Review: Low Tide at Tybee by James M. Jackson

James M. Jackson proves you can tell a compelling crime story without death or violence. In this novella, Seamus McCree is on vacation with his eighty-something mother and his six-year-old granddaughter. He hopes to buy a beach condo that can be a vacation home for all generations of the family. In the process, Seamus uncovers a clever and costly criminal scheme, which is just one layer of a complex plot. Megan, his granddaughter, also has concerns about crime, when a suspicious character rifles through her great-grandmother’s bag on the beach. Both the child and the elder are portrayed with full humanity, no clichés or cuteness. It was great to spend time with Seamus again, a likeable sleuth whose weapons are intelligence, creativity, and knowledge. His narrative voice is natural and readable, a guy you’d enjoy getting to know. Series fans or newcomers can enjoy this story.

Review: Bacon’s Dozen by Anna Castle

This collection of thirteen stories is a must-read for fans of the Francis Bacon mysteries. Some of the short works are mysteries featuring Bacon. Others star major characters from the series, and one features the woman who does his laundry. My favorite series-linked short is All Englishmen Look Alike, not only for the colorful adventure, but for what it reveals that the main characters in the books don’t know. Yet.

The short works not related to the Bacon series are also historical with one exception. They range from the tale of a Mayan beekeeper coping with the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico to a Western caper set in northern New Mexico on Jicarilla Apache land. There’s also a sample Moriarty mystery, a chance to discover Castle’s other historical series. The non-historical exception is Extinction, a mystery with a subtle paranormal touch set in modern Austin TX. The Sneeze is a hybrid of modern Texas and Elizabethan England. If you’ve ever experienced the pollen of the Southwest in early spring, you’ll appreciate this one. Or if you’ve ever gotten lost in your research.

I strongly recommend this collection for an intelligent, original escape from 2020.

 

Review: Ant Farm by James M. Jackson

There’s nothing predictable or same-old-same-old about Seamus McCree or the kind of crime he investigates. He’s not a solo PI, but a former stock analyst working with a sophisticated group of investigators with expertise in financial crime.

Seamus is likeable and multi-dimensional. He’s a risk-taker when it comes to his own well-being and quite the opposite when it comes to his college-age son, Paddy, a computer whiz and hacker. The father-son relationship adds depth to the story.

I appreciated how the energy of the scenes and chapters was orchestrated, with a range from intense and adrenaline-pumping to quietly intriguing. The writing is tight and polished, the plot original, and the characters complex. The romantic subplot was a surprise but believable.

Ordinarily, I dislike the anonymous point of view. However, Jackson handles this device skillfully, giving the anonymous perpetrator enough of an identity and personality that one senses a person driving the events rather than the author playing tricks on the reader. In many books that use this device, the villain’s POV scenes could be subtracted without losing anything except spoilers. In Ant Farm, the anonymous POV chapters create a suspenseful layer of events in which the plot advances. I’m impressed.

And I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. I’ll be buying it as soon as it’s liberated from Kindle Unlimited, along with the rest of the series. It won’t be too much longer. Meanwhile, Ant Farm is free on all e-book retail sites.

Books from Four Authors #Free and #99cents

I hope you’re all well and safe and getting through as well as possible in the strange and stressful new normal. Should you need more books to read …

The Calling is still free, Shaman’s Blues is 99 cents, and the other books in the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery series are $2.99 each. No murder, just mystery. Three other authors—Jean Gill, Kristin Gleeson, and Virginia King—are also offering one book free and another for 99 cents. We’re an international group and can take you to other times and many places. Gill writes historical fiction and fantasy; Gleeson’s books are also historical; and King’s books are women’s fiction with a touch of mystery and mythology. Enjoy the escape.

Sending positive energy,

Amber

Laying Ghosts

The First Lie

When an urgent text message from a long-lost friend lures Selkie Moon to a deserted beach house, chilling events from the past wrap her in ghostly fingers and herald a journey of self-discovery that takes her around the world.

 

Selkie Dreams

The Hostage of Glenorchy

 

 

 

Song at Dawn 

Set in 1150 in Provence… On the run from abuse, Estela wakes in a ditch with only her lute, her amazing voice, and a dagger hidden in her underskirt.

Queen of the Warrior Bees

YA eco-fantasy. A current finalist in The Wishing Shelf Awards.

First in Series #Free

Discover a variety of mystery series, from crime fiction to mystical to historical, with a #freedownload of the first book.

 

 

 

 

 

Ant Farm by James M. Jackson

Botulism as a murder weapon. A hit man who calls himself the Happy Reaper. Villains who will stop at nothing to keep their secrets.

In this page-turner, we meet Seamus McCree, a single father who wants to fight for the little guy against those who abuse their power.

When police can’t figure out why someone murdered thirty-eight retirees at a Labor Day picnic, they ask Seamus, a financial crimes investigator, to follow the money. He’s anxious to move from behind his computer to the front lines to help investigators ask the right questions.

As Seamus untangles a web of financial chicanery, those threatened place a target on his back.
And there are consequences. He’s willing to risk his own life to bring justice, but when his actions place his son in danger, Seamus must overcome his deepest fears.

The Calling by Amber Foxx

The first Mae Martin Psychic Mystery

Obeying her mother’s warning, Mae Martin-Ridley has spent years hiding her gift of “the sight.” When concern for a missing hunter compels her to use it again, her peaceful life in a small Southern town begins to fall apart. New friends push her to explore her unusual talents, but as she does, she discovers the shadow side of her visions— access to secrets she could regret uncovering.

Gift or curse? When an extraordinary ability intrudes on an ordinary life, nothing can be the same again.

The Mae Martin Series

No murder, just mystery. Every life hides a secret, and love is the deepest mystery of all.

Murder by Misrule by Anna Castle

Francis Bacon is charged with investigating the murder of a fellow barrister at Gray’s Inn. He recruits his unwanted protégé Thomas Clarady to do the tiresome legwork. The son of a privateer, Clarady will do anything to climb the Elizabethan social ladder. Bacon’s powerful uncle Lord Burghley suspects Catholic conspirators of the crime, but other motives quickly emerge.  Rival barristers contend for the murdered man’s legal honors and wealthy clients. Highly-placed courtiers are implicated as the investigation reaches from Whitehall to the London streets. Bacon does the thinking; Clarady does the fencing. Everyone has something up his pinked and padded sleeve.

Even the brilliant Francis Bacon is at a loss — and in danger — until he sees through the disguises of the season of Misrule.

Review: Black and White and Dead All Over by Anna Castle

Colorful Cozy with Texas Sass

I love Anna Castle’s way with words. The first person narration of this book has so much personality, humor and style, I could have enjoyed it for the writing alone, but the setting, characters and plot are equal to the words. The fictional town feels true to the region, a mix of Anglo and Hispanic, of Southern and Western. Athletic, witty, and independent, photographer Penny Trigg stands out among cozy mystery protagonists, and the book as whole is refreshingly free of the features that have made many cozies too much alike in recent years. If you’re allergic to cuteness, no worries. You can read this book with pleasure.

Being a little too impulsive for her own good, Penny makes some decisions that get her in trouble, and her path to getting out of it leads her into the citizens of Lost Hat’s secrets, the investigation of two murders, and of course, more trouble.

The first character to die was so real and likeable, I had no discomfort at all with Penny’s involvement in finding out why he died and who did it. Amateurs’ motives need to be plausible, and her stakes are high. She has additional good reasons to investigate murder and blackmail, as does her new friend Krystle, an equally original character, not the typical sidekick. I especially loved the scene where Krystle talks Penny into a reckless attempt at sleuthing, and Murphy’s Law kicks in with hilarious results.

There’s a third member of the sleuthing trio: intelligent, cautious, and self-effacing Tillie. She’s an asset as well as a contrast. Their investigative teamwork ranges from adventurous and funny to patient and still funny, and their encounters with their suspects take the reader on a colorful tour of Lost Hat. I didn’t figure out whodunit. The last two suspects stayed in the running right up until the end.

The romantic subplot is tightly integrated into the mystery plot, as are Penny’s work as a photographer and her boyfriend’s computer expertise. Every element serves the story and gives the reader’s reasons to care what happens.

I seldom binge read a series, but I’m already on the second book. Stay tuned for the next review.

*****

Universal link: https://books2read/black-white-dead

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1457418389

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/black-white-dead-all-over-anna-castle/1121869639

Kobo US: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/black-white-dead-all-over-1

Kobo UK: https://www.kobo.com/uk/en/ebook/black-white-dead-all-over-1

Kobo CA: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/black-white-dead-all-over-1

Kobo AU: https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/black-white-dead-all-over-1

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Black-White-Dead-All-Over-ebook/dp/B00WFISKMA

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-White-Dead-Texas-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00WFISKMA

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.co.ca/Black-White-Dead-Texas-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00WFISKMA

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.co.au/Black-White-Dead-Texas-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00WFISKMA

Review: All That Glitters by Jane Gorman

This was hard to put down. Gorman knows how to craft a story, relentlessly raising the stakes for her protagonist, while weaving his personal life and the mystery plot together seamlessly. The Philadelphia setting is portrayed in depth without ever slowing the tempo; the details don’t intrude, but add color and intensity.

Detective Adam Kaminski has a passionate sense of justice and a strong connection with his family. When his sister becomes a suspect in a murder, he’s determined to prove her innocence even if he breaks some rules to do it. He makes mistakes, creating stress on the job, stress with his family, and stress in his already struggling relationship, while doing his best to follow his sense of what’s right.

I liked the balance between Adam and his calmer, steadier partner at work, Detective Pete Lawler, and enjoyed a new character who gets involved in solving the crime, a young ranger at the urban national park, Independence National Historical Park, where the murder takes place.

There are many plausible suspects, and I didn’t figure out which one was guilty until Adam did, though I tried. The final discovery of the killer is masterful, as Adam acts on intuition as well as his prior detective work. I congratulate Gorman on a dramatic confrontation scene that wraps up of the mystery plot without resorting to the canned this-is how-and-why-I-did-it confession so many mysteries end with.

As in any good series, there are aspects of the protagonist’s personal life that remain open-ended while the mystery gets closure. I wonder how Adam will cope long-term with what he’s so sure he can forgive. I wonder what he’ll continue to learn about his family history.

The only aspect of the book I didn’t like was the use of a few scenes in the point of view of the killer. This is a common device—the point of view of one nameless, faceless character while all other characters have identities and contexts—so I assume some readers must like it, but for me it breaks the flow and weakens my absorption in the lead character’s experience. When I read a mystery, I’d rather know only what the characters attempting to solve it know. Fortunately, there were very few of these anonymous-perpetrator-point-of-view scenes, and they didn’t hurt the book overall. I highly recommend this series.

You can find sales links for all retailers on the author’s web site, as well as background on the fascinating settings.

 

Author Interview: Lois Winston

Last week I reviewed the delightful new Anastasia Pollack crafting mystery, Drop Dead Ornaments.

And now I’m happy to have the author, Lois Winston, as my guest for an interview.

Bio: USA Today bestselling author Lois Winston straddles two worlds. She’s an award-winning author of mystery, romance, romantic suspense, humorous women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and non-fiction under her own name and as Emma Carlyle. She’s also an award-winning designer of needlework and crafts projects for magazines, craft book publishers, and craft kit manufacturers. Like Anastasia, the protagonist in her Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, Lois worked for several years as a crafts editor. A graduate of the prestigious Tyler School of Art, she often draws on her art and design background for much of the source material in her fiction.

Interview

AF: Lucille is so awful and so original, the character I love to hate. There are many bad mothers-in-law in the world, but she’s unique. How did you come up with her?

LW: Lucille is based on my own communist mother-in-law, with whom I had the misfortune of sharing a home for six excruciatingly long years. It was either killing her or taking my revenge out in print. I chose the latter to avoid a long prison sentence.

AF: I personally believe Zack (for new readers, that’s Anastasia’s boyfriend) is really a photojournalist, but she suspects he works for one of the “alphabet agencies.” Will we ever find out? Do you have a plan for this? Or is this top secret? I’ll understand if you can’t answer.

LW: If I told you, I’d have to kill you, and that would also probably result in a long prison sentence. So I’ll stay mum on the subject.

AF: You’ve put your protagonist through quite a few adventures involving crimes in a short stretch of her life. How did you decide to time the events in the series that way?

LW: Chalk it up to poor planning on my part. Had I made Anastasia’s sons younger, I could have stretched the series out over the course of several years. But I started out with Alex and Nick as teenagers, and the first book in the series was already written when I signed a 3-book contract. I quickly realized I needed to condense the timeframe of future books to keep Anastasia’s sons at home as long as possible. So the first seven books in the series take place over the span of just under a year. That may sound like a lot of murder and mayhem in a very short period of time, but not when you consider Jessica Fletcher dealt with a murder a week!

AF: You and your critique partner, Donnell Bell, write in different genres. She does romantic suspense, and you do humorous mysteries. In what way does this affect your critiquing relationship—if it does? Is there a particular benefit to the perspective of someone whose work is different?

LW: The second book I sold, back when I was traditional published, was a romantic suspense. So critiquing r/s is not a stretch for me. As for her, my humorous mysteries provide her with some much-needed comic relief from serial killers. She’s also quite familiar with the genre from her personal reading. Our writing skills are on an equal level, and we really like each other’s work. So writing in different genres has never been an issue. We do sometimes sound like an old married couple, though, as we argue through plot points and character development, but we respect each other’s opinions. Even though our brainstorming sessions can get pretty wild, they always result in better books.

AF: This is a multi-part question. How long does it take you to finish a book? You strike me as super-organized, planning ahead. Do you outline a book or “pants” it? And do you have a series outline?

LW: It takes me anywhere from six months to a year to write a book. Life has a way of getting in the way. I wish I were as super-organized as you think I am! I’ll refer you back to the answer to your third question. I’m a total “pantser”, both for each book and the series as a whole. The most pre-planning I do is a short paragraph similar to a back cover synopsis. Then I wing it. Often I have an idea for how I want the story to unfold, only to have Anastasia refuse to cooperate. So I let her take over.

AF: I enjoy the books for the characters and stories, but I don’t do crafts. Do you find that the majority of your readers are fellow crafters? Do they tell you they do the projects included in each book? I was impressed with directions for making the melted crayon ornaments, by the way, even if I’m not going to make any.

LW: That’s a good question and one for which I don’t have an answer! I often hear from readers, but I don’t remember any of them ever mentioning having made any of the projects.

The idea for the series came about because an editor told my agent she was looking for a crafting cozy series, and my research showed that crafting cozy series always include craft projects, just as culinary mysteries always include recipes.

My background is as a designer in the consumer crafts industry, creating mainly needlecraft and fabric crafts for craft kit manufacturers, craft book publishers, and craft and women’s magazines. My agent thought I’d be the perfect person to write such a series. At the time I was writing the aforementioned romantic suspense and humorous women’s fiction (formerly known as chick lit). I’d never thought about writing a mystery series, but I gave it a try, and here we are. After publishing the first three books in the series traditionally, I turned down two additional contracts to go indie.

AF: Is there anything I should have asked you that I didn’t? Please fill in whatever I overlooked. And thanks for your time.

First, thank you for inviting me today, Amber. I hope that any of your readers who enjoy a good laugh while reading about murder and mayhem will check out the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. Kirkus Reviews called Anastasia, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” And Publishers Weekly favorably compared her to Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon character from 30 Rock in their starred review of Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series.

Also, along with the seven novels currently in the series, there are also three mini-mysteries: Crewel Intentions, Mosaic Mayhem, and Patchwork Peril. These are available either individually or bundled together in Crafty Crimes, a Trio of Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mysteries.

Readers can find me at the following locations:

Website: www.loiswinston.com

Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/anasleuth

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anasleuth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/722763.Lois_Winston

Newsletter sign-up: https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/z1z1u5

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lois-winston

Buy Links for Drop Dead Ornamentshttps://www.loiswinston.com/booksap10.html

Buy Links for book one in the series, Assault With a Deadly Glue Gunhttps://www.loiswinston.com/booksap1.html

#Free on Kobo, Nook and iTunes: The Calling by Amber Foxx

Free through the end of September.

 The first Mae Martin Psychic Mystery

Obeying her mother’s warning, Mae Martin-Ridley has spent years hiding her gift of “the sight.” When concern for a missing hunter compels her to use it again, her peaceful life in a small Southern town begins to fall apart. New friends push her to explore her unusual talents, but as she does, she discovers the shadow side of her visions— access to secrets she could regret uncovering.

Gift or curse? When an extraordinary ability intrudes on an ordinary life, nothing can be the same again.

The Mae Martin Series

No murder, just mystery. Every life hides a secret, and love is the deepest mystery of all.
 Kobo    Nook    iTunes Bookstore

Dog Days of Summer #Mystery Sale #99cents

At least half of these books are published everywhere (I wish all of them were!), and the landing page makes it easy to see which are. No clicking on a book only to be disappointed that it’s not available for your preferred e-reader. Author Ann R. Tan organizes excellent promotions, checking the quality of the books to be included. Many of them look like the kind of mysteries my readers enjoy, and all are marked down to 99 cents for three days, July 27, 28 and 29. Snake Face, book three in the Mae Martin series, has never been discounted before and probably won’t be discounted again, so this is a great time to get a copy. Happy summer reading!