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Monday, October 31, 2016

Author Interview - Deborah Blake

Please welcome Deborah Blake, author of the paranormal police procedural book Veiled Magic (click here for my review).  I have also reviewed another of her books not discussed in this interview, Wickedly Dangerous (click here for review).

Where did the initial idea for Veiled Magic and Donata Santori come from? 
Believe it or not, it came to me in a dream. The short story that Veiled Magic was based on was something I dreamed from start to finish, and jumped out of bed and wrote in about six hours with no break. This has never happened to me before or since!

What attracted you to this middle ground of paranormal and police procedural? 
Honestly, that was just the way the story came to me.

What do you and Donata have in common? How are you different? 
Well, we both have long dark hair, a smart-ass attitude, and we are witches. But she definitely has better luck attracting men!

In literature (other than your own), who is your favorite character and secondarily, who is your favorite paranormal character? 
I love Alanna, the teenage protagonist of Tamora Pierce’s first quartet. My favorite paranormal character is Harry Dresden, by Jim Butcher.

What are you currently reading?
I’m actually reading two different British contemporary romances (they’re my “comfort food”), but I’m about ready to start reading The Brimstone Deception, by Lisa Shearin, who is one of my favorite paranormal authors.

What's the one thing a reader has said that you've never forgotten and perhaps found startling? 
That my books have helped them get through a difficult time. I’m amazed and touched when someone says that.

If your Donata Santori series were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your top character's roles?
For Donata herself, I always envisioned Yancy Butler (Witchblade). I’d love to see Alex O’Loughlin as Peter, and I’m open to suggestions for Magnus. (I envision him as looking much like model Gabriel Autry.)

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Thank you Ms. Blake for that interview.  I have a new appreciation for Peter and Magnus now!!

Check out all of Deborah's fiction books here.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Review - Tangled up in Brew

I jumped on this new series because of the interesting premise of a lady brew-master.  I reviewed the debut novel, To Brew, or Not To Brew (click here), and a guest post (click here).  The second in the series is out and I again jumped at the chance to review it.  Here is the second in the Brewing Trouble mystery series, see what you think.

Author: Joyce Tremel

Copyright: Oct 2016 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 2nd in Brewing Trouble Mystery series

Sensuality: G rated

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Maxine “Max” O’Hara, Brewmaster and owner of The Allegheny Brew House

Setting: Modern day,  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the Book cover: "Brew pub owner Maxine “Max” O’Hara and her chef/boyfriend, Jake Lambert, are excited to be participating in the Three Rivers Brews and Burgers Festival. Max hopes to win the coveted Golden Stein for best craft beer—but even if she doesn’t, the festival will be great publicity for her Allegheny Brew House.

Or will it? When notoriously nasty food and beverage critic Reginald Mobley is drafted as a last-minute replacement judge, Max dreads a punishing review. Her fears are confirmed when Mobley literally spits out her beer, but things get even worse when the cranky critic drops dead right after trying one of Jake’s burgers. Now an ambitious new police detective is determined to pin Mobley’s murder on Max and Jake, who must pore over the clues to protect their freedom and reputations—and to find the self-appointed judge, jury, and executioner."

Maxine “Max” O’Hara has gumption balanced with a kind nature. Jake Lambert, former ice hockey player and childhood friend of her brothers is the romantic interest.  I'm not a romance novel fan, but this is so G rated as to be reminiscent of Nancy Drew with her boyfriend.  But my concern is now Max and Jake are dating, there is no spark or tension between them and seems they will be best buds with a kiss occasionally.  Max's father, Sean Sr., is a police detective that in this 2nd entry in the series is teamed with a young detective, Vincent Falk, who is out to make his reputation - at Jake and Max's expense.  Brothers Father Sean, the Catholic Priest, and Mike are protective and bit walk on roles. There are several colorful characters associated with the Festival as well that keep this interesting.  I was glad that rival breweries and brew pubs got along and Max was one of them.

Pittsburgh is given life with through the interesting tidbits that natives know and take for granted, excellent job there.  The plot is classic with the killer cleverly hidden in plain site. The pacing was effective, keeping me interested and made for a story I had a hard time putting down.  The climax had action and some heroism.  

I like the writing style and Max makes a unique heroine, but the Jake and Max chemistry from the debut was sorely missing which did impact the story for me.  Otherwise a solid mystery to delve into.  I liked the festival theme as the backdrop which bolstered the mystery.

Rating:  Very Good - I enjoyed it, it had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Guest Author Post - Victoria Abbott

Welcome the mother-daughter writing team known as Victoria Abbot.  Their Book Collector mysteries and delightful, 1st book was The Christie Curse (click here), 2nd entry was The Sayers Swindle (click here), The Wolfe Widow (click here) I have reviewed on this blog. 

Dream trip or nightmare?

Fall is our favorite time of year: we love the crisp sunny days and the cooler nights. We enjoy the hint of colorful leaves to come and once again we are celebrating that we have a new book coming out: The Hammett Hex. You can probably tell by our fedoras that we’re celebrating the link between the book and the legendary Dashiell Hammett.

The Hammett Hex will be released on October 4 and we are very excited about sharing this fifth book collector mystery with you. We hope you’ll join our protagonist, Jordan Bingham, on a dream trip to San Francisco, with the man in her life, Officer Tyler ‘Smiley’ Dekker. Of course, they have separate rooms in case things don’t go well, which sometimes they don’t for this pair. Jordan is taking no chances.

They’re just trying to see if they can rebuild their trust in each other and overcome the differences in their backgrounds. The deck is stacked against a romance with Jordan, the first person to go straight in her large family of Irish crooks and Tyler, a man with no family to speak of and a desire to be a good police officer with no criminal connections. Can they work out their problems in the foggy city of Dashiell Hammett, where it seems you just can’t trust anyone?

All Jordan has to do is find a signed first edition copy of Hammett’s Red Harvest for her book collector boss. Soon Jordan isn’t safe on a cable car, taking a cab ride or even in her hotel room. Coincidence? Of course, she has something to hide and naturally, it also turns out that Tyler is keeping a big secret. Will it make a difference or is there an even bigger threat to their happiness?

Of course, there is! This a mystery after all and we all want to know that our characters are made of the right stuff.

Join us on this trip and find out for yourself what happens to our friends. But we warn you to be very, very careful in the city by the bay. In the meantime, check out the trailer:

The Hammett Hex, Victoria Abbott’s Book Collector Mystery #5

Amazon: click here
Chapters-Indigo: click here
Barnes & Noble: click here
Book Depository: click here
Kindle US: ckick here
Kindle Worldwide: click here
Kobo: click here
iBooks: click here
Nook: click here

Thank you both for this great author post.  I need to catch up with Jordan.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop 2016

If you are joining us as part of the Spooktacular Giveaway Blog hop, look around and stay for awhile.  We celebrate everything mystery and suspense here - no doubt you can find something of interest!


We are celebrating Halloween here at Mysteries and My Musings with a giveaway for the sixth year!  One combination prize to a winner, 6 winners!

1)  Gone With the Witch (Wish Craft Mystery #6) by Heather Blake and A Grave Prediction (Psychic Eye Mystery #14) by Victoria Laurie

2)  The Witch and the Dead (Wish Craft Mystery #7) by Heather Blake and Twice Told Tail (A Black Cat Bookshop Mystery #6) by Ali Brandon

3)  The Ghost and Mrs Fletcher (Murder She Wrote Mysteries #44) by Donald Bain and The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala (A Book Club Mystery #3) by Laura DiSilverio

4)   Inspector of the Dead (Thomas and Emily De Quincey Investigation #2) by David Morrell and A Dark and Stormy Murder (A Writer's Apprentice Mystery #1) by Julia Buckley

5)   Spells and Scones (A Magical Bakery Mystery #6) by Bailey Cates and A Toxic Trousseau (Witchcraft Mystery (Book 8) by Juliet Blackwell

6)  Behind Chocolate Bars (A Chocolate Covered Mystery #3) by Kathy Aarons and Paws and Effect (Magical Cats #8) by Sofie Kelly

Entry for giveaway lasts until October 31 6:00 p.m. (MST).  U.S.  entries only please.

I will be shipping the books to the winners.

How to enter:

*** First, you must be a member (follower) of this blog.***

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.

I will accept entries for this giveaway until 6:00 p.m (MST) on  Oct 31, 2015.    I shall notify each winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.  If I don't hear from you in 3 days, I will select another winner and notify them.

IF you are a member (or email subscriber) of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.

BECOME a member (or email subscriber) of this blog if you aren't already and enjoy the celebration of all things mystery and suspense.

Other participating blogs:

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Book Review - Whispers Beyond the Veil

I jumped at the chance to read and review this book based on the blurb and the main character's description.  This is a brand new historical cozy series, so join me in the turn of the century when there was a surge of interest in psychic phenomenon and medium-ship and multitudes of fakes taking advantage people.  

Author:  Jessica Estevao

Copyright: September 2016 (Berkley) 352 pgs

Series: 1st in A Change of Fortune Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre:  Cozy Historical Mystery

Main Characters: Ruby Proulx, a psychic with a "questionable" past

Setting: 1898, Old Orchard-Maine

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

"Canada, 1898. The only life Ruby Proulx has ever known is that of a nomad, traveling across the country with her snake-oil salesman father. She dreams of taking root somewhere, someday, but, until she can, she makes her way by reading tarot cards. Yet she never imagined her own life would take such a turn…

After one of her father’s medical “miracles” goes deadly wrong, Ruby evades authorities by hiding in the seaside resort town of Old Orchard, Maine, where her estranged aunt, Honoria, owns the Hotel Belden, a unique residence that caters to Spiritualists—a place where Ruby should be safe as long as she can keep her dark secret hidden.

But Ruby’s plan begins to crumble after a psychic investigator checks into the hotel and senses Ruby is hiding more than she’s letting on. Now Ruby must do what she can to escape both his attention and Aunt Honoria’s insistence that she has a true gift, before she loses her precious new home and family forever."

Ruby may seem worldly wise for her youth, but she has the proverbial good heart in spite of her con-artist rearing. This makes her endearing as she struggles to be honest.  Aunt Honoria is a dear, the relative that gives unconditional love.  Officer Warren Yancy provides the potential love interest, and even though it is the standard policeman - his struggle with Ruby on many levels makes it interesting.  Lucinda (Lucy) is Officer Yancy's sister who has become Ruby's fast friend and is a great side kick.  The Velmont Sisters, Elva and Dovie, become Ruby's most ardent supporters as she develops her psychic abilities.  They are the breakout stars.

The seaside town of Old Orchard is a great setting that is woven throughout the story to become a vivid element in the tapestry.  Loved the town and the Hotel Belden.  

The plot and subplots are equal parts mystery and character driven for a great story.  The murderer was well hidden in plain sight, clever.  Pacing was perfect and kept me reading into the night to find out the next bit facing Ruby.  

The climax was fun with some dramatic elements. I enjoyed the killer confrontation and hope this is a signature of the series.  The wrap up was equally well done, and I am anxious for the next installment. 

This is an exciting debut novel, Ms. Estevao provides complex characters in a fascinating time period with interesting plots in an idyllic setting.  Couldn't ask for better.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Guest Author Post - Diane Vallere

Diane Vallere, the author of Material Witness series, Mad for Mod, Style and Error series, and the newest Costume Shop Mystery series (debut novel review click here) joins us today.  At age ten, Diane launched her own detective agency and has maintained a passion for shoes, clues, and clothes ever since.  Please welcome this multi-published author to M&MM.

Shaking Up Your Routine  

A funny thing happened while I was writing MASKING FOR TROUBLE. I got called for Jury Duty. I had hit that murky middle part of the manuscript and was actually happy for the distraction. I hoped that shaking up my regular routine would result would help me, but I also knew I had an excuse for not working. Truthfully, it could have gone either way.

I got up early and walked to the Metro stop, and then rode it to the courthouse. I ate a Pop-Tart for lunch and spent the rest of my time writing in the courtyard. I sat through jury selection only to be told that we would continue the process the next day.

I was fascinated by the process. A rumpled lawyer who appeared leaned back so far in his chair I thought it would break. A second lawyer who looked perfectly put together from his bowtie to his tailored suit. A third lawyer (it was a confusing case) who jumped in every once in a while, just to remind us that his client wasn’t happy with either of the brothers who were suing each other. The longer I sat in the back of the courthouse studying the people involved, the more I realized it was exactly what I needed to shake myself out of the murky middle. I took notes on how people were dressed (“Lawyer costumes”), how they acted, what they said. I watched a quiet woman in head- to-toe pink politely answer a lawyer who questioned her when she said she owned property. (“Do you mean your husband owns property?” “No, it’s mine. I formed a limited liability corporation and manage four properties in Los Angeles.”) (That’ll teach the lawyer to make judgement of women dressed in head-to-toe pink!)

By the time jury selection was complete, I was one of two people who hadn’t been selected. The group was dismissed for lunch. I could have caught the Metro home and gone about the rest of my week. But something about the process appealed to my sense of adventure. I wanted to see how this case unfolded. (Plus, I kind of liked getting out of the house.) I showed up at the courthouse every day for the next week and sat in the back. I took notes and revisited my synopsis. And during lunch breaks, I navigated the murky middle of my manuscript and came out the other side.

The case went on for almost two weeks. Revisions and other responsibilities kept me from attending during the second week but I made arrangements with one of the jurors to tell me the outcome. I finished MASKING FOR TROUBLE in the month that followed and there’s no doubt that, while there’s no court case scene in my book, the experience impacted the story.

Lessons learned: get out of the house. Experience new things. Watch. Learn. Take Notes. And never underestimate a woman dressed in head-to-toe pink.

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THANK You Ms. Vallere for another example of how authors are a breed apart and take inspiration from everyday life.  

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Guest Author Post - Joyce Tremel

Please welcome Joyce Tremel to the blog today. Joyce was a police secretary for over ten years. Her fiction has appeared in Mysterical-e, and her nonfiction has been published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police magazine. To Brew or Not to Brew is her first novel (click here). She lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh with her husband and a spoiled cat.


5. It’s not as easy as it looks. Believe it or not, there are readers out there who think that cozy mysteries are inferior to other mysteries. Obviously, they’ve never tried to write one. I’ve found it takes quite a bit of skill to kill someone and not gross out the reader. The cozy writer has to get the horror of the murder across without showing much in the way of blood, guts, and the like. You have to describe what happened without actually describing what happened. This also applies to any sexy scenes. I’m perfectly content with not having to write those kinds of scenes. Banter, innuendo, and an occasional kiss that leaves the character’s knees weak is enough for me. I like to leave the rest up to imagination.

4. It’s sometimes hard to find adequate substitutes for swear words. I worked as a police secretary for ten years. Believe me, cops swear. I learned a whole new vocabulary when I worked for the police department. When you have officers talking in a cozy, you can’t very well have them use what must be their favorite word in the whole world because they say it three times in every sentence. And you can’t have them say gosh, darn, or golly either. Andy Griffith could get away with it, but that’s about it. My protagonist’s dad is a homicide detective and in one scene I have Max say something like, “My dad rarely swore but I could tell he held back a string of words that would have turned the air blue.” I do throw in an occasional damn and have used the letters S.O.B. Sometimes I’ll interrupt the dialogue just before the swear word would be uttered. So far, it works. I think.

3. There’s a fine line between educating the reader on the character’s craft or occupation and boring them to death. No one wants to read page after page of how your character does something. My protagonist Max is a craft brewer and there’s a lot of chemistry involved in brewing beer. If I started rambling on about how to calculate the specific gravity of a certain brew in order to calculate the alcohol by volume, I don’ t think readers would be too happy. In the best case scenario, they’d skip those pages; in the worst case, they’d throw the book against the wall. It’s a mystery novel, not a textbook. Information like that must be sprinkled in lightly.

2. Recipes are hard to come up with. I’m usually thinking more about the plot and what the characters are doing than about what they’re eating or cooking. I’ve had to train myself to actually stop and describe certain foods and then search for a recipe to include. That’s probably why the first book, To Brew or Not to Brew only had two recipes. I did a little better with books two and three. Tangled Up in Brew has four, and next year’s A Room With a Brew will have five.

1. Write everything down. When I was about halfway through writing the first book, I realized I was NOT going to remember which character had blue eyes, who had brown eyes, how tall a certain someone was, etc. I started what we call a Character Bible. I jotted down each character, what they looked like, and anything else I thought might be important. I did the same with each shop and location in the series. I even drew a little map so I’d remember which store/shop/restaurant was where. And thank goodness I did. I refer to it constantly. Between that and the style sheet (which has even more detailed info on it) from my copy editor, I’ve saved hours that would have been spent searching through previous manuscripts for one tiny tidbit of information. All because I couldn’t remember something I thought I would.

These are the top five things I’ve learned writing a cozy series. Readers, what have you learned reading one?

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THANK You Ms Tremel for this delightful post - I can relate to the swearing conundrum.  Tough question, but I would have to say I have learned I love reading mysteries because of the brush with danger while knowing I am completely safe from it.  Anybody else want to share?

Find out more at

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Guest Author Post - Laura Childs

Welcome Laura Childs, USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, the Cackleberry Club Mysteries, and Afton Tangler Thrillers under the Pen-name Gerry Schmitt.  In her previous life she was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, enjoys travel, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

I am excited she is joining us with a guest post discussing creating a sense of place in her writing.  I love when a setting is a character in the story, so I am enjoying this post.

On Creating a Sense of Place.

The first time I visited New Orleans, I fell head over heels in love with the city. And because this fanciful city was introduced to me by friends who lived there, friends who actually belonged to the famed Rex and Comus krewes, I had the rare privilege of being invited into the giant float dens, meeting the float builders, marching in one of the Fat Tuesday parades, and attending the white tie (not just black tie) Rex Ball.

New Orleans truly is The Big Easy and The City That Care Forgot. It’s also a city that been mythologized and derided, and is filled with contradictions. It’s eccentric, overindulgent, and just naturally possesses a dark side. And I just knew that New Orleans would provide the perfect setting and backdrop for my Scrapbooking Mysteries.

The tricky thing, of course, is how to capture the essence of New Orleans. How to bottle the magic and then spill it out onto the pages of my mysteries.

Well, I’ve tried very hard to do just that. Because at its heart, New Orleans is a spooky, highly atmospheric place that lends itself to a mystery novel setting. Think about it – you have the crumbling French Quarter with grande dame architecture, above-ground cemeteries, elegant Garden District homes, live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, massive Mississippi River, and fog-shrouded bayous.

A setting like New Orleans makes it exciting to create a total “sense of place” for readers. To depict the smell of chicory coffee at the CafĂ© du Monde, the aroma of fried oysters, and the sweet scent of magnolias at midnight. As a feast for the eyes, I focus on taut descriptions of narrow cobblestone streets with gaslights flickering overhead and dark blue-black bayous that stretch to the Gulf.

As a counterpoint to my spooky aura, my main character, Carmela Bertrand, is a savvy, focused, amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on “coincidences” or inept police work to solve crimes. She dives headfirst into New Orleans society and digs for information. In Parchment and Old Lace, Carmela gets pulled from a dinner at Commanders Palace to the murder of a bride-to-be in St. Louis Cemetery. As Carmela digs deep, she realizes the killer could be the conflicted groom, stalker attorney, jealous bridesmaid, or crazy mother-in-law to be. And as Carmela sorts through this dysfunctional group of suspects, snippets of antique lace and parchment become critical clues. It all comes to a head at a raucous casino party and ends with a frantic chase through an abandoned theme park.

Parchment and Old Lace delivers a gripping story in a realistic, yes-you-will-feel-it setting. There are also scrapbook tips and recipes for Pecan Pie Muffins, Sweet Potato Casserole, and Big Easy Butter Chicken.

But just when you’ve settled back and assumed everything is safe in Carmela’s world, footsteps sound behind you and the lonely toot of a tugboat whistle floats in from the Mississippi.

Gosh, I picked a fun career!

All my best, Laura Childs

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THANK You Ms. Childs for that delightful post.  

Find out more at 

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Review - Clock and Dagger

I reviewed the debut novel in this new series, Just Killing Time (click here), and had a guest post from the author (click here).  It has the running theme of a clock shop and all things fine clocks.  Check out this addition to the series.

Author:  Julianne Holmes

Copyright: August 2016 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 2nd in Clock Shop Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre:  Cozy Mystery

Main Characters: Ruth Clagan, expert clock maker and owner of Cog & Sprocket

Setting: Modern day, Orchard Massachusetts (Berkshires)

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Ruth has three days to pull off four events—including the grand reopening of Cog and Sprocket, the clock shop she inherited from her grandfather—so she doesn’t have time for Beckett Green’s spiteful nonsense. The competitive owner of a new bookstore, Green seems determined to put other shops out of business by carrying their specialty items.  He’s trying to steal Ruth’s new watchmaker, Mark Pine, not to mention block her plans to renovate the town clock tower.

Ruth is already all wound up when she’s alarmed to discover Mark’s dead body. As the denizens of Orchard each chime in as to who they think the murderer is, Ruth needs to watch her back as she investigates on her own. Despite the danger, Ruth won’t stop until the killer is behind bars and serving time.

Ruth is a good heroine, level headed and making up for some lost time and a few regrets.  Ben Clover, is the owner of the neighboring hair salon and makes a fun potential love interest. He is the guy-next-door character, average man who you root for. Jeff Paisley, by-the-book Chief of Police who is dating Ruth's friend but must handle the rumor mill in this small town.  Caroline, the step-grandmother has her past catching up with her which was a great touch.   Bezel, the shop cat deserves a mention, just for being the shop cat. 

The setting is a standard small town with the standard enclave of shops.  It is the week between Christmas and New Year’s and the shops are trying to provide a coordinated event to bring business from surrounding areas.  There is a dichotomy of the community minded versus the every-man-for-himself that has elevated to the city councilI appreciated the tension in the story with this scenario rather than impossible family members (just saying).

The plot was well executed as the murder victim wasn't who I was expecting from the setup although, as the story progressed I could tell what direction it was headed.  Not, to say that was bad, it was well presented and pacing kept my interest throughout.  The culprit was fairly presented and gradually revealed with clues that I enjoyed putting together. While still a cozy, the plot was nicely more developed.

The killer reveal had some nice suspenseful moments like I enjoy.  Kudos on that. The wrap up tied up all the loose ends and left me looking forward to the next book.

This cozy sets up a nicely involved plot, has characters you become invested in, and the setting is just enough to add tension with small town politics.   

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it, it had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list.

**I have gotten very behind with my reading, reviewing, and posting - my apologies. 

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