New Release: DEVIL’S BREATH by G.M. Malliet

519-NHxK9uL._SY346_DEVIL’S BREATH A Max Tudor Mystery by G.M. Malliet

Mystery / Released April 11, 2017 by Minotaur Books

When the body of glamorous film star Margot Browne washes ashore, Max’s former colleague Patrice Logan, heavily pregnant, asks Max for help.  It’s a perfect “closed circle” murder since Margot must have been killed by one of the actors, stylists, screenwriters, or second-tier royalty aboard the yacht where she was vacationing.  Patrice suspects the yacht’s owner, a playboy film director she’s been keeping tabs on for smuggling, but Max isn’t so sure.  Max and DCI Cotton interview the suspects as they loll about one of the luxury hotels dotting the waterfront.  Tipped by the playboy director, Max uncovers the truth about the star’s life.  But would Margot kill – or be killed – to keep her lurid past in the past?

Max’s investigation uncovers a host of motives but only one killer:  it seems Margot is not the only person on board with a secret they’d kill to keep.

G.M. MALLIET’S first St. Just mystery won the 2008 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, and was chosen by Kirkus Reviews as a best book of the year.  It was nominated for several awards, including the Anthony, the Macavity, and a Left Coast Crime award for best police procedural.  She has since been nominated for nearly every major crime-writing award, including the Anthony (audiobook and short story).  Her series debut, Wicked Autumn, featuring a former MI% agent turned vicar of a small English village debuted in the autumn of 2011.  She attended graduate school in Cambridge and Oxford; she and her husband travel frequently to the U.K., the setting for her books.

New Release: THE BOOK OF PHOENIX by Nnedi Okorafor

51xz2txrg1LTHE BOOK OF PHOENIX by Nnedi Okorafor / Cyber Punk / Released May 2, 2017 by Penguin Random House

ABOUT THE BOOK OF PHOENIX

A fiery spirit dances from the pages of the Great Book. She brings the aroma of scorched sand and ozone. She has a story to tell…. 

The Book of Phoenix is a unique work of magical futurism. A prequel to the highly acclaimed, World Fantasy Award-winning novel, Who Fears Death, it features the rise of another of Nnedi Okorafor’s powerful, memorable, superhuman women.

Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York’s Tower 7. She is an “accelerated woman”—only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix’s abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperienced in the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading e-books, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7.

Then one evening, Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated by his death and Tower 7’s refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realize that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape.

But Phoenix’s escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story.  Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity’s future.

Book Excerpt: A KISS TO BUILD A DREAM ON by Katie Baldwin

51p-JYWN6WLA KISS TO BUILD A DREAM ON by Katie Baldwin / Saving Graces Fantasies Book 1 / Spicy Contemporary Romance / Released March 2017 by  the Wild Rose Press

Bethany Michaels leads a fairly isolated existence, but she longs to be an outgoing and sexually confident woman. When her celebrity crush comes to town, and literally falls at her feet, her prayers seem to be answered. But can she protect her heart while still experiencing true passion?

Hollywood celebrity Aidan Shannon, drunk and lost in small-town Virginia, finds himself in the home of a beautiful woman, and he finds her more than just a little alluring. Bethany is voluptuous and nurturing, fragile, yet steely. And that is a problem for a man who never wants to be tied to another woman again. 

Living in the now is good enough for Aidan and Bethany for the short term. When the universe steps in and shows them what’s important, will Aidan take a chance on love a second time around when his girl needs him?

Book Excerpt

Well, either she was a crazy fan about to poison him or she was a shapely woman who was about to save him from a diabolical hangover. In for a penny, in for a pound. He eyed the tea one more time before making a decision.

Aidan carefully sipped the tea, unsure what to expect. Before the liquid touched his lips, his stomach clenched. This was going to be dreadful. Not even someone with his acting skill could pretend this tasted good.

“Drink it all, Mr. Shannon, or it won’t help,” the sweetly militant voice cautioned.

“It tastes worse than it smells,” he said, trying not to whimper. But then he realized she had said “Mr. Shannon.” He sighed. “It appears you know who I am.”

“Are you kidding?” The woman before him giggled softly. “The entire town is in ecstasy because you guys are filming your movie here.” She paused as she narrowed her eyes. “Wait a minute. Don’t try to distract me; drink your tea. How about this…? If you drink it, I will make you some eggs.”

He considered arguing but drank the whole thing down like a shot of whiskey.

Continue reading “Book Excerpt: A KISS TO BUILD A DREAM ON by Katie Baldwin”

Book Excerpt: WHITE WITH FISH, RED WITH MURDER by Harley Mazuk

51ZieRgHZBLWHITE WITH FISH, RED WITH MURDER by Harley Mazuk

Book Excerpt

When Cici came back down, she was in a silver satin men’s pajama top, long enough to come down to mid-thigh. Only the top button of the three it had was buttoned. “Oh, it’s good to get out of all those clothes after a long day.”

“All those clothes? You barely had on enough to ante up in a game of strip poker.”

“Sure I did, Frank. I had enough on because when I play cards, I win. Runs in the family.” Cici plopped down on the davenport next to me. She lifted her martini with her right hand, crossed one bare leg under her, and draped the other on my lap. She propped her left elbow on the back cushion and rested her head against her hand, smiling at me.

“I don’t know, doll. I saw Fenwick today. He doesn’t think the general lost all that money to Rusty.”

She sipped her drink and eyed me hard over the rim of the glass. “Fenwick don’t know nothing about it, Frank. I’ve got the paper. As a matter of fact, I want you to take those IOUs down to the probate court for me and file a claim. Now that Thursby’s dead, that’s the only way I can collect.”

“Well, that might have to wait a day or two.”

“Why wait, Frank?”

“I have to go up to Sonoma tomorrow. I’m going to go talk to Sally DeBains. I think I’d like to see the Blackbird vineyard too. I’ll have to take care of your claim on Thursby’s estate later in the week.”

She shrugged. “There’s time, I guess.”

“There’ll be plenty of time. I didn’t find any wine. There’s an abundance of good gin around, so I made martinis. How’s your drink?”

“It’s just what I needed. Thanks. There’s some wine in the cellar, but most of it’s at the restaurant. Rusty didn’t drink much wine. He liked his gin though.”

“Did he drink much when he gambled?”

She hesitated, and then nodded. “Sometimes.”

“Fenwick thinks he had plenty to drink when he was over there. You know, maybe his judgment wasn’t so good when he drank. Maybe he didn’t win all that money from Thursby.”

“Yeah? Well, maybe he did. What difference does it make what Fenwick thinks?” She sipped her martini. “Jesus, Frank, who says Fenwick thinks at all? He seems like . . . like such an animal.”

“He was okay when we dipped our bills today—just the two of us—in Thursby’s kitchen. Anyhow, I talked to some of the other suspects today too,” I said.

“Suspects?”

“People from the train. Suspects in the Thursby killing.”

She had another swallow of her martini and then set the glass down on the table. She leaned forward and wrapped her arms around my neck. The cool satin sleeves slid around me, just above the collar. “Frank, are the police hunting for any suspects in the Thursby killing?”

“No, they’ve got Vera.”

“Maybe you should just leave it that way.” She planted a kiss on my yap and gave me some icy cold tongue. Then she crammed a salty surprise, an olive, into my mouth.

“She didn’t do it.” I chewed the olive.

Interview with Harley Mazuk

101044HarleyinTuscanyHarley Mazuk was born in Cleveland, the last year the Indians won the World Series. Harley grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, attended Hiram College and spent his junior year at Elphinstone College, Bombay University. He received his B.A. in English literature. Retired from a long career in U.S. Government Service, Harley now writes full-time. He and his wife Anastasia live in Maryland, where they raised two children. Harley’s passions are writing, reading, Italian cars, and his family. He and his protagonist, Frank Swiver, share a love of California wine. Visit Harley Mazuk online at: www.harleymazuk.com

Tell us about your new release.

51ZieRgHZBLWhite with Fish, Red with Murder is the story of Frank Swiver, a private eye, who accepts an invitation to a wine tasting on a private rail car, and brings along his secretary and lover, Vera Peregrino. The host, General Thursby, wants Frank to find proof that a friend whose death was ruled accidental had been murdered. Thursby suspects Cicilia O’Callaghan, widow of his late friend and an old flame of Frank’s. But Thursby takes two slugs through the pump, and the cops arrest Vera for his killing. Frank finds himself trapped in a love triangle as he spends his nights with Cici, and his days trying to find Thursby’s real killer and spring Vera. But soon he realizes his relationship with Cici is poisonous, and he risks losing both women . . . and maybe his life.

What led you to write this book?

Being a bit of a rebellious youth, I never expected to reach old age. So as my 50th birthday loomed, the occasion called for a celebration. I decided to write a murder mystery game for my 50th birthday party. I asked the guests to dress in their best 1940s fashions, at a minimum fedoras for the gents and stockings with seams for the dames. I wrote scripts and assigned roles. There was plenty of wine, and everyone had fun. Some years later, I began to entertain serious thoughts about becoming a writer when I retired. I took the old scripts and dossiers I had written for the murder mystery characters out of the drawer and began to turn them into a novel, White with Fish, Red with Murder.

Which is more important characters or setting?

When you think about the elements of fiction–plot, setting, character, point of view, theme—setting is perhaps first among equals. Everything begins with, grows out of, starts with place. A story has to know where it is in time and place. Characters develop in and are shaped by their environments.

I didn’t think this way about the primacy of setting when I wrote most of White with Fish, so in my book, characters are more important than setting. It’s a character-driven novel.

Are any of your characters loosely based on people you know in real life?

They are, loosely. Some are composites of characters I’ve known; with some I relive incidents from my life that I think have or had emotional or dramatic impact. A good example is that I’ve never been a private eye, and I’ve never lived in San Francisco. Yet there’s a lot of me in my P.I., Frank Swiver. Frank is a pacifist, a Roman Catholic, and he drinks too much wine. I was a conscientious objector, I’m a Catholic, and I drink a lot of wine, too. So we share a consciousness, a philosophy, and an approach to life. That makes it easy for me to write Frank’s part. Other characters in the book share traits with people I’ve known, and we’ve lived through incidents that I recreate it the book.

What do you hope readers take away from your work?

This book is an “entertainment,” as Graham Greene used to say about some of his works. So I hope readers enjoy it and have fun. I’d like to transport readers to a slower paced, less technical world, in which the detective doesn’t rely on technology, lab results, or computers to solve the crime, but rather on his courage, his persistence, and work ethic. I’d like to leave readers wanting to come back and see Frank Swiver and some of the other characters again—there will be more.

Do you read the same genre you write?

For the most part, yes, I do. Mystery or detective fiction. This last fall and winter, I read Black Water Rising by Attica Locke, A Corpse in the Koryo, by James Church, Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris, The Coroner’s Lunch, Colin Cotterill, Miami Purity, Vicki Hendricks, and two Michael Didbin’s Cosi Fan Tutti and Dead Lagoon, featuring Aurelio Zen. Zen is one of my influences for Frank Swiver. I read an Eric Ambler novel, The Light of Day, on my Kindle.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading Richard III by William Shakespeare, a play about what happens when a sociopath takes over a great country. I’ve never read this before, but so far, I find it absolutely brilliant. I often have to use study guides to understand Shakespeare’s language, but the dialogue in this is so vivid, so clear, I know exactly what’s going on. Richard is not a likable character; he’s loathsome, actually, but he establishes a connection with the audience in his opening monologue. I won’t say readers (or audiences) root for him, exactly, but like Hannibal Lecter, he’s compelling, fascinating even. And though it is classified as a history play, the title page calls it “The Tragedy of King Richard the third.” It’s very enjoyable so far, and I think a writer can learn a lot from reading Shakespeare.

Review: WHITE WITH FISH, RED WITH MURDER by Harley Mazuk

51ZieRgHZBLWHITE WITH FISH, RED WITH MURDER by Harley Mazuk (A Frank Swiver Novel)

Released Feb 28, 2017 by Driven Press

Mr. Mazuk says he enjoys “old school” pulp and private eye fiction. Consequently, you know what to expect from his novels – fun noir – and you are not disappointed. His protagonist is private eye Frank Swiver, a connoisseur of wine, fine and not so, and big-breasted women, willing and not so. Hard-drinking, hard loving, rarely sleeping and being shot at all the time fills the bill with this noir. With characters reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon, they are all the more fun because Mr. Mazuk knows how to use them well. Along with a train car full of suspects, he sends the reader to the post-war world of Napa Valley wines. And we go willingly.

To his credit, Mr. Mazuk has created a protagonist who is his own person. Just when you expect Swiver to go one way, he goes another. He makes the unexpected choice or says the unexpected thing making his character seem more real and likable. He rescues a cat named Chardonnay because he feels he has to. Of course, the cat later dies – once again, in an unexpected turn of events – but the rescue is an interesting character beat.

Which leads me to my only criticism. The deceased cat seemed to be still laying in the trunk of his car at story’s end, which took place days later. I pondered on that. I think it’s better for a writer to complete or finish off a plot device – sometimes it only takes a sentence or phrase – rather than risk leaving a reader dangling with a ‘what happened to’ thought lingering in their minds.

But all in all, this is a good novel, with colorful characters, interesting dialog and a crackerjack plot. Frankly, it was a surprise to me who ‘did’ it. And that speaks well for any mystery.

Review provided by Heather Haven

Book Excerpt: HONEYMOONS CAN BE MURDER by Heather Haven

honeymoons1 copyHONEYMOONS CAN BE MURDER by Heather Haven / Mystery /  Released March 1, 2017 by Wives of Bath Press

When PI Lee Alvarez goes on her honeymoon with bridegroom, Gurn Hanson, they find a dead woman practically on their doorstep. Kauai breezes may be soft, but there are gale force winds of accusation against Gurn. Will Lee find the real killer before her new hubby gets sent to a Hawaiian hoosegow?

Chapter One 

“Gurn, darling, wasn’t that woman lying in exactly the same position when we left for breakfast?”

Shading my eyes, I looked in the direction of a chaise lounge about seventy yards away sitting half in the lapping waves of the Pacific and half on the warm sands of Hanalei Bay. Dragged into position by sunbathers looking to have the best of both worlds, it seemed to be a common practice on the island. Ten or fifteen others dotted the Hanalei Bay coastline near their respective beachfront rooms.

I’d noticed the woman around seven o’clock in the morning when I stepped outside with my coffee and the morning’s newspaper. I would have liked to take a run along the beach before breakfast, but was recuperating from a sprained ankle, so instead I read “USA Today” while slurping my latte. A poor substitute.

Our honeymoon bungalow was set off in a corner of the Royal Kauai Hotel’s expansive beachfront property. Other than the mandatory public access, which allowed for occasional wanderings by guests along the beach, it was private, quiet, and heaven.

The slender woman was lying on her back in a rather racy red bikini. Legs outstretched, arms by her side, large floppy black hat covering her face, neck and hair, she hadn’t moved in over three hours. I unwrapped myself from my own lounge chair and stood.

“She was, wasn’t she? In exactly the same position.”

My husband of less than a week remained seated in one of the two turquoise and white beach chairs on our lanai. But he leaned forward, removed his sunglasses, his grey-green eyes focusing on her.

“You could be right, but I wasn’t paying attention to her, not really.” He reached up and grabbed me around the waist, pulling me on his lap. “I only have eyes for you, sweetheart.” He then proceeded to kiss my neck with loud, smacking noises, intentionally more comical than romantic.

“Yes, darling,” I said, wiggling within his embrace. “But seriously, I don’t think she’s moved in hours.”

Gurn glanced in her direction in earnest. “She could be sleeping one off.”

“She could.” My tone was doubtful.

“You think she might be sick or something? Why don’t you walk down there and have a chat with her? But if you wake her up and she gets a mad on, remember I told you so.”

“Why don’t we go together?”

I flashed him what I hoped was a winning smile. It must have been along the winning lines because he let out a sigh of resignation and released me. I removed myself from his lap and got to my feet. Gurn looked at me, the lopsided smile springing to his face.

“You’re lucky you’re so gorgeous I’ll do anything you want. You and your twilight colored eyes,” he added.

“Aw, I’m not so gorgeous,” I said modestly, batting said eyes at him.

“If you say so.” He shrugged.

I feigned shock at his words, gave him a playful smack on the arm, and we both laughed. Gurn stood, and with a groan stretched his now tanned six foot one frame. We’d been married right after he returned from a covert mission a little on the banged up side. It was just a few scrapes, bruises, and a black eye, nothing serious, but he’d made one weird looking groom.

To civilians, he was known as Mr. Hanson, CPA extraordinaire and owner of Hanson Accounting Firm. To the U.S. Navy, he was known as Lt. Commander Hanson, ex-navy SEAL, often called away on highly classified and secretive missions. To me, he was Gurn, the man I loved.

In fairness, I was a little on the banged up side, too, having just completed a case where the villain was unwilling to see my side of things i.e. going to jail for murder. I was for; villain against. After a few rounds, I had my way but not without sustaining a sprained ankle and a black and blue hand. The ankle was currently embraced by a support boot. The hand was on its own. Everything hurt, so I was either icing various parts, taking Advil, or downing the occasional Mai Tai. Rum can be very medicinal.

I studied the lone woman lying on the chaise. So did Gurn. Without saying a word, we walked hand in hand in her direction. Actually, Gurn walked. I hobbled in the cumbersome boot I was relegated to wearing for the next four to six weeks.

Once there, we unlocked hands, Gurn going around to the far side of the lounge. I looked at him and he looked at me. Raising his forefinger, he tapped the air in the woman’s direction, indicating it was time for me to do something.

I cleared my throat.

Nothing.

“Ah, miss?”

Still nothing.

“Excuse me,” I said louder then waited.

“Miss?” This time I jostled the chaise lounge with my knee. The movement caused the sandal to drop off her left foot and land in the water. It bobbed on gentle waves.