murder

“Echoes of Edisto” by C. Hope Clark

 

book-cover-echoes-of-edisto

Callie Jean Morgan is now the Police Chief in “Echoes of Edisto,” the third book in C. Hope Clark’s Edisto Island series. The former Boston police detective, haunted by the tragic death of her husband, is living in South Carolina on the coastal island of Edisto with her teenaged son. She has come to Edisto to get as far away from the memories as possible, but it seems that law enforcement is in her blood and those memories have a way of following her trail to the beach.

 

A horrifying traffic accident tests Callie’s mettle as a new Police Chief, pushes the limits of her sobriety, and raises more than one question about the people in her life. “Echoes of Edisto” delves into Callie’s actions, both past and present, and we get to see more of what makes this complex flesh and blood woman tick. Clark delivers an astonishing revelation:   just when Callie has come to terms with her deceased father’s behavior, a new bombshell turns her life upside down.

 

In a perceptive nod to real-life alcoholics, Clark has Callie switch parental roles with her son at her lowest points – he watches out for her when she places herself in danger or drinks too much. Clark explores the nuances of their evolving relationship in occasionally tender, sometimes painful ways as they navigate the minefield of terrifying experiences that have accidentally shaped this young man’s world.

 

Kudos to Clark for creating very real teenagers in her books. The Slade Mysteries has a teenaged daughter and the Edisto series has the teenaged son and both are spot-on in their love for their moms without being sappy, with nothing out of character for the modern teenaged voice. They are not perfect children by any means, but are occupied with normal (sometimes secret) activities and the average rebellious moments of trouble and subterfuge. Ah, the times that try moms’ souls.

 

The recurring characters – friends, family, neighbors, supporting officers and personnel – along with the new people essential to the plot, are nicely written with changing attitudes toward Callie as they get to know her through the three books. Mike Seabrook, doctor turned police officer, is her sometime romantic interest, but in self-preservation mode, Callie has placed boundaries on the relationship because of work. It turns out that Seabrook has secrets/challenges of his own that place them all at risk.

 

Some of the quirky tourists made me LOL. Life as a beach cop must have plenty of “are you kidding me?” moments mixed in with the more serious policing of vacationers who leave their common sense at home. The subplots are complex, with murders and nasty bad guys, along with twists that will keep you turning the pages to find out what happens to these likable people.

 

More books are planned in the series and I look forward to discovering the stories that develop on Edisto Island, especially the ones with a newcomer from Callie’s past. Delicious possibilities were set up in “Echoes of Edisto” for the future.

 

Please visit www.chopeclark.com for information about her appearances and her other works of fiction and non-fiction. C. Hope Clark’s profile can be read here.

 

*Some adult topics and occasional adult language.

 

“Just Killing Time” by Julianne Holmes

 

book-cover-just-killing-time

Ruth Clagan’s grandfather, a clockmaker, dies during a robbery in “Just Killing Time” and leaves his Massachusetts clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket, to her. A rift between them caused by her ex has kept her away from the Berkshires for five years and now she has been robbed of a chance to reconnect. Why would anyone do this to a lifelong member of the community?

 

To complicate matters, the business is a puzzle, the shop is a mess and Ruth must deal with the oddly massive inventory as well as her grandfather’s widow. It makes sense to sell the Cog & Sprocket and get on with her life, but does Ruth really want to? Why did her grandfather have so much inventory? Could it be the reason he was killed?

 

“Just Killing Time” is complete with small town politics, reunions with old friends, and beautifully written dialogue that makes you feel as if you could join the conversation and fit right in. The wonderfully diverse cast of characters made me yearn for the days of small towns and friendly neighborhoods, where everybody knows your name. There is a real connection to the past with Orchard’s grandfather clocks and clock towers and small businesses on Main Street. Ahhh… life as it used to be outside the metropolitan areas of the country, before big box stores and fast food joints.

 

I connected immediately with Ruth, a fellow coffee addict. 😉 Julianne Holmes’ richly drawn Clagan clicks as a character trying to begin again, sorting through her life’s complications, but adapting as she sees alternate paths to follow. How many of us are given the opportunity to go back home to something familiar when life has taken an unexpected turn? And this clockmaker is always late? A giggle of a quirk.

 

We learn a great deal about the fascinating world of clocks – how they function and what makes the business model succeed in a time where digital seems to rule our lives. Grandfather’s repair specialty was clock towers, which require a tremendous amount of skill to maintain. Coincidentally, I saw a TV show about Big Ben (the clock tower in London) at the time I had started reading “Just Killing Time.” There’s more to its operation than climbing the steps to wind the clock or replace the parts. Wind can catch at the hands, pulling at them and slowing down the time. Minute changes in the atmosphere can affect the clock time. When I picked up “Just Killing Time” again, I found that it wove technical information in with the clever plot, giving us a clear understanding of why the Clagans love the business they’re in.

 

The layered storyline in this Agatha nominated debut novel involves possible fraud, people with hidden agendas, a tug-of-war between those that want a more modern town and those who wish to create an historic district. Happily, there is the potential for a little romance with a suitably hunky barber. “Just Killing Time” also includes some deviously nasty characters who will do anything to get what they want, including murder.

 

The second book in the series, “Clock and Dagger,” has recently been released and you should make time to read both.

 

Please visit www.jahennrikus.com for more information about Julianne Holmes and her alter ego, J.A. Hennrikus.

 

 

“In the Clearing” by Robert Dugoni

 

Book Cover - In the Clearing

“In the Clearing” brings us the fourth installment in Robert Dugoni’s series featuring Tracy Crosswaite, former high school teacher, now detective for the Seattle, Washington, Police Department.

 

A Seattle murder case is not what it seems at first, but just when the players trip over themselves to change stories and point fingers, Tracy is approached by a former colleague to help solve a cold case elsewhere that the woman’s father had worked on as a rookie cop. A young Native American girl disappeared on the walk home from work, then was found dead in a nearby stream. The case was considered solved and closed at the time, but when the father died, his case notes were found by the daughter. She is sure that he kept the case notes for a reason. Was justice done? Was there a cover up? Why did her dad care?

 

Tracy is skeptical that anything new can be found after forty years, but agrees to take a quick look and report back, no matter what the outcome. The closer she gets to the answers, the more her own life is placed in danger.

 

The cold case is a fascinating one, involving tension between Native Americans and local townspeople, the importance of that in small town culture, and the way in which modern forensic techniques can uncover old truths. This is a Dugoni novel, after all, and “In the Clearing” studies changing values and the way in which certain crimes are viewed and handled differently today.

 

The problem with 40-year-old cases is the lack of fresh physical evidence remaining, particularly when the crime occurs outside, and is affected by the elements. Crosswaite must rely on old photos and the testimony of any still living eyewitnesses. Forensic experts are called in to take a fresh look at the existing information – what remains or can be reconstructed. A character from an earlier book visits to give her astute opinions – an appealing fit as a recurring character. Dugoni’s descriptions of the re-enacted crime are chilling and WOW, do we want to get the guy that did the deed.

 

We can always count on Dugoni to create interesting characters, and “In the Clearing” includes familiar, fully fleshed out cops from the Seattle PD for the present day case, as well as multi-layered local people for the cold case. Crosswaite, is herself a complex law enforcement character and her romantic interest, Dan, introduced in “My Sister’s Grave,” is intelligent, likable, suitably matched and we root for this couple to continue.

 

Dugoni gives us a look at the challenges women continue to face when becoming part of any law enforcement agency. It isn’t enough for a woman to be average. One has to be better in shooting scores and in cases solved, tougher with no emotion shown in front of co-workers. Otherwise the men seem to discount the contribution. It is not an easy life, when starting as a patrol officer, working all shifts, paired with men who have suspicious  wives, spending 8-12 hours a day with a partner.

 

The cold case reveals that brutality and motivation behind the search for power and greed has never changed – just the players in the unfolding pain. “In the Clearing” contains several scenes and troubled characters that demonstrate how crippling that single-mindedness can be.

 

Read my review of “My Sister’s Grave,” the first full novel in the series, here.

Take a look at Dugoni’s David Sloane series with this review of “The Conviction,” here.

 

Please visit www.robertdugoni.com for information about Mr. Dugoni’s other work, future appearances, and the excellent classes he conducts.

 

 

“Prime Target” by Ellis Vidler

Book Cover - Prime Targetnew

 

“Prime Target” is Ellis Vidler’s intriguing look at what the average person might do to escape the mob. Madeleine Schier receives a phone call from her husband in the middle of the work day, asking her to come home quickly. When she does, he tells her that they have to get out of town right away. She protests, not understanding, and before they can leave, he is killed in their apartment while she hides under the bed.

 

Her husband’s accounting firm unintentionally worked for a criminal specializing in human trafficking and the only way to bring the guy down may be for her to testify about her husband’s murder. Hiding out with the FBI at hotels until the court date doesn’t work – there is a leak in the department. Madeleine intends to testify, but can’t rely on the feds to keep her safe in the city. She must ‘disappear or die.’

 

What happens next is a fascinating series of moves that Madeline makes to keep herself one step ahead of the FBI and those that want her dead. Vidler provides the reader with plenty of action, but what Madeleine does to hide her identity, while protecting those she meets, is what drives much of the story. Madeleine (who becomes Grace) is intelligent and able to think on her feet, but she also has to sort out which of the supposedly ‘good guys’ she can really trust.

 

“Prime Target” caused me to wonder what I would do if placed in that same situation. I consider myself fairly resourceful, but would I have enough grit to stay quiet under the bed while watching my husband be executed? How would I establish that new identity? Is it easier to get lost in a big city or in the countryside, off in the woods? Technology might defeat me, since we can be tied geographically to the source of our internet connection. In order to maintain her anonymity, Grace has no phone and no contact with anyone for a while except at the grocery store and gas station. I would probably go through withdrawal after a day or so and bring the villains right to my door.

 

Not to give away the plot and how she does it all, but I don't have as much money as Grace, so I’d have to consider what things I would of necessity, have to do differently. Always using cash means that you have to carry around quite a bit or else have easy access to a stash.

 

Grace is completely capable of the tasks Vidler gives her, until the apple farm purchase. I wondered why a city gal would think, “How hard could it be to run an apple farm?” and it made for an even more believable character. Her time on the apple farm may have been Grace’s most challenging, as her naïveté comes into play and her wish to help could get her killed.

 

“Prime Target” has overlapping storylines, with interesting, sympathetic characters and even a tentative love interest, that lend depth to Grace’s plight. The situation of the wounded, scarred warrior, so badly disfigured that people react with horror to his scars, is handled with respect and tenderness. Bravo to Vidler’s method of dealing with his surgeries and voluntary isolation from the world, yet who still functions in a meaningful, logical way.

 

There is little new to be learned about human trafficking in “Prime Target,” but the fact that the players are ruthless, nasty people willing to protect their way of life at all costs is underscored whenever the villains are at the center of the action. Grace is appropriately alarmed about that cold-bloodedness and behaves accordingly. She doesn’t have super powers or unusual gifts, so instead uses her mind and the tools available to see her through. Vidler makes us believe that Grace’s survival is possible despite the odds to the contrary.

 

Please visit www.ellisvidler.com for information about Ms. Vidler’s books – audio, print, and ebook versions – as well as her blog.

 

 

Writers and The Writers’ Police Academy

 

WPA Logo.jpg

The readers at www.kerriansnotebook.com have heard me chat about The Writers’ Police Academy (created by Lee Lofland) on many occasions. They have seen the photos, read the posts and remarked on the amazing experiences shared at each WPA. The questions I hear most often are:

 

  • Since a bunch of writers attend those events, what kinds of books do they write?
  • Are any of them reporters?
  • Are they all mystery/crime writers?
  • Do they write cozies or thrillers?

 

Here’s a chance to let the readers of both Kerrian’s Notebook and Nightstand Book Reviews know what the FAB writers from WPA contribute to our reading pleasure.

 

The authors are listed alphabetically, along with a photo of one of their book covers and the clickable links to their websites. Many of the writers in this terrific list have been nominated (and/or awarded) for their great writing. Their websites will reveal all! Some are debut novelists; some have several series underway. Book content ranges from PG to hot and steamy, from cozy to hard-boiled, from friendly adventure to fast-paced thriller, along with non-fiction titles that provide true crime and forensics information, so there is something for everyone. More will be added to the list each week until the middle of September (2015). Please check them out. 🙂

 

Stacy Allen  "Expedition Indigo"    

Book Cover - Expedition Indigo

 

 

 

 

www.stacyallenauthor.com

 

 

 

 

 

Melanie Atkins  "Bayou Bounty Hunters Book 2: Sealing His Fate"

WPASealingHisFate - Melanie Atkinswww.melanieatkins.com

 

 

 

Allison Brennan  "Best Laid Plans"

WPA Best Laid Plans - Allison Brennan

 

 

 

 

 

www.allisonbrennan.com

 

 

 

 

Robin Burcell  "The Kill Order"

WPA The Kill Order - Robin Burcell

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.robinburcell.com

 

 

 

 

Kris Calvert  "Sex, Lies & Sweet Tea"

SexLiesSweetTeaCover1

 

 

 

 

 

www.kriscalvert.com

 

 

 

 

Kait Carson  "Death by Blue Water"

WPADeath By Blue Water - Kait Carsonwww.kaitcarson.com

 

 

Merit Clark  "Killing Streak"

WPAkilling Streak - Merit Clark

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.meritclark.com

 

 

 

Marco Conelli  "Matthew Livingston & The Politics of Death"

WPA Politics of Death - Marco Conelli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.marcoconelli.com

 

 

 

Doug M. Cummings  "Easy Evil"

WPA Easy Evil - Doug M Cummings

 

 

 

 

 

www.dougmcummingsauthor.com

 

 

 

 

 

Kate Flora  "And Grant You Peace"

WPA And Grant You Peace - Kate Flora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.kateflora.com

 

 

 

 

Kaye George/Janet Cantrell  "Fat Cat Spreads Out"

WPAFat Cat Spreads Out - Janet Cantrell-Kaye Georgewww.kayegeorge.wix.com

 

 

John Gilstrap  "Against All Enemies"

WPA Against All Enemies -John Gilstrap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.johngilstrap.com

 

 

 

Stacy Green  "All Good Deeds"

WPA All Good Deeds - Stacy Green

 

 

 

 

www.stacygreen.net

 

 

 

 

Judy Hogan  "Farm Fresh and Fatal"

WPAFarm Fresh and Fatal - Judy Hogan

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.judyhogan.home.mindspring.com

 

 

 

Bill Hopkins  "Courting Murder"

WPACourting Murder - Bill Hopkinshttp://deadlyduo.wix.com/thedeadlyduo

 

 

Sharon Woods Hopkins "Killerwatt"

WPA Killerwatt - Sharon Woods Hopkins

 

 

 

 

 

http://deadlyduo.wix.com/thedeadlyduo

 

 

 

 

 

Polly Iyer  "Backlash"

WPABacklash - Polly Iyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.PollyIyer.com

 

 

 

Linda Johnson  "Trail of Destruction"

WPA Trail Of Destruction - Linda Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

www.LindaJohnson.us

 

 

 

 

Lee Lofland  "Police Procedure & Investigation"

WPA Police Procedure & Investigation - Lee Lofland

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.leelofland.com

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Lovely  "Dead Hunt"

WPADead Hunt - Linda Lovely

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.lindalovely.com

 

 

 

 

Edith Maxwell  "Farmed and Dangerous"

WPAFarmed and Dangerous - Edith Maxwell

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.edithmaxwell.com

 

 

 

Patricia McLinn  "Sign Off"

WPA Sign Off - Patricia McLinn

 

 

 

 

 

www.patriciamclinn.com

 

 

 

 

Donna Blanchard McNicol  "Barely a Spark"

WPA Barely a Spark - DB McNicol

 

 

 

 

 

www.dbmcnicol.com

 

 

 

 

Catriona McPherson  "The Child Garden"

WPA The Child Garden - Catriona McPherson.png

 

 

 

 

 

www.catrionamcpherson.com

 

 

 

 

Linda Mickey  "Test Scores"

WPA Test Scores - Linda Mickey

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.lindamickey.com

 

 

 

 

Liz Mugavero  "Icing on the Corpse"

WPAIcing onthe Corpse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.lizmugavero.com

 

 

 

Pamela Oberg  "Rogue Wave"

WPA Rogue Wave - Pamela Oberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.facebook.com/stonecreekwriting

 

 

 

Terry Odell  "Deadly Production"

WPADeadly Production - Terry Odell

 

 

 

 

 

www.terryodell.com

 

 

 

 

Alec Peche  "Death on a Green"

WPA Death on a Green - Alec Peche

 

 

 

 

 

www.alecpeche.com

 

 

 

 

Ashantay Peters  "Death Stretch"

WPADeath Stretch - Ashantay Peters

 

 

 

 

 

www.Ashantay.com

 

 

 

 

 

Patti Phillips  "Kerrian's Notebook, Volume 1"

WPA KN_Vol 1 fingerprint_cover_- copy 3

 

 

 

 

 

www.kerriansnotebook.com

 

 

 

Mar Preston  "A Very Private High School"

WPA A Very Private High School - Mar Preston

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.marpreston.com

 

 

 

 

Karen Pullen  "Cold Feet"

WPACold Feet - Karen Pullen

 

 

 

 

 

www.karenpullen.com

 

 

 

 

Fiona Quinn  "Weakest Lynx"

Book Cover - Weakest Lynx

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.ThrillWriting.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

Dr. Katherine Ramsland  "The Mind of a Murderer"

WPA The Mind of a Murderer - Katherine Ramsland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.katherineramsland.com

 

 

 

 

K.T. Roberts  "Deadly Obsessions"

WPA Deadly Obsessions - KT Roberts

 

 

 

 

 

www.ktrobertsmysteries.com

 

 

 

 

Mike Roche  "The Blue Monster"

WPA The Blue Monster - Mike Roche

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.mikeroche.com

 

 

 

 

Lori Ryan  "The Billionaire's Suite Dreams"

WPAThe Billionaire's Suite Dreams - Lori Ryan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.loriryanromance.com

 

 

 

 

Jamie Lee Scott  "Let Us Prey" – Gotcha Detective Agency Mystery, Book 1

WPA Let Us Prey - Jamie Lee Scott

 

 

 

 

 

www.jamieleescott.com

 

 

 

 

Terry Shames  "A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge"

WPAA Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge - Terry Shames

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.TerryShames.com

 

 

 

 

Sarah Levine Simon  "Winged Victory"

WPA Winged Victory - Sarah Levine Simon

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.sandbookstudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

Alexandra Sokoloff  "Cold Moon" – The Huntress/FBI thrillers

WPA Cold Moon - Alexandra Sokoloff

 

 

 

 

 

www.alexandrasokoloff.com

 

 

 

 

Nancy Sweetland  "The Virgin Murders"

WPA The Virgin Murders - Nancy Sweetland

 

 

 

 

 

www.NancySweetlandWrites.com

 

 

 

 

 

Ellis Vidler  "Prime Target"

WPAPrime Target - Ellis Vidler

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.ellisvidler.com

 

 

 

 

Elaine Viets  "Checked Out"

WPA Checked Out - Elaine Viets

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.elaineviets.com

 

 

 

 

 

Tamara Ward  "Private Deception"

WPA Private Deception - Tamara Ward

 

 

 

 

 

www.authortamaraward.com/jade-oreilly-series/

 

 

 

 

Nancy G. West  "Smart, But Dead"

WPA SMART BUT DEAD - Nancy G West

 

 

 

 

 

www.nancygwest.com

 

 

 

 

Lynn Chandler Willis  "Wink of an Eye"

Book Cover - Wink of an Eye

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.lynnchandlerwillis.com

 

 

 

 

 

Not a novel, but several WPA presenters contributed stories to this Mystery Writers of America collection, "Vengeance."

Lee Child, Editor

WPA Vengeance Anthology

Alafair Burke

Michael Connelly

Rick McMahan

Karin Slaughter

 

http://amzn.com/0316176354

 

Happy Reading, everyone!!!  🙂

 

 

 

 

Summer Shorts, 2015 – Three for the Beach

 

There are two kinds of Beach Reads:

  • Action-packed adventure/thrillers that rev up your blood pressure and provide stay-awake reading
  • Completely relaxing, low-key, fun mystery books that tweak your brain cells, but allow you to nod off on time


Action-packed Beach Reads are books that you can take with you on vacation, or allow you to immerse yourself between the pages if you can’t get away. They transport you to a place and time you will most likely never see and the heroes and heroines are super at what they do. A great action Beach Read delivers pure escapism.

 

Book Cover - Expedition Indigo

 

Stacy Allen’s debut novel, “Expedition Indigo,” introduces us to Dr. Riley Cooper, a Professor of Archeology at a renowned university, an expert in Mediterranean history, a certified diver, but not so expert in picking the right guy, or staying out of danger.

 

The Under Water Sea Adventures salvage company has discovered a sunken ship off the coast of Italy that may hold Charlemagne’s coronation cross, thought to have been lost forever. When Cooper’s boss is injured in a mysterious accident, she gets the chance of a lifetime to work in the field to verify the cross’ authenticity, but suspense and intrigue surrounding the find may be her undoing. The Vatican wants her help, a rival salvage company wants people dead, her love interest may have too many strings attached, and Riley just wants to do her job.

 

Cooper’s refreshing naiveté in the cutthroat world of treasure hunting, and the fascinating look at the world of archeology, combine to make this an entertaining (as well as educational) Beach Read, with plenty of action to boot. Nominated for the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel.

 

Visit www.stacyallenauthor.com

 

 

Book Cover - Weakest Lynx

 

 

Fiona Quinn, “Weakest Lynx” – In Quinn’s first solo novel, she delivers an absorbing spin on the thriller genre with an under-the-radar, 20 year old psychic, Lexi Sobado, at the center. When a creepy stalker threatens her life, she receives round the clock protection from the Special Ops teams she has helped in the past. 

 

Quinn’s writing style is taut, as Lexi deals with the stalker that never stops coming, a honeymoon cut short, and constant psychic and physical challenges. Not to give anything away, but Lexi’s recovery from an accident is particularly hair-raising. Her psychic sensations will give you chills and the disturbing stalker will make you think about getting a security system installed before you finish reading the book. With a forbidden love interest, and loads of action from start to finish, this is a wild Beach Read and a Kindle Scout winner. Book 2 of the series, “Missing Lynx,” is out now.

 

Visit www.fionaquinnbooks.com

 

 

For something more mellow, look to…

Book Cover - braun1

 

Lilian Jackson Braun, “The Cat Who…” series

The prolific Lilian Jackson Braun wrote the extremely popular ‘Cat Who’ series of twenty-nine books between 1966 and 2008. They starred James Qwilleran, former newspaper reporter who inherits a large fortune in the fictional small town of Pickax. In order to accept the inheritance and manage a worthy Foundation, he must move to the town. A man of simple means and a huge mustache, this grates against his nature, but the greater good changes his mind.

 

Coming from the big city, Qwilleran isn’t used to the scrutiny of small town living, but settles in with two Siamese cats, KoKo and Yum-Yum. They help him solve cases, mostly murders, by doing what cats do best, knocking over books which miraculously open to pages indicating clues, chasing each other through the Apple Barn (in which he lives for most of the books) when something happens they don’t like. They have diets of salmon and other expensive tidbits – they eat better than most people – and won’t settle for ordinary food. Delightful series, quick gentle reads for those that want to enjoy quirky characters, solve the mystery, and de-stress while on vacation.

 

As always, Happy Reading, whether at the beach or staying home with a tall glass of sweet tea and a great book.  What's your favorite Beach Read? Let us know in the comments below.  🙂

 

 

“A Biscuit, A Casket,” by Liz Mugavero

 

A Biscuit A Casket.jpg

 

Liz Mugavero, the author of “A Biscuit, A Casket,” has delivered more murder and mayhem into Stan (short for Kristan) Connor’s life. Connor, a former PR executive, settled in small town Frog Ledge, Connecticut, in order to change her life for the better. Her life certainly changed, what with finding a body after moving in, surviving murder accusations, starting a new business, and making great new friends in the opening book of the Pawsitively Organic series, “Kneading to Die.” (Read review here.)

 

“A Biscuit, A Casket,” takes place in the weeks before Halloween. Stan’s organic pet food business has been embraced by the townspeople and dogs and pet parents alike seek out her treats. The Hoffmans, owners of the Happy Cow Dairy Farm, have even provided space for her to host a doggie birthday party near their Halloween frights-and-sights corn maze. But, Hal Hoffman is found dead in said corn maze – face down in the mud with a sickle in his back – and nobody is singing Happy Birthday.

 

It has been said that the majority of murders are committed by someone close to the victim, and Emmalee Hoffman (Hal’s wife) may have had a motive, given their less than perfect marriage. But then, so did Hal’s business partners, his questionable buddies, as well as some of his employees. Did somebody try to collect what was owed, but killed Hal instead? As the well-developed plot unfolds, we discover how co-op farming (and especially dairy farming) works, and motives fly faster than an angry cow kicks.

 

With several solid and sometimes nasty suspects to investigate, Stan puzzles through the list and even chats with her cat, Nutty. If you’re a cat owner, you will recognize these chats as perfectly reasonable and spot-on. Nutty responds with eye-glints and tail-flicking that keep the delightful conversations going.

 

Relationships shift in “A Biscuit, A Casket,” as misunderstandings and Hal’s business dealings come to light, but solid friendships remain and flourish. Local bar owner, Jake, has more to offer than was shown in the first book, and the possible romantic connection between him and Stan is explored as they get to know each other.

 

Mugavero artfully has family members play a larger role, as Stan finds her place in the community. Stan’s naïveté about the dangers of country life provides fodder for her getting into more trouble as the series continues, a happy prospect for the readers. 

 

There are yummy organic pet treat recipes at end of “A Biscuit, A Casket.” The pumpkin one looks great – just add some people sugar and I’m good to go. In case you are unaware of the organic pet food market, and wonder if it’s fact or fiction, I assure you that it is quite real. I passed a store recently that carried only hand made treats for dogs and cats. The pet bakery, located at a major mall, was quite busy. Moms and Dads relaxed at tables with beverages in hand, while pets chomped on their own nutritious snacks.

 

Mugavero has cleverly wicked causes of death in her novels. The previous book served up kibble on the body in a vet’s office. “A Biscuit, A Casket,” features the sickle in the farmer’s back. I can’t wait to see how the corpse gets done in, in the third, "The Icing on the Corpse," just released. “Murder Most Finicky,” book four of the series, is due out at the end of 2015.

 

Please visit www.lizmugavero.com for information about Ms. Mugavero’s books, as well as her marvelous work in the animal rescue community.