Sunday, October 16, 2022

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Question Is Murder by Mark Willen

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Question Is Murder by Mark Willen. This blog tour was organized by Lola's Blog Tours. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as a fascinating guest post from the author regarding a true life crime mystery. There's also the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Title: The Question Is Murder
Author: Mark Willen
Publisher: Pen-L Publishing
Publication Date: May 14th 2021
Print Length: 322 pages
Genre: Crime Mystery
Washington D.C. newspaper columnist Sam Turner, known to his readers as Mr. Ethics, faces his toughest moral dilemma yet: Can murder ever be justified?

That's the question posed to him by a mysterious young woman who says she is being stalked and harassed by an ex-lover too powerful to be stopped any other way. Sam knows that journalists should never get personally involved in a story, but he finds he is being drawn deeper and deeper into this one whether he wants it or not.

So when Senator Wade Morgan turns up murdered, Sam fears the worst. Worried about his own involvement, the man who normally has all the answers is now the one making questionable decisions.

As his investigation into the Senator's death begins to spin out of control, Sam finds he can't let go-even as the case grows more complicated and the threats against his life become more immediate.

With the fate of a young woman at stake and his own life in jeopardy, Sam can't back down until the killer-whoever that may be-is brought to justice.

But this is D.C., and justice can be in short supply.


I call in sick. I don’t have a choice. I didn’t sleep and when I see the CNN report in the morning, I throw up. Not much, mind you. I’ve hardly eaten in weeks and I’ve been losing a lot of weight. Best diet known to man. Or woman. Get trolled and sexted by the creep you once thought you loved and watch the pounds slip away.

I don’t know what to do about the email to Mr. Ethics. Why on earth did I do something so stupid? It’s going to come back to screw me. I know it is. What was I thinking? Though thinking is not a real possibility when you don’t eat or sleep. Even if it were, there was no way I could predict how it would play out. No way.

Why did I believe some stranger who writes a newspaper column might understand? What man could? I don’t care how smart and sensitive he claims to be. I shouldn’t have listened to Danny. Ariana had no right to even tell him what was happening. I only told her because I had to tell someone. I should have known she’d share it with him. She trusts him with everything. Someday that will come back to bite her. She says he’s different. Maybe. Or maybe not.

The cable channels can’t get enough of Wade’s death, though they’ve had no new information in hours. Fox only says his body was found in Rock Creek Park and that police discovered the gun. One of their reporters mentions possible suicide before admitting he doesn’t have a clue.

I turn to CNN and they are already in full speculation mode. There’s a laughable panel talking about how controversial Wade is. Was. A frequent guest on Fox TV, they say, as if that is relevant. They even have statistics on how often he appeared. Of course he was on Fox. Who else would have him?

I make a cup of tea and consider eating something, but the thought makes me gag. Maybe a piece of toast. No, I can’t eat anything. But Lassie reminds me that she wouldn’t mind a little breakfast. She’s been at my side constantly, sensing a crisis, I suppose. She’s like that. I open a can, empty it into her plate, and place it on the floor along with fresh water.

I sit down, then move to the floor and lie flat, trying to do my breathing exercises. But I can’t. Too tense to relax. The thought makes me laugh. I go back to the TV, and Lassie joins me on the couch. I want to light a cigarette, but that will drive her away—sometimes I think she’s read articles on second-hand smoke—and I’d rather have her than a cigarette.

I wonder how Mr. Ethics is taking the news. I so wish I hadn’t gone to him. Can he find out my name? Maybe he already has. If he tells the police about my email, they can probably track me down. Even if Mr. Ethics—how supercilious is that name?—doesn’t tell them about me, they’ll go through Wade’s email and computer. Did he erase all trace of me? Obviously not. He kept those pictures. Oh God. I can see the cops gathered about a computer leering at them. But maybe Wade never wrote my name down. He was cautious. I can only hope, I guess.

I get up and walk away from the TV, go to the window, then the kitchen, then back to the bedroom, then the bathroom. Maybe I should take something to calm down. I still can’t believe this is happening to me. What’s worse is I know it was my own fault. I’ve acted like a criminal since the moment I first invited him to my apartment.

I know it’s only a matter of time before Ariana shows up. As soon as she hears the news, she’ll call. Or show up. Telling her about Wade was a big mistake, but I was so happy, and she knew I was seeing someone and kept asking. But why did I tell her who he was?

She was shocked that I was with someone twice my age. And married, no less. Sharing my good times with Ariana backfired big time when it went bad. I holed up in my apartment for three days, and she came to see what was wrong. She was a princess about it. Even cleaned up after he sent the pictures and I vomited. She wanted me to go to the police. Like they would have done something about a senator. I refused, of course, and I guess that’s when she told Danny. He came up with the great idea of going to Mr. Ethics, their professor. Why did I agree to that? Desperate, I guess. Truly Desperate.
Mark Willen was born, raised, and educated in New England, where he developed a special appreciation for the values, humor, and strength of its people, as well as the sense of community that characterizes so many of its small towns. After college, he moved to the Washington, DC area, where he quickly learned how the other half lives.

As a journalist, he has been a reporter, columnist, blogger, producer, and editor at The Voice of America, National Public Radio, Congressional Quarterly, Bloomberg News, and Kiplinger.

Mark retired from journalism in 2010 to devote himself to writing fiction. As a former graduate-level teacher of journalism ethics, he also tries to help people figure out the right thing to do in difficult situations through his blog, Talking Ethics.

Mark has a Masters of Arts in writing from Johns Hopkins University (2010) and a Bachelor of Arts in government from Dartmouth College (1969).

The Question Is Murder is Mark’s debut mystery, but there is always an element of suspense in his novels. His earlier Jonas Hawke series, three books set in a small but troublesome town in Vermont, were also published by Pen-L. His short stories have appeared in The Rusty Nail, Corner Club Press, and The Boiler Review.

Mark lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife, Janet. He can be reached by emailing mark(at)

- Which true crime mystery would you like to see solved the most in your lifetime?

Good question! I’m going to skip over the obvious ones—those that have been the subject of countless documentaries and podcasts (think Zodiak Killer, JonBenet Ramsey, Jack the Ripper)— and pick one that took place near where I grew up—the Connecticut River valley. At 406 miles, the river is the longest in New England, beginning 300 yards from Canada and running down to Long Island Sound. It delineates much of the border between New Hampshire and Vermont and runs right through Hartford. Its frequent flooding in Hartford destroyed my grandfather’s hardware store on two occasions in the 1950s.

The crime I want solved—really a series of crimes—involved the stabbing of several young women in the 1980s in an area close to Claremont, New Hampshire. In 1985 and 1986, the skeletal remains of two young woman were found within a thousand feet of each other in a wooded area in Kelleyville, New Hampshire. The cause of death was hard to determine, but the best guess was multiple stab wounds.

Police soon linked at least three and possibly five other killings that involved similar MOs, including similar wound patterns and the location of bodies. But the killings stopped and police worried that the serial killer had moved on.

Then, on the evening of Aug. 6, 1988, 22-year-old Jane Boroski, who was seven months pregnant, was accosted by a man near Keene, New Hampshire and stabbed 27 times before the assailant drove away, leaving her to die. But somehow Boroski managed to drive to a nearby house for help and she was air evacuated to a trauma center, where doctors were able to save her, despite a severed jugular vein, two collapsed lungs and dozens of other wounds. Miraculously, her baby also survived.

Boroski was able to help police artists produce a sketch of the killer’s face, a special task force was formed, and media coverage included a segment on Unsolved Murders and a book. But no one was ever arrested and the murders were pushed back into the cold case file.

Then, almost twenty years later, a prime suspect emerged. In 2001, the mother of Michelle Ashley, a Vermont woman who’d been missing since 1988, hired a private instigator, Lynn-Marie Carty, to find her daughter. Carty began by looking at Ashley’s common law husband, Michael Nicholaou, a decorated Vietnam veteran who had been treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Ashley’s mother said she had tried leaving Nicholaou without success before disappearing.

Carty contacted Nicholaou, who denied knowing the whereabouts of Ashley, accusing her of being a “slut” who abandoned him and their two children.

Carty’s progress came slowly, and in 2005, Nicholaou’s second wife escaped from him, but he soon found her and took her hostage. When a police SWAT team arrived, he shot his wife, their child, and then himself.

Carty was convinced that Nicholaou was responsible for the Connecticut River murder spree, but his picture does not match the sketch created after Boroski’s attack, and there is no DNA to prove or disprove a connection. Further complicated the case is that Nicholaou was living in Virginia during at least three of the murders.

Carty has convinced Boroski, who insists his picture does resemble her attacker and that he is the killer. But for police, it is still an open case, and with Nicholaou dead, it may well remain an unsolved mystery.
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(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Lola's Blog Tours and the author assume all responsibility over the giveaway.)

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