepishly.

“Can I guess what happened?” Francine said, interrupting. “You weren’t calling anyone ‘sugar.’ You meant you’ll miss the heat of the sugar shack where you boil the maple syrup and the taste of the sap as you boil it down.”

Roy nodded. “Exactly.”

“But who was that text intended for?” Joy asked.

“My son Jay,” he answered. “He helps me tend the sugar shack. Do you know how close “Joy” and “Jay” look after getting off work at midnight?”

Joy laughed in relief. “So if I got his text, did he get mine?”

Roy checked his phone. “Here’s his response. I had dropped off another box for my grandkids before I left Rockville.” He showed them the phone.

Roy’s young grandsons, 8 and 5, sat on the floor. They looked like chipmunks whose cheeks were stuffed with acorns. Between them lay with an open candy box. The box was nearly empty, and little paper wrappers were strewn all over the floor. “Your sweethearts already found their early present,” Roy read. “And they’ve decided they like candy for breakfast.”

Everyone laughed.

Mystery solved, Francine made an excuse to leave so the real sweethearts could be alone.

Murder Under The Covered Bridge is the second book in the Bucket List mystery series, published by Midnight Ink, July 2016.

The Skinny-Dipping Grandmas Bare All When their Pinup Calendar Shoot Goes Terribly Wrong

Working on a television taping to promote the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival, the ladies decide to use their access to the Roseville Bridge to cross #39 off Charlotte’s bucket list: Be a Sexy Calendar Girl. But the photo shoot is interrupted by gunshots and Francine’s cousin William stumbling down the riverbank followed by a man with a gun. William sustains life-threatening injuries, but is it attempted homicide?

Francine and Charlotte go into detective mode to uncover the secret William knew about the shooter. Their success, however, depends on surviving two arson events, a séance, a shortage of Mary Ruth’s wildly popular corn fritter donuts, memory-challenged nursing home residents, and a killer who refuses to go up in flames.

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About the author
Elizabeth Perona is the father/daughter writing team of Tony Perona and Liz Dombrosky.

Tony is the author of the Nick Bertetto mystery series, the standalone thriller The Final Mayan Prophecy, and co-editor and contributor to the anthologies Racing Can Be Murder and Hoosier Hoops & Hijinks. Tony is a member of Mystery Writers of America and has served the organization as a member of the Board of Directors and as Treasurer. He is also a member of Sisters-in-Crime. In his day job, Tony is currently serving as the Assistant Town Manager for the Town of Plainfield, Indiana.

Liz Dombrosky graduated from Ball State University in the Honors College with a degree in teaching. She is currently a stay-at-home mom. Murder on the Bucket List was her first novel, and Murder under the Covered Bridge is her second.

Connect with them at www.elizabethperona.com.

All comments are welcomed.

A Day in the Life of Lillian Frost by Renee Patrick

Design For DyingLos Angeles, California. November 1937.

Coffee. That’s the first, second and third order of business after a restless night with a busy day ahead.

Step one, rinse out the percolator and pry open the coffee can. So far, not so good. There’s just enough java left to make an eyedropper’s worth.


I bought a new can last week. Didn’t I? I don’t understand how I can misplace food in a kitchen the size of a phone booth. It takes two sorties to unearth the unopened tin of Chase & Sanborn. Soon, the invigorating aroma of coffee fills the air.

While the pot perks away I don my lucky navy blue suit. With its high-waisted skirt and slim jacket I’ll look every inch the professional saleslady. Today it’s vital I look my best. I’m facing a test of sorts, hence the rough sledding through Slumberland.

Tremayne’s Department Store will be my proving ground. It may not be downtown’s largest or chicest shopping emporium. But we strive to outfit our patrons in elegant yet affordable ensembles. We even hold regular fashion shows spotlighting our exclusive lines.

Last week, after I’d hounded him daily, my boss Mr. Valentine finally relented and allowed me to select the peignoir set that would serve as the finale in today’s sartorial soiree. Blotting his forehead with a vermillion pocket square he’d proclaimed, “We shall see, Miss Frost, if your eye for fashion is as keen as your voice is relentless.”

Dressed and with half a cup of coffee in me, I consider nourishment. I scavenge two heels from the breadbox and a jar of orange marmalade from the cupboard. One of the girls at Tremayne’s made it herself. Her father owned an orange grove, she’d said. I didn’t believe her at first. I’m a city girl through and through. To me farmers are more otherworldly than movie stars.

If I make a good impression this morning, I’ll get a leg up in my new career. Not that my last career had ever taken off.

I came to Hollywood like so many others, convinced I’d see my name – Lillian Frost! – in lights. And why not? Bronson gateI’d won a beauty contest back home in New York (although my red velvet bathing suit deserved most of the credit). The prize of a screen test tempted me onto a westbound train. I soon learned movie star dreams come a nickel a gross.

My then-roommate Ruby Carroll knew that from the start. “Talent only gets you so far, mermaid,” she’d say, “mermaid” being the nickname she’d bestowed upon me because of that velvet swimsuit. “In this town it’s who you know. And who knows you.” And I knew no one. One disastrous screen test later, I scampered to Tremayne’s seeking steady employment.

I’m too jittery to think about work now. I need distraction. I slip downstairs and borrow my landlady Mrs. Quigley’s newspaper. On the front page there’s more about the “Alley Angel,” a mysterious young woman found dead close by. Too close by. I shudder and page quickly to Lorna Whitcomb’s gossip column, craving news of Hollywood notables.

I hope to find Ruby mentioned in Lorna’s column someday. She’s still plugging away for her big break, supporting EdithHead1936herself with the occasional day job. Her last was as a wardrobe girl at Paramount Pictures. I can’t deny I envy her, working behind the scenes making movie magic alongside a genius like Travis Banton. Paramount has a girl costume designer now, too, name of Edith Head. One of the movie magazines profiled her. I clipped the article, thinking that would be my dream job, tailoring togs for leading ladies. Too bad my drawing is as bad as my acting.

Breakfast done, I check my change purse for streetcar fare to Tremayne’s and send up a quick prayer to Saint Lucy, patron of salesmen (and presumably –women). I adjust my cream-colored hat in the mirror and manage not to wake the neighbors with a terrified yelp when I spot motion behind me. Miss Sarah Bernhardt struts across the window sill. The landlady’s dusky Burmese cat had deigned to visit my abode. I decide to treat her appearance as an omen.

“Wish me luck, Miss Sarah.” I close the door behind me, and set out to make my mark in the world.

Design for Dying is the first in a series of mysteries featuring Lillian Frost and real-life Hollywood costume designer Edith Head. It was published in April 2016 by Forge Books.

Los Angeles, 1937. Lillian Frost has traded dreams of stardom for security as a department store salesgirl … until she discovers she’s a suspect in the murder of her former roommate Ruby Carroll. Party girl Ruby died wearing a gown she stole from the wardrobe department at Paramount Pictures, domain of Edith Head.

Edith has yet to win the first of her eight Academy Awards; right now she’s barely hanging on to her job, and a scandal is the last thing she needs. To clear Lillian’s name and save Edith’s career, the two women join forces. Unraveling the mystery pits them against a Hungarian princess on the lam, a hotshot director on the make, and a private investigator who’s not on the level.

All they have going for them are dogged determination, assists from the likes of Bob Hope and Barbara Stanwyck, and a killer sense of style. In show business, that just may be enough. . .

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Meet the author
Renee Patrick is the pseudonym for married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington.

You can friend Renee on Facebook, follow her at @rpatrickbooks or find more information at her website: reneepatrickbooks.com

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a signed copy of Design For Dying. The giveaway will end July 27, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

Not Madison McKenna’s Best Day by Kennedy Quinn

The Last, Best LieMaybe the judge will go easy on me. No one got hurt. Yes, I flower bombed a couple of government officials, but how bad is that?

Yeah. I’m screwed.

I looked up at the blue summer sky. It was over 90°F, but the marble bench on which I sat felt cool on my palms. I glanced at the brick courthouse across the green lawn. It might have been a beautiful day in a sleepy Midwest town. If I wasn’t probably going to jail.

I nervously ran a hand over my shoulder-length dark hair. On a job for my boss’s two person Chicago-based detective agency, I’d only brought blue jeans. But I’d found a white sundress with red roses in a thrift store. Hopefully it made me look more small town innocent than big city delinquent accused of vandalism, assault, attempt to poison and littering. That latter charge was bogus; Hunter had it added for spite.

Hunter is my boss’ best friend, a rich, handsome, complex, and infuriating man nearly two decades my senior. And, no, I’m not into him. Yes, he’s hot—Gerard Butler hot—and he’s challenging. But he’s a jerk. I would have to have some real daddy issues to be attracted to him.

I’d been on a case in the small town of Clark with my boss, Jake. Hunter came down so he and Jake could go on a kill-something-helpless-in-the-woods weekend. Anyway, he was being even more condescending than usual, so I had to teach him a lesson. Understandable.

Given that I nearly have my doctorate in Physics, I generally resort to high-tech revenge. But I was in a hurry. I got a can of air freshener and wrapped a plastic zip tie around the trigger to which I tied twine, attaching its end to the driver’s door of Hunter’s car. I wedged the can between the seat and the center console so that when Hunter yanked open the door, the zip tie would lock up and fill his car with a cloud of “summer fields delight”. Harmless.

But how was I to know that Hunter was meeting the mayor and sheriff and the regional FBI chief? I didn’t arrange it so that they were already in the car when Hunter pulled open the door!

But here I now am, waiting to see the judge. Normally, there would be little chance of charges sticking. But given the people involved. . .

The wet snuffling sound of a toddler drew my attention right. It came from a blond boy of about four. He stood by his mother, who was professionally dressed in black slacks and a blue blouse. I scooted over and the woman smiled as she sat beside me, pulling the boy on her lap. She looked at him with the same bright green eyes as his. “Brandon, please finish your orange slices,” she said, as she pulled out a plastic bag of segments from her purse.

Lowered his head on his mother’s shoulder, he closed his eyes. “Don’t wanna.”

The mother jostled him lovingly. “What is going to take?”

I pulled out a napkin, a paperclip and my breakfast banana from my purse. Catching her attention, I straightened the clip and poked it through the skin of the banana, moving it in a slicing motion without breaking the skin. Withdrawing the clip, I rubbed the hole shut and made several more slices while Brandon’s mom looked on.

“Brandon,” I said, “Do you like pre-sliced bananas? They’re yummy!”

The boy raised his head. “No such thing.”

“Here’s one.” I peeled the banana slowly, letting the slices fall onto the napkin on my lap.

Brandon’s eyes shot wide.

I popped a piece in my mouth. “Yum! If you are good, I’m sure your mommy can find some for you.” Brandon beamed, as did his mother, nodding to indicate that she knew what to do.

My phone alarm beeped and I tossed the banana into my purse. I stood. “Got to go.”

“I have to give him back to his nanny and get to work, too. Thank you. You’re a nice young lady.”

“I hope the judge thinks so.”


“I pranked a guy who was being a jerk. It was harmless. Mostly. But he’s powerful and I’m not.”

“Maybe you’ll get off lightly if the judge believes you’re truly sorry and will make amends.”

“Oh, I am so sorry! I would personally detail his car and hand wash his clothes. I was being a brat. But this guy is very rich.”

“A fair judge won’t let that matter.”

“Let’s hope I get that judge.” I waved goodbye as I sprinted away.

Soon, I was sitting beside my lawyer, fretting. What if the judge was good friend with the mayor? What if I got the maximum? I’m such an idiot!

“All rise,” came the bailiff’s sonorous voice.

I stood, licking dry lips and looked into the green eyes of the judge, her blue blouse peeking above black robes. So, maybe it wasn’t going to be my worse day ever after all.

The Last, Best Lie is the first book in the NEW Madison McKenna mystery series, published by Five Star Publishing, February 2016.

Not many could save a man’s life with lip gloss, car keys and condoms while under gunfire. But Madison McKenna can.

And it’s not the least of the devices the sexy young physicist-turned-detective kludges together in The Last, Best Lie, first in the Chicago-based McKenna Mystery series. Blending wit, sensuality and science into a unique and exciting new format, this female-MacGyver uses counter-top technology and fierce determination to solve the attempted murder of her boss, Jake Thibodaux. It won’t be easy; science-savvy she is, street-smart she isn’t. Worse, Jake’s powerful ex-partner, Hunter, is determined to freeze her out of the investigation, and the local police would happily toss her in jail to keep her out of their hair.

As Jake clings to life, Madison and her helpers—a charming bull-rider and his prize calf, Spinal Snap, a pair of bickering cops, and Jake’s hard-bitten mistress—delve into Jake’s past, revealing a man very different from the one she thought she knew. Even her subconscious comes to her aid, infusing her dreams with tantalizing, surreal, clues. Driven by need, Madison and Hunter form a steamy, antagonistic, partnership; until she learns that he his own motives for murder. As even more allies fall under suspicion and innocents are killed in her stead, the increasingly-desperate Madison uses science, cunning and doggedness to find the killer. And she’ll continue to school all around her in the power of technology, fueled female ingenuity, as this distinctive new series evolves.

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About the author
Kennedy Quinn has a Ph.D. in Physics and Master’s in Nuclear Science and is a director of research by day. But this KennedyQuinnscientist-turned-administrator didn’t get there the easy way. She enlisted in the Air Force immediately after high school and served as an aircraft mechanic before achieving an officer’s commission and earning her multiple degrees. After a diverse military career, she retired to federal service where she continues to lead research on a wide array of science and technologies. By night, she grows roses in Northern Virginia with her family; they’re owned by two rescue cats. Kennedy can be reached at kennedyquinn.com.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of The Last, Best Lie. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end July 26, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!

All comments are welcomed.

Cover Reveal ~ A Composition in Murder by Larissa Reinhart

I’m so excited to once again reveal the cover for the next book in the “Cherry Tucker” mystery series.

A Composition in Murder

Cherry Tucker’s sixth full novel, A Composition in Murder, launches November 15, 2016. With a short story in a Halloween anthology coming this fall, that will make eight Cherry Tucker stories (six books, 2 novellas) in four years. What an exciting ride it’s been and it’s all due to my readers. Thank you! I feel so privileged to share the cover with y’all, particularly on dru’s book musings. I feel like I’ve gotten to know so many of you over the last four years and I’m feeling sentimental doing this once again!

In A Composition in Murder, when Cherry Tucker volunteers to teach art at Halo’s poshest independent living home, Halo House, she’s trying her best to stay out of trouble. However, what can a nosy girl do when Halo House’s most famous resident Belvia Brakeman, the ninety-year-old CEO of Meemaw’s Tea, confides in Cherry that the family tea empire is in jeopardy and asks for help? Belvia suspects her daughter, the COO, has been murdered and she might be next. Cherry once again finds herself involved in a hometown whodunit, where the secret recipe for tea might just involve poison.

I chose a posh senior residency for the setting in Cherry’s sixth caper because growing up in a small town, I knew more elderly people than kids my own age. I grew up listening to small town stories at my Nana’s, my next door neighbor, and from other folks in my hometown. My Grandpa Bun was a master storyteller. But the best stories came from asking questions. You learn a lot about history, psychology, and storytelling when you ask your elders about their past.

Fair warning, A Composition in Murder is no story where the seniors are sick, feeble, and helpless. They’re not even that sweet. In fact, at Halo House, Cherry finds the friendly rapport of likeminded people she’s missed since college. She also finds that older doesn’t always mean wiser. Nor does it mean innocent.

Here’s a sneak peek from a scene at Halo House’s bar, the Last Call, to make my point.

The Last Call looked like a typical hotel bar. Adjoined to Halo House’s fine dining space, the bar and restaurant were open to the public, although neither were advertised in the local phone directory under “Eating Establishments.” Halo House also had a twenty-hour deli (open four a.m. to midnight), a pool bar, and room service.

“I am telling you,” I said, hopping on to a leather bar stool. “Halo House is something else. Always someone to talk to. Lots going on. Buses that take you anywhere you want to go. I just love it to death.”

“Don’t say that too loudly around here.” The bartender, a retirement-aged woman with frosted tips in her burgundy hair, had a surprisingly edgy north of the sweet tea line accent. She flashed a look around the walker and cane set, playing cards and chatting at the cocktail tables. “Or at least don’t shout it.”

She extended her hand. “I’m Rosie. You look familiar. Whose granddaughter are you?”

“I’m Cherry.” I shook her hand. “I’m Grandma Jo’s girl, but she isn’t here. Actually she passed ten years ago. Cancer.”

“So sorry. Had it myself and kicked its can in my fifties. I’m one of the lucky ones. What brings you to the Last Call?”

“Beer and company mostly. I’m teaching art here.”

“Right, you’re the painting lady. Heard that’s a popular class, although some are anxious to get to the good stuff.”

“Good stuff?” I considered the fundamentals I had covered. “We’ve done linear, one-point and two-point perspective. We’re working our way to line and plane variations using still life objects, but I thought they should master drapery to understand depth and shadow first. They’re probably anxious to get to the still lifes. Drawing cones and cubes can get tedious.”

“Sounds boring as hell, but I don’t do art.” Rosie pushed a beer toward me. “No, I’m talking about models.”

“Models? This is a fundamentals class, not a life drawing class.”

“Sweetheart, these ain’t the kind of folks who sign up for ‘Learn to Draw Tippy the Turtle’ in the back of a magazine. They like you well enough, but you’ve got to keep them interested.”

“They’re going to learn more than Tippy the Turtle in my class. Although if they are interested in illustration, I could adjust the course.” I floated a few pen and ink ideas around my brain as I sipped off my foam.

Rosie rolled her eyes. “There’s too much going on at Halo House. I heard there’s a hot yoga class starting. Those art students will drop you like a bad penny. They’ve got short attention spans when it comes to activities. Time’s precious here.”

My eyes widened. “I’ll lose my job. I can’t lose my job to something called hot yoga.”

“Don’t get all uppity with your art crap. I may be new to the area, but I’m a quick study. Just because these folks have money and a long history in the county, don’t mean they don’t want tacky titillation. They’ve lived a long time and they’re tired of minding their manners. They want a good time in their final years.”

“Making quality art is a good time.”

She poured a shot of bourbon in a wine glass and filled it with Diet Coke. “Let me show you something about quality in Halo House. People ’round here act snobbish at times, but money don’t buy good taste. Nor does it buy good sense.”

I leaned forward. I may draw the line between good and bad art, but I never drew a line when it came to hot gossip.

Rosie sipped on her cocktail and nodded toward a woman sitting in a corner by herself. She smiled and waved as people walked by, but seemed content to sit by herself and watch the scene. “That’s Eleanor.”

“She looks lonely.” I turned on my stool. “I should sit with her a bit.”

“She’s not lonely, she’s stoned out of her mind.”

“The poor thing. Is it her medication?”

Rosie chuckled. “Eleanor calls it medication. When I was growing up, we called it reefer.”

I swiveled around and almost knocked my beer over. “She’s high?”

“Not only does she roll her own, she grows her own.”


“The community garden.”

A waiter strolled through the bar from the restaurant and deposited a basket of chips and a side of guacamole in front of Eleanor. She high-fived the waiter and dug into the chips.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” I admitted. “Grandma Jo was a strict Southern Baptist. She wouldn’t even try her sister’s homemade muscadine wine. Now Grandpa Ed has been known to dip from time to time and will drink a beer at a ball game, but that’s as far as he got on the controlled substance list.”

“Poor kid.” Rosie snorted. “Do you think your generation was the first to shock their parents? Just because you’re old, doesn’t mean you’re as straight-laced as your Granny. Hell, there’s plenty of baby boomers in Halo House. That should tell you something.”

I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to tell me, but I would give Rosie the benefit.

“What else is going on at Halo House?” I swung around on my stool to observe the crowd.

A couple had put some money in an old fashioned jukebox and were dancing to Tom Jones. Next to the jukebox a line of women had formed, some pointing out songs to their friends, others tapping their toes while they waited.

“That’s Two Dollar Frank,” said Rosie. “He’s one of our bachelors.”

“Two Dollar Frank?”

“Two bucks a dance. He makes mad money that way. And exercise to boot. He charges more for horizontal dancing, if you get my picture.”

“Good Lord. Halo House is like a college dorm. Where’s the keg hidden?”

Rosie smiled. “Now you’re getting the picture.”

Thanks so much Dru Ann for celebrating my cover reveal with me! To catch you up on the series before A Composition in Murder’s November release, I’d like to offer a Cherry Tucker Kindle or Nook e-book to one lucky commenter. Who was the senior in your life who told you the best stories of their past?

About the author
A 2015 Georgia Author of the Year Best Mystery finalist, Larissa writes the Cherry Tucker Mystery series. The first in the series, Portrait of a Dead Guy (2012), is a 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist, 2012 The Emily finalist, and 2011 Dixie Kane Memorial winner. The sixth mystery, A Composition in Murder, is expected to release November 15, 2016. Her family and Cairn Terrier, Biscuit, now live in Nagoya, Japan, but still calls Georgia home. Visit her website, find her chatting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads, or join her Facebook street team, The Mystery Minions.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win. The giveaway will end July 25, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

A Day in the Life of Hank Worth by Claire Booth

The Branson BeautyThe kid tried to tell me that he hadn’t done anything. He was legal.

We stood in the snowy parking lot of the Easy Come & Go. I had a fresh cup of coffee, and the kid had a bottle of rum.

“Why don’t you let me hold that while you get out your ID,” I said.

He shook his head and shifted the bottle away from me. Then he yanked the wallet out of his back pocket, but he couldn’t undo the Velcro with only one hand. I hid a smile and helpfully relieved him of his purchase.

The rum runner finally got his license out and handed it over with shaking fingers. I was surprised. It was a good one. Steven Perkins, 5620 Pleasant Drive, Branson, Missouri. Age 23. The photo was spot-on, just more chiseled and mature than the baby face standing in front of me. Had to be an older brother.

“Hello, ‘Steve.’ I’m Hank,” I said. “And I’m a little worried about what you’re going to do with a bottle of rum on a Sunday afternoon.”

“Steve” did not have an answer for that one. He shifted from foot to foot and wiped his nose. I wanted to do the same. It was damn cold. Another storm was on the way, and I was hoping to be home drinking cocoa with the kids before it hit.

“We’re going to go back inside and return this alcohol,” I said. “And I’m going to keep this ID.”

The rum runner slumped in defeat, then straightened.

“Wait a minute,” he said. “Who are you, anyway? You … you can’t just take it. It’s mine.”

I opened my plain brown parka to show the badge on my belt. “I’m the sheriff.”

The kid bristled and took a step back. “No, you’re not. I know what the sheriff looks like. He’s a skinny old dude.”

I grinned. That certainly wasn’t me, in either respect.

“I’m new. Just took over the job. Do you want to be one of my first arrests?”

“Steve” very much did not want that. He also vehemently declined my offer to drive him home and have a chat with his parents. That left returning the liquor. Not Steve slouched into the convenience store and got a whopping $10.62 back. I hoped that when he finally did turn twenty-one, he’d be able to afford a slightly better quality rum.

I was just about to turn him loose when my cell phone rang. Sheila.

“This is ridiculous. I can’t stand that man. Doesn’t call the main line for assistance. Calls me, orders me around. Says they only want you–”

“Wait – what?” I still hadn’t gotten used to my chief deputy’s style. She was not one for keeping her opinions to herself. Or for taking any BS.

She sighed in exasperation. “Gallagher Enterprises. They just called and demanded that you – and only you – respond out to Table Rock Lake. You’re supposed to meet their guy out at a spot on the shoreline.”

“Why would I do that?” I said. “It’s freezing, and there’s a storm coming in.”

“I told them that – several times,” she said. “They finally coughed up a reason, then threatened me if I told anybody but you.”

“What could possibly be that big of a deal?” I said, climbing into my car and cranking up the heat. Even after all these years, I’d never gotten used to the wet, soak-your-bones cold of Missouri’s winters.

“It’s the paddlewheel. The old Branson Beauty showboat, out for its luncheon cruise. It’s run aground.”


That was unexpected. Hadn’t the boat been sailing the same course for years? It couldn’t be that stuck. I chuckled and pulled out of the parking lot, the iced-over snow crunching under my tires. I’d go out there, reassure the company man, watch as the captain figured out how to unstick the boat and be home in time for dinner.

Because really, how bad could it be?

The Branson Beauty is the first book in the NEW Sheriff Hank Worth mystery series, published by Minotaur Books, July 2016.

The Branson Beauty, an old showboat, has crashed in the waters of an Ozark mountain lake just outside the popular tourist destination of Branson, Missouri. More than one hundred people are trapped aboard. Hank Worth is still settling into his new role as county sheriff, and when he responds to the emergency call, he knows he’s in for a long winter day of helping elderly people into rafts and bringing them ashore. He realizes that he’ll face anxiety, arguments, and extra costs for emergency equipment that will stretch the county’s already thin budget to the breaking point.

But he is absolutely not expecting to discover high school track star Mandy Bryson’s body locked inside the Captain’s private dining room. Suddenly, Hank finds himself embroiled in a murder investigation, with the county commissioner breathing down his neck and the threat of an election year ahead of him. And as he wades deeper into the investigation, Hank starts to realize he’s up against a web of small town secrets much darker and more tangled than he could have ever imagined.

In her captivating debut novel, Claire Booth has created a broad cast of wonderfully compelling characters, and she perfectly blends humor with the emotional drama and heartache of a murder investigation.

# # # # # # # # # # #

Meet the author
Claire Booth spent more than a decade as a daily newspaper reporter, much of it covering crimes so convoluted and strange they seemed more like fiction than reality. Eventually, she had enough of the real world and decided to write novels instead. Her Sheriff Hank Worth mystery series takes place in Branson, Missouri, where small-town Ozark politics and big-city country music tourism clash in, yes, strange and convoluted ways. For more about Claire, her books, and some of the true crimes she’s covered, please visit www.clairebooth.com.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of The Branson Beauty. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end July 24, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!

All comments are welcomed.


weekly update
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Coming up on dru’s book musings (7/18 – 7/23)
July 18: Hank Worth by Claire Booth (Sheriff Hank Worth)
July 19: Cover Reveal with Larissa Reinhart
July 20: Madison McKenna by Kennedy Quinn (Madison McKenna)
July 21: Lillian Frost by Renee Patrick (Lillian Frost & Edith Head)
July 22: Joy McQueen by Elizabeth Perona (Bucket List)
July 23: Utah O’Brien by Jonni Good (Utah O’Brien)

“A Dark and Stormy Murder” by Julia Buckley – Pamela J.
“Lowcountry Book Club” by Susan M. Boyer – Jane R.
“Little Girl Gone” by Gerry Schmitt – Kristin A.
“Eat, Pray, Die” by Chelsea Field – Elaine N.


August 2016 Releases


Click HERE for a printable copy

August 1
A Maiden Weeping by Jeri Westerson (Crispin Guest #8)

August 2
Murder in the Secret Garden by Ellery Adams (Book Retreat #3)
Die Like an Eagle by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #20)
Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness #10)
Cat With a Clue by Laurie Cass (Bookmobile Cats #5)

The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala by Laura DiSilverio (Book Club #3)
Knit Your Own Murder by Monica Ferris (Needlecraft #19)
Grilling the Subject by Daryl Wood Gerber (Cookbook Nook #5)
Much Ado About Muffin by Victoria Hamilton (Merry Muffin #4)

No Pity For the Dead by Nancy Herriman (Mystery of Old San Francisco #2)
Clock and Dagger by Julianne Holmes (Clock Shop #2)
Robbing Peter to Kill Paul by Gin Jones (Danger Cove Quilting #3)
Death, Taxes, and a Satin Garter by Diane Kelly (Tara Holloway #10)

The Ninja’s Daughter by Susan Spann (Shinobi #4)
The Cat, The Collector and the Killer by Leann Sweeney (Cats In Trouble #8)
Silk Stalkings by Diane Vallere (Material Witness #2)
Brain Storm by Elaine Viets (Death Investigator) *new series*

August 8
Whispers in the Mist by Lisa Alber (County Clare #2)
Blood of Saints by Maegan Beaumont (Sabrina Vaughn #4)

August 9
Survivors Will Be Shot Again by Bill Crider (Dan Rhodes #23)
The Book of Beloved by Carolyn Haines (Pluto’s Snitch) *new series*
Outside the Lines by Sheila Lowe (Forensic Handwriting #6)
The Paris Librarian by Mark Pryor (Hugo Marston #6)

August 13
Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron (Cajun Country #2)

August 16
Damaged by Lisa Scottoline (Rosato & Associates #15)

August 17
American Nights by Gerrie Ferris Finger (Moriah Dru/Richard Lake #6)

August 21
Skeletons in the Attic by Judy Penz Sheluk (Marketville) *new series*

August 23
Wedding Bell Blues by Ruth Moose (Dixie Dew #2)

August 30
Dead in a Flash by Brynn Bonner (Family History #4)
Death Among the Doilies by Mollie Cox Bryan (Cora Crafts) *new series*
A Story To Kill by Lynn Cahoon (Cat Latimer) *new series*
A Catered Tea Party by Isis Crawford (Mystery with Recipes #12)
Murder with Macaroni and Cheese by A.L. Herbert (Mahalia Watkins #2)

Death of a Pumpkin Carver by Lee Hollis (Hayley Powell #8)
Murder at Rough Point by Alyssa Maxwell (Gilded Newport #4)
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (Armand Gamache #12)
The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd (Bess Crawford #8)
Pumpkin Picking With Murder by Auralee Wallace (Otter Lake #2)

My Musing ~ Among The Wicked by Linda Castillo

Among The Wicked by Linda Castillo is the 8th book in the “Kate Burkholder” thriller series. Publisher: Minotaur Books, July 2016

Among The WickedChief of Police Kate Burkholder is called upon by the sheriff’s department in rural, upstate New York to assist on a developing situation that involves a reclusive Amish settlement and the death of a young girl. Unable to penetrate the wall of silence between the Amish and “English” communities, the sheriff asks Kate to travel to New York, pose as an Amish woman, and infiltrate the community.

Kate’s long time love interest, State Agent John Tomasetti, is dead set against her taking on such an unorthodox assignment, knowing she’ll have limited communication – and even less in the way of backup. But Kate can’t turn her back, especially when the rumor mill boils with disturbing accounts of children in danger. She travels to New York where she’s briefed and assumes her new identity as a lone widow seeking a new life.

Kate infiltrates the community and goes deep under cover. In the coming days, she unearths a world built on secrets, a series of shocking crimes, and herself, alone… trapped in a fight for her life.

All it took was one sitting with a couple of breaks to finished this fast-paced and action-packed drama that had me engrossed in all that was happening from the moment Kate went up North. From the narrative of the author, I could feel the tension and apprehension that Kate felt as she dived into a dangerous situation with some unexpected developments. Who should she trust? Was she truly alone? Who is the mastermind? How will this end? The frenetic pulse of this intensifying and gripping story reached a crescendo that when it was all said and done, everything fell into place and the aftermath was worthy of the outcome. The author knows how to spin a brilliantly-written tale where the dialogue, the character’s role and the setting are pivotal to how well this story is told. This is a one of the best book in this compellingly riveting series and I’m looking forward to more exploits with Kate, John and the gang in Painters Mill, Ohio.

My Musing ~ Nun But The Brave by Alice Loweecey

Nun But The Brave by Alice Loweecey is the third book in the “Giulia Driscoll” mystery series. Publisher: Henery Press, July 2016

Nun But The BraveGiulia Driscoll: Survival of the Fittest

Giulia Driscoll’s sister-in-law barges into Driscoll Investigations and promptly passes out from OD’ing on an unknown drug. Two OD’d teenagers are found dead in the park and behind a convenience store. DI’s new client insists her missing twin sister is not dead and enlists Giulia as the “Missing Person Whisperer.” Hooray for steady work?

The missing sister’s trail leads to married, pregnant, ex-nun Giulia’s first experience with online dating sites, to the delight of her husband and employees. Those dates lead her to local Doomsday Preppers. They grow their own everything, and that everything may be connected to the drugs, her sister-in-law, and the missing twin. These Preppers are about to learn the true meaning of doom.

This is one of my favorite series and I love this latest entry. I immediately became engrossed in all that was happening in this fast-paced and action-filled drama that quickly became a page turner. Skillfully written, this multi-plot tale kept me intrigued as I watched Giulia tackle her latest case with great aplomb. The author had a way with the verbiage and descriptive narration that awakened my curiosity as this tale took on a frenetic tempo with an intensifying course of action that was engagingly riveting. Snappy conversations and a foray into the unknown enhanced the telling of this story that created a wonderfully entertaining read as I look forward to more exciting exploits with Giulia and her friends.