Books & Short Stories


Off Kilter, the second novel in M. Lee Musgrave’s James Terra Mystery Series, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and

2/1/23 Literary Titan Awards *****5 Stars & Gold Book Award to Off Kilter  by M. Lee Musgrave
Literary Titan Review: “In the thriving and evolving art scene of Los Angeles, a mystery envelopes the community, and James Terra, a well-known artist, seems to be at the center of it all. With one minor accident after another, James begins to realize that everything that is happening to him and his loved ones may all be connected, but the reason for such intentions always leaves him blank. As he begins to connect the dots, he slowly realizes that someone powerful has other plans for the art community, and his role in the scheme of things is far larger than he expected.

Off Kilter, by M. Lee Musgrave, is a compelling novel that packs the right amount of art, romance, and mystery that keeps its readers intrigued with every chapter it throws. From the start of the book, the author’s writing style will have readers drawn further into the storyline and drama. The author has a fantastic method that mixes creative and descriptive writing, beautifully enhancing the imagination of readers for each setting and what takes place in it. Furthermore, the way each clue was gradually given was well thought out, unlike some mystery novels that offer a “savior” in the novel that immediately solves the mystery. Instead, this allows the audience to piece together the mystery in their own time, identify the culprit, and bask in theories based on what they have read.

For somebody unfamiliar with fine arts, I could comprehend the parts of the novel that heavily feature it and dig up clues that the author wanted me to get from the conversations and descriptions. Moreover, I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys mystery novels. The setting of the story is one of the most famous places in the world, the City of Angels. It takes place in current times, during the rise of COVID-19, so it will be easy for readers to imagine the world the novel built. 

Off Kilter is the exciting sequel to M. Lee Musgrave’s first mystery novel, Brushed Off. This romantic thriller keeps readers engaged and on edge as the mystery slowly unfolds. Readers will love following along as James discovers who is behind all the trouble that plagues him in this fascinating new mystery thriller.”

9/1/23  Readers’ Favorite awards **** 4 Stars to Off Kilter by M. Lee Musgrave

“Off Kilter is a suspenseful romantic thriller by M. Lee Musgrave in the James Terra trilogy series. There was no doubt James and his girlfriend Nicole were thriving members of LA’s elite art community. However, both were being stalked by a mysterious Ninja motorcyclist group. At the same time, while everyone was preparing for the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nicole’s ex-husband disappeared in China without a trace. Everyone in their art community could have some sinister plan directed at James or Nicole, which makes the connection between the incidents puzzling and tense. Their lives are intertwined with their glamorous girlfriend and neighbor, Merra. During the saga, the three engage in a romantic relationship. With the danger escalating, the trio decides to take matters into their own hands with some riveting twists and turns.

The reader becomes caught up in this inexplicable series of isolated events, building complex tension that keeps one guessing to the end as the mystery comes together in its final twisted climax. Off Kilter will appeal to readers who enjoy suspenseful romantic thrillers and sleuth-type action stories.”

2023, June Edition, The Big Thrill Magazine
“I am deeply honored to have been selected for a special interview and month long promotion of my novel Off Kilter,” stated Lee Musgrave. You can read the interview on Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook and here: – Off Kilter by M. Lee Musgrave

Further, author Elena Hartwell invited Lee Musgrave to her blog and he enjoyed answering her engaging questions about his novel Off Kilter. You can read the interview and view related photos here:

Author Susanne Bacon’s informative and charming interview of Lee Musgrave for her Suburban Times article about Off Kilter is here: 

      Lee Musgrave was invited to the 2023 Men of Mystery in Long Beach, CA to talk about his novels and debut his newest, The Beautiful One, a romantic thriller set in 1912 Cairo and Berlin.  Asim and Chione, a young Egyptian couple, are enthralled by the discovery of the Queen Nefertiti sculpture bust. Asim becomes the official photographer of the excavation, while Chione assists archaeologist Herr Borchardt as a translator. They embark on a journey to Berlin, a city brimming with possibilities. Chione embraces newfound social freedoms and secures a job with a leading importer of ancient artifacts. Asim is hired as an assistant photographer at the prestigious Berlin Museum and joins an emerging Expressionist art group. In the vibrant atmosphere of Berlin, they unknowingly become entangled in an illicit trade of smuggled Egyptian artifacts and mystical amulets.
        Their lives take a dramatic turn when Asim is unexpectedly arrested for murder, setting off a chain of events that leads to the kidnapping of Chione. Their friends join forces to uncover the secrets of the gang and reveal the true killer.
        This captivating tale blends historical facts with a touch of the fantastical. Against the backdrop of a transforming century, Asim and Chione navigate Berlin’s vibrant society while pursuing their desires, dreams, and the enduring quest for truth. With a blend of authenticity and imagination, The Beautiful One immerses readers in a world of romance, mystery and adventure. It invites exploration of the power of human connection and the eternal pursuit of immortality at the turn of a new century.

Here is an actual Amazon Customer Review of The Beautiful One: 5.0 out of 5 stars. Reviewed in the United States on January 3, 2024 by Cheryl Landes. “Fascinating story from a different world. The world of Egyptian antiquities has fascinated me from the first time I’ve read about them. Lee’s book is suspenseful, educational, and fun. The main characters are complex and quirky, like those in his previous two novels, and the plot is complicated and suspenseful. For mystery fans who are interested in Egyptian art, or anyone who loves a story with a lot of twists and turns, I recommend this book.” The story starts with the 1912 discovery of the famous Queen Nefertiti sculpture bust. “Thank you Ms. Landes. I’m thrilled you enjoyed it,” replied Lee.

Awarded 5 Stars by NetGalley reviewer, Dec. 2023
“M. Lee Musgrave does a fantastic job writing The Beautiful One, it had everything that I wanted from the description. I enjoyed the idea of this mystery throughout. I was invested in what was going on and thought it was a great overall adventure. I can’t wait to read more from M. Lee Musgrave.”

Awarded 4 stars by NetGalley reviewer, Dec. 2023
“For those who love history, archaeology, and art, The Beautiful One is a fun read that can best be summed up as a museum caper. When a couple of Egypt nationals find themselves in Germany on the heels of the discovery of Nefertiti’s famous statue, they become enmeshed in the cross-hairs of a criminal enterprise. This story was a fun and engaging read and provided insights into the world of archeology and the complexity of authenticity.”

“I appreciate how these NetGalley reviewers crafted their reviews. It is evident to me they took the time to fully read and consider The Beautiful One deeply, and appreciated the heart of what I portrayed,” stated Musgrave.

The Beautiful One, is available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Black Rose Writing and other venues.

“When it comes to books, I have a particular fondness for mystery novels. So, during my many decades as a member of the Los Angeles art community I often considered writing one inspired by the many relationships I developed with artists, gallerists, collectors and related others.

As a result, my first romantic suspense novel, Brushed Off, received a Literary Titan Silver Book Award. It is available via publisher Black Rose Writing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and other bookstores,” stated Musgrave.

Lee enjoyed meeting and talking with readers about Brushed Off and the sequel Off Kilter at the 2022 Los Angeles Times Book Festival.

If you would like to sample Lee’s creative noir writing, his short story To Saunter Without Shadow is available FREE at:

Radio Interview on
“Thank you host Marti Dane and the Mid-Columbia Today Show staff for making my visit with you so enjoyable and for posting our talk online.” Lee will be in another live radio interview with host Patty Grasher of NW in late June 2024, check this space for the date & time.

The following review of Brushed Off is from Best Thrillers:

“Brushed Off – The Bottom Line: A darkly comic and original whodunnit featuring a truly memorable amateur sleuth.

Is there a serial killer at work in Los Angeles, or just someone particularly motivated by greed, jealousy or love? Whichever the case, why has the killer chosen the LA art scene as his hunting ground? LA homicide detective Cisco Rivas, and his unlikely partner, public TV host James Terra, team up to form an unlikely crime-fighting duo in this highly original whodunnit.

Author Lee Musgrave tells the story from James’ darkly comic point of view. That makes for entertaining inner dialogue, since James is not only highly perceptive and eloquent, but also as catty as they come. James, who is also a frustrated painter, understands the ins and outs of a community that is brimming with backbiting, ego and competition for buyers. At times, such as when he sees the book’s first corpse, he can be both hilarious and callous: “He looked exhausted, as though he’d copulated with every painting he ever sired.” Musgrave has also given him some endearing characteristics. His athletic activity of choice is race-walking, and his constant companion is his relentless dog, Duchamp.

Cisco, meanwhile, is a perfect straight man to James’ eccentric perspective. Cisco barely blinks when James tells outright lies (“My last show, over at the Balladeer Gallery, was a big hit”), yet he’s not afraid to call James an arrogant art snob when he comes on too strong. While Musgrave’s other characters – such as the pornographers, actors and even extras – add terrific atmosphere. But the chemistry between James and Cisco elevates what might otherwise be a straightforward murder mystery into something memorable.

Musgrave, himself a National Endowment for Arts Fellowship recipient, brings a world he knows well to life from cover to cover. In the end, his word-craft pays off in the form of a fast-paced and satisfying mystery that, at just under 200 pages, can be enjoyed on a long flight.”

Noted Readers Favorite critic Cecil Brewer, awarded Brushed Off 5 Stars and wrote the following review:

Brushed Off by M. Lee Musgrave paints an interesting and revealing series of passages about the Los Angeles art scene. The opening picture of LA’s beach community, its oddball characters, mixed with homeless wanderers draws the reader into this story as Sketchy and Duie (his dog) discover a friend dead under a pile of destroyed paintings and a totally wrecked studio. Sketchy, an artist-videographer, and his homicide detective friend set off to find answers. More suspicious deaths in the art community pressure the duo to find the killer. Looking for a link to the murders, Sketchy takes the reader deep into the lives of the artists, collectors, and beautiful people who inhabit this world of creativity. With his video documentary work as cover, the threads he discovers unravel a tapestry of crime that only an artist could perceive in the glare of so many colors.

Musgrave uses a number of conventions to depict details of color, texture, and location to convince the reader that this is a plausible tale told by an observant artist. The twist of a detective using a well-connected artist to investigate leads plays well in this adventure. Musgrave takes the reader on trips through LA and its several neighborhoods with Sketchy chasing leads, dead ends, and discoveries. He hides the motive for murder until the final segments and this lets the reader enjoy the scenes he composes in this montage of Los Angeles from its world renowned beaches to the mansions overlooking them. Brushed Off is an enjoyable mystery, especially for fans of the art world.”
Cecil Brewer, Critic Readers Favorite

Here are more reviews of Brushed Off  from noted authors.

“Who is killing the contemporary artists of L.A.? Why are they shoving paint brushes down their victims’ throats? Who’s next on the killer’s list? In Brushed Off artist and public-TV art show host James “Sketchy” Terra finds himself smack in the middle of things, racing to help his homicide detective buddy unravel a puzzle as urgent as a splatter painting and as complex as an M.C. Escher drawing. Lee Musgrave’s swift and energetic novel pulls its readers through the studio doors into a brash and entertaining world of big ambitions, bigger egos, love and sex and secrets and shady wheeler-dealing. Calling on his long experience as an artist and curator as he cruises from the beaches and bars and galleries of L.A. to the hidden havens of the Santa Monica Mountains, Musgrave creates a compelling collage of mystery-novel action and art-world exposé as he paints a portrait of the Art of Murder.”
Bob Hicks, two-time Pulitzer nominee and Senior Editor, Artswatch (

Brushed-Off is a unique, atmospheric work of Los Angeles mystery fiction. Not only does author Lee Musgrave provide an engaging case, which ends in an explosive climax, but he also paints a vivid portrait of the city’s beautiful but dangerous art scene from an insider’s perspective. A welcome addition for those who enjoy contemporary L.A. noir.”
Rick Treon, award-winning author of Deep Background and Let the Guilty Pay

5.0 out of 5 stars “An incredible LA Mystery.” Brushed Off, reviewed on Amazon March 11, 2021.
“Using LA to add to the look and feel of his prose, the author creates a unique art world space for a murder mystery. Readers will want more from this author.”
Timothy Gene Sojka, Author of Payback Jack

“Just finished Lee’s novel Brushed Off, a great ‘who done it’ story. I got it and couldn’t put it down. It’s now available on Kindle, buy it, you’ll love it.”
Brian Lindsay, avid book reader based in Texas.

“Brushed Off by M. Lee Musgrave is a page-turner murder mystery set in Los Angeles, California. The story starts when artist James notices an out-of-place mauve Mercedes S550 creeping around his neighborhood late one night. When a string of murders suddenly rock the art community of Los Angeles, it’s up to James and his detective friend, Cisco, to investigate and find the connection between them. Working undercover, James questions the community using his connections as an artist. But, as they get closer to the truth, the stranger the circumstances surrounding the crimes become. People James once considered a suspect turn out to be innocent, while another turns up dead. Will James and Cisco solve the mystery before another victim, or will James become the next target? Only time will tell, and time is not on their side. Musgrave writes in a way that sucks the reader in from the first page. Readers will find themselves immediately wanting to know just what the person in the mauve S550 was up to. Shortly after, the first murder victim was discovered. After that, it’s a fast-paced fight to find who is behind the killings in a community where everyone seems to know everyone. All of the circumstances appear to be tied to the art collection of the late Harriet Wagner. I really enjoyed the character development within Brushed Off. There were two characters that I misjudged early on, Nicole and Camille. Both started off seeming shallow and like they were only out to use the people around them. Throughout the novel, readers will realize that there is more to them than met the eye. They were each stuck in their own less-than-ideal situation but wanted more in their lives. This fast-paced novel kind of has a Criminal Minds, or CSI feels as the murders are happening. While James and Cisco worked together to figure out who the killer was, seeing all bits and pieces come together was fascinating. Readers will be shocked as the story starts to come to a close and new information is revealed. It was interesting to see how art was worked into the crimes in an unusual way, which wasn’t discovered until the book was wrapping up. Brushed Off is a riveting mystery crime novel that will keep readers guessing till the last pages. This is a contemporary sleuth book with strong women characters.”                                                    Silver Star Award Winner, Literary Titan 2/14/22 

Brief Author Bio 
“As a former professor of art and curator for 30 years, I organized hundreds of exhibitions at museums, galleries, and municipal venues involving artists, collectors, critics, gallerists, art professionals and a vast array of related enthusiasts. My writings related to those exhibitions contributed to their success and to my ability to relate that community to others. Plus, I lived in Los Angeles for over 40 years including in Malibu Canyon and Santa Monica. Those many experiences and my ongoing personal art activities inform my creative writing about today’s exciting and engaging contemporary art community.

When it comes to other authors, I especially enjoy Raymond Chandler’s approach to story, character and location, as well as that of Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald, James Ellroy, Walter Mosley, Michael Connelly and many others.

I have completed several Brushed Off prequel short stories and if you read the book then post a positive review let me know ( for I will send you a free prequel story as well as enter your name in a chance to win one of many surprise gifts including the earrings featured on the cover.”  

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