A Day in the Life of Melanie Hamilton by Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens

My name is Mel. That’s short for Melanie. I earn my living from inking tattoos at The Mansion on Mystic Isle. It’s a resort across the river from New Orleans in the Louisiana bayou but not a resort like any you’ve ever heard of.

The Mansion is owned by Harry Villars. In fact that particular piece of property has been in the Villars family just about forever, since halfway through the eighteenth century. When it fell on hard times, Harry had it remodeled and turned it into a resort that caters to lovers and zealot fans of the supernatural and paranormal. He hired a whole slew of folks (like me) who could contribute to the bizarre atmosphere of ghosts and soothsayers—mostly it’s all fake. But I have to say that with a lot of the weirdness that goes on at The Mansion, there are days I truly wonder about that.

Me? I just design and ink tattoos—tattoos of fairies and other fantastical creatures, astrological signs, beloved family members who’ve gone on to the spirit world and might be haunting their loved ones, whatever the guests ask me to paint on their skin. And some of the things I’ve been asked to create you’d have trouble believing if I showed you the photos I took when I was done.

But the weirdest and wildest, the absolute piece de resistance was the time a woman in her sixties booked a week at the hotel specifically to have several sessions at Dragons and Deities, the tattoo parlor. That wasn’t the weird part, people came to the resort specifically for the ink all the time. If I say so myself, I’m kind of well known throughout the culture for coming up with innovative designs to match the very specific requests of the Mystic Isle guests.

The unusual part of this job was that the woman—to protect her identity, I’m going to call her Jane Doe—wanted a portrait of her husband on her chest so she could keep him closer to her heart.

“Don’t you have any romance in your soul, Mel?” you ask. “I think it’s charming,” you say. “What’s so weird about that?” you wonder.

The answers, in order are: Yes, I’m very romantic. Yes, wanting to keep your spouse close to your heart is charming. And finally, the weirdness of it comes from the content.

Jane Doe insisted she’d once been abducted by aliens, and during that time had been claimed by one of them and married in a formal ceremony. The two had fallen in love and had been happy living together in her Rocky Mountain high Colorado cabin. That is until E.T. phoned home and found out he’d been drafted. He’d left her with the promise to return and carry her back to his home planet where she’d never age another day and they’d live in matrimonial bliss for hundreds and hundreds of what she called Earth years. She was still waiting. That was when she showed me her dearest.

It was a still photo of the alien from the movie Predator, in all his gruesome glory without the mask and in spectacular Technicolor. His grimacing green and yellow countenance, toothy fanged snarl (which Jane Doe insisted was a loving grin) and bizarre shell-like dreadlocks would have taken me a very long time over many sessions. The cost to Jane Doe would have been staggering, and the commission would have paid my half of the rent for a couple of months—but I just didn’t have the heart to do it.

She took it hard, telling me how much she missed him and sat crying inconsolably for a long time. It was heartbreaking.

I thought about calling someone to help her out of her strange fantasy world, but she seemed harmless enough, and after talking to her for over an hour (after all, she had booked the time), I felt confident that her hubby from another planet was her only leap from reality (even though it was a beaut, f’sure).

I decided to let her be, and to comfort her suggested that in this day and age of CCTV and government stalking everywhere she might be better off not letting on to anyone about her spouse, that it might turn out bad for him if she did.

She wiped her eyes and blew her nose and looked up at me with pure gratitude in her eyes. “You’re right, Miss Hamilton. You’re absolutely right. But I’d still like to have a tattoo to remind me of him.” She sat quietly for a few moments then squared her shoulders, and drew her mouth into a tight line before saying, “How about if I get one of Arnold Schwarzenegger instead?”


You can read more about Melanie in Mystic Mischief, the third book in the “Mystic Isle” mystery series.

Just when Melanie Hamilton thought things couldn’t get stranger at The Mansion at Mystic Isle, she finds herself in the middle of a true pirate treasure hunt! Fortune hunters have arrived Indiana Jones-style at the New Orleans resort where she and boyfriend Jack Stockton work, with their eyes on the prize of a long-lost and priceless letter stolen from the famous pirate Jean Lafitte. Two archeologists, a Hollywood camera crew, and a marauding gator suddenly have Melanie so busy she almost doesn’t even have time to quarrel with Jack over the arrival of his ex-girlfriend… Almost. But her romantic issues take a back seat when a dead body shows up at the home of the resort’s owner. Now it’s up to Mel and the rest of the odd crew at Mystic Isle to bring order back to the bayou and solve the murder. But if someone would kill once for a piece of parchment, would they kill twice? And could Mel wind up at the bottom of Davy Jones’ Locker?

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Giveaway: One (1) U.S. reader will win a frosted glass coffee/tea mug and print copy of Mystic Mischief; one (1) U.S. reader will win a 3-book set of Mystic Isle Mysteries; and two (2) readers will win a Kindle/Nook/Kobo copy of Mystic Mischief. The giveaway ends September 20, 2017. Good luck everyone!

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About the authors
Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens, are partners in crime—crime writing, that is. They live in the Valley of the Sun in Arizona, awesome for eight months out of the year, an inferno the other four. They write bloody murder, flirty romance, and wicked humor all in one package.

Connect with them at smithandsteffens.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

All comments are welcomed.

A scene from THE MYSTERY OF HER by Patricia Catacalos

Mayfair Section of London – Saturday, September 1, 1888

“I am Noah Zane and this is my brother Evan.” Noah mimed for Kiera to sit on the ladder-back chair positioned in front of his desk. “Please have a seat, my Lady. And we extend our condolences at the loss of your father. If I recall correctly, he died a little over a year prior.”

Kiera complied with Noah’s suggestion and gracefully sat on the wooden chair while Noah resumed his cushioned seat. She clasped her gloved hands together on her lap as, out of the corner of her eye, she caught a slight moment of the curtain behind and to the right of the desk. She suddenly realized that someone was hidden behind those drapes and she surmised who that someone might be. The right side of her mouth slightly lifted hinting of a mischievous smile.

“Yes, you are correct, Mr. Zane. My beloved father died thirteen months prior.” She paused as the mention of her father caused fissures of pain to spread across her heart and was the reason for today’s visit. But she firstly needed to feel perfectly comfortable with these brothers before broaching the possibility of hiring the detective agency. And her humor was always her chosen means of establishing rapport. She tilted her head, closely inspecting Noah’s face. “I do not believe that you are both identical as I clearly seeing distinguishing differences.”

“You do?” Evan appeared incredulous at her statement. “Not even our brother’s butler Mortimer can tell us apart on most occasions.”

Kiera’s right eyebrow rose in silent questioning. “I doubt that very much.”

Noah laughed as he concurred, “I have long since suspected that our brother’s dutiful butler has been playing us the fools. He is perfectly capable of identifying one brother from the other.”

“Well, I can certainly tell you apart.” She continued to scrutinize Noah’s face. “You, Mr. Noah Zane, have a dimple on your upper right cheek and when you smile or laugh, it deepens.”

Noah unconsciously touched his right cheek as a slow grin graced his face.

Kiera angled her head toward Evan before observing, “And you, Mr. Evan Zane, have waver hair than your brother has and I dare say, it probably slightly curls in damp weather.”

Evan grinned, obviously pleased with Kiera’s powers of observation. “You are correct.”

“Your brother is Zachery Zane, the Earl of Belfry, is he not?” She thought she sensed slight movement behind the curtain and that confirmed her earlier supposition as to who hid from view. . .the third brother.

“Yes, he is. Are you acquainted with him, my Lady?”

Kiera shook her head. She knew that she could not let this opportunity for levity pass her by. She possessed an incurable penchant for playful teasing. “No, no, I have never met his lordship. Does he look like the both of you?”

“Yes, he does but alas, he is the least handsome of the three brothers,” Noah jokingly commented.

She nodded her head and an errant blonde curl, escaping her bonnet, bounced with the movement, kissing her smooth forehead. “No offense intended, as I have never met your brother but. . .” She paused dramatically. “I would tend to agree with you as your brother has a reputation for being rather. . .how shall I put this delicately?”

“Brooding. . .?” Noah chimed in.

“Yes, yes, that is the word I sought to use. He has a reputation for being both brooding and rather intimidating.”

“And therein lies the major differences between us. . .our personalities,” Noah laughingly stated.

“Ah, yes. . .your personalities. If I may make a candid observation, I would describe you, Mr. Noah Zane, as the prankster whose eyes sparkle with mischief and whose attitude toward life is generally rather cavalier.”

Evan stepped forward into Kiera’s line of vision, negating the need to angle her head when speaking to him, and laughingly complimented, “You have characterized Noah perfectly.”

“And you, Mr. Evan Zane, possess a grounded sense of responsibility but also easily follow your impish brother’s lead and enjoy a bit of naughtiness.”

“You have just aptly described Evan. But please address us by our given names.”

“Very well, Noah. I assume that the brooding and intimidating nature displayed by your elder brother, Lord Belfry, is indicative of his innate seriousness.”

“Oh, yes, he is overly serious and staidly duty-bound,” Noah groaned.

“And I surmise that he is extremely intelligent and awfully clever.”

“Intelligent, yes, but as to clever, what do you mean?” Evan interjected.

“He is most likely acting sullen and intimidating to ward off the marriage-minded mamas who seek an affluent lord for their marriageable daughters.”

Both Noah and Evan laughed heartily.

“That is a very logical assumption, sincerely holding merit, were it not for the fact that our brother Zachery is a very intense personality not only in public but also in private,” Evan explained.

“He perpetually scowls and that is why he is the least attractive brother,” Noah added while raising his voice to ensure that everyone present, be he visible or not, could hear.

She knew full well that the two brothers were thoroughly enjoying the teasing of their elder brother who obviously wished to remain hidden, negating his ability to respond to their jesting. She lowered her head and hid a burgeoning smile behind a gloved hand before innocently adding, “Oh, dear, a scowl could detract from one’s attractiveness. But perhaps his lordship has weighty issues on his mind. Does he take an active part in your detective agency?”

“No, not exactly, as his involvement would not be viewed as politically correct,” Evan diplomatically responded.

“But as our agency is titled ‘The Zane Brothers Detective Agency’, he helps us behind the scenes with research and finances.”

“Ah, as a silent partner?” Kiera innocuously asked.

“Yes, yes, as a silent partner,” Evan volunteered. “However not quite as ‘silent’ as Noah and I would wish.” He, too, raised his voice so that all might clearly hear his mocking comment.

“Then his presence would not be required for you to take on my case?” Her smile quickly faded as she mentally prepared herself to discuss business.

“His presence is not necessary but we would seek his counsel regarding your case before agreeing to accept the assignment. Which brings me to a pointed question. Why are you here, Lady Everett?” Noah bluntly asked. “How can we be of service to you?”

The moment of frivolity was over and she could no longer procrastinate in seeking their help. She liked both men and now felt comfortable baring her soul and stating a belief that they may find improbable and even ludicrous as others had when she had previously shared her suspicions and voiced allegations.

Suppressing her sudden self-consciousness, she lifted her chin and clearly stated, “I wish to hire you to prove that my father was. . .murdered.”


You can read more about Zane Brothers in The Mystery of Her, the first book in the “Zane Brothers Detective” historical mystery series.

London, 1888. . . Two serial killers, Leather Apron (Jack the Ripper) and the Torso Killer are mutilating women in the slums of Whitechapel. But even in the bedchambers of the peerage, a killer is claiming lives. A determined Lady Kiera Everett wishes to hire the Zane Brothers Detective Agency to prove that her sickly father, and two other ailing members of the peerage, were murdered by their attending nurse, named in each man’s Will. But only if Kiera can be involved in the investigation, much to Zachery Zane’s chagrin. And soon the murders of Whitechapel intersect with the investigation conducted by the Zane brothers.

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About the author
Patricia Catacalos holds a BA in Theatre from Seton Hill University and a MA in Theatre from the University of Denver. Years ago, when still single, she acted in and directed plays in the Philadelphia area but suffered the fate of many artists, struggling financially. So, she entered a career in sales but her creative spirit needed to express itself. So approximately eight years ago, she started writing historical romances. Many of the historical romances have a subgenre of mystery and/or the paranormal. She discovered that writing historical romances and ultimately, mystery/intrigue is her passion. Currently, she has written twenty novels and novellas and is currently working on Book 4 in The Zane Brothers Detective Series.

She has been happily married for over twenty-eight years to a loving and supportive man with a Greek heritage (which influenced a couple of her novels) and they live in southern New Jersey.

All comments are welcomed.

September 18-23, 2017 – New Releases

Gia In The City Of The Dead by Kristi Belcamino

A Part of the Pattern by L.L. Bartlett

Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao

As To Grind by Tonya Kappes

From Beyond The Grave by Daniella Bernett

October 2017 Releases

Click HERE for a printable copy

October 1
A Tangled Web by Mike Martin (Sgt. Windflower #6)
Skeletons in the Attic by Judy Penz Sheluk – re-release

October 2
Playing the Angles by Devon Ellington
Scrapbook of Murder by Lois Winston (Anastasia Pollack Crafting #6)

October 3
Death on Tap by Ellie Alexander (Sloan Krause) *new series*
The Witches’ Tree by M.C. Beaton (Agatha Raisin #28)
Ghost on the Case by Caroly Hart (Bailey Ruth Ghost #10)
Familiar Motives by Delia James (Witch’s Cat #3)
Fixing to Die by Miranda James (Southern Ladies #4)
A Secret in the Pumpkin Patch by Gin Jones (Danger Cove Farmers’ Market #3)
Death, Taxes, and Pecan Pie by Diane Kelly (Tara Holloway #12)
The Ninja’s Illusion by Gigi Pandian (Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt #5)
A Room With a Brew by Joyce Tremel (Brewing Trouble #3)

October 8
The Question of the Absentee Father by Jeff Cohen & E.J. Copperman (Asperger’s #4)
Mining for Justice by Kathleen Ernst (Chloe Ellefson #8)
Weycombe by G.M. Malliet
Hunting the Five Point Killer by C. M. Wendelboe (Bitter Wind) *new series*

October 10
Death in St. Petersburg by Tasha Alexander (Lady Emily #12)
Death Overdue by Allison Brook (Haunted Library) *new series*
Death of the Kona Man by Catherine Bruns (Aloha Lagoon #10)
A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron (Cajun #3)
Fireworks in Paradise by Kathi Daley (Tj Jensen #8)

October 10
Murder on the Toy Town Express by Barbara Early (Vintage Toyshop #2)
Twelve Slays of Christmas by Jacqueline Frost (Christmas Tree Farm) *new series*
The Skeleton Paints A Picture by Leigh Perry (Family Skeleton #4)
Perilous Poetry by Kym Roberts (Book Barn #3)
Nine Lessons by Nicola Upson (Josephine Tey #7)
Running Out Of Time by Suzanne Trauth (Dodie O’Dell #3)

October 11
Back to the Fajitas by Leena Clover (Meera Patel #4)

October 16
The Masque of the Red Dress by Ellen Byerrum (Crime of Fashion #11)

October 17
Dark Signal by Shannon Baker (Kate Fox #2)
Mrs. Jeffries and the Three Wise Women by Emily Brightwell (Victorian #36)
Crazy Like a Fox: by Rita Mae Brown (Jane Arnold #10)
Killing Season by Faye Kellerman
Cold As Ice by Julie Mulhern (Country Club Murder #6)
16 Millimeters by Larissa Reinhart (Maizie Albright Star Detective #2)
The Lost Spy by Kate Moira Ryan (Slim Moran #1)
Best-Laid Plants by Marty Wingate (Potting Shed #6)

October 20
Happy Homicides 6: Cooking Up Crime edited by Joanna Campbell Slan

October 24
How The Finch Stole Christmas by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #22)
Gia and the Forgotten Island by Kristi Belcamino (Gia Santella #2)
Someone’s Mad at the Hatter by Sandra Bretting (Missy DuBois #3)
Gin and Panic by Maia Chance (Discreet Retrieval Agency #3)
Murder over Mochas by Caroline Fardig (Java Jive #5)
Bones to Pick by Linda Lovely (Brie Hooker) *new series*
Hunger Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff (Huntress/FBI #5)
Dying To Live by Michael Stanley (Detective Kubu #6)

October 31
The Secret, Book, & Scone Society by Ellery Adams (Secret, Book & Scone) *new series*
Knit To Kill by Anne Canadeo (Black Sheep & Company #9) *new publisher
Deck the Halls with Fudge by Nancy Coco (Candy-Coated Novella)
Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #22)
White Sand Blues by Vicki Delany (Ashley Grant) *new series*
Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott (Beryl and Edwina) *new series*
Blackberry Burial by Sharon Farrow (Berry Basket #2)
Death, Taxes, and a Shotgun Wedding by Diane Kelly (Tara Holloway #12)
Death Comes To The Fair by Catherine Lloyd (Kurland St. Mary #4)
Cremains Of The Day by Misty Simon (Tallie Graver) *new series*
Slay Bells Ring by Karen Rose Smith (Caprice De Luca #7)
Thread The Halls by Lea Wait (Mainely Needlepoint #6)
Ring In the Year with Murder by Auralee Wallace (Otter Lake #3)
The Quiche and The Dead by Kirsten Weiss (Pie Town) *new series*

My Musing ~ Wagging Through The Snow by Laurien Berenson

Wagging Through The Snow by Laurien Berenson is the 21st book in the “Melanie Travis” mystery series. Publisher: Kensington, coming September 26, 2017

Melanie Travis needs a little peace from her busy life this Christmas. But the usual holiday hubbub is a joy compared to the killer surprise she finds tucked underneath the tree . . .

With a demanding teaching job at Connecticut’s elite Howard Academy and five poodles scampering around the house, Melanie barely has energy for the upcoming Christmas rush. But she unwraps an unexpected challenge when her brother and ex-husband, elated by the recent success of their country café, make a spontaneous bid on a dilapidated pine tree farm. Although the ten-acre lot had been a popular seasonal destination while the original owner was still alive, it’ll take some sprucing up—and a small miracle or two—before the neglected place is in shape for December.

Unfortunately, the impromptu business venture goes cold when the group discovers a purebred Maltese whimpering in the snow-covered grove—right beside a dead body. Pete, a squatter who camped out on the land, apparently met his end after a fallen fir tree branch knocked him on the head. But as Melanie and Aunt Peg investigate Pete’s history and the terrible habit that cost him everything, it’s clear his death was no accident. Now, Melanie must run through a flurry of likely suspects and muzzle a dogged murderer in time—or she’ll be next on someone’s deadly list.

The latest adventures with Melanie and her friends quickly embroiled me in all that was happening, making it hard to put down until the last page was read. The author did a great job in telling this story with narrative that was visually descriptive and dialogue that was engaging and humorous at times. The mystery was well-written and I like that the author keeps me in suspense mode with how Melanie’s investigative efforts will turn out. I also love the family dynamics that plays heavily in this story which always warms my heart. This was an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next book in this endearing series.

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

My Musing ~ The Persian Always Meows Twice by Eileen Watkins

The Persian Always Meows Twice by Eileen Watkins is the first book in the NEW “Cat Groomer” mystery series. Publisher: Kensington, coming September 26, 2017

Cat lovers are thrilled to welcome an expert groomer to the picturesque town of Chadwick. But scratch below the surface, and unmasking a killer becomes a game of cat and mouse . . .

Professional cat grooming isn’t all fluff—when the fur starts flying, Cassie McGlone, owner of Cassie’s Comfy Cats, handles her feistiest four-legged clients with a caring touch and nerves of steel. While these qualities certainly help keep her business purring, they also come in handy when she makes a house call to her best client, millionaire George DeLeuw, and discovers his murdered body next to his newly orphaned Persian, Harpo.

To help the local police find the actual killer, Cassie begins her own investigation. But no one, from George’s housekeeper to his vindictive ex-wife, is giving up clues. Not until Cassie is given permission to temporarily board Harpo does anyone show interest in the Persian’s wellbeing. Someone is desperate to get their paws on Harpo before the feline helps untangle a felony. Are there deadly truths that a cat whisperer like Cassie can coax out? She needs to tread lightly and remember she gets one life, not nine. . . .

This was a fun and enjoyable book to read. I love the comfortable tone and the pacing of this whodunit, creating an easy story to follow from beginning to end. The mystery was nicely done with a slew of suspects and I liked the clues kept me busy trying to figure it all out with a few red herrings that enhanced the telling of this tale. The narrative was visually descriptive putting me right there in the middle of all the action as Cassie groomed her pets (I liked that the author gave me an inside look at this), queried the suspects, confronted a person from her past, and worked with the police. This I liked, that she worked cooperatively with the local police. I enjoyed meeting Cassie, Dawn, Sarah and Mark which I look forward to seeing their relationship grow. Boasting a lovable cast of characters that also included the furry ones, engaging dialogue and a small town atmosphere, this was a great debut story and a welcome addition to the cozy genre.

Pre-Order Link


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

My Musing ~ Gia In The City Of The Dead by Kristi Belcamino

Gia in the City of the Dead by Kristi Belcamino is the first book in the “Gia Santella” crime thriller series, coming September 18, 2017

Someone is killing everybody Gia loves

When Gia Valentina Santella’s parents died four years ago, she fled small town Monterey to pursue the high life in the big city where she could smother her grief by playing house in a luxurious high-rise apartment with sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Armed with a hefty inheritance, it didn’t take long for Gia to carve out an empty life for herself in San Francisco, slumming at art school, racing her red Ferrari up and down the coast, and getting hammered at the city’s finest establishments.

Then one day, a letter comes in the mail and everything changes. The death of Gia’s parents was no accident. They were murdered.

Now, Gia must find who really killed her parents at the same time she’s frantically trying to keep one step ahead of the murderer who is now intent on making her his next victim.

This is another grippingly riveting drama from Ms. Belcamino that seeps into the crevices of my soul as I followed the trials and tribulation of her latest heroine.

Finding that her parent’s death was intentional, Gia is on a mission to find the person responsible and in her pursuit, those closest to her are in harm’s way as well. Family dynamics and self-discovery plays a part in this multi-plot, action-packed novel where every page turned intensified, especially when Gia faced the person responsible, and the truth set her free to be who she really was.

The author did a great job in staging this story where every scene, every clue, every dialogue, and every action was crucial to the outcome of this well-executed tale. Gia is vulnerable, yet strong and determined where finding the truth was paramount to her own existence. I do like that surprising twist that brought it all together and helped moved the drama to the conclusion befitting the person that Gia has become.

I enjoyed this debut novel and I can’t wait to read the next book and see what’s in store for Gia and her friends.

Buy Link


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

A day in the life with Lieutenant Piotr Kazimierz by James R. Benn

A day in the life? That is quite a challenge for any colleague of Captain Billy Boyle. There is seldom a normal day to be had at the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces. And when we are out on assignment, every day is different. And often deadly.

But where are my manners? Allow me to introduce myself. I am Lieutenant Piotr Kazimierz of the Polish Army-in-Exile, and I work at SHAEF headquarters, Grosvenor Square, London, in General Eisenhower’s Office of Special Investigations. I am also a baron of the Augustus clan, and likely one of the few members of that ancient nobility left alive today.

When the Germans and the Russians invaded Poland, I was at university in England.

My family was not. Now they are dead, murdered by the invaders, both Nazi and Soviet, as they eliminated all forms of opposition to their rule.

But there may be a survivor. I have recently learned that my younger sister Angelika may be alive, and working with the Underground Army in occupied Poland. A dangerous undertaking, after five years of Nazi rule. I hold out hope that we will be reunited one day, if we both survive the war.

Or, if we both do not.

But enough of my family history. You want to know what a normal day in the life of Billy Boyle is like. Today is an anomaly. We are at SHAEF, recently returned from a mission to Switzerland. The Swiss are famous for neutrality, chocolate, and cuckoo clocks. We found their neutrality over-stated, although the chocolate was quite good. I never did hear a cuckoo clock (perhaps it was the gunfire). Our job was to investigate reports of looted gold being laundered by Swiss banks, in order to keep the Nazi war machine well-funded. The Swiss bankers and politicians were not particular about where the gold came from, be it assets of conquered nations or pulled from the teeth of victims in concentration camps. But that is a long story, and has nothing to do with today.

Yesterday we landed outside of London, after a long flight from neutral Portugal. We have been allowed a few day’s rest, which at SHAEF means catching up on paperwork. I am reading intelligence reports concerning the activities of various factions of the French Resistance in Normandy, which is our next destination. Billy is reading Stars and Stripes, his feet up on his desk, a cup of coffee close at hand. He would say a cup of joe, in that marvelous way Americans have of mangling the English language while at the same time using the perfect words to do it.

Billy is a detective. A very good one, from a family of detectives. He is related, in some distant fashion, to General Eisenhower. Some people say he was appointed to the general’s staff because of that. Perhaps. But contrary to what many thought when he first arrived in England two years ago, he has not avoided danger. Far from it.

Myself, I courted it. After all those I loved in this world were taken from me, I did not care if I lived or died. Billy has been a good friend, and has watched out for me through good times and bad. And in a world at war, there are many bad times.

So, Billy is a good detective, as I said. But when it comes to reading intelligence summaries, he is less well suited. As an academic, I quite enjoy it. This is what makes us such a good team. My brains (if I may be so bold) and his instincts. Not to mention his bravery.

We will likely need all those attributes in this next assignment. It has been a month since D-Day, on the sixth of June, 1944, and the Allied forces are stuck in the bocage country of Normandy, where the Germans are putting up a stiff defense. There is something afoot with the various Resistance factions, and we are being sent to investigate. As areas in France have been liberated, a violent surge of reprisals and executions has taken place against collaborators, real and suspected. It seems some old scores are being settled, which may or may not have anything to do with the Occupation. These excesses are being called the épuration sauvage, or the Wild Purge. According to accounts, it is aptly named.

This is a normal day, then. I read reports, and Billy drinks coffee. But once we arrive in Normandy, I think our days of rest will be at an end. The Wild Purge awaits.


You can read more about Piotr in The Devouring, the 12th book in the “Billy Boyle WWII” mystery series.

A murder in wartime Switzerland reveals Swiss complicity with the Nazis during World War II

Europe, 1944: Captain Billy Boyle and his friend Lieutenant Piotr “Kaz” Kazimierz are sent to neutral Switzerland to work with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), investigating Swiss banks that are laundering looted Nazi gold. The US and Swiss governments are about to embark on diplomatic discussions regarding the Safehaven Protocols, aimed at limiting the amount of war materials exported by Switzerland to the Nazis, stemming the tide of looted gold, and preventing postwar use of Nazi wealth by war criminals. With the talks about to begin and the Gestapo ever present, the OSS wants Billy and Kaz to protect the participants, which turns out to be a very deadly task.

The plans go wrong from the beginning when Billy and Kaz crashland in France. As they make their way through occupied territory to the border, they meet Anton Lasho, a member of the Sinti ethnic group, whose family was slaughtered by the Nazis, and who is, in turn, a one-man Nazi-killing machine. They’ll need his help, because as they find once they make it across the border, Swiss banks are openly laundering gold “harvested” from concentration camps, and those who are profiting will do everything they can to protect their wealth and hide their dark secrets.

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Meet the author
James R. Benn is the author of the Billy Boyle World War II mysteries. The debut title, Billy Boyle, was named a top five mystery of 2006 by Book Sense and was a Dilys Award nominee. A Blind Goddess was long-listed for the Dublin Literary Award; The Rest Is Silence was a best novel nominee for the Barry Award. The twelfth and most current novel (9/12/17) is The Devouring, which recently garnered a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly.

He and his wife Deborah Mandel divide their time between Connecticut and the Gulf Coast of Florida. Benn lives by two writing quotes: one from Oscar Wilde; “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of one’s pants to a chair.” The other from novelist Rachel Basch; “The story has to move down, as well as forward.” Both are simple, profound, and complex. Connect with James at jamesrbenn.com

All comments are welcomed.

A Day in the Life of Gemma Doyle by Vicki Delany

I always enjoy hosting authors in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. Readers love meeting them, and I’ve found most writers to be nice, friendly people, happy to have the chance to be here, meet readers, and talk about their books.

Today, we’re having not just any author, but none other than Renalta Van Markoff herself, creator of the hugely successful Hudson and Holmes series of pastiche novels. Her newest book, Hudson House, came out only this week, and she cancelled all her scheduled appearances when she decided on a whim to come to Cape Cod for the weekend. Her publisher and publicist must have been tearing their hair out. They persuaded her to do one book signing at least. And the closest store to her vacation destination happened to be mine. It was a bit of a scramble to put something on at the last minute, but it all fell into place.

Van Markoff herself came in on Thursday, supposedly to make sure my shop could accommodate an author of her standing. Can’t say I was impressed: rude, obnoxious, demanding are words that come to mind. I felt rather sorry for her publicist and personal assistant.

Her books are not for everyone. They are certainly not for me – overwrought and overwritten, in my opinion, and veering dangerously toward an excess of purple prose – but they’re a publishing phenomenon.

They are also not for the more serious-minded members of the Sherlockian community, and that has me slightly worried. Donald Morris was in the shop the other day, exclaiming over what a disgrace Van Markoff’s interpretation of the Great Detective is to the memory of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I think Donald was about to proclaim it was a disgrace to the memory of Holmes, but he remembered at the last minute that Sherlock is not a real person.

Still, it’s just a short talk and a book signing. What could possibly go wrong?


Find out if anything does go wrong in Body on Baker Street, the second Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery.

Gemma Doyle and Jayne Wilson are busy managing the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium on Baker Street and adjoining Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room in anticipation of the store’s upcoming book signing with the illustrious Renalta Van Markoff, author of the controversial Hudson and Holmes mystery series. But during the author Q&A session, dedicated Sherlockian Donald Morris verbally attacks Renalta and her series for disgracing Sherlock’s legacy, only to be publicly humiliated when the author triumphantly lashes back and gains the upper hand. That is until Renalta collapses on the table―dead.

Donald insists he didn’t do it and pleads to his friends to clear his name. Fortunately, Gemma and Jayne have no shortage of suspects between author’s bullied personal assistant, her frustrated publicist, the hapless publisher, a handsome rare book dealer, an obsessively rabid fan, and a world of other Sherlock enthusiasts with strong objections to Renalta’s depiction of the Great Detective. It’s up to the shrewd sleuthing duo to eliminate the impossible and deduce the truth before the West London police arrest an innocent man in Body on Baker Street, the second Sherlock Homes Bookshop mystery perfect for fans of Miranda James and Kate Carlisle.

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Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a hardcover copy of Body on Baker Street. U.S. entries only, please. The giveaway ends September 18, 2017. Good luck everyone!

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About the author
Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers and a national bestseller in the U.S. She has written more than twenty-five books: clever cozies to Gothic thrillers to gritty police procedurals, to historical fiction and novellas for adult literacy. Under the name of Eva Gates, she writes the Lighthouse Library cozy series for Penguin Random House. Her newest novel is Body on Baker Street, the second in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series from Crooked Lane.

Vicki is the past president of the Crime Writers of Canada. Her work has been nominated for the Derringer, the Bony Blithe, the Ontario Library Association Golden Oak, and the Arthur Ellis Awards.

Visit Vicki at vickidelany.com, on Facebook and on @vickidelany

All comments are welcomed.