Merry Christmas, Sherlock Holmes style


Illustration by Sidney Paget, 1892. Wikimedia Commons.

Happy Holidays! As a mystery lover, Christmas reminds me of one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories, “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.” The mystery starts with a dropped hat and a Christmas goose left behind.

The following recording is from the Sherlock Holmes audio archive of stories, many of them (including this one) narrated by none other than Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson. My favorite team! The recording includes the classic touches of dramatic organ interludes and even a couple of commercials. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Let the adventure begin!



From a different adventure...Basil Rathbone (Holmes) and Nigel Bruce (Watson), Universal Pictures, 1943. Wikimedia Commons.

From a different adventure…Basil Rathbone (Holmes) and Nigel Bruce (Watson), Universal Pictures, 1943. Wikimedia Commons.

To listen to other stories in the archive (more than 125 of them!), click here.

May your Christmas be filled with fun and mystery!

Until next time,


P.S. – Book 1 of the Concordia Wells Mysteries, Dangerous and Unseemly, is on sale! You can now get the ebook version for only 99 cents. (Psst…it makes a great gift for the mystery lover in your life). The discount is available through Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, and is good until January 6th.

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Gardening for the Mystery Lover: a mash-up

Gardening for the Mystery Lover: a mash-up
Hydrangeas from my garden.

Hydrangeas from my garden.

Happy Monday, everyone! Those of us north of latitude 32 or so have been longing for the end to the snow/sleet/freezing rain and the dreary gray-brown landscape. The gardeners among us have been deluged with seed catalogs and Pinterest prompts that have us dreaming of the lush backyards we delude ourselves each year into thinking we will achieve. *wink*

So today I thought I would provide a few links to entertain both gardeners and mystery lovers, because yes, there is a way to have it all!

Garden fun:

Below is a slideshow of pictures from my garden. Not professional by any means, but isn’t it great to see something green this time of year?

Garden Slideshow

Here’s a post from a couple of years ago about the benefits of gardening, including why dirt is good for you!

Life is a box of seeds

Mystery-style gardening:

Gardening and murder can be connected in so many ways: the heavy spade, the razor-sharp pruning shears, the deadly foxglove growing by the fence….

  • Mystery author Margot Kinberg discusses the role of gardening in several classic Christie novels (among others). Click on her banner below:



  • The Cozy Mystery List Blog is an excellent resource for finding themed mysteries, and there are plenty of garden-themed stories out there.

Gardening Cozy Mysteries…

  • How about something more interactive? Shot in the Dark Mysteries has created Mystery Party kits for kids and adults, including something sure to chase away the winter blues: Garden Party Murder – Mystery Party Game.

Do you enjoy gardening? Ever been to a garden party? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,



Concordia logo FINAL small


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Murder Under the Oaks: my experience at BoucherCon

Murder Under the Oaks: my experience at BoucherCon

bouchercon raleighA couple of days ago I returned from BoucherCon. With an attendance of 1500, it’s considered one of the larger mystery fiction conventions out there. (For those unfamiliar with the name, BoucherCon was created in 1970, in honor of mystery writer/editor/critic Anthony Boucher).

It appeals to every mystery fan along the continuum: authors, readers, agents, publishers, librarians, booksellers. The location changes each year. This year it was in Raleigh, NC.

This was my first BoucherCon. As an introvert who is most comfortable in my writing cave, I knew it was going to be exciting and challenging at the same time.

Here are a few things I learned along the way. I hope these will be of help for those new to the convention experience. I’m specifically targeting fellow authors, but many of these elements apply to anyone attending a large event of this kind.

Before the convention:

bouchercon11. Determine your goals. 

What do you want to get out of this experience? An agent, a possible contract? Connections to fellow writers, potential readers, booksellers? Spreading the word about your new release? A chance to meet well-established authors you’ve always admired? Learning from the panel discussions?

Clarifying what you want will go a long way towards helping you decide how to spend your time at the convention and how you prepare. For me, I wanted to make connections with fellow authors and readers and learn more about this crazy process we call writing novels. And meet Laurie King. (Photo by fan-girl K.B. Owen).


Read the rest of this post at Misterio Press.

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Never Sleep: the story of a lady Pinkerton

Never Sleep: the story of a lady Pinkerton

I have a new series coming out, and I wanted you all to be the first to know about it!

Chronicles of a Lady Detective

The series is centered upon a character many of you know from the Concordia Wells mysteries: Penelope Hamilton. You may recall that she served as lady principal of Hartford Women’s College in book 1 (Dangerous and Unseemly), and recently made a return in book 3 (Unseemly Ambition) to help with a difficult case.

Readers have long told me that they enjoy Miss Hamilton’s character and would like to see more of her, so I decided to go backwards in time and explore her early detective cases.

cover art by Melinda VanLone

cover art by Melinda VanLone

Never Sleep, set in 1885 (more than a decade before Concordia meets her), is the story of how Miss Hamilton first gets started as a Pinkerton in her own right. Each of the stories in the series will be novelette-length and published in ebook form only (for now).

Historical Background:

Although a rarity in the 19th century, women working as Pinkertons wasn’t without precedent. The first and most noteworthy was Kate Warne in 1856. According to Allan Pinkerton, the young widow walked into the Chicago office and asked straight away for a position as a detective, rather than requesting a clerical job. Her argument pointing out the unique qualifications of women as detectives persuaded Pinkerton to hire her, and to later put her in charge of Pinkerton’s “Female Detective Force.”

Allan Pinkerton (seated, right) at Antietam. The beardless man is thought to be Kate Warne in disguise. Image via Library of Congress, n.d.

Allan Pinkerton (seated, right) at Antietam. The clean-shaven man is thought to be Kate Warne in disguise. Image via Library of Congress, n.d.

Warne was quite successful as a detective. She acted as an intelligence operative before, during, and after the Civil War, and was instrumental in uncovering the “Baltimore Plot” to assassinate Lincoln on the way to his inauguration. She relayed key information and was part of the group that helped protect the President-elect during this time, as he traveled by train (a different one than announced earlier) between Harrisburg and Baltimore, in disguise.

Excerpt from Pinkerton's report, published in Norma Cuthbert's 1949 book: Lincoln and the Baltimore Plot, 1861.

Excerpt from Pinkerton’s report mentioning Kate Warne. Published in Norma Cuthbert’s 1949 book: Lincoln and the Baltimore Plot, 1861.

My gift to you:

I wanted to find a way to say “thank you” to everyone who reads my books and follows my posts. Your support means so much to me! Where would I be without my readers? So, during the month of March, I’m giving away Never Sleep to every subscriber. And this is exclusive access; I won’t be putting it up on Amazon or anywhere else until April. 

How to get Never SleepThe story will be available for download as a mobi (Kindle) and epub (iPad, Nook) on a password-protected page here at the website. Current subscribers will get an email newsletter tomorrow (didn’t want to send you guys two email notifications in one day) with the page link and a password. Future subscribers (during the month of March) will receive the same email newsletter with the link and password when they confirm their subscription.

If you have any difficulties getting it, drop me a line: and I’ll directly email you the file.

Thanks again!


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Romance can be murder: Valentine’s gifts for mystery lovers

Romance can be murder: Valentine’s gifts for mystery lovers

heartUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Valentine’s Day is coming up. Yep, the holiday that keeps the greeting card, flower, and chocolate industries afloat until Mother’s Day.

Usually the gifts are simple: chocolates, cards, flowers…maybe a diamond? But what about the special mystery lover in your life? The usual offerings just won’t cut it.

No worries. I have some ideas for you!

Here are my Top 5 Valentine’s Gift Ideas for the Mystery Lover in Your Life (ranked from least-committed to most-committed; I like to make it easy on you guys):

#5: Gun-shaped chocolate. Now you can have your gun and eat it, too.

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#4: Chocolate- or Valentine’s-themed mystery books. Death by Chocolate, anyone? Sally Berneathy has a well-reviewed series by that name. For further options, has an extensive list of Valentine’s Day murder mysteries.

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#3: Since Valentine’s is a time of romance, perhaps an undergarment would make a fun gift. Here’s the Sherlock Holmes Quotable Thong from As the Great Detective says, “You see, but you do not observe.” I’ll forgo any comment on the strategic placement of the quote. This is a PG blog, after all. 😉


Image via Cafe Press.

Image via Cafe Press.

#2: Take your beloved to a Broadway show, where “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is playing. It won the Tony for Best Musical. I’m assuming that was for the music, not the sentiment.

"A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

And finally, the over-the-top Valentine’s gift for the true mystery lover:

#1: A Murder Mystery Bed-and-Breakfast Weekend.

You can see why it’s #1. Committing to an entire weekend, while at the mercy of trouble-loving fellow mystery fans and mischievous B&B hosts?  Who knows what might be in the food?

*gack* *choke*  Give me a moment.

To celebrate our wedding anniversary one year, my hubby and I visited the historic house-turned-B&B Harry Packer Mansion in Jim Thorpe, PA for a murder mystery getaway.

Image by Frederikto, via wikimedia commons (CC).

Image by Frederikto, via wikimedia commons (CC). Looks innocent, doesn’t it?

Not only did we stay the weekend in a comfortable suite enjoying gourmet food, we also participated in a murder mystery based upon the history of the Packer family, who once owned the mansion and ran the town.  We were assigned roles shortly after check-in, and the mystery was conducted in three “rounds” over the course of the weekend, with plenty of free time in between to shop and sight-see.  As is customary with such a setup, in each round you get additional bits of information about your own character and others.  However, not even the murderer knew her own identity until the big reveal (’cause, hey, she should have fun, too – right?).  Turned out, I was the murderer.  Bwahaha.


So, there you have it – my Top 5, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Your beloved will thank you!

Have you ever given or received an “unusual” Valentine’s gift? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


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Cyber Monday: a mystery-lover’s Christmas

Cyber Monday: a mystery-lover’s Christmas



Happy Cyber Monday, a time to shop in our jammies, double-check our gift lists, budget, and passwords. But what to get the mystery lover in your life? Let’s face it, Peace on Earth, and Goodwill to Men isn’t usually compatible with murder and mayhem.

Never fear, I’m here to help you make this year a Mystery-Lover’s Christmas.

First, getting into the holiday spirit:

Who wants to eat those predictable, boring snowman and reindeer cookies? Why not make cookies shaped like the Great Detective himself:

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Sherlock Holmes Cookie Cutter


And the Christmas tree should reflect the owner’s personality, don’t you think? Here are some ornaments that really convey that Christmas feeling for the mystery fan:

Fingerprint ornament. Image via

Fingerprint ornament. Image via


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I Love Murder Mysteries Ornament


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Evidence Tag Ornament

 For Christmas gathering:

Want to put the “FREEZE!” into your Christmas punch? Make gun-shaped ice:

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Handgun Ice Tray


Or cozy up with wassail or hot cocoa in these stylish mugs:

gun mug

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Chrome Gun Coffee Mug


Then, while lounging against a comfy pillow,

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Sherlock Holmes Pillow


…gather the family for a puzzle game of “To Kill a Lawyer”:


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To Kill A Lawyer: A Mystery Jigsaw Thriller


When it comes time to pull out the stockings, what crime lover wouldn’t be thrilled to find this:

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Crime Scene Chalk


For that special loved one who writes as well as enjoys murder mysteries, this is sure to please:

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Spy Pen Recorder

…which can be stored in this attractive pen holder:


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Gun-Cylinder Pen Holder


Have a runner in the family? He or she would be happy to wear this on the trails:

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Keeping My Cardio Up with Sherlock Holmes


Want more ideas? Check out these previous posts:

Gifts for the Mystery Lover – featuring Crime Scene Bandaids

Cyber Monday for Mystery Lovers – featuring the Sherlock Holmes quotable thong!

Cyber Monday for Mystery Lovers (2013) – featuring the Machine Gun Bullet Butane Lighter


So, what mystery-themed gifts do you find appealing? Will you be doing most of your shopping online this year, or will you battle the crowds? I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Shopping,















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Guest post by Kass Lamb: Criminal Minds and the History of the FBI

Guest post by Kass Lamb: Criminal Minds and the History of the FBI

Hi everyone! I’m pleased to be hosting mystery author Kassandra Lamb today, who has some fascinating info about the FBI to share with you today. Enjoy!

Criminal Minds and the History of the FBI

by Kassandra Lamb

Criminal Minds is a favorite TV show in our household. My husband likes it because the interaction of the characters reminds him of the teamwork he experienced during his working years at another government agency. I like the psychology involved (for the most part; sometimes they get something wrong).

About a year ago I was telling hubs about a new book idea–a therapist is kidnapped from her office by a serial killer. He said, “You should get the BAU involved.”

Of course! Because in real life they would be involved in such a case. How cool would that be to write a book about my favorite FBI agents in the Behavioral Analysis Unit? So I set out to do some research, and discovered some very interesting stuff. (And I also wrote the book! See below.)

Criminal_Minds_crew CC BY 2pt0 Dan Huse http___www_DanHusePhotography_com - Flickr Shemar Moore and Thomas Gibson

Two of my favorite CM characters. (Photo credit: by  Dan Huse – Flickr)

First, there are some things in the show that aren’t really true about the FBI. The BAU does not have it’s own private jet on standby to fly them to Small Town, U.S.A. where they will be provided with a fleet of black FBI-issue SUVs at a moment’s notice. I’m not faulting the show’s creators here; there are certain things you do for the dramatic impact.

I also found some fascinating tidbits about the history of the agency and its infamous first director, J. Edgar Hoover. Did you know that he was appointed director of the agency before it was even called the Federal Bureau of Investigation? And he was only 29 years old at the time.

What’s so Special about Special Agents?

The agency dates back to 1908. Prior to that date, the U.S. Attorney General had periodically assigned individuals to conduct “special” investigations. Thus, they were called “special agents.” To this day, an FBI agent has the title of Special Agent.

In 1908, then Attorney General Charles Bonaparte reorganized these agents, plus several newly hired investigators and bank examiners, into a “special agent force,” which was dubbed the Bureau of Investigation.

badges1935In 1933, the agency was renamed the Division of Investigation, and in 1935, it was renamed again as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. New badges were designed as a result of the name change, and that badge design is still in use today.

Another interesting tidbit–the badge numbers are recycled. When an agent retires, his badge number is reissued to a new recruit.


The Hoover Reign

J. Edgar Hoover was named interim director in 1924, at the tender age of 29, and was made director the following year. He continued in that role for 48 years until his death in 1972, serving under eight U. S. Presidents.

640px-Hoover-JEdgar-LOC pub domain 1961Just before his death, and even more so after it, J. Edgar Hoover became a very controversial figure. It came to light that he had used unauthorized wiretaps and other illegal means to amass information about political leaders and private citizens whom he deemed subversive.

In addition to the illegal wiretaps, his pet project, the covert program called COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) infiltrated organizations and they were not above planting bogus evidence of wrongdoing and spreading false rumors.

One of Hoover’s most notorious acts was to instruct an FBI agent to write and send an anonymous letter to Martin Luther King, Jr. The letter was supposedly from a disgruntled follower who had discovered King was having extramarital affairs and threatened to expose all if King did not commit suicide.

Letter to King

In 1971, shortly before Hoover’s death, the activities of COINTELPRO came to light and the program was ended.

From the 1940’s on, rumors flew that Hoover was gay and that he and his assistant, Clyde Tolson, were lovers. This may have been the case, but many historians and biographers believe the claim that he was seen cross-dressing at gay parties to be false. The source of this rumor has been deemed unreliable, and such indiscreet behavior would have been out of character for this man who used scandal and rumors to ruin others on a regular basis.

Hoover and assistant Clyde Tolson, circa 1939

Hoover and assistant Clyde Tolson, circa 1939

Nonetheless, the belief that Hoover was a cross-dresser persists today. Which is a scary reminder of how easily misinformation can become solidified in the minds of the American people.

Despite Hoover’s massive overstepping of authority, he is credited with turning the FBI into a premier law enforcement organization. He modernized police investigation and forensic techniques and established a centralized fingerprint database.


136px-US-FBI-ShadedSeal.svg The FBI department that contains the BAU is the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC), established by President Reagan in 1984. There are four Behavioral Analysis Units total, two of which are dedicated to the investigation of violent crimes against children and against adults.

Unlike on the TV show, the BAU is not an elite team of profilers who fly all over the country. There is no official position per se of “profiler” in the FBI. All members of the BAUs are fully-qualified FBI agents (i.e., trained as law enforcement officers) who happen to use psychological profiling, among other skills, in the apprehension of violent criminals.

The FBI/BAU may become involved in a case if the local authorities request their assistance, if the criminal involved is already on the FBI most wanted list, or there is evidence that a criminal has crossed state lines (which is the case in my book, Fatal Forty-Eight).

When they do assist on a case, it is often done from afar. BAU agents in Quantico, Virginia consult by phone and the Internet with local authorities. In addition to profiling the criminals, they may provide suggestions for investigative, interviewing and prosecution strategies, plus a host of other services designed to help law enforcement agencies apprehend and prosecute violent criminals. BAU agents going in person to the locale where the crime was committed does happen, but it is not the most common practice.

Another important program under the NCAVC is the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP). It is a computerized database that compiles and compares information on violent crimes committed around the country. Created in 1985, the data was only available to some law enforcement agencies until 2008, when it became fully accessible by all state and local police forces.

The power and reach of the FBI can be a little scary at times–may we never again see the abuses that occurred under Hoover–but the agency’s ability to put together the pieces and solve crimes is unparalleled.

Please check out my new book, and then talk to me in the comments. Are you a Criminal Minds fan? What other crime shows do you like?

Fatal48 Ebook FINAL


Fatal Forty-Eight, A Kate Huntington Mystery

Celebration turns to nightmare when psychotherapist Kate Huntington’s guest of honor disappears en route to her own retirement party. Kate’s former boss, Sally Ford, has been kidnapped by a serial killer who holds his victims exactly forty-eight hours before killing them.

With time ticking away, the police allow Kate and her P.I. husband to help with the investigation. The FBI agents involved in the case have mixed reactions to the “civilian consultants.” The senior agent welcomes Kate’s assistance as he fine-tunes his psychological profile. His voluptuous, young partner is more by the book. She locks horns out in the field with Kate’s husband, while back at headquarters, misunderstandings abound.

But they can ill afford these distractions. Sally’s time is about to expire.


AMAZON      B&N       APPLE       KOBO       SCRIBD

Also, check out my contest! Win a $20 Amazon gift card, a silver charm or key chain (winner’s choice) and a signed paperback copy of any of the Kate Huntington full-length novels (again, winner’s choice). Contest runs until December 5th. Click here for more details, and to sign up to win!

Some other interesting articles:

The History Of The FBI’s Secret ‘Enemies’ List, NPR Books, Feb. 2012

Five myths about J. Edgar Hoover, by Kenneth D. Ackerman, The Washington Post, Nov 9, 2011

Does Profiling Really Work? by L. Winerman, Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, July/August 2004

Thanks, Kass, for stopping by! We always learn such cool stuff from you. 

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