Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"All Signs Point to Murder" by Connie di Marco

All Signs Point to Murder
(Zodiac Mystery Book 2)
by Connie di Marco

All Signs Point to Murder (Zodiac Mystery Book 2) by Connie di Marco

All Signs Point to Murder, the second book in the Zodiac Mystery series by Connie di Marco, will be released 8 August but is currently available for pre-order. Also available: The Madness of Mercury (read my blog post).

The Madness of Mercury by Connie di Marco

All Signs Point to Murder is currently on tour with Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

For another book by this author (writing as Connie Archer), please check out my blog post on Ladle to the Grave.

The stars predict a wedding-day disaster, but San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never expected murder.
Julia Bonatti is alarmed by the astrological signs looming over Geneva Leary's wedding day, but nobody asked Julia's opinion and being a bridesmaid means supporting the bride no matter what. Even with the foreboding Moon-Mars-Pluto lineup in the heavens, no one's prepared for the catastrophes that strike: a no-show sister, a passed-out wedding planner, and a lethal shooting in the dead of night.
With anger and grief threatening to tear the Leary family apart, Julia is determined to understand how such a terrible tragedy could have occurred. As she digs deeper into the family's secrets, her astrological insights lead her to some rather unexpected conclusions.

The building on Guerrero was a once proud Victorian with bow front windows. It had since been broken up into six small units and fallen into disrepair. I drove around the block several times before I managed to find a parking spot a few doors down. The shops on the main street were long closed and the streets deserted. I shivered and let the car heater run another minute to warm up before I left the comfort of my little metal box. There was something about this chore that made my stomach go into knots. Rummaging through a dead woman’s possessions was bad enough, but what if I found something that implicated Moira in a crime? Should I remove it and risk the police finding out?
I climbed out of the car, careful to lock it and approached the long stairway leading to the front door. The wind had died down and now fog danced around the streetlights. It was eerily quiet. No lights shone from any of the windows. I hoped all the residents were safely tucked up in their beds by now. I climbed the cracked granite stairs to the entrance. The weathered door stood ajar, listing slightly on its hinges. I grasped the handle and twisted it, but the lock mechanism was out of commission. Inside, a bare overhead light bulb hung from a chain. It cast a meager glow down the long corridor, cannibalized from a once grand entryway. The hallway smelled of dirty cat litter, moldy vegetables and cigarette smoke. I followed the corridor to the end, and stopped at the last door on the right.
I slipped the key into the lock. It offered no resistance. The door opened immediately. Had it not been locked? I caught a slight scuffling sound and cringed. I hoped no furry long-tailed creatures were waiting inside for me. I reached around the doorway and felt along the wall. My fingers hit the switch. A rusting chandelier with two bulbs missing illuminated the one large room that was both Moira’s living room and bedroom. I tested the key with the door open, locking and then unlocking it. Now I felt the resistance. The door had definitely been unlocked. I stepped inside and shut it behind me, making sure the lock was secure. Was it possible someone had been here before me and left without locking the door? Or had Moira simply been careless?
I had to make sure I was alone in the apartment. There were no hiding places in this sparsely furnished room. I checked under the bed just to be sure and opened the closet, terrified that someone or something might jump out at me. The closet was narrow, filled with a jumble of clothing, half on the floor. I walked into the kitchenette and spotted a doorway that led to the back stairs and the yard. I tested the handle on the door. Locked. I checked the space between the refrigerator and the wall, and then the shower stall in the bathroom. I was alone. I had been holding my breath and finally let it out in a great sigh.
I started with the drawers in the kitchen and checked the counter, looking for any notes with names or phone numbers. There was nothing. The kitchen was surprisingly clean, as if Moira had never used the room. Inside the refrigerator were a few condiments, a half-eaten unwrapped apple and a loaf of whole wheat bread. I quickly rummaged through the drawers and the freezer to make sure there were no bundles of cash disguised as frozen meat.
The main room housed a collection of hand-me-downs and broken furniture, ripped curtains and piles of clothing in various spots around the floor. Had she really lived like this? I heaved up the mattress, first on one side and then the other, making sure nothing was hidden between it and the box spring. Under the bed, I spotted only dust bunnies. I pulled open each of the bureau drawers, checked their contents and pulled them all the way out to make sure nothing was behind them. I opened a small drawer in the bedside stand. Amid a loose pile of clutter was a dark blue velvet box embossed with the letter “R” in cursive gold script. Could this be from Rochecault? I was fairly certain it was. Rochecault is an infamously expensive jeweler on Maiden Lane downtown. How could Moira have shopped there? Was this what Geneva had meant when she said her sister seemed to have a lot of money to spend?
I opened the box and gasped. An amazing bracelet heavy with blue stones in varying colors rested inside. The setting had the slightly matte industrial sheen of platinum. Moira couldn’t possibly have afforded this. Shoving the box into a side pocket of my purse, I decided I was definitely not leaving this for the police to find, and slid the drawer shut.
I scanned the room. Moira hadn’t been much of a housekeeper and it didn’t appear as if there were many hiding spots. I headed for the desk, a rickety affair with two drawers and a monitor on top. I clicked on the hard drive and waited a moment. The monitor came to life and asked for a password. It would take someone much more talented than I to unearth its secrets. Under a jumble of papers and unopened bills, my eye caught a small black notebook. This looked promising. Perhaps it was an address book that would give us all of Moira’s contacts. I dropped my purse on the floor and reached for the book. A searing pain shot through my skull. Blinded, I fell to the floor.

Praise for the Book
"This is the second book in the series. I loved the first one, but this one was even better. It gives the reader more insight to Julia and her group of friends. [...] The author gives us many suspects. She keeps readers on their toes trying to figure this one out. I changed my mind with each page, but was still surprised at the ending. I didn’t see that coming, although maybe I should have. All I know is that it made for a great mystery. This fast-paced novel kept me intrigued to the end. I’m looking forward to more books in this exciting series." ~ Yvonne
"This is the second book in the Zodiac Mystery series. I liked this read just as much as the first book. Yes to some the astrology side might be too much but it does fit into the book which I think helps draw the reader in. You are kept guessing until the end of who did what which is always nice. It was great to see the same characters ... Julia’s friends. The author does a great job with this series." ~ Babs
"Even if you have not read the first book in this series, you can enjoy this well written cozy by itself. The characters are developed enough for you to learn the connections between them, but the murderer is still well hidden until the very end. This is a complicated situation where putting together means, motive and opportunity takes a lot of searching. Especially intriguing are the things that are not said or are missing, more so than the information gathered." ~ Laura Reading
"The author does a good job tying in astrology and fleshing out the story by developing Julia's personal life and showing her doing more than just following clues." ~ Anne
"Julia uses both her brain and her astrological charts to help her track down a killer. Full of suspects and secrets, All Signs Point to Murder is a quick-paced, suspenseful, and entertaining mystery." ~ Erika
"I'm with this series until the end. Love it! You'll like this story if: you enjoy murder mysteries, female sleuths, and whodunits which keep you guessing until the very end." ~ Witchy

Guest Post by the Author
Looking to the Stars for Answers
Julia Bonatti has a very unusual occupation, and it’s one that attracts clients from all walks of life with all sorts of problems. She listens to their deepest concerns and does her best to give her clients good advice, even if they don’t always listen. Invariably she finds herself up to her ears in crime and murder and has to use her skills as an astrologer to solve the mystery.
How does she do that? What is it that alerts her to danger or to danger for her clients? What is it in a natal chart that tells her she’s dealing with someone deadly? And more importantly, as her author, how can I create characters whose charts line up with the mystery plot? It’s not always easy, believe me.
In The Madness of Mercury, Julia rushes to rescue an elderly woman from the clutches of an evil religious cult. She knows there’s no time to spare because, not only is transiting Pluto hitting her client’s Ascendant, but it’s about to be activated by a solar eclipse. In All Signs Point to Murder, Julia worries that her friend’s wedding isn’t taking place at the best of times. If only they had asked her advice, she would have told them to wait until a difficult line up in the heavens was past.
The plotting and writing may take care of the crime, but it’s very important that the astrology makes sense for all the characters. Even if a reader couldn’t care less about astrology, there are plenty of people well versed on the subject who would spot a mistake or an error. So I have to make sure everything lines up properly.
So let’s say I need a murderer who’s a man in his late forties. What sort of natal chart could he have to make him ... manipulative ... criminal ... dangerous? I’m treading on some shaky ground here, because I really don’t want to point a finger at any one particular Sun sign. Anyone can commit a dreadful crime, given the right circumstances. It does happen and that’s the meat of any murder mystery. An average person caught in very un-average circumstances.
Well, it’s 2017 now, so our murderer would have to be born around 1970, give or take a year or so. Let’s start with the Sun sign. Should we make him a Scorpio? Born in late October or early November? That sign has always had a bad rep, although not always deserved. But just for fun, I’ll go with Scorpio. Now, if the murderer’s Sun sign is conjunct his natal Pluto, that would lend his character a controlling power drive. But guess what? That won’t work, because in 1970, Pluto was still in Virgo. He couldn’t possibly have been born with his Sun conjunct Pluto! But maybe his Mars could conjunct Pluto? He’d be a very determined character, possibly dangerous if thwarted. Believable for a murderer? Sure, but it would be even better if there was an opposition from Uranus, making him hot-headed and dangerously impulsive.
Clicking on my Solar Fire program, I advance month by month through the year and finally, there’s a date that works. On October 1, 1972, Mars, Pluto and the Sun are all conjunct in Libra. Let’s change his birthday and make him a couple of years younger. He’s not a Scorpio at all, but a Libra (normally a very nice gentle sign). Not only are those three planets conjunct, but they’re close to his natal Uranus. Watch out for this guy!
And just as important, his victim would have to have some close ties to his chart. There have actually been serious studies done by astrologers to investigate the charts between murderers and their victims. If I remember correctly, the researchers found that in each case there was a tie between Mars and Pluto in the two natal charts. Kinda scary, right?
Moving on to the murder victim ... let’s say she’s a female for the plot I have in mind. And let’s say, she’s ten years younger than her killer. She’d have to be born around 1982. Experimenting, I discover that on February 1, 1982, Mars, Saturn and Pluto are all lined up in Libra, conjunct the murderer’s Sun-Mars-Pluto, and if I set the time right, those planets would be near his victim’s Ascendant. Could these two imaginary individuals really clash? They certainly could! I have my charts (when I have to mention them in the mystery) for both the murderer and his victim. Yay! The astrology will work for my plot!
Now, in the best of all possible worlds, Julia would be super smart and see this possible danger on the horizon. But if she does, and if she saves the victim, then where’s the body? Where’s the story? And do I have a plot and a murder mystery? Nope. Julia’s going to have to figure all this out after the fact by looking to the stars to unmask the guilty.

About the Author
Connie di Marco
Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mystery series from Midnight Ink, featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. The first in the series, The Madness of Mercury, was released in June 2016 and the second, All Signs Point to Murder, available for pre-order now, will be released on 8 August 2017.
Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. Some of her favorite recipes can be found in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. She grew up in New England and now lives on the other coast.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card or one of two ebook copies of All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco.