WEEKLY UPDATE #35

weekly update
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Coming up on dru’s book musings (8/29 – 9/3)
August 29: Cora Chevalier by Mollie Cox Bryan (Cora Crafts)
August 30: Cat Latimer by Lynn Cahoon (Cat Latimer)
August 31: Miss Emma Cross by Alyssa Maxwell (Gilded Newport)
September 1: Andreas Kaldis by Jeffrey Siger (Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis)
September 2: Eve Appel by Lesley A. Diehl (Eve Appel)
September 3: Kiki Lowenstein by Joanna Campbell Slan (Happy Homicides)

winners1
“The Cat, The Collector and the Killer” by Leann Sweeney – Teresa W.
“Silk Stalkings” by Diane Vallere – Kathy G.
“Dial QR for Murder” by A.E.H. Veenman – Grace K.
“Whispers in the Mist” by Lisa Alber – Becky L.

 

My Musing ~ Death Among the Doilies by Mollie Cox Bryan

Death Among the Doilies by Mollie Cox Bryan is the first book in the NEW “Cora Crafts” mystery series. Publisher: Kensington, August 2016

Death Among the DoiliesFor thirty-something blogger Cora Chevalier, small-town Indigo Gap, North Carolina, seems like the perfect place to reinvent her life. Shedding a stressful past as a counselor for a women’s shelter, Cora is pouring all her talents—and most of her savings—into a craft retreat business, with help from close pal and resident potter Jane Starr. Between transforming her Victorian estate into a crafter’s paradise and babysitting Jane’s daughter, the new entrepreneur has no time for distractions. Especially rumors about the murder of a local school librarian . . .

But when Jane’s fingerprints match those found at the grisly crime scene, Cora not only worries about her friend, but her own reputation. With angry townsfolk eager for justice and both Jane’s innocence and the retreat at risk, she must rely on her creative chops to unlace the truth behind the beloved librarian’s disturbing demise. Because if the killer’s patterns aren’t pinned, Cora’s handiwork could end up in stitches . . .

I like this one. When Cora’s BFF and partner becomes a prime suspect in a recent murder, there’s nothing left for Cora to do but clear her friend’s name while saving the craft retreat business she just started.

This begins a wonderfully crafted mystery where the narrative gave me insights into how this intriguing drama was going to play out. The author did an excellent job in setting this up by leading me one way and then changing the directions with several twists and turns that kept the story moving to a level that not only enhanced the telling of this tale, but had me enthralled in all that was happening with the murders, the theft and the vandalism. Are they connected? It’s a tangled weave of emotions that encapsulates how this will all ends. I loved how Cora took her role as an amateur sleuth one step further by working with the police instead of going off her own.

With great character development, engaging dialogue and a comfortable tone, this is a delightfully charming addition to the cozy mystery genre and I look forward to the next adventures in Indigo Gap with Cora and her friends.

FTC Full Disclosure – I received a digital ARC of this book from publisher via NetGalley.

My Musing ~ A Story to Kill by Lynn Cahoon

A Story to Kill by Lynn Cahoon is the first book in the NEW “Cat Latimer” mystery series. Publisher: Kensington, August 2016

A Story To KillFormer English professor Cat Latimer is back in Colorado, hosting writers’ retreats in the big blue Victorian she’s inherited, much to her surprise, from none other than her carousing ex-husband! Now it’s an authors’ getaway—but Cat won’t let anyone get away with murder. . .
The bed-and-breakfast is open for business, and bestselling author Tom Cook is among its first guests. Cat doesn’t know why he came all the way from New York, but she’s glad to have him among the quirkier—and far less famous—attendees.

Cat’s high school sweetheart Seth, who’s fixing up the weathered home, brings on mixed emotions for Cat. . .some of them a little overpowering. But it’s her uncle, the local police chief, whom she’ll call for help when there’s a surprise ending for Tom Cook in his cozy guest room. Will a killer have the last word on the new life Cat has barely begun?

A writer’s retreat and murder is the premise of this delightfully wonderful debut series featuring author Catherine Latimer. When a murdered guest mars Cat’s opening retreat session, Cat sets out to find the killer before her dream is destroyed.

This was a very enjoyable book that I could not put down because I had to know what happens next. The mystery was set-up very nicely keeping me glued to the pages as we are introduced to the main cast and learning more about the victim and secondary characters. I love how comfortable I felt reading this fresh new story and the pacing was perfect as it flowed from scene to scene where the narrative put me in the middle of all the action. I like that there were plenty of suspects with subtle clues that created an intriguing byproduct of the crime. The author was very generous in giving all the characters their role to play with some surprising twists that made this an even better drama where everything fell into place with a hint towards another mystery yet to be solved. Boasting a great cast, engaging dialogue and a relaxed atmosphere, this was terrific read and I can’t wait for the next book in this pleasantly appealing new series.

FTC Full Disclosure – I received a digital ARC of this book from publisher via NetGalley.

My Musing ~ Skeletons in the Attic by Judy Penz Sheluk

Skeletons in the Attic by Judy Penz Sheluk is the first book in the NEW “Marketville” mystery series. Publisher: Imajin Books, August 2016

Skeletons in the AtticWhat goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there.

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

Her father’s sudden death. Her mother’s disappearance from long ago. Inheriting the house where her childhood began. These items all connect to the journey that Callie must face and boy what a can of worms this roller-coaster ride opened in this debut series.

This was a fast-paced and riveting drama that quickly became a page turner as I had to know what happened long ago and what the outcome will be once Callie began her investigation. There’s a lot of buried secrets and one by one they are exposed which leads Callie to keep on digging, which makes her one determined heroine. The intrigue, the action and the suspense kept me glued to the pages and when I thought I had a handle on the situation, the author pulled the carpeting right under my feet.

The author had a way with the narrative that put me smack dab in the middle of what was going on and the closer Callie got to the truth the more I could not put this book down. All the pertinent characters played pivotal roles that enhanced the telling of this tale and when it was over, the author did one thing better that was absolutely perfect and all I could say was OMG, I did not see that coming and wow. This was a terrific read and I can’t wait to read the next book to see where we go after we are left with that ending.

My Musing ~ Die Like an Eagle by Donna Andrews

Die Like an Eagle by Donna Andrews is the 20th book in the “Meg Langslow” mystery series. Publisher: Minotaur Books, August 2016

Die Like An EagleMeg is Team Mom and Michael is coach of their twin sons’ youth baseball team, the Caerphilly Eagles. Meg tangles with Biff Brown, the petty, vindictive league head. On opening day, Biff’s lookalike brother is found dead in the porta-potty at the ball field. So many people think Biff’s scum that it would be easy to blame him, but he has an alibi–and Meg suspects he may actually have been the intended victim.

With Die Like an Eagle, readers can look forward to another zany Meg Langslow mystery–this one filled with the spirit of America’s pastime and Donna’s eagle eye.

Like Meg Langslow, the blacksmith heroine of her series, Donna Andrews was born and raised in Yorktown, Virginia. She introduced Meg to readers in her Malice Domestic Contest-winning first mystery, Murder with Peacocks, and readers are still laughing. This novel swept up the Agatha, Anthony, Barry, and a Romantic Times award for best first novel, and a Lefty for funniest mystery.

I don’t know how Donna does it, but she always delivers a wonderfully-crafted whodunit with a catchy avian title that factors in the theme of her stories. In this one, the favorite pastime of baseball takes center stage as once again, Meg finds another body and it’s these jovial jaunts that bring humor to how this all plays out in the end. Once Meg and her family get involved, the antics are hilarious and intertwined with the solving of the murder creating a well-balanced drama.

The author did a great job in providing us a field of suspects and it was fun watching it all play out until there was only one person left on base. I love how all the characters play pivotal roles that enhances the telling of this tale where the narrative is superbly done and the dialogue is engagingly snappy. The part that put a big grin on my face was the ending with Meg and her boys. A great read and I look forward to more adventures with Meg and her eccentrically quirky family.

A Day in the Life of Halia Watkins by A.L. Herbert

Murder with Macaroni and Cheese“Those look divine,” I say to Momma as she starts popping chocolate cakes out of their pans. She’s been at Sweet Tea since five this morning.

Raynell’s husband (at least Raynell said it was her husband) loved Momma’s chocolate marshmallow cake so much that Raynell asked. . .well, more like insisted, that we serve it as the featured dessert for the reunion.

Momma has twelve layers of chocolate cake cooling on the counter—enough for four cakes. As the smell of rich cocoa reaches my nose, I have to fight the urge to press my hands on them just to feel their warm velvety texture.

“Let me get started on the frosting while they cool. Wavonne, start opening those jars of marshmallow cream, would you?” Momma calls over to Wavonne, who couldn’t have been any less helpful since she arrived with me a few hours ago. She’s currently sitting on a stool with her head against the wall and her eyes shut.

“Wavonne!” I call to wake her up.

“Huh?” She slowly opens her eyes.

“Help Momma with the frosting, please.”

“I’m so tired.” She sluggishly lifts herself from the stool and grabs the jars.”

Momma takes the jars from Wavonne and scoops their contents in a large metal bowl she’s already filled with softened butter, secures the bowl into one of my favorite kitchen gadgets, my five-quart stainless steel Hobart N50 mixer. I just upgraded to it a few months ago. It cost a mint, but it works beautifully.

Momma starts the mixer and begins to whip the frosting. As the butter and marshmallow cream blend together she slowly adds powdered sugar to the whirling bowl. When the icing has creamed together nicely, she adds a touch of vanilla, gives it a final mix, and voilà, we have Momma’s famous marshmallow frosting.

I grab two serrated knifes from the knife block, hand one to Wavonne, and we both help Momma slice the small domes off of the tops of the cake layers, so they will lay smoothly on top of each other.

“My knees are not what they used to be. Give them an eye-level look and make sure they are even,” Momma asks me.

“Let me do that for you two old hens,” Wavonne says. “Drop it like it’s hot,” she says as she squats down to get her face level with the cakes. “Perfect.”

We’ve helped Momma enough with her baking to know the drill from here. We take four circular pieces of plywood that I’ve already covered with decorative purple foil and lay them on the counter. These will function as the serving platters. We place four strips of parchment paper on each platter, so they lie just underneath the edges of the cakes to keep icing off the foil while we work. We then place a dollop of frosting on the center of the boards to anchor the cakes before we flip a moist chocolate layer onto it.

“Now, you girls be careful,” Momma says as she goes down the line with a pastry brush and sweeps away any loose crumbs so they don’t get in the frosting.

“That’s too much, Wavonne!” Momma calls as she watches Wavonne haphazardly plop a glob of frosting onto one of the layers. “These are for Halia’s former classmates. We want them to be perfect.”

Wavonne removes some of the icing with her spatula and starts to spread it around. “I wanna slice up one of these for breakfast, Aunt Celia,” she says as we begin on the second layer. “Girl, hook me up with a slice of this cake and maybe a caramel flan latte, and I’d be like a pig in—”

“Don’t even think about it, Wavonne. We need four for the reunion, and that’s all Momma’s made.”

“‘Bring me those jars.’ ‘Too much icing.’ ‘No cake for you,’” Wavonne mutters under her breath, mimicking Momma and me. “That Russian woman who runs the prison kitchen on TV barks fewer orders.”

Momma and I ignore her as we continue to pull the cakes together. When we finally get all three layers assembled and frosted, Momma, ever the perfectionist, slips a thin spatula in hot water, quickly dries it, and uses the heated tool to carefully smooth out the cakes.

“You can tell people you made them, Halia,” Momma says as we stand back and admire our finished work. “If these cakes can’t land you a man, nothing can.”

Celia’s Chocolate Marshmallow Cake

Chocolate Cake Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup strong hot coffee

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Generously grease and lightly flour two 9 inch round cake pans.
  • Sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and cocoa into bowl. Mix on low speed until combined.
  • In another bowl, combine milk, sour cream, butter, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet until well combined.
  • With mixer still on low speed, add coffee, and mix until well combined.
  • Pour batter into the prepared pans and bake for 25-35 minutes, until a tooth pick comes out clean.
  • Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Marshmallow Icing Ingredients
4 sticks of butter, softened (2 cups)
2 cups powdered/confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 jars marshmallow crème (14 ounces total)

Chocolate Marsh Cake

  • Cream butter in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft and fluffy.
  • Gradually beat in powdered sugar.
  • Beat in vanilla extract.
  • Add marshmallow crème until thoroughly incorporated.

Murder with Macaroni and Cheese is the second book in the Mahalia Watkins mystery series, published by Kensington, August 2016.

Mahalia’s Sweet Tea is known for serving the best soul food in Prince George’s County, Maryland. But owner Halia also likes to indulge in some à la carte detective work. Can she solve the murder of a former “mean girl” when a high school reunion takes a deadly turn?

When the organizing committee for her upcoming high school reunion desperately needs a caterer, Halia agrees to help out. Soon she’s serving up her signature macaroni and cheese and famous chicken wings to a host of appreciative ex-classmates. Some folks have blossomed since graduation. Others, like manipulative Raynell Rollins, currently married to a former football star, haven’t changed nearly enough.

When Raynell is found dead the morning after the reunion, the roll call of possible suspects could fill the school gymnasium. Extra-marital affairs, mega-church scandals and sports secrets. . .Raynell had her perfectly manicured hand in a lot of sticky situations. With her cousin Wavonne’s bungling assistance—and a helping of unwelcome dating advice from her mother, Celia—Halia is on course to track down the killer, before she becomes the alumna most likely to meet an untimely end. . .

Features delicious recipes from Mahalia’s Sweet Tea, including Double Crust Chicken Pot Pie and Chocolate Marshmallow Cake!

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Meet the author
A.L. Herbert grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland and is the author of Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles and Murder with Macaroni and Cheese. Connect with A.L. on Facebook. You can e-mail the author at alherbert123@gmail.com.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Murder with Macaroni and Cheese. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end September 1, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!

All comments are welcomed.

Going Home Again with Erica Bloom by Auralee Wallace

Pumpking Picking With MurderHow does that old saying go? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice. . .you get the idea.

Too bad I didn’t.

See, I thought it was safe to go home again, but, well, how many dead bodies can a girl turn up before it becomes a thing?

Hi, I’m Erica Bloom, and I’ve been avoiding going home to New Hampshire for years. Sounds ridiculous, but if you knew about the incident that left half the town calling me Boobsie Bloom, you might just understand. That being said, a few months ago, when my nature-loving, vegan mom needed a favor to save her business – a spiritual retreat for women – I finally faced down some of my old demons and made the trip back to Otter Lake.

Turns out, there were a lot of things I’d missed about being home. . .the long docks stretching into the water, the nights with a billion stars, the town sheriff, Grady Forrester. He was my high school crush. Apparently, I had missed him quite a bit. Unfortunately, with all the good of last visit, there was also some bad – yeah, discovering a murdered, high school classmate would have to be at the top of the list.

I figured this trip would be different though. This time of year, home is all about the Otter Lake Fall Festival! Yup, I’d planned to spend my days hiking through the woods, eating deep-fried foods stuffed into other deep-fried foods, maybe reconnecting with a certain sheriff on the Ferris wheel. . . but wouldn’t you know, almost as soon as I stepped foot onto the midway, another dead body came rolling right out of the Tunnel of Love with my “aunt” Tweety. And to think I thought being called Boobsie Bloom was bad.

So with a killer at work in Otter Lake, instead of riding the tea cups and eating some cotton candy, my best friend Freddie and I will have to team up to unearth enough clues to keep Tweety out of the big house. . .even if it means our first case as Otter Lake Security’s official crime-fighting duo becomes our last!


Pumpkin Picking With Murder is the second book in the Otter Lake mystery series, published by St. Martin’s Paperbacks, August 2016.

When murder strikes in the Tunnel of Love, Erica Bloom has to rock the boat to catch a killer. . .
For a small town like Otter Lake, New Hampshire, the annual Fall Festival is a big deal: a Ferris wheel, corn maze, caramel apples, and pumpkin pies―even a Tunnel of Love. Back in her hometown, Erica Bloom is trying to enjoy herself, which includes getting better acquainted with Sheriff Grady Forrester. But when a swan boat sails out of the heart-shaped exit of the tunnel with a dead man slumped over a wing, her own romance will have to take a backseat.

PUMPKIN PICKING WITH MURDER
Speaking of love affairs, the other passenger in the boat―and only witness to the elderly Mr. Masterson’s swan song―is not his wife. It’s Erica’s beloved and feisty “aunt,” Tweety, who quickly becomes the prime suspect. Vowing to clear Tweety, Erica teams up with her sassy BFF and self-appointed security expert Freddie Ng to solve the murder―despite the objections of Grady, who’s convinced the amateurs are going overboard in their investigation. And he just may be right. But as Erica and Freddie start to dredge up long-kept small-town secrets, will they heading straight into troubled waters?

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About the author
Auralee Wallace has played many roles in her life, including college professor, balloon seller, and collections agent. When this semi-natural blonde mother of three children (and psychiatric nurse to two rescue cats) isn’t writing humorous novels about quirky characters, she can often be found pontificating about the Golden Age of soap operas or warring with a family of peregrine falcons for the rights to her backyard. She can also be found on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and her blog at auraleewallace.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Two people (US and Canada only) selected at random will receive a print copy of Pumpkin Picking with Murder. Leave a comment below for your chance to win. The giveaway ends August 31, 2016. Good luck everyone!

A Day in the Life with Verna Crowell by Ruth Moose

Wedding Bell BluesVerna is now a resident in Glen Arbor Acres retirement complex, which is down the street from the Dixie Dew.

“Lordy, Lordy, those Betts boys are the sweetest things. Sweet as can be. Why they hug and squeeze an old lady like you’re their grandma or something. They were raised right. Manners! They hold the door for wheel chairs, pick up your cane if you drop it. Don’t act a bit uppity or stuck up even if their mama was a world famous writer living right here in Littleboro. There was a movie made out of one of her books and she got an Academy Award for it. Then that same story was turned into a Broadway play and a musical. She got to see it before she died and she’s buried right here in Littleboro, that little tiny cemetery behind the ARP church just across from the courthouse.

She always said ARP stood for All Right Presbyterians and she grew up one in Statesville where they do a festival in her name every year. She wrote a lot of stuff and raised those boys on a horse farm a hop and skip from Littleboro. Wonder if those Betts boys ever read any of her stuff? They don’t look nor act much like readers. Neither of them wear glasses, but maybe they will when they get old, if they don’t work themselves to death first. Wear out. They’re over here at Glen Arbor at least once a week, sometimes, most times, more, bringing in some new green potted plant for our atrium, which I think is just a fancy word for a sun room.

In our “living room,” which is just a parking place to read the News and Observer or do a puzzle or just sit and stare into space as some people around here like to do, those Betts boys put more green plants and little grow lights in the dark corners so that room looks about like an atrium. When the plants get all leggy and bushy at the same time, they come in with smaller ones to replace them. I’ve always believed green plants not only just make and decorate a room, they are living, breathing things that give out good oxygen and take in the bad.

And just about every time they come, one of those boys will bring me or one of the girls a bouquet of fresh flowers they grew themselves. They have their own greenhouses or it would cost them a pluperfect fortune. And they put a vase of something fresh and full of color on the front desk. They keep us cheered up as if anything in this place can cheer a body up. We’re all headed for the “great beyond” and taking either the “up” escalator or the “down,” depending. And I can guess who is taking which.

Our “warden”, is headed straight down as fast as the thing can go. Smiles so sweet butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, then turn around and behind your back lie and cheat and steal and if I had the proof I’m trying to get, I’d go to somebody with it. Lordy, Lordy, I’ve always been suspicious of these women who like to play up to the powers that be, who are usually male. In this case it’s when Mr. Harmon visits to checks on the books, our grounds and facilities. Those are the days she makes sure we are up and dressed to the “nines” by breakfast. And breakfast those days are twice as much as any other time, except Mother’s Day and Christmas. We get eggs Benedict and omelets to order with mushrooms, fresh spinach or asparagus out of season. And berries. Blueberries. Melon. She outdoes herself and Cook goes into a huff for a week, all that extra work just to impress some man from the home office.

Does he even look at the books? See how she’s cutting corners every way she can? Instead of having the van take us places for free as the brochures say, we get charged! It takes money to get old. I know the brochures say the facilities offer “all your needs” but this place gets to you after a while. These same old faces. A body needs to see what the rest of the world is up to, building and tearing down. Go to a movie once in awhile. A shopping mall for pity’s sake. Even if we don’t dress up much, except when Mr. Harmon comes, underwear and night clothes get sprung and holey. That’s holey with an e. Ain’t nothing else around here holy. Especially the preacher who comes on Fridays and we have to sing to that godawful piano playing. Sometimes I think we’ve all got on that down escalator and this is where we landed up. Hell. And there’s nothing green and growing down here.


Wedding Bell Blues is the second book in the Dixie Dew mystery series, published by Minotaur Books, August 2016.

Beth McKenzie, owner of the Dixie Dew Bed and Breakfast, is enjoying an exciting affair with her new love, Scott. Meanwhile, the town of Littleboro, North Carolina is abuzz with gossip about Crazy Reba’s upcoming nuptials. Most brides go crazy at some point, but Littleboro’s resident homeless lady has had a head start: she’s beloved, indulged, and most of all, eccentric. But at almost 60―or thereabouts―her marriage seems a little peculiar. Sure, she’s sporting a diamond big enough to choke a horse, but no one can tell if it’s real, or just a Cracker Jack prize she pilfered from a yard sale.

Crazy Reba’s wedding plans go confirmedly awry when the bride-to-be is arrested for her fiancé’s murder. Beth, determined to clear Reba’s name, gets in over her head when a lady wrestler who threatened to kill her books a room at the Dixie Dew, and Robert Redford, her neighbor’s white rabbit, disappears.

Then Littleboro’s First Annual Green Bean Festival gets up and running, a famous food writer becomes deathly ill, and Beth must battle through madcap mayhem to apprehend the culprit and save the day.

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About the author
Ruth Moose was on the Creative Writing faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill for 15 years. She’s published three collections of short stories, The Wreath Ribbon Quilt and Dreaming in Color and Neighbors and Other Strangers with individual stories in Atlantic, Alaska Quarterly Review, North American Review, Southern California Review and other places including publications in Holland, South Africa, England and Denmark. Moose has published six collections of poetry, most recently, The Librarian and Other Poems and Tea. She’s received a MacDowell Fellowship, a North Carolina Årtist Fellowship and a prestigious Chapman Award for Teaching. She lives in Pittsboro, NC. Her novel, Doing it at the Dixie Dew won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition and was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2014, with a sequel Wedding Bell Blues to be out late August, 2016. She has also published in Ellery Queen Magazine. Connect with Ruth at www.ruthmoose.com

All comments are welcomed.

A Day in the Life with Rosalie Hart by Wendy Sand Eckel

Death at the Lily CaféA dense mist rose from the curving river adjacent to the road as I drove into the heart of Cardigan, Maryland, my recently adopted home. Despite my best efforts, I was running late. I squeezed the steering wheel. Today was the debut of my new restaurant, the Day Lily Café. I’m Rosalie Hart and opening this café was a dream realized.

The paint was barely dry on the ochre-tinted walls that glowed in the sun like a Tuscan hillside and I prayed we were ready for prime time. I had spent endless days and weeks designing the space and experimenting with recipes and menus. Today’s breakfast special:

Mini cinnamon muffin and coffee appetizer
Omelet with applewood smoked cheddar, scallions and fresh oregano
Cantaloupe wedge topped with blueberries and creme fraiche
Thick slice of seven grain bread slathered with butter
And the best potato cake, if I do say so myself, your mouth will ever encounter

I scrolled through my contacts on my hands free phone menu, careful to keep my eye on a pair of cyclists weaving along the road in front of me, and clicked on Glenn’s number.

“Rosalie, where are you? People are already reading the menu outside.”

“I’m on my way,” I said. “Have you started the coffee?”

“Of course,” Glenn said and I felt instantly soothed by his calm, confident tone. He was my path to zen.

“There are a couple of bikers in the road in front of me. They must think we Eastern Shore folk have nothing better to do.”

“Careful,” Glenn said. “You’re starting to sound like a native. And I think they prefer the term cyclists.”

“Has Custer put in the first batch of muffins?”

“The aroma of that cinnamon is making me salivate.”

“Thank you, Glenn. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

“No need to find out. All right, dear. Crystal is setting the tables. She’s doing some fancy thing with the napkins. It looks pretty good. Be safe and remember to share the road.”

I ended the call and exhaled a deep breath in an attempt to calm my nerves. Glenn, who at the age of seventy-two was able to keep orders in his head, soothe ruffled feathers, and pour a cup of West African blend without spilling a drop, was my best friend.

It had been almost two years since I learned my husband of over twenty years was having an affair. Unable to bear it, I escaped to the large farm and very old house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland my Aunt Charlotte had bequeathed to me that I had heretofore, chosen to ignore.

Lost and feeling as alien as ET, I had rattled around the house for weeks wondering how I would reinvent myself. But everything changed when I discovered the body of a young coed in the marsh grasses of the Cardigan River. When the sheriff ruled her drowning an accident and closed the case, I wasn’t convinced. With Glenn’s help, we solved the mystery and I discovered a resiliency I never knew I possessed.

My road to recovery began with finding a yellowed index card of Aunt Charlotte’s seven grain bread recipe. The kneading and aromas triggered my love of cooking. For me, cooking was my way to nurture others and baking that bread reignited my passions and unlocked the door to living again.

I stared at the cyclists, willing them to turn. That was a lot of spandex. A little too much information for my taste. One of them pointed to a farm house. The other wobbled as he turned to look at it. I eased off the accelerator. At least the fog was lifting. A lazy flock of Canada Geese flew in a low V over the river—their out of sync honks piercing the quiet. Enjoy this moment, Rosalie, I thought. And I did.

Little did I know that just as the café were opening, Doris Bird, who had helped me out of a pickle more than once, would appear in the doorway asking me to help clear her younger sister of murder charges. The husband had been shot in the chest and the sheriff was certain she was guilty. What I didn’t know at the time was he would stop at nothing to prove it.

These muffins were inspired by my favorite breakfast as a child: buttered toast topped with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.

CINNAMON MUFFINS

muffin2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted and cooled unsalted butter
1 cup organic milk
2 eggs

Topping

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted unsalted butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar

Makes 12 large muffins.

Preheat oven to 325º
Grease a muffin tin with cooking spray or line with paper cups.
Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk wet ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add wet ingredients. Stir until just combined. Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let stand 5 – 10 minutes. Remove from tin. Meanwhile prepare the topping. Melt the remaining 1/4 stick of butter. Whisk together cinnamon and sugar. When muffins are cool, brush the tops with a generous amount of butter. I believe the word slather is appropriate. Dip tops in the sugar/cinnamon mix. Sprinkle remaining mix over muffins. Test kitchen feedback says the more topping, the better the muffin, so really pack it on.


Death at the Day Lily Café is the second book in the Rosalie Hart mystery series, published by Minotaur, August 2016.

Rosalie Hart has finally opened the café of her dreams. Decked out with ochre-tinted walls and stuffed with delicious organic fare, the Day Lily Café is everything Rosalie could have hoped for. But not five minutes into the grand opening, Doris Bird, a dear and trusted friend, cashes in on a favor–to help clear her little sister Lori of a first degree murder charge.

With the help of her best friend and head waiter Glenn, Rosalie is on the case. But it’s not going to be easy. Unlikable and provocative, murder victim Carl James Fiddler seems to have insulted nearly everyone in town, and the suspect list grows daily. And when Rosalie’s daughter Annie gets caught in the crossfire, the search for the killer becomes personal in this charming cozy perfect for fans of Diane Mott Davidson and Joanne Fluke.

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Meet the author
Wendy Sand Eckel is the author of the Rosalie Hart mystery series set on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Murder at Barclay Meadow, the first in the series, was published by Minotaur Books in July, 2015. Death at the Day Lily Café was released by Minotaur on July 26, 2016. A member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the International Association of Crime Writers, she has degrees in criminology and social work and a passion for words and their nuanced meanings. Find out more at wendysandeckelauthor.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a signed copy of Death at the Day Lily Café plus a Day Lily Café coffee mug. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end August 30, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!

A Day in The Life of Bertie Bigelow by Carolyn Wilkins

Melody for MurderMy name is Bertie Bigelow, and I am the choir director at Metro Community College. The school where I teach is located in an African-American neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. I wear designer suits to work, keep my attitude professional, and try not to badmouth people – even when I know they deserve it. I’m determined to show my students that someone who grew up in the ‘hood can actually amount to something.

I am a curious person by nature – one of those dogged types that, when confronted with a problem, can’t rest until they’ve gotten to the heart of the matter. My late husband, Delroy Bigelow, used to joke that I was part Earth Mother, part Diva and part Bloodhound. My husband was a brilliant lawyer. So smart that here on the South Side, folks used to call him the “black Perry Mason.” Since Delroy died in a car crash last year, I’ve cried myself to sleep nearly every night.

My boss, Chancellor Humbert X. Grant, wants to fire me because my best student cussed out a prominent Chicago politician in the middle of last week’s Christmas concert. Why my student did this, I have no idea. But you’d best believe I intend to get to the bottom of it.

I’ve been pretty upset lately. My friend Ellen Simpson tells me I need to forget my troubles. As it happens, I’ve been invited to a fancy dress ball given by one of black Chicago’s fanciest social clubs. The man who’s invited me to go is nearly twice my age, an inveterate snob and a pompous bore. Still, Ellen thinks I should go.

“Get out and kick up your heels,” she tells me. “So what if he wears the ugliest toupee in the city? A date is a date.”

I suppose she’s right. I’ve got to start going out sooner or later. Anyway, what could possibly go wrong?


Melody For Murder is the first book in the Bertie Bigelow mystery series, published by Pen-L Publishing, June 2015.

When recently widowed college choir director Bertie Bigelow accepts a date with Judge Theophilous Green, she never imagines the civil rights pioneer and inveterate snob will be found shot to death the next morning. She’s even more surprised when her favorite student is arrested for the crime.

Bertie suspects that someone else in her tight-knit social circle is really the killer.

Is it hot-tempered Patrice Soule, voluptuous diva and recent winner of the Illinois Idol contest? Is it Charley Howard, the Hot Sauce King, a self-made millionaire with Mafia connections? Is it the mysterious Dr. Momolu Taylor? Newly arrived from Africa, he’s invented a new sex drug that’s got some powerful politicians feeling frisky. Could it be Alderman “Steady Freddy” Clark, corrupt South Side ward boss and would-be patron of the arts?

One thing is certain: Bertie Bigelow will need to keep her wits about her to avoid becoming the killer’s next victim.

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Meet the author
Carolyn Wilkins is a Professor of Ensembles at Berklee College of Music. She is the author of Melody For Murder, the first in a series of murder mysteries featuring Bertie Bigelow, an African American choir director on the South Side of Chicago. Mojo For Murder, the next book in this series, will be released by Pen-L Publishing in the fall of 2016.

Carolyn is also the author of They Raised Me Up: A Black Single Mother and the Women Who Inspired Her and Damn Near White: An African American Family’s Rise from Slavery to Bittersweet Success. Both books are available from the University of Missouri Press.

In addition, Carolyn is an accomplished jazz pianist, composer and vocalist whose performance experience includes radio and television appearances with her group SpiritJazz, a concert tour of South America as a Jazz Ambassador for the US State Department, performances with the Pittsburgh Symphony as a percussionist under Andre Previn, and shows featuring Melba Moore, Nancy Wilson and the Fifth Dimension.

For further information, visit Carolyn’s website: carolynwilkins.com, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Carolyn is giving away one paperback book (US entries only, please) and one free download (open to everyone) of Melody to Murder to two lucky readers who write in and comment on this post. The giveaway will end August 29, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!