death-of-a-toy-soldierBefore you ask, yes, my dad named me after the famous Betsy McCall paper dolls, and he somehow managed to sneak his intentions right past my mother. It’s a little too cutesy for me, though, so please call me Liz.

Today is proving to be a busy day at Well Played, our vintage toyshop. Leaves are past peak in East Aurora, New York, thanks to the heat we had this summer. And the tourists are spending a little less time gawking at bare trees and more time coughing up cold, hard cash. Most of the leaf chasers walking around the store are senior citizens, and that’s fine with me.

Did you hear that squeal from the back of the store? Someone just found the Partridge Family lunchbox she carried in third grade. Sometimes browsers just like to see our merchandise, maybe snap a picture of a toy they played with as a child. But the little white-haired woman with the cat sweatshirt and a twinkle in her eye plops it down on the counter. “I’m not going to lie and say it’s for my granddaughter,” she says. “David Cassidy was the living end.” The man in the growing line behind her is carrying Rock’em Sock’em Robots.

Of course Dad is wandering the shop, which isn’t hurting business a bit. I often tease that he’s become eye candy for the AARP set. They even laugh at his dreadful puns. “Nostalgia,” he once told me, “is the backbone for our business.” This sent him on a run of skeleton puns that he insisted were very “humerus,” but made me groan. “Sorry,” he said, “I have a bad tendon-cy to do that.”

See, it was Dad who first had a passion for collecting and restoring vintage and antique toys. I think the hobby was a big stress relief for him, especially during those years where he was serving in the high-stress job of chief of police. The shop was his retirement dream, and since he wanted to focus on the restoration part of the business, he instantly promoted me to manager. Or maybe he did that to distract me while he sneaked out to continue to patrol the streets, something which I’m not too thrilled with—and neither is the current chief of police.

Not that our small village has a lot of crime. Knock on wood.

Death of a Toy Soldier is the first book in the NEW Vintage Toyshop mystery series, published by Crooked Lane Books, October 2016.

Liz McCall grew up in a playful winter wonderland but it was never her dream to manage her father’s vintage toyshop. However, after he sank his entire police pension into the business, someone needed to help him turn his dreams into reality—and keep him from sneaking off to patrol the not-so-mean streets of East Aurora, NY.

The mood goes from nice to naughty when a nervous man, who was trying to have his antique toys appraised, is found in the shop with a lawn dart through his chest. Suddenly, Liz’s business plan is plunged into deep freeze, while she and her father find themselves toying with a cold-blooded killer who’s playing for keeps.

Now, it looks like Christmas might be cancelled for the neighborhood kids if Liz can’t wrap up the case in Barbara Early’s delightful debut Death of a Toy Soldier.

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About the author
Barbara Early earned an engineering degree, only to discover that she hates math. She was a teacher, a pastor’s wife, and an amateur puppeteer before settling on murdering fictional people. She and her husband live near Buffalo, NY, where she enjoys cooking, crafts, classic movies and campy seventies television, board games, and posting pictures of her four cats on Facebook. She authored the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mysteries (as Beverly Allen) and now writes the Vintage Toyshop Mysteries. Connect with Barbara at

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a super swag pack—a tote bag including a book, a Scrabble tile necklace and an assortment of small toys. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends October 13, 2016 at 11:59 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

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