Tag Archives: Five Star Publishing

A day in the life with Marla Vail by Nancy J. Cohen

facials-can-be-fatalWhy can’t things ever go well? I’m Marla Vail, a hairstylist and salon owner in sunny South Florida. All I want is to settle into a happy life with my new husband and stepdaughter. But unfortunately, I have the habit of stumbling onto dead bodies on a fairly regular basis. This doesn’t please Dalton, my homicide detective husband. Even his daughter is turning into a teenage amateur sleuth helping us solve crimes.

My new day spa was getting off to a great start, and all was calm one morning until I heard screams coming from next-door. I was working at my station, where I do clients full-time even though I own the place. Everyone froze as shrieks rent the air. The horrible noises appeared to be coming from our adjacent day spa.

My pulse racing, I dashed over there. The receptionist hovered by one of the treatment rooms where a client had been getting a facial. I couldn’t believe it when the aesthetician told me her customer was dead. I peeked inside the room and gasped at the green cream mask that had hardened on the woman’s face. My heart dropped to my toes as a brief survey told me CPR wouldn’t help.

As we waited for rescue personnel to arrive, I considered the ramifications. Valerie Weston, the dead lady, volunteered for Friends of Old Florida, a historical building preservation society. Val was a major benefactor who sponsored their annual fundraiser. My staff was scheduled to work on the models’ hair that night at the fashion show. Would the event be cancelled in the wake of their patron’s death?

I dreaded what my husband would say. Dalton would surely arrive on the heels of the EMTs. What would he think when he discovered I’d stumbled onto another dead body?

Here’s how our subsequent conversation went:

“What happened?” Dalton asked.

“Rosana was giving her customer a facial. She put on the woman’s face mask and left the room for a few minutes. When she returned, the lady wasn’t breathing.”

“Can I speak with Rosana somewhere private?”

“Sure. How come you’re here? Did you recognize the address from the dispatcher?”

“That’s right. Good guess.” The corners of his mouth lifted. This was far from the first time he’d been summoned to my place of business.

“We can use one of the empty massage rooms,” Rosana suggested in a weak tone.

After I’d introduced the aesthetician to my husband, I patted the woman’s shoulder. “It’ll be all right. Dalton will ask you some questions, and then you can take the rest of the day off. We’ll notify your clients.”

Dalton pulled out a notebook and pen and followed Rosana into another treatment room. I joined them, intending to offer moral support to our staff member. To my gratitude, Dalton didn’t object. But then, he’d come to value my contributions. He had even identified me as his unofficial sidekick to an Arizona sheriff during our recent honeymoon.

Not one to stand idly by, I consoled Rosana, spoke to each of the customers who stood by watching the commotion, and asked the receptionist to reschedule all upcoming appointments. Someone had to keep their cool, and as usual, it was me.

After hearing this earful, you might want to find another hairstylist. But please give our salon a chance. We’ll give you a discount on your next appointment. Besides, you have to admit the Cut ’N Dye Salon is always Action Central. Have a bouffant day, and I’ll see you next time you’re in town.

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You can read more about Marla in Facials Can Be Fatal, the 13th book in the “Bad Hair Day” mystery series.

During the frenzy of the December holidays, the last thing salon owner Marla Vail needs is a dead body slathered in a green facial mask at her new day spa. The victim, Valerie Weston, was a major donor for Friends of Old Florida, a historic building preservation society. Marla’s stylists are scheduled to work backstage at their upcoming gala fashion show, but Val’s demise might put a crimp in their plans. Hoping to salvage her reputation, Marla determines to track down the suspects. As she learns more about Val, she realizes the benefactress might have stumbled onto secrets others would kill to keep. She’d better prepare for a body count that has nothing to do with hot stone massages and everything to do with murder.

View the Book Trailer:

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About the author
Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. Titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list, been selected by Suspense Magazine as best cozy mystery, and won third place in the Arizona Literary Awards. Nancy has also written the instructional guide, Writing the Cozy Mystery. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, she is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, Nancy enjoys fine dining, cruising, visiting Disney World, and shopping.

Reach out to Nancy at the following:

Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
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LinkedIn
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Amazon Author Page
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All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win an e-book copy of Permed to Death (Bad Hair Day Mystery #1) revised Author’s Edition. The giveaway ends February 24, 2017. Good luck everyone!

Facial Can Be Fatal is available at retail and online booksellers.

Another day in the life of Stella Lavender by Karen Pullen

cold-heart“You don’t look like a cop.” Wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a version of that opinion. My boss says it when he explains why I’m so valuable as an undercover drug agent. Drug sellers say it on the rare occasions my cover slips. My grandmother Fern says it after she’s arranged my hair in a complicated updo. And several characters involved in my latest homicide case were similarly puzzled by my appearance.

First, there’s the heroin dealer I tussled with until my partner Fredricks came to my rescue: Scottie rolled onto his side and gave me a stink eye. “Damn. You a cop? I don’t believe it.”

The next day I was heading home when I saw a teenager hitchhiking. I screeched to a halt and waved her into my car. She hopped in but it wasn’t a free ride–she had to listen to my lecture on what happens to teenage girl hitchhikers:

“Thanks,” she said. “Women never stop.”

“Where are you going?”

“Silver Hills.” An expensive gated golf community a few miles north.

“I’ll take you there if you’ll listen to these numbers.” I was making an effort to keep calm, not throttle her for terminal stupidity. “There are almost six thousand registered sex offenders in this state. They’ve been convicted. But only one in seven men arrested for rape is convicted, and only one in twenty-five reported rapes results in an arrest. And most rapes aren’t reported.”

She closed her eyes and puffed out a breath, fluttering her bangs. “Spare me the lecture. I have to babysit, and the kid’s dad didn’t pick me up like he said he would. I waited at the school bus stop for an hour. What was I supposed to do?”

“Let me simplify. Predators look for girls like you. Girls are picked up and never seen again.”

“Yeah, yeah. What makes you so smart?”

I showed her my ID. “What’s your name?”

“Nikki Truly. You’re a cop? You’re no older than me.”

“What makes you so smart?”

She laughed, showing even white teeth, transforming her face from sullen to cute. “OK. I get it. Next time I’ll call a cab.”

I’ll spare you the details of what I found at Nikki’s employer’s house in Silver Hills. I think you can imagine, since this is a murder mystery. I joined the investigation, of course. The only forensic evidence was a bloody fingerprint so I started interviewing subjects, among them the victim’s nineteen-year-old half-brother. I met Bryce at his gym, where he was working out:

The gym was a huge open space with very high ceilings festooned with ropes and metal bars. . . Bare walls held white boards with inspirational sayings and workout times. The place smelled like sweat, with undertones from the Chinese restaurant next door.

A class was in process. About twenty people were doing pushups, deadlifts, jumping on and off the boxes, squatting, throwing massive balls up against a wall. They grunted, groaned, and screamed encouragement at each other. Hip-hop music blared, barbells clanked, sweat flew. Body shapes ranged from pudgy to wiry, ages from twenty to seventy, but they all looked oxygen-deprived, hence confused, and after ten minutes of this, not a few were wobbly. One by one they screamed “time” and collapsed–chests heaving for air, streaming sweat–onto the floor. . .

I had never met Bryce, so I didn’t know which of the near-dead bodies was his, but after a few minutes the bulkiest of the young men staggered to his feet and waved at me. . . I know people who work out—some fellow agents are in the gym every day—but I’d never been up close to a body like his, bulging with muscle everywhere. . . His hair was gorgeous: thick, honey blond, cascading over his shoulders. I … invited him to sit in my car. He slid the seat all the way back and turned to face me. . .“So you’re a cop? You don’t look like one.”

I’m not offended; I know what I am. And not looking like a cop is a good thing when you’re trying to buy illegal drugs. That’s illegal, but not as illegal as trying to sell them.

It gets to me sometimes–the danger, lies, and necessary betrayals. That’s why I’ll always join a homicide investigation when I get the chance. And this recent one–the murder of Kent Mercer–was a doozy, churning up a half-dozen suspects, all related somehow: family, neighbors, work. Liars, every one, protecting their secrets.


COLD HEART is the second book in the Stella Lavender mystery series published by Five Star Publishing, January 2017.

Motivated by her mother’s long-ago unsolved abduction, Stella Lavender has joined the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation only to be severely challenged by her first assignment: undercover drug agent. Stella works nights, buying drugs from paranoid drug dealers, gathering evidence to send them to prison or turn them into informants. She’s great at the job because, as her boss says, “you don’t look like a cop.” But the physical danger and the necessary betrayals are getting to her. When she sees a chance to work homicide, she’ll always take it.

One afternoon Stella gives a hitchhiking teenager a ride to her babysitting job in a wealthy neighborhood. Horror awaits them—the father lies dead in a pool of blood, and his toddler is missing. Stella joins the murder investigation as the puzzle quickly grows. Most importantly, where is the toddler? A dizzying array of plausible suspects provides more questions than answers.

At the same time, Stella’s personal life offers plenty of distractions. Her grandmother Fern, a free-spirited artist with male admirers wrapped around every one of her paint-stained fingers, needs Stella’s help with expensive house repairs. And Stella’s attraction to three very different men means her romantic life is, well, complicated.

Cold Heart draws the reader into a darkly delightful page-turner as Stella rummages through every strata of society in her relentless and sometimes unconventional pursuit of a cold-hearted murderer who won’t stop at just one victim.

“Fans of the regional mystery, rejoice! (Stella) is back, and the murder that sets off the action is even more engrossing than her first.” – Margaret Maron.

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About the author
Karen Pullen’s fiction includes two Five Star mysteries, Cold Feet (2013) and Cold Heart (2017). She also edited the Anthony-nominated anthology Carolina Crimes: 19 Tales of Lust, Love, and Longing (Wildside, 2014). She has an MFA from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine, serves on the board of Sisters in Crime, and lives in Pittsboro NC. For updates, see www.karenpullen.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: In keeping with the title of her January release Cold Heart, Karen will send a silver heart pendant to a commenter selected at random. US addresses only, please. Check back on January 25, 2017 to see if you won! Good luck everyone!

A Day in the Life of Maria Inés by Anne Schroeder

maria-inesIt is the fall of 1818, the year of the Lord, in the words of Padre Juan. The mission bells wake me, and for a moment I think I am inside the monjerio with the other unmarried girls. It is not until I hear the stirring of my husband beside me that I realize I am in the snug adobe room assigned us.

I toss aside the blanket, woven by my hand from our mission flocks, and rise from my tule mat to dress. Before the morning doves stir, I join other baptized neophytes in singing the “Cantico del Alba,” a beautiful prayer to the morning.

I take my place on the cold adobe tiles of the church, while Padre Cabot watches to be sure that all are in attendance. I sit on the right side, on a blanket next to other women. Domingo approaches the altar to lend his voice to the choir. He has a fine voice, and my heart knows him from the others.

Afterwards my belly growls like a bear and I hurry from the church to prepare a light meal for my husband, atole, a thin broth made of corn. It will scarcely sustain us, but the fields are empty this year after the Spanish Governor de Solá issued a deep tax on our mission to fund his debts.

I hurry to begin the chore I have been assigned, that of grinding corn. It is a monotonous task, made worse by the bulk of my belly, but I have no will to complain. Suddenly a dark shadow blocks the sun. It is Red-Eye, the pock-marked soldado who watches me so intensely. I do not show fear, only hope that he finishes quickly, before my husband and the others discover the dirty act that he forces on me. When it is over I return to my room. Oxwe’t, my mother-in-law, turns her face away. It is between us, the knowledge that this child I carry may not be her son’s. A burden we will not talk about, even to each other. The blood will be strong if it is mestizo. Perhaps it will survive.

Domingo appears and I am comforted by his greeting. Tonight we will walk to the hot springs and bathe in the healing muds my people share with the grizzly and with other tribes who crossed our land on their way to the sea before the Greyrobes came.

The baby stirs in my belly. Soon I will see my little bird. I will name her Maria Inés. Domingo says the White God has taken all that we have and he will not give up his child as well. But what choice do we have? The White God is more powerful than our old god, Cooksuy. The people know this and so they stay with the Padres.

But today the baby stirs. It is a day for hope.


Maria Inés is a western historical novel published by Five Star Publishing, October 2016.

An Indian girl born under Padre Serra’s cross at Mission San Miguel de Arcángel witnesses the political intrigue and greed of Spanish, Mexican and Yanqui invaders who plunder California, destroying everything she loves. A refugee in her own land during the Time of the Troubles, Maria Inés struggles to survive while she reclaims her family, her faith and her ancestral identity. A moving must-read for fans of the Old West and of Native Americans’ legendary history.

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Meet the author
anneschroederAnne Schroeder is Past President of Women Writing the West. Maria Inés is an Historical novel set in early California during the Spanish, Mexican and American conquests. Cholama Moon is another novel in the series. Both are available on Kindle or Amazon. Anne has won numerous awards for her short fiction and memoir. She is currently adjusting to a new puppy in the house.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win an advance reader copy of Maria Inés. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends December 26, 2016. Good luck everyone!

A Day in the Life of Grace Kimball by Susan Van Kirk

marry-in-hasteGrace Kimball, retired high school teacher in Endurance, Illinois, is writing historical stories for the Endurance Register. Her boyfriend, Jeff Maitlin, recently bought a huge Victorian mansion to renovate called Lockwood House. Its past is full of dark secrets. While checking out the new house, Grace and Jeff find a diary from Olivia Havelock Lockwood, who lived in the house in 1893. Today, Grace is visiting Sam Oliver, Chair of the history department at Endurance College, to find out what she can about Olivia Lockwood and her powerful husband.

Grace opened her electronic notepad to a blank screen. “Was the Lockwood inheritance substantial, Sam?”

“It was enormous for the time. Charles Lockwood lived in a period when corruption was rampant, and, as a circuit judge, he was in a position to take advantage of that. He married Jane Spencer in 1888, moving to the new mansion after their honeymoon. He was thirty-six to her twenty. When you look at the Register, you’ll see pictures of the young influential couple. Study their faces and you will think they are having the time of their lives.”

“But that wasn’t the case?”

“Rumors abounded. Many local sources—diaries and journals—attest to the idea that Lockwood had a fondness for the madam of a local whorehouse, and he was whispered about when it came to corruption. He was also looking for an heir, and finally Jane got pregnant.”

“But that didn’t last either,” Grace replied, glancing up at him.

“You would think she would have a happy ending, but she didn’t. She died in an accident—fell down the huge staircase at the front of the house when she was pregnant. Both of them—she and the baby—died of their injuries.”

“But it was an accident, right?”

“Maybe. The local coroner was also the family physician, resulting in a rapid and efficient coroner’s jury and a unanimous verdict of death by accident. But people still talked and speculated. Didn’t bother the judge,” said Sam, taking a sip of coffee. “Life went on and he was appointed a federal judge. Time to consider politics, maybe run for governor, but he needed a wife.”

“And,” said Grace, “that’s when he met Olivia Havelock.”

“Yes. She was a young thing, just seventeen, and fresh off the family farm from a small town south of here.” He sighed, and a troubled look came over his face.

Grace chimed in. “Then he wined her, dined her, and married her.”

“Ah, yes. You can read about it here in my book. Exquisite wedding, honeymoon to the Columbian Exposition of the World’s Fair in Chicago—all by private railcar.” He leaned across the desk and turned a page in the book Grace was holding. “If you turn a few more pages you’ll see a photograph after their honeymoon.”

Grace stared at the photo of the couple. Judge Lockwood was in a dark suit with a pocket watch and gold chain. Olivia was in her wedding dress. There was also an exquisite ring—an heirloom ruby with pearls on either side. How beautiful she looks, thought Grace. Her hair is up in a fashionable set of curls as befits a married woman. She stands so stiffly in her corset. The delicate lace of her bodice goes up to a high collar. She looks happy . . . Her goal as a woman has finally been reached. She doesn’t realize her husband will be dead in months. How strange to look at this photo and know what lies ahead.

Sam’s voice brought her back. “And again, rumors, absences of the young wife from social events, whispers of abuse, and his frequency at the saloons on South Mercy Street.”

“I’ve seen pictures of her in the social pages. As you say, she was both hauntingly beautiful and also innocent looking. But you did say something about a mystery.”

“That’s in my book too. The deaths have been real subjects of speculation. What happened to the first wife? Accident or murder? What happened to his second wife, Olivia— period? She simply disappeared. How did the judge die? Poison? Someone he had sentenced looking for revenge?”

“I’m going to try to solve those questions, Sam. I’ve already started researching in the Register.”

“”Don’t believe everything you read on the social pages, Grace,” he warned.

“What do you mean?”

“Those were dark times, especially for women. Laws did not protect them in any way.”

Glancing at the clock above Sam’s head, Grace closed up her notepad, stood up, and thanked Sam for his help. As she passed the college president’s office, she saw a group of bundled up students in winter gear—but some of them were barefooted in flip-flops. Grace looked at their young faces as they talked and laughed energetically to their friends.

They’re about the same age as the Lockwood wives, Number One and Number Two, thought Grace. I am going to find out what happened to those two young wives, and maybe learn a thing or two about Charles Lockwood’s strange death.


Marry in Haste is the second full-length novel in the Endurance mystery series published by Five Star Publishing/Cengage, November 2016.

It is 2012 in the small town of Endurance, wealthy banker, Conrad Folger, is murdered and his wife, Emily, arrested. Emily Folger was one of Grace Kimball’s students in the past, and Grace knows Emily could never murder anyone. So, Grace joins Detective TJ Sweeney to investigate the murder, and they uncover a dark secret.

In 1893, Olivia Havelock, age seventeen, moves to Endurance to seek a husband. She finds one in Charles Lockwood, powerful and wealthy judge, but her diary reveals a terrifying story.

Two wives—two murders a century apart—and a shocking secret connects them. Marry in Haste is a story of the resilience of women, both in the past and the present.

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About the author
Susan Van Kirk was educated at Knox College and the University of Illinois. She taught high school English for susanvankirkthirty-four years in the small town of Monmouth, Illinois [pop. 10,000], and then an additional ten years at Monmouth College. Three May Keep a Secret, her first mystery novel about the small town of Endurance, was published in 2014 by Five Star Publishing/Cengage. The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney, is an e-book novella available on Amazon. Marry in Haste was available on November 16. Connect with Susan at www.susanvankirk.com, on Amazon, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Goodreads and on Pinterest.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Marry in Haste. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends November 20, 2016 at 11:59 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

A Day in the Life of Dreamwalker Baxley Powell by Maggie Toussaint

Doggone ItI’m  Baxley Powell, and my days aren’t the usual run of the mill stuff. People usually have two reactions when they find out I’m a dreamwalker. Either they think I’m weird and they avoid me. Or they think I’m weird, and they try to test me. Luckily, I can parse out a lie faster than they can blink, so I always have their numbers.

Friends, true friends at least, are golden. My best friend is reporter Charlotte Ambrose, and she’s never been afraid of me or my family. Through thick and thin, we’ve seen it all, done it all. It’s her fault I got dragged into the haunted house murders. She was the one who came up with the bright idea of writing a newspaper series about all the ghosts around here.

Charlotte made me go with her to June’s Folly, reputed to be haunted by old slaves because of the clanking chains people heard out there. Last time I’d visited, my dad had to come get me because my extra senses short-circuited. This time I kept my mental defenses up because at 28 I was too doggone old to be rescued by my dad.

Soon as we arrived, Charlotte had to sit down on the steps of the crumbling mansion. She couldn’t go any farther. At first I worried her plus size caused her fatigue. Out here in the deep woods we were a long way from any medical facility, so I hoped it wasn’t that.

Much to my surprise she started shivering and freaking out because of clanking chains. Since I was shielded, I heard nothing. I touched her arm, and she felt ghostly cold. I couldn’t believe it. Charlotte found the ghost! And a ghost here meant my earlier mishap wasn’t my fault. I must’ve gotten mugged by the ghost last time.

Charlotte wasn’t thrilled about her new ghost detection ability. She knew what buttons to push, and she pretty much told me I was a wuss if I didn’t help her out. This was a ghost, I spoke to ghosts, and by God, she wanted it gone.

For months, I’d routinely crossed the Veil of Life and communicated with spirits. I wasn’t the same untested teen my dad had to rescue. I had skills, training, and experience.

Okay. I know you’re shaking your head and muttering “don’t do it” by now because I had none of my regular backup team. I already knew this place was trouble. But that’s the thing about peer pressure. It makes you believe you’re Wonder Woman.

As soon as I lowered my guard and raised my senses, I plunged into Otherworld murk and couldn’t get out. I heard Charlotte yelling at me to wake up and to quit rolling my eyes up in my head because it was creeping her out. I saw her trying to make me come around, but I couldn’t move on to the spirit realm and I couldn’t return to Sinclair County, Georgia.

Did I mention my indenture to Rose? She claims she’s an undercover angel, but she’s such a moody, malicious spirit, I have doubts about her true identity. My acute distress caught her attention. Rose showed up and offered to help, for a fee.

You don’t want to know what that cost me, but I took the name she offered. I summoned Oliver, the earthbound spirit that trapped me. Was I scared? Heck, yeah. Did I have any other options? Heck, no. It wasn’t like the fire department could save me, and I didn’t want my dad stuck in this terrible place with me.

I was so cold. Disembodied voices wailed. Chains clanked. My spirit form couldn’t stop trembling, but I kept calling Oliver, and the ghostly stuff intensified. Oliver stayed out of reach, his red beady eyes glowing. It took me a few moments, but I finally realized Oliver was a dog. I’d been trapped by a ghost dog, of all things!

Since I have a pet and plant care business as my day job, I’m a dog expert. I used my softest voice, enticing this Great Dane forward so I could remove the stout collar and clanking chains from his neck. Afterward, Oliver jumped and waggled and frolicked and was so happy that I forgot to be scared.

I showed Oliver the way to the next world, but he stayed put. Apparently, freeing him earned me his everlasting devotion. Now I have a ghost dog attached to me. Just another day in my life as a Dreamwalker.


Doggone It is the third book in the Dreamwalker mystery series, published by Five Star Publishing, October 2016.

Dreamwalker Baxley Powell can’t remember the last time she had such a crappy weekend. A twilight encounter with a ghost dog left her numb and disoriented, her dreamwalker abilities are wiped out, and the sheriff just summoned her to a double homicide.

With no access to the spirit world, Baxley bluffs her way through the crime scene where a movie star’s assistant and a charter boat captain were strung up and bled dry. In a haunted house, no less. Figuring out who killed these people will be a real challenge without her ability to speak to the dead.

Just when Baxley thinks her powers are returning, her dreamwalks malfunction. With the sheriff pushing her to solve the case quickly, Baxley teams up with a dognapping medium to boost her powers.

Suspects include the captain’s good-for-nothing brother, the assistant’s replacement, and, of course, his stalker. All of Sinclair County is on edge, and the media circus isn’t helping. At stake are the movie’s funding, the sheriff’s job, and Baxley’s senses.

Can Baxley safeguard her abilities and solve the case before the killer strikes again?

Haunted houses, lost pirate treasure, conniving in-laws, supernatural baddies, and a determined ghost dog test amateur sleuth Baxley Powell’s mettle in Book Three of Toussaint’s Dreamwalker Series.

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About the author
Southern author Maggie Toussaint writes mystery, suspense, and dystopian fiction. Her work won the Silver Falchion Award for best mystery, the Readers’ Choice Award, and the EPIC Award. She’s published fifteen novels as well as several short stories and novellas. The next book in her paranormal mystery series, Doggone It, has an October 2016 release date. Maggie serves on the board for Southeast Mystery Writers of America and Low Country Sisters In Crime. Visit her at maggietoussaint.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win either a print (U.S. residents only, please) or e-book (open to everyone) of Doggone It. The giveaway will end October 22, 2016 at 11:59 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

My Musing ~ Doggone It by Maggie Toussaint

Doggone It by Maggie Toussaint is the third book in the “Dreamwalker” mystery series. Publisher: Five Star Publishing, October 2016

Doggone ItDreamwalker Baxley Powell is worried when she’s summoned to a haunted house. A recent ghost dog encounter short-circuited her woo-woo powers. She bluffs her way through the double homicide where a boat captain and a movie crew member bled out from knife wounds.

Her extra senses return in fits and spurts as she consults with the sheriff. Suspects include the captain’s good-for-nothing brother, the movie guy’s replacement, and, of course, his stalker. The media circus jeopardizes the movie’s funding, the sheriff’s job, and Baxley’s senses.

Will Baxley’s powers recharge before the killer strikes again?

Haunted houses, lost pirate treasure, conniving in-laws, supernatural baddies, and a determined ghost dog test amateur sleuth Baxley Powell’s mettle in Book Three of Toussaint’s Dreamwalker Series.

This was a fast-paced and action-packed drama that quickly grabbed my attention as I followed the path that was set by the author. The narrative was intense in that it pulled me in and I was right there with Baxley as she used her dreamwalker powers to help the police capture their prey. I liked how this was set-up with a murder here and another murder there and when it was done, it was a mind-blowing affair when the real discovery was made. I love a book where the recurring characters all played a pivotal role that connected the story with all that was happening as it related to what was going on in the heroine’s world. And what a world it is. . .quite intriguing to say the least. The author did a great job in building this mystery up to a point where I didn’t know how this was going to end with a few surprises thrown in that had me frantically reading to the end to see if Baxley was successful in getting what was hers. Boasting a great cast of characters with engaging dialogue, this was a terrific read and I can’t wait to see what new adventures awaits Baxley in both her world.

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

A Day in the Life of Moriah Dru by Gerrie Ferris Finger

American NightsMy best friend, Portia Devon, folded her hands on her desk. The tilt of her head and her scheming eyes reminded me of our young days when we planned midnight excursions to forbidden clubs. That was before she became a juvenile court judge and I became a child finder. She said, “Your fame has caught the attention of a prominent person.”

“You called me here to tell me that?”

“Also to explain the nature of his attention.”

“And who would this prominent person be?”

“An international figure who wants you to find his daughter.”

So like Portia to draw out a mystery. Wriggling into the leather chair designed for the discomfort of adversaries to her chambers, I thought, this could mean a free trip, courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service. Atlanta was weighing on my well-being. My fame, as Portia labeled it, came about because of a horrendous case the city had offered up owing to its drug and gang wars.

I said, “I get that it’s a him who wants to hire me to find his missing girl. Where internationally?”

“Starting here, in this fabulous international city.” Her sarcasm illustrated she meant Atlanta, a city that was trying hard to wipe the slate of its quasi-genteel Southern roots. “More precisely, his wife disappeared with their daughter.”

I opened my mouth to ask a pertinent question, but she raised a hand. “I don’t know much more than I’m telling you, but the trace appears to be straightforward, not much danger.”

I thought about other child traces. Danger could be and often was an issue. I said, “You know I don’t do heights and tight places, like jumping out of planes or diving in caves.”
“There is a cultural element.”

“Cultural in what way?”

“Ethnic customs, religious differences.”

“All right, Porsh, out with it—your prominent person by name, and those of the wife and daughter.”

You are familiar with the Middle East?”

Involuntarily my shoulders drew back. No wars or terrorists, please.

“This is not about absconding fathers,” Portia said.

Portia could be so tedious when she wanted to be. “How old?”

“Four.” Portia tapped her expensive ballpoint pen as she spoke the words, “I don’t know where she’s taken the child, but there will be no State Department involved.”

My agency, Child Trace, Inc., has had many clients and much experience in all that can happen in abduction cases, but I’ve never had a dual citizenship case. I’ve had cases where girls were brought here for the slave trade, primarily from Eastern Europe, South America and China. But no one was looking for them.

Portia sat back. “If you accept the case, you will be told all you need to know, but you must understand the father insists on no FBI, no state police, no Homeland Security, no CIA.”

I didn’t hesitate to tell her, “I’ll have to confide in Lake.”

“No Lake.”

“Then, no me.”

“Come on, Moriah. You and Lake aren’t joined at the belly.”

“Hmmm.”

“You know what I meant. Lake will be duty-bound, legally, to advise his commander.”

“Not if the Atlanta Police Department isn’t involved. Lake does have a private life. When can I talk to the your—uh—connection?”

“When I assure him of your discretion.”

I got up. “I’ll see you Saturday. You are coming to the ball game with us, aren’t you? We’ve got a ticket for Walker, too.” Walker was her son.

“Moriah, sit your ass down and listen to me.” I sat. “You are the best person for this task.”

“How did your connection know about, and choose, me?”

“Although he resides in New York, he read or heard about the shoot-out in the churchyard.”

“Lake was part of the shoot-out, too.”

I admit I was intrigued, but no way was I going to withhold details of an assignment from Lake. Even if I could, I wouldn’t. From our beginning—as partners when I was with the Atlanta Police Department—we shared information. After we started sharing our bodies, I resigned the shop and started my own agency. Many times he’s been a valuable asset, but that isn’t the reason I would not hold out on him. We simply share everything. Portia knows that.

She returned to her chambers and sat with exaggerated effort. “Stubborn cuss,” she mumbled. “All right. You and Lake, but no APD. You both meet with him as soon as you can. This evening okay?”

“What’s his name?”

“Husam bin Sayed al-Saliba.”

“I think—a dark, striking male face comes to mind—he was in the news.”

“For years he’s been listed as one of the most handsome princes in the world.”

“I thought that man was single, most marriageable.”

“He is, by Saudi law.”


American Nights is the second book in the Moriah Dru/Richard Lake mystery series, published by Five Star Publishing, August 2016.

The investigation begins when Husam tells of falling in love with Reeve, of turning his back on his ascendancy to the Saudi power structure for the woman he loves. He talks of his king’s disapproval of him marrying and siring an infidel. But does he really want to return to the good graces of the royal family and marry Aya and be an heir to kingship? Confused Dru thinks she’s fallen into a fairy tale. After all the prince is fond of reciting tales from the Arabian Nights.

The investigation had just begun when Reeve’s parents, Lowell and Donna Cresley are killed. That brings the Atlanta police into the case and it’s soon evident infidelity abounds and everyone has something dreadful to hide.

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Meet the author
Retireed journalist for The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Gerrie Ferris Finger won the 2009 St. Martin’s Gerrie FingerPress/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel for The End Game. The Last Temptation is the second in the Moriah Dru/Richard Lake series. She lives on the coast of Georgia with her husband and standard poodle, Bogey.

Connect with Gerrie at gerrieferrisfinger.com, on Facebook, on @gerrieferris and on Goodreads.

All comments are welcomed.

Not Madison McKenna’s Best Day by Kennedy Quinn

The Last, Best LieMaybe the judge will go easy on me. No one got hurt. Yes, I flower bombed a couple of government officials, but how bad is that?

Yeah. I’m screwed.

I looked up at the blue summer sky. It was over 90°F, but the marble bench on which I sat felt cool on my palms. I glanced at the brick courthouse across the green lawn. It might have been a beautiful day in a sleepy Midwest town. If I wasn’t probably going to jail.

I nervously ran a hand over my shoulder-length dark hair. On a job for my boss’s two person Chicago-based detective agency, I’d only brought blue jeans. But I’d found a white sundress with red roses in a thrift store. Hopefully it made me look more small town innocent than big city delinquent accused of vandalism, assault, attempt to poison and littering. That latter charge was bogus; Hunter had it added for spite.

Hunter is my boss’ best friend, a rich, handsome, complex, and infuriating man nearly two decades my senior. And, no, I’m not into him. Yes, he’s hot—Gerard Butler hot—and he’s challenging. But he’s a jerk. I would have to have some real daddy issues to be attracted to him.

I’d been on a case in the small town of Clark with my boss, Jake. Hunter came down so he and Jake could go on a kill-something-helpless-in-the-woods weekend. Anyway, he was being even more condescending than usual, so I had to teach him a lesson. Understandable.

Given that I nearly have my doctorate in Physics, I generally resort to high-tech revenge. But I was in a hurry. I got a can of air freshener and wrapped a plastic zip tie around the trigger to which I tied twine, attaching its end to the driver’s door of Hunter’s car. I wedged the can between the seat and the center console so that when Hunter yanked open the door, the zip tie would lock up and fill his car with a cloud of “summer fields delight”. Harmless.

But how was I to know that Hunter was meeting the mayor and sheriff and the regional FBI chief? I didn’t arrange it so that they were already in the car when Hunter pulled open the door!

But here I now am, waiting to see the judge. Normally, there would be little chance of charges sticking. But given the people involved. . .

The wet snuffling sound of a toddler drew my attention right. It came from a blond boy of about four. He stood by his mother, who was professionally dressed in black slacks and a blue blouse. I scooted over and the woman smiled as she sat beside me, pulling the boy on her lap. She looked at him with the same bright green eyes as his. “Brandon, please finish your orange slices,” she said, as she pulled out a plastic bag of segments from her purse.

Lowered his head on his mother’s shoulder, he closed his eyes. “Don’t wanna.”

The mother jostled him lovingly. “What is going to take?”

I pulled out a napkin, a paperclip and my breakfast banana from my purse. Catching her attention, I straightened the clip and poked it through the skin of the banana, moving it in a slicing motion without breaking the skin. Withdrawing the clip, I rubbed the hole shut and made several more slices while Brandon’s mom looked on.

“Brandon,” I said, “Do you like pre-sliced bananas? They’re yummy!”

The boy raised his head. “No such thing.”

“Here’s one.” I peeled the banana slowly, letting the slices fall onto the napkin on my lap.

Brandon’s eyes shot wide.

I popped a piece in my mouth. “Yum! If you are good, I’m sure your mommy can find some for you.” Brandon beamed, as did his mother, nodding to indicate that she knew what to do.

My phone alarm beeped and I tossed the banana into my purse. I stood. “Got to go.”

“I have to give him back to his nanny and get to work, too. Thank you. You’re a nice young lady.”

“I hope the judge thinks so.”

“Oh?”

“I pranked a guy who was being a jerk. It was harmless. Mostly. But he’s powerful and I’m not.”

“Maybe you’ll get off lightly if the judge believes you’re truly sorry and will make amends.”

“Oh, I am so sorry! I would personally detail his car and hand wash his clothes. I was being a brat. But this guy is very rich.”

“A fair judge won’t let that matter.”

“Let’s hope I get that judge.” I waved goodbye as I sprinted away.

Soon, I was sitting beside my lawyer, fretting. What if the judge was good friend with the mayor? What if I got the maximum? I’m such an idiot!

“All rise,” came the bailiff’s sonorous voice.

I stood, licking dry lips and looked into the green eyes of the judge, her blue blouse peeking above black robes. So, maybe it wasn’t going to be my worse day ever after all.


The Last, Best Lie is the first book in the NEW Madison McKenna mystery series, published by Five Star Publishing, February 2016.

Not many could save a man’s life with lip gloss, car keys and condoms while under gunfire. But Madison McKenna can.

And it’s not the least of the devices the sexy young physicist-turned-detective kludges together in The Last, Best Lie, first in the Chicago-based McKenna Mystery series. Blending wit, sensuality and science into a unique and exciting new format, this female-MacGyver uses counter-top technology and fierce determination to solve the attempted murder of her boss, Jake Thibodaux. It won’t be easy; science-savvy she is, street-smart she isn’t. Worse, Jake’s powerful ex-partner, Hunter, is determined to freeze her out of the investigation, and the local police would happily toss her in jail to keep her out of their hair.

As Jake clings to life, Madison and her helpers—a charming bull-rider and his prize calf, Spinal Snap, a pair of bickering cops, and Jake’s hard-bitten mistress—delve into Jake’s past, revealing a man very different from the one she thought she knew. Even her subconscious comes to her aid, infusing her dreams with tantalizing, surreal, clues. Driven by need, Madison and Hunter form a steamy, antagonistic, partnership; until she learns that he his own motives for murder. As even more allies fall under suspicion and innocents are killed in her stead, the increasingly-desperate Madison uses science, cunning and doggedness to find the killer. And she’ll continue to school all around her in the power of technology, fueled female ingenuity, as this distinctive new series evolves.

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About the author
Kennedy Quinn has a Ph.D. in Physics and Master’s in Nuclear Science and is a director of research by day. But this KennedyQuinnscientist-turned-administrator didn’t get there the easy way. She enlisted in the Air Force immediately after high school and served as an aircraft mechanic before achieving an officer’s commission and earning her multiple degrees. After a diverse military career, she retired to federal service where she continues to lead research on a wide array of science and technologies. By night, she grows roses in Northern Virginia with her family; they’re owned by two rescue cats. Kennedy can be reached at kennedyquinn.com.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of The Last, Best Lie. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end July 26, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!

All comments are welcomed.

My Musing ~ Murder, By George by Jeanne Quigley

Murder, By George by Jeanne Quigley is the second book in the “Veronica Walsh” mystery series. Publisher: Five Star, May 2016

Murder By GeorgeRetired soap opera actress Veronica Walsh leads a fulfilling second act in her Adirondack hometown of Barton. Her boutique, All Things, is thriving and she enjoys a romance with Professor Mark Burke. She has neither the time nor the desire to be an amateur sleuth.

Trouble finds her when architect Scott Culverson buys a vintage box at the village’s annual flea market and discovers a valuable painting and love letter inside a locked drawer. The awe over the masterpiece, a 1920’s portrait of Barton’s main street, turns to rage when a fierce argument ensues. The box’s seller insists the painting was not included in the sale, while Ella and Madeline Griffin, whose mother received the painting as a wedding present, demand that Scott return the painting to their family. The artist’s daughter, the formidable Leona Bradshaw Kendall, later joins the battle over Orchard Street.
When Scott is stabbed to death and the painting and letter stolen, the Griffin sisters ask Veronica to help clear suspicion from their hot-tempered great-niece, Regina. Despite a vow to stay out of the investigation, Veronica’s loyalty to her friends draws her into the case.

Veronica crosses paths with a shady contractor, brassy hairdresser, overwrought lawyer, and adoring Czech housekeeper as she searches for both killer and work of art. Whom can Veronica trust, and who will lead her to the brink of death?

This light drama was well-position in that it was easy to follow, it had a comfortable tone and it had a nice steady pace to the reading. In this latest caper of an ex-soap opera actress turned amateur sleuth, Veronica is asked to do some investigating when her friend’s relative becomes the prime suspect. This was nicely done and I love the cohesiveness in how the story was presented. I was very intrigued as to how this was all going to play out with the interaction of the regular cast and the probable suspects. The author did a great job in keeping me busy with the clues and when I thought I had it figured out, the author changed direction which only enhanced the telling of the story. I also liked that surprising twist surrounding the events leading up to the killer’s identity, that I didn’t see coming. Good job. I enjoyed this book with its friendly cast of characters, engaging dialogue and small-town atmosphere and I look forward to the next book in this likable series.