Book Review – Dead in the Water, a Mattie Winston Mystery by Annelise Ryan




Book Review – Dead in the Water

By Annelise Ryan

The 8th Mattie Winston Mystery


March 2017


I read a trade paperback ARC

Formats Available: kindle, hardcover, mass market paperback, audio CD.

Mattie Winston plays an important role in determining the cause of death. As a medico-legal death investigator, she gathers evidence for the medical examiner’s office. At times, she testifies in a Wisconsin court room. Even a well-prepared witness can stumble during questioning, but Mattie has courage and experience and is confident she can do what needs to be done to see that justice is served.

No sooner does she finish testifying for one murder case, is she assigned to another. This one is for a young woman studying to be a nurse. There are no visible clues as to the cause of her death according to Mattie as she examines the scene of the crime and takes pictures for the investigation.

Shortly after, the police are notified that one of Mattie’s co-workers hasn’t returned from a day outing with his girlfriend in his boat. Twisted fate strikes when Mattie and her fiancé, Detective Steve Hurley, are informed through separate phone calls, that a body has been found trapped up against a damn downtown. No sooner do they arrive at the site does Mattie volunteer to help Sorensen Police Department retrieve the body. According to witnesses, it has been drifting down river. Imagine the horror when she sees Hal’s lifeless body underwater with a deep gash on the side of his neck and a defensive wound on his hand. After informing Dennis, who dove with her, and Hurley on land, they take a short drive to where Hal’s boat is located. At this scene is Greta Zorski, from the local sheriff’s office, and her men, who were headed to the boat as they pulled up. Knowing there’s more to the story then the police have stated, local reporter Alison Miller arrives at the scene. Since she’s helped Mattie with another case, she is allowed nearby, but is not to interfere or speak of the case until given permission. Greta takes Hurley and Mattie to the boat so she can record evidence. Mattie informs them that she believes two people were on the boat. Immediately, Zorski thinks Tina, Hal’s girlfriend, may have killed him. Mattie doesn’t believe that’s what happened so she suits up. Unfortunately, in the green water, they find Tina’s body. Caught in the state of deep sadness for the couple, Mattie collects evidence, snaps pictures, and then rises to the surface.

With both bodies now recovered, Hurley suggests that Mattie look into the cases that Hal was working on. There might be a connection. With the help of Allison, who can question neighbors and snoop around, they can acquire clues the police and Mattie are not aware of.

Dead in the Water was well written. Several things made this book a super read: the protagonist is a nurse turned coroner with a knowledge of medicine and anatomy that added more detail. She was a no-nonsense character who tells it like it is. Some of the best scenes are with Mattie and Hurley trying to eat, care for their young son, interact with their landlord and his husband, his mother, and the men’s daughter. In addition, they were dealing with a number of murders, not just one. That takes a lot of creative juggling. When the reader gets to the actual person(s) responsible they will have no problem believing it. This is a subject that demands some heavy-duty research and awareness. Looking forward to reading the next Mattie Winston Mystery. And, thank you, Annelise for making Mattie realistic.

Five out of five morgue toe tags

Denise Fleischer

May 21, 2017


Guest Blog Post: Rare Books for Free by Kathleen Bridge Author of ‘Ghostal Living’


, ,


In my third Hamptons Home and Garden Mystery, Ghostal Living, rare books take center stage, which got me thinking about all the “rare” books I’ve found over the years in my local library. In Ghostal Living, a wealthy, rare book collector opens the Bibliophile Bed & Breakfast in Sag Harbor, New York. Each suite in the B & B is named after a famous author. My protagonist, interior designer and fixer-upper Meg Barrett has the lucky chore of filling the suites with books and antiques from the time period the authors were alive—as if they’d just stepped out for a bit of fresh air after a long day of writing.

A few years ago, I spent the weekend in Sag Harbor, picture taking and soaking up the history and beauty of the historic old whaling village that would be the setting for my next mystery. As soon as I saw the John Jermain Memorial Library, I knew it would be the perfect location for my novel’s first annual Sag Harbor Antiquarian Book and Ephemera Fair. The library was built in 1910 and is a wonderful example of Classical Revival architecture with its pediment and four towering Doric columns, reminiscent of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue—all that’s missing are the stone lions, Patience and Fortitude.

When I first entered the lobby of the John Jermain Memorial Library, I couldn’t help but wonder if Sag Harbor resident John Steinbeck had spent time inside. I could imagine him checking out a volume on King Arthurian legends, one of his favorite subjects. Or perhaps hiding between the stacks of books to read Shakespeare’s, Richard III, the play that gave him the inspiration and name for his novel, The Winter of Our Discontent that he wrote from his little glass hut overlooking Sag Harbor’s Noyac Bay. And I’m sure another Sag Harbor favorite son, James Fenimore Cooper would be proud to know his books are safely stored in the new humidity and temperature controlled archive in the third-floor History Room.

In Ghostal Living there is a Gatsby-style cocktail party to celebrate the opening of the Sag Harbor Antiquarian Book and Ephemera Fair. I used poetic license to say that a portion of the proceeds from the 1920s cocktail party would go to SAIL, an acronym I made up for Save America’s Invaluable Libraries.  The name, SAIL, might be fictitious, but please count on me to do anything I can to promote our public libraries where “rare” accessible books are available to everyone.

Peg Cochran On: Ideas, Writing Rituals, Research And Regular Books vs. Ebooks





Learn more about Peg on her website:



Gotta Write Network touched base with Peg Cochran when she had a free minute, which isn’t often. Read on and then visit her website to learn about what she’s up to!

Where do you get your ideas?

The truth is, I don’t know!  I start with the smallest grain of an idea and it snowballs from there and by the time I start writing the book, I’ve forgotten what part of it was the original spark for the story.  I do remember the spark for the Cranberry Cove series though—I had this sudden vision of a body floating up in a flooded cranberry bog and it took off from there.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Short answer:  no.  I don’t have to light a special candle or play special music.  As a matter of fact, I prefer no music at all.  I have a full-time day job and need to use whatever spare time I can scrounge up to meet my deadlines so I’ve learned to write whenever/wherever!

9780425274552What kind of research did you do for your Cranberry Cove series?

There is a cranberry farm in South Haven, Michigan, about an hour from us.  I was able to watch a harvest.  It was a beautiful day and the blue sky combined with the brilliant red of the cranberries made a gorgeous picture.  The owner was very helpful in answering my questions except for one.  He had no idea what to say when I asked him what they’d do if a body floated up when they flooded the bog!

Regular books or ebooks?

Both.  I prefer to read non-fiction in book format because I often skip around and don’t read chapters in order.  And if it’s a book on writing, I might want to reread bits or underline them.  Fiction I read almost exclusively on my Kindle because it’s easier for me to see—I can make the type bigger and my case has a built-in book light.  Of course I could put a brighter bulb in the lamp by the sofa where I like to sit (okay, lie down) and read!  That would probably help a lot.

What are you reading right now?

I’m about one third of the way through Behind Her Eyes (and will probably be finished by the time you read this) and I just finished The Girl Before.  And before that it was a woman’s fiction book Silver Girl.

Book Review – If the Haunting Fits, Wear It By Rose Pressey



 If the Haunting Fits, Wear It

A Haunted Vintage Mystery

By Rose Pressey

Kensington, $7.99


July 2017

Before Cookie Chanel, a vintage boutique owner, heads to the Kentucky Derby, she makes one stop. Unable to turn away from an estate sale, she checks out the attic hoping to find a few vintage hats which her client Danielle Elstron was interested in. Cookie finds more than a few fashionable items. She finds the ghost of the former homeowner who is now a resident ghost. As soon as Maureen learns Cookie can see her she asks if she can help find her murderer. She’s determined to join Cookie and her companion, Charlotte, who is also a ghost. Along for the ride to Kentucky, is Windsong, a white cat harboring the soul of Cookie’s grandmother.

After arriving in Kentucky, Cookie attends a charity luncheon at the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs. When Charlotte moves toward the lady’s room, she finds a dead man lying on the floor. Cookie calls 911 and attempts CPR, but the man is clearly dead. After the police arrive, Danielle approaches to learn what happened and that is Ramon Gooden is no longer competition on the track. Unable to cross over, he seeks the assistance of Cookie and her team.

With the focus of her investigation finding Ramon’s killer, the unusual team of amateur sleuths have a lot to deal with. It could have been any number of things that caused Ramon’s death: an angry wife, a mistress trying to make trouble, stable staff issues, the mysterious black truck driver, arguments before the murder, or an alternative plan of the owner of the horse Ramon was going to race.

If The Haunting Fits, Wear It is a light version of the show “Ghost Whisperer,” but with sense of humor. The ghosts are like friends from another generation who for whatever reason are drawn to Cookie. Maybe she’s the daughter they never had or they had unfinished business and helping her resolve the case will earn their passage to heaven. Either way, this fast-moving mystery is sweet with enough clues leading to the guilty party to keep you curious. Liked the idea of the ghostly sleuths lending an invisible hand. Has to be difficult juggling so many ghosts. The author solved a lot, trying not to leave loose threads. Would have liked to have seen more interaction with the grandmother/cat. Perhaps a telepathic connection. Coming in to the series at book 5, would have liked to have read about Cookie’s early experiences as a medium and if it runs in the family. Also, I think it’s a general rule that only official investigators can collect evidence at the scene of the crime. Cookie should have given the evidence she picked up to the police right away or simply left it. All in all, I did enjoy reading this cozy. Hope to read more about Cookie and Charlotte’s cases. Tell us more about why Charlotte remains with Cookie.

Three Kentucky Derby Hats out of five

Denise Fleischer

May 14, 2017



New Book Title: Mrs. Jeffries Rights A Wrong by Emily Brightwell




Criminal Conversation and the Notorious Mrs. Caroline Norton by Darcie Wilde


, , , ,

9780425282380There’s a lot to love about writing historical fiction.  For starters, it’s a form of time travel.  You get to go to new places and meet fascinating new people.  You are also required to wrap your head around a lot of new ideas.

When I started thinking about my second Rosalind Thorne mystery, I knew I wanted it to center around adultery and “criminal conversation.”  I thought I understood these ideas.  I’d read a lot about the Regency.  And well, wasn’t “criminal conversation,” or “crim. con.” just the polite phrase that the journalists of the time used?

As it turns out, no.  Criminal Conversation is it’s own concept, and directly related to the idea of a wife being legally inseparable from her husband.  In 1817, when A Purely Private Matter takes place, once a woman took marriage vows, she became legally, if not literally, flesh of his flesh.  She couldn’t sign any contract, couldn’t hire any employee, take out a lease, appear in court as a witness on her own behalf, or anybody else’s, without his permission.  This was because she was, legally, a limb of her husband’s body.  Anything she did, he was doing, so he had to agree, and authorize it.

So, if you’re looking at things from this standpoint, if a wife has sex with somebody other than her husband, it becomes a little…weird.

First off, the outside sexual act becomes an assault on him, because he didn’t consent to the intercourse.

Ahem.  Yes.  Moving along.

But the intercourse also becomes theft.  The other man stole something that belonged to the husband, that is, time and access to his wife.  So, if the husband wanted legal recourse, what he did was sue the interloper in civil court for…wait for it…property damages.  Not only that, but the wife was not only not expected to be in the court, she was not allowed to be there.  This was not about her.  This is about the husband, from whom something was stolen, and the (male) interloper, who stole it.

This meant that, among other things, accusations of criminal conversation could be used to drive a personal or business rival into bankruptcy, or just to blackmail him.  Men could, and did, make spurious accusations about famous (and presumably wealthy) men when they were in need of ready money.  Actors were a favorite target.

The person through whom I learned this was Mrs. Caroline Norton. Caroline’s big scandal was the way in which she publicly denied that she was scandalous, a position she maintained for decades.  She held that her husband had no right to slander her, the courts had no business keeping her from declaring her innocence under oath, and that the very legal system was wrong to deny the fact that she was a thinking person with individual volition and interests.  She took her case straight to the top, publishing an open letter to Queen Victoria herself.

She was, in short, my kind of gal.

Mrs. George Norton nee Caroline Sheridan, was not actually not a Regency figure.  Her adult life, career and scandal stretched through that nameless time when England was ruled by “Silly Billy” William IV, and into the Victorian era.  She was a successful author, lyricist, poet, sparkling hostess, popular party guest and habitué of fashionable literary circles.

Her husband, George Norton, was nowhere near as successful.  Let’s be blunt.  George was a failure.  He had no money, no title or estate, and no occupation.  He badgered Caroline to use her family connections to get him a position as a magistrate, which she did.  He badgered her to make herself brilliant and famous so he could benefit from the reflected glory, which she did.  He badgered her to write more and faster, because he needed the money.  She did that too.

But none of that was enough.  George continued to see himself as a failure, and he blamed Caroline.  Blame eventually turned to suspicion.   George was sure Caroline was having an affair, and he was sure he knew with whom — Lord Melbourne.

Seriously, George?

Yeah, well, okay there were a couple of indiscrete letters that might open themselves to misinterpretation if you were the kind of guy who was reading his wife’s mail…

What followed was sordid, drawn out, expensive and for Caroline, personally traumatic.  George publicly labelled her an adulteress.  He laid claim to all her earnings even while he booted her out of the house, and denied that he had any duty of spousal support (which was one of the very few points on which a wife could make a legal claim against her husband).  He took (read: kidnapped) their children.  And there was absolutely bugger all she could do about any of it, because he would not divorce her (remember, she’s a limb of his body, so she can’t amputate herself, he has to do it).  So, Caroline remained legally his, so did all her stuff (seriously, she didn’t even have a legal right to the clothes on her back), all her money, and the kids.

So, Caroline did the only thing she could do.  She wrote.  She published political pamphlets describing her situation and that of women like her, including that open letter to Queen Victoria.  And, when her husband did go to court, she went too.  Which was unheard of.  It was literally a one woman sit down strike.  While the men were wrangling on who owed damages to who, Caroline positioned in the court where she could plainly be seen.  More, she stood up and demanded to be heard.  She had to be removed.  More than once.

And she kept writing, in public and private, and arguing, and fighting.  Even when she won on the personal front, finally obtaining from George a deed of separation that allowed her to keep her earnings and have custody of her children, she did not stop her campaign, but continued to argue for the rights of women.

Hmm.  Maybe she was kind of scandalous at that.

New Title: Walking on my Grave by Carolyn Hart



Guest Blog Post – Murder in the Bowery by Victoria Thompson



They Do Strange Things in the Bowery

The Bowery, the Bowery!
They say such things,
And they do strange things
On the Bowery! The Bowery!
I’ll never go there anymore!”

The words to the popular song from the 1891 musical A Trip to Chinatown tell you everything you need to know about the Bowery, which is both a street and a neighborhood in Manhattan.  In turn of the century New York City, many neighborhoods had bad reputations, and the Bowery was among the worst. Originally, however, it was actually several miles outside of town. “Bowery” is an Anglicization of the Dutch word bouwerji which means “farm”, as the area contained many large farms in the 17th Century. When the City grew, it spread northward, and the farms gave way to residential lots where elite citizens built mansions. By the mid-1800s, those citizens had moved farther north, and Bowery became the eastern border of the notorious “Five Points” slum where all manner of evil flourished. To make matters worse, the Third Avenue Elevated Train ran above Bowery, turning the street dark even at midday.  The neighborhood housed cheap bars, dance houses, brothels, and flophouses.

So what was a Society debutant doing there?

That’s what Private Investigator Frank Malloy and his new bride, Sarah Brandt, try to find out in Murder in the Bowery when the search for a missing newsboy leads them to the innocent debutant, a ruthless gangster, and a Bowery “guide” who takes rich men on “slumming” tours of the neighborhood. But none of these people is who or what they seem, and Frank and Sarah have to find the truth before a killer strikes again.


Former police sergeant turned private detective Frank Malloy and his wife Sarah are caught up in the strange world of a society woman who enjoyed flirting with danger but found death instead…

Frank Malloy’s latest client is well-dressed Will Bert. He’s searching for his brother, a newsboy named Freddie so he can share his new financial good fortune. Frank makes quick work of the case and locates Freddie but a happy reunion between brothers is not in the cards.

When Will’s name is mentioned, Freddie runs off—only to be found dead a short time later. A suspicious Frank tracks down Will who spins a tale of lust and deceit involving a young society woman Estelle Longacre. Estelle’s risky behavior took a fatal toll but Frank can’t be sure if the company she kept is to blame or if her own ruthless family had a hand in her death.

Frank will need Sarah’s help to unearth the dark secrets of the Longacres and to discover if there is a connection between Estelle and Freddie’s death. Together they must navigate an underground web of treachery to find answers.

 About the author Edgar and Agatha nominated author Victoria Thompson writes the Gaslight Mystery Series, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring midwife Sarah Brandt. Her latest, Murder in the Bowery, is a May 2017 release from Berkley Prime Crime. She also contributed to the award winning writing textbook Many Genres/One Craft. Victoria teaches in the Seton Hill University master’s program in writing popular fiction. She lives in Illinois with her husband and a very spoiled little dog. Find out more at  Follow her on Facebook at Victoria.Thompson.Author and on Twitter @gaslightvt.

Book Review – Where the Dead Lie, By C.S. Harris, A Mystery Set in 1813 England




Where the Dead Lie

A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery



April 4, 2017

12th installment of the series

set in 1813 England

I seldom read books of this era, but there was something intriguing about this plot. As disturbing as the topic was, this wasn’t a book I could put down as the description places the reader in every dark and dangerous corner. You can see the tattered clothes on the children, the dirt on their faces, and sense their fear.

Where the Dead Lie opens with a burial. Not the kind you’re invited to. No, this was murder and the burial was planned late at night at an abandoned building to go unnoticed. A gentleman watches the illegal act anticipating his quick escape knowing that the crime will be buried with the corpse. Though a homeless, former soldier seeking shelter in the abandoned shot factory caught them in the act. The magistrate who should be dealing with the case refuses to seek justice for the young, dead pickpocket. Constable Mott Gowan takes on the responsibility feeling the child deserved the truth to be revealed and a better burial.

The children of the streets have no wealth, no history, no protection. They need someone to be their voice. So when the body of a boy buried in the makeshift grave is brought to the attention of Surgeon Paul Gibson he contacts Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin. The two often investigate cases turned down by the authorities.

Sebastian immediately arrives at Paul’s home and witnesses the boy’s tortured body lying on a stone slab. After experiencing disgust and anger, Devlin is determined to find the person responsible for this horrid crime. Through his investigation, he uncovers a web of deviance that caters to the wealthy through prostitution and illegal books. Through his and his wife’s interviews, they learn that the boy is Benji Thatcher and when his mother was transported to Botany Bay, he and his younger sister were left alone. They struggled to stay alive.

Paul and Sebastian must find out who murdered Benji? Have other children met the same ending? And where is Benji’s sister?

This was a dark, disturbing novel and yet a perfect venture into man at his worst. The street youth, the witnesses and criminals were well drawn. I felt like I was watching a movie. I also learned about poverty in this time period. How mothers went to prison for stealing the simplest of things because prostitution was not an acceptable alternative. Then the unthinkable happens and these poor children were left to fend for themselves. They became pickpockets or worse to survive. Their society failed them and abandoned them. To make matters even worse, they are preyed upon.

Only problem was a printing error not caught right away, but I was told it was fixed. I read the e-book instead.

Five street children out of five

Denise Fleischer

April 30, 2017



Guest Blog Post: Moses’ Staff: Facts and Fantasy By Kfir Luzzatto





If you know your Bible, you are familiar with Moses’ staff. It played a big part in the Israelites’ departure from Egypt, as told in the Book of Exodus. The staff embodied the power that God had bestowed upon Moses, and he used it to part the waters for their escape and for pretty much everything else he needed done, like hitting the rock and having water gush out so the Israelites could drink in the desert.

Like with other Biblical relics, countless stories have been told over the centuries about Moses’ staff, and even in modern times. In 2002 the BBC released a stunning headline: “Staff of Moses ‘found’ in Birmingham.” It was followed by a report claiming that “an ancient staff in a British museum may be connected to the Biblical figure of Moses. Coventry writer Graham Phillips believes the staff, on display at Birmingham Museum, belonged to the historical Egyptian official Tuthmosis, whose life had strong parallels with the Moses of the Bible.” According to the author, the staff was found in a tomb in southern Jordan in the 1800s before being bought by a British collector and later acquired by Birmingham Museum.

But of course, there will be others who claim possession of the relic. For instance, Turkey claims that Moses’s staff is on display today at the Topkapı Palace, Istanbul. While I wouldn’t run to Birmingham or to Istanbul to view the relic, these facts inspired the plot of my new thriller, Exodus ’95, in which a race to locate and take possession of Moses’ staff, hidden in a remote location, develops into what a reviewer characterized as “an intriguing blend of action, mystery, and suspense.”

An action thriller is a work of fantasy – or to put it bluntly, it is a pack of lies. Conventional wisdom has it that for a lie to be convincing, it must be based on some truth. Exodus ’95 is anchored in facts, geographically and historically, so when the reader get to the fibs, they have a ring of truth that serves to keep him or her invested in the story and connected to the protagonists, no matter how outlandish their actions.

So, what’s in the book:

Claire, a young graphic designer, learns a secret that her dying New York neighbor has kept for twenty years: the whereabouts of Moses’ Biblical staff.

Claire needs the help of an Israeli engineer and the money of a Russian oligarch to recover the staff before her body betrays her. But first she needs to stay alive in a race with fanatics, who will do anything to keep the staff from coming to light.

Then the LORD said to Moses: Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.

Will Moses’ staff be found at last? I’m afraid that to find out you’ll have to read Exodus ’95.



Kfir Luzzatto is the author of seven novels, several short stories and two non-fiction books. Kfir was born and raised in Italy, and moved to Israel as a teenager. He acquired the love for the English language from his father, a former U.S. soldier, a voracious reader, and a prolific writer. Kfir has a PhD in chemical engineering and works as a patent attorney. He lives in Omer, Israel, with his full-time partner, Esther, their four children, Michal, Lilach, Tamar, and Yonatan, and the dog Elvis.

Kfir has published extensively in the professional and general press over the years. For almost four years he wrote a weekly “Patents” column in Globes (Israel’s financial newspaper). His most recent nonfiction book, FUN WITH PATENTS—The Irreverent Guide for the Investor, the Entrepreneur and the Inventor, was published in 2016. He is an HWA (Horror Writers Association) and ITW (International Thriller Writers) member.

The author’s website: