Friday, March 29, 2019

AMBUSH - Next in Series by Barbara Nickless - Produces WOW Effect!

The call came late on an August evening while Jeremy Kane was upstairs, rocking his infant daughter. When the phone buzzed, Kane shifted Megan in his arms and pulled his cell from his pocket. An out-of-state number he’d never seen. He pressed a button and silenced the call. 
Megan’s breath hitched as if she would fuss, and Kane rubbed her back. She swallowed her cry and nestled into his shoulder, her tiny hand a petal against his throat. His bum leg ached. Closing his eyes, he shifted his weight. He inhaled the baby’s clean, sweet scent and listened to his older daughter singing softly in the next room. At moments like these, the war and its aftershocks seemed very far away. 
Still, Kane knew there were some things you couldn’t fix. No matter how much help you had. No matter what interventions people ran on your behalf. No matter how hard you tried.
Some things stayed broken. A bum leg. A bad memory. But he believed in work-arounds. If you had the sense God gave a goat, you learned to trim back, cut down, reroute. You accepted that no plan came with guarantees, and when life blocked one lane, you found another. He had his family. He mostly had his health. And he had a good job as a security officer for Denver’s Regional Transportation District—the RTD. 
The gig wasn’t the life he’d dreamed of before the war. It wasn’t medical school. It wasn’t a bright, sunny office and a steady stream of patients and a world that admired a man’s intelligence and awarded him money and accolades for his dedication. 
But there were compensations. Like these times with his girls. The phone buzzed again. Same number. A cold thread wriggled its way into Kane’s thoughts. Lester Crowe. For Crowe, the war was always right there. In his face or on his back. In his dreams, and always on his mind. When things got too dark, he would call Kane from someone’s cell or use the phone in whatever dive bar he found himself in when the shakes hit. Kane answered with a soft hello. “Someone’s been following me,” Crowe said without preamble. “Trying to smoke my ass.”
An icy fear knifed into Kane’s neck, right at the base of his skull. He kept his voice soft. “Hey, Crowe, you okay?” 
“I was until some fancy suit started following me. Watching me eat my food and scratch my ass. Watching me every time I take a shit, I swear. Not safe anywhere. It’s fucking Iraq all over again.” 
A week ago, Kane would have tried to talk Crowe down from whatever mental ledge his war buddy had crawled out on. But that was before Kane began digging into the past. Before he learned just how wrong things had gone in Iraq. And how it had spilled out over here. Maybe someone had noticed his online research. The drive-bys and photos. Maybe he’d endangered his entire fireteam. 
“Crowe—” Megan woke with a mewling cry. Kane stood and jounced her in his arm. He walked to the window, taking a sentry’s position above the quiet street. “What are you talking about?” 
“Some nutso shit, man.” Kane caught the rumble of a truck through the line. A horn honked. Then Crowe said, “It’s like we’re the heroes in a fucked-up movie. And Iraq is the monster that won’t stay dead.” 
“Where are you? I’ll come and get you. Doesn’t matter where you are.” 
“I’m calling from a pay phone. Only way that’s secure. An hour from now I’ll be in another state. You hang with your family, take care of your own. Stay on watch and be careful. These guys are serious trouble. They’re probably listening in right now.” 
Kane did not want to go down the path his friend had taken. “Crowe, c’mon. You been smoking something?”
“I’m telling you. It’s Iraq, back with a mouthful of teeth. We should never have done what we did. It was wrong, man. It was so wrong.” 
Kane swallowed down the panic and reminded himself this was, after all, Crowe. Unstable in the best of times. Crowe had gone radio silent right after he returned to the States. And a man didn’t disappear from his Marine brethren unless there was something very wrong with what was bouncing around between his ears. But still. Kane considered what he’d learned this last week. Covert deals, illegal weapons, faked reports. There were enough pieces missing that he couldn’t yet make out the overall image. But what he could see made him think that what Crowe had going on was less PTSD than self-preservation. “You been to see anyone, Crowe? You know, just to talk. You sound—” “Paranoid?” Crowe snorted. “Don’t give me that bullshit. These dudes will hand everyone on our team their asses and make us thank them for the pleasure. It’s something to do with that Iraqi kid whose mom got killed. He’s in the middle of this clusterfuck.” 
This was a sucker punch. “Malik?” 
“He saw something over there. Those weapons. Remember that?” The panic clawed free and tried to pull Kane down. Megan began to fuss. He walked her back and forth across the room, struggling to pull up an image of the small boy who’d been adopted by the Marines after his mother’s murder. “You think they’re after you because of—” He stopped himself, abruptly aware that if Crowe’s fear was grounded in reality, someone really might be listening. “Because of that?” he finished weakly. 
“Only thing I can think of. Look, I gotta go. Stay on watch, brother. Remember what we used to say? Just ’cause you’re paranoid don’t mean they’re not out to get you.” Crowe disconnected. 
Kane’s thoughts flew in a hundred different directions. No question, Crowe was crazy. He saw things no one else did. He babbled on about conspiracy theories and space aliens. He’d never learned to rest his head anywhere for more than a night or two. Then again, given what Kane had learned, maybe right now Lester Crowe was the sanest man on the team...

Sydney Parnell Series

By Barbara Nickless

I was committed to this series as soon as I met and was mesmerized by the lead character, Sydney Parnell. There's not another female main character like her! First, she was a Marine...and proves to be all that everybody says Marines are. Second, she volunteered to care for the dead during her service--and ghosts are with her constantly, especially for those she'd had to kill in battle...

See Reviews of 

Now she is a cop with the railroads. In this book, however, we are taken back to that time during the war when it all had started. It was bad; it was wrong. Most said. What Sydney remembered most was that she had cared for the boy of a mother who had been killed that day. And then she'd been forced to leave him. She had never been able to forget, or forgive herself, for that. And, now, she'd learned where he might be. She left for Mexico immediately, alone, and on the hunt.

But, while there, she learns that her friend and co-worker, Jeremy Kane, was murdered. Kane had also been a part one of the Marines who had responded to orders and believed they were doing what was right for America... Was there somebody working to eliminate that entire team? It wasn't a new idea. She even called the individual, Alpha, to pinpoint exactly who had authorized that mission... And she was always on alert...

The local assigned investigator for the case was thankful to have Sydney offer to help. It appeared that Kane had been killed by a homeless man and since Sydney did a lot of interaction with the homeless in the area, she was surprised that she had never seen the man before... But, almost immediately after studying the crime scene photos and videos, she was certain that the man had not been a homeless man, but had dressed as one as a disguise...which meant, he would have totally changed his appearance, and could be anywhere now.

I appreciated the twist when Sydney finds evidence that Kane had collected and used it to work the case. Sydney's lover, a homicide cop, Cohen was involved to some extent, and they discussed everything that happened. Until he realized that she should have already told him much earlier, what she was now sharing. And it was going to get tougher for them before this all ended...
Since Cohen and I had been together, I’d wanted to make our relationship normal. Create a bond that wasn’t hobbled by my past. A “how was your day at the office, dear?” kind of relationship. 
But he was right. I was way too skittish to walk all the way into the room. “I’m sorry,” I said. 
“It’s not what you did in Iraq. As a cop, I know we’re all just trying to do our best. And I know that sometimes it’s impossible in the moment to perfectly draw that line between right and wrong. I get that.” 
My pulse throbbed in my temple. “What, then?”
“It’s how you handled it with me. You’ve buried yourself so far behind your walls that even when both our lives were in danger, you wouldn’t let me in. Wouldn’t tell me what was going on. And now . . . now I don’t know if I can trust you to have my back.” 
A needle slid into my heart. “I thought I could handle it on my own.” 
“That’s exactly the problem. You think you have to handle everything by yourself. You should have included me, Sydney. Dammit.” He turned to face me. Anger and pain and hurt swam in his eyes, eddies in a dark current. His entire body slumped, as if gravity had finally gotten a grip on him. 
“Can you try not to die while I’m gone?” 
My eyes filled. “Marines are hard to kill.”

On the other hand, outside of her personal life, one of the points that makes Sydney so special, is that the author has created her so that Sydney is well-respected, liked, and trusted. so that, even in Mexico, she was able to make contacts that would help in any way needed... 

And whenever there is danger or facing enemies in order to do what is right, Sydney will be the first, or among those that move in for the battle. What happens in Mexico brings both terrible deaths, as well as a renewal of peace of mind. But no event there could top the major surprise that occurs when Sydney follows the tracks discovered by Kane... as well as responding to the kidnapping of her cop lover... (only one hint for those who've been reading the series.)

Nickless writes exciting books--no doubt about it! They are edgy, where her main characters take risks and somehow make it through. Brave heroes are the central point, but it is also pointed out that, really, those in the Marines have seen things that not even homicide cops have seen--and many still live with all that has gone down during their service. Nickless presents a reality that we all know that...nobody...should have to go through. Yet some are called to protect and serve.

But when it's never over for some of them...those Marines get mad...they get angry that, now, after all those years, what they were told to do is no longer an acceptable action to be forgotten. No, because, those that made those things happen don't want to pay. They want to continue the money-making schemes that criminals are always looking for...

This is edge-of-the scene action in two different settings with different characters, but all surrounding what one brave boy, Malik, did while he watched his mother be murdered...he recorded it...

In order to get justice for the loss of his mother...

Fortunately, with books we don't have to make comparisons between which book to choose, most of the time. But, I would say that the author has outdone herself on this one...WOW Effect for me! Unique story, unique situations, unique main characters. Can't get any better! I can't wait until the next book comes! Highly recommended.


Barbara Nickless promised her mother she'd be a novelist when she grew up. What could be safer than sitting at a desk all day? But an English degree and a sense of adventure took her down other paths--technical writer, raptor rehabilitator, astronomy instructor, sword fighter, piano teacher and journalist. Now an award-winning author, she spends her free time snowshoeing, caving and hiking the Colorado Rockies. Connect with her at

Saturday, March 23, 2019

A Short and A Main Feature by Cindy (C.S.) McDonald! Enjoy!

When I was thinking about combining the reviews for two books I had from Cindy McDonald, I thought about how, when we used to go to the movies, we get a short, usually a cartoon, before the main feature! For whatever reason, McDonald writes her Fiona Quinn mystery series under C. S. McDonald. Personally, I find it leads to not being able to find all the books of one author, when they do that...but I digress...
Crystal Clear Confusion, just out, provides a fun short story about Fiona Quinn, the series main character. Actually, if you are interested in interpreting dreams, like I am, and become fairly good at it, you won't need to seek help, like Fiona did... You see, she was having scary dreams about being at work, alone, and discovering some horrible monster after her. Each time, it varied a little, but there was always something about which Fiona was afraid...

So when her neighbor offered to help her, using her new crystal ball that had arrived in the mail, Fiona, thought, why not?

Fiona Quinn’s hurried footfalls echoed through the empty hallway of Westwood Elementary School. The lights were off. Only the shadows of dusk fell through the large windows that lined the corridor. Where is everyone? She thought.  
She peered into the library—it was pitch dark and still. Had the librarian, Julia Bell, gone home for the day? Picking up her pace, she made her way toward the main office to look through the window—it was dim and quiet. Kim Stone, the school secretary, was not sitting at her desk tapping on her computer or fielding phone calls. Principal Britton’s office door hung open, as it always did when he was absent. 
The door to the empty office next to his was open as well—that door had always been closed. Everything appeared to be locked up tight for the night. Only, it wasn’t night—or at least she didn’t think it was so late. If it were night, where were the janitors? Why weren’t they dumping trashcans or mopping the hallways? Why wasn’t the school’s intercom system playing pop music as it always was while the janitors went through their evening tasks? Had she fallen asleep at her desk after she’d put her kindergartners on their buses for home? 
She must’ve slept for hours. She’d never done such a thing—sure, she’d been feeling a bit tired lately, but not weary enough to fall asleep at her desk while doing a little after school paperwork. Wow, she’d better get to bed early this night. 
She heard a noise. She stilled to listen again—it sounded like a growl. She didn’t move, and again, a grumbling growl echoed down the hallway. Trepidation ripped through her. She turned only to see a lion at the other end of the corridor! What? What would a lion be doing in the school? 
No time to wait for the answer—he let out a roar that rumbled the windows, then he leapt into action galloping straight at her! 
Letting out a shriek, Fiona darted down the hallway as fast as she could possibly move! Could she outrun a lion? Somehow, she doubted it! Sliding on the smooth linoleum, she made a quick right down the hall that led to her classroom, only the hallway stretched making her destination farther away. Her heavy breaths boomed inside her head as she dashed toward her room. She could hear the lion’s paws pounding on the floor—he was getting closer, and yet her room was farther and farther away! 
Totally out of breath, she finally arrived at the door of her classroom. She slid inside and slammed the door closed, twisting the lock. 
The lion snarled and roared and clawed at the door, pressing his face against the elongated glass window along the margin of the door. His dark eyes outlined with a thick band of black that extended toward his temples, such as Cleopatra’s. 
Trapped and terrified, Fiona screamed!

Sometimes people don't understand why they are sad, scared, edgy--they think everything is normal and that they can handle just about anything that comes along. But sometimes, that is not the case... You and I, and, as Fiona, discovered, get irritated, upset, and even talk about things that bother us during the day. But we don't admit that these things bother as much as they really do. And that's, sometimes, why we have nightmares...

Actually, the attempt to discover what is wrong via a crystal ball is fun but is unsuccessful. And, sometimes, you just have to finally face those fears, and realize that things were not so bad after all.. But wouldn't it be better to be able to think through issues as they are affecting you? McDonald, gives tweens, teens, and adults a chance to consider whether they can stop and explore what if anything is really bothering you. And, if you have a nightmare, think about what could have caused it...or talk to somebody about it, so that you may be able to better prepare for what comes to you each day...

A fun book, but it's also a teaching one--if you consider all that was going on and how Fiona's nightmares were visions in her mind of what she feared most during her days...  It would be interesting to see if your children understand what is actually being shared in the book... Check it out...I still suffer from flashback dreams once in awhile... When that happens, I always make a point of trying to figure out what caused me to dream those thoughts... If your children have scary dreams, this book can be a great way to talk about how what is happening in your life, affects what happens in your dreams at night!


The windows were wide open to let the fresh air into the cabin or let the layers of dust escape from all the sweeping Peyton had been doing that morning. He’d been forced outside several times coughing and hacking. He strung rope from several trees to form a clothes line to dry the bedding he’d washed. He was beginning to think it would be far easier to go into Lost Pine and buy new sheets. 
All in all the cabin was starting to look presentable, but the sheets—not so much. As he stood back trying to decide, he noticed the bushes moving. He stilled, slowing his breathing, listening, while watching the tall thicket along the wood line. And there it was again—the wolf, slowly making his way along the trees. Interesting. Wolves are known to be nocturnal creatures. They sleep during the heat of the day, preferring to hunt at dusk. It was only one o’clock—what was the wolf doing out and about? 
Peyton inched his way amongst the sheets hanging on the line, hoping to get a better look from a concealed position. The wolf caught the movement and made haste across the field, disappearing into the trees on the other side. Peyton scrubbed his fingers across the stubble on his chin. This was his second sighting of the wolf—if it was the same wolf, and it looked to be. 
He didn’t have a chance to ask Clancy about the wolf yesterday when he’d arrived in Lost Pine. The main focus was Ben Lorde and his electro-sensitive followers who had taken up residence several miles away. Clancy was convinced that Lorde and his followers were responsible for his brother, Jed’s, death. Jed had gone on a lone fishing trip last year and never returned. His body was never found, and neither was any of his gear. Clancy felt he’d had some kind of altercation with the group and they’d killed him. He had no proof—only a strong gut feeling and the strange goings on among the community. Peyton had a ton of respect for his father’s old friend, Clancy, but he wasn’t sure his suspicions were justified. Anything can happen to a man alone in the Rockies—anything at all. 
Still, if he had an opportunity to check up on the community, he would. Right now, he wanted to check up on the wolf. Taking another look at the sheets and blankets, he decided it was time for new—he would take a drive into town to make the purchases and take the opportunity to ask Clancy about the wolf. Besides, it would give the dust a chance to settle inside the cabin. After washing up a bit, Peyton jumped into his Jeep, buckled up, and set off for town. 
The warm summer air whipped through the open cab blowing his T-shirt against his chiseled chest. He wasn’t more than a mile or so down the road when he came upon a two-seater blue Razor along the side of the road, stuck in a ditch. A tiny slender woman was standing near the vehicle looking rather agitated. She was dressed in a pair of jeans, a pair of sunglasses, and a long lab coat—not the usual attire one would see a person driving a Razor wearing. Razors are all-terrain vehicles that more resemble a pimped-out golf cart than an ATV. Some have two seats, and some have four, while many have short cargo areas behind the seats. 
Peyton’s visit to Lost Pine was becoming more interesting by the day, he couldn’t help thinking as he slowed the Jeep to a stop next to the woman. “What happened?” Peyton asked. 
“Some lunatic in a pickup truck ran me off the road!” the woman said. Her face was flushed with anger. The top button of her blue blouse had come undone revealing droplets of sweat glistening above her cleavage. “I was on my way into town to pick up some packages. He came at me like a bat out of hell. I had to swerve to get out of his way. What’s wrong with people?” 
Peyton jumped out of the Jeep to take a look at the Razor. “It doesn’t appear to be damaged, just stuck. I don’t have a chain with me and I’m not sure I’ve got one at my cabin. I was going into town myself. I’ll give you a ride. I’ll pick up a chain and I can pull you out of the ditch after we finish our business in town. If that’s good with you.” 
Rubbing the nape of her neck, she noticed her open blouse. Letting out a gasp, she quickly buttoned up. “That…that would be very kind of you…mister—” Peyton held out his hand. “I’m Peyton. And you are?” 
She took off her sunglasses to expose her fairy green eyes, then shook his hand. Obviously trying to shrug off the irritation of being forced into a ditch, she smiled brightly. “Naomi…Dr. Naomi Jenkins.”
“Nice to meet you, Dr. Naomi Jenkins, you must live around here if you’re a doctor and you’re driving around a Razor.” 
“I live in the electro-sensitive community. I’m the physician for the community. I have medical supplies waiting for me in town.” 
“Well, we’d best get going.” She hurried to the Razor and grabbed a medical bag sitting on the seat. “I can’t leave this behind. It’s got medication in it.” 
Peyton helped her into the passenger seat and then slid into the driver seat. 
“So you suffer from electro-magnetic-sensitivity?” 
“No, my son does. While we in the medical field don’t recognize EHS, what my son was going through was very real—constant headaches, vomiting, digestive irritation, that was just for starters. At first, I thought he didn’t want to go to school or perhaps his study load was too stressful, but no matter what we tried, his symptoms kept escalating. I didn’t figure it out until I took him on a camping trip with no devices—his symptoms disappeared almost immediately. At that point, I couldn’t deny what his prognosis was—EHS, Electromagnetic hypersensitivity. I’m surprised you know what it is—not many people do...”

Finding a book from which I learn something new is what I consider an added bonus. I learned all about Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity in one of the books I had missed from The First Force Series. Had you heard of it? Well, I've added a couple of the shorter videos to share, but there are many more that reveals that this is Fact...not Fiction. In sharing this information, as a teaching and warning for many of us, McDonald has done a great service since most of the victims of this syndrome are not aware of what is wrong with them...and many doctors also might not know...

In telling about this issue, McDonald brings together two lovers. One in First Force and one in private security. Peyton Mattock was home from Russia, where he works for Hawke International Security Firm.  He's planning to meet up with Casey Rhodes, a First Force Operative, to spend some quality time at his cabin. Peyton has gone in advance, to clean the cabin a little, gather supplies, and ensure everything is perfect for Casey's arrival.

Only to find some really strange things happening in the little town with the only supply store around. One of the first things he noticed was a telephone booth in front of the story. Ok, that probably means that cell phones would be a problem in some areas...

Actually, it meant that there was no longer any electronic equipment in the entire area! No cell phones, television, music, computers, wifi and more--a wave-free existence! Clancy McCade would know what was going on--he'd been there in town since long before they had their cabin and Clancy took care of checking things out in Peyton's absence.  What he learned was far more than expected... Especially, that Clancy's brother was dead and he was blaming his death on a new settlement that had been created, where no type of electronics were permitted--by government approval... A very rich individual had developed a community where individuals with the syndrome, including himself, could live without problems, at least until a cure was found...

But this particular rich man was, unfortunately, not totally interested in saving many lives--just his own! And that's when outside help from First Force was called in (figuratively!). This is not the usual thriller, however, since most of the community were there to ensure a family member was able to live regularly, along with family members who cared enough to enter into this wave-free environment. Did the occupants need help, or were they part of a conspiracy underlying all that was really happening there, without any way to reach out beyond the community? Because of the unusual storyline...I'll let you discover more in the book itself!

The entire First Force is a great group of characters that, in each book, has a spotlight case handled by one or more members. In this book, we also have a personal touchstone as one of the members is about to have a child... While, by the ending, the need for a new member is gratefully welcomed. I'm hoping this series continues. The direction of First Force is uniquely flexible to respond to those needing help or in danger. They are prepared, yes, but there is always a personal element to team members that includes a touch of love moving it into a delightful pairing of romance and suspense.

I loved the side story of a gray wolf that entered the story as a scavenger looking for food near Peyton's cabin...and how...and who...was able to befriend him!

This was my first introduction to Casey Rhodes--a very cool lady who I would like to see more of in the future! Hint to the author... The First Force Series are always recommended... I'm now caught up and looking for a new addition! In the meantime, the entire series is highly recommended.


For 26 years Cindy's life whirled around a song and a dance--she was a professional choreographer. She taught ballet, jazz, and tap. During that time she choreographed many musicals and an opera for the Pittsburgh Savoyards. Most recently, she has retired to write her novels. She resides with her husband and Cocker Spaniel, Allister, on their Thoroughbred farm known as Fly By Night Stables near Pittsburgh. To learn more about all of Ms. McDonald's book series and to read excerpts from her upcoming books, please visit her website: 
You can also find out about her cozy mystery series, Fiona Quinn Mysteries, and her children's books under her pen name, C.S. McDonald. Here's that website: Check it out!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Exclusive First Read of...The Root of Award-Winning Lauren Carr! Pre-Order for March 25 Availability!

They found the bridal shop’s manager shaking her head at Poppy, who looked dejected. “They don’t have her gown,” Izzy told Cameron and Tracy with a frown. 
Taking note of the wall to wall dresses and gowns around them, Cameron said, “Have they looked?” 
“She should have ordered it two months ago for a March wedding,” the manager said. “Did you just get engaged?”
“What do you have?” Cameron asked. “Nothing with gold lace,” the manager snapped. “Nothing like what she is describing.” 
“Gold lace?” Cameron turned to Poppy. 
“It’s a mermaid gown, but has a huge detachable train,” Poppy said. “It’s my dream gown.” 
“Every woman has a dream gown,” the manager said. “The thing is, when it comes to ordering their gown, they have to come back to reality.” 
“No.” Poppy shook her head. “Ever since J.J. and I have gotten engaged I’ve been dreaming about my wedding. I can see everything like I’m there. It’s always the same gown— one of a kind.” 
“Custom designed.” The manager folded her arms across her chest. “That’s impossible.” 
“Don’t you have some puppies you need to go kick?” Cameron asked. 
With a huff, the manager stormed away to find a more reasonable bride-to-be to deal with. 
“Is it always the same gown that you dream about?” Izzy asked. 
“Always,” Poppy said. “Look, I’m not a big dream person, but this dream is so real. It’s like I’m there. And before I go down the aisle, I look in the mirror— and I’ve never felt so beautiful before— I feel like a princess— there’s this woman behind me in the mirror. In my dream, I know her. And I feel …” Tears came to her eyes. “I feel like she’s my mother.” She wiped a tear away. “But she’s not. No way.” 
Cameron felt her heart skip. They were Poppy’s family. Before the Thorntons, Poppy had no one— except her Appaloosa horse Gulliver. Poppy’s father had gone missing when she was a child and was presumed dead. Her mother had gotten remarried to a man who had raped Poppy when she was a teenager. After Poppy had killed her stepfather in self-defense, her mother disowned her. Since then, Poppy had been on her own— traveling across the country— just her and Gulliver— until she happened onto Russell Ridge Farms, where J.J. hired her to breed and train his champion Quarter Horses. 
“What does this woman look like?” Cameron asked. 
“Long blond hair,” Poppy said. “Blue eyes. Very pretty. She blows me a kiss before I go down the aisle … to marry J.J.” 
“Well, if that’s the gown you’re meant to wear, then we’re going to keep on looking until we find it.” Izzy pushed herself out of her seat...
Maybe you saw it in a magazine—” 
Poppy was shaking her head. “No, I dreamed about it before I even looked at any bridal magazines.” She clinched her fists. “I have to find it. It’s important that I wear that gown.” 
“Then let’s keep looking,” Izzy said. “There’s more than one bridal shop around. You’re only getting married once and if that gown is the one you’re meant to wear, darn tootin’ we’re gonna find it...

“What’s your song?” 
Unarmed with that information, J.J. paused while Poppy answered promptly, “We want to do the Viennese Waltz to ‘Endless Love.’” 
Madison took a step back. Slowly, she looked at Poppy, dressed in jeans, riding boots, and a western hat in hand, up and down. “The Viennese Waltz?” Her lip curled up. “That’s not exactly for newbies. I’m sure J.J. could handle it but—” 
“I danced in the children’s company of the Rocky Mountain Ballet Theater for five years.” Poppy put on her hat and cocked her head to look at Madison out of the corner of her eye. “I can handle anything you throw at me.” 
Madison let out a sigh. “I’m sorry. I misjudged—” 
“That’s okay.” Poppy winked at her. “You’re not the first one to underestimate me.” 
“Being underestimated is Poppy’s superpower,” J.J. said...

The Root of Murder
Lovers in Crime Mystery

By Lauren Carr

As I finished the latest book by international best-selling Lauren Carr, I found myself thinking back over the entire book, and found that, for me, one of the most impressive, and, therefore, important, parts of Carr's book is that she never stops with just the meat of the book. She serves an appetizer, a main course, and then a delightfully delicious dessert for her readers. This time, throughout the book, a couple, Poppy and J.J. are preparing for their wedding, and have merged it with the opening of their new Bed and Breakfast! I'll leave the details of that latest adventure, with Tracy, J.J., sister, as a partner, out; however, the simple pleasure and enjoyment of being involved with all the family activities, concerns, and fears, especially about finding Poppy's dream wedding dress, is a special bonus that Carr always provides in addition to a fantastic, impossible to solve, murder mystery... And, the added bit of ghostly attendance to these arrangements was simply...adorable!

The lead-in to the murder mystery disrupts a joyous touch of intimacy between Cameron Gates, a homicide lieutenant with the PA State Police and her husband, Joshua Thornton, the County Prosecuting Attorney, one of the first set of lovers to be introduced in this fascinating series. As an admirer of a strong female leading character, I've an avid fan of Cameron. In basic police case management, she reminds me of another favorite cop, J.D. Robb's, Eve Dallas.  

But a body set on fire in the woods of a small farm in Hookstown discovered by the elderly couple who live there, has Cameron moving fast to get to the new scene.  That couple happens to be the grandparents of Madison, one of J.J.'s old girlfriends. Let's just say that J.J. has had many girls fall for him in the past. He thought he could play the field by telling the truth--that he was not interested in a long-term relationship at the time. Of course, we all know that doesn't stop a girl from...hoping... In fact, two of those young women had become enemies during the period when J.J. played the field...

And one of them was the daughter of the man who'd been tossed and set on fire.

Ironically, the wife and the daughter, the other of J.J.'s girlfriends, reported that their husband/father had not returned from his last trip as a trucker hauling cargo...

Carr successfully dangles potential crime solutions for readers, then yanks them away to move on to another option--leaving us, her readers, trying to deal and, hopefully follow the many options she's presented. And, in the meantime, bring in most of the Thornton legal family officials,  much to the chagrin of a new State police officer who has been assigned to work for...not with, Cameron Gates. Like many readers, I would imagine, I have come to trust that Carr will bring to her readers the best possible and most complicated mystery for us to struggle with. Me, by now, I just sit back and enjoy each twist or turn that she is so rich in developing.

Of course, there are many animal characters complementing the story, but there is one surprise attendee for the wedding ceremony that is both heartwarming...and hilarious! Carr is one of the best mystery writers around. With a family orientation that is based upon love, extended family, and concern for others, well, you just cannot go wrong in picking up any of her books. This one, especially, should be considered. A ghost, a wedding, and a murder mystery or two, with so many more surprises! You can't pass this one by!


This is the trailer of the first book in series. Check out the various
multiple acts being investigated...Put in all the family issues and you got
Lovers in Crime Mysteries!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Unusual Death; Wrong Wine - Death in Paris by Emilia Bernhard

Death in Paris

The start of a delightful new cozy mystery series in which two American women are drawn into solving a series of crimes set in each Parisian arrondissement.

Edgar Bowen is dead, drowned in a bowl of soup. His former girlfriend, Rachel Levis, is surprised: how many people drown in a nice vichyssoise? Then she overhears a mourner at the funeral describe the circumstances of Edgar's death: when he was found, an open bottle of rosé wine was on the table next to him. But Rachel knows Edgar loathed rosé. If he wasn't drinking it, who was?

The police won't listen to the suspicions of a woman who has nothing more than an inappropriate bottle of wine on her side, so Rachel knows she, and her best friend Magda, will have to solve the mystery on their own. As the two women investigate, the list of suspects grows. Could it have been Edgar's son, who stands to inherit his money and lavish apartment? His icy ex-wife? His spendthrift new girlfriend? It seems like everyone close to Edgar had a reason to want him dead.

But then the suspects start dying, and Rachel and Magda realize the murderer is one step ahead of them, with no intention of slowing down. It's up to the two amateur sleuths to solve their first case, before someone gets away with murder…

Death in Paris

By Emilia Bernhard

"Edgar Bowen died in his soup." Rachel Levis said to her husband, looking up from her newspaper. They were just finishing breakfast, and the table was crowded with jams and mugs and the bag that had held the morning's croissants, now flattened in the center with some buttery crumbs still resting on it..."

Of course, telling her husband about the oddity of somebody dying in their soup, literally,  was common breakfast discussion over reading the newspaper. That it was unusual, was, needless to say, true. After all, drowning in a bowl of soup, sitting in front of you on your dining table, was just not the way to go!

But that wasn't what bothered Rachel Levis so much... She did not share that Edgar Bowen had once been her lover many years ago, when she had first come to Paris. No, for that discussion, she needed her best friend Magda... Having been friends for about 20 years, Magda knew just about everything, including the time she had lived with Edgar... For Rachel, it had been her first adult love affair. Now, with Magda, Rachel could mourn and look back on her lost love, with love, regret and nostalgia of her youth.

And when Rachel wanted to attend the funeral, of course, Magda went with her. It was her only time to say a last goodbye...

So, Rachel was not totally surprised to be called to the reading of his will, realizing that, as they had greeted each other over the years when they met, that he had, like her, considered the other a good friend... Rachel shared to Magda that "he was a good man." And then wondered what his son was like, now, as an adult, knowing that she had once tied his shoelaces and helped him through the day...

We have to go," Rachel hissed. "We have to go now." She smiled apologetically...
"God, what are you doing? What are you doing? Magda struggled to free her arm, Ow! What's the hurry?"
"I heard something."
"What do you mean, you heard something?"
"Wait." Rachel handed their tokens to the coat-check girl. She didn't speak again until they were out on the sidewalk...I'm sorry. But I didn't want to say anything until we were a safe distance away."
"Away from what? What is it?
"It's just...well, I was listening to some people on the other side of the room from you, and a woman said Edgar had been drinking rose' with the vichyssoise he drowned in."
"Rose' with vichyssoise?" Magda's tone made it plain that she had no idea what was going on. "Well, it wouldn't be my choice, but I don't see what it's alarming."
"No!" Rachel spoke through gritted teeth. "You don't understand. Edgar never drank rose'."
"Oh come on, Never?"
Rachel shook her head. 
"He wouldn't even have settled for it if there was nothing better in the house?"
"He always had something better in the house," Rachel's tone was explanatory. "He hated rose', He said it was a good white spoiled."
..."The point is, something is wrong here."
"Where?" Magda was lost.
"Here. With Edgar's death."
"Okay," Magda held up a hand. "Calm down. What is wrong?"
Rachel thought for a long minute. "I don't know," She thought again. "I don't know." Then her voice firmed. "But something is. Something feels strange..."

Thinking through all that had occurred, it was soon reasoned by Rachel that Edward had been murdered. And she was going to find out what happened. Of course, Magda was totally ready to participate. 

It turned out to be quite easy because, in his will, Edgar had asked Rachel to inventory and deal with his library and, in return, she could pick out the one book that she wanted in payment. Of course, many would think that wasn't much of a remembrance, but Rachel and Edgar had spent many hours enjoying books in their lives and she would be quite happy to have one last memory of that precious time...

But, working in the library would also help! She would be right there where she could try to find out more information about Edgar's heirs, especially since they had ruled it as an accidental death--drowning...

Readers are right in the midst of discovering and discussing every single clue as their investigation began. There were four other heirs, including the majority going to Edgar's son. The other three were women--his former wife, a present lover, and a young woman who was going to school and helping Edgar with his work... And all of them became suspects, since they were each given a sum of money that confused everybody as to the amounts... Why did this person get that amount, and so on.

The heirs were all suspects, especially the women... They all enjoyed drinking rose'. And, the wine had obviously been there for their pleasure...

The plot thickens, as it is said, quickly and effectively, as one by one each individual's lives was explored, only to have something else occur that pointed to another...I admit it, I was totally caught off-guard! Cool, right? I love it when I don't even think of whodunit! Bernhard writes with complex twists and turns, leading us through a labyrinth of possibilities. And the various, intriguing characters all lead the story forward without one single clue...

Until we are moving into the climax. Rachel realizes...And she is in danger...
A great, solid mystery--more complex than the normal cozy and an excellent debut to this new series. Highly recommended. By the way, a French glossary is included for reader assistance.


Emilia Bernhard was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1968. She got a B.A. from the University of Iowa, an M.A. from Boston University, and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University. A keen mover, she has lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Iowa City, Iowa; London, England; Boston, Massachusetts; Fayetteville, Arkansas, Cambridge, England, and Exeter, England. She is a passionate lover of baked goods and cats.

Although she has been writing all her life, _Death in Paris_ is Bernhard's first published novel, and the first in the continuing Death in Paris series. The series' two detectives, Rachel Levis and Magda Stevens, are based in part on her and her best friend.

In her other capacity, she works at the University of Exeter in Exeter, England, teaching Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Academic Writing.