Saturday 9 December 2023

Murder by Christmas by Lesley Cookman (guest post)

Christmas crime fiction


Murder by Christmas

The twisting twenty-fifth instalment of Lesley Cookman's much-loved Libby Sarjeant series

Libby Sarjeant is deep into rehearsals for the annual pantomime when a body is found in a doorway two weeks before Christmas - and Libby and her friend Fran are called into action once again, when their investigation leads them to a local brewery and the sale of many of its pubs.

With the help of a team of local publicans, can Libby and Fran unravel the case before it's too late?

Purchase Link -

Author Bio – Lesley started writing almost as soon as she could read, and filled many Woolworth's exercise books with pony stories until she was old enough to go out with boys. Since she's been grown up, following a varied career as a model, air stewardess and disc jockey, she's written short fiction and features for a variety of magazines, achieved an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Wales, taught writing for both Kent Adult Education and the WEA and edited the first Sexy Shorts collection of short stories, in aid of the Breast Cancer Campaign. Lesley is a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers' Association.

Lesley has also written pantomimes performed all over Britain, and published a book on how to do it!

Learn more about Lesley by visiting her blog.

Christmas crime fiction


Social Media Links –

Chez Maximka, Christmas crime fiction

I'm delighted to invite Lesley Cookman to share her views on how to write a good murder mystery.

How To Plan A Murder


When I was a child, my parents let me loose on their bookshelves and I devoured all their Golden Age Mystery novels. There wasn’t much differentiation between genres in those days, and they were just novels – and I loved them. So when I grew up – which is debatable  - I decided to write them. When I thought about it in a vague way before I morphed into a crime writer, I assumed you would start with the murder and work backwards. Now I know it isn’t as simple as that.


There are no rules for crime writing. If you write in a specific sub-genre: thriller, medical, psychological, police procedural or cosy (like me) there are lines over which you do not cross, but little is hard and fast. What are incontrovertible facts are – if you are writing a “puzzle” story, remember to insert unobtrusive clues from fairly early on. If the police are involved, get the details of an official investigation right. Those are self evident, of course, and everything else is exactly the same as any other novel – do your research, don’t let the story get away from you, create good characters. Unless it’s an integral part of the story don’t let an unfolding romance send your protaganist (s) off the rails. Romantic suspense is different – but there, the romance is an integral part of the story – think Mary Stewart.


So, here are a few wise words for the new crime writer. Don’t start with a dream or a flashback (although I think I have...) and Don’t Start Bland! [sic]. Don’t start the story too soon. Don’t forget that a mystery, or crime novel, is plot driven but the plot is driven by the characters. Depending on what sub-genre you have decided on, there should be at least one murder. The great Carter Dickson got away without one occasionally, but lesser mortals should stick to the rules. Make sure the murderer appears early in the story. If he, she or it doesn’t appear until late on in the book, the reader is likely to feel cheated.


If the detective/problem solver is to be the main protaganist, make sure they also appear early and unless they are official, give them a definite reason for getting involved. If they are a suspect in the main crime, the reason for getting involved is obvious – they must clear their name – but otherwise, don’t make them a suspect! However, introduce at least one suspect by the end of the second chapter, and make sure there are several VIABLE suspects by the end of the book. Not just people you’ve stuck in to make up the numbers.


The actual plot – my original idea of starting with the murder and working backwards is actually quite a good one, taken from the murderer’s point of view. A needs to kill B. Set that up and watch A cover his/her tracks. Then, with a bit of luck and careful concentration, you can go back and unpick it. This, of course, would be the ideal method, and I’m sure if I did this every time my life would be easier.


The other wise words are no different from those given to any writer, crime or otherwise, as I’ve already said. And here are my final exhortations: DON’T DO WHAT I DO.

In the first Libby Sarjeant I was told at the end that the murderer wouldn’t do, and could I put in a new character.  I did. With two weeks to go.

We have got stuck with the “Murder” titles. So whatever story I decide on has to have a suitable title. And frequently I then have to fit the story round the title. This is NOT a good idea.

Don’t have a brilliant idea for a title with a bit of a story wafting round the edges, tell your publisher and then get stuck with it. Most of my books are written out of desperation.


Actually, of course, a good murder mystery is both satisfying to read and to write. It can be bent into all sorts of shapes by all sorts of people. After all – look at me!

Wednesday 6 December 2023

November Degustabox

  Degustabox is a monthly food and drink subscription box. It's an excellent way of discovering new products which have only just appeared in the shops, or those which have been around for a while, but you haven't had a chance to try them yet.

Thanks to Degustabox, I have found new favourites to add to our shopping list, including some products which I otherwise wouldn't have tried.

Each time a monthly box arrives, its contents are a total surprise. You get a good selection of foods and drinks.

If you haven't tried Degustabox subscription box yet, and would like to have a go, I have a £3off discount from your first box (and you can unsubscribe any time), just use code DKRLN when placing an order. 

What did we get in November Degustabox box?

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Terry's Chocolate Mint (£1.50) is the Product of the Month. This is the minty version of the much loved classic, so festive and moreish. I might buy another one for festive brownies.

This delicious mint-flavoured chocolate is made with milk chocolate and natural mint. 

You know what to do, tap it, whack it and enjoy!

Nutritional values: 164kcal and 18g of sugar per 4 segments.

Available in the major supermarket chains.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

I was pleased to see a little bag of Love Corn BBQ Crunchy Corn Snack, as it's one of my favourite snacks. You might receive a Sea Salt or BBQ flavoured corn as a free gift in the latest Degustabox.

Whole corn kernels are roasted off the hob to make a delicious crunchy snack. The BBQ corn is covered in smokin' spices and has just the right amount of saltiness for a satisfying savoury treat.

A small bag contains 178 kcal and 0.2g of salt. Gluten free.

Other sizes are available in major retailers, like Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose, ASDA, Boots and WHSmith. 

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Forest Feast Salted Dark Chocolate Almonds (£1.50) is another scrumptious snack. Tasty almonds are coated in mouth-watering dark chocolate, with a sprinkling of salt and a dusting of cocoa.

Available in both on-the-go 40g packs and 120g share pack (though I can easily eat a sharing pack all by myself).

Gluten free and vegan.

Typical values: 566kcal, 28.1g of sugar and 0.72g of salt per 100g.

Available at Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Ocado, Amazon and Fine Food independents.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

PhD Nutrition Smart Bar (£1.50/half size, see above) is just right for the on-the-go snack. With 10g of quality protein and 1.1g of sugar, this mighty little snack, contains a soft protein centre, encased in a gooey caramel with protein crispies.

I didn't even notice when this snack has disappeared from the box, but someone must have enjoyed it in the family. 

Available at

SlooOW Stone Oven Baguette White (£1.60) is an organic wheat baguette, partially baked and made with the best and 100% natural ingredients. The bread dough is given more than 24 hours to rise, to later becme a very tasty crusty bread.

Bake it in the oven for 12 minutes for a crispy crust. We've tried this bread earlier this year for the first time, from one of the summer boxes, and it is truly tasty. Great for bruschetta, with tomatoes, basil and olive oil, or make hot mini sandwiches with it, with lots of grated cheese.

Nutritional values: 263kcal and 0.95g of salt per 100g. 

Available at Tesco and Co-Op.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Nissin Demae Ramen Chicken or Tonkotsu Pork (£0.65) is a Japanese-style ramen, which allows you to prepare a variety of restaurant-quality ramen dishes.

You should receive 1 item in your box. We got the Chicken flavour ramen. Add some green beans, pickled ginger, a dash of soy sauce, and whatever else you fancy, perhaps bamboo shoots, sprinkle sesame seeds, or seaweed flakes.

Typical nutritional values: 91kcal and 1.1g of salt per 100g prepared product.

Available in the major supermarket chains.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Knorr Vegetable Stock Pot (£1.90) is one of my kitchen pantry essentials. Whenever I cook soup, or a casserole, I reach for one of these stock pots. They add a lovely flavour, and you can choose whether to dissolve it in hot water first, or add to the saucepan directly.

Slowly simmered with garden vegetables, these pots are gluten free, have no added MSG, artificial colours or preservatives.

Nutritional values: 8kcal and 1g of salt per 125ml.

Available in all major supermarket chains.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Kühne Gourmet Gherkins with Herbs (£3.55) are traditional German pickles. These delightful little gherkins have a lovely dill flavour. Excellent with cold meats and a cheese platter, or just as a sneaky treat straight from the jar in the fridge.

Crunchy and flavourful, these pickles deserve the Winner of a Great Taste Award.

Also available with honey or chilli.

You can find them in Waitrose and Ocado.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Heinz Spicy Parsnip Soup (£1.70) is a low sugar, low fat vegetarian soup. Sweet parsnips are gently cooked with carrots, onions, as well as warming spices, like chilli and red pepper.

Soups are made for cold weather, and this parsnip soup will be a comforting meal after a long walk in the cold.

Nutritional values: 74kcal and 4.9g of sugar per 1/2 can.

Available at Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Iceland, ASDA and Ocado.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Plantastic Creamy Pasta Sauce Tomato & Chargrilled Pepper (£2.80) is a plant-based pasta sauce. The ingredients include tomato, smoky chargrilled peppers, herbs and spices, plus coconut milk.

Nutritional information: 147kcal and 0.96g of salt per 175g portion. Source of protein and fibre, no artificial colours or flavours, 1 of your 5 a day.

Simply cook your pasta of choice, stir in the heated sauce, and add the grated cheese (whether dairy/vegetarian or vegan).

Also available in Spicy Cajun Tomato and Caramelised Onion & Sweet Potato.

Available at Morrisons and Tesco.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Kellogg's Rice Krispies Multigrain Honey 350g (£3) is a popular cereal. This breakfast meal contains no artificial colours or flavours.

And if you are not a morning cereal person, how about making some lovely treats, like rice krispie cakes with golden syrup, and chocolate?

Available in the major supermarket chains.

Degustabox food box, Chez Maximka

Double Dutch Lemon (£1.20) is a carbonated lemon flavoured soft drink. Its combination of lemon, lime and quassia makes a great base for a cocktail with vodka or a citrus-flavoured gin. 

It is like a sip of summer in winter.

Available in the major supermarket chains.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

There will be one last box of the year delivered soon, and in the meantime we're enjoying opening the doors of the huge Degustabox advent calendar. 

What is your favourite product from the November box?

Friday 1 December 2023

Spread: Tales of Deadly Flora, edited by R.A.Clarke (book excerpt)


horror fiction

Spread: Tales of Deadly Flora

Green thumbs beware. Plants are beautiful, peaceful, abundant, and life-sustaining. But what if something sinister took root in the soil, awakening to unleash slashing thorns, squeezing vines, or haunting greenery that lured you in? Perhaps blooms on distant planets could claim your heart, hitch a ride to Earth on a meteor, or simply poison you with their essence. Imagine a world where scientists produced our own demise in a lab, set spores free to infect, even bred ferns to be our friends only to witness the privilege perverted. When faced with botanical terror, will humanity fight to survive, or will they curl and wither like leaves in the fall? Read ten speculative tales ripe with dangerous flora to find out.

Purchase Link -

Social Media Links – Website:

Instagram & Twitter: @pageturnpress


writer of horror stories

An excerpt from Spread: Tales of Deadly Flora (Page Turn Press).

Plant Friends by Jen Mierisch. A pair of well-meaning scientists develop a ground-breaking plant to be a friend for lonely people around the world. But nothing ever goes to plan, does it?


April tossed her coat onto a chair, flopped onto her couch, and sighed out the stress of three interminable meetings, two train commutes, and one micromanaging boss. She kicked off her high heels, extended one bare toe, and rubbed the lowest leaf of her Plant Friend, whose pot sat next to the couch.

The leaf wound itself around April’s foot and gently squeezed. “Ahhh,” sighed April, sinking into the cushions. “That’s the stuff.” She wiggled her toe against the leaf, and it squeezed again, massaging the soreness away.

She sat forward a bit and nudged an upper leaf with her elbow. It extended itself across her upper back and kneaded her shoulders. Grip and release, grip and release. “You’re the best, Boo,” April told it.

The people who sold April the plant had mentioned that it would adapt itself to her and might begin to anticipate her requests. A natural element of its design, they’d said. The mechanism, of course, was a trade secret, but the people in the online Plant Friend forums theorized that it had to do with plant estrogens.

April picked up a leaf and kissed it. “Boo,” she said, “you were worth every penny.”

She tucked her throw blanket around her legs and flipped on Disney Plus. A nice cartoon would be a way to forget the day.

The beginning of Up was cute and funny. Then came the montage of Carl and Ellie’s life together, ending in poignant loss and never-realized dreams. April watched, devastated, tears dripping onto her dress. A leaf snaked its way around her shoulders in a comforting embrace.

April’s cell phone rang. Eyes glued to the TV, she fumbled with the device, saw an unknown number on the display, and rejected the call.

A minute later, the phone pinged with a text message.

Hey. I think you left something at the café this morning.

April sat bolt upright, seized the phone, and stared.

That morning, she had ordered her usual hazelnut latte, plus a breakfast sandwich, then lingered at a table in the bookstore’s café. When Thanh left the counter with a spray bottle and a rag, April had stood to leave. Beneath her empty plate, she’d tucked her business card, on the back of which she’d written her cell phone number.

She paused the movie, found the number in her call history, and smashed the callback button.

He answered after the first ring. “Well, hello there, Hazelnut Latte.”


“Can I call you Hazel?”

The plant stood at attention as April leaped from the couch and paced the living room, talking animatedly. Its leaves seemed to rise a bit taller, invigorated by the kinetic energy of her motion and laughter.

When April hung up the call, she immediately dialed again. “Devora! Guess who just called me!”

Still talking, April walked into the kitchen, disappearing around the doorframe. The plant’s leaves drooped a bit, like the jowls of a bloodhound.


horror stories

The Silent House of Sleep by Allan Gaw (book extract)

police procedural thriller


The Silent House of Sleep

‘No one likes death. It just happens to be our business.’

Nobody who meets Dr Jack Cuthbert forgets him. Tall, urbane, brilliant but damaged, this Scottish pathologist who works with Scotland Yard is the best the new DCI has seen. But Cuthbert is a man who lives with secrets, and he still battles demons brought back from the trenches.

When not one but two corpses are discovered in a London park in 1929, Cuthbert must use every tool at his disposal to solve the mystery of their deaths. In the end, the horrifying truth is more shocking than even he could have imagined.

As he works the case, Cuthbert realises that history rarely stays in the past. And even in the final moments, there is still one last revelation that leaves him reeling.

Purchase Links

Author Bio –

Allan Gaw is a Scot who lives and works near Glasgow. He studied medicine and is a pathologist by training but a writer by inclination. Having worked in the NHS and universities in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and the US, he now devotes his time to writing.

 Most of his published work to date is non-fiction. These include textbooks and regular magazine articles on topics as diverse as the thalidomide story, the medical challenges of space travel and the medico-legal consequences of the Hillsborough disaster.

 More recently, he has been writing short stories, novels and poetry. He has won the UK Classical Association Creative Writing Competition, the International Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize, the International Globe Soup 7-day Writing Challenge and was runner-up in the Glencairn Glass/Bloody Scotland Short Crime Fiction Competition. He has also had prose published in the literary journal, From Glasgow to Saturn and anthologies from the Edinburgh Literary Salon and Clan Destine Press in Australia. His poetry has been published by Dreich, Soor Ploom Press and Black Bough Poetry. His debut poetry collection, Love & Other Diseases, was published in 2023 by Seahorse Publications.  


The Silent House of Sleep is his debut novel and is the first in the Dr Jack Cuthbert Mystery series


You can read more about him and his work at his website: .


Social Media Links 

Twitter (X):


psychological thriller

The Silent House of Sleep


Allan Gaw




In this extract from the opening chapter of the novel, the protagonist, the Scottish pathologist Dr Jack Cuthbert, has just completed giving his expert testimony at the Old Bailey.  On the witness stand, he has been assured and in complete command of the situation.  Now, on his way home, we see a very different side to him.



London: December 1928

‘Dr Cuthbert, thank you for your testimony. You may stand down.’

With that, the reporters in the courtroom were readying themselves for a swift conclusion to the trial. One or two were already reaching over the rail, trying to pass notes to Mrs Everett’s lawyer in order to secure an exclusive interview with her when she was released. The lawyer read these and scrunched them up, scowling at the press benches as he did so.

Cuthbert did not stay in the courtroom to hear the outcome, for that was not what interested him. He regarded his task as one of examining the evidence in order to provide the truth of the matter. This was a truth that would only reveal itself through logical enquiry of the circumstances, careful evaluation of the physical evidence and detailed analysis of the human remains. When he delivered this truth, it was up to others to use it appropriately.


He left the Old Bailey and as it was already almost five o’clock, he chose to walk back to his home in Bloomsbury rather than return to the hospital. The late afternoon air was cold and damp, and the pavements of London were still wet with the melting slush from the previous week’s snowfall.

Cuthbert trod carefully to avoid the worst of it, but as he turned on to Fleet Street, there were large, dirty puddles of melting ice everywhere. He cursed his decision to walk. His boots, normally black and polished to the highest of shines, were already wet and dull. He shook his head in irritation, and before their condition affected him any further, he hailed a cab.

It would only be a short journey to Gordon Square and Cuthbert spent it bent over, trying to polish the worst of the slush away. However, the damp, dirty stains on his boots were refusing to yield to his handkerchief. He rubbed all the more, almost scratching the leather as his force became frantic.

Suddenly, he was caught by the bitter cordite burning his throat. He tried to swallow to rid himself of it, but his mouth was dry and his tongue was rough. His heart began to thump in his chest. The colour drained from his face. It was starting again. Taking great gulps of air, he shook his head from side to side, vainly trying to clear his mind of the noise and the gunfire. He flinched and cowered on the seat of the cab at the monumental thuds of the exploding shells all around him. The cab driver was watching him in the rear-view mirror. His fare was sweating and shaking. He had seen it before but never in a gentleman like this.

‘All right, guv’nor?’

Cuthbert could not speak to reply. He just gripped his briefcase close to his chest, trying to steady himself and hide the worst of it from the driver. Finally, he managed to nod and was relieved that they had already stopped outside his front door on the square. His hand was still shaking as he handed over the coins, and he did not wait for his change. Fumbling, Cuthbert managed to get his key in the lock. He almost fell into his hallway and slammed the street door behind him. With the door at his back, he sank to the ground waiting for the horror to subside. It would pass for it always did, but not before it had crushed a little bit more of him.

He was grateful at least that his housekeeper had been spared this sight of him. The attacks were now less common than they had been, but when they came, they always caught him unawares. For a man so guarded and always so much in control of his own feelings, that was the worst of it.

His heart was now slowing in his chest, but his hands were still shaking as he wiped the tears of the terror from his eyes. He struggled to his feet and found his way into the sanctuary of his study on the ground floor. It was too late to think about anything else.

Chez Maximka, psychological thriller

12 days of chocolate #giveaway (Ends 12 December' 23 midnight)

 It's that time of the year again, my lovely blog readers! The 12 days of chocolate giveaway has become an annual event, which I run during 1-12 December. 

Noone knows what the future year will hold, and last year I seriously considered closing up the "shop", but decided against it, just reducing the number of posts. So here I am again, with a new 12 days of chocolate giveaway. 

I enjoyed choosing different chocolate bars for each day of the giveaway, as well as buying little bits and bobs to go with them. This is a kind of prize I'd be happy to win myself. And it's a different selection every year.

Hope you will enjoy it as much as I do. There is over 1,2kg of chocolate to win!

First of all, let me wish all my blog readers a stress-free Christmas and a happy new year! (and if you don't celebrate Christmas, you're welcome too, I'm wishing you a lovely festive season!).

I love chocolate, and this giveaway is my personal celebration of all things chocolatey.

Every day I will offer you a chocolate bar and a little something too, edible or decorative.

For 12 days I will be revealing a part of an overall prize, and each day there will be a new question.

As stipulated in the T&Cs below, the number of winners will depend on how many questions the first randomly selected winner will answer. If they answer all 12 questions, they get the whole lot. If they choose to answer less questions, they'll get less prizes, and the remaining part of the prize will go to the next randomly selected winner.

Please scroll down and read the T&Cs!

Day 1:
The first day will start with a bang - you'll find a Divine smooth dark chocolate with pretzel & caramel. It's a new bar from Divine range which I haven't tried yet, but I do like the sound of it. 
There are also a Gisela Graham Christmas tree ornament, and L'Occitane cracker with mini-toiletries.

Chez Maximka, advent giveaway

Day 1 Question:
Do you play board games on Christmas, and if yes, what is your must-play board game of choice? (or what games did you play when you were a child?)

We're big fans of Cluedo, though this year our friends introduced us to Catan, so I suspect that's what we're going to play on Christmas.

Day 2 (2 December):
Today's addition to the prize will please marzipan lovers - Ritter Sport Marzipan bar and Niederegger Marzipan log with dark chocolate, both really lovely with a hot drink.

Day 2 Question (2 December):

What TV show and/or specials are you most eager to watch over the festive season?

I'm looking forward to watching Ghosts Christmas special. We were very sad that the series has ended, it was such a joy.

Day 3 (3 December):
Reeses's Peanut Butter bar and Reese's Peanut Butter trees (my younger son's favourites) are the third addition to the prize.

Question 3 (3 December):
What has been the highlight of the year for you? or the best thing that has happened to you or your family in the last year?

For me, it's our annual trip to Cornwall, and also visiting Van Gogh's exhibition in Paris.

Day 4 (4 December):
Lindt Lindor milk chocolate bar and a Dr Pawpaw tinted true coral balm. 

Question 4 (4 December):
What dessert do you have on Christmas, are you planning to indulge in a traditional Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, panettone, pandoro, trifle, Buche de Noel, or anything else whatsoever?

I have bought a panettone, and we most likely be nibbling mince pies through the evening too.

Day 5 (5 December):
Cadbury Dairy Milk Winter Wonderland and a Festive Movie trivia kit. This Cadbury bar is yet another of my boys' favourites.

Question 5 (5 December):

What is your favourite Christmas carol? 

If it slipped your mind, ClassicFM is currently running a vote on The Nation's Favourite Carol. Cast your vote until 15 December. I voted for Gaudete, as I have done for many years.

Day 6 (6 December):
A new Galaxy Smooth Mint chocolate bar and a couple of face maska (tea tree and vitamin) are being added to the prize pot.

Question 6 (6 December):

If money/health/family commitments allowed, where would you rather spend Christmas, at home, or travelling to a distant location, somewhere tropical or polar?

I would love to see New England again in winter holidays, and visit Norway too one day.

Day 7 (7 December):

Ritter Sport Crunchy Creamy Winter chocolate is a new addition to Ritter Sport range, and I couldn't resist getting it for my giveaway. Plus a chocolate Santa coin.

Question 7 (7 December):
Do you have a Christmas eve/day family tradition? (or if you don't celebrate Christmas, a family tradition that you observe during the festive season?)

We still plan to leave a mince pie, a drink  and a carrot by the fireplace for Santa and Rudolph, even if my boys are not little anymore.

Day 8 (8 December):

Lindt Classic Recipe Caramel Sea Salt is the chocolate bar of the day. Plus I managed to find one of the Caramacs for you. They are being discontinued this year, and are hard to find nowadays, so hope you will appreciate this nostalgic treat.

Chez Maximka, Caramac

Question 8 (8 December):
Have you ever played Secret Santa? If yes, what is the best/worst gift you received.

My husband has a Secret Santa thing going on in his department, but the participants don't know who might receive their gift, so I wonder whether people might be getting their own gifts out of the presents' sack. The only rule was it has to be about £10.

Day 9 (9 December):
Cadbury Mini Snow Balls chocolate bar and a pack of ashi tape are today's part of the prize.

Question 9 (9 December):
Do you prepare a special Christmas breakfast?

I keep reading about people having pastries and champagne on their Christmas morning, but for some reason that does not quite happen here. We might have croissants or pancakes, but that's as exciting as it gets.

Day 10 (10 December):
Cachet Almonds Extra Dark Chocolate is today's bar of the day, and you'll get a pair of Festive Feet socks too.

advents giveaway, Chez Maximka

Question 10 (10 December):
Do you decorate your home for Christmas? If yes, what is on top of your Christmas tree?

We have an old wooden angel whose leg is loose, and it keeps falling off, this year the leg wasn't in the box when we opened it, and I thought we cannot put a one-legged angel on the tree. By miracle, it was found on the book shelf. So our angel is back where it belongs.

Day 11 (11 December):
Divine Smooth Dark Chocolate with Fruit and Nut (another new variety of Divine chocolate) is today's part of the prize + 10 Robin gift tags.

Chez Maximka, advent giveaway

Question 11 (11 December):
Do you have a Christmas jumper? Do you enjoy wearing it, or think they're too naff?

I realised, looking through my wardrobe the other day, that I have quite a few Christmas jumpers, and I am not ashamed to wear them. :)


The giveaway is open to the UK residents only.

Please leave your name or Twitter username in the comment if you login as Anon, or I will never know who has commented. If you login via Blogger, make sure there is a contact email on your page.

There will be one or more winners, who will receive all the goodies appearing during twelve days of the giveaway.
If the first randomly selected winner has replied to all twelve questions, they will receive the whole lot.
If the first winner answers less questions, they will receive the prizes only from the days they leave their reply.
The remaining prize(s) will be allocated to the next winner(s). Hope I don't have to send twelve different packages.

The more questions you answer, the bigger your prize will be.
Only one entry per person per day/question is allowed.

If you missed a day, you will have a chance to catch up on any other day until the end of the giveaway, as long as it comes in a SEPARATE comment.

Please note, if you answer 12 questions in one comment, it will count as 1 entry.

Once the winner is selected randomly, I will count their replies.
I will contact the winner, who will have 7 days to reply with their address details. Due to the nature of the prize which I hope to dispatch in good time before Christmas, the time limit to get back to me is shorter than usual.

All the prizes are provided by me, and are in no way sponsored by any brand.
This is my way of saying Thank you to my blog readers.

Previous winners are welcome to join in as well, you're not disqualified from winning again, if your name is drawn from the hat.

I will post the prize at my own cost.
If the winner's away when the parcel arrives and is not able to rearrange the redelivery, and if by some chance it is returned to me, please do not expect me to cover the cost of the postage again.
If that happens, the prize will be taken to the local food bank (foods) and charity shops (non-perishables).

I will send the parcel by Royal Mail, tracked and to be signed for.

Any personal data given (basically the winner's address details) will not be shared with any 3rd parties, and will be deleted after the prize is received by the winner.

The giveaway will end on the 12th of December at midnight.

Good luck!

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Murder at the Matterhorn by T.A. Williams


murder mystery set in Italy

"We're all on edge. After all, we may be closer now to discovering proof of alien life than ever before and the last thing we need is a bunch of police officers tramping about the place, disturbing everything".

"Being involved in a real police murder investigation was meat and drink to me".

Murder at the Matterhorn by T.A. Williams  is a delightful and highly entertaining murder mystery set in Italy.

This is the 5th book in the Armstrong and Oscar Cozy Mysteries series. It reads as a standalone, but it might help understand the dynamics between the main characters, as well as their back story, if you've read some or all of the previous books in the series.


An old friend in need...

Despited being retired from the police, Dan Armstrong is always on hand to help with solving a crime. So, when he's contacted by an old colleague in need of help, Dan readily agrees. The only problem Dan can see is the location - an isolated mountain-top campsite of UFO enthusiasts.

An unexplained death...

But these are no ordinary star watchers, and when Dan arrives one member of the group is already dead. Some of the group suspect alien abduction, but Dan is sure the killer is much closer to home.

An out of this world case?

Dan doesn't believe in aliens, but faced with a black hole of secrecy from the group of suspects, he and Oscar have their work cut out to catch the murderer... before they strike again.

It's another case for Dan and Oscar to solve!

A gripping new murder mystery series by bestselling author T.A. Williams, perfect for fans of Lee Strauss and Beth Byers.

Dan Armstrong and his sidekick Oscar the labrador are back in action. Dan works as a private detective in Tuscany. He is also a published author, with a bestselling book. As a retired Met DCI, he cannot resist a good mystery, so when his ex-colleague Paul Wilson calls from London, hoping he could help him, Dan's curiosity if piqued. Paul's sister Sandra is currently in Italy with a bunch of UFO hunters, and one of the group's been killed.

According to Sandra, "it's a weird set up and she doesn't trust any of them very much. Some of them appear to be very tight-lipped about what happened. She says it's almost as if there's a conspiracy of silence".

The UFO aficionados are camping in the Aosta Valley in the Alps. Though it's quite away from Tuscany, where Dan is based, he promises Paul to pop up there and have a look, to reassure his friend.

Dan is sceptical about the aliens, but for the sake of disguise he pretends to be one of the UFO enthusiasts. He feels pretty sure that the killer has to be one of the group, rather than some random person. It is quite a big pool of suspects to choose from. Dan and Oscar need to work fast to uncover the killer before s/he strikes again.

The character of Dan is well portrayed, he is likeable, affable, and a total slave to his dog. Oscar is ready to eat all the time, makes friends easily, and provides a guaranteed laugh in the narrative. 

There is a vibrant spectrum of supporting characters, from the local Inspector Costey, to the UFO group members (like the Pirates of the Caribbean in their silver spacesuits).

Like all the books in the series, Italy provides a fabulous rich setting, with spectacular landscapes and glorious food. Reading these books is akin to having a gastronomical tour across Italy.

"Somehow, I managed to find room after all the polenta and beef for an exceptional panna cotta with flambéed fruits of the forest in syrup that probably added another thousand calories to the meal, but I was past caring".

Murder at Matterhorn gives a lovely blend of a good story told against a picturesque background of Italy, a likeable protagonist with an adorable sidekick, and a compelling murder mystery. A five-star page-turner from the first pages.

Now that Dan and Oscar venture further from Tuscany, I hope they will travel more across Italy in the further books in the series. 

This review is part of the blog tour for Murder at the Matterhorn.

Many thanks to T.A. Williams, Boldwood Books and Rachel's Random Resources for my e-copy of the book!

Chez Maximka, murder mystery set in Italy

Purchase Link -


Author Bio –

T A Williams is the author of over twenty bestselling romances for HQ and Canelo and is now turning his hand to cosy crime, set in his beloved Italy, for Boldwood. The series will introduce us to retired DCI Armstrong and his labrador Oscar and the first book, entitled Murder in Tuscany, will be published in October 2022. Trevor lives in Devon with his Italian wife.


Social Media Links –  .



Newsletter Sign Up:

murder mystery set in Italy