Saturday Savings: More histories, more mysteries

Endeavour Press discounted two biographies of Queen Victoria and one of Prince Albert, her husband, today (Saturday, 10 September 2016):

victoria1Queen Victoria, compiled by the queen’s librarian, was written to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and relies on the queen’s own notes. Richard Rivington Holmes provides contemporary insight into the queen, her peers, her background and her heirs. He also explores her lineage and how she came to inherit the throne and rule the British Empire. It’s on sale today for 99 cents (USD), a significant savings from the print list price of $25.95 (hardbound) or $26.95 (paperback). Sir Richard Rivington Holmes (1835-1911) was a British archivist and courtier, best known for being Librarian to the Queen at Windsor Castle. He was reappointed this role in 1901 by King Edward VII. He is also well known for his large Ethiopian artefact collection that has been catalogued into the British museum. Holmes is buried in Buckinghamshire.

A second Jubilee memoir, Victoria, Queen and Empresswas also written tovictoria2 celebrate 50 years of rule. G. Holden Pike received access to Victoria’s diaries to pen his biography.  It, too, has been discounted to 99 cents (USD), from a list price of $22.95 (hardbound). Holden Pike covers topics such as the Queen’s education, through to Prince Albert’s death, and finally to the Golden Jubilee, alongside other contextually relevant aspects of the Victorian era. Godfrey Holden Pike (1836-1910) was the sub-editor of The Sword and The Trowel for twenty years. He contributed many articles to the magazine, alongside penning many historical and biographical works such as Oliver Cromwell and His Times, and From Slave to College President.

albertHector Bolitho, the renowned biographer of royals, tackles Victoria’s husband in Albert, Prince ConsortThis one is also on sale for 99 cents (USD) today. Bolitho explores the life and personality of Prince Albert, from his birth in Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, his marriage and restraining influence on Queen Victoria and his early death from typhoid.

Earlier this week, Lea Wait’s Shadows on a Morning in Mainethe eighth in her Antique Print Mystery series, was released. It’s available for $4.99 (USD). (See my Sister Sites page for more info on Lea’s website.) I’m really, really, really ready to escape from the unrelenting heat and humidity of the Gulf Coast, so a virtual vacation to Maine sounds perfect.

shadowsDescription: Antique print dealer Maggie Summer’s making big changes in her life. She’s taken a sabbatical from her college teaching job and moved to the coast of Maine to run an antique mall with Will Brewer, her significant other, and is finally hoping to adopt the daughter she’s been hoping for. However, the troubled girl referred to her doesn’t want any part of the plan, showing affection only for harbor seals, which remind her of her “real mother.” Maggie’s distraught when someone starts shooting the seals — and the a young fisherman is murdered. When Will then confesses a secret from his past, she begins to wonder if moving to Maine is the biggest mistake of her life.

R. Allen Chappell has been compared to Tony Hillerman — which is recommendation enough for any mystery fan. His Navajo Autumn is discounted to 99 cents (USD) today from $2.99. I read a sample, enough to make me want to read more.

Description: Thomas Begay is found dead-drunk under the La Plata Bridge …not unusual for Thomas Begay. What is unusual, is BIA investigator Patsy Greyhorse, found lying beside him …not drunk, or even a Navajo, but very dead nonetheless. Long time friend Charlie Yazzi, fresh from law school, risks his career …and even his life to help his old schoolmate. The Answer seems to lie with the Yeenaaldiooshii …should one choose to believe in such things. In the far reaches of the reservation there still are traditional Navajos living their lives with few concessions to modern mores. Guided by their strong sense of cultural heritage these outliers remain a strong anchor for the Navajo Nation. This story follows the lives of such people, caught up in a plot that could have far-reaching implications for the entire tribe.

Sis congratulates MaryJo Dawson on the release of her sixth Sally Nimitz

EVC
Kindle edition $2.99 (USD)

Ending the Varney Curse, the sixth Sally Nimitz mystery, is being released today, but publication wasn’t the point when MaryJo Dawson wrote the first one.

“I wrote it for fun,” MaryJo says of The Death of Amelia Marsh.

All six books are available in ebook, from Amazon and other retailers, as well as a tradeback edition for readers who prefer printed books. The Death of Amelia Marsh is a Kindle freebie, and I reviewed it on Amazon when MaryJo was no more than an online acquaintance. She’s now a treasured friend who has allowed me to read final drafts of her last two mysteries, and I readily admit I am biased about her work.

That said, I do recommend Sally – it’s such a relief to encounter a sensible, instead of a silly, sleuth in a more or less cozy mystery.  More, because MaryJo’s mysteries do feature amateurs who solve mysteries (not all of which are murders!) without vulgar language or gruesome grit. Less, because the characters are more developed and the insights much deeper than those in most of the current crop of cozies.

Still, it’s best to let someone who can be impartial review Ending the Varney Curse. Instead, let me introduce you to MaryJo, if you don’t already know her, or, if you do, perhaps tell you more than you already know.

MaryJo, like Sally, had a satisfying career in nursing, most of it in obstetrics. I suspected as much while reading her first mystery, because the descriptions and details resonated with authenticity.  I didn’t know, though, that, like me, she was initially inclined toward literature and history. She backed into nursing.

“The profession chose me,” MaryJo recalled.  “My parents were stunned when, after a year of college, I chose to apply to nursing school. My main reason? It was less expensive. We had little money, and my dad was going to borrow so I could so on with my education.”

Nursing school, especially back then, allowed students to work while pursuing their education.

“There were times during those three years that I wavered in my choice. But God was looking out for me, because throughout my life, with its many ups and downs and different locations, I was always able to get a good job,” MaryJo recalled.MaryJo

A native of Wisconsin, MaryJo has lived and worked in many places from Maine to Mississippi. She now lives with her husband, Bill, in a small town at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in southeastern Colorado.

MaryJo also draws from her own background in creating what I call fiction for Christians (or Jews, or just those who want a clean read). Her stories aren’t really Christian fiction – you won’t find heavily moral messages or preachiness and the references to prayer are subtly matter of fact.

“Throughout the series, the lifestyle (Sally) believes in and lives pops up consistently. It is essential to who she is, who her best friends are, and how the various mysteries are handled,” said MaryJo, who was not only brought up as a Christian but who has, as I have seen firsthand, become a woman of a deep and abiding faith.

Readers who are hostile to religion might not find as much to like as those who are more welcoming, but faith isn’t exactly a theme in these mysteries. Instead, it is a part of who Sally (and recurring characters Anne and George) are, and MaryJo shows us this, rather than tells us so.

Perhaps it’s no wonder that one of the writers who inspires her is Dorothy L. Sayers, best known today for her Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries but whose serious writing includes many works of Christian non-fiction. Other influences and inspirations are Josephine Tey (whose Brat Farrar is a personal favorite), Rex Stout, and the husband-and-wife team of Brock and Bodie Thoene.

You won’t find MaryJo on Facebook. She doesn’t blog, or maintain a website. She does participate in Amazon’s Meet Our Authors Discussion Forum, which is where I first encountered her, but she limits her time online, striking a balance between activities there and offline.

“There are only so many hours in a day. I can’t spend them all on the computer, nor do I want to, so picking and choosing became a necessity,” MaryJo explained.

When she’s not writing, you might find MaryJo in her garden or on a walking path. She calls herself a “pretty boring person” and says she’s very comfortable with that. She loves family and friends, home and hobbies, and she knows something about exquisite chocolates . . . as I know firsthand!

Recent reads include:

Dead Wake by Eric Larson, which was selected by her book club

The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

The Calvary Road by Roy Hession, who also wrote We Would See Jesus (which MaryJo recently read and recommended to me)

Read a sample of MaryJo’s books, or buy from Amazon by clicking on these links:

The Death of Amelia Marsh — available as a free Kindle ebook; tradeback, $10.10 (USD).

The Disappearance of Douglas White — ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $11.49 (USD).

The Strange Situation at Emlee ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $11.49 (USD).

CharlieThe Truth About Charlie — ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $9.99 (USD).

Did Lucy Bedford Have to Die — ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $11.99 (USD).

Subscribers:  Leave a comment for a chance to win a Kindle edition of MaryJo’s latest (or substitute an earlier book if you prefer). Refer a friend who subscribes to MiddleSisterReviews.com for an additional chance. The winner will be chosen by a random method, which may involve the caprice of a cat or another four-legged friend, from comments posted by midnight CDT.

Texas blooms at Chelsea in this cozy

Bluebonnet betrayalRecommended: The Bluebonnet Betrayal (Book 5 of the Potting Shed Mystery series) by Marty Wingate; scheduled for release 2 August 2016 by Alibi, a Random House imprint; list price $2.99 (USD), Kindle edition.

Marty Wingate takes her Potting Shed Mystery series to Britain’s most famous flower show with The Bluebonnet Betrayal, scheduled for release Tuesday, 2 August 2016.

The cozy mystery series features professional gardener Pru Parke, a Texan who transplants herself to England in the debut, The Garden Plot (available in ebook for $2.99/USD), and who presents the reader with a bouquet of garden lore when she’s not unearthing clues . . . and occasionally when she is. Pru is both a proud native of the Lone Star State and an avid Anglophile, and the series offers a good sense of both backgrounds.

These are true cozies, written without vulgar language or vulgar depictions of violence. Readers may also like the fact that Pru is neither a young woman nor an old one. In this fifth book, she has married DCI Charlie Pearse, whom she meets in the first book, and Wingate writes of their romance with a deftness as well as discretion. I love their flirting, but I’m never embarrassed by too much intimacy.

The association of the amateur with the professional is a standard of the cozy genre, but here Wingate succumbs to the all-too-common temptation to allow the amateur (Pru) to make rather ridiculous demands for inside information from a police officer who only knows her by reputation. We don’t, or shouldn’t, expect too much realism from cozies, but it’s disappointing to see an otherwise sensible sleuth act so silly – and irritating to be asked to believe that a Scotland Yard detective would yield to such appeals. Especially with so much evidence to indicate that Wingate is fully capable of writing around this dilemma.

The plot involves a romantic quadrangle that is a bit of a stretch, too, and I suspect many readers will identify the murderer much sooner than Pru does. I also got a bit irritated with the repeated identification of bluebonnets as a Hill Country wildflower since I know them firsthand from my hometown of Houston, and have seen them bloom in profusion throughout the southeastern part of the state. I’d have expected Wingate, who herself is a well-known garden speaker and writer, to know better.

Yet, despite these detractions, this is an enjoyable and entertaining read. Wingate transports readers to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the grounds of the Royal Hospital on which it is held each May, quite fun for all of us who would like to go but may never have a chance. I had read the debut but not the middle books of the series, and I thought this one worked as a stand-alone. The series is attractively priced, too, from $2.99 (USD) for the first and last and $3.99 (USD) for Books 2, 3 and 4.

The Bluebonnet Betrayal isn’t likely to rate a best-in-show, but it’s certainly worth the price of admission.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary advanced reading copy from Alibi via NetGalley. She happily asserts that neither has attempted to influence her.

Description: Pru’s life in England is coming full circle. A Texas transplant, she’s married to the love of her life, thriving in the plum gardening position she shares with her long-lost brother, and prepping a Chelsea Flower Show exhibit featuring the beloved bluebonnets of the Texas hill country. Technically, Twyla Woodford, the president of a gardening club in the Lone Star State, is in charge of the London event, but Pru seems to be the one getting her hands dirty. When they finally do meet, Pru senses a kindred spirit—until Twyla turns up dead.

Although Twyla’s body was half buried under a wall in their display, Pru remains determined to mount a spectacular show. Twyla would have insisted. So Pru recruits her husband, former Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse, to go undercover and do a bit of unofficial digging into Twyla’s final hours. If Pru has anything to say about it, this killer is going to learn the hard way not to mess with Texas.

About the author: Marty Wingate is the author of the Potting Shed mysteries from Random House/Alibi. She also writes the Birds of a Feather mystery series, which debuted in 2015 with The Rhyme of the Magpie.

Marty speaks at national events, and writes about gardens and travel. She can be heard on A Dry Rain (adryrain.net), a free podcast available on iTunes. Marty is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, as well as the Royal Horticultural Society and the Garden Writers Association. She leads small-group garden tours to European destinations including England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and on North American journeys. Marty doesn’t believe that the thin veneer of tourism – successive one-night stops in a series of hotels – can ever replace getting to know the people, history and culture of a region, and so, when arranging her tours, she always includes time for a cup of tea, a pint of beer, or a glass of wine.

Saturday Savings 23.07.2016

The Scottie Barked at Midnight

Scottie BarkedThe ninth book in this popular cozy mystery series is on sale at $2.99 (USD), half the $5.99 price. This is a series I’ve only recently started, so I have yet to read this mystery, but the whole series gets an enthusiastic endorsement from one of my reading friends, Stacey, and I think she’s a good judge of a good cozy mystery.

Description:  Spring is just a few weeks away, but winter is still digging its claws into Moosetookalook, Maine. With business at the Scottish Emporium frozen up, Liss MacCrimmon is cautiously optimistic when a twist of fate lands her on a reality competition show—until the contest gets a little too cutthroat . . . While driving on an icy road one night, Liss swerves her car when something darts out in front of it. The Scottish terrier she finds shivering in the snow turns out to be a reality TV star. But when the pooch’s owner is murdered, her daughter asks Liss to take her place on the reality show. Before Liss can tell her she’s barking up the wrong tree, she finds herself ensnarled in the strange world of reality competitions and hot on the trail of a deadly competitor. And just as she starts pawing at the truth, Liss realizes she could be next on the murderer’s list.

DunnettAbout the Author:  Kaitlyn Dunnett first caught the Scottish heritage bug when her husband learned to play the bagpipes. Many Scottish festivals and parades later, and after a brief stint as bass drummer with a bagpipe band, she decided to combine her love of things Scottish with her love of writing. The Liss MacCrimmon mysteries are the result. Kaitlyn lives on a Christmas tree farm in the mountains of western Maine and can be reached through her website at www.kaitlyndunnett.com.

Click the image below to see the entire Liss MacCrimmon series:

Kilt Dead

is scheduled to be released 26 July 2016.

I’d heard of Nicholas Sparks, but I never read any of his best-selling novels until I started borrowing them from my beautiful mom-by-marriage, and, I confess, I enjoy them almost as much as she does.  I found The Rescuea novel published in 2000 on sale today for $1.99 (USD). Most of his ebooks are priced at $7.99 (USD), so this is a significant savings.

RescueDescription: When confronted by raging fires or deadly accidents, volunteer firefighter Taylor McAden feels compelled to take terrifying risks to save lives. But there is one leap of faith Taylor can’t bring himself to make: he can’t fall in love. For all his adult years, Taylor has sought out women who need to be rescued, women he leaves as soon as their crisis is over and the relationship starts to become truly intimate. When a raging storm hits his small Southern town, single mother Denise Holton’s car skids off the road. The young mom is with her four-year-old son Kyle, a boy with severe learning disabilities and for whom she has sacrificed everything. Taylor McAden finds her unconscious and bleeding, but does not find Kyle. When Denise wakes, the chilling truth becomes clear to both of them: Kyle is gone. During the search for Kyle, the connection between Taylor and Denise takes root. Taylor doesn’t know that this rescue will be different from all the others.

roger ackroydI’ve collected Agatha Christies since I was in my teens, and I had at least one copy of every title when I was in my twenties, but one in particular — The Murder of Roger Ackroyd — mysteriously disappeared every time I moved. Now, I have a Kindle edition which cannot go astray. Today, this classic mystery is discounted to $1.99 (USD), and it is one that belongs in the library of every mystery fan if not of every well-rounded reader. This is the book that made Christie, the bestselling mystery writer of all time, a household name. Debates raged over whether Christie played fair. I think she did. Other writers have since copied her clever plot device, but, to my mind, no one has ever equaled this effort. This is one I can read over and over and over again and enjoy each reading as much as I did the first time.

Description:  In the village of King’s Abbot, a widow’s sudden suicide sparks rumors that she murdered her first husband, was being blackmailed, and was carrying on a secret affair with the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. The following evening, Ackroyd is murdered in his locked study — but not before receiving a letter identifying the widow’s blackmailer. King’s Abbot is crawling with suspects, including a nervous butler, Ackroyd’s wayward stepson, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, who has taken up residence in the victim’s home. It’s now up to the famous Hercule Poirot, who has retired to King’s Abbot to grow vegetable marrows, to solve the case of who killed Roger Ackroyd.

And, last but by no means least, the bestselling, epic account of one of the most significant battles of the Vietnam War, We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young by retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph Galloway, is on sale at $2.99 (USD) today. Soldiers Once

Description:  In November 1965, some 450 men of the First Battalion, Seventh Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. Harold Moore, were dropped into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley. They were immediately surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. Three days later, only two and a half miles away, a sister battalion was brutally slaughtered. Together, these actions at the landing zones X-Ray and Albany constituted one of the most savage and significant battles of the Vietnam War. They were the first major engagements between the US Army and the People’s Army of Vietnam. How these Americans persevered—sacrificing themselves for their comrades and never giving up—creates a vivid portrait of war at its most devastating and inspiring. Lt. Gen. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway—the only journalist on the ground throughout the fighting—interviewed hundreds of men who fought in the battle, including the North Vietnamese commanders. Their poignant account rises above the ordeal it chronicles to depict men facing the ultimate challenge, dealing with it in ways they would have once found unimaginable. It reveals to us, as rarely before, man’s most heroic and horrendous endeavor.

Add this cozy debut to your TBR list:

Address to Die For

Recommended by MiddleSisterReviews.com

Address to Die For by Mary Feliz, published by Lyrical Underground, a digital imprint of Kensington Books, release date Tuesday, 19 July 2016; list price $3.99 (USD) for Kindle ebook, $15.00 (USD) paperback.
Address to Die For by Mary Feliz, published by Lyrical Underground, a digital imprint of Kensington Books, release date Tuesday, 19 July 2016; list price $3.99 (USD) for Kindle ebook, $15.00 (USD) paperback.

Description:  For professional organizer Maggie McDonald, moving her family into a new home should be the perfect organizational challenge. But murder was definitely not on the to-do list. Maggie McDonald has a penchant for order that isn’t confined to her clients’ closets, kitchens, and sock drawers. As she lays out her plan to transfer her family to the century-old house her husband, Max, has inherited in the hills above Silicon Valley, she expects their new life to fall neatly into place. But as the family bounces up the driveway of their new home, she’s shocked to discover the house’s dilapidated condition. When her husband finds the caretaker face-down in their new basement, it’s the detectives who end up moving in. While the investigation unravels and the family camps out in a barn, a killer remains at large—exactly the sort of loose end Maggie can’t help but clean up.

Mary Feliz picked the perfect location for her debut cozy mystery, a $15 million Craftsman home with barn in a village above the hills of California’s characteristically quirky Silicon Valley.

The setting is delightful. The story opens on Maggie McDonald, a professional organizer, and her family as they arrive at the house on moving day. Family and friends live, or have lived, in this part of California, and of course one reads about Google and its headquarters, yet I never saw this locale as clearly as I did in reading Address to Die For.

Each chapter of the mystery is decorated with a “quotation” from Maggie’s notebooks, and these insights and tips add considerable curb appeal to the story.  Maggie herself, in my opinion, is a major selling point for this new series, aside from the added value of her organizational advice.  She’s smart and strong, not one of the silly (and sometimes stupid) sleuths that have become all too common in today’s cozies, quite likeable and definitely good company.

The supporting cast, for the most part, provides a good foundation, too, with lots of loveable dogs and the family’s pair of cats, Holmes and Watson. Feliz keeps faith with cozy fans, avoiding both bad language and bedroom scenes.  At times, the mystery seems to get away from both Maggie and Feliz, but it is an enjoyable read and a good first effort – and well worth the list price of $3.99 (USD). The few flaws are forgivable, and I’ve added Feliz to my list of authors to follow. Scheduled to Death is scheduled for release in January 2017, and the third in the series, not yet titled, is expected in July 2017.

NOTE:  Lyrical Underground, an imprint of Kensington Books, allowed Sis to preview this debut cozy with  a complimentary advanced reading copy provided via NetGalley.  Sis is grateful for the opportunity and happy to report that her review reflects her own, independent opinions . . . as always.

About the author:  Mary Feliz has lived in five states and two countries but calls Silicon Valley home. Traveling to other areas of the United States, she’s frequently reminded that what seems normal in the high-tech heartland can seem decidedly odd to the rest of the country. A big fan of irony, serendipity, diversity, and quirky intelligence tempered with gentle humor, she strives to bring these elements into her writing, although her characters tend to take these elements to a whole new level. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Authors Guild where she feels at home among those plot to kill. She’s also a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, who seem less blood-thirsty and more interested in the skeletons in the closet.

Visit the author’s website at http://www.maryfeliz.com/


Saturday Savings with MiddleSisterReviews

More funny mysteries — for free!

And discounts on a classic, plus a funny film memoir

I have read and enjoyed some books in all of these mystery series, though not the ones that are offered free today.  Please remember to verify the price before purchase, as they are always subject to change without notice.

List price, $4.99 (USD)
List price, $4.99 (USD)

Murder on Opening Night:  When Myrtle Clover and her friend Miles attend a play in their small town, there’s a full house on opening night. It’s clear to Myrtle that one of the actresses is a stage hog who loves stealing the spotlight. Nandina Marshall certainly does upstage everyone—when her murder forces an unexpected intermission. Can Myrtle and Miles discover who was behind her final curtain call….before murder makes an encore?

Add Audible for only $1.99!  And, thanks JoJoPNW for pointing out that others in this series are free today as well:

Progressive Dinner Deadly, which I have read and recommend:Progressive

To the residents of the sleepy town of Bradley, North Carolina, hardworking Jill Caulfield seemed beyond reproach. She volunteered at the women’s shelter, worked at the church preschool, cleaned houses for extra money, and actually enjoyed yard work. And she was nothing less than a saint to cheerfully put up with her unemployed, skirt-chasing, boozer of a husband. When intrepid octogenarian sleuth Myrtle Clover caught Jill, her new housekeeper, peering into her medicine cabinet, she should have been upset. But discovering that Jill wasn’t such a squeaky-clean goody-goody made her vastly more interesting in Myrtle’s eyes. Myrtle would have happily continued figuring out what made Jill Caulfield tick. If Jill hadn’t foolishly gone and gotten herself murdered, that is.  Add Audible for $1.99.

dyeingA Dyeing Shame:  Some beauty secrets are more dangerous than others. When Beauty Box beautician Tammy Smith is discovered with a pair of hair shears in her back, there are suspects and secrets aplenty in her small Southern town. Octogenarian Myrtle Clover, bored by bingo and bridge, is intrigued by the crime…and her neighbors’ secrets. But discovering, and blabbing, secrets got Tammy killed and Myrtle soon learns her sleuthing isn’t just dangerous…it’s deadly.

A Body in the Backyard:  Extreme gardening often involves gnomes andbody in the backyard planted bodies. It’s just an ordinary day for octogenarian sleuth Myrtle Clover—until her yardman discovers a dead body planted in her backyard. This death isn’t cut and dried—the victim was bashed in the head with one of Myrtle’s garden gnomes. Myrtle’s friend Miles recognizes the body and identifies him as Charles Clayborne… reluctantly admitting he’s a cousin. Charles wasn’t the sort of relative you bragged about—he was a garden variety sleaze, which is very likely why he ended up murdered. As Myrtle starts digging up dirt to nip the killings in the bud, someone’s focused on scaring her off the case. Myrtle vows to find the murderer…before she’s pushing up daisies, herself.

Frances and Richard Lockridge‘s Mr. and Mrs. North mysteries are classics — and a series I regret not encountering long, long ago.  I’m making up for what I’ve missed whenever I find these on sale, and Mysterious Press is offering the fifth in the series today for $1.99:

Discounted to $1.99 (USD)
Discounted to $1.99 (USD)

Hanged for a Sheep:  Mrs. North must protect her aunt from being poisoned—whether she likes it or not. Pamela North has never worried about making sense. When she has a thought, she expresses it, and if no one in the room knows what she’s talking about, it’s no trouble to her. While Mrs. North’s unique style of thought can make her a challenging conversational partner, it also makes her one of the finest amateur sleuths in New York City. But no matter how sharp her wit, she can’t pin down Aunt Flora. An indomitable old woman, shaped like a snowman and just as icy, Flora is convinced that someone is trying to slip her arsenic, and she’ll be very cross if her niece can’t stop the culprit before he succeeds.

Aunt Flora stubbornly refuses to let Pamela call in the police, until a suspicious dead body forces them to ask the opinion of Lt. William Weigand. It’s a screwy mystery, and that means it’s perfect for Mrs. North.

Hanged for a Sheep is the 5th book in the Mr. and Mrs. North Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.

Also today, Geraldine Evans is offering a boxed set of the first four mysteries in her comic and almost-cosy series of 17 (so far!) mysteries featuring a pair of British detectives, Rafferty and Llewellyn:

DEAD BEFORE MORNING:  British Detective Joe Rafferty and his partner,

List price, $4.99 (USD)
List price, $4.99 (USD)

Sergeant Dafyd Llewellyn in a murder mystery involving the killing of a young woman bludgeoned beyond recognition, with no ID and found in a secure place to which she supposedly had no admission. Who is she? How has she gained access? And who was responsible for her murder? These are just a few of the questions the detective duo must answer in this first novel in the cozy mystery series. With difficulties besetting them on all sides, including their own superintendent and a media that has decided to adopt the case of the ‘Faceless Lady’ as their own personal crusade for justice, newly promoted Inspector Rafferty has something to prove.

DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN:  British Detectives Joe Rafferty and his partner, Dafyd Llewellyn, in their second murder mystery investigation, set out to discover who killed Barbara Longman, a woman with no known enemies. But when it soon becomes apparent that the murder has been committed by someone who must have known the victim well, the police investigation shifts to the victim’s family, the wealthy and influential Shores. Rafferty suspects that Charles Shore, not a man known to forgive failure, will use his influence to damage Rafferty’s career should he fail to find the murderer.

DEATH LINE:  Third novel in the Rafferty & Llewellyn mystery series, Death Line sees the detective duo trying to solve the murder mystery of the famed “seer,” Jasper Moon, with his own crystal ball. Gradually it becomes clear that Jasper Moon was a man of many parts, not all of them appeared very savoury. Moon was a wealthy man, but seems to have written no will; certainly, Detectives Rafferty and Llewellyn can’t find it. In a case involving as many twists and turns as a snake avoiding capture, the detectives must take their murder investigation back through the years to the victim’s youth to answer that question: ‘Who did it?’ And Rafferty fears that after such a long time, the evidence their murder inquiry needs will no longer be there to find.

THE HANGING TREE:  Fourth novel in the Rafferty & Llewellyn mystery series. This murder mystery involves the detective pair in the case of the vanishing hanged man. But when the hanged man turns up in Dedman Woods for a second time, the British detectives are able to confirm that he is a man many had reason to hate. Because Maurice Smith, charged years earlier with four child rapes, had escaped on a legal technicality. Detective Rafferty feels ambivalent about the case from the start. Not sure his desire to solve it is strong enough, he has to fight the feeling that natural justice, in winning out against the judicial sort, has right on its side. The punishment has, in his book, fitted the crime. As the usual police procedure continues towards an unwanted conclusion, Rafferty, caught between the law and his own sense of morality, feels this is an investigation that could cause him to demand his own resignation as a detective.

Discounted to $3.99 (USD)
Discounted to $3.99 (USD)

Also today, film fans — and anyone who enjoys a quick wit — may want to take advantage of a discount on the previously out-of-print autobiography of George Sanders, Memoirs of a Professional Cad. I’ve read only a small portion, but that’s only because I’ve had too many demands on my reading time to go further.  I don’t often read celebrity biographies, much less autobiographies, but I’m convinced Sanders could write about nothing at all and I’d still want to read it.  He really has a way with words, and, to my mind, this is a bargain at the discounted price of $3.99 (USD).

Description:  What might we dare to expect from an actor’s autobiography, even one from a star as personable as George Sanders? In the case of Memoirs of A Professional Cad, we possibly get more than we deserve. George Sanders undoubtedly led a colourful, glamorous and even action-packed life, spanning the peak years of Hollywood’s golden age. But the greatest joy of his memoirs is how funny they are, and how penetrating their author’s wit. Endlessly quotable, every chapter shows that the sardonic charm and intelligence he lent to the silver screen were not merely implied.

George’s early childhood was spent in Tsarist Russia, before he was obliged to flee with his family to England on the eve of the Russian Revolution. He survived two English boarding schools before seeking adventure in Chile and Argentina where he sold cigarettes and kept a pet ostrich in his apartment. We can only be grateful that George was eventually asked to leave South America following a duel of honour (very nearly to the death), and was forced to take up acting for a living instead.

Memoirs of A Professional Cad has much to say about Hollywood and the stars George Sanders worked with and befriended, not to mention the irrepressible Tsa Tsa Gabor who became his wife. But at heart it is less a conventional autobiography, and more a Machiavellian guide to life, and the art of living, from a man who knew a thing or two on the subject. So we are invited to share George’s thought-provoking views on women, friendship, the pros and cons of therapy, ageing, possessions, and the necessity of contrasts (Sanders’s maxim: “the more extreme the contrast, the fuller the life”).

Previously out of print for many decades, Memoirs of A Professional Cad stands today as one of the classic Hollywood memoirs, from one of its most original, enduring and inimitable stars. This edition also features a new afterword by George Sanders’s niece, Ulla Watson.

Spend summer in Sudbury Falls

Kay DriscollThis is a terrific time to discover Susan Bernhardt and her cozy mysteries – The Ginseng Conspiracy, Murder under the Tree, and Murder by Fireworks – all set in a fictional town in northern Wisconsin and each set around a different season, from Halloween to the Fourth of July.

I’ve known Susan since shortly after the publication of her first mystery, The Ginseng Conspiracy, when I first began participating in an Amazon.com discussion group for writers (and readers) of cozy mysteries, so I don’t claim to be unbiased when it comes to her writing. Read the reviews, or read an excerpt, and make your own judgment there. Instead, I’d like to introduce you to Susan . . . which is especially interesting as her own life, her own friends, and her own community, inspired much in these mysteries.

Susan, like the heroine of her three-book series, is a retired registered nurse who lives in northern Wisconsin. Like the fictional Kay Driscoll, Susan volunteers in her local free clinic. She and her husband, William, have two sons, and love to travel, and travel (as well as the thousands of reports she penned in her nursing career) provided an early opportunity for Susan to develop her writing skills.

“At the beginning, I kept a journal of each trip,” says Susan, who still has those journals.

Susan BSusan’s hobbies and interests including working in stained glass, bicycling, kayaking, reading – especially cozy mysteries – and traveling.  Oh, and chocolate.  Lots of chocolate.  In fact, readers should be warned that Susan’s cozies can be deadly to diets.  Kay and her friends frequent a delightful patisserie, and the descriptions of the decadent desserts they enjoy are irresistible!  (Hint: Susan shares the recipe for their favorite chocolate torte, which I have baked to much acclaim, on her website: http://susanbernhardt.com.)

Susan decided to try her own hand at writing cozies after reading M.C. Beaton’s The Quiche of Death.  The result – The Ginseng Conspiracy – was published in January 2014.  After publishing the third Kay Driscoll mystery, Susan began a new mystery based in Manhattan and featuring a retired ballet dancer, Irina, who runs a ballet studio for young children.

“A normally healthy neighbor becomes ill over time, dies, and Irina sets out to prove it wasn’t from natural causes.  There’s a bit about Lithuania in the Cold War. Subplots include a lover from Irina’s college years at NYU who suddenly re-enters her life and a stranger obsessed with Irina who moves into her neighborhood in the Upper West Side,” says Susan.

Plotting the puzzle of the mystery, and all the thinking required to turn fiction into fact, is the fun part for Susan, and that part consumes her attention, whether she’s taking a shower, going for a walk or falling asleep in bed.

“When I am writing a mystery it is often all-consuming. I love writing the first draft, including anything and everything I can think of.  I want those raw thoughts down on paper.  I don’t ever edit along the way.  Writing is very exciting for me. I love to write, and I really get into it. It’s fun and extremely satisfying,” Susan shares.

The hard part, as for other writers, is promoting the books.

Susan had intended to teach, but she went into nursing after an older brother who had earned an education degree had trouble finding a job.

“There were too many teachers at the time.  Being a practical person, I went into nursing because I knew I would get a job.  I received an academic scholarship and didn’t look back. My last paid nursing job was as a public health nurse in maternal child nursing. I loved it. I worked with mothers on medical assistance, doing assessments and teaching. I also developed the first Health Check in the Home Program in the state of Wisconsin.  I’m quite proud of that.”

After completing all her college prep courses, Susan opted to take art and shop classes in high school rather than graduate early.

“I made jewelry, designed my future home, threw some clay, worked with acrylics and wood, etc.  In college, I had a roommate who was an art major.  I started painting in oil that year.  Also in college I took two drawing classes with all art majors. I received some of my lowest grades in those classes, but I loved the experience. I took guitar in college, and did manage to get an A in that,” Susan recalls.

This love of art is incorporated in Susan’s fiction, both in the Kay Driscoll mysteries and in her current mystery-in-progress.  It’s also formed a basis for some of her travels, taking Susan and her husband to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Guggenheim museums in NYC and in Bilbao, Spain, as well as the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Prado in Madrid, and the National Gallery in London.

“I love Impressionist art,” says Susan.  “A couple of years ago when I visited the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, I acquired an appreciation for Picasso and Cubism.”

Susan also shared some of her favorite reads:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – “I’m quite interested in NYC and the time period of the book, the early 20th Century. It was my favorite novel last summer.”

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron – “This book opened a whole new world of literature to me.”

The Angels Game also by Zafron, about the love of writing – “It’s also excellent.”

The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte – “It’s such great writing and contains wonderful description.”

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro – “It’s an exciting mystery with art as the main theme and deals with Degas, a favorite artist of mine.”

Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Polifax series is one of many favorites in mysteries.

Read excerpts from Susan’s series:

fireworks

Roadkill (Double Barrel Mysteries Book 1)

A clean, comic mystery hits all its targets

RoadkillRecommended without reservations:  Roadkill (Double Barrel Mysteries Book 1) by Barbara Ellen Brink, 294 pp, ebook edition discounted to $0.99 (USD) for a limited time, in celebration of the release of Much Ado about Murder (Double Barrel Mysteries Book 2); list price, $4.99 (USD).  Tradeback edition, list $14.99 (USD).

Review:  Roadkill (A Double Barrel Mysteries Book 1) is a riot of a read.

It’s a sort of cozy mystery, featuring in one barrel a hotshot homicide detective who survived getting shot by a naked girl while taking down her drug-dealing boyfriend. The second barrel is the detective’s devoted wife, Shelby, a stage actress raised by an alcoholic Shakespearean.  A hit-and-run murder in the detective’s hometown, and the shooting that disables him, provide a prologue to a story that brings the couple to the fictional Port Scuttlebutt on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where they are debating whether to buy a derelict bed-and-breakfast.

It’s also sort of Christian fiction, featuring a couple of characters who are ordinary Christians and written without obscenities, profanities or voyeuristic sexual situations, though it’s never preachy nor moralistic . . . so non-Christian readers shouldn’t find anything objectionable.

Brink’s writing is pleasantly polished.  The characters are well-developed and, barring the necessary villains, quite likeable.  In fact, I look forward with pleasure to getting to know many of them better in Brink’s newly released sequel, Much Ado about Murder. The setting is delightful, too, with everything that makes a small town loved . . . and loathed.  The mystery involves a teasing tangle of threads, and Brink is adept at twisting them, then unknotting them.  You might, as I did, suspect early on that you’ve hit on the solution, but you shouldn’t be too sure of yourself.

One of the very best features is the dialogue, and, in particular the brilliant way Brink employs Shelby’s bardinage.  I, too, grew up in a household rife with Shakespearean references, and my college credits include nine hours of Shakespeare (including all the comedies and all the tragedies, as well as a large portion of poetry).  But – and this is what is so spectacular – readers don’t need to be versed in Elizabethan drama to enjoy these references because Blake generously explains them to those sensible characters who have no time for such foolishness.  It’s never condescending. Blake apologizes for his wife’s eccentricity, and Shelby, though delighting in the quotations that linger in our language, is no literary snob herself.  She simply wants to share the fun, not look down on the uninitiated.

“ . . . I’m the daughter of an alcoholic.  I say that up front because it colors everything about me. For good or bad, my past experiences have much to do with who I’ve become. I love eggrolls, big band music and Shakespeare,” Shelby tells readers in Chapter One.

A reader who wants to be truly ticky could cavil over two scenes, the absence of a crowd of cops at the hospital after Blake is shot and the brevity with which volunteer firefighters knock down a blaze and depart.  In my experience, the Thin Blue Line always thickens the moment an officer goes down, and even volunteer firefighters linger long enough to ensure a fire doesn’t reignite.  I suggest overlooking both. Brink’s choices serve to keep the story free from clutter where realism serves no particular purpose.

Finally, the discount on the digital edition should be good from all online booksellers through Monday, 6 June 2016.  Brink told me in an email that the price at Amazon will be the last to revert to the regular $4.99.

About the Author: Barbara Ellen Brink is a multi-published author of mystery, suspense, and young adult novels. Apart from writing she is a wife, mother, and dog walker. She grew up on a small farm in Washington State, but now lives in the mean “burbs” of Minnesota with her husband, their pup, and two adult children living nearby. In her spare time – when she’s not reading – she likes to ride motorcycles, visit local wineries, or catch up on the latest movies.

Much Ado about Murder (A Double Barrel Mysteries Book 2) by Barbara Ellen Brink, 260 pp, list price $4.99 ebook, $14.99 tradeback.

Blake and Shelby Gunner’s plans to renovate the old boathouse go awry when murder comes calling. Autumn in Port Scuttlebutt usually means a stormy Lake Superior, crisp temperatures, vibrant fall colors, and an invasion of deer hunters. This year, there’s also a shallow grave. Someone killed Pete Dugan’s ex-wife and planted her under his woodpile. The police consider him the obvious suspect, but the Gunners have other ideas. What does the death of a pet squirrel, the sighting of a mysterious car, a break-in at the bed & breakfast, and the reappearance of three ex-cons into the community have to do with the murder of a middle-aged legal assistant? No detective worth a grain of salt believes in coincidence. So when things start piling up that seem too quirky to be happenstance, Blake and Shelby have to decipher the clues and come up with the truth before a killer gets away with murder.

Highly recommending: The Red House Mystery

A.A. Milne’s classic locked-room mystery is was free today Friday, from Mysterious Press

Red House MysteryA hot, drowsy afternoon at Red House, home of wealthy Mark Ablett. Downstairs the servants are resting. Outside the secretary is reading. Then the peace is shattered by a piercing cry for help and a gunshot. Minutes later, Robert Ablett’s body is found in a locked room with no possible means of entry or exit.

A.A. Milne’s classic manor house mystery is one of my all-time favorites, as much a delight to read today as when I first found it on my grandmother’s bookshelves. I know it by heart, yet I still enjoy reading every word of it.

The Mysterious Press edition of The Red House Mystery is free today on Amazon.com, as well as from Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, Indiebound and Kobo, in an optimized for e-reader version.  It’s still a bargain at its list price of $0.99 (USD).  (My apologies to any who missed out!)

Milne, of course, is best known for his Winnie-the-Pooh stories — which I adore — but he was an avid mystery reader and I think he wrote one of the best ever, beginning with the dedication to his father, John Vine Milne. In many respects, it is a typical Golden Age mystery. The setting is an English manor house, the home of an unusual snob and the cousin who acts as his secretary, land agent, business advisor and companion. The snob, Mark Ablett, is fond of house parties — but prefers guests who cannot repay his hospitality — and the house is full when his previously unknown brother arrives unexpectedly from Australia, only to be found murdered behind a locked door in Mark’s office.

All typical . . . yet not at all typical with Milne’s witty writing, pleasing plotting, and a (mostly) charming cast of characters. If you haven’t read it, here’s an exceptional opportunity. If you have only a print edition or the public domain digital edition, here’s an excellent opportunity to upgrade to a properly formatted edition.  Enjoy!

From the publisher: Mark Ablett is not really a snob—not the worst kind of snob, at least. He simply prefers artists to everyone else, and the discussion of his own creative abilities to any other talk whatsoever. His vanities are easily forgiven especially since he is generous with his money—inherited not from his clergyman father but from a neighborhood spinster who took a liking to him—and he is always willing to play the host at the Red House, his delightful country estate.

One lazy summer morning, as his guests enjoy breakfast before a round of golf, Mark opens a surprising letter. His brother Robert, the black sheep of the family, gone some fifteen years now, is back from Australia and plans to call at the Red House that very afternoon. It is the first that Mark’s friends and servants have heard of a brother, but that shock is nothing compared to what happens next: After being shown into an empty office to wait for the master of the house, Robert is shot dead. Mark is nowhere to be found, not unlike the pistol that fired the fatal bullet. It is up to Tony Gillingham, man of leisure, and his young friend Bill Beverley to assume the roles of Sherlock and Watson and solve a crime so clever that Alexander Woollcott pronounced it “one of the three best mystery stories of all time.”

Beloved children’s author A.A. Milne was a great fan of detective stories. MilneHis first and last attempt at the genre is an absolute delight—one of the most original and charming novels of the Golden Age of crime fiction.

A brilliant burglar

A Brilliant Plan, Brilliant Actors
by Alex Ames
by Alex Ames

A Brilliant Plan and its sequel, Brilliant Actors, are a pair of brilliantly plotted and wickedly funny cozy mysteries, featuring Calendar Moonstone, the daughter of middle-aged hippies and a talented designer of beautiful jewelry . . . who just so happens to moonlight as a cat burglar!

In her debut, Calendar plans to combine a Thanksgiving visit to her parents’ home in San Diego with an unacknowledgeable visit to a swanky art gallery with a small collection of very large diamonds. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only one with plans, not to mention designs on another treasure, and Cal finds the body of the night watchman before she can exit with the diamonds.  If that isn’t bad enough, the police are waiting for her at her parents’ home, House of Moon, full of suspicion.  Nor are they alone with those suspicions.

The only way to hold the plan together is to find the killer, along with the missing jewelry.  Cal does just that, though it’s not easy – of course!

Ames writes that he decided to become a writer because he didn’t have the courage to become a cat burglar.  So, he set out to create a character worthy of Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, but I’ll take Calendar over Stephanie any day — especially if we could have her and Cary Grant.

She may be a thief, but she’s got scruples.  She’s also smart – and she needs to be because the cops are merely a few among many who’d like to pin the crimes on her!  My only real complaint is how long it is taking Ames to write a third one in this series.  He does have a day job, plus another series in print, but I’m absolutely smitten with this one and I want more.

This set of clever, cozy mysteries is likely to appeal to fans of Marian Babson, M.C. Beaton, Kate Carlisle, Kate Collins, Janet Evanovich, Joan Hess, Elizabeth Peters and others who combine mirth and mystery. It should appeal to those who don’t like Evanovich, too.  Oh, and did you note what a bargain they are?  You could buy both in Kindle format for less than four bucks, and I thought the first one was worth at least that.

A Brilliant Plan:  Meet Calendar Moonstone, acclaimed creator of jewelry for the rich, the royals and the famous. And compulsive part-time cat burglar whenever there are rare diamonds whispering her name. It was planned as a routine Thanksgiving part-time job: get in, crack the safe, fetch the diamonds. Instead Calendar finds the dead body of a night watchman and by sheer chance becomes involved to find the murderer and the stolen jewels. She gets teamed up with a cute police detective and a not so cute insurance investigator who sees Calendar behind almost every jewelry heist ever committed. To stay out of jail, Calendar has to use all her wits, skills and charm. And must solve a century old jewelry mystery.

by Alex Ames
by Alex Ames

Brilliant Actors:  What could be more exciting than attending the Academy Awards ceremony, joining the hottest after-show party, and have an A-movie star wearing your jewelry? All of the above, plus spending the rest of the night in jail! Acclaimed jewelry maker and part-time cat burglar Calendar Moonstone finds a stolen necklace in her purse, an enigmatic, unemployed actor with a cheesy name working against her, full-time insurance nemesis Fowler Wynn hard on her trail, and an intriguing chief of police asking for a date. The only catch is she has just thirty days to clear her name or go to jail—permanently. With the help of her trusted friend Mundy Millar, good ties in the movie business, and her uncle Bernie’s biker gang, Calendar sets out to make sure that the right person is caught and her own name cleared again. Even if it means she has to cut some corners, pick some locks, and break some hearts—Calendar style. 

About the Author:  Alex Ames always dreamed but never dared to become a famous jewel thief or computer hacker or super spy. After some considerations, his only morally feasible option was to become a writer. Alex is the author of the Brilliant – Calendar Moonstone cat burglar adventures and the Troubleshooter corporate thrillers. Find his books in print exclusively on Amazon and electronically at most eBook-sellers.

Available in print from Amazon.com and in e-book from Amazon.com and other sources: