Friday, August 30, 2019



Residents of Rudolph keep the spirit of Christmas alive year-round—but their joy is threatened when a group of grinches visits the town, in the charming fourth installment of the Year-Round Christmas series.

It's the week before Thanksgiving, and Merry Wilkinson, owner of Mrs. Claus's Treasures, is preparing for a weekend reunion of her mother's college friends. But when the group of women comes into Merry's shop, Merry is met with frosty attitudes and cold hearts. 

The women argue amongst themselves constantly, and the bickering only intensifies after one of the friends is poisoned. With her father's role as Santa in danger due to his proximity to the crime, Merry will need to use all of her investigative gifts to wrap this mystery up and save Santa and her favorite holiday.

Book Details:
Title: Silent Night Deadly Night
Author: Vicki Delany
Genre: Cozy mystery

Series: Year Round Christmas mystery, book 4

Publisher: Berkley (August 27, 2019)

Print length: 304 pages
On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours



Q: If you could live in any time period which would it be?
A: Now. Never anything but right now. We have peace, we have democracy, we have laws, we have respect for human rights, we have antibiotics and pain-killers. History has no appeal to me, outside of the pages of a book.

Q: If you could time travel for an infinite period of time, where would you go?
A: I’d love to visit Pharaonic Egypt. See the building of the pyramids, watch the creating of hieroglyphics, observe their ceremonies, see a King or Queen’s burial. Of course, wherever I went, I’d hope to be immune to disease or being mistaken for a poor local. Almost anywhere in the pre-industrial world would be marvelous to see the night sky.

Q: If you could be anything besides a writer, what would it be?
A: I think I’d like to be an opera singer. Now, that will never happen because I’m genuinely tone deaf, but I like the idea of standing on stage in an overly dramatic costume and hitting the high notes while the orchestra swells in the background.

Q: If you could choose a fictional town to live in what would it be and from what book?

A: I’d probably like West London, Massachusetts from my Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series. I could hang out at the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium and have afternoon tea at Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room next door.  I don’t think I’d like to live in Rudolph, New York, the setting of my Year Round Christmas mysteries. I love Christmas, but not all the time.

Q: If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
A: Pretty hard to beat Prince Edward County, Ontario, where I live now. But I sometimes get tired of the winter. I could live in the Turks and Caicos or on the beach in Mozambique. 


5 things you love about where you live:
    •    farms
    •    wineries
    •    bookstore
    •    friends
    •    not in the city
5 things you never want to run out of:
    •    imagination
    •    love
    •    peace
    •    quiet 
    •    wine   

5 things you always put in your books: 
    •    food
    •    clothing
    •    scenery  
    •    laughs  
    •    mystery  

5 favorite places you’ve been: 
    •    Tofo Mozambique
    •    Hoi An Vietnam
    •    Malacca, Malaysia
    •    Masi Mara, Kenya
    •    Nelson, British Columbia, Canada


Q: What’s your all-time favorite place?
I’ve been to a lot of marvelous places in my life, but other than home and where family live, it has to be Wildwaters Lodge near Jinja, Uganda. 

Q: What’s your all-time favorite movie?
A: Lord of the RingsQ: What’s your all-time favorite picture of yourself?

A: This is me with my Canadian writer friends Anthony Bidulka, Barbara Fradkin, Robin Harlick, and Mary Jane Maffini at Bouchercon in Indianapolis. I love this picture, because it’s a fun picture of good friends being silly.

Q: What’s your all-time favorite city?
A: Amsterdam.

Q: What’s one thing that very few people know about you?
A: I am an extreme introvert. Really. Remember that introvert doesn’t mean shy. (I’m not shy)

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People or places who call afternoon tea, high tea.

Q: What’s your favorite vacation spot?
A: Far too many to mention. I rarely go back to the same place. Earlier this year I was in Mozambique. Later in the year I’m going to Russia. Although, I do love Muskoka, in Ontario., where I’ve been quite a bit.

Q: What’s your favorite beverage?
A: I’ve been known to enjoy a glass of white wine or two.

Q: Would you rather tweet or post on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest?
A: I have a presence on all those things, but I find I use Facebook the most. Come over and say hi. I run lots of contests and give book news.

Q: What’s your all-time favorite place you’ve visited?
A: Nile River Camp in Jinja, Uganda.

Q: What’s one thing you never leave the house without?
A: My iPhone. Not because I’m obsessed with it, but if I’m in an accident, I want to be able to notify my family.

Q: What is the wallpaper on your computer’s desktop?
A: My three daughters at my second daughter’s wedding. On my phone, it’s my grandson. On my iPad, it’s the beach at nightfall Tofo, Mozambique

Q: What author would you most like to review one of your books?
A: Louise Penny. And she did!

Q: What book are you currently working on?
A: The fifth in the Year Round Christmas series, still untitled. I’m also finishing up the seventh in the Lighthouse Library series by me as Eva Gates. Also still untitled. 

Q: What’s your all-time favorite place in your town?
A: The bookstore, Books and Company. This picture shows stpre the window advertising the festival I am co-founder and co-organizer of Women Killing it. You can find out more here

Q: What’s your latest recommendation for:
Food: Why not check out what’s happening at Mystery Lovers Kitchen. Ten cozy writers talk food and books, with recipes that suit every level of cook. 
Music: I love Gin Wigmore, a New Zealand singer. A much grittier, raspier Adele.
Book: The Lost Man by Jane Harper. Wow. The sense of place is overwhelming.
Audiobook: Can I say Something Read Something Dead by Eva Gates?  That’s the latest one I listened to. I like to listen to all my books once on audio. It’s a different experience.
Netflix: The best thing I’ve seen on Netflix is Happy Valley with Sarah Lancashire. 
Miscellaneous: If at all possible, get your vegetables from a small-scale, local farmer. Heirloom tomatoes in particular are a whole other thing than that what you buy at the grocery store.


Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers and a national bestseller in the U.S. She is currently writing four cozy mystery series: the Year Round Christmas mysteries for Penguin Random House, the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series and the Lighthouse Library series (as Eva Gates) for Crooked Lane Books, and the Tea by the Sea mysteries for Kensington.
Vicki lives and writes in bucolic Prince Edward County, Ontario. She is a past president of the Crime Writers of Canada.  Her work has been nominated for the Derringer, the Bony Blithe, the Ontario Library Association Golden Oak, and the Arthur Ellis Awards. Vicki is the recipient of the 2019 Derick Murdoch Award for contributions to Canadian crime writing.

Social media links:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |   Instragram
Buy the book:

Wednesday, August 28, 2019



Dave Cravens’ debut mystery about a hard-nosed journalist turned PTA mom is a surprising thriller exposing the cutthroat and comical world of school politics!

Parker Monroe is a tough-talking investigative reporter used to writing headlines, not being the subject of them. When a key source vanishes on a politically toxic story, this single mother of three finds herself at the center of a media storm and out of a job. Ready to reset, Parker moves her family back to the rural town where she grew up. But a gossip-filled PTA, a tyrannical school principal and a gruesome murder make adjusting to the "simple life" anything but. Parker Monroe is about to chase the story of her lifetime...

Surprising, fun and packed with a ton of heart. Mayhem Murder and the PTA is just the book you need to rekindle your school spirit!

Book Details:

Author’s name: Dave Cravens

Genre: Mystery

Series: First of a new series

Publisher: Amazon (May 20, 2019)

Page count: 374 Kindle Pages

On tour with: iRead Book Tours


A few of your favorite things: my wife and kids, action movies, traveling and the color red on women (it’s not the same on guys.)
Things you need to throw out: just about everything in the garage including old cables, boxes, clothes that don’t fit anyone in the house, DVD’s and CD’s we bought again digitally. Also, paint we’ll never use again.

Things you need in order to write: a laptop, a chair to put my feet up, time and silence.
Things that hamper your writing: noise, and constant interruptions.

Things you love about writing:
creating something -- a world, a moment a character in its purest form.
Things you hate about writing: rereading my fifth draft for the tenth time and still not finding all the mistakes.

Easiest thing about being a writer: loving what I do.

Hardest thing about being a writer: marketing, advertising and PR.

Things you love about where you live: it’s gorgeous pretty much every day in Southern California.
Things that make you want to move: too many people; taxes; traffic.

Things you never want to run out of: ideas and time to implement them.
Things you wish you’d never bought: Facebook advertising.

Words that describe you: optimistic; creative; kind.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: “Fat Thor.”

Favorite foods: burgers; pasta. hot dogs; pretty much everything bad for me.
Things that make you want to throw up: snails.

Favorite music or song: I love all kinds of music. from Mozart to Metallica.
Music that make your ears bleed: rap about cop-killing is a bit hard to digest.

Favorite beverage: iced tea, no sweetener.

Something that gives you a pickle face: kale juice.

Favorite smell: a cool fall day in the country.

Something that makes you hold your nose: every ounce of kid vomit I’ve ever had to clean up.

Something you’re really good at: telling stories.

Something you’re really bad at: telling stories.

Something you wish you could do:
fly under my own power.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do:
I don’t regret learning to do anything.

Last best thing you ate: my own grilled hamburger.

Last thing you regret eating: those red onions off that Subway Salad.

Things you’d walk a mile for: I’d walk a mile to meet someone interesting for a good lunch.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: any reality show on TLC.

Things you always put in your books: inside jokes that only a handful of people might pick up on.

Things you never put in your books: anything that doesn’t serve the overall story.

Things to say to an author: “Hi! I hear you write stuff too.”

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “Have I read your stuff? No. But that guy over there told me it was horses—t. And he looks super trustworthy, so I believe him. So, do you write horses—t?”

Favorite places you’ve been: Paris. Stonehenge. Glowworm caves in New Zealand.

Places you never want to go to again: that Wendy’s off of Alicia Parkway.

People you’d like to invite to dinner: I’d have it be a weekly thing with different people each time. But to start I’d want to sit down with Sylvester Stallone, Elon Musk, JK Rowling, and Vera Wang.

People you’d cancel dinner on: anyone from Antifa.

Favorite things to do: spend time with my family; write; nap.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: go back to that Wendy’s off Alicia.

Things that make you happy: succeeding at something; anything; family.

Things that drive you crazy: politics.

Proudest moment: walking into our renovated home for the first time. And something with my kids. You know, family stuff. Just choose one.
Most embarrassing moment: I don’t even know that I’ve experienced it yet. It’s still out there – waiting to ambush me.

Biggest lie you’ve ever told: “Yeah, I can totally do that!”

A lie you wish you’d told: “Nope. I have no idea how to do that.”

Best thing you’ve ever done: cold call the young woman who would become my wife to ask her out on a date.

Biggest mistake: not buying a condo in Socal for 50K.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done:

Something you chickened out from doing: it probably involved dancing.

The last thing you did for the first time:
write an erotic novel under a fake name to complete a dare.

Something you’ll never do again: repeat my horrid performance at the work meeting I just had last Friday. Yowza.


Dave Cravens wanted to grow up to be a superhero, capture Bigfoot, fly experimental aircraft out of Area 51, develop cold fusion and star and direct in his own blockbuster movies.

That didn’t work out.

Instead, Dave got a degree in journalism, which he hasn't used at all other than to justify his incredibly insightful and valid complaints about the state of journalism. During his twenty-two years in the video game business, he's written for award winning franchises, directed TV commercials and movies, sprained his ankles numerous times in ultimate Frisbee games and published three original novels.

He also married the love of his life and is raising three amazing children who may one day capture Bigfoot, Nessie or a Yeti.

No pressure.

Connect with Dave:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:

Monday, August 26, 2019


(#1): A Royal Shade of Blue

When art-history student Clementine Jones receives a message complimenting her latest internship project, she doesn't hesitate to answer it. She never dreamed this decision would not only change her life, but the future of the British monarchy as well.  

Her response leads Clementine to the mysterious CP Chadwick, a British man studying history at Cambridge. Clementine finds CP charming, smart, and unlike any man she's ever met. Most of all, when she confides her medical past to CP, his perception of her doesn't change. He doesn't treat her as fragile like her parents do. CP sees her as normal, which is something she cherishes.  

Clementine, however, has no idea CP is actually Prince Christian of Wales, who has never had a "normal" life. Christian is at a crossroad. His destiny is to be a working royal, but he is desperate to fill that role in his own way. Wary of others, he's kept himself closed off from the world - until he lets Clementine in.

A royal romance is never a fairy tale, but Clementine and Christian are determined to write their own version. Can they overcome their own fears - as well as the constraints of a royal life - to reach their own happily ever after?

Book Details:

Author: Aven Ellis

Narrator: Andrea Emmes

Length: 10 hours 1 minute

Publisher: Tantor Audio (Aug. 14, 2018)

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Series: Modern Royals, Book 1

Buy the book:

Amazon  |  Audible


Things you need in order to write:
 laptop, notebook, pen and a highlighter.
Things that hamper your writing: Facebook, Instagram, and episodes of Say Yes to the Dress. I can get so distracted. 

Things you love about writing: I love creating romantic stories and diving deep into another world. 
Things you hate about writing: really, I love the whole process.

Easiest thing about being a writer: writing is a joy. I’m always excited to sit down and write. 
Hardest thing about being a writer: the business side and learning how to run your own business.

Things you love about where you live: Dallas has great shopping, professional sports, and wonderful restaurants.
Things that make you want to move: triple digit heat in the summer-but that’s a trade off for mostly mild winters!

Favorite foods: steak and red wine (not a food but I’m saying it anyway.) Chocolate.
Things that make you want to throw up: anything main dish with a cream sauce.

Favorite beverage: red wine, coffee.

Something that gives you a pickle face: hard liquor.

Favorite smell: brewing coffee. 

Something that makes you hold your nose: clams.

Something you’re really good at: talking. I can pretty much talk to anyone. 

Something you’re really bad at: math! 

Things you always put in your books: good boy heroes, comedy, and a happily ever after. 
Things you never put in your books: lots of drama and angst. 

Things that make you happy:
going to Dallas Stars games, going out to eat, talking to people.

Things that drive you crazy: big parties with lots of people. My introvert side gets overwhelmed with that!


Aven began her publishing career in 2013 with her debut release, Connectivity. She currently writes hockey and baseball romances as well as a modern royal romance series. Her books are designed to make readers laugh out loud and fall in love. Happily-ever-after endings and good-boy heroes are guaranteed. Aven lives in the Dallas area with her family. She is a huge fan of both the Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers. Aven loves shopping and fashion and can spend hours playing with fragrances in any department store. She can be found chatting it up on social media, eating specialty M&Ms, and crushing on the latest outfit the Duchess of Cambridge is wearing.


Best selling, award winning audiobook narrator, Andrea Emmes was born in Hollywood, Florida, grew up in both Tennessee and Rhode Island and started her career in musical theatre. She’s enjoyed an eclectic career as a singer, dancer, Vegas Headliner, Magician’s Assistant, a Recording Artist and a Video Game Designer. A total book nerd, Andrea, now enjoys narrating all genres of audiobooks, especially YA, LitRPG, Mystery, Romance, and NonFiction at her professional home studio in San Jose, California. Her wide range of character voices and dynamic/emotionally invested performances has reviewers and listeners alike commenting on how she effortlessly pulls listeners in and has versatility and charisma. Fun Facts: Andrea has a Bachelor of Science in Game Art and Design; was a game designer for Disney Interactive; and gets her gamer-geek on playing games of all kinds!


Saturday, August 24, 2019



When itinerant ranch hand Buck Ellison took a job with Sarah Watkins at her ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska, he thought he had found the place where he could park his pickup, leave the past behind, and never move again.

On a rainy July night, a dead body at the south end of Sarah’s ranch forces him to become a reluctant detective, digging into the business of cattle breeding for rodeos and digging up events from his past that are linked to the circumstances surrounding the murder of Sam Danielson.

Working with his boss Sarah, her nephew Travis Martin, and the cook Diane Gibbons, Buck unmasks the murderer, but at the cost of learning the reality of past events that he chooses to keep to himself.

Book Details:

Title: The Ornery Gene

Author: Warren C. Embree

Genre: Mystery, Amateur Sleuth

Publisher: Down & Out Books (April 27, 2019)

Print length: 216 pages

On tour with: Partners in Crime Book Tours



A few of your favorite things:  books, old clothes, family pictures, old farm equipment, cats.
Things you need to throw out: Mom & Dad's college notes, old CDs, computer hardware from 1990

Things you need in order to write: pens, music, time (if that's a thing), paper, fizzy water, the internet.
Things that hamper your writing: cats, the internet, day job

Things you love about writing: research, learning new things.
Things you hate about writing: the mechanics of it, first draft, cutting out portions of a novel I love but don't belong.

Easiest thing about being a writer: ideas.
Hardest thing about being a writer: discipline

Things you love about where you live: local food, changing seasons, football.
Things that make you want to move: too many people.

Things you never want to run out of:  gout medicine.
Things you wish you’d never bought:  bowflex.

Words that describe you: taciturn.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: impatient.

Favorite foods: Philly cheese steak sandwiches, but only when I'm in Philly, sweet corn, shrimp, ice cream sandwiches and, believe or not, Spam. Spam was a treat when I was a kid.
Things that make you want to throw up: Anything with beef kidney.

Favorite music or song: anything by Bach or Handel.
Music that make your ears bleed: if I try hard enough, I can listen to anything, but I have a hard time with anything that drones on without any direction.

Favorite beverage: Klarbrum black cherry sparkling water
Something that gives you a pickle face: indeed, pickle juice or tannic elderberry wine.

Favorite smell: vanilla.
Something that makes you hold your nose: beef kidney cooking.

Something you’re really good at: report writing.
Something you’re really bad at: keeping workspace neat

Something you wish you could do: play the piano.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: paint houses.

Something you like to do: read a book and listen to music
Something you wish you’d never done: paint houses.

Last best thing you ate: homemade cherry cake (with cherries from our backyard).
Last thing you regret eating: chicken fried steak at Village Inn.

Things you always put in your books: humor.

Things you never put in your books: foul language.

Things to say to an author: well written
Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: trivial.

Favorite places you’ve been: Rocky Mountains, Philadelphia, Black Hills.

Places you never want to go to again: Toledo, Ohio.

Favorite books: mysteries, theologies.
Books you would ban: romances.

Favorite things to do: reading, yard work, eating out, writing.
Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: changing diapers.

Most embarrassing moment: split the back out of my blue jeans during a softball game.

Proudest moment: actually, having a publisher agree to publish my book.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: work on the girders building an airplane hanger
Something you chickened out from doing: snow skiing.

The last thing you did for the first time: make a post on Facebook
Something you’ll never do again: paint houses



Warren Embree and his wife grew up in the Sandhills of Nebraska. He did both farm work and ranch work during those years, and he still keeps track of what goes on in the hills. After leaving the area, he pursued an academic career in English, Classical Languages,  and Divinity. He lectured at a couple of institutions and preached at a few churches, and he now works in Lincoln as a data analyst for the University of Nebraska. His knowledge and love of the unique culture of the Sandhills, his education in languages and literature, and his analytical skills contribute to his story telling. He and his wife currently live in Nebraska and have 3 grown children.

Connect with Warren:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:


Thursday, August 22, 2019



A rookie investigator working undercover for an animal protection group suddenly vanishes. But when his handler Jude Brannock goes searching for him, she discovers that he might not be who she thought he was. Determined to find the truth, Jude unearths a drug company’s deadly secret and is forced to confront some dark secrets of her own.

Book Details:

Title: The Experiment

Author: Robin Lamont

Genre: Suspense

Series: The Kinship Series, book 3

Publisher: Grayling Press
 (May 16, 2019)

Print length: 288 pages

On tour with: Partners In Crime Book Tours




Things you need in order to write: a clear idea of where the scene is going.
Things that hamper your writing: becoming too focused on details (like tiny pieces o dialogue) and losing sight of what’s at stake.

Easiest thing about being a writer: falling in love with my characters.

Hardest thing about being a writer: forming the overall arc of a book.

Things you love about where you live: walks in the park with my dog; the birds in the morning; being able to grow apple trees in the yard.
Things that make you want to move: the trip into New York City; not having take-out restaurants nearby; snow.

Things you never want to run out of: coffee; soy sauce; ideas
Things you wish you’d never bought: the last 3 items I bought online from China; an electronic food mixer; a can of stuffed grape leaves (in the cabinet now for 3 years). 

Favorite beverage: a nice glass of Chardonnay.

Something that gives you a pickle face: tomato juice.

Something you’re really good at: taking naps.

Something you’re really bad at: making doctor’s appointments.

Something you wish you could do: play the banjo.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: nothing comes to mind.

People you consider as heroes: people who save wild animals from poachers (actually, anyone who tries to save animals from being hurt).

People with a big L on their foreheads: The big L belongs on those who remain quiet in the face of cruelty and intolerance.

Last best thing you ate: a chocolate hazelnut cookie from Trader Joe’s.

Last thing you regret eating: some pineapple that had gone bad.

Things you always put in your books: human drama.

Things you never put in your books: gratuitous violence.

Things to say to an author: “Congratulations on getting that book/article/blog post out.”

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “Where do you get your ideas?”

Favorite places you’ve been: Sicily; Edinburgh; London
Places you never want to go to again: an emergency room, Las Vegas, Chicago in the dead of winter.

Favorite books: dark, psychological suspense, Scottish fiction.

Books you would ban: paleo cookbooks, books that really ought to be just magazine articles.

People you’d like to invite to dinner (living): Martina Navratilova; Megan Rapinoe; Ricky Gervais. 
People you’d cancel dinner on: they shall go nameless.

Favorite things to do: play tennis; watch tennis; play tennis with my kids, play tennis with my husband, did I say, “play tennis?”
Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: vacuum; wash floors; dust.


John Harbolt wasn’t easily shaken. With over forty years of medicine under his belt, there was hardly an injury, disease, or fatality he hadn’t seen, and he’d treated just about everyone in the small town of Half Moon at some time or other. But on that late summer day, young Tori Lacey showed him something that baffled him. Her symptoms were inexplicable and downright scary.
She was his first patient of the day, a young woman who had battled her weight for years. In between the earaches and the sore throats, Harbolt had gently counseled her about diet and exercise. He hoped she wasn’t here to ask him about diet pills again, because as far as he was concerned, they were off the table.
After removing her file from the plastic holder bolted to the outside of the examination room, he adjusted his wire rim glasses and straightened his lab coat. The younger doctors often wore khakis and a short-sleeved shirt at work, and maybe it put the kids more at ease. But Dr. Harbolt stuck with a freshly starched white coat, believing that it made his patients feel more confident in his abilities. And confidence in one’s doctor was important to the healing process.
“Tori Ann Lacey,” he announced jovially as he shambled into the room.
“Hi, Dr. Harbolt.” The morose girl before him sat on the table. She had taken off her running shoes but left her sweatshirt and shorts on.
“I haven’t seen you for a while,” he said, noting with some surprise that she had slimmed considerably, her round face now leaner and more mature. “How is college life treating you?”
“Ok, I guess.” Her voice and posture belied this.
“What brings you here today, my dear.”
“I don’t really know. But we thought you should look at these.” She pushed back the sleeve of her sweatshirt and held out her arm for inspection.
There were several bruises that vandalized the translucent skin of her inner arm. Dr. Harbolt held her wrist and peering over his glasses, looked closely at the red and purple marks.
He pressed lightly on one of them. “Does that hurt?”
She shook her head no.
“What happened?”
“That’s the thing. Nothing happened. They just appeared.” She showed him another set of bruises on her other arm.
“Did you fall?”
“Knocked into something?”
“No,” she exclaimed, as though he didn’t believe her. “My mom thinks it’s my diet. That I should be eating meat.”
“And you’re not?”
“No. I needed to lose five more pounds for the track team, which I was having a hard time doing, so I switched over to a raw food diet. And it really helped because I made my goal.”
“And you were selected for the team?”
She nodded, anxiously chewing on a nail.
“Congratulations. You getting enough protein?” he asked, studying the bruising and letting her answer drift past him. This wasn’t because of her diet.
She rambled for a moment about nuts and spinach, then peeled off her socks and lifted her bare feet to the end of the examination table. “And then yesterday after a run, I found this,” she said. “I didn’t even show my mom ’cause she’d freak out.”
Dr. Harbolt caught his breath. It looked as though someone had taken a baseball bat to the soles of the girl’s feet. Fiery maroon blotches screamed out some kind of violence. Three of her toes had turned a dark purple.
“Good Lord!” he blurted out. “What happened to you?”
“Nothing! I’m telling you nothing happened,” wailed Tori. “They just … showed up.”
Excerpt from The Experiment by Robin Lamont. Copyright © 2019 by Robin Lamont. Reproduced with permission from Robin Lamont. All rights reserved.


Author Robin Lamont’s diverse careers include Broadway actress, private investigator, and criminal prosecutor. Her novel If Thy Right Hand was named a Best Book by Suspense Magazine and awarded the Gold Medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards. Her book The Chain, the first in The Kinship Series, was a Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalist. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and beloved Golden Retriever, Kaley.

Connect with Robin:

Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:
Amazon Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, August 20, 2019



Justice for the dead and solace for the living is Baxley Powell’s creed, but she faces uncharted territory in this sixth book of the Dreamwalker Mystery Series. The Suitcase Killer has struck again, only this big city menace is now a problem for Baxley’s hometown. As that investigation heats up, a local woman is reported missing. The sheriff orders Baxley to work the missing person’s case.

Listening to the dead is familiar ground for Baxley but finding a missing young lady isn’t in her skill set. Besides, her dreams rarely follow a timeline. With the clock ticking, can this crime consultant discover a way to reach the living?

Her main source of help in the afterlife, a mentor named Rose, is unavailable. Instead, Baxley must rely on her wits and her Native American boyfriend, Deputy Sam Mayes, to find leads. Each shared dreamwalk and energy transfer binds them closer together, creating another issue. Mayes wants to marry Baxley but it isn’t that easy. They’re hampered by their community roles in opposite ends of the state.

Baxley juggles the pressure of two high-profile cases, a determined suitor, and expanding her limits. One thing is certain. Without her extrasensory sleuthing, the missing woman will die.

Book Details:

Title: Dreamed It

Author: Maggie Toussaint

Genre: Paranormal cozy mystery

Series: Dreamwalker Mystery Series, book 6

Publisher: Camel Press (August 13, 2019)
Print length: 248 pages

On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours



Q: If you could live in any time period which would it be?
A: I live in a small town in coastal Georgia and have been working on my ancestry. My research has been hampered by fires. Our town of Darien was torched during the Civil War (illustrated in the movie Glory) and our County Courthouse has been torched three times. That means a lot of records were destroyed. Consequently, we can only go back so far until the lineage becomes anecdotal and different factions of our family favor this ancestor or another. What a mess. I’d like to go back to the early 1800s and see for myself! One ancestress lived to be 100 years old, dying in 1834. How’d she do that in that timeframe? Why didn’t I inherit her bone structure or immune system?

Q: If you could step back into a moment or day in time, where would you go?
A: I would like to revisit my childhood and spend more time with my dad. His life was cut short by a heart attack and I barely got to know him as an adult. He made and repaired many of his fishing nets, cooked like a dream, and is the only person I know who read the entire World Book Encyclopedia set from cover to cover. I also remember him doing the crossword puzzles in the newspaper, and I think of him often as I work my crossword puzzles.

Q: If you could time travel for an infinite period of time, where would you go?
A: First, I hope time traveling doesn’t involve motion sickness! I’d do it if it were smooth like an express elevator ride. I would like to watch Alexander Graham Bell make the first telephone call on March 10, 1876. Did you know some people started using the word “ahoy” as the first word of their phone greeting at first, until Thomas Edison suggested in 1877 using the word “hello” and it caught on?

Q: If you had to do community service (or already do volunteer work), what would you choose?
A: I volunteer monthly at the Old Jail Art Center, which is also a satellite location for our Visitor Center. I enjoy doing this as I am often asked to share information about our current attractions and about our past.

Q: If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
A: I’d want a tropical island with lots of fresh vegetables, few bugs, and no hurricanes. I’d also need a doctor on that island for emergencies.


5 things you need in order to write:  
    •    peace and quiet
    •    computer
    •    iced tea
    •    chocolate
    •    electricity

5 things you love about writing:
    •    creating twists and turns
    •    allowing the characters to stretch and grow
    •    holding the finished product in my hand
    •    getting to meet amazing readers
    •    sharing my experience with beginning writers

5 things you love about where you live: 

    •    it is home and generations of my family have lived in this remote coastal area
    •    I can’t go anywhere without bumping into someone who knows me or is related to me
    •    We have fresh from the ocean seafood
    •    It doesn’t get very cold in the winter
    •    I am close enough to see my sister regularly

5 things you never want to run out of:

    •    toilet paper!
    •    fleece clothing!
    •    clean underwear!
    •    hats!
    •    sunscreen lotion!   

5 things about you or 5 words to describe you:  
    •    amateur photographer
    •    yoga enthusiast
    •    classic rock and roll fan
    •    arts and crafts addict
    •    flower garden admirer


Q: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
A: People driving inappropriately. What part of sharing the road don’t they understand?

Q: What’s the loveliest sight you’ve ever seen?
A: The smile of a child.

Q: What’s your favorite time of day?
A: I love mornings. The day is fresh like a blank sheet of paper, just waiting to be filled with explorations, visits, and great meals.

Q: What’s one thing you never leave the house without?
A: Sunglasses! It’s really bright here in coastal Georgia. You’d think that my aging vision would make everything dim, but that’s not the case. I have really dark sunglasses.

What book are you currently working on?
A: I’m polishing book 2 of my next series and going through the final edits of book 1, Seas the Day, which releases in April 2020. The Seafood Caper Mysteries is a culinary cozy set on a coastal island.

Q: What’s your latest recommendation for:
Food: cauliflower pizza
Music: anything by Dean Evenson (soft and soothing music)
Movie: Men in Black, International
TV: I’ve enjoyed every show and movie Nathan Fillion has been in. If you haven’t seen The Rookie, it’s good and entertaining
Netflix/Amazon Prime: a zany choice, but compelling: The Santa Clarita Diet
Miscellaneous: I love writing with Gel pens

Q: What books do you currently have published?
A: I have 20 books out now, but for brevity’s sake will include only the Dreamwalker Mystery Series in order of their publication.
Gone and Done It
Bubba Done It
Doggone It 
Confound It 
Dreamed It 


Southern author Maggie Toussaint writes cozy and paranormal mysteries. Dreamed It, book six in her Dreamwalker series just released. She has another Dreamwalker novel (All Done with It) coming in 2019 as well as a new culinary cozy series, Seas the Day, coming in April 2020 from Henery Press. Her work won two Silver Falchions, the Readers’ Choice, and the EPIC Awards. She’s finaled three times for Georgia Author of the Year. Maggie also writes romantic suspense and science fiction. She’s past president of Southeast chapter of Mystery Writers of America and a board member of LowCountry Sisters In Crime. She lives in coastal Georgia, where secrets, heritage, and ancient oaks cast long shadows.

Connect with Maggie:

Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Linkedin  |  Pinterest  |  Bookbub  |  Amazon

Buy the book:

Sunday, August 18, 2019



Peace and quiet is underrated.

After her last brush with murder, Larklyn Davis is relieved to be spending her time with the talented new horse at her stables instead of tripping over body parts. While she’s trying to figure out why her newest horse has lost his mojo, she’s also puzzling over her relationship with the brooding, uncommunicative Detective Brecken Wilson.

But then, disaster strikes, and both Lark’s reputation and business are on the line. Once again she finds herself pulled into a murder case and in close proximity to the handsome detective. Throw in a dashing veterinarian plus a matchmaking town, and Lark’s life spins out of control. As clues pile up and all evidence leads back to her barn, Lark gets saddled up to solve another mystery.

Who knew life in Barrow Bay would stir up so much trouble?

Book Details:

Title: Stir Up

Author’s name: Annabelle Hunter

Genre: Cozy mystery

Series: Lark Davis Mysteries, book 2

Publisher: Independent (July 1st, 2019)

Print length: 258 pages

On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours



A few of your favorite things: read, ride, write. Oh, and eat.
Things you need to throw out: all the shoes that I love, but are too worn out to wear anymore. 

Things you need in order to write: no one asking me to do something for them.
Things that hamper your writing: children, but they are a really cute hamper, so I don’t mind.

Things you love about writing: creating stories.
Things you hate about writing: the characters not listening to my direction and making me go rewrite the outline. Again.

Hardest thing about being a writer: editing.
Easiest thing about being a writer: talking about books for hours and dissecting other people’s writing so I can learn to be better. 

Things you love about where you live: constant sunny weather.
Things that make you want to move: constant sunny weather (picture vampire here).

Things you never want to run out of: coffee.
Things you wish you’d never bought: coffee

Words that describe you: awkward.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: awkward. I’m starting to worry about my answers to these questions.

Favorite foods: crepes, BBQ pork buns, BBQ, chocolate, creme brulee, bread pudding, ice cream, pho, hummus, kabobs, baba ganoush, sushi… you get the picture. I like food.
Things that make you want to throw up: broccoli. It’s evil.

Favorite smell: orange blossoms.

Something that makes you hold your nose: skunk.

Something you’re really good at: reading.

Something you’re really bad at: riding horses, not that it stops me.

Something you wish you could do: get my tense right when I write. Oh! Or spell.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: make brownies. It’s evil. And so good.

Something you like to do: sleep in.

Something you wish you’d never done: frequently that answer is ‘open my mouth and comment on something’ but I’m out of examples right now. But very rarely am I witty in person and that tends to be on the top of my regrets list.

Last best thing you ate: dumplings. 

Last thing you regret eating: dumplings … I’m still too full.

Things you’d walk a mile for: food. Friends. The band Queen . . .
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: horror movies.

Things you always put in your books: romance. I can’t help myself. 

Things you never put in your books: horror.

Things to say to an author: I love your work. 

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: ‘You know, your work would be better if…’ Although, I would change your name. And probably write down the comment for further rumination.

Favorite places you’ve been: England.

Places you never want to go to again: downtown LA. I hate the parking. And the drive. Did I mention the parking? Oh, and I should mention the parking.

Favorite things to do: Writing.
Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: Editing. FYI - it doesn’t work. My brain makes me go back and finish it anyways.

Things that make you happy: My friends and family
Things that drive you crazy: See above. I’m seeing a trend.

Most embarrassing moment: Too many to mention. I’m an all-star on being mortified of the things that come out of my mouth. 

Proudest moment: My first review. Five stars. I cried for like a half hour I was so happy.

Best thing you’ve ever done: Made sure I listened to other people and really heard what they’re saying.

Biggest mistake: Taking their opinions as fact or getting angry instead of listening and trying to find out why they thought that.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: published a book. 

Something you chickened out from doing: Horse shows. I’m such a wuss. I told you I was never ready. 


Annabelle Hunter is a stay-at-home mother who writes in whatever time her children give her. She is the author of Leg Up and Number’s Up. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two children, and various pets. 

Connect with Annabelle:

Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:


Friday, August 16, 2019



Dallas private eye Ed Earl Burch is an emotional wreck, living on the edge of madness, hosing down the nightmares of his last case with bourbon and Percodan, dreading the next onslaught of demons that haunt his days and nights, including a one-eyed dead man who still wants to carve out his heart and eat it.

Burch is also a walking contradiction. Steady and relentless when working a case. Tormented and unbalanced when idle. He’s deeply in debt to a shyster lawyer who forces him to take the type of case he loathes -- divorce work, peephole creeping to get dirt on a wayward husband.

Work with no honor. Work that reminds him of how far he’s fallen since he lost the gold shield of a Dallas homicide detective. Work in the stark, harsh badlands of West Texas, the border country where he almost got killed and his nightmares began.

What he longs for is the clarity and sense of purpose he had when he carried that gold shield and chased killers for a living. The adrenaline spike of the showdown. Smoke ‘em or cuff ‘em. Justice served -- by his .45 or a judge and jury.

When a rich rancher and war hero is killed in a suspicious barn fire, the rancher’s outlaw cousin hires Burch to investigate a death the county sheriff is reluctant to touch.

Seems a lot of folks had reason for wanting the rancher dead -- the local narco who has the sheriff on his payroll; some ruthless Houston developers who want the rancher’s land; maybe his own daughter. Maybe the outlaw cousin who hired Burch.

Thrilled to be a manhunter again, Burch ignores these red flags, forgetting something he once knew by heart.

Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. And it might just get you killed.

But it’s the best lousy choice Ed Earl Burch is ever going to get.

Book Details:

Title: The Best Lousy Choice: An Ed Earl Burch Novel

Author: Jim Nesbitt

Genre: Hard-boiled crime thriller

Series: An Ed Burch Novel, book 3

Publisher: Spotted Mule Press (July 9, 2019)

Print length: 347 pages

On tour with: Partners in Crime Book Tours



Things you need in order to write: Like Faulkner said: “My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey . . ..” I write on a laptop, but I edit from the printed page, so paper is a must. Bourbon or Tennessee whiskey, a good cigar and a ribeye are other must-haves. Make mine medium rare.
Things that hamper your writing: Milo, my 18-year-old cat. He likes to nap on my lap while I’m writing on my laptop. Nice work if you can get it. When he thinks I’ve ignored him for too long, he walks across the keyboard. Other entanglements: a demanding day job, advancing age that reduces my energy level, and a growing intolerance for music while I write. Lyrics get in the way of the words I’m trying to coax out of my head, but music is a fine thing while winding down from a long writing session or gearing up for one.

Things you love about writing: I have to disagree with Dorothy Parker’s line: “I hate writing; I love having written.” Writing is damn hard work and there’s no silver-bullet substitute for keeping your butt in the chair and pounding away for hours at a time — or staring at the screen or thin air when the words won’t come. But when the muse takes over and the words flow, when you’ve just etched a great scene or a stretch of snappy, killer dialogue — or, even better, when a character just elbows their way to the surface and takes over the book — it’s a sweet payoff for all those butt-numbing hours.
Things you hate about writing: When that fickle muse jilts you and it feels like you’re chipping away at a granite wall with a tiny rock hammer. When the demands of the day job or other duties keep you out of that chair when what you really need to be doing is writing — that creates a fierce guilt that tops anything the Baptists or Catholics can dish out.

Things you never want to run out of: bourbon or Tennessee whiskey, cigars, red meat, and good books.
Things you wish you’d never bought: a gas-powered weed eater, a smart phone, an exercise bike, ties, and suits.

Words that describe you: loyal, honest, smart, talented, witty, proud, resilient, resourceful, fierce.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: reckless, stubborn, temperamental, talky, cynical, caustic.

Favorite foods: steak, smoked pork butt and beef brisket, huevos ranchero con verde sauce, Cuban sandwiches, ropa vieja, oysters, mussels, pecan pie, banana pudding, grilled snapper and grouper, fried chicken, fried catfish, fried shrimp.
Things that make you want to throw up:  snails and sushi.

Favorite music: I’m a musical omnivore, and like everything from 20s and 30s jazz to rockabilly, blues, R&B, jump blues, rock, Tex-Mex, ranchera, conjunto and Western swing.
Music that make your ears bleed: techno, death and thrash metal, rap and hip-hop.

Favorite beverage: George Dickel Tennessee whisky on the rocks. Close second: a well-made mojito.

Something that gives you a pickle face: anything with gin in it.

Something you wish you could do: rebuild a car or aircraft engine.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: play the piano.

Last best thing you ate: Cuban sandwich with black bean soup.

Last thing you regret eating: late-night pizza with extra tomato sauce — heartburn city.

Things to say to an author: Your book was so addicting I stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish it — gave it a five-star review the next day.

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: Why do you give your characters such weird names — can’t you just call them Joe or Sheila? Or: Why do you spend so much time describing the scenery — I already know what the sky, the mountains or a couch look like.

Favorite places you’ve been: Cuba, the Keys, Wales and West Texas.

Places you never want to go to again: Albany, New York followed closely by Gary, Indiana.

Favorite books: The Time It Never Rained, by Elmer Kelton; Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammett; The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler; Bordersnakes and Dancing Bear, by James Crumley; American Tabloid, by James Ellroy; The Drowning Pool and The Chill, by Ross Macdonald; Devil In A Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley; A Walk Among The Tombstones, by Lawrence Block.

Books you would ban: I would never ban or burn a book, but I would remainder any and all self-help and diet books, with prejudice.

People you’d like to invite to dinner: Sean Connery, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Rosie Flores, Marty Stuart, James Ellroy, Lawrence Block, Willie Nelson, Helen Mirren, Marcia Gay Harden, Lewis Black, Craig Ferguson, Dr. James Andrews, Neal DeGrasse Tyson, Jeff Bridges, Tommy Lee Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Marcia Ball, Holly Hunter, William Weld
People you’d cancel dinner on: Donald Trump, Al Sharpton, Ted Nugent, Ann Coulter, Whoopi Goldberg, Taylor Swift, Florida-Georgia Line and Alex Jones.

Favorite things to do: drive my 1972 Cutlass Supreme convertible with my wife; smoke a great cigar while sipping bourbon or Tennessee whiskey, pilot a vintage aircraft.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: give a PowerPoint presentation, skydive, Christmas caroling, dancing, go to a soccer game, climb onto a roof, look down from a precipice, clean out the gutters or the garage.

Biggest lie you’ve ever told: told a drunk I was Jerry Garcia and signed an autograph as Jerry.

A lie you wish you’d told: that I’m a Texan instead of a Pennsylvanian.

Best thing you’ve ever done: marry my wife.

Biggest mistake: marry my first two wives.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: dump a motorcycle to avoid colliding with a car.

Something you chickened out from doing: skydive.


Burch slipped through a thick snarl of gawkers, glad-handers, gossips and genuine mourners going nowhere fast in the vestibule of Sartell’s Funeral Home, nodding and smiling like the prodigal returned to the paternal table.
To ease his passage toward the chapel where Bart Hulett’s charred corpse was surely hidden in a closed casket, he patted the passing shoulder, shook the hand thrust his way and mouthed the “good to see you” to the stranger’s face that smiled in mistaken recognition. Baptist reflexes from a long-ago boyhood, handy for the preacher, pol or low-rent peeper — remnants of an endless string of God Box Sundays he’d rather forget.
The chapel was packed and the well-mannered buzz of polite stage whispers filled the room, triggering another Baptist flashback — the hushed sanctuary conversations of the flock anticipating the opening chords of a Sunday service first hymn.
Ten rows of hard-backed dark wooden pews flanked each side of a center aisle leading to a low lacquered plywood platform topped by a glossy Texas pecan wood casket with burnished brass lugs and fixtures. Two blown-up photographs in fluted gilt frames faced the mourners, standing guard at each end of the casket — a colorized, wartime portrait of a young Bart Hulett in Marine dress blues and visored white cover at the foot; a candid of Hulett and his blonde wife on horseback at the head, their smiling faces goldened by the setting sun.
Behind the pews, five rows of equally unforgiving aluminum folding chairs, all sporting the durable silver-gray institutional enamel common to the breed, stood as ready reserve for the overflow of mourners. The pews were filled and a butt claimed every chair — a testament to Bart Hulett’s standing as a fallen civic leader and member of one of the founding families of Cuervo County.
No cushions in pew or chair. Comfort wasn’t on the dance card in this part of West Texas. The land was too stark, harsh and demanding, intolerant of those seeking a soft life of leisure. And Baptists damned dancing as a sin and kept those pews rock hard so you’d stay wide awake for the preacher’s fiery reminder about the brimstone wages of sin.
Dark blue carpet covered what Burch’s knees told him was a concrete floor. Flocked, deep-red fabric lined the walls, brightened by a line of wall sconces trimmed in shiny brass that reflected the dimmed light from electric candles. Two brass candelabras hung from the ceiling, bathing the chapel in a warm, yellow glow. Heavy, burgundy velour drapes lined the front wall and flanked the rear entrance and the opening to a sitting room to the left of the casket.
The total effect was meant to be plush, somber and churchly, yet welcoming. Don’t fear death. It comes to us all. Just a part of the great circle of life and God’s eternal plan. Let us gather together and celebrate the days on earth of this great man who has left us for his final reward.
But Burch wasn’t buying the undertaker’s refried Baptist bill of fare. To his eye, the drapes, the wall covering and the brass light fixtures looked more like the lush trappings of a high-dollar whorehouse than a church, an old-timey sin palace that packaged purchased pleasure in a luxury wrapper. All that was missing was a line of near-naked whores for the choosing and a piano man in a bowler hat and gartered shirt sleeves, tickling the ivories while chomping a cigar.
Nothing more honest than a fifty-dollar blow job from a working girl who knows her trade.
Nothing more bitter than the cynical heresy of a backslidden Baptist sinner.
Nothing more useless than a de-frocked cop still ready to call out the hypocrisy of a church he thought was just a dot in his rearview mirror.
Burch cold-cocked his bitter musings and wiped the smirk off his face. He grabbed a corner at the rear of the room and continued his chapel observations. He tried to settle into the old routine. Relax. Watch and wait. Keep the eyes moving and let it come to you. Don’t force it.
But the watcher’s mantra wasn’t working.
Couldn’t shake the feeling that eyes had been on him while he juked and doubled back through town earlier in the day and that eyes were on him now. Couldn’t blame the demons for this. He was still cool and calm from that special cocktail he served himself before leaving the ranch. That meant the sixth sense was real, not a figment of his nightmares. And he was far too old a dog to ignore it.
Burch took a deep breath and let it out slow, just like he did at the rifle range before squeezing off the next round. His heartbeat slowed. He felt himself relax. The uneasy feeling was still there, but it was a small sliver of edginess. Do the job. Watch and wait. Keep the eyes moving. Let it come to you.
From the chapel entrance, a thick line of mourners broke toward the right rear corner of the room and angled along the wall opposite Burch before bending again to crowd the closed casket, leading to a small knot of Hulett family members standing next to the photo of Bart and his dead wife.
Stella Rae was playing the head of household role, reaching across her body to shake hands with her left because her right was burned, bandaged and hanging loose at her side, the white tape and pinkish gauze riding below the rolled-back cuff of a navy cowgirl shirt with white piping and a bright red cactus blossom on each yoke.
She was wearing Wranglers too new to be faded and pointy-toed lizard-skin boots the color of peanut brittle, her dark blonde hair swept back from her oval face and touching her shoulders. The warm light from the candelabras picked up the slight rose tint of her olive skin and the flash of white from her smile.
A beautiful woman putting on a brave front. A woman custom-made to be looked at with lustful intent. Burch didn’t need imagination to mentally undress Stella Rae Hulett. He had seen her at her carnal best while staring through the telephoto lens of a camera as she fucked her lover in a dimly lit motel room. He had his own highlight reel of her taut body stored in his brainpan.
But his mind was on the charred chain in the bed of Gyp Hulett’s pickup, his eyes locked on the bandaged hand dangling at her side. How’d you really burn your hand, missy? Where were you when your daddy died?
Jason Powell stood behind her, looming over her right shoulder, the protective hand of a lover on her upper arm as he nodded to each mourner paying respect as Stella Rae shook their hand. Gotta give the guitar picker some credit. Looks like he’s in it for the long haul.
To Stella’s right stood a young man in jeans, boots and a red brocade vest over a crisp, white shirt and a bolo with a silver and onyx slide. His round face was pale and pockmarked, his hair black and wiry. Burch guessed he was looking at Jimmy Carl Hulett, Bart Hulett’s only son.
Jimmy Carl looked like a sawed-off version of his ancient cousin, Gyp, minus the gunsight stare, the wolf smile and the Browning Hi-Power on the hip. Which was another way of saying the boy had more than a few dollops of bad outlaw blood running through his veins, but none of the lethal menace.
The younger Hulett looked uncomfortable shaking the hands of mourners, his eyes shifting but always downcast, his head nodding with a nervous jerk, the overhead glow highlighting a slight sheen of sweat on his forehead. Between handshakes, he wiped his hawk’s beak nose with a dark blue bandana.
He looked like a man who needed a drink.
Or a spike of Mexican Brown.
Burch knew the look. Saw it a thousand times as a Dallas street cop. Telltales of a junkie. A loser. A Hulett in name only. A weak link who would sell his soul for his next fix. Or sell out his daddy. How bad are you hooked, boy? Who has his claws in you besides your dealer? Malo Garza? Needle Burnet? Or another player to be named later?
Burch tucked these questions into his mental deck and resumed scanning the crowd, ignoring that edgy sliver, keeping a slight smile on his face — just a prodigal looking for old friends and neighbors. Damned tedious work, standing in the corner of a whorehouse chapel, watching and waiting, working a cop’s most hackneyed routine — hitting the victim’s funeral.
His feet and knees started to ache. Never cut it walking a beat again. He ignored the pain and kept his eyes moving. He wasn’t expecting a lightning flash of sudden insight or the appearance of a beady-eyed suspect wearing their guilt like a gaudy neon sign. That only happened on Murder, She Wrote and Angela Lansbury didn’t fit in with this West Texas crowd.
Burch was looking for smaller stuff. Dribs and drabs. A pattern. A sense of how people caught up in a case fit together — or didn’t. A loose thread. An odd moment. A step out of line or time.
A facial tic or look. Like a Hulett with the junkie’s sniffles.
A mismatch. Like a beautiful woman with a burned and bandaged right hand.
A shard. Anything that caused his cop instincts to tingle, triggering questions he needed to ask. He found two. Small kernels, granted, but grist for the mill.
He kept his eyes moving, looking for more of something he wouldn’t know until he saw it. Minutes dragged by, grinding like a gearbox with sand in it. The line of mourners grew shorter. The pain moved up to the small of his back.
The sliver grew into a sharp stab of warning. Eyes were on him. Felt rather than seen. He shifted his gaze to his right, keeping his head still. Across the center aisle, at the near end of the last row of chairs, a gaunt brown face with thin black hair turned to face the front of the chapel. Before the turn, Burch saw intense, dark eyes studying him — the watcher being watched.
Both knew the other was there so Burch took his time studying the man’s profile. Thin, bony nose, hair brushed back dry from a receding widow’s peak, black suit with an open-collar white dress shirt. The man quit pretending he hadn’t been made, turning to look at Burch with a slight smile and close-set eyes that flashed a predatory interest.
Burch returned the stare with the dead-eyed look of a cop and burned an image for his memory bank.
Who are you, friend? Another Garza hitter? Jesus, Burch, that isn’t what the narcos call their gunsels. Get your head out of the 1940s. Sicario — that’s it.
What about it, friend? You another of Malo’s sicarios? Or are you outside talent? Maybe that specialist Bustamante talked about. Maybe a freelancer working for Malo’s competition. Or the Bryte Brothers.
You the eyes I feel watchin’ me? Why the sudden interest? Those two shooters I smoked friends of yours?
Movement up front caught Burch’s attention. Gyp Hulett, hat in hand and wearing a black frock coat straight out of the 1890s that wasn’t in the truck cab during the ride to town, parting the sitting room drapes. The old outlaw walked up to his younger cousins in a bow-legged stride, whispering to each, then beckoning them to follow him as he retraced his steps.
Burch glanced back toward the gaunt Mexican. Gone. A sucker’s play if he followed. Burch slid out of his corner perch and along the back row of chairs to get a better look at the sitting room entrance. Gyp parted the drapes to let Stella Rae and Jimmy Carl enter.
Through the opening, Burch could see Boelcke standing next to a tall man with a thick, dark moustache, an inverted V above a stern, downturned mouth, echoed by thick eyebrows. He had ramrod straight posture and was wearing a tailored, dark gray suit, a pearl gray shirt and a black tie. Black hair in a conservative businessman’s cut, light brown skin and an aquiline nose gave him the look of a criollo, the New World Spaniards who ripped the land of their birth away from the mother country.
Malo Garza, paying his respects in private. Gyp Hulett swept the drapes closed as he ducked into the room. Burch braced himself for the bark of a Browning Hi-Power he hoped he wouldn’t hear and marveled at the high hypocrisy of Garza showing up at the funeral of a man he wanted dead.
Took balls and brass to do that. Matched by a restraint Burch didn’t know Gyp Hulett had.
“Bet you’d like to be a fly on the wall in that room.”
For a split second, Burch thought he was hearing the voice of Wynn Moore’s ghost. Then he looked to his right and met the sad, brown eyes of Cuervo County Chief Deputy Elroy Jesus “Sudden” Doggett.
“Wouldn’t mind that one bit. Imagine it’s quite the show. Lots of polite words of sorrow and respect. Lots of posturing. Lots of restraint. Have to be considerin’ one man in there would like to kill the other.”
“That would be your client, right? The ever-popular Gyp Hulett, gringo gangster of the Trans-Pecos.”
“Can’t tell you who I’m working for, Deputy. You know that’s confidential.”
Doggett’s eyes went from sad to flat annoyed and his voice took on a metallic edge.
“That ain’t no secret, hoss. Not to me or anybody else who matters around here, including the other big
mule in that room. And that man probably wants to kill you.”
“Malo Garza? The man don’t even know me.”
“That’s a point in your favor. If he did know you, he’d put you out of your misery right now.”
“A big dog like him? He’s got more important things to worry about than lil’ ol’ me.”
“You don’t know Malo Garza. Anybody pokin’ his nose anywhere near his business draws his personal interest. And believe you me, that ain’t healthy.”
“Ol’ Malo might find me a tad hard to kill. I tend to shoot back. If he wants a piece of me, he’ll have to get in line.”
Doggett paused. His eyes turned sad again. When he spoke, the edge was gone from his voice.
“Listen to us — two guys talkin’ about killin’ at a great man’s funeral. Let’s step outside for a smoke and a talk.”
“Unless this is the type of talk that follows an arrest, I’d rather stay here and watch the floor show.”
Doggett chuckled.
“Don’t have that kind of talk in mind right now, although the man I work for just might. This’ll be a private chat between you and me.”
“Thought we had a meeting tomorrow. You are the hombre that had that trustee give Lawyer Boelcke that invitation to Guerrero’s, right?”
“Right. Things change. Come ahead on. I’ll have you back for the next act. It’s one you won’t want to miss. Star of the show. Blue Willingham, shedding crocodile tears for Bart Hulett. He won’t show up until Garza’s done paying his respects.”
Nothing like dancing the West Texas waltz with bent lawmen, lupine outlaws, patrician drug lords, gaunt killers and Baptist undertakers with bordello tastes.
In three-quarter time.
Excerpt from The Best Lousy Choice: An Ed Earl Burch Novel by Jim Nesbitt. Copyright © 2019 by Jim Nesbitt. Reproduced with permission from Jim Nesbitt. All rights reserved.


Jim Nesbitt is the author of three hard-boiled Texas crime thrillers that feature battered but dogged Dallas PI Ed Earl Burch — The Last Second Chance, a Silver Falchion finalist; The Right Wrong Number, an Underground Book Reviews “Top Pick”; and, his latest, The Best Lousy Choice. Nesbitt was a journalist for more than 30 years, serving as a reporter, editor and roving national correspondent for newspapers and wire services in Alabama, Florida, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington, D.C. He chased hurricanes, earthquakes, plane wrecks, presidential candidates, wildfires, rodeo cowboys, migrant field hands, neo-Nazis and nuns with an eye for the telling detail and an ear for the voice of the people who give life to a story. His stories have appeared in newspapers across the country and in magazines such as Cigar Aficionado and American Cowboy. He is a lapsed horseman, pilot, hunter and saloon sport with a keen appreciation for old guns, vintage cars and trucks, good cigars, aged whiskey and a well-told story. He lives in Athens, Alabama.

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