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Friday, November 27, 2020

Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde (VBT: Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Winter Witness by author Tina deBellegarde!

Book Review

Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde
Book 1: Batavia-On-Hudson Mystery Series
Publisher: Level Best Books
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Format: Paperback - 298 pages
               Kindle - 6586 KB
               Nook - 10 MB
ISBN: 978-1947915763
BNID: 978-1947915770
Genre: Mystery

Buy The Book:

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest book review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.

Book Description:

When a beloved nun is murdered in a sleepy Catskill Mountain town, a grieving young widow finds herself at the center of the turmoil. Bianca St. Denis is searching for a job and seeking acceptance in her new home of Batavia-on-Hudson. Agatha Miller, the nun’s closest friend and the ailing local historian everyone loves to hate, shares her painful personal history and long-buried village secrets with Bianca. Armed with this knowledge, Bianca unravels the mysteries surrounding the death while dealing with the suspicions of her eccentric neighbors.

However, Bianca’s meddling complicates the sheriff’s investigation as well as his marriage. Can Sheriff Mike Riley escape his painful past in a town where murder and infighting over a new casino vie for his attention?

Danger stalks Bianca as she gets closer to the truth. Can the sheriff solve the mystery before the killer strikes again? Can the town heal its wounds once the truth has been uncovered?

Book Excerpt:


Thursday, December 15

She could have been sleeping, were it not for the gaping gash in the back of her head and the bloody stone next to her limp body.

Sheriff Mike Riley stood alone on the shore of the near-frozen lake. At his feet, Sister Elaine Fisher lay face down, ice crystals forming around her body where it met the shoreline. The murmuring water of the nearby stream imparted a peacefulness at odds with the scene. In the waning winter light, he paused ankle deep in the snow illuminated by the beat of red strobe lights.

Murder seemed so extreme. The villagers would be baffled. Murder didn’t happen in sleepy Batavia-on-Hudson. An occasional stolen bicycle, some were paid off the books, but that was hardly worth mentioning. Lately, there had been a handful of amateur burglaries. Murder was another story altogether.

But there was no denying it. Elaine’s body was there before him, lifeless on a cushion of snow at the edge of the lake.

Sheriff Riley ran his chapped hands through his salt and pepper hair. A knowing person might have noticed that he used this motion to disguise a quick brush at his cheek, to eliminate the one tear that slipped through.

He feared this day, the day his lazy job would bring him face to face once again with the ugly underbelly he knew existed even in a quiet place like Batavia-on-Hudson. Mike Riley wasn’t afraid of death. He was afraid of the transformation a village like this was bound to go through after an act of murder.

He cried for Elaine; though he barely knew her. But also, he cried for the village that died with her that morning. A place where children still wandered freely. A village that didn’t lock doors, and trusted everyone, even the ones they gossiped about. Now, inevitably, the villagers would be guarded around each other, never quite sure anymore if someone could be trusted.

He thought he could already hear the locks snapping shut in cars and homes as word of the murder got out. Mothers yanking children indoors, hand-in-hand lovers escaping the once-romantic shadows of the wooded pathways, and old ladies turning into shut-ins instead of walking their dogs across the windy bluff.

Sheriff Riley steeled himself not just to confront the damaged body of the first murder victim of Batavia in over seventy years, but to confront the worried faces of mothers, the defeated faces of fathers and the vulnerable faces of the elderly.

He squatted in the slush, wincing as his bad knee rebelled, and laid his hands on Elaine’s rough canvas jacket, two-sizes too big—one of her thrift shop purchases, no doubt. As reverently as was possible in the muddy snow, Mike Riley turned over her body to examine the face of a changing village.

Sister Elaine had no one left, she had no known siblings and of course, no spouse or children. Only Agatha Miller, her childhood companion, could have been considered next of kin. How Elaine had tolerated her grumpy old friend was a mystery to everyone.

The sheriff knew that Elaine’s death would rock the community. Even a relative outsider like Mike understood that Elaine had been an anchor in Batavia. Her kindness had given the village heart, and her compassion had given it soul. No one would be prepared for this.

Mike knew from experience that preparation for death eases the grief. You start getting ready emotionally and psychologically. You make arrangements. You imagine your life without someone. But Mike also knew that when the time comes it still slaps you in the face, cold and bracing. And you realize you were only fooling yourself. Then somehow, in short order, work becomes demanding, bills need to be paid and something on the radio steals a chuckle right out of your throat. For a brief second you realize that there are moments of respite from your grief and perhaps someday those moments will expand and you may be able to experience joy once again.

But for now, Elaine’s death will be a shock. No one had prepared for her death, let alone her murder.


Excerpt from Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde. Copyright 2020 by Tina deBellegarde. Reproduced with permission from Tina deBellegarde. All rights reserved.

My Book Review:

In Winter Witness, book one of the Batavia-On-Hudson Mystery Series, author Tina deBellegarde transports the reader to the tranquil Catskill Mountains lakeside village of Batavia-On-Hudson, New York, for an intriguing mystery story that will keep the reader guessing and turning the pages.

The past year has been difficult for Bianca St. Denis as she grieves her husband's death, while also trying to transition from an outsider and gain the acceptance of the villagers, even though she has lived in the village for the past 3 years.

When local beloved nun Sister Elaine Fisher is found murdered on the shore of the frozen lake, and her childhood friend and local village historian Agatha Miller dies two days later, Bianca thinks that there is a connection between both deaths, and decides to be an amateur sleuth and delve into investigating the deaths on her own. In a small village where the villagers seem to know everything about each other, Bianca remembers what Agatha told her while visiting her: the village is full of secrets hidden from the public eye. One never really knows what burdens each carries, what battles they are fighting, and that things are not always as they appear. With that in mind, Bianca decides to bear witness to the comings and goings of the villagers, noting down observations, but the more she learns about the villagers, the more she discovers that the more danger, potential motives, and suspects are added to the list, while her meddling also adds to the burden of Sheriff Mike Riley's investigation. Will Sheriff Riley listen to Bianca's information and find the killer before the killer strikes again? 

In her debut novel, Author Tina deBellegarde weaves a fast-paced and suspenseful tale that follows Bianca's amateur sleuth investigation to uncover the truth behind the deaths of longtime friends Sister Elaine Fisher and Agatha Miller.

I loved reading this action-packed story. Bianca's observations of the villagers and her personal investigation into the deaths kept me intrigued as she slowly put the pieces of the mystery puzzle together and uncovered the truth. The reader will be easily drawn into this richly descriptive plot that will keep them guessing as long hidden secrets, family dramas, a growing list of possible suspects, motives, and clues are uncovered. And if that's not enough, Bianca also has to deal with personal issues of grieving her husband's death, loneliness, and desperately wanting to gain the acceptance of the villagers.  

I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much I loved reading snippets of the quirky villagers' individual secrets, and the richly vivid description of the tranquil lakeside village in the Catskills Mountains, that makes me want to take a roadtrip to the picturesque Hudson Valley region.

I look forward to reading the next book in the Batavia-On-Hudson Mystery Series.

Winter Witness has enough drama, tension, action, dark secrets, intrigue, and unexpected twists and turns that will take the reader on one heck of a thrilling roller coaster ride.


About The Author

Tina deBellegarde lives in Catskill, New York with her husband Denis and their cat Shelby. Winter Witness is the first book in the Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series. Tina also writes short stories and flash fiction. When she isn’t writing, she is helping Denis tend their beehives, harvest shiitake mushrooms, and cultivate their vegetable garden. She travels to Japan regularly to visit her son, Alessandro. Tina did her graduate studies in history. She is a former exporter, paralegal, teacher, and library clerk.

Contest Giveaway

Win A $20 Amazon Gift Card


Paperback / eBook Copy of Winter Witness

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Tina deBellegarde. There will be 6 winners. Two (2) winners will each win one (1) Gift Card. Two (2) winners will each win one (1) physical copy of Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde (U.S. addresses only) and two (2) winners will each win one (1) eBook of Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde The giveaway begins on November 1, 2020 and runs through December 2, 2020. Void where prohibited. 

Virtual Book Tour

Tour Participants:

01/27/21 Podcast w/Fran Lewis

01/27/21 Review @ Just Reviews

11/02 Review @ Quiet Fury Books

11/03 Review @ Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!

11/04 Interview/showcase @ CMash Reads

11/05 Showcase @ The Pulp and Mystery Shelf

11/06 Review @ Buried Under Books

11/07 Review @ Jane Pettit Reviews

11/08 Review @ Miss W Book Reviews

11/09 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader

11/10 Review @ It’s All About the Book

11/11 Review @ Celticladys Reviews

11/12 Showcase @ Lisa-Queen of Random

11/13 Guest post @ Novels Alive

11/15 Showcase @ nanasbookreviews

11/16 Review/showcase @ Our Town Book Reviews

11/18 Review/Showcase @ Novels N Latte

11/19 Interview @ Reading A Page Turner

11/19 Review @ On the Page Pa services

11/20 Review @ 5 Minutes for Books

11/22 Showcase @ EienCafe

11/23 Interview @ A Blue Million Books

11/24 Review @ Sunny island breezes

11/25 Showcase @ Nesies Place

11/26 Guest post @ BooksChatter

11/27 Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews

11/28 Review @ A Room Without Books is Empty

11/29 Review @ The World As I See It

11/30 Review @ Scrapping & Playing


  1. WOW! What a review!! I need to get my hands on a copy before the sequel is released!!

    1. Hi Cheryl! Yes, get a copy of the book, it was a really good mystery story.

  2. Thank you, Kathleen, for that wonderful review of WINTER WITNESS! Your generous words made my day!

    1. Hi Tina! Thank you for allowing me to feature WINTER WITNESS on my blog. This is a great start to a series, can't read to read book 2.