Sunday, March 18, 2018

Where I've Been

No video today. Instead, I'm going to invite you to a couple blogs where I've been spending time this weekend.

I've raved about my friend Kaye Wilkinson Barley before. She's my roommate for mystery conferences and even in Paris. We're already planning Bouchercon in Dallas next year! She was kind enough to invite me to read on her blog, Meanderings and Muses. Kaye's doing a feature called "Inside My Book Fort" in which she reads favorite passages from books. I'm sharing an essay from one of my all-time favorite books. Stop by to see what it is!

With Kaye in Paris

I was also at Jungle Red Writers with several blogger friends, Dru Ann Love and Cathy Cole. Author Jenn McKinlay invited us to talk about the three books we're anticipating in 2018. Stop by for our lists, and the lists of several readers who commented.

Once in a while, it's fun to appear on someone else's blog.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Irish Pub by James Fennell & Turtle Bunbury

What better book for St. Patrick's Day than The Irish Pub by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury?
Fennell is the photographer of this gorgeous book with 201 color illustrations. And, Bunbury is the historian and writer who tells the story of a representative thirty-nine pubs in Ireland.

To tell the story of Irish pubs, the pair traveled to over 700 pubs through all thirty-two counties of Ireland. Then, they picked a small group to "celebrate, and document, pubs that epitomize that essential charm of old Ireland." According to the authors, the oldest pubs in the book date to the 17th century, and some of the most recent were built in the late 1990s when the economy was exploding.

The authors break the book into three sections. "Urban Retreat" features the more metropolitan pubs from the 19th and twentieth centuries. The threatened pubs are the ones in the chapter "Rural Charm". These are the more traditional country pubs, closing at a rate of one per day as of 2008 when the book was published. Bunbury explains the economy, the ban on smoking in public places, and the crackdown on drinking and driving have all combined to hurt the traditional pubs. The final section features four pubs, "Contemporary Heritage". Those pubs, created more recently, in the authors' opinions, reflect the best of Irish tradition.

Dark wood, large or small pubs, former groceries, centers of music. In their books, the authors attempt to capture a disappearing Ireland. They make the comment "The upshot is that if you want to see what a traditional Irish bar looks like, you might have better luck in Chicago or Sydney than in Dublin, Galway or Tipperary." But, I think they've found some to write about and photograph. As I said when I reviewed Vanishing Ireland, Bunbury's words are pure poetry. The stories and pictures in this book are magic, capturing pubs that exemplify Ireland for some many of us.

James Fennell's website is Turtle Bunbury's website is There's also a Facebook page that salutes many of the people of Ireland, a page called Vanishing Ireland.

The Irish Pub by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury. Thames & Hudson, 2008. 9780500514283 (hardcover), 192p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Winners and Cozy Wedding Blues

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Kara M. from Adrian, MI won The Lost Order. Deanna S. of Carlisle, MA will receive Breaking Point. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away cozy mysteries involving weddings. The first is Death, Taxes, and a Shot Gun Wedding by Diane Kelly. For IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway, this case is personal She and her soon-to-be-husband are preparing for their wedding day. But along with all the RSVP cards are a series of death threats from an unknown source. Tara has run across too many lawbreakers to narrow down the list of suspects.

Belfast McGrath is the chef at Shamrock Manor, her family's wedding center. Bel, Book and Scandal by Maggie McConnon finds Bel helping with wedding planning while looking into a story from her own past. Bel has been unable to forget the long ago disappearance of her best friend, but a newspaper clipping sends Bel on a search. Amy Mitchell might still be alive.

Which wedding mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Those titles are long, so let's use the authors' names. Your subject line should read either "Win Kelly" or "Win McConnon." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, March 22 at 5 PM Ct. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

What Are You Reading?

Thursday, Thursday! I look forward to Thursday all week. I love to see what you're all reading.

I'm playing catch-up. I'm reading Juliet Blackwell's A Toxic Trousseau because A Magical Match, the next one in her Witchcraft Mystery series, is out on April 3. Somehow I missed A Toxic Trousseau. It's a cozy mystery series featuring a witch who runs a vintage clothing shop in San Francisco. As much as I like Lily Ivory, I love her familiar, Oscar. When he's around other people, he takes the form of a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig.

What are you reading or listening to this week? We're interested!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sandie's Corner - Dead Cold Brew by Cleo Coyle

When Sandie Herron first started sending occasional reviews to Lesa's Book Critiques, we called it Sandie's Corner. Then, she switched to reviewing audio books for "Have You Heard?". Today, she has a book review for us, last year's Coffeehouse Mystery, Dead Cold Brew by Cleo Coyle, now out in paperback. Thank you, Sandie.

Dead Cold Brew                                                                             

By Cleo Coyle (Alice Alfonsi & Marc Cerasini)
Berkley; Paperback reprint edition (March 6, 2018)

“Friendship has no legal status.”  Clare Cosi didn’t know what significance that statement would have when her boyfriend, New York City Detective Mike Quinn, pushed her back into the shadows of The Village Blend, the coffee shop Clare co-managed.  A sniper was taking shots at New York’s finest including Mike and his squad.  When one member of the squad was hit, Clare and Mike went to the hospital after the paramedics, and the nurse would talk to Mike as commanding officer, but she would tell Clare nothing since she was “just a friend.”  

Clare’s ex-husband Matt Allegro, also co-manager of The Village Blend, brought Clare a newspaper about all the recent cop shootings as well as news of a special opportunity.  Clare had recently created an exquisite coffee blend with the many kinds of coffee that Matt scouted around the globe.  Available on a limited basis, the Billionaire’s Blend held just the qualities the owners of the newly replicated Andrea Doria were seeking.  An exclusive blend was needed for her maiden voyage; could Clare do it?

While the cop shootings remain unsolved, Clare enticed Mike to an evening of sheer delight after a 36-hour shift.  She began to ask him to propose again while Mike began to break things off for a while to help her worry less.  She professed that she would only worry more.  What will they do now? 

In researching the possible Andrea Doria coffee blend, Clare went straight to a good source: Matt’s Italian godfather, Gus Campana, who was on the ship when it sank.  In today’s world Gus is a world-famous jeweler running his family business in the Diamond District of New York City.  It seemed odd that shortly after that visit, Matt received a summons to meet an attorney in the massive complex of vaults embedded in Manhattan’s bedrock underneath the Diamond District.  The summons was issued on behalf of Gus Campana and Silvio Allegro, Matt’s godfather and father. What could they have had in common that would bring this attorney, Matt, and Gus’ daughter Sophia together sixty years later in a tiny room of private safe-deposit boxes guarded by Lyons Global Security guards?

If you want to answer these questions and more, enjoy this 16th entry in the coffeehouse mystery series by Cleo Coyle, real-life husband and wife team Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini.  I asked them the oft-asked question about a series – “Do I need to read them in order?”  Their answer is no.  They told me what this means to them:  “When we sit down to write a new Coffeehouse Mystery, we do our best to provide enough background on the characters and storylines to give longtime readers a quick refresher and new readers the chance to enjoy our work without feeling lost … anyone can feel comfortable picking up each book as standalone reads.”    I believe they do a beautiful job of this by writing an intriguing mystery with charming characters in a city large enough to house any number of stories.  I think this series has longevity because the authors make each entry a self-contained story but leave the long-term relationships flowing from book to book.  Each book carries a different theme while they all engage in a bit of social satire and have a biting sense of humor.  

We even get a clue what is coming up since for the first time, the paperback release of DEAD COLD BREW includes a bonus teaser of the first chapter from the 17th in the series – SHOT IN THE DARK due out April 17, 2018.  All I’m going to say is don’t miss it!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook by Perre Coleman Magness

I was hoping for a cookbook with recipes I could take to potlucks (carry-ins in southwestern Indiana).
Instead, I found a cookbook that made a number of changes to traditional recipes, so they weren't quite what I expected. But, I did enjoy the obituary clips and the stories in Perre Coleman Magness' The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Food with a Twist.

Magness' cookbook has an interesting format. Because it's supposed to feature comfort food to take when someone dies, or when someone needs carry-in food for sickness or birth, but mostly funeral food, the chapters are broken down into interesting titles. There's "The Great Awakening: Breakfast and Bread"; "The Pearly Gates: Starters and Snacks"; "The Eternal Garden: Fruit and Vegetables". "The Gospel Bird" has chicken recipes. "Crowning Glory" is meat. And, naturally, "The Sweet Hereafter" is desserts and sweets.

The author adapted recipes to fit her own tastes or to make them healthier. She also admits her cakes aren't quite what people would expect because she doesn't make the towering layer cakes expected by Southerners. But, I was pleasantly surprised to see a recipe for Divinity, a candy my grandmother used to make.

For me, the highlight of the cookbook were actually the anecdotes about food, and the obituary notes. Here's one from an obituary in Columbia, Tennessee. "(She) epitomized the Southernn Lady in her life's three ambitions. As a wife, her support was without limits. As a mother, her love was without condition. As a friend, her hospitality was without distinction."

What I was really looking for in The Southern Sympathy Cookbook, and failed to find, was what I see as comfort food. And, maybe my tastes are different than Magness' because I'm from the Midwest. But, I was also raised to take food to the recently bereaved, or to someone's house when they are sick. I just don't think this cookbook epitomized what I was thinking of when I read this quote. It's from Garden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays, Being Dead is No Excuse. "Nobody in the world eats better than the bereaved Southerner."

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Food with a Twist by Perre Coleman Magness. The Countryman Press, 2018. ISBN 9781682680384 (paperback), 174p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Deja Moo by Kirsten Weiss

Although I guessed the killer within the first fifty pages of Kirsten Weiss' Deja Moo, the third in the Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum Mystery series was worth reading. The likable team of sleuths, along with the paranormal museum added up to a fun story.

Maddie Koslowski's reliable truck broke down, so she didn't make it to the thirty-foot straw Christmas Cow display to help her mother guard it. She missed the four gingerbread men and Santa Claus who attacked the cow with flaming arrows. But, she and sexy police detective Jason Slate arrive in time to discover a body. The president of the San Benedetto Dairy Association is dead, with an arrow in his chest. And, Leo, Maddie's employee at the Paranormal Museum, filmed the entire event. It's too bad the killer was in costume.

With Maddie's mother in protective custody, it's up to her to ask enough questions to protect her mom and find a killer. But, it's the busy season at the museum with plenty of customers to see the haunted Christmas displays. That includes the haunted cowbells from Sweden that arrived when the Dairy Association and Ladies Aid brought the tradition of the Christmas Cow to the small community. Now, the town is in a panic, with stories of the "cursed" cowbells. Maddie's determined to protect her mother and save her museum's business. But, when Slate is injured, pushing Maddie out of the way when a car aims at her, it's up to Maddie and a small group of her mother's quirky friends to find out who is behind the rumors and a murder.

I loved Maddie, her mother, and the other characters in this humorous cozy. The confrontational ending was marvelous. My only problems with the book were probably ones of proofreading because I read an Advanced Reader's Copy. Several key points were missing in my copy, ones that were crucial to the story. It felt as if they had been overlooked in the editing process.

Despite the editing issues, Deja Moo is exactly was a cozy mystery should be, the story of a community split by a murder, and the amateur sleuths who work to restore that feeling of unity.

Kirsten Weiss' website is

Deja Moo by Kirsten Weiss. Midnight Ink, 2018. ISBN 9780738750361 (paperback), 360p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sunday Reading Corner

This week, Sunday Reading Corner also includes Berkley Prime Crime's April releases. Enjoy those, because Jinx was sleeping through the video.

The five books to be released April 3 by Berkley Prime Crime are:

Cinco de Murder by Rebecca Adler (3rd Taste of Mexico Mystery)
Queen Anne's Lace by Susan Wittig Albert (26th China Bayles Mystery)
A Magical Match by Juliet Blackwell (9th Witchcraft Mystery)
Wedding Cake Crumble by Jenn McKinlay (10th Cupcake Bakery Mystery)
Murder in the Bowery by Victoria Thompson (20th Gaslight Mystery, 1st time in paperback)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Night of the Flood edited by E.A. Aymar and Sarah M. Chen

In a series of linked stories, fourteen crime authors tell the story of a disastrous night in one town. The Night of the Flood is a dark, disturbing book with an open-ended conclusion that allows readers to imagine what might have happened after.

The town of Everton, Pennsylvania was warned. Maggie Wilbourne had been found guilty and sentenced to death for killing the two men who raped her. A secret group of women from Everton, calling themselves "The Daughters" promised they would blow up the dam and flood the town if Maggie was executed. Just minutes after her death, they followed through. It was a night to live in infamy, as the poor and beaten down took their revenge. The resulting chaos and violence affected everyone in town - from the wealthy whose homes perched above the floodwaters, to businesspeople, the police and The Daughters themselves. It wasn't just looters who took advantage of the darkness and lawlessness that night. Spouses, children, strangers took their opportunities to right perceived wrongs.

The gritty, intense compilation may be a source of discovery for some readers. Most of these authors who wrote the dark stories are not as well-known as other thriller writers. While readers may recognize names such as Jenny Milchman, Alan Orloff, Hilary Davidson, there are other writers whose noir stories stand out in this book. J.J. Hensley's "The Copy Man" was one of my favorites, with the unusual voice of the narrator. Gwen Florio's "Marta" also stands out. But, every one of these stories served to tie the collection together.

The Night of the Flood is an unconventional, action-packed novel. If you don't mind a disturbing, gritty collection, try this one.

The Night of the Flood edited by E.A. Aymar and Sarah M. Chen. Down & Out Books, 2018. ISBN 9781946502513 (paperback), 318p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received this to read for a journal.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Winners and Give Me a B Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Tari H. from Mount Sterling, OH won Curses, Boiled Again. Linda L. from Louisville, KY will receive Honey-Baked Homicide. The books go out in the mail today.

This week, I have two thrillers to give away. The authors' names begin with B.  Breaking Point by
Allison Brennan features FBI Special Agent Lucy Kincaid. JT Caruso asks Kincaid for help when he learns his sister Bella is working undercover to find a missing girl involved in a dangerous prostitution ring. Bella Caruso survived a nightmare of abuse and betrayal. Now, she dedicates her life to saving other young women from the hell that almost killed her. Lucy has experience finding human traffickers, but the undercover Bella doesn't want to be found.

Steve Berry's The Lost Order thrusts former Justice Department agent Cotton Malone into an adventure that takes him from the Senate floor and the backrooms of the Smithsonian Institution to the deepest woods in rural Arkansas and the rugged mountains of New Mexico. He's on the trail of the stolen gold and silver once owned by the Knights of the Golden Circle. The Knights were the largest and most dangerous clandestine organization in American history. News that their buried, hidden treasures have been discovered sends remaining Knights rushing to seize their fair share.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win Breaking Point" or "Win The Lost Order." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, March 15 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

What Are You Reading?

After we all talk about what we're reading this week, you might want to back up and read the blog I posted earlier today about CrimeReads. Some of you might be interested in the new site. It looks like there's a wealth of interesting reading there.

I've just started Ian Rankin's first Rebus mystery, Knots and Crosses. I've never read one of his books, as much as I like police procedurals. He's going to be the keynote speaker at a Poisoned Pen Conference at the beginning of September. It's a two-day conference, and I already registered. I understand that Rebus and Rankin may not have come into their own until partway through the series. And, there have even been recent discussions as to whether you should start at the beginning, or as Hank Phillippi Ryan says, meet characters as adults, and learn they have a whole backstory. As much as I love Hank, I still like to start at the beginning, if possible. So, it's Knots and Crosses for me right now.

What are you reading or listening to this week? Thursdays (Wednesdays when the schedule forces me to do it then) are really my favorite day of the week. I love to see what you're all reading. Tell us about your recent books, please.


Announcing CrimeReads, a new site from the makers of Literary Hub, at

On March 7th, Literary Hub launched CrimeReads, a new website showcasing the best writing from the worlds of crime, mystery, and thrillers.

Crime writing is more popular than ever before. From psychological thrillers to true crime to international noir, these titles fill the world’s bookshelves. Every year, new masters of suspense come to the fore, and with the rising popularity of podcasts, TV, and film adaptations, we consume more crime and mystery stories all the time. The culture that has sprung up around these stories is vibrant, diverse, and growing.

CrimeReads will be the singular online destination where readers can find the highest quality crime content from across the web, the publishing world, and the crime community. With help from its partners, CrimeReads will publish a daily slate of features, profiles, and excerpts from established and emerging writers, as well as a weekly newsletter, curating the best of today’s crime, mystery, and thriller scene.

"It's been exciting to watch the success and growth of Literary Hub,” said Morgan Entrekin, the site’s co-founder and Publisher of Grove Atlantic. “Now, using the same model of partnering with content producers and having our editors commission original work, we’re expanding to cover crime writing.”

CrimeReads will partner with major publishers and independent presses, booksellers, librarians, thriller festivals, author organizations, journals, blogs, crime-solving communities, and more. CrimeReads will be advised by a board of authors, among the most widely read and influential voices in the field, including Megan Abbott, Lee Child, Lyndsay Faye, Meg Gardiner, Alison Gaylin, Rachel Howzell Hall, Carl Hiaasen, Joe Ide, Craig Johnson, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Laura Lippman, Attica Locke, Val McDermid, Kyle Mills, Walter Mosley, Lori Rader-Day, Ruth Ware, and Daniel Woodrell.

“The crime fiction community has always been friendly, engaged and deeply passionate,” said author Megan Abbott. “CrimeReads promises to offer a ‘gathering place’ (a corner bar, if you will) to discuss and debate, to share ideas and talk craft, and to discover new books and new writers. I can't wait.”

Literary Hub was launched in 2015 and has become the world’s most popular independent literary site, with over 2 million monthly readers and 250+ partners.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Elaine Viets, Guest Author - A Reboot

The Dead-End Jobs Re-release
By Elaine Viets

            I can't believe it's been 15 years since Shop till You Drop, my first Dead-End Job mystery, was published. I can't believe all the jobs Helen and I have worked. Telemarketer for Dying to Call You was the worst. The boiler room where we made the calls was dirty, the staff was desperate, and the people we called – bothered, if the truth be told – were rude and angry. If I go to hell, I'll be a telemarketer.
            We were booksellers for Murder Between the Covers. That job – and it's definitely not a dead-end one – was my favorite.
            The Dead-End Job mysteries are now classics. The first 13 novels were re-released by JABberwocky Literary March 6 as e-books. JABberwocky represents award-winning authors including Charlaine Harris, Brandon Sanderson, and Toni Kelner and has made books available from two dozen of its clients within in its e-book program.
            Now the Dead-End Job mysteries have new covers by the award-winning Jenn Reese at Tiger Bright Studios. Inside, you'll find your favorite adventures of Helen Hawthorne, the
St. Louis woman who had a high-finance job, a beautiful home— and a good-for-nothing husband she caught in the act with their neighbor. When she divorced the bum, the judge saddled Helen with alimony. Helen refused to pay her ex, tossed her wedding ring in the Mississippi River, and went on the run.
            She wound up in Fort Lauderdale, working dead-end jobs for cash under the table. Follow Helen as she learns to thrive in subtropical South Florida. In these 13 novels, Helen changes. She goes from a bitter woman who distrusts men to a happily married bride. She becomes a private eye. She still works those low-paying jobs, but now she's undercover.
            Helen also finds a new family at the Coronado Tropic Apartments, with Margery, her purple-wearing landlady, Peggy and her parrot Pete, and the other colorful characters.
            Now you can read the first 13 Dead-End Job mysteries as e-books (the paperbacks will come out this summer). Helen's in-depth exploration of the pink-collar world has become timelier since the series started.

(1) In Shop till You Drop, Helen sells bustiers to bimbos.  

(2) Next, she works as a bookseller in Murder Between the Covers.

(3) Then she's a telemarketer selling septic tank cleaner in Dying to Call You. (Yes, I really sold it. Wanna hear my spiel?)

(4) After that, Helen works at a bridal salon for Just Murdered. After I sold wedding dresses – when emotions run strong – I wondered why there aren't more murders.

(5) During a hurricane, Helen tracks down a killer at a posh dog grooming salon in Murder Unleashed.

(6) In Murder with Reservations Helen is a hotel maid, and finds out why you shouldn't use a hotel coffee pot. (Ask me if you dare.)
            (7) In Clubbed to Death, Helen works at a country club, solving the problems of people who have no problems. The club's motto should be "Do you know who I am?"
            (8) From there, she's a gofer at a high-end hair salon where a color and cut cost more than a car payment in Killer Cuts.
            (9) In Half-Price Homicide, Helen's working at a resale boutique where trophy wives with controlling husbands get their folding money.
(10) In Pumped for Murder, Helen explores the fascinating world of women's competition body building, where "ripped and stripped" competitors live on three ounces of chicken – a day.
            (11) Next, Helen is a stewardess on a luxury yacht for Final Sail, and learns to vacuum in the tracks. (It's an art.)
            (12) Life's a beach in South Florida, but the friendly folks selling parasailing and paddle boarding are in cutthroat businesses. Helen's role in Board Stiff is no day at the beach.
            (13) The fur flies when Helen is a groomer for pedigreed show cats in Catnapped!

Get the whole set or treat yourself to the books you missed. Prices start at $2.99 and go up. Check them out here.

            Remember, there are no calories in binge reads. 

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

The Magic Chair Murder by Diane Janes

There are a lot of creepy people in Diane Janes' The Magic Chair Murder. Who would guess that the mystery, set in the 1920s in England, would revolve around the author of children's poems and stories?

The Robert Barnaby Society is having a conference. Robert Barnaby was a poet who wrote about a magic chair. Child characters in his poems would sit in the chair, and be transported into the past for a series of adventures. Barnaby died in the Great War, and now adults come together to address the serious subjects in his poems. Some dress in costume, but the overall intent is to discuss Barnaby and his writings. And, Linda Dexter, who is to speak to the group on a topic she suggested may be controversial, doesn't show up.

Most people at the conference don't seem at all upset that Linda Dexter isn't speaking. But two of the younger members find it disturbing. Fran Black and Tom Dod team up to find the missing woman. Before they can do much, Linda's burned out car and her body are found by the police. But, the amateur sleuths are curious as to why the society wants to shut down all mention of Linda's involvement. They may prove to be unpopular with the group, but Black and Dod want answers.

The Magic Chair Murder is written in the style of 1920s mysteries. It's leisurely paced and intricately plotted. The story is character-driven with a great deal of conversation. It will be a little slow-paced for some. Even the humorous bits were a little old-fashioned. When Black and Dod were mentioned, I didn't trust the book to be accurate, so I researched to learn that Dod does mean death in Scandinavian. The amateur sleuths are Black Death, or Black and Death.

The mystery was a little slow, a little too involved for me. But, there are already hints of a new mystery for Black and Dod.

Diane Janes' website is

The Magic Chair Murder by Diane Janes. Severn House, 2018. ISBN 9780727887597 (hardcover), 215p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Monday, March 05, 2018

A Funeral in Mantova by David P. Wagner

If David P. Wagner's A Funeral in Mantova doesn't make you yearn for a trip to Italy to eat authentic Italian food, I think there's something wrong with you. I know that's not the purpose of Wagner's latest Rick Montoya Italian mystery, but the author brings the food and setting of the Lombardy region to life in this atmospheric book.

Rick Montoya is an American translator living in Rome where his uncle, a top official in the police department, often steers business his way. A wealthy American, Angelo Rondini, finds Rick through Italian channels, and hires him to be his interpreter in Mantova. Although Angelo was born in Italy, his parents emigrated when he was an infant, and he has never been back. Now, Angelo wants to attend the funeral of Roberto Rondini, the cousin he never knew, and meet his niece. Inspector Giulio Crespi introduces himself to Rick at the funeral, and asks him to talk to people who knew the dead man. It seems the police don't believe Roberto died by slipping and hitting his head when he was fishing.

After introducing the possibility of murder to his new boss, Rick asks questions of others in the dairy farming community, and acquaintances of the dead man. It seems Roberto Rondini was not universally liked. He had been involved in issues over land ownership, fishing, and politics. While Rick researches the stories behind Roberto, he also uncovers family history. And, some of that history  may surprise Montoya's new boss.

While Rick Montoya is a likable amateur sleuth, it's fascinating to watch the changes in Angelo Rondini as he discovers his family, the Italian culture, and his family history. Despite his businesslike abrupt nature, he has a yearning for his roots that comes as a surprise even to him.

It's characters and history that lead to the solution of this mystery. But, it's the setting and food that create the inviting atmosphere. Wagner makes excellent use of his knowledge of the Lombardy region, its food specialties, and the local culture. A Funeral in Mantova invites readers to appreciate the region with all its richness.

You may come to attend A Funeral in Mantova. You'll leave, wishing you had time and money to linger.

David P. Wagner's website is

A Funeral in Mantova by David P. Wagner. Poisoned Pen Press, 2018. ISBN 9781464209499 (hardcover), 228p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Sunday Reading Corner

Some of you have missed the book chats featuring the mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. Or, maybe you just miss the book chats featuring Jinx. I can't help with the fact that Berkley is now doing just a few paperback mysteries a month. But, I can still do book chats with Jinx.

Welcome to Sunday Reading Corner. Some Sundays, I'll talk about the books I'm currently reading. Maybe Jinx or Josh will appear. It's just one more way of sharing books (and cats). I hope you enjoy the new feature!

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Sibanda and the Black Sparrowhawk by C.M. Elliott

I'll admit C.M. Elliott's third Sibanda mystery may not be easy to find in libraries. The publisher is a South African press. But, the setting is so unusual, Zimbabwe, that I wanted to introduce Sibanda and the Black Sparrowhawk.

Detective Inspector Jabulani Sibanda works out of the Gubu Police Station in Zimbabwe. He takes the call when a train hits an elephant. The railway isn't reporting the dead elephant. They're reporting that they found a body nearby, a body that had been skinned. Sibanda gathers his small team of Sergeant Ncabe and the aging Land Rover, Miss Daisy, and heads into the vicious world of a serial killer who is working the railway.

It doesn't take long for the intuitive Sibanda to announce the death is the work of a serial killer. But, Sibanda's list of suspects grows when he looks at the railway's schedule and the possible missing women. While Sibanda works his way through the list, Ncabe eats his way through the case, and the reader observes the wildlife and landscape of this exotic country.

While the story of the search for a serial killer who skins his victims may seem like a violent police procedural, Elliott's story is actually a contemporary mystery that explores the beauty and poverty of Zimbabwe. Ncabe, with his love of food, his three wives and his family, and Miss Daisy, provides the humor in the story. But, it's Sibanda, with his love of birds and wildlife, with his love of nature, who allows readers to see the beauty in the country.

The storyline may be a little too violent for those who love Alexander McCall Smith's mysteries, however, readers of Michael Stanley and Frederick Ramsay, authors who write of Botswana, may want to explore the lush setting of Zimbabwe.

C.M. Elliott's website is

Sibanda and the Black Sparrowhawk by C.M. Elliott. Jacana Media, 2018. 9781438402632 (paperback), 240p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Winners & Food Mysteries

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Jackie B. from Waxhaw, NC won A Reckoning in the Back Country. The Long Arm of the Law is going to John B. from Grass Valley, CA. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I have a couple cozy mysteries featuring food to give away. Head for Mystic Bay in Curses, Boiled Again by Shari Randall. Ballet dancer Allie Larkin had a bad fall and broke her ankle. Now, she's back home to help her Aunt Gully get her Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack off the ground. Gully's hoping to win the local food festival's Best Lobster Roll contest. But, one of the contest judges dies after eating a roll from one of Gully's biggest rivals. Why is Gully the prime suspect?

Or, you can head to Winter Garden, Virginia and Amy Flowers' Down South Cafe in Honey-Baked Homicide by Gayle Leeson. Amy's happy to help a struggling beekeeper by selling his honey. But, their partnership is cut short when she discovers Stuart's body outside the cafe. And, Amy discovers there's a large list of suspects who might have wanted the beekeeper dead.

Which cozy mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win Curses, Boiled Again" or "Win Honey-Baked Homicide." Please include your name and mailing address. The contest will end Thursday, March 8 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

April Treasures in My Closet

February went fast. It's already time for Treasures in My Closet, books that will be released in April. Let's get started. We have quite a few titles to get through.

Commissaire Dupin returns in Jean-Luc Bannalec's The Fleur de Sel Murders. The old salt farmers have always said that the violet scent of the flour de Sea at harvest time on the salt marshes has been known to cause hallucinations. Dupin starts to believe that when he's attacked when he's snooping around mysterious barrels on behalf of a journalist friend. When his friend disappears, he's assigned to the case. (Release date is April 24.)

I'm going to come right out and say Rick Bragg is one of my favorite nonfiction authors. His words are pure poetry. And, I've already started The Best Cook in the World...Tales from My Momma's Table. It's a cookbook. It's a memoir of his mother's life. It's Rick Bragg, the storyteller. (Release date is April 3.)

Josie Prescott returns in Jane K. Cleland's Antique Blues. Soon after she's asked to appraise a Japanese woodblock print, the owner is murdered. Josie works closely with the police to find if the murder was personal or related to the art. (Release date is April 24.)

The seventeenth Coffee House mystery by Cleo Coyle, Shot in the Dark, is one of my favorites. When a hot new app for dating turns the Village Blend into a hookup spot, it also drags Clare Cost into another murder investigation. Now, she fears a loss of business if the Village Blend is associated with murder. (Release date is April 17.)

In Janet Dawson's The Ghost in Roomette Four, it's 1954, and Zephyrette Jill McLeod sees a shimmering light that may be a ghost. Is it the spirit of a young man whose body she'd found a few months earlier in the same train compartment? And what message is he trying to send? (Release date is April 7.)

You might not think I'd care for a debut mystery featuring a former pro wrestler turned bar bouncer. A.J. Devlin's first "Hammerhead" Jed mystery, Cobra Clutch, is an outstanding debut. When Jed's friend and former tag-team partner is killed, he finds himself in the world of bikers and drugs, looking for a killer. (Release date is April 15.)

Neal Griffin's third Newberg novel is By His Own Hand. Former Marine Tia Suarez has made a name for herself in the Newberg PD: troublemaker, seeker of justice, a good cop's best friend and a bad cop's worst nightmare. When a Native American teen is found dead on the grounds of a Christian religious retreat, Tia is determined to find out who killed him, even though everyone stonewalls her. (Release date is April 17.)

Three Strikes, You're Dead is the third Eddie Shoes mystery by Elena Hartwell. Private investigator Eddie Shoes heads to a resort to spend a mother-daughter getaway weekend with her mother. But, when she goes on a hike, and stumbles across a dying man, he gives her a rosary and asks her to find his missing daughter. Eddie barely escapes from a forest fire, and wakes in the hospital, knowing she's working for a dead man. (Release date is April 1.)

Undercover agent Fia McKee returns in Sasscer Hill's The Dark Side of Town. McKee is now officially employed by the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, and is sent undercover to Saratoga Racetrack to investigate a racehorse trainer whose horses' wins are suspiciously lucky. But after she witnesses the suicide of a jockey, Fia discovers the death is only the tip of an iceberg. (Release date is April 17.)

The latest Maggie MacGowen mystery by Wendy Hornsby is Number 7, Rue Jacob. Maggie arrives in Paris at the Left Bank apartment she inherited from the mother she never knew, planning a romantic reunion with her fiancé. But, his phone call summons her on a shared nightmarish odyssey across Europe, as they try to stay ahead of a predator who's using every possible surveillance device to stalk them. Then, their unknown enemy turns to the Internet to offer a reward for their capture. (Release date is April 7.)

Mike Knowles introduces three crooked cops in Tin Men. But, it's one of their who has been murdered. Detective Julie Owen was savagely killed in her own bed, and the unborn child she was carrying is nowhere to be found. All three men have reasons to want to find the person responsible for Julie's death. And, they're going straight after the murderer. (Release date is April 10.)

The third Mortimer Angel mystery is Gumshoe on the Loose by Rob Leininger. IRS agent-turned-PI Mortimer Angel is relaxing in a hole-in-the-wall bar in a Reno casino when an attractive young girl hires him to find out who left her a cryptic message demanding a million dollars. At her home, Mort finds the body of a missing rapper, hanging from the rafters with two bullet holes in him. Mort is shocked when he learns the identity of the girl's father, and even more shocked when he's hired to investigate the murder. (Release date is April 3.)

The latest Max Tudor mystery, In Prior's Wood by G.M. Malliet, finds Max back home, hoping for routine. But, the lady of the local manor house is found in a suicide pact with her young lover. And, Lady Daxter's husband seems to rally a little too quickly, hosting a writers' retreat. But, a young girl goes missing, a crime writer becomes a target, and Max is roped into the investigation. (Release date is April 17.)

The latest Hogarth Shakespeare offering in Jo Nesbo's Macbeth. It's a story of love and guilt, political ambition, and greed. It's set in the 1970s in a run-down, rainy industrial town, a town where the police force struggles with a drug problem. Duncan, the chief of police is idealistic and visionary. The drug trade is ruled by two drug lords, including one named Hecate who plots to manipulate Inspector Macbeth, the head of SWAT, and a man susceptible to violent and paranoid tendencies. (Release date is April 28.)

Readers return to Edinburgh, Scotland with the latest Scottish Bookshop mystery, Lost Books and Old Bones by Paige Shelton. Delaney Nichols has found some medical school friends, but when one of her new friends is found murdered outside the bookshop where she works, her interest in the history surrounding the med school sends her headlong into the investigation. (Release date is April 3.)

Denise Swanson kicks off a new series with Tart of Darkness. Dani Sloan's new catering company, Chef-to-Go, is threatened after a young woman is killed soon after Dani caters a party at her home. Dani not only has to clear her name and save her business, but she has to clear the college students who are renting rooms from her, while working for the business. (Release date is April 3.)

Martin Edwards and Adrian Muller edited Ten Year Stretch, a compilation of mystery stories that celebrate the ten year anniversary of CrimeFest. Contributing authors include Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Jeffery Deaver, Sophie Hannah, and Ian Rankin. (Release date is April 26.)

When a former TV producer, once a murder suspect, is shot at by a sniper, he accuses former SWAT sniper Trey Seaver. Trey and his lover, Tai Randolph, set out to find the sniper, and the real killer of the man's wife. It's Tina Whittle's Necessary Ends. (Release date is April 3.)

Remember the high school athlete that became a legend? That's Duke Ducheski in Robin Yocum's A Perfect Shot. At forty, he finally decides to parlay his reputation as the local sports legend of Mingo Junction, Ohio into a future. He opens a restaurant, Duke's Place. But, as soon as it's running, his brother-in-law, a local mob enforcer, comes in and murders Duke's oldest friend. "Little Tony" thinks he's untouchable, but he hasn't counted on Duke, who discovers a way to take him down. But, he's going to have to leave Mingo Junction and leave behind his reputation as the local legend. (Release date is April 17.)

And, here's the list of the books I didn't annotate. There are some books on this list that I should have summarized, but I just ran out of time.

Brown, Rebecca L. - Flying at Night (April 10)
Casale, Jana - The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky (April 17)
Castillo, Elaine - America is Not the Heart (April 3)
Crosley, Sloane - Look Alive Out There (April 3)
Dugoni, Robert - The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell (April 24)
Flanagan, Richard - First Person (April 3)
Franson, Sally - A Lady's Guide to Selling Out (April 10)
Fredericks, Mariah - A Death of No Importance (April 10)
Johnson, Kirk Wallace - The Feather Thief (April 24)
Kiernan, Olivia - Too Close to Breathe (April 3)
Krasnostein, Sarah - The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman's Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay and Disaster (April 10)
Kurson, Robert - Rocket Men (April 3)
Malerman, Josh - Unbury Carol (April 10)
Mayes, Frances - Women in Sunlight (April 3)
Sittenfeld, Curtis - You Think It, I'll Say It (April 24)
Waxman, Abbi - Other People's Houses (April 3)
Wolitzer, Meg - The Female Persuasion (April 3)

Which books entice you?