Frozen Stiff Drink: Death at Danby Landing, the 6th book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, will be available as a .99 Kindle download. Below you’ll find several highlights, and if you are interested in reading the book, you can purchase it as a physical book or a Kindle version via Amazon.
About Frozen Stiff Drink
Frozen Stiff Drink: A Kellan Ayrwick Cozy Mystery
(Braxton Campus Mysteries)
6th in Series
Publisher: Gumshoe – A Next Chapter Imprint
(March 18, 2020)
Digital Edition – ~270 Pages
A winter blizzard barrels toward Wharton County with a vengeance. Madam Zenya predicted the raging storm would change the course of Kellan’s life, but the famed seer never could’ve prepared him for all the collateral damage. Nana D disappears after visiting a patient at Willow Trees, leaving behind a trail of confusion. When the patient turns up dead and a second body is discovered beneath the snowbanks, Kellan must face his worst fears. What tragedy has befallen his beloved grandmother?
Kellan’s brother Hampton learns essential life lessons the hard way after his father-in-law accuses him of embezzlement. While trying to prove his innocence, Hampton digs himself a deeper hole that might lead to prison. Sheriff Montague wants to save him, but she receives the shock of her life as the past hurtles forward and complicates her future.
Between locating Nana D and solving the scandalous murder of another prominent Braxton citizen, Kellan and April’s worlds explode with more turmoil than they can handle. Too bad neither one of them knows what to do about the psychic’s latest premonition. The suspicious deaths happening around town aren’t ending anytime soon.
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5 out of 5 stars
This was a really great book! The suspense was just right and I had only a small inkling of who the villain MIGHT be.
The story is well-written and James Cudney does a great job pulling all the storylines together to give us a wonderful conclusion.
~Carla Loves to Read
Frozen Stiff Drink by James J. Cudney is a complex plot with multiple crimes and intriguing characters.
~Baroness’ Book Trove
Mr. Cudney has written an intricate story that is multifaceted with subplots twisted together and Kellan in the middle of them all . . . Full of twists and misdirections, the pace is at a constant high. The ending was exciting and full of surprises.
~Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book
This was good clean cosy mystery that will keep you guessing, once again I thought I had the culprit down but a few red herrings made me rethink and once again I was off the mark! Now that makes a good mystery in my eyes,
“Grrr! Argh! Blech!” Circling the shopping district’s downtown lot for the third time, I begged the parking gods to graciously relinquish an open spot. Everyone and their mother roamed the streets in frenzied pursuit of supplies and their cowering sanity. A vicious blizzard barreled toward Wharton County, and all four towns had flipped their lids in fear of Doomsday’s imminent arrival. I insisted Madam Zenya’s premonition of the disaster was a hallucination despite worrying she often hit the proverbial bullseye.
“Was that gibberish? Are you speaking English, Kellan?” Lara, a late-forties former supermodel turned news reporter, bellowed through the staticky phone. We’d met the previous year when she moderated Nana D’s mayoral debates. After the charming Ms. Bouvier had co-investigated a suspicious death that summer, we’d become good friends and colleagues on our television show, Dark Reality.
I hurled the headset onto the passenger seat, switched my cell to speakerphone, and gripped the steering wheel with such ferocity it permanently imprinted my palms. “Sorry, the hands-free device cut out. It’s good you didn’t hear my mumbling. They weren’t the most flattering words.”
“For heaven’s sake, park in the loading zone outside Nutberry Pharmacy. Your grandmother is the mayor. You’re dating the sheriff. I doubt you’ll get a ticket.” Lara chortled with amusement regarding my current predicament. “Unless they’re conspiring to exact revenge on you… ummm… on second thought, you’re right. Drive around one more time. I suspect you’ll get lucky soon.”
“Yep, Nana D and April rarely get along, but torturing me is the one pastime they share in common.” Upon noticing an empty spot in the far corner, I swiftly cut the steering wheel and expediently navigated toward it. “You were right! I found one.”
It was my second trip in the last hour to the drugstore. My visits hadn’t exactly delighted the Nutberry family ever since I’d discovered the crimes one of them committed the previous spring. Murder wasn’t known to unite people in blissful harmony. Neither was the threat of inclement weather.
Fresh off a full day of teaching students who prayed for the cancellation of next week’s classes, due to the monster-sized winter storm whizzing our way, a dozen last-minute errands still plagued my to-do notes. After I’d ticked them off the list, my fifteen-year-old cousin informed me he’d run out of deodorant. Ulan had become my ward after Uncle Zach extended his African expedition to protect a rare elephant species. Under normal circumstances, notwithstanding the teenage hormones and noxious fumes emanating from his bedroom, I’d wait until tomorrow to buy it. Procrastination wasn’t possible this time. Ulan and my seven-year-old daughter, Emma, were leaving for Disney World in the morning.
“Excellent. We need to discuss Hiram’s Dark Reality segment. Although he’s improved since emerging from the coma last month, his recovery will take months. He’s agreed to step down and recommend a temporary replacement judge before the next election,” Lara exclaimed after her impromptu visit to Willow Trees Rehabilitation Center. Judge Grey, her former father-in-law, was recuperating from a haunted hayride accident that’d threatened his life four months ago.
“And Wharton County collectively breathes a sigh of relief. Nana D will dance an Irish jig when the crusty magistrate vacates the bench. Sayonara to the ancient red tape she’s trying to eliminate.” Truthfully, the man had no chance of re-election. When news leaked about his conspiracy with a psychiatrist to murder a healthy and sane patient years ago, citizens would revolt. The only reasons for a delayed uproar were his submersion into a coma and inability to perform judicial duties.
Lara raved about Nana D’s plans for ridding our county of corruption. “When I got there, some young girl with a pastel green streak in her hair yelled at him about destroying families. Good for her!”
“Judge Grey is a blight on Wharton County. Did he reveal his replacement nominee?”
“Nope, he refused. It honestly looked like the Grim Reaper was knocking at his door. My heart swells for Imogene. My daughter loves her grandfather in spite of all the shameless things he’s done.” Lara shared an update on Hiram’s condition: alive, more arrogant than usual, and begging for someone to sneak in a bottle of expensive bourbon. “Can you believe that man stashes a special crystal tumbler at the rehab center for his hourly cocktails? Even that persnickety red-haired nurse threatened to clobber him if he barked one more order at her.”
“Given my frustrations at this unbearable moment, Hiram’s demands don’t sound half bad.”
“You need to relax. Finish your errands, meander home, and drink something potent to squelch your attitude.” Lara suggested we meet for breakfast the following morning at the Pick-Me-Up Diner, my sister’s famed cozy eatery, to plot the episode we were filming on the Garibaldi and Grey families.
“Duly noted.” I slammed on the brakes, causing my neck to crash into the seat’s headrest and seesaw until I practically collided with the dashboard too. “I don’t believe it! Who does he think… of all the moronic things… what the—”
Lara interrupted before I could mutter another stream of obscenities that would prompt Nana D to wash out my mouth with soap. “What’s going on? You’re back to gibberish again, darling. For a literature and film professor at Braxton, words don’t come naturally to you, do they?”
“Some idiot stole my parking spot. He gunned ahead of me.” I rolled down my window, shivered at the frosty gusts pricking my cheeks, and waited for the sneaky louse to exit his tiny red sports car.
A tall, well-built man in his early thirties, the same age as me, stepped out of the convertible and strolled by without a care in the world. I swear he bobbed his head and hummed Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” I grunted and stink-eyed the jerk strutting around in dark jeans, a black V-neck tee, and a Nordic ski hat that covered most of his unshaven, structured face. The guy had zero body fat to speak of—how did he walk the streets dressed like we weren’t approaching an ice age again? It was the middle of February and colder than the Arctic. No matter how hard I tried—regardless of growing up in this snow globe—I couldn’t acclimate to the harsh Pennsylvania winters after living in LA for the last decade.
“Hey, sorry, man. Didn’t realize you wanted that spot,” he carelessly called out, shrugging as he sauntered away with a poorly concealed and immature chuckle. “Better luck next time.”
As he turned, a tattoo of a snake—with the longest tongue I’d ever seen—roamed the entire length of his beefy arm, both surprising and confusing me. Although I didn’t know everyone in our small town, I was certain he hailed from other parts. “Seriously? You’re gonna walk away like that?” While idling in the middle of the lot, I snarled and shifted the car into park, remembering Lara lingered on the phone. “Hold on. That was the last spot, and I’m in a rush.”
“Life’s short, dude. You gotta take what you want and never look back.” The obnoxious spot-stealer winked, sped into a jog, and waved at a shorter, dark-skinned man near the corner of Nutberry Pharmacy. He proffered the other man a small package, and in return, the spot-stealer collected a bank envelope he discreetly stuffed inside his back pocket. Had I witnessed a drug deal in progress?
Lara hollered my name. “Let it go. Find another space. See you tomorrow morning if we both survive the impending apocalypse. Ciao, babe.”
“Thanks for the advice!” I swallowed my rising anger and considered my options. It would take five minutes to run into the store, select a stick of deodorant that’d protect us from Ulan’s death sweat, and dash back to the car. With the decision unanimously agreed, I parked behind the red sports car, ensuring its delinquent driver couldn’t back out, and executed my errand. It was rare I fought fire with fire, but he deserved my wrath, and I would return before him—most likely.
As I approached the counter in our local family-run pharmacy, frowning at the five people in front of me, I held up the deodorant to Tiffany Nutberry. I gestured something that volunteered I was in a hurry or had gotten my tongue stuck to an icy pole, then begged her to add it to my tab. My brother’s former college gal pal nodded and focused on her next customer. Sometimes living in a small town where everyone knew your name was a beneficial curse.
I retreated to the front door, scanning the area for the creep who’d stolen the spot, but found no sign of my newest mortal enemy or the stranger he’d surreptitiously met. While I catapulted across the lot, a note on the windshield and an empty parking space garnered my attention. The spot-stealer had driven over the low curb rather than wait for me to return. I anxiously read the message:
Your plan backfired. Mine won’t. I know how to get even. I also don’t give up easily.
A petulant man would’ve kicked the tires in frustration. An intelligent guy would’ve shaken it off and escaped without a colossal tantrum. Judging by the throbbing in my foot when I pressed the gas pedal to dart away from the vacant space, my level of maturity sputtered in a non-ideal direction.
It had been a day. If I could’ve returned it for a refund or shoplifted a new one from a discount rack, I’d have been better off. While driving to Danby Landing, Nana D’s organic orchard and farm, I conjured ways to avenge the spot-stealer and heeded the tail end of a regional weather report—or desperate warning that we’d soon march to a painful death. I couldn’t decipher his bleak tone.
“To recap for those who missed my detailed forecast, temperatures will drop like atom bombs overnight into the teens. By afternoon, snow flurries will descend on us poor, unfortunate souls. Although the weekend will sprinkle only a trifle of snow, be cognizant of fierce and major precipitation by Sunday evening when you will become unavoidably trapped—housebound for days like suffering prisoners. Some are nicknaming it the blizzard of the century, and one thing’s for sure, folks… don’t leave your pets and shoes outside this weekend. By Monday, we will greet three feet of snow with another six inches dropped on us by dinnertime. No one wants to lose a pinky toe to frostbite or visit the local taxidermist.”
I switched the channel and snorted at the static blasting through the speakers. “It’s a good thing my parents and the kids are leaving on vacation.” Though I spoke to myself, it was better than listening to the weather forecast. I’d wanted to escape with them on the trip, but Braxton’s Spring Break wasn’t until the following week. I couldn’t abandon my job. My parents were doing me a favor by watching the kids, which allowed me extra time to address the premier episode of Dark Reality with Lara. We needed to focus all our spare energy on preparing for the thrilling series revitalization.
I’d also spend quality time with April. Our lack of intimacy had descended into sore subject territory. Although we’d shared a romantic Valentine’s Day earlier that week, a burst pipe in the sheriff’s office had slashed our time shorter than a matchstick. The kids were always a priority. And ever since she’d revealed that a divorce from her husband had not formally taken place years ago, we’d been tracing the mysterious man’s whereabouts to resolve the itty-bitty complication. During April’s and my first official date on my birthday last Halloween, Madam Zenya interrupted to warn us she foresaw danger imminently hurtling in our direction. Months had passed without Beelzebub’s fireballs singing us, but she’d also suggested it would prevail during a winter blizzard. Could the approaching storm be what she’d hinted about?
That night, April had also given me a birthday present—a fake certificate awarding me an honorary degree in meddling and nuisance studies. The gift came with a plastic badge she brazenly directed to affix to my lips whenever I yearned to solve murders. Irony prompted half the town to refer to me as The Unlikely Death Locator. I’d somehow innocently involved myself in five of her murder investigations in the last year, and despite the frequent trouble it caused, we’d still developed a fiery attraction to one another. Unfortunately, my separation from a not-so-dead mobster wife, Francesca Castigliano, had just begun, and April’s split from her globetrotting not-so-divorced husband, Fox Terrell, was an unexpected new obstacle. Quite a pair of hot messes, weren’t we?
As I drove past the Danby Landing cottage, my brother and his boyfriend zoomed down the path on his motorcycle. Of all the idiotic things to do given the threat of a snowstorm, Gabriel would be the one knucklehead to risk his and Sam’s lives on a bike. I hastily waved through the window, knowing we’d scheduled dinner for Sunday, unless the looming winter disaster rendered that impossible. I’d decided to introduce my girlfriend to my family in a non-official capacity by testing the waters with Gabriel. His sarcasm and humor were on par with mine. It would be easy to relax in a group setting while Sam was on a break from graduate school. They’d been dating for six months even though the long-distance had occasionally caused a few issues cum calamities. Gabriel could be quite an obnoxious handful.
About the Author
James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.
Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.
Reader & Reviewer
Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.
Blogger & Thinker
I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.
Genealogist & Researcher
I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.
Genres, Formats & Languages
I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available.
All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.
Goodreads Book Links
Braxton Campus Mysteries
Academic Curveball – #1 (October 2018)
Broken Heart Attack – #2 (November 2018)
Flower Power Trip – #3 (March 2019)
Mistaken Identity Crisis – #4 (June 2019)
Haunted House Ghost – #5 (October 2019)
Frozen Stiff Drink – #6 (March 2020)
I highly recommend all of Jay’s books. I am not just saying that because I read them as ARCs or because Jay has become a blogging friend of mine I genuinely love his books. I have loved every single thing he has written and he quickly became a favorite author of mine. It’s hard to pick which one I love the most but this one is without a doubt my favorite one in the Braxton Campus Mysteries series but I do love them all. He is discounting his books throughout the month of May so if you’ve been hesitant to jump on the bandwagon now is the perfect time. You can still get the German version of Academic Curveball until tomorrow 5/19 and Watching Glass Shatter until 5/21.