Monthly Archives: September 2015

Death and the Debutante Dropout with Andy Kendricks by Susan McBride

Say Yes to the DeathIt’s been a while since I found myself entangled in murder. The last time it happened was before Brian and I got engaged. . .and before my mother, Dallas society maven Cissy Blevins Kendricks, shoved her show-offy sparkler in my face after her beau proposed as well.

It all started at the wedding of a senator’s daughter, to which I’d been dragged kicking and screaming. Cissy’s fiancé, Stephen, happened to flee—I mean, leave—the city for a golf outing at Augusta the weekend of the suddenly bumped-up nuptials (due to a bump in the senator’s virginal—ahem–daughter’s belly). My gossip-prone mother divulged that the bride was at least four months along, though I was sure the senator would do his best, “oh, the grandbaby came early!” impression during his upcoming run for the Oval Office.

I should have resisted Mother’s begging and pleading, staying home with Brian to watch the Stanley Cup play-offs. Not that I loved hockey, but I definitely didn’t love attending hoity-toity events with Cissy, particularly when she insisted I wear the dress she’d brought from Saks, along with a pair of organ-strangling Spanx. By the time the bride and groom exchanged their vows, I would be truly breathless.

I knew from the moment I ran into the wedding planner—the bully from my prep school days, Olivia La Belle, aka, La Belle from Hell—that disaster was just around the corner. And when I caught Olivia reaming out the cake baker, a lovely woman named Millicent Draper who had baked all my birthday cakes from my first to my Sweet Sixteenth—I felt like strangling Olivia myself. So when I stumbled upon Olivia’s lifeless body, I wasn’t sure whether to feel horror or relief. I had wished her dead so many times while I was growing up. But, back then, I’d imagined her being squashed by a meteorite. I had never envisioned seeing her with blood at her throat. . .and a distraught-looking Millie standing over her with bloody knife in hand.

Maybe I didn’t go through with my deb ball when I was eighteen (something my blue blood mother held over my head to this day). Maybe I wasn’t the perfect daughter she’d hoped I’d be, following in her high-heeled footsteps and graduating from SMU, marrying well, and setting up house in Highland Park. But I was like Cissy in one way: I couldn’t seem to stay out of other people’s business.

So when Millie was hauled to the police station as the primary suspect in Olivia’s murder, I knew I had to get involved. Though Brian jumped in to defend her (and he’s one of the best young criminal attorneys in Big D, so she was in good hands), I knew that no one could dig up the dirt on Olivia La Belle’s sordid life as well as I. She had bullied her way through school and, from the way she mistreated folks on her reality TV show, The Wedding Belle, she was still in the bully business.

If I just turned over a few rocks, I figured I’d find a whole CostCo size can of worms. So that’s what I did. And I don’t regret it. Even after Cissy found out and tried to talk me out of it.

“I know what you’re up to,” she said, her pale blue eyes homing in on mine. “You’re not calling Olivia’s assistant for an appointment because you want her to plan your wedding. You want to pump her for information about Olivia and see if she rats out the perp.”

Dear Lord, she did watch Law & Order re-runs.

“Geez, Mother,” I said, squirming, “what if I just changed my mind and figured you were right about having a professional involved in my wedding?”

“Oh, please, do you think I just fell off the turnip truck?” She sniffed. “Listen here, sweet pea,” she went on, her voice deadly serious, “if you’re gonna play undercover agent with Olivia’s assistant in order to find out who killed her, I’m going with you, and that’s that.”

“Oh, you are so wrong,” I said.

“You’re a bad liar. You always were.” She reached for my arms and held me in a death grip. “Why don’t you just accept my help? There’s a lunatic running around out there, and I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“This is America. There are always lunatics running around,” I said, “just turn on the news or read the paper.” Or look in the mirror, I mused, only half-kidding.

Mother frowned. “I’m not jokin’,” she warned. “You’ve been doing this since grade school, and one of these days it could catch up with you.”

Maybe she was right. I did have a thing for Nancy Drew. But I knew I had to try. I wasn’t about to let kind-hearted Millie go to jail for a murder she didn’t commit. So I asked myself—not for the first time—“What Would Nancy Do?”

And that’s exactly what I did.


GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on Wednesday, October 7 for the chance to win a signed copy of Say Yes to the Death. Two lucky commenters will be randomly selected. (US entries only, please.) Good luck everyone!

About the author
Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling author of Blue Blood and the Debutante Dropout Mysteries. Say Yes to the Death, the sixth installment in the Lefty Award-winning, Anthony Award-nominated series, was released by HarperCollins on September 29. For more on Susan and her books, visit SusanMcBride.com or find her on Facebook.

My Musing ~ Say Yes To The Death by Susan McBride

Say Yes to the DeathSay Yes To The Death by Susan McBride is the sixth book in the “Debutante Dropout” mystery series. Publisher: HarperCollins/Witness

Someone old, someone cruel

Debutante dropout Andrea Kendricks is beyond done with big hair, big gowns, and big egos—so being dragged to a high-society Texas wedding by her socialite mama, Cissy, gives her a bad case of déjà vu. As does running into her old prep-school bully, Olivia La Belle, the wedding planner, who’s graduated to berating people for a living on her reality TV show. But for all the times Andy wished her dead, nobody deserves Olivia’s fate: lying in a pool of blood, a cake knife in her throat—but did the angry baker do it?

Millicent Draper, the grandmotherly owner of Millie’s Cakes, swears she’s innocent, and Andy believes her. Unfortunately, the cops don’t. Though Andy’s fiancé, lawyer Brian Malone, is handling Millie’s case, she’s determined to spring Millie herself. But where to start? “La Belle from Hell” had enemies galore. Good thing Andy has a BFF who’s a reporter— and a blue-blood mother who likes to pull strings.

I like it. This was a fun and enjoyable read that I could not put down as I had to know what happens next. I love the pacing in this story, as it felt like Andy was racing against the clock to prove her friend’s innocence which ratcheted up the mystery that was afoot with intrigued and a bit of conspiracy. The author did a great job in the telling of this tale by providing sufficient suspects with viable motives that kept me following the clues until it was down to the one who could have only done the dastardly deed. I enjoyed getting to know Andy and her friends and I especially love the dialogue and interactions between Andy and Cissy. I love how the conclusion of this book which left us with new and exciting opportunities and I can’t wait to read the next book in this engagingly entertaining series.

A Day in the Life of Savannah Webb by Cheryl Hollon

Pane and SufferingI didn’t expect to be back home in St. Petersburg trying to sell my dad’s glass shop. I am very happy in Seattle – thank you very much – where I am studying the art of glass blowing with the finest instructors in North America. I love creating a work of beauty using a few lumps of molten glass and some basic tools. I made each of these tools myself to fit my larger than ordinary hands and my taller than ordinary height. I miss the strenuous work in front of the hot furnaces already.

Dad died of a heart attack and I’ve made the funeral arrangements just as he would have liked. A simple service at our family church followed by a graveside ceremony. The tricky part is the cold funeral supper afterwards at my childhood home. I’m no cook, but I can assemble good food especially when it comes on a platter from the local Publix.

I’ve picked up my little black dress from the dry cleaners and have picked out one of my glass jewelry creations to wear. It’s the one I made here in Webb’s Glass Shop the last time I was home over the holidays. Dad especially liked it.

On Monday, I’ll be opening Webb’s Glass Store as the official new owner. Not for long, though. My dad’s long-time assistant, Hugh Trevor, has agreed to purchase the shop and teach the workshops until the paperwork is all signed. I’ll come back later to get the family Craftsman bungalow up for sale. This is the perfect solution and I’m sure to be back to Seattle in a few days. Right?


You can read more about Savannah in Pane and Suffering, the first book in the NEW “Webb’s Glass Shop” mystery series, published by Kensington Books.

About Pane and Suffering

To solve her father’s murder and save the family-owned glass shop, Savannah Webb must shatter a killer’s carefully constructed façade. . .

After Savannah’s father dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, she drops everything to return home to St. Petersburg, Florida, to settle his affairs–including the fate of the beloved, family-owned glass shop. Savannah intends to hand over ownership to her father’s trusted assistant and fellow glass expert, Hugh Trevor, but soon discovers the master craftsman also dead of an apparent heart attack.

As if the coincidence of the two deaths wasn’t suspicious enough, Savannah discovers a note her father left for her in his shop, warning her that she is in danger. With the local police unconvinced, it’s up to Savannah to piece together the encoded clues left behind by her father. And when her father’s apprentice is accused of the murders, Savannah is more desperate than ever to crack the case before the killer seizes a window of opportunity to cut her out of the picture. . .

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jewleryGIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on Tuesday, October 6 for the chance to win a signed copy of Pain and Suffering along with a pair of handcrafted glass pendant created by Cheryl and her husband George. (US entries only, please.) Good luck everyone!

Meet the author
Cheryl Hollon writes full time after she left an engineering career designing and building military CherylHollonflight simulators in amazing countries such as England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and India. Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, she combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art. In the small glass studio behind the house, Cheryl and her husband George design, create, and produce fused glass, stained glass and painted glass artworks.

You can visit Cheryl and her books at www.cherylhollon.com, on Facebook and on Twitter

My Musing ~ Pane and Suffering by Cheryl Hollon

Pane and SufferingPane and Suffering by Cheryl Hollon is the first book in the NEW “Webb’s Glass Shop” mystery series. Publisher: Kensington, September 2015

To solve her father’s murder and save the family-owned glass shop, Savannah Webb must shatter a killer’s carefully constructed façade. . .

After Savannah’s father dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, she drops everything to return home to St. Petersburg, Florida, to settle his affairs–including the fate of the beloved, family-owned glass shop. Savannah intends to hand over ownership to her father’s trusted assistant and fellow glass expert, Hugh Trevor, but soon discovers the master craftsman also dead of an apparent heart attack.

As if the coincidence of the two deaths wasn’t suspicious enough, Savannah discovers a note her father left for her in his shop, warning her that she is in danger. With the local police unconvinced, it’s up to Savannah to piece together the encoded clues left behind by her father. And when her father’s apprentice is accused of the murders, Savannah is more desperate than ever to crack the case before the killer seizes a window of opportunity to cut her out of the picture.

I like it. With a cryptic message found after the death of her father and that of her “uncle,” Savannah begins an investigation using the skills she learned at her father’s hand to unspackle a killer who cunningly hides in plain sight. From the moment Savannah finds the message, this light drama takes off and the author takes us on an exciting ride as the crime and motives are explored by the clues planted and the potential suspects exposed as I watched it all played out. With a few surprising twists, the direction that pointed to the killer caught me a bit unaware until all the pieces of the puzzle stood out. The set-up of the mystery was good as it kept me reading on and I especially love the internal dialogue that Savannah has that adds to the telling of this enjoyable story. With a likable, a diversely quirky cast of characters and engaging conversations, this is a welcome addition to the cozy genre and I look forward to reading about Savannah and friends’ next adventures in “Shards of Murder.”

previously posted on the Cozy Chicks blog

A Glimpse into Abigail Mackenzie’s Day by Meera Lester

A Beeline to MurderWhile planting lavender, Abigail Mackenzie observes a new swarm of honeybees thickening into a corpus in the apricot tree. Her heart sinks. A swarm is the last thing she needs in her already over-scheduled morning. Not rescuing those bees could spell the end of her hive and kill an important income stream—one she needs to pay the mortgage and keep the renovations going on her dilapidated farmhouse. If she rescues the bees, it means abandoning the lavender she needs to get into the ground before the roots dry out. She won’t get to the DA in time to be paid for her part-time investigative work, and she’ll be late delivering the order of honey to Jean-Louis Bonheur, Las Flores’s celebrity chef. To lose her bees will be a dire consequence, but to lose face with the mercurial Chef Jean-Louis could be a far worse fate, making the choice an easy one.

Abby dashes into the shower, changes into jeans and a T-shirt, and then loads the ten jars of honey in the backseat of her Jeep before navigating a course to town. The acacia along the Farm Hill Road has blossomed into sprays of yellow bloom, the scent of pine and eucalyptus permeates the warm spring air, and the chorus of songbirds creates a cacophony that Abby enjoys . . . were it any other day. But today, she’s running late. And it won’t do to be late when Chef Jean-Louis is expecting you. He’d made that clear the last time she delivered her honey and had a flat tire en route. Recalling the chef’s tirade that day, Abby withers.

Chef Jean-Louis has been blessed with thick brown hair, large brown eyes, and a physique that would shame a gym rat. Women all over town ogle him until they discover that the handsome and highly creative French-Canadian chef—whose hair-trigger temper has become legendary along Main Street—is gay. With their fantasies of romantic trysts duly tamped out, the ladies nevertheless become avid followers and regular customers after just one bite of the chef’s heavenly honey madeleines, tasty tarte tatin, and amazing apricot-almond clafouti.

Pulling into a parking space on Lemon Lane behind the pastry shop, Abby grabs the honey and her invoice and dashes to the back door that stands ajar. She expects to see Chef Jean-Louis clad in his white chef’s shirt and toque blanche, rolling out dough, and listening to his favorite opera area. But not today. The only sound coming from inside the pastry shop is the commercial refrigerator humming.

Abby senses trouble when she smells the burnt cake in the pastry shop kitchen and notices the disarray of the chef’s work station. He has always taken pride in running an efficient, organized kitchen, even as he works. Where is Chef Jean-Louis? Her years in law enforcement have taught Abby that when something doesn’t smell right or look right, the best course is to proceed with caution. Her senses on high alert, she instinctively reaches for the gun that she no longer carries.

When she rounds the corner of the island and looks over at the partially open pantry door, she sees him—the chef lies sprawled on the floor, eyes clouded over, lips a cyanotic hue of blue. Her heart hammering, Abby doesn’t want to believe he’s dead, but after feeling for a pulse and detecting none, she calls Las Flores Police Chief Bob Allen to report a one-eighty-seven . . . homicide.

Thoughts racing, Abby ticks through a list of people who might want the chef dead. They include the building owner who has threatened to ice the chef over a lease dispute; the devious council woman who’s hired the chef to cater her fundraisers, the town’s colorful eccentric schizophrenic to whom the chef provides free coffee, the chef’s jealous protégé, a couple of loan sharks, and a homophobic biker. The police and newby ME assert that the death is a suicide. The chef’s brother Philippe remains unconvinced; he hires Abby to track down the killer.

Her entanglement in the case deepens until a clue emerges in a most unusual way that leads her to identifying the murderer. Just when she thinks she’s solved the case, her prime suspect is also murdered. Unexpected plot twists drive rising tension until Abby finally cracks the case through some dogged gum shoe work and a little help from her friends.


You can read more about Abby Mackenzie’s adventures in A Beeline to Murder, the first book in the NEW “Henny Penny Farmette” series, from Kensington Publishing.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on Monday, October 5, 2015 for the chance to win a print copy of A Beeline To Murder. (US entries only, please.) Good luck everyone!

Meet the author
Meera is an internationally published author of nearly two dozen books, some translated into other languages. She lives on a farmette near Northern California’s wine country, east of the San Francisco Bay, where she grows heirloom vegetables, maintains an orchard of fruit and nut trees, keeps chickens and bees, and deals with the daily drama of life on a farmette fixer-upper. When she isn’t renovating her 1947 farmhouse, Meera indulges her lifelong passion for cooking and baking, especially foods with an international flair. She blogs about her farmette life at www.hennypennyfarmette.com and her writing life at www.meeralester.com. Readers are welcome to contact her at either websites.

A Day in the Life with Annie Chamovitz by Mollie Cox Bryan

Scrapbook of the DeadI look forward to my Saturday nights scrapbooking with my friends. When I first moved to Cumberland Creek six years ago, it was hard to imagine that I’d even have any friends–but then Vera asked me to come to the crop. To say my life has changed completely might be exaggerating a bit. I’m still a freelance reporter, still managing with my two boys, husband, and house, but their friendship has certainly helped me to cope with the day-to-day.

You might look at some of the murders I’ve helped to investigate as exciting. But I’ve never looked at it that way. My reporting is a job and if I can help a family or a friend find peace through my work, that is satisfying. As a young reporter, I did find it exciting. The adrenaline rush was addicting. But a few things have happened to me that have changed me–mostly, I became a mother. Ben and Sam need me.

Now, we are getting ready to go back to school, which is a way different exercise than when I was a kid. We shopped for a few new clothes and maybe new lunch boxes. Very few of us carried book bags, let alone backpacks. Now, it’s all about the backpack, plus the school supplies. I was shocked to find that kids have to buy their own notebooks, paper, scissors, pens, pencils, and so on. The only thing the schools buy seems to be the books. It’s very expensive to send your kid to public schools these days.

Yesterday, I spent close to $300 on school supplies for my boys. And I have to say, it was a most unpleasant experience. Many other parents were stumbling down the aisles, right along with me, with these huge lists, checking off each item. A few nasty words were exchanged between parents who were also not having a good experience.

We took our school supplies and went home to organized them. My boys love this. Who needs toys, when you have school supplies? We spread out our notebooks, pens, binders, and so on out on the floor and made two piles–one for Ben and one for Sam. Then we organized it even further into two piles under each of their single piles. One pile for the items that go to school the night before school starts at the open house. Items like hand sanitizer, tissue, and so on go the night before and become a part of the classroom’s general supplies. (True!)

We make it a fun evening. After we accomplish all the sorting and organizing, we order a pizza and watch a movie. A sort of last fling of summer.

After my boys get to bed, I usually head to the computer to check e-mails or work. These days, I’ve been playing with writing fiction, which I never thought would happen. In the man time, I now have a few nonfiction books out about the murders I’ve covered and they are doing well enough that I can scale back on the freelancing and entertain notions of writing fiction. Who knows where that will go?

But that pretty much sums up my daily life at this time of the year. For me, it’s all about family, friends, work, all sprinkled with a little extra dreaming.


You can read more about Annie in Scrapbook Of The Dead, the 5th book in the “Cumberland Creek” mystery series, published by Kensington.

About Scrapbook Of The Dead (out Sept. 29):

Halloween means spooky scrapbooks for the Cumberland Creek Scrapbook Crop, but what’s been happening around town is truly frightening. First a dead woman is found in the freezer at Pamela’s Pie Palace, and the next day a second woman is found murdered by the river. Reporter Annie Chamovitz learns the victims were sisters and is certain their deaths are linked. Most bizarre of all, both women were found clutching scrapbook pages.

As their Saturday night crop quickly becomes an opportunity to puzzle out the murders, the ladies begin to wonder if Pamela is hiding more than her secret recipes for delicious pies–or if the crimes are related to the startling discovery that there are gangs in Cumberland Creek. As All Hallows Eve approaches, the crafty croppers must cut and paste the clues to unmask a deadly killer.

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About the author
Mollie Cox Bryan is the author of the Cumberland Creek Mysteries: Scrapbook Of Secrets (nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2012), Scrapped, Death Of An Irish Diva, and A Crafty Christmas, along with two e-novellas in the series (Scrappy Summer and Scrappily Ever After). She also is the author of a Kindle book Honey, I’m Sorry I Killed Your Aquasaurs (And Other Short Essays On The Parenting Life.) Check out her website at www.molliecoxbryan.com

A Day in the Life of Rowan Mundy by Wendy Corsi Staub

Blood RedLike many other Hudson river towns, the once prosperous Mundy’s Landing fell into economic decline back in the ’70s, while I was growing up there as the feisty youngest of the four red-headed Carmichael kids. My parents were forced to work several jobs between them just to make ends meet, which left us kids to our own devices. My older brothers and sister were perfect students and model teenagers, but I was. . .well, a bad girl. I got into trouble at school and ran wild as a teenager. But when I was seventeen, I faced a terrible wakeup call. My vibrant mother was struck by a virulent disease that claimed her life in a matter of weeks. She was a strong woman, a woman of great faith, and her greatest fear wasn’t dying–it was what might happen to me, her hellion youngest child, without her maternal vigilance. I made a deathbed promise that I would change my ways.

I kept that promise. I got into college, worked hard, and became a teacher just like my mom. I married wholesome hometown hero Jake Mundy, we moved away, and had three beautiful children. Jake worked hard in a hectic industry to support us, and I was the perfect wife and mother–with one exception.

It was a fleeting, reckless moment, one in which I almost–almost–threw away everything that mattered to me. The important thing was that I didn’t. My dark secret would serve as another wake-up call, and nothing more. No one but me would ever be the wiser.

Or so I believed.

Shaken, I decided that we should move back to Mundy’s Landing. I thought that the simpler, more affordable way of life in our hometown would be good for me, Jake, and the kids. We could focus on the only thing that mattered: being together. Staying together. We bought a big old house on River Road, Jake worked closer to home, and I found a teaching job at my old elementary school. Having come full circle, we settled down to live happily ever after.

That was over a decade ago. The years have flown by.

With Thanksgiving last Thursday, I’ve been caught up in a flurry of cooking, cleaning, and enjoying my older two children, both home from their Ivy League colleges for the weekend. But they went back last night, and this morning, it was back to work for me and Jake, and back to school for our youngest son, Mick. Unlike his siblings, he isn’t a stellar student. He looks a lot like me, and sometimes I worry that he acts too much like I did at that age. I keep a close eye on him, the way my mother did on me. Now I know how she felt. I’m relieved that Mick won’t become motherless the way I did at his age.

Or so I believe.

Today has been an ordinary day. Wake up snuggled beside my husband, feed the dog, drink coffee, drive to work. Spend a day in my fourth grade classroom. Drive home through familiar village streets decked in white twinkle lights for the holidays, looking forward to dinner with my husband, climbing into our cozy bed, and sleeping soundly as always. But that’s not going to happen. I’ve been so caught up in this ordinary day–this wonderfully precious, final ordinary day–that I’ve forgotten the date itself.

Someone else has not.

When I get home from work, I find a package in the mail. It’s addressed to me. At first I’m sure it must be something I’ve ordered. Christmas is coming, and I’ve done some online shopping.

But inside, wrapped in a yellowed newspaper dated fourteen years ago today–the anniversary of my lone misstep–are twelve charred, round items. At first, I can’t even tell what they are. Then it hits me: burnt cookies.

Burnt cookies can only mean one thing. Somehow, someone knows my deep, dark secret. The one that, if it ever comes out, will destroy our happily ever after. I would give anything to keep that secret safe. But the anonymous person who knows what no one can possibly know isn’t interested in blackmail. That person doesn’t want anything but to make me pay for that awful day fourteen years ago–with my life.


You can read more about Rowan’s secret in Blood Red, the first book in the NEW “Mundy’s Landing” suspense trilogy, published by HarperCollins.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on Friday, October 2 for the chance to win an autographed copy of Blood Red. (US entries only, please.) Good luck everyone!

About the author
New York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub is the award-winning author of more than eighty novels, best known for the single title psychological suspense novels she writes under her own name. She has three releases in 2015: The Black Widow (February, HarperCollins); Blood Red (September, HarperCollins); and Nine Lives (October, Crooked Lane). Her novel Hello, It’s Me (Grand Central Publishing), aired as a television movie in September. She lives in New York.

Visit Wendy at www.wendycorsistaub.com