by L.C. LoTempio
Nora Charles doesn’t believe in fate, even if she is a crime reporter who shares a name with a character from The Thin Man. In fact, she’s moving back to Cruz, California, to have a quieter life. But after finding an online magazine eager for material, and a stray cat named Nick with a talent for detection, Nora’s not just reporting crimes again. She’s uncovering them… Back in her hometown, Nora reconnects with old friends and makes some new ones, like Nick, the charming feline who seems determined to be her cat. But not everything about Cruz is friendly. Writing for a local online magazine, Nora investigates the curious death of socialite Lola Grainger. Though it was deemed an accident, Nora suspects foul play. And it seems that her cat does too. Apparently, Nick used to belong to a P.I. who disappeared while investigating Lola Grainger’s death. The coincidence is spooky, but not as spooky as the clues Nick spells out for her with Scrabble letters—clues that lead her down an increasingly dangerous path. Whether fate put her on this case or not, solving it will take all of Nora’s wits, and maybe a few of Nick’s nine lives.
While Toni Lotempio does not commit – or solve – murders in real life, she has no trouble doing it on paper. Her lifelong love of mysteries began early on when she was introduced to her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 10 – The Secret in the Old Attic. She lists among her favorite mystery/suspense writers Erle Stanley Gardner, Mary Higgins Clark and James Patterson, as well as EJ Copperman, Steve Hockensmith, Victoria Laurie, Ali Brandon, Rita Mae Brown, Miranda James and Sofie Kelly to name only a few! Toni is also passionate about her love for animals, as demonstrated with her four cats: Trixie, Princess, Maxx and, of course, ROCCO, who not only provided the inspiration for the character of Nick the cat in the Nick and Nora mystery series, but who also writes his own blog and does charity work for Nathan Fillion’s charity, Kids Need to Read! Toni’s also devoted to miniseries like The Thorn Birds, Dancing with the Stars, reruns of Murder She Wrote and Castle (of course!). She (and ROCCO, albeit he’s uncredited) pen the Nick and Nora mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime – the first volume, MEOW IF ITS MURDER, debuts Dec. 2, 2014. She, Rocco and company make their home in Clifton, New Jersey, just twenty minutes from the Big Apple – New York.
My friend cut me an eyeroll, a sure indication she thought I was full of, as the French would say, merde. “The only other thing she saw was that this mission had to do with something that was switched.” I wrinkled my nose. “Something switched? Like what? That’s not much of a clue.” Chantal shrugged. “What can I say? Sometimes the images come over a bit…clouded, shall we say? We have to interpret them the best we can.” She hunkered over the pile of cards before her and flipped over the one closest to her. “Well, well,” she murmured. “On a much better note, it looks like there is love in your future, chérie.” I let out a squeal and gave her arm a playful punch. “So now you’re reading my cards? Please don’t. I do so hate when you do that.” “That is because you do not open yourself up to the universe.” “I wouldn’t say that. I’m very open. Just not to portents and omens.” She shook her curls. “You are practical to a fault. Just once I’d like to see you let yourself go – believe in the unbelievable. The world is a wonderous place, if you only open yourself up to all the possibilities.” I hesitated, and then shrugged. “Oh, what the hell. Hit me.” She plucked a second card from the pile. “The King of Swords crosses your card,” she said. “That means a dark handsome stranger will shortly enter your life and sweep you off your feet.” I rolled my eyes. “You can tell that from one card?” “Not just from the card – the vibe. And this is a strong vibe, very strong indeed.” Uh-huh. I’d heard all this before from my friend, in many ways, shapes and forms, and a handsome stranger, dark or otherwise, had yet to make an appearance in my life. “Well, when he shows up you’ll be the first to know. I’m not holding my breath.” Chantal glanced at the clock on the wall and jumped up. “Oh zut – I am late for my shift at the flower shop. Remy will kill me.” She swept her tarot cards into their velvet pouch, tucked them inside her tote, and ambled toward the front door. Her French accent slipped a bit as she said, “Try not to work too hard, willya? You’ve been looking a little peaked lately.” She opened the front door and stopped still. “Well, well,” she murmured, accent back in full force as she shot a swift glance over one shoulder. “Come quickly, chérie. This will teach you to have more faith in my predictions. There is a dark, handsome stranger out here who wants to see you.” “You’re kidding.” I moved forward and looked over Chantal’s shoulder. The street outside was deserted. I cocked a brow at my friend. “There’s no one here.” Her tongue clucked against the roof of her mouth. “You are not looking in the right place.” Chantal pointed down. I followed her finger and beheld her dark, handsome stranger. A stocky, black-and-white cat.
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