Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman

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On Tour July 12 – August 6!

Regency widow Lily Adler didn’t expect to find a corpse when visiting a family friend. Now it’s up to her to discover the killer in the charming second installment in the Lily Adler mysteries.

Regency widow Lily Adler has finally settled into her new London life when her semi-estranged father arrives unexpectedly, intending to stay with her while he recovers from an illness. Hounded by his disapproval, Lily is drawn into spending time with Lady Wyatt, the new wife of an old family friend. Lily barely knows Lady Wyatt. But she and her husband, Sir Charles, seem as happy as any newly married couple until the morning Lily arrives to find the house in an uproar and Sir Charles dead.

All signs indicate that he tripped and struck his head late at night. But when Bow Street constable Simon Page is called to the scene, he suspects foul play. And it isn’t long before Lily stumbles on evidence that Sir Charles was, indeed, murdered.

Mr. Page was there when Lily caught her first murderer, and he trusts her insight into the world of London’s upper class. With the help of Captain Jack Hartley, they piece together the reasons that Sir Charles’s family might have wanted him dead. But anyone who might have profited from the old man’s death seems to have an alibi… until Lily receives a mysterious summons to speak with one of the Wyatts’ maids, only to find the young woman dead when she arrives.

Mr. Page believes the surviving family members are hiding the key to the death of both Sir Charles and the maid. To uncover the truth, Lily must convince the father who doesn’t trust or respect her to help catch his friend’s killer before anyone else in the Wyatt household dies.

Review

This witty mystery set in the 19th century features a strong female protagonist who defies convention of the times in how she lives, works, and plays. We first meet her as she graciously accepts the obviously unwanted presence of her father in her home. The condescension and outright disrespect he shows her reinforced for me that the “good old days” were definitely not that good for women.

The plot is well-crafted, the dialog clever and skillfully written, and the sense of place remarkable. The author takes time to develop Lily’s relationships and responses to the people and situations she encounters, which helps the reader become part of the story.

All the boxes are ticked here for a rollicking good mystery. Fans of Deanna Raybourn, Carole Nelson Douglas and Tasha Alexander will enjoy this series, and vice versa.

Praise for Silence in the Library:

“Schellman’s gracefully written whodunit is equally a tale of 19th-century female empowerment and societal conventions…More than a clever murder puzzle, this is an immersion in a bygone era.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“The fast-paced, engrossing story has a climactic confrontation worthy of Rex Stout or Agatha Christie.”
Library Journal, starred review

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: July 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 1643857045 (ISBN13: 9781643857046)
Series: Lily Adler Mystery #2 | The Lily Adler series are stand alone mysteries but even more fabulous if read in sequence
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Katharine Schellman

Katharine Schellman is a former actor, one-time political consultant, and currently the author of the Lily Adler Mysteries. A graduate of the College of William & Mary, Katharine currently lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her family and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering. 

Find her online:
katharineschellman.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @KatharineSchellman
Instagram – @katharinewrites
Twitter – @katharinewrites
Facebook – @katharineschellman 

Woman in Shadow by Carrie Stuart Parks

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July 12-23, 2021 Tour

Woman in Shadow by Carrie Stuart Parks

Carrie Stuart Parks combines her expertise as a forensic artist with her ability to craft a gripping story in this page-turning web of light and shadow.

A woman off the grid.

Darby Graham thinks she’s on a much-needed vacation in remote Idaho to relax. But before she even arrives at the ranch, an earthquake strikes—her first clue that something is amiss. Then when a cabin on the edge of town is engulfed in flames and problems at the ranch escalate, Darby finds herself immersed in a chilling mystery.

A town on fire.

A serial arsonist sends taunting letters to the press after each fire. As a forensic linguist, this is Darby’s area of expertise . . . but the scars it’s caused her also the reason she’s trying to escape from her life.

A growing darkness.

As the shadows continue to move in, the pieces of the town around her come into sharper focus. Can she trust the one man who sees her clearly?

Review

Fans of fast-paced, taut suspense novels will find this one by Carrie Stuart Parks one that can’t be put down. The wounded but smart protagonist appeals to the reader right away and you just know she’s going to triumph over the bad guys.

The author does a slow-reveal of the reasons for Darby’s presence at the isolated ranch, culminating in a really heartbreaking scene. At the same time, Stuart Parks does a good job of building relationships between Darby and those at the ranch, which all play into the starting ending.

The storyline is engaging and tricky enough that the revelations towards the end are unexpected and the end itself quite satisfying. I appreciate an author who can write mysteries with eloquence and flair, and Stuart Parks demonstrates that skill over and over here. Fans of Douglas Preston, Kathy Reichs, and Lisa Scottoline will enjoy this.

Praise for Woman in Shadow:

“Unique, witty, and hilarious, Carrie’s voice shines throughout Woman in Shadow. The perfect mix of intrigue, mystery and danger, this is most definitely a book for my keeper shelf.”
Dani Pettrey, bestselling author of the Coastal Guardians series

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: July 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 0785239847 (ISBN13: 9780785239840)
Series: Woman in Shadow is not a part of a series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Carrie Stuart Parks

Carrie Stuart Parks is a Christy, multiple Carol, and Inspy Award–winning author. She was a 2019 finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence in mainstream mystery/suspense and has won numerous awards for her fine art as well. An internationally known forensic artist, she travels with her husband, Rick, across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law-enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.

Catch Up With Carrie:

www.CarrieStuartParks.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @CarrieStuartParks
Instagram – @CarrieStuartParks
Facebook – @CarrieStuartParksAuthor

Or Join the Conversation on Twitter – #CarrieStuartParks

The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear


Description

As Europe buckles under Nazi occupation, Maisie Dobbs investigates a possible murder that threatens devastating repercussions for Britain’s war efforts in this latest installment in the New York Times bestselling mystery series.

October 1941. While on a delivery, young Freddie Hackett, a message runner for a government office, witnesses an argument that ends in murder. Crouching in the doorway of a bombed-out house, Freddie waits until the coast is clear. But when he arrives at the delivery address, he’s shocked to come face to face with the killer.

Dismissed by the police when he attempts to report the crime, Freddie goes in search of a woman he once met when delivering a message: Maisie Dobbs. While Maisie believes the boy and wants to help, she must maintain extreme caution: she’s working secretly for the Special Operations Executive, assessing candidates for crucial work with the French resistance. Her two worlds collide when she spots the killer in a place she least expects. She soon realizes she’s been pulled into the orbit of a man who has his own reasons to kill—reasons that go back to the last war.

As Maisie becomes entangled in a power struggle between Britain’s intelligence efforts in France and the work of Free French agents operating across Europe, she must also contend with the lingering question of Freddie Hackett’s state of mind. What she uncovers could hold disastrous consequences for all involved in this compelling chapter of the “series that seems to get better with every entry” (Wall Street Journal).

The Maisie Dobbs series has to be one of the best historical mystery series ever written. Jacqueline Winspear has built a solid-as-stone world around Maisie, with people, places and things so detailed and well-researched that the reader is enveloped by it all.

Fans of the series will find a much-tested, more mature Maisie who is finally figuring out what really matters. She has made her peace with the past and laid to rest old ghosts while preparing to launch herself into a whole new chapter of life. This Maisie is a little less brittle, a little less compliant, and a lot more sure of herself and of what’s right. There is an interesting narrative thread throughout about fear and balancing it, as evident in the title. Fear is a balance beam – stay in the middle and you stay alive; go too far one way and you become reckless while too far the other way is paralysis. This was especially poignant given that the story occurs in Great Britain during the days leading up to the entry of the United States into World War II when Allied leaders were most definitely walking a balance beam.

We see a few peripheral characters turn up in new roles, and see some old favorites in a new light as Maisie “does her bit” for the war effort while trying to help a young lad who witnessed a murder during an air raid in London. The story moves along at a good clip and keeps the reader invested.

Series fans will slurp this up in one sitting. If you haven’t read Maisie Dobbs, get you to a library right now and start with number one!

The Cookie Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum


Description

The ultimate cookie cookbook, from best-selling author of The Baking Bible Rose Levy Beranbaum

This is your must-have cookie book, featuring nearly every cookie imaginable, from rustic Cranberry Chocolate Chippers to elegant French macarons, and everything in between—simple drop cookies, rolled-and-cut holiday cookies, brownies and other bars, pretty sandwich cookies, luxurious frosted or chocolate-dipped treats, and much more. With legendary baker Rose Levy Beranbaum’s foolproof recipes—which feature detail-oriented instructions that eliminate guesswork, notes for planning ahead, ingenious tips, and other golden rules for success—it’s easy to whip up a batch of irresistible, crowd-pleasing cookies anytime, for any occasion. Standout classics and new favorites include: Rose’s Dream Chocolate Chip Cookies, Lemon Lumpies, Black Tahini Crisps, Peanut Butter and Jelly Buttons, Double Ginger Molasses Cookies, Caramel Surprise Snickerdoodles, Mom’s Coconut Snowball Kisses, Chocolate Sablés, Gingerbread Folks (with a special sturdy variation for gingerbread houses)Pecan Freezer Squares, Brownie Doughnuts, Brandy Snap Rolls, Plus “extra special” details including homemade Dulce de Leche, Wicked Good Ganache, Lemon Curd, and more.

I usually don’t get emotional about cookbooks, but this one is special to me. Rose Levy Beranbaum’s seminal Rose’s Christmas Cookies was the book I turned to when I was newly married and trying to bake after my mother’s death. That book has pride of place on my bookshelf and is obviously well-used with dog-eared pages stained with drops of egg and batter, some even falling out. Some of the cookies in that book have become part of the holiday traditions for my family and friends, and are baked with love every single year.

The Cookie Bible is a welcome addition and update to Rose’s Christmas Cookies. Beranbaum includes old favorites, even recounting the same stories as she used in Christmas Cookies, which feels like rediscovering long-lost relatives. Some of those recipes are absolute classics and do not need updates (like Rose’s Crescents and Coconut Snowball Kisses) while others have been updated to include trendier ingredients like pistachios and tahini. And, of course, there are a whole lot of new recipes. Hurray!

The instructions included here are pretty much fool-proof, and Beranbaum kindly provides them for multiple methods of mixing. She includes hints and tips gleaned and learned from decades of cookie making, and provides useful information in a chatty but knowledgeable “basics” section in the front. In fact, she solved an issue that’s been driving me crazy – I did not know that there is more protein in unbleached flour and that makes your cookies browner and more cake-like – both things that have been wrong recently with my tried-and-true chocolate chip cookie recipe.

I’m telling my family this book is the only thing I really want for Christmas this year! Highly recommended.

Publication Date: November 9, 2021
Published By: Cooking, Food & Wine
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves


Description

Ann Cleeves—New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows—returns with the extraordinary follow-up to The Long Call, soon to be a major TV series too.

North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder–Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter’s broken vases. Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He’s a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

Then another body is found–killed in a similar way. Matthew soon finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home. DI Matthew Venn returns in The Heron’s Cry, in Ann Cleeves powerful next novel, proving once again that she is a master of her craft.

Cleeves’ second in the Matthew Venn series is just as twisty and slick as her first, featuring skillful character development as well as engaging description and dialog. Cleeves is by far one of the best mystery writers practicing today, including intricate plots with lots of little off-shoot stories meant to deceive the reader until the final reveal.

The peek into the relationships that have shaped Matthew, Jen, and Ross lead to emotional investment in the story and characters while the detective work keeps you turning pages. Fans of Louise Penny and Martha Grimes (and of Cleeves’ other series – Vera and Shetland) will thoroughly enjoy this one.

Recommended.

Publication Date: September 7, 2021
Published By: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn


Description

A princess is missing and a peace treaty is on the verge of collapse in this new Veronica Speedwell adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

January 1889. As the newest member of the Curiosity Club–an elite society of brilliant, intrepid women–Veronica Speedwell is excited to put her many skills to good use. As she assembles a memorial exhibition for pioneering mountain climber Alice Baker-Greene, Veronica discovers evidence that the recent death was not a tragic climbing accident but murder. Veronica and her natural historian beau, Stoker, tell the patron of the exhibit, Princess Gisela of Alpenwald, of their findings. With Europe on the verge of war, Gisela’s chancellor, Count von Rechstein, does not want to make waves–and before Veronica and Stoker can figure out their next move, the princess disappears.

Having noted Veronica’s resemblance to the princess, von Rechstein begs her to pose as Gisela for the sake of the peace treaty that brought the princess to England. Veronica reluctantly agrees to the scheme. She and Stoker must work together to keep the treaty intact while navigating unwelcome advances, assassination attempts, and Veronica’s own family–the royalty who has never claimed her.

The Veronica Speedwell series continues to entertain. In this new entry, we find a newly intimate Veronica and Stoker, still saucy and arrogant and still learning each other fully. The duo encounters another raft of colorful, larger-than-life characters who lead them on another hair-raising, mind-bending adventure involving alpinists, cut ropes, missing princesses, the growing threat of Germany, and those who wish to stem the tide of progress.

Raybourn’s writing is sharp, with the witty dialogue we’ve come to expect in the series coupled with a well-researched and fascinating plot. Why isn’t this a TV series????

Recommended.

Publication Date: March 2, 2021
Published By: Berkley Publishing Group
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

Death in Tranquility by Sharon Linnea

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Death In Tranquility by Sharon Linnéa Banner

Death In Tranquility

by Sharon Linnéa

February 1-28, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Death In Tranquility by Sharon Linnea

No one talks to the cops. Everyone talks to the bartender. And Avalon Nash is one hell of a bartender.

Avalon is on the run from her life in Los Angeles. Having a drink while waiting to change trains in the former Olympic town of Tranquility, New York, she discovers the freshly murdered bartender at MacTavish’s. A bartender herself, she’s offered the position with the warning he wasn’t the first MacTavish’s bartender to meet a violent end.

Avalon’s superpower is collecting people’s stories, and she’s soon embroiled in the lives of artists, politicians, ghost hunters and descendants of Old Hollywood.

Can Avalon outrun the ghosts of her past, catch the ghosts of Tranquility’s past and outsmart a murderer?

The first book in the Bartender’s Guide to Murder series offers chills, laughs, and 30 of the best drink recipes ever imbibed.

If you’re looking for a new, fun mystery series, this is it. There’s death, but very little horror and gore, making this a “cozy” mystery with a little bit of romance and sass mixed in. The location is a thinly disguised Lake Placid NY which is populated with a good mix of quirky, interesting, and ordinary characters who help push the story along. New Yorkers will appreciate this. I know I did – I’ve been in that popcorn shop!

Main character Avalon is a semi-relatable protagonist (her backstory is anything but ordinary) who is written with enough panache to make me want to read more of her adventures. That the book is peppered with some really delicious cocktail recipes is an added bonus and one that would make this an ideal pick for a mystery book club that features drinks! For me, another bonus is the plotline involving old Hollywood, which is one of my favorite things. The story moves along at a good pace with just the right amount of suspense, leading to a satisfying ending.

Recommended!

Book Details

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Arundel Publishing
Publication Date: September 29th 2020
Number of Pages: 323
ISBN: 9781933608 (ISBN13: 9781933608150)
Series: Bartender’s Guide to Murder, 1 (Click here to check out other books in the series!)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Bookstore Plus | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Death in the Afternoon

“Whenever you see the bartender, I’d like another drink,” I said, lifting my empty martini glass and tipping it to Marta, the waitress with teal hair.

“Everyone wants another drink,” she said, “but Joseph’s missing. I can’t find him. Anywhere.”

“How long has he been gone?” I asked.

“About ten minutes. It’s not like him. Joseph would never just go off without telling me.”

That’s when I should have done it. I should have put down forty bucks to cover my drink and my meal and left that magical, moody, dark-wood paneled Scottish bar and sauntered back across the street to the train station to continue on my way.

If I had, everything would be different.

Instead I nodded, grateful for a reason to stand up. A glance at my watch told me over half an hour remained until my connecting train chugged in across the street. I could do Marta a solid by finding the bartender and telling him drink orders were stacking up.

Travelling from Los Angeles to New York City by rail, I had taken the northern route, which required me to change trains in the storied village of Tranquility, New York. Once detrained, the posted schedule had informed me should I decide to bolt and head north for Montreal, I could leave within the hour. The train heading south for New York City, however, would not be along until 4 p.m.

Sometimes in life you think it’s about where you’re going, but it turns out to be about where you change trains.

It was an April afternoon; the colors on the trees and bushes were still painting from the watery palate of spring. Here and there, forsythia unfurled in insistent bursts of golden glory.

I needed a drink.

Tranquility has been famous for a long time. Best known for hosting the Winter Olympics back in 19-whatever, it was an eclectic blend of small village, arts community, ski mecca, gigantic hotels and Olympic facilities. Certainly there was somewhere a person could get lunch.

Perched on a hill across the street from the station sat a shiny, modern hotel of the upscale chain variety. Just down the road, father south, was a large, meandering, one-of-a-kind establishment called MacTavish’s Seaside Cottage. It looked nothing like a cottage, and, as we were inland, there were no seas. I doubted the existence of a MacTavish.

I headed over at once.

The place evoked a lost inn in Brigadoon. A square main building of a single story sent wings jutting off at various angles into the rolling hills beyond. Floor-to-ceiling windows made the lobby bright and airy. A full suit of armor stood guard over the check-in counter, while a sculpture of two downhill skiers whooshed under a skylight in the middle of the room.

Behind the statue was the Breezy, a sleek restaurant overlooking Lake Serenity (Lake Tranquility was in the next town over, go figure). The restaurant’s outdoor deck was packed with tourists on this balmy day, eating and holding tight to their napkins, lest they be lost to the murky depths.

Off to the right—huddled in the vast common area’s only dark corner—was a small door with a carved, hand-painted wooden sign which featured a large seagoing vessel plowing through tumultuous waves. That Ship Has Sailed, it read. A tavern name if I ever heard one.

Beyond the heavy door, down a short dark-wood hallway, in a tall room lined with chestnut paneling, I paused to let my eyes adjust to the change in light, atmosphere, and, possibly, century.

The bar was at a right angle as you entered, running the length of the wall. It was hand-carved and matched the back bar, which held 200 bottles, easily.

A bartender’s dream, or her undoing.

Two of the booths against the far wall were occupied, as were two of the center tables.

I sat at the bar.

Only one other person claimed a seat there during this low time between meal services. He was a tall gentleman with a square face, weathered skin, and dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. I felt his cold stare as I perused the menu trying to keep to myself. I finally gave up and stared back.

“Flying Crow,” he said. “Mohawk Clan.”

“Avalon,” I said. “Train changer.”

I went back to my menu, surprised to find oysters were a featured dish.

“Avalon?” he finally said. “That’s—”

“An odd name,” I answered. “I know. Flying Crow? You’re in a Scottish pub.”

“Ask him what Oswego means.” This was from the bartender, a lanky man with salt-and-pepper hair. “Oh, but place your order first.”

“Are the oysters good?” I asked.

“Oddly, yes. One of the best things on the menu. Us being seaside, and all.”

“All right, then. Oysters it is. And a really dry vodka martini, olives.”

“Pimento, jalapeño, or bleu cheese?”

“Ooh, bleu cheese, please.” I turned to Flying Crow. “So what does Oswego mean?”

“It means, ‘Nothing Here, Give It to the Crazy White Folks.’ Owego, on the other hand means, ‘Nothing Here Either.’”

“How about Otego? And Otsego and Otisco?”

His eyebrow raised. He was impressed by my knowledge of obscure town names in New York State. “They all mean, ‘We’re Just Messing with You Now.’”

“Hey,” I said, raising my newly delivered martini. “Thanks for coming clean.”

He raised his own glass of firewater in return.

“Coming clean?” asked the bartender, and he chuckled, then dropped his voice. “If he’s coming clean, his name is Lesley.”

“And you are?” I asked. He wasn’t wearing a name tag.

“Joseph.”

“Skål,” I said, raising my glass. “Glad I found That Ship Has Sailed.”

“That’s too much of a mouthful,” he said, flipping over the menu. “Everyone calls it the Battened Hatch.”

“But the Battened Hatch isn’t shorter. Still four syllables.”

“Troublemaker,” muttered Lesley good-naturedly. “I warned you.”

“Fewer words,” said Joseph with a smile that included crinkles by his eyes. “Fewer capital letters over which to trip.”

As he spoke, the leaded door banged open and two men in chinos and shirtsleeves arrived, talking loudly to each other. The door swung again, just behind them, admitting a stream of ten more folks—both women and men, all clad in business casual. Some were more casual than others. One man with silvering hair actually wore a suit and tie; another, a white artist’s shirt, his blonde hair shoulder-length. The women’s garments, too, ran the gamut from tailored to flowing. One, of medium height, even wore a white blouse, navy blue skirt and jacket, finished with hose and pumps. And a priest’s collar.

“Conventioneers?” I asked Joseph. Even as I asked, I knew it didn’t make sense. No specific corporate culture was in evidence.

He laughed. “Nah. Conference people eat at the Blowy. Er, Breezy. Tranquility’s Chamber of Commerce meeting just let out.” His grey eyes danced. “They can never agree on anything, but their entertainment quotient is fairly high. And they drive each other to drink.”

Flying Crow Lesley shook his head.

Most of the new arrivals found tables in the center of the room. Seven of them scooted smaller tables together, others continued their conversations or arguments in pairs.

“Marta!” Joseph called, leaning through a door in the back wall beside the bar.

The curvy girl with the teal hair, nose and eyebrow rings and mega eye shadow clumped through. Her eyes widened when she saw the influx of patrons.

Joseph slid the grilled oysters with fennel butter in front of me. “Want anything else before the rush?” He indicated the well-stocked back bar.

“I’d better hold off. Just in case there’s a disaster and I end up having to drive the train.”

He nodded knowingly. “Good luck with that.”

I took out my phone, then re-pocketed it. I wanted a few more uncomplicated hours before re-entering the real world. Turning to my right, I found that Flying Crow had vanished. In his stead, several barstools down, sat a Scotsman in full regalia: kilt, Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket and a fly plaid. It was predominantly red with blue stripes.

Wow. Mohawk clan members, Scotsmen, and women priests in pantyhose. This was quite a town.

Joseph was looking at an order screen, and five drinks in different glasses were already lined up ready for Marta to deliver.

My phone buzzed. I checked caller i.d. Fought with myself. Answered.

Was grabbed by tentacles of the past.

When I looked up, filled with emotions I didn’t care to have, I decided I did need another drink; forget driving the train.

The line of waiting drink glasses was gone, as were Marta and Joseph.

I checked the time. I’d been in Underland for fifteen minutes, twenty at the most. It was just past three. I had maybe forty-five minutes before I should move on.

That was when Marta swung through the kitchen door, her head down to stave off the multiple calls from the center tables. She stood in front of me, punching information into the point of sale station, employing the NECTM—No Eye Contact Tactical Maneuver.

That’s when she told me Joseph was missing.

“Could he be in the restroom?”

“I asked Arthur when he came out, but he said there was nobody else.”

I nodded at Marta and started by going out through the front hall, to see if perhaps he’d met someone in the lobby. As I did a lap, I overheard a man at check-in ask, “Is it true the inn is haunted?”

“Do you want it to be?” asked the clerk, nonplussed.

But no sign of the bartender.

I swung back through into the woodsy-smelling darkness of the Battened Hatch, shook my head at the troubled waitress, then walked to the circular window in the door. The industrial kitchen was white and well-lit, and as large as it was, I could see straight through the shared kitchen to the Breezy. No sign of Joseph. I turned my attention back to the bar.

Beyond the bar, there was a hallway to the restrooms, and another wooden door that led outside. I looked back at Marta and nodded to the door.

“It doesn’t go anywhere,” she said. “It’s only a little smoker’s deck.”

I wondered if Joseph smoked, tobacco or otherwise. Certainly the arrival of most of a Chamber of Commerce would suggest it to me. I pushed on the wooden door. It seemed locked. I gave it one more try, and, though it didn’t open, it did budge a little bit.

This time I went at it with my full shoulder. There was a thud, and it wedged open enough that I could slip through.

It could hardly be called a deck. You couldn’t put a table—or even a lounge chair—out there.

Especially with the body taking up so much of the space.

It was Joseph. I knelt quickly and felt for a pulse at his neck, but it was clear he was inanimate. He was sitting up, although my pushing the door open had made him lean at an angle. I couldn’t tell if the look on his face was one of pain or surprise. There was some vomit beside him on the deck, and a rivulet down his chin. I felt embarrassed to be seeing him this way.

Crap. He was always nice to me. Well, during the half an hour I’d known him, he had been nice to me.

What was it with me discovering corpses? It was certainly a habit of which I had to break myself.

Meanwhile, what to do? Should I call in the priest? But she was within a group, and it would certainly start a panic. Call 911?

Yes, that would be good. That way they could decide to call the hospital or the police or both.

My phone was back in my purse.

And, you know what? I didn’t want the call to come from me. I was just passing through.

I pulled the door back open and walked to Marta behind the bar. “Call 911,” I said softly. “I found Joseph.”

It took the ambulance and the police five minutes to arrive. The paramedics went through first, then brought a gurney around outside so as to not freak out everyone in the hotel. They loaded Joseph on and sped off, in case there was anything to be done.

I knew there wasn’t.

The police, on the other hand, worked at securing the place which might become a crime scene. They blocked all the doorways and announced no one could leave.

I was still behind the bar with Marta. She was shaking.

“Give me another Scotch,” said the Scotsman seated there.

I looked at the bottles and was pleasantly surprised by the selection. “I think this calls for Black Maple Hill,” I said, only mildly surprised at my reflexive tendency to upsell. The Hill was a rich pour but not the absolute priciest.

He nodded. I poured.

I’m not sure if it was Marta’s tears, or the fact we weren’t allowed to leave, but local bigwigs had realized something was amiss.

“Excuse me,” the man in the suit came to the bar. “Someone said Joseph is dead.”

“Yes,” I said. “He does seem to be.”

Marta swung out of the kitchen, her eyeliner half down her face. “Art, these are your oysters,” she said to the man. He took them.

“So,” he continued, and I wondered what meaningful words he’d have to utter. “You’re pouring drinks?”

It took only a moment to realize that, were I the owner of this establishment, I’d find this a great opportunity.

“Seems so,” I said.

“What goes with oysters?” he asked.

That was a no-brainer. I’d spied the green bottle of absinthe while having my own meal. I poured about three tablespoons into the glass. I then opened a bottle of Prosecco, poured it, and waited for the milky cloud to form.

He took a sip, looked at me, and raised the glass. “If I want another of these, what do I ask for?”

As he asked, I realized I’d dispensed one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite libations. “Death in the Afternoon,” I replied.

He nodded and went back to his table.

It was then I realized I wasn’t going to make my train.

* *

Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon

Ingredients

• 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) absinthe
• ½ to ¾ cup (4 to 6 ounces) cold Champagne or sparkling wine

Method

Hemmingway’s advice, circa 1935: “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”

Chapter 2

No Known Address

Since I found the body, I got to talk to the lead investigator.

He was in his mid-thirties, just under six feet, walnut skin, black hair cut short. He would have benefitted from a beard. He looked ripped; the king of ripped you got from taking out your frustrations in the gym. His demeanor was no-nonsense.

“Investigator Spaulding,” he said, and he pulled out a notebook. “State Police.”

“State Police? Isn’t that the same as State Troopers? Don’t you manage highways?”

He stopped writing in his small, leather-covered notebook and looked up.

“Common misconception. The local P.D. is small—only 9 on staff. When something big happens, they ask for assistance.”

“They ask?”

“It’s a dance.”

I wasn’t a suspect (yet), so he didn’t need to write down my stats, but I could read upside down as he made notes. He asked my name, and began guessing at the rest. Nash, Avalon. Female. Caucasian. Blonde hair. 5’7 was his guess at my height. The next thing he wrote down could go seriously south, so I said, “healthy weight.”

He looked up.

“5’7” and at a healthy weight,” I supplied. “If I’m charged with something, we’ll get more specific.”

“Age?”

Did he really need to know all of this? “Twenties,” I said, waiting to see if he’d have the gall to object. He didn’t.

“Best way to reach you?”

I gave him my cell number.

“Permanent address?”

“I don’t have one.”

He looked up.

“I’m in the process of moving from California to New York. I’m only in town to change trains. I don’t have a New York address yet.”

“A relative’s address?”

I held up my phone. “This is your golden ticket,” I said. “If you want to reach me, this is it.”

I saw him write ‘no known address.’ Yep, that pretty much summed it up. I glanced at my watch. Seven minutes until my train pulled into—and, soon after, departed from—the station.

“Um, Detective,” I started.

“Investigator Spaulding,” he corrected.

“Investigator Spaulding, my train is about to arrive. I don’t know anything except what I’ve told you. I came in for a drink and helped Marta find the bartender, whom I hope died of a massive heart attack—well, of natural causes. You know what I mean.”

At that point, his phone buzzed and he gave me a just-a-minute finger. He answered, listened for a while, and started to write. Then he hung up, flipped his notebook shut and said, “I can’t let you leave. He was murdered.”

“Great,” I said, the tone somewhere between rueful and intrigued, as I headed back toward Marta, then I turned back toward Investigator Spaulding. “Can I continue to pour drinks?”

He considered less than a moment. “By all means, serve truth serum to anyone who will imbibe.”

Then he turned and walked toward the other officers.

I went to stand with Marta behind the bar. In my imagination, I heard the train chug in across the street.

Investigator Spaulding cleared his throat, and the room went silent. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “This is now a homicide investigation.” He had to pause as everyone shuffled or gasped, or cried out. “Please do not leave until we have taken your statement.”

A woman in her fifties came and sat down in front of me at the bar. Her hair was in a no-fuss bob, she wore a free-flowing skirt with a linen jacket, both of which were in style twenty years ago, but they worked on her. “Got anything stronger than those Death things?” she asked. “I’m not big on Champagne.”

“Sure.” I said. I sized her up. “Layers in a martini glass work for you?”

“Honey, it’s the strength, not the glass.” She looked shaken and sad. I went for the rums and found Malibu Black, the stronger brother of the original. What a bartender Joseph must have been! I decided to try something new. Malibu Black, mango pineapple vodka, and pineapple juice. I mixed it over ice, shook, and poured. I sank some Chambord and topped it with Jägermeister Spice.

“See if this does it,” I said.

Her hand shook slightly as she held up the glass, appreciated the layers, and then took a sip. The jury was out. She took another. She nodded and smiled.

It occurred to me that everyone in the room knew Joseph. They’d lost one of their own.

Another woman in skinny white pants and a white shell with a fancy pink sports jacket came and sat next to her. They were about the same age, if I had to guess, but the new woman was thin as a rail, muscular, and with her blonde hair in a ponytail. I was guessing she colored her hair not from a darker shade, but to cover the white. The two women embraced. “Suzanne,” said the new arrival.

“Gillian,” said no-fuss-bob Suzanne. Then, “Can’t believe it.”

“I can’t, either,” replied hard-bodied Gillian. She had the remains of an Eastern European accent. They sat a respectful moment. “What are you drinking?”

Suzanne looked at me. “No Known Address,” I said.

“Okay,” Gillian said. “I’ll have one.” She then turned and I was dismissed to my task.

“I can’t believe it. One of the only straight, available guys between forty and crotchety, and he’s gone!” said Suzanne.

“There’s Mike,” Gillian said, tilting her head toward the state police investigator. “And I’m not sure Joseph was available.”

“First, really? Maybe if he worked out. Second, you or I crook our little fingers and get a guy away from Sophie.” They both looked back, shooting daggers toward one of the three women in the center wall booth. I knew which must be Sophie, as one of them was crying copiously while the other two petted her solicitously.

“And do we have a suspect?” asked pink jacket Gillian.

This time, they looked at a younger woman who sat at a table with two newly arrived Chamber men. She was gorgeous—skin the color of chai latte and hair as dark as a sky at new moon. She was staring off into space.

I almost said, “You know I can hear you.” But maids, taxi drivers, and bartenders… well, we’re invisible, which is partly how we get the good gossip.

They stopped talking abruptly as two men approached. “Can we get some food?” asked the first. He was in a polo and navy blue slacks.

I heard snuffling and saw that Marta was in the shadows, leaning back against the wall. “Hey,” I said, “would you ask the chef if we can continue to order food?”

She nodded and swung through the kitchen door.

Arthur, the man in the suit who had ordered earlier, accompanied the newcomer in the polo. Arthur addressed his companion in an audible hiss. “I’m telling you… we can’t let word of this get out. Tranquility has to be considered a safe haven. For everyone. For…the festival folks. It’s part of what lures them here. Change of pace.”

“How do we not let the word get out? It’s a matter of record! And everyone in town knows about it—or will, within minutes.”

From the furious pace of thumbs texting throughout the room, it was clear he was correct.

“I mean, don’t print this as front-page news.”

“It is front page news, Art. And, the film festival folks are already committed. They’ve submitted their films. They’ll come.”

Marta returned with a positive nod. I slapped down two menus. “Marta will be out to take your order,” I said. As they turned, I added. “And if it’s a film festival, you don’t need to worry. Film people eat news like this for breakfast.”

Arthur looked at me in surprise, but gave a raised-eyebrows look that inferred I could have a point.

They left with the menus and I turned back to Marta, trying to help get her mind on something other than her boss’s death. “Can you help me add these drinks to people’s tabs?” I nodded toward the POS.

For the record, I hate point of sale machines. Each one hates humans in its own unique way. I pointed at people and she pulled up their tabs and showed me how to input the drinks I’d served.

I only had the Scotsman’s tab left undone when the man in the artist’s shirt stopped right before me. He was likely late 40s and had a face that was long but not unattractive. His shoulders were unusually broad, and he exuded self-confidence and a self-trained impishness. His shirt had one too many buttons left undone.

“Okay,” he said, “I wasn’t going to drink, but Joe…”

“You weren’t going to drink because it’s late afternoon, or because you’ve been sober for seven months?” I had no interest in tipping someone off the wagon.

He laughed. “I haven’t been drinking because this isn’t my favorite crowd,” he said. “And I don’t usually drink. But murder seems an excuse, if there ever was one.” He extended his hand. “Michael Michel,” he said, and smiled, waggling his eyebrows as if this should mean something to me.

I took his hand and shook. It was apparent I didn’t recognize him.

“The Painter Who Brings You Home,” he said, and the trademark practically bled from the words.

“Right,” I said, trying to sound impressed. “Nice to meet you. I’m Avalon. What’ll ya have?”

“Vodka tonic lime.”

“Care which vodka?”

He shook his head while saying, “Whatever you’ve got. Grey Goose.”

Ah, a fellow who pretended not to drink, who knew exactly what he wanted.

I poured and went for the garnish tray. The limes were gone. I looked at the back bar and found lemons and oranges. No limes, though clearly there had been some. I walked along the front bar and found, below patron eye level, a small cutting board with a lime on it. The lime was half-cut, some of them in rounds, a few in quarters. Some juice was dripping down onto the floor.

I reached for a wedge, and then I stopped short.

Joseph never would have left this on purpose. It was obviously what he’d been doing when he was interrupted by death—or someone who led him to his death. Or by symptoms that eventually spelled death.

I leaned down and sniffed.

It was lime-y. But there was something else, also.

I backed away. I walked over to Marta and said, quietly, “Don’t let anyone near that end of the bar.”

Then I walked over to Investigator Spaulding, where he sat at a booth interviewing someone. “Investigator?” I said. “Sorry to interrupt, but this is important.”

He looked at me, squinting, then seemed surprised, since I’d made such a point of being Ms. Just-Passing-Through.

He stood up and stepped away from the booth.

“I believe I’ve found the murder weapon,” I said.

As we walked together, I realized that the door to the smoker’s porch sat open. It was crawling with half a dozen or so more crime scene people.

Together we walked to the limes. I said, “Don’t touch them. If this is what Joseph was doing when he died, if they are poisoned, my guess is that the poison can be absorbed through the skin.”

Investigator Spaulding looked at me like, Of course I knew that, but he stepped back. As another officer and two crime scene investigators came over, I backed away, removing myself as far as possible from the action.

I returned to the Artist Shirt. “I think today we’re going with a lemon and a cherry,” I said. I smelled them before putting them in the drink.

It struck me then that perhaps Joseph hadn’t been the intended target. Maybe there was someone who consistently ordered a drink garnished with lime, and the murderer had injected the poison into the lime, not realizing it could be absorbed as well as ingested.

Like, for instance, the man before me, Mr. Vodka Tonic Lime.

Still, this was a pretty non-specific way of poison delivery. The limes could have been served to half a dozen people before anyone realized they were toxic. Who would do something like that?

The police were letting people go once they had been interviewed. I asked Investigator Spaulding if I could go. He nodded, adding, “Please stay in town until tomorrow morning, in case we have any further questions.”

As if I had a choice. All the trains had gone, except the 11 p.m. to Montreal.

The bar had been sealed off with crime-scene tape, a welcome relief as I didn’t relish closing a dead man’s station on the night of his murder. Why would I even think that? I didn’t work here. But my need to leave a bar in pristine condition ran down to bone and marrow.

As I headed for my bag, which I’d left on my original stool, I saw I wouldn’t even be allowed to access the POS machine.

The only patron whose drink I hadn’t input was the man in the kilt. I looked around the emptying room to find he’d moved to a pub table over to the side. “Sorry, sir,” I said. “I wasn’t able to enter your drinks into the machine. I guess you’re on the honor system to pay up another day.”

He gave a small smile. “Lass,” he said, “I’m Glenn MacTavish. Owner of this place. Seems I’m out a bartender and will be needing another. You have any interest?” he asked.

I stopped and stared. “There’s really a MacTavish?” I asked.

“Aye, and you’re looking at him.”

“But… you don’t know anything about me.”

“You keep a clear head and you know what you’re doin’. That’s all I really need to know. Besides, you don’t know anything about me, either.”

“I, well—thank you for the offer. It’s a beautiful bar. Can I think on it overnight? I’ve been told not to leave town.”

“Aye,” he said. “You can tell me in the mornin’ if you might be stayin.’ And while you’re decidin’, I could pay you for your services tonight with a room here at the hotel.”

That seemed fair. The Hotel Tonight app was offering me a room at a local chain. Staying at MacTavish’s Seaside Cottage for free seemed infinitely more attractive. “All right,” I said. “I should probably let you know they’re expecting me in New York City.”

“All right,” he said. “I should probably let you know Joseph isn’t the first bartender to work here who’s been murdered.”

* *

No Known Address

Ingredients

• ½ oz. Malibu black
• 2 dashes Chambord
• ½ oz. mango pineapple vodka
• 2 dashes Jägermeister Spice
• 1 oz. pineapple juice

Method

Shake pineapple vodka, Malibu Black and pineapple juice over ice and strain evenly into martini glasses.

Sink a dash of Chambord into each flute by running it down the side of the glass.

Layer a dash of Jägermeister Spice in each glass.

***

Excerpt from Death in Tranquility by Sharon Linnéa. Copyright 2020 by Sharon Linnéa. Reproduced with permission from Sharon Linnéa. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Sharon Linnea

Sharon Linnéa wrote the bestselling Eden Series (Chasing Eden, Beyond Eden, Treasure of Eden and Plagues of Eden) with B.K. Sherer, as well as the standalone These Violent Delights, a movie murder series. She enjoyed working with Axel Avian on Colt Shore: Domino 29, a middle-grade spy thriller. She is also the author of Princess Ka’iulani: Hope of a Nation, Heart of a People about the last crown princess of Hawaii which won the prestigious Carter Woodson Award, and Raoul Wallenberg: the Man Who Stopped Death. She was a staff writer for five national magazines, a book editor at three publishers, and a celebrity ghost. She lives outside New York City with her family. In Orange County, she teaches The Book Inside You workshops with Thomas Mattingly.

Catch Up With Sharon On:
www.SharonLinnea.com
BartendersGuidetoMurder.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Instagram
Twitter
Facebook

 

 

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Author Spotlight – Tina deBellegarde

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Author photo new 1 (8763)

Tina deBellegarde lives in Catskill, New York with her husband Denis and their cat Shelby. Tina writes the Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery series which debuted September 2020 with Winter Witness. Her short stories appear in the Mystery Writers of America anthology A Stranger Comes to Town and the last two editions of Best New England Crime Stories. Find her winning flash fiction online at Retreat West, Ad Hoc Fiction and Reflex Press. When she isn’t writing, Tina is helping Denis tend their beehives, harvest shiitake mushrooms, and cultivate their vegetable garden. She travels to Japan regularly to visit her son Alessandro. Visit her website at www.tinadebellegarde.com

You’ve recently published Winter Witness, a murder mystery that takes place in a small NY town in the Catskill Mountains. What led you to write this book?

When I moved to the Catskills and started taking walks like Bianca does in Winter Witness, it became obvious to me just what a perfect place it was to stage a murder. There were cliffs, isolated hiking trails, speeding trucks paired with winding streets, abandoned quarries, aging resorts, deep lakes, and steep waterfalls. I decided to set my novel in a deceptively quiet town like my new home.

I have been drawn to murder mysteries since I found Martha Grimes in the 1980s. What I love about her Richard Jury series is that you can revel in the small village life and unravel not only a murder mystery but the intricacies of the characters’ lives as well. When I sat down to write, I wanted more than a murder mystery, I wanted characters to live on the page. A small town gives us a perfect backdrop to get to know our characters because in Batavia-on-Hudson everyone knows everyone, just like in my home of Catskill. The intimacy of the village makes the characters’ interactions more immediate.

I love murder mysteries because they are incubators for character studies. Just as our real lives are full of secrets and dreams, growth and evolution, choices and consequences, murder mysteries are about so much more than the murder. Coming of age stories, romances, and other dramas play out as well. The murder is merely a device to drive the characters’ stories forward.

How do you build your characters? Do you base them on real people, on bits and pieces of real people, or are they completely fictional?

Many of my characters are composites of people I know or have met. No character is based on any one person alone. Some I made up completely, but I wonder if that is even true. I always say that there is an enormous amount of autobiography in every piece of fiction because we use our own experience to understand the workings of our characters. Even if we make them up entirely, we imbue them with reactions and decisions based on our own personal experiences. We don’t write in a vacuum. So yes, they are made up, but based in some vague reality.

I keep a character bible, where I develop their backstory and personality traits. Once that is done, characters become real for me and when I place them in a scene they clearly act a certain way because they now have unique personalities.

What was your publishing process like?

My experience was positive but slow. I had no idea how to break in. I’m sure I’m not alone. In the early stages of my manuscript I attended mystery conferences and I found them a tremendous resource. Malice Domestic is a great fan based conference. New England Crime Bake is a wonderful mystery writers’ conference with craft workshops, pitch sessions and critique sessions. I found the community welcoming and supportive, and not competitive at all.

I pitched my book and had some interest, then I submitted the opening of my manuscript and received helpful feedback. I incorporated the feedback into my novel and then set it aside. I wasn’t ready to face the realities of trying to sell my book. Since this was what I considered the best version of Winter Witness, I was nervous about discovering that nobody might want it.

During this break, I started writing short stories. I have heard that many writers start in reverse. They write shorts and then grow into novel writing. But short stories were new to me and I was so excited to stretch my writing muscles in that direction. I discovered I love writing short fiction. I submitted pieces and got some recognition and publications. One of my short stories was picked up by Level Best Books for their annual Best New England Crime Stories anthology.

I also discovered that Level Best Books had expanded from anthologies to novels a few years ago. Since the anthology was launching at New England Crime Bake and I would be seeing the editors there I thought the timing might be right. I sent in my manuscript of Winter Witness, and I was thrilled to hear from them just before the conference. We met for breakfast there and they offered me a three book deal to launch my Batavia-on-Hudson series. I got to skip the agent stage and went straight to the publisher.

Level Best is a relatively small press, and I believe we are a good fit. The press has a solid presence in the mystery writing community and we are growing every day. It has been a very personal experience working with my editors. In fact, the entire community is tight knit. We host a monthly Zoom meeting where we share our news, ask the editors questions, and get guidance from more seasoned authors. Overall, I am thrilled to be with them.

Describe a typical writing day for you.

Oh, how I wish I had a typical writing day! I have tried and tried and not succeeded in creating a routine. It seems that just as I think I have something that works, it goes off the rails. I have a beautiful little writing cottage that my husband and his brother surprised me with. They built it one spring before we had moved here full time. I was still teaching and when my school year ended, and I came up for the summer, there it was. Ideally, I would wake up, exercise and write for the first half of the day.

More often I fit it in when I can. I can say this though, that as long as I am committed to my writing and doing so daily, that getting my head in and out of my writing is very easy. The writing flows and there is no time lost getting reacquainted with my work. When I have to step away from it for any length of time, when my writing isn’t regular, it is always like starting a new project. I have learned that writing daily keeps me limber and in character. When that happens I don’t need a routine, or a cottage. I just need my laptop or a notepad. Keeping the story fresh and alive in my head is the best writing practice.

Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books?

I grew up on women authors like Anne Tyler, Gail Godwin, Sue Miller, Alice Adams, and Muriel Spark. These women shaped my writing and my view of the world. They made me believe that a woman’s story was worth writing. They focused on the internal lives of their female characters and they did it with beautiful prose. They are all masters of character development. I have always felt that even if their books had no plots, I would read them anyway.

Since my son lives in Japan, I have immersed myself in Japanese contemporary literature. I love Japanese literary sensibilities. And I also love the slow burn, slice of life story that is typical of a Japanese novel. Haruki Murakami, Yoko Ogawa, Aoko Matsuda, Mieko Kawakami, Banana Yoshimoto. So many good ones.
As far as particular books are concerned. The Man with the Load of Mischief by Martha Grimes is my favorite traditional mystery. It was after reading this book that I knew I could have an audience for a book like Winter Witness. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett is one of my favorite literary pieces. Her ability to develop characters and relationships under the extraordinary circumstances of a hostage taking was spectacular. On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong is a poetic novel. You “feel” every word. There are so many small perfect nuggets in that book that it ushered me into writing flash fiction.

Where do you stand on the oxford comma? My readers want to know!

Ah! The $64,000 Question! For most of my life I rejected the Oxford comma. Once I got into writing seriously, I realized that I couldn’t live without it. I used to rewrite a sentence to clarify. Now, since my prose matters so much, I prefer the flexibility the comma can give me. It means the prose as I wrote it can stand.

What do you want readers to experience when they read your work?

I wrote a book about a small village inhabited by characters that I hope readers will want to return to over and over. I want them to think and to feel, to relate and to empathize, and I want them to relax and enjoy. (Notice the comma) I think we read for many reasons, but one of those reasons is that we relate to the emotions of the characters on the page. I like to create characters who are ordinary people leading ordinary lives, but prove to be extraordinary just the same.

If you are an author and would like to be featured here, please contact me at patricia.uttaro @ gmail(dot)com.

New Feature Coming


A new feature will debut this week on It’s All About the Book.

Author Spotlight will feature interviews with debut and newer authors, who will have an opportunity to talk about their books. The feature will focus primarily on New York State authors, with many local to the Rochester region.

If you are an author who would like to be featured, send me a message at patricia.uttaro @ gmail(dot)com.

Before the Ruins by Victoria Gosling


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