Review: Playing With Poison by Cindy Blackburn (Cozy Mystery)

Playing With Poison

Pool shark Jessie Hewitt usually knows where the balls will fall and how the game will end. But when a body lands on her couch, and the cute cop in her kitchen accuses her of murder, even Jessie isn’t sure what will happen next. She also isn’t sure how to catch a killer, but she’s about to learn.

Her skill set doesn’t exactly fit the task, however. Jessie put herself through college hustling at a pool table, and nowadays makes her living writing racy novels. This middle-aged romance author has excellent people-watching skills, a keen imagination, and street smarts going way back. Come to think of it, Jessie is the perfect sleuth.

Playing With Poison is a cozy mystery with a lot of humor, a little romance, and far too much champagne.

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“Going bra shopping at age fifty-two gives new meaning to the phrase fallen woman,” I announced as I gazed at my reflection.

My Review:

This is a fun, light read. We have a little bit of mystery, a lot of humor, and memorable characters. The book has the feel of an outlandish sitcom.

I absolutely loved Jessie’s character. She’s smart, independent, sassy, and funny. A few of the other characters stretched credibility a bit, particularly Candy, but I didn’t much care because they made me laugh.

I also enjoyed the setting. The local bar has a kind of “Cheers” feel, with all the regulars and the bartenders knowing them all by name. 

The mystery aspect fell short for me. I figured out who the killer was pretty quickly. The clues are obvious, despite the author’s attempt to lead us in different directions. But I still enjoyed following Jessie along as she tries to figure things out. 

Overall, this book is a pleasant escape, more for the comical chick-lit aspect than the whodunit mystery. 

Rye took a deep breath. “Can we have some tea?” he asked.

Tea! Was the man insane?

“Are you insane?” I didn’t wait for a reply. “You come in here and call me an ugly, old, bitch murderer, and then expect me to serve you tea?”

“I never said you were ugly.”

Thanks for reading. :)

Review: Questionable Ethics by Angela Abderhalden (Mystery)

Questionable Ethics

The daughter of a cop growing up in a small town with three bothers… well, yeah, Mel was a little wild. Still, that was years ago, before marriage, before moving away to the ‘big’ city, before her son, and before the traffic accident that killed her husband and child. Now back in Quincy, IL to start again or heal or escape, Mel gets a gun in her face on the first day of work, answering phones for her brother. Soon Mel is investigating a murder and more. And in the middle of painful memories and adventure there is a handsome new cop in town with an eye for Mel. Mel has the connections, the luck, and the spunk, but will she have the time to solve the mysteries of law and heart?

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I didn’t want to be the next one to die. But here I was, staring down the barrel of a gun. And it was my first day at work.

My review:

Questionable Ethics is a light mystery, offset by the darker undercurrent of loss and mourning. 

I enjoyed the setting, with Mel back in her hometown. The family interaction was believable, adding elements of both drama and humor. The plot kept my interest, though at times I felt Mel was a bit too much of a superhero. She was able to work the case better than the experienced PIs and the cops. But she’s a fun character and I didn’t mind stretching credibility a bit to follow her along.

My major issues with this book could easily be solved with a good editor. The characters did an absurd amount of smiling and winking.

“Sure. Have fun. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” Cam winked in a brotherly way.

“Shut up!” I said and smiled.

Right behind that was the constant hand and shoulder patting.

Max gave my hand one last squeeze, then he winked at me.

I had visions of people walking around doing nothing more than smiling, winking, smirking, grinning, and patting each other’s hands. This took away from the emotions, rather than adding to them. Characters began feeling more like caricatures than people. By midway, I was ready to give up on the book. I’m glad I stuck with it because there is much to like here, providing you can get past all those gleaming teeth.

Thanks for reading. :)

Get Lost In A Mystery Blog Tour! Mortal Coil by Julie Eberhart Painter



Mortal-Coil Title: Mortal Coil

Author: Julie Eberhart Painter

Published: May 2009

Publisher: Champagne Book Group

Word Count: 79,000

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Recommended Age: 14+

Synopsis: When two residents in Ellen Lange’s nursing home die, Special Investigator Bill Watts is called to the scene. With the murders linked to others, known as the Ponytail Crimes, it’s only a matter of time before the killer strikes again.

Bill is a Southerner; Ellen was raised in the Midwest. Despite her efforts to remain aloof, Ellen finds herself falling in love with more than the South…

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Excerpt from Mortal Coil by Julie Eberhart Painter:

There was nothing like physical activity to allay anxiety, so Friday afternoon, Ellen took off work early to tackle cleaning the kitchen and laundry room floors. She had only an hour left before Patti would come in and undo her efforts. She didn’t want her daughter skating around on the wet floor. Ellen had changed into old jeans and a loose-at-the-neck blue T-shirt. Her feet were bare.

Public radio was running a fundraiser, so she turned the living room stereo to the country western station—music to clean by. Ellen had opened the garage doors to take advantage of the warm, dry breeze blowing from the west. She danced around the kitchen, pushing the mop in time with the music. About half of the kitchen corners were now free of dirt, a testimony to what Millie would call Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She’d moved the kitchen table into one corner and stacked the chairs on top. A rap on the screen door alerted her to a visitor.

She unhooked the screen and motioned Bill inside. “Watch the wet spots.”

“What are you doing?” he asked, raising his voice to be heard over the loud music.

“Cleaning the floor,” she said, raking the back of an arm over her wet forehead and wiping her hands on her jeans.

“Isn’t there an easier way?” Bill asked. “How about the old Irma Bombeck trick?”

“Any solution in a storm. What is it?”

“I’ll show you. Do you have any old towels?”


“You need to put old terrycloth towels on your feet and dance around the floor.”

“Well, I’ve got the music. Let’s see if I can get some towels.” She placed the mop back in the wheeled bucket she’d borrowed from maintenance and headed for the garage. All the old towels Patti used to wash the car had been washed and dried and left on top of Tom’s abandoned toolbox.

Grabbing a handful, she came back into the kitchen. “Demonstrate,” she said, handing the bunch to Bill.

He wrung out the mop and set it aside. Soaking and pulling the towels through the wringer, he handed them to her one by one. “Okay. Put a towel under each foot and dance like you were dancing, slide, two, three, four, slide…”

Ellen smiled. “Terrific.”

Just then the announcer went to a commercial. They stood there looking at each other waiting for more music. Ellen dropped two more wet towels and stepped on them. Bill shucked his shoes and socks and dropped his towels. The next tune was a bouncy number that set Ellen’s head bobbing.

“More like this,” he said, sliding and dipping in dance mode. “Ever do the Texas two-step?” Bill called over the twanging guitars.

“No. But I’ve seen the contests on TV.”


 What inspired this story, Mortal Coil?

During the 1980’s my grandmother lived at Christ Church Hospital, a nursing home in Philadelphia. We later learned there were several robberies and murders at the time.

When I began planning Mortal Coil, it seemed that if it can happen in a real-life religious, all women’s facility, it could occur in my non-sectarian nursing home in Georgia. My grandmother and I had ridden the elevator with him, never realizing who he might become. She was a very friendly person and fortunately didn’t antagonize him. Sometimes truth is nastier than fiction.

Since this was my first mystery, I threw lot of myself into it, recalling characters from a vast reservoir of “old” friends and reinventing them. When I began the book, we had just moved from Georgia to Florida for my husband’s new job. I really missed my friends. They counseled me about my kids and offered all kinds of domestic advice including some excellent recipes. As a volunteer, I was their breath of fresh air.

For two years I’d been a Community Ombudsman, enforcing the federally mandated Residents Rights for Long-Term Care facilities. The main office was in downtown Atlanta, but my territory was northeast from Marietta to Buckhead, near the governor’s mansion.

My job was to see that the residents were protected and the nursing homes were following the rules. Fortunately, there was very little verbal or physical abuse in my immediate territory, but I ran into a lot of corruption, financial and drug theft as well as architectural fraud. That fueled the scandal in my story.

My office had to deal with some very stubborn administrators. My main character in Mortal Coil is not like that. She, Ellen, is young, widowed (part of the mystery) and has an eleven-year-old daughter who, like my own daughter, loved to play softball. That was fun to write. All my recollections of game chatter rose to the surface like cream.

Once I’d arrived in Florida, I had time to immortalize my friends in stories. While recalling them, the book was birthed.



Julie-Eberhart-Painter About the Author:

Julie Eberhart Painter raised in Bucks Count, Pennsylvania, boyhood home of James A Michener, is the author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee, and sequel, Medium Rare from Daughters of the Sea, e-book and print. Julie’s first paranormal romance, and Morning After Midnight are available from MuseItUp Publishing.

Amazon Author Page / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Website

Giveaway Details:

There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:

• Five mystery eBooks from Champagne Book Group. Books will be selected at random from publisher.
• $20 gift card to either Amazon or B&N, courtesy of Joyce Proell

Giveaway is International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Follow the tour to learn more about all the participating mystery authors:

Thanks for reading. :)

Get Lost In A Mystery Blog Tour! Compass North by Stephanie Joyce Cole



Compass-North Title: Compass North

Author: Stephanie Joyce Cole

Published: December 2013

Publisher: Champagne Book Group

Word Count: 81,000

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance, Mystery/Thriller

Content Warning: Minor Violence

Recommended Age: 16+

Synopsis: Meredith slips into a new identity and a new life in a small town in Alaska, she discovers it’s not that easy to leave behind the baggage from her past.
Set in the spectacular natural landscape of Southcentral Alaska, COMPASS NORTH tracks an unexpected journey of personal reinvention.

Reeling from the sudden breakup of her disastrous marriage, Meredith barely escapes a freak accident in Alaska and is presumed dead. She stumbles into a new identity and a new life in a quirky small town. As new friendships grow, Meredith has to learn to trust in herself again.

When a romance with a local fisherman unexpectedly blossoms, Meredith’s secret jeopardizes her hopes for future happiness. And someone is searching for her, someone who will threaten Meredith’s dream of a reinvented life.

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Goodreads

Excerpt from Compass North by Stephanie Joyce Cole:

Meredith sat squeezed against the wall behind the wobbly table with the plastic checkerboard cover. She pushed the last bits of her hamburger bun around her plate. With the long drive finally over, they had stopped to eat at a trailer-turned-diner on the fringe of town.

“So, can we drop you someplace before we take off?” Evan waved to the waitress, motioning for the check.

She took a deep breath and ran her fingers along the pattern in the tablecloth. “Well, I’m not sure…um, I haven’t really decided where…” She looked up and saw Evan frowning at her.

“You don’t have a plan? No place at all to stay tonight?”

Meredith shook her head.

Jan bit at her lower lip and stared at her. “Gee, Meredith, we just assumed you had it all worked out. I wish we could offer you a place, but we’re couch surfing right now until we can get back into our old apartment.”

She saw Jan and Evan exchange anxious glances, and she felt a pang of shame. This wasn’t what they bargained for when they offered a stranger a ride. They didn’t expect to be responsible for me.

Meredith looked down at her hands. She took a deep breath. “I…guess I thought there might be a cheap hostel. I guess I just didn’t think…”

She didn’t have any plan. None at all. She’d hardly focused her thoughts except when the memory of the accident raged back into her head, and when that happened, the terror and pain were almost too much to bear. So she’d tried to smooth out her mind, just letting the hours pass, letting the fatigue and the strangeness of all this wash over her.

No plan. But something had changed now. This was all crazy, but she felt she was watching someone else, someone brand new sitting here in this rundown but cozy restaurant, and that new person was the one with no place to go. It was like play-acting, like being inside of someone else’s skin. Here was a new someone, who didn’t know where she was going to sleep tonight, but this new person wasn’t stumbling around, lost, dragging a huge, black bag of mistakes and bad decisions. She lifted her chin and stared out the window.

“Wait a minute.” Jan looked at Evan. “What about Auntie Rita? I saw her outside just a few minutes ago.” She turned back to Meredith. “She’s not really anyone’s aunt—at least as far as we know—but my mom always made me call her that. I know she’s got a bit of room. She was trying to rent out a spare room a while back, but she didn’t get any takers, I guess.” Jan shrugged.

Evan smirked. “Big surprise. No one wanted to live with Rita. How can that be?”

She glared and him and breathed an exasperated sigh. “Her place is out of town, but you should be able to get back tomorrow without too much of a problem. Rita drives in all the time.”
“Rita, really?” Evan gave a low whistle. “You’re really ready to go there, Jan? You know how she can be.”

Jan pointed her finger at Meredith. “Look, it’s past noon already, and she doesn’t have a clue about where she’s going to sleep tonight. Rita likes me. Well, at least I think she does. I’m going to find her.”

Evan rolled his eyes up at the ceiling. “Rita…jeez…”

Meredith sipped her coffee and stared out the window. She tried to keep her thoughts steady. Now what? She did need a place to stay. She needed to be in a place where her new self might exist, just for a little while. She didn’t want this new Meredith to disappear, not yet.

Puffs of dust bloomed as a brisk, stinging wind whipped at the loose dirt in the parking lot. It was only late September, but the few people outside wore gloves and hats pulled down snug over their ears. Just beyond the rough lot, a greenish-black wall of spruce trees huddled close, their thick boughs knocking and bouncing in the wind. And behind them the tops of jagged and fierce peaks seemingly leaned forward, looming over the spruce. The wild world pushed back here, refusing to let the manmade world have the upper hand.

I am in a new place where I don’t exist. The old Meredith doesn’t exist here.

What inspired this story?

Authors often get asked this question, and they often respond with blank stares. It’s not because they are being difficult, but sometimes they just don’t know the answer.

Fiction writing is a bit mysterious. Where does the story come from? Often a story floats–or storms–into an author’s mind and demands to be told. I’ve written stories that snuck up on me in that magical time between sleep and wakefulness. I’ve written stories that have been prompted by the routine and the mundane, like a short story I wrote after daydreaming in a supermarket, about a woman who comes to the aid of a child shoplifter but soon finds that she’s taken on more than she’s prepared to handle.

COMPASS NORTH is a bit different in that the core concept blossomed from a very concrete event, the tragedy of 9/11. When the World Trade Center fell, many people lost their lives in the conflagration and their remains would never be found. But there had to be some individuals who escaped death simply by pure luck: Maybe they had just gone off site for coffee, or maybe they darted out to do an errand. For most people, escaping the terrible event would be followed by a joyous reunion with friends and family. But, I wondered, what if a person were desperately unhappy and realized, as the catastrophe unfolded, that she was “dead.” Would there be a temptation to take an extraordinary step, to stay dead and flee, in the hope that somehow there could be relief from the depths of unhappiness after all?

That idea continued to nag me, and Meredith came to life. Meredith was worn down and abused emotionally by her husband for years. As COMPASS NORTH opens, Meredith is on a bus tour in Alaska, and she narrowly escapes a massive accident, and she’s presumed dead. At first, in shock, she is pulled along by circumstances and misunderstandings, but then she starts to make choices. She tries to build a new identity and life in a small Alaskan town, but she finds that it’s not easy. COMPASS NORTH is about secrets and the price to be paid for keeping them. But it’s also about the joy of personal rediscovery, as Meredith forges new friendships and a romantic relationship unexpectedly emerges. COMPASS NORTH is the story of a woman finding her courage and overcoming her past in the beautiful expanse of Southcentral Alaska .

Stephanie-Joyce-Cole About the Author:

Stephanie Joyce Cole lived for many decades in Alaska before she recently relocated to Seattle, WA, where she lives with her husband and a predatory but lovable Manx cat. She has an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Her goal is to write books that are both thought-provoking and entertaining, and that will carry readers into an adventure in small-town Alaska.

Amazon Author Page / Facebook / Goodreads / Website

Giveaway Details:

There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:

• Five mystery eBooks from Champagne Book Group. Books will be selected at random from publisher.
• $20 gift card to either Amazon or B&N, courtesy of Joyce Proell

Giveaway is International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Follow the tour to learn more about all four participating mystery authors: