Sybil Johnson // Designed For Haunting

“I think I have a stalker,” the message read. “If you’re reading this I’m either missing or dead. My life may depend on what you do. Please find out what happened to me. You’re the only one I can trust.”



Title: Designed For Haunting
Author: Sybil Johnson
Publisher: Henery Press, October 09, 2018
Format/Source: ebook, Scribd
ISBN:  9781635114034  Series: Aurora Anderson

It’s time to prepare for her painting chapter’s annual Halloween boutique house event, but Rory Anderson has other things on her mind. Her friend, Zelena, has sent her a cryptic email begging for help, and no one has seen Zelena since the painting group’s decoration meeting days earlier.

Despite the protests of her boyfriend, a detective with the Vista Beach police department, Rory pursues the few leads she has to find Zelena. But someone is watching Rory, and each new clue she uncovers leads her closer to danger. Is Zelena alive or dead? And if she’s already dead, will Rory be able to find out the truth behind Zelena’s disappearance without suffering the same fate?


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Cynthia Manson (Editor) // Mystery For Halloween

She was an old cat, coal black, lean and ugly. Her right ear had been chewed and her old hide showed scars, but she had a regal look when she sat under the rosebushes in the plaza and surveyed us with yellow-green eyes.

~ “The Black Cat” by Lee Somerville

Title:  Mystery For Halloween 
Author:  Cynthia Manson (Editor), Lawrence Treat, Terry Bacon, Alan Ryan, Pauline C. Smith, Janet O’Daniel, Andrew Klavan, Theodore H. Hoffman, George Sumner Albee, Richard F. McGonegal, Elliott Capon, Edward D. Hoch, David Braly, Richard Ciciarelli, Dashiell Hammett, Lee Somerville, Donald E. Westlake
Publisher: Signet, 1991

Mystery for Halloween is an anthology of sixteen short stories, all of which were published in either Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine or Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine

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Lynn Cahoon // A Deadly Brew

The planchette started to move on the board. Darla called out the letters as Esmerelda paused. Her arms felt loose and unresponsive under my hand. I would have sworn she wasn’t moving at all, yet I watched the letters being chosen. One by one.


Title: A Deadly Brew 
Author:  Lynn Cahoon
Publisher: Lyrical Press, September 04, 2018
Format/Source: ebook, Scribd
ISBN:  9781516108206   Series: Tourist Trap


This one is a novella, so it is a short and sweet way to start off the Halloween season. As part of a charity fund-raising event, Jill and her friends are spending a weekend locked in an abandoned house that is scheduled to be demolished after Halloween. The home’s previous owner disappeared decades earlier, so the story goes, but her spirit may have never left. This mystery packs a lot into a little space: ghosts, a missing woman, murder, and witchcraft. The plot is very layered and is possibly better suited for a full length novel; there are so many developments which beg to be explored further but are only summarized. However, I still enjoyed stumbling along with the characters as they explored the house and worked to decipher the clues they found. I do wish there had been a bit more spooky suspense in the story. The supernatural elements were alright, but considering this was a story about a haunted house, I expected more goosebumps than I got. Other than those complaints, I found reading A Deadly Brew to be a nice way to spend a chilly October afternoon.

Auralee Wallace // Haunted Hayride with Murder

I scanned the trees with my flashlight. “I think we’ve found our—Freddie? Where did you go?” I spun my flashlight around only to have it land on him perched atop a boulder at the side of the trail. “What are you doing? Get down from there.”


Title: Haunted Hayride with Murder
Author: Auralee Wallace
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, September 25, 2018
Format/Source: ebook, iBooks
ISBN:  9781250151506  Series: Otter Lake

It’s almost Halloween, and this year Erica and Freddie’s company, Otter Lake Security (hashtag OLS) is overseeing festivities at the Honeycutt Apple Orchard. Erica thinks it will be a fun gig. Why wouldn’t it be? There’s a haunted barn, a creepy corn maze, and Grandma Honeycutt’s heavenly apple crumble. The only drawback, really, is Freddie. Local legend claims the orchard woods are haunted by the Apple Witch, and Freddie is terrified he’ll run in to her. Their employee, Rhonda’s, insistence on “thirty-one days of horror” movie nights has only amplified his fears. But as long as Erica can talk Freddy down from the boulders, it should all be fine, right?

Then a boot is found, along with a decomposing foot, and even though Erica is insistent that she is not investigating the case, she so is.


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Dead Air: A Fictional Trip Into the World of True Crime Podcasting

“M is now for midnight, Mackenzie, and…murder. Welcome to Dead Air.” ~ Mackenzie Walker’s podcast introduction

In Brief:  Dead Aira mystery serial available on Serial Box, uses multiple platforms to tell its story. It is co-written by Gwenda Bond, Carrie Ryan, and Rachel Caine.

In Depth:   College student Mackenzie Walker is a fan of true crime, and she’s using her midnight slot on the University of Kentucky airwaves to dig into a local case: the murder of Peg Graham, a horse owner who vehemently opposed the casual custom of doping horses in horse racing and pushed for reform. A man confessed to her murder, but soon Mackenzie and her listeners are caught up in what ifs. What if he didn’t really do it? What if the murder wasn’t a crime of passion? What if there was a cover-up? And, what if the killer is still out there, listening to Mackenzie as she moves closer to uncovering the truth?



  • Each episode is released in two formats: text for readers and audio for listeners.
  • Each episode is accompanied by Mackenzie’s podcast, exactly as her listeners hear it.

There will be ten episodes in the series, released weekly; currently, seven episodes are available. A preview of the pilot episode is free. The remaining nine episodes have to be purchased, but the cost for entire season is less than the price of a hardback. Additionally, an omnibus of the series will be released at its conclusion on October 03, 2018, for any readers who’d prefer to wait until the story is complete.

Fans can further immerse themselves in Mackenzie’s world by downloading Mackenzie’s weekly podcast for each episode. The podcasts are free, and provide a journalistic summary of each chapter. However, the podcasts on their own don’t provide the whole story. What isn’t Mackenzie telling her listeners?

This was my first experience with Serial Box and I’ve enjoyed it. The audio version is well produced and, unlike a basic audiobook, is subtly layered with ambient sounds. Narrator Lynn Norris does an excellent job of bringing Mackenzie to life. The text version is handy to pull up when listening to the audio isn’t possible.

The mystery is twisty, the characters are compelling, the Kentucky setting is charming, and, whether you read it or listen to it, this is series is addictive. Hopefully, Gwenda Bond, Carrie Ryan, and Rachel Caine are having as much fun writing this mystery serial as I am listening to it, and a second season of Dead Air is on the horizon. Because, for me, M is for More Mackenzie.



Anthony Horowitz // The Word Is Murder


Diana Cowper had planned her own funeral and she was going to need it. She was murdered about six hours later that same day.


Title: The Word is Murder
Author:  Anthony Horowitz
Publisher: Century, August 24, 2017
Format/Source: Hardcover, Bookstore
ISBN:  9781780896847   


After reading Magpie Murders, I had very high hopes for this novel. Perhaps a teensy bit too high.

The Word is Murder is an unusual novel because Anthony Horowitz has written himself into it as the story’s narrator. His character is roped into playing a sort of Watson to freelance PI Daniel Hawthorne’s Holmes as they investigate the death of a wealthy widow. The insertion of Horowitz into the story as a main character is clever gimmick, but not really much more. Still, it is entertaining to be given access into Horowitz’s world; it would be interesting to know how much of it is fact and how much is fiction. Passages regarding his work on projects like Rin Tin Tin and Foyle’s War are especially engaging.

I really only have one problem with this novel: Hawthorne. Every time he sulks onto a page, I instinctively bristle. He is sullen and boorish, as well as manipulative. He gets some scraps of character development at the story’s end, but overall Hawthorne lacks any charisma. It’s not that I need to like his character, but cringing every time he barges into a room or flippantly disregards anyone else’s observations is, at least for me, problematic.

Luckily, I can overlook Hawthorne’s eccentricities because Horowitz provides a bevy of suspects with juicy motives and a tightly plotted mystery which kept me happily puzzled until (almost) the end. Those high hopes of mine weren’t reached, but I still enjoyed reading The Word is Murder. If this does become a series, as I believe Horowitz has said he plans it to be, I will definitely be picking up the next novel when it is released. You hear that, Hawthorne? You might have one more chance to grow on me.


Q & A with Tina Kashian, Author of the Kebab Kitchen Mediterranean Mysteries

STABBED IN THE BAKLAVA, the latest Kebab Kitchen Mediterranean mystery, is on bookstore shelves today! 

Lucy Berberian has taken over her family’s Mediterranean restaurant on the Jersey Shore after an unsatisfying stint at a Philadelphia law firm. It’s great to be back in her old beach town, even if she’s turning into a seasoned sleuth. 

Catering a high-society wedding should bring in some big income for Kebab Kitchen—and raise its profile too. But it’s not exactly good publicity when the best man winds up skewered like a shish kebab. Worse yet, Lucy’s ex, Azad—who’s the restaurant’s new head chef—is the prime suspect. But she doesn’t give a fig what the cops think. He may have killer looks, but he’s no murderer. She just needs to prove his innocence, before he has to go on the lamb . . .

Recipes included! “A delectable read.”

—Bestselling author Shelley Freydont


Q & A

Thank you for having me today! I’m Tina Kashian, the author of the Kebab Kitchen Mediterranean mystery series set at the Jersey shore. My newest release is Stabbed in the Baklava.

Q: The Kebab Kitchen mysteries (Hummus and Homicide and Stabbed in the Baklava are out now, and One Feta in the Grave is expected to release February 28, 2019) are set in Ocean Crest, a fictional small coastal town on the Jersey shore. How familiar were you with this setting before you began writing the series?

A: My Armenian parents owned a restaurant for thirty years in southern New Jersey. My mom was a talented Mediterranean cook and the grapevine in our backyard was more prized than any rosebush. It was a family business and I worked every job—from rolling silverware in napkins as a tween to hostessing and waitressing as a teenager. My tips paid for my prom gown. We also used to vacation every summer at the Jersey shore. I still take my own children to Jersey shore every summer.

Q: Like your protagonist, Lucy Berberian, your parents owned a restaurant and you spent many years working in it. Did your parents, like Lucy’s, want you to take over the family business someday?

A: I think my parents would have liked for this to happen, but I was just starting college when they sold the business and retired after thirty years. They were ready. I wasn’t. In hindsight, I wish it had happened a few years later and I could have had the chance to take over the family business.

Q: Did you do any research for the series?  If yes, did you uncover any interesting facts you weren’t aware of before writing the novels?

A: I didn’t have to research the restaurant business. This I know well! But I did have to research poisons and how they could be used to kill a person for the first book. I came across quite a few interesting household items that could be used for this purpose.

Q: Did you do anything special to celebrate the release of Hummus and Homicide? Do you have any special plans for celebrating the release of Stabbed in the Baklava?

A: I had a Barnes and Noble book signing and invited all my family, friends, and readers. Then I had a huge party at my house. We rented a tent, and tables and chairs for everyone, and had plenty of food. It was a wonderful day.

Q: What were you most nervous about in the months leading up to the release of Hummus and Homicide?

A: What isn’t an author nervous about? Are presales strong? Would my promotional efforts be enough? Would bloggers and reviewers like the book? There worries can be endless.

Q: What were you most nervous about after it had been published?

A: Did my family and friends like the book? Most of all, I hope my readers found it an enjoyable read.

Q: What is the greatest hurdle you faced while writing Hummus and Homicide and Stabbed in the Baklava?

A: I have children so my biggest struggle was finding writing time. Mommy guilt is a problem no matter how old your kids are. I have learned to write before soccer games and swim meets and during piano lessons. I even use a pad of paper and a pen when I find myself without my laptop.

Q: On your website (, you talked about attending your first Malice Domestic in 2017, before Hummus and Homicide was released. How different was it to return a year later as a published mystery writer?

A: It was wonderful both times. I found my tribe! If you love mysteries, Malice Doemstic is the place for you. 

Q: Do you have any favorite memories from Malice Domestic, either as an attendee or an author?

A: I enjoyed being interviewed at the new author breakfast. It was nerve-wracking, but a wonderful experience to talk about my series to such an avid group of readers.

Q: What is the best writing advice you have received?

A: Never give up! Keep learning the craft of writing and keep writing. Attend conferences and network with other writers. Make friends and enjoy the journey.

Q: Which is more important, character or plot?

A: I think both are super important. You need to start with a great mystery plot, and then flesh out the characters.

Q: Do you have a special routine or schedule you keep when you are writing a novel?

A: I write when the kids are in school. I have also mastered the art of writing before soccer games and swim meets. I use the downtime.

Q: How do you plot your novels (pencil and paper, sticky notes, computer, old typewriter, etc.)?

A: I use both the computer and a pen and pencil. I’ve also draw a map of Ocean Crest to keep my characters and their businesses straight.

Q: Did you read mysteries as a kid? Which ones?

A: I grew up reading the Nancy Drew series.

Q: If you could live in Cabot Cove-even though there’s a 50-50 chance you would be the town’s next murder victim-would you, just so you could hang out with Jessica Fletcher (and maybe help her solve a mystery or two)?

A: I have many fond memories of watching Murder, She Wrote episodes with my mother. Yes, I would love to hang out in Cabot Cove. Hopefully, as a sleuth with Jessica, not a victim!

Q: What do you love most about your readers?

A: What is there not to love? I value my readers and I’m grateful. Without them, there would be no books!


A big thank you to Tina for taking the time to answer these questions! You can find out more about Stabbed in the Baklava at Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, iBooks, Google Books, and Kobo.



Tina Kashian is an attorney and a former mechanical engineer whose love of reading for pleasure helped her get through years of academia. She is the author of the Kebab Kitchen Mediterranean cozy mystery series. Tina spent her childhood summers at the Jersey shore building sandcastles, boogie boarding, and riding the boardwalk Ferris wheel. She also grew up in the restaurant business, as her Armenian parents owned a restaurant for thirty years. Tina still lives in New Jersey with her supportive husband and two young daughters. Please visit her website at to join her newsletter, receive delicious recipes, enter contests, and more!

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