Birth of the Black Orchids by M. R. Dimond

They wanted to save the world. Now they'd be happy to cover rent and student loans.

Johnny Ly wanted to rescue and heal all the cats. Dianne Cortez thought that if numbers couldn't save the world, she could at least save people's money. JD Thompson wanted to bring justice to people caught in the legal system, but he can't do it for free. Also, they like to sing.

Somehow, the American Dream isn't working out for them. So when Johnny's grandmother offers them her old mansion, they flee high-powered jobs in Austin, TX, for a fresh start in the small Texas town of Beauchamp.

It's a nice old house. Too bad about the murder, which they'd better solve before it ruins their Christmas grand opening. Can they rise to the occasion as detectives with their skills as a veterinarian, accountant, lawyer, and ABBA tribute band?

Bonus story: "The Way Old Friends Do" A few months into the new year, income is low for the Black Orchids, with the town of Beauchamp happily using the free coupons from the grand opening. So Dianne expands their services to what JD calls “baby-sitting old ladies”—an easy job, until the clients run away.


The doorbell rang, and I instinctively moved in that direction.

Dianne swept the door open to reveal a policeman, complete with mirror shades (because this is Texas in winter). He was brown as Dianne and almost as tall, but born without smile muscles. The silver husky beside him grinned, blue eyes and flopping ears adding a maniacal touch.

“May I come in with my dog?” asked the officer in a way that didn’t feel like a request.

Dianne’s bright lipstick gleamed as she welcomed them both. “Of course! Working dogs are always welcome. I’m Dianne Cortez, and you are—” She leaned in to read his badge. “Officer Alejandro Quintanilla-Villenueva.”

“Most people call me Officer Al. This is Cupcake. She’s not so much working as training,” explained the officer, proving he could smile, probably at Dianne’s effortless pronunciation.

I jumped when I realized what I was holding. I power-marched into the kitchen.

Chantal was huddled by the pantry, giving herself an insulin shot. As she put away her equipment, she scolded, “JD, I told Cherry to put those out.”

“We can’t.” I glanced over my shoulder and saw Dianne step back to admit Officer Al and Cupcake. “Our neighbor brought them for Johnny.”

“So? Johnny’s never minded sharing.”

“They’re medicinal, and a drug dog just arrived,” I hissed.

“For Johnny, Mr. Totally Straight and Narrowest of the Narrow?”

“Yes. Let me by.” I grabbed a plastic bag from the pantry. I folded up the empty box sitting on the counter and shoved it and the whole plate in. Meanwhile, the policeman paid court to Johnny’s grandmother.

“That’s a huge dog!” Chantal exclaimed as she peered into the hall. “Where do we put this stuff?”

“Freezer? Behind the meat?”

“Will that work?” Chantal rummaged through the freezer, already full of bags of bacon, chicken tinga, ground beef, and other meats to spice up Johnny’s vegetarian meals. He does most of the cooking because he likes it, and he tolerates what the rest of us do to it.

“Who knows?” I shoved the bag to the very back of the top freezer shelf.

“Not me.”

The deed done, Chantal and I scrubbed our hands under a cascade of hot water and suds. While trying to remember if the police could arrest the whole party on drug charges for one box of edibles, I took exactly one step into the gallery to meet doom when doom met me from another direction. My father tapped my sleeve.

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About the Author

M. R. Dimond wanted to be a writer from childhood. So naturally she majored in music in college. She won her first professional orchestra audition while still a teenager, but playing the cello never paid the bills. After some years of day jobs, night music, and early morning writing, she knew more than ever that she wanted and needed to be in the arts. She then went back to school to earn an MBA, on the theory that she needed better paying jobs to support her art habits. After stints in professional orchestras, law firms, cat rescue, bookkeeping, and technical communication, she returned to her childhood’s dream of writing fiction, which has turned out to be about musicians, lawyers, veterinarians, accountants, and cats.

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Ice Cold Murder (Charlie Kingsley Mysteries) by Michele Pariza Wacek

When Charlie agrees to accompany her friend Claire to her late grandmother’s reading of the will, she assumes she is simply there for moral support.

She doesn’t expect things to get so … strange. 

It’s odd enough that it takes place over a weekend, but that’s just the beginning …

They also need to stay in Claire’s grandma’s supposedly haunted house with Claire’s estranged family.

Things get even worse when a huge storm snows them in. No electricity, no phone, and no way out.

Throw a dead body into the mix, and there’s no question it’s now the world’s worst family gathering. Ever.

At least Charlie brought lots of tea, which she’s going to need as she races to solve this closed-circle mystery before her friend’s dysfunctional family get-together results in anyone else being murdered.

Meet Charlie. Better known as “Aunt Charlie” from the award-winning Secrets of Redemption series. She’s back, making teas and solving cases in this funny, twisty, cozy mystery series set in the 1990s in Redemption, Wisconsin.

Available on Amazon.

About the Author

When Michele was 3 years old, she taught herself to read because she wanted to write stories so badly. It took some time (and some detours) but she does spend much of her time writing stories now. Mystery stories to be exact, ranging from psychological thrillers to cozies, with a dash of romance and supernatural thrown into the mix. If that wasn’t enough, she also hosts a virtual book club you can check out and join (for free!) at

Michele holds a double major in English and Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she lives in the mountains of Prescott, Arizona with her husband Paul and southern squirrel hunter Cassie.


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Grant's Crossing - Death on the Alder by Jamie Tremain

Twenty-eight year old Alysha Grant has inherited a large, rural, family property – Leven Lodge. A converted farmhouse is now home to a small, but eccentric, group of retirees. She feels overwhelmed and totally unprepared for this responsibility, but dives in.

Her arrival coincides with a body found floating in the Alder River. The suspicious death brings attention to some of the home’s residents and may be connected to a proposed casino. Opinion is divided on whether the development, to be built on a former sawmill location once belonging to Alysha’s family, will be a good thing for Grant’s Crossing.

Alysha and her life partner, Jeff Iverson, settle into their new duties, learning about the home’s residents and what makes them tick, when another body is retrieved from the river.

Coincidence? Alysha and new friends, voice their suspicions regarding the town’s shady naturopath—Dr. Reid Harrison—and vow to keep him away from those who live at the lodge. Despite their best intentions, Alysha finds her own life threatened, when true motives around the casino are revealed.


I stopped dead in my tracks. Fire and brimstone would have been preferable to the antagonistic greeting. I’d been taught to respect my elders, but seriously! He may have been old, sure, but he did have a commanding presence. His hands gripping the railing were large and looked strong. The buttons on his shirt strained over his barrel chest. His whiskered face was flushed beneath a full head of white hair.

Before I could respond, he spat out, “You show up now? Where were you when Dalton was being buried? Too busy to pay respects. But now, when there’s an inheritance you can find the time, eh? I know your type and I’ve no time for you.”

My jaw dropped. I couldn’t work up a retort to so much hatred. It was true, I’d missed Uncle Dalton’s funeral, much to my regret now. By now, my cheeks were burning as I realized others had overheard this little speech. Great way to be introduced.

I took a step back to survey the assembled group and decided to kill ‘em with kindness. I plastered a large smile on my face and with hands on hips said, “And good afternoon to you too, Mr. McTaggart. It’s good to see you again.” And then for the benefit of those who didn’t know me. “I’m Alysha Grant. I believe you were expecting me.”

Much scraping of chairs and greetings ensued when the residents came forward to meet me. All except Jock McTaggart. He’d turned on his heel and disappeared into the house.

“Don’t you worry about him, dear. He’s just upset about Dalton. They were quite close. Do you remember me? I’m Bea, a friend of your grandmother.”

I smiled politely. “I do remember you.” What a contrast to her husband! Petite, like me, and a textbook grandmother type. Sensible dress and shoes, even a pearl necklace. Her veined hands took both of mine and her voice was nothing but kind.

“Yes, of course. Let me introduce you to everyone and then I’ll take you to meet our cook and the housekeeper, who can show you around. Lovely women. Oh, listen to me prattling on. I’m just so glad you’re here.”

Then it hit me. The body discovered—McTaggart. I wondered about a connection, but I had to focus on Mrs. McTaggart. She’d started introductions. Crap, I’d never been good with names, especially not in a bunch like this. I must have met them at my grandmother’s funeral but hadn’t paid much attention.

“Alysha dear, this is Philip McGee,” she said and I shook hands with a dead ringer for one of my old university professors. Cardigan with patched elbows and all. Bet he’d never been married either. His expressionless face made me think he’d not an ounce of humour in him.

Next, she pulled me towards two ladies who seriously needed makeup lessons. Yikes, why did they all insist on wearing such bright red lipstick? But they were smiling at me as Bea identified them.

“Alysha, this is Rose Edwards, and Lily Courtemanche. Believe it or not, they’re twins–sisters you know.” They might be twins, but I had the impression one might be a little more lively, she had a warm handshake. I think that was Rose, but Lily focused on sizing me up. Kind of creepy.

From creepy to over the top. I had to take a step backward when the next resident bounded toward me. Perhaps older than he tried to portray, but he was trim, neatly dressed and his eyes twinkled.

“Hello, pet, I’m Ty Rogers. Awfully pleased to meet you. You’ll be a breath of fresh air around here, I’m sure.” I detected a slight British accent. He hadn’t waited to be introduced, and his handshake was a little on the weak side, but I thought he might be good fun. Probably gave some of the old ones a heart attack or two. Couldn’t have met him before or I’d have remembered.

Only two more to go, I hoped. Bea walked over to pull another woman forward. I got the distinct impression she wasn’t a team player. Oh, boy, what a prize. She had to be older than Bea, all dry skin and shriveled.

“This is Minnie Parker.”

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About the Author 

Jamie Tremain was “born” in the summer of 2007. A collaborative effort brought about by two fledgling authors - Liz Lindsay and Pam Blance. Pam and Liz met at their place of work and once a mutual interest in reading (and writing!) was discovered, there was no stopping them! To date Jamie Tremain has published the Dorothy Dennehy Mystery Series and has now released the first book in a new Grant’s Crossing Series – Death on the Alder.

Even before their first book, The Silk Shroud, was published, they had been actively building their brand. One of their fortes was, and still is, interviews on their blog with other authors – and readers. Networking within the supportive writing community continues to be a priority. A recent “Author Survival Network” group was established on Facebook, to offer fellow authors a place to meet, share experiences and offer encouragement to each other.

Jamie Tremain belongs to Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, and are proud to be part of the Genre5 Writers group in Guelph, Ontario.

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French Ghost by Corinne LaBalme

Ghost-writer Melody Layne is stranded in Paris when the over-sexed but unloved French movie star who hired her to produce his memoir accidentally drowns before the interviews begin. It's a major financial relief when his enigmatic Spanish son re-hires her, but the seductive Carlos Ortega is strangely silent about his reasons for funding a feel-good bio about a father that he clearly despised. There's enough amour in the air for Melody to ignore this apparent paradox… at least until she uncovers a hidden cache of death threats addressed to the actor. For the French police, the sexy, secretive Spaniard – and sole heir to the actor's immense fortune – is suddenly a prime murder suspect. Can Melody's research into the Ghosts of Carlos-Past be enough to save her lover from prison?



First meeting with Carlos:

“You never met him?” His eyes brightened and the 100,000-volt smile that followed was totally worth waiting for.  “Naturally, I assumed … but if you never met my father, you’re a very lucky woman.”

“Well, actually, I –”

His cell phone chimed but he ignored it. “Please tell me about this book. Who have you interviewed so far?”

“No one.”

He raised an eyebrow quizzically. “Who were you planning to interview?

“No one.”

¿Estas loca?” The smile disappeared and he pushed his chair back defensively, as if my brand of crazy might be contagious. “You intended to write an entire biography about a public figure without doing any research at all?”

“It wasn't a biography, it was a” I tried to keep the testiness out of my voice.  It didn’t help that I agreed with him. Perfectly innocent trees would have perished for a hard-cover manifesto that portrayed Charles-Henri Banville as a non-toxic lifeform

“A book that tells everything from his point of view? Everything he did? Everything he did to other people?” My host shook his head. “That's not what I need.”

“That’s all there was in the contract.”

“Your contract, if I understand correctly, was taking the lies that man told as the truth? If I knew another writer...” He paused. “Unfortunately, time is short. My lawyers will draw up the new contract and send it to you.”

He didn’t ask me if I wanted the job but since I did, I saw no reason to make a fuss.  He reached for the bill just as I slapped my voice recorder down on the table.

“You want research?” I asked. “Let's get started.”

Available on

Amazon ~~ Goodreads

About the Author

My first jobs after college (incredibly useful art history degree) were in the New York fashion industry (modeling, working for designers). When I gave up on my Greenwich Village walk-up (after realizing that I couldn’t bear to smoosh the cockroaches in my shower because they were a ‘family’), I cut out to Paris where I became Fashion Editor for the English language magazine PASSION.

I subsequently wrote and edited the gourmet destination guide LA BELLE FRANCE for fifteen years while freelancing for the NEW YORK TIMES Travel section, various in-flight magazines, and guide books (GAULT MILLAU, VIRGIN, ZAGAT). From 2011 – 2012, I wrote screenplays for the PBS travel series CUISINE CULTURE.

The cinema figures in FRENCH GHOST are loosely based on stars I’ve interviewed (and been groped by); the restaurateurs in Book 2 (FRENCH TOAST) are drawn from the lovely, often impractical, chefs I met through LA BELLE FRANCE.

I suspect that Book 3 will toss Melody Layne into the cut-throat Paris fashion scene. May the Gods of Ghosting have mercy on her soul…

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Death by Sample Size by Susie Black

Set in the heart of the competitive Los Angeles apparel industry, Death by Sample Size is the story of one woman’s relentless quest for power regardless of the cost.

Since she didn’t think any rules applied to her, apparel industry big-shot Bunny Frank had no problem breaking them all. Ruthless, driven and power hungry; from bribery to bullying to extortion, Bunny Frank did whatever it took to make her buying office in the Los Angeles garment center the biggest and best no matter who she had to step on to succeed. Nobody said no to Bunny Frank; at least nobody with a brain. Rejected and publicly humiliated by the only man she ever loved, Bunny plotted her revenge and didn’t care how many careers she destroyed to make him pay.

The last thing swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected was to discover Bunny Frank’s corpse trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey with a bikini stuffed down her throat. With no shortage of suspects, the mystery wasn’t who wanted Bunny dead. Who didn’t? When Holly’s colleague is arrested for Bunny’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to find the real killer. Nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she matches wits with a wily killer hellbent on revenge.


Angela Wellborn and I nodded politely to one another as we entered A Jolt of Java together the next morning. I cautiously wished her a good morning and took it as a good sign when Angela told me to have a nice day. With any luck, maybe I’d save the account.

I worked my way around the table distributing the group’s coffees. When I handed Sonia her cup, the good vibe I had from Angela quickly disappeared. Sonia’s complexion was gray as day-old oatmeal. Her red-rimmed eyes said it all.

I squeezed her arm. “What happened?” 

Sonia’s eyes filled. “I didn’t get it.”

“Did they tell you why?”

Sonia twisted her lips into a bitter smile. “My references didn’t pan out.”

Bunny Frank sat at a table across from us sipping a latte and reading the West Coast Apparel News. Sonia walked the short distance to Bunny’s table. Bunny folded the paper and gave Sonia a shit-eating grin. 

Sonia growled, “You’re a miserable excuse for a human being. You couldn’t bring yourself to do the right thing for once in your life. You had to lie and destroy a fabulous opportunity because you could.” 

Bunny drew a circle in the air and put her index finger through it. “Bullseye, Wilson.” She wiggled her thumb and flashed an evil smile. “Gotcha right under here and I always will.”  

Sonia grabbed the latte out of Bunny’s hand and poured the drink over Bunny’s head. The concoction flowed slowly like lava down Bunny’s face and meandered into her cleavage. Too stunned to react, Bunny sat still as a statue as the foam seeped from her d├ęcolletage and stained her white knit top.

Sonia crushed the empty paper cup and threw it on the table. The crowded room was silent as a tomb as all eyes swiveled to Bunny’s table. Not a soul missed Sonia snarl, “I promise I’ll get even with you. I will make you pay if it takes me forever.”  Sonia spun on her heel and stomped back to our table. She pointed to the barista’s station. “Anyone for a refill? This round is on me.”


When the elevator doors opened, I had to stop myself short not to step on her. There was Bunny Frank-the buying office big shot-lying diagonally across the car. Her legs were splayed out and her back was propped against the corner. Her sightless eyes were wide open and her arms reached out in a come-to-me baby pose. She was trussed up with shipping tape like a dressed Thanksgiving turkey ready for the oven with a bikini stuffed in her mouth. A Gotham Swimwear hangtag drooped off her lower lip like a toe tag gone lost. Naturally, I burst out laughing.

Before you label me incredibly weird or stone-cold, let me say genetics aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. If you’re lucky you inherit your Aunt Bertha’s sexy long legs or your father’s ability to add a bazillion dollar order in his head and get the total correct to the last penny. Without even breaking into a sweat, it’s easy to spout at least a million fabulous traits inheritable by the luck of the draw. Did I get those sexy long legs or the ability to add more than two plus two without a calculator? Noooooooooo. Lucky me. I inherited my Nana’s fear of death we overcompensated for with the nervous habit of laughing. A hysterical reaction? Think Bozo the clown eulogizing your favorite aunt.

I craned my neck like a tortoise and checked around. Then I clamped a fist over my mouth. Cripes, how could I possibly explain my guffaws with Bunny lying there? The disappointment was simultaneously mixed with relief when there was no one else in the parking lot. Where was security when you needed them?

I toed the elevator door open and bent over Bunny. I’d seen enough CSI episodes to know not to touch her. She was stiff as a board and I attributed the bluish tinge of her skin to the bikini crammed down her throat. I was no doctor, but I didn’t need an MD after my name to make this diagnosis. Bunny Frank was dead as the proverbial doorknob. It was no surprise Bunny Frank had finally pushed someone beyond their limits. The only surprise was it had taken so long. The question wasn’t who wanted Bunny Frank dead. The question was who didn’t?

Available on

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About the Author

Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.

She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.

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Daunting Darkness & Freaky Familiars by Lily Luchesi

Daunting Darkness (Page Papillon Paranormal Mysteries)

Following your dreams can become a nightmare.

Paige Papillon has always loved mysteries. So much so, she enlists in the Police Academy to one day become a detective.

But when she washes out of training, her Sergeant inspires her to go another route: become a private investigator.

After a few boring cases, she receives an envelope full of cash and mysterious clues that lead to the discovery of a cover up of paranormal proportions.

Worse, the Sergeant's wife is at the center of it. Can Paige solve the mystery and stay alive, or will she become a midnight snack for a monster?

~~ Amazon ~~


Freaky Familiars (Paige Papillon Paranormal Mysteries)

No time for a catnap for this paranormal detective!

Now aware that things that go bump in the night exist, private investigator Paige Papillon has expanded her business to include clients of all species.

Assisted by a former detective and his mystery writer wife with a checkered past, she begins to settle into her new job as Chicago's premier paranormal PI.

But when her best friend's cat goes missing, Paige realizes how much she still doesn't know about the supernatural world. It's a race against the clock to save a shapeshifter and prevent a witch's familiar from being sold to the highest bidder.

~~ Amazon ~~


About the Author

Lily Luchesi is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of the Paranormal Detectives Series.

Her young adult Coven Series has successfully topped Amazon's Hot New Releases list consecutively.

She is also the co-owner of Partners in Crime Book Services, where she offers a myriad of services alongside her business partner Annie Smith, including editing.

She was born in Chicago, Illinois, where many of her stories are set. Ever since she was a toddler, her mother noticed her tendency for being interested in all things "dark". At two she became infatuated with vampires and ghosts, and that infatuation turned into a lifestyle. She is also an out member of the LGBT+ community. When she's not writing, she's going to rock concerts, getting tattooed, watching the CW, or reading comics. And drinking copious amounts of coffee.

She also writes contemporary books for adults as Samantha Calcott.

You can also keep up with Lily via her newsletter … and receive a free e-book as well!

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Thyme for Thieves by C.R. Fulton

Thieves named finalist in the Foreword Indies Book Awards! 

Someone is after Stephanie’s beloved essential oils When she returns from walking her dog, Stephanie finds the apartment’s building manager dead in the stairwell. At first, the death seems to be the result of natural causes, but it soon becomes apparent that something sinister is at work, and Stephanie believes she is the next target.

The cure? Solving a murder mystery.

With help from a handsome police officer, she attempts to stay one step ahead of the danger. Not everything is as it seems, and even the tiny bottles of oils she relies on have hidden secrets.


“Hurry up, Bugle!” My goldendoodle looks up at me, squinting in the cold rain. “Come on, girl. Get busy.” She sneezes as she turns, finally squatting.

I shiver, resisting the breeze cutting through my sheer pantyhose. Blowing a cold raindrop off the tip of my nose, I wish I could wipe off my day at work as easily. I can’t wait to hole up in my apartment with pajama pants, a cup of coffee, and some essential oil.

Normally, we’d take a walk at this time of day, but in this weather it’s out of the question. To make up for the lack of exercise, I decide to take the three flights of stairs up to my apartment instead of the elevator. My stiletto heel catches in the third stair step.

Bugle wasn’t expecting my sudden halt, and she continues exuberantly bounding up the stairs. “Ahh!” Surprisingly, her hard yank on the leash is exactly what I need to pry my shoe off the metal weave in the staircase.

Bugle shakes the rain from her curly tan coat, and I’m instantly soaked. Sucking in a breath, I force everything away. Just make it to the door, that’s all. Rounding the corner to the next flight, I shift forward so my heels won’t get stuck again; my tight, knee-length skirt hampers my movement. Bugle stops suddenly in front of me. Her ever-wagging tail stills.

“What’s up, girl? Let’s go.”

She answers with a low growl, sending shivers across my skin. Her strange behavior sets me on edge. Off-balance with my classy shoes, I edge around her before noticing a boot sticking out at the next landing. I come to a standstill as I consider the possibilities. Could be a drunk, hiding from the weather, passed out on the floor. The morning news flashes across my mind: another gang related shooting in Raleigh. Bugle’s sharp bark makes me jump, but the boot doesn’t move. Maybe it’s empty. Maybe one of my neighbors dropped it on their way down to work.

That’s ridiculous since no empty footwear could stick out at that angle without a leg holding it up. I consider backing down, taking the elevator, and calling security. But the stillness draws me forward; I couldn’t leave someone in need of help.

Dragging Bugle, I creep forward. “Aren’t you supposed to protect me?” I whisper to my beloved pup. She growls again, prompting me to adjust my keys so three of them are sticking out between my fingers right near my knuckles. I could totally take somebody out. Right, Stephanie, sure you could.

Two more steps, then I gasp as I peer around the corner. “Richard!” The apartment manager’s face, normally a pleasant ebony, has a pale gray tinge, and his glassy eyes stare up at the ceiling.

“Richard! Can you hear me?” I release Bugle’s leash to as long as it will go as I kneel by my friend’s side. Lifeguard training from high school surfaces, and I lift his limp arm, searching for a pulse. My stomach twists as the cold stillness confirms what my heart knew the instant I’d seen him. He’s dead. Fighting sudden nausea, I stand, retreating toward Bugle and digging for my phone. My thumb trembles as I dial 911.

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About the Author

C.R. Fulton travels the east coast in an RV with her husband, two kids, and two dogs, Atlantic and Ocean. She is also an essential oil lover, so marring oils with murder mystery writing seemed natural. She is the author of A Drop of Mystery, (a cozy mystery series with essential oils at their heart) The light of Andrea, a Robin Hood style action adventure series, and a spiritual thriller due in the 2021. Acrylic painting fuels her writing creativity, homeschooling her children keeps her sharp, but Jesus is the center of it all.

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A paperback of the first version of Thyme for Thieves

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Two Truths and One Liar by Deirdre Riordan Hall

Knives Out meets One of Us is Lying with a hint of the Inheritance Games. Like the original whodunnit, Clue, this suspenseful mystery also has three possible endings explaining what could have happened. 

They all have secrets. They all have motives. They all tell lies.

Every year, at a prestigious boarding school, Professor Groff hosts the Midnight Masquerade. But this year, before the festivities, he’s discovered dead in his office. Yet six students still receive invitations. The same six students who’re questioned about his murder.

The show must go on. At the Masquerade, two additional students claim to know the truth. The lights go out and when they come back on, one of them is dead. Anyone could’ve been at fault.

Francisca blind in one eye and deadly on the rugby field. Toshi a number ninja and the campus punching bag. Taz who struggles with anxiety and lingers in the shadows. Fish the golden boy hiding wounds and not only in his heart. Caroline the heiress and the image of perfection. Gorgeous George the resident Greek God with nothing to lose.

The six receive anonymous notes, making them question themselves and the assumptions they’ve made about each other. Brought back together, they must prove their innocence before the all-school meeting the next morning, otherwise, they risk humiliation if their secrets are exposed exposed—and worse, if they’re found guilty.

It’s a long night of theft, danger, and threats by a secret society that shows Professor Groff was right during his final lecture.

Everything that can go wrong will.


Dean Hammond straightens a stack of papers then looks up. With a severe lift to her eyebrow, she scans those of us present, and then says, “Oliver Groff was found dead in his office at 3:22 pm, shortly after his last class of the day.”

A weight in my stomach sinks just as it did when Arpad made the announcement in the dining hall. Questions roll through my mind and collide when the realization hits me full force. He was alive, teaching earlier today, making dire pronouncements about how basically everything sucks.

Boy, was he right. Now, he’s gone.

The circumstances were different the first and second times someone in my life died but the familiar emptiness, the void, vacancy returns—or maybe it never left.

“Yeah, we heard—” George’s tone tells me he wants to say something more about loss and tragedy, something sentimental perhaps, but he’s hard-wired for nonchalance as the campus crush and most likely to smoke, hook up, and skip classes.

Caroline clasps her hands in front of her chest. Her knuckles pale. “I’m so sorry to hear that.” She pauses. “He was an...efficient teacher.”

I imagine she struggles to think of a nice thing to say about Groff. I sneak a glance at the others because I can’t be the only one wondering why we’re here.

Arpad already announced the news in the Refectory. There’s a good chance not everyone was there. Hammond inhales.

“Francisca Thompson-Sanchez, nice seeing you again.”

Francisca’s expression doesn’t suggest the feeling is mutual, although she is wearing a mud-streaked rugby uniform and likely feels as out of place in the plush office as I do.

“Can you please tell me where you were from the end of English class until now?” Hammond asks.

She focuses on something on the wall behind the dean but her hands tremble slightly. “I went to talk to Mr. Groff after class, but he looked, um, busy. Then I went to the bathroom.” She glances at Caroline. “Uh, then my dorm, followed by rugby practice, and then the Refectory.”

Arpad writes rapidly on a yellow pad.

Hammond’s penetrating gaze lands on a math whiz, gamer kid whose dorm room is by the day student room in my dorm. “I was at the Library then Refectory.” He speaks clearly, but he’s all-over sweaty.

“Tazmin King?” Hammond says, going down the line.

“Taz,” she corrects. Eyeliner stains the space around her big brown eyes like she’s been crying. “After class, I went to my dorm and then dinner. If Oliver died, it was because of a broken heart,” she blurts. Emotion streaks across her features, but she captures it and makes it disappear.

“And how would you know that, Tazmin?” Hammond’s tone is dark.

“It’s none of our business,” she answers. Then it’s as though she ghosts even though she’s still in the room with us. Hammond barely conceals a look of disgust.

“Moving on. John?”

“Maybe the professor was tired of his life and wanted to escape. Suicide? Or maybe he just wanted out. Faked it. On a plane to Tahiti.”

By Hammond’s pinched expression, I instantly realize this is the wrong answer. My sweat now rival’s Toshi’s. I cannot get kicked out. I cannot afford to go back to Burningham. Whatever this is about… I cannot lose my spot here.

“No, we found the body. Poetic though. However, the question was where were you this afternoon?” Accusation fills Hammond’s tone.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I misunderstood. I was in the dayroom at my dorm, Varth Dader, then lacrosse practice in the lower fields.”

She glances at me dismissively and nods at Caroline. I know all too well not to allow relief to replace the nerves inside. Best to stay alert.

“I was with the Promenade committee, finalizing some items for tomorrow. Wait. You’re not canceling prom because of this are you?” Typical Caroline, always concerned about her agenda.

The goth girl, Taz, narrows her eyes. “It should be after the tree went up in a blaze and now Oliver, I mean Professor Groff, is dead.”

Hammond hardly looks at them. “Ladies, that’s none of your concern. Now, George. If you please.”

“I was in the student center. You can ask Mrs. Carson.” He smirks. Likely, he was hooking up with someone.

“Do any of you have a reason to want Oliver Groff dead?” Hammond’s question is like a stone thrown in a lake. The ripples of this implication could be devastating.

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About the Author

Deirdre Riordan Hall is the author of the contemporary young adult bestsellers Sugar and Pearl as well as the High School Murder Mystery series. She’s in an ongoing pursuit of words, waves, and wonder. Her love language involves a basket of chips, salsa, and guacamole, preferably when shared with her family. 

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