Friday, September 21, 2018

Just A Smudge--Can that work?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Can you foresee the future? Can anyone ? How? 

And can the past be... erased?

The fab Judy Penz Sheluk—from up in Canada! Hurray!—takes us down a fascinating and mysterious path today. She explains how she went from skeptic—to, well, let her tell it. 

 From Smudging to Tarot

Where do I get my ideas? From everyday life.

Such was the case the day I walked into a quirky little gift shop attached to a large natural foods store. I was there to purchase a white sage smudging stick, and feeling a bit ridiculous about it, if I’m being completely honest. But my husband, Mike, and I had purchased an old house and my hairstylist at the time (who is also a death doula and a yoga instructor, but that’s a story for another day) told me smudging was an absolute must.

For the uninitiated, smudging is a ritual where the leaves of the white sage plant are burned, and the smoke is directed into and onto areas that are in need of clearing and protection, while the sage-holder chants something along the lines of, “I purge this house of negative energy, and welcome positive energy, creativity, and good health.”

Anyway, among the sage, crystals, talismans, and tie-dyed t-shirts there was a section on tarot. I found myself inexplicably drawn to the vibrant images on the Rider-Waite deck. What can I say? I walked out of the store that day with a smudging stick and a deck of tarot cards, along with a book on how to read them.

To say that I was naïve is putting a gloss on things. Several sample readings, online research, and how-to books later, I was no further to being an accomplished tarot card reader than I was ready to become an astronaut.

And that’s when I knew it would work in my (then current) work-in-progress, Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in my Marketville Mystery series. While searching the house she inherited from her father, my protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable would find five tarot cards, and those cards, in addition to a basic understanding of the principles behind them, would be a matter of individual interpretation.

While the tarot angle was only a small part of Skeletons, it resonated with readers (and yes, I included a bit on smudging…wouldn’t you?). At any rate, it stood to reason that when I wrote the sequel, tarot would have to play a part. But what sort of part? I couldn’t play the “find five cards” trick again. But I could bring back Misty Rivers, a self-proclaimed psychic and tarot card reader with questionable abilities, at least according to
Callie, who is at best a skeptic, and at worst, a complete non-believer.

But Callie’s just started her own company, Past & Present Investigations, and she’s been hired to look into the death of a woman who’d been murdered in 1956. She knows she needs help, and so with some reluctance, she brings in Misty Rivers to join her team.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

“Maybe if we pull a card today it will inspire us, Misty. Did you bring your tarot cards with you?”
Misty had. She pulled the deck out of her purse, shuffled the cards, and asked me to split the pile in three. “Select one card from any pile.”
I flipped over the top card in the middle pile. It was the King of Pentacles in reverse. “What does it mean?”
Misty reached over and patted my arm lightly. “It means you’re worried about money. That what you have isn’t enough.”
Maybe Misty was psychic after all.

HANK: ooh, I know the reds are divided over tarot readings--some of us say yay, some say no way. What about you, readers? Tell us your experiences with fortunes. Do you think anyone can foresee the future?  And hey, Judy—how did the smudging work? (Has anyone else done that?)

Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of the Glass Dolphin Mysteries (The Hanged Man’s Noose; A Hole in One) and the Marketville Mysteries (Skeletons in the Attic; Past & Present). Her short stories appear in several collections.
Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime International/Guppies/Toronto, International Thriller Writers, Inc., the South Simcoe Arts Council, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves on the Board of Directors, representing Toronto/Southwestern Ontario.
Find her at

Judy’s latest installment in the Marketville Mystery series, Past & Present, was released today (Sept. 21) in trade paperback everywhere, and on Kindle at the special introductory price of $2.99 (reg. $5.99). Find it:

Sometimes the past reaches out to the present...

It’s been thirteen months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother thirty years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto?

Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations.
It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone—least of all Callie—could have predicted.

 thanks for Pents14  to By Authorship: Arthur Edward Waite, Pamela Coleman Smith was the artist and worked as an artist 'for hire.' Waite was the copyright holder and he died in 1942. - This image scanned by Holly Voley, PD-US,

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Can You Ever Escape the Past? A guest post by Daniella Bernett

RHYS BOWEN: I met Daniella when I was in New York for the Edgar celebrations this year, and I promised her a visit to Jungle Reds when her book came out. So here she is, talking about a checkered past. I expect many of you have had one. I know I have!
. Welcome, Daniella.

Daniella Bernett   Jungle Reds Blog post 

Past Crimes: The Fatal Trespass

I would like to thank Rhys Bowen for inviting me to Jungle Reds. After admiring her writing for such a long time, I had the honor and pleasure of meeting her in person in April at the Mystery Writers of America’s pre-Edgar Awards gathering at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York. Rhys, you were gracious and charming. I hope I didn’t gush too much as I basked in the glow of your presence. And now, here I am once again rubbing shoulders (figuratively) with all of the Reds, each bringing her own engaging style to the mystery world.

I’m delighted to let everyone know that A CHECKERED PAST, the fourth book in my mystery series featuring journalist Emmeline Kirby and jewel thief Gregory Longdon, will be released on September 29 by Black Opal Books. The story is set in contemporary London, but it bears the scars of shameful betrayals of decades that have come and gone.

This begs the question: Can you ever truly escape the past? Isn’t it the shadow that stalks your footfalls? Doesn’t it rise from the ether like a mist’s moist caress to send a frisson slithering down the spine? This is when danger can strike without warning because the past holds the key to everything one feverishly struggles to keep locked away. But the past drags one back.

My story was inspired by sheer, unadulterated fury and a desire to ensure that we, as a civilized society, should never forget the dark sins perpetrated during the Holocaust. It is inconceivable to me that in 2018, well into a new century, survivors and their families must endure lingering indignities as they continue to fight to have the property stolen from them restored. Some say that I’m overly sensitive and take things too personally. Perhaps, I do. But what is the alternative? Numb indifference and that is unacceptable.

In A CHECKERED PAST, I sought to put a personal face on this heart-breaking tragedy, which is still very much alive for so many. When treachery and lies are someone’s modus operandi, confronting ugly truths can be a lethal endeavor as Emmeline learns while pursuing an investigative series on looted Nazi art. Her research and uncomfortable questions stir up a cauldron of trouble when a Constable painting belonging to a prominent Jewish family that she knows is discovered in the collection of Max Sanborn, the chairman of the company that owns the Clarion newspaper where she is employed. Her reporting quickly garners Max’s ire. To complicate matters, Emmeline stumbles upon a disturbing connection between the painting and a sinister IRA collaborator named Doyle.

Gregory, a criminal with a sense of honor, is just as resolute in his efforts to prevent Emmeline’s
quest from becoming a perilous obsession. Through his shadowy contacts he seeks to help her, but his own illicit choices in life keep getting in the way and threaten to destroy everything they hold dear.

If you’re haunted by a checkered past, you’re living on borrowed time and soon there will be no place left to run. The day of reckoning must come. But when desperation is laced with fear of justice long-delayed, the only way out is murder.

If A Checkered Past piques your interest, don’t miss Lead Me Into Danger, Deadly Legacy and From Beyond The Grave, the first three books in my series, where Emmeline and Gregory put their lives at risk when they’re thrust into imbroglios involving Russian spies, stolen diamonds, duplicity and blackmail. 

Daniella Bernett is a member of the Mystery Writers of America New York Chapter. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in Journalism from St. John’s University. Lead Me Into Danger, Deadly Legacy and From Beyond The Grave are the first three books in the Emmeline Kirby-Gregory Longdon mystery series. She also is the author of two poetry collections, Timeless Allure and Silken Reflections. In her professional life, she is the research manager for a nationally prominent engineering, architectural and construction management firm. Daniella is currently working on Emmeline and Gregory’s next adventure. Visit or follow her on Facebook at or on Goodreads

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Meeting Cute: Debut Author Edwin Hill

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  We met cute. We totally did. we were seated next to each other at the Malice Domestic banquet, always a treat, and since of course we had a lot in common--we were both at Malice, that's plenty--we started up a conversation.  
Are you writing? I asked. (Always a good one.) 
Yes, he said, in fact, my debut novel, Little Comfort, comes out August 28.
Oh! I said. What a coincidence! Mine, too. That's when Trust Me comes out.
I know, he said.
(To which, silly me, I thought--how wonderful of this cool guy! He's such a fan of mine that he knows my pub date! Isn't that great? Aw. I instantly adored him, of course. and continued the conversation.)
Oh, such a coincidence! I said. We can be pub date buddies. 
Yes, he said, but I'm not doing my launch until the 29th.
(To which, silly me, I thought--well, there's gotta be some reason for that. Wonder what it is?)
Oh, I went on, so brightly, interesting! Why?
Because that's when YOURS is, he said.
What? (This was not computing. Lots of people have the same pub date, obvs.)
Yes, he said. Brookline Booksmith scheduled YOU for that day, so I had to postpone. 
What? (I was repeating myself, I know.) You're from Boston?
Yup, he said.
So, it went on like that, and now we are doing an event together later in the month, and all fabulous.
But today is all Edwin Hill here at Jungle Red, and you are going to love him, too. 
And even more so--as he tells us about:

The Power of the Librarian

   by Edwin Hill
Mysteries, no matter the genre, are about curious people asking questions, and to me, librarians are among the most curious people I know – solving big and small mysteries for their patrons every day. My novel, Little Comfort, is about a librarian named Hester Thursby who finds serial killers, which has given me the opportunity to talk with librarians all over as I’ve researched, and to remember one librarian in particular who played an important role in my life and many others.

My parents grew up in Whitman, a small town on the South Shore of Massachusetts. Before it was a town of its own, Whitman was a neighborhood in the larger town of Abington, called Little Comfort. I always appreciated the irony in that name and thought it would make a great novel title, so here we are!

My grandmother, Phyllis Hill, was the town librarian in Whitman from the forties through the early sixties. She ran all sorts of programs for children and adults that brought the community together. In addition to working as a librarian, she was a poet, publishing a collection called Poems for the Future, and conducted psychic readings and automatic writing. She retired in the early sixties and passed away in the early nineties, and at her funeral, it was amazing to hear people talk about how she’d inspired and helped them through her work at the library. 

Even twenty-five years after my grandmother’s death (she’d be 124 this year), I’m still amazed by that reach. The staff at the Whitman Library helped me find the photos for this piece, and many of them remembered meeting her. 

Recently, because of the publicity for Little Comfort, a man named Andrew Michael Rossi reached out to me through Twitter. I’d never met Andrew, thought he’d grown up in Whitman when my grandmother was still the librarian, and he wrote about how important she had been to him - how she had listened to him and seen him. And then he told me a story that I’ll cherish forever. 

“Your grandmother lived on Washington Street, not far from where I grew up. She had written a book which I had read. I called her and she agreed to meet me. I was twelve years old. I decided I would do a watercolor of a seascape as a thank you. When I got to her house, she asked to see the picture I did for her. She held it up to a picture on her hallway wall. It was almost exactly the same. I kid you not! We talked about the paranormal. She showed me some of her automatic writings from Elizabeth Barrett Browning and then told me a young boy was present around me and he told her to tell me he was watching over me. My older brother Wayne was killed in a freak accident when a piano fell on him ten years earlier. All in all its an experience I will never forget. I just loved your grandmother to bits!”

Phyllis Hill may not have been your stereotypical librarian, but then, neither is Hester Thursby. I adored my grandmother in all her unique, loving ways, just as I love Hester Thursby.

HANK: Right? Of course he had me at the librarian who finds serial killers because she knows about research. BRILLIANT!  And how about that fabulous name, Hester Thursby?  

Two things today: Reds and readers, tell us one thing about your grandmother!
And Ed, we want to hear more about his book!

Edwin Hill grew up in Duxbury, Massachusetts, and where he spent most of his childhood obsessing over Enid Blyton’s “The Famous Five,” Agatha Christie novels, and somehow finding a way into C.S. Lewis’s wardrobe. After attending Wesleyan University, he headed west to San Francisco for the original dotcom boom. Later, he returned to Boston, earned an MFA from Emerson College, and switched gears to work in educational publishing, where he currently serves as the vice president and editorial director for Bedford/St. Martin’s, a division of Macmillan. He lives in Roslindale, Massachusetts with his partner Michael and his favorite reviewer, their yellow lab Edith Ann, who likes his first drafts enough to eat them.


In a brilliantly twisted debut set among Boston’s elite, Edwin Hill introduces unforgettable sleuth Hester Thursby—and a missing persons case that uncovers a trail of vicious murder . . .

Harvard librarian Hester Thursby knows that even in the digital age, people still need help finding things. Using her research skills, Hester runs a side business tracking down the lost. Usually, she’s hired to find long-ago prom dates or to reunite adopted children and birth parents. Her new case is finding the handsome and charismatic Sam Blaine.

Sam has no desire to be found. As a teenager, he fled his small New Hampshire town with his friend, Gabe, after a haunting incident. For a dozen years, Sam and Gabe have traveled the country, reinventing themselves as they move from one mark to another. Sam has learned how trusting wealthy people can be—especially the lonely ones—as he expertly manipulates his way into their lives and homes. In Wendy Richards, the beautiful, fabulously rich daughter of one of Boston’s most influential families, he’s found the perfect way to infiltrate the milieu in which he knows he belongs—a world of Brooks Brothers suits, Nantucket summers, and effortless glamour.

As Hester’s investigation closes in on their brutal truth, the bond between Sam and Gabe is tested and Hester unknowingly jeopardizes her own safety. While Gabe has pinned all his desperate hopes of a normal life on Hester, Sam wants her out of the way for good. And Gabe has always done what Sam asks . . .

A second Hester Thursby Mystery will follow in 2019.

Little Comfort Giveaway

Head over to and sign up for my newsletter by September 26. I’ll be offering two signed copies of Little Comfort as a giveaway.

--> --> -->

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Bow WOW! Mystery Dogs!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Hurray hurray, fireworks and champagne! We're celebrating like mad here in the jungle—flinging rose petals and confetti for the debut mystery of our dear darling talented wonderful Paula Munier. 


And so is Paula.

::pausing now while we all cheer::  

And what could make a terrific mystery even better? It co-stars a dog! Even better? TWO dogs.

I will say no more. Except bow WOW.

Curious Dogs and Mysterious Incidents
           By Paula Munier

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Canines and crime fiction go together like, well, mystery and murder. When I wrote A
Borrowing of Bones, a mystery featuring Army MP Mercy Carr and bomb-sniffing Belgian shepherd Elvis and game warden Troy Warner and search-and-rescue Newfoundland-retriever-mix Susie Bear, I knew I was following in a rich tradition of dogs in mysteries.

Here are a few of the best:

Snap and Waggo
The first literary dogs I fell in love with were the dogs in the Bobbsey Twins books: Snap, the retired circus dog, and Waggo, the fox terrier. These were my first—and favorite—mysteries.  The Bobbsey twins had it all—a big family, lots of adventures, even Baked Alaska in one story—and a high-energy fox terrier and a circus dog full of tricks. Oh, to be a Bobbsey twin!

Nancy Drew had a dog, too, a terrier Togo. Nancy named him after the courageous sled dog who ran the lion’s share of the famous journey across the frozen tundra to Nome, Alaska with the serum the townspeople needed to survive the diphtheria epidemic. I know, I know, we all thought that was Balto, who gets most of the credit, as he ran the last lap of the trip. But Togo was the one who ran the longest leg of the relay by 200 miles and swam through the ice floes of Norton Sound to save his team and driver. Apparently the ever-clever Nancy knew all along.

I discovered Dashiell Hammett in my teens. I read all the books and stories and obsessed over them all. The Maltese Falcon, the most, despite the fact that there was no Asta. Which brings us to The Thin Man, Nick and Nora, and their beloved Schnauzer Asta. To me, Nick and Nora Charles were the epitome of high-society chic, and Asta was the epitome of canine-society chic. If she could talk, I knew she’d be as witty as Nick and Nora. And demand a martini immediately.

Pearl the Wonder Dog
By my twenties I’d discovered Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. Boston, a tough-but-tender errant knight/private detective, an even tougher enigmatic sidekick, a sexy and smart shrink girlfriend, and a spoiled German short-haired pointer named Pearl the Wonder Dog. In real life, Bob loved his pointers, all named Pearl, and he immortalized them in his books as Pearl the Wonder Dog. A very writerly and gallant thing to do. Very Bob, very Spenser. All literary dogs should be so lucky.

In Craig Johnson’s Longmire series, the laconic hero Longmire is so laconic that his dog’s name is, well, Dog. In keeping with that, I’ll keep it short: Dog is a great dog. Period.

In her series Inspector Armand Gamache, Louise Penny has created a man of honor and humanity we readers love. So it’s no surprise that Gamache’s German shepherd is as wise and wonderful as he is. As Gamache puts it himself in How the Light Gets In:  “He realized Henri already knew all he’d ever need. He knew he was loved. And he knew how to love.”

The most engaging dog in crime fiction must be Chet, the K-9 school drop-out with the mismatched ears who becomes the smarter half of Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie series. I bought the first novel, Dog On It, at the New England Crime Bake and had Peter Abrahams aka Spencer Quinn sign it for me. I read it one snowy evening, and spent the winter reading all the rest of them. These stories are written from Chet’s point of view, a risky proposition that Peter pulls off with aplomb.

Which Brings Us Right Back to Sherlock Holmes
The most famous dog in crime fiction is the “spectral hound” in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. This story scared me silly; I have Sherlock Holmes to thank for a still-real fear of a bloodhound-mastiff mix—not that I have ever run across one. (I also have Sherlock to blame for a still-real fear of snakes, but that’s another story.)

In my novel A BORROWING OF BONES, my hero dogs owe much to these literary dogs I’ve read and loved. Elvis is fierce and formidable; Susie Bear is friendly and faithful. Both are fun to write—and good at helping their humans solve the mystery and save the day.

Just like in real life.

HANK: Hurray! Oh, I said that. Anyway. (And I had no idea that was Nancy’s dog’s name. Huh.) ANYway. I’m madly in love with Asta, too, always have been. What about you, reds and readers? Who are your favorite literary dogs? And I’m awarding A BORROWING OF BONES to one lucky commenter!

Paula Munier is the author of the bestselling Plot Perfect, The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings, Writing with Quiet Hands, and the acclaimed memoir Fixing Freddie. The first novel in her mystery series, A BORROWING OF BONES (Minotaur, 2018) was inspired by the hero working dogs she met through Mission K9 Rescue, her own Newfoundland-retriever-mix rescue Bear, and her lifelong passion for crime fiction. In her fabulous day job as Senior Literary Agent and Content Strategist for Talcott Notch Literary, she represents many great writers. Her specialties include crime fiction, women’s fiction, upmarket fiction, MG and crossover YA, high-concept SFF, and nonfiction. She lives in New England with her family, Bear, Freddie, and a tortie tabby named Ursula.