cosy · Europe · Female sleuths · series · there's a dog

Recommended Read – The Homeswappers Series

I’ve just started to read this series and am two books in but I couldn’t wait to share it with you. It’s set in different locations in Europe and has a dog – Napoleon, the Basset Hound – as one of the key players. Sounds like my absolute cup of tea.

Cosy mystery fans will love this!

The sleuths are two fabulous Italian ladies, Etta and Dora. To save on their pensions, they’ve decided to share Etta’s home and have saved some money to spend on travelling. To keep costs down, they look into homeswapping, and come across some wonderful destinations in Germany, Denmark and Czechia, and meet a host of lovely people (and a dog!) However, they get so much more from their travels than they could ever imagine – a host of new friends, an appreciation of different cultures and lifestyles, not to mention a dead body or two.

Take a look for yourself, and I dare you not to be drawn in 🙂

The Watchman of Rothenburg Dies

A holiday is a time to relax, unwind and see the sights. But for two adventurous sexagenarians, the sights have a tendency to include dead bodies.

Etta and Dora, both newly retired teachers, travel from their home in Southern Italy to a fairy-tale German town for their first home swap holiday, delighted by their neighbours’ warm welcome. But the welcome turns sour when the Night Watchman of Rothenburg is brutally murdered while his tour group takes photographs nearby, a halberd buried in his chest and a peculiar iron mask by his side.

When the murderer claims a second victim and the son of their hospitable neighbours becomes the number-one suspect, Etta’s analytical mind goes to work. Why was a shame mask left at the scene of each murder? Is there a clandestine trade going on behind the scenes of apparently upstanding local businesses? And why does every lead take her back to the sinister Devil’s Ale pub and the terrifying gang who lurk within?

Meanwhile, Dora has a puzzle of her own – how can she persuade Etta that a loveably disobedient Basset Hound called Napoleon is now a permanent part of their lives?

A Wedding and a Funeral in Mecklenburg

As two young people from different worlds are joined together in marriage, the murmuring among the guests is that the relationship is doomed. But only one knows the form that doom will take.

Etta and Dora, retired teachers from the South of Italy, arrive with their Basset Hound, the strong willed, loveable Leon, for a home swap holiday in a German mansion, just in time for the celebrations following the wedding of their hosts’ son to a beautiful Parisienne socialite. But the festivities come to an abrupt end when the bride falls face first into the wedding cake, a bullet in her heart.

Although the culprit looks obvious – the groom’s business partner stands in shock, a gun in her hand – indisputable forensic evidence clears her name. Calling on her burgeoning talent as a sleuth, Etta launches her own investigations in parallel with those of the police. But with matters of the heart seeming to play a prominent role, it’s the more sentimental Dora who comes to the fore to fill in the gaps. Still, there’s something elusive, some crucial little detail…

Then the truth strikes. And it is so diabolical that even the pragmatic Etta is left reeling.

An Aero Island Christmas Mystery

In the depths of the Nordic winter, the beautiful Island of Aero is steeped in pre-Christmas cheer and Danish hygge. But in one dark and forbidding attic, a gruesome secret waits to be discovered.

Two Italian sexagenarians and a stubborn, loveable Basset Hound are travelling across the sea to the historic town of Ærøskøbing. The ever-positive Dora is clasping her hands in delight at the prospect of their latest homeswap; her more feisty friend Etta is picking a fight with an equally belligerent Danish woman; and Leon? Well, Leon is saving a small child from certain death. Just another day in the life of a brave and noble dog.

Little do the three travellers know just how significant the people they meet during the ferry crossing are going to become over the next couple of weeks. As Aero rises before them from the Baltic Sea, an unsolved murder, a mythical treasure, an unrequited love and a bitter family feud await them. Can the analytical Etta, empathetic Dora and sharp-nosed Leon finally lay the dead to rest and lead the living to the happiest of Christmases? And who is destined to receive the most precious gift of all?

Prague, A Secret from the Past

A look of pure hatred cuts across a packed theatre foyer, where one of the revellers has only hours to live.

The morning after a convivial evening, retired teachers Etta and Dora, on a homeswap from the South of Italy, are rudely awakened by Leon, the adorably mischievous Basset Hound who’s ready for his walk – at quarter to six! Taking advantage of the empty streets and pausing to admire the views over Kampa island from Charles Bridge, the trio find themselves instead looking down upon a murder scene.

Recognising the striking red dress she had seen a glamorous businesswoman wearing the previous evening, Etta identifies the victim’s body for Czech policeman, Jan Baloun. But despite notable successes when sleuthing on previous trips around Europe, this time, the friends simply want to enjoy their holiday. And Leon? This lovelorn hound only has eyes for the pretty she-Basset in the flat opposite.

When their new friend disappears hours after telling them about the dark days of Communism, and Etta and Dora themselves narrowly escape being attacked on their way home, the case becomes personal. What is the humorous Lieutenant Baloun hiding? Who was the traitor in the US Embassy, leaking vital information to the secret police during the tense days in 1980s Prague? And what bearing could that have on a crime committed nearly three decades later?

My thoughts

Having only read the first two books, both set in Germany, I’m already hooked and only saddened that there are only four books in the series (so far 😉 I hope)

Dora and Etta are poles apart in personality, yet when they do overlap it’s quite a lovely thing to see. Their homeswapping holiday should be fun, in their teeny Fiat 500, but no driver is ever ready for the sharp turns and winding roads they face on their way, which only increases the tension between them (which is fun for the reader, not so much for them 😉 )
In book 1, they also assume ownership of Napoleon – Leon, the Bassett Hound – who was the tour guide’s dog and he helps lead them to the killer … well, once they realise he is more than just a dog!
These are highly entertaining stories with well-layered plots that draw the reader into the location to enjoy the history, culture, folklore and citizens therein. The two ladies are endearing and amusing, you can’t help but root for them as they prove that they might be retired but they are as sharp as a tack and not to be dismissed lightly.

◆◆◆ Pack your bags, jump into the backseat of Etta and Dora’s old Fiat 500, and join them on their travels around Europe. There’ll be mystery, murder and mayhem aplenty wherever they go. ◆◆◆

So, what do you think?

Are you hooked too? If you are, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

As always,

blog tour · book review · crime · Female sleuths · France · mystery · Spain

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Five Dead Men

Five Dead Men

When the bodies of five men are discovered in a secret vault at the villa Belle Époque, suspicion falls upon the villa’s former owner, enigmatic Pascal Deveraux.

Actor, gambler, general good-for-nothing – Pascal has lived a life of privilege and excess. But with no evidence to implicate him in murder, the case goes unsolved.

Called in to investigate the cold case, it’s not long before Margot’s enquiries re-open old wounds. Aided by policière municipale, Alia Leon, the investigation moves swiftly from the smugglers’ trails of the Pyrenees to the cannabis clubs of Barcelona. And it’s there, in the dark medieval streets of the city’s Gothic Quarter, that someone finds a reason to silence her.

Purchase Link – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09NK367Q7

Author Bio

Rachel Green is the pen name of a writer from the UK. Rachel has twice been longlisted for both the Bath Novel Award and the BPA First Novel Award, as well as being on the shortlist for the Capital Crime New Voices Award. Rachel lives in a tiny village in England, but travels frequently to the south of France where the stories from the Madame Renard Investigates series are set

Social Media Links

www.rachelgreenauthor.com

https://twitter.com/AuthorRachelG

https://www.instagram.com/authorrachelg/

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRachelG

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/rachel-green?follow=true

My Review

I must admit in advance to not having read the first book in the series but, for the most part, that wasn’t a major issue.

Margot has been asked by Judge Deveraux to look into a matter relating to a family property – Belle Epoque – and the disturbing case of five dead men being found in an underground tunnel beneath the grounds. (At this point, I didn’t yet know of Margot’s background, only that her husband had been a police detective, so I did wonder why Margot was chosen to investigate matters)
Anyway, that aside, Margot stays in the area and is eventually invited to stay at the home of policière municipale, Alia, and her father, Didier (also a former police officer), and together they look into the mystery. No-one was ever caught, and the discovery of the bodies has left an indelible stain on the property which is now left vacant by its former owners (whose plans to redesign the grounds led to the finding of the bodies in the first place).

Several years have since passed, and the case has gone cold, the bodies still unidentified. That doesn’t deter Margot, who is intrigued and determined to get to the bottom of things. With Alia and Didier, and one of Alia’s friends, they find themselves with some leads – the main one being Pascal Deveraux who grew up at Belle Epoque with his sister.
Pascal is an odd chap, the kind who’d make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but there is no evidence to conclusively tie him to the murders. Even so, you get this feeling that he had to be involved somehow.
Margot feels much the same, and she won’t rest until she knows for sure what happened. Well, rather her than me, because he really has a creepy, smug vibe about him.
So, just imagine how Margot feels when he turns up unexpectedly when she’s in Barcelona following a lead in a cannabis club.
Too much of a coincidence, right?
Absolutely, and that glimmer of an opportunity to catch Pascual out is what lands Margot in deep, deep trouble.
Has she got it all wrong, or will she finally be the one to catch the killer of those five dead men?

The story is atmospheric in its settings, from the rural French countryside to the seedy backstreets of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, the tension mounts incredibly towards the story’s conclusion – it’s a breathless race to the end, dangerous and heart-breaking for those close to the action.

The characterisation is sublime, from the crotchety gardener and housekeeper to the “unsettling” Deveraux siblings. Alia and Didier appear to have a wonderful father/daughter relationship, but a surprising twist changes that dynamic and Margot is pivotal in steering Alia towards leading her own life; their interactions are touching and, hopefully, long-lasting.

Now that I fully understand Margot’s history, I hope there is more to come from her. She’s a fierce femme fatale, definitely someone not to be messed with.

For more news and reviews:

As always,

blog tour · crime · excerpt · Female sleuths · kidnapping

Blog Tour – A Chance Encounter (including an excerpt)

A Chance Encounter

Julianna Baptiste, a feisty bodyguard, finds her new job tedious, that is until her boss, the evasive Jackson Haynes, spikes her curiosity. Who is behind the vicious threats to his beautiful wife and why is he interested in two estranged siblings?

Mark works for Haynes’s vast company. He’s hiding from ruthless money launderers.

His teenage sister Ellen has an online friend whom she has never met. Ellen guards a terrible secret.

For eight years their duplicitous father has languished in prison, claiming he is innocent of murder. The evidence against him is overwhelming, so why does Mark persist with an appeal?

Keen to prove her potential as an investigator, Julianna forces Mark to confront his mistakes. The consequences will put all their lives in danger.

Pre-order Link

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08X1PN4VH #kidnapping

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08X1PN4VH

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57237006-a-chance-encounter

Trailer – https://youtu.be/g2U11opEcqs

Author Bio

Rae Shaw is a pen name for the author Rachel Walkley.

Rachel is based in the North West of England. She read her first grown-up detective novel at the age of eleven, which proved to be a catalyst for filling many shelves with crime books, which still occupy her home and grow in number whenever she visits a book shop.

As well as crime, Rachel likes to unplug from the real world and writes mysteries that have a touch of magic woven into family secrets.

Social Media Links

https://raeshawauthor.com/

https://twitter.com/RaeShawauthor

Rae Shaw Facebook page

Rachel Walkley

Extract

Reluctant bodyguard, Julianna, is keeping a watch on her charge, Hettie, at an important fundraiser for a charity. Also there is Mark, a man she is covertly spying on for reasons she’s not entirely sure about. Mark has no clue that he’s also being watched, and his curiosity draws him to chat to Julianna.

‘Hi, Mark.’ Her attempt at nonchalance failed. She fidgeted with her earpiece.

‘Julianna. Haven’t seen you for a couple of weeks. What have you been up to?’

‘Oh, this and that. Keep doing weekend work for extra money. Tonight being an example.’

She was avoiding eye contact now, so overtly, he nearly laughed out loud. For an expert in blending into her environment, she wasn’t trying very hard. He shouldn’t mock. Julianna had a challenging job marking the Haynes family wherever they went. Hettie in particular wasn’t keen on the extra layers of protection. She had griped to Mark when he queried the cost of CCTV cameras in the gallery. Not for the art, she had glowered, for me. Jackson prized his wife beyond any artwork.

‘Where is she?’ he asked.

‘Over there. Chris is back by the door.’

She gestured and he spotted her. Hettie Haynes had bounced back from pregnancy brilliantly. Her dress, a turquoise number with silver slithers, was moulded around her hourglass hips and bountiful breasts. She shook hands, moved, spoke and shook hands again. The perfect hostess.

‘She doesn’t look as tired as last time I saw her,’ he said absent-mindedly.

‘She weaned the kid on to solids and since then the kid’s been sleeping like a baby should. Sleeping.’

Mark raised an eyebrow at Julianna’s knowledge of Hettie’s breast-feeding status.

‘Drove her last week and she made a point of saying how much better things were now that she has several successive hours sleep a night.’ She turned her face fractionally to Mark’s. ‘I don’t ask, she just spews this stuff out.’

‘You’re not keen on babies then.’ Mark couldn’t imagine Julianna spewing anything. Babies were different.

It wasn’t intended as a question, but Julianna pursed her lips, then smirked. ‘Not other people’s; I can’t help it.’

He tapped his nose a few times. ‘I’ll not tell her. Diplomacy suits you.’

‘Comes with the job. One mustn’t get too attached to the client.’

‘He wasn’t in the car then?’

She laughed. ‘Oh no. Definitely a different atmosphere when he’s in the car.’

Jackson would monopolise any conversation and make it his own. It explained her snark.

‘She’s on the move. I’ll have to change location. Wouldn’t do to lose her; that would be a serious black mark.’ Julianna toyed with the piece of wire around her neck.

‘String you up by the balls?’ Mark chortled, then abruptly cringed.

A smiley-faced Julianna rescued him. ‘Well, more likely my nipples, don’t you think?’ she said slyly and with a pronounced wink. She walked, purposely and carefully, to the other side of the room.

Mark raked his fingers through his hair. What a tease she had become since their first meeting. Was it a genuine attempt at provoking him into action? He needed more evidence. He rolled back the conversation to what she had said about Hettie. Each time he met somebody familiar with Jackson and Hettie Haynes he wondered how well they knew the couple. Julianna undoubtedly had insider information and was bound to secrecy about it.

A familiar voice spoke by his ear. ‘Mark, enjoying the evening?’

For news and reviews

As always,

Audiobook · detective · female detective · Female sleuths · mystery

Audiobook Tour ‘n’ Review – 15 Minutes

Author: Larissa Reinhart

Narrator: Joan Dukore

Length: 10 hours 26 minutes

Publisher: 1969

Released: May 28, 2020

Genre: Mystery; Amateur Detective

Continue reading “Audiobook Tour ‘n’ Review – 15 Minutes”

A to Z challenge · character profile · Courting Danger · courtroom drama · Female sleuths · The Blackleaf Agency

R is for … Raven Hegarty

Character profile.

Name: Raven Hegarty

Age: 25

Description: Black-haired, 5’9, brown eyes, olive skin, very attractive. No fuss girl, no make-up, or jewellery.

Lives in Framleigh (a fictional village in Warks), with her mum, Rachel. Boyfriend is Finn Delaney (PC at local station, was a trainee with her and they re-met when she began her Tae Kwon Do classes – he is a part-time instructor at the community centre)
She was training to be a PC when her mum was diagnosed with MS. Gave up her career to care for her mum and worked in a supermarket to make ends meets, but resigned out of boredom – and after a masked gang raided the store during one of hers shifts.)
When her mum’s condition deteriorates, Raven is forced to accept help from the community. As she realises that she cannot be the carer her mum needs, she decides (encouraged completely by her mum) to retrain. Upset at missing out on her chosen police career, she is keen to work in a similar field, and retrains as a PI so she can work from home. She yearns for fulfilment, to feel that she is making a difference. She detests injustice of any sort and has attended many protests and demos to have her voice heard.
When a former very close friend (Nessa) chose a new man over her (and Fern) during a recent and much-needed holiday, Raven was incensed. The fact that the man was using Nessa and tried to drown Fern resulted in them attending his trial in Portugal and Nessa still stood by him. Raven disowned Nessa and became best friends with Fern, the victim.

Her mum, Rachel, is also dark-haired, but greying at the temples. Slim build. Pale skin, often in pain but puts on a smile.

Finn is tall, strawberry-blond-verging-on-ginger, wavy hair, broad-shouldered, big hands, grey eyes. Quite serious. Fascinated by forensics, wants to branch off to CID. Allergic to animal hair.

She is a sociable woman, loves pubs and dancing, gets on well with old folk since she admires their values and stories of past adventures. She has no time for misbehaved kids, jobsworths, call centres, salesmen in general (Smarmy smooth talkers)
Enjoys going to the rifle range with Finn. Takes mum to various support centres at hospital. She is determined and focused. Raven is a fighter. Impulsive, hot-headed, loud, abrasive and opinionated She doesn’t suffer fools. Acts first, thinks later. Too quick to get involved. Meddlesome. She has been stuck in a rut for the last two years and yearns for excitement and something to focus her intelligent mind on. Assuming that her loved ones are safe, she will jump into any adventure feet first and trust her instincts for a successful outcome.
But she is a very faithful friend – unless betrayed.
She is scared of getting MS like her mum yet avoids doctors in case something is found.
Feels betrayed by Nessa, but misses her friendship. Feels let down by officialdom and has a deep loathing for bureaucracy and paperwork of all sorts..

Raven is the glue in the story and holds much of the cast together. Her reactions are always pivotal and wide-reaching.

A to Z challenge · Female sleuths · mystery · Private Investigators · The Blackleaf Agency

B is for … The Blackleaf Agency

The Blackleaf Agency is a new business enterprise set up by my characters – Raven & Fern – in the light of their recent experiences with justice.

Raven is a former trainee policewoman who had to give up her profession when her mum became ill and in need of care. But she has never given up fighting for justice, defending the underdog and jumping in feet first to matters that don’t involve her. Her friendship with Fern grew as a result of Fern’s own legal battle, with Raven standing as her staunchest ally, a move that threatened her own relationship with former best friend Nessa.

Fern’s story is altogether different. Twice now the victim of incidents that could have killed her, she has found herself chasing justice against those who have caused her harm. Firstly, she suffered at the hands of a hit-and-run driver, then almost drowned when the son of that self-same driver sought her out, hellbent on revenge (some might say he has a slightly twisted view of reality).

Together, as business partners, they take on their first real case (excluding the lost dogs and stolen vegetables) in Heirlooms & Heiresses.  When a painting is stolen from a hotel safe, the owner is fraught with panic, yet chooses not to call the police. Instead, the hotel manager calls upon the girls to solve the case. But it soon becomes evident there is more at stake than a simple theft. A family feud pits siblings against each other – one, a ruthless, money-grabbing sister, the other, a brother with a conscience.

As the partners use their newly-learned skills in an attempt to mend bridges and restore the painting to its rightful place, another case begs for their attention. But, this time, loyalties are divided as Nessa – once Raven’s best friend – pleads for help. (I can say no more, as the reason for this case has its roots in my next publication – Courting Danger – due for release this summer, and any more details here would ruin the surprise.)

This story is a cozy mystery with a darker underbelly, as past fears resurface and old enemies move in.