Nostalgia City Mysteries

Mark S. Bacon

Tag Archives: Bourne Morris

A trio of mystery, suspense, thrills


Tahoe Payback  (Owen McKenna Mystery Thriller)
Todd Borg
352 pages
Thriller Press   August 2017
Kindle $4.99  Trade paper $12.34

The fifteenth Owen McKenna mystery at Lake Tahoe looks at scam charities. When a man tells Tahoe Detective Owen McKenna that his girlfriend disappeared, McKenna wonders if the woman got cold feet and ran away. But when she turns up murdered on Lake Tahoe’s Fannette Island with red roses in her mouth, McKenna discovers that she used a scam charity to steal millions.  A second victim is found with a tennis ball crammed into his mouth. A third has military medals in his cheeks. McKenna suspects that these victims also ran fraudulent charities.

While McKenna investigates the murders, his girlfriend Street Casey has reason to believe that her ex-con father, who’s jumped parole, wants revenge for her testimony that put in him in prison decades ago.  

It appears that the victims are all payback targets of a vigilante killer. McKenna finds lots of potential suspects. But he can’t link any of them to the crimes. What he doesn’t know is that both he and his girlfriend are about to face someone who wants them very dead.


Tahoe local Todd Borg is the bestselling author of 15 Owen McKenna Mystery Thrillers. Borg’s novels have won the Ben Franklin Award for Best Mystery of the Year, made Library Journal’s Top 5 Mysteries of the Year list, received rave reviews, including a starred review in Library Journal, and made Amazon’s Mystery/Thriller and Private Investigator Bestseller Lists multiple times.   Borg’s books have over 500,000 paper books and ebooks in distribution.  He was selected as the toastmaster for the 2018 Left Coast Crime convention.


The Red Queen Rules: A Red Solaris Mystery Vol.3
Bourne Morris
246 pages
Henery Press   December 2016
Kindle $4.99  Trade paper $15.95

 This third installment of the Red Solaris series proves again that anyone who thinks a college campus is a haven of scholarship and civility hasn’t been paying attention.

Is it free speech or hate? When a white supremacist schedules an event on campus, University Dean Red Solaris must confront her own feelings about an issue that challenges the very core of American education: campus safety versus freedom of speech.

Amidst escalating tension, Red meets with the editor of the student newspaper – who also confides in Red that her young cousin is missing, probably a victim of local sex traffickers. Agreeing to rescue the girl, Red solicits help from her beloved detective Joe Morgan. But when Morgan goes undercover into the dangerous world of human trafficking, he disappears without a trace. Red must balance her fears for Morgan with her worries that a campus riot may soon break out.

The Red Queen Rules is also available as an MP3 CD.


After Bennington College, Bourne Morris worked at McCall’s Magazine and then the New York advertising agency of  Ogilvy & Mather.  She rose through the ranks from copywriter to head of the agency’s Los Angeles office serving clients that included Mattel, Columbia Pictures, General Foods cereals and Baskin-Robbins.  Later she became a professor of journalism at the University of Nevada- Reno where she taught marketing communications and media ethics.  She was also chair of the university’s faculty senate where she learned about campus politics and tensions.


Illegal Holdings
Michael Niemann
230 pages
Coffeetown Press  Mar. 1, 2018
Kindle $6.95  Trade paper $12.37

UN fraud investigator Valentin Vermeulen is on assignment in Maputo, Mozambique. His ho-hum task is to see if Global Alternatives is spending UN money the way they promised. The nonprofit was set up by hedge fund mogul Vincent Portallis to revolutionize development aid. The only upside for Vermeulen is the prospect of seeing his lover Tessa Bishonga, who is reporting on foreign land acquisitions in Africa.

When Vermeulen notices that a five-million-dollar transfer has gone missing, he is given the run-around. First he is told the files have been mislaid, then stolen, then he is assured that the money was never transferred to begin with. But the money was transferred, so where is it now? Vermeulen’s dogged pursuit of the missing transfer makes him the target of some ruthless operators. And once he meets up with Tessa, she is inevitably sucked in to the story as well, which turns out to be far more nefarious than either of them imagined.


Michael Niemann grew up in a small town in Germany, ten kilometers from the Dutch border. Crossing that border often at a young age sparked in him a curiosity about the larger world. He studied political science at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität in Bonn and international studies at the University of Denver. During his academic career he focused his work on southern Africa and frequently spent time in the region. After taking a fiction writing course from his friend, the late Fred Pfeil, he switched to mysteries as a different way to write about the world.

Editor’s note:  Prices for the above books may vary depending on the retailer and when you access sales sites.  Click on the book covers for more information.

New mysteries to keep you tickled, puzzled






Dying for a Donut, A Laurel McKay Mystery
Cindy Sample
Create Space 2015
284 Pages
Kindle $2.99   Trade paper $14.95


Take an eccentric grandmother and cast of other unusual characters, place them in a California Sierra foothills gold country setting, include lots of laughs and a few corpses and you have the makings of a mystery you’ll die for—or someone will.

Cindy Sample’s fifth Laurel McKary Mystery continues the saga of this soccer mom, banker and amateur sleuth. This time her boyfriend, 6-3 detective Tom Hunter, is out of state when Laurel’s daughter lands in jail in connection with the murder of a bakery owner found coated in powdered sugar.






Rise of the Red Queen: A Red Solaris Mystery
Bourne Morris
Henrey Press 2015
288 pages
Kindle $2.99 Trade paper $15.95


Dr. Red Solaris is acting dean of the university’s journalism school. While trying to maintain peace among a faculty of egocentric academics, she’s applying to become the permanent dean and anticipating a screening process that might be stacked against her. “Who else besides you and Froman are going to grill me along with my fish?” Solaris says referring to an antagonistic member of the search committee.

At the same time, the novel is a creepy tale of the abduction and subjugation of a young female journalism student from Dr. Solaris’ university. The mystery presents views of campus violence as a subject of debate and the subject of a life and death struggle.  Will Red get there in time?

Two new detectives uncover murderous plots

The Red Queen’s Run – A Red Solaris Mystery
Bourne Morris
Henery Press 280 pages
$28.79 hardcover $14.26 trade paper $2.99 Kindle
Focused on Murder – A Spirit Lake Mystery
Linda Townsdin
CreateSpace   286 pages
$11.59 trade paper $2.99 Kindle

A  journalism professor and a press photographer are two of the newest amateur sleuths drawn into investigating murders in their own back yards. A crumpled body at the bottom of concrete stairs in a Nevada university journalism school and a corpse buried in snow in northern Minnesota are the beginning points for these two rewarding whodunits. Both books are the initial offerings in mystery series. In these two mysteries you can get to know the appealing protagonists and be ready for the next installments. Both are due this year.

Morris’s Red Queen mystery is several stories in one: an inside look at the The-Red-Queen's-Runjealousies and esoteric workings of academia, a love story and, of course, a whodunit.   The crime and the novel revolve around the journalism school at a western university. Lest you imagine that a university is not the place to look for murderous intent, Morris begins her book this way:

Anyone who thinks a college campus is a haven of scholarship and civility hasn’t been paying attention. Last year, I sat through a dozen faculty meetings with recurring visions of Dr. Amy Bishop flooding my mind. I could almost see Bishop seated in a 2010 faculty meeting at the University of Alabama, then see her stand, aim a nine millimeter gun at her friends and colleagues across the table and begin firing. Before her gun jammed, Bishop had killed three people, wounded three others…

This description is in the words of journalism professor Meredith “Red” Solaris, narrator of the first-person story. This jolting beginning puts you on guard for the confrontations that ensue among the faculty at Mountain West University. When the dean of the journalism school is found dead, it’s unclear if it was an accident or homicide. Before too long, Solaris has demonstrated her human relations skills keeping the school of journalism together amid the rivalry, rancor and professional conflicts that emerge with the dean’s death.  Members of the mutinous and possibly murderous faculty are drawn with detail so you can imagine them as real (and unusual) people plotting against each other.

Thirty-five year old Solaris, called Red because of her dark, thick red hair, is challenged to maintain the independence of the school, determine if one of her colleagues is a killer and generally decide the direction her life should take. She worries that people are expecting too much from her. But she has help from Sadie, a close friend she regularly meets over wine and, most important, a handsome police detective assigned to the case.

Is it murder or an accident? The investigation drags on as we watch Solaris sort out motives, uncover several surprises, and gradually develop feelings for the detective. Through Solaris’s asides and Morris’s voice you become comfortable with the level-headed, if sometimes insecure lead character. Solaris may be an academic but her background also has made her a good sleuth. For example, she meets an attorney who wants to appear kindly but, “His tone was friendly but his eyes were not.”

“Is there no limit to the wickedness of the journalism faculty?” Sadie asks Solaris at one of their luncheons. Wait for the clever conclusions in the circuitous ending and you’ll find out.


In Townsdin’s Focused on Murder, murder is not the only crime going on amid the frozen lakes and frigid forests of northern Minnesota and rash but resourceful news photographer Britt Johansson is right in the middle of it.

Focused-on-Murder-coverWhen the tall Pulitzer Prize winner is betrayed by her husband and fired from the Los Angeles Times, she returns to her hometown of Spirit Lake where she hopes to reconnect with her childhood boyfriend and her gay brother who runs a restaurant. She lands a job taking pictures in the generally sleepy northern Minnesota bureau of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. After a career shooting in war-torn parts of the world, taking snaps at town-hall meetings is putting Johansson to sleep, so when she accidentally stumbles on a body in the snow, she latches onto the story.

Told by the sheriff and her newspaper boss to stay out of it, Johansson naturally dives in. What she discovers going on in the back woods shocks her and ultimately the community—and will do the same for readers. All that snow can’t cover the ruined lives and evil family secrets.

This passage from early in the book describes Johansson—also a reformed drinker—and demonstrates author Townsdin’s writing skill and sense of humor:

“The word patience did not exist in my vocabulary. Act first, think later—maybe. Another one of those character defects they talk about in AA. Personality traits I’d been proud of turned out to be what they wanted you to stop.”

Johansson is adroit getting information from the collection of seedy, seamy characters that Townsdin has assembled, but all Johansson’s attempts to reconcile with her estranged boyfriend seem to fail: “That was not the first time Ben took the wag out of my tail.”

Townsdin has created a challenging mystery, spiced it with a cast of deceitful suspects and added appealing touches of noir in the dark settings and some of the dialog.

“The sky was the color of skim milk, what passed for sunshine in this part of the country.”

“I tossed the lie in with the rest of the sins in my storehouse.”

The novel’s ending is complex, compelling and like the conclusion of The Red Queen’s Run , leaves an opening for more adventures.

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