Posts Tagged ‘mystery’


I keep finding Peggy Erhhart books and I keep drooling over them. Here’s another one in the Maxx series that was started with Sweet Man is Gone. It’s called Murder Gets the Blues, and it’s three stories. So any of you who like the shorter stuff ought to be happy. I mean, who doesn’t like shorter?

Join blues-singer sleuth Elizabeth “Maxx” Maxwell from Peggy Ehrhart’s Sweet Man Is Gone in three stories that showcase her crime-solving chops.

“Maxx Nails It” Flash fiction—Maxx solves a murder in less than 1000 words.

“Blues Clues” Maxx frees her guitar player from a murder charge by paying careful attention to the dead guy’s trash.

“Daddy’s Girls” The puzzling death of Maxx’s old Atlantic City friend Cecile introduces her to an all-girl band being stalked by an ingenious killer.

There’s not nearly enough blues in Rock Fiction. And why not? The blues are perfect for Rock Fiction! Don’t believe me? Grab some and see for yourself.


I don’t remember why Susan dug up all these links to Peggy Ehrhart books and sent them to me, but she did and since it all looks like really good stuff that I actually want to read — and since the whole murder mystery thing is a nice change from all the smooching and sexing it up around here, I’m totally into it.

From Harlem to the East Village, Manhattan’s various music scenes provide the backdrop for three stories of deception and revenge.

“Killer Chops” A jazz guitarist is shot in gentrifying Harlem. People will kill to get their hands on a prime piece of real estate—or was the motive something else?

“Stone Cool” Murder is one way to score a prime gig—especially if a guy’s been double-crossed by an old friend.

“Mojo Hand” An aging rock-and-roller is surprised to find that he likes a settled life with his young wife and little daughter—but then he discovers that nothing’s what it seems.

Not sure what else to say. It’s short stuff, it’s a threesome (but not THAT kind. See? We’re all on romance overload), and it’s by an author Susan likes, at least. I need to try some of Peggy’s books… think if I ask nice, next time Susan and I get together, she’ll loan me the copy of Sweet Man that she says is on her shelf?

And have any of you read Peggy Ehrhart yet? Are you dying to?

Was that in the least bit funny?


So Susan was talking to her friend Joyce Tremel the other day and pinged me about an author: Peggy Ehrhart. She’d read Peggy’s debut, Sweet Man is Gone a bunch of years ago and did I know anything more about Peggy’s books? She’d liked the one she’d read and was crazy busy with edits (really, you guys: if you need your book edited, call Susan. She’s damn good) and besides, this is my department anyway.

Like a good partner in Rock Fiction, I went and checked. Yep, Peggy’s got new books out. And so here’s one of them.

Got No Friend Anyhow might not be the second book after Sweet Man. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to read it!

Maxximum Blues has a solid foothold in the Manhattan blues scene but Maxx (Elizabeth) Maxwell knows a CD will make the band irresistible to festival organizers. Prowling Rooster Records is her label of choice but when the CD is nearly finished producer Rick Schneider disappears — and it looks like he’s hooked up with his old girlfriend singer-songwriter Brenda Honeycut.
Maxx’s quest is complicated by a rooster with personality to spare and by her old boyfriend Sandy who’s determined to win her back.

Got No Friend Anyhow in classic whodunit style takes the reader on a ride that keeps pages turning all the way to a dramatic and unexpected climax.

“A rooster with personality to spare” — what? Huh? Does it have to do with the fact that the record label is named Rooster Records?

Anyway, I like mysteries, and Susan liked Sweet Man — she says she has a copy of it on her shelf still. She said she might loan it to me, if I ever get caught up on what’s already here. So even though this description is a little thinner than I like, I’d read this. After all, Susan liked it!


This one won’t be out until November, but I found it and I’m gonna write about it. So get ready to hit preorder buttons or whatever, especially those of you who’re wishing for something more than romance, romance, romance.

This is a mystery.

The bad news is that it’s one in an ongoing series and I have no idea if it can stand alone or not. Only one way to find out!

It’s called Rhythm and Clues, and it’s part of the Odelia Grey series. Here’s the description:

It’s a rockin’ flashback for Odelia Grey when her mother asks her to look into the disappearance of a neighbor, the former lead singer for a band Odelia idolized in her youth. But when a body is found in Bo Shank’s house by another member of Odelia’s family, everything quickly gets thrown out of tune.

You gotta wonder how much Rock Fiction this will be, since there’s a family connection to the dead body, and the dead person doesn’t seem to be the former lead singer, but… only one way to find out! Could this be a good way to enter a new-to-us, non-Rock Fiction series? Believe it or not, that’s allowed. We just won’t talk about it here.

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Doris Dumrauf is a friend of mine. I think the world of her and I’m thrilled to be hosting her today for Rocktober. Her first novel, Oktober Heat, is a fun read for you mystery fans — and if you’re not a mystery fan, this one can convince you to be one. Of course, it’s got a strong rock theme to it, too.

Cold War means spies, arms race, and – rock ‘n’ roll? During the 1950s, the U.S. military built hundreds of military installations in West Germany within a few years. GIs with pockets full of dollars, big cars, and the latest rock ‘n’ roll records invaded the formerly sleepy villages. The local girls found them irresistible. Romances blossomed while the young couples danced the night away to the hottest tunes. American and German musicians toured the enlisted clubs to entertain the troops.

“There’s a novel in there,” I thought when I learned about the Fifties in my home county. But which year should I choose as the setting? And then it occurred to me that Elvis Presley arrived in Germany in 1958 to complete a tour of duty in the U.S. Army. I had found my hook!

In my novel “Oktober Heat,” music becomes the symbol of the clash between Old World values and New World culture. The book begins and ends with a concert because rock ‘n’ roll music is my protagonist’s passion. Young police officer Walter Hofmann works long hours investigating a murder and relaxes by listening to the latest hits on AFN.

I admit that I do not remember the 1950s from personal experience. By the time I became interested in pop music, the first Beatles hits were already Oldies. But I’ve always enjoyed the music of the Fifties and Sixties and played them while writing my novel.

How important is music to Walter? Let’s ask him:
Q: How do you feel about Elvis Presley’s arrival?
WH: First of all, I love his music. But I am not happy that the girls are all crazy about him. I mean, how is a young man with average looks and income supposed to compete with him?

Q: What do you like most about the American GIs?
WH: I like the rock ‘n’ roll records they bring in. Most of all, I love attending concerts at the base. How else would I ever see the Trotters and other famous bands? They bring the big, wide world into our province. Lauterbach was a sleepy village before they arrived, and now look at it. We have an italian ice café, several bars, and plenty of pubs. German singers are trying hard to imitate the sound, but I much prefer listening to American bands, even if I can’t understand all the lyrics.

Q: You seem to be very protective of the women in your life.
WH: Yes, I became a police officer because I want to protect and help people. My younger sister Ingrid, though, makes it hard for me. She’s 18 and a bit rebellious. Her Elvis infatuation is getting out of hand and I don’t have the time to look after her all the time. I fear that she might get into trouble.

Q: So you young people just want to have some fun and enjoy life?
WH: Yes, we do! We work hard, but when we’re off work we want to shake up the town. And now I have to go because the Crocodiles are playing at the Enlisted Club tonight and I don’t want to miss it.

“Oktober Heat” is available at:

Barnes & Noble

My website


This is another book Susan sent on for me to review. Again, she’d been Tweeting with the author, who’d said she would like it.

I like the story. Love the concept: the main character is an acoustics expert. Who even knew there were real acoustics experts in the world? And if there aren’t, don’t tell me. What matters is that this character knows how to listen, and it’s that skill that eventually solves the murder.

This is one cool setup.

And Pamela herself, our sleuth with the golden ear, is a likeable character. She’s got a real personality; she’s real particular. There’s something old school about her, and I really like that. This seems to be one of a series — a quick look at GoodReads shows there are five — and even though I started in the middle, I could catch on.

A good story, but Susan’s comments at GoodReads are right: the typos in here are terrible. When I told Susan I was reviewing this, she confessed that because the copy editing is so bad, she cringes whenever she sees the publisher’s name on a book. She’s got a point, especially because we’d both really be talking this up if the stupid mistakes weren’t so damn distracting.


The rise of the Black Eagles was meteoric, from band practice in the garage to global stars almost overnight.

And Melissa Webb, the beautiful girlfriend of the front man, appeared to have it all.

But when Luke Black disappears without a trace and Melissa wakes up in a hospital bed after a savage attack, her perfect world is shattered and their lives are plunged into a potentially deadly crisis.

Where is Luke, and can he be found before it is too late?

Whoa! This one sets us up for a romance and turns into … a mystery??

FRESH storyline. I’m loving it.

(but why do bands always have a meteoric rise to the top? Okay, so that’s pretty much the norm these days, but how many of them stay there? What’s wrong with slow and steady? With going in jags? With having a bad album and then recovering? C’mon, authors! Variety!)

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I started reading Don Bruns’ Mick Sever series in the middle, a number of years ago. I was an instant fan, so that meant I had to go back to the beginning.

With Barbados Heat, I’m not quite at the beginning. This is the second in the series and even though it’s been a number of years since I read St. Barts Breakdown, I could still appreciate how much Bruns has grown as a writer since this early book.

That’s not to say it’s a bad book. Not at all. In fact, it fills in many of the holes and questions I’d had because I’d started in the middle. It’s nice to see Sever’s ex-wife, Ginny, in action. It’s good to see a rougher version of the man Sever becomes.

Sever is more of a music journalist than investigator in this book, but this might be where the transition begins. A former music biz insider turned Senator (who now crusades against the language in rap music) has been murdered, and it’s the senator’s son who’s been accused of the murder. Problem is, the son was one of Sever’s best friends. Not only does Sever have a plum story dropped in his lap, but his motivation for getting to the bottom of things has skyrocketed. His present is a stroll down memory lane, but not all’s what it seems.

Of course Severs gets to the bottom of things; that’s what happens in a mystery novel. What’s fun is the way in which he does it, with things exploding, people chasing each other, threats that may not be real, and a sense of foreboding that turns out to be a red herring.

The biggest problem with the book is that it often felt like there was more in author Bruns’ imagination than reached the page. This is hardly a fatal issue; it’s that the book would have been better, richer, rounder if all that information had been there on the page instead of someplace where I can glimpse it but not touch it. Oh, so tempting.

I’m still a fan of this series, and there’s plenty more books for me to catch up with. Can’t wait.

Sometimes, books enter my home and wind up on the giant piles around here. This is never good, because it takes me literally years to get around to reading them. Rosemary Martin’s It’s a Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod Murder is one of those books. Even worse, it is a Rock Fiction mystery that wound up languishing.

I realized it as soon as I picked the book up and looked at the back cover. Lead character Bebe Bennett works for Rip City Records (which is sometimes written as Rip-City and sometimes not). Aargh. I might have read this sooner if I’d known.

But maybe it’s okay if I don’t read everything immediately, and maybe it’s okay that this is one that got shoved off to the side.

In short: I didn’t finish it. I couldn’t stand it and skipped quickly to the end to see whodunit, then decided I was glad I hadn’t suffered.

The idea is fun. Set in the Sixties, right during Beatlemania, Bebe is a very mod girl. But something about the book comes off as prudish, overly concerned with being proper – but then, quite without reason, Bebe throws caution to the wind and acts contrary to what seem to be her values, meeting band member Keith in the bar instead of the coffee shop, for instance. Where’s the introspection a good girl ought to show when her New York music biz life clashes with the conservative way she was raised?

Add in too much dialogue that exists only to inform the reader of something, and I’d had enough.

But before I Did Not Finish this one, let me mention the Rock Fiction aspect. Bebe and her boss Bra—Mr. Williams (really, if she’s so worried about slipping and calling him by his first name, why doesn’t she make herself stop thinking about him via first name?) work for a record label. Rock Fiction, right?

Well, this falls into that same category as other books, where the charisma of the rock industry fades to the point where the magic of rock and roll vanishes. These people could work in any business—and in the second book in the series, they do.

Rocktober3This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

When author RJ McDonnell dropped me a note, I was more than thrilled to hear from him. I’d seen his name around in certain circles and since he writes about a dude who used to be in band, and since his first mystery, Rock and Roll Homicide.

Not the sexiest title out there, but I love the cover shot of a Fender Strat that’s been splattered with blood. Even though the dead guy dies in the preface, and I doubt any residue would make such a lovely pattern on a white strat, it doesn’t matter. And if it did, there’s so much good stuff going on here.

I’m not sure where to start, really, other than to say I loved this tale. I loved the main character, Jason Duffy. I loved his quirky cast of mentally disabled people and helpmeets. I loved Duffy’s narrative voice; it has total character. I loved his dad and the veteran, grizzled cop and the computer geek dude who never wants to use his names.

Maybe we should back up. Our intrepid hero, Jason Duffy, hasn’t been in business very long when he gets a visit from the very wealthy Chelsea Tucker. It turns out it’s her husband’s brains that have been spattered across the aforementioned guitar — among other things. It seems her husband is the famous — but contentious — Terry Tucker, frontman and business genius behind Doberman’s Stub, a band rocketing to the top — and currently recording their third album. This is the one that’s going to push them up to that coveted peak. Everyone knows it.

That’s why Terry was killed, it turns out. He put on a pair of headphones (conveniently given to him by his wife. What a loving woman.) and … kablooey!

The wife needs Jason’s help to clear her name. And Jason dives right in, encountering the Russian Mafia, the Irish Mafia, Orangemen, half-naked women, photographers with Tourette’s Syndrome, and a whole laundry list of surprises and twists and turns that even a experienced knitter couldn’t unravel.

Needless to say, McDonnell pulls it off. Neatly, I might add. And with no small dose of humor — particularly the scene where Jason goes sneaking around a shower. Trust me. It’s the best scene in a good book.

Now, you know I can’t write a review without talking about the downers, and there were some, of course. I’ve yet to read a book without them.

In Rock and Roll Homicide, there are two big ones. First is that the cast of characters is huge. Quirky and well-drawn, sure. But it’s big. Big casts can get confusing, and alliteration never helps. Oh, I’m not talking about the way in which half the characters have Russian names. See above about the Russian mafia.
Rather, there are an awful lot of women whose names start with the letter J. A lot of people with the first initial of C.

It’s a shame, really. These characters are all given such delicious quirks and characters, and then to confuse us with the similar names… talk about torture.

The other issue is bigger. Like an increasing number of books of late, the editing could have been better. Not just punctuation, which I’m a stickler for after spending so many years as a copy editor. Sentences could have been tightened or rewritten for maximum reader impact. Frankly, I’d love to get my hands on future books from McDonnell and have a go at it. He’s got so many elements right. He’s got a great hero, with a great voice. And his rock? It rolls, baby. This guy knows his stuff, all right.

I’ve got McDonnell’s second book here, waiting for me to read it, too. Rock & Roll Rip-Off, it’s called. All I gotta say is that it’ll be a ripoff if there’s no third book in the works.