Spotlight & Excerpt: Casket Case + Giveaway

casket case
Casket Case
The Cynthia Shade Mysteries Book 1
by Lee James
Genre: Cozy Mystery


Cynthia Shade. That’s her name. She has ADHD and cynophobia. That’s just a fancy way of saying she’s terrified of dogs. Not all dogs mind you, just the tiny ones that come at you with their razor-sharp fangs and frenzied eyes. To make it worse, she can’t find a job, rather, she can’t keep a job, and she’s about to be evicted. Just when she gets a glimmer of hope she’s blackmailed into trying to solve a murder.


Cue the handsome sheriff who awakens real interest in perpetually single Cynthia, and a cast of crazed suspects. One of whom is determined she doesn’t make it out of this adventure alive. 



casket case


Cynthia Shade.

That was her.

Past due.

That was also her.

Cynthia pressed her lips together as she scanned the rest of letter. “Power’s gonna be turned off.” She crushed the warning from P&E Electric into her canvas bag.

“You still want your balance?” The bank teller kept his tone professional but his bland blue eyes didn’t meet hers. If he’d heard her, he gave no sign.

She nodded, remembering where she was. “Yes. Please.”

He slid the printout across the counter and she stared at the circled amount.

“Thirty-seven cents? Is that right?”

He leaned over, just enough to acknowledge the question. “Must be.”

Disdain flickered across his baby smooth face before he turned his back on her to stare out the window.

“Is that your car?” he asked.

She followed his gaze to the Volkswagen parked outside, and saw it with a stranger’s eyes. Rust lined the bottom edge of the little purple Beetle. And where the rust ended, the scratches and dents began. These made it all the way up to the roof, where the chipped paint had long since lost its luster. A spidery crack spiraled out from the bottom half of the windshield. From this vantage point, her faithful ride was a homely representation of personal transportation. Heat flooded her cheeks.

“Yes,” she mumbled.

“It’s not leaking oil, is it?”

Probably. She shrugged. “I dunno.”

“We just got the parking lot resurfaced. Wouldn’t want to junk it up all ready.”

Junk it up? A teller would have no reason to care about something like that. It was just another unnecessary insult. Her lips wobbled as she crumpled the printed bank statement into her canvas bag. It could sit there along with the past-due gas bill and the latest threatening letter from her landlord. If they got lonely, they could commiserate with the termination letter from State Farm telling her she no longer had car insurance.

“If there’s nothing else, I need to be able to help other customers,” Tyler said.

Cynthia glanced around the empty bank lobby. Even the offices of the bank manager and assistant manager were empty. She cocked an eyebrow, but Tyler averted his eyes as he busied himself behind the counter.

Taking the hint, she shuffled across the lobby and pushed the heavy doors open. Hot, liquid sunshine hit her head and melted between her shoulder blades. Heat from the pavement burned through the bottom of her flip flops. If she didn’t keep moving, the thin plastic would start to melt. But that was the least of her problems. She dug out her phone with trembling fingers.

Cynthia took a deep breath. She wasn’t going to cry.

Not this time.

“Swan’s Temp Service,” a familiar, husky voice answered on the second ring. Renee’s voice cracked under the weight of a two pack a day habit, punctuated by a cough that could have doubled for a steamboat’s horn.

“Renee?” She swallowed again. “This is Cynthia Shade.” She paused a moment, but the other woman didn’t respond. “I…uh…was just wondering if you had work coming up. Something that I can do.”

“Cynthia? I-No, honey, I don’t have anything for you right now.”

Cynthia wasn’t surprised. Renee hadn’t had anything for her since “the incident.”

Renee sighed. “Cynthia, honey, it’s hard to place you. I mean you’re a good worker but I need someone reliable. I know this is a temp agency, but my clients have a reasonable expectation that the people I send will at least stay through a work day.”

“Please, Renee,” she gripped her bag, the crumpled threats crinkling as she did so. “I need work right now.”

“I don’t have anything for you.” Renee sighed again, then bellowed a cough into the phone. She paused a moment. “Dripping Springs is a small town and you know how people talk. After what happened at the accountant’s office, it’s hard to get clients to take you on. I’m sorry,” she said simply. “I just don’t have anything right now.”

“I understand.” Cynthia wiped away hot tears, now mingled with sweat, trickling down her face. “Thank you.” She hung up the phone and pulled out her car keys.

Gritting her teeth, she stuck her key into the driver-side door of the purple VW Beetle. It didn’t budge.

Gritting her teeth harder, she planted her feet and turned the key again. This time the lock clicked, but she wasn’t fooled. Cynthia jiggled the key a few more times before the lock slide up and she was able to pull the door open.

She ignored angry slash in the seventeen year old leather as she tossed her bag onto the passenger seat and half fell behind the wheel. She sat there, panting in the heat for a moment. The battle was only half won. Since the panel was missing on the driver’s side door, the only thing she had to grip was the window knob and she didn’t want to snap that off as well. Instead, she rolled down the window, and grabbing the door with both hands, slammed it shut. She didn’t bother rolling the window back up. At ten-thirty in the morning, it was already ninety-three degrees and the Beetle didn’t have air conditioning.

Her phone buzzed on the seat and she glanced at it, preparing to ignore whoever it was till she caught sight of the caller id.

Uncle Garrett. Her favorite uncle.

“You ok, Cindy?”

Cynthia glanced around the interior of the car. No sense in complaining. “I’m good, Uncle. What’s going on?”

“Can you come over to the house I got somethin’ to show you.”


“Yeah. It’ll only take a minute.”

She sighed and gripped the wheel.

“You’ll gonna love this. I promise,” he cajoled.

She was hot. She was tired. But this was Uncle Garrett. The bacon to her eggs. The Abbott to her Costello. Cynthia nodded even though he couldn’t see her.

“I’ll be right there.”

Cynthia dropped the phone and hesitated briefly, sending up a silent prayer as she turned the key in the ignition. The engine barked and sputtered, but after a moment it roared to life. Cynthia wiped at the sweat pooling on her brow and sighed in relief. Something was going right!

She caught a glimpse of the gas gauge and the short burst of relief faded. The gauge was very close to the red E. She studied it with a practiced eye. If she didn’t make any unnecessary stops, she could get another ten miles out of it, easy. It was going to be ok. Catching a glimpse of herself in the rearview, her eyes brimmed with tears. She would not cry!


Lee James writes stories of hope and redemption. Whether it’s fantasy, mystery or historical fiction, her beautifully awkward characters traverse a dark labyrinth on their journey to a hopeful end. She is vehement about the importance of creating and preserving the sanctity of the written word. In that vein, she supports literacy programs and her local libraries. Most importantly, she supports her fellow writers. When not writing, she enjoys photography, watching The Simpsons, and of course, reading.



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Book Blitz: A Deadly Inside Scoop + Giveaway

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A Deadly Inside Scoop
by Abby Collette
Cozy Mystery

Date Published: May 12, 2020


Recent MBA grad Bronwyn Crewse has just taken over her family’s ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and she’s going back to basics. Win is renovating Crewse Creamery to restore its former glory, and filling the menu with delicious, homemade ice cream flavors—many from her grandmother’s original recipes. But unexpected construction delays mean she misses the summer season, and the shop has a literal cold opening: the day she opens her doors an early first snow descends on the village and keeps the customers away.

To make matters worse, that evening, Win finds a body in the snow, and it turns out the dead man was a grifter with an old feud with the Crewse family. Soon, Win’s father is implicated in his death. It’s not easy to juggle a new-to-her business while solving a crime, but Win is determined to do it. With the help of her quirky best friends and her tight-knit family, she’ll catch the ice cold killer before she has a meltdown…

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About the Author

Abby L. Vandiver, also writing as Abby Collette, is a hybrid author who has penned more than twenty-five books and short stories. She has hit both the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller list. Her latest cozy series, An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery, published by Penguin Berkley, is out now, with the second book, A Game of Thrones, coming in March 2021.

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Death in Champagne Shores + Giveaway

Death in Champagne Shores
Death in Champagne Shores
A Champagne Shores Cozy Mystery, book 2
by Amie Denman

Cozy Mystery

Date Published: November 20, 2020

Champagne Shores, Florida, is a beach town in need of a paint job.

What it doesn’t need…is a murder.

Champagne Shores, Florida, is poised to become a tourist magnet, but a murder in the marina threatens the town’s sunny reputation. Sure, the marina’s owner had been a thorn in the local chamber of commerce’s side, but he hadn’t really made serious enemies…had he?

Millie Silver wants her True Colors Paint Store to inspire a makeover for her hometown, and she’s busy leading the Champagne Shores Revitalization Committee. But when she and her dog Sunshine discover the body of the marina’s owner, they find themselves on the trail of a murderer. The clues and suspects stack up and include an estranged wife, surly fishermen, and a flashy group of treasure hunters flaunting the Spanish gold they find offshore.

While the town repaints and reinvents itself using Millie’s color inspiration, Millie recruits her family and friends to help the police chief uncover secrets, grudges, and even sunken treasure along the Florida coast.

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Excerpt from chapter 3

Chief Parker propped his elbows on my paint counter and waited. I knew he was a patient man, but if he was expecting me to blow his case wide open, there was disappointment in his near future.

I didn’t see anything,” I said. “No crazed killer rushing from the scene, no one lurking about to see if anyone noticed his handiwork.”

Or hers,” my sister put in.

I gave her a raised eyebrow. “Do you really think Lisa would murder him instead of just divorcing him? How would that benefit her?”

The chief frowned. “Haven’t gotten to beneficiaries, but money is a common motivator. And secrets.”

Could be both,” Tiffany suggested. I knew she heard a lot of secrets in her line of work, but the morning’s events were too raw for me to want to inquire.

This is going to get more complicated before it’s over. Probably before the day’s over,” Chief Parker said.

I feel bad for Richard,” I said. “We’re talking about his death as a complication, but it hardly seems fair to him.”

Tiffany slipped an arm around me in a half-hug. “I know it’s upsetting.”

I wish I could have seen his reaction to Ocean Sunrise Blue at sunrise,” I said. It seemed so unjust that he never got to see it. Paint colors are a living thing and appreciating them is a rare and beautiful pleasure life offers. Sharing it is my gift. And so is finding dead bodies in Champagne Shores, it seems.

I thought lightning didn’t strike twice in the same place.”

We all looked to the shop door where Aunt Minerva stood, hands on hips. She wore her red knitting glasses and at least two different strands of yarn were stuck to her blouse. She had obviously left the house in a hurry.

Lightning can strike anywhere in the right atmospheric conditions,” Darwin said.

My aunt’s worried expression softened for a moment and then returned to full-on flustered. “I’m not even going to ask if it’s true that you discovered another body. You all look serious and I’m guessing there’s a reason the chief’s got his antacids out this early.”

Chief Parker thumbed a white disc from the roll in his hand and closed his eyes for a moment as he chewed.

Well?” Aunt Minerva asked.

I sighed. “I went to see Richard Croy about the paint color, but his shop was still locked. Sunshine drew my attention to a boat where we found Richard dead on the deck.”

Poor Sunshine,” Aunt Minerva said, giving my dog a kiss on the nose before coming over to me and giving me a warm hug. She’d been a mother to me, Tiffany, and Darwin ever since our own parents died in an accident when we were almost too young to remember them. “Have you already figured out who did it?” she asked as she drew back and patted my cheek.

What? No. And I’m not getting involved.”

You’re already involved,” Aunt Minerva said.

I shook my head. No way was I getting dragged into another murder investigation.

Sunshine didn’t touch the body this time,” I said, feeling that I’d found a particularly strong piece of exonerating evidence. “So I’m not directly involved.”

Everyone—even Darwin—gave me a skeptical look.

Well, she didn’t,” I said, hearing the note of petulance in my own voice.

Silence prevailed for a moment, and then the chief’s chair creaked as he put his antacids in his chest pocket and got up. “We’ll wait for time of death from the medical examiner, and maybe that will give us a starting point. I probably don’t need to ask when the last time was you saw him.” He paused and waited. “Alive, I mean.”

About The Author

Amie Denman lives in a small town in Ohio with her husband and sons. She has published more than 40 novels—romance, mystery, and women’s fiction. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s walking and running outside. The victim of a lifetime of curiosity, she’s chased fire trucks on her bicycle just to see what’s going on. Amie believes that everything is fun: especially roller coasters, wedding cake, and falling in love.

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Twitter: @amiedenman



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