Kentucky Bound with Melanie Travis by Laurien Berenson

Live and Let GrowlIt all started when I had a dream about a horse.

Next thing I knew Aunt Peg was meddling in my life again and I was on my way to Kentucky: home of bluegrass, bourbon, and Thoroughbred horses. You’re probably wondering what any of that has to do with Standard Poodles. Frankly so was I.

My Aunt Peg is an expert on all things canine and dog shows are her favorite milieu. Her involvement with the Poodle breed is her life’s work. So this sudden detour into the world of horse breeding—prompted by an unexpected bequest from an old friend–came as a surprise.

According to Aunt Peg, the make and shape of a useful animal can be recognized by an educated eye even across different species. She says that it’s all about balance and proportion, and the animal’s ability to do the job for which it was bred. I say that Standard Poodles are as different from Thoroughbreds as chalk is to cheese.

horse1If you’ve met Aunt Peg before, you can probably guess who won that argument. So here we are in Kentucky. We’ll be spending half the week at the Kentuckiana dog show cluster in Louisville and the other half checking out Thoroughbred farms in Lexington.

Our local advisor for this unlikely endeavor is Ellie Gates Wanamaker. Miss Ellie is a former Poodle breeder and another old friend of Aunt Peg’s. She also enjoys the privilege of being a member of one of Kentucky’s finest blue blood families. Miss Ellie has promised to help us make good connections in the Thoroughbred industry. With her guidance, Aunt Peg hopes to steer clear of the pitfalls that newcomers to the world of horseracing have been known to fall prey to.

It all seemed like an excellent plan until Miss Ellie turned up dead.

Nobody was surprised–least of all me–when Aunt Peg decided that we couldn’t leave Kentucky until we knew what caused her old friend’s demise. But since Peg is busy judging at the dog show cluster it looks as though that chore is going to fall to me.

horse2Fortunately, I find that I’m developing a taste for good bourbon and fast horses. I’m also discovering that Kentucky is a very different world than the one I’m used to. Miss Ellie warned Aunt Peg and me to be careful and she wasn’t kidding. The dog show world can be cut-throat but it’s a ray of sunshine compared to what these horse people get up to when they think no one is looking.

Live and Let Growl is the 19th book in the Melanie Travis mystery series, published by Kensington, July 2016.

When her Aunt Peg lands a gig as judge at a Kentucky dog show, Melanie Travis welcomes the opportunity for a road trip. Too bad a killer has planned a deadly detour . . .

For a dog lover like Melanie, the opportunity to attend the Kentuckiana Dog Show Cluster is not to be missed. Fortunately, the timing coincides with her spring break from teaching, so she heads for central Kentucky with her sister-in-law Bertie and Aunt Peg, who’s accepted a week-long judging assignment. Once there, Aunt Peg reconnects with an old friend, Ellie Gates Wanamaker, a former Standard Poodle exhibitor and a member of a well-heeled Kentucky family. Miss Ellie has been out of the dog show world for more than a decade, but when Melanie invites her to spectate at the Louisville Kennel Club dog show, she’s eager to accompany her.

Miss Ellie’s presence at the expo center, however, provokes mixed reactions from exhibitors she hasn’t seen in years, including some outright animosity. The following day Melanie learns that Miss Ellie has suffered a fatal accident while exercising her dogs. Aunt Peg, however, suspects foul play. Wishing to avoid any scandal, Miss Ellie’s pedigreed family prefers to let sleeping dogs lie, but as Melanie begins to sniff around, she discovers Miss Ellie had many secrets, both in the dog show world and amongst her Kentucky kin . . .

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About the author
Laurien Berenson is the author of thirty novels that have sold more than two million copies worldwide. Her cozy mystery series revolves around the world of dog shows, a milieu she knows well as her family has been involved in the sport of dogs for three generations. There are currently nineteen Melanie Travis canine mysteries including the newest book, Live and Let Growl.

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

Find her at and on Facebook.

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

All comments are welcomed.

A Bad Day in the Life of Liss MacCrimmon Ruskin by Kaitlyn Dunnett

Kilt at the Highland GamesMy name is Liss MacCrimmon Ruskin and I own and operate Moosetookalook Scottish Emporium in Moosetookalook, Maine. The view through my shop window is of our pretty little town square with its winding paths lined with flowers, its lovely old shade trees, and its gazebo, playground, and monument to the Civil War dead. Unfortunately, I can also see beyond it to where Angie’s Books once stood. Yellow police tape surrounds the remains of the building because the fire that destroyed it was deliberately set. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Angie Hogencamp and her two children have been missing since the night of the fire.

They weren’t inside. We know that much. We just don’t have a clue where they are now.

The fire and the fact that three people are missing are the two worst things to happen in what is ordinarily a quiet little village in the Western mountains of Maine, but it looks as if our troubles aren’t yet over. Last night someone vandalized our local post office, breaking the windows and climbing inside to scatter letters and packages hither and yon. All the shopkeepers around the town square are nervous today, wondering if this was a one-time incident or if there are more troubles to come. The local chief of police, my good friend Sherri Campbell, says it was most likely teenagers on a spree, but I know most of the local kids, including my cousin Boxer and Angie’s daughter, Beth, and such behavior seems way out of character for them. Oh, yes, I know that kids that age tend to experiment with drugs and overindulge in alcohol, but why on earth would they vandalize the post office? That just doesn’t make sense.

The only upside to all these bad things happening is that it puts in perspective the petty annoyances that otherwise might prey on my mind. Case in point? Angus Grant. He’s a customer here at the Emporium, if I use that term in its broadest sense. His wife bought something the first time they came in. But today he was back, alone, and once again he seemed determined to find fault with everything in sight. He’s one of those sticklers who think there’s only one way to do things—his way. Or, in this case, the way they do it (in his opinion) in Scotland. I’m guilty of everything from misspelling skean dhu (the little knife Scots wear tucked into the top of their hose) to allowing women to buy kilts. Women, according to this old-fashioned sexist, should only wear tartan skirts and sashes, reserving kilts for the menfolk.

The customer is always right, right? I smiled my patented shopkeeper’s smile and kept my temper and eventually Mr. Grant of Clan Grant went away. Unfortunately, he’ll be back. You see, the annual Western Maine Highland Games is this coming weekend and I’ll have a booth at the festival. Since it will be held on the grounds of The Spruces, the hotel on the outskirts of Moosetookalook, and Mr. Grant is a guest there, it’s inevitable that I’m going to run into him again. I just hope I see him coming in time to brace myself and paste that smile on my face, because if Angie and the kids are still unaccounted for by the weekend, I’m not going to be in much of a mood to tolerate more rudeness.

On the other hand, perhaps by then the missing will have been found. I like to think I’m an optimist, even on a very bad day like this one, and Sherri has plenty of help looking for Angie and the kids. In addition to the state police and the county sheriff’s department, there’s Dolores Mayfield, our town librarian, who has resources you would not believe. There’s also Jake Murch, the P. I. I asked to give us a hand. And not to sound conceited or anything, but I’m not such a bad amateur detective myself.

Kilt at the Highland Games is the tenth book in the Liss MacCrimmon mystery series, published by Kensington, July 2016.

It’s July in Moosetookalook, Maine, and Scottish Emporium proprietress Liss MacCrimmon Ruskin is prepping her wares for the annual Celtic heritage festival. But as a sinister crime wave washes over the quiet town, this year’s celebration might prove a wee bit more eventful–and deadly–than tartan and bagpipes . . .

When a fire ravages the local bookstore late one evening, Liss immediately fears the worst for owner Angie Hogencamp and the two young children who live above the shop. After the terrible blaze dies down, however, the family is nowhere to be found among the ruins. It’s as if the three just vanished into smoke. Or even stranger–like they never existed at all.

Disturbed by Angie’s disappearance and suspecting arson, Liss counts on the weekend-long Western Maine Highland Games–complete with a parade and fireworks display–to offer a temporary distraction from the countless questions filling her head. But when the sound of a gunshot leads Liss to selectman Jason Graye’s dead body on opening day, she’s drawn into a full-blown homicide investigation like a moth to a flame.

Is Moosetookalook suffering from a streak of bad luck, or are the two grim incidents connected? Unable to shake the notion that new victims are being targeted around town–and despite her worried husband’s best protests–Liss races to nab the killer. And with her own life on the line, she’ll need to act swiftly. Because when it comes to this kind of game, somebody has to lose . . .

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About the author
Kaitlyn Dunnett (aka Kathy Lynn Emerson) is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (Kilt at the Highland Games ~ July 2016) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in the Merchant’s Hall) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. Her websites are and

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win an autographed copy of Kilt at the Highland Games. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end July 31, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!

All comments are welcomed.

My Musing ~ Live and Let Growl by Laurien Berenson

Live and Let Growl by Laurien Berenson is the 19th book in the “Melanie Travis” mystery series. Publisher: Kensington, July 2016

Live and Let GrowlWhen her Aunt Peg lands a gig as judge at a Kentucky dog show, Melanie Travis welcomes the opportunity for a road trip. Too bad a killer has planned a deadly detour…

For a dog lover like Melanie, the opportunity to attend the Kentuckiana Dog Show Cluster is not to be missed. Fortunately, the timing coincides with her spring break from teaching, so she heads for central Kentucky with her sister-in-law Bertie and Aunt Peg, who’s accepted a week-long judging assignment. Once there, Aunt Peg reconnects with an old friend, Ellie Gates Wanamaker, a former Standard Poodle exhibitor and a member of a well-heeled Kentucky family. Miss Ellie has been out of the dog show world for more than a decade, but when Melanie invites her to spectate at the Louisville Kennel Club dog show, she’s eager to accompany her.

Miss Ellie’s presence at the expo center, however, provokes mixed reactions from exhibitors she hasn’t seen in years, including some outright animosity. The following day Melanie learns that Miss Ellie has suffered a fatal accident while exercising her dogs. Aunt Peg, however, suspects foul play. Wishing to avoid any scandal, Miss Ellie’s pedigreed family prefers to let sleeping dogs lie, but as Melanie begins to sniff around, she discovers Miss Ellie had many secrets, both in the dog show world and amongst her Kentucky kin . . .

I always have a good time on my visits with Melanie and her friends and this book does not disappoint. The comfortable tone and the pacing kept me engaged in all facets of this light drama that involved dogs, race horses and murder. The descriptive narrative was nicely done, putting me smack dab in the middle of all the action. The mystery was very light with the focus more on the happenings surrounding the dogs and the race horses. The author did a great job in plotting out this story by providing a good list of suspects and I liked how each character played a pivotal role leading up to the apprehension of the killer. This was an enjoyable read and I can’t wait for the next book in this terrific series.

My Musing ~ Death at the Day Lily Café by Wendy Sand Eckel

Death at the Day Lily Café by Wendy Sand Eckel is the second book in the “Rosalie Hart” mystery series. Publisher: Minotaur Books, July 2016

Death at the Day Lily CaféRosalie 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.

This evenly-paced with a comfortable tone was a joy to read. The author set-up the mystery with multiple mini-plots perfectly keeping me in tuned to all that was going on with the characters and the role they played in the well-written narrative. When a friend asks for her help, Rosalie takes it on and little does she know that the people touching the perimeters of the murder hit a little bit too closely to home and spurs Rosalie on to solve this crime before an innocent person is railroaded. The author did a great job in planting clues with some nice little twists that enhanced the telling of this tale, especially when it became clear to me, the identity of the killer and I liked how the author set that up. Good show. Boasting a lovable and friendly cast of characters, engaging dialogue and a feel-good atmosphere, this was very enjoyable and I can’t wait to read the next book in this delightfully heartwarming series.

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


weekly update
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This past week I went to another book launch at the Mysterious Bookshop. This one was for Wendy Corsi Staub’s new book, Blue Moon, coming out July 26. We were lucky to get a copy before it hits the stands. Wendy She talked about how she prep for the book and was very engaged with the audience. She also gave us a little insight into the third book in the trilogy.

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Coming up on dru’s book musings (7/25 – 7/30)
July 25: Liss MacCrimmon Ruskin by Kaitlyn Dunnett (Liss MacCrimmon)
July 26: Melanie Travis by Laurien Berenson (Melanie Travis)
July 27: Marshmallow McMurphy by Nancy Coco (Candy-Coated)
July 28: Callie Muller by D.E. Haggerty (Death by Cupcake)
July 29: Jenna Hart by Daryl Wood Gerber (Cookbook Nook)
July 30: Franki Amato by Traci Andrighetti (Franki Amato)

“A Most Curious Murder” by Elizabeth Kane Buzelli – Jeanie D.
“As Death Draws Near” by Anna Lee Huber – Christy M.
“The Quirky Quiz Show Caper” by Sally Carpenter – Jessica E.
“A Neighborly Killing” by Nancy Lynn Jarvis – Vida A.
“Read to Death” + cosmetic bag by Terrie Farley Moran – Beverly G.


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 second 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

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

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:

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

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!