Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: The Phantom Glare of Day by M. Laszlo


The Phantom Glare of Day
M. Laszlo

Historical (Metaphysical) Fiction / Coming of Age Fiction
Publisher: SparkPress
Publication Date: November 1, 2022
Page Count: 320 pages
ISBN-10: 1684631750 / ISBN-13: 978-1684631759
Page count: 306 pages



In this trio of novellas, three game young ladies enter into dangerous liaisons that test each one’s limits and force them to confront the most heartrending issues facing society in the early twentieth century. The Phantom Glare of Day tells of Sophie, a young lady who has lived a sheltered life and consequently has no idea how cruel public-school bullying can be. When she meets Jarvis, a young man obsessed with avenging all those students who delight in his daily debasement, she resolves to intervene before tragedy unfolds.

Mouvements Perpétuels tells of Cäcilia, a young lady shunned by her birth father. She longs for the approval of an older man, so when her ice-skating instructor attempts to take advantage of her, she cannot resist. Not a month later, she realizes that she is pregnant and must decide whether or not to get an abortion.

Passion Bearer tells of Manon, a young lady who falls in love with a beautiful actress after taking a post as a script girl for a film company—and is subsequently confronted with the pettiest kinds of homophobia.



London, 29 September, 1917.

Early that morning at the Chelsea Court Hotel, Cäcilia finally realized that last month’s assignation with her ice-skating instructor had left her pregnant. For the longest time, she paced about her suite and debated the question of what might be the best way to tell him. Whatever she said, Herr Wechseljahr would be galled. The old man would almost certainly accuse her of being marriage-minded, and he would insist that she had planned everything all along. At some point, too, he would be sure to lament her upcoming debut.
“For so long, I’ve been choreographing that glorious ice ballet,” he would tell her. “And you treat me like this?”
At nine o’clock, when Cäcilia reached Empress Avenue Ice Arena, she continued into the grand antechamber but then stopped. How do I tell him the bad news?
In time, the wintry air of the electric skating palace made her teeth chatter. Worse still, the aroma of the snack bar’s freshly-brewed, Cadbury drinking chocolate happened to be very strong that day—strong enough to make her retch.
The ice arena’s various loudspeakers crackled to life, and as she continued to convulse, a warped recording of Édouard Lalo’s “Ballade à la lune” commenced.
As the music played, several diminutive schoolgirls laced up and ventured off into the imponderable beauty of the oval rink.
Cäcilia climbed into the hard-oak terrace, and she watched the most winsome of the children perform a fan spiral.
The Lalo recording concluded, and the vast skating palace grew as quiet as the ruins of the Colosseum.
Cäcilia’s thoughts turned to Knightsbridge Casino. One week earlier, she had lost a considerable amount at the baccarat table. As such, she did not have sufficient funds to hire someone to tend to a newborn baby. Before long, she turned to one of the loudspeakers.
If only another recording would begin—and disrupt the quietude, the solemnity.
From the direction of the snack bar, the aroma of Cadbury drinking chocolate grew even more sickly-sweet. Worse yet, the scent of the pungent Cocoa Essence had begun to commingle with the smoldering lampblack odor of the rubber tiles surrounding the boards.
Down on the ice, the little girl from before, the one who had performed the fan spiral, commenced a series of intricate step sequences. 

And now the door to the grand antechamber opened, and Herr Wechseljahr made his entrance. When he reached the terrace, he flashed a proud, fatherly smile and greeted Cäcilia with his customary Roman salute.


M. Laszlo is the pseudonym of a reclusive author living in Bath, Ohio. According to rumor, he based the pen name on the name of the Paul Henreid character in Casablanca, Victor Laszlo.

M. Laszlo has lived and worked all over the world, and he has kept exhaustive journals and idea books corresponding to each location and post.

It is said that the maniacal habit began in childhood during summer vacations—when his family began renting out Robert Lowell’s family home in Castine, Maine.

The habit continued in 1985 when, as an adolescent, he spent the summer in London, England. In recent years, he revisited that journal/idea book and based his first work, The Phantom Glare of Day, on the characters, topics, and themes contained within the youthful writings. In crafting the narrative arcs, he decided to divide the work into three interrelated novellas and to set each one in the WW-I era so as to make the work as timeless as possible.

M. Laszlo has lived and worked in New York City, East Jerusalem, and several other cities around the world. While living in the Middle East, he worked for Harvard University’s Semitic Museum. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio and an M.F.A. in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York.

His next work is forthcoming from SparkPress in 2024. There are whispers that the work purports to be a genuine attempt at positing an explanation for the riddle of the universe and is based on journals and idea books made while completing his M.F.A. at Sarah Lawrence College.

Receives a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: A Grave Roast Orchard Hollow, #1 by A.N. Sage


A Grave Roast
Orchard Hollow, #1
A.N. Sage

Paranormal Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Cauldron Press
Publication Date: January 23, 2023

Page count: 382 pages
ISBN-10: 1989868290 / ISBN-13: 978-1989868294

Page count: 274 pages


About A Grave Roast:


Piper Addison has three problems: a broken espresso machine, malfunctioning magic, and a dead body. Guess which one she doesn’t see coming?

One month from forty, Piper Addison thinks she finally has life figured out. Sure, her bank account could be fuller and the cafe she opened with the last of her savings could use some help, but what’s a few kinks for an Orchard Hollow witch?

Too bad Piper can’t witch to save her life, which is exactly what she might need to do when a dead body is discovered in the alley behind her cafe. To make matters worse, all the evidence points to Piper and the local sheriff is not too keen on the town’s paranormal inhabitants.

When a mysterious envelope lands on Piper’s doorstep, she has a decision to make: go behind the sheriff’s back and try to clear her name, or spend her fortieth birthday in a prison cell.

A Grave Roast is a paranormal cozy mystery complete with an unlucky witch, a ghost familiar, and a feisty raccoon with a talent for getting into sticky situations.

4 stars!

An unusual supernatural world with engaging and unique main characters!

A Grave Roast is the first book in the new paranormal cozy mystery series, Orchard Hollow, by author A.N. Sage, and with its delightful main characters, cute small town, and unique “world,” I hope we’re in for a long run of follow-up adventures! 

Piper Addison is very likable as the new proprietor of her own coffee café, Bean Me Up, although she’s lived in the town all her life. I liked that she’s a mature woman (not quite 40 yet) and is open to finding a new romance after experiencing some real duds in her past. She’s fun, and her less-than-proficient magic use had me laughing. Even though she was not friends per se with the victim, she was still compassionate enough to pursue looking into what happened and why he reached out to her (whether the police had her as a suspect or not!) I liked that she has quite a unique familiar, although I’m not quite a Stella fan. And I was completely taken by surprise and enjoyed how her furry nemesis, Harry Houdini, also gets involved and gets his point of view aired. 

The author’s writing style is easy to read, very pleasing, and well-paced. I was immediately engaged by the story and the descriptions of the town with both water and mountains in view and enjoyed getting a real feel for the shops on Cliff Row and their owners. In other books, this initial reveal of the population of the cozy mystery town often gets overwhelming and tedious, but happily, that did not occur here; it was very natural and simply accomplished. Of course, my favorite spot in town is Brooks Books! 

The town exists on top of an accumulation of ley lines, so many supernatural or paranormal types have congregated in Orchard Hollow to call it home. I found it a unique twist that their magical abilities are not made public knowledge even with each other. It’s personal and only shared with those one trusts. The fact that there are supernatural beings there is no secret, though, and even the humans are aware of their existence. I did like the idea of the coven of “mean girl” witches, even those Piper was their frequent target. 

With its unusual supernatural world, engaging and unique main characters, and solid puzzle to resolve, I recommend A GRAVE ROAST to cozy mystery readers who enjoy a paranormal element in their stories.RAVE ROAST to cozy mystery readers who enjoy a paranormal element in their stories.

About A.N. Sage:

A.N. Sage is a bestselling, award-winning author of young adult fantasy and mystery. She has spent most of her life waiting to meet a witch, vampire, or at least get haunted by a ghost. In between failed seances and many questionable outfit choices, she has developed a keen eye for the extra-ordinary.

A.N. spends her free time reading and binge-watching television shows in her pajamas. Currently, she resides in Toronto, Canada with her husband who is not a creature of the night and their daughter who just might be.

A.N. Sage is a Scorpio and a massive advocate of leggings for pants.


January 23 – Socrates Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
January 23 – Lady Hawkeye – DRINK RECIPE
January 24 – Literary Gold – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
January 24 – Maureen's Musings – SPOTLIGHT 
January 25 – Hearts & Scribbles – SPOTLIGHT 
January 25 – Christy's Cozy Corners – AUTHOR GUEST POST 
January 26 – Angel's Guilty Pleasures – CHARACTER INTERVIEW 
January 26 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT
January 27 – Diana’s Book Journal – SPOTLIGHT
January 27 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
January 28 – Celticlady's Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
January 28 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT
January 29 – I'm Into Books – AUTHOR GUEST POST
January 30 – Guatemala Paula Loves to Read – REVIEW
January 30 – Sapphyria's Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
January 31 – Mochas, Mysteries and Meows – CHARACTER GUEST POST
January 31 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW
February 1 – Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews – DRINK RECIPE
February 1 – Read Your Writes Book Reviews – AUTHOR INTERVIEW


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Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: The Bone Records by Rich Zahradnik

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The Bone Records

by Rich Zahradnik

January 30 - February 10, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


The Bone Records by Rich Zahradnik

NY Police Academy washout Grigg Orlov discovers an eerie piece of evidence at the scene of his father's brutal murder: a disc-shaped X-ray of a skull. It's a bone record--what Soviet citizens called banned American songs recorded on used X-rays. But the black-market singles haven't been produced since the sixties. What's one doing in Coney Island in 2016?

Grigg uncovers a connection between his father and three others who collected bone records when they were teenage friends growing up in Leningrad. Are past and present linked? Or is the murder tied to the local mob? Grigg's got too many suspects and too little time. He must get to the truth before a remorseless killer takes everything he has.

Praise for The Bone Records:

"The Bone Records grabs you by the throat on the very first page, then never slows down as it takes you on a wild ride through New York City streets filled with Russian intrigue, underworld crime, police corruption and a man’s desperate quest to avenge his father’s murder. Shamus Award-winner Rich Zahradnik has written a taut, terrifically exciting and thought-provoking thriller."

"The plot is not only timely, but utterly unique—a tale of cultures colliding, often with sudden and unexpected consequences, as lonely city claims-adjuster Grigg Orlov spends his long nights chasing down leads on the mysterious disappearance of his father... This is a compelling read, highly recommended."

LA Times bestselling author Baron R. Birtcher

"A fast-paced thriller set around Coney Island during the tumultuous lead-up to the 2016 presidential election… The Bone Records is a well-crafted mountain of intrigue and non-stop action."

"A wonderfully flawed protagonist and a complex mystery combine with current events in Zahradnik's best novel to date. The Bone Records had me hooked from page one."

Elena Taylor, award-winning author of All We Buried and the Eddie Shoes mystery series

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: 1000 Words A Day Press
Publication Date: November 2022
Number of Pages: 338
ISBN: 9798985905649
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Friday, August 19, 2016

Grigg’s reunion with his father was brief—eight minutes to be exact—and ended when a man with a nickel-plated revolver shot Dad twice.

Three hours before the violence began, Grigg struggled through the crowd on the Coney Island subway platform. He was the last to reach the stairway to the station’s exit. Again. Even the old folks were gone. His wrecked knee held him back.

Outside the station, Deno’s Wonder Wheel turned slowly, towering over the amusement park that took its name from the ancient fifteen-story ride. The wheel’s spokes glowed a hot neon white. Hazy coronas surrounded all the lights.


Grigg had started wearing his father’s Timex soon after he had gone missing. He put the watch up to his ear, as he’d done too many times before. It wasn’t loud enough to be heard. The clockwork noise was in his head. Maybe a reminder to keep looking. Maybe a reminder that six months was already too long in missing persons cases.

His father’s watch read 8:18 p.m.

He limped away from Coney Island’s amusement parks toward his house on West 28th off Mermaid Avenue. As he did, the street darkened. He checked behind him more than once. The neighborhood became far less amusing as night came on—and the farther you went from the fun parks. Mugging wasn’t the thrill ride Grigg needed. He didn’t want any more trouble. He had a lifetime’s supply. His long days pinballed him between two jobs and the search for his father.

But despite Grigg’s best efforts, the minutes and hours and days kept spinning off the Timex, found by the police in a Howard Beach motel room, the last place his father was seen before he vanished into the thin March air. Their empty house waited to reflect Grigg’s loneliness back at him. His mother had died when he was eighteen months old. His boss at the city’s claims adjustment office rarely talked to him outside of giving orders. All of his connections—he couldn’t really call them friends—in the neighborhood he owed to his father. Dad, like the rest of them, had immigrated from Russia. Unlike the rest of them, he’d married a woman from Jamaica, a union that guaranteed Grigg would always be on the outside in Little Odessa.

The rubber soles of his cheap dress shoes slapped the wet pavement. A thunderstorm had blown through while he was on the subway, leaving behind the sticky-thick humidity. His messenger bag tugged on his shoulder.

He went over the lead he’d uncovered tonight. Going door-to-door in a Midwood apartment building full of Russians, he’d talked briefly to a tenant named Freddy Popov, who recognized Grigg’s father when shown a photo. Popov said a man—maybe a cop—had been canvassing the building with a picture of Grigg’s dad four weeks earlier. Inside the man’s apartment and shielded by Popov, someone said something in Russian. Popov got hinky, then said he didn’t know anything more and slammed the door. Grigg banged on it until a woman across the hall threatened to call the cops. He left with only the knowledge that someone else—maybe a cop?—was also searching for Dad. Still, that bit of info was his biggest lead to date.

Grigg limped up to the small, two-story brick house—kitchen, living room, two bedrooms over a garage—a duplicate of the other attached homes on the street. He unlocked the steel gate, then the front door, and stepped inside.

The thunk of the door closing echoed through the house. Two days ago, Grigg had moved everything out except for the sleeping bag in his bedroom of twenty-seven years and a blue duffel, readying the old house for its new owners. He turned the deadbolt.

He shouldn’t be staying here tonight. He’d spent all his free time on the search for Dad, right up until the closing on the sale of the house. Even at the end, he’d hoped for a breakthrough that would save him from selling. He’d signed the papers yesterday, writing a check for $1,650—most of his savings—because the house was underwater on a second mortgage his father had taken out. Grigg knew the out-of-state buyers wouldn’t be moving in for three weeks, so he’d kept a copy of the key.

Trespassing in my own house. Inviting trouble when I already have too much.

The plan was to use the next three weeks to find an apartment share, but the lead from Popov tugged at his thoughts. Would it pull so hard that he’d spend his free time searching for Dad and end up homeless? He ducked his own question and instead pictured going back to demand Popov tell him more. He shook his head. He could barely keep his mind on his housing problem for the space of a single thought. He took a beer out of the refrigerator, went up to his room, and rolled his sleeping bag into a fat pillow to lean against.

Grigg popped open the 90 Years Young Double IPA. Nine percent alcohol. The strong stuff he’d dubbed “floor softener.” He downed two sixteen-ounce cans, and the ache faded from the muscles in his damaged leg.

He took out his phone. He’d run through his data allowance last week. Three days until the new billing cycle. At least he had his music. He played the Decembrists, their songs about revenge and ships at sea set to jangly indie rock. He followed with the Killers, then Vampire Weekend.


His father’s watch read 11:20 p.m.

He opened his notebook and wrote down “Day 191” along with what he’d learned. It was longer than any previous entry—yet not long at all. So many days. The silence in the house chilled him, sending goosebumps in waves over his arms and thighs. He got up and turned down the air conditioner. It wouldn’t help. He missed his father’s voice, the way it had warmed their home. They could talk about everything and anything, a lot of anything, but such interesting anything. Dad was always there with his questions, his curiosity, and his deep interest in whatever Grigg was up to. There were days his father was more intrigued by Grigg’s job than Grigg was. Even that helped.

A fourth beer. He floated on the wood floor of his empty bedroom. Slept.

A thump. The floor hardened underneath him. Another thump. Half buzzed, halfway to a headache, Grigg opened his eyes. He heard it again. Not a dream. On the roof. He followed the steps above him to his father’s empty bedroom. He was about to switch on his phone’s flashlight when legs—silhouetted by the glow from the street across the way—dangled over the room’s tiny balcony. They descended slowly, inching, hesitating, as if the intruder were no expert at this sort of move. The toes stretched to touch, and finally, the person dropped, stumbled, and landed on their knees.

Grigg didn’t know whether to laugh or arm himself. If this was a robbery, then the joke was going to be on a thief who’d picked a house with nothing in it. Grigg decided discretion was the better part of whatever, returned to his bedroom, and pulled the stun gun from his messenger bag. Ever since he’d been attacked when he was in the police academy—suffering the knee injury that forced him to drop out—he hadn’t felt safe unless he carried the weapon.

He placed the messenger bag next to his duffel in the hallway in case he needed to get out fast. In the kitchen, he grabbed his second six pack as a backup weapon.

Of course, he could escape by the front and leave the intruder for the police to deal with. But if he did, then the buyers would be notified, and he’d lose the three weeks of temporary housing he’d been counting on.

He crept through the doorway into the main bedroom.

The figure, whose face remained in deep shadow because of the streetlight glow from behind, rattled the handle to the single balcony door, used his elbow to smash in the square pane nearest the knob, reached in, and turned the simple metal lock. As he pushed the door open, Grigg stepped forward, hit his phone’s light, and thrust forward the stun gun.

“Get the fuck out of my house!”

The figure froze. “I’m not going to hurt you, Grigg.”

Grigg moved closer.

“Dad? Dad!”

Full beard and longer hair, but it was him.

Grigg didn’t know whether to hug his father or scream at him.

“I came to say goodbye,” Dad said.


“I’m leaving. For Russia. I don’t know when I’ll be able to return. It’s the only way.”

“I don’t understand.” Any of it. “You said you’d never go back.”

“It’s the only way to fix things.”

“Things? What things?” Popov’s suggestion about a cop. “Are the police after you?”

A click came from the front door, and Grigg spun. Seeing his father and not an intruder had put the brakes on his fear. Now, his heart raced. He squeezed the handle of the stun gun with a sweaty hand. Keep it together.

The knob turned.

The front door flew open. 

Chapter 2

Friday, August 19, 2016

The man was tall and red haired with a short beard and a flattened nose. He held a long-barreled, nickel-plated revolver. Looked like a .357 magnum.

“Shit.” Grigg grabbed his bags—there wasn’t time to recover the sleeping roll from his room and stuff it in the duffel—dropped back into the bedroom with his father, and shut and locked the door, though it wouldn’t hold for long. “Guy’s armed. Is someone after you?”

“Yes. But no, not now. That’s why I came across the roof.”

Grigg’s thoughts spun like he’d boarded the Tilt-A-Whirl at Deno’s Wonder Wheel. This was fucking nuts. His dad came back and moments later they were under attack. His stomach flipped as if he were actually on the ride.

A hundred questions.

A thousand.

Something hit the bedroom door hard.

No time for any.

“We’ll go out the way you came in.”

“I can’t make it back on the roof. I barely made it down.”

“I’ll boost you.”

They were on the balcony in seconds. Grigg grabbed his father’s thighs and lifted upward, bearing as much of the weight as he could on his good right leg. It wasn’t enough. He nearly fell over; instead, he leaned against the iron railing to regain his balance and shoved until Dad was able to drag himself onto the roof.

Another crash from the bedroom door.

Grigg tossed his duffel down into the backyard for later retrieval.

The bedroom door gave way after the third blow.

Grigg ripped free a can of 90 Years Young and hurled it hard into the shadowed darkness of the room. The man yelped in pain.

Grigg didn’t wait to learn more. He moved to the side and climbed onto the balcony railing. Two loud gunshots, the weapon aimed at the space he’d vacated. He dropped the remaining beers and started pulling himself onto the roof. His arms were strong, but the left leg slowed him. Scrambling with all his strength, he made it up.

Below the asphalt roofing, in the attic, was the weapon he really needed, a registered .32 in a gun safe. No way to get it now.

Should’ve been better prepared.

“Run!” Dad whispered.

Run was right. There’d be time for should-haves later. Right now, Grigg had pissed off the gun-wielding asshole who was after his father for reasons unknown.

He went as fast as his left leg would allow, which meant he and his sixty-eight-year-old dad kept about even. They dodged around the boiler chimney and an AC unit. Neither structure looked tall enough to block a clear shot. They needed something bigger between them and that nickel-plated revolver. Like now.

They crossed to the roof of the next attached house and the next.

“How’d you get up here?” Grigg gasped, trying to picture a way down to street level and coming up empty.

“The Kiev Bakery at the corner has a fire escape.”

That meant winning a block-long race over rooftops. Against bullets and a faster runner.

“Stop!” came a deep voice from behind them.

“Why’s he after you?”

Instead of an answer, the report of the gun, then another.

Dad grabbed his side, groaned, and slowed but kept running, slewing off to the left. Grigg stayed with him.

“Get to Katia. Katia Sokolov—”


Dad jerked and spun nearly in sync with the sound of the third shot. Hot blood sprayed Grigg’s face.

His father listed hard to the left, veering toward the edge of the roof and the backyard two stories below.

Grigg grabbed for his dad’s arm, but his hand slipped on blood.

He reached again to get a hold, but his father, as if driven by the red jet from his neck, took two more steps.

And disappeared off the roof.

Grigg stopped.

Stared at the twisted body below.

The next gunshot lifted the messenger bag hanging from his shoulder.

Shock made way for raw panic. Flee or die. The fire escape. Too far. He had to get down the way he came up. He dropped to the balcony of the house beneath him, then repeated the maneuver to reach the ground, bad knee screaming from the punishment of the twin blows, shirt drenched in sweat and blood.

His father’s body lay face up with an arm under his back and the right leg bent at an unnatural angle. A two-story drop wouldn’t necessarily kill you. But the neck wound …

“Stay there or I will shoot you.” The killer began taking Grigg’s route to the ground.

The man had one shot left before he needed to reload. Or had he reloaded already?

Grigg knelt. Pressed his hand to his father’s neck where the blood pulsed.

His father’s eyes were open. With the slightest of movements, he patted at his blazer pocket. The jacket was no surprise. Dad always wore blazers. Weekdays and weekends. All seasons. Why the hell does that matter now? Tilt-A-Whirl thinking. A black tube protruded from the pocket. Grigg pulled it out.

Another shot.

Dirt leapt inches from Grigg’s foot.

The gunman stood on the second-floor balcony and looked to be reloading.

Warning bells almost drowned out the unending ticking in Grigg’s head as he held the tube up for Dad to see. “Is this what he’s after?”

Dad’s eyes didn’t move. Stared upward. Locked in on something. Or nothing. His mouth was a black hole ringed with blood and spittle on thin lips. Grigg checked for a pulse. Neck first, then ear to chest. Nothing.

The gunman hung from the balcony, preparing to make the drop to the ground.

Fighting the nausea creeping up from his gut, Grigg ran as darts of pain shot from his left knee into his thigh. He climbed over the fence into the opposite yard, then into another next door, and found a shed to crouch behind.

From two backyards away, the gun went off.

A kill shot when Dad was already dead.

Grigg heaved up what was left of his dinner and the beers. Heaved again. Too much noise. Ground down his teeth to stop. He spat quietly to clear the taste of puke. Failed.

He couldn’t see or hear the shooter, but he didn’t dare move. Grief, anger, and fear threatened to swamp anything like clear thinking. A tidal wave against a rowboat. He needed to save himself. He needed to be a coward. Five minutes, then ten ticked off on his father’s watch as he looked at the fence. Shadowed darkness. A deep purple oozed across his vision from staring too hard at the wooden slats.

Finally, he ordered himself to leave.

Be practical: the duffel bag.

He crossed two more backyards until he could approach his house—what used to be his house—from the other side. He saw no one in the yard where the body lay, looking from this distance like a dark mound. But the killer could be waiting somewhere to take him out. He inched with his back up against the wall (it was darkest near the houses), grabbed the bag, and slipped out to the avenue without incident.

His destination: the Conquistador Arcade in the Coney Island amusement area. He worked there most evenings. He had a key.

Cleaning the blood from his face and arms and out of his hair took an hour. Might have taken less time, but he kept scrubbing long after his skin was clean. If only he could scrub tonight away. After searching for six months, he’d had mere minutes with his dad before the attack. Grigg was too exhausted to cry. He knew the shirt was a write-off but left it soaking in the sink anyway, now the least of his lost causes.

He needed to go to the police. He knew that. But they hadn’t given a shit when Dad disappeared. Grigg had been the only one looking. Murder was different than missing, right? Then again, he knew of too many unsolved killings in Coney Island.

He found it hard to think. Ideas, memories, discrete facts were fireflies inside his head. They whirled, collided, and spun off into the darkness. The lights led nowhere. Connected nothing. Would it help if he could catch them all in a jar like he had on an upstate trip with Dad? Or would that only mean the same confusion jammed in a smaller space?

He exited the bathroom of the arcade, which had closed hours ago, and moved to the Skee-Ball machines against the back wall. Rows of blinking arcade games shielded him from the front windows. He sat down. It was ironic. No, just sad. Grigg had dreamed of becoming a cop since he was a kid. The police academy hadn’t worked out. Worse than that, it’d cost him his knee. Failed. Failed to find his father. Then Dad found him too late. Another failure. Exhaustion pressed down on him like the air had thickened, had weight. Maybe he’d lie down in the lane of this machine. He absently pulled out the black tube he’d taken from his dad’s pocket. The shock again. He’d forgotten all about it. He took off a blue rubber band. The flimsy, plastic-like material unrolled: a super-thin black disc with a hole in the middle, like an old record. One of the arcade games flashed, and Grigg caught sight of something in the translucent black material. Film? He played his phone’s light through it from behind, and the image of a skull materialized. He held the light closer. An X-ray of a skull, though like no X-ray he’d ever seen. For one obvious reason, it was circular; on closer inspection, the edge was uneven, like it had been cut by hand. The disc bore handwritten Cyrillic lettering. Grigg couldn’t read or speak the Russian language, but smaller English script had also been written on the film: “Not Fade Away,” right above the skull’s eye sockets. He tipped the disc sidelong and scanned the surface. Wait … are those grooves? Grooves, three inches’ worth, cut into the X-ray disc, but only on one side.

Grigg would have sworn he was holding an old-fashioned record album—if an album were thin, translucent, and had a skull X-ray on it but no proper label.

He turned it over again. Connections came together in his head. The sting of memory going back six months, the night before his father disappeared, the second to last time Grigg had set eyes on the man.

Dad had stood in the living room, whistling and sorting through the mail: a couple fliers, a bill, and a manila envelope. He had opened the envelope, and Grigg had glimpsed a black thing—maybe disc shaped—slipping from it.

Was it a disc? Maybe he only wanted it to be. It seemed so long ago.

The way he remembered it, Dad froze, stopped whistling, then turned away from Grigg to hold the object over a table lamp before hurrying to his bedroom. His father hadn’t come out again—no goodnight, no nothing—and was gone when Grigg awoke the next morning.

In the aftermath of his father’s disappearance, he’d forgotten about the envelope and the black thing.

Grigg reached further into his memories but could find nothing else. That period had become a blur. He’d been overwhelmed by the search—plus two jobs and money running out fast. Finding his father had seemed more important than figuring out why he’d left. Maybe he had gotten it backward. Maybe the why came first.

He looked at his phone, useless as a tool to identify the object for certain. That would have to happen in the morning. And on the chance it played like a vinyl record, he needed to listen to it before he turned it over to the cops.

The strange disc generated enough adrenaline to further clear the fog in his brain. His father’s last words: get to Katia Sokolov. If his thoughts hadn’t been scrambled by the murder, he’d have wondered at that name sooner. First, probably. He couldn’t talk to the cops until after he spoke with Katia, something he hadn’t done in more than a year. Still, there was no way he’d sic a pack of homicide detectives on her. He owed her that much. More.

Thinking of how he’d lost Katia took him to losing Dad for good and wrenched sobs from him for twenty minutes, a half hour. He wasn’t sure.

God, I so need sleep.

Grigg risked the chance of being seen, snuck out, and bought a four-pack of strong ale at a bodega on Surf Avenue.

He was asleep midway through the second can.


Excerpt from The Bone Records by Rich Zahradnik. Copyright 2022 by Rich Zahradnik. Reproduced with permission from Rich Zahradnik. All rights reserved.




5 stars!

Unique and original, with so much action, I was compelled to read this book from cover to cover in one day.

The Bone Records is one of those books where the phrases “action-packed” and “non-stop action” genuinely apply. The story is tense, and the pace is breakneck. I was enthralled with Grigg from the opening. 

The story has an engaging, sympathetic protagonist in Grigg Orlov (Grigoriy Andeiovich). With his mixed heritage, he grew up an outsider in the Russian immigrant community of his father’s people. He didn’t fare much better later when he pursued his dream of becoming a New York City police officer. He was jumped by a couple of academy classmates and severely injured enough that he was forced to withdraw. He lost his mother at an early age, so it’s always been just him and his father, and when his father goes missing, and the police show little interest in finding him, he pursues the matter night and day on his own. Their reunion is sudden and ends quickly with tragic and shocking results. 

There is a growing sense of menace as the story progresses, assisted by the noirish descriptions of the neighborhood, his living in his empty childhood home after he’s sold it, and the places he visits – old haunts that hold lots of memories of times with his father. The Coney Island setting is especially moody with the included bits of its history. Grigg gets much-needed and timely assistance in his investigation from some unlikely sources, but I really liked the growing relationship between him and his work manager, Jamie Carmichael. Again, I was slated to be shocked by the outcome. 

The use of bone records in the story was unusual and original and sent me down some internet rabbit holes. There are actually some of these for sale on eBay! I’d never heard of these before, and I couldn’t help but read more about them. 

The book is set during the Clinton-Trump presidential campaign. It features computer hackers and whole warehouses of keyboard jockeys posting political memes, posts, and disinformation, from all party viewpoints, which stoked the emotions of the denizens of social media, dividing and conquering as intended. 

With its fast-paced action, originality, atmospheric settings, and engaging characters, I was in the dark and off-balance, never knowing what the resolution would be until the end. I recommend THE BONE RECORDS to mystery and thriller readers who would enjoy a unique plot or a New York City setting in 2016.

Author Bio:

Rich Zahradnik

Rich Zahradnik is the author of the thriller The Bone Records and four critically acclaimed mysteries, including Lights Out Summer, winner of the Shamus Award. He was a journalist for twenty-seven years and now lives in Pelham, New York, where he is the mentor to the staff of the Pelham Examiner, an award-winning community newspaper run, edited, reported, and written by people under the age of eighteen.

Catch Up With Rich Zahradnik:
Instagram - @rzahradnik
Twitter - @rzahradnik
Facebook - @RichZahradnik



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Friday, January 27, 2023

Sun Keep Rising by Kristen R. Lee

Sun Keep RisingSun Keep Rising by Kristen R. Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The gripping story of a young teenage mother who’ll do anything to keep her small family together.

At 17, B’onca Johnson knew from the moment she found out she was pregnant that she would love her child above all else and do anything for her. Scooter, the baby daddy, didn’t want to be a father: his parents went so far as to doubt their son was even the father. So, When Mia was born, B’onca was determined to go her own way. She would never abandon her daughter as her own mother had.

B’onca lived with her older sister, a single mother with a young daughter, and the small family was barely keeping their heads above water. Their rent in the historically-black Ridgecrest area of Memphis, where they had always lived, was regularly increasing as gentrification quickly encroached upon the old neighborhood.

B’onca was caring for her newborn, taking the final course in summer school for her high school diploma, and working part-time to help with the bills and pay for Mia’s constant needs. But it felt like for every step forward, she was knocked back two. Desperate for money after the sisters receive an eviction notice, B’onca risks participating, just once, in the illegal, high-profit, high-risk operation Scooter had set up to gain the large amount of cash she needs.

Sun Keep Rising is a riveting contemporary young adult novel about a teenage mother trying to keep body and soul, and family together. With its fresh and genuine voice, I was immediately drawn into B’onca’s life. As a mother, I could relate to many of her new mom problems, which, in her case, were exacerbated by her young age, limited resources and options.

The character of B’onca was so real, a typical teen. You could feel her vitality and personality, keeping her hopeful for the future but realistic no matter what came her way. Her story is a familiar one: a bullying boyfriend, a first sexual experience, and an unplanned pregnancy. Then there is the ultimate betrayal of him accusing her of sleeping around (he was the one doing that) and his cowardly abandonment. But worse by far was the subplot involving her mother. It was painful reading.

The story has so much going on, and the level of tension throughout the book is gripping! Not only is there the teen mother and her family storyline, but there is the subplot of the changes occurring in the neighborhood. The impact of gentrification is far-reaching. It doesn’t just affect the single property owner selling out to the new buyers. A snowball effect creates significant collateral damage to those remaining behind; local businesses are bought out or sold, employees lose their jobs and have to make ends meet in the lull before new businesses can open, and prices increase for everything. In addition, readers get a glimpse into the illegal businesses that flourish in the shadows of depressed areas of the city. However, all is not completely grim. There is a hopeful note in the story coming from the feeling of community and family running strong through the Ridgecrest neighborhood, where everyone knows everyone else’s name and has their back.

I recommend SUN KEEP RISING to readers of contemporary young adult fiction, especially those who may have read and appreciated the 70s novel, Go Ask Alice.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through TBR and Beyond Book Tours.

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Thursday, January 26, 2023

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: Under a Veiled Moon (Inspector Corravan Mystery, #2) by Karen Odden

Under a Veiled Moon by Karen Odden Banner

Under a Veiled Moon

by Karen Odden

January 2-27, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


Under a Veiled Moon by Karen Odden

In the tradition of C. S. Harris and Anne Perry, a fatal disaster on the Thames and a roiling political conflict set the stage for Karen Odden’s second Inspector Corravan historical mystery.

September 1878. One night, as the pleasure boat the Princess Alice makes her daily trip up the Thames, she collides with the Bywell Castle, a huge iron-hulled collier. The Princess Alice shears apart, throwing all 600 passengers into the river; only 130 survive. It is the worst maritime disaster London has ever seen, and early clues point to sabotage by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who believe violence is the path to restoring Irish Home Rule.

For Scotland Yard Inspector Michael Corravan, born in Ireland and adopted by the Irish Doyle family, the case presents a challenge. Accused by the Home Office of willfully disregarding the obvious conclusion, and berated by his Irish friends for bowing to prejudice, Corravan doggedly pursues the truth, knowing that if the Princess Alice disaster is pinned on the IRB, hopes for Home Rule could be dashed forever.

Corrovan’s dilemma is compounded by Colin, the youngest Doyle, who has joined James McCabe’s Irish gang. As violence in Whitechapel rises, Corravan strikes a deal with McCabe to get Colin out of harm’s way. But unbeknownst to Corravan, Colin bears longstanding resentments against his adopted brother and scorns his help.

As the newspapers link the IRB to further accidents, London threatens to devolve into terror and chaos. With the help of his young colleague, the loyal Mr. Stiles, and his friend Belinda Gale, Corravan uncovers the harrowing truth—one that will shake his faith in his countrymen, the law, and himself.

Praise for Under a Veiled Moon:

"[An] exceptional sequel … Odden never strikes a false note, and she combines a sympathetic lead with a twisty plot grounded in the British politics of the day and peopled with fully fleshed-out characters. Fans of Lyndsay Faye’s Gods of Gotham trilogy will be enthralled."

Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Victorian skulduggery with a heaping side of Irish troubles."

Kirkus Reviews

"Will keep readers curious and guessing to the end."

Manhattan Book Review, 5-star review

"Damn fine historical crime fiction."

Bolo Books

"Rich in emotion and historical detail, Under a Veiled Moon is a brilliant tale of the dark, thorny places where the personal and the political intertwine."

Mariah Fredericks, Edgar award-nominated author of the Jane Prescott series

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: October 11, 2022
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 978-1639101191
Series: Inspector Corravan, #2
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

London September 1878

Chapter 1

We all carry pieces of our past with us. Sometimes they’re shiny and worthy as new half crowns in our pockets. Sometimes they’re bits of lint or scraps of paper shredded beyond use. Plenty of my memories carry a stab of regret or a burn of shame with them, and honestly, there are times when I wonder how we all bloody well live with the fool things we’ve done.

I’ve made a fair number of mistakes since I first donned a Metropolitan Police uniform in Lambeth, over twelve years ago now. Investigating murders and missing people isn’t a task for those who aren’t willing to go down the wrong alley three or four times before finding the proper one. But those errors are a result of making a poor guess based on limited knowledge, and while they may cause a few sleepless nights, they can be set aside.

The mistakes that feel less forgivable are those that hurt someone you love. Worse still is when you discover your error only years later. Often, there’s nothing to be done. Too much time has passed to make amends. And those mistakes—ach, it’s bloody difficult to forgive yourself when you should’ve known better, should’ve known to pick your head up and cast about to see what might happen as a result of your actions. Perhaps there’s no easy way to learn that lesson, other than failing to do it once and discovering later just what it cost.

Sometimes, during the evenings we’re together, my Belinda reads aloud from whatever book is occupying her at the moment. One night she related a Greek myth about a man whose wife was killed by a snakebite. By virtue of his music, he weaseled his way into the underworld and convinced the king of Hades to release her. The king had one condition, however, of the rescue: neither the man nor his wife could look backward as they were leaving. And what did the fool do? He turned back to be sure his wife was still with him. He couldn’t help himself, poor bloke. So the mouth of hell opened up, and she vanished forever.

But perhaps we can’t always help what we do in a moment of crushing fear.

When I was nineteen, scared out of my wits and fleeing Whitechapel with only a bag of clothes and a small pouch of coins Ma Doyle thrust into my hand, I didn’t look back. Unlike the man in the myth, I should have, though.

Perhaps then hell would not have opened up around me thirteen years later.


On the first day of September, I woke to pale autumn sunlight and a feeling of well-being. It didn’t happen often, and it took a few moments to recall the cause. I lay still, listening to the Sunday quiet of my house, to a lone costermonger’s wheels creaking and rumbling over the cobbles outside, and the bells from St. Barnabas’s tolling from the next street over. I no longer attended church, but I did believe in God—a reasonable and just God, although sometimes the world twisted justice around, like a boat line hitched badly around a metal cleat so it emerged from the knot in a direction you didn’t expect.

As I stared at the ceiling, I collected my thoughts with some satisfaction. I’d been acting superintendent at Wapping River Police for three months now, and we’d just resolved a case involving smugglers who’d been bribing Custom House men to underweight the scales, to avoid paying proper taxes. It had occupied my every breath for the past four weeks, and now I felt a sense of relief, like a weighted yoke off the back of my neck, as I always did when an important case ended. The newspapers had even printed something good about the police yesterday as a result. God knows we needed it. Sometimes I still cringed at the memories of the corruption trial last autumn, with mobs cursing us plainclothes men for being frauds and cheats, and newspaper headlines proclaiming how London would be better off if we were all at the bottom of the Thames. But with the river murders of last April resolved and this smuggling case concluded, it seemed the police were slowly earning back public trust. Of course, the stories published about our successes were full of inaccuracies, and by omitting any reference to the tiresome inquiries, the endless walking, and the misleading clues, they were nowhere near the whole truth, but at least they painted the police in a satisfactory light.

The door to Harry’s bedroom, next to mine, opened and closed, and as I heard the boy start down the stairs, I slid out of bed. The coals in my bedroom stove had burnt to ash, and the room was cool, with a dampness that lingered after a rainy August.

Standing at the window in my nightshirt, I looked across the way at the two-story red-brick terraced houses, built cheek by jowl, mirror images of those on my side of the street. The sunlight, golden as a well-baked loaf of bread, inched down from the roofline and struck the upper windows, flashing a shine that made me squint. It was a pleasure to think I had no plan for the day but to visit the Doyles for Sunday tea. What with the smugglers and my new responsibilities at Wapping, it had been over a month since I’d seen Ma, Elsie, and Colin—longer than I liked.

From downstairs came the sound of our kettle shrieking.

Harry would be preparing tea for himself and coffee for me. My brew was a holdover from the tastes of the previous century, I knew, but I couldn’t abide weak liquids in the morning. I’d taught Harry how to make my coffee properly after he said he’d do whatever necessary to keep me from growling at him.

Harry Lish had come to live with me here in Soho six months ago, after his father died, his mother having passed away years before. Harry was Ma Doyle’s nephew, but as she’d told me when he arrived at her house in Whitechapel, he didn’t belong there. His speech was too well schooled and his manners more Mayfair than Merseyside. Although barely sixteen, Harry was determined to study medicine, and I’d found a place for him at St. Anne’s Hospital with my friend James Everett, a physician and surgeon who supervised the ward for brain injuries and mental disorders. Harry was leaving the next day to spend a fortnight or so observing in an Edinburgh hospital, a special opportunity arranged by James, who found in Harry an eager and intuitive student.

I pulled on my shirt and a pair of trousers with the special side pocket for my truncheon, a vestige of my days in uniform. It being Sunday, I was off duty, but the Doyles lived in the heart of Whitechapel, and there was no point in being foolhardy. I splashed water on my face and ran a comb through my hair before stowing my truncheon and heading down the stairs.

“Good morning, Mickey,” Harry said as I entered the kitchen.

“Morning.” I accepted the cup he pushed across the table. The pocketbook he always took to the hospital lay beside his saucer. “Are you not coming with me to the Doyles’s?”

He winced an apology. “I would, but there’s a special procedure.”

“On a Sunday?”

He nodded, his brown eyes keen. “Dr. Everett is performing a craniotomy on a woman with blood on the brain.”

The coffee suddenly tasted sour. But far be it from me to dampen his scientific ardor.

“You’ll only be watching, I assume?” I asked.

Regret flickered over his features. “Observing from the balcony.” Then he brightened. “Richard will be assisting, though.”

Richard was a second-year medical student at University College here in London, who worked at the hospital and had taken Harry under his wing.

“How did it happen?” I asked. “Blood on the brain?”

“She fell off a ladder,” he replied. “If Dr. Everett doesn’t operate, the blood will continue to press on the internal parts and organs.” He touched his fingertips to the side of his head. “She’s already having secondary symptoms—seizures, confusion, and the like.”

“Ah. What time is it? The operation?”

He upended his cup to drink the last of the tea. “Ten o’clock, but I want to be there for the anesthesia.”

“Of course.” What could be more entertaining? I thought as I raised my own cup to hide my smile.

He reached for his coat. “Besides, I doubt Aunt Mary will expect me. I saw them on Tuesday. My aunt and Elsie, I should say,” he amended as he thrust his arm into a sleeve. “Colin was out somewhere . . . as usual.”

In his voice was an undertone—hurt, strained, subdued—that could have served as a signal of something amiss. But it was one of those moments when you must be paying proper attention to take it in, when you must be standing quite still. And we weren’t. Harry was dashing up the stairs, calling over his shoulder, “Wait for me—I’ll be right down,” and I was rummaging on the table amid some newspapers for my pocketbook—where was the bloody thing?—and the warning went unheeded.

I swallowed down the last of my coffee. Harry did well by me, leaving no grounds in the bottom, meticulous in a way that boded well for his success in a profession that demanded precision. With my pocketbook found, I shrugged into my coat, and when Harry reappeared on the stairs, his boots sounding quick on the treads, I waved him outside and locked the front door. We walked to the corner, where we bid farewell and separated. I watched him, hatless, his lanky boyish frame hurrying along, not wanting to miss the thrills to be found in the medical amphitheater.

I found myself grinning as I turned away, for I liked the lad, and we’d come to understand each other. Belinda says that in our both being orphans and clever, as well as in some of our less desirable traits such as our prickly aversion to owing anyone anything, we’re more alike than I’m willing to admit. There’s part of me that agrees with her, though Harry and I have our differences. Sometimes I wonder where I’d be if I’d had Harry’s book learning or someone overseeing my education and guiding my professional progress the way James does for Harry. Oh, my real mother had taught me to read before I lost her, and working at Ma Doyle’s store had made me quick at my sums. But every so often Harry would let slip a phrase in French or Latin, or he’d mention some curious bit of history, much the way James or my former partner Stiles does, not to show off his learning but just because it floats around in his brain. And I’d think about how we can’t be more than our past permits us.

Then again, my advancement within the Metropolitan Police has been my own doing. There’s some satisfaction in that too.

Chapter 2

It was a fine day for a walk, and I headed to my favorite pub— the only one within a mile of my house that served a satisfying wedge of shepherd’s pie in a proper crust. It was where I usually spent part of my Sunday, with the papers, and I knew the Doyles wouldn’t expect me before two or three at the earliest.

My favorite table was occupied by two men, but I chose another near the window where a newspaper was lying, its ruffled pages evidence of it having already been read at least once. I flipped it over to find the Times masthead and the bold headline “Sittingbourne Disaster,” with a drawing below it of a railway train with the engine, tender, and two cars tipped over on their sides and the usual chaos of people and their belongings flung from carriages.

I let out a groan.

Sittingbourne was fifty miles east of London, on the south side of the Thames, not far from where the river let out to the North Sea. I scanned the article, but there weren’t many facts provided other than it had happened the previous night, August 31, on the London, Chatham and Dover line, when an express train bringing trippers back from Sheerness and elsewhere had run off the rails. It seemed to be the result of either eroded ground or a rotted railway tie that destabilized the iron rail above it—the same problem that had caused the disaster at Morpeth last March, as well as half a dozen other accidents that had occurred around England in the past few years. Early reports indicated three dead and sixty-two injured, with numbers expected to increase. The article closed with the usual gloomy declarations about how, until railways are held to a standard of safety by Parliament, accidents such as this would continue to plague travelers.

I stood and went to another table, where I found a second paper whose account included the additional facts that, for some unknown reason, the railway train had been on the ancillary line instead of the primary line, approximately one hundred yards from the station; and five passengers, not three, had been killed. This version also included, on an inside page, lurid descriptions and illustrations of mangled bodies and children’s toys strewn among the broken carriages.

Those poor families, I thought. What a wretched ending to a pleasant excursion.

As I refolded the paper, worry nicked at my nerves. Belinda would be traveling home from Edinburgh by train in a few days. She’d been visiting her cousin for a month, which was the longest I’d gone without seeing her these three years since a burglary had first brought me to her home. The thought of her in a railway disaster carved a cold, hollow space in my chest.

But even as I imagined it, I dismissed my worry as nonsensical. Belinda had made this trip dozens of times, and the line from Edinburgh was one of the newest and safest. Besides, the newspaper’s pessimism notwithstanding, parliament had mandated new safety devices and procedures. No doubt this Sittingbourne disaster would require yet another Parliamentary Commission, and the Railways Inspection Department would be saddled with the task of providing weeks of testimony and filing endless reports. I didn’t envy them.

After finishing my pie, I took my time reading the remainder of the papers, then rose, shrugged into my coat, and left the pub, strolling east until I crossed Leman Street into Whitechapel. Many of the narrow, pocked streets were without signs, but I’d grown up among these crooked alleys, with buildings whose upper floors overhung the unpaved passages and oddly shaped courtyards, and I tacked left and right, left and right, until I reached the street with Ma Doyle’s shop. It always opened at one o’clock on Sundays, after Roman mass, and as I anticipated, there was the usual bustle around the door.

What I didn’t expect were the wooden planks that covered one of the windows.

Alarm pinched at the top of my spine and spread across my shoulders.


Excerpt from Under a Veiled Moon by Karen Odden. Copyright 2022 by Karen Odden. Reproduced with permission from Karen Odden. All rights reserved.



5 stars!

A dedicated and compassionate police inspector unravels a deadly politically-motivated case of historical terrorism.

Under A Veiled Moon is the second book in author Karen Odden's Inspector Corravan Mystery series, and it is a complex and compelling tale. Incorporating fascinating actual incidents from the time period, it is historical mystery fiction at its best and eerily reflects similarities in our current time and society. 

The story unfolds from the viewpoint of Michael Corravan, now the acting superintendent of the Wapping River Police. Corravan, an Irishman, diligently sets aside his biases for his culture and people yet still must suffer through society's prejudices, including those of his own supervisors and others working the same case. Thankfully, he has the support of his love interest, novelist Belinda Gale, and his former partner at Scotland Yard, Gorgon Stiles. He and Stiles remain a formidable pair working in tandem on the complicated case. While Belinda doesn't feature heavily in this book, she still has a significant role, with her outsider's perspective, in helping Corravan view his investigation through a different pair of eyes. 

The author breathes life into the time period and the London setting, so much so that I could almost smell the odors wafting off the river. I got a fascinatingly distinct impression of what life must have been like for someone like Corravan and his adopted family, the Doyles, and some of it was downright horrifying. Brief glimpses into Belinda's life accentuate the discrepancies in living conditions, treatment, and prospects for the future between the classes, especially for the immigrants. 

The plot is complex and absorbing, especially when it appears to be headed in one direction only to veer off into another. Some surprising twists and turns really upped the tension and the feeling of urgency to solve the case. Besides the eye-opening political machinations that Corravan must untangle, there is an utterly personal aspect to this case for him that was heartbreaking and absolutely riveting. 

With its dedicated and conflicted police investigator, vivid historical setting, and complex plot, I recommend UNDER A VEILED MOON to mystery readers who enjoy historical mystery fiction with a political basis and tense terroristic threats and readers who enjoyed the first book in the series.

Author Bio:

Karen Odden

Karen received her Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and subsequently taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has published numerous essays and articles on Victorian literature, written introductions for Victorian novels in the Barnes and Noble Classics Series, and edited for the journal Victorian Literature and Culture. Her first novel, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today bestseller and A Dangerous Duet and A Trace of Deceit have won awards for historical mystery and historical fiction. Her fourth mystery, Down a Dark River, introduced readers to Michael Corravan, a former thief and bare-knuckles boxer from Whitechapel who serves as an inspector at Scotland Yard in 1870s London. The sequel, Under a Veiled Moon, is available in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook. A member of Mystery Writers of America and a national board member for Sisters in Crime, Karen lives in Arizona with her family.

Catch Up With Karen Odden:
BookBub - @KarenOdden
Instagram - @karen_m_odden
Twitter - @karen_odden
Facebook - @karen.odden



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Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: Vampires and Villains (Magical Mystery Book Club, #2) by Elizabeth Pantley

Vampires and Villains by Elizabeth Pantley Banner

Vampires and Villains

by Elizabeth Pantley

January 23 - February 3, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


Vampires and Villains by Elizabeth Pantley

Paige and her joyful Aunt Glo have learned that the home they inherited comes with a magical library. They put together a book club group of loveable kooks to explore the magic. They’ve recovered from their first book journey, and they all agree on their next book which takes place on a cruise ship bound for Hawaii. Problem is, they were so excited about the cruising idea that they didn’t read the entire blurb on the back of the book. (“It was entirely too long,” explains Zell.) Once on the ship, they meet a charming and likeable man who blends seamlessly into their motley group. Too bad they don’t know why he’s so scarce during the day but shows up to join them every evening for dinner, drinks, and a show. When a dead body shows up on board, their new friend is labeled a suspect. Can they help him out by finding the real murderer? Or is he the real murderer? The book club will need to solve the case to get off the ship, out of the book, and back to their home.

Praise for Vampires and Villains:

"another delightful Magical Mystery Book Club cozy murder mystery read"

Book Details:

Genre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Published by: Better Beginnings, Inc.
Publication Date: September 2022
Number of Pages: 219
ISBN: 9798849790657
Series: Magical Mystery Book Club #2
Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

“Here’s one with a cruise ship on the cover,” yelled Forrest. “It’s called Havoc in Hawaii.”

“Yes!” squealed Sebastian, doing a little jig. “I loooove Hawaii!”

Zell marched up to Forrest and he handed her the book. She began to scan the back cover and mumble, “Cruise … adventure … tropical islands …”

“Ah. The blurb is too long. I’m sure this will do!” She flipped the book open and before we could stop her, she began to read.

“Zell! Stop reading!” Vee yelled. “We don’t even know what the mystery is about yet—”

It was too late. The globe turned golden until it shone like the sun. It began to spin, faster and faster, the speed increasing by the moment. Sparks began to shoot from it, and the room slowly filled with fog until we could no longer see. In the quiet fog-filled room, Million’s thunderous gasp of a string of bad words made us all laugh.

As the dense fog continued to fill the library, we all became perfectly still and silent. Waiting. Wondering. What would be next? The silence finally gave way to the excited chatter of a crowd around us. Once the air was cleared, we found ourselves in a boarding line, heading onto a majestic, glittering cruise ship. Its name was painted across the bow: Serendipity of the Seas.

The air was warm, humid, and smelled of tropical flowers. Beyond the glass enclosed walkway that snaked back and forth toward the ship we could see palm trees and blue skies.

“Looks like we’re embarking right in Hawaii,” said Zell.

“Most likely Honolulu,” added Million.

“Probably Pier 2,” said Zell with a look of superiority.

“Looks busy today. I’d say we’re using the alternate terminal at Pier 11.” Million looked smug, as if he’d just won that round of their game of one-upmanship.

“This is so exciting!” squealed Sebastian. “And look at my outfit!” He did a spin showing off his crisp khaki trousers, an aloha shirt airbrushed with colorful bird-of-paradise flowers, and beige espadrilles.

We had all arrived in clothing that wasn’t ours but was suitable for the trip. The only person who looked perfectly normal was Moonbeam, except that the type of flowers displayed on her kaftan were more tropical than hippie. Even Forrest was decked out in a Hawaiian print shirt, though his was teen-appropriate, worn open over a white t-shirt, and set off with a stylish pair of sunglasses.

“Isn’t anyone weirded out about our clothes changing?” asked Vee.

“Hold up, Vee-Vee,” said Frank, sporting a floral print scarf around his neck. “You’re okay with plopping into a mystery book and solving a murder case, but you think it’s weird that your clothes have changed?”

“If you put it that way.” She shrugged.

Glo called out over her shoulder. “We’re almost to the front of the line!” She was leading the group and trotting so fast we could barely keep up with her. Her beach-print sundress was fluttering in the breeze behind her. My aunt loved adventures and having fun, and this was certainly both.

As soon as we were over the gangway the crowd split into two directions. Photo stations were set up on both sides with a screen shot of a Hawaiian beach, the Serendipity of the Seas cruise ship in the background, and a banner over the top saying “Welcome Aboard!” A photographer’s assistant was placing a lei around each passenger.

“Wait up, Glo! Veer to the right!” Zell shouted, then she turned toward us. “You need to pick your photographer wisely.”

“Yeah,” said Million, nodding in agreement. “Cuz they charge an arm and a leg for those photos, but you can’t resist buying them.”

“You’ve got the millions, so spend a few,” laughed Sebastian.

“Who told you I got millions?” Our newest member turned to Sebastian with a scowl.

“As I was saying,” Zell said. “You want the best one. See that guy on the left. He’s boring and bland. Looks like he’d rather be somewhere else. People are barely smiling for him. His assistant is passing out wilted leis. Now, that guy on the right – he’s the life of the party. Even his assistant is doing a little dance to the music. He’s joking, he’s talking. Everybody’s laughing. Makes for a great photo.”

“Plus, he looks like Mr. Bean. Makes you laugh before he even opens his mouth,” said Moonbeam.

“Who’s Mr. Bean, Mom?” asked Forrest.

“Google him, honey.”

A moment later Forrest chuckled. “He does look like Mr. Bean!”

“Hey! You have cell service. Good deal,” said Vee. “Means a contemporary setting, right, Zell?”

“Yeppers!” Zell nodded vigorously. “… as far as I know.” Her voice faded off at the end.

We were at the front of the line where Glo was eagerly waiting. “Picture time!” She was bouncing on the toes of her cork-wedge sandals – a pair she’d never buy for herself, though she was obviously enjoying them.

“Howdy folks!” called the photographer, Mr. Bean’s twin, with a name tag that said Grant Perkins, USA. “Welcome aboard!”


Excerpt from Vampires and Villains by Elizabeth Pantley. Copyright 2022 by Elizabeth Pantley. Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Pantley. All rights reserved.




5 stars!

It’s time for another meeting of the Magical Mystery Book Club!

Vampires and Villains is another fun and fanciful entry in the Magical Mystery Book Club series by Elizabeth Pantley. All but one of the group from the previous book have returned and are joined by the wonderfully quirky Maximilian “Million” Bettencourt III. He is the perfect addition to the club and something of a nemesis to the feisty Zell. I loved how the group returns after a month apart but has made great strides toward becoming a “family.” Forrest, in particular, is becoming a more solid member of the club and brings teenage energy and attitude, current pop cultural knowledge, and solid computer and social media skills to the table.
The story is set on board a luxury cruise ship and the Hawaiian islands when the group participates in excursions, and I loved how the Snapdragon Inn magically tagged along. The descriptions of the ship, activities, and trips ashore are vivid and put me on location with the characters. And even with a murder on board, it also put me in the mood to book my own cruise! 

The investigation was so entertaining that I read this book in one sitting. With nine (counting Frank!) sleuths on the job, the group can check out a lot of leads in a short amount of time, which is a good thing because there are beaucoup suspects. Starting out, there are almost 5,000 passengers and crew on board. However, after learning the manner of death, that is whittled down to the number of vampires on the ship. The story has twists and turns in it and I didn’t suspect the individual revealed as the murderer at all. I liked that each character regularly gets moments to contribute to the interaction and case. 

With a magical library theme, a fun group of recurring characters, including a snarky, talking cat, and vampires, I recommend VAMPIRES AND VILLAINS to cozy mystery readers who enjoy paranormal elements in their stories.

Author Bio:

Elizabeth Pantley

Elizabeth Pantley says that writing her serveral Mystery and Magic book series is the most fun she's ever had at work. Fans of the series say her joy is evident through the engaging stories she tells. Elizabeth is also the international bestselling author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and twelve other books for parents. Her books have been published in over twenty languages. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, a beautiful inspiration for her enchanted worlds.

Catch Up With Elizabeth Pantley:
BookBub - @DestinyFalls
Instagram - @destinyfallsmystery
Facebook - @DestinyFallsMysteryandMagic



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