Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!


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In Pieces

I ordered some eggs over easy and toast and then heard the ding on my phone as the waitress left our table.

“Do you need to get that?” my friend asked me.

I hated interrupting the way-too-infrequent times I get to see my friend, but sometimes my mom’s caregivers will text instead of call when she’s having a problem. “Just a sec.”

I opened the text and found the picture of a headless doll. The next image was of the missing head. And it wasn’t exactly a doll. More of a nutcracker. You know the type: dressed in a soldier uniform with a big head that allows for the nuts to fit in between his wide-opening mouth. This one had a tiny sword in one hand and a tall hat like a palace guard.

“Check this out.” I handed my phone over to my friend.

“Is this some sort of threat or just some weird coordination between mystery writers?”

I snorted. “Probably more of the latter than the first. It’s from April Hayman, one of the authors of the Ever After series.”

“Do y’all exchange pictures of broken dolls often?” She handed the phone back to me. “And should I ask for the check now?”

“No.” I laughed. “Apparently, the nutcracker from Chautona Havig’s new book, The Nutcracker Suite, has lost his head somehow.”

“Probably over some Raggedy Ann doll.”

“Cute.” I looked up at the ceiling. “April thought I might know who broke it.”

“Do you?” Her eyebrow arched and she leaned over her elbows on the table.

“I could probably make a pretty good guess. I mean, if it has to do with a nutcracker, then there are likely some mice involved.” Though I really didn’t think Chautona would have mice in her house.

“Maybe the mouse king shoved him off a high shelf?” my friend suggested. “Like yours. Don’t you have a nutcracker on that high shelf in your living room?”

“Yeah, but it’s not a soldier. Mama brought it back from Germany, though it looks more like a Leprechaun.”

My friend took a sip of her coffee. “So, if Chautona doesn’t have mice that could have broken the nutcracker, who broke it?”

“Well…” I thought of some of the sundry characters who fill my own books, but there would be no reason for them to hop into Chautona’s book to create havoc. “While Chautona doesn’t have mice, she does have a passel of kids.”

“I seem to remember somewhere that a couple of kids fought over a nutcracker and broke it. Do you suppose that’s what happened?”

I remembered that story. “I think at least one of those kids was pretty bratty. Chautona’s kids aren’t like that.”

“But it could have still happened that way, maybe they were playing with it?” My friend was certainly getting into the spirit of the mystery. “Or it could have fallen when Chautona was cleaning.”

I couldn’t answer for Chautona, but the poor guy on my high shelf likely had an inch of dust on his little green cap, not that anyone would be tall enough to see it. Which was exactly why I didn’t worry over keeping him dusted. “Either way, I certainly think she’s the one we should ask next about all of this.”

I typed in a short message and attached the pictures to the text. She had some explaining to do.

This little mystery celebrates the release of The Nutcracker Suite, the newest book in the Ever After series by Celebrate Lit. Chautona Havig offers this take on the famous Christmas story:

“Time to dance, sugarplum.”

A painter at the Meyer’s Toys factory, Clarice Stahl, knows something is strange about the way so many men come and go through Mr. Meyer’s office, especially one in particular.

Then murder strikes a little too close to home and uncorks a barrel of secrets.

When mob king, Mario Topo’s, enforcer goes missing the race is on to prove he’s behind the murder. Police and mobsters alike are after Milo Natale, and he who finds Milo first might determine the enforcer’s fate.

A race through the city, a new friend… or more… a new life in the offing. Milo and Clarice must find who killed Topo’s man and why before the police arrest him for murder or Topo’s men bump him and Clarice off,
too.

This next book in the Ever After Mysteries combines “The Nutcracker Suite” with a murder mystery set in the heart of 1920s Rockland.

Order your copy HERE.

And don’t forget to enter at the link below for an Amazon gift card giveaway.

ENTER HERE!


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Can You Dig It?

This trip was becoming more and more disorienting. How could they ever get to Chicago, let alone the Empire Theater? They didn’t even seem to be in the 1920s anymore.

This time when the train stopped, Freida Tilley was the first off. Her brother Hans had about smothered her with his protection, hardly even letting her see anything at the last stop. She clutched her beaded necklace in her right hand and scampered toward an empty building. Where were the people waiting for the train?

“Freida, wait.” Hans had caught up with her.

Eleanor followed him down the steps. “Where are we?”

Frieda halted on the other side of the empty train station, staring out at an endless expanse of ocean. “Well, we aren’t in Chicago.” She stepped off the platform and into sand. The gold sequins and fringe of her costume shown in the bright sunlight and she reached down and slipped off her shoes. Holding them in one hand and securing the beaded headband that held her short blond bob in place, she scanned the area around her as the others joined her on the sand.

“Dis is baloney, dis is.” Ivan Moss, already in his clown costume and make up came up beside her, though he stood almost a foot shorter. “And lookie that.” He pointed to a lot full of… were those cars? Bright colors and most of them without lids.

Back toward the ocean, a large group of people were gathering near a little stage. “Let’s find out where we are.” Eleanor passed her, trotting off toward the group.

Frieda ignored another protective call from Hans and followed Eleanor. This place was strange. If nothing else, the costumes were… well, she thought her costume was a little on the racy side. It didn’t touch what the women around her were wearing, or rather not wearing. Little bitty… unmentionables? Is that what they wore?

A man bumped into her. “Whoa there, Chickie.” A very muscular, very shirtless man, and his britches were rather small as well.

She averted her eyes, but the man turned back to her gave her a strange look, his gaze traveling from her face to the hose rolled down past her knees and back again. She was used to men looking at her, but not with such open bewilderment.

He cocked his head to the side. “Hey, sweet cheeks, you look a little bummed out. You here with the band?”

She recognized the word band, but it didn’t register. “Uh . . .”

Eleanor stepped alongside her. “What did he say?”

Frieda had no idea, but the man pointed up at the stage. A group of men with shaggy, sun-bleached hair made their way onto it, some of them carrying various guitars. One sat behind a Jazz-er-up drum system, and all of them were barefooted and almost as unclothed as the rest of the people on the beach. Though they did have the sense to wear short jackets over their bare chests.

“Let’s get a groove on,” one of the men near her called up to the stage.

The men strummed their guitars and started singing. Not like the crooners she was used to, and even though they had harmonies, they weren’t at all like the barbershop that her old man had sung in. She hadn’t expected such loud drumming or the fast-paced, rollicking music. The men sang about things she didn’t understand, but she caught the words hamburger, library, and radio. What that all had to do with some bird that got taken away, she had no idea.

A woman next to her shouted at them. “I can dig it.”

In this sand, it wouldn’t be that hard, but Frieda had no intention of joining her in that effort.

The people around her started jumping around, bobbing, and jiggling. She caught Eleanor’s eye and they traded smiles. Nobody jiggled or shook as well as the two of them did in their fringed gowns. Grabbing her friend’s hand, she jumped up onto the stage and began matching the odd dance that the people around them were doing. Not like the Charleston in that it didn’t seem to have any regular steps, but she recognized the hip action. And she shook her fringe for all it was worth.

“That’s a gas,” the guitar player next to her called out.

“It’s a gas, gas, gas,” replied the other one.

Frieda didn’t have time to try to muddle through their need for petroleum. Hans and a few of the others had reached them on the stage. Her brother took her hand. “We’re already behind the eight-ball. We have to get back on the train.”

The moment of uninhibited freedom had passed. Frieda glanced back at the man who had bumped into her. He lifted two fingers spread out. She copied the symbol back in his direction.

Is that where they were, someplace called, Two?

* * *

The troubles with the Ever After mysteries continue! This time it’s Cathe Swanson’s Murder At The Empire. Here’s a little about the book:

Gayle Wells is a killer organist, but does a killer have her in his sights?

They call him the Emperor.  John Starek fills his theater with fine artwork and treasures. He’s particularly pleased to have one of the country’s first female organists – and he thinks Gayle Wells is the bee’s knees.

Despite pressure from her social crusader mother, Gayle isn’t interested in changing the world. She just wants a car of her own – and a career playing the organ at the Empire movie palace would be especially ducky.

Then the Empire’s treasures start disappearing and employees start dying. Are a few pieces of art really enough motive for the string of murders? Will Gayle be next?

Murder at the Empire brings the Nightingale into an elegant movie palace in the roaring 20’s – but the real excitement is all off-screen.

You can get your copy here!

Lost in Time!

Can the before-show acts get to the Empire on time to perform? Follow along this week and find out which decade they are found. And play along for your chance to win a giveaway.

Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links that provide me with a small commission at no extra cost to you.

ENTER INTO THE GIVEAWAY

Where, or maybe the better question is… WHEN, did Freida and the others land? Enter for my giveaway

HERE!


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MISSING

I was minding my own business, heading for Michael’s because the fall decorations are calling, even though it’s scorching outside. Well there’s a private airfield right across the street from the craft store, and as I got close to it, this cool plane landed. This thing looked to be 100 years old, and I couldn’t help but think about April Hayman’s hero.

He’s missing, you know. No, really. Somehow he slipped from the pages of her book and took off to parts unknown. Cathe Swanson spotted him yesterday.

So when this super-old plane landed, well, I needed a better look. I zigzagged and did a U-turn, pulling in to park in front of Bread-Zeppelin beside the private field and the neighborhood that borders it. I watched the old plane taxi closer, stopping at the hangar that was on the edge of the field.

The pilot climbed out as I shut off my car engine. Well, I knew that little guy wasn’t April’s hero, but then the passenger climbed down. The guy was a giant, like a big ole bear. He took off the leather helmet that he’d been wearing. His hair was plumb platinum. This was definitely the guy April had told us about.

I got out of my car. “Hey,” I yelled and waved both my hands over my head to get his attention.

He halted just before he reached the hangar and turned toward me, putting his hand on the pilot’s shoulder.

I wave again. “Can I ask you a question?”

He grabbed the pilot’s jacket and pointed back toward the plane. The little guy took off at run.

Oh, no. I was about to miss my chance to . . . what? Catch him? He was a Goliath for pity’s sake. But I had to try. “Hang on, hang on. Aren’t you Hugh?”

He seemed to freeze for a moment. The propellers on the plane started spinning.

I pulled out my phone and took a photo.

He glanced at the plane and then back at me.

“April is looking for you,” I called.

The man took a deep breath and then dashed back to the airplane.

“No, wait.”

“Tell her not to worry.” He climbed into passenger seat and the plane taxied down the runway.

No chance to track him down now. But at least with my photo, I could prove that he’d been here. I pulled up the image on my phone.

Grr. Clearly, I’d moved when I clicked it. Or un-clearly in this case.

Sorry, April. I tried to slow him down. Hope you’ll be hearing from him again soon!

Here’s some information about April’s book, When a Pilot Falls:

In 1923, there aren’t many pilots, but Willie Labeau didn’t let that stop… her.

A bear of a man, Hugh Taylor, needs a stunt plane pilot, and despite their rocky introduction, Willie sets off for golden California and a new life as his pilot. There’s just one little thing she has to do in addition to flying.

Leave his past alone. Period.

When the flame of her own curiosity becomes fanned by encouragement from Willie’s sister, the feisty pilot can’t help but do just a little investigating.

And Hugh vanishes.

Friends rally around her, and with all the information she can find in hand, Willie sets off to rescue Hugh and battle the evil family holding him hostage.

A fierce air race, a sincere act of humility—are they enough to free Hugh and give Willie a chance to be with him… forever?

Find out in this next book in the Ever After Mysteries, combining beloved fairy tales and mysteries. When the Pilot Falls offers a retelling of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” that will keep you gripped to the edge of your seat as you watch hearts soar and daring dos.

When the Pilot Falls is currently available for purchase on Amazon.

Check on April’s blog tomorrow to see if she can find her hero!

And don’t miss entering for an Amazon card giveaway. Click the link below!

https://promosimple.com/ps/11b2f/when-the-pilot-falls-marji


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Snapshot #2

Yesterday was the beginning of my publisher’s annual We Love Our Readers Sale and Sweepstakes. The publishing company does a lot to bring this opportunity to you, but many of our authors contribute and sponsor the event as well. I want to share about two other of our sponsors – these two both write mystery/suspense!

Julie Cosgrove is an award-winning author of sixteen novels as well as short stories. She developed a passion for words at a young age. She began with word search puzzles. Then she solved the word games in the daily newspapers. She and her mother shared many fun hours playing Scrabble and Hang Man.

Then, another passion developed―whodunnits. She loved the Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes, and Hercule Poirot movies that played on Saturday afternoons on TV. Nancy Drew and the romantic mystery novels of the late Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt kept her eyes dancing over the pages through her school years.

Later in her adult life, her passion for Christ spurred her to write faith-based fiction and devotionals for several publications, which she has been doing since 2009. Her blog, Where Did You Find God Today?  now has readers in over fifty countries.

But her passion remains mystery, the cozier the better. Now, she has mysteries stacked up on her watchlist on Britbox and a long list of cozies on her e-reader’s to-be-read list. She loves to write them as well.

You can find all of her fiction and nonfiction books as well as her blog’s link on her website, www.juliebcosgrove.com.

Her completed “Relatively Seeking Mysteries” is on sale this week because We Love Our Readers! Click the image to find out more about these three friends that get into some deep, hot water when they innocently begin investigating their ancestries. Who would think that something as benign as looking back into history could be so terribly dangerous? Learn more about book 1, One Leaf Too Many, HERE!

Suspense author Dena Netherton has a three-book series as well. “The Hunted” series is an edge of your seat psychological suspense dealing with a stalking situation that was inspired by real issues from the past. Now based in Wyoming, Dena writes with a goal to give you stories that are compelling neough to keep you up all night.

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She studied music and theater in the Midwest and in Colorado and taught music for thirty-five years. In the 1970s, when Dena was just a teenager, her family took a road trip through the Pacific Northwest, ending with a stay in Anacortes, Washington, and a ferry ride through the San Juan Islands. She was captivated by the beauty of Washington’s west coast and vowed she’d one day move to the area. Forty years later, not only did God move her to the beautiful area, He inspired her with stories set there.

Dena’s prayer as a Christian author is that her stories inspire and encourage your faith. Her goal is to write stories compelling enough to keep you ‘up all night.’ Find Dena on her website: denanetherton.me.

Her series begins with Haven’s Flight.

How can you flee from an unseen enemy?

Haven Ellingsen enrolled in Life Ventures Therapy Camp in the Cascade Mountains to help her heal from horrible memories of her mother’s violent death at the hands of an armed robber. But now, a greater fear dogs her steps. The rustle of leaves or the snap of a twig could be nothing. Or it might signal the sinister presence of the stalker who won’t stop following her. It seems like a cruel trick from God to throw Haven into another dangerous situation only a year after her mom’s murder.

He hides near her tent and listens to the girl talk with the counselor. Mostly she talks about her father. She’s unhappy, and he can’t stand to listen and do nothing about it. He needs to rescue her. He needs to make sure she doesn’t ever go back to that man. His own father was the cause of his mother’s death. And Ruth’s. He can’t let that happen again. Not with this girl. When the time is right, he’ll take her away to his hidden cabin where she’ll be safe. And he will feel peace for the first time in years.

Can one month of survival training equip a girl to face all that the rugged wilderness and a madman can dish out?

All three books of the series are on sale this week. Click the image to reach the series page on Amazon HERE.

Don’t forget to also enter our sweepstakes. We’re giving away a free Kindle Fire, a selection of books for it, and a $50 Amazon gift card to boot! You’ll not want to miss out on this opportunity. Visit WriteIntegrity.com for the scoop!


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Who Stole Cinderella’s Slipper?

Today is the fifth day of the release fun for the Ever After Mystery series. You can find the beginning of this mystery HERE on Cathe Swanson’s blog! I’m so excited as mine is the second book to be release, A Giant Murder. All the stories have their roots in a fairy tale. Can you guess mine?

The first release, The Last Gasp is available now HERE. Squee! The Last Gasp is based on Cinderella, so to celebrate that book release, all of the Ever After authors are doing a short blog hop – complete with a mini-mystery and prizes.

Someone has stolen Cinderella’s glass slipper.

Why Rebekah Jones thought it was me, I’ll never know. (Read her post about it HERE!) But I was sure shocked when an officer showed up at my door.

“You are Marji Laine?”

“Yes.” I peeked across the street where Mrs. Myers was pretending to water her plants with an empty pitcher. Ugh. Gossip central. I stepped outside and waved in her direction as if I hadn’t a care in the world.

The officer barely paused. “And you picked up and have in your possession a glass slipper belonging to Cinderella?”

Mrs. Myers shot me a suspicious look and went back inside her house. At least, if I did hear gossip, I would know where it came from. “Yes and no.”

“You did not pick up the slipper?” The short man lifted an eyebrow and pierced me with a suspicious gaze.

“I picked it up all right. I hate spiders.”

“Excuse me?” Obviously, I had lost him, but I had no idea how. Seemed perfectly clear to me.

“I was wearing sandals when I visted that mine. I didn’t want to take the chance that the creepy bug would skitter onto my toes.” And that little thing was speedy, too. “The glass slipper was just there on one of the displays at the little souvenir store. I picked it up and smushed that bug, quick as a wink.”

He looked at me like he was waiting for more.

I glanced back toward the Myers’s house just in time to see the blinds on one of her windows drop back into place.

“And.”

I let my head roll back and looked up at the ceiling of the porch. “I didn’t mean to take it. I didn’t even know it was in my bag. It had slipped down to the depths of my mammoth purse and I didn’t even uncover it until I got off the plane at DFW airport.”

“Then?”

“Well, I couldn’t take it all the way back. And I didn’t want to keep it. I might be willing to murder a wandering bug, but I’m no thief.” Of all the nerve. “Besides, if the thing got busted, I’d have felt horrible!”

“So?”

If I didn’t get this man out of here, my whole neighborhood would be spinning stories in no time. “I took it into the airport restaurant and left it next to a pile of menues. That’s all I know about it.”

The eyebrow rose again as he jotted something into his notepad. “Can anyone corroborate your story?”

I lifted my chin and raised an eyebrow at him for a change. “As a matter of fact, April Hayman can. She was seated next to the hostess stand where I put the slipper. I left it there, found my baggage, and zipped back home.” So there.

As you can see… I am not the guilty party.

Thankfully, the officer left and Mrs. Myers was robbed of her juicy, spreadable tidbit.

But apparently, some princess’s prom shoe is still missing. Maybe April knows something about it? You can find out what she has to say on her blog HERE, tomorrow!

Follow the clues each day to discover the culprit. And click THIS LINK to enter to win an Amazon gift card!


What Makes a Mystery Good?

I’m so happy to have rejoined the Suspense Sisters group! Oh I missed being part of that little circle! My first article last month was about good mysteries. You can see it HERE!

Now you know I love a good mystery! But exactly what is it that makes a mystery good?

I’m convinced that it isn’t only one thing, but a combination of stellar qualities that makes a juicy mystery truly memorable. One that stands out in my mind right now is by Colleen Coble, Tidewater Inn. I won’t give you any spoilers, but when the main character is doing a video call (or something like that) with her best friend, the other woman is kidnapped while she looks on. And that’s just the start of the suspense.

I think I read that book about seven years ago and it still makes an impact. Now that’s a good mystery. And yes, I know it was technically a suspense, but the best suspense stories have a juicy mystery involved. (And I’ll put COUNTER POINT and BREAKING POINT in the category of suspense with mystery).

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll share some of my thoughts on what makes a great mystery, but you can get things rolling. A free copy of COUNTER POINT is up for grabs to one commenter answering this question: Name a mystery you recently read (or saw) and share what made it memorable.


Same Empty Space

office-1Have you ever noticed how most offices look alike? I mean remove the paintings and extraneous furniture or maybe an add on here and there and you have the same empty space, Right?

That concept inspired my newest book! Continue reading

Couldn’t resist this!

Meme Upright Vacuum3


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A New Hero in Town!

So enjoying the Wednesday analyses of different types of heroes. Some of these fellas are just downright tough to nail down. Last week, we spoke to Philip Bradley from the novel Lethal Intent by Janice Olson. From his answers to the questions, I think he might have been a Chief – enjoys things where he can be in control, and his fears dealt with things he’d be unable to accomplish. Would you agree?

Today’s guest is also a hero – totally different type of person and I’d love to hear what character type he is! Today, we’re interviewing Fr. Frank DeLuca, pastor of Prince of Peace church.  We meet him as the protagonist in James R. Callan’s mystery/suspense Cleansed by Fire. Continue reading


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Top 10 Christian Fiction Reads – part 2

Last week I started sharing the books I’m most looking forward to reading this year. I’m happy to say, I’ve already checked one of those off the list and will offer a review on that shortly.

Unfortunately, my post got way longer than I like them to get and I only got halfway through the list. So here is the rest: Continue reading