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

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.