Murder on the Orient EspressoIf things had gone as I’d planned during that particular twenty-four hour period, the book chronicling it all would be called Fifty Shades of Sunburn, not Murder on the Orient Espresso.

But then, we don’t always get what we want.

The whole thing started when my main squeeze, Brookhills Sheriff Jake Pavlik, invited me to accompany him to a mystery-writers’ conference in Fort Lauderdale.

As a business owner, I had a decision to make: Should I spend the first weekend of November in my Wisconsin coffeehouse serving up drinks to chilly commuters? Or snuggled in a South Florida hotel room with Pavlik?

“Duh,” as my son Eric would say.

The sheriff would be heading the “Forensic” portion of the conference, teaching aspiring writers about law enforcement and crime scene investigation. I, on the other hand, would have no responsibilities and intended to spend most of my time in the sun doing nothing. When I wasn’t doing Pavlik, of course.

My first clue that the trip wouldn’t be quite what I’d hoped came when we were greeted in the hotel lobby by Pavlik’s “old friend” and conference organizer, Zoe Scarlett. Not only was Zoe unaware that I was accompanying the sheriff, but I got the impression she’d hoped to be the one sharing his room. The organizer and I were circling each other like two wary–and, on my part, weary–tigresses, when Zoe’s assistant arrived to confirm I was, indeed, on the guest list.

The good news was that I’d won the first bout with Zoe. The bad news was that Pavlik and I were expected to immediately board a train for the weekend’s opening event, a re-enactment of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. The excursion into the Florida Everglades was to feature Pavlik as the murder victim and the conference’s two guests of honor–Rosemary Darlington and Laurence Potter–as Mary Debenham and Hercule Poirot.

So much for our first romantic evening in paradise. Or dinner, for that matter.

But the arrival of legendary author Darlington and reviewer Potter managed to cheer me up a bit. The two–who were rumored to have been lovers at one time–seemed to despise each other. Most recently, Potter had eviscerated Darlington’s long-awaited novel, calling it badly written pornography.

Who needs whale-watching, when you have people to observe in their unnatural habitat?

And things only seemed to improve from there. Pavlik and I wouldn’t starve, for one thing. Upon boarding the excursion train, we found a full bar and a cake decorated to look like the murder victim, a lethal-looking serving knife plunged into his frosted heart.

Turning from the bar with an espresso martini, I was so distracted by the fact that Zoe Scarlett had taken my place next to Pavlik, that I didn’t notice the cake knife was missing.

That should have been my second clue.


You can read more about Maggy in Murder on the Orient Espresso, the eighth book in the “Maggy Thorsen” mystery series, published by Severn House. The first book in the series is Uncommon Grounds. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Meet the author
Sandra Balzo is an award-winning author of crime fiction, including ten books in two different mystery series from Severn House–the “Maggy Thorsen Coffeehouse” Mysteries and “Main Street Murders,” set in the High Country of North Carolina. Balzo’s books have garnered starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, while being recommended to readers of Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, Mary Daheim, Joan Hess and Margaret Maron.

Visit Sandra at her website, on Facebook or on Twitter


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