Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Trouble on the Books

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Shelby Cox returns to her hometown of Alexandria Bay in the beautiful Thousand Islands area of New York after living in Boston for most of her life. In Trouble on the Books by Essie Long, Shelby finds herself as a part owner of Bayside Books with her aunt Edie. One of the book stores is located in a Castle on Blye Island.

Gearing up for the tourist season and getting to know the Castle book store, Shelby encounters town pain in the behind Loreena Swan, also curator of exhibits at the Blye Castle. Not ready to be bossed around by someone with no experience in book stores, Shelby and Loreena do not hit it off the first time they meet.

Days later when Shelby founds Loreena's body in the nearby grotto, she is worried about the island caretaker Matthew Kessler as he has had varied negative encounters with Loreena. Shelby gets it into her head that Loreena's death was related to smuggling especially as she encounters Coast Guard investigator Zack Griffin.

With all this going on Shelby is having a hard time getting a straight answer from her aunt about her mother's death. Every time she brings it up, Edie changes
the subject. Before her father died, she was not able to get a straight answer out of him either and this is frustrating Shelby.

When the sheriff considers Matthew as a person of interest in the murder, Shelby buckles down and searches for clues to clear him, but naturally puts herself in danger.

The first in a new series by Essie Lang AKA Linda Wiken. I would love to visit the Thousand Islands and a castle bookstore sounds fantastic.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Hollywood Ending

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I know, I know, Kellye Garrett won the Agatha for Best First Novel last year at Malice Domestic and now her third book is nearly ready for publication. I've finally gotten around to reading one of her books and I am happy I did.

Hollywood Ending continues the pursuit of quirky former actress Dayna Anderson to become a private detective. First of all she has to convince her boss Aubrey Adams-Parker to get his license. Once a spokesperson for Chubby's Chicken, she now spends her time calling the LAPD Tip Line.

When Hollywood publicist Lyla Davis is shot at an ATM after the Silver Sphere Cocktail party, Dayna or Day as she likes to be called, is sure she can solve the mystery. With the assistance of her computer nerd friend Emme to search for background information, Day is off and running.

Because her boyfriend, actor Omari Grant was in the ATM before Lyla was shot, Day feels he might have seen something. With only the fuzzy photo from the ATM  camera to go on, Day has her pal Emme try to get more detail from the photo. When they finally see a glimpse of a recognizable tattoo, they try to track down the alleged killer.

The plot becomes more complicated when the tattooed man kills himself. But that doesn't satisfy Day so she keeps pursuing the case. What she finds is back-stabbing Hollywood gossip, treacherous publicists and duplicitous actors.

A funny, insider's look at Hollywood and the awards industry.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Something Read, Something Dead

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Lucy Richardson's cousin Josie is finally getting married in what she hopes will be a small, simple wedding. In Something Read, Something Dead by Eva Gates that is not to be. With the wedding only one month away, Lucy keeps prodding Josie to purchase her dress. (Something Read, Something Dead will be released on March 13 by Crooked Lane) 

Some of the details have been arranged including a reception at Jake's restaurant, an Outer Banks favorite. When Josie's demanding grandmother arrives from New Orleans with her entourage in tow, she sets Josie's already frayed nerves on fire. It's her plan to help her granddaughter Mirabelle, a would-be wedding planning, plan Josie's wedding in a more extravagant manner, something Josie is dead set against.

Mirabelle aims high. She wants the wedding to be on the cover of a regional magazine, but Josie wants no part of it. She badgers Josie at her shop and it evolves into a shouting match with Josie threatening to "kill her." Worse yet, Mirabelle declares she is gluten-free and requires special treats for the shower.

At the bridal shower in the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library, Lucy is trying to keep everyone from each other's throats and temper the extravagant plans so they are more in line with Josie and Jake's original plans. When Mirabelle falls ill at the shower and dies the next day, the state police are called in to investigate and that makes everyone more nervous.

Was someone targeting Mirabelle or was Josie the main target? Lucy tries to keep the tabloid journalists at bay while she figures out how the crime was committed and how to keep the wedding on track.

Love the lighthouse library and wish it were a real place.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Puppy who Knew Too Much

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Leaving Indiana after the murder of her husband, Lilly Echosby moves to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to live near her long-time friend Dixie Jefferson. In The Puppy Who Knew Too Much by V.M. Burns, Lilly hopes her troubles are behind her and her only problem will be training her new poodle Aggie.

When a strange woman approaches Lilly and Dixie about renting her son's house, Lilly jumps in. Even though she has shown no credit history or any background check, Jo Ellen Hansen offers Lilly a one-year lease. Lilly quickly moves in and prepares to join the community. Her first encounter leads her into a confrontation with one of her neighbors.

Next day while walking her dog, Aggie begins sniffing around a tree but doesn't want to be drawn away. As Lilly gets closer, she realizes Aggie has unearthed a shoe attached to a dead man. When the body is identified as Jo Ellen Hansen's son Robert, Lilly begins to worry about her ability to stay in the house.

Lilly's daughter Stephanie and her police officer boyfriend Joe plan to stay with Lilly while she gets settled in. Lucky for her because the next day someone breaks in and ransacks the house. Joe calls in a favor from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and they send Dennis Olson to join the case.

Not one to sit idly by and let someone else investigate, Lilly, Dixie and Stephanie decide to figure out who killed Robert Hanson and what they wanted from Lilly's house. Meanwhile Lilly has been hired by the Chattanooga Museum of Art to untangle the financial mess left by the scion of wealthy donors The Hopewells. Freemont Hopewell takes an instant shine to Lilly and begins deluging her with flowers. She is flattered at first, but wonders what his game is.

I have read other books by V.M. Burns and find them entertaining. This book is the second in the Dog Club Mysteries and I found the characters to be realistic and likable. Plus I learned some dog training tips even though I do not have a dog.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Interview with Michael Robertson

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

The most recent is A Baker Street Wedding (Dec. 2018). There are six books total in the Baker Street Letters series. Although I do my best to make each stand alone, when people ask where to start, I generally suggest The Brothers of Baker Street, because it includes all the back story that is referenced in the later books, and it introduces a Moriarty plot line that I don't want people to miss. But another (and quicker, if you are looking for a short read) entry to the series is my short story, The Barrister's Clerk (available as an online single at Amazon, and in printed form in the Malice Domestic #13 anthology, "Mystery Most Geographical".

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
The location--the Marylebone district in London, and more specifically Baker Street, and even more specifically the 200 block of Baker Street--chose itself. The series unavoidably begins in an office building that occupies the space where 221B would have been when the Sherlock Holmes Stories were written--and where, until just a few years ago, the Royal Mail did in fact deliver letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes.

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?
Back in the day, I would write late at night, after work. But staying up until 2:00 AM became hard to maintain, so for the past ten years or so--which is to say, for the whole length of the Baker Street Letters series--I've done my writing in the early morning and then again in the early afternoon. When I was still working full-time for IBM (up until about five years ago), I did most of my writing in coffee shops, one on the way to work, and another on lunch break. I no longer have to follow that schedule, but it has become habit, so it is what I still do.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
The female lead in the series (the actress Laura Rankin) is a composite of several women I've known over the years. The two male leads--brothers Reggie and Nigel Heath, with their sibling rivalries--I suppose are drawn very loosely from myself and my own three siblings.

An additional male lead, introduced in The Baker Street Jurors and taking a larger role in A Baker Street Wedding, is a fellow named Sigerson, who plays the violin for tips in the London underground. I think the source of inspiration for him will be pretty much self-evident.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
My first agent at WME said she imagined Colin Firth in the lead role (as barrister Reggie Heath). The first book was optioned for a series by Warner Brothers Television back in 2009, and a pilot was written, but not produced. I've always seen it as a film franchise rather than TV series, and I agree with the choice of Colin Firth if someone comes along to produce the movie.

Who is your favorite author?
Mark Twain generally; Dashiell Hammett for mystery novels; and a tie between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir John Mortimer for mystery short stories.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Not to be evasive, but I actually don't do dinner parties. I'd have to consult with a friend of mine and see who she suggests.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
In real life, I suppose I would have finished law school and gone on from there. But in my fantasy life, I would like to be a wildlife photographer. I like the hiking and exploring, and I'm capable of sitting still and staring at something for long periods of time to get the effect that I want. But I just never could understand shutter speeds and exposures.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Nearly Nero

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Nearly Nero by Loren D. Estleman tells the story of  "The Adventures of Claudius Lyon, the Man Who Would Be Wolfe."

Nero Wolfe has always been a favorite of mine and Nearly Nero had me laughing out loud. Claudius Lyon, a rotund wannabe fancies himself Brooklyn's version of Nero Wolfe. His go-to guy is Arnie Woodbine, and if you say it fast enough it sounds like Archie Goodwin. His chef produces only kosher foods, some of which are nonrecognizable, and practically inedible.

Best of all, while Wolfe raises difficult to grow orchids, Lyon raises tomatoes - not so difficult to grow! Oh yes and Lyon doesn't have a private detective's license, so he cannot accept a fee for his services or Captain Stoddard of the Brooklyn police will try to arrest him. No problem, Claudius is independently wealthy from an invention created by his father.

In this collection of short stories, even if you are diehard fan of
Nero Wolf, you will laugh at the parallels and contrasts. I have always loved the Nero Wolfe books, but Nearly Nero is such a fun parody. Although it helps if you have read some of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books, Nearly Nero is fun even to a novice.

The mysteries are mostly brainteasers (no murders) and the most trouble Claudius and Arnie get into is keeping Stoddard from arresting them for practicing without a license.

If you need a laugh in these gloomy, snowy winter days, Nearly Nero is the book for you.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Harvest of Secrets

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Lucie Montgomery finds herself between two murders: one that took place 150 years ago and what that happened recently. In Harvest of Secrets by Ellen Crosby both murders interfere with the grape harvest.

Two of Lucie's vineyard employees are digging up a tree when they find a skull just outside the family cemetery. A forensic anthropologist is hired to determine the age of the skull and possibly find the rest of the skeleton. Lucie is certain this is someone to whom she is related, so she is all in on the search.

Newly arrived winemaker Jean-Claude de Marignac is the son of a wealthy winemaker in France and Lucie's family has been friends with his family for decades. But not everyone is charmed by Jean-Claude and right away he ruffles some feathers.

While the anthropologist continues her search, Lucie frets about an approaching hurricane and how it will impact their harvest. She also receives a disconcerting email from someone who found her their her recent DNA test. He claims to be her half brother and needless to say Lucie is shocked and mystified.

The two murders couldn't be farther apart in their cause. Lucie finds the name of a female relative in the family Bible with only a birth date, no other information. When the rest of the skeleton is found wrapped in an unusual quilt, Lucie decides to check with local historical societies to identify it. What she discovers is her relative was murdered by a blow to the head because she wanted to marry someone her family disapproved of.

When Jean Claude is found dead, his murder is the results of his evil deeds, but one of Lucie's vineyard workers is suspected.

As the hurricane threatens, Lucie must solve the two murders, harvest grapes and decide whether she wants include her half brother into the family.

Two excellent mysteries in one. I loved the forensic anthropologist portion. It is amazing what can be discovered with just a skeleton.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Daughter of Molokai

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This is a novel of heartbreak, joy, grief, love and forgiveness that should be read by everyone in these turbulent times. Daughter of Moloka'i is the sequel to Moloka'i by Alan Brennert. You do not have to have read the first one to understand the story line.(Daughter of Moloka'i will be released on February 19 by St. Martin's Press.)

Ruth Utagawa was one day old she was taken from her leper parents and separated from them for one year. After the year when she showed no signs of the disease, she was taken by a nun Kapi'iolani House for Girls on Oahu to be raised by other nuns. Adoptions were hard to come by because many people knew the girls were children of lepers from Moloka'i. In Ruth's case, it was doubly difficult because she was half Japanese and half Hawaiian.

As Ruth grew she wondered why her mother gave her up, but no one explained the circumstances of her separation. When she was five a lovely Japanese couple living in Hawaii with three American born sons adopted her despite the circumstances of her birth. Taizo and Etsuko Watanabe are delighted to have a daughter and they raise her to follow Japanese customs with as much love as they give their sons.

When Taizo's brother encourages the family to move to California and farm with him, they reluctantly leave Hawaii. Facing much anti-Japanese sentiment in California, their farm is successful and they are able to make a decent living for the two families, always with the underlying resentment of the white Californians.

When the stock market crashed in 1929, times are difficult for everyone and the brothers decide to sell 90% of their farm to the local anti-Japanese sheriff. They finally agree to sell the entire farm, but lease back land to farm for their own families.

After Ruth graduates from high school, she finds her job prospects are limited, but with a stroke of luck she meets Frank Harada and marries him shortly thereafter. He opens a diner in Florin and the business succeeds, then World War II ruins their lives.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States government rounded up all Japanese - American citizens and all others of Japanese descent and marched them off the internment camps. The families were only able to take a small number of possessions and their lands and property were sold out from under them.

For years Ruth and her family were prisoners in the internment camps and treated like they were inferior. Their accommodations at the first camp were former horse stables. There was barbed wire and armed guards surrounding the isolated camps.

The treatment of Japanese-American by the U.S. government is a blot on our history. No one of German or Italian descent (also enemies in WWII) were interned, only the Japanese. Although Daughter of Moloka'i comes full circle with Ruth meeting her birth mother, the mortifying treatment of the Japanese in American can never be erased and this kind of discrimination must never be allowed to happen again.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Nantucket Countefeit

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"Life imitates art far more than art imitates life," said Oscar Wilde. In Nantucket Counterfeit by Steven Axelrod, Police Chief Henry Kennis thinks the current play performed by the Nantucket Theater Lab seems to be imitating life. The playwright Blair Hollister has written a show entitled Who Dun It. When much hated artistic director Horst Refn is found stuffed in a freezer, it's up to Kennis to sort through the many suspects to determine who dun it.

And there are plenty of suspects. Nantucket's wealthy residents are reluctant to speak about anything personal and feel they are above the law, so Kennis struggles with interviewing them. When he does speak with them, he is sure many of them are lying some of the time.

Through his team's research, they discover Refn was blackmailing many people on the island and making a good living from it. But more importantly Horst Refn, was really not Horst Refn, but Barry Pomeroy. Prior to becoming Refn, Pomeroy participated in several scams to defraud many people of money as well as blackmailing others.

In addition counterfeit bills were found at the scene of the crime and those lead Kennis in several directions. As he begins to draw closer to arresting his suspect, several other things fall into place almost leading to Kennis arrest the wrong person and causing the death of another.

This is the fifth book in the series, but it can be read without having read the others in the series. Henry Kennis is a witty character who writes poetry to the chagrin of his ex-wife. A thoroughly enjoyable mystery.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Interview with Debra H. Goldstein

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My new book is One Taste Too Many. It is the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series. Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue were prior standalones.

For a review of One Taste Too Many, click here.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
When I decided I wanted to write a cozy, I knew they tended to be about protagonists with culinary or craft skills. My expertise was limited in either area. Frustrated, I realized there had to be readers out there like me – cooks of convenience. Once I decided to have my protagonist mimic my own inaptness, the character flowed. Because I wanted to balance big city and small town life for my character and her twin sister, I created a small southern community fifteen minutes from one of Alabama’s major cities.

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?
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I write sporadically – fitting it in around my other life activities. When I was on the bench, I wrote on weekends and between midnight and two a.m. Since I walked away from my lifetime appointment, I thought I would write more in the day, but I tend to address social media first thing, outside activities next and write in the latter part of the day.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
My sister is a gourmet cook while I prefer to make things using pre-made ingredients or to bring take-out in. I thought it would be fun to create characters contrasting our kitchen styles. Because I am the mother of fraternal twins, I thought exploring the bond of being night and day twins would enhance the story.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
Sarah Blair – tall, willowy, clumsy and inept in the kitchen – age 28 –younger Sandra Bullock (think Ms. Congeniality or Ya-Ya Sisterhood) or perhaps Jennifer Garner or Claire Foy

Who is your favorite author?
I read in spurts, so I don’t have a favorite author.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
I am going to make my party all female, but depending upon what theme or mood I want for the party, my guest list would be my mother, because I miss her wisdom and wit; Eleanor Roosevelt, for all she saw and did in her own right and as the eyes of her husband; Abigail Adams, for the spunk and intellect she always demonstrated; and two, who I learned during an interview at Bouchercon, are friends because I would like to see how they play off each other: Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
Before I walked away from it to fulfill my passion for writing, I had a fulfilling legal career. I was a litigator before becoming a judge, so if I couldn’t write, that is the career I would return to.