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I love Halloween.

And by that I mean, of course, I love the excuse to buy giant bags of candy bars, and not in those little wuss sizes either. Cause I’m ALL about the kids.

Trick?

Only… I’m just not sure I have enough chocolate for every kilt and child on our little Scottish island. So whilst (you get to say whilst here) my fine wee doggie and I are off buying more Hershey and Nestle Cadbury, I’ll post a Halloween excerpt from my latest book. (Clearly, I haven’t gotten any better at this whole mothering thing in the interim…)

Or Treat?

Good news! If you’re looking for a quick and terrific Halloween read, I recommend Kassandra Lamb’s cozy mystery, The Legend of Sleepy Mayfair. (My review follows below.)

[Halloween excerpt from Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies]

◆◆◆

I used to be a good mother.

Before the birth of my first child,  I read thirty-seven instruction manuals warning of her possible future as an ax-murderer or Republican if I failed to diaper, dress, or dose her with natural fibers. I followed their instructions until that fateful day early in her second year when my husband took her into Chez Mac’s to escape the rain. By the time I got there, it was too late. He bought her an ice-cream cone and she was having a spiritual experience. Through the chocolate, I could see her thinking, “This stuff was out there and I’ve been eating yams?”

It was all downhill from there. Of course, I tried to keep up appearances. But the problem was that although my kids hadn’t read my Raising-the-Macrobiotic-Whole-Child manuals, each of them carefully studied the cultural treatises known as commercial advertising. Results?

While I bought whole grain flours to bake macrobiotic breads so dense they weighed more than bricks and doubled very usefully as doorstops, my children insisted on eating only store-bought white bread. (In national taste-tests, consumers preferred Kleenex™.)

While I bought natural fiber fabrics to sew their nonsexist playwear, my daughters insisted on wearing their girl-colored Better-Living-Through-Chemistry dresses to their tea parties, and my son refused to appear without his plastic superhero cape.

While I bought developmental, non-gender-specific playthings, my daughters held fashion shows for the stuffed toys and dolls, and their brother built the blocks and Legos into weapons of mass doll-destruction.

I asked myself, “If my children are fed, dressed, and entertained by a bunch of men on Madison Avenue, how come none of those guys are ever around when a table, toilet, or tush needs to be swabbed?” 

Mothering tip: talking to yourself is a common side-effect of motherhood. Generally speaking, bystanders will be more comfortable if you buy a small dog and pretend to address all comments to it while in public. (You should be concerned, though, when you start getting answers.)

Luckily, there are two occasions in our child’s year where the compulsive guilt-driven mother gets the chance to really go all out: birthdays and Halloween. For example, angst-Mom will spend several months and the better part of her life savings on birthday activities which her child’s guests complete in two and a half minutes, ignore, or throw up on.

On Halloween, angst-Mom (who refuses to spend $15 on a cheap plastic Miss America or armed turtle costume) will cheerfully spend the week’s food budget on fabric and sew non-stop for days to create adorable little animal costumes.

What Mom spent weeks sewing

What actually went out trick-or-treating.

As a maternal veteran of ten Halloweens and seventy-six costumes [each of the four kids has at least two costumes per year–the adorable one I create and the one they actually wear], I would like to offer the following Halloween tips:

You can justify spending a small fortune on the costume by telling yourself that your child or your child’s sibling will wear it next year. (This will be easy for most women, who have at the back of their closets a number of bridesmaids dresses which they were supposed to “cut off and wear to parties later.” That will happen in the same fantasy where those animal costumes get re-worn.)

If you have been attempting to raise an egalitarian, non-sexist child using any means other than extensive genetic engineering, Halloween is the time to admit total defeat. I was driving a group of eight and nine-year-olds on a field trip before Halloween and asked about their costume plans. “I’m going to be a fairy/butterfly/princess,” said the girls. “I’m going to be a ninja carrying a star with blood and guts and an eyeball on it/ a guy escaped from a toxic waste dump after all his skin is peeled off/ zombie,” said the boys.

Five minutes before the school Halloween parade when your kids refuse to be caught dead in the little animal costumes, you can make a great ninja-turtle-shell with a garbage can lid, and your best silk bathrobe will do for Miss America.

When good costumes go bad

Now for your Halloween treat—a new cozy mystery by one of my favorite writers!


The Legend of Sleepy Mayfair, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Cozy Mystery by Kassandra Lamb

 

Click on image for preview, reviews, and buy links from Amazon

A Halloween romp that turns seriously scary!

Her adopted town is once again driving service dog trainer Marcia Banks a little nuts! No sooner has she moved her horse into the new
Mayfair Riding Stable than its octogenarian, muumuu-wearing owner
decides to turn the barn into a haunted house for Halloween.

Meanwhile, an anonymous prankster is haunting Mayfair, disrupting its small-town tranquility, and the local postmistress has a strange
request for Marcia. All this, along with her new role of godmother to
adorable twins, is a bit overwhelming.

But it’s nothing compared to what’s coming. As Halloween approaches, the evil lurking in the shadows will threaten what is most precious to Marcia and her beloved town.


My Review: 4 stars out of 5

In her books, Kassandra Lamb uses her background as a psychotherapist—both in private practice and as a university professor—to give layers and depth to her character-driven stories. One of her most effective tools is her use of book series, in which her characters grow, interact, and change, usually while dodging murderers, of course.

Kassandra Lamb is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer who now spends most of her time in an alternate universe with her characters. The portal to that universe (i.e., her computer) is located in northern Florida where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.
She’s the author of the Kate Huntington mysteries, the Kate on Vacation novellas and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries. She has also written a short guidebook for new authors, Someday Is Here! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing and Publishing Your First Book.

In Halloween-themed Book 6 of her Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mystery series, adorable and hard working service dogs, best dog-pal Buddy, and crime-solving trainer Marcia—that’s “Mar-SEE-a” and never “Mar-sha”—face several challenges at once. First there’s the rash of vandalism plaguing Marcia’s neighbors, an escalating spree that moves from annoying to dangerous when pets and then people are threatened.

Then there’s Marcia’s own evolving relationship with police detective Will, her sexy (if long-suffering) boyfriend. Despite the ongoing construction projects linking their two houses as they now officially live together, Marcia’s issues around committing to a future that includes marriage and children makes her stumble on relationship phrases from “our” house to the big “I love you.”

But these issues are sidelined by her friends’ problems. For a community fundraiser, the owner of the barn where Marcia plans to keep her beloved new horse decides to turn it into a Halloween haunted house. But the barn is the target of repeated acts of vandalism, escalating to threats to both animals and people.

Another Mayfield resident asks for Marcia’s help to look into the background of a young man she introduces as her nephew. And Marcia’s best friend Becky comes to her for protection from an unknown stalker making racially-based threats against Becky and her young family.

Slowly Marcia and her neighbors face the fact that someone they see every day may be threatening their families, homes, and lives. When vandalism turns to violence, Marcia and her adopted little town must face the threats and emotions hidden by their everyday lives.

But while the story explores relationships and how they affect the characters, it does so with humor and understanding, projecting the affection and years of history that have defined those relationships. Take Marcia’s running conversation with her internal alter ego, Ms. Snark.

Will has the patience of Job. My mother’s cryptic voice.

Beyond Job, Ms. Snark commented.

I rolled my eyes, just as Jess approached with a steaming plate. She wrinkled her brow at me.

Crapola. Now my inner voices were getting me funny looks.

Author Lamb also lets the reader gradually become aware of the dark side of some of those relationships, and especially as it becomes increasingly clear that the villain is living among them.

While Marcia and her friends cope with the growing horror of realizing that someone in their midst wouldn’t hesitate to harm friends and neighbors, she realizes they are dealing with someone who is very clever at lying and manipulation, who doesn’t respect rights or regulations, and who shows no remorse or guilt while projecting a completely different image—the very definition of a sociopath or psychopath.

What’s the difference? According to Chris Weller on Medical Daily,

Both tend to be charming, despite being unable to empathize normally with others. They offer convincing systems of fear and disgust, but tend to lack both. Here’s the crux, though: Psychopaths cross the line. Sociopaths may hole up in their houses and remove themselves from society, while a psychopath is busy in his basement rigging shackles to his furnace.

Psychopaths can be charming and witty, they can mimic social and emotional ties they are actually incapable of feeling, but most of all, they are careful, meticulous planners. Of course, what they are planning often involves self-gratification via unspeakable acts of violence and cruelty.

Not your usual cozy mystery: no cupcakes, knitting, inquisitive old ladies, or cats. But there are smart dogs, adorable miniature horses, and the odd alligator!

They don’t have a moral compass, but they know how to project one. This lack of the ability to separate right from wrong makes them fearless. Some real life examples include serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, and Ted Bundy. Historical figures would include Adolf Hitler, Ivan the Terrible, and the Spanish Inquisition’s Tomás de Torquemada. In popular culture, they might include TV’s Dexter, or Hollywood’s American Psycho.

Normally, psychopaths don’t make for great villains—unless you have no idea they are out there or who they are. And that’s where Kassandra Lamb excels. In Marcia’s adopted small town of Mayfair, where ties go back generations, we start to wonder about every character and whether their facade is hiding a monster.

This is a slightly darker, edgier, less “cozy” mystery, but that definitely makes it appropriate for Halloween. I loved the way Marcia had to overcome so many obstacles, shedding both internal and external stumbling blocks, to find solutions to so many problems. This is definitely a great addition to a terrific series!

*I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*


  • Book Title: The Legend of Sleepy Mayfair, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Cozy Mystery
  • Author: Kassandra Lamb
  • Genre: Cozy Mystery
  • Publisher: misterio press LLC (9 Oct. 2018)
  • Length: 179 pages

Contact and Buy Links:

Connect with Kassandra Lamb online, visit her blog, or catch up with her on Facebook.

AMAZON | KOBO | NOOK

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