Friday, June 28, 2019

Strangled Eggs and Ham and A Bourbon Lemonade

Our guest today on Drinks with Reads is Maddie Day and if you comment on your favorite drink in sweltering weather below you can be entered to win a copy of Maddie's new book (US Resident only). 

Maddie Day writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. As Edith Maxwell, she writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. With seventeen novels in print and five more in production, Maxwell has been nominated for an Agatha Award six times. She lives north of Boston with her beau and two elderly cats, and gardens and cooks when she isn’t killing people on the page or wasting time on Facebook.

In my Country Store Mysteries, proprietor Robbie Jordan and her seventy-something Aunt Adele are both fond of a taste of Four Roses bourbon. Strangled Eggs and Ham takes place during a steamy southern Indiana August, and Robbie can’t always take time for a dip in Lake Lemon to cool off.

Here’s what the story is about: While Robbie scrambles through breakfast orders in South Lick, tempers run as high as the sticky August heat. A developer’s plans to build a luxury resort atop one of the most scenic hills in Brown County infuriates opponents, who concoct protests and road blockades. When tensions boil over and a vocal protester is silenced forever at the resort site, Robbie ditches the griddle to catch the killer. But if slashed tires are any indication, she’ll need to crack this case before her own aunt gets served something deadly next.  

While Robbie usually takes her whiskey neat, over ice, or in hot tea, she might well enjoy this refreshing summer concoction. 

Bourbon Lemonade

Note: You can make this simply by combining lemonade and bourbon, but I felt it needed a punch-up.

Strip six or eight mint leaves off their stem into a flat bottomed glass. Crush with a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and a tablespoon of sugar. Add three ounces pink lemonade and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Strain into another glass filled with ice, add two ounces bourbon (Four Roses or your favorite), and stir. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a slice of lemon and enjoy a great mystery.

Please find her at, at the Wicked Authors blog, and elsewhere:
Killer Characters (on the third of every month)

Readers: What’s your favorite refreshing drink in sweltering weather?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Chai Another Day and The Pink Lady

Leslie Budewitz, our guest today on Drinks with Reads, blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in two cozy mystery series. CHAI ANOTHER DAY, her fourth Spice Shop Mystery, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, was published on June 11. DEATH AL DENTE, first in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana, won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. “All God’s Sparrows,” her first historical fiction, won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story; she also won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction. A past president of Sisters in Crime and a current board member of Mystery Writers of America, she lives and cooks in NW Montana. You can find her on Facebook.

“Welcome to the new Seattle, where climate is the only thing changing faster than the city’s skyline.”
So says Pepper Reece, owner of Seattle Spice in the famed Pike Place Market, and the main character in my Spice Shop mysteries. In Chai Another Day, the 4th in the series (Seventh St. Books, June 11, 2019), Pepper and her pals attend a memorial service for Joelle Chapman, a friend who was stabbed to death in the vintage and antique shop where she worked. Afterwards, the three women go out for a drink. Though Pepper favors wine at home, she enjoys the occasional nip of something stronger when she’s out and about. And the reaction of Joelle’s friends and family, all dressed in bright florals and shades of pink, acting like they’re celebrating a gallery opening rather than mourning the loss of a woman they loved, definitely calls for something stronger. 
The Pink Lady, a classic cocktail of the pre-war club era, is just right. The egg white smooths out the sharpness of the gin, and combines with the grenadine to make a lovely drink in shades of pink, topped with a light layer of froth. Joelle would have loved it. 

“I don’t care what the gallery owner says, that was not Joelle’s favorite champagne,” Kristen said. “Her taste was waaay more expensive.” 
“Where to?” I said. “For a real drink.”
We were standing on the sidewalk outside the gallery. Seattle summer evenings were never this hot. What was going on?
The theme of my life these days. 
Kristen steered us to a newish spot in the next block where she and Eric had gone for Date Night. The three of us snuggled into a booth for two and grabbed menus. 
“Hmm. I had my taste buds set on a Cosmo, but a Pink Lady sounds good. In Joelle’s honor,” I said. 
Seetha read the ingredients. “Gin, grenadine, and egg white? That’s raw egg. You could get salmonella.”
“The alcohol will kill the germs,” I said. Her mouth fell open. “I’m joking. I’m sure they use pasteurized eggs. The risk is minimal.”
We ordered drinks and Kristen chose appetizers to share. I sat back, my eyes stinging with the emotion of the day. 
“Remember when you were a kid,” I said, trusting that my friends had felt much the way I had, “and you thought when you were twenty-five, you’d have life all figured out and you’d just live it and there wouldn’t be any problems. Gad, I wish that were true.”
“It’s not?” Kristen said. I stuck out my tongue.
“I thought it was just me,” Seetha said. “That things were coming together late because my upbringing was a mix of so many cultures.”
“Then you hit forty,” I said, “and realize everybody’s always trying to figure it out. Even those people in their flowery outfits, pretending to enjoy cheap champagne.” 
“They were there for the art,” Kristen said, and we all giggled. “I swear, sometimes the pretension makes me want to gag. I miss funky Seattle. I miss when Northwest fashion meant the latest in plaid flannel and the hot new Gore-Tex rain jackets.” 
“As if,” I said. “You haven’t worn plaid flannel since we went camping at La Push in, what, 1997? It rained all weekend. A forest of Gore-Tex wouldn’t have kept us dry.”
She had a point, though. Natives and long-time residents do sometimes feel like the city’s gotten too big for its britches, believing the hype and overindulging in pseudo-sophistication. 
But I didn’t want to go all cranky over that right now. I had enough other reasons to feel cranky.
Our server set our drinks on the table. Mine was frothy and pretty, the pale pink deepening to dark rose near the bottom of the martini glass. I touched my tongue to the icy surface. “Delish.” 

Pink Lady 
For each drink:
1/2 ounce grenadine
1 egg white
1-1/2 ounces gin

Add all ingredients to a shaker with cracked ice. Shake well—when your hands are chilled, so is the drink—then strain into a martini or cocktail glass. 
(Excerpt and recipe from CHAI ANOTHER DAY, Seventh St. Books, June 2019)


Seattle Spice Shop owner Pepper Reece probes murder while juggling a troubled employee, her mother's house hunt, and a fisherman who's set his hook for her.
As owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle's famed Pike Place Market, Pepper Reece is always on the go. Between conjuring up new spice blends and serving iced spice tea to customers looking to beat the summer heat, she finally takes a break for a massage. But the Zen moment is shattered when she overhears an argument in her friend Aimee's vintage home decor shop that ends in murder. 
Wracked by guilt over her failure to intervene, Pepper investigates, only to discover a web of deadly connections that could ensnare a friend - and Pepper herself.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Review: The Cutting Room by Ashley Dyer

Kerry Hammond is here with a review of another writing duo.

The Cutting Room by Ashley Dyer was published on June 18, in Hardcover, by William Morrow. It is the second book to feature Detectives Ruth Lake and Greg Carver, who first appeared in Splinter in the Blood. Ashely Dyer is the nom de plume of the writing team of Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper. Murphy is the author of psychological suspense and police procedurals and Pepper is an analyst and Forensic Scientist who has consulted for shows like Vera, Shetland and Bancroft.

In The Cutting Room, Lake and Carver are caught in a cat and mouse game as they hunt for a killer who calls himself the Ferryman and who passes his crimes scenes off as art exhibits. The killer sets up the scenes and alerts his followers via social media where to find them. The scenes are as gruesome as they are random and the detectives struggle to find a connection between the victims that could lead them to the identity of the killer.

Carver and Lake are both recovering from on the job traumas. Carver is physically injured and experiencing visions of auras, and Lake is suffering from an attack that has left her vulnerable. Individually they deal with their issues, and as a team they work past them to catch a sadistic killer who taunts the police every step of the way.

The Cutting Room is well-written and full of suspense. The authors combine their knowledge and skill into one seamlessly written novel that I couldn’t put down. Carver and Lake are well drawn, interesting characters whose demons I enjoyed exploring. The killer’s work is complex and horrifying, and I was on the edge of my seat as I read. This is a brilliant new series, and although The Cutting Room read as a standalone, I will go back to read the first in the series to fill in the missing details.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Review: The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine

Kerry Hammond is here to give us her review of the second book by the writing duo known as Liv Constantine.

The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine was released on May 7, in Hardcover, by Harper. Liv Constantine is the pen name chosen by sisters Lynne and Valerie Constantine and this is the second book they’ve published using their combined names. The first, The Last Mrs. Parrish, was featured in a Drinks with Reads segment on Mystery Playground. You can read that post HERE.

The Last Time I Saw You centers around an affluent community in Maryland. Kate English is a wealthy heart surgeon whose mother, Lily, has been brutally murdered. The police are baffled and Kate is just trying to keep it together. She is surrounded by friends and family, including her father and her husband, Simon. But it’s Blaire Barrington’s appearance at Lily’s funeral that has Kate reeling. She and Blaire used to be the best of friends. They were inseparable throughout high school and into college; Lily even welcomed Blaire into the family and treated her like a second daughter.

Blaire and Kate had a falling out when Blaire disapproved of Kate’s marriage to Simon. Now, all these years later, after the loss of her mother, Kate welcomes Blaire back into her life. The women begin to recreate the bond they once had, something Simon is not at all pleased with. Blaire decides to help Kate figure out who killed Lily and why, but the closer they get to the truth, the more fragile Kate’s nerves become. When the killer begins to stalk her, she suspects everyone around her, finding it hard to decide who to trust.

I read The Last Mrs. Parrish and enjoyed it, so I was excited to see that the authors had another book in the works. I would categorize The Last Time I Saw You as a domestic thriller, a genre that has been quite popular of late. Kate’s grieving and history of anxiety make her an unreliable narrator, but Constantine manages to tell the story without the cliched alcohol and drug addiction that is so often a part of these stories. It was refreshing to see that  these elements don’t need to be present to make up an enjoyable read.

I was surprised to find out that the book was written by two authors. The sisters must be very in tune with each other’s writing because it is seamlessly written, without any awkward changes in voice. A great summer read.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

Friday, June 14, 2019

Not Bad People and Passionfruit Mimosas

Brandy Scott is here on Drinks with Reads today to celebrate her new novel...Not Bad People.

Not Bad People is set in the vineyards of Victoria, Australia – where my characters often have a glass in hand. And they need it! The book kicks off on New Year’s Eve, with a pinot-fueled bad idea to have a letting-go ceremony, where Aimee, Melinda and Lou tie their resolutions to sky lanterns and let them off the balcony. Just minutes later, there’s a flash in the sky – and the next morning, it’s reported that a small plane crashed in the same area. 

Did they cause the accident? Aimee is convinced they’re responsible, and finds herself unable to stay away from the crash site and the family involved. Melinda knows they didn’t, but Aimee’s very public paranoia is putting her business and adoption plans at risk. While Lou has her own family problems to deal with – problems that become increasingly intertwined with the accident that has taken over all their lives. 

It’s a toxic recipe for anxiety, guilt trips, shame, obsession and power games. And also for cocktails! I bought some fantastic prosecco while researching this novel in Victoria, and I’ve used that as a base for a passionfruit mimosa – just the thing for plotting revenge on a hot Australian summer’s afternoon. 

(makes six)

One bottle of Prosecco
One passionfruit per person
Carton of passionfruit juice
Mint to garnish

Incredibly simple: place a mint leaf in the base of the glass, pour two-thirds full with prosecco, then top up with juice. (Or not, if you like something a little stronger.) Carefully scoop the passionfruit in at the end – it will froth in outrage at this stage. Try not to choke on the mint while feuding with your oldest friends. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Review: The Body in the Wake by Katherine Hall Page

Kerry Hammond is here to tell us about the latest book in the Faith Fairchild mystery series by Katherine Hall Page.

Katherine Hall Page, author of the long-running Faith Fairchild mystery series, has released her 25th book in that series. The Body in the Wake was published on May 7, in Hardcover, by William Morrow. Any author that can keep a series fresh for 25 books amazes me, yet Page manages to do just that.

In The Body in the Wake, Faith and her friend Sophie are taking a swim in the pond when they come across the dead body of an unknown man. The police are baffled by the man’s death as well as the strange tattoo he has on his arm. Faith, although busy helping plan her friend Pix’s daughter’s wedding, finds time to do a little sleuthing with Sophie to find out what the man was doing in town and why he was killed.

Followers of the series have seen a lot happen in Faiths world. Kids have grown, and there have been many marriages, funerals, and babies. These books are feel good reads where catching up with the characters is just as important as the plot, and this plot hits close to home by dealing with the opioid crisis. Page does a great job weaving a real-life issue into a fictional murder mystery; the details are all too realistic.

Life at Faith’s summer cottage in Maine is always interesting and I think the setting makes the book a great summer beach read. Each installment reads well as a standalone and the author manages to give enough backstory for those who jump in mid-series. So reading them out of order isn’t an issue.

A great added bonus: the books have a large culinary component and the author includes recipes in the back that appear in the story.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Drinks with Reads—FLAMINGO BINGO

Our guest today on Drinks with Reads is Terrie Farley Moran. Terrie is the recipient of both the Agatha and the Derringer awards, Terrie Farley Moran is the author of the beachside Read 'Em and Eat cozy mystery series; co-author of Laura Childs’ New Orleans scrapbooking mystery series; and has published numerous short stories in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies. You can also find Terrie on Facebook

“Flamingo Bingo” featured in the May/June issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, tells us what danger can lurk when a daughter decides to make a birthday visit to her mother who lives in a trendy Florida retirement community, complete with swimming, bike riding, and even a game called Pickleball. There are always events and parties in the community clubhouse, and naturally, alcohol is often served. Since The Sunshine State is famous for lush oranges, highballs and cocktails that include oranges are extremely popular.
There is a lot of confusion about exactly when the Harvey Wallbanger was invented and whether or not it was named after a surfer named Tom Harvey, who may or may not have started running into walls after he’d drunk a few of them.
Still, no matter the origin of the drink, the vanilla/anise taste of the yellow Galliano mixes sweetly with vodka and orange juice, turning an ordinary Screwdriver into a refreshing patio drink on a Florida summer evening.
Harvey Wallbanger
Ingredients1 1/2 oz Vodka, 3 oz  Fresh orange juice, 1/2 oz  Galliano

PreparationStir the vodka and orange juice with ice in the glass, then float the Galliano on top. 

ServedOn the rocks; poured over ice

Garnish: with an orange slice if preferred

Don’t wait until you visit Florida to try a Wallbanger. They are delicious whenever you may be. And if you are not familiar with Galliano, every liquor store carries it. Look for a pretty yellow liquid in a clear tall bottle. 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Review: Murder at Morrington Hall by Clara McKenna

Today we're reviewing a new historical mystery set in Edwardian England.

Murder at Morrington Hall by Clara McKenna was released in Hardcover on May 28 by Kensington. It is the author’s first novel and the first book in the new Stella and Lyndy mystery series. The historical series takes place in Edwardian era England and mixes horse racing and murder. I’m a big fan of historical mysteries and I am always looking for new series to try.

The year is 1905 and American heiress Stella Kendrick leaves her home in Kentucky with her father to travel to England. She thinks she’s helping deliver a few racehorses to a wealthy British family. What she doesn’t know is that her father has promised her hand in marriage to Viscount Lyndhurst, or Lyndy as he prefers to be called. Stella is mortified that she’s being married off, but she can’t help her attraction to the young Viscount. Lyndy is initially hesitant, but finds himself charmed at the American’s spunk and love of horses.

The young courtship is cut short when the Reverend Bullmore, who is supposed to perform the ceremony, is found murdered at Morrington Hall. Stella and Lyndy’s marriage is put on the back burner as the two get wrapped up in solving the murder.

I think this is going to be a great new series. It’s a bit reminiscent of Downton Abbey, if Downton had a murdered vicar in the library. I think it’s a great setup—the American heiress matched up with British high society. Stella is a free spirit and a likeable character. Lyndy starts off a bit arrogant, but manages to grow on you. I look forward to the next book in the series.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Review: Westside by W.M. Akers

Kerry Hammond is here today to review a debut author's first novel.

Westside by W. M. Akers was released on May 7, in Hardcover, by Harper Voyager. It is the author’s first novel and I was intrigued by the description of how it mixed fantasy with mystery. I don’t normally read fantasy or sci-fi, but occasionally like to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. This was definitely different and I really found myself enjoying the story.

The book is set in Manhattan in the year 1921, but it’s not the 1921 of history books. It’s a dystopian version of the past, where Manhattan is split between the Westside and the Eastside; between affluence and corruption; and maybe even good versus evil. The Westside is full of corruption, bootleg liquor and turf wars. It’s a dangerous place where people and things go missing. It’s where Gilda Carr lives.

The Westside is all Gilda has ever known. She lost both her parents, but it’s her father’s disappearance that has most recently haunted her. A policeman turned private investigator, he was obsessed with figuring out what evil was responsible for the vanishing population, totaling in the hundreds each year. Gilda solves mysteries, but unlike her father, she focuses on tiny mysteries. Her most recent case is finding a missing glove for Mrs. Copeland, but her simple search for the glove leads Gilda to something far bigger than she imagined.

Akers has quite an imagination and a wry sense of storytelling. I fell for Gilda immediately and got completely wrapped up in the narrative. It really is a mystery of sorts, but with a twist ending you won’t expect. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I can see Gilda appearing in another installment. I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to try it.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Review: The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

Kerry Hammond is a fan of everything Anthony Horowitz writes and she’s here today to tell us about his latest release.

Anthony Horowitz is the author of standalone mystery novels, a bestselling young adult series, books featuring James Bond and Sherlock Holmes, as well as hundreds of episodes for British shows such as Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders. His most recent novel, The Sentence is Death, was released in Hardcover on May 28, by Harper. It’s the second book in a series where the author writes himself in as a character, working alongside private investigator Daniel Hawthorne.

In The Sentence is Death, Daniel Hawthorne once again seeks the assistance of writer Anthony Horowitz to chronicle his work as a private detective. He wanders onto the set of Foyle’s War where Horowitz is working and asks him to join him on a case. He is investigating the murder of divorce lawyer Richard Pryce. There are several people who might want to harm the lawyer, but one in particular threatened him in the exact way he was killed.

Hawthorne and Horowitz soon learn of another death that may be connected to their current investigation and the shared history of the two victims opens up an even bigger pool of suspects. Horowitz blunders his way into the investigation but doesn’t seem to be able to make any sense of the clues, all the while managing to irritate the police detective who is working the case.

The lines between fact and fiction are deliciously skewed as Horowitz writes himself into the plot of the book, even incorporating his work on the Foyle’s War set. He paints himself as an inferior Watson to Hawthorne’s Holmes, struggling to piece together the clues and solve the case alongside the ex-policeman. As before, he fails miserably and Hawthorne’s deductive reasoning outshines any contribution he may have had. It’s a clever premise for an author to write himself into the mystery and Horowitz manages to do it with ease. As with all of his novels, the story is cleverly plotted so that this reader was also two steps behind Hawthorne and the big reveal.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage.