MURDER BY PAGE ONE by Olivia Matthews

MURDER BY PAGE ONE is the first in the new Peach Coast Library Mystery series.

This cozy mystery is written by Olivia Matthews and published by Hallmark. Olivia Matthews has also written The Sister Lou Mystery series. She is also a writer of romance books under the names Patricia Sargeant and Regina Hart. Her impressive catalog alone is reason enough to add this author to your TBR list.

We are introduced to the sweet little country town of Peach Grove located in Georgia. Marvey is a late twenty-something native New Yorker who has relocated to this Southern little town in order to advance her career as a Librarian. She bravely leaves the big city behind her in hopes of becoming a big fish in a small pond rather than the other way around. 

Her transition is notably difficult, having left a loving family behind, and she has to learn to navigate her way by not only learning the Southern jargon but by picking up on social cues that may have never mattered to her before she landed in Georgia. Thankfully, she has a solid team of new friends to help her learn the lay of the land. One of the things I really liked about her character was that she was open to learning and did not look down on the Southern folk (hey it happens).

The action begins very early on. Marvey has become fast friends with Jolene, owner of the local bookstore. While waiting for a local author event to begin they stumble upon the body of one of the guests of honor in a backroom of the store.

This particular woman was not exactly well liked due to rumors that had been spread about her in which she was basically labeled as a “homewrecker”. I actually cannot recall a cozy mystery in which infidelity was mentioned in this way and I must admit it made the novel feel more real to me. Plus just hearing that someone had been labeled as a homewrecker immediately grabbed my attention because I wanted to know more dirt. Okay, maybe I am just as bad as the residents of Peach Cove! As my bestie tells me… I need to look inward.

As a main character Marvey came across to me as being a very level headed individual- although quite headstrong and not at all easily intimidated. I love it when a main character makes sense. Marvey is a great example of one who can be determined but realistic at the same time. Marvey does not become a sleuth until her friend Jolene has been accused of murder. And while Marvey comes across as inquisitive I would not say she seemed particularly nosey so it was satisfying to see that she was motivated by a sincere desire to clear her friend’s name.

In MURDER BY PAGE ONE we get the opportunity to experience the highs and lows of moving to a new part of the country and adjusting accordingly. Moving from New York to Georgia would be a huge transition for anyone. I really appreciated that the author expressed this because so often I read novels in which someone relocates and immediately fits in and understands how everything works. Sorry, but based on my experience that is just not entirely realistic so it was cool to experience the highs and homesick lows of relocating with Marvey.

I am fond of the residents of Peach Cove. Spence, the wealthiest and handsomest man in town, was both debonair and sweet. I hope he hangs around for future installments. Jolene is a real friend and I could understand why Marvel would be quick to defend her. Corrine, the manager of the Library, and the other members of the staff seemed like good co-workers to hang out with and I was rooting for them to receive all the funding they needed to keep the library open.

Speaking of co-workers and sweet people I think it should be pointed out that this book left me hungry. Not only does Marvel take her co-worker a piece of peach cobbler everyday but she has a lingering sweet tooth in general. And it almost never lets up! I have no idea how much librarians make and if it allows for hefty snack allowances but Marvey can shovel sweets down by the fistful. A woman after my own heart.

All in all MURDER BY PAGE ONE would be my very favorite Hallmark series if it ever hits the small screen. I am already looking forward to future books. Be sure to check out author Olivia Matthew’s website where you can find more information on her prior works including her Sister Lou Mystery series. I do plan on covering those books in future blog posts.

Special thanks to the phenomenal team at Hallmark Publishing for providing me with a copy of MURDER BY PAGE ONE in exchange for my honest review.

A DEADLY INSIDE SCOOP by Abby Collette

A GAME OF CONES by Abby Collette is book two in “An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery” series. 

We revisit Chagrin Falls, Ohio with Bronwyn Crewse who runs the newly renovated ice cream shop. Bronwyn is many things including a master of ice cream creations churning up delicious treats for the small town citizens. 

But not everything is sugar and spice.  A new big shot developer has come to announce to the town that he plans to bring a new mall into their idylic little community. This news is not entirely well received and he even has a shoe thrown at him in front of everyone. It takes him no time at all to get a whole bevy of enemies. 

But is anyone mad enough to actually kill him? Apparently so. We soon learn that the developer has been shot sometime after that no so welcoming community meeting. And the gun hammer dropped as soon as a friend from Bronwyn’s old job, Rory, arrives to town wearing shoes that are even bloodier than the designer, Christian Louboutin, ever intended them to be.

Yes, there are a whole lot of menacing shoes in this one! Rory had intended to swoop in and convince Bronwyn to return to her old Marketing job but somehow stumbled upon the dead body and stepped into some incriminating evidence. Needless to say Rory is now a person of interest and Bronwyn is taking another stab at murder investigation.

It would not be an Ice Cream Parlor mystery without an appearance of her large family. And this one adds an additional treat of introducing us to Aunt Jackie whose wig is left askew, literally, as she tries to keep up with the new business that Bronwyn has brought into the store. 

Aunt Jackie has a lot of opinions and is not above undermining Bronwyn in order to get things back to how they used to be when she ran the place. We also get to know Bronwyn’s mother a bit better than in the prior book. She has a pleasant personality and is very much a typical mom in that she will warn her daughter to take a knife with her when answering the door at the crack of dawn while there is a killer on the loose. What? You mean your mom didn’t tell you to do that too? Okay…

This author has a wonderful way in which she incorporates older characters while telling the story from the perspective of a 20-something main character. We find these wise members of the family and community to be a breath of fresh air- there Maisie’s hilariously dramatic grandmother and Bronwyn’s grandfather always adds an element of sage discernment. In A GAME OF CONES we are introduced to an older gentleman in the community who is a former artist and marginalized due to his age. As the book progresses we learn not to underestimate their generation- they aren’t invisible and are quite valuable.

Speaking of, I must note that I liked that some social issues were mentioned. Bronwyn has a brother who is a bit of a social justice warrior and I really appreciated that. There are not many cozies that will bring up topics such as gentrification and to me that really adds a bit of depth to the novel. It does not weigh it down or make it heavy, nor does it make reading this less fun. I am just thankful that it is mentioned.

Finally, I will add the one thing that I felt kind of sad about. The wonderful attorney, O, seems to have an adorable little crush on Bronwyn and it did not progress in the way that I hoped it would following book one. Granted I know this is not a romance based cozy mystery. I really have no right to have any expectations for Bronwyn’s personal love life whatsoever. I just want them to have a happily ever after in a fairy tale town ending, LOL. Hopefully, that will still happen, even if it is not with each other. I will keep my fingers crossed.

Make sure to get a taste of this super sweet cozy mystery- I am confident you will enjoy the flavor. And also give the ice cream recipes a try and let me know how you like it. They’re included in the back of the book and don’t even require an ice cream machine- what could go wrong?

Also, check out the author’s website, abbycollette.com, where you can join her email list and stay up to date on all of the future releases in this series.

Sleep Well My Lady by Kwei Quartey

The New Year has ushered in the latest highly anticipated second Emma Djan novel, SLEEP WELL MY LADY, by Kwei Quartey.

Having read the previous novel, THE MISSING AMERICAN, I can understand why this second book has landed on so many “Most Anticipated” lists. Since my initial review of the book it has become a 2020 Edgar Allan Poe award nominee. So yeah, I am not the only one who was impressed!

Kwei Quartey has a rather fascinating background. He has been a full time writer since 2018 after retiring from a 20 year career as a medical doctor. Let me just point out that this reaches far beyond black excellence and into just human excellence and I love it.

But back to Dr. Quartey… he is also unique in that he has the background of a dual citizen. He is the child of a Black American woman and a Ghanaian father. Ghana is a land in which he lived during his formative years. His perspective on Ghana is bound to be unique and authentic- as is his writing.

I have raved about the cover of this book since the moment I laid my eyes on it. I have not fully gone to the point of judging books by their covers, but I am admittedly just on the edge.

I found it rather fitting that a novel in which the concept of beauty is central tackles things that are so very ugly that even the darkest shadow cannot cover it.

We are introduced to Lady Araba through horrific scenes depicted of her childhood. She has grown up in a very religious family with a hypocritical father and a mother who willingly turns a blind eye to the evil abuse inflicted upon her child. Yet despite, or in spite of, all she has endured Araba goes on to become an extremely successful fashion designer.

And still her life is pretty awful in my opinion. She goes on to become involved with a well known married television reporter, Augustus Caesar, with whom she begins a doomed affair. He is separated from his wife and his career has taken a downturn due to his alcoholism. His relationship with Araba is very unhealthy and together they face a ton of people that are against them being together including his wife, their families and even the Ghanian online gossip community.

It is no surprise that he would be a person of interest when Araba is discovered viciously murdered in her mansion on the day of her big fashion show.

To say all that glitters isn’t gold is an absolute understatement. And this book is a perfect example. A massive house that holds massive secrets. A pious family full of hypocrisy. A charmed life for the world to see belies a choked silence that stifles a haunted past. Yeah. It’s a wonderful mess before you even get to the murder part!

Corruption is a dark undercurrent in this novel. It happens in every nation. Seeing it depicted as a challenge within this investigation was a hard pill to swallow. But it made me grateful for the integrity held by Emma Djan and her team.

Speaking of team I was really able to warm up to them. The narrative was shared among the various members of the private eye firm, Emma being the singular female voice. As the investigators personalities were fleshed out it made me really look forward to seeing them in action in future stories.

But of course my heart is still with Emma. I will always want more of her point of view and more details about her budding romance with Courage- he brings a smile to my face. Cheers to her future with the agency and her growth as a private investigator.

Many thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I am not sure when the next book will be released but fingers crossed that there are more to come.

Stay tuned for future reviews of books from this author. I plan on covering some of his first books here on the blog in the future. Make sure to subscribe for alerts.

Pursuit of the Truth by K.D. Richards

Introducing a new author and a new sub-genre to the blog. Author K.D. Richards brings us a romantic suspense novel that is kind of to die for. K.D. herself is black excellence personified; she is a former attorney and legal instructor who grew up outside of Washington D.C. aka “Chocolate City”.

Her debut, PURSUIT OF THE TRUTH, was released this month by Harlequin and I can tell you it is unputdownable if that is a word. I started reading it while out in the country and it was entirely gripping.

Now normally I cannot take my eyes off of the scenery. But this time I had my face thoroughly stuck in this book! From the very first chapter this tale is one that will grab your attention.

The main characters are Ryan West and Nadia Shelton. Ryan is a handsome hazel-eyed man with a body made for beating up the bad guys. He co-owns West Security alongside his brother, Shawn West. As far as temperament goes he comes across as extremely loyal and protective of those he loves. Lucky for Nadia.

Nadia Shelton, by the way, is the CEO of Harlem based Shelton Hotels. Her father is the founder of the hotel and she is at the helm of it after the death of her brother, Nathan Shelton. She is a smart, reasonable and well-dressed dark skinned beauty.

The action begins immediately. We hardly meet Nadia before you get the feeling of being stalked and an imminent danger. While on her way to meet Ryan she is pushed in front of a car in the middle of a busy NYC street. From there we are on high alert until the end.

It is a good thing that Nadia knew well enough to engage Ryan West for her own protection. He takes her, and any threats against her, seriously from the start. Using his instincts and desires to keep her safe every step of the way.

The plot also introduces us to things that give the reader a chance to think about some of the dynamics that hinder us all in any relationship. From familial ties that can put us in harms way to classism. It also makes us question the lines of professionalism- how far would you go for love and what lines would you step across to get there?

Not once did I cringe at anything that Nadia said or did. She didn’t reduce herself to histrionics nor did she come across as too stubborn to live. I wanted Ryan by her side every single step of the way.

And to Ryan’s credit he did not seem as if he was seeking a “pick me” type of woman. If you don’t know what a “pick me” type of woman is then you probably did not attend a gym class in elementary school- I’m just saying. Nor did he seem to want to chase a woman to the ends of the earth like some bizarre Wile E. Coyote adventure. Thankfully, their character types lead me to enjoying a Goldilocks romance- it was just right.

PURSUIT OF THE TRUTH was steamy without being vulgar. This type of romantic plot is perfect for me. Possibly not ideal for my neighbors who may or may not have overheard me going “awwww” and “ohhhhh” from over on my side of the fence while I was engulfed in this read. Let them talk!

I simply loved this book and I now plan on reviewing more Romantic Suspense books in the future.

Congratulations to K.D. Richards on releasing this wonderful addition to the world of Crime Fiction. I would like to extend my gratitude to the author for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Be sure to check out her website, IG and Twitter and let her know your thoughts. We certainly look forward to all of the books she will release in the future.

Blue Sun by Michael R. Lane

You can find my review of the first book of this series, THE GEM CONNECTION, at my old blog. Reading THE GEM CONNECTION helped me on the pathway to creating this blog and for that I am forever grateful.

This book finds us right where we left off in terms of the main character, Private Detective C.J., and his cast of femme fatale characters. Okay, maybe they are not femme fatales by definition but they are pretty fierce to say the least. Destini, the Naomi Campbell of the PNW, is still dominating the catwalk of the police force when she isn’t busy being C.J.’s girlfriend. Renita, C.J.’s junior partner is still busy offering him indecent proposals behind Detsini’s back. It is like visiting an old, slightly dysfunctional set of friends who just so happen to have a playful love triangle going on since college. It’s fun.

One of the things I can emphatically state about this series is that it is descriptively atmospheric and one could easily feel immersed in the Pacific Northwest culture. And so there we are in this wonderful world of wide open space when *bam* someone is getting hauled off and murdered. That is my kind of staycation! Pass the fish and chips and don’t forget my malt vinegar.

Anyway, when we meet Don he is about to be in pretty bad shape. Being roughhoused in his own house by two men is something that would jar anyone out of the honeymoon phase of their marriage. Having been married for two years to his highly successful real estate partner, this is a rude awakening in an idyllic upper middle class neighborhood to say the least. We later learn that Don is many things and chief among them would be that he is pretty smart. 

He uses his last moments to send some cryptic clues to C.J. via a phone call and a text message. Don’s maid finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time when she stumbles upon the scene.

I loved the way the plot developed. In true to form style C.J. stays ahead of the game but I felt like there were some surprises that caught him off guard as well. And isn’t that human nature? Even investigation experts get surprised by the things people do in their private lives.

It was also really nice to see Renita really grow into her own. She isn’t just some pretty ornamental fixture around the office. We get to see her put in some real work and it made sense to me why she is a great compliment to C.J. Perhaps she will become a Senior partner in future books.

There is a little bit of romance in the background this time around. As a woman I feel for what Destini is going through because it feels like she is almost at a crossroads with C.J. and I can hardly wait to see how that unfolds in the coming books in this series.

And be sure to check out author Michael R. Lane’s website for more of his books and to stay up to date on any future releases. I would like to thank the author for providing me with a copy of his book in exchange for my honest review.

Definitely check out the C.J. McCavanaugh series and please let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Happy reading everyone! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

I Only Purchased Black Books in 2020… No, I Don’t Want a Cookie… No, I Don’t Have Any Regrets

Let me just begin by saying that I started this year with absolutely zero intentions of creating this blog. I did, however, begin this year with a strong desire to do better than I had in previous years when it came to my reading choices. The more I began to want to read stories by black authors featuring black main characters, the more I realized I had better put my money where my mouth was.

How could I expect my local bookstore to carry books that I was not certain that I would buy? How is it possible to be outraged that the New York Times has a history of systemically shutting black authors out of the opportunity to be featured in reviews when I am, myself, not reviewing the work of black authors exclusively? I could not make it make sense.

Until I put my dollars and common sense behind changing myself. To give myself some wiggle room I decided that I didn’t have to only buy black crime fiction- any genre would do as long as it was by a black author with a black main character.

Needless to say it was worth a shot! It did not mean I would not be able to read books by non-black authors; it simply meant that I would obtain those books from my Library. As things unfolded with a racially charged news cycle, particularly the worldwide coverage of the horrific abuse inflicted upon Black Americans, I came to realize that I had made the best decision.

You see, the tiny bit of financial support I have offered to black authors by paying for their books may not go a long way (or even a short way for what it’s worth) but if more people collectively committed to supporting black writers financially then it would actually make a difference in their lives. If we do not exist in art then in many ways we will not exist in history. Black writers need our support and major publishers need to have their feet held to the fire.

And I have thoroughly enjoyed supporting them this year 🙂

I have never felt bored. I have never felt as if I was missing out. I have never actually considered quitting the challenge that I made to myself. This is a decision that I will never regret.

This summer black authors watched as major publishers released statements supporting Black Lives Matter and petitioned black authors to submit their manuscripts without agents. This can, and will, become a thing of the past. A distant memory in the constant news cycle with no action behind it in order to ensure that black writers are paid what they are worth.

Do not let it happen. Please purchase black books whenever and however you can.

I certainly will.

Certain Reprisal by Kevin Macklin- Review

This Jon Dough is far from average…

Kevin Macklin brings us a fantastic new hero to root for. One who has his ear to the streets while still maintaining a heart of gold- oh and a bit of a killer instinct.

The tale begins with Jon being approached by a woman who pleads with him for help in stopping an onslaught of disappearances of local prostitutes who have recently testified against a police officer who has sexually assaulted them. Let us not kid ourselves about those who the criminal justice deems worthy of protection as opposed to worthy of disdain and reproach. Men like Jon Dough are hardly written about which is what makes him a living urban legend in more ways than one.

The defense of those who are deemed “worth less” in many ways make up the fabric of the life from which Jon’s character in drawn. Police brutality toward prostitutes is not something that most people want to become mired in- especially if you are a black man with much to lose. CERTAIN REPRISAL is a remarkable ode to street justice of the oldest sort. It causes us to consider the plight of the marginalized helping one another despite the fear of reprisal. Sometimes we must consider how urban characters are born from necessity. This story makes us do that.

I found Jon’s character to be personally very endearing. If every drug dealer were cut from the same cloth I would probably be the first one lobbying to “legalize it”. Of course he is no Mary Sue or Gary Stu. This man has some seriously questionable ways in which he makes his money. But that is what makes this so very nuanced. I left wanting to know more about this drug kingpin. His motivations for pursuing such a profession were not super important to me. I would be interested in learning how he came to be at the top of the food chain so to speak.

While the ending was shocking to me, yet deeply satisfying, the one thing I wanted was more. This novel was so well crafted that I can earnestly admit that I did not see the ending coming. CERTAIN REPRISAL will be great for anyone who likes movies or stories with heart racing action as well as for those of us who like a bit of crime fiction that can tug at our heartstrings (there is even dash of romance). The conclusion shocked me and made me shed a tear. It is not often that a novels moves me in such a way so I must note it here for all time.

I am very excited to read more novels by Kevin in the future. Please check out his website and his other works available on Amazon. CERTAIN REPRISAL is currently available for a limited time for free via Kindle and also be purchased via Audible.

CERTAIN REPRISAL is book number one in a four part series so make sure you snatch them all up. The four book bundle is currently on sale for $11.97.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I plan on presenting more of Kevin’s works in the future and have my fingers crossed that he will be the first guest on my future Podcast (whenever that will be).

Black Cozy Mysteries to die for… but simply pre-ordering will do too

If you are familiar with my original blog then you will know I am really here for the cozy mysteries.

It is not only the thing that tugged at my heart but it is also the thing that got me into blogging. I don’t think that I could love cozies any more! The true legends Barbara Neely and Nora DeLoach certainly paved the way for black cozy mystery authors to follow.

With that being said there simply are not enough modern day black cozy mystery authors who feature black main characters. So in my way I will do all that I can to celebrate and promote the emerging works within the genre. After all, if we don’t share their existence then we will find ourselves continually struggling to find them.

Thankfully we have some new releases on the horizon that are sure to whet our appetites for more.

Poetic Justice by Andrea J. Johnson

New author, Andrea J. Johnson, brings new meaning to the phrase “poetic justice”.

Who would know how to develop an intriguing courthouse series better than a former court reporter? Johnson promises to turn the phrase from one that reminds us of Janet Jackson’s braids or Kendrick Lamar asking us if he told us a flower grew in a dark room would we trust it to a whole new level of cozy mystery greatness.

Based on the synopsis I am going to say that not a whole lot should be trusted. We are introduced to Victoria Justice who is a court stenographer who finds herself facing off with her former childhood bully after her mentor, a Judge, is found drowned in the courthouse bathroom.

More actual, and career, deaths follow as Victoria teams up with the state trooper who has been accused of mishandling evidence in order to find the killer and foil a conspiracy. Thankfully she has her transcripts of the proceedings to help them crack the code before it is too late.

Poetic Justice releases just in time for Thanksgiving dinner on November 24, 2020. It is available via Amazon in hardcover for the current pre-order price of $20.94. Can you think of a more perfect way to start off your holiday shopping season than by buying this?

Johnson is already working on book two in the series and I will be sure to update you on developments as news becomes available. However, this is surely a series you will want to get in on from book one.

A Simmering Delima by Tyora Moody

Join me in welcoming book four in the Eugeena Patterson Mystery series.

If you are not already familiar with Eugeena just know that you probably should be. You’re missing out on all the fun that this retired school teacher brings to a super pleasant mystery read. Eugeena is such a nice lady that you don’t even mind that she is so persistent in butting into crime that the police alone cannot stop her.

When disaster strikes, as it tends to do when she’s within a five mile radius, she is there to realistically save the day. And I say realistically because what I love about her is that she really doesn’t go doing some crazy daredevil things that leave me puzzled and thinking ” wouldn’t a mature woman have too much arthritis to attempt such things?”

This is neatly categorized as a Christian mystery and rightfully so because Eugeena relies on her faith to get her through many a tribulation. I would note that anyone of any religion would be happy to read this series. The audiobooks are also richly narrated.

A Simmering Dilemma takes place following the recent nuptials of Eugeena who has a super sweet, former cop husband. The newlyweds welcome his troublesome daughter to the neighborhood and not long after someone is dead and fingers are being pointed toward Eugeena’s stepdaughter.

What a way to start a marriage. The good news is you don’t have to start the series before diving into this book. As with most cozy mysteries this can serve as a standalone novel.

You can purchase A Simmering Dilemma as an eBook for $3.99 or as a paperback for $12.99 today via Amazon today.

A Glimmer of Death by Valerie Wilson Wesley

Valerie Wilson Wesley is back!

This time with a long overdue cozy mystery. If you are not familiar with Wesley’s previous Tamara Hayle mystery series then you most certainly need to start getting caught up today.

It should occupy you until the January 2021 release of the first in her new paranormal cozy mystery series, A Glimmer of Death.

Wesley introduces us to Odessa Jones who has a psychic, and delicious baking, ability that comes in handy when her bully of a boss is discovered murdered. From the synopsis it sounds like everyone wants a piece of the guy from his wife to a co-worker of Odessa’s who is a victim of his bullying.

A Glimmer of Death is available for pre-order via Amazon for $9.99 on Kindle and on paperback for $15.95. This novel releases January 26, 2021 which will serve you well as you cap off the new year.

Black books you should be reading in September

Okay, I am going to tell you a secret if you promise not to tell. I juggle books. I wouldn’t say I do it particularly well but that is my story. Thank you for attending my Ted talk.

You can thank me later!

Yes, I have the utter audacity to tell you which books you should be reading right now even if I have not myself finished them. Let me tell you why I am qualified to make such demands- I don’t judge a book by its cover, but I do judge it by the first chapter.

Is this an exact science? Obviously not. Feel free to trudge through a truly terrible book or one that is possibly amazing. However life is short and I choose not to. The books that I recommend you check out are ones that have interested me from the first chapter. Though I do base what I read and when I read it on my mood the following are ones I think you will come back to regardless of whether you are fickle as I am.

Simply click the covers to be taken to Amazon to purchase. Not that Amazon is the only place to purchase these books but you can read the full description and request your library purchase them.

Certain Reprisal by Kevin Macklin

Available on Kindle Unlimited and Paperback

Fans of urban literature and suspense thrill chasers alike are going to love Certain Reprisal written by Kevin Macklin.

It is book number three in the Jon Dough series. It gives me the feel of the grittiness of The Wire and Jon is a reminder that not all heroes wear capes. And it is not often that we meet a hero who is also a bonafide criminal.

This novel takes off quickly when members of his community come to him to help him find several missing women who recently accused a police officer of misconduct. He cares about these women of “questionable character” when no one else does.

Certain Reprisal is available for free with Kindle Unlimited membership. It is also available for $3.99 as an eBook and as a paperback for $9.99.

Deadly Sacrifice by Stella One

Available via Kindle and as an Audible exclusive

Deadly Sacrifice is the first novel released by Stella Oni on September 16, 2020.

Stella packs a powerful punch with a tale meant to carry us to some pretty dark and uncomfortable places. The book opens with us meeting Detective Tokes Ade who has been summoned after the hand of a child is found.

Yes, the hand of an actual child! This discovery takes us from the pits of London to the lush descriptions of Nigeria with plenty of dark forces at work. Think ritual sacrifices, human trafficking and then battle against those that protect the very guilty while exploiting the very weak.

I must say this one promises to be a heavy hitter. I was able to purchase this via Audible almost two full weeks before the actual eBook release date- so that is just a little trick in the future if you simply cannot wait for a book to release.

Deadly Sacrifice is an Audible exclusive and can be purchased as an eBook for $5.17.

Lemon Filled Disaster by Tyora Moody

Available on Kindle Unlimited and Audible

Tyora Moody is my favorite cozy mystery writer.

But please do not hold that against her. Her books are just little delights to read. Especially if you like knowing that a retiree over the age of 60 will somehow become involved in a murder mystery.

On that note Eugeena Patterson will never fail you. This is book number three in the Eugeena Patterson Mystery series. Book number four will be released in October. That will give you some time to catch up in the series if you have not already been following Eugeena as she stumbles over a dead body or two.

This time she is simply trying to select the perfect lemony cake for her son’s upcoming nuptials when her future daughter in law gets caught up in the very worst kind of way when a blast from her past blows back in suddenly. Too bad that the guys lights are blown out soon afterwards. But that’s what makes the story criminally delicious.

Lemon Filled Disaster is available for purchase via Kindle Unlimited and as an eBook for $3.99. It also has a fantastic Audible version which I also purchased.


I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the books I am suggesting. I will be doing specific blog posts in the future but please let me know in the comments if you have read any of the works of these authors and what you think of their books.

And again, thank me later!

The case of Eleanor Taylor Bland… The Queen of Mystery- the one your English teacher never mentioned

I start off by saying that your English teacher never mentioned the name, Eleanor Taylor Bland, but honestly and truly your History teacher should have probably mentioned her as well.

Mysteries were required readings for me throughout my scholastic career. Yet Eleanor Taylor Bland (referred to as Mrs. Bland henceforth) was not on the list of people for which I was ever required to do a book report. Due to my own ignorance, though not willful, I actually only discovered this prolific writer when I started to become interested in this genre.

What made Mrs. Bland so remarkable?

There are two things that stand out to me the most when I reach for a book written by Mrs. Bland- her personal sheer determination and a truly exceptional run of books.

Mrs. Bland wrote her first novel and it was turned down by all of the publishers she approached. I simply cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to face rejection repeatedly for what was obviously a fantastic work of art.

I would have given up if I were her. Perhaps she had an incredible support team consisting of her husband, family and friends pushing her and fueling her endeavors. Or perhaps she was entirely self-motivated and believed in her work despite the naysayers. I will likely never know. I simply know that she persevered.

Why do I say it was obviously a fantastic work of art? I know this because that debut novel that faced repeated rejection was published as book two in her Marti MacCalister series, entitled Slow Burn, it solidified the series as one for the ages. It was good enough from the very start and could have served as the book that launched her career.

Meeting Marti MacCalister

Mrs. Bland went back to the drawing board and wrote her second book. Entitled Dead Time it was released by St. Martins Press on March 1, 1993 as the series debut.

The series is based on the life of Detective Marti MacCalister who works for the fictional Lincoln Prairie Police Department. Marti is immediately presented as a tall force to be reckoned with. Towering over, literally, other women she emerges as a sharp detective who expresses no discomfort in a role in which black women are seldom seen. She is not only comfortable in her own skin but she is confident in it.

This series went on to become wildly successful and spanned a series of 14 books up until 2007. Yes… 14! A number that unfortunately has not been topped in a single series by a black crime writer since (if I’m wrong about this kindly drop me a line in the comments below).

Family matters

One of the things that stands out to me about Mrs. Bland is the sense of family that she created. Both in her books, and reportedly, throughout the community of black crime writers. She even edited a book of short stories, Shades of Black: Crime and Mystery Stories by African American Authors in which she contributed a story that she co-wrote with her son.

Here is a quick article posted by Publishers Weekly in which Mrs. Bland discussed how her and other black writers create worlds in which black characters are not the first ones killed off- as we often see in movies. Her works go directly against the narrative that black characters are not relatable and merely disposable. Mrs. Bland was unafraid to broach social topics and portray strong black male characters as family men.

The legacy of Eleanor Taylor Bland… paying homage

Eleanor Taylor Bland passed away in 2010 at the age of 65. If you Google her name you will see her associated with many contemporary authors of color. Surely she influenced many of them and they are likely subject matter experts on her books. Each time they write they are paying homage to her in a sense- the road to publishing is difficult but one that she sincerely helped to pave.

The sense of community surrounding her legacy is palpable. Sisters in Crime is a group that sponsors an annual Eleanor Taylor Bland award worth $2000.

Where can I find her books?

This is not the fun part.

Octavia Spencer is quoted as saying that she is a fan of Mrs. Bland and that finding her books is like a treasure hunt. Bear in mind that Octavia Spencer is a whole entire celebrity! I bet she can find almost anything that she wants to, at any time that is convenient for her.

But alas, celebrities are people too. You simply cannot find what is not there. Mrs. Bland’s books are out of print.

I have been fortunate enough to have obtained “good” quality copies of her first two books in paperback. Thankfully, I have hunted down and purchased at least two of her later books in hardback that are signed first editions. I was able to purchase these books via eBay after setting up alerts for them.

In fact, the hunting down of her books forced me to become a collector. It also forced me to spend that small fortune. But it was well worth it.

Stay tuned for my future review of Dead Time.