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Hidden Gem: the Secret of St. Augustine by @msspencerauthor is a Mystery/Suspense pick #mystery


Hidden Gem: the Secret of St. Augustine


M. S. Spencer


Cozy mystery/Romantic suspense

Book Blurb:

Barnaby and Philo’s story begins with very bad chili and a dead body.

Barnaby is in St. Augustine, Florida, to teach a college seminar, and plans to use The Secret—a treasure hunt book—as a framework for his class. He enlists Philo Brice, owner of an antique map store, to aid him in seeking clues in the historic sites of the ancient city. Together they face murderers, thieves, thugs, and fanatics, heightening their already strong attraction to each other. Can they solve the puzzle and unearth the treasure before the villains do? Philo and Barnaby pursue several twisting paths and false leads before arriving at a startling conclusion.

Excerpt: The Dead body

He took a lick lap around the top scoop. “My favorite flavor. It’s hard to find nowadays. When I was in college and we had to pull an all-nighter, we’d go to this diner in the suburbs. Their specialty was a butter brickle sundae with hot butterscotch.” He closed his eyes and smacked his lips. “Ah, salad days.”

“Salad days? I thought you said it was ice cream.”

He walked around her, inspecting her head. “Just checking that it’s screwed on. ‘Salad days’ is an expression for the good old days. Halcyon days. Heyday. Days of yore. Get it?”

Philo didn’t bother to reply. Opening her coin purse, she said briskly, “My treat.” They found a bench outside and sat down. “You were going to tell me about your dissertation.”

“I was?”

Short term memory loss? Or a phony? “What school?”

“Princeton. But let’s not talk about that. I want your advice.”

Aha. My new friend has something to hide. “Okay.”

“I’m conducting a four-week seminar on historical methodology for six Flagler students. They’re rising seniors, majoring in one or another of the social sciences. The first day or so I’ll be teaching them about research methods—library, field, experimental. Then I plan to let them apply what they’ve learned. So I thought, why not send them on a treasure hunt?” He looked at her anxiously. “What do you think?”

“You mean, the treasure hunt? Byron Preiss’s Secret? Is that why you were lurking around the book?”

Barnaby nodded vigorously. The ice cream fell out of his cone and landed on his shoe. He regarded it, clearly confounded.

When he showed no sign of recovering, Philo took charge. Handing him her cone to hold—“You eat it, you pay for it”—she went inside, pulled a wad of napkins from the container on the counter, came out, and wiped the mess off his foot. While she worked, his tongue took a surreptitious swipe at her ice cream. “I saw that!” She handed him the dirty napkins and took her cone back.

Once again, he went on as though there had been no interruption. “See, I want them to use the methods we discuss to solve the secret of the stones. The sixth image in the book is almost universally deemed to refer to St. Augustine. My objective is to set them the task of finding the casque using their powers of extrapolation and perscrutation.” He glanced at her dazed face. “If perforce you find yourself without your trusty pocket thesaurus, that means detection.”

“It’s a great idea. I—”

Philo decided that it was rather restful not to have to come up with clever dialogue, or even make a decision. “Where to?”

He checked his watch. Philo was amused to observe it was black plastic with a picture of Goofy on it. “I’ll take you home. Early day tomorrow.”

“Oh? What do you have on?” She felt a brief, unaccustomed disappointment. I should be relieved. At least there’s still time for a real supper.

“Not me. Us. I’ve seen St. Augustine from the air and by train. Your shop is closed tomorrow. I propose we take a walking tour of your fair city, starting with the Castillo. I’ll meet you at the Bridge of Lions at eight thirty sharp.” He lifted one foot. “Wear comfortable shoes.”

Well, I’ll be damned. She couldn’t think of anything in response, and they continued down the street to the central plaza.

As they passed under the old wooden archway leading to Aviles Street and her apartment, sirens rent the air. Barnaby pointed down King Street toward Cordova Street. “They’re coming from there. Hurry.” He started to drag her down the sidewalk.

She resisted. “What are you, some kind of ambulance chaser?”

“No, no. What a funny thing to say. No. Don’t you hear them?”

“The sirens?”



“So…I’m thinking they found the body.”

Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):

What makes your featured book a must-read?

Fun, quirky, based on a real treasure hunt, and chock-full of anecdotes and history of the oldest city in North America (St. Augustine). These quotes from reviews may help: “There are plenty of twists and surprises to keep readers guessing until the very end. (I revised my suspicions several times throughout reading.)” (Meg C.) Or this one: “This book has it all. There’s mystery, intrigue, romance, clues, misdirection and a cast of characters that you’d expect to be peeking over the back fence…” (Mark Love)

Semi-finalist at the 2022 Royal Palm Literary Awards!!!!!

Giveaway –

Enter to win a $45 Amazon US or Amazon Canada gift card

Open Internationally. You must have an active Amazon US or CA account to win. Runs August 9 – August 18, 2022. Winner will be drawn on August 19, 2022.

Author Biography:

Social Media Links:

Amazon Author Page:

5 комментариев

10 авг. 2022 г.

My favorite thing about mysteries is the twists and turns!


Неизвестный пользователь
10 авг. 2022 г.

It sounds great. Hope you feel better!

Cindi Knowles


Barbara Bettis
10 авг. 2022 г.

Oh, my, M.S. how painful!!Hope you're doing better! Lots of good wishes for your recovery--and for your book promo!~!


M. S. Spencer
09 авг. 2022 г.

hi saorery to be late to the party! dislocated my shoulder and just back from hospital. i hope everyone enjoyed hidden gem and win big!


N. N. Light
N. N. Light
09 авг. 2022 г.

Thank you, M.S., for sharing your book in our Mystery and Suspense Bookish Event!

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