#PreOrder “Related By Murder: A McLaren Mystery” by Jo A. Hiestand

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From the moment ex-police detective Michael McLaren arrives at his friend’s house, he’s plunged into a nightmare of a case. Two men, hanged a year apart, each killed on a Good Friday. A barrister. A solicitor. Related careers. Related by murder. Related motives?

Pottery shards, a torn newspaper article, and biscuits are found in each man’s pocket. What do they signify? And the blackmail letters Melanie receives…

Are they related to the murders, or are they separate, terrifying in their own way?

Professions, calendar date, McLaren’s attack. Could it all be entwined? Or is the motive for murder something else, something so secret that keeping it is worth attempting a third one?

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Releases February 19, 2021

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#Review “Shadow in the Smoke (Audio)” by Jo A. Hiestand

Audiobook Blog Tour: Shadow in the Smoke by Jo A. Hiestand

Author: Jo A. Hiestand

Narrator: Steve Hart

Length: 8 hours 32 minutes

Series: The McLaren Mysteries, Book 3

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Released: Nov. 30, 2019

Genre: Mystery

Janet Ennis tragically died five years ago in what the police labeled an accidental fire. But Janet’s mother, Nora, believes it to be murder and arson. And she’s hoping ex-cop Michael McLaren can prove it quickly, for she’s losing her memory to dementia.

As McLaren pokes through the case details, he becomes emotionally involved with the dead woman. Yet, Janet isn’t the only person who threatens his mental well-being. A series of arsons on his own property hint that he’s upset someone connected with this case.

Motives for Janet’s murder rise like the smoky tendrils of a fire. And motive aside, the murder scene seems a bit too pat: a drought-stricken landscape eager to lap up flames and a conveniently locked door barring Janet’s escape.

Will McLaren solve the case while Nora can still comprehend the resolution, or will Harvester’s plans see McLaren’s career go up in smoke?

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Jo A. Hiestand can usually be found at her computer, which is good, since she writes three mystery series. It seems a natural progression from her job as a graphic artist – crafting word images on a sheet of paper instead of creating graphics on the computer screen. Between the two computer stints, she lived in Britain for her semi-pro folk singing career and became friends with several English police detectives. The latter relationship was not a consequence of the former calling, however, but all these UK aspects find their way into her books. When not tapping on the keyboard, Jo enjoys reading, baking, and photography. She lives in the St Louis area with her cat, Tennyson, and way too many kilts.

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Narrator Bio

After a number of years with commercial radio covering two continents, Steve Hart moved toward narration after being asked to perform his first novel in 2005. As it turned out, his story telling ability became stronger as each book and year passed. Steve considers narration an on-going study that even requires constant focus and the mindset of ‘always be willing to learn and grow.’

“Many people have an opinion on ‘how to read’ a book, but I believe there is only one way—you have to be in it! Immersed in the story and being the character(s) as they move through it. Projecting the emotion and bringing the whole story to life, while making it easy to consume for the listener.”

 

 

4/5 Stars!

Unable to accept her daughter’s death was accidental five years ago, a grieving mother pleads with former cop, Michael McLaren, to investigate the circumstances around the fire that took Janet Ennis’ life.

McLaren is wary for several reasons, like he isn’t a licensed private investigator, but he’s touched by the mother’s desperation and the fact she’s sinking into dementia and wants answers while she can still remember her daughter.

Mike finds red flags from the beginning of his investigation, and his former cop status hinders as much as helps him. His best friend is still on the force, a great sounding board, and able to help Mike find some answers. But the closed Ennis investigation belongs to the very man connected to Mike’s reason for resigning.

Retracing the steps of the first investigation, Michael McLaren finds himself surrounded by suspects, and with a growing obsession for the dead woman.

As the pieces of the puzzle come together, Mike struggles to stay focused as someone keeps setting fires at his home and is tracking his every move. He also isn’t aware an old nemesis is plotting revenge.

It’s easy to see McLaren was a good cop because he is a good investigator. He’s also befuddled by his infatuation with Janet Ennis, even though it does nothing to lessen the love he has for girlfriend, Dena.

Well-written, Shadow in the Smoke kept me guessing until the reveal, which was nicely done.

I stumbled early in the story with the narration. The narrator did a great job, in my opinion, with all the characters except Michael McLaren. It took me a few chapters to accept Mike’s “voice,” but the character’s laid-back, but driven personality helped.

Enjoy!

I volunteered to review this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jo A. Hiestand. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

 

Giveaway

Prize: $30 Amazon Gift Card

Shadow in the Smoke Giveaway: $30 Amazon Gift Card

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#BookBlitz “Black Moon (A McLaren Mystery)” by Jo A. Hiestand

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coverBook 11 of the McLaren Mystery series
British mystery
Date Published: August 2019
Publisher: Cousins House
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Each April the members of a mystery writing group gather on Stanton Moon for camaraderie and to fuel their plots. The moody area seems the perfect setting for hatching a whodunit. Unfortunately, an unscripted mystery materializes like an unsolicited manuscript on a publisher’s slush pile—the leader of their group is found on the moor, her head bashed in and very dead.
Lesley Keeton’s murder takes on the aspects of a novel’s first draft: the suspects shadowy and the killer unnamed. Now, a year later, ex-police detective Michael McLaren is asked to tidy up the plot and expose the killer.
McLaren investigates and discovers anger and jealousy cropping up as often as editor’s red marks on a manuscript page. The group members crafted more than stories—they planned a mass exodus, fleeing Lesley’s tutelage, dictatorship and tongue lashings. Add a tinge of blackmail, an illegal business and an affair to this framework, and the deadly combination has the earmarks of a bestseller.
In the midst of this, McLaren’s lady friend arrives unannounced and disrupts the case…and unbalances his emotions. Both are tested one dark night in a churchyard when she stumbles into the arms of the killer…and McLaren must rescue her without letting evil go free.

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EXCERPT
The car park was empty, the pub having closed at midnight. A small lamp shone in the multi-paned front window, throwing numerous rectangles of yellow-tinted light onto the ground. He would avoid that area.
McLaren found an exuberant spruce wallowing in darkness near the corner of the building. A perfect spot to eavesdrop and see. He slid between the evergreen and the wall, hidden from whatever direction the delivery bloke might come.
The tree branches swayed as he settled in for his fifteen-minute wait, and he prayed the employee wasn’t staring in this direction. McLaren leaned against the building. The stone was cold on his back and pressed into his flesh. At least it’ll keep me awake, he thought. He eased a bough off his shoulder, eliminating the prickling of the needles, and hoped, not for the first time, that he’d interpreted the earlier conversation correctly.
A gust of wind slammed into the spruce, dislodging some needles. They fell onto McLaren’s head and arms, and peppered his neck where his jacket collar was open. He flinched but didn’t dare move. A rumble of thunder rolled overhead. Seconds later, the clouds burst. Rain pelted the tree and collected between rows of needles before topping the confinements and falling. It soaked his hair and trickled into his ears, ran down his neck and dampened his shirt. Rain angled through the space between the boughs and showered his face and hands. Aromas of damp wood, earth and stone saturated the air.
He angled his watch face. Five minutes to one. He held the collar of his jacket closer to his neck and wiped the rain from his eyes.
Lightning corkscrewed across the sky and ripped the clouds. A blast of wind drove the rain through the tree and against the pub. Water coursed down the walls and overflowed the gutters. McLaren tried to lean farther into the tree, away from the wall, wanting to avoid the soaking, but the density of the boughs near the trunk thwarted his movement. He gave up, silently cursing his situation, and sagged against the wall.
The pinprick of two headlights came to him before he heard the vehicle’s motor. Instinct forced him closer to the tree trunk, although he realized later that the tangle of boughs and his dark clothing made him indistinguishable from the spruce. The car slowed as it neared the pub, and McLaren slowed his breathing, afraid he’d be heard. The vehicle paused, as though the driver was checking if the establishment was open for business. Or if the one o’clock rendezvous was still on.
Another growl of thunder drowned out the sound of the idling motor. The driver made no move to drive on or exit the car. He seemed content to sit and wait. For what?
McLaren craned his head so he could see the vehicle better. It was angled just enough on the road so its shape was visible in the lightning flashes. It was an SUV.
He wiped the rain from his eyes, leaning forward as though another few inches would correct what he saw. No light lorry or van sat on the tarmac, nothing large that would denote it was about to deliver kegs of beer. He stared at the car.
He sank back against the pub’s wall as the vehicle inched forward. Puddles on the road and in the small depressions of the ground threw back the brightness of the headlights’ beams, and he diverted his gaze. The SUV was close enough now that he could hear the roughness of the motor. Still, the driver didn’t park or leave the vehicle, and McLaren wondered if he had rung up someone on his mobile and was waiting either for an answer or for the employee’s appearance.
A fresh dumping of rain assaulted the area before the car eased past the pub. It waited until it inched past the stand of trees harboring McLaren’s car before it picked up speed and faded into the night.
McLaren stepped into the open, oblivious to the spruce boughs brushing against his back. He stared at his watch. One-twenty. Surely the delivery would’ve been made by now if it was going to happen. Had the driver who stopped in his car just now phoned to find out why no one was there? Was he told the delivery time or date had been changed and he should come back another time? Surely they hadn’t seen McLaren and called it off.

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About the Author
A month-long trip to England during her college years introduced Jo to the joys of Things British. Since then, she has been lured back nearly a dozen times and lived there during her professional folksinging stint.

Jo’s insistence for accuracy–from police methods and location layout to the general “feel” of the area–has driven her innumerable times to Derbyshire for research. These explorations and conferences with police friends provide the details filling both her Peak District mysteries and the McLaren mystery series.
In 1999 Jo returned to Webster University to major in English. She graduated in 2001 with a BA degree and departmental honors.
Her McLaren mystery, BLACK MOON, received the ‘N.N. Light Best Mystery Book’ award for 2019.
Jo lives with her cat, Tennyson, and way too many kilts in the St. Louis-area.
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RABT Book Tours & PR

#AudioBookBlogTour “Last Seen” by Jo A. Hiestand

Author: Jo A. Hiestand

Narrator: Tristan Kopta

Length: 7 hours 33 minutes

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Released: Oct. 23, 2019

Genre: Mystery

One dark night, popular singer Kent Harrison goes missing after his performance at Tutbury Castle. When his body’s found in a forest, the police investigation focuses on Kent’s ex-wife, a local herbalist, a covetous colleague, and even the curator of another castle who tried to lure Kent into performing there.

But his occasional singing partner, Dave Morley, seems to have the biggest motive. He’s dying to make his name, money, and the big time, especially at the medieval Minstrels Court reenactment, where Kent’s appearance guarantees standing room only. Did Dave murder Kent to eliminate the competition…or had their partnership struck a wrong chord?

To entice him into investigating, ex-cop McLaren’s girlfriend plays detective. But Dena ends up in great danger. Now, McLaren must not only solve Kent’s murder but also rescue her. A hard task when a web of jealousy, anger, and lies covers the trails.

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Jo A. Hiestand can usually be found at her computer, which is good, since she writes three mystery series. It seems a natural progression from her job as a graphic artist – crafting word images on a sheet of paper instead of creating graphics on the computer screen. Between the two computer stints, she lived in Britain for her semi-pro folk singing career and became friends with several English police detectives. The latter relationship was not a consequence of the former calling, however, but all these UK aspects find their way into her books. When not tapping on the keyboard, Jo enjoys reading, baking, and photography. She lives in the St Louis area with her cat, Tennyson, and way too many kilts.

WebsiteFacebookGoodreadsInstagram

  1. Mr. McLaren, I know you were a police detective with the Staffordshire Constabulary. What made you leave that job?
    A year ago a burglar broke into a pub that was owned by a 70-year old friend of mine. My friend hit the burglar with a fireplace poker in the process of defending his wife, himself and his job. The senior investigating police officer arrested my friend for assault, a charge that was obviously revenge and aimed at me for our personal differences. I was outraged at the arrest and threw the officer into a handy rose bush. When I was given the choice of taking a reduction in rank or resigning from the job, I left.
  2. Goodness! That was a life-changing decision. What do you do now?
    I repair and build dry stone walls in Derbyshire. I like the work because it’s solitary — that way, I don’t have to deal with people or their betrayals. Also gives me time to think.
  3. I understand you’ve solved some cold cases on your own, mostly murders. When did you get your private investigator’s license?
    I’m not a PI. I look into cold cases strictly as a private citizen. People I question have no obligation to answer my questions, but I find most of them are happy to assist me. When I need something official done, like arresting a suspect, I phone the Derbyshire Constabulary and they handle it.
  4. When you’re not busy with our stone wall job or investigating cold cases, what fills your time?
    I have a girlfriend, Dena, and I try to spend as much time with her as I can. We’re both busy, though–she volunteers at a tiger sanctuary and I of course have my two jobs. But I also play guitar and sing with my folk group. That’s strictly amateur stuff, however. We sing in a pub for drinks. I also like to cook and bake. My mum taught me while I was a kid–basic, simple British dishes. When I was on my own, I ventured into international cooking somewhat, but I still prefer making simple things like cider-baked potatoes, leek soup, and honeyed turkey. I think I like baking better than cooking, and I usually make something at least once a week. Things like scones or shortbread or a cottage loaf. Kneading bread is very relaxing.
  5. Cooking and baking are great ways to unwind, yes. Does Dena like to join you in the kitchen?
    Not really. I have her over for dinner about once a month, and she’s very content to let me do the whole meal! She says her culinary skill extends to opening a tin of soup and microwaving that, but I know she’s jesting. Dena’s involved in a lot of charity work and hasn’t the time or energy for cooking, although she can whip together a brilliant Lancashire Hot Pot when she really wants to.
  6. Had you always wanted to be in law enforcement?
    I think I became interested in my late teen years. My family lived in Scotland, in Auchtubh, north of Edinburgh, until I was two years old. My grandfather assumed my dad (his older son) would follow in the family tradition of overseeing the family business one day. My grandfather owns Strathearn Brewery. It’s been in existence for three hundred years. When my dad moved our family to Derbyshire, England to help out another branch of the family, we put down roots there. I grew up in the English environment and, since we weren’t involved in the running of the brewery, I became enamoured with law enforcement. I really don’t know how or why that evolved, but I loved the job and made some smashing friends.
  7. You mentioned your folk group. Tell me a bit about that.
    It’s a quartet: three lads and a lass. We do mainly British and American folk, mainly traditional things but we’ll sneak in a contemporary song or two at times. I play guitar. We took our group name, Woodstock Town, from one of the first songs we worked up, “Near Woodstock Town.” That was a smash hit when we performed it, probably because we had fewer wrong notes in that than in the others we sang.
  8. If you sing in a folk group, you must like music. Do you have any other type of music or group in particular as a favorite?
    Obviously, I like folk. But I like classic jazz and many Romantic and Baroque era pieces quite a lot. Things by Handel, Bach, Telemann are favorites, as are Grieg and Mendelssohn. I like Marian McPartland a lot too. I lean toward traditional folk, but if you want names of contemporary artists, I’d include the American a cappella group The Wee Heavies and the Scottish lads The McCalmans.
  9. Getting back to your cold case investigations… Have any cases been particularly difficult to solve, or have any of the victims touched your heart?
    I’d say the case I just finished was difficult emotionally for me. Dena, my girlfriend, had tried to get me interested in the case. She did a bit of amateur sleuthing so she could present me with some facts to entice me to investigate–her sleuthing was highly dangerous, by the way, and got her into grave danger. I had to rescue her and also solve the case.

 

 

 

Giveaway

Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card

Last Seen Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card

 

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