Review: Pharaoh’s Forgery by Ellen Butler

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Margaritas, mayhem, and murder. Too bad her only defense is a cocktail umbrella.

About The Book:

Margaritas, mayhem, and murder. Too bad her only defense is a cocktail umbrella.

After some of Karina Cardinal’s recent adventures—her lover Mike Finnegan would call them scrapes, jams, or pickles—she’s more than ready to blow this D.C. pop stand for a short girls’ trip to Mexico. Until Jillian’s roller skate wreck blows their plan out of the water. With Jilly injured and Mike working, her fellow lobbyist Rodrigo volunteers to share some sun, sand, and margaritas in Cancun. It’s tough to relax, though, knowing what’s in her suitcase. A package she promised to hand off to Mrs. Thundermuffin in Mexico.

Mrs. T’s evasive maneuvers around Karina’s questions wave more red flags than a bullfighter, leaving Karina no choice but to take a peek. Okay, so it’s not a kilo of something illegal. It’s an Egyptian death mask that turns out to be a magnet for crooks, conmen, kidnappers, and outright killers.

When the situation explodes into chaos, Karina and Rodrigo are lucky to have friends in the right place—at their backs. But they’re in one hell of a jam. And they could be going home in something tackier than a souvenir t-shirt—more like a body bag.

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“Karina, is that you?”

The connection was scratchy, but I thought I recognized the voice. “Mrs. Thundermuffin?”

“Yes, dearie, it’s me. I’m so glad I caught you.”

“Where are you?”

“In Mexico. Didn’t—” Her voice faded out.

“What? I can’t hear you.” I checked to make sure the volume on my phone was up all the way. “Hello?”

“I said . . . Mexico.”


The connection cleared as she spoke again. “I’m in Mexico. Didn’t I tell you that’s where I’d be?”

“Yes, you did. I’m surprised you’re calling. Is something the matter?”

“I’m not sure. Did you get that package yet?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, it came in yesterday.” I winced. “Only, I hate to tell you, I’m afraid it’s been damaged.”

“What? Did you say the item was damaged?”

“Well, I’m not sure about what’s inside, but the outer box was partially crushed, and there is a tear. Also, when I picked it up, there was a rattling sound.”

“Oh, boy.” She seemed to turn away from the phone to speak to someone else. Faintly, I heard, “She says the package is damaged. I don’t know, I’ll ask.” Her voice came back on the line at full strength. “Karina, would you do me a favor and check it out for me?”

“You want me to open the box?”

“Yes, and tell me what the contents look like.”

“Okay.” I retrieved the box from the front hall and brought it to the kitchen. “Let me put you on speaker.” Placing the phone on the counter, I sliced into the end that was not crushed.

“Okay, there’s a good bit of packing material.” I pulled out a bunch of the brown shredded paper. “We have a manila envelope, about four-by-eight, and scrawled across the center—’To Aunt Milly for your stamp collection.’ I didn’t know you were a stamp collector.” I put the unsealed envelope aside.

“I collect all sorts of things.”

Half a dozen loose coins fell out, clanking their way across the counter. “And there are some coins in here. Maybe that’s what was making the noise. They say centavos on one side, and the other—oh, I see, they’re from Brazil.” Someone spoke in a foreign language in the background, really more like bellowed in short, demanding sentences. I couldn’t catch what he was saying, but the tone didn’t sound nice. “Are you okay, Mrs. Thundermuffin?”

“Just fine, dear. My grandnephew sends me coins from the places he’s visited. Now about the case inside the box, has it been damaged?”

I gave the box a shake, and a hard, black plastic case, about twelve-by-ten inches, slid into my hand. “The case looks undamaged, and it feels fairly sturdy. Should I open it?”

“No, I don’t think that’s necessary. As long as the case is undamaged, I’m sure it’s fine.”

“Okay. Then it’ll be here when you get back.” I laid it down.

“Actually, dear, I was hoping you could do me the favor of bringing it with you when you come to Mexico.”

“Um, I suppose I can do that. But I’m headed to Cancun, I don’t think that’s very close to Mexico City at all.”

“I’m no longer in Mexico City. I’m on my way to Mérida. It’s on the Yucatan Peninsula, not far from Cancun. I can arrange to get it after you arrive,” she explained.

“Well, I suppose that would work.” Someone shouted in the background and the line went dead. “Mrs. Thundermuffin? Hello?” 


This week I got to spend some time with Karina Cardinal and her wacky inner circle of friends and enemies. KC starts the novel scrambling to find someone to fill her sister’s spot on Mexican vacation the two have planned. When it is finally decided that her coworker Rodrigo will come long it seems like all will be well. He speaks the language and he knows how to have a good time. Maybe it would have worked out if her pink haired neighbor, Mrs. Thundermuffin, who was also planning on being in Mexico that week, hadn’t asked KC to bring along a package Mrs. T was expecting in the mail. It seems simple enough but thus begins a real adventure through art forgery, kidnapping, black ops teams, and Chitchen Itza. I do seem to remember Karina’s friends telling her to take the vacation so she could rest and relax. <snicker>

The characters in this story are a blast. Mrs, Thundermuffin, in addition to having the coolest name ever, is a force of nature. Rodrigo is the unsung hero, keeping this story moving and fabulous. He has a talent for skulduggery and intrigue. I would love to just read books and books about the over-protective protection squad that came running to KC’s assistance practically unbidden. Honestly, I could spend a lot of time getting to know everyone.

This is book four, and obviously, quite a bit of story has already happened for these characters. While this book did read well as a stand-alone, it is my first venture into the series, and I admit the beginning went a bit slow for me as it felt like I had missed half the conversation through most of the first chapter. I quickly caught up and just enjoyed the stellar development that comes with writing a group of people through many adventures. I would suggest starting from the first book though.

This was a quick enjoyable read, full of unusual twists and turns with plenty of humor and the occasional well placed pop culture reference.

I received an advance copy of this book, all thoughts and opinions are my own


About The Author:

Ellen Butler is the international bestselling author of the Karina Cardinal mystery series and award-winning historical suspense, The Brass Compass. Fans who enjoy the suspense of Melinda Leigh and the humor of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum will fall in love with Butler’s Karina Cardinal.  Her experiences working on Capitol Hill and at a medical association in Washington, D.C. inspired the mystery-action series. The Brass Compass has won multiple awards for historical fiction and is compared to such bestselling novels as Kristen Hannah’s The Nightingale. Butler is a member of Sister’s in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the Office of Strategic Services Society. She is an admitted chocoholic and confesses to a penchant for shoe shopping. Ellen lives with her family in the suburbs of Washington, DC.

You can find Ellen at:

Website ~

Facebook ~

Twitter ~ @EButlerBooks



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