A day at sea with Jules Capshaw by Ellie Alexander

If it weren’t for my very persistent and equally charming husband, Carlos, I would have been safe and sound in my hometown of Ashland, Oregon whipping up batches of decadent cakes and cookies in preparation for the new season of the Shakespeare festival. Instead I was packing my bags and getting ready to set sail for a week in the tropics.

My training as a pastry chef had taken place on the azure waters of the Caribbean where I had mastered the art of making a perfect macaron and expanded my palate at each port of call. However, it had been almost a year since I had left the Amour of the Seas, Carlos, and my vagabond lifestyle behind. Nerves welled in my stomach at the thought of returning to the ship. I might have chickened out and said no when Carlos called and begged to come fill in temporarily—apparently, the ship’s pastry chef had left in a huff—except that he sweetened his offer by inviting Mom and her paramour the Professor to come along. Mom’s eyes had brightened at the mention of sandy beaches and sunny skies.
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A day in the life of Mel Turner, Historic Home Renovator by Juliet Blackwell

Most days I grab my coffee with own hand and my toolbox with the other, call for my big brown dog, and head into San Francisco to work on some great old Victorian house. But lately, I’ve taken on a new challenge: restoring a historic lighthouse located on a tiny, secluded island in the Bay.

I couldn’t say no. I run a construction crew, and while I adore bringing all historic structures back to life — I’ve been accused of finding charm in even the most dubious, dilapidated hovels– Victorians are my clear favorite. My friend Alicia wants to transform the building into a cozy inn. And this is a lighthouse.

What is it about lighthouses. . .? They carry such a sense of romance and yearning; the wild natural setting, the solitude of the keeper’s life, the promise of safety for passing sailors. This particular lighthouse had been slowly crumbling ever since I was a kid; we used to pass over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and my dad would look over at the island and say: “Someone really ought to fix that place up.”

Little did I know that one day, that “someone” would be me.

One problem: I seem to have developed a teensy issue with heights since my last adventure, during which I fought for my life while rolling around on a steep roof, barely escaping being dashed against a Pacific Heights sidewalk several stories below. So there’s that.

My friend Luz has been pushing me to try acupuncture, since acrophobia isn’t something that meshes well with my current job. After all, I climb ladders and crawl around roofs for a living. And now that I’m supposed to be working on a lighthouse. . .well, I haven’t exactly managed to climb the light tower yet. Which isn’t very professional of me.

Also. . .it seems that there may be a ghost up in that tower. (Wasn’t a ghost practically guaranteed, given that this is a lighthouse?) The apparently angry spirit seems to be searching for a very young boy lost many, many years ago. Also, there appear to be folks looking for buried treasure hidden somewhere on the island, and when Alicia’s violent ex-husband shows up “just to say hi”, we know we’re in trouble.

To finish this Lighthouse Inn project on time and on budget –not to mention appeasing the resident ghost and solving a murder– I’ll have to figure it all out. Good thing I’ve got Dog at my side.


You can read more about Mel in Ghostly Light, the seventh book in the “Haunted Home Renovation” mystery series.

In the latest mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Give Up the Ghost, it will take a beacon of ghostly intervention to guide contractor Mel Turner to the truth. . .

Dangerous tides ahead. . .

When her friend Alicia hires Turner Construction to renovate a historic lighthouse in the San Francisco Bay, Mel Turner can’t wait to get her hands dirty. Alicia plans to transform the island property into a welcoming inn, and while Mel has never attempted a project so ambitious—or so tall—before, she’s definitely up for the challenge.

But trouble soon arises when Alicia’s abusive ex-husband shows up to threaten both her and Mel, and later turns up dead at the base of the lighthouse stairs. With no other suspects in sight, things start looking choppy for Alicia. Now, if Mel wants to clear her friend’s name, she’ll need the help of the lighthouse’s resident ghosts to shine a light on the real culprit. . .

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About the author
Juliet Blackwell is the New York Times bestselling author of the Witchcraft Mystery series and the Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series. 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 also writes standalone novels, including The Paris Key and Letters from Paris. A former anthropologist, social worker, and faux finisher, Juliet has worked in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France.

Visit her at www.julietblackwell.net and join her on Facebook and on Twitter at @JulietBlackwell.

All comments are welcomed.

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A day in the life of Sophie Vera Kimball by J.C. Eaton

I will never, and I repeat never, move to a retirement community when I turn sixty-five. If I have to live in one of those God-awful tiny houses or a cramped apartment building with college frat boys, I’ll gladly do it rather than find myself in a place obsessed with aging. After spending a week and a half in Sun City West, Arizona, observing how my mother and her friends enjoy their “Golden Years,” it’s a wonder I can think straight. And it’s not because of the heat!

Words that barely crossed my vocabulary were suddenly part of my conversation. Words like stool softeners and compression hose. I couldn’t wait to get on the next plane back to Mankato, Minnesota, only I came out here for a reason and like all good daughters, I intended to keep the promise I had made to my mother – solve the book curse that’s killing off her friends. You heard right, a book curse.

My mother and her close-knit group of book club friends were convinced a book curse was wiping out the population and she wanted me to figure out what was going on. Granted, I worked for the accounts receivable department at the Mankato Police Department, but she figured something must’ve rubbed off on me. I hated to break it to her, but she was wrong.

Every day was a wild goose chase. A half-baked clue, a piece of gossip that needed to be tracked down or some bizarre scheme my mother came up with because she thought it would bring us closer to finding out what was really happening in her usually quiet and enjoyable community. I hated to admit it but I began to dread the mornings.

First of all, I had to sneak into the kitchen for a cup of coffee so I wouldn’t wake up Streetman, her neurotic chiweenie dog. He apparently was grouchy in the mornings and didn’t like being disturbed. (Like who does?) Then, the coffee. In an effort to be frugal, my mother managed to purchase brands of coffee that no one ever heard of. As if that wasn’t bad enough, her refrigerator consisted of cottage cheese, pineapple chunks and unrecognizable things that “were still good to eat.”

Usually, I forfeited breakfast and drove to the nearest diner for sustenance before tackling whatever obscure task she had on the docket for me that day. Today I’m off to the dog park because Cindy Dolton, the “eyes and ears” of the community, will be there at six a.m. Why the heck she couldn’t see or hear anything at a reasonable hour was beyond me. Then, I’ll make a note of anything that might be of help in my so-called investigation.

From there, I’ll grab a bite to eat at my mother’s favorite place – Bagels ‘N More, located across the road from the main entrance to her community. I’ll try to act nonchalant as I hone in on the chatter to see if anyone so much as drops a hint as to why four ladies died under mysterious circumstances.

Next, I’ll find a way to engage Herb Garrett, my mother’s snoopy neighbor, and a regular lothario, in a conversation to see what he knows. Apparently his pinochle crew can give the FBI a run for their money when it comes to information gathering.

I’ll round up the day putting the clues together and sharing them with my mother. So far, I’ve got a wall chart with information that rivals the ones they use on Criminal Minds and Castle. I only hope I can get the darned thing solved before I actually reach the age where I’ll have to live here. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy fabulous Mexican food, free local entertainment and year-round swimming. Hey, maybe retiring out here won’t be that bad after all.

Sophie (Phee) Kimball, amateur sleuth


You can read more about Sophie in Booked 4 Murder, the first book in the NEW “Sophie Kimball” mystery series.

Never judge a book by its cover. . .

Sophie “Phee” Kimball is not a cop. She’s a divorced, middle-aged mom who works as an account clerk for the police department in a small city in Minnesota. But her retired mother, Harriet Plunkett, is convinced Phee is the only one who can solve the mystery of a cursed book. According to Harriet, four members of her book club have already succumbed to the deadly curse. Harriet insists Phee catch the next plane to her retirement community in Sun City West, Arizona, to investigate.

Is her mother just bored and lonely? She does have a new pet—a long-haired chiweenie (half Chihuahua, half Dachshund)—for company and a host of pals (although that number is admittedly dwindling). Phee is certain that their book club selection isn’t cursed, but is somebody really knocking off the ladies? As Phee starts to uncover dark secrets hidden in plain sight under the blazing Arizona sun, she’ll need to read between the lines before it’s someone else’s final chapter. . .

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Meet the author
New York native Ann I. Goldfarb spent most of her life in education, first as a classroom teacher and later as a middle school principal and professional staff developer. Writing as J. C. Eaton, along with her husband, James Clapp, she has authored the Sophie Kimball Mysteries (Kensington) set for release in June 2017. In addition, Ann has nine published YA time travel mysteries under her own name. Visit the websites at: www.jceatonauthor.com and www.timetravelmysteries.com

When James E. Clapp retired as the tasting room manager for a large upstate New York winery, he never imagined he’d be co-authoring cozy mysteries with his wife, Ann I. Goldfarb. His first novel, Booked 4 Murder (Kensington) is set for release in June 2017. Non-fiction in the form of informational brochures and workshop materials treating the winery industry were his forte along with an extensive background and experience in construction that started with his service in the U.S. Navy and included vocational school classroom teaching. Visit the website at www.jceatonauthor.com

All comments are welcomed.

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A day in the life of Liz Talbot by Susan M. Boyer

ONE

The dead are not much given to hysteria. The morning Tammy Sue Lyerly piled her husband’s clothes into his Raven Black 1969 Mustang convertible and lit a match, my friend Colleen stayed oddly nonchalant. She’d been dead eighteen years and had seen a thing or two.

For her part, Tammy Sue was pitching an F5 hissy fit. She dug all ten fingers into her 1980s pile of long red hair, clutched her head, and bellowed, “Let it burn.”

Four Stella Maris volunteer firemen cast her worried looks but went about the business of hooking up the hose to the fire hydrant. We stood in a loose huddle a safe distance from the burning car in the Lyerly driveway.

“I asked you what you were doing here,” said Blake. My brother, Blake, was the Stella Maris Police Chief. My husband, Nate, and I were private investigators, and Blake purely hated it when we meddled in his business.

“I called her,” said Daddy. “I overheard at the flea market that your sister’d done some work for Tammy Sue recently. Thought maybe she’d want to know.” Daddy shrugged, looked innocent. Mamma and Daddy lived across the street from the Lyerlys, so naturally Daddy was first on the scene. Mamma had come with him. She raised an eyebrow to let him know she had his number. It wasn’t yet eight o’clock. Daddy sipped coffee from a large insulated stainless steel travel mug, all nonchalant like.

“For cryin’ out loud, Dad. We don’t need the whole town out here this morning.” Blake gave his head a shake. He scanned the neighborhood we’d grown up in. Folks gathered in clumps under the shade of massive live oaks in bordering yards. They’d all come out to see the show. The audience was growing fast. It was early on a Tuesday in the middle of June. Some of those folks were missing work. Blake lifted his Red Sox cap, ran a hand through his hair, and resettled the cap.

Tammy Sue grabbed my arm with one hand and clutched her chest dramatically with the other. “Well, I want her here, and you don’t have a single thing to say about it. This is my property.” “Yours and Zeke’s.” Blake kept his tone easy, casual. “Where did you say Zeke was again?”

“He’s with that cheap hussy, Crystal Chapman.” Tammy’s eyes glowed with crazy. She leaned forward and hurled the words at Blake. “And he’d better by God not come home unless he wants me to light his ass on fire too.”

A particularly flammable piece of clothing caught fire in a whoosh. The flames climbed, crackled, and popped. Blake closed his eyes.

“I just don’t see Zeke Lyerly being worth all this fuss, do you?” Colleen’s expression telegraphed her boredom. It was a slow morning otherwise on the island. Colleen was our guardian spirit. If she’d had anything better to do, she would’ve been elsewhere—she wanted that on the record.

I raised my brows and blew out a breath. Nate and I had worked a great many domestic cases. One thing I knew for sure: When love soured, it could turn sane people into raving lunatics. Colleen said, “Everyone thinks he’s so good looking. I don’t see it.”

“Seriously?” I squinched my face. Zeke was a fine example of the Southern male. I’d give him that much, and I was happily married and didn’t generally notice such things. Tall and lanky, with sun-kissed brown hair cut close to keep it from curling, mischievous blue eyes, an easy, movie-star smile, and a down-home drawl, Zeke was prone to flirt. He was a charmer. Nate quirked an eyebrow. A grin teased the corners of his mouth.

Damnation. I’d responded to Colleen out loud. No one but Nate and me could see or hear Colleen. I used to be her only human point of contact. But as soon as Nate and I were married in December, he was added to the family plan.

A wayward lock of dark blond hair brushed his forehead. His eyes were shockingly blue against his tanned, sculpted face. He kept his honeyed drawl low, where only I could hear. “We should never’ve given Tammy Sue those pictures.”

I cast him a look that said, Give me a break. We’d had no choice in the matter. Tammy Sue hired us to find out if Zeke was cheating. In my heart I just knew we’d find some crazy Zeke thing— he was a certifiable character, no doubt. But I would’ve bet he was true to Tammy Sue and our investigation would prove that, just like the last time she’d hired us. Unfortunately, I would’ve lost that bet.


You can read more about Liz in Lowcountry Bonfire, the sixth book in the “Liz Talbot” mystery series.

Private Investigators Liz Talbot and Nate Andrews have worked their share of domestic cases. So when Tammy Sue Lyerly hires them to find out what her husband is hiding, they expect to find something looney but harmless. After all, this is the guy who claims to have been a DEA agent, a champion bull rider, and a NASCAR driver. But when he turns up dead the morning after Liz and Nate deliver the incriminating photos, Tammy is the prime suspect.

Questioning the truth of Zeke Lyerly’s tall-tales, Liz and Nate race to uncover small town scandals, long buried secrets, and the victim’s tumultuous past to keep Tammy Sue out of jail and the case from going up in flames.

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About the author
Susan M. Boyer writes the USA TODAY Bestselling Liz Talbot mystery series. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and garnered several other awards and nominations. Lowcountry Bonfire, the sixth Liz Talbot mystery, will be out June 27. Susan loves beaches, Southern food, and small towns where everyone knows everyone and everyone has crazy relatives. You’ll find all of the above in her novels. Reach out to Susan at susanmboyer.com.

All comments are welcomed.

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A day in the life of Claire Conover by Margaret Fenton

Hi! My name is Claire Conover and I’m a child welfare social worker at the Department of Human Services (DHS) in Birmingham, Alabama. I’m thirty years old and I’ve been doing this job—longer than I can remember. Most days are pretty routine. I do the initial investigations when a call comes in about a child in danger. I visit the child, assess the situation, get them medical help and shelter if needed. It sounds more horrific then it really is. I get to work with a lot of wonderful children. It’s a state job, so there is more paperwork than anyone should have to do, ever, and that takes up a lot of my time. That, and court appearances for reviews.

Some days aren’t as routine. I remember I had this one case last summer. The child’s name was Michael Hennessy and he was not quite two. He was poisoned. The cops were a hundred percent sure that his mother had killed him but I knew that couldn’t be true. Ashley had gotten herself clean and worked two jobs to get her son back after DHS removed him. She loved him more than anything. Seeing her behind bars was tough, so I had to figure out what happened. That turned into a big mess that didn’t get me in good favor with my bosses, either.

And last September I had a case that kept me frantic. The police picked up a girl who was sleeping behind a grocery store. I picked her up and got her into foster care, and then she disappeared. Her mother turned up murdered, so I had to find her and figure out what was going on.

In the midst of all this I try to have a life. I’m very close to my father, Christopher, who is a therapist here. He was a Freedom Rider back in the sixties and he’s an advocate for anything that needs advocating for—anti-war, the environment, racial equality, you get the idea. I have a boyfriend, Grant Summerville, who I met while investigating Michael’s death. It’s a new relationship and we are feeling our way through it. Then there’s Kirk Mahoney. He’s a reporter that just about drove me over the edge in the Hennessy case. He always seems to be around when I don’t need him. But boy, he’s smokin’ hot.

My cases are being turned into books that I hope you will check out and enjoy. I’d like to thank Dru Ann for letting me introduce myself today. She’s amazing and it’s been fun!


You can read more about Claire in Little Girl Gone, the second book in the “Claire Conover” mystery series.

Claire Conover is back in the sequel to Little Lamb Lost. She has taken a 13-year-old girl into custody after she is found sleeping behind a grocery store. The girl’s murdered mother is found at a construction site owned by a family friend, then the girl disappears. Her mother worked in an illegal gambling industry in Birmingham. Things only get more complicated from there. Is it possible the girl pulled the trigger? She doesn’t have a lot of street smarts, so where could she have run? Claire has to find the answers, and the girl, fast.

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Meet the author
Margaret Fenton grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and moved to Birmingham in 1996. She received her B.A. in English from the Newcomb College of Tulane University, and her Master of Social Work from Tulane. Fenton spent nearly ten years as a child and family therapist before taking a break to focus on her writing. Her work tends to reflect her interest in social causes and mental health, especially where kids are concerned. She serves as planning coordinator of Murder in the Magic City, a one-day, one-track annual mystery fan conference in Homewood, Alabama. She is President of the Birmingham Chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of the Mystery Writers of America. Margaret lives in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover with her husband, a software developer.

All comments are welcomed.

My Musing ~ Come High Water by Susan McBride

Come Helen High Water by Susan McBride is the fourth book in the “River Road” mystery series. Publisher: Witness Impulse, coming June 27, 2017

Spring has sprung, the river is rising, and when Luann Dupree, the head of River Bend’s Historical Society, vanishes into the night, everyone in town is convinced she’s run off with her Internet Romeo. But her lifelong friend, Sarah Biddle, is convinced Luann is the victim of foul play. No one believes her—not even her husband, the local sheriff, so she turns to Helen Evans for help.

As River Bend’s resident puzzle-solver, Helen’s tackled many a local mystery before. So she agrees to help Sarah, even though she’s not so sure herself that Luann is really in trouble. But as the town’s flood waters slowly recede, dead fish and muck aren’t the only things Helen finds. She begins to uncover town secrets, false identities. . .and the very real chance that Luann might not be discovered alive. . .

With an approaching flood on the rise, Helen is on the case when a woman goes missing and a neighbor’s husband is later found dead, perhaps murdered. Who is behind these two incidents? Well step inside Come Helen High Water and you’ll find a story filled with suspense, intrigue, trepidation and heartbreak as Helen looks for answers. The author did a great job in telling this story with visually descriptive narrative that pulled me in immediately from the impending flood, to Bernie who suffers from Alzheimer, to the happenings at the Historical Society, and to that surprising double twist at the end. This was a well-written drama and a terrific story in a series I enjoy reading.

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

My Musing ~ Lowcountry Bonfire by Susan M. Boyer

Lowcountry Bonfire by Susan M. Boyer is the sixth book in the “Liz Talbot” mystery series. Publisher: Henery Press, coming June 27, 2017

Private Investigators Liz Talbot and Nate Andrews have worked their share of domestic cases. So when Tammy Sue Lyerly hires them to find out what her husband is hiding, they expect to find something looney but harmless. After all, this is the guy who claims to have been a DEA agent, a champion bull rider, and a NASCAR driver. But when he turns up dead the morning after Liz and Nate deliver the incriminating photos, Tammy is the prime suspect.

Questioning the truth of Zeke Lyerly’s tall-tales, Liz and Nate race to uncover small town scandals, long buried secrets, and the victim’s tumultuous past to keep Tammy Sue out of jail and the case from going up in flames.

This is one of my favorite series and whenever I read the latest book, it feels like homecoming has arrived. Liz and Nate investigates a murder and with each step forward, their suspect list grows and it’s their tenacity that leads them to a killer.

The author has a way with the narrative that wrapped me up in a cocoon filled with southern charm and mayhem. Any book that makes me feel what the characters feel is a testament to the author’s ability to pull me in and create long-lasting moments to cherish.

The pacing fits the tempo of this enticingly intriguing tale where the mystery was executed nicely, keeping me in the throes of what was happening with the residents of Stella Maris, especially that tense moment when I couldn’t read fast enough to learn the outcome of the incident involving one of the duo. As always, I enjoy time spent with Liz’s parents who light up any scene they are featured in.

Boasting a superb cast of characters, engaging dialogue and a small-town atmosphere, this was one of the best book in this wonderfully endearing series.

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

My Musing ~ Murder at the Puppy Fest by Laurien Berenson

Murder at the Puppy Fest by Laurien Berenson is the 20th book in the “Melanie Travis” mystery series. Publisher: Kensington, coming June 27, 2017

Frolicking with dogs is Melanie Travis’s idea of heaven. So when she’s invited to be a “puppy wrangler” at a benefit for a local dog rescue, the last thing she expects is to be chasing after a tricky killer.

As a busy mom and pedigree Poodle owner, Melanie has little time to spare. Still, she doesn’t mind helping out at Puppy Fest, an annual fundraiser to benefit Puppy Posse, a local dog rescue organization. Considering the venue–Belle Haven mansion, owned by wealthy philanthropist Leo Brody–it’s shaping up to be the can’t-miss charity event of the summer. Unfortunately, when Melanie’s breeding background lands her in the doghouse with Jane, Leo’s snappy daughter who runs the rescue, Melanie finds herself simultaneously managing Puppy Fest and the millionaire’s hopelessly fractious family.

But once Puppy Fest kicks off, Leo is nowhere to be found–until Melanie discovers his current mistress crouching over his dead body. According to police, the father of nine’s severe nut allergy went into overdrive after he accidentally consumed a contaminated cookie. However, Libby, one of Leo’s children and a friend of Melanie’s Aunt Peg, believes someone deliberately put him down for good. And now, she’s begging a reluctant Melanie to unearth the secrets hidden by the Brody pack. But the closer Melanie gets to fetching answers, the higher the stakes become–and the more she realizes that she’s chasing a criminal who’s been groomed to win.

I always like my annual visit with Melanie and her friends and family. Murder is afoot and Melanie finds herself once again involved and it’s her interactions with humans and our furry friends that makes this book a delight to read.

I love the comfortable tone and the evenly paced tempo of this whodunit that grabbed my attention with the first sighting of “Bud.” The author did a great job in delivering a well-written mystery with plenty of suspects and enough clues to keep me glued to the pages as I had to know what happens next. The narrative was visually descriptive, putting me in the middle of all the action and I liked that when I thought I had a handle on the person behind the murder, the author changed the direction with some twists and turns, all to the betterment of this captivating story. I enjoyed my time with this story and look forward to the next one is this wonderfully appealing series.

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

My Musing ~ Booked 4 Murder by J.C. Eaton

Booked 4 Murder by J.C. Eaton is the first book in the NEW “Sophie Kimball” mystery series. Publisher: Kensington, coming June 27, 2017

Never judge a book by its cover. . .

Sophie “Phee” Kimball is not a cop. She’s a divorced, middle-aged mom who works as an account clerk for the police department in a small city in Minnesota. But her retired mother, Harriet Plunkett, is convinced Phee is the only one who can solve the mystery of a cursed book. According to Harriet, four members of her book club have already succumbed to the deadly curse. Harriet insists Phee catch the next plane to her retirement community in Sun City West, Arizona, to investigate.

Is her mother just bored and lonely? She does have a new pet—a long-haired chiweenie (half Chihuahua, half Dachshund)—for company and a host of pals (although that number is admittedly dwindling). Phee is certain that their book club selection isn’t cursed, but is somebody really knocking off the ladies? As Phee starts to uncover dark secrets hidden in plain sight under the blazing Arizona sun, she’ll need to read between the lines before it’s someone else’s final chapter. . .

This was such a fun book that I devoured all that was happening in a few sittings. I like the writing style of this book and the comfortable tone that made it easy and enjoyable read. The pacing set the tone to how well this whodunit was executed with narrative that was visually descriptive putting me in the middle of all the action. The mystery was staged perfectly giving me enough clues to follow and it was fun watch it all play out with the suspects until there was only one person left standing. . .the killer. I loved the camaraderie and interactions between Phee and her mother which amused me dearly. Boasting a wonderful cast of characters, engaging dialogue and a small town atmosphere, this was a delightfully charming addition to the cozy genre and I look forward to more exciting times with Phee and her friends.

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FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the publisher.