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.

You lose if you snooze

The Teacup Novellas

TeacupsAll five of Diane Moody’s novellas, gathered in one collection, are offered free right now – but this kind of deal, though often repeated, never lasts long.  If you wait, you’ll miss out and either have to watch for a second chance or pony up the $6.99 list price.  These are delightful stories, each one capable of standing alone, but connected by a common thread.  They are heart-warming Christian fiction, from a talented writer.

The Teacup Novellas

Description:  Lucy Alexander has a hopeless case of writer’s block. But all that changes when her handsome UPS guy delivers a box of vintage teacups from the estate of her namesake and beloved Aunt Lucille. Happy memories of tea parties they shared when Lucy was young flood her mind. And with them, the forgotten stories her aunt loved to tell over tea and Scottish shortbread. Colorful tales of fascinating characters woven together with the undeniable power of love. Some were true, most weren’t, but it was her aunt’s extraordinary gift of storytelling that first ignited Lucy’s passion to write. Though still grieving the recent loss of her aunt, Lucy unwraps the fragile cups and saucers, and with them, a flood of memories and story ideas.

The Collection includes:

Book One – Tea with Emma

Book Two – Strike the Match

Book Three – Home to Walnut Ridge

Book Four – At Legend’s End

Book Five – A Christmas Peril

About the author:  Born in Texas and raised in Oklahoma, Diane Hale Moody is a graduate of Oklahoma State University. She lives with her husband Ken in the rolling hills just outside of Nashville. They are the proud parents of two grown and extraordinary children, Hannah and Ben. To date, Diane has penned thirteen books with several more projects vying for her attention. She and her husband Ken, who writes as McMillian Moody, founded OBT Bookz in 2011. When she’s not reading or writing, Diane enjoys an eclectic taste in music and movies, great coffee, and the company of good friends.

Visit Diane’s website at and her blog, “just sayin’” at


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Saturday savings . . .

Flames over France

I love bargain books – they feed my need to read without breaking my budget – and I’ve picked up a number of first-rate reads for less than a dollar and several for nothing. I also love to share my finds with my friends, and I want to share them with my readers . . . which is easy when it’s a book I’ve already read but not so easy when it is a book I haven’t read because these offers are usually limited, often for a day or so. What a dilemma! So, here’s my solution:  I’ll try posting some, like this one, where I’ve only read a sample but which are offered by publishers that I have found to be reliable or are recommended by others I have found to be reliable, when I can’t find one I have read and can recommend.

Let me know what you think.  Your feedback will help me decide whether to make this a regular feature or to stick with reviewing books I have had time to read and review.

Flames over FranceFlames over France by Robert Jackson, 224 pp.; Kindle edition published by Endeavour Press in 2016; originally published by Severn House in 1997.  Endeavour’s 99-cent Deal of the Week (99 pence in the UK).

Book description:  May 1940: Flight Lieutenant Ken Armstrong is deployed to an airfield in France. His arrival coincides with Hitler’s invasion of France and the Low Countries. He picks up victory after victory but nothing he can do will be enough to turn the tide. Armstrong befriends the pilots he fights beside but is forced to watch them drop out of the sky each day. The battle for France will be lost. But that doesn’t mean the war is over. Armstrong and his men are determined to fight tooth and nail against impossible odds. In this tale of dignity and bravery when all hope seems lost, Armstrong must do what needs to be done. As a former pilot and Squadron Leader himself, Robert Jackson masters the plot and brings history to life in fantastic detail. This is the second novel to feature the charismatic Flight Lieutenant Ken Armstrong, following on from Flames over Norway.

Endeavour Press is an independent digital publisher in the United Kingdom, and, while not every book published coincides with Sis’s personal taste, she has found all of them to be well-written and well-edited. The publisher’s free weekly newsletter provides information on a variety of discounted and free ebooks each week.  Readers can sign up to receive the newsletter at

About the Author:  Robert Jackson (b. 1941) is a prolific author of military and aviation history, having become a full-time writer in 1969. As an active serviceman in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve he flew a wide range of aircraft, ranging from jets to gliders.

Bob Russell reflects after 50 years . . .

by Bob Russell, 224 pp.; Moody Publishers.
by Bob Russell, 224 pp.; Moody Publishers.

After 50 Years of Ministry: 7 Things I’d Do Differently and 7 Things I’d Do the Same by Bob Russell, 224 pp.; Moody Publishers. Pre-order price, $9.40 (USD) hardbound edition (expected release date 7 June 2016). Kindle edition
now available for $8.93 (list, $11.99, both USD).


Given a choice, I’d much rather learn from the mistakes of others than make my own – not that I always see the choice in time – so I was intrigued to learn what retired megachurch pastor Bob Russell had to say about the things he wishes he hadn’t done, as well as the things he’d do all over again, given half a chance.

The insights aren’t startling – after all, there is nothing new under the sun – but I love the plain-spoken way that Russell presents his seven “Don’ts” and his seven “Dos” because these are exactly the kind of lessons I learn best when they are spelled out for me rather than disguised beneath inventive images and lyrical language. He doesn’t pull punches, whether he’s exposing his own errors or holding up a mirror to ours, but he does write with a comforting sense of humility . . . and humor.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect:  I’ve never thought God might be calling me to any kind of ministry, and I’m much more comfortable – and accountable – in intimately small churches than those where thousands, let alone tens of thousands, congregate. For the first few minutes, I thought this would be a pretty good book for the clergy.  For the next few minutes, I thought this would also be a pretty good book for lay leaders.  Before long, I decided it is a pretty good book for Christians, no matter whether they are called to the ministry, leading as laity or sitting on a pew in the back (my favorite spot).

Clerics have reviewed the book, and they’re in the best position to tell other clergy what they’ll get out of these 14 lessons.  But, even those of us who like to sit silently in the back can, and should, get a lot out of Russell’s easy-to-read essays.  Some of us may not realize how much we could do to support our own ministers – or, worse, how much we are doing to undermine them unintentionally! Many lessons should resonate with clergy and laity alike, especially Russell’s recognition that mindless television is not the best way to wind down at the end of the day.

“The bloody violence, frequent profanity, worldly propaganda, and graphic sexuality available on television does more than entertain, it can pollute our minds, desensitize us to evil, entice us to lust, quench the Holy Spirit in our lives and dull the edge of our sword,” he writes.  And, later, “Instead of looking for something to occupy my time I’d try talking to my wife or family members.”

Who of us shouldn’t spend more time talking to our spouses, our children, our parents or even our intimate friends?

On the other hand, Russell points out that we all have some people we should spend less time talking, or listening, to – those who criticize anonymously or unjustly – and he offers some specific suggestions on how to let go of the trash these mean-spirited minority want to dump on us.  Who couldn’t benefit from a bit of advice here?

Finally, I love the organization of the book:  Russell begins with the seven things he wishes he hadn’t done, or had done less often, and he finishes on higher ground by asserting the seven things he’s truly glad he did, and wishes he’d done more often.  No matter where you are on your own spiritual path, these seven “don’ts” and seven “dos” can help you stay on that path and can encourage you as you go wherever God is leading you.

Note:  Moody Publishers gave Sis a complimentary advanced reading copy via NetGalley.  The review reflects her own and only her own opinions, and Sis believes neither the pastor nor the publisher would expect anything different.

About the Author:  At just 22 years of age, Bob Russell became pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members grew into one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending four worship services every weekend by 2006 when Bob retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches and conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups. An accomplished author, Bob has written more than a dozen books. Bob and his wife, Judy, have two married sons, Rusty and Phil. In his leisure time he enjoys playing golf and is an avid University of Louisville football and basketball fan.