Monday, August 20, 2018

The Island of the Mad

When an old friend asks Mary Russell to find her aunt who disappeared from Bethlem Royal Hospital, know Bedlam, Mary knows this will not be an easy task. In Island of the Mad by Laurie R. King, Mary gets herself voluntarily committed to Bedlam so she can investigate the disappearance.

Hoping not to be in Bedlam any longer than a few days, she tells her husband Sherlock Holmes to also let Mycroft know where she is. Fortunately she is able to escape with some new information. Lady Vivian Beaconsfield had been in and out of Bedlam , voluntarily committed several times. She always said she felt "safe" there. What was she afraid of outside?

Evidence points Mary to Lady Vivian in Venice with her nurse. Also missing is expensive jewelry inherited from her mother and some money from her account, partially controlled by her brother the Marquess of Selwick.

Italy is in the midst of a takeover by Il Duce, Benito Mussolini and his Black-shirted Fascists, making
it dangerous for the outspoken Mary. Sherlock, encouraged by his brother, decides to join Mary in Venice. Being the small town it is, Mary is positive she will have no trouble finding Vivian.

While Sherlock spends his time getting to know American composer Cole Porter and reaching Venice for Vivian, Mary drifts over to the more flamboyant Lido. On one of her trips across the Lagoon, she thinks she sees the Marquess of Selwick with the Black Shirts looking for Lady Vivian, too. Mary doesn't think his association with the Fascists is a good sign, and she doubles her efforts to find Vivian.

Another entertaining adventure for Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes.

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Friday, August 17, 2018

Goodbye Cruller World

Emily Westhill and Deputy Donuts are busily preparing two types of donuts for the donut wall at her friend Jenn's upcoming wedding. But it appears not everything is sugar and spice as the wedding approaches in Fallingbrook, Wisconsin. In Goodbye Cruller World by Ginger Bolton Jenn's fiance Roger is a bully and she is having second thoughts about marrying him. (Goodbye Cruller World will be released August 28 by Kensington Books.)

Her sister Suzanne is also a bully and keeps pushing Jenn to cancel. When the night of the wedding arrives, Emily and her partner and father-in-law Tom set up the donut wall, carefully labeling the side which holds Roger's favorite donuts and the side that holds Jenn. When Roger winds up dead during the reception with donuts crammed in his mouth and pockets, Emily fears for her business and hopes Jenn isn't the killer.

There are plenty of suspects including Jenn's former boyfriend, a guest at the wedding; a strange security guard and two women looking for the Happy Hopers Convention.

While trying to discover who killed Roger, Emily is also busy trying to match make for her EMT friend Samantha, her police officer friend Misty and fire chief Scott, completely missing the signals from her friend Brent. As Roger was not well liked (even his groomsmen were hired high schoolers raising money for their team), it appears the police think his bride makes a good suspect. Newly widowed and about to inherit a large sum of money, Jenn makes the ideal candidate.

But Emily is sure her sweet friend could not have committed the crime and she sets out to find the real killer. Even though she promises Brent she will not get involved, Emily finds herself face-to-face with the killer.

Trust me on this, don't read this book if you are on a diet. You will be craving donuts after you finish, I know from experience.

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Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

If you haven't read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, it is a must read, especially now that the movie has been released by Netflix.

It is 1946 and the world has emerged slowly from the devastation of World War II when writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from someone she has never met. The man lives on Guernsey, a British island located in the English Channel near France. During the war, Guernsey was occupied by the Germans in hopes of using it as a jumping off point to invade England. They never did, but they occupied the island for most of the war.

Juliet begins a correspondence with Dawsey Adams, a pig farmer on the island. He tells her about the hardships they endured during the occupation and Juliet is captivated by the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Dawsey explains how the name came about and tells her about his
friends on the island. Juliet, a successful author, is searching for her next book and is intrigued by his story.  After many letters, she decides to head to Guernsey unannounced to meet the people and tell their story.

Unsure of her reception, Juliet is startled to learn the islanders don't want their story told. She promises them she will not write the story, but spends much time with them reading aloud at their Society meetings. Slowly she unravels the story of their life and is more certain than ever that she wants to write about it.

The book is beautifully written and is a touching study in friendship and loyalty during times of severe crisis. Sadly, the main author Mary Ann Shaffer died before the book was completed and her niece Annie Barrows completed it.

The Netflix movie stars many of your favorite Downton Abbey actors including Elizabeth McKnna (Lady Sybil Crawley), Lily James (cousin Rose), Penelope Wilton (Mrs Crawley and several others you will recognize. Dawsey Adams is played by the very handsome Michiel Huisman.

I loved the book and I enjoyed the movie. Read the book first, then watch the movie.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Interview with Ginger Bolton

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?

Survival of the Fritters came out in February, 2018. Goodbye Cruller World will be on store shelves August 28, 2018. In addition to those two, I’m working on the third Deputy Donut Mystery. As Janet Bolin, I wrote five books in the Threadville Mystery Series. That makes six books published so far and two more on the way. I have to admit that I still find it all amazing and exciting.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
I wanted a character with a complex, mostly happy and helpful emotional life who would have access to first responders. Emily co-owns her donut shop, Deputy Donut, with her father-in-law, a retired police chief. Deputy Donut caters to, among others, cops, and is a great place to hear rumors and pick up clues. In addition, Emily is a former 911 officer and has friends who are a police officer, an Emergency Medical Technician, the fire chief, and a detective. Although not quite thirty when the series starts, Emily is a widow, and not ready to date again. There might be a couple of men who would like her to reconsider that. Her late husband was a detective. From all of these people, she knows what to do and what not to do as an amateur sleuth. She doesn’t mean to interfere in investigations, but . . .

When I was writing the proposal for the series, I had been vacationing in northern Wisconsin, a beautiful area with lots of forests and waterfalls, and I wanted Emily to live there, in the cocoon-like security of a town surrounded by wilderness,. That town can, at times, seem slightly less secure. And then there are the forests and waterfalls . . .

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening?.
I write most days, starting in the morning and working until late afternoon with breaks for lunch, chores, laundry, Free Cell (oops, did I say that???) I quit when it’s time to make dinner or I can’t write another word. I sometimes take several days (or weeks) off to travel, visit family, etc., and then I hope that I can return to the current manuscript with fresh(er) eyes. I often go back to the beginning and revise before I’ve written the entire first draft. I revise and edit a lot as I go along, and do several polishing drafts before I submit the manuscript to my publisher. If I didn’t have deadlines, I might tweak one manuscript forever.

Do you belong to a writers group or are you in touch with other writers? How does that help your writing?
My original Internet critique group included two writers who are now close friends. They were not only good at critiquing, they recommended me to their agent and I ended up being offered my first book contract.

Now I belong to an Internet group of seven published authors who mostly give each other moral support, although we do some critiquing and helping with plot. We’ve been together since 2007.

Because of time spent commuting, I resisted joining an in-person critiquing group. But when the critiquing is combined with lunch, well . . . suffice it to say that although the commute is long, I look forward to our meetings. Plus I take turns driving with another member of the group, and we chatter and laugh all the way there and back.

These groups have been very helpful, with critiquing, publishing advice, and moral support. I’ve learned a lot from them.

For someone, male or female, just starting out writing crime fiction, I highly recommend joining Sisters of Crime and their Guppies chapter. Before I joined, back about 2000, I didn’t know what pieces might be missing in my writing and publishing knowledge. I don’t know if I would be published if I were still trying to figure it out on my own. I met the people in my two Internet groups through the Guppies.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
No. My characters are their own people. I spend a lot of time thinking about them. Villains, for instance, often write me letters telling me why and how they did it.

Who is your favorite author?
I frequently reread the late Mary Stewart’s suspense books. She was great at all of it—tension, description, pace, plot, and characterization.

How do you keep track of character details from book to book so they are consistent?
I have an ever-growing style sheet that I submit with my manuscript. For the first two Deputy Donut Mysteries, I have had an amazingly thorough copy editor who adds to the style sheet and uses it herself to find and point out discrepancies. Mostly, my characters are so real to me that I remember their character traits. But I might forget their birthdays . . .

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
I don’t have enough skills, so this is a total fantasy: I would sew in the costume department of a large theater company.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Rooted in Deceit

Washington Acres Farm has a new addition - a wood-fired oven set in a renovated barn. All ingredients for the pizza are from locally-sourced farms including her own, and Megan is excited about the opening. In Rooted in Deceit by Wendy Tyson, Megan's excitement is dimmed by the arrival of her estranged father and Sylvia, his Italian, high-maintenance wife. (Rooted in Deceit will be released on September 4. It is published by Henery Press.)

Megan's grandmother Bibi is saddened to learn her only son Eddie and his wife are not staying on the farm, but in the new high-end yoga retreat center in the next town. Part owners of the center are  former friends of Megan's, now an up-and-coming artist Thana Moore and Ray Cruise, the boyfriend Thana stole from Megan in high school.

When Thana winds up dead on the grounds surrounding the retreat, police want to question  Eddie's wife Sylvia. She had been heard arguing with Thana earlier in the day and cannot account for her whereabouts the afternoon of the crime.

The yoga retreat is a gorgeous place and expensively decorated leading Megan to wonder who
financed the place. It appears Thana's artwork, though not critically acclaimed, was extremely popular in Europe and gaining in popularity n the U.S.

When Eddie asks her to try and clear Sylvia, Megan decides to investigate. She learns that Sylvia was trying to purchase some of Thana's work to take back to her boutique in Milan, but Thana was resisting.

Before long the police discover the long-ago estrangement of Megan, Thana and Ray and suddenly Megan is in the spotlight. Feeling vulnerable because her beau Denver has flown off to Scotland to care for an elderly aunt for several weeks, struggles to clear her name.

This series is farm fresh and I wish there was a farm like this near where I live.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

The Death of Mrs. Westaway

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware is a deadly, dark mystery. The reading of her will leads to a dangerous deluge that cannot be stopped. When Hal receives a letter from an attorney telling her she is mentioned in the will of Mrs. Westaway, Hal knows there has been a mistake. But threatened by a loan shark and with her tarot business facing the winter doldrums, she decides she can use her skills to claim some of the money promised.

When she arrives at the funeral and meets the family, she discovers there may be a link with her after all, but her appearance opens up some long held deadly secrets. The three sons of Mrs. Westaway - Harding, Ezra and Abel - appear to have a tenuous relationship with each other and speak of their mother's non-maternal form of raising them.

Hal soon discovers there was a sister who disappeared 20 years before and tries to figure out what has happened to her. The Mrs. Danvers-like housekeeper Mrs. Warren hisses at Hal to leave while she still can. She chills Hal, but doesn't scare her. Trudging up to the freezing attic bedroom, Hal becomes worried when she discovers two locks on the door - on the outside of the room.

As the will is read and Hal discovers she will inherit the house and the money, she can't continue the charade of being Mrs. Westaway's granddaughter, but how can she tell the family about her deception?

A excellent, twisty, tangled mystery. It will keep you guessing until the end

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Friday, August 10, 2018

River City Dead

The San Antonio Riverwalk has been a special places to visit and it is also the setting for one of my all-time favorite movies - Miss Congeniality. In River City Dead by Nancy G. West advice columnist Aggie Mundeen is hoping to spend some quality time with her San Antonio Police Department detective boyfriend Sam Vanderhoven.

Unfortunately the penthouse suite reserved for them is occupied - by a dead body. As Aggie is heading toward the hotel, Sam calls and tells her she urgently needs to get downtown. This sends Aggie into a tizzy of self doubt.

Sam begins the preliminary investigation and discovers no trauma or bleeding on the woman who appears to be in her late twenties. Indentations on the carpet show drag marks. The hotel manager identifies the woman as Monica Peters, a guest of the hotel every year during Fiesta Week.

Aggie and Sam both know finding another room nearby would be next to impossible, and Sam urges
Aggie to go home, but the manager offers them two "utility-closet sized rooms" and Aggie decides to stay. How else could she investigate, to Sam's consternation.

The best place for Aggie to begin her investigation is with some of her friends in The Fabulous Femmes, a group of women who participate in philanthropic activities in the city and like to party. They are hosting a convention during Fiesta Week and are staying at the hotel.

Aggie soon learns there's lots of friction between the various  subgroups of The Fabulous Femmes leading to many suspects. When another person is found dead, Aggie doubles her efforts, much to Sam's displeasure.

Risking her own life and her future relationship with Sam, Aggie disguises herself and joins the Femmes in their dance at Arneson River Theater. When everything goes haywire, Aggie is right in the midst of it, solving the mystery.

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Dim Sum of All Fears

Lana Lee yearns for a job outside of her parents' Chinese restaurant and, in fact, has a job interview for an office manager position. In Dim Sum of All Fears by Vivien Chien, her mother upends those plans by announcing she and her husband have to return to Taiwan to care for Lana's grandmother. Guess who ends up managing the restaurant, and to her on surprise, she is quite good at it. (Dim Sum of All Fears will be released on August 28.)

Newlyweds Isabelle and Brandon own the souvenir shop next door and Lana has become friends with Isabelle. But an apparent murder-suicide next door to the restaurant sets Lana off on another investigation. Of course her sort-of boyfriend Detective Adam Trudeau discourages her involvement.

The more Lana learns about the husband of her murdered friend, the more she wants to solve the crime. There are several ex-wives in the picture and Brandon's long absences from the store make Lana suspicious of him.

When the police discover it wasn't a murder-suicide, but two murders, Lana and her roommate Megan decide to put their newly acquired investigating skills to the test. When Brandon's ex-wives begin to show up demanding possession of the souvenir store, Lana doubles down on investigating.

Lana discovers Brandon spent a lot of time at the local casino and when one of the wives decides she wants to liquidate everything from the store and return to New York, something doesn't sound right with Lana. The other ex-wife is an aggressive bully and she wants to take control of the store immediately so she can turn it into a high end purse store.

Surprising information from a loan shark appears to point in another direction and confuses Lana even more. With Detective Trudeau on the case, Lana quietly tries to solve it without getting herself in trouble with him

Another smart, sassy mystery for Lana. Even though her mother is thousands of miles away, her presence is felt in this book in her usual quirky fashion.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Visit from Lucy Burdette

Big news Lucy Burdette's latest Key West mystery Death on the Menu is out today. My husband and I were lucky enough to meet her in Key West last winter to discuss the new book.

Tell me about the book. How did you make the Cuban connection for your next book? 
Death on the Menu takes place in Key West, but the main event is a joint conference between the city of Key West and Havana, Cuba. Much of the action takes place at the Harry S. Truman Little White House, and Hayley‘s mother Janet has been tapped as the caterer. So naturally Hayley is pressed into service along with fan favorite, Miss Gloria. Things get off to a bad start when Hemingway’s Nobel prize gold medal (which belongs to Cuba and is on display for this weekend only) disappears. And they only get worse when a murderer strikes.

Does some of the action take place in Cuba? I didn’t think I could pull off setting a book in Cuba. For one thing I don’t know the country that well. And I certainly don’t know how the police would operate – I was afraid to tumble into a black plot hole that I would never climb out of! I am happy with the compromise, because I was able to talk about Cuba and have Cuban accents in the food and the politics, without running into insurmountable plot problems.

How does the Cuban Coffee Queen coffee shop/restaurant figure in the story?
As you know, Hayley’s favorite coffee shop is the Cuban Coffee Queen. (Actually there are two of them now in town. And it’s my favorite too!) But in addition to visiting for her caffeine fix, in this book, one of the workers at the CCQ is also on the catering crew for the conference. And it turns out her family has deep Cuban roots, and gets deeply involved in the murder.

Have you been to Cuba?
My husband and I were lucky enough to make the trip to Cuba in 2014, right before President Obama opened up relations between the two countries. Since Key West is only ninety miles from Havana, we hear a lot about the island and many Key Westers have an intense curiosity about Cuba and what life might be like for its inhabitants. In fact, frequently we heard news stories about Cubans who attempted to reach the US in a variety of homemade, unseaworthy vessels— even windsurfers—with some disastrous results. I wove some of that backstory and conflict into Death on the Menu.

Christine, thanks so much for hosting me here—it was such a pleasure to meet you and your husband last winter!

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