Thursday, March 22, 2018

First impressions by Mavis MacDonald of the WISE Enquiries Agency

Hello there, Mavis MacDonald here...someone asked me a question the other day, which set me thinking...

Do you remember when you first met the people you work with?  

I do. It wasn’t a very promising start, to put it mildly. Four of us are now private eyes at the WISE Enquiries Agency, but none of us were professional investigators when we first got together. 

I was the Matron at the Battersea Barracks, where retired soldiers live out their final years in an atmosphere of camaraderie. Based in Battersea, London, our pensioners’ hospital pretty much looked across the Thames at what some might claim to be our much better-known sister barracks, the Chelsea Hospital. This was the view from my wee office. Not bad, eh?

Chelsea Hospital - a barracks for retired service men and women (

In uniform (

Even now I feel a surge of nostalgia when I spot a man wearing the serviceable green our Barrackers wore, though I have to admit I still get a bit annoyed when I see a man wearing red – as sported by those who lived at Chelsea. Maybe old associations are slower to die out than I might have thought.

I miss the Wren Chapel (
I knew I was close to the end of my time at the Battersea Barracks when Annie Parker and Carol Hill first visited, but I had no idea how close. Yes, their visit – and what I had discovered was going on at the Barracks – meant I had little choice but to take retirement. And that turned out to be a good thing. Along with them and Christine Wilson-Smythe – the death of whose grandfather was the reason for Annie and Carol bowling along into my delightfully ordered little world – I now live in rural splendor in Wales, rather than in my little flat in North London. 

Where I live now - Powys, in Wales

As I think back, I’m trying to recall my first impressions of Annie and Carol. I certainly pegged them right in that I immediately spotted that Annie would be the more troublesome of the pair; to be fair to her, she usually has a reason for doing what she does, but it’s not always obvious when she does it. And I’ve really warmed to her over time. Carol? Ah well now, she’s a lovely girl. I dare say I shouldn’t call a young mother in her mid-thirties a “girl” but that’s how I think of her. Raised on a sheep farm in Carmarthenshire, she’s got a good head on her shoulders when it comes to life – and computers…she’s a whizz with those things. Indeed, I don’t know where our investigations would be without her valuable input. And Annie manages to put her natural ability as a gossip to good use for us, too.

They both knew Christine Wilson-Smythe from their time when they all worked in the City of London, and she was the hardest for me to fathom; I’d certainly met young women from titled families long before I’d met her…when you’re an army nurse, and then a Matron tending to those who’ve served their country, you do get the chance to rub shoulders with the odd one or two who have a bit of land and a title that goes back some time. But Christine wasn’t like most of them I’d met before; she’s an intensely clever girl – and I do mean girl, because anyone under thirty is most definitely that to someone of my age – but she seems to have a bit of a death-wish, if you ask me. Fearless would be one way of putting it; foolhardy might be another. In any case, she, too, certainly pulls her weight when she’s working on a case with us.

Ach, yes…that first time we all met up in the pub, to talk about how we all managed to work out what had happened to Christine’s poor grandfather – that turned out to be a momentous occasion. It's when we formed our team - or maybe I should call us what we really are...a family.

A typical pub in the City of London (The Counting House)

You can read the full story of how the WISE women met, solved their first case, and decided to work together in MURDER KEEPS NO CALENDAR, where the novella MISS PARKER POKES HER NOSE IN introduces readers to the characters for the first time. Click on the sources below to find the book and even read a FREE short story:

Cathy Ace is the Bony Blithe Award-winning author of The Cait Morgan Mysteries and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries.  You can find out more about Cathy, her work and her characters at her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter with news, updates and special offers:

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Spring Has Sprung!

By: Jaymie Leighton Muller
From: Leave It to Cleaver
Series: Vintage Kitchen Mysteries
Author: Victoria Hamilton
Website: Victoria Hamilton Mysteries

My Grandma Leighton always sings a little phrase on the first day of spring... "Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the birdies is?"

But it's one thing we can count on, in Michigan... despite the pull and push of March, when snow will blow one minute and it'll be warm enough to break out the shorts the next, spring WILL arrive, and it will bring snowdrops, crocuses, and Siberian Squill, then daffodils and tulips and then Lily of the Valley. Robins will sing at dawn and dusk, and Redwing blackbirds will swoop and call as they build their nests. Trees will bud, lilacs and forsythia will bloom... the world will come alive. It's like an explosion of sight and sound, color and scent... overwhelming to winter-dulled senses. (Though you can smell snow... if you're a northerner, you know this!)

I've never lived anywhere else (except for a while in Canada to go to university) but right here in Michigan, however, my folks live in Boca Raton now, and there is no definable spring as far as I can tell in Florida... not really, not as I know it.

So I got curious... what does spring mean to all of you, in your part of the world? Am I wrong? Is spring in Florida or California or Arizona or New Mexico different than the winter that precedes it? Tell me how... I want to know!


I'm so excited, Vintage Kitchen Mystery readers... the next installment, No Grater Danger will be published in May or June... I'll know more soon about the actual publishing date, and I'll have a cover in a month and a half or so to share!

But until then, how about a draw?

Tell me about spring in your part of the US and Canada and be entered to win an AUDIO copy of Leave it to Cleaver!

1 - Leave your first name and an email address... yourname (at) yourserver (dot) com
2 - Enter before midnight, March 22nd.
3 - US and Canada only, please!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Daylight Saving Challenge

By Ruth Clagan, from the Clock Shop Mystery series by Julianne Holmes

I know that Daylight Saving Time is controversial for a lot of folks. Folks report being tired for a week. Accidents go up. Sure, it is lighter at the end of the day, but that was going to happen anyway. I can see both sides of the argument.

But let me tell you about Daylight Saving Time from the point of view of an clock maker, mainly me. Between folks over-winding or breaking the hands of their family heirlooms we get a steady stream of unhappy clock owners in the Cog & Sprocket. Then there are the long case house calls. Never mind the clock towers that have to be sprung ahead. You'd be surprised how many people don't want to wait until their scheduled appointment to have their clock tower showing accurate time. If you ask me, it says a lot about the folks running the building.

But the hardest part of DST for Caroline, Pat and I? That's easy. It's getting all of the clocks in the shop reset. We always try to get them synced, but that doesn't always work. There's usually one loses a minute a day, another one that gains. Over the course of a few months, we get used to that and make adjustments to our morning routine. But DST? Its an opportunity for all of the clocks to decide to have a new issue.

Now, from all of this you may suppose I hate DST. But you'd be wrong. Every few months, just when things are starting to get a little boring, I have to hone my skills, and get all the clocks in my life working again.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery series. J.A. Hennrikus writes the Theater Cop Series. You can find out more about the woman behind the names at, for follow @JHAuthors on Twitter or Instagram.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Luck of the Irish Soda Bread!

By Sassy Cabot from the Read ’Em and Eat Mysteries by Terrie Farley Moran

Hi. Once again it is March 19th , the Feast of St. Joseph, a holiday that was always cause for much celebration back in Brooklyn where Bridgy and I grew up.  And by celebration I mean great food. 

Last year Bridgy told you how to make Sfingi di San Giuseppe, i.e., St. Joseph’s Cream Puffs, which you can find here

And the previous year I shared a recipe for Pan di San Giuseppe, i.e., St. Joseph’s Bread. Here is that link. 

Well, having exhausted our favorite Feast of St. Joseph recipes, in honor of the recent St. Patrick's Day celebration, I am going to share my grandma’s recipe for Irish Soda Bread and will give you all the Cabot family’s favorite variations.

First, here is the recipe for Basic Soda Bread:

4 cups sifted flour (2 1/2 c. all-purpose, 1 1/2 c. whole wheat)
1 teas. salt
1 teas. baking soda 
1 teas. sugar
1 ½ cup buttermilk (approximately)

1.     Preheat oven to 425.
2.     Lightly flour a baking sheet or an 8 or 9 inch round baking pan.
3.     Sift dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in center and pour in the buttermilk a little at a time cutting it into the flour with a knife.
4.     Turn out on a floured board and knead swiftly and lightly for a few seconds. Do not over handle or the bread will be tough.
5.     Place the smooth side up on the lightly floured baking sheet.
6.     Cut a deep cross in the top, letting the cuts go right over sides of bread. This allows the bread to rise evenly and without splitting.
7.     Bake at 425 degrees for 45 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom with the handle of a knife.
8.     Cool on a rack for a bit.
9.     While still warm to the touch, wrap in a dishtowel tied with string or extra-long rubber bands to keep moisture in and the crust from getting too hard.

Below I have listed some of our favorite variations. I love the Fancy Soda Bread while Bridgy is partial to Raisin Soda Bread, shown here at a family meal. You can see homemade Shepherd's Pie being dished out in the background. Hmmm, that just might be a good recipe for next March.

White Soda Bread: 4 cups all-purpose flour, eliminate wheat flour.

Raisin Soda Bread: sprinkle 1 cup raisins (mix of dark and golden) and 2 Tbls. caraway seeds into the dry ingredients before adding buttermilk.

Fancy Soda Bread: sprinkle 1 cup chopped walnuts into the dry ingredients. Cut 12 pitted dates into thirds. (Kitchen shears cut the dates more easily than a knife.) Drop the date pieces separately into the dry ingredients as they will stick to each other if you try to drop them in all at once.

I hope that you will try a soda bread--so easy to make and, slathered with butter, so very easy to eat. 

And please stop by the Read ’Em and Eat cafĂ© and bookstore to hang out with me, Bridgy and the rest of the gang. You can find us, as well as some other terrific recipes, here: Well Read, Then Dead, Caught Read-Handed and Read to Death. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

This Year

by Carrie Kennersly, veterinary technician and owner of an adjoining barkery and bakery, whose adventures are memorialized in the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries by Linda O. Johnston

Hi, everyone.  It's March, and this is the first time I've said anything here this year.  Which is a good thing.  I've been busy, certainly, running both my shops, Barkery and Biscuits, and Icing on the Cake.  My assistants and I have, as always, done a lot of baking--all those fun, healthy dog treats for the Barkery, and the fun but not necessarily healthy people treats for Icing. 

Business has been good in both of them.  Plus, my town of Knobcone Heights has been relatively quiet.  At least there've been no more murders that I'm aware of.  All seems well, including at my part-time job as a veterinary technician.

Still... You may know that I've solved three murders lately.  The most recent was described in a book called Bad to the Bone, and the others also were recounted in books: Bite the Biscuit and To Catch a Treat.  

But--well, I've been hearing things about some people about to visit Knobcone Heights who are mostly nice, yet something about the situation has been making me uneasy.  Maybe that's because the person who's dared to write those books after I've solved the murders is hinting something else is about to occur.  In fact, she tells me she has a title in mind for the book about the fourth murder I'll solve: Pick and Chews. 
Well, I hope she's wrong, of course.  I really don't want any more murders in my wonderful adopted town.  Although... well, if she's right, and someone I know and care about, as she's also hinting, is considered a suspect, I know I'll wind up getting involved.

We'll see...

BAD TO THE BONE, the third Barkery & Biscuits Mystery by Linda O. Johnston, was a May 2017 release.  And yes, as Carrie's concerned about, there are more to come... including PICK AND CHEWS, which will be a May 2018 release.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Ragna's Tale

By Ragna Anderson

From The Lightkeeper's Legacy:  A Chloe Ellefson Mystery

By Kathleen Ernst

I didn't expect to become one of the best net makers on Rock Island. To my surprise, I did. Everyone says so. I need only three days to make a gillnet, five feet by one hundred twenty. I charge a dollar each and no one complains.

"A thing of beauty," Anders declares each time I hand him a new net, whole and perfect. I learned how to pack a net too, floats on one side and weights on the other so they flow smoothly from the wooden boxes when he set them. The nets come back torn and fouled with lake weeds, algae, bark from the lumber drives, clinkers tossed from passing steamships. I find blood spots on the mesh as well---perhaps from struggling whitefish, perhaps from Anders' wet and cold-cracked hands.

Back in Denmark, Anders grew wheat and potatoes, and I excelled at hedebosøm---needle lace.  When Anders took cartloads of produce to sell in the busy market near Copenhagen's harbor, I took table linens and handkerchiefs, folded into muslin to keep clean. My lace sometimes graced wedding dresses and baptismal gowns. My handiwork made people happy.

Anders didn't expect to be happy in our new home, but to his surprise, he is. He takes joy from being on the water and satisfaction from each lift. I take pleasure in knowing that we survived the journey and settled here in Wisconsin. We will work hard here, put down new roots. Our children will never go hungry or whimper from want of a warm blanket. Usually such thoughts are enough.

Sometimes, though, as twine unspools from my netting needle and my fingers dance among the mesh, all I can see is inevitable death.

A note from Chloe:  Ragna Anderson once lived in a fishing village on Rock Island, Wisconsin. I've been hired to write a furnishings plan for Rock Island's Pottawatomie Lighthouse, but the stories of women like Ragna are just as important as the lightkeepers' stories. I haven't learned much about Ragna yet, but something is making me uneasy...

* * *
Kathleen Ernst is the author of thirty-six books, including the Chloe Ellefson Mysteries, mysteries for young readers, historical fiction, and two nonfiction books.  Before becoming a full time writer she worked as a curator at Old World Wisconsin.

To learn more about the award-winning Chloe Ellefson series---including the latest, Mining For Justice, see Kathleen's website.

Kathleen is celebrating the series with an eight-month-long retrospective, and it's The Lightkeeper's Legacy month! Stop by her blog to learn more about the book, and watch her Facebook Author Page for a Giveaway.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Lethal In Old Lace

“You want to marry me?” I asked Walker Boone who just happened to be the hunkiest guy in all Savannah. “Why in the world would you want to do such a thing?”
I’m Reagan Summerside, owner of the Prissy Fox Consignment Shop, Bruce Willis...the black and white canine version who rescued me more than I rescued him...and a dilapidated Victorian that I love, pealing paint and all. So how did I get lucky enough to have the delicious Walker Boone want to marry me?
Good question, I’m not exactly a lucky kind of girl. I’m more of a my hair turned orange because I dyed it myself kind of girl, or will you go to the prom with me because there’s no one else to ask. Why wasn’t I seizing my moment in the sun? Why didn’t I tackle Boone to the ground and have my way with him all the while yelling Yes, Yes, Yes, I’ll marry you! What was my problem?
          “I have bad man karma,” I blurted determined to tell 
      all to the man I loved more than life itself.

Yep, this is me alright, Reagan Summerside, in the opening of Lethal In Old Lace coming out March 13. And my question to you you believe in karma?
     I do especially when it comes to men! Who else would be stupid enough to marry Hollis Beaumont the third and to this day I’m not sure why I did it. What did I do to deserve this? My messy room when I was a kid? Flunk biology? 
     Deep down I think it was one of those ticking clock things that messed with my brain. Not the have a kid part but the marriage part. This is Savannah and around over here everyone over twenty-five..but me was married. Or at least it felt that way.
     I should have known my karma were bad when Hollis convinced me to use my grandmother’s inheritance to by Cherry House, a lovely Victorian fixer-upper. That I did the fixing up was okay since Hollis doesn’t know one end of a screwdriver from the other but when he tried to get Cherry House as part of our divorce settlement that was the livin’ end.
     But now I’ve got the wonderful Walker Boone asking me to marry him. What did I do to get so lucky!! I’m not sure but I’m all in. YES! I will marry Walker. Now I just have stop Mamma and Auntie KiKi from hijacking the ceremony, reception and choice of dress. The one they’ve picked out has enough tulle to cover all of Georgia!
      And did I mention there’s a killer on the loose? Wedding Day and Foul Play may be more than the title of the next book!