Guest Blog Post: From Mystery Author Julia Buckley and A New Ellery Adams Books By The Bay Mystery: Killer Characters


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Julia Buckley

Horace Bick, The Grizzly Bear, and The Joy of Old Hardware Stores

By Julia Buckley

Readers who enjoyed my first Writer’s Apprentice mystery, A DARK AND STORMY MURDER, don’t have to wait any longer for the sequel. DEATH IN DARK BLUE was available in early May. Since I don’t want to delve too deeply into the storyline and risk spoilers, I thought I’d talk a little more about Blue Lake, the fictional town where all the mystery happens.

Blue Lake is an amalgam of any number of Midwestern small towns I’ve visited, and even Bick’s Hardware has shades of other hardware stores I’ve seen over fifty years. One in particular stands out. It was a wonderful old store in Valparaiso, Indiana—my college town!—and I happened to wander into this place when I was twenty and searching, just before Christmas break, for family Christmas gifts. I had chosen my brother Christopher’s name in the family grab bag, and I wanted to buy him a saw and a flannel shirt (both on his list).  So I walked the mile from campus to Valpo’s downtown strip, and I stumbled across an amazing place called Wark’s Hardware. The interior was dim, dusty, wonderfully fragrant of cut wood and mixed paint and varnish. Like Bick’s Hardware, Wark’s had shelves that went all the way to the ceiling, and in fact it had a dizzying effect, giving me a sense of vertigo until I adapted to the sheer volume of stuff on the walls.

It didn’t take me long to realize I loved the place, especially after asking Mr. Wark for some help and finding that although he hadn’t smiled much, he was quite friendly and attentive, and spoke in a scratchy voice that grew on me, too.

I bought a saw from him, and when my family came to pick me up a day later, I insisted that they visit Wark’s Hardware with me just to revel in its wonderful eccentricity.

Wark’s is no longer there, and it’s likely that Mr. Wark is no longer with us, either, but the store lives in my imagination. The great thing about writing is that we can borrow bits and pieces from every memory that we have. We then embellish those memories with our own little decorations. For example, there was no giant grizzly bear at Wark’s Hardware, but I did see a lot of things like that when I visited South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. I decided to borrow this bit of whimsy and place a giant stuffed Grizzly in the porch lobby of Bick’s Hardware, and that Mr. Horace Bick, showing a bit of humor, placed a sign in his clawed hands that said “Bick’s is Best.”

In addition to my love of hardware stores, I am mad for antique shops. My husband and sons do not share this love, and so I am often a lonely wanderer on family vacations, trying to suss out likely-looking places that might hold dusty treasures when all the boys are ever looking for is a good hamburger joint and perhaps a place that sells guitars. Some of my cool antique shop finds have also made it into Bick’s Hardware, but I’m thinking that in a future book I might just let Lena wander into an antique shop and get lost in the wonderful objects that take her to other times and places.

Thanks for reading! Book two is available for pre-order now. Here’s the Amazon link.

Oh, and assuming I write about one, what’s a good name for an antique shop?  😊


Julia Buckley is the author of the Undercover Dish Mysteries, the Teddy Thurber Mysteries, and the Madeline Mann Mysteries. She’s a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Romance Writers of America, as well as the Chicago Writers Association. Julia has taught high school English for twenty-six years; she lives near Chicago with her husband, two sons, four cats, and one beagle. You can visit the author at,,, and



A New Title:

Killer Characters by Ellery Adams




Ellery Adams is the New York Times bestselling author of the Books by the Bay mysteries, the Charmed Pie Shoppe mysteries, and the Book Retreat mysteries. She grew up on a beach near the Long Island Sound. Having spent her adult life in a series of landlocked towns, she cherishes her memories of open water, violent storms, and the smell of the sea. Adams has held many jobs, including caterer, retail clerk, car salesperson, teacher, tutor, and tech writer, all the while penning poems, children’s books, and novels.


Mass Market Paperback | $7.99
Published by Berkley
May 02, 2017 | 304 Pages | 4-3/16 x 6-3/4 | ISBN 9780451488442






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’


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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


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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