<i>Blood Red</i>: New Excerpt Blood Red: New Excerpt Wendy Corsi Staub Lock your doors and keep the lights on... <i>Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli</i>: New Excerpt Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli: New Excerpt Diane Kelly True crime doesn't pay...taxes! <i>The Grave Soul</i>: New Excerpt The Grave Soul: New Excerpt Ellen Hart Jane Lawless is hired once again to figure out the truth. <i>The Haunted Season</i>: New Excerpt The Haunted Season: New Excerpt G.M. Malliet Vicar Max Tudor is back!
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October 2, 2015
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Angie Barry
October 1, 2015
Killer Nashville's 2015 Silver Falchion Finalists Announced: Vote Now!
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The ZINNG: A Cool $25K for E-Mysteries (and Lethal Selfies)
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After "Lessons Learned," We Announce The M.O.'s Next Story!
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Oct 4 2015 12:00pm

Blood Red: New Excerpt

Wendy Corsi Staub

Blood Red by Wendy Corsi Staub is the first thriller in a new series set in Mundy's Landing, a picturesque town in New York's Hudson Valley with an unsolved murderous past (available September 29, 2015).

The razor's gleaming blade slices effortlessly through skin and tendon, and he relishes the final anguished moments of his prey. There's only one thing he prizes more: their long, silken strands of red hair. But these women are merely stand-ins . . . a prelude to his ultimate victim.

Nestled in New York's Hudson Valley, Mundy's Landing is famous for its picturesque setting—and for a century-old string of gruesome unsolved murders. Rowan returned to her hometown years ago, fleeing a momentary mistake that could have destroyed her family. Life is good here. Peaceful. Until an anonymous gift brings Rowan's fears to life again.

The town's violent history was just the beginning. Soon everyone in Mundy's Landing will know that the past cannot be forgotten or forgiven—not until every sin has been paid for, in blood.



March 22, 2015
Erie, Pennsylvania

She isn’t the first redhead to cross Casey’s path on this blustery Sunday evening. She’s not even the best fit.

[Continue reading Blood Red by Wendy Corsi Staub!]

Oct 3 2015 12:00pm

Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli: New Excerpt

Diane Kelly

Death, Taxes and a Chocolate Cannoli by Diane Kelly is the 9th cozy mystery in the IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway series (available October 6, 2015).

He's no Tony Soprano. Still, local crime boss Giustino “Tino” Fabrizio is one shady character that Tara would love to see behind bars. He operates a security business—or so he claims on his tax forms—but his clients don't feel so secure when it's time to pay up. Problem is, no one can get close enough to nail this wiseguy for extortion. No one, that is, except Tara...

Going undercover, Tara lands a waitress job at Benedetta's Bistro—which is owned and operated by Tino's wife. Being surrounded by cream-filled cannolis could be hazardous to Tara's waistline...even though the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, right? Only thing Tara can't afford to do now is blow her cover. Because serving Tino his just desserts will surely come with a price...

Chapter One
Gone Guys

At two o’clock in the afternoon on a Monday in early May, I stood on the sidewalk in front of the federal building in downtown Dallas. To a casual observer, I’d look no different from any other female professional in her late twenties. Heck, we were a dime a dozen. But the subtle bulge under the blazer of my navy blue pantsuit set me apart. I didn’t just handle business, I meant business. And my business was making sure that tax cheats paid for their crimes, both in cash and convictions.

A shiny black sedan with dark tinted windows eased up to the curb in front of me. The passenger window slid down only an inch or two, not enough for me to see the person inside, but enough for me to hear his deep, gravelly voice. “Special Agent Holloway?”

I tried to swallow to clear the tightness in my throat but was unsuccessful. As much as I hated to admit it, bringing tax evaders to justice could sometimes be a little frightening. Instead of speaking, I merely nodded.

The door unlocked with a click. “Get in.”

I shifted my briefcase to my left hand and grabbed the door handle, my heart pumping like an oil jack in my chest. Why was I anxious? Because my boss at the Internal Revenue Service had assigned me my biggest case yet, against mob boss Giustino “Tino” Fabrizio. Fabrizio’s acts of violence and extortion were legendary—and the stuff movies starring Robert DeNiro were made of.

Since joining the IRS a little over a year ago, I’d faced down a con artist running a Bernie Madoff–style Ponzi scheme, a killer operating a cross-border crime enterprise, a televangelist who’d fleeced his flock, the president of a secessionist group that was stockpiling weapons, terrorists, a sleazy strip club owner operating a prostitution ring, a country-western superstar who’d thumbed his nose at the IRS, and a violent drug cartel. Guess you could say I’d been busy. You could also say there were as many ways to cheat the government as there were tax evaders. Each had their own unique scheme or scam. But none had gotten past me …so far.

My earlier successes, as well as my exceptional gun skills, had landed me this mob case. Part of me was proud that my boss had assigned me as the lead agent on the investigation. Another part of me was so scared I feared my sphincters would never release again.

I slid into the car, placed my briefcase on my lap, and snapped the seat belt into place. As FBI Agent Burt Hohenwald pulled away from the curb, I ventured my first glance at him. The veteran agent was a tall, lean fiftyish man with curly pewter-colored hair, a nose like a ski jump, and a gray tweed blazer that made him look professorial. I half expected him to launch into a lecture about the Treaty of Versailles or Plato’s theories on the nature of virtue.

Hohenwald cast a glance my way, too, looking me up and down, unabashedly sizing me up. I took no offense. It was par for the course. After all, the two of us would be working this case together, counting on each other, holding each other’s lives in our hands. Unfortunately, in my case, appearances could be deceiving, even to a veteran of law enforcement. My chestnut-brown hair hung in loose curls around my shoulders, my gray-blue eyes were accentuated with liquid liner, and my lips bore a shiny coat of plum-toned lipstick. Along with the basic navy suit, I’d worn my favorite cherry-red steel-toed Doc Martens. Like me, the shoes meant business. The bright color might be a little flashy, but the soles provided good traction should I need to chase a suspect and the reinforced toe protected my little piggies should my foot find itself implanted in a suspect’s nards or ass. You’d be surprised how often that happened.

A frown played about Hohenwald’s mouth as he returned his focus to the street. “Lu says you’re a girl who knows how to get things done.”

“I am.” Approaching thirty, I was hardly a girl anymore, but I knew my boss Lu “the Lobo” Lobozinski meant no insult when she’d used the term. Besides, at five feet two inches, just over a hundred pounds, and wearing what was essentially a training bra, I appeared more girl than woman. I’d accepted it. Besides, what I lacked in stature, I made up in attitude, which was one hundred percent badass. Okay, ninety-nine percent badass and one percent chickenshit. Seriously, a person would have to be an idiot not to fear a violent mobster, right?

Hohenwald hooked a left on Field Street. “I trust you’ve read the file I sent over?”

“Thoroughly.” I hadn’t just read it, I’d highlighted it, cross-referenced it, and made copious notes in the margins, including several HOLY CRAP!s a half-dozen OMG!s and one very big YIKES!!! If Hohenwald wasn’t impressed by my physical attributes, maybe he’d be impressed by my reading comprehension and annotation abilities. Not everyone can pull off both a pink and a purple highlighter.

“So you know Tino Fabrizio’s history prior to coming to Dallas.”

“Up, down, and backward.”

According to the file, Guistino Fabrizio had been born and raised in the ritzy Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago. The youngest cousin of the reigning Chicago mob boss, Tino had worked for his cousin for years as an enforcer. He was suspected in a multitude of beatings and execution-style shooting deaths, the victims including both members of the extended mafia family and unrelated persons. Unfortunately, though he’d been brought in for questioning several times, law enforcement had been unable to pin anything on him. The guy knew how to cover his tracks.

Eventually, Tino realized his job taking people down had no upward potential. As ambitious as Tino was, and as cold as the Windy City’s winters were, he decided to head south to Dallas. Though there’d been isolated instances of mob activity in the area, the mafia had enjoyed no real toehold in the Big D since the death in 1970 of local leader Joseph Francis Civello, with whom Jack Ruby, who shot JFK’s assassin, was rumored to have ties. These days, organized crime in north Texas existed primarily in the form of drug cartels or gangs that operated in limited circles and with no pretense of legitimacy. Here, Tino could rule the city, put his parka in mothballs, and work on his tan.

“What you don’t know,” Hohenwald said as he took a second left onto Main, “is what Fabrizio’s been up to since he moved to Dallas. The file I sent over to the IRS was heavy enough with just the FBI’s background reports. Besides, I figured it would be best to let you get the scoop straight from Detective Booth at Dallas PD.”

“Dallas PD?” I repeated. “Local police are involved in the investigation, too?”

“Sure are,” Hohenwald replied. “In fact, Detective Booth was the one who put two and two together and realized Fabrizio was connected to a lot of bad stuff.”

“Why didn’t the police department keep the case?”

“With Fabrizio’s history in Chicago, the detective realized his crimes had national implications. She also knew that bringing down his network would take more resources than her department could provide.”

“So Booth turned the case over to the FBI?”

“Essentially,” he said, “though she’s kept a finger in the pie. She wants this guy as bad as we do.”

With Dallas PD handing primary responsibility for the matter over to the FBI, and the FBI subsequently punting some of the work to the IRS, it might seem like the buck was being passed. But such was not the case. Rather, law enforcement was hedging its bets. In important yet difficult cases such as this, it was not unusual for several law enforcement agencies to work together and attack a wanted suspect on more than one front. While local police and the FBI could investigate the violent crimes, the IRS could take a different tack and try to nail the suspect for tax evasion or money laundering. Not only did a multipronged approach increase the odds that the suspect would be caught doing something illegal, but it also gave the government additional charges to fall back on should the primary indictment be thrown out. Suspects could be slick, and their defense attorneys could be even slicker. We needed as much ammunition as possible in our arsenal to ensure the bad guys didn’t get away with their dirty deeds.

Hohenwald turned south on Lamar and drove several blocks, passing under Interstate 30, before pulling into the parking lot of the Dallas Police Department headquarters. We parked, went inside, and checked in with the uniformed officer working the front desk. He directed us to wait in a seating area crowded with people, none of whom looked happy to be here. Hohenwald snatched a copy of the Dallas Observer, the city’s alternative newspaper, from a coffee table. Frankly, I was afraid to take my eyes off the group, which likely included a high percentage of felons.

A moment later, a fortyish woman in khaki slacks and a pink button-down stopped in the doorway. She had pointy, pixielike features and honey-blond hair pulled back in a short ponytail. She scanned the seating area, her eyes stopping on Agent Hohenwald.

“Is that Detective Booth?” I asked, gesturing toward the woman.

He looked up from the paper. “Yup. That’s her.”

He set the paper aside and stood. I followed him over to the woman, who simply lifted her chin in acknowledgment, turned, and led us down the hall and around the corner to a small elevator. Another person was already in the car, so we remained silent. One could never be too careful with confidential information. We rode the car up to the third floor, exited, and trailed the woman to an office at the end of the corridor. The nameplate on the door read DETECTIVE V. BOOTH. I found myself wondering what the V stood for. Valerie? Vivian? Violet? She stood at the door as we stepped inside, closing it behind us.

Stacks of files stood like a paper skyline at the edge of the detective’s desk, flanked by an automatic stapler and an ivy that looked desperate for a drink of water. While the detective rounded her cluttered desk, Agent Hohenwald dropped into one of the two seats facing it and I perched on the other, setting my briefcase down beside me.

Hohenwald made a quick, unceremonious introduction. “Detective Booth, Special Agent Holloway. Agent Holloway, Detective Booth.”

Booth and I shook hands over the desktop and offered each other polite smiles.

“What’s the V stand for?” I asked.

“Veronica,” she replied.

That minor mystery had been easily solved. But getting the goods on Tino Fabrizio was sure to be far more challenging.

As we began our powwow, Booth summarized the situation for me. “Giustino Fabrizio is suspected in the deaths or disappearances of at least ten men in the Dallas area over the last five years. Most of the men had worked for him in one capacity or another, some officially, others unofficially.”

Yikes! And to think I sometimes complained about my job. At least my boss wasn’t out to kill me. “So Tino made sure those who knew his secrets didn’t live to tell them?”

“Exactly,” Booth replied. “Anyone who had dirt on the guy ended up buried in dirt themselves.”

The mere thought had me brushing imaginary muck from my arms.

She pulled a thick file from a drawer. “Agent Hohenwald asked me to share my file on Fabrizio with you.” She held it out to me. “Take a look, then we can address any questions you might have.”

My tax case files contained innocuous things like spreadsheets and bank statements. But police files could be far more gruesome. I took the hefty file from her and inhaled a deep breath to steel myself.


Chapter Two
Odds and Ends

I opened the folder on my lap. The first two items in Booth’s file were recent police reports addressing the disappearance of two men on the same night. One of the men who’d gone missing was a professional locksmith. According to his wife’s statement, he’d received a late-night call, purportedly from someone who’d locked himself out of his house and needed emergency service. The locksmith failed to return home to his wife and two children.

Booth gestured to the report. “We considered whether he might have simply abandoned his family, but that possibility was quickly ruled out. By all accounts he’d been a dedicated husband and father.”

And, as the report noted, he’d taken nothing with him, not even his prized baseball card collection or his beloved Labrador retriever.

The other man, who was unmarried but living with a girlfriend, was a personal trainer who also provided freelance bodyguard services on a contractor basis. He, too, had received a late-night call, told his girlfriend it was work-related, and left in a hurry, never to come back home. He had also left all of his possessions behind, and had made no contact with anyone, not a family member, neighbor, or friend.

No trace of either man had been found, and according to the reports, both had left their cell phones at home. Odd.

As I looked up in thought, my eyes spotted water stains on the ceiling tiles in the detective’s office. The building must have suffered a leak at some point, maybe during the last heavy rain. But the leaky roof wasn’t the issue of the moment. The current issue was, Why would the victims have left their cell phones behind? Most people carried their phones with them at all times. Also, per an inquiry to their carriers, no calls had come in to the men’s personal cell phones late that night. More than likely, the men had second, secret phones their loved ones didn’t know about.

Pulling my eyes from the damaged ceiling, I returned my attention to the documentation. My specialized role would be to pursue the financial angles, follow the money trails, so naturally information about suspicious income and expenses caught my eye. The statement made by the locksmith’s wife indicated that he had taken his family on a trip to Hawaii shortly before he disappeared. She’d reported that her husband’s business had been doing especially well in the months preceding his disappearance. The trainer had bought a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle not long before he’d vanished. His girlfriend hadn’t asked where the money to buy the Harley had come from. Maybe she didn’t want to know. “Looks like these two men came into some unexpected funds.”

Booth leaned back in her chair. “Cash payouts from Fabrizio probably accounted for the sudden uptick in income.”

The third item in the file was a police report regarding a mugging that had taken place in the parking lot of a barbecue restaurant late on the same night the men had disappeared. Two masked men had pulled guns on the owner of the restaurant as he went to his car with a zippered bank bag containing the day’s cash intake tucked under his arm. The muggers forced him to hand over the cash, his cell phone, and his keys. By the time he walked to a gas station down the road and called 911, the muggers were long gone.

The victim had uploaded a tracking app to his cell phone, and it was located in a storm drain a half mile away, along with his keys. Neither bore any fingerprints. The report noted that, months before, the victim had hired Fabrizio’s company, Cyber-Shield Security Systems, to install security cameras and provide monitoring services at his restaurant. A still photo, presumably a screen shot of security camera footage, showed a dark image of two men in ski masks with guns pointed at the victim as he stood next to a car. The terrified expression on the man’s face said he was in imminent risk of soiling himself. But who could blame him? The mere photo of the armed thugs had my gut in a clench.

I looked up at Detective Booth. “Given that the mugging victim was a client of Fabrizio’s security company and that the mugging happened on the same night the two men disappeared, you’re thinking there’s a connection?”

“You got it.” She plucked a shriveled leaf from the potted ivy on her desk, ground it to mulch between her fingers, and dropped it into the dirt at the base of the plant. “My guess is the two men who disappeared were the ones who mugged the restaurant owner. Fabrizio probably offed them afterward and disposed of their bodies somewhere. He’s not the kind of guy who leaves loose ends.”

“Did the locksmith or trainer have criminal records?” I asked.

“The trainer had a couple of assaults on his rap sheet. He gave a previous girlfriend a black eye and he’d beat the snot out of someone who’d accidentally backed into his motorcycle in a parking lot. The locksmith had a theft charge. He’d made a duplicate key when installing new locks at a private home. He went back later and attempted to rob the house. The homeowners came home and caught him in the act. He covered his face and ran off, but they’d already recognized him.”

It didn’t surprise me that the missing men weren’t exactly choirboys. Dirty work was done by dirty men.

Booth went on to tell me that it had taken years for Dallas PD to connect the dots and realize Fabrizio had likely played a role in several unsolved crimes. “Too many crime victims have been clients of Fabrizio’s security company for it to be mere coincidence.”

Most were too afraid to point fingers at Tino Fabrizio, to implicate him in extortion, but the detective surmised the victims suspected that the man who was supposed to protect them and their businesses was, in fact, the one who’d preyed upon them instead.

“Fabrizio’s approach is typical,” Booth said. “He focuses his extortion efforts on people running mom-and-pop-type businesses. They’re easier to intimidate and they control their business’s finances.”

I supposed it would be more difficult to extort money from a large business client, where the staff member working with Cyber-Shield’s salesman probably had no access to the company’s coffers and would be more likely to report the extortion attempt to upper management.

“I’ve spoken with Fabrizio in person,” Booth said. “Strangely enough, the guy didn’t give off a single bad vibe. He seemed about as threatening as Barney the dinosaur.”

I was familiar with the show, which was filmed locally at the studios in Las Colinas. Fitting, I supposed, since the oil Texas was famous for originated from the bodies of dinosaurs that had roamed the state millions of years ago before keeling over to take a permanent dirt nap. Many claimed a meteor did the big beasts in, but I speculated that perhaps they’d snacked on a few too many lantana, a native wildflower that was pretty but poisonous.

Booth continued. “Of course when I spoke with Tino I didn’t let on that I suspected he might be involved in the crimes. I just asked for any evidence his security company might have. He provided me with copies of the camera footage.”

I flipped to the next page to find a photograph of a very muscular, but very dead, man lying on a weight bench in a residential garage. A barbell loaded with what looked to be hundreds of pounds of weights rested across his neck. His right arm crooked back under the bar at such an angle it must have snapped under the pressure. My stomach squirmed inside me as I looked up at the detective. “What happened to this guy?”

“Crushed windpipe. By the looks of it he was working out in his home gym without a spotter and got a little overzealous. But I think Fabrizio killed him. This guy had been on Cyber-Shield’s payroll for a while, driving one of the security patrol vehicles. He probably knew too much and became a liability.”

I turned to the next page in the file and—gukh!—suffered an immediate gag reflex. A full-color photograph depicted a man folded over a wrought-iron fence, a pointy post—and approximately six inches of lower intestine—protruding through his lower back. A river of blood had flowed from the fatal wound and down his legs, forming a crimson pond at the base of the fence. The dead man wore blue jeans, a green sweater, and a red Santa hat.

I looked up at Detective Booth. “I’m guessing this wasn’t an accident, either?”

“He was stringing Christmas lights on his roof when he ‘fell.’” She made air quotes with her fingers.

“Any witnesses?”

“Conveniently, no.”

“But he’s linked to Fabrizio?”

“That’s a good question. Many of the men Tino Fabrizio hires to do his dirty work have other jobs, like the trainer and locksmith. None of them told anyone they were moonlighting for Fabrizio, but I’m sure he makes it clear they better keep their mouths shut. Santa there,” she said, gesturing at the photo, “was an electrician. We think he might have arranged an electrical fire one of Fabrizio’s security clients suffered.”

I was almost afraid to flip to the next page. But it couldn’t get any worse, could it?

It could.

My gag reflex went into overdrive. Gukh-gukh-gukh!

The next page featured a close-up photo of a man’s face with two dozen steel nails protruding from it, the ones in his eye sockets buried up to their heads in his retinas and spongy brain. It looked as if the man had been attacked by an evil acupuncturist. Blood ran from the wounds, nearly coating his face in red rivulets.

Detective Booth didn’t wait for my inevitable question. “The man in that photo was a building contractor. He was allegedly trying to repair a malfunctioning nail gun he’d ‘forgotten’ to unplug.” She made air quotes again. “Again, there were no witnesses. We think he might have been in on a theft of a Cyber-Shield client where a bulldozer was used to knock down a wall. The client’s safe was scooped up and carried off.”

I could go on and detail the rest of the file, but I’d likely lose my lunch. I’d eaten spicy Mexican food that had burned going down, so I definitely didn’t want it coming back up. Moving on, then.

“With so many victims having a link to Tino,” the detective said, “it’s clear the man played a role in the crimes. Problem is, Tino knows how to distance himself. If law enforcement is ever going to bring this man to justice, someone’s going to have to catch him in the act.”

But what act might it be? My spinning mind tossed out one gruesome scenario after another until I willed it to stop with a firm shake of my head.

Hohenwald chimed in now. “The FBI has done its best to gather evidence that would directly link Fabrizio to an offense, but stakeout after stakeout had gotten us nowhere. We’ve followed Tino, of course. We’ve also tracked his salesmen, installers, and security patrols all the way from Dallas to Timbuktu, hoping they might help us figure out which client Tino might be planning to target next. But we’re never in the right place at the right time. We can’t seem to pin anything on him. That’s why I decided it was time to involve the IRS in the investigation.”

And that’s where I came in. If Tino Fabrizio couldn’t be nailed for extortion or murder, we might at least be able to charge him with tax evasion or money laundering. The strategy had worked on Al Capone and many a mobster since. Might as well go with tried-and-true methods, right?

“If anyone can get this guy,” I told the two of them, “it’s the Internal Revenue Service.” Cocky of me to say so, perhaps, but I knew personally just how good we agents at the IRS were. With any luck, we’d be able to put together a tax case against the man before he could strike again.

The detective chuckled, nonplussed. “All righty, then,” she said, holding out her hand for a good-bye shake. “Go get ’im, tiger.”

Copyright © 2015 Diane Kelly.

To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at iTunesBuy at IndieBound!Buy at Barnes and NobleBuy at Books a MillionBuy at Amazon



Diane Kelly is a former state assistant attorney general and tax advisor who spent much of her career fighting, or inadvertently working for, white-collar criminals. She is also a proud graduate of the Mansfield, Texas Citizens Police Academy. The first book in Diane's IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway series, Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure, received a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. Book #2, Death, Taxes, and a Skinny No-Whip Latte, won a Reviewers Choice award. Diane has combined her fascination with law enforcement and her love of animals in her K-9 cop Paw Enforcement series.

Oct 2 2015 11:00am

Heroes Reborn 1.03: “Under the Mask”

If the two-episode premiere was mostly setup, the third episode took those seemingly random plotlines and turned up the pressure. In the process, the show has started to overcome the problems that plagued the original series: cohesion and lack of forward momentum.

And this episode did it well enough to overcome the “people with powers hunted even though they didn’t do anything” trope. If the rest of the season retains this quality, I’ll be impressed and pleased.

I’ve been familiar with the above trope since I started reading X-Men comics in 1980 and mostly it bores me. Yet by the end of last night’s episode, I was at the edge of my seat, horrified by what happened to Molly Walker.  Kudos to Francesca Eastwood for making me care. (And, yes, she’s the daughter of Clint Eastwood and Frances Fischer.)

[She wasn't feeling lucky...]

Oct 2 2015 2:00pm

The Grave Soul: New Excerpt

Ellen Hart

The Grave Soul by Ellen HartThe Grave Soul by Ellen Hart is the 23rd mystery featuring Minnesota P.I. and restaurateur Jane Lawless (available October 6, 2015).

When Guthrie Hewitt calls on restaurateur and private investigator Jane Lawless, he doesn't know where else he can turn. Guthrie has fallen for a girl-Kira Adler. In fact, he was planning to propose to her on Christmas Eve. But his trip home with Kira over Thanksgiving made him uneasy. All her life, Kira has been haunted by a dream—a nightmare, really. In the dream, she witnesses her mother being murdered. She knows it can't be true because the dream doesn't line up with the facts of her mother's death. But after visiting Kira's home for the first time, and receiving a disturbing anonymous package in the mail, Guthrie starts to wonder if Kira's dream might hold more truth than she knows.

When Kira's called home again for a family meeting, Guthrie knows he needs Jane's help to figure out the truth, before the web of secrets Kira's family has been spinning all these years ensnares Kira too. And Jane's investigation will carry her deep into the center of a close-knit family that is not only fraying at the edges, but about to burst apart.

New Dresden, Wisconsin

Failures were like bread crumbs. A woman could, without much difficulty, follow them back through the dark fairy-tale forest of her life, noting the dead ends, the seemingly small mistakes, the hubris and lack of courage, the dearth of judgement, and eventually arrive at the primary failure which, without her knowing it, would inexorably become the fulcrum on which the rest of her life turned. In Laurie’s case, at just eighteen years old, an epic failure of imagination had sealed her fate.

Light snow drifted across the highway as she sped toward town. The sky had been a bleak winter white all day. By tomorrow morning, according to the weather report, six more inches would be making life miserable for the New Year’s Day revelers. Because the tires on her ancient Ford Windstar were almost bald, she hesitated to drive in this kind of weather, though because her husband hadn’t answered his cell phone all day, she felt she had little choice.

[Continue reading The Grave Soul now!]

Oct 2 2015 10:00am

CSI Shrewsbury: Brother Cadfael’s Medieval Mysteries

Brother Cadfael came before fingerprinting and DNA testing, before security cameras and GPS phone tracking, back when detectives had their work cut out for them when it came to solving murders. Barring a confession or finding the bloody dagger on a suspect, it was difficult to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone was truly guilty.

Which makes Ellis Peters' medieval sleuth all the more impressive: armed only with his own instincts and varied life experiences, he winkled out a number of miscreants in the course of twenty novels and thirteen television adaptations. By finding just a spring of a plant on the victim, he could determine where the man died and why.

When first we meet him, this singular hero is a sixty-something monk at the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul in Shrewsbury, a town not far from the border between England and Wales. It's been several years since the Welsh Cadfael took up his Benedictine habit and became the herbalist of the Abbey.

[He didn't always serve...]

Oct 1 2015 3:00pm

Killer Nashville’s 2015 Silver Falchion Finalists Announced: Vote Now!

Killer Nashville has announced the full list of finalists for the 2015 Silver Falchion Readers Choice Awards, which we have below. Congrats to everyone nominated, and make sure you vote for your favorites here! Killer Nashville kicks off on Octobe 29th.

Best Novel: Romantic Suspense


Judgment – Carey Baldwin

The Lost Key – Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison

Top Secret Twenty-One – Janet Evanovich

Sweet Damage – Rebecca James

Truth Be Told – Hank Phillippi Ryan

[See the other nominees and categories!]

Ace Atkins, Adam Brookes, Adam Plantinga, Alex Grecian, Allen Eskens, Amnon Kabatchnik, Andrea Camilleri, Andy Weir, Anne Perry, Assaf Gavron, Awards, Barbara Ross, Bryn Fleming, C. J. Box, Carey Baldwin, Catherine Coulter, Catriona McPherson, Charis Cotter, Charles Brownson, Charles Todd, Christopher Fowler, Chrysler Szarlan, Conventions and Conferences, Craig Johnson, Curtis Evans, Dan Bar-El, Danica Novgorodoff, David Baldacci, David Mark, Deborah Halber, Dori Hillestad Butler, E. J. Copperman, Elizabeth Kolbert, Elle Cosimano, Eugenie Fernandes, F. Paul Wilson, Gwen Florio, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Hannah Dennison, Hollis Gillespie, J. Bard Collins, J.T. Ellison, J.W. Ocker, Jack Ketchum, Jacqueline West, James Mancall, Janet Evanovich, Jeff Cohen, Jeffery Deaver, John Darnielle, John Gilstrap, John Katzenbach, John Lescroart, John Sandford, John Scalzi, Jonathan Wood, Joshua Horwitz, Joyce Carol Oates, Julie Kraulis, Kai Bird, Karen Abbott, Kate Brauning, Katherine Fast, Kathleen George, Kathryn Rusch, Katie De Gold, Kevin Cook, Killer Nashville, Kimberly G. Giarratano, Lacy M. Johnson, Laura McHugh, Laurie R. King, Leslie S. Klinger, Leslie Wheller, Leta Serafim, Lewis B. Montgomery, Linda Castillo, Lisa Unger, Lori Rader-Day, Lucy Worsley, M. William Phelps, Margaret Maron, Mark Ammons, Mark Neilson, Martin Widmark, Mary Daheim, Matt Richtel, Matthew Dunn, Matthew Palmer, Monica Kulling, Nancy Coco, Neely Tucker, Oliver Truc, P.F. Chisolm, Patricia Prandini Buckler, Paul Doiron, Raymond Benson, Rebecca James, Reed Farrel Coleman, Rennie Airth, S.J. Laidlaw, Samuel W. Gailey, Sarah Churchwell, Sarah Hilary, Scott Sonneborn, Stephen King, Stephen Lloyd James, TJ O'Connor, Tania Unsworth, Terry Hayes, Terry Odell, Tim Lebbon, Tod Goldberg, Tom Bouman, Tom Rob Smith, Ward Larsen, William J. Mann, Zachary Hyman
Oct 1 2015 11:00am

The Haunted Season: New Excerpt

G.M. Malliet

The Haunted Season by G.M. Malliet is the 5th English village mystery featuring vicar Max Tudor (available October 6, 2015).

Something sinister is afoot at Totleigh Hall, the showcase of the sleepy English village of Nether Monkslip. Lord and Lady Baaden-Boomethistle have been in residence for some weeks now, and the villagers are hoping for a return to the days when the lord of the manor sprinkled benefits across the village like fairy dust. But a sudden grisly death intervenes, and the handsome vicar's talent for sorting through clues is once again called into play.


It was springtime, with lingering cold and damp shrouding the somber London streets. The best time of year to be in a steam room.

And as the Reverend Destiny Chatsworth was to discover, a steam room was the ideal place to be for a spot of casual eavesdropping.

[Continue reading The Haunted Season now!]

Oct 1 2015 9:30am

The ZINNG: A Cool $25K for E-Mysteries (and Lethal Selfies)

The new Mysterious Press Award honors “the best e-book original mystery novel“ with a cool $25k and worldwide distribution! We read about it at The Rap Sheet, where there are loads more details. Submissions begin in January!

”Over at Jungle Red Writers, Julia Spencer-Fleming explains why Archer Mayor is ”the mystery writer's mystery writer" and he explains the lengths he's gone for research to earn the title.

The Telegraph's Helena Horton reports that there have been more deaths this year from selfie accidents than shark attacks. As a bonus, see 12 images from the new Russian government-released selfie guide, including this: 

Sep 30 2015 4:30pm

Lockdown on Rikers: New Excerpt

Mary Buser

Lockdown on Rikers by Mary E. Buser tells the shocking stories of abuse and injustice at New York's notorious jail (available September 29, 2015).

Mary Buser began her career at Rikers Island as a social work intern, brimming with ideas and eager to help incarcerated women find a better path. Her reassignment to a men's jail coincided with the dawn of the city's “stop-and-frisk” policy, a flood of unprecedented arrests, and the biggest jailhouse build-up in New York City history.

Committed to the possibility of growth for the scarred and tattooed masses who filed into her session booth, Buser was suddenly faced with black eyes, punched-out teeth, and frantic whispers of beatings by officers. Recognizing the greater danger of pointing a finger at one's captors, Buser attempted to help them, while also keeping them as well as herself, safe. Following her promotion to assistant chief, she was transferred to different jails, working in the Mental Health Center, and finally, at Rikers's notorious “jail within jail,” the dreaded solitary confinement unit, where she saw horrors she'd never imagined. Finally, it became too much to bear, forcing Buser to flee Rikers and never look back - until now.


On a gray September morning in 1991, I stood in front of Bloomingdale’s on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, eagerly waiting for my ride. As a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of Social Work, I was beginning a yearlong internship at Rikers Island. I would report to New York City’s notorious correctional complex three days a week to provide emotional and psychiatric support to incarcerated women. While most people would balk at the mere thought of working with criminals, as soon as I learned about this assignment, I was intrigued. It incorporated my most important aspirations: to help the poor and underprivileged and to become a psychotherapist. The fact that the poor and underprivileged in this setting were also accused of crimes barely fazed me. Already in my mid-thirties, I had prior experience, not only with people in emotional distress, but with the incarcerated.

[Continue reading Lockdown on Rikers!]

Sep 30 2015 3:30pm

Netflix and Marvel’s Jessica Jones: A Primer

Marvel's Jessica Jones brings the dangerous world of a super-powered private detective to Netflix. The feature film and television adaptations of Marvel Comics characters like Iron Man, Captain America, the Avengers, and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been thrilling viewers across the world for years, primarily as science fiction tales or techno-thrillers where valiant heroes battle high-tech terrorists. Recently though, Marvel Studios has begun spinning tales with more appeal to crime fans. The film Ant-Man was pretty much a heist comedy, and the Netflix television series Daredevil took viewers to the mean streets of Hell's Kitchen, where a blind lawyer-turned-titular-vigilante with super senses battles a powerful crime boss.

This November 20th, Netflix airs its 13-episode Season 1 of Jessica Jones, a series with even more appeal to crime fans, chronicling the case of a costumed superhero-turned-private-detective and her battle with a monstrous villain from her past who’s resurfaced to torment her in the present. The fantastic comic series it's based on and the great cast means this is a series crime fans should get excited for.

[It shouldn't be too hard...]

Sep 29 2015 5:00pm

Now Win This!: The Hard Truth Sweepstakes

It's time to face the cold, hard truth with these 12 exciting mysteries!

Click here to enter for a chance to win!

This is NOT a Comments Sweepstakes. You must click the link above to enter.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry. Promotion begins September 29, 2015, at 5:00 pm ET, and ends October 13, 2015, 4:59 pm ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[Don't run away...]

Sep 29 2015 12:00pm

Pop Goes the Weasel: Exclusive Excerpt

M.J. Arlidge

Pop Goes the Weasel by M.J. Alridge is the 2nd procedural thriller featuring Southampton detective Helen Grace as she hunts a serial killer targeting duplicitious married men (available October 6, 2015).

A man’s body is found in an empty house.

A gruesome memento of his murder is sent to his wife and children.

He is the first victim, and Detective Helen Grace knows he will not be the last. But why would a happily married man be this far from home in the dead of night?

The media call it Jack the Ripper in reverse: a serial killer preying on family men who lead hidden double lives.

Helen can sense the fury behind the murders. But what she cannot possibly predict is how volatile this killer is—or what is waiting for her at the end of the chase....

Published by arrangement with New American Library, a member of Penguin Group LLC, a Penguin Random House company.


Chapter 2

They were watching her every move. Hanging on her every word.

[Continue reading Pop Goes the Weasel now!]

Sep 29 2015 10:30am

A Huge Case of Teensploitation: 1965’s Village of the Giants

There could probably be some arguments made about just exactly when teenagers became a real force to be considered in American society, and anybody making the case for the mid-1960s being that time has a good chance of winning the debate. I’ll leave that matter for now and instead focus on what one savvy filmmaker did with the emergence of the mid-60s teen phenomenon. B-movie cult hero Bert I. Gordon did with that situation what a good exploitation film director should do: he exploited it. His 1965 teenage camp romp Village of the Giants is a low-budget gem that features great music, giggle-inducing goofy special effects, some big names for a small budget film, and an inventively fun way to see the emergence of the day’s adolescents.

Co-written by Gordon (who also produced, as well as directed) and based loosely on H.G Wells’s 1904 novel The Food of the Gods, this is a multi-genre romp that features elements of sci-fi,  zany comedy,  and ‘60s teen beach movie. But it’s all camp, all the time (well, maybe apart from the music scenes, which are just plain rockin’ – more on that in a few). The, um, story goes as such: Beau Bridges plays the leader of a group of beautiful, privileged-yet-rebellion-minded teens from L.A., who have their joyride shut down by a landslide when they are cruising near the humble (and fictional) town of Hainesville. Since they can’t make their car move them anywhere else for the time being, they decide to wander (well, I think they actually get there via the Watusi) into the small burg to see what kind of trouble they can stir up.

[And boy, do they find trouble...]

Sep 28 2015 4:15pm

Book Shot: 1 on 1 with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Mycroft Holmes

CrimeHQ gets a Q&A with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and you get a chance to win the historical adventure he co-authored, Mycroft Holmes!

CrimeHQ: There's always more research than can fit into one novel. What did you have to leave out and what was your favorite bit of history to include?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: My co-writer, Anna Waterhouse, and I were very specific in our search, so there wasn’t much we had to leave out in terms of the story we were trying to tell. There was, of course, more to tell on just about everything we researched, but it was important to us that the research felt like it was integrated into the plot. The concept of mourning jewelry comes to mind...it’s a very weird custom that was fun to research and that came in handy. But from page one, I have to say that nearly all you’re reading comes from the history books, including the names of the crewmen on the Cambridge/Oxford race, to which cigars were popular in 1870, to the name of the governor of Port of Spain at the time.

[Keep the questions coming!]

Sep 28 2015 11:00am

In Bitter Chill: New Excerpt

Sarah Ward

In Bitter Chill by Sarah WardIn Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward is a standalone thriller about a 30-year-old kidnapping that is once again relevant today (available September 29, 2015).

The deepest secrets are the ones we keep from ourselves in this richly atmospheric, compellingly written, and expertly constructed crime debut from an emerging talent.

Derbyshire, 1978: a small town in the idyllic English countryside is traumatized by the kidnapping of two young schoolgirls, Rachel Jones and Sophie Jenkins. Within hours, Rachel is found wandering alone near the roadside, unharmed yet unable to remember anything, except that her abductor was a woman. No trace of Sophie is ever discovered.

Present day: over thirty years later, Sophie's mother commits suicide. Detective inspector Francis Sadler and detective constable Connie Childs are assigned to look at the kidnapping again to see if modern police methods can discover something that the original team missed. Rachel, with the help of her formidable mother and grandmother, recovered from the kidnapping and has become a family genealogist. She wants nothing more than to continue living quietly beneath the radar, but the discovery of the strangled body of one of her former teachers days after the suicide brings the national media back to her doorstep. Desperate to stop a modern killer from striking again, Rachel and the police must unpick the clues to uncover what really happened all those years ago as the past threatens to engulf the present.


DETECTIVE INSPECTOR FRANCIS SADLER WATCHED the heavy clouds gather through the window and cursed the role that central heating had played in dislocating him from the elements. In his childhood home, his frugal father had banned switching on the radiators until the first day of December. It meant that, as a boy, he had become to used to connecting the weather outside with the sensations of his body. His memories of getting dressed wrapped in his still warm duvet, the icy crispness of the air mixing with the comfort of the breaking dawn, could never be entirely banished. Now, looking down at his dark trousers and pressed shirt, no need to wear a jacket in this overheated office, he wondered if he could ever feel that physical connection again.

[Continue reading In Bitter Chill now!]

Sep 28 2015 9:15am

TBR Confessions: Once-Cops, Outrage, and Lies

RECENTLY FINISHED: Once Were Cops by Ken Bruen. I've been on a bit of a tear with Ken Bruen lately. This was the ninth Bruen novel I've read this year. Granted, Bruen tends to write short novels so it's really only like three “regular” novels, but I love Bruen's stripped-down style so much I feel like I've gotten ten novels worth of enjoyment out of them. Seven of the books I read this year were in the Inspector Brandt series and Once Were Cops features a similarly crooked cop who thinks his brand of self-serving justice is the only way. On loan to the NYPD from Ireland, our anti-hero takes to the street of Manhattan like a battering ram and makes his presence known to the criminals and the top brass. Bruen writes in such spare, evocative prose it makes pages turn faster than any other writer I know. Once Were Cops takes daring turns, with unexpected bursts of violence and an amoral lead who somehow steals our hearts. For those new to Bruen, this is a great place to start, if probably a divisive book. I suspect you'd either love his style or hate it. But you won't read anything like it. 

ALSO POLISHED OFF: Outrage At Blanco by Bill Crider. I really wish crime fiction fans would give more westerns a try. Make no mistake, this is classic crime fiction territory, just set on horseback. And Crider is an absolute master of propulsive storytelling. He drops us right in on a brutal assault on our heroine, Ellie Taine. From there, the story splinters into fast-racing narratives of: her vicious attackers turning to bank robbery, Ellie's hunt for revenge, an aging cattle baron and his no-good son, as well as a town unused to the violence they've experienced in just a few days. Crider builds suspense, doles out action, and gets us into the minds of multiple characters like the old pro he is. His long-running Sheriff Dan Rhodes series is testament to his skills, but his western output is really where he hits my sweet spot. Up next for me is the sequel, Texas Vigilante

CURRENTLY READING: Stay by Victor Gischler. Any new Gischler book is a major announcement for me, and it had been a long damn time between The Deputy (which I absolutely loved) and Stay. This is Gischler in his mainstream mode. He can get over-the-top gonzo with violence, black humor, and even sex, but Stay is likely as much of a step toward a mainstream thriller as we're going to get from him. (His follow up, Gestapo Mars, is the opposite end of the spectrum: wild, inventive, pulpy, and cracked.) The simple concept of a stay-at-home dad called to use his dormant skills as an army operative specializing in solo black ops is a great hook and could lead to a series that takes a character into Jack Reacher territory. I'm about halfway in, and it's a great ride. Not as much of the trademark Gischler humor, but again, it seems like he's swinging for the deep end of the reader pool here. I certainly hope he finds it. He's long overdue. 

EARLY READ OF NOTE: A Negro and an Ofay by Danny Gardner. This novel, currently scheduled for a November, 2015 release, takes us into the 1950s world of a mulatto investigator and his complicated relationship with his upbringing and his mixed race. There is plenty of hardboiled patter and a dense plot with a great sense of place and wonderful dialogue. There are a lot of characters to keep track of with shifting loyalties and hidden agendas, but this marks a promising debut from Gardner.

TOP OF THE PILE: Lie Catchers by Paul Bishop. A real-life LAPD interrogator writes what he knows in this tale of deciphering lies from the truth. 

Eric Beetner is a hardboiled crime author of The Devil Doesn't Want Me, Dig Two Graves, White Hot Pistol, The Year I Died Seven Times, Stripper Pole At The End Of The World, Split Decision, A Mouth Full Of Blood and co-author (with JB Kohl) of One Too Many Blows To The Head and Borrowed Trouble. Award-winning short story writer, former musician, sometimes filmmaker, film noir nerd and father of two.

Read all of Eric Beetner's posts for Criminal Element.

Sep 27 2015 12:00pm

Sky High: Exclusive Excerpt

Susan O'Brien

Sky High by Susan O'Brien is the 2nd cozy in the Nicki Valentine mystery series about the single mom and new P.I. (available September 29, 2015).

Single mom and rookie P.I. Nicki Valentine rarely gets time off, so attending a wedding with her superhot colleague Dean sounds dreamy. But things turn nightmarish when the groom—a soon-to-be transplant donor—disappears, and Nicki and Dean commit to a partnership they never planned.

Together, they examine the groom's unfulfilled promises, including one to his mom, a psychic medium with an unusual health need. As family secrets emerge, Nicki must face questions about her late husband, whose long-ago betrayal still threatens to cloud her judgment.

With support from her pole-dancing best friend, her always-on-call family, and the loves of her life (her two kids-and possibly Dean), Nicki must uncover the groom's demons while conquering her own.


It had been a year since I’d seen my blazing hot PI instructor, Dean, but that didn’t stop us from planning a wedding date. Neither did the fact that I was intimidated by his sun-kissed looks, investigative experience, and relatively commitment-free lifestyle. We’d narrowly avoided mixing business with pleasure (intense pleasure, I can only imagine), because he’d moved overseas to consult on a high-risk, high-paying security project.

[Continue reading Sky High!]

Sep 26 2015 6:00pm

Lead Me Into Danger: New Excerpt

Daniella Bernett

Lead Me Into Danger by Daniella Bernett is a debut mystery featuring a journalist and jewel thief embroiled in international intrigue (available October 1, 2015).

A journalist, a jewel thief, and a Russian spy…when their paths cross, it’s murder.

Journalist Emmeline Kirby hasn’t laid eyes on her former lover Gregory Longdon, a jewel thief, in two years. But she literally tumbles into his arms, after she witnesses two men attempt to murder her friend and fellow journalist, Charles Latimer, in Venice during Carnival.

Emmeline is determined to bring the murderer to justice, but as she and Gregory delve deeper, they become ensnared in a hunt for a Russian spy in the British Foreign Office, who has his sights set on keeping his identity a secret at all costs.


Chapter 3

Emmeline pulled her cloak tightly around her shoulders as the February night wrapped her in its moist embrace. A few flurries had started to fall as she stepped out of the water taxi at Rialto. It was only a five-minute walk from the bridge to Campo San Bartolomeo, where the sixteenth-century church stood.

Emmeline checked her watch. It was 10:15. She was early, so she took her time along the winding streets. She stopped on a humpbacked bridge for a moment and closed her eyes,  listening to the velvet hiss of the canal as its waters gently lapped against the fondamenta and the gondolas below. A world of watery enchantment, in which one couldn’t help but be swept away by Venice’s rich history. Indeed, the very air seemed to be imbued with elegance, romance, and mystery.

A whisper of a breeze trickled down Emmeline’s spine, causing her to shiver slightly. Her costume and the thin cloak did nothing to keep her warm. Or was it something else? Emmeline opened her eyes. All of a sudden, she was afraid.

[Continue reading Lead Me Into Danger now!]

Sep 26 2015 10:00am

The Company She Kept: New Excerpt

Archer Mayor

The Company She Kept (Joe Gunther #8) by Archer MayorThe Company She Kept by Archer Mayor is the 26th thriller featuring Joe Gunther, the head of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation (available September 29, 2015).

During the height of a harsh Vermont winter, the body of a woman is found hanging from the steel-mesh retaining net lining the cliffs along the interstate. She was brutally murdered, with the word “dyke” carved into her chest. She was also a state senator and best friend and ally of the current governor, Gail Zigman. At Zigman's personal request, Joe Gunther and his Vermont Bureau of Investigation team agree to help the Vermont State Police in their investigation before the victim's high profile and powerful friends create the inevitable publicity maelstrom.

Raffner was indeed a lesbian, and the word carved into her chest might be evidence of a hate crime, or it might be a feint designed to confuse and mislead investigators. But the question remains-what was she involved with, who wanted her dead, and what company was she keeping? What Gunther and his team discover during their initial investigation isn't the stuff of a simple murder. Someone killed a prominent figure and fabricated an elaborate scene for a purpose.


“Pull over, Doug. I want to get a shot of this.”

Uncomplaining, Doug Nielsen checked his mirrors, slowed down shy of the interstate crossover—marked EMERGENCY USE ONLY—and eased their rig across the empty northbound lane, to the scenic pull-off his wife had indicated. A cautious man, he was wary of any black ice that could launch them through the slender barricade and over the straight drop beyond it into Margie’s planned panorama.

[Continue reading The Company She Kept now!]

Sep 25 2015 4:45pm

A Ghostly Murder: New Excerpt

Tonya Kappes

A Ghostly Murder by Tonya Kappes is the 4th paranormal cozy in the Ghostly Souther Mystery series featuring Emma Lee Raines, the proprietor of a Kentucky funeral home (available September 29, 2015).

Emma Lee Raines knows there's only one cure for a bad case of murder.

I told you I was sick, reads the headstone above Mamie Sue Preston's grave. She was the richest woman in Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky, and also the biggest hypochondriac. Ironic, considering someone killed her—and covered it up perfectly. And how does Emma Lee, proprietor of the Eternal Slumber Funeral Home, know all this? Because Mamie Sue's ghost told her, that's how. And she's offering big bucks to find the perp.

The catch is, Mamie Sue was buried by the Raines family's archrival, Burns Funeral Home. Would the Burnses stoop to framing Emma Lee's granny? With an enterprising maid, a penny-pinching pastor, and a slimy Lexington lawyer all making a killing off Mamie Sue's estate, Emma Lee needs a teammate—like her dreamboat boyfriend, Sheriff Jack Henry Ross. Because with millions at stake, snooping around is definitely bad for Emma Lee's health.

[Start reading A Ghostly Murder by Tonya Kappes!]