Tag Archives: Sandra Balzo

A Day in the Life with Sarah Kingston by Sandra Balzo

to-the-last-dropAutumn in Wisconsin means pumpkin lattes on the menu, colorful leaves falling from the trees and dead bodies dropping out of the sky.

Or at least that’s autumn in the world of Maggy Thorsen.

No, I’m not Maggy, thank God. I’m Sarah Kingston, Maggy’s partner in the Wisconsin coffeehouse, Uncommon Grounds.

Now I’m the first to admit I’m not perfect. Bi-polar, I’m not great at taking my meds and consider vodka one of those clear liquids you’re allowed when prepping for a colonoscopy. But Maggy has bigger problems. Repeatedly. This time it’s her dentist ex-husband, Ted, who has a blowout with his new partner—in our shop, I might add–and presto change-o, the next morning there’s a corpse on the ground outside their dental office.

Coincidence?

Please.

And then there’s the situation with Maggy’s sheriff boyfriend. Jake Pavlik has dark wavy hair and eyes that change from sunny blue to cloudy gray depending on his mood. He rides a Harley. Rescued a toothless pit bull from a breeding cage at a fight club and brought her home to live with him. Named her Muffin. On paper, Pavlik is the perfect man. So what’s the problem?

Weren’t you paying attention? He’s the SHERIFF. And Maggy, the Corpse Stumbler.

And if that all weren’t bad enough, it’s nearly Thanksgiving, and we need to make up a gazillion gift baskets to sell before Christmas. Apparently holiday gift sales account for half our profits. Who knew? Not me, certainly, before I signed on as Maggy’s newest partner.

What happened to the last partner, you ask?

Not to worry, she’s not dead.

That was the first one.


To The Last Drop is the ninth book in the Maggy Thorsen mystery series, published by Severn House Publishers, November 2016.

Maggy Thorsen returns in this brand-new coffeehouse mystery, where the death of her ex-husband’s colleague leads to events that hit Maggy close to home – in more ways than one . . .

Maggy Thorsen’s shock at finding her ex-husband Ted in a fight with William Swopes, an oral surgeon at Ted’s dental practice, outside Uncommon Grounds, the Wisconsin gourmet coffeehouse she co-owns, is soon usurped by the horror of discovering a dead body outside Thorsen Dental’s office block the next morning. Did he jump from the tenth-floor office window, or was he pushed?

It’s not long before Maggy is uncovering disturbing family secrets, lies and betrayal.

As Maggy tries to piece together the clues, her beau, Jake Pavlik, hits her with another bombshell. Can she keep her emotions in check and find out the truth about a possible murder?

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About the author
Sandra Balzo is an award-winning author of crime fiction, including twelve books in two mystery series from Severn House–the Wisconsin-based Maggy Thorsen Mysteries and Main Street Murders, set in the High Country of North Carolina and featuring journalist AnnaLise Griggs. Film rights for the Maggy Thorsen Coffeehouse Mysteries have been optioned toward development as a television series or movie. Connect with Sandy at Sandy@SandraBalzo.com, SandraBalzo.com or Facebook and Twitter at (you guessed it) @SandraBalzo.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of To The Last Drop. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends November 16, 2016 at 11:59 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

My Musing ~ To The Last Drop by Sandra Balzo

To The Last Drop by Sandra Balzo is the ninth book in the “Maggy Thorsen” mystery series. Publisher: Severn House Publishers, November 2016

to-the-last-dropMaggy Thorsen returns in this brand-new coffeehouse mystery, where the death of her ex-husband’s colleague leads to events that hit Maggy close to home – in more ways than one . . .

Maggy Thorsen’s shock at finding her ex-husband Ted in a fight with William Swopes, an oral surgeon at Ted’s dental practice, outside Uncommon Grounds, the Wisconsin gourmet coffeehouse she co-owns, is soon usurped by the horror of discovering a dead body outside Thorsen Dental’s office block the next morning. Did he jump from the tenth-floor office window, or was he pushed?

It’s not long before Maggy is uncovering disturbing family secrets, lies and betrayal.
As Maggy tries to piece together the clues, her beau, Jake Pavlik, hits her with another bombshell. Can she keep her emotions in check and find out the truth about a possible murder?

I so enjoyed this book when Maggy, once again, finds herself involved in a murder investigation when Ted’s partner is found lying outside their office. This was a well-written, evenly paced drama that had everything I love when reading a mystery. There was a dead body. There was a good number of potential suspects. There was Sarah, the sidekick, always there with a word or two or three to propel Maggy onward. Then there was trying to decipher all the clues presented to figure out who did murdered the doctor.

From the first page, this story immediately grabbed my attention and quickly became a page turner as I had to know what happened next. I liked how the stage was set with the introduction of the Swopes’ family and how they became immersed in the various situations with Maggy and her desire to uncover the truth. The author did a great job in delivering a mystery that kept me intrigued in all that was happening, from Ted’s outburst, to Maggy nosing around and to Jake’s shocker. The narrative was nicely done, putting me in the middle of all the action. Everyone had a role to play that was pivotal to the outcome and boy was I surprised when the killer’s identity was reveal. Good job, as I didn’t see that one coming. Boasting a wonderful cast of character, engaging dialogue and a nice backdrop of a small town, this was a terrific read and one of the best book in this enjoyable series and I can’t wait to see where we go next with Maggy, Jake and their friends in Brookhills, WI.

Author Showcase ~ Hit and Run by Sandra Balzo

Hit and Run
AnnaLise’s philandering father’s attempt to ‘do right’ by his many heirs goes deadly wrong

Journalist AnnaLise Griggs’ return to her hometown in North Carolina’s western mountains has led to some unexpected surprises – most notably the discovery that legendary womanizer Dickens Hart is her birth father, and she an heir to Hart’s huge fortune.

Founder of the White Tail Lodge – a High Country knock-off of the Playboy concept – Hart now claims he wants to ‘do right’ by his offspring. To that end, he’s invited all his former lovers and potential heirs, including AnnaLise and her own mother, Daisy, to what Hart envisions as a festive Thanksgiving weekend at his sprawling lakeside mansion.

But not everyone is in a celebratory mood, and when a body is discovered, AnnaLise is left with the impossible task of identifying a vicious killer.

Release: September 2014
Series: Main Street #3
Publisher: Severn House

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on September 3 for the chance to win a kindle copy of RUNNING ON EMPTY, the first book in the series. The giveaway is open to everyone.

About the author
Sandra Balzo is an award-winning author of crime fiction, including eleven books in two different mystery series from Severn House–the Wisconsin-based Maggy Thorsen Mysteries and Main Street Murders, set in the High Country of North Carolina and featuring journalist AnnaLise Griggs.

Film rights for the Maggy Thorsen Coffeehouse Mysteries have been optioned toward development for television or film. Garnering starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, Balzo’s novels are recommended to readers of Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, Harlan Coben, Joan Hess and Margaret Maron.

Find Sandy online at www.SandraBalzo.com, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.


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Hit and Run by Sandra Balzo

Hit and RunHit and Run by Sandra Balzo is the third book in the “Main Street” murder mystery series. Publisher: Severn House Publishers, July 2014

Journalist AnnaLise Griggs’ return to her hometown in North Carolina’s western mountains has led to some unexpected surprises – most notably the discovery that legendary womanizer Dickens Hart is her birth father, and she an heir to Hart’s huge fortune.

Founder of the White Tail Lodge – a High Country knock-off of the Playboy concept – Hart now claims he wants to ‘do right’ by any other children he may have fathered. To that end, he’s invited all his former lovers and potential heirs, including AnnaLise and her own mother, Daisy, to what Hart envisions as a festive Thanksgiving weekend at the sprawling lakeside mansion.

But not everybody is in a celebratory mood, and when a body is discovered dead in the bed, AnnaLise is left with the impossible task of identifying the killer.

I really love this evenly paced and well-executed drama with its comfortable tone and a small town southern atmosphere. This light whodunit was hard to put down, as I had to know who did what to whom in this darling of a mystery. The author did a great job in pulling it all together with a bevy of suspects who could have done the dastardly deed and I was a bit surprise not at who did it, but at how and why it was done. AnnaLise who tries to do the right thing, does a good job at solving this puzzle, is supported by a quirky cast of characters that includes her mother, her mama and her best friend Joy who is an absolute hoot. I look forward to more adventures with AnnaLise in the next book in this delightfully charming series.

A Day in the Life of Maggy Thorsen by Sandra Balzo

Murder on the Orient EspressoIf things had gone as I’d planned during that particular twenty-four hour period, the book chronicling it all would be called Fifty Shades of Sunburn, not Murder on the Orient Espresso.

But then, we don’t always get what we want.

The whole thing started when my main squeeze, Brookhills Sheriff Jake Pavlik, invited me to accompany him to a mystery-writers’ conference in Fort Lauderdale.

As a business owner, I had a decision to make: Should I spend the first weekend of November in my Wisconsin coffeehouse serving up drinks to chilly commuters? Or snuggled in a South Florida hotel room with Pavlik?

“Duh,” as my son Eric would say.

The sheriff would be heading the “Forensic” portion of the conference, teaching aspiring writers about law enforcement and crime scene investigation. I, on the other hand, would have no responsibilities and intended to spend most of my time in the sun doing nothing. When I wasn’t doing Pavlik, of course.

My first clue that the trip wouldn’t be quite what I’d hoped came when we were greeted in the hotel lobby by Pavlik’s “old friend” and conference organizer, Zoe Scarlett. Not only was Zoe unaware that I was accompanying the sheriff, but I got the impression she’d hoped to be the one sharing his room. The organizer and I were circling each other like two wary–and, on my part, weary–tigresses, when Zoe’s assistant arrived to confirm I was, indeed, on the guest list.

The good news was that I’d won the first bout with Zoe. The bad news was that Pavlik and I were expected to immediately board a train for the weekend’s opening event, a re-enactment of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. The excursion into the Florida Everglades was to feature Pavlik as the murder victim and the conference’s two guests of honor–Rosemary Darlington and Laurence Potter–as Mary Debenham and Hercule Poirot.

So much for our first romantic evening in paradise. Or dinner, for that matter.

But the arrival of legendary author Darlington and reviewer Potter managed to cheer me up a bit. The two–who were rumored to have been lovers at one time–seemed to despise each other. Most recently, Potter had eviscerated Darlington’s long-awaited novel, calling it badly written pornography.

Who needs whale-watching, when you have people to observe in their unnatural habitat?

And things only seemed to improve from there. Pavlik and I wouldn’t starve, for one thing. Upon boarding the excursion train, we found a full bar and a cake decorated to look like the murder victim, a lethal-looking serving knife plunged into his frosted heart.

Turning from the bar with an espresso martini, I was so distracted by the fact that Zoe Scarlett had taken my place next to Pavlik, that I didn’t notice the cake knife was missing.

That should have been my second clue.


You can read more about Maggy in Murder on the Orient Espresso, the eighth book in the “Maggy Thorsen” mystery series, published by Severn House. The first book in the series is Uncommon Grounds. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Meet the author
Sandra Balzo is an award-winning author of crime fiction, including ten books in two different mystery series from Severn House–the “Maggy Thorsen Coffeehouse” Mysteries and “Main Street Murders,” set in the High Country of North Carolina. Balzo’s books have garnered starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, while being recommended to readers of Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, Mary Daheim, Joan Hess and Margaret Maron.

Visit Sandra at her website, on Facebook or on Twitter


Follow dru’s book musing on Facebook for book giveaways, contests, posting about discounted books and some of my reading musings.

Murder on the Orient Espresso by Sandra Balzo

Murder on the Orient EspressoMurder on the Orient Espresso by Sandra Balzo is the eighth book in the “Maggy Thorsen” mystery series. Publisher: Severn House, December 2013

It’s November and Maggy Thorsen, co-owner of the Wisconsin gourmet coffeehouse, Uncommon Grounds, is in South Florida at an annual crime-writers’ conference with her beau, local sheriff Jake Pavlik, who is due to speak as a ‘forensics expert’.

Maggy’s pledge to behave solely as a tourist becomes trickier than she anticipated when the conference’s opening night event turns out to be a re-enactment of Agatha Christie’s classic, Murder on the Orient Express. As Maggy and Jake reluctantly set off on the night train to the Everglades to solve the ‘crime’, it’s clear that, as in the original novel, nothing is quite what it seems. And amidst rumors of careers taken, manuscripts stolen and vows broken, it seems that in the Everglades – as in life – the predator all too often becomes the prey.

This is a great addition to the Maggy Thorsen series. We find our intrepid heroine and Jake in Florida, in the middle of the Everglades, aboard a train when one of the guest is found in murky waters on the train’s bed. Imagine all kinds of creepy things going on and that is what you have in this riveting drama filled with non-stop action and a suspenseful nature that kept me glued to the pages as all the pieces came together towards the end. The author did a very good job in delivery a finely tuned novel with plenty of suspects and a couple of twist that I didn’t see coming, especially when the killer was reveal. Great job! I enjoyed the interactions between Maggy and the rest of the cast, especially those light airy moments and the mention of one of my favorite movies involving a snake and a plane. Boasting a strong plot, a good secondary cast, entertaining dialogue and an interesting location, this engaging whodunit is one of the best in this series.

FTC Disclosure – The publisher sent me a copy of this book, in hopes I would review it.

Dead Ends by Sandra Balzo

Dead Ends by Sandra Balzo is the first book in the “Main Street” mystery series. Publisher: Severn House Publishers, September 2012

A blast from the past has deadly consequences in the second Main Street Murder.

Autumn comes early to Sutherton, NC, bring with it the small town’s life blood-tourists. But one particular trio of fall visitors has journalist AnnaLise Griggs worried: Benjamin Rosewood, his wife Tanja, and their daughter, Suzanne.

AnnaLise and Ben have history, a relationship she can’t excuse herself for starting and one he, seemingly, can’t forget. But when Tanja Rosewood is killed on the mountain roads, it seems a tragic accident. Until, that is, there’s another death, forcing AnnaLise to confront just how far human beings will go to get-and keep-what they believe is theirs.

AnnaLise gets involved in a murder when her married ex-lover arrives in town with his wife and child. By asking questions, AnnaLise suddenly becomes a threat to a killer who’s hiding in plain sight. This was a good read and the author did a great job in keeping me in suspense with the many twists and directions the story took in unraveling and exposing a killer. AnnaLise is a strong yet vulnerable heroine as her search for answers brings her face-to-face with some of her own past actions. This character-driven whodunit boasts a wonderful supporting cast, good conversations and southern charm. The ending left us with new possibilities and I look forward to reading the next book in this charismatically appealing series.

In The Kitchen With “Mama” by Sandra Balzo

“You want something, AnnieLeez? Easy Baked Chicken Parmesan is the lunch special. Or if you want sweets, maybe Cherry Philly Fudge or Bacardi Rum Cake?”

Receiving a polite, “No thank you, Mama,” from reporter AnnaLise Griggs, Phyllis “Mama” Balesteri shrugged and moved away from the “family booth,” where the younger woman sat engrossed in her cellphone.

Picking up a syrup-sticky menu from the next table, Mama sighed. One day in the life of a restaurant owner was pretty much same as another, most of Phyllis’s spent overseeing Mama Philomena’s, the restaurant her mother–the original “Mama”–passed on to her.

Unfortunately, what Phyllis hadn’t inherited from Philomena was any sort of cooking ability, at least so far as the “homemade family-style Italian specialties” touted in the North Carolina High Country travel guides. In contrast, Phyllis’s idea of spaghetti was Creamette elbow macaroni topped with Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup, one of the many concoctions she’d made herself while her mother was busy at the restaurant making pasta from scratch for the rest of the town.

Little Phyllis Balisteri had never met a convenience food or brand-name recipe she didn’t like, and as an adult she’d incorporated most of them into the restaurant’s menu, much to the relief of the patrons who’d had the misfortune to try her half-hearted attempts at Philomena’s old-world classics.

Despite the dramatic shift in cuisine, “Mama’s” remained the well-advertised–if slightly miscast–anchor of Sutherton’s Main Street. Tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the tiny town’s population swelled to nearly bursting during tourist season–or, to be fair, seasons: Summer, when Southerners fled the heat; autumn, when the foliage change drew crowds of weekend leaf-gawkers; and winter, of course, when skiers took over the mountain.

“You okay, AnnieLeez?” Mama set the syrupy menu next to the cash register and, deciding to forgive the affront to her food, circled back to AnnaLise. After all, the young reporter had a lot on her mind, only recently having returned home to see after her mother Daisy, Mama’s best friend. “Is it your mother you’re worrying about?”

“Daisy?” Startled, AnnaLise looked up, placing her phone–screen down–on a worn copy of Best Recipes from the Backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans and Jars, 1979, Mama’s menu-planning bible. “No, no. She seems fine…at least for now.” An involuntary glance toward the phone.

Mama saw it. “Is somebody bothering you on that thing? Maybe sexting you?”

“Sexting?” AnnaLise seemed genuinely astonished. “Of course not. Where in the world did you hear about–”

“What?” Mama demanded, hands on hips. “You think you’re the only one on the social network? I’m all over it, ‘cepting,” a shadow crossed her face, “‘cepting that Twitter thing, which I’ll freely admit makes no sense to me at all. A hundred-forty letters? Barely puts a person within swinging distance of the point she’s intending to make.”

The obnoxious electronic chime on the plate glass door interrupted and Mama, tossing a look skyward, moved to the cash register for a menu. “How many?”

“Three.” The answer came from above and when Mama turned she had to crane her neck to peer up into the smiling face of a suntanned man with tousled hair.

Handsome, sure, but too politician-like for Mama’s taste. Not that she was one prone to judging. Behind Smiley was a teenage girl and a woman who looked like she tipped her hairdresser more than Mama cleared in a year. And the woman had a High Country travel guide in one well-manicured hand.

Clearing her throat, Mama shifted the menu to her other, decidedly UNmanicured hand–or tried to. Inadvertently she’d picked up the sticky one. “Seems,” she said, peeling it off, “I need to get you some luncheon menus. AnnaLise?” She swiveled toward the family booth. “Would you mind–”

But the reporter was gone.


You can read more about Mama in DEAD ENDS, the second book in the “Main Street” mystery series. The first book in the series is Running on Empty.

Meet the author
Sandra Balzo is an award-winning author of crime fiction, including nine books in two different mystery series–Main Street Murders, set in the High Country, and the Maggy Thorsen Coffeehouse Mysteries. Balzo’s books have garnered starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, while being recommended to readers of Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, Joan Hess and Margaret Maron. A Wisconsin native, Sandy now splits her time between South Florida and the mountains of North Carolina.

Visit Sandra at www.SandraBalzo.com, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Running on Empty by Sandra Balzo

Running on Empty by Sandra Balzo is the first book in the new “Main Street” mystery series. Publisher: Severn House Publishers, February 2012

Life on Sutherton’s Main Street has always been inexplicably hazardous, no matter the season in the North Carolina resort town.

The student who bet he could paddle a beer-filled ice chest across the lake—and lost. The skier who choked on her gum and arrived at the bottom of the slope still standing, if not quite breathing. Not to mention that occasional tourist lost in the mountains.

But the day Daisy Griggs siphoned three pints of blood from poor Mrs Bradenham during the town’s annual drive seems to set a new standard. It also bought Daisy’s daughter AnnaLise back, for Labor Day weekend. But the traditional celebration turns out to be no picnic. People are dying—in greater than historical numbers—and unless AnnaLise can figure out why, her mother may be next.

Upon hearing disturbing news regarding her mother, AnnaLise comes home and being the journalist that she is, starts investigating the recent spate of dead bodies, when it looks like her mother may be a target. This was a good story that I enjoyed immensely. The comfortable tone set the stage for this well-written mystery that I could not put down. When long ago secrets come crashing down and are exposed, it lends itself to a revelation that I did not see coming. This character-driven tale boasts a likeable cast, engaging conversation and a small-town atmosphere that is pleasantly appealing. This is a great read and I can’t wait for the next book in this terrific series.