Reading, Writing, and Murder (Chocolate Martini Sisters Mystery) by Brenda Whiteside and Joyce Proell

About the Book

At the writers’ conference, murder tops the program.

Aspiring mystery author Emma Banefield and travel writer Nicole Earp are excited to attend a writers’ conference during their latest sisters’ getaway. Nic’s birthday should be all about relaxation, writing, and a chocolate martini to toast another trip around the sun, but the climate at the gathering rumbles like a sudden desert thunderstorm.

When sparks fly between the keynote speaker and her timid assistant over a handsome mystery author, the subtitle on this anticipated tranquil weekend spells drama. If a heated love triangle, bruised egos, and betrayal aren’t enough to upset the atmosphere, the conference banquet erupts into a drunken brawl and sends the place spinning. After a body is discovered, Nic and Em do what they do best—snoop—and become embroiled in a mystery that jumps off the pages of a true-crime bestseller.

With more than enough suspects and little time, the amateur sleuths have their hands full finding the killer. But can the competitive Chocolate Martini Sisters solve the crime before the prickly chief detective does, or will a murderer outwit them all?

Amazon US ~~ Amazon UK ~~ Amazon Canada ~~ Goodreads



“Here comes Lola.”

The romance novelist sashayed toward her former lover, her body language confident and reminiscent of a supple, dangerous coyote sensing vulnerability in a tiny isolated kitten.

“This ought to be interesting.” In unison, the sisters inched forward and hid behind a triangle of men hot in conversation about NFL rankings.

“Eric.” Lola’s high, clear tone soared above the din, making his head whip in her direction.

Seeing her, his gaze narrowed with scorn. A scowl twisted his mouth.  

“Is something the matter with Misty?” Puzzlement furrowed her pale brow. In one hand, she held a vodka martini with a tiny green saber stabbed through an olive. She offered him a fetching smile an instant before her facial expression wrenched with concern.

“What a fake,” Emma murmured under her breath.

“I saw her leave.” The drama queen pressed the palm of her free hand to her rather ample, shapely bosom. “Quite frankly, she had such an angry, ugly look. Should I go after her, do you think?”

“You? Go after Misty?”

Though he didn’t laugh, she didn’t need to be a scientist to conclude he found the suggestion ridiculous.

He shoved a thick, wavy strand of hair from his smooth forehead. “Since when do you care what Misty thinks or feels?”

Next to her, Nic jerked but not nearly as much as Lola whose shocked eyes expanded like balloons hooked to a helium pump. In the next moment, her lower lip jutted, the corners of her mouth drooping as if hurt. Emma saw the act as disingenuous and unconvincing. Beyond the façade, just below the surface of Lola’s fine, delicate features, a flicker of joy resonated in her barely suppressed smile. “How you love to wound me, Eric, and paint me as the monster.” 

“If the shoe fits.”

She threw back her head and laughed, a bell-like trill rolling off her hot-pink painted lips. “Clichés, Eric? Surely, you’re a much better wordsmith. You used to be so clever-witted and fresh…” She batted thick lashes. “Really, Eric. You and Misty? The girl hardly seems your type and not much of a challenge.”

Corded muscles stood out in his neck. “What do you want?” 

Cunning and foxy, she sidled closer, devilish with flirtation. “I do care what happens to Misty. She’s a dear girl and quite devoted. I don’t want to see her get hurt.”

His mouth pinched with irritation. “I’m not a monster either. I would never hurt her.”

“Oh?” Head tilted, she assessed him with a hand planted on a hip. “Have you changed your ways?”

His nostrils flared. A bloom mottled his neck.   

“Cat got you tongue, sweetie?” Gently, enticingly, she squeezed his forearm.

He stiffened and stared at her hand, so proprietary and bone-white against the navy blue of his sport jacket.

“We used to be so good together. Close. You loved me. You told me so. Remember all the endearments you whispered when—”

His harsh, barking laugh triggered a surprising flash of panic across her face. “You don’t want me, Lola. You only want what you can’t have. And when you get it, it’s never enough.”

Her plush lips pouted. “You’re so cruel.” A talon-like grip dug into his arm wrinkling the fabric. Was her purpose to cause him physical pain or simply cling, pathetic in her neediness?

Baring his teeth, he flung her hand aside and trudged away without a backward glance.

There wasn’t a writer in the world skilled enough to put a positive spin on this public humiliation. As much as she’d begun to dislike Lola, she couldn’t help but feel for her position.


About the Authors

Joyce Proell is the award-winning author of Amaryllis, Eliza and the Cady Delafield mysteries: A Deadly Truth, A Burning Truth and A Wicked Truth. Along with her husband and little dog, Nellie, she lives in Minnesota in her very own little house on the prairie. She loves to hear from readers.

Website    Facebook    Amazon Author Page   Goodreads Author Page

Brenda Whiteside is the award-winning author of romantic suspense, romance, and cozy mystery. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have settled in Central Arizona. They admit to being gypsies at heart and won't discount the possibility of another move. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW fishes, Brenda writes.

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Root of all Evil by Liz Milliron

About the Book


Root of all Evil by Liz Milliron

Rumors of a meth operation in rustic Fayette County catch the attention of Pennsylvania State Trooper Jim Duncan. When he learns that Aaron Trafford, a man who recently dodged a drug conviction, has returned to the county, the conclusion seems obvious. Trafford has set up a new operation.

Meanwhile, assistant public defender Sally Castle’s colleague, Colin Rafferty, has become uncharacteristically nervous and secretive. Her suspicion that he’s hiding something serious is confirmed when she learns of a threatening visitor and discovers a note on his desk stating, “You’d better fix this.”

Colin’s subsequent murder is the first frayed thread in a complex web of deceit. Jim fears Sally’s stubborn determination to get justice for her friend will put her in a killer’s crosshairs, but Sally won’t rest until she finds answers–even if it costs her everything.

Get wrapped up in the thrilling world of Liz Milliron's Laurel Highlands Mystery series! From the captivating Root of all Evil to the latest release, Thicker Than Water, this gripping series is a must-read for any mystery lover. Don't wait, grab your copy today!

Praise for Root of all Evil:

"With a compelling plot, engaging concept and characters worth cheering for, Root of all Evil will keep you rooted to your seat."
~ Kathy Valenti, Agatha-nominated author of the Magging O’Malley mysteries

"Big city crime encroaches on the lush backdrop of Pennsylvania’s rustic Laurel Highlands in this tense and gritty debut. Liz Milliron has crafted a tightly written, heart-pounding tale of suspense that will keep you on the edge of your seat from page one until its explosive conclusion."
~ Annette Dashofy, USA Today bestselling author of the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series

"Lawyers, guns and money; Root of all Evil is a true page-turner."
~ Bruce Robert Coffin, bestselling author of the Detective Byron Mysteries

"Root of all Evil is a gripping read! Sally Castle and Jim Duncan are complex characters with genuine depth, and the pacing is impeccable. Tensions on multiple levels will keep you turning the pages of this riveting police procedural."
~ Cynthia Kuhn, author of the Agatha-winning Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries

"Fast-paced, authentic and compelling – this tightly written procedural is action-packed and full of heart. Milliron definitely knows her stuff – what a wonderful new voice in crime fiction!"
~ Hank Phillipi Ryan, nationally best-selling author of Trust Me

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery - Police Procedural
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: August 14, 2018
Number of Pages: 301
ISBN: 9781947915053 (ISBN10: 1947915053)
Series: Laurel Highlands Mystery (#1)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | Goodreads | Level Best Books

Read an excerpt:

Sally Castle studied the menu for a moment, then put it down. “I’ll try the Fero lemberger and a tower of onion rings, please.” She looked across the table at Colin Rafferty, her colleague from the public defender’s office. The usual crowd at Lucky 7, men and women in varying levels of business and business-casual clothing, milled around their table. “Split them with me?”

“Sure. A bottle of Miller Lite for me.” He slid the beer list back in the holder.

“Miller Lite?” Sally asked as the waitress jotted down their order and walked off. “How long have you worked in Fayette County again?”

Colin shrugged. “Almost two years and I know. You have some great local brews. I’m not a beer connoisseur.” He fiddled with the position of the salt and pepper shakers.

Had it been that long? “Anything new this week?” she asked, leaning on the table, the dark brown wood reflecting the muted overhead lighting.

He pushed away the cut-glass shakers. “Got assigned a new case today. De’Shawn Thomas, misdemeanor possession. This will be the third time I’ve been in court with him for the same damn charge. What the hell is the point?” He averted his gaze, studying Uniontown’s well-dressed business-class, all relaxing at the end of a hard week.

Sally remembered the young hotshot who’d arrived believing public defense was rock bottom. Their regular end-of-week outings were part of trying to change that. Sometimes she thought she was getting somewhere. Other times, like now, maybe not. “Colin, I know it’s frustrating. But say you were in a high-priced private practice. Is defending someone’s trust-fund kid from his third DUI in six months any different?”


The waitress reappeared with the beer and a glass of red wine. Colin took his bottle. “Red wine with onion rings?”

Sally sipped the wine, which had a unique aftertaste: a hint of oak and a slight peppery kick. The menu said it was good with grilled meats and she could taste why. “Sure.” It would go great with the classic bar finger-food.

They killed five minutes with small talk about their work until the waitress returned with the appetizer. Sally leaned forward to inhale the delicious sweet smell from the tower of fried snacks, then picked one off the top. “Got any big weekend plans?” she asked before biting into it. Sweet, salty, slightly greasy, and a burst of flavor from the herb seasoning in the crust. Yes, perfect with her wine.

He tore apart an onion ring and popped half in his mouth. “There’s a film noir festival tomorrow. The Killers. D.O.A. Might go to that.”

“Film noir. One of my faves.”

“Well, you’re welcome to join me.” He finished off the other half of the onion ring, wiped his fingers, and took another swallow of beer. “Then it’s my mother’s sixty-fifth birthday on Sunday. After the year she’s had, we’re doing it up big.”

“How is your mom?”

“Good. Three months out, the doc is still happy with her numbers. The big thrill for her? Her hair is back.”

Sally pointed at him. “Hair is important. Unlike men, women rarely look good bald. It’s terribly unfair.”

“I’ll take your word for it. Anyway, the party should end soon enough to get home to watch the Steelers game.”

She rolled her eyes and took a second onion ring. “You and your football.”

“Hey, I may not care much about the beer, but I do love the sports.”

The door opened, letting in a breeze that sent the pile of napkins on their table to the floor. Sally leaned over to pick them up. Above her, she heard Colin mutter and it sounded a lot like profanity. She sat up with the napkins and brushed hair from her forehead.

Colin’s lighthearted expression had evaporated. He rearranged the standup cards listing available desserts and beers, trying to obscure his face.

“What’s wrong?”



He ducked his head, his chest almost flat to the table. “A guy I don’t want to see just walked in.”

Sally craned her neck as she looked toward the door, but even the height of the bar-style chair didn’t allow her to see well over the crowd. She lifted herself up.

“Get down!” Colin hissed, pulling at her sleeve.

“What the hell?” She dropped back into her chair, still not seeing anyone who would upset her colleague this much. “Who is it?”

His gaze darted around the room. He took a hurried gulp of beer and stood. “Never mind. I have to go to the men’s room. Be right back.” He headed toward the restrooms, snaking his way through the crowd, bending frequently to make sure he was behind other people, and keeping out of sight of the door.

Once again, Sally tried to see through the crowd, but no one caught her eye. Who had walked in who would upset Colin so much?

Jim Duncan took his bottle of Black Magick imperial stout and thanked the bartender. Why had he agreed to meet Zelinsky here? The bar, popular with the downtown Uniontown business scene, was way too crowded. He should have insisted on a quieter place to catch up with his fellow Pennsylvania State Trooper. Someplace where he could sit, get a bite to eat, and get Zelinsky’s impression of his new trainee.

As Duncan scanned the crowd for Zelinsky, his gaze lit on another person. Sally Castle, sitting all by herself. Maybe this was a good place after all. Zelinsky could wait a few minutes. Duncan took a circuitous route to Sally’s table and came up beside her. “Only you would pair red wine and onion rings.”

She started, but relaxed when she recognized him. “Red wine goes with anything, I’ve told you this before.” She lifted her glass and winked.

A good sign. “You here by yourself?”

“No.” She pointed at the empty chair and a Miller Lite bottle. “After work drinks with a friend.”

“Your friend likes Miller Lite?” Clearly a friend without good taste.

She suppressed a laugh. “Colin isn’t a beer snob, Jim. Not everyone has your discerning palate.”

“Colin.” Sally was here with another guy. A bad sign.

“Colin Rafferty. We work together.” She grinned. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were jealous.”

A man in a dark blue suit edged behind Jim. “Sally, we’ve been friends how long?”

“A year or so.”

“You have other friends. Some of them are men. I wasn’t jealous of what’s-his-name, the baseball trainer.”

She brushed hair from her face. “Anyway, why are you here? This isn’t your scene, all the suits.”

“I’m on training duty for a new trooper. It’s her second month. I want to talk to the previous FTO, get her impressions.”

Sally took a bite of onion ring. “Is there a problem?”

“No. I don’t like to let what happened before color my opinion, but I feel like I’m having a hard time connecting with Aislyn McAllister. That’s the trainee’s name. Thus far, she’s not very talkative. Hasn’t shared anything besides the fact she’s from Natrona Heights in the two shifts we’ve worked so far. I hope it’s not me.”

“I’m quite sure it’s not you. You’re one of the nice guys.”

He lifted his beer in thanks. “It’s a point of pride. I can count on one hand the number of folks I’ve had to fail out of training.” The Black Magick was excellent, bourbon flavor with chocolate notes. “By the way, I’m working first shift tomorrow. Supposed to be a great day if you’d like to go out on the reservoir with Rizzo and me.” Rizzo, his golden retriever, loved Sally. The weather forecast was calling for a perfect fall day: blue skies, mild temperatures, fluffy clouds. The water would be filled with boaters trying to cram in as much outdoor time as possible before the winter snows froze everything solid.

“I might be meeting Colin for a film noir festival.” She took in his expression and a smile spread across her face. “Ah ha! You are jealous.”

Duncan had a horrible track record with women. Just ask his ex. However, after a year of friendship, maybe this was Sally’s way of telling him she was sick of waiting for him to make a move. “Do you want me to be?” He studied her face.

Sally flushed and turned her attention back to her food.

Okay, maybe not. He paused. “You come here a lot?” With the friend who drinks Miller Lite?

“Every Friday. I’ve been mentoring Colin this last year and it’s part of our ritual.” She tore a piece of onion ring off the stand on the table. “Speaking of Colin, where the hell is he?”

Ah, she was mentoring. He should have known Sally wouldn’t date a man who made such horrible choices in beer. Duncan looked around, even though he had zero idea what this guy looked like. Everybody was paired up, chatting, and snacking after a hard week’s work.

“He said he was going to the men’s room. I didn’t think guys took that long.”

“Not usually.” Duncan set his beer on the table. He stood and stretched to his full six-foot-three so he could see over the crowd. “Caucasian, early thirties, white shirt, dark suit, gold tie?”

“That’s Colin. You see him?”

“Yeah, he’s by the restrooms. Looks like he’s arguing with someone.” Duncan dropped back down, the crowd of people blocking his view.

Sally’s eyebrows puckered. “Who’s he arguing with? Can you tell?”

Duncan took a pull from his beer. “A guy in a suit. He had his back to me. Hold on.” He stretched up again, pushing up on the table to try for a bit more height, and looked in the direction of the restroom.

Rafferty was nowhere in sight.


Excerpt from Root of all Evil by Liz Milliron. Copyright 2018 by Liz Milliron. Reproduced with permission from Liz Milliron. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Liz Milliron

A recovering technical writer, Liz Milliron is the author of The Laurel Highlands Mysteries, set in the scenic Laurel Highlands and The Homefront Mysteries, set in Buffalo NY during the early years of World War II. She is a member of Pennwriters, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers and The Historical Novel Society. She is the current vice-president of the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime and is on the National Board as the Education Liaison. Liz splits her time between Pittsburgh and the Laurel Highlands, where she lives with her husband and a very spoiled retired-racer greyhound.


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Murder at Midnight by Katharine Schellman

Murder at Midnight by Katharine Schellman Banner

About the Book


Murder at Midnight by Katharine Schellman
Perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn and Ashley Weaver, when a body is found shot to death after an unexpected snowstorm, Lily Adler quickly realizes that some people will stop at nothing to bury their secrets.

Regency widow Lily Adler is looking forward to a quiet Christmastide away from the schemes and secrets she witnessed daily in London. Not only will she be visiting the family of her late husband; she will be reunited with Captain Jack Hartley, her friend and confidante, finally returned after a long voyage at sea.

But secrets aren't only found in London. Jack's younger sister, Amelia, is the center of neighborhood scandal and gossip. She refuses to tell anyone what really happened, even when an unexpected snowstorm strands the neighborhood families together after a Christmas ball. Stuck until the snow stops, the Adlers, Hartleys, and their neighbors settle in for the night, only to be awakened in the morning by the scream of a maid who has just discovered a dead body.

The victim was the well-to-do son of a local gentleman--the same man whose name has become so scandalously linked to Amelia's.

With the snow still falling and no way to come or go, it's clear that someone in the house was responsible for the young man's death. When suspicion instantly falls on Jack's sister, he and Lily must unmask the true culprit before Amelia is convicted of a crime she didn't commit.

Praise for Murder at Midnight:

"Delightful . . . Historical mystery fans will devour this holiday treat."
~ Publishers Weekly

"A plummy period whodunit with a colorful collection of suspects."
~ Kirkus Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: Historical mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: September 2023
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781639104321 (ISBN10: 1639104321)
Series: A Lily Adler Mystery, 4
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | Goodreads | Penguin Random House

Read an excerpt:

Lily sat bolt upright. Where had the sound come from? It hadn’t been loud . . . another part of the house? For a moment, in the pressing silence, she wondered if she had drifted back to sleep without realizing it and imagined the whole thing.

But a moment later, the sounds of a commotion rose just outside her window. Lily dashed to the window, throwing it open with some effort and peering out into the swirl of snow and early- morning light.

The guest room she had been given was one of the smaller ones—the better to quickly heat rooms that hadn’t been prepared in advance—and as was typical for such rooms, it lacked a pretty view. Hers looked over what she realized after a moment must be the poultry yard. Darkly clad figures who she could guess were servants stumbled through the thick layer of snow that had fallen, trying to reach the two people in the middle of the yard.

One Lily could see from her vantage only as a still, upright figure, hand outstretched and pointing toward the second person, who lay sprawled on the ground. The one on the ground was half covered by the ice and snow, unmoving.

Lily grabbed the dressing gown from the chair, pulled on her shoes, and ran from the room. In the hallway, a few guests were poking their heads out of their doors, hair tousled and faces creased with sleep, inquiring grumpily if anyone had heard an odd noise.

Lily didn’t stop to consider propriety or worry about what anyone else might think before she yelled “Jack!” as loudly as she could. She didn’t know which room he had been given, but a moment later, a door past the stairs was flung open and the navy captain’s head appeared.

“What is it?” he demanded. He was already dressed and wearing his driving coat over his clothing. That was odd at such an early hour, but Lily didn’t have time to be surprised.

“Downstairs.” In spite of the months they had spent apart, Lily knew she could depend on him to understand and act quickly. “Something happened. We have to help.”

And in spite of those months apart, he didn’t stop to ask questions. More guests were emerging, summoned by Lily’s shout, and questions were beginning to fly back and forth as she dashed down the stairs, Jack on her heels.

They didn’t need to wonder where to go; on the floor below, Mrs. Grantham was following a stately-looking woman who might have been the housekeeper or another upper servant. Their pace was just barely too dignified to be a run, but they couldn’t hide their worry as they disappeared down the steps to the kitchen. Lily and Jack hurried after them.

The servants’ staircase was narrow and cold. At the bottom, servants clustered in the kitchen, talking in shrill, anxious voices as the cook tried to keep some order. The underservants glanced uneasily at Lily and Jack as they came into the kitchen, but no one seemed to know what to do or say. The door to the yard had been left wide open, and the wind blew in gusts of snow and icy morning light. Outside, more servants were gathered, though they parted like a wave as the housekeeper led Mrs. Grantham out to see what had happened.

As Lily and Jack tried to follow, they were stopped by the frail but determined body of the butler, who interposed himself between them and the open door. “Madam, sir, perhaps you would care to return to your rooms? Breakfast will be ready shortly.”

Jack drew himself up, clearly prepared to use his rank to push his way past the aging servant. Before he could say anything, though, and before Lily could think how to reply, Mrs. Grantham turned sharply.

“What is . . .” She trailed off, eyeing Lily and Jack with trepidation. She looked ready to send them on their way with some commonplace assurance. But half a dozen emotions chased their way across her face in that moment, and she instead asked, “Mrs. Adler, how many of the rumors about you are true?”

“That depends on the rumors,” Lily replied calmly, though her heart was pounding. Behind Mrs. Grantham, she could see the limbs of the eerie, still figure sticking out of the snowbank. “Though if you refer only to the ones that are most relevant at this moment . . .” She turned her gaze pointedly toward the body in the snow. “There is indeed some truth to them.”

Mrs. Grantham hesitated, then seemed to make up her mind in a rush. She stepped aside, pulling the confused housekeeper with her. There were boots for the servants lined up next to the door, crusted with mud from repeated use. Lily pulled off her delicate evening slippers, slid her bare feet into the pair that looked closest to her size, and followed as she and Jack were ushered into the yard, their eyes fixed on what awaited them there.

A man dressed in borrowed clothes, his skin white with cold, his hair thick with clumps of ice and snow. He could have fallen, hit his head, been caught in the storm and frozen. He could still be alive, in need of help. He could have had an innocent reason for being out in the storm.

He could have. But this close, Lily could see the snow that had been kicked aside and trampled by half a dozen feet in the servants’ frantic attempts to clear it away. The icy powder was too thick on the ground for her to see the mud of the yard. But it was still stained with red and brown from where the man’s life had leaked away in the night.

The once-snowy linen of his shirt was stained the same color, jagged and torn from the bullet that had ended his life. The gun that had fired it had been unearthed beside him, as snow-logged as his own body. The man’s frozen eyes and mouth were wide open, as though he had not believed until the last moment that whoever had faced him in that yard could be capable of the shot that had ended his life.


Excerpt from Murder at Midnight by Katharine Schellman. Copyright 2023 by Katharine Schellman. Reproduced with permission from Katharine Schellman. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Katharine Schellman

Katharine Schellman is a former actor and one-time political consultant. These days, she writes the Lily Adler Mysteries and the Nightingale Mysteries. Her books, which reviewers have praised as “worthy of Agatha Christie or Rex Stout” (Library Journal, starred review), have received multiple accolades, including being named a Library Journal Best Crime Fiction of 2022, a Suspense Magazine Best Book of 2020, and a New York Times editor’s pick in June 2022. Katharine lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her husband, children, and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering.


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Murder at the Elms (A Gilded Newport Mystery) by Alyssa Maxwell

About the Book

As the nineteenth century comes to a close, the illustrious Vanderbilt family dominates Newport, Rhode Island, high society. But when murder arrives, reporter Emma Cross learns that sometimes the actions of the cream of society can curdle one’s blood in the latest installment of this bestselling cozy historical mystery series . . .

1901: Back from their honeymoon in Italy, Emma and Derrick are adapting to married life as they return to their duties at their jointly owned newspaper, the Newport Messenger. The Elms, coal baron Edward Berwind’s newly completed Bellevue Avenue estate, is newsworthy for two reasons: A modern mansion for the new century, it is one of the first homes in America to be wired for electricity with no backup power system, generated by coal from Berwind’s own mines. And their servants—with a single exception—have all gone on strike to protest their working conditions. Summarily dismissing and replacing his staff with cool and callous efficiency, Berwind throws a grand party to showcase the marvels of his new “cottage.”

Emma and Derrick are invited to the fete, which culminates not only in a fabulous musicale but an unforeseen tragedy—a chambermaid is found dead in the coal tunnel. In short order, it is also discovered that a guest’s diamond necklace is missing and a laborer has disappeared.

Detective Jesse Whyte entreats Emma and Derrick to help with the investigation and determine whether the murdered maid and stolen necklace are connected. As the dark deeds cast a shadow over the blazing mansion, it’s up to Emma to shine a light on the culprit . . .

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Read an Excerpt: Murder at The Elms

About the Author

Alyssa Maxwell is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries. She has worked in publishing as a reference book editor, ghost writer, and fiction editor, but knew from an early age that she wanted to be a fiction author. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain and Ireland fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles drew her to the mystery genre. She and her husband have make their home in South Florida. She is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and the South Florida Fiction Writers.

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Saturday Quote

This week's Saturday quote is from Chasing Favors by Mark Love available on Amazon.

Playing Dead by Peggy Rothschild

About the Book

Molly Madison is back to solve another doggone difficult murder in the sequel to A Deadly Bone to Pick. As a former cop and PI, Molly can't help but notice the odd chemistry between participants at Playtime Academy on the first day she and her loyal dogs visit. When a body if found on-site, Molly puts her skills to use. She can't say no to temporarily taking in the deceased woman's boxer either--not with those puppy dog eyes. But when Molly's friend is arrested for the murder, she's not sure who to believe anymore.

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Simone held up her hand. “Can I get everyone’s attention?” When we’d quieted sufficiently, she continued. “Normally in a Novice Barn Hunt Competition you’d have two minutes to find the tubes. As you can see, Quentin’s placed one tube beside that stack of hay bales and another on the far side of the tunnel. The tube with the rat inside is on top of that three-bale stack. There’s no time limit on this round.” She nodded to the first team. “Don’t start until I tell you to. The handler and dog should move into the ring at the same time, but no leading the dog. Everybody got that? Okay.” She made eye contact with the man again and said, “Go when ready.”

The man and his dog had obviously done this before. The shepherd gave the first empty tube a quick sniff then moved on, circling bales, retracing his steps. Simone called out, “Don’t hover. But you want to stay close enough to see what the dog’s doing. Not too close.”

The German shepherd was methodical and thorough. He’d clambered on top of the hay bales and found the rat within ninety seconds. “Good job, Desi!” the man said. The dog scarfed up the offered treat. “Such a good boy!” He patted his dog and Simone cheered along.

Next up was a Jack Russell terrier and a twenty-something woman with a waist-long ponytail. This should be good. Terriers were natural ratters. I moved to get a clear view of the ring. To my surprise, the dog meandered about, never seeming to pick up on the idea he was there to hunt the rat. The owner urged him on until the terrier stumbled across an empty tube. When he lifted his leg to pee on it, Simone ran forward and scooped up the dog.

“The urine scent will distract the other dogs.” She handed him to his sheepish-looking owner. “After he goes outside, we can try it again.”

The next few dogs had greater success, though so far, the German shepherd had been fastest to find the rat. When our turn came, I removed Noodle’s leash and collar, then ran my fingers through his thick coat. “You ready, big fellah?”

Noodle drooled and wagged his tail. Excitement hummed through me as I waited for Simone to speak.

“Go when ready.”

“Come on, Noodle. Find the rat.”

Noodle put his nose to the straw-covered floor, head swaying back and forth. Six steps forward and he raised his muzzle. Taking off at a gallop, he scaled the stacked hay bales and barked at the tube. I called out “Rat,” then climbed up after him.

A muttered chorus of oohs and ahs came from behind me.

“Great job, Noodle. Good boy.” I offered him a treat with one hand while passing the tube to the Rat Wrangler with the other.

Noodle gobbled the treat then raised his head again. Leaping off the hay bale, he ran to the arena’s edge and vaulted the low fence.

“Noodle! Come!”

He charged toward the tall stacks of hay along the back wall, scrambling over the orange safety fence with ease. “Come, Noodle.” The dog was deaf to my commands. So much for the class being impressed by me or my dog. I ran after him and climbed the arena’s fence. “Noodle. Stop!”

Finding an invisible path, the Saint Berdoodle scrambled to the top of the bales lining the wall. He nosed something out of my view, then barked.

Simone and the Rat Wrangler had joined me outside the ring. I turned to them. “Could there be a rat up there?”

Quentin shrugged. “It’s possible. It is a barn after all.”

“Noodle, come!” The dog sat and barked again. “Looks like the mountain’s not coming to Mohammed.” Moving with care, I began scaling the bales. The stack was at least eight feet high and three bales deep. Fortunately, it felt stable. I jammed my foot between two bales and grabbed the wire circling the next bale up. How had Noodle climbed this?

Dust and bits of hay rose with each step. I fought the urge to cough. When I finally peered over the top, Noodle sat unmoving. “You okay, fellah?” I hauled myself onto the highest bale and pushed up to my knees. My stomach flipped.

Celeste Simmons lay on her back, one side of her skull caved in.


About the Author

After losing their home during a California wildfire, Peggy Rothschild and her husband moved to the Central Coast. A voracious reader, she worries her TBR stack may become a lethal weapon should an earthquake hit at the wrong time. In addition to writing novels and short stories, Peggy also illustrated a children's book about a rescue cat. When not at her desk or out walking, you can usually find her in the garden.

Peggy is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

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The author is giving away a paperback copy of the first book in this series, A Deadly Bone to Pick, and a hardcover copy of this book, Playing Dead. U.S. residents only please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Killer Hooks: A Crochet Mystery by Betty Hechtman

About the Book

When a baby girl is dropped off on Molly Pink’s doorstep, her life is thrown into disarray as she is putting together a troublesome author event at the bookstore where she works.

The author is a demanding former Hollywood columnist whose book is filled with upbeat stories, but who wants to promote a true crime podcast she is about to launch based on the dark side of what she left out of her columns.

At the same time, Molly’s son has asked her to investigate a potential investor in his production company. The baby, who happens to be Molly’s estranged granddaughter offers her an opening into an elite mommy group, a member of which is the wife of the person Molly is to investigate.

When the columnist dies suddenly, Molly finds herself in the crosshairs of an unfamiliar detective who considers her the prime suspect. Molly recruits the help of the Tarzana Hookers to help with all.

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About the Author

Betty Hechtman is the national bestselling author of the Crochet Mysteries, the Yarn Retreat Mysteries, and the Writer for Hire Mysteries. Handicraft and writing are her passions and she is thrilled to be able to combine them in all of her series. Betty grew up on the South Side of Chicago and has a degree in Fine Art. Since College, she has studied everything from improv comedy to magic. She has had an assortment of professions, including volunteer farm worker picking fruit on a kibbutz tucked between Lebanon and Syria, nanny at a summer resort, waitress at a coffee house, telephone operator, office worker at the Writer’s Guild, public relations assistant at a firm with celebrity clients, and newsletter editor at a Waldorf school. She has written newspaper and magazine pieces, short stories, screenplays, and a middle-grade mystery, Stolen Treasure. She lives with her family and stash of yarn in Southern California. See for more information, excerpts from all her books, and photos of all the projects of the patterns included in her books. She blogs on Fridays at, and you can join her on Facebook at BettyHechtmanAuthor.



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