Welcome to my stop on J.M. Griffin's Online Book Tour for Tangled to Death. Please make sure to leave a comment or question for her below to let her know you stopped by. My review of this book will post over the weekend.
by J.M. Griffin
Publisher: J.M. Griffin
Release Date: November 7, 2012
Danger lurks at every turn for Katie Greer. Having escaped death in the past, Katie Greer has taken residence in a New Hampshire town where life appears idyllic, but is far from it. Teaching tangled doodling classes in her art studio allows Katie to reach out to people who require a semblance of peace and tranquility in their lives. If only she could maintain those two things for herself, Katie would be completely happy.
After finding the dead body of the town’s infamous, and most mean spirited, gossip frozen on the bench outside her Tangled Wings Studio, Katie realizes her efforts to hide her true identity and live a normal life are for naught. As the prime suspect of ruggedly handsome Detective Jonah Kilbride, Katie searches for the killer in order to prove her own innocence. Much to her dismay, Katie’s attraction for the relentless detective steadily grows, despite their continuous battles.
Past events threaten Katie at every turn, catching her unaware, and creating havoc in a life she’s desperately tried to establish in the town where she’d briefly found happiness. Can she survive or will she become the next victim on the killer’s list before she can reveal their identity?
Soaked with sweat, I awoke with a start. My clammy pajamas clung to my cold skin. The dream did this. The results were always the same. I’d awaken shaking and drenched, followed by a bad case of impending doom.
A splash of water and some fresh air usually helped clear my head. I flung the blankets aside and scrambled from the bed into the bathroom. Cupping my hands, I rinsed my face, gently rubbing my skin. The moisture soothed, awakening me completely.
Appalled at the reflection in the oval mirror above the sink, I stared at the length of shaggy brown hair which usually curved at my jaw line but now stood on end, splayed in all directions. Now pale, my peach colored skin normally glowed with health. Against the deep gray-blue of my eyes, I appeared haunted. In other words, I looked like crap.
As I opened the window an inch or two and inhaled fresh end-of-winter air, a semblance of composure spread through me. New Hampshire is often frigid in late March. Temperatures can linger around single digits one day and offer T-shirt weather the next. The cold, chilling draft filled the bathroom. Goosebumps formed on my skin in its wake. Hurriedly, I closed the window and then wrapped up in the fleece bathrobe that hung behind the door.
Sunshine glistened across snow covered Schmitz Landing, the mid-sized town of less than 10,000 residents, I’d moved to several months ago. Zillions of ice crystals sparkled in the front yard. I admired their beauty from the second floor window of my bedroom adjacent to the village green in the center of town. Birds hopped about, pecking at invisible goodies. What were they eating?
Traffic bustled and pedestrians hurried along the streets of the neat Swiss-like tourist town as I gazed out over the square. When the alarm clock sounded, I slapped the off button. I’d better get a move on, even though the dream had left me cloaked in gloom.
The nightmare hadn’t visited in some time, but it usually preceded what turned out to be a day I wouldn’t enjoy in the least. I wondered if this was about to be one of them.
Jasmine, a mostly black cat with smudges of white under her chin and on her paws, stared at me from the mound of blankets. Her luminous, bright green eyes steady. One paw stretched out and the other followed as she began her Yoga moves. When she stood to arch her back, I swept the bed covers in place and fluffed the pillows. It was time to start yet another day in the Tangled Wings Studio.
Her glance indignant, Jasmine flicked the tip of her tail and strode from the room, a haughty attitude she often offered me. She’d become a spoiled feline, catered to by me and the students. I appreciated her company after classes and during long evenings. I chuckled at the snooty tilt of her head before she disappeared past the edge of the doorway leading to the staircase.
After a quick shower, I donned a warm, some might say mismatched outfit of green corduroy slacks, topped by an orange jersey and a fuchsia pink cardigan. Style and color coordinates didn’t mean all that much to me.
In the kitchen, the coffee maker brewed, emitting a mouth watering scent. I pulled a mug from the cupboard.
The Schmitz Landing Daily, a local rag newspaper, had to have arrived by now. Not exactly of the New York Times variety, this and surrounding towns happenings kept those of us who cared informed. My advertisement listing was scheduled for today’s issue. The upcoming gallery show of work executed by the students.
Boots on, I shrugged into a jacket and headed for the front gate. Snow had fallen during the night leaving crusted white swells that covered the steps and porch.
Even though the sun was warm and making short work of the freshly fallen snow, I used a shovel propped next to the studio entry to scrape snow from the deck and down the stairs. Working on the path near the furthest end of the L-side of the house, I spotted a lumpy mound atop the wrought iron bench nestled at the corner a couple feet away from where I stood. Startled by the size of the heap, I shaded my eyes from the sun and peered closer wondering if a jacket sleeve peeked out on the left side. Aghast, I pushed the idea away.
Rattled, the shakes I’d had earlier returned. Rooted to the spot, my legs refused to move when I tried to step forward. Grumbling, I grunted in disgust and used the long handle of the shovel to prod and poke the large mass a couple of times. Chunks of snow cascaded down the body, a real body, of a real person, frozen on my settee, in the front yard.
I gasped, stumbling backward before I ran for the house. I tripped up the steps and whipped the phone off the counter just inside the studio. My fingers shook as I punched in the police department’s number listed on the wall next to those of the Fire Company and hospital. A bored voice answered the call.
“Corporal Hanson, how can I help you?”
I drew a deep breath in an effort to sound normal instead of hysterical. Why? I can’t say. Maybe I thought I’d relax enough to get the words out. I don’t think I quite managed the relaxation thing.
“A d-dead b-body is on the bench in my front yard. You have to come over immediately,” I blurted, and hung up. Panic steamrolled over my nerves.
I returned to wait and ensure the body was still there, not a figment of my imagination. Surely someone would arrive soon. Chilled, I buried my hands in my jacket pockets. The shaking refused to cease, even though the temperature had nothing to do with my reaction. Clouds formed when I exhaled and I stamped my feet to stay warm, all the while wondering why no one had shown up yet. It didn’t occur to me until Detective Jonah Kilbride mentioned more than once, that I’d omitted my location.
Sirens sounded, the noise level increased by the second. A cruiser halted at the gate followed by a rescue vehicle. A ruggedly handsome man approached. A police badge, attached to his jacket pocket, flashed in the sunlight as emergency personnel emerged from the truck.
The officer held them at bay stating he needed to assess the situation before they trampled it. Astonished and nerve-wracked over finding a person frozen to death, I waited in silence.
His ocean blue eyes swept over me in a glance. He acknowledged me with a brief nod and asked if I had made the call.
“While clearing the walk, this caught my eye.” I admitted and motioned to the mound. “I poked it with the shovel handle, and the snow fell, revealing someone underneath.”
The tall man with a cropped thatch of brown hair and C-shaped scar, which ran from the end of his left eyebrow to the corner of his eye, held my attention as unbidden tears dribbled down my cheeks and froze. I looked away, steadied my nerves and sucked in a deep breath.
Before he turned to the bench, he introduced himself as Detective Jonah Kilbride, mentioned I was in shock and ordered me to go inside.
To say I don’t take orders is an understatement. I resist being bossed around, even if it’s well meant. As though I’d taken his advice, I retreated a few steps until his attention turned toward the body. Curious, I sidled near and leaned over his shoulder.
He stiffened and gave me a testy glare.
“Weren’t you going indoors? You’re cold and have icicles on your chin.”
I brushed at them with stiff, chilled fingers, and tucked my hands into my pockets. Without a word, I gawked at the victim.
Exposed to the sun, leftover snow had loosened. My mouth hung open. I sucked in a deep breath when the particles fell off her face. Drool gathered on my bottom lip. Holy moly, I recognized the woman.
I gulped. Words exploded from my mouth. “Oh, gosh, that’s Flora Middly.” I slapped my hand against my lips to stem the flow of words, but it was too late.
His rich colored gaze landed on me, a question in their deep depths. Kilbride’s brows jacked up a notch.
“You know this woman? Is she a friend of yours?”
Flora’s double chin sagged to her chest, her pouched cheeks no longer florid. Her mean-spirited, empty of life, seaweed brown bug eyes were nearly closed. My head bobbed up and down like a bobble doll in answer to Kilbride’s questions. I turned my back on Flora. Even though she had been hardcore miserable, I found the thought of her death difficult to bear.
“She’s not exactly a friend. She was more of a nuisance than anything, but she didn’t deserve to die.” I paid attention to his face, a face that gave nothing away. “Do you think she suffered a heart attack or something?”
“Go inside, Ms?”
“Oh, uh, Katie Greer.” Startled by his cool tone, I shuffled my feet a bit. “Sorry. Yes, I’ll go in now.” I stumbled up the path into the house. I stood at the window and followed the progress as the team bagged, tagged, and took Flora away. The stretcher tilted and swayed over the uneven cobblestones. My stomach rolled as they wheeled her through leftover snow now turned to puddles of slush from the tramping of multiple boots.
The brute gazed after them before heading toward the studio. He climbed the three short stairs in one stride and peered at me through the glass while I stared back. He motioned for me to let him in. With a catch in my throat, I did so. Damn, the dream had indeed flung this nastiness upon me.
When he finished stamping clumps of snow and slush from his booted feet, I suggested he join me in the kitchen. I hadn’t even had coffee yet or managed to retrieve the newspaper. Waiting for him to follow me, I realized I ought to gather my thoughts before the questions began. I’d been questioned in the past. The memories of my past sprang to mind. I briskly tucked them in the compartment in my brain labeled bad times.
Detective Kilbride gazed around, taking in the finished artworks, those in progress, and the cat balanced primly on top of the cash register. He reached out to her. Jasmine sniffed his fingers and allowed him to scratch her ears. She promptly offered her stamp of approval with a loud purr. The corners of his mouth titled at Jasmine’s pleasure as we left Jasmine behind.
I poured coffee with a shaky hand. Kilbride leaned against the counter and watched my every move. He smiled slightly and nodded when I lifted a cup in his direction. His attention moved to the room, Kilbride’s steady gaze missed nothing. No doubt he memorized the details.
He withdrew a small notepad from the inner pocket of his jacket. Wary, I waited for him to speak.
“Ms. Greer, how long have you been a resident?”
“Almost a year. Why?”
He waved a hand toward the classroom and ignored my question. “This business, do you have a good following? Was Flora Middly one of your students?” Again, his face gave nothing away and his voice remained impersonal. I was sure he won at poker all the time.
Remembering Flora’s busybody nature and wicked temperament, her criticism, and innuendo concerning the studio and my background, I pushed the memories away and looked the detective in the eyes.
“Flora didn’t attend classes. She came to an art show once, though.” I left out her continued harassment of those who learned and enjoyed tangling, a form of illustration similar to, but more intense than, doodling. Tangling allowed one’s mind, body and spirit to relax and enter a Yoga state of mind while they drew. It was an extreme and foreign concept for Flora.
Flora endeavored to block my business from opening and spent the majority of her time advising others not to waste their efforts on art that made no sense. Foolish to deny my unhappiness over her abuse, I somehow managed to ignore it. I’d continued to hope she’d find someone else to irritate.
“Why did you decide to settle here?”
“While on vacation, I read an ad for Schmitz Landing and this place. It was for sale at the time, so I took the opportunity to visit and take a tour.” I waved my hand around the room. “It was love at first sight. I made an offer and we moved in. The cat and I, that is. And you? How long have you lived here, Detective?”
His mouth sensual, he smiled full-on. Square, white teeth gleamed against his tanned skin. If asked, I’d say he enjoyed being outdoors. All planes and angles, his face sported a firm chin and straight nose. Kilbride was handsome, not overly, but in a rugged way. From an artistic viewpoint, his features fascinated me, as did his scar. I wondered at the humorous glint in his eyes while he contemplated the question.
“Long enough, Ms. Greer, long enough.”
“I was just wondering. You don’t have a New Hampshire accent.”
He hesitated for a mere second and then said, “New York City, if you must know. Where are you originally from?”
Aware I’d opened myself up for his question, I’d been caught in my own trap. I didn’t want to tell him, should he poke into my background. Nobody needed to know. Too late to consider the consequences of my own stupidity, I answered him.
“The Midwest.” I said and then asked, “More coffee?”
“Sure, thanks.” He offered his empty cup before settling into a chair as if he had nothing pressing.
“It appears someone strangled Ms. Middly using a leather belt decorated with distinct artwork resembling that in your studio. Do you have any idea where this particular material might be available? It doesn’t have belt holes or a buckle, but is just a plain strip of leather.”
Panic threatened to overtake me. Worried I’d become suspect number one, I sipped my coffee to bide time and then shook my head.
“Some of the students, and even I, work on a variety of surfaces, but not leather.”
“Forensics will be handled at the state level, but when the evidence comes back, I’ll have more questions. You aren’t planning a trip are you?”
“I have a business to run, Detective.” Duh! Where did he think I would go, on a vacation to Florida, or the Caribbean? An enticing thought, I belonged here.
Detective Kilbride rose, adjusted his jacket and said, “Good, glad to hear it. By the way, do you know of anyone with a grudge Ms. Middly?” His question, shot off in a nonchalant manner, set my teeth on edge.
“While she made herself unlikeable, I can’t think of one single person who would want to do away with her.” I shuddered. “What a horrible way to die.”
His blue eyes cold, he muttered, “There’s no good way to die, Ms Greer.” He dipped his head and left me standing in the kitchen with Jasmine demanding a snack.
With her books sold worldwide, J.M. Griffin is one of today's popular women sleuth’s authors.
J.M. is known best for her Vinnie Esposito series. The series, set in Rhode Island, the smallest state in the USA, is brought to life by a colorful cast of characters. Every novel has a blend of humor, mystery, and romance. J.M.'s latest novel in the series, Cold Moon Dead, is the fourth in the Esposito series.
Stepping away from Rhode Island's scenery, J.M. set Faerie Cake Dead on the coast of Maine. Filled with humor, faeries, sweet cupcakes, murder and a yummy hero, the villain is someone you’ll least expect.
J.M.'s release, Murder on Spyglass Lane, takes place on the west coast of Florida in the Sarasota area. This cozy mystery has a unique and hilarious blend of characters, a sexy hero, and a psychic heroine.
Tangled to Death was a mystery inspired by J.M.’s favorite art style, Zentangle. She set the story in New Hampshire with an unexpected corpse in the first scene. Wit and fun fill the pages of this novel.
J.M., her husband, and two wacky cats reside in a countryside village in western Rhode Island, where life is anything but mundane.
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