A Page-Turning Thriller

The Accident by Chris Pavone

If you’re looking for a unique and heart-pounding thriller that checks all the boxes of intrigue, an international manhunt, CIA black ops, rich and powerful businessmen, and a whole lot of conflicted and morally compromised characters, do yourself a favor and check out The Accident.

My husband read this book first and insisted I read it as soon as he was done. I’m so glad I did. I loved the book’s fast pace, but I especially loved the crux of the story, which is an anonymous manuscript that, if published, has the power to destroy both careers and lives.

Here’s a quick summary: an anonymous writer has penned a manuscript that threatens to reveal buried secrets of some very powerful people. The writer sends it off to an agent, who quickly realizes she’s holding a ticking time bomb. The writer has insisted that no one make copies of the manuscript, but as more people realize what the agent has,…predictably, copies are made.

But someone out there knows who has copies, and that someone will not rest until every person with a copy of the manuscript is dead.

From the streets of Manhattan to the Hamptons of Long Island, from Switzerland to Austria to Paris, the hunt is on to find the person responsible for writing the tome that will destroy lives and livelihoods.

But is that person already dead?

You’ll have to read the book to find out.

I loved this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who loves a twisty thriller with plenty of action and excitement. It’s not as meaty as your typical thriller, so it’s a fairly quick read and very entertaining. Note: for those readers who prefer books without sex and violence, this is not the book for you.

The Great 2022 Cookie Exchange!

This year I’m thrilled to be taking part in author Staci Troilo’s Second Annual Cookie Exchange. It works sort of like a blog hop: you’re invited to visit the baker’s dozen (at last count) participating blogs and you’ll get a different cookie recipe at each one. Once you’ve read my recipe for molasses cookies, head on over to Staci Troilo’s blog at https://stacitroilo.wordpress.com/2022/12/15/virtual-cookie-exchange-2/ to check out the master list of cookies and participants. You’re sure to find cookies that tickle your fancy on that list!


Showstopping Molasses Cookies

If you like gingersnaps, this is the recipe for you. These are like chewy gingersnaps. They’ve been a favorite of my family for years and they are SO easy to make.

3/4 c. solid shortening (I use Crisco)

1/4 c. molasses (I use Grandma’s Original)

2 c. flour

1 c. sugar, plus more for rolling

1 egg

2 t. baking soda

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. ground ginger

1/2 t. ground cloves


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using an electric mixer, mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well-combined. This may take a few minutes, so be patient. Eventually the dough will come together and not be so crumbly.

Pour some extra sugar (I start with about 1/2 c. and use more if necessary) in a small bowl.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in the extra sugar to coat.

Place the balls approximately two inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. If you prefer, you can use a silicone baking mat or parchment paper instead—both work well.

Bake for about 8 minutes. Start checking the cookies at 7 minutes. They’ll look a little puffy, but they’ll flatten out a bit as they cool.

Here are a few photos of the molasses cookies I made last week:

I hope you’ll give these cookies a try and let me know what you think! Remember, head on over to Staci’s blog at https://stacitroilo.wordpress.com/2022/12/15/virtual-cookie-exchange-2/ and get yourself some new recipes for the holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Fowl Play is Out!

It’s my book birthday! I’m pleased to introduce Fowl Play, Book 6 in the Juniper Junction Cozy Holiday Mystery Series.

Here’s a look at the first review, from Veronica Cline Barton—

“It’s Thanksgiving week in Juniper Junction and jewelry store owner, Lilly Carlsen is getting ready for the holiday shopping season to begin. This year, she’s also hosting Thanksgiving dinner for her family and friends. As the countdown to turkey day grows shorter, her list of guests gets longer with the addition of new neighbors, an herbalist shop owner, and a real estate maven who’s taken on the listing for Lilly’s mother’s home. As the group gathers on the big day, not everything goes to plan, bringing a few, at times tense, laugh-out-loud moments to be enjoyed.

The shocking death of one of the guests brings Lilly and her Thanksgiving company under scrutiny from the law. Lilly is determined to clear her name, but will her sleuthing put her in the path of a killer? Family drama is taking its toll too, as Lilly deals with her mother’s decline from dementia and her daughter’s pregnant, angst-filled friend who is living with them. Her romance with Hassan is heating up, will their future take a serious turn?

Author Reade once again weaves an intriguing whodunnit that will keep you guessing. I thoroughly enjoy this holiday mystery series and this tale does not disappoint. This is a great read for thee holiday season–sit back and enjoy the cozy perils and warm, delights of Fowl Play! A highly recommended read!”

… and the second review, from Evie Gaskins—

“First I must say I am a huge fan of this whole series and that being said this was my favorite book so far! I highly recommend not just this book but also the whole series. Reading these books is like being part of the delightful town of Juniper Junction and just another one of Lillys friends. This book really has you twisting and turning right to the very end. Once again I had no idea who did it and could not put the book down. There are so many wonderful threads of storylines also happening in this book that really develop the characters even further than before and then weave them all into the main story plot. Truly wonderful writing. With a cup of coffee or tea and some snacks curled up on a sofa this book can just take you away to a wonderful adventure. I do not want to spoil any of the fun but for fans of this series there is the most delightful new character named Finley. I do not want to tell to much about him only that you will love him as soon as you meet him. This book is worth every moment spent reading and I highly recommend Fowl Play.”

A huge THANK YOU to both readers for reading and reviewing Fowl Play!


If you haven’t picked up your copy, get it by clicking HERE!

And thanks to all my readers for your support!

Brilliant First in Series

Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose

This is the first book in Andrea Penrose’s Wrexford & Sloane Mystery Series. What attracted me first was the evocative and atmospheric cover, but when I started reading I found that the cover was only one of a number of things I liked about this book.

Set in Regency London, this novel features main characters Charlotte Sloane and the Earl of Wrexford. Charlotte and Wrexford are from different worlds (though there are hints that Charlotte’s past may not have been so different from Wrexford’s station in life) who join forces to solve a grisly murder for which Wrexford stands accused in the court of public opinion. The dichotomy between Charlotte’s meager circumstances and the opulence in which Wrexford lives is striking, and the author does a fabulous job of releasing each character from his or her presumed caste in society in order to work together in a race against time.

I learned a lot about Regency London, the incredible differences between the haves and the have-nots, and the scientific theories that were all the rage at that time. The aura of mysticism surrounding the notion of alchemy lent a spooky element to the story.

I think my favorite characters are the two young brothers—street urchins—whom Charlotte has taken under her wing. Their desire to please, their street smarts, and their willingness to sacrifice for the sake of friendship, love, and honor is wonderful. I hope to see them again.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good English historical mystery, complex characters with intriguing backstories, and a heavy dose of moody settings.

A Mammoth of a Mystery

The Mammoth Murders by Iris Chacon

The Mammoth Murders is the second book in Iris Chacon’s Minokee Mysteries. I read the first book, Finding Miranda, a while back and loved it, so picking up a copy of Book 2 was a no-brainer.

I loved every word of this book. I cannot get enough of Shep and Miranda. And Carlo. The three of them make a great team, and the relationship between Shep and Miranda is just about the sweetest thing in print.

When a farmer finds a sinkhole on his property and realizes that sinkhole might just contain some very valuable archaeological finds, the race is on to see who will claim the prize first…will it be someone who will donate it to the university, or will it be someone with a more nefarious intent? When Shep and Miranda and their crew of a very intelligent cat, an ornery but good-as-gold neighbor, some of Shep’s radio followers, and Carlo (the Italian valet, cook, and all-around superhero) get involved in trying to find a missing archaeologist, they soon learn that not is all as it seems.

But the mystery isn’t the only good thing about this book. Miranda and Shep are engaged to be married, though they haven’t told anyone. Somehow, Shep’s domineering mother finds out and enlists the assistance of Miranda’s parents (and in particular, her cold-as-ice mother) to plan the spectacle of a wedding that neither Miranda nor Shep want.

The dialogue zings all the way through this book. It’s laugh-out-loud funny in places, and hits just the right notes of relatability and plausibility. Come for the mystery, stay for the characters, and you’ll be glad you did.

A Deadly Game

Rock Paper Scissors by Matty Dalrymple

I listened to the audiobook version of this thriller while I was on a long drive, and every time I had to get out of the car I couldn’t wait to get back to hear more of the story. It’s gripping—if I had been reading the paperback or even the ebook version, I would have called it a page-turner.

There’s something special about Lizzy Ballard, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Her special ability has been the proximate cause and the direct cause of the deaths of two loved ones, and she’s afraid of her own reactions to the events and people around her–that is, once everyone starts to figure out exactly what’s going on.

The threads connecting the characters in this story are both both believable and fascinating. There’s something in the book for everyone who loves thrillers: there’s blackmail, bookies, murder, scheming power brokers, questionable medical ethics, and innocence. There’s wealth and want. There’s a teenager with a desire for friends and a normal life, and there’s the guardian who’s willing to do anything to protect his young charge.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who reads thrillers and who is open to the idea that we haven’t yet discovered everything there is to know about the human mind. An exceptional read.

*One quick note: from now on, I’ll be linking the photo of the book’s cover to its Amazon page so interested readers can buy the book directly. And for people who want to know more about the author or prefer to buy books at etailers other than Amazon, I’ll also be linking the author’s website to his or her name in the heading at the top of the page.

Going Undercover

Undercover: Crime Shorts by Jane Risdon

I’ve had the pleasure of reading many blog posts written by Jane Risdon and quite a few interviews featuring her and her work. Her career has taken some fascinating turns, including rock star management and a stint in the UK government as part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Undercover: Crime Shorts is a page-turning collection of standalone short stories, each of which is totally unique and gives the reader a taste of Risdon’s writerly imagination and wide-ranging storytelling skills.

There are six stories in the collection, not including the tantalizing teaser for the first book in Risdon’s not-yet-released series, Ms. Birdsong Investigates.

On to the stories. Each one is different, but they all share the same voice of intrigue, trickery, and an unsettling sense of danger.

Sweet Sable: The Red Siren is a story of revenge. I would not want to find myself on Sable’s bad side.

Apartment 206c is a frightening and mindbending tale of what can happen when we pry into other people’s business;

Murder by Christmas is an ingenious example of the lengths one person will go to in order to get what he or she wants (and my favorite story in the collection);

The Watchers is an all-too-real glimpse of a stalker’s prey and one that will remind you to keep your blinds closed at night.

The Honey Trap is one of the shorter stories in the book and a terrifying look into the world of international espionage and misogyny;

The Look is another story of revenge, but differs from the first book in the collection because there’s a certain element of poetic justice in the conclusion.

CAVEAT: This is a gritty collection and if cozy mysteries represent the extent of the sex and violence you’ll tolerate in a mystery, most of these stories are not for you.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes short mysteries that explore dark issues, readers who like strong female protagonists, and readers who appreciate morally conflicted main characters. Not all the stories have all these traits, but in general I believe these are solid characterizations.

Until next time,


A Stranger’s Death

By Strangers Mourned by John Lindermuth

“By Strangers Mourn’d” is a line from a poem by Alexander Pope. Not only is it a beautiful poem, but the line is an apt title for this book, which starts off with the death of a young woman who is unknown to everyone in the town of Arahpot, Pennsylvania, in 1899. Her remains have been found in a creek outside town and it is obvious she was murdered. It is Sheriff Sylvester Tilghman’s job to find the killer.

But other crime doesn’t stop because the sheriff is busy solving a murder, and Tilghman has his hands full with problems in Arahpot that have nothing to do with the woman’s murder—or do they? With the help of his deputy, Cyrus, Tilghman works tirelessly to deal with the problems that crop up in his small jurisdiction, from a young boy who’s been shot to a constituent who’s constantly carping that the sheriff is spending too much time looking for the murderer of a woman who was just passing through town—and an immigrant woman at that.

Readers of my blog may recall that I’ve reviewed books by John Lindermuth in the past and enjoyed them, which is part of the reason I had a feeling I would like this one. When John asked me to read the book and write a review, it was a no-brainer for me.

The characters in this book are multi-faceted and likable (well, at least the good guys are likable, and even a couple of the bad guys are, too) and the story moves at a nice clip. Not too fast, not too slow. The reader gets an opportunity to get to know the town of Arahpot and its inhabitants, and there’s even some insight into how people around the turn of the twentieth century felt about some of the innovations of the day, such as the telephone and ragtime music.

Historical fiction from this time period requires good old-fashioned police work to bring the killer to justice. There can be no dependence on DNA or fingerprints or technical crime scene investigation to help law enforcement draw a net around the killer, and Lindermuth relies handily on Tilghman’s intuition, experience, and practical know-how to catch the killer. But it’s not an easy job, and there’s plenty of danger lurking in the story, waiting to ensnare lawmen who let their guards down.

The story is well-plotted and has a subtle complexity that hints at undercurrents of class and ethnic differences. I would recommend By Strangers Mourned to anyone who loves a good historical mystery with plenty of peril and great dialogue.

When John Lindermuth asked me to review the book, he also offered to provide a guest post to accompany the review. What follows is his brief post, which is a perfect complement to the thoughts I’ve shared about the book.


Early mining operations in Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region were the work of amateurs. Those who owned the mines and hoped to profit from them soon realized the need for experienced miners.

Competition began for the available supply of English, Welsh, and Scots-Irish miners who had learned their skills in the old country. Irish immigrants who fled the Potato Famine of the 1840s filled a variety of unskilled jobs above and below ground. They sent word home about opportunities and their number greatly increased. Many Germans also worked in the mines, though more were employed at carpentry, as blacksmiths, and in other related fields supplemental to mining. By the second generation, many of the Irish had learned the mining trade and the English and Welsh moved into supervisory positions.

In the decades that followed as miners began agitating for unions to improve their working conditions and lives, mine owners began seeking cheaper and more manageable labor. This led them abroad where their agents began recruiting Eastern Europeans, many of whom did not speak English and were eager to accept work at rates lower than those demanded by domestic laborers.

In doing my research I discovered these European agencies also recruited young women to work in silk mills, other factories, and as domestics in homes. As is the case now, there were those unscrupulous predators who took advantage of the unwary. This provided the impetus for By Strangers Mourned.

A primary goal in writing historical and other fiction is to entertain the reader. But, if I can offer some insight into what life was like for our ancestors I hope it will be a bonus the reader will appreciate.

A Suspenseful Humdinger

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

My daughter borrowed this book from the library. I wasn’t going to read it because the last book I read by Ruth Ware, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, didn’t knock my socks off the way I hoped it would (which is not to say it was a bad book–to the contrary, I gave it four stars–but I had hoped for more).

But, long story short and as you’ve no doubt already guessed, I decided to read The Turn of they Key. And boy, am I glad I did.

Here’s a quick summary: Rowan Caine accepts a dream job as a live-in nanny at an isolated house deep in the Highlands of Scotland. The owners, a husband and wife team of architects, are desperate for a nanny who can start work as soon as possible. They have four daughters, three of whom are very young and live in the house, and one who only comes home from boarding school on breaks. Each of the girls presents her own particular set of challenges, and these are all made worse by the atmosphere of the “smart” house, which is outfitted with a complicated and highly invasive security system, lighting system, sound system, and every other system you can think of.

It is obvious early on that Rowan is hiding something. Likewise, it becomes clear that she’s not the only one harboring secrets. What made the four previous nannies abandon the position in the past year alone (one even leaving behind her belongings in her haste to get out), and why is there a malevolence in the house directed squarely at Rowan?

And, most importantly, why is Rowan in prison for the murder of one of the children?

This book is more of a modern-day Gothic than The Death of Mrs. Westaway. The house itself plays a huge role in the story. I read some passages with bated breath and others with a strong feeling of sympathy for the trials Rowan is experiencing at the hands of her new family. From sounds blaring out of the stereo system in the middle of the night to lights being on where Rowan knows she shut them off, to an extremely creepy garden on the property, the whole atmosphere of the story is one of dread and uneasy apprehension.

There are also red herrings aplenty, which I love in a mystery. Because Rowan has no idea where the hostility is coming from, (almost) everyone is a suspect. And the ending took me completely by surprise, which I also love. I feel like I should have seen it coming, which makes for fair play in a book like this one, and that made me enjoy it all the more.

The one thing I felt was a little off was the way in which the narrative is presented—that is, in the form of a letter (a very, very long letter) to a lawyer (barrister in the UK), begging him to take her case. As the reader learns almost immediately, Rowan is writing the letter from inside a women’s penitentiary. The letter format, I think, works best at the very end of the book, where the reader finds several letters written by other people that bring the story to a satisfying conclusion.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good Gothic mystery tinged with more than a hint of psychological suspense.