Friday, December 28, 2018

Drinks with Reads 2018 Recap

On Fridays, we match excellent reads with the perfect drink recipe with help from our favorite authors. Here are the recipes for all of 2018. Enjoy! 

5 - Rebecca Marks, STONE COLD SOBER 
12 - Elizabeth Peters, STREET OF FIVE MOONS
19 - Daniel Silva's THE MARCHING SEASON

2 - Cate Holahan, LIES SHE TOLD
16 - Art Taylor, "A Necessary Ingredient", COAST TO COAST
23 - JD Allen, 19 SOULS

2 - Carola Dunn, DOOMED FOR YOUTH
9 - Mary & David Putnam, THE INNOCENTS
16 - Carol Perry, IT TAKES A COVEN
23 - Charles Salzberg, SECOND STORY MAN
30 - Charles Soule, THE ORACLE YEAR

6 - Lisa Kaplan, Diane Mott Davidson's GOLDY BEAR CULINARY SERIES
13 - Shawn Reilly Simmons, MURDER ON THE ROCKS
20 - Vivian Chien, DEATH BY DUMPLING

May - Short Story Month  
11 - Paul D. Marks, "Ghosts of Bunker Hill," ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE
18 - Terrie Farley Moran, "Inquiry and Assistance," ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE
25 - Edith Maxwell,"A Divination" MURDER MOST GEOGRAPHICAL

1 - Andy Siegle, TUG WILER SERIES
15 - Agatha Christie, DEATH IN THE AIR
22 - Robert Downs, THE FIX

6 - Peter James, DEAD IF YOU DON'T
13 - Art Taylor, "ENGLISH 398: FICTION WORKSHOP"
20 - Gary Basnight, FLIGHT OF THE FOX
27 - Devon Delany, EXPIRATION DATE

3 - Maya Corrigan, S'MORE MURDERS
10 - Lucy Burdette, DEATH ON THE MENU
17 - David Putnam, FIRE AT WILL
31 - Nancy Parrish, A CASE OF SYRAH, SYRAH

28 - Mollie Cox Bryan, ASSAULT AND BEADERY

5 - Laura Child, GLITTER BOMB
19 - Ellen Byron, MARDI GRAS MURDER

2 - Cathi Stoler, BAR NONE
16 - Peter James, ABSOLUTE PROOF
23 - Deborah Lacy & Pat Hernas, WUTHERING STACKS
30 - Martin Osterdahl, ASK NO MERCY

7 - Patricia Moyes, DEAD MEN DON'T SKI
14 - Alex Erickson, DEATH BY EGGNOG
21 - Our Favorite Stocking Stuffers
28 - 2018 Recap

None of these blog posts are suited for children under 21.

A Big Thank You to all of our guests. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Paperback Stocking Stuffer Ideas

It's time to get serious about stocking stuffers and do we have some great paperback options for you. First off we have Carol J. Perry's Bell, Spells and Murders, a fun holiday cozy mystery with a side of witchcraft and mayhem. Here's the candy cane cranberry drink that Carol suggests to go with it

Mixing a little New Orleans Cajun Country and Christmas with a pinch of murder gets you Ellen Byron's A Cajun Christmas Killing.

For those who prefer shorter bites of mystery year-round, perhaps a subscription to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Single issues can be found in Books A Million and most Barnes & Noble stores. 

Fans of Michael Connelly may like his most recent Harry Bosch novel in paperback that's widely available in the US, Two Kinds of Truth. Although I see that Amazon has some international edition paperback copies of his most recent hardback, Dark Sacred Night. 

For fans of more traditional mysteries, pick up a copy of Agatha Christie's Poirot novel, Hercule Poirot's Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Mystery Themed Calendars

2019 is right around the corner and how can one plan one's busy mystery reading schedule without the perfect mystery or book themed calendar? 

No worries. We have you covered with the best of the best, starting with the Reading Woman calendar from Pomegranate Press, filled with 12 works of art featuring a woman in the middle of our favorite past time. 

If you miss our favorite Sherlock show, then the BBC Sherlock calendar above might be perfect, or the wall calendar with the floor plan of 221 B below.

Or how about an NCIS calendar? Or this fabulous Bodelian Libraries wall calendar from the Oxford Library.

Which one will you choose? 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Eggnog and A Mystery

It's time for holiday parties and murder with Alex Erickson's new novel, Death by Eggnog and an excellent eggnog recipe to match. If this doesn't get you ready for Christmas, I don't know what will.

Death by Eggnog, the fifth Bookstore Café mystery, opens with our heroine, Krissy Hancock, being recruited to fill in at the community theatre by her friend and town gossip, Rita Jablonski. Of course, Rita doesn’t bother telling her that the Christmas play is a musical. Krissy doesn’t have long to learn the lines, let alone the songs, and things only get worse when the man playing Santa ends up getting murdered.

Krissy is no stranger to solving murders in the small town of Pine Hills, so when her ex-boyfriend, Robert, is accused of killing Santa, she can’t help but investigate. Unfortunately for her, the director refuses to call off the play, so while she’s busy trying to solve a murder, she has to continue to sing and dance for a show that was doomed from the start.

Eggnog is not only a perfect beverage for this time of year, but it was also a favorite of our murdered Santa. In fact, he was drinking it when he died, though he never did say whether or not his personal recipe contained rum or bourbon (but yours can!)

The recipe:

6 beaten eggs
2 cups milk
1/3 cup of sugar
2 - 4 tablespoons rum (optional)
2 - 4 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
Whipped cream
Ground nutmeg

Stir together the eggs, milk, and 1/3 cup of sugar in a heavy, large saucepan. Cook and stir continuously over medium heat until the mixture reaches 160 degrees (should coat a spoon). Remove from heat. Cool by placing the pan in very cold water. Continue to stir while the mixture cools (1-2 minutes). Stir in vanilla, as well as your alcohol of choice (if you desire a kick.) Chill in the fridge for 4 - 24 hours.

When ready to serve, whip cream and remaining sugar until soft peaks form. Transfer chilled egg mixture to serving container. Fold in whipped-cream mixture and top each serving with whipped cream. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Makes approximately 10 4-ounce servings.

Alex Erickson can be found online on Facebook and 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Dead Men Don’t Ski and The Black Manhattan

Kerry Hammond is here to pair a book with a cold setting to a drink that will warm you up.

Dead Men Don’t Ski by Patricia Moyes is the first book in the Inspector Tibbett series. The series, which Moyes started writing in 1959, continued through 19 books and ended in 1993. I usually spend the month of December reading Christmas themed books or ones set in snowy places and this book was a perfect addition to this year’s reads.

Inspector Henry Tibbett has been asked by the powers that be to take a ski holiday, with his wife in tow, to keep an eye out for any strange happenings. The location is a mountain town in Italy and the others guests they meet are extremely interesting. When a dead body is found traveling down on the ski lift, Henry must take a second look at his fellow travelers, this time wondering if any of them are capable of murder.

I love the story, the setting, and the characters. Everything was reminiscent of the classic mysteries I love to read: Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Dorothy Sayers. Tibbett is a very likeable and competent detective, he keeps a level head and avoids making snap judgments—unlike the Italian Detective he is working with.  

I paired the book with a Black Manhattan, a variation of the popular Manhattan that uses Averna instead of vermouth. It’s a great drink for apres ski, or anytime it’s cold outside.

2 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. Averna
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6
Cocktail cherry

Stir well with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a cocktail cherry.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Ask No Mercy and the White Russian

It's White Russians from Martin Osterdahl today on Drinks with Reads to celebrate the English translation his book, Ask No Mercy. Martin Österdahl has studied Russian, East European studies, and economics. He worked with TV productions for twenty years and was simultaneously the program director at Swedish Television. His interest in Russia and its culture arose in the early 1980s. After studying Russian at university and having had the opportunity to go behind the Iron Curtain more than once, he decided to relocate and finish his master’s thesis there.

The 1990s were a very exciting time in Russia, and 1996, with its presidential election, was a particularly crucial year. Seeing history in the making inspired Österdahl to write the first novel in the Max Anger series, Ask No Mercy. The series has been sold to more than ten territories and is soon to be a major TV series.

In 1996, Russia is preparing to vote in the first presidential election in country’s history. To save the democratic movement, western forces strikes a deal with the oligarchs and the generals. In doing so, the west unknowingly pave the way for Yeltsin’s successor, an unknown man working for the mayor of Saint Petersburg – Vladimir Putin.

In Stockholm, Sweden, a mysterious intrusion into the telecom infrastructure takes place. To Max Anger, ex-marine soldier and Russian expert at think tank Vektor, the attack look like the preparatory steps of an invasion. 

Max has tried to piece together the puzzle of his mysterious family background and found out that his father was born when Russian bomb planes dropped bombs over neutral Sweden’s capitol at the end of WW2. The official Russian excuse was erroneous navigation – Russia were at war with neighboring Finland – but Max discovers a well-hidden secret: that Stalin’s favorite spy, jailed in Stockholm and sentenced to life, was quietly returned to Moscow in the days following the attack…

At the start of Ask No Mercy, Max has to stop his private investigation when his girlfriend and colleague Pashie goes missing in Saint Petersburg. Is her disappearance connected to her work with the upcoming elections? Or is it Max’s personal research that has put her in harm’s way? 

Max’s hunt takes him through new Russia’s ruthless tech entrepreneurs and the ghosts of its dark Soviet past. To find the woman he loves and save his country Max has to question all that’s happening around him and everything he knows about himself.

The White Russian

Is the perfect partner to your Ask No Mercyread. The ice will help you cool down from the action and the coffee infusion will keep your head alert. And, because it so smooth, it won’t further upset your stomach during your encounters with the Stalinist conspiracy, so you can just keep drinking, until you reach the fitness level required to fully understand Russia.

The ingredients are:

  1 1/2 ounces vodka
  3/4 ounce coffee liqueur
  3/4 ounce cream

Three simple steps: 

The taste of vodka will be overpowered by the coffee liquor. So don’t go crazy on the brand, just make sure its Russian. I would recommend the standard Stolichnaya. Pour the Stoli into an old fashioned tumbler style glass filled with ice. Add coffee liquor of your liking, Kahlua being the most common choice but there are other makes too. Practice your bartending skills and float the cream on top of the spirits and ice. A clean layer makes for a great looking drink. 
Then serve with a straw, raise you glass and say: “Za zdorovie” – “to health”!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Wuthering Stacks and the Absolute Stress Reliever

Librarian turned detective, Bronte Williams, makes her debut on Drinks with Reads leaping from the pages of the first story in the 'Shhhh...Murder' anthology from Darkhouse Books. The story is called 'Wuthering Stacks' and I co-wrote it with my friend, Pat Hernas. It was fun write the story together.  

Bronte Williams has her hands full enough with book thefts, budget cuts and the sudden whims of the the newest potential donor, when she finds one of her colleagues dead on the floor, strangled by the cord he uses to charge his phone. She is seriously stressed out, which is why Pat and I selected the Absolute Stress Reliever because Bronte dearly needs to relax after this.

Here's the recipe:

Absolute Stress Reliever 

1 oz Absolute vodka
1 oz dark rum
1 oz peach schnapps
1 oz orange juice
2 oz cranberry juice 

In a cocktail shaker combine everything and shake well.  Pour over ice and garnish with a slice of orange and a cherry.

You can find 'Shhhh...Murder' on Amazon in ebook and paper formats. All of the stories feature a librarian or libraries and it's a fun read and features stories from Michael Bracken,  Anne Marie Sutton, Jacqueline Sewald and Amy Ballard.

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