Friday, November 16, 2018

Peter James' Absolute Proof and the Absolute Vodka Martini

International best-selling author Peter James is here today matching a Vodka Martini with his new novel, Absolute Proof, and to talk about the process of writing fiction. What I love most about James' books is the deep characterization and his ability to pull me into his stories. In this latest standalone he takes a break from his signature character, Detective Roy Grace, to delve into a thriller about this existence of God. 

Ask one hundred different authors about their writing day and whether they have any rituals before they start and you’ll get 100 different answers!  You can see these on my YouTube channel where I’ve asked these and another nine questions to authors as varied as Lee Child, Joan Collins, Karin Slaughter, George RR Martin and very many more.  A number of these, myself included, have a drink either to get their creative juices going, or reward themselves after a hard day slaving over a hot keypad!  So, if I were to pair the perfect drink to my new novel, Absolute Proof, it would have to be something involving Absolut Vodka…

The plot of Absolute Proof was inspired by a phone call, I got out of the blue, way back in 1989.  An elderly sounding gentleman asked if I was Peter James the author. When I said I was he replied, “Thank God I’ve found you, I’ve phoned every Peter James in the phone book in England.  I’m not a lunatic, I was a bomber pilot in WW2, I’m a recently retired university academic, and I have been given absolute proof of God’s existence, and I’ve been told on the highest possible authority that the author Peter James is the man to help me get taken seriously and to get the message out to the world!

I went to see a friend of mine who was the Bishop of Reading at the time and a very modern-thinking clergyman and asked him what, in his view, would happen if someone really did have credible proof of God’s existence.  He looked me in the eye and said, “I think he’d be murdered, because whose God would it be?  You’d have every faction of the Anglican, Catholic, Judaic, Islamic and all the other monotheistic churches claiming ownership, plus you’d have the leaders of communist countries, such as China, not wanting a Higher Authority usurping their power.  That was truly a lightbulb moment for me.  I thought, yes, I have the makings of a terrific international thriller here!  

     Absolute Proof is set in the USA, England, Egypt and in a Greek monastery.  The central character is an investigative journalist who gets that same call I got and pursues the story.  Within a short time, he finds himself and his wife under deadly threat…


This serves 1 author.


A proper, clear crystal martini glass of decent quality.  No other drinking vessel can be substituted.

Absolut Vodka
Martini Extra Dry
Four plain olives, pitted.
1 slice of lemon
Cubed ice

1 cocktail stick
1 cocktail shaker


Fill martini glass ¾ with vodka.

Using the cap of the Martini Extra Dry bottle as a measure, tip two capfuls of Martini into the glass.

Now pour the mixture into empty cocktail shaker.

Fill the glass to the brim with ice cubes and leave for 5 mins.

Pour these cubes plus fresh cubes into cocktail shaker.

Cut the slice of lemon in half and carefully wipe it around the inside of the glass and around the rim.

Secure the top of the shaker carefully then shake hard for thirty seconds and pour into glass.

It’s a powerful drink.  Enjoy, but beware!  And perhaps raise a glass to Dean Martin, who once said, ‘I feel sorry for people who don’t drink, because when they wake up in the morning that’s as good as their day is going to get.

©2018 PeterJames/Really Scary Books Ltd

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Review: Forever And A Day by Anthony Horowitz

Ever wonder why James Bond orders his martinis shaken and not stirred? Anthony Horowitz’s new Bond novel tells us about Bond before he was 007, and Kerry Hammond is here to tell us her review of the book.

Forever And A Day is the second in the James Bond series that author Anthony Horowitz has continued in the spirit and memory of Ian Fleming. The book was published on November 6 in Hardcover by Harper.

I need to start this review off with a confession. I have never read a James Bond novel. I’ve watched many of the movies and have probably seen at least one film featuring each of the Bond actors. But I have never picked up an Ian Fleming book, never known the Bond of the page versus the Bond on screen.

I was an Anthony Horowitz follower before I even knew it. As a longtime Midsomer Murders fan, I was enjoying his work before I knew his name. Then, when my book club chose Magpie Murders as its September read, I fell in love with Horowitz’s work and knew that I had to try his 007 novels.

I didn’t start with the first in the new series, though. That would be too predictable. I started with the second book and was immediately drawn in. Horowitz is the kind of writer who just knows how to tell a good story. Again, I don’t have the reference of comparison to a Fleming novel, so I can’t comment on the similarities or differences. What I can comment on is how entertaining the book was.

Forever And A Day is written as the prequel to the very first Bond novel, Casino Royale. In it, we learn about 007 before he was 007. It’s a precursor to the series and gives backstory—based on outlines Fleming wrote for a TV series—into the character and his motivations. There’s also a lot of action scenes, a love story, and cool cars and fancy spy operations.

To complete my research, I have since purchased Casino Royale, and plan to start the series at the beginning. It’s often said that the book is better than the movie, and that’s not a cliché, it’s a fact. I look forward to finding out what I have been missing.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review was fair and completely independent.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Candy Cane Cranberry Cocktails and Bells, Spells and Murders

Bells, Spells, and Murders is the newest title in Carol J. Perry’s Witch City Mystery series for Kensington Publishers—and someone is spreading deadly holiday cheer through Salem, Massachusetts. Carol has stopped by today to share a Candy Cane Cranberry Cocktail that sounds amazing and tell us more about her new novel.
Lee Barrett has landed her dream job at Salem’s WICH-TV. As the new field reporter, she’ll be covering events live as they’re unfolding. Next on the holiday checklist is an interview with the beloved chairman of a popular walking tour through Salem’s historic districts. But it may be his ghost walking this snowy Noel season after Lee finds him murdered in his stately offices, bloody Santa hat askew.
With her police detective boyfriend working the case and a witch’s brew of suspects—including some bell-ringing Santas—Lee chases down leads aided and abetted by her wise cat O’Ryan and some unsettling psychic visions of her own. When a revealing clue leads to another dead body, not even a monster blizzard can stop Lee from inching closer to the truth. . .and a scoop that could spell her own demise this killer Christmas.

Here’s a cheerful and colorful holiday drink—complete with candy canes!
First, crush a few candy canes. (Use a Zip-lock bag to avoid mess.)  Put aside.
1 part vodka
1 part cranberry juice
1 part Sprite

Combine ingredients and shake in cocktail mixer with ice. To serve, dip the rim of glass in water, then into crushed candy canes. Strain drink into glass and garnish with a candy cane.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Cathi Stoler and Bar None

Cathi Stoler joins us today to celebrate her new novel, Bar None. And since the book takes place in a bar, she came up with the perfect drink to match...

When Jude Dillane opened The Corner Lounge, on 10th Street and Avenue B in New York City’s Lower East Side, she had no idea that along with food and drink, there’d be murder on the menu, as well.

After Jude finds her friend and landlord Thomas "Sully" Sullivan's work pal, Ed Molina, dead in a pool of blood in Sully's apartment, she's sure it wasn't suicide as the police suspect.

I pulled out my keys from my pocket and found the spare Sully had given me for emergencies. This didn’t qualify as an emergency, just a good deed. I put it in the lock and the tumblers turned over. When I pushed the door open, it was dark, with only a little moonlight coming in through the living room window. “Ed?” I walked in the room and flipped on the light, bathing the space in a warm glow.
A half second later, I was sorry I had. A scream worked its way up from my chest and flew out my mouth. It took me a moment to process what I was seeing. Then I screamed again. Ed’s body was draped on the couch under the living room windows. It looked like he’d shot himself in the temple and took out the left side of his head. Blood was everywhere, sprayed across the couch and pooled on the floor underneath, like some bright red abstract painting. It’s metallic tang made my stomach lurch. And right in the middle of it all was the big black revolver that had done the job. I backed away, hand over my mouth, to keep back more screams and the bile rising in my throat. 
Ed was there all right, and he was as dead as the empties from the bar at last call.
Juggling her bar business with helping Sully, a former Marine, Jude goes undercover at the Big City Food Coop, posing as a sociology student in need of a summer internship. 

“And your waitressing job. Do you enjoy working in a restaurant?” Ivan was up to my current position, which I'd listed as waitress at The Corner Lounge. 
“I do, but they know I’m looking for something more related to my field of study.” Jeez, did I sound like a dork, or what? God help me if he asked me just what it was I was studying.
I’d been a little nervous about listing the restaurant as an employer. If Ivan was inclined to look hard enough, a few clicks on the Internet and he’d see me listed as an owner, not a waitress. But we’d decided to chance it, knowing Sully’s recommendation had paved the way. Hopefully, that would be enough.
“I’d think a restaurant would be an interesting place to work,” he raised his hand in an encompassing gesture, “so many different kinds of people coming in and out. Stimulating.”
“Absolutely.” I was beginning to think he didn’t get out much.
Nosing around Big City, Jude discovers a case of major fraud. Sully has given her a list of suspects based on a note he found in the dead man’s house along with their personnel files. His ‘don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude about where he obtained these files makes her job even harder.
When one of the suspects is killed, and Sully is seriously injured, the stakes get even higher and Jude becomes more determined than ever to find the killer. 
Working through the list, she finds herself in the killer's sights and knows her murder might be next. Even with this hanging over her, Jude still has to attend to business at The Lounge.
Doing a double—sleuth by day, bartender by night –Jude turns her attention
to a big event at The Lounge:  Tequila Flight Night, with a tasting menu of five specialty tequila cocktails.  Jalapeno Envy is one of them. 
I hope you’ll enjoy it as you read BAR NONE A Murder On The Rocks Mystery. Cheers!


2 oz. Patron Gold Tequila

1 oz. Agave Syrup  

1/4 Ripe Mango (peeled)

Squeeze of lime

Japapeno pepper cut into thin rings

Place tequila, agave syrup, mango in blender
with half dozen ice cubes. Blend until smooth. 

Pour into a cocktail glass and add a squeeze of lime.
Float jalapeno pepper rings on top.

You can find Cathi at
On Twitter: @cathistoler

On Instagram: cathicopy

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Review: Daughters of the Lake by Wendy Webb

Gothic suspense novelist Wendy Webb has a book out and Kerry Hammond is here today with her review.

Wendy Webb is the author of five gothic novels of suspense. Her fifth, Daughters of the Lake, was released on November 1, 2018, in Hardcover by Lake Union Publishing. I have read every one of Webb’s books and each one is a brilliantly told story that transports the reader to another place, and very often another time.

Webb’s novels have a strong sense of place. The locations play a huge role in setting the scene for the story and keeping the level of intrigue throughout. Daughters of the Lake, like most of Webb’s novels, is set on the Great Lakes. It reads like a fairy tale, toggling back and forth between present day and the past. In the present Kate Granger is struggling to cope with the break-up of her marriage. While staying at her parents’ home on Lake Superior she finds a body that has washed ashore. It’s the body of a woman and she is holding a child. The police search through missing persons reports but cannot identify the woman. Kate believes she has seen her before, but doesn’t know how to explain that she’s seen her in her dreams. A century earlier, another story began on a lake, one that turned into a tragic love story. Just how the two are related, well, you just have to read to find out.

Webb is a skilled storyteller with a wonderful imagination. This book wasn’t quite as dark and foreboding as some of her others, but like the others it kept me guessing. I thoroughly enjoyed trying to anticipate where the story was going, and was pleased to learn how wrong I was.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review was fair and completely independent.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Crime & Beyond Reads Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

The Denver-based book club, Crime & Beyond, recently discussed an Anthony Horowitz book and Kerry Hammond is here to tell us what they thought.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz was a book within a book. Two whodunits in one. A traditional mystery set in the 1950s and a modern day murder stemming from it. Anthony Horowitz is a very prolific writer of fiction, writing for television, movies, and books. We suspect he doesn’t sleep, which is how he finds the time to write as much as he does. However he manages it, we are very pleased that he does.

In Magpie Murders, Editor Susan Ryeland receives the latest manuscript from famous author Alan Conway. It is his latest novel to feature his well-loved detective, Atticus Pünd. As Susan reads about Pünd’s latest exploits she is convinced there is more to the story and that Conway’s book may be something other than fiction.

We loved this book and there were so many twists and turns, so many different clues and threads, that we could have discussed it for hours. We liked all of the intricacies of the story and how each and every issue was wound around and threaded through. The nursery rhyme theme was something that you would read in an Agatha Christie novel, along with the clues that were peppered throughout the story and the small village setting where everyone had a secret – but only one led to murder.

This is a wonderful book club read because there is so much to discuss. A few club members even mentioned it was one of the best books we’ve ever read as a group. That’s high praise indeed.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Devon Delaney with Final Roasting Place

Our guest today on Drinks with Reads is author Devon Delaney. In addition to be a writer, she's an accomplished cook and won the first cooking contest she ever entered. Now she's cooking up cozy mysteries and she made us a sparkling drink to match her latest novel, Final Roasting Place. This is the second book in the series, and you can read about the first one here. Now, let's see what she has to say about Final Roasting Place.

In the second book of my cooking competition murder mystery series my main character, Sherry, has returned to her maiden name, Oliveri, with her divorce imminent. She works part-time job helping her father, Erno, with his hooked-rug business, while continuing her full-time passion, competitive cooking. Competing in a cook-off final at her local TV station, she makes short work of her competition. Having her father in attendance makes the victory all the more sweet.

Before Sherry has time to savor the win, events sour as a storm knocks out power to the studio. When the power is restored, the young anchor is found dead at her desk with a sharp object lodged in her neck. The weapon is an unusual tool, used by craftsmen who make hooked rugs, the rugs Erno Oliveri sells at his shop. Someone has made the TV station breaking news and framed Erno in the process. If Sherry’s going to protect her dad and their family name, she has to piece together seemingly insufficient clues to knock her father off the suspect list, while not becoming a victim herself. 

Amaretto Sour - A Cocktail To Die For
When I considered the perfect cocktail to cozy up to while reading Final Roasting Place something sweet and sour came to mind, reminding me of more than a few of the book’s characters. The first sip tastes sweet on the tongue before things turn lemony sour, building up to a bourbon-fueled climatic punch in the gut. Like the ending of a perfect mystery even the unlikeliest parts of the cocktail come together and you can’t wait to go back for another round.

Amaretto Sour
2 ounces Amaretto
3/4 ounce bourbon
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup
Garnish: Lemon peel and maraschino cherry for garnish
In a shaker filled with ice, add all of the ingredients and shake until chilled. Strain into an ice-filled glass. Top with a lemon peel and a cherry.