Monday, September 17, 2018

Monday's Mysterious Mayhem: Southernmost Murder by CS Poe

Aubrey Grant lives in the tropical paradise of Old Town, Key West, has a cute cottage, a sweet moped, and a great job managing the historical property of a former sea captain. With his soon-to-be-boyfriend, hotshot FBI agent Jun Tanaka, visiting for a little R&R, not even Aubrey’s narcolepsy can put a damper on their vacation plans.

But a skeleton in a closet of the Smith Family Historical Home throws a wrench into the works. Despite Aubrey and Jun’s attempts to enjoy some time together, the skeleton’s identity drags them into a mystery with origins over a century in the past. They uncover a tale of long-lost treasure, the pirate king it belonged to, and a modern-day murderer who will stop at nothing to find the hidden riches. If a killer on the loose isn’t enough to keep Aubrey out of the mess, it seems even the restless spirit of Captain Smith is warning him away.

The unlikely partnership of a special agent and historian may be exactly what it takes to crack this mystery wide-open and finally put an old Key West tragedy to rest. But while Aubrey tracks down the X that marks the spot, one wrong move could be his last.

FOR CURIOUS readers, Southernmost Murder takes place between the events of book two and three in the Snow & Winter series but can be read entirely as a standalone.

Aubrey Grant enjoys his job of managing the Smith Family Historical Home, property once belonging to former sea captain Thomas Smith.  Trying to finish up a few things before his vacation begins and his soon-to-be boyfriend FBI Agent Jun Tanaka arrives, Aubrey stumbles across a skeleton in a newly discovered closet.  Just as quickly as the skeleton is discovered it disappears.  Soon Aubrey and Jun find themselves in the middle of break-ins, possible theft, and murder.  Will their vacation ever happen or will the murderer claim more victims?  Who really was Captain Smith and is he still lurking within the walls of his former home?

Southernmost Murder was such a lovely surprise, not because I wasn't expecting a great story but because I wasn't expecting the story in the first place.  As I wrote in my reviews for CS Poe's Snow & Winter series, they had completely slipped by my reader radar well so did this one.  I only came across it as I was putting together my blog post for Snow & Winter and when I saw Sebastian Snow's friend Aubrey Grant was one of the two main characters I immediately "1-clicked".  Aubrey wasn't exactly featured in Snow & Winter, just the occasional phone or skype chat but enough to know he would make an interesting story of his own and low-and-behold here he was smack dab in the middle of his own little mystery.

I won't go into the mystery side of the story too much because as you all know "I don't do spoilers" but I will say I love the blend of historical and contemporary.  Like the series Southernmost is a spin-off(my label not the author's) of, Aubrey is what I lovingly call a history nerd so meshing the historical side of his job in Captain Smith's mystery with the contemporary  side of Aubrey and Jun's romance as well as the theft and murder they find at their door is perfectly done.  You can tell the author has a healthy respect for the past and little known facts which only heightens the enjoyment for me.

Something I failed to mention in my reviews for Snow & Winter was Seb's eye condition well Aubrey has his own health situation in that he is narcoleptic.  I'm not dumb or naive, I know these conditions hugely effect a person's life but I found it fascinating how the author showed the reader just how heavily it can impact everyday things that most of us take for granted and CS Poe does this entertainingly without making it seem like a school health class lesson.  Being able to make murder and mayhem fun and freaky takes talent and that is exactly what Aubrey and Jun's tale is: freaky, fun, and simply put purely entertaining.

As the author said at the end of the blurb, "Southernmost Murder takes place between the events of book two and three in the Snow & Winter series but can be read entirely as a standalone" and I heartily agree.  If you have read and loved Snow & Winter then you definitely want to check out Aubrey & Jun's tale of love and mystery.  The same goes for the flip side of the coin, if you loved Southernmost than go back and read Seb & Cal's journey in Snow & Winter. I just want to add that I hope this isn't the last we've seen of Aubrey and Jun because I think Aubrey has found a taste for crime solving just like his buddy Seb and I would love to ride along for whatever mystery falls at his feet.


PEOPLE USUALLY said to me, “Mr. Aubrey Grant, what a strange life you live.”

Which was a fairly accurate assessment.

I had once been held at gunpoint by an angry ex-wife (not mine, mind you) wielding a loaded elephant gun—long story. I’d punched a clown in the face—longer story. And I’d very briefly been part of a knife-throwing act in a traveling circus—this is unrelated to the clown. I’d seen and done enough in my thirty-eight years to not be all that shocked by what was often waiting around the corner.

Except for dead bodies.

I could positively say that I’d never expected, nor prepared myself to deal with, very dead people.

And not funeral dead.

I mean, skeleton-in-the-closet dead.

Like, a real skeleton.

I raised myself up on my elbows from where I’d fallen to the floor after screaming and tripping. I stared through the open doorway.

He… she? Our dearly departed was slumped forward, dangling out of a false wall I’d just now discovered, despite managing the historical property for two years. And it was only because the wallpaper was inaccurate for the time period and I was finally removing it.

I swallowed a few times and tried to get my breathing under control before I started hyperventilating. My entire body felt weak, and I dropped back to lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling. Freaking cataplexy. The involuntary loss of muscle control was a unique symptom of narcolepsy. It usually happened when I laughed a lot, but sometimes… yeah, nearly having the bejesus scared out of me could make it kick in.

The house was eerily silent after my scream. There must not have been any visitors inside, odd for March—the height of tourist season—although it was only a little after eight in the morning. The tour guide downstairs didn’t respond either, and I knew I screamed loud enough to rattle a window or two. Goddamn Herbert. He was probably asleep in one of the rocking chairs on the front porch.

I looked at the closet again.

Skelly had nothing to say about the situation.

Okay, everything’s cool. It’s just a dead dude. Or dudette. Or—fuck, it doesn’t matter.

I climbed to my feet again, then took a moment to steady myself before stepping toward the closet. Dust—over a hundred years’ worth—floated about in the morning light, finally disturbed when I’d found the hidden switch that threw the false wall open. I coughed and waved it away.

I couldn’t believe it. There was a skeleton hidden inside the Smith Family Historical Home in Old Town, Key West. Down here we were known for our gay pride, key lime pie, and the local authorities looking the other way when open containers came out to play on Duval, not whatever this was! I mean—fuck! Who was this? How’d they die? When did they die? Why were they inside my goddamn walls?

I’d spent the last two months on an intensive restoration project, which included testing the walls, to create a custom paint that would match the original color from 1853, the year chosen to represent the home. The out-of-place wallpaper in the closet, antique and beautiful as it was, was historically a no-no. I had no records of who placed it there, so unfortunately it had to go. And it figured. I did a little home improvement to satisfy the historian in me, and got a dead guy for my effort.

Like I said, I took what life gave without much gripe and a healthy dose of humor. But dead things? So not my field of preference. I couldn’t even handle the occasional roadkill without getting weird. This was the sort of bullshit an antiquing buddy of mine in New York got mixed up in, not me. I kept my nose clean and didn’t snoop into dead people anything, so I really didn’t appreciate this guy dropping into my life.

“Okay,” I said. “I need… to call someone. Like… police, probably. Good start.”


I spun on a heel and took off down the stairs like a bat out of hell.

I made a brief circuit through the second and ground floors to ensure it was completely empty before racing out the front. I yanked shut the heavy, solid wooden door and then closed the hurricane door behind it. I crouched down to lock it into place.

“Aubs?” Herb asked from his chair.

I looked sideways, catching him blinking sleep from his eyes. He was semiretired and worked as a part-time tour guide because, and I quote, “I’m bored and got nothing else to do but sit around and wait to die.” I stood and pocketed the ring of house keys. “There’s a skeleton in the third-floor closet.”

Herb pursed his lips, rubbed his thick, straight mustache, then said, “Okeydokey.”

I cocked my head to the side. “What?”

He waved his hand idly. “I know you have to leave early today, but if you were going to lock up thirty minutes after opening, why’d I bother dragging my ass here?”

I stared in disbelief for a minute. “Herb! There’s a dead guy in my storage closet!”

He settled back comfortably in his chair. “Are you drunk, Aubs?”

“No!” I shouted, maybe a bit louder than necessary.

“You’re more wound up than an old watch. Good thing that man of yours is flying in today. I swear, we’ve been saying it all month—you need a vacation.”

I felt like I was going to burst a blood vessel. I raised my hands, because even though I liked Herb, I was going to strangle him. “The house is closed off right now. I have to go make a phone call.”

“Uh-huh.” He shut his eyes and rocked the chair.

I jumped off the porch steps and raced through the gardens. That Wednesday was tropical-paradise perfect. Between the beach-going sunshine, balmy breeze, and vivid beauty of all the flowers in bloom, it was almost possible to forget about Skelly lounging around in the closet, making friends with the store-brand cleaning supplies.


A shiver of ick, yuck, ew, oh my God went up my spine, and I ran a little faster to a building that served as our ticket booth and gift shop. I entered through the back door and walked along the messy corridors created solely out of inventory because Adam Love, who manned the inside, was seemingly unable or unwilling to put anything away.

“No ticket sales today!” I said, rushing into the main room.

Adam startled and turned from the register to give me a look. He was a huge guy. Like, linebacker huge. A regular bull in a china shop, although to his credit, he’d yet to break a single tacky knickknack on the shelves. He was the newest hire, about four months ago now. And young—I think twenty-five at most. The kid had moved to the Keys to start an adventure. I wasn’t sure if Adam considered selling fifteen-dollar tickets to an old house particularly exciting, but hey, beggars couldn’t be choosers.

“Why not?” he asked.

“There’s a—long story. But no visits to the house, okay? Garden tours only.”

“Sure,” he slowly said.

I walked into the mess of the backroom and toward the nook that served as my office. The walls around my desk were merely boxes of holiday decorations, old stock we couldn’t move, and various antiques coming and going to the home. I sat in my chair, took some more deep breaths, then picked up the landline. This didn’t seem 911-worthy. Frankly, Skelly looked to have been there for a while. If he hadn’t been, we’d have all smelled a decaying body.

Once, I had a dead opossum in the walls of my apartment back in New York City. What the fuck an opossum was doing in Brooklyn, let alone in the walls of my apartment, I had no clue. But it reeked, and the super had to tear through the drywall to fish it out. So yeah, Skelly was old news. Still bad news that needed to be handled immediately, but not like he-might-still-be-breathing kind of priority.

I called the main number to the local police department instead. “Yes, hello. My name’s Aubrey Grant. I’m the property manager of the Smith Home on Whitehead Street. I have a rather unusual situation. … No, no. No drunks on our porch, but thank you for sending an officer last week.”

Tourists had a tendency to get trashed on Duval Street, get lost looking for their rental cottage or B&B in the middle of the night, and then end up passed out on my front steps. Such was life.

“There’s a very dead person inside my supply closet.”

“There’s a what?” Adam shouted.

I jumped and turned to see him hovering in the doorway, watching me with bug eyes. I shooed him, but he didn’t budge. “What’s that? … Yeah. A dead—yes. It’s a skeleton. I found it inside a false wall.”

“What the shit?” Adam asked.

I made a face at him. “Sorry?” I asked the person on the call. “I’m being interrupted by an employee, say that again?” I sighed and shook my head. “No ma’am, I am completely sober. Thank you for checking.”


“I don’t want to talk about it until the cops arrive,” I answered.

Adam had locked the gift shop and followed me out the back door after I’d finished the phone call and had collected myself in the bathroom. He ran ahead of me, put a firm hand on my chest, and stopped me like I’d just walked into a brick wall.

I referred to myself as fun size. Like the candy at Halloween. Adam was movie-theater size. And my supercool, not-exactly-boyfriend, who was arriving around 10:00 a.m. to visit me, fell somewhere around share-size candy.

I was fixated on candy.

I quit smoking a month ago. It was fucking killing me.

Anyway. I was five feet three when I didn’t slouch and probably weighed a hundred and twenty pounds soaking wet, so Adam had no trouble stopping me with a finger jab. Sometimes I wondered if me being his boss bothered him. He’s younger, sure, but I so don’t assume a managerial appearance. Adam dressed like—I don’t know how to describe it. Like a good boy. Me? I’m pushing forty and still wear dirty Chucks, skinny jeans, and at times, tastefully offensive T-shirts. My hair was bleached white, I wore zero-gauge plugs and a nose ring—but Key West. The number of people who care, I could count on one hand.

“Is there really a dead man in the home?” Adam asked, his voice a loud whisper.

I put my hands on my hips. “No, I’m just drumming up new publicity!” I whispered back.

Adam crossed his huge, beefy arms.

“Sorry, sorry. It really freaked me out. I don’t know whether to ask for a cigarette or a Valium.”

“You are pretty worked up,” he pointed out after a beat.

“Add a blowjob to my list of needs.”

“I can offer one of the three, but you’ll have to guess which.”

I shook my head and waved him off. “I’ve gone a full month without a cigarette. I don’t want to light up a few hours before Jun arrives.”

“I wasn’t offering a cigarette.” Adam smirked.

I laughed. “Watch it, dude.”

He stepped aside, no longer blocking my path. “A skeleton behind a false wall?”

I started walking toward the porch of the home. Herb was still passed out in his chair. “That’s right.”

“Was it old?”


Adam stopped walking. “I mean… did it have any… flesh?”

“No! That’s gross. It was old. All discolored and dusty.”

He glanced up, eyeing the third-floor windows. “Who the hell put him there?”

I shook my head. “No idea….”

“Think he was murdered?”

“Murdered?” I echoed, looking up at Adam. “Why would you assume that?”

“Someone went through the effort to hide the body,” he answered. “Who does that if the person died of natural causes?”

“I guess you have a point.” I caught Adam giving me a few nervous glances. “What?”

“I know it’s just local superstition—”

“No,” I interrupted. “Don’t say it.”

“But everyone says that the house is haunted!” Adam protested.

“No. Tess at Key Lime & Forever says that.” I motioned across the street at our dessert shop neighbor.

“Everyone does, Aubs,” Adam insisted. “All the locals say it’s Captain Smith.”

“Herb doesn’t,” I replied, pointing to the porch.

Adam rolled his eyes. “Herb also doesn’t believe in antibacterial soap.”

“Wait, what?”

“All I’m saying is—if ghosts were real, I’d have a reason to haunt this place, knowing my body was crammed into some wall for over a hundred years.”

“Adam,” I began, “I’ve been managing this home for two years. I spend more time here than I do in my own house. I can absolutely assure you that it’s not haunted.”

“You’re a cynical New Yorker—what else would you say?”

“I’m not cynical.”

“I’ve seen things,” Adam insisted. “Not here, but at my grandmother’s house. It was old. We’re talking Revolutionary War old. And sometimes, at night… I’d hear someone walking up and down the stairs in heavy boots. It was just the two of us there, and my grandma’s as big as you. No way she was clunking around like that. One time,” he continued, “I decided to get up and follow the sound.”

A breeze rustled the leaves of the sapodilla trees. A few fruits loosened and fell to the paved walkway with a splat. The morning chatter and the laughter of tourists were beginning to fill the streets just past our white picket fence, but it sounded… distant. Like a bubble had encased us.

“A man was standing in the living room,” Adam said. His face had gone pale, and he licked his lips. “He was just standing there, Aubs. With a musket over one shoulder and an old hat on his head. He turned and looked right at me, and clear as day, he said, ‘I’ve got to go fight.’”

I didn’t believe in ghosts.

And I didn’t believe Adam.

But we were fairly friendly at this point, and the guy was too sweet to lie, so his story left me… puzzled.

An unwelcome shiver crept up my spine.

“Mr. Grant?”

I jumped at the call of my name, and Adam grabbed my shoulder. The bubble around us burst, and the roar of a busy Key West morning invaded the garden. There was a plain-clothed officer standing outside the fence.

“Oh yes! That’s me. Thank you for coming.” I left Adam and hurried to unlock the gate and allow him into the garden.

“Detective Tillman. I was told there was a body on the property,” he said. He was a tall (well, everyone was, by my standards), lean guy. Brown hair, a light tan, and no features that really stood out. He wasn’t ugly or anything, just sort of someone who blended into a crowd. Except his eyes. They were sharp like broken glass. Definitely a cop, even in trousers and a button-down shirt.

“Believe me, if it had been closer to October, I’d have thought someone was pulling my leg. But this is very real.”

“Been around a lot of bodies, Mr. Grant?”

I raised an eyebrow. “I have enough understanding of human anatomy to know the difference between a plastic skeleton from Kmart and the real deal.”

Tillman’s mouth tightened.

Yeah, I could be sassy too, buddy.

“Mind showing me?”

I nodded and led the way up the porch steps. I unlocked both doors, ignored Herb’s snoring, and walked into the house. “It’s on the third floor,” I said, starting up the stairs.

“How exactly did you come upon it, Mr. Grant?” Tillman asked.

“Aubrey,” I insisted over my shoulder. “And I was getting ready to remove old wallpaper in the closet. I guess during the process I uncovered some sort of latch, the false wall gave way, and Skelly—uh, he or she came tumbling out.”

“Find many hiding places in this house?”

“Not exactly a regular habit, no.”

I led Tillman across the hall of the second floor and up another set of stairs. When we reached the landing of the third floor, I walked over to the closet.

The skeleton was gone.

Author Bio: 
C.S. Poe is a Lambda Literary and EPIC award finalist author of gay mystery, romance, and paranormal books.

She is a reluctant mover and has called many places home in her lifetime. C.S. has lived in New York City, Key West, and Ibaraki, Japan, to name a few. She misses the cleanliness, convenience, and limited-edition gachapon of Japan, but she was never very good at riding bikes to get around.

​She has an affinity for all things cute and colorful and a major weakness for toys. C.S. is an avid fan of coffee, reading, and cats. She’s rescued two cats—Milo and Kasper do their best on a daily basis to sidetrack her from work.

​C.S. is a member of the International Thriller Writers organization.

Her debut novel, The Mystery of Nevermore, was published by DSP Publications, 2016.



Book Blast: Unwrapping His Heart by Karrie George

Title: Unwrapping His Heart
Author: Karrie George
Series: Hearts on the Line #1
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: August 23, 2018
Publisher: Little Storm Press
Cover Design: Madelynne Ellis
Matt is sexy, single, and fabulous. His career at a fancy magazine is going from strength to strength. He has great friends, a nice flat, and a healthy bank account. Life is wonderful.

In truth, Matt is unhappy. Convinced he’s not worthy of love, he flits from club to bar, in search of temporary amnesia from the demon on his shoulder that tells him he’s never going to find “the one”. Which is ironic, because his heart already belongs to the one man he knows he can never have—his straight best friend, Zeke.

Zeke has always dated women. He can’t fathom why he’s so upset about Matt’s latest lover, the wildly successful and attractive Dieter, but refuses to accept that he’s jealous, because to do that, he might have to do some soul-searching of his own.

Meeting Dieter turns Matt’s ordered life on its head, and opens Matt’s mind to the possibility that he can make a meaningful connection. However, to take a gamble on love, Matt has to learn to trust people with his secrets. And, more importantly, to overcome his shame regarding the one part of him he refuses to change. If he can’t – or won’t – learn to love himself, it’s doubtful anyone else will see the real man behind the mask.

The only question is whether he’s brave enough.

The hairs on the back of his neck lifted; he was coming closer. The thick carpet muffled his steps, but Matt’s internal compass had apparently shifted and now only had one direction.

Sørensen didn’t speak as he approached, and Matt didn’t move from his position, concentrating furiously on a Porsche as it made several attempts to parallel park. Then his breathing hitched as a hand landed on his shoulder.

“I think you should call me Dieter.”

“Okay.” It was an effort to force the two syllables out. Still neither of them moved. The air between them crackled and Matt swallowed. He wasn’t imagining it now; Sørensen - Dieter- was interested. He raised his eyes a fraction and risked checking the reflection in the glass. Before he could process anything, he was suddenly moving, then his back was pressed against the window as a mouth came down on his and his vision blurred.

Dieter kissed without mercy, his lips hot and hard and insistent. Matt barely had time to register that he tasted of mint before a tongue demanded entry, forcing rather than coaxing, and any resistance he might have summoned crumbled under the assault. He moaned and his head fell back, at the same time as his hands rose to grip the lapels of Dieter’s suit jacket to tug him closer.

A hand grasped the back of his head and strong fingers raked through his hair. Matt responded by sliding his arms under Dieter’s jacket and clawing at the fine material of his shirt, desperate to find skin. Pulling back suddenly, Dieter tore off the offending jacket, letting it drop to the floor, then did the same with Matt’s leather one, before mashing their mouths together once more. He ground into Matt, every roll of his hips sparking nerve endings that screamed for release as the pressure grew.

Matt didn’t usually kiss much. Frantic gropes in the dark corners of clubs didn’t lend themselves to more than getting off as quickly as possible, and he wasn’t yet sure he was in the market for romance, but something about the way Dieter tried to consume him was addictive. He couldn’t get enough. Air wasn’t necessary; getting moreof everything, was. He realised he’d moaned again, and the noise evidently pleased Dieter. “Let me get you off,” he murmured, “are you close?”

Matt was close, tooclose. He turned his head suddenly, smacking it against the cool glass. Releasing his hold on Dieter, he pressed the heel of one hand against his groin, then used the other as a shield, palm up against Dieter’s chest. He could feel the galloping heartbeat under his fingers and the thought that Dieter was similarly affected pleased him.

“Gissa moment,” he choked out, willing his erection to subside enough to allow him to think.

To his credit Dieter didn’t crowd him, but his eyes were puzzled. “You don’t want to come?”

Matt laughed, a small, pained sound. “Yeah, but not in my clothes.”

Dieter smiled. “We can rectify that simply. But I think perhaps we are the same size. It would have been no trouble to lend you something. Come to bed with me, Matt.” He tipped forward and pressed their foreheads together gently, a direct contrast to his previous full-on attack. “You do want to?”

“Fuck, yeah. But not tonight.”


Because if we do that, you’ll think I’m a fucking weirdo and ditch me before we get as far as the bed. “You took me by surprise. Also, it’s not very professional if I’m going to be working for you.”

Author Bio:
Karrie George considers caffeine the most important food group. She’d like to think of herself as delightfully eccentric, but has grudgingly accepted that “socially awkward weirdo” is nearer the mark. Books and music have been the backdrop to her life so far, and she sees no reason for this to ever change.

Karrie lives in the wilds of Scotland with a long-suffering spouse and several children. The voices in her head are great at encouraging her to leave the dust bunnies in favour of playing with plot bunnies. Possibly unrelated, she owns a number of pristine dusters.



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