A Manhattan Murder Mystery: An Irina Curtius Mystery by Susan Bernhardt

A Manhattan Murder Mystery: An Irina Curtius Mystery by Susan Bernhardt

Former ballerina, Irina Curtius, lives on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, New York. Everything that the great city has to offer is at Irina’s fingertips; museums, restaurants, galleries, not to mention the beautiful Central Park. There’s no reason for Irina not to be ecstatic about her home and she isn’t. New York City is the perfect place to live.

For the past 20 years Irina has been teaching ballet to little girls in her studio, Little Cygnet’s Ballet Academy, with her college friend, Jerome, playing the piano for the school. Irina loved her professional career but she loves teaching the little ballerinas and watching them progress.

Her condominium is an ivy covered brownstone on West 87th street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenue built during the late 19th century. The rooms have beautiful crown moldings, the windows are large, and yes you can hear the traffic on the streets but so what? The city itself never sleeps and its inhabitants like to be as active as the city.

Irina has some nice neighbors too. Her best friend, high school English teacher, Margarite, lives in an apartment right down the hall with her cat Gypsy; Celeste who lives on the floor above; and Stephen Kramer, his wife Tricia and Tricia’s sister mystery writer, Alice, live on Irina’s floor. But something has changed with the Kramers.

Irina, Stephen, and Tricia always got along well but since Tricia’s sister Alice moved in the dynamics kind of changed. First of all Stephen started to look ill. He still manages to go to work where he’s up for a promotion and to play racquetball with his business associate, Alex Rankin, but Stephen looks very bad and Irina is quite concerned about his health. The strange thing is that whenever Stephen leaves town for business he returns looking fit and healthy but as he stays home he gets sick again. Tricia, his wife, says he has the flu and her sister, Alice, gets very annoyed at Irina whenever she inquires about Stephen’s health.

But life goes on and Irina, with the sneaky ways of friends Margarite and Jerome, is soon reunited with her college boyfriend, Robert. Forty years earlier Irina and Robert were living together and just before they graduated college he broke her heart and ran off to marry one of Irina’s friends. Irina was a little annoyed with her friends for interfering and isn’t sure if she wants to take up with Robert again.

So there’s a lot going on in Irina’s life but things get more hectic when a rash of burglaries breaks out in her neighborhood and then neighbor, Stephen Kramer, is found dead in his apartment by wife, Tricia.

This is all way too much for Irina and she feels guilty that she didn’t press Stephen to see a doctor. But she also feels that his death is very suspicious. Stephen was a young man and healthy, as long as he wasn’t living at home, and excited about his potential promotion at work. So when irina’s Police Lieutenant friend, Charles Whitney, tells her that Stephen’s death is being ruled as a suicide she decides she has has to find out the truth because she suspects that Stephen was murdered.

“A Manhattan Murder Mystery” is yet another great novel by Susan Bernhardt. Susan lives in Wisconsin so I wondered just what she knew about New York City. Since I’m a native New Yorker which means I’m always ready to fight any outsiders who think they know enough to write about the New York I read this book with my boxing gloves on ready for a good brawl with Ms. Bernhardt. It never happened.

Everyone writes about the Statue of Liberty, the World Trade Center, the Empire State building, that’s easy, just Google those popular sites and you have all the information you need just by sitting in bed in your pajamas but Susan’s description of Manhattan was different.

She not only described the Upper West Side to perfection with its neighborhood stores and the pre war apartment buildings but she somehow got the feel of what living in New York is all about. Every neighborhood is its own country and every apartment building is its own city. Apartment buildings actually do have “mayors” who people go to when they need someone to talk to and I’m not talking about a condo board. And walking from one neighborhood to another you kind of need a passport to pass through with people watching any strangers who pass by their buildings.

Most writers who don’t live in New York don’t get that but somehow Ms. Bernhardt did. “A Manhattan Murder Mystery” is like a love letter to this great city and it’s obvious that the author respects New Yorkers and how we live here.

But I’m here to talk a little about the book and not New York, even though New York City is a huge part of this novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed “A Manhattan Murder Mystery.” You think you know what’s going on with the murdered Stephen, most avid mystery readers would catch on fast and Ms. Bernhardt doesn’t try to hide it from her readers but how he was killed is not the reason to continue reading the story. It’s not the how but the “why” and the “who” about his death that forces you to read to the last page.

Then there’s Irina’s personal life. There were times I felt like screaming into  my Kindle telling Irina to stop being such a nice person and get rid of someone in her life and to look to another instead. You will also get really angry at some of the characters and want to slap them around. Sorry about my violence towards a book character but I am a New Yorker and we all have a teeny bit of violence in our genes.

The author talks a lot about food here as she does in all her books and fans of Ms. Bernhardt will get a good insider laugh or two as they read “A Manhattan Murder Mystery.”

I’d love this to be turned into a series and I have a feeling that Susan Bernhardt just might do that. But Irina has to go over the bridge and visit Brooklyn for her next adventure. Come to Brooklyn, have someone poisoned at Nathan’s Famous, then have the suspect chased to Coney Island where they try to lose Irina on the Wonder Wheel, and then on to the Aquarium to swim with the sharks, and finally to The Brooklyn Cyclones Baseball team to get lost in the crowd. All these sites are within walking distance of each other so a good chase scene would be realistic and doable in a few hours. Maybe I should write a book.

You’ll have a great time reading “A Manhattan Murder Mystery” and will not be disappointed in this excellent story.

For more about Susan Bernhardt’s books please see Susan’s section on my blog.


A Night With a Stranger – Video by Marty Novitsky and Uladzimir Taukachou

A Night With a Stranger – Video by Marty Novitsky and Uladzimir Taukachou

I have to say that this is a beautiful video about a woman wondering around Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY with something bothering her. She meets a man who is a little older than her and ends up confiding in him.

When Marty Novitsky told me about it he said he and his film partner, Uladzimir Taukachou, wanted to show their respect for women.

“A Night With a Stranger” stars Titi Arewa and Marty Novitsky.

The film was nominated for an award at the Coney Island Film Festival 2016. Marty and Uladzimir were just notified that the film was accepted into the 2017 United Kingdom Screen One International Film Festival.

The fantastic aerial cinematography for the film was done by Uladzimir Taukachou. He wears many hats creating his films – Filmmaker, Director of Photography, Editor, Digital Video Production, Aerial, Cinematography, Post Production, Color Correction, Sound Design, Graphic Design, Streaming Media.

For a real treat please look at Uladzimir Taukachou’s website for other films and more of his incredible works.

To see other videos by Marty Novitsky see Marty’s section on my blog.



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Handball Hall of Fame – Morris Levitsky (Novitsky) – Award Winning Video by Martin Novitsky and Uladzimir Taukachou

Handball Hall of Fame – Morris Levitsky (Novitsky) – Award Winning Video by Martin Novitsky and Uladzimir Taukachou

This is a video that my cousin, Marty Novitsky, and his film partner, Uladzimir Taukachou, made about Marty’s uncle, Morris Levitsky (Novitsky). Morris Levtsky was the highest ranking handball referee in the country. Marty and Uladzimir created this video as a tribute to Morris and all the players in Brooklyn, NY who loved him.

To see other videos by Marty Novitsky see Marty’s section on my blog.


Chewy Chocolate Chip Murder: A Cookie Lane Cozy Mystery – Book 1 by Karen Sullivan

Chewy Chocolate Chip Murder: A Cookie Lane Cozy Mystery – Book 1 by Karen Sullivan

Down in Charleston, 40 some odd year old Catherine Kelley (call her Cat) owns Cat’s Cookies where she sells, well, cookies. Her assistant is 20 some odd year old Lacy who is also Cat’s good friend. But Cat’s best friend and the woman she loves like a mom is 70 year old Beth Walters. Two years earlier Beth gave Cat not only the cookie store but the whole building where she lives in the small apartment above the store with her cat, Oreo.

Things are going good with Cat until Detective Jack Bradshaw walks in one day and tells her that Beth Waters is dead, murdered. He explained that Beth was fishing on the pier at Waterfront Park that morning. Every morning Beth could been seen fishing but that morning someone knocked her on the head and then pushed her into the water.

Cat and Lacy were devastated and went to Beth’s memorial service where they meet Beth’s son Joseph, daughter-in-law Tara, granddaughter and Rachel, and grandson Kevin. The room became quiet when Cat and Lacy walked in then Joseph and Tara started to scream at Cat telling her to leave the premises and that she wasn’t wanted there. But why? She was told that Beth recently changed her will and left her inheritance to Cat and Beth’s family, along with Detective Bradshaw, now thinks that Cat killed Beth to get the money.

This is ridiculous but now the whole town believes that Cat is a murderess including the other fishermen on the pier who adored Beth. Now Cat has to investigate Beth;s murder herself because the police don’t seem to be doing much of anything. At least Cat has Lacy on her side and Beth’s rebellious granddaughter, Rachel.

As she investigates Cat finds out some interesting things. Beth’s daughter-in-law, Tara, hated Beth plus Tara’s in some financial difficulty. Cat overheard her on the phone talking to a “business associate” about some plans that Tara has.

Then Cat sees some strange activity on the per one night. Was that Joseph Walters or his son acting very suspicious there? Something odd was definitely going on.

Anyone could have murdered Beth. It could have been one of the fishermen, one of Beth’s family members, someone in the community, or even that stranger, Jarred Weaver, who’s hanging out at the pier claiming to be a “competitive fisherman” whatever that is. But Cat knows who didn’t kill Beth. Cat didn’t murder her good friend but she will find out who did.

“Chewy Chocolate Chip Murder” by Karen Sullivan is the first in A Cookie Lane Cozy Mystery Series and if this first installment stands true this new series will prove to be a good one.

It’s so refreshing to finally see a main character who’s a little older, not married, and running a thriving business without any help. I also like that Cat, a 40 year old woman is so close to her 20 year old assistant who she also calls a friend.

The plot line is interesting and fast-paced and readers feel close to the characters. “Chewy Chocolate Chip Murder” is a fine new cozy mystery series for all cozy fans.


Banned Books Week Sept. 25 – Oct. 1, 20016

Banned Books Week Sept. 25 – Oct. 1, 20016

Today starts Banned Books Week. I’m not going to preach because I’m sure people can figure out where I stand on this. But I will say that you should never let anyone dictate what you read. If someone feels a book isn’t right for their child or for themselves then they have a right not to read it. But I also have the right to read what I want.

Here are some good links that I’d like to share:

Celebrating the Freedom to Read: September 25- October 1, 2016

Add this Twibbon to your profile pic

Best Banned, Censored, and Challenged Books

Read a Banned Book this week!


Raspberry Mojito Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 20 by Susan Gillard

Raspberry Mojito Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 20 by Susan Gillard

Hillside, Texas hasn’t seen a murder in a solid week but that wasn’t going to last very long. Murder has been pretty common in this small town so it’s a good thing that Donut Delights bakery owner, Heather Shepherd, has received her private investigator’s diploma and has already helped solve one murder as a consultant to the Hillside Police Department. Little did she suspect that her next murder investigation will be coming up so soon.

Paul Jackson, also known as Quick Paul, has been murdered. He was caught in his office building after it burned to the ground. But then Quick Paul had no idea what was happening because he was drugged before the fire even started and died in the blaze.

Not many people trusted Quick Paul because he did some shady business dealings. He was the master of investment scandals and pyramid schemes and was always on the lookout to grab a fast buck or two. No one seemed all that bothered that Paul was dead but that was not going to stop Heather from working on her second consultant gig to find out who murdered the man.

With the help of her best friend, Amy Givens, she discovers that Paul had meetings with two people scheduled. One was with Jeremy Hill and Hillside’s own Bob from Bob’s Bug Debunker.

Jeremy was pretty calm talking with Heather as she investigated but his wife Katie was pretty mean telling Heather to leave her family alone and the she didn’t want any more trouble.

Bob from Bob’s Bug Debunker seemed fairly calm as well, eating his Cheetos and sharing them with Amy, which is what Bob and Amy usually did. Heather knew there was a reason why Amy didn’t mind going into Bob’s exterminating store.

Heather also spoke with Jeremy’s father, Peter, during her investigation and she also learned some interesting information. Even though Jeremy said that he hadn’t met with Quick Paul apparently they did have some kind of meeting because Paul was financing Paul’s new business product called Diaper Pop. Diaper Pop is a diaper that will pop open when it’s full. Heather wondered if that was really an improved diaper.

Also on Heather’s plate is the upcoming opening of the new and improved Donut Delights within the week. She has to bake enough of her new raspberry mojito donuts for all her customers. There’s also something else that’s on her mind that’s causing her to lose focus on the investigation of Quick Paul’s murder.

Author Susan Gillard has put out another good book in the long Donut Hole Cozy Mystery Series. “Raspberry Mojito Murder” is the 20th novel and just as entertaining as the rest. Ms. Gillard publishes the series so fast that it’s almost like being with these great characters every day. Fans of the series always know what’s going on in Hillside and the people who live there.

The series is fun and you don’t necessarily have read them in order but it’s best that you do. As soon as I finish the latest book I wonder what the next one will be about and always look forward to reading the newest installment.

Caramel Glazed Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 19 by Susan Gillard

Caramel Glazed Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 19 by Susan Gillard

It’s a good thing that Heather Shepherd, owner of Donut Delights in Hillside, Texas finally got her private investigator’s diploma because another murder has happened in Heather’s town. Now she’s a consultant for the Hillside Police Department and can officially help her husband, Detective Ryan Shepherd, help solve the newest murder.

This case is personal to Heather because her best friend and fellow donut baker at Donut Delights, Amy Givens, is a suspect.

(Charlie) Junior Buckle has been poisoned by a malted milkshake he ordered from Donut Delights and Amy delivered the creamy treat to Junior. The man died a terrible death by drinking the milkshake that was laced with antifreeze. Heather knows that antifreeze is not one of the ingredients to her shakes and she also knows that Amy is not a murderess walking around with antifreeze in her pocket so Heather has every intention of figuring out who killed Junior and why.

Any number of people could have murdered Junior including his girlfriend, Francesca, who was living with him but was now packing her bags with the intention of moving out; Junior’s father who, Heather discovered had plenty of antifreeze and lied to her about not seeing his son; or maybe it was the mystery man who Francesca was seeing and was having an affair with or so rumors implied. The only thing Heather knows for sure is that Amy did not kill Junior.

Investigating this murder is not going to be easy. The renovations of Donut Delights is finally coming to an end and Heather has to prepare for the new opening and she has a huge order for caramel glazed donuts that she has to get out to a gaming convention. A convention that Junior was also going to attend. Is the convention the reason for Junior’s murder? Heather has quite  a lot to think about.

Caramel Glazed Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery by Susan Gillard is the 19th installment in this donut hole mystery series and like the previous 18 is a fun read.

Once again readers reunite will all the usual residents of Hillside and get a glimpse of what’s going on in their lives as Heather investigates the murder. The book is a fast read with a nice plot and great characters.

Take a couple hours out of your day and settle in with another good donut murder mystery.